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World Cup 2006 - NOT in Dublin, Ireland
ISSUE #127 -
18th June 2006
[200+400 = 600]
- What's Not to Like?
Inspired by and in collaboration with
special guest blogger John Dixon
Depending on your source, there are between 31 (The
Economist and the
CIA) and 44 (“Reaching
a women's anti-nuclear group) states with nuclear energy reactors. Countries which do not use
nuclear technology to generate electric power tend to fall into four
Those that are perfectly content with the situation,
usually because they have sufficient alternative energy sources to satisfy
their needs. This is of course a dwindling bunch, but they tend to
be blessed with abundant oil, coal or hydropower, and/or small
populations. New Zealand and Norway spring to mind.
Those for which the enormous capital cost is alone
sufficient to rule out nuclear energy, such as most of Africa.
Those that say they need nuclear power but clearly don't.
What they actually want is nuclear technology to enable them to build
nuclear weapons, either to keep up with the neighbours or to drop on
places like Israel.
Iran, for example, produces oil and gas to the
tune of over six million barrels of oil-equivalent a day, out of reserves of
over 300 billion. That means it has 135 years of energy
availability without doing, effectively, anything. Spending money on
expensive nuclear energy you won't need for a century is a gross waste of
your citizens' patrimony. You will do it only if you have an
ulterior motive, which in Iran's case will earn it a thorough bombing
before long if it doesn't change tack.
In the fourth category are relatively rich countries which foresee a very
serious energy shortfall, extreme vulnerability to imports and and no easy
way out other than through nuclear. Ireland, with little in the way
energy resources other than a puff of methane and some filthy peat, and situated at the end of a
very, very long gas pipeline that begins in Siberia, is one such country, but
typical of several.
Yet in Ireland, and I suspect in many other Western
countries in a similar situation, many people get a fit of the vapours at
the very mention of the world nuclear. Such people seamlessly,
fearfully and stridently conflate
with Chernobyl explosions
with radioactive waste
with inter-continental ballistic missiles
with fear of terrorist attack by suicide bombers
with past mistakes by management and operators
with anti-war sentiments
with save-the-planet philanthropy,
as if all were one and the same. Politicians jump to
popular sentiment, prompting leaders such as Ireland's Bertie Ahern to say
he opposes nuclear energy for
Whatever that phrase means, it certainly has nothing to do with weighting
risks, costs and benefits in an informed manner.
Discussion in Ireland mainly revolves around three issues: Sellafield, Chernobyl and waste disposal.
This is the name of Britain's nuclear reprocessing plant which is located on the west
coast opposite Northern Ireland. Many people in Ireland are convinced
that it pollutes the shared Irish Sea with nuclear waste, and is moreover a standing
invitation to suicide bombers, causing radioactive fallout to blow all over
Ireland (though this would be against prevailing winds). This is all
rubbish, but it did not prevent the Government, in a panic, distributing
iodine tablets to everyone in the country four years ago, and
which we've all lost by now.
Though Sellafield was originally built, in 1950, to produce
weapons-grade plutonium, and was later adapted to become the world's first
nuclear-powered electricity generator station, it ceased these activities in
1973 and 2003 respectively. Today, its role is confined to reprocessing
nuclear waste. It also degrades weapons-grade plutonium, making much
of the waste
reusable while vitrifying high-level radioactive waste into inert glass.
In other words, Sellafield is making the world less nuclear-dangerous, not
more, which you'd think environmentalists would welcome.
Ireland has, however, long campaigned for the closure of Sellafield,
through British and EU courts and otherwise, though never with a
constructive proposal for alternative disposal of the waste and plutonium.
The nearest alternate plant, were Sellafield to shut up shop, is Cap La Hague in France, which itself is
less than 300 km from Ireland, so it would hardly ameliorate anything.
Chernobyl is the second big bugbear. The
1986 explosion was undoubtedly a terrifying and terrible event, the world's
worst nuclear accident. It
killed some 47 people immediately and an
unknown (and disputed) number since, perhaps 4,000; whilst its foul nuclear cloud spread
across Europe and beyond.
It is therefore entirely understandable that people should ask whether it could
But the answer is no, because nuclear technology has
advanced hugely since - and largely because of - Chernobyl. Failures
provide irrefutable evidence of what not to do next time, and, learning from
Chernobyl, Russia now
leads the world in nuclear research and use.
Pioneered by Russia, modern, so-called
third-generation nuclear plants have, using the essentially simple
pressurised water reactor concept illustrated below, corrected most of
the problems of the past, with fail-safe operation and greater efficiency.
With its older reactors reaching
the end of their lives, France, for economic reasons, is opting for the EPR (European Pressurised Reactor),
which is a variant of the same technology. The UK is likely to follow suit when it decides to replace its
own venerable reactors. However debate is raging furiously over the
whole nuclear energy issue - unlike in Ireland where sadly such debate is
As well as being better, safer and cheaper to run, today's
third generation plants have also got smaller: three or four Russian-factory
made 100 megawatt reactors would fit comfortably into a
house-size underground silo, each providing
electricity for 110,000 homes. This alone makes it a very difficult target
However, the future is with FBRs -
Fast Breeder Reactors.
Since the 1950s, rudimentary FBRs have
been built by America, Britain, France, the USSR and others, but they have
not been much more than costly experiments. The essence of
FBR technology is the nirvana of breeding fuel by
producing more fissile material than is consumed, however the trick is to do
so economically. Solving this conundrum will constitute the fourth
generation of nuclear reactors. The main fuel input for an FBR is an 80/20
mixture of the dioxides of uranium and plutonium, of which the latter can
come from dismantled weapons, again helping with decommissioning.
The breeding means extreme efficiency in terms of energy extraction, and
that such plants will hardly require refuelling.
The countries most active in the
development of fourth generationi FBRs are China, Russia, Japan and India. India is
also investigating the use of
thorium as a fuel as it is more plentiful than
Then there is disposal of radioactive waste.
This is, in fact, yesterday's problem, inasmuch as the waste all comes from
yesterday's reactors. Modern and future reactors don't produce significant
amounts of waste because they simply reprocess their own waste and re-use a
lot of it. Moreover, they also reprocess and re-use the waste generated by
the older technologies. This virtuous circle will reach its zenith
once the fourth generation FBRs come on line in the next 20 years or so.
To summarise, the benign effects of the technology
of modern, third-generation and upcoming fourth-generation nuclear reactors are much
misunderstood by the wider public.
They are fail-safe, meaning they shut down automatically
if anything goes wrong.
They produced 100 times more energy per kilo of uranium
than their predecessors.
Due to extensive recycling, they produce only 1% of the
waste (compared with the 95% wastage of the earlier
Consequently, there is far less of the hazardous logistical movement of
radioactive material, whether fuel or waste.
They can dispose of weapons-grade plutonium and other
nasty radioactive byproducts by using them as fuel.
What waste there is, has a half-life of only 200 years
compared with 200,000 years for the longer life isotopes
There is so much of this conventional
waste in the world as well as spent fuel that the need to
mine uranium will be drastically reduced for a very long time indeed.
Oh, and not to forget. The greenhouse gas emissions of
a nuclear plant are ... zero. Many environmentalists find this a most
uncomfortable fact, yet cannot deny it.
So, nuclear power? What's not to like?
Ireland and other energy-starved countries need to get on
the nuclear-powered bandwagon fast. But first they must embark on a
huge population-education campaign that could last years. There is probably no part of
modern life that is less well understood and arouses more suspicion than modern nuclear technology as
applied to peaceful ends.
Yet it is the only
solution to the world's long-term energy needs, not just Ireland's. As
argued previously, oil will last forever, but only at an
ever-increasing price which - coupled with ever-improving technology - can
only improve the economics of nuclear energy. Those countries which
learn the technology first and fastest will benefit the most.
This post talks
only of energy generation by nuclear fission, ie
the splitting apart of heavy atoms to produce
smaller ones, which releases energy. There is
an alternative process, nuclear fusion, with few of the
downsides of fission. Nuclear fusion involves the joining
together, at extreme temperature and pressure, of two kinds of hydrogen
atoms to form helium, which is the very energy system used by the sun
and the stars. However
here on earth, despite decades of research, we have never yet managed
this trick without expending more energy than is produced.
in November 2006, 31 countries (the EU 25,
the US, Japan, India, Russia, South Korea and China), representing half
the world's population,
signed a €10 billion agreement to build near Marseille a huge
nuclear fusion plant to be known as the
Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Construction will
begin in 2008 and provided technical hurdles can be overcome it will
start producing electricity in 2016.
We shall see ...
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Death to Irritants
It used to be that civilised people didn't demand the death
of those who irritated them. You would argue with your adversary
insults on his head, and if you were really upset you might thump him on the
jaw. But kill him? Demand that someone else kill him? I
don't think so.
But it might be slowly creeping back into fashion, probably
thanks to all those
“Death to the infidels”, “Death to the Great Satan”, “Death to
the cartoonists” clips we've been seeing on our TV screens these
past few years.
You can see that such images might
impinge on the imaginations of impressionable youngsters, and next thing
“Death to the geography teacher” or
“Death to my temporary supervisor at McDonalds”. Yet that's why we
have adults as our leaders and politicians, to help temper the wild impulses of the
young, and to channel that energy into peaceful means of resolving conflict.
Except it's not entirely working out
that way. It is some senior Western politicians who seem to be succumbing to
“Death to the guy that really irritates me” bug. Youngsters have been
pretty mature and temperate by comparison.
Last year, the Reverend Pat Robertson, once upon a time a
Christian fundamentalist US presidential candidate for the Republican
called for the assassination of the democratically elected president
of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez:
“You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination,
but if [Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think
that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than
starting a war ... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the
time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200
billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole
lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get
it over with.”
Not so Reverend now, eh, Mr Robertson?
Back in Blighty, it was the turn of the renegade left-wing MP George Galloway,
noted for robotic dancing in a ghastly red leotard.
Last month he
said that a suicide bomber assassinating Tony Blair would be
When asked if he would alert the authorities if he knew Mr Blair were
an assassination target, he added,
“My goodness this is a moral maze”.
He then indicated he would blow the gaff - but only to avoid
an anti-Muslim, anti-Arab
backlash, and a strengthening of anti-terror resolve; certainly not to
save Mr Blair's worthless life.
Mr Blair couldn't sack him from the Labour party
because he had already been sacked.
Then, earlier this month, it was the turn of New York's
state comptroller, Alan Hevesi.
At a Queens College function as part of his re-election campaign, he
described Senator Chuck Schumer, admiringly, as
man who - how do I phrase this diplomatically - who will put a bullet
between the president's eyes if he could get away with it. The toughest
senator, the best representative. A great, great member of the Congress of
the United States”.
In case you were still in any doubt, he
later explained, by way of a peculiar apology, that he was praising the Senator's tenacity in
standing up to the president on policy issues. The Senator didn't
seem to mind the macho compliments.
They're both Democrats, but perhaps not (in spite of the forced
and insincere apology) democrats.
Whilst it should no longer surprise us that IslamoNazis
behead the prime minister of Canada (any infidel will do), it's a
sorry day when political leaders and public figures recommend murder as an
appropriate way of solving mundane irritations.
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Let's Roll with Jake
Oliver from Bristol was twelve years old, with a baby face, a new mobile
phone and great (if not immediately apparent) attitude. An easy target
for a 95-kilo foul-mouthed mugger in a balaclava.
But no, the mugger ended up running away in pain, clutching
a hand to his bleeding nose. Jake, you see, is a karate brown belt,
who had no intention of handing over his precious phone. So, when
threatened, he drew on his karate training by sidestepping the thug's punch and
delivering one of his own. It
broke his assailant's nose with a loud crack, made his eyes water and
dampened his enthusiasm.
Top marks for the boy's attitude,
courage and skill.
Bottom marks, however, to the police and to his
mum who both said he should, when threatened,
meekly handed over his phone.
Thanks to Jake, there is one mugger out there who will think
very carefully before he next tries to menace someone. In his own
small way, Jake exhibited the same fortitude as Todd Beamer and his fellow
passengers who refused to accept the hijacking of
United Airlines Flight 93 on Nine-Eleven, and instead said
Jake Oliver, with his own
moment, should be an inspiration to us all.
to List of Contents
The Sunday Times recently
claimed that the world's funniest
joke, as determined by Hertfordshire University in 2002, was authored by Spike
Milligan. But a version of it in appeared in The Goon Show, an iconic
radio show back in the 1950s, in which Spike was one of the four stars.
But here's another thing. If you google
best jokes”, you'll find it top of the rankings, courtesy of this
very website. Now how did that happen? I have no idea!
If you haven't heard the joke, it's a
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Week 127's Letter to the Press
My production rate is slipping. Only one
letter this week, and it has not been published; at least not yet.
Your correspondent Derek Scally reports that
“Tehran says [its nuclear] programme is vital to secure Iran's future
energy needs”. Hmmm.
According to the CIA, Iran produces
3.979 million barrels a day of oil out of proven reserves of
133.3 billion barrels ...
to List of Contents
Quotes of Week 127
we have the upper hand ... We believe that this is the beginning of the
end of al-Qaeda in Iraq ... They did not anticipate how powerful the Iraqi
security forces are and how the government is on the attack now.”
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's national
security adviser, in upbeat mood,
in light of intelligence gleaned
in the wake of the killing of of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
“The decisions you and your cabinet make will be
determinate as to whether or not a country succeeds that can govern
itself, sustain itself and defend itself. I'm impressed by the cabinet
that you've assembled. You've assembled people from all parts of your
country, representing the different religions, and the different histories
and traditions. And yet the cabinet here represents the entire Iraqi
people, and I appreciate your commitment to representing the people of
President Bush, speaking eye-to-eye in Baghdad
with new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,
who had just completed formation of his cabinet
“Some have said
‘no’ and some have said
and this is the reason we are not going to find a solution at this
Danish prime minister Anders Fogh
during a discussion at June's EU summit meeting
over what to do about the moribund constitution,
states the bleeding obvious
“If England and Spain get to the World Cup final, who
are we going to support?”
Sinn Féin's Martin
McGuinness addressing (ungrammatically)
an audience, in Spain, of Basque separatists.
He was a guest of Batasuna, the political wing of Eta,
the terrorist group which has killed more than 800 people
in the 30 years of its own campaign for Basque independence.
can get old; all you have to do is to live long enough”
Queen Elizabeth II quotes Groucho Marx
during her official 80th birthday celebrations on 17th June
“She is very thin. I leaned forward to kiss Victoria, but
there is so little of her I almost missed.”
David Cameron lampoons, ungraciously, his
hostess, Victoria Posh Spice Beckham,
whom he met as a guest at the Beckham's pre-World Cup party
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Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
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ISSUE #126 -
11th June 2006
Good Riddance to the
The violent death of the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
al-Qaeda's chief representative in Iraq, prime fomenter of the insurgency
and a man of outrageous brutality and inhumanity - all in the name of a
depraved Islam - is wonderful news. The best thing to have emerged
from Iraq since last January when an astonishing twelve million of its brave
men and women voted unequivocally for democracy and
against the insurgency.
He was truly the Beast of Iraq, though this is to give
beasts a bad name.
Iraq's new Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki,
announced the success to a news conference on 8th June.
“Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been eliminated. What
happened ... is the result of collaboration from people who facilitated
the operation conducted by Iraqi police and multinational forces ...
This is a message to those who choose the path of violence to change their
direction before it is too late. I thank our forces, our police and the
multinational forces for what they are doing in pursuing the terrorists.”
The Beast, together with Sheikh Abdel Rahman, his key
lieutenant and spiritual advisor, were killed
an awesomely surgical American airstrike on 7th June, appropriately just after
century's only day of the
Biblical Beast, the Triple-Six, or 6/6/06.
No-one knows how many people he has caused the death of and
has personally murdered (such as the beheaded Nick Berg - left - and Ken
Bigley). But by most estimates they number in the tens of
The elimination of the Beast is a huge
step forward in a war
renowned for its many
yet equally infamous for the blind eye turned to its manifold successes.
For who would ever call it
“a war to proud of”?
Well, actually, Professor Victor Davis Hansen would, because
he compares Iraq
not with what all right-thinking people would like it to be
(calm and well-run like New Zealand, say),
but with what it and the rest of the world would look like had the
Coalition not invaded.
This is the only comparison with any intrinsic merit because it looks at
real alternatives rather than hypothetical wish-lists.
So the Beast is gone. Good riddance.
I hope someone is already enjoying the $25m bounty.
is another stunning achievement for the Iraqi people, the Iraqi armed
forces, the electorally legitimate Iraqi government, and the Coalition
helping them to build a new, democratic society. Let us rejoice.
to List of Contents
Constitutional Child Rape
Ireland has been in turmoil in the past month after the
(on 23rd May) that a child statutory rape law that has been in
force since 1935 is unconstitutional. Under this law, an adult was automatically guilty of
rape if he/she had sex with a child who was under the age of fifteen. Claiming
thought the ten-year-old was in fact eighteen because she had make-up, high
short skirt, a spliff and bottle of Breezer, and anyway she assented,
was no defence and off to jail you went.
Sex with a minor remains an
offence, but the Supreme Court now says that the Constitution guarantees your right
to argue that you made an
over her age.
As a result of the ruling, at least one
rapist (he was 38, she was 12) was immediately released from jail and others lined up to claim
similar freedom. There was uproar, and the government rushed through
new legislation, in 36 hours, to keep these repulsive individuals under lock
and key, whilst honouring the constitution. The upshot is that since
the accused is now permitted to claim ignorance of the victim's age, the child is likely
to have to testify in court. This can lead to the unsavoury vista of an
already traumatised minor being cross-examined by an arrogant hostile
barrister about her dress, behaviour,
drinking, smoking, drugs etc on the night in question.
Little noticed is that this new constitutional loophole also opens up escape routes
for other miscreants.
If, for example, I am accused of driving whilst
over the legal blood-alcohol limit of 80 mg per 100 ml of blood, I have at
present no defence. The measurement alone is sufficient to prove my guilt. But it is
now most likely unconstitutional that I should be prevented from claiming ignorance -
namely that I didn't know I was over the limit. Indeed, with
the non-availability of a measurement device for ordinary drivers how could
The same defence could be applied to speeding:
“I didn't know I was going that fast, m'Lud, I was watching the road so
carefully I didn't see my speedometer”.
Similarly, someone caught with more
than €13,000 of drugs on him
currently qualifies for an automatic ten-year sentence. He too
can now wail,
“but I thought they were worth only €12,000”.
Likewise, publicans and shopkeepers
who sell alcohol and tobacco to underage kids can say they
“honestly thought” the buyers were old
The same excuse will apply for any
other offences which depend for a conviction solely on a quantitative
measurement, such as age, alcohol, speed, value.
The new legislation has approached the
problem the wrong way round. If the 1935 law on statutory rape is
unconstitutional, yet has served the State satisfactorily for such a long
period of time, the answer is not to change the law to align with the
constitution, but the other way round.
Altering the constitution to
accommodate the 1935 law would of course require a referendum, normally a
high-risk affair. But can you imagine anyone daring to publicly oppose
an amendment which reinstates as an incontestable crime the statutory rape of a minor?
In fact, the current government,
rightly under opprobrium for failing to see the child-rape débâcle coming, could
in the end do
very nicely out of a referendum, especially with a general election due in 2007.
For once, it can
spurn the opposition parties'
overtures of assistance,
to its heart's content,
launch its referendum,
be confident of
claim full and sole credit afterwards.
The opposition will have no option but to support it
This is surely too juicy an opportunity
to miss for Bertie Ahern the Taoiseach (prime minister), whom his former mentor the crook
Charlie Haughey once
“the most ruthless, the most devious, the most cunning of them
Insofar as a nonentity minister has already suggested such a referendum, and
this has been immediately
rejected by the government, you can say that a devious cunning process
is already underway.
Time alone will tell, however. The main thing is
to protect the children from adult predators.
to List of Contents
Bill Mann has written a great Motley Fool article
about about which foreign markets to select as havens for your previous
Your instinct might be to go to countries with plenty of
intrinsic wealth based on abundant natural good resources, but
you'd probably be wrong because you'd end up in places like Nigeria, Brazil,
Russia. In any crisis, remember that in any less-than-free society
you, as a foreign investor (ie a blood-sucking barbarian looter of national
treasure), will be the very last person to be given any consideration.
It is much wiser therefore to go for countries that have
good governance (such as
Finland, Bermuda, Singapore) where the rule of law will deliver relatively
stable currencies and give you a fighting chance of fair treatment and
protection. Of course the underlying feature of good-investment
countries is a free society, from which multiple other virtues flow.
Other examples ...
Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Brunei,
China, Ghana, India, Kuwait, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea,
Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela
Bermuda, Finland, Hong Kong,
Israel, Luxembourg, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan
Australia and Norway are two of the very few countries
with both great resources and good governance, yet interestingly the tiny
resourceless tigers of Hong Kong and Singapore are of comparable wealth
(over $30,000 GDP per person).
That's because the world's real wealth-creating resource is
not oil, fertile soil, abundant minerals, fecund seas. It is the liberated
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Man TT - Because It's There?
By special guest blogger, Graham Hunt (in Perth, Australia)
Three men killed, two in critical condition and at least
another nine hospitalised with injuries, after a number of incidents during
Baghdad? East Timor? Gaza Strip?
Nope. Just this year's typical Isle of Man TT week.
The unfortunate dead are
sidecar racer Tony Smith with his passenger Barry Pepperrell, and
Japanese motorcyclist Jun Maeda.
I know the IOM TT has a long tradition, is very popular, and
brings a lot of tourist revenue to the island, but I find it incredible that
this sort of carnage can continue to exist at a time when other forms of
motorsport are going to enormous lengths to avoid such consequences.
Take Formula 1 for instance. Despite the implementation of
measures designed to reduce speed, and implicitly improve safety, designers
are remaining one step ahead, and it is estimated that cornering speeds at
Silverstone, where the British GP is to be held next Sunday, will be up to
12 mph faster than last year's cars could achieve. Although it may appear
ironic that one of the drivers, Montoya, has raised concerns about this,
he's not saying that they shouldn't go that fast - he's accepting the higher
speeds as part of the development of the sport, but asking that improvements
be made to the run-off areas to minimise the hazard of spinning out.
Fellow driver and current world champion
Fernando Alonso has also put it into perspective by
“Then, of course, it is a question of fun. It is always a nice
feeling to be attacking high-speed corners and be right on the limit.”
I guess it's just not realistic to expect the Isle of Man's
long street circuit to have an F1 track's standard of safety at all points,
but how much longer will the annual human toll be tolerated? On the other
hand, there seems to be an endless stream of riders who are prepared to take
part, knowing that their chances of being killed or seriously injured are
many times higher than the F1 drivers - and they're not getting paid a
fortune to do it!
I see uncanny parallels between this and the annual
lemming-like trek to the summit of Mount Everest where at least eleven
people have died this season alone, whilst trying to fulfil lifetime
ambitions on commercially organised climbs. The running average for
fatalities is around
4.4%, ie 44 dead for every thousand times the summit is successfully
Everest and the IoM TT -
“because they are there”?
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Flaunt their Inferiority Complex at the World Cup
Most people with an inferiority complex try to hide it.
I mean, if you broadcast to people that you think you're worth less than
everyone else, people will end up agreeing with you even if they didn't
think so to start with.
It takes a particularly perverse mentality, therefore, to go
out of your way to make sure everyone knows how ridiculous your behaviour
is, how large the chip on your shoulder, how inferior your status (in your
Yet the World Cup has had precisely this effect on the
Scottish nation, at least on any of its members who choose to open their
mouths on the subject. It is of course the perennial English Problem
that's to blame. In this case, it is that England is in the World Cup
and Scotland isn't. They're both members of a major political
and monarchical union that has been running successfully for several centuries. The
Scots gain disproportionately from this, not only in the number of Scots who
hold key industrial and political positions in England or their
over-representation in parliament, but in the subvention of
£1,034 that the
English taxpayer is forced to hand over every year to every Scottish man,
woman and child - for absolutely nothing in return, and certainly no thanks.
It would, nevertheless, be logical to assume that
in the World Cup, Scotland
would support its number one partner England, just as England would support
Scotland were tables reversed.
Scotland's First Minister
Jack McConnell is firmly in the ABE camp (“Anyone
whilst Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond is backing, like many
others of his countrymen, Trinidad and
Tobago, which is ABE by another name.
Andy Murray, Scotland's up and coming tennis star, whom
the English will be unashamedly willing to tennis victory at Wimbledon
next month, is himself unashamedly an ABE man.
The Scotties have discovered that
Jason Scotland, a black Trinidadian in a kilt, will be playing for
Trinidad & Tobago in the same group that includes England. Therefore
most of them are backing T&T so they can say they are cheering for
Of course a few Scottish politicians for political reasons
are pretending, through gritted and unconvincing teeth, they are not of
ABE persuasion, notably Chancellor Gordon Brown because he wants to be
prime minister of England. Some have a lucky escape hatch, like Home
Secretary John Reid who is backing Brazil because (he says!) his
Then there are the brave armed forces. Scotties
aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious are
close to mutiny, because they are being made to stand on parade, for a
photo-opportunity, in a
formation that spells out Nelson's famous exhortation,
The result of all this childishness is bemusement and
amusement on the part of the English fans who, frankly, couldn't care less
whether the Scotties support England or not.
But there is only one way that the Scots can go in anyone's
estimation - and that is down. The way they are flaunting their
inferiority complex over the world cup is becoming an embarrassing, self-fulfilling
+ + + + +
Meanwhile, for ABEs and non-ABEs alike,
press the logo-button below to get a table with all the latest scores, which
I'll keep updated in real time as the World Cup 2006 drama unfolds.
It's also available in the sidebar at the top right of the page.
I sourced the original spreadsheet
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126's Letters to the Press
Six letters since the last issue. One published [P!]
during June, but May was a (rare) month where the papers were entirely
free of my wretched letters.
“3,000 victims killed in
Cuba by right-wing extremists based in Florida”?
Finian McGrath TD better have firm evidence for this astounding,
incredible figure. Yet even if it were true - and it most certainly
isn't - it pales beside the 73,000 fatalities ....
As I understand it, the Supreme Court has ruled that under the
[Irish] Constitution a valid defense for having sex with a minor is claiming to not know the child was under 16. Presumably, people can now claim the same Constitutional defence if accused of driving whilst exceeding the legal
blood-alcohol limit ...
over Easter Mass
David Fraser, who from the context of his
hysterical letter of May 31st is
not a Roman Catholic, begins by asserting, without evidence, that
"most ordinary, decent Roman Catholics are appalled at the way in
which Fr Iggy O'Donovan and the other two Augustinian priests have been
bullied ... I am a Roman
Catholic who considers himself "ordinary and decent" and I
heartily welcome the apology ...
Your exposé on the way that major bookstore chains
promote books not on the basis of literary merit, but by payments they
demand from publishers, is apposite and creditable. But your
editorial strangely fails to state ...
Strikers in St Patrick's Cathedral
The Church of Ireland hierarchy should
explain why it is permitting the desecration of St Patrick's Cathedral by
permitting 41 Muslims to remain inside while they attempt suicide by
aid for Palestinians who vote for Hamas
You report that "the EU is getting ready to go it alone and channel emergency funds to the Palestinians if talks with the US, Russia and United Nations on setting up an international mechanism for easing their financial plight fail this week". Why?
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Quotes of Week 126
- - - - - - I R A Q - - - - - - - - - -
“This violent man will never murder again.”
President Bush on the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
Beast of Iraq and al-Qaeda's leader there
“Oh, sure. There's no way we can lose [the war in Iraq] on the battlefield. The only place we can lose it is if we lose our nerve, and if we decide that it's just too tough, and we're going to toss in the towel, that the dire consequences for the world, for the region, for the Iraqi people, for the Afghan people, and for the American people, are so serious, that the thought of it is just unacceptable.”
Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld,
when asked if he thought that America could lose the war
- - - - - - I R A N - - - - - - - - - -
“[My] letter [to President Bush] was an invitation to Islam and the prophets'
culture ... an invitation to monotheism and justice, which are common to all divine prophets. If the call is responded positively, there will be no more problems to be solved”.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran
makes clear that
he is inviting Mr Bush to convert to Islam.
Such an invitation is an Islamic pre-requirement,
known as da’wa,
before war can be waged against infidels.
Draw your own conclusion about what Mr Ahmadinejad
intends to do with his nuclear bombs once he's got them.
- - - - - - P A L E S T I N E / I S R A E L - - - - - - - - - -
“The principle for us remains the same. We want to address the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people, but we are not going to provide money to a terrorist organisation.”
Sean McCormack, the US state department spokesman.
[should be brought] between not giving support to terrorists and easing the extremely difficult situation of the Palestinians.”
Margaret Beckett, Britain's new foreign
secretary makes a similar point.
These statements beg the question,
where is the distinction?
For it is the Palestinian people themselves
who have voted in the Hamas terrorist organisation.
Thus donations to the Palestinians
people are, de-facto,
donations which support those who support terrorism.
3rd June 2005)
- - - - - - W O R L D C U P G E R M A N Y
2 0 0 6 - - - - - - - - - -
“There are small and medium-sized towns in Brandenburg and other
places where I would recommend that nobody with a different skin colour go.
They would possibly not leave there alive.”
Uwe-Karsten Heye, head of
which is an anti-racist organisation,
and formerly a spokesman for the German government,
warns starkly of racist attacks during the 2006 World Cup
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Now, for a little [Light Relief]
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
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My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
Note: I wrote
my own reports on Macondo
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
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
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
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the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics