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TALLRITE BLOG 
ARCHIVE

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
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July 2006
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ISSUE #128 - 9th July 2006

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ISSUE #129 - 16th July 2006

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ISSUE #130 - 23rd July 2006

 

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 World Cup 2006 in Germany; Time in Ireland 

  

ISSUE #130 - 23rd July 2006 [159+106=265]

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Hamas/Hizobllah/Syria/Iran: an Evil Continuum

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Saudi Arabia's Fading Oil Reserves

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Duels with Dual Senators

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Woman Fined for Being Raped!

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Week 130's Letters to the Press

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Quotes of Week 130

Hamas/Hizobllah/Syria/Iran: an Evil Continuum

It is hard to see, and frightening to imagine, where the current conflict in Gaza, and especially Lebanon, might be leading. 

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Hamas, the government that the extraordinarily self-destructive Palestinian people elected last January, are sworn to the obliteration of Israel.  These people have no interest in creating or running a Palestinian state; and any advance such as the gaining of Gaza is merely a stepping stone to the ultimate goal.  Hence their 24th June attack on an Israeli military post out of Gaza, preceded as it was by months of desultory and ineffective (largely home-made) rockets, was no real surprise.  Nor was Israel's ferocious reaction. 

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Meanwhile, Hezbollah, in full military and civic control of southern Lebanon since Israel retreated six years ago, have made no secret of their support for Hamas, with whom they share the same obliterate-Israel goal.  Indeed, one reason they gave for their initial raid into Israel was solidarity with the similar Hamas operation a couple of weeks earlier that had sparked the Gaza hostilities. 

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The fingerprints of Syria on the activities of Hezbollah are undeniable.  There seems to be a mound of evidentiary material; moreover, rockets arriving in Haifa were irrefutably identifiable as Syrian from the shrapnel.  And of course, Syria is still smarting at its humiliating ejection from Lebanon and is looking for ways to reassert its malign influence.  Syria also provides refuge to Khaled Mashel, the leader of Hamas. 

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Then there is Shi'ite Iran, the regional superpower, solidly supporting Syria, surprising though this is, since it is a Sunni Ba'athist regime, as was Saddam's against whom Iran fought a bitter, million-man-casualty war for eight years in the 1980s.  Nevertheless, Assad junior, the weakling optician president-for-life, is a useful person for the mullahs to mould, and through him to gradually transform Syria into a proto Iranian colony (to be joined by - it hopes - another one comprising the majority Shi'ite south of Iraq). 

This is the continuum that Israel has currently to contend with, with approval, advice, arms and perhaps even active servicemen flowing up the chain from Iran to Syria to the two terrorist organizations.  There has also been some evidence that Iran is actively participating in the fighting in Lebanon, with suggestions that it was Iranian soldiers who launched two advanced Iranian C-807 missiles that damaged an Israeli naval ship and sank a Cambodian one several kilometres away. 

Indeed as Daniel Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to the US points out, Hamas and Hezbollah have access to an array of radar-guided missiles, long-range missiles, and all kinds of sophistication that gives them really strategic capabilities. So for the first time in history, we see a terror organization with state-like capabilities, with strategic capabilities, and they, for all practical purposes, are the proxies of both Syria and Iran

All this helps both to explain the frenzy of Israel's fighting and to suggest the direction in which it might well lead. 

Israel's main objective is to neutralise the military capabilities of Hezbollah, and by extension Hamas.  This means not only trying to kill its members and destroy its weapons, buildings and other support infrastructure - which because this is all hidden deliberately among civilians leads to dreadful civilian casualties - but also preventing their resupply.  This is the reason for disabling Beirut's airport, ports, international roads and mounting a naval blockade. 

If Israel is successful, the war will come to a close in (hopefully) a matter of only days or weeks. 

But if Syria and Iran succeed in resupplying their terrorist clients, Israel will be faced with a terrible choice. 

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Whether to maintain a prolonged low-level and ultimately self-defeating campaign against the two Hs, or

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whether to seek to neutralise the source, being Syria and Iran. 

Enfeebled Syria is not the issue here, Iran is.  For it raises the whole nuclear issue. 

None but the most blind by now doubt that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weaponry.  This is a hugely energy-rich country with 136 years worth of oil and gas reserves, which has absolutely no need for the hugely costly nuclear energy that it claims is the sole purpose of its nuclear activities.   Rather, the theocratic leadership want to remain in unassailed charge of Iran, Iran to be the big, Shi'ite power in the region, and Israel to be wiped off the map”.  The mullahs are convinced that the only way to achieve all this is through the acquisition and use (on Israel) of nuclear bombs and missiles.  And they are of course right: that is the only way. 

Thus the years of negotiating” with the EU, the UN Atomic Energy Agency, the Security Council or anyone else over the curtailment of their nuclear programme have been no more than posturing, designed - most successfully - to buy time while the work continues. 

This awful realisation leads to only one pair of alternatives for the world to consider. 

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Let Iran get away with it
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and keep fingers crossed as to the consequences

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or else attack its nuclear facilities
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and keep fingers crossed as to the consequences. 

In May 1940, Winston Churchill made his famously defiant speech that the British people will fight on the beaches ... in the fields ... in the streets ... in the hills ... we shall never surrender”.  The alternative that Britain faced was the horror of Nazi subjugation, which was thus to be resisted “whatever the cost”.  But he was not talking about the systematic killing of every Englishman in the land once Hitler arrived (a fate reserved only for the Jews, gays, gypsies and disabled). 

Israel today should be so lucky.  Because defeat would not lead to subjugation but to Holocaust II - the inevitable, pre-decided death of every Israeli.  So Israel's is a truly existential battle, one which no other nation on earth faces - or has faced for centuries. 

So if the day ever comes when it is necessary to choose between the destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities or the defeat of Israel, we all know what Israel will decide.  It is no coincidence that it seems for some time to have been building up a forward base in the relatively peaceful Kurdish region of northern Iraq which abuts Iran. 

That is why we must hope that Israel will be successful in crushing Hezbollah and Hamas and keeping Syria and Iran at bay.  The need for crushing such an adversary and not merely reaching a cease-fire is eloquently illustrated in an allegorical little anecdote, A difficult lesson, about a bar-room brawl in Manila that I recommend you read. 

If Syria and Iran are not kept at bay,  that epitome of evil that is the Hamas/Hezbollah/Syria/Iran continuum will inevitably lead to an Israeli bombing raid on Iran's nuclear installations, with untold results for the Middle East and the world. 

There are some, though, who would argue that this is would however be the lesser of two very bad outcomes.  I'm not sure where I stand. 

Back to List of Contents

Saudi Arabia's Fading Oil Reserves

Listing in the right-hand border of this page the books that I am reading reveals how slowly I read them.  Trying to summarise them before I have finished them also shows how I can get the wrong end of the stick.  So in future, no substantive comment until I've finished the book. 

I've just finished Matt Simmons' Twilight in the Desert.  It's somewhat scary thesis is

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that Saudi Arabia has oil reserves that are much lower than the Saudis have habitually let on,

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that the handful of super-giant fields on which they depend are about to decline precipitously and

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that they're not finding major new oilfields. 

Since Saudi Arabia is the world's biggest producer, and also its so-called swing producer, the collapse of its oilfields would have enormous repercussions for the world's economy. 

The Saudis have always been notoriously secretive about their oil producing industry, a trait they inherited from Aramco.  This company was the consortium of Exxon, Mobil, Chevron and Texaco which ran the oil business until it was fully nationalised in 1980, when the name was changed to Saudi Aramco, the original partners remaining as technical advisers.  Aramco had an incentive to hide reservoir data so that they could produce as much oil as possible, without regard to good reservoir management, prior to getting nationalised.  Since then, Saudi Aramco and the Saudi government have had no wish for outsiders to learn that perhaps the health of their industry is by no means as robust as they have been telling everybody for decades.  

Thus, only the most bland, reassuring, unverified data is conveyed to the outside world, via occasional glossy brochures or stage-managed press conferences. 

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Reserves are increased with no explanation. 

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Problems with declining reservoir pressures, and increasing amounts of water being produced alongside the oil are denied. 

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New discoveries are talked about but without checkable specifics. 

However, Saudi Aramco engineers and scientists have long published information about solely technical matters, once all the identifying data has been removed, and many of these papers are permanently available via the Society of Petroleum Engineers

The author's clever trick has been to analyse over 200 purely technical papers over the past 40 years, and from these to join the dots between diverse field data, production information and challenges encountered, in a manner that was never intended when the papers were approved for publication by Saudi Aramco management.  For example,

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one such 2004 paper boasts about Saudi Aramco's new digitalised archive which stores detailed data on all 8,700 wells ever drilled in the country.  Bingo!  Number of wells drilled = 8,700, something that had never before been made known. 

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Papers written to explain how technical problems have been overcome, also describe those technical problems - such as loss of oil reservoir pressure - that the Saudis will not admit to exist lest they imply frailty (which they do). 

The author learns that 84% of Saudi's oil comes from just three so-called “super-giant” fields, Ghawar, Safaniya and Abqaiq, that no other super-giants have been discovered since the 1960s, and that their performance is measurably deteriorating in exactly the same manner that all ageing fields degrade.  He claims the effect of this will be a sudden, precipitous - and imminent - drop in production rather than a steady, manageable decline.  Moreover, the hundred or so other oilfields discovered since the 1940s can by no means fill the shoes of the three super-giants.

He points out that as an oil producing province, the USA was on a par with Saudi Arabia, in that at its peak it produced around nine million barrels a day in 1970-85 (since declined to six million).  Saudi Arabia reached nine million just as the US began to decline, and various sources estimate it remained at this level until recently when it exceeded ten million barrels a day.  (Because you cannot believe production figures provided by the Saudi government, a bizarre method of estimating them is to secretly count the tankers that leave Ras Tanura, its main export terminal). 

Meanwhile, claims that reserves have kept up with production are preposterous in light of the many technical problems being consistently reported in those engineering and scientific papers, coupled with the lack of big new discoveries (that the Saudis would surely brag about). 

He believes - and I would agree - that the Saudis are seriously remiss in keeping secret such information about a resource that is so vital to the welfare of the world.   A pessimist, he also believes that no amount of today's enhanced technologies and efficiencies, from seismic to drilling to production to computer modelling, will ever be able to compensate for the production crash that is coming, spearheaded by the three super-giants. 

He is right to a degree, but misses two important points. 

Firstly, for all its talk and technical papers about embracing - if not leading - new oilfield technology, Saudi Aramco is still addicted to easy oil.  It has simply not yet had to apply the latest advanced seismic, precision drilling and sophisticated production techniques to seek out and produce tiny pockets of hidden oil, one by one by one, barrel by barrel, at an economic cost.  This is a whole new world of which it is largely ignorant.  Matt Simmons has greatly overestimated Saudi Aramco's embrace of new technology. 

I know this because I recently worked for several years in next-door Oman, whose oil production is perhaps 6% of Saudi Arabia's, yet from a greater number (120) of oilfields.  Its relatively meagre production is desperately dependent on just such technologies, and it was apparent from brotherly visits to and from the Saudis that this is an area far removed from their own necessities and experience. 

Secondly, and related to Saudi's history of easy oil, is the issue of number of wells. 

The Saudis have drilled just 8,700 wells, as we have seen. 

For comparable oil quantities, America had no fewer than 600,000 oil wells producing in 1996, which if you include abandoned wells implies that a considerably higher total number had been drilled over the hundred preceding years.  This means that with perhaps 1% of the well count, Saudi Arabia has roughly matched, if not exceeded, America's oil production.  Each Saudi well is averaging 1,149 bbl/day, compared with barely 10 bbl/day in the US. 

Turn that round the other way: Saudi Arabia should be planning on increasing its well count by a factor of a hundred, in order to find and squeeze out every last drop of oil under the sand.  It can be done; the technology is there.  But it will represent a massive investment, which however will yield a massively miserable return, by the crazy standards the Saudis have become accustomed to. 

Will the spoiled princes bring themselves to spend their money on anything like the scale required?  I very much doubt it. 

But if and when they choose to open up their fields to the international private sector on sensible terms, there will be hundreds of willing and canny investors out there only too happy to work for a return that is only 1% of what a Saudi oil well yields today.  The more so at $70+ a barrel.  And it will happen.  Just as soon as the super-giant production levels start dropping off the edge of that precipice just ahead, and the princes start to panic. 

Matt Simmons is too gloomy.  He fails to take account of human ingenuity coupled with human greed.  At the end of the day, oil is found not in the ground but in that unfathomable, inexhaustible reserve, the human mind. 

The book itself is over 400 pages long, poorly structured, riddled with repetition and has too sketchy an index.  Had it been edited properly, it could have been a hundred pages shorter and with a much easier-to-follow, more punchy narrative. 

These complaints notwithstanding, it undoubtedly breaks new and valuable ground.  It has apparently already upset the Saudis a lot, which is a good sign. 

You might also like to have a look at an earlier post,
When Will the Oil Run Out?

Back to List of Contents

Duels with Dual Senators

I've had duels this past week with a couple of Ireland's revered, Left-leaning Senators, Brendan Ryan and David Norris, whose writings I objected to (as they, no doubt, to mine!). 

Senator Ryan shakes the bloodied hand of a multiple mass murdererSenator Ryan, a big friend of Fidel Castro, had a letter published in which he condemned Israel's murder” of Lebanese civilians, so I challenged his use of this word.  I have to say his defense of it, when civilians are killed as “collateral” to an attack that targets others, quoting both British and Irish legal precedent from IRA days, was quite convincing. 

However he then wandered on to the legality of Hamas's and Hezbollah's activities, Israel's “occupation” and settlements, Palestinian prisoners and - bizarrely - Rachel Corrie. 

My letter disabusing him of this rubbish went unpublished, so I sent it directly to him.  No reply yet. 

Then it was the turn of the revered Senator Norris, who is openly gay and a wonderfully articulate Joycean scholar.  He wrote, sarcastically,

So the prevailing moral imperative in the Middle East is Israel's right to defend herself, according to bully boys Blair and Bush. What, one may ask, is then left to the Lebanese and Palestinian civilians men, women and children?  Merely the rightto be incinerated in the Israeli Blitzkrieg? How reassuring, how moral, how Christian.

I pointed out his incoherence in apparently absolving of responsibility the governments of Palestine and Lebanon who openly allowed the militants of Hezbollah and Hamas to train, get armed and attack Israel's sovereign territory. 

With Islamism unresisted, as he would advocate, what, I asked him, does he think will happen to gays, for example, when the Caliphate eventually stretches to Dublin?

Again, this normally voluble senator remains silent. 

Details in Week 130's Letters to the Press below. 

Back to List of Contents

Woman Fined for Being Raped!

A couple of week back, a young Italian woman in her early 30s was raped in a Berlin field by a 1.85m (6ft 1in) grim-looking older Frenchman, in front of countless witnesses.  Everyone saw what happened, and it wasn't a pretty sight seeing the poor girl lying there helpless, writhing in pain as her assailant, his malign deed done, walked smugly away. 

In due course the Frenchman received his punishment which included a fine of 7,500 Swiss francs.  And I am glad to note that the Italian girl was also fined, albeit a lesser amount of 5,000 Swiss francs.  Serves her right.  You see she was wearing a pair of cute blue hot-pants with matching skin-tight T-shirt and, as we all know, men become seized by uncontrollable lust when they see this kind of wanton provocation.  So such women must at least share the blame for getting themselves raped in such a cavalier fashion. 

Provocation deserves rape. 

Oh, oh, I'm getting mixed up

It appears the Italian woman was in fact an Italian man, the provocation was some insulting words, and the assault wasn't a rape, it was a head-butt. 

Still, same principle.

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...

...

 

 

 

As seen by the Germans

 

 

As seen by the French

 

 

As seen by the Italians

 

As seen by the Americans

 

 

As seen by the Press

Back to List of Contents

Week 130's Letters to the Press

Two unpublished letters this week, which I talked about in my above post, the one with the dreadful pun, Duels with Dual Senators.  I hope - but doubt - they will lead to further dialogue with the senators concerned.  

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Self-Defence by Israel
In his incoherent letter published in both the Irish Times and Irish Independent on July 18th, Senator David Norris seems to be of the opinion that Israel should, lest civilians be killed in the process, abnegate its right of self-defence against enemies sworn to its annihilation ...  

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Civilian Deaths in Israel/Gaza/Lebanon Conflict
As Senator Brendan Ryan well knows when he refers to
the murder of innocent civilians, many of them children”, murder is the deliberate, premeditated unlawful killing of another human being.  Israel has not murdered any civilians ...

Back to List of Contents

Quotes of Week 130

- - - - - - - - - - I S R A E L   I N   L E B A N O N ----------

Quote: The irony is, what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over ... I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad (Syria's President-for-life), make something happen.” 

President Bush, caught by an open microphone chatting to Tony Blair
over a G8 lunch at St Petersburg hosted by President Putin

Mr Putin was filmed smirking. 
Ex-KGB, covert microphone, any connection?

Quote: The first thing that must be addressed is cessation of terror before we even talk about cessation of hostilities.  When you operate on a cancerous growth, you do not stop in the middle, sew the patient up and tell him keep living with that growth until it kills you. You make sure it is totally removed.” 

Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the UN,
rebuts Kofi Annan's call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon and Gaza

Quote: “These have not been surgical strikes. It's very, very difficult to understand the kind of military tactics that have been used ... You know, if they're chasing Hezbollah, then go for Hezbollah. You don't go for the entire Lebanese nation.” 

Suddenly Britain's Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells,
on a flying visit to Beirut, is an expert on
what is and what is not a legitimate Hezbollah target,
Hezbollah who are notorious for hiding among civilians
and placing weaponry in heavily populated areas.

He later sought discussions with Israel aimed at finding a diplomatic solution. 
Why on earth Israel? 
Shouldn't he first have been seeking out Hezbollah, Syria and Iran,
demanding that the militants cease their aggression, protect civilians
and wear uniforms in accordance with the Geneva convention?

- - - - - - - - - - N O R T H   K O R E A - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: The firing of the Taepodong-2 constituted no crisis, because it was not aimed at any particular party ... There is no reason to fuss over this from the break of dawn like Japan, but every reason to do the opposite.”

The official website of Roh Moo-hyun, the president of South Korea,
tries to ignore the firing of seven rockets by neighbour North Korea,
with whom it is still technically at war (since 1953)

Back to List of Contents

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

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ISSUE #129 - 16th July 2006 [233]

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Ireland's About-to-Crash Housing Boom

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Why Won't Feminists Fight Islamism?

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The Redoubtable Madame Tussaud

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Blogiversary Nbr 4

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Week 129's Letters to the Press

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Quotes of Week 129

Ireland's About-to-Crash Housing Boom

Property prices are mad in Ireland and Dublin.  What is being demanded bears little or no relation to the intrinsic value of what is being offered.  A tiny two-bedroom flat?  €600,000.  A larger two-bedroom apartment which dIreland leads in a decade of house price increaseoesn't get the sun?  €2 million.  A modest four bedroom house? €3½ million. 

Until a decade or so ago, a family's home could be bought and the mortgage paid out of one salary, typically the father's, and this more or less set a yardstick for house prices. 

But many things have changed in Ireland's boom years, which have combined to increase almost exponentially the amount of capital that a family can now raise to buy its home.  And the amount of capital needed to buy a home has risen in concert, by almost 250% according to this chart from The Economist

Firstly, average incomes have raced ahead as Ireland's economy has blossomed.  Using real GDP per head as an indicator, they have nearly doubled in real terms from $18,500 in 1996 to $27,200 in 2000 to $34,300 in 2004

Secondly, it is increasingly common that both partners work, which means there are now two salaries to meet the monthly payments. 

Thirdly, parents, sitting smugly in houses that have soared in value, are releasing some of this new found wealth to help their children buy homes, 

Fourthly, people have had to shrink their aspirations - they are now prepared to live in pokey flats rather than comfortably sized semi-detached houses with gardens, 

Fifthly, in search of affordable housing, they are moving out further and further from the cities where they work, accepting commutes of up to three hours in some cases.

And sixthly, there is financing.  A large deposit, a 20-year mortgage and a bad-tempered bank manager are now a thing of the past.  To encourage buyers, the newly friendly banks will now provide mortgages that feature

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100% financing, ie no deposit needed,

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interest-only repayments (much lower)

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longer terms, up to 40 years in some cases (repayments lower still)

On top of all that, interest rates have been at historic lows for the past decade, ranging between 2 and 4%, which in real terms is barely above zero. 

But this cannot continue.  All homes are ultimately bought out of people's incomes.  Squeezing out ever more cash at a rate faster than your salary increases cannot go on forever.  We're reaching the end of the road. 

You have only one spouse, your parents have only one house, you can't shrink your living space to nil, you cannot commute for ten hours a day.  Interest rates cannot sink below zero, and a 100-year mortgage, that you bequeath to your children, is not something many banks are going to offer you. 

About the only step-change left is to reduce the per-unit price by building skyscraper apartment blocks like you see in Hong Kong or New York.  But the city-planning bureaucrats in Ireland are so ultra-conservative, that hell will freeze over before they permit that. 

So an Irish housing crash is undoubtedly just round the corner.  I would estimate by the end of this year.  It may or may not be part of a global crash, because prices in the US, Australia, Britain and parts of Europe are likewise overpriced, though perhaps not to the same degree. 

Of course, everything here still looks rosy on the housing market - but that is the distinguishing feature of every boom. 

A boom always looks like it will never end, so people keep on investing heavily, whether in Wall Street in 1928 or in oil in 1984 or in dot-coms in 1999.  Because the moment that a few people begin to feel that there might just be a little bit of a wobble, everyone suddenly wants to get out while the going is good, and the boom turns abruptly into a crash.  (Similarly, a depression always looks never-ending when you're in one.  You can never see the recovery coming, which is always gradual, with no upward crash.  Hence those bumper stickers, “Oh Lord, give me just one more boom, and I promise not to piss it all away this time”.

So if you're reading this and need a house - DON'T BUY!  Wait a few months for the market to collapse and meantime rent a place instead (rents are cheap) - you won't need to sign up for more than a year. 

And if you're thinking of selling?  Do it NOW.  You won't regret it. 

Late Note (November 2009)

I have just stumbled upon this fantastic Irish house-price chart, created by Status Ireland. Run your mouse over the curve.  It shows that the Irish housing market in fact began to collapse in March 2007, compared to my forecast of the end of 2006.  Not bad, eh? Pity nobody paid me for such prescience.

Back to List of Contents

Why Won't Feminists Fight Islam?

Sex-obsessed Islamism encourages a lot of unpleasant behaviour against women, largely underwritten by the Koran's stricture that they're worth only half a man (2:282). 

In strongly Islamic regimes, women have to go around in a shroud from head to toe, chaperoned by a male relative, unable to look at - much less shake the hand of - a male, not allowed to drive.  As young girls, they undergo the torture of female genital mutilation solely to prevent them enjoying sex in later life and thus wandering off to find some.  Most marriages are arranged and woe betide the girl who objects.  In Iran little girls can be wedded and bedded at just thirteen; and polygamy is fine too (4:3) - for men only of course.  Husbands are allowed under the Koran to beat their wives at will (4:38) and to divorce them unilaterally (2:230). 

All these rules boil down to one thing: Sex.  Males can have it as much as they want; females only to the extent their menfolk choose.

Men seem to be so utterly insecure and overridingly preoccupied with sex, that they are convinced that without stern oversight their women will stray at the slightest opportunity - a coup d'oeil towards or from a boy is enough.  So everything is geared to prevent this.  There is just one punishment for a woman's sex offence, whether it be a glance, a kiss, a refusal to marry, an elopement, a willing fornication, or indeed being raped, or indeed being merely suspected of any of these things.  That punishment is death, a so-called honour killing, usually administered proudly by a close male relative such as her father or brother; or occasionally the woman is persuaded to purge herself by becoming a suicide bomberess instead.    If the state itself is involved, public stoning or beheading are the norm, or flogging if the Sharia judge is feeling merciful. 

Oh, and of course there is no question of abortion, that icon of Western feminism. Islam abhors abortion, and will thus impose the usual sanction on a woman who so indulges. 

In strong contrast, Feminists in the West have made fantastic advances for the lot of women in the past forty years or so.  Freed by the pill and abortion from obligatory multiple child-rearing, women have been able to secure education, personal development and all the material benefits, such as work advancement, that follow from it, along with sexual freedom to match men's.  They are no longer second-class citizens; they have equal rights that they could not have dreamed of in earlier times.  The Feminists' victory on behalf of all women has been so complete that most men utterly concur that they deserve those equal rights and it is inconceivable that the gains could be reversed. 

But it has created a dilemma.  Having won total victory, what are Feminists for any more?  They no longer have a real cause, so they tend to waste their time on all kinds of trivial and politically correct pursuits and trouble-making.  After victory in conventional war, both sides generally demobilise their armies - but not it seems the Feminists. 

Yet they won't touch Islamism.  They won't acknowledge

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that Islamism represents by far the biggest threat and injustice that women face today, and we are talking about no fewer than 500 million Muslim females;

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that everything the Feminists have gained in the West is utterly repudiated in the Muslim world. 

If you want a flagrant example of their disdain for the fight against Islamism, look how the Dutch establishment has hounded out of the country the Somali-born, Dutch-naturalised member of the Netherlands parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, with nary a whimper from the Netherlands' strong feminist movement.  Her crime?  Exposing Islamism as a woman-oppressing ideology and campaigning to defeat it.  She was the lady who wrote the script for Submission, the movie that resulted in the brutal assassination of its director Theo van Gogh.   

Instead, under the rubric of relativism, Feminists in the West think that Islam is merely part of a different culture worthy of the same respect as any other culture, and certainly no worse than the Western culture they despise.  As a result, they tend to align themselves with Muslims, as if Muslims and women are all part of one community singularly victimised by the white Judeo-Christian male establishment. 

Instead, Feminists should be in the vanguard of the war on terror, which is in practice a war against Islamic fundamentalism.  There is no activity on earth that is likely to improve the lot of women more than the defeat of Islamism and its replacement by a more enlightened, interpretative, tolerant Islam operating freely, like Christianity, within secular states. 

Earlier in the year, I wrote about the IslamicistElephant in the Feminists' Room, and I intended this to be a follow-up post.  But in researching it, I came across a magnificent piece by Kay S. Hymowitz called Feminism is AWOL on Islam, which expresses everything I wanted to say but so much better. 

So if this subject has caught your imagination, I strongly recommend you read Ms Hymowitz's article in full.

So why won't feminists fight Islamism, even just with words?  I truly cannot understand. 

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The Redoubtable Madame Tussaud

Hardly anyone has not been to Madame Tussaud's waxworks in London, and the few who haven't have nearly all been to waxworks elsewhere that seek to emulate the illustrious lady. 

But who was Mme Tussaud?

Born Marie Gosoltz in Strasbourg in 1761 into straitened circumstances, the Madame was a very flinty, hard nosed woman who really deserves our admiration because, against many personal, commercial and cultural setbacks, she arguably established one of the biggest brands in the world, if not the first brand.  Her life is the ultimate grand scale success story. 

She did not invent the idea of a waxworks exhibition; she got this from a very charismatic showman, Philippe Curtius, for whom her mother worked as a cook in Paris.  Her soldier-father had been killed two months before her birth, in the disastrous (for France) Seven Years War

Curtius was first a doctor and then later became a highly skilled wax-modeller.  He acquired this craftsmanship because at that time, anatomical wax models were very much in demand at medical schools for research and to explain the intricacies of the human body to medical students. 

There were also other markets for wax models. 

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The Roman Catholic church was very keen on them for religious pieces, relics, tributes, votive pieces and so forth. 

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And when someone was ill, it was common in France to suspend a wax effigy of the offending body part, say a bad leg, in an effort to speed the cure (a little bit of African voodoo perhaps).

However, at the urging of a wealthy patron who said the doctor could make a fortune applying his wax modelling skills in a more worldly direction, Curtius began to look for a more lucrative outlet and hit upon the idea of a waxworks exhibition.  His Salon de Cire” at the Palais Royale in Paris turned out to be a roaring success. 

The 1870s and 80s were an extraordinary time in France's capital: a vibrant, colourful, exciting world.  There was a real buzz about the place, a passion for fashion and a fascination with the famous and infamous, full of advertising and shopping and designers and lionised hairdressers. 

Wonderful shows and weird entertainments were all the rage, replete with marionettes, strange animals, freaks, frauds, fakes and frog-eaters.  And there was nothing the punters liked more than a good model of a well-known bloodthirsty murder or execution, at which Curtius excelled.  People were entranced by the duality of glamour and gore in a kind of proto-tabloid frenzy.  In its own way, Paris in the 70s and 80s was not unlike swinging London in the 1960s. 

Moreover, wax effigies in 18th century Paris were the first opportunity for many members of the public to study likenesses of the monarchy and other powerful figures in detail.  This set in motion the process by which royalty became regarded increasingly as ‘normal’ people and celebrities became the new objects of admiration.

For their part, the celebrities themselves – and others – began to see wax modelling as a way of preserving their own mortality, an alternative or complement to portraiture, which only added to the popularity of waxworks. 

Young Marie grew up in the middle of this environment, soaking it all up, for Curtius took her under his wing, teaching her everything he knew about wax-modelling and running a successful exhibition.  A speciality was models of bloodied heads fresh from the guillotine during the French Revolution. 

Once she grew up, Marie continued to work closely with him.  When the doctor died in 1795, he generously left Marie his entire “Salon de Cire”, which by then had become quite famous in France.  Not long after, she married an engineer, François Tussaud, who however remains something of a mystery. 

She continued to run the Salon in Paris for the next few years, but in 1802 decided leave France - and her hapless husband - behind.  She brought the exhibition to England where she quickly began to replicate its French success.  People’s fascination for glamour and gore was, it seemed (and seems), universal. 

She had by then developed a most extraordinary gift for public relations and advertising, and one of the first self-publicity things she did in England was to reinvent and upgrade her background and status.  She let it be known that she was of aristocratic stock, had lived at Versailles and was once private art tutor to the sister of Louis XVI.  As well as relentless name-dropping, she also cleverly let drop that she was personally present at the guillotining of fellow aristocrats during the French revolution, which added authenticity and spice to her wax models of the unfortunate victims and their severed heads.  

She was brilliant at understanding what people were willing to pay to see and a tough manager when it came to parting them from their money. 

But for 33 years, she lived an exhausting and precarious life as a travelling showman, moving from town to town with her caravans, organising, advertising, and encouraging newspaper anecdotes, or setting up charity benefits to bring in useful patrons.  She suffered shipwreck in the Irish Sea, and fire during riots in Bristol. Yet, throughout the travelling years, she constantly introduced new figures and scenes.

A big hit was her travelling tableaux, in which she recorded newsworthy events, at a time when few people had access to newspapers and newspapers anyway were virtually without illustration.  These included an especially popular array of criminals, murder victims and tortured wretches in the exhibit hall that Punch dubbed the Chamber of Horrors” (a powerful magnet - especially for small boys)

Most people in the early nineteenth century were habitually deprived of visual information and had no chance of proximity to famous people and events.  For them, therefore, Madame Tussaud’s three-dimensional full-colour lifelike lifesize models represented an absolutely stunning innovation for the senses.  Tableau journalism indeed.  It was very compelling to be able to see what people actually looked like, warts and all, both past and present. 

She did however acquire something of a reputation – to this day – for liking blood and guts, and many people still form a mental image of her sitting primly with a bloody head on her lap. 

In 1835, she finally stopped travelling and acquired permanent premises in Baker Street, London. (Fifty years later her grandson moved the exhibition to its current address in Marylebone Road). 

Her enduring exhibition in England, and its imitators, helped to spawn the concept of the household name and the adoring fan.  The renown of Madame Tussaud's Waxworks spread, and the masses began to demand more and more information The flinty Madame Marie Tussaudabout public figures, gradually changing from a posture of deference to one of entitlement.  As they got physically closer to the famous, so pedestals got shorter and shorter until eventually disappearing.  By making their images realistic and accessible, she also did much to bring royalty – French and British – down to earth.  The very last tableau of her life was of Victoria and Albert at home on the sofa - a typical cover for the Hello! Magazine of today, and it attracted a million visitors a year. 

Her exhibition went on and on; nobody tired of it; and it still endures more than a century and a half beyond the redoubtable lady's death in 1850, in her ninetieth year.  

Today, of course, Madame Tussaud's is a worldwide brand, with five different exhibitions on three continents, including North America.  And its Chamber of Horrors is still a star attraction - and not just for small boys. 

I was inspired to research and write this post after hearing a radio interview of Kate Berridge, the author of a new book on Madame Tussaud calledWaxing Lyrical”, which I look forward to reading before long. 

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Blogiversary Nbr 4

I can't believe it is four long years since I started blogging on 14th July 2002 - but it is. 

Probably like most bloggers, I found it a lot easier in the beginning.  I had a pile of issues that had been building up inside me over many years (if not decades), so blogging was a great way to get them off my chest.  It's harder now, though, because the original reservoir has largely dried up, so I have to keep thinking up new stuff.  I guess professional writers are faced with this all the time - but then they get paid for it! 

Meanwhile, onwards and upwards. 

Late Note (19th July):
I see it is also the fourth blogiversary of Gavin's Blog,
just four days after mine. 
Congratulations from old-timer to another
. 

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Week 129's Letters to the Press

A reliable way of getting letters published - even when they ran contrary to a newspapers' party line - has in the past been to quote reliable, verifiable facts and figures.  That no longer seems to cut any ice with the Irish Times when I'm on their blacklist.  The Civilian Deaths letter below is a case in point, as were my recent letters on Iran's nuclear threat and Castro's killings

Correction: I judged the Irish Times too harshly. 
The Civilian Deaths letter was published after all, on 18th July

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Civilian Deaths in Israel/Gaza/Lebanon Conflict
As Senator Brendan Ryan well knows when he refers to
the murder of innocent civilians, many of them children”, murder is the deliberate, premeditated unlawful killing of another human being.  Israel has not murdered any civilians ... 

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Enforce the Alcohol Limit
For Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche to even think that carnage on our roads would be reduced by lowering to zero the current alcohol limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood shows how out of touch he is ...


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Quotes of Week 128

Quote: “Israel's response will be restrained but very, very, very painful. 

Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister,
on its new war with Hezbollah,
who are based in Lebanon but backed by Syrian and Iran. 

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Quote: “As long as the enemy has no limits, we will have no limits ... Surprises are coming. Our forces are still intact, and we are the ones who are choosing the time and the place

The response of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader in Lebanon,
who had narrowly escaped a failed Israeli assassination

Quote: “The reason [inflation]'s on the rise is because probably the boom times are getting even more boomer. 

Tortured language
from Bertie Ahern, Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister)

Quote: The arrest was unnecessary, disproportionate and, as has been described by others, entirely theatrical ... Lord Levy has not been charged with any offence and is confident he never will be.” 

The solicitor for Lord Levy, Labour's chief fundraiser,
uses theatrical language to protest his client's innocence
over Tony Blair's honours-for-money scandal

Soccer: "A gentleman's game played by thugs"Quote: It was an act that was not pardonable. I apologise to all the children who might have seen it. I always tell children that they should avoid doing such things ...  I apologise, especially to educators and those who tell kids what to do and what not to do.  

[But] I cannot say that I regret my act ... I apologise to all concerned but to regret it would mean that he was right to say those things ... The guilty one is the one who created the provocation.

Zinedine Zidane's non-apology for assaulting Marco Materazzi
during the 2006 World Cup Final. 

His final remarks defending the use of violence in response to insults
nullify any good example his earlier words might have set.

In a non-sporting context,
his attack on
Materazzi would have warranted a criminal conviction

No surprise, therefore, that Zidane received backing from children
 on the immigrant housing estates on which he
and over half the France side grew up.
It was understandable that he should defend his honour
in the face of an insult, the argument goes.
Materazzi should be punished, they say.
 

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

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ISSUE #128 - 9th July 2006 [148]

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North Korea - What Would Israel Do?

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World - (Yawn) - Cup

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Anti-Warriors' Arguments Makes No Sense

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Week 128's Letters to the Press

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Quotes of Week 128

North Korea - What Would Israel Do?

Two highly provocative acts have taken place in the past week or so, and it is instructive to contrast how each has been dealt with.  

On 25th June, Palestinian militants from Gaza tunnelled their way into an Israeli military outpost close to Gaza, and a firefight ensued which resulted in the death of two attackers, two Israeli soldiers and the abduction of a third.  This was by no means the first attack that Palestinians have launched from Gaza since the Israelis voluntarily withdrew and handed control to them last September – which incidentally is more than the Egyptians ever did, who were the previous occupiers until ejected by Israel in 1967.  Since gaining control of Gaza, the Palestinians have used it to blast off a steady stream of rockets into Israel, albeit most of them ineffectual. 

The Israelis reacted to the abduction by demanding the safe return of their soldier within three days.  When this was not forthcoming they launched a major military assault on Gaza to rescue him (albeit so far unsuccessfully).  They also announced they would establish a “security zone” in northern Gaza to forestall further attacks and made plain that Hamas officials and ministers would not be exempt from targeted assassinations, and indeed a few such ministers were detained.  By any measure, this was a robust response.  As such, whatever the eventual outcome, it is much less likely to encourage further provocation than a softer, more appeasing approach doubtless would.    

Then on 4th July, America’s Independence Day no less, nuclear-armed North Korea (NK) launched a total of seven ballistic missiles in the general direction of Japan and the United States, including its long-range Taepodong-2, which if it works (which it didn’t) could allegedly reach Alaska.  The first such launch since 1998, and in breach of a moratorium it subsequently undertook in 1999, this was a monstrously provocative act towards the rest of the world, and the Western democracies in particular.  It has the potential to spark, under the malign eye of nuclear China, a nuclear arms race across the Asia region, beginning with South Korea and Japan, who are the most directly threatened, and spreading to large countries such Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and even Australia.  None will want to find themselves outgunned by the surrounding states in an increasingly fraught, nuclear neighbourhood.   

So how has the world reacted to North Korea’s provocation?  Typically, with some honourable exceptions, it's been a case of

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Let’s not be too hasty – we don’t want to provoke NK
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(huh? Isn’t it NK which is doing the provoking). 

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Let’s ‘consider’ some sanctions on goods and technology that aid NK missile development
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(you mean these are not already on a proscribed list?)

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Perhaps we should try to reconvene the six-party talks on ending NK’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes
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(would these be the same talks that collapsed because NK walked out?)

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Only South Korea has actually done anything – it is withholding this year’s gifts of rice and fertiliser, though sadly this will doubtless punish the already-hungry peasants rather than North Korea's well-fed élite and army. 

So with all this global solidarity conspiring against the Dear Leader, NK's president-for-life Kim Jong Il, you can imagine how the unfortunate man must be quaking in his moleskin Cuban-heeled boots.  If he has further plans for missiles and bombs, he's not facing much of a deterrent to keep him from pursuing his megalomaniacal dream. 

Just as some on the religious right in America, when confronted with a moral dilemma, will sometimes ponder, “what would Jesus do”, so it might be useful in this circumstance to ask, “what would Israel do”. 

Because one thing is certain – tiny Israel, surrounded by enemies sworn to its obliteration, will never dare to ignore a direct threat to its existence.  You only have to think of its pre-emptive destruction of Saddam’s Osirak nuclear facility in 1981.  And who doubts it will do the same in Iran if it feels it has to? 

So what would Israel do?  As the Irish farmer famously observed when stopped by a motorist looking for directions, “if I was trying to get to where you want to go, I wouldn’t be starting from here”. 

Similarly, in the Israel context, we would never be at the stage we now are at with NK, because it would have long since dealt decisively with the threat.  It would never have got into the Western democracies' game of waffling and appeasement, whilst ignoring - if not aiding and abetting - the chicanery of NK’s friends, whether that be overt (principally China) or covert (Russia, Pakistan and probably France, which built Osirak). 

However we are in the position we are in.  So, again, what would Israel do?

It could have only one objective: regime change, by fair means or foul. 

Firstly, a direct attack would not be ruled out (as America has done), because Israel would want to keep NK guessing and nervous.  But if it were to be undertaken, it would be massive and probably nuclear, designed

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to kill the president,

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to wipe out all parts of Pyongyang where he and his entourage might be hiding,

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to take out existing nuclear bunkers and facilities,

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to destroy the caves on the southern border stuffed with artillery aimed at Seoul,

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to annihilate and demoralise as much of the enemy's million-man army as possible. 

The idea would be to prevent or severely curtail retaliation on South Korea, but even in the best-case scenario, the loss of life would be horrendous, measured in the hundreds of thousands.  Definitely a last resort. 

However, Israel's immediate action - in parallel with international sanctions and attempted diplomacy - would be more likely to involve systematic subversion of the regime.  That would involve spies (plenty available from the South) to gain information, spread dissent, distribute money, foster sabotage, all aimed at destabilisation.  It would include unremitting radio broadcasts accompanied by floods of low cost radios to listen with, leaflet drops, all designed to spread propaganda among the populace.  It would include targeted assassinations of key figures, albeit they seem to be very well protected.  And it would include a complete naval blockade of the country. 

Israel would make no secret of these activities, as a main objective would be to increase the regime's sense of paranoia and vulnerability, making it clear that any aggressive act would be met with unprecedented punishment. 

Only a verifiable halt to nuclear bomb-making would relieve the pressure. 

That's what I reckon Israel would do. 

The tough thing the free world has yet to face up to is that the longer North Korea is allowed to fester, the more difficult, dangerous and risky the solution becomes.  Israel is good at facing up to problems, because its very survival depends on it.  But the action it feels forced to take is the reason it is so unpopular, particularly among those for whom the only good Jew is a dead Jew. 

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World - (Yawn) - Cup

Well, it's all over - and what a relief.  This world cup must have been the most consistently boring competition in the history of Association Football.  I would watch some of the games, in incomprehension at the players' leaden pace and disinterest in goal-scoring, just occasionally awakened from my torpor by muted roars of those around me when one of those very rare commodities - an actual goal - would be scored. 

Then I would marvel at the accounts in the next morning's newspapers about the skill, dedication and valour of the footballers, the excitement and enthusiasm of the occasion, the justice of the result in reflecting which was the superior team.  Were the reporters at the same pathetic match that I had witnessed?  Apparently so, yet the myth of the emperor's new clothes had to be preserved at all costs. 

TOTALS of entire tournament

 

As you can see from this summary -

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64 games were played in all and 149 goals scored (excluding 24 penalty
shoot-out goals).  That works out at just 2.3 goals per game or one goal per 40 minutes. 

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And if you look only at the knockout stages, the averages drop to just two goals per game or one goal per miserable 51 minutes, ie not even one per half. 

 

Total Goals (net of penalty shoot-outs)

149

Games Played

64

Average Goals per game

2.33

Hours played (including extra time)

99

Average Minutes Between Goals

39.87

 

TOTALS of knockout stages only

 

Total Goals (net of penalty shoot-outs)

32

Games Played

16

Average Goals per game

2.00

Hours played (including extra time)

27

Average Minutes Between Goals

50.63

Click here to see all the latest scores, points and rankingsA summary of the statistics is tabulated above.  For details from which these numbers are drawn, click on the button at the right. 

To make soccer - or at least World Cup soccer - remotely exciting a few things are badly needed. 

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Refereeing decisions seem to be a matter of chance, heavily influenced by the relative thespian skills of a player either claiming/pretending to have been fouled or else protesting innocence.  Video replays repeatedly showed how often the referee's decision was simply wrong, usually in awarding a free kick for a simulated trip. 
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Until video-refereeing is introduced,
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these injustices will continue,

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players will perfect their referee-deceiving techniques,

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penalties and yellow/red cards will continue to be wrongfully awarded
(or wrongfully not awarded), and

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games will continue to be decided not by relative footballing skills
but by relative chicanery. 

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The referee should be able to consult a video referee in case of doubt - why should he be the only person on the field or at home who is not allowed to use action replays to form his decisions? 
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(Ironically, FIFA felt it must deny that video replays influenced the Argentine referee's decision to red-card Zinedine Zidane for headbutting in the World Cup final.)

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The yellow card is too soft a punishment, which is one reason there are so many of them.  Soccer should copy rugby by sending a yellow-carded player to the sin-bin for ten minutes, thereby creating a real disadvantage for the offender and his team.  Moreover, the referee should have available - and use - a suitable sanction against players who argue with him, such as a free kick, or a further ten metres, or a yellow-card. 

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But the most painful aspect of the misnamed “beautiful game” is simply the lack of goals.  Goal-scoring has decreased hugely in the past few decades for two simple reasons:

  1. defensive play has improved to such an extent that shots at goal are extremely difficult and thus rare and inaccurate, and

  2. goalkeepers have over the years grown taller - instead of being maybe 175 cm  (5'9") they now mostly approach the two metre mark, well over six foot.  So they can reach the four corners of the goalmouth that much more easily. 

Both problems would be solved with one simple change: enlarge the goalmouth to make goals easier to score.  And do it sufficiently to aim for an average of say ten goals per match instead of a pathetic two. 

What soccer really needs is a Kerry Packer, a savvy, visionary, billionaire sports-enthusiast.  He is the man who revolutionised cricket, turning it, with a few astute rule-changes and a lot of money and bullying, from a game even more soporific than football into a dynamic, exciting sport (at least when played according to his vision). 

Imagine what would happen if someone were to

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set up a new league, in say America,

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peopled with professional players (perhaps grateful second-leaguers and third-worlders) bought from all over the globe,

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playing with impactful rule changes along the above lines,

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scoring goals in fast-moving thrilling encounters. 

Americans would love it (goaded on by those soccer moms who fear the injuries to their sons of American Football).  Would the rest of the world not follow (eventually even FIFA), as happened with Kerry Packer's cricket?

And another thing.  Why are soccer fans' songs so few, so - well - boring and so unexclusive to any particular team.  Apart from French fans' robust rendering of the bloodthirsty La Marseillaise, football songs seem to amount to 'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go (for the English-speaking world) and Olé, olé, olé, olé (for everyone else except the French). 

World Cup Post Script

The Dominque and José ex double-act

The José and Dominique ex double-act 

 Sad Dominique de Villepin,
(soon to be ex-) Prime Coach of France

Happy José Pekerman,
ex-World Cup Minister of Argentina

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Anti-Warriors' Arguments Makes No Sense

I had an interesting experience a couple of days ago.  Strolling back along the Liffey from a case at the Four Courts (Ireland's principal law court), I passed a small anti-Iraq-war demonstration and stopped for a chat.  The protestors were astounded when I pointed at one of their banners and asked them why exactly they objected to the Iraq war and to Ireland's minuscule involvement (US planes refuel at Shannon). 

“I can't believe I'm hearing this question” was the general reaction, so axiomatic to them were the anti-war proclamations on their posters and banners.   So I asked who the antagonists were, and was told it was the Americans against the Iraqis.  “But that was three long years ago”, I protested, “it's now insurgents fighting ordinary Iraqis to prevent the birth of a new democracy that twelve million Iraqis have voted for and whom the Americans are helping”. I was sneeringly told that it wasn't a proper election because “Sistani told the Shi'ites to vote”. 

The discussion became more bizarre.  Every rational or factual statement I made (eg “the Iraqis now have their own government and constitution, bravely voted on by its citizens in three elections last year”) was met by either

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non-sequiturs (the Americans just want the oil),

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denials (“the Americans wrote the constitution”) or

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subject changes (“yea, but what about Rwanda, North Korea and French-colonial Vietnam”). 

A little crowd gathered as the tempo and volume increased; people started taking pictures; then a TV camera appeared from nowhere

Needless to say, the conversation never really went anywhere.  Various points were made (and ignored) such asClick to enlarge: US/UK/OZ = 1%; Rus/Fra/Chi = 82%

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America sold arms to Iraq during the Iran/Iraq war,
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“Yes but only to the tune of 1% compared with
82% from China, Russia, France and Germany
.

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“America should never have fought in Vietnam”,
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“Yet because it ran away, Vietnam remains a Communist tyranny to this day”,

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America always opposes democracy”,
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Who do you think made democracy possible in Japan and Germany, to name but two?

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“If America was so concerned about Saddam, why didn't they do something about Burma?”
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“Let's hope they do someday - those despotic generals deserve to be overthrown.”

In the end, after nearly an hour of mutual haranguing, we all just shook hands and parted company on polite terms.  But it set me thinking. 

If these are typical anti-war types, as they seemed to be, then nothing can ever be admitted that might show America up in a good light.  Thus if the US does something worthwhile, that also happens to benefit America (such as preventing more 9/11s), that action is ispo facto reprehensible and to be resisted.  All other considerations are secondary, including the building of a new Iraq or any other democracy.  That's why they cannot accept the fact that the new Iraqi government has been properly elected by 12m heroic voters - that's 74% of all over 14s, a huge turnout that would shame many Western democracies.  Of course George Bush's two election victories cannot be accepted either (he was only voted in because there was no anti-war candidate, I was told).  In fact, no election is valid unless people are elected of whom the anti-warriors approve. 

But the overriding impression I was left with was that these anti-warriors had a serious intellectual deficit.  They had never met someone who vociferously opposed their point of view, with facts and figures, and it left them angry and confused.  They hadn't learnt how to defend their point of view (admittedly a difficult task) or to deal with challenge, because - I can only presume - they only ever talk among themselves and everyone is in agreement.  We who support the war, however, are always having to analyse and defend our reasoning because we seem to be surrounded by the opposite side, especially in the media, and therefore perhaps we are a bit better at it.  Moreover our line of reasoning is essentially logical. 

My lively little encounter only reinforced my conviction that, by contrast, Leftists always have to be more passionate because they have to cover up the fact that they talk such rubbish. 

As for that TV camera, it turned out it was wielded by a young Australian independent filmmaker, who told me she was making a documentary.  We exchanged phone numbers, and if I ever get to see the finished product, I'll provide a link. 

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Week 128's Letters to the Press

Three letters since the last issue; none of them published, not even - to my annoyance - the one about the Iraq war.  I think I may be back on the Irish Times' blacklist.  Too much red meat, probably.   

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Israeli Policy in Palestinian Area
Your columnist John Kelly calls (Palestinian) suicide bombings terrible, as if they were some unlucky accident.  They are not ... 

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Irish Support for the Iraq War
James Hyde states that
many thousands of us (the people) keep making it clear we are against our Government's support of America's war in Iraq.  No doubt this is true, but is it not a sad indictment on such people?  ...

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Iran's Nuclear Programme

Your correspondent Derek Scally reports that Tehran says [its nuclear] programme is vital to secure Iran's future energy needs.  Hmmm ...

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Quotes of Week 128

- - - - - - - - - -   W O R L D   C U P   - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Islamists shoot World Cup fans.”

Headline, dateline Mogadishu, Somalia. 
The Islamists were clearing a cinema which was showing the Germany/France semifinal, because such entertainment is banned under sharia law. 

Quote (Irish Sun, 6th July, print-only): “Ninety minutes before a game, there is not much a coach can do.  You can't talk to players so you sit drinking tea.” 

England soccer boss Sven Goran Eriksson
expounds on his dynamic, communicative, motivational coaching style,
which brought England to the Quarter Finals of the World Cup

Quote: “The grace of a dancer ... the smile of St Teresa  ... the grimace of a killer ... Zidane’s last match is a date with destiny, inviting a surprise ending which the gods of football may be unable to resist.” 

The Sunday Times publishes a prescient profile of
the iconic Algerian-Frenchman Zinedine Zidane just before the World Cup Final
in which the captain of France, in his farewell appearance,
was sent off in ignominy for head butting an Italian player
(apparently for calling Zidane a terrorist)

- - - - - - - - - -   E N R O N   - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “Lay reacted to the jury’s decision [to convict him] like someone hit him on the head with a two-by-four.  He died right then.  I didn’t expect him to survive to go to prison.”

Pat Lopez, a courtroom sketch artist, commenting on
Ken Lay’s reaction on being found guilty of six charges of fraud and conspiracy
over the collapse of Enron (of which he had been CEO),
plus four counts of making false statements over his personal financial affairs. 

Six weeks later, Lay died of a heart attack. 
He would otherwise have died in prison as he faced a sentence of up to 45 years

- - - - - - - - - - N O R T H E R N   I R E L A N D - - - - - - - - - -

Quote : There is no evidence that Mrs McConville gave information to the police, the military or the security service. She was not an informant.” 

Nuala O'Loan, Northern Ireland's redoubtable Police Ombudsman,
gives the lie to IRA/Sinn Féin's perennial claim that
Jean McConville was an informer for the British. 

A working-class widowed mother of ten young children,
the IRA murdered her in 1972 with a single shot to the head and then hid the body. 
Her real
“crime” is believed to have been that
she had comforted a dying British soldier
whom the IRA had gunned down outside the front door of her modest flat.

Quote: “The IRA carried out a thorough investigation into all the circumstances surrounding her death.  That investigation confirmed that Jean McConville was working as an informer for the British army.

The IRA's formal response to Mrs O'Loan,
the same IRA whose investigations couldn't even find where it had buried her

- - - - - - - - - -   R A P   M U S I C   - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “Since I am sure no-one would host a singer who called for the lynching of black people, we expect the authorities to take a similar stance against singers who call for the shooting or burning of gay people.” 

Peter Tatchell, notorious gay-rights campaigner and founder of OutRage!,
demands that promoters of certain music festivals in the UK
exclude Jamaican singers such as Buju Banton, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer
because their lyrics call for gays and lesbians to be
shot, hanged, drowned, set on fire, and have acid poured on them. 

Nice guys. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

bullet

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

bullet

the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

bullet

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,

bullet

part of a death march to Thailand,

bullet

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

bullet

regularly beaten and tortured,

bullet

racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

bullet

a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

bullet

Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

Why does asparagus come from Peru?

bullet

Why are pandas so useless?

bullet

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

bullet

Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

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

bullet

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

bullet

Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

bullet

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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