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June 2011


ISSUE #213 - June 2011

Myspace Clocks, Video Clocks, Flash Clocks, Fun Clocks at

ISSUE #213 - June 2011 [397+1001=1398]

Daily poll on President Obama’s popularity; date is on the charts. (Click to get the latest version.)
Worrying improvement continues!

Rasmussen Daily Poll - 13 June 2011

47% Total Approval as at 13 June 2011

Change of modus operandi. 
As of June 2011, I will post blogs as and when I write them
(ie like every other blogger does) instead of storing them up for one big bang. 
They will however continue to be grouped together per month for archiving purposes. 

Bitter and Sweet Tale of Israel and Palestine - 14th June 2011


Ticking Anglo Irish Bomb - 12th June 2011


Aid Prolongs Poverty in the Developing World - 4th June 2011


Issue 213’s Comments to Cyberspace


Quotes for Issue 213

Bitter and Sweet Tale of Israel and Palestine - 14th June 2011

The history of modern Israel and Palestine
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.

I was recently given The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan (2006) to read, by a friend who considers I lean too far in the Zionist direction and so need a bit of extra education. 

The Lemon Tree, by Sandy TolA delightful read, it feels like a novel but is in fact the true story of two families, on either side of the Israel-Palestine divide.  So enchanting is the narrative, that you have to keep pinching yourself to remind yourself that this is not fiction.  

A Jewish family, the Eshkenazis, which has narrowly escaped annihilation during the Second World War, emigrates to Israel in 1948 to escape from a still Judaeophobic post-war Bulgaria. 

Meanwhile, the newly created state of Israel has been immediately attacked by the surrounding Arab countries bent on its annihilation at birth.  But the latter quickly find themselves on the losing side, and as a consequence in the face of Israeli military might, many Arabs are expelled or flee from their homes to become today’s permanent Palestinian refugees.  (To date, no-one agrees on the degree to which this exodus resulted from forced expulsion or voluntary flight.)   

One such family is the Khairis, who have lived in what is now Israel for centuries; in fear of their lives, they desert their house, in whose garden the patriarch recently planted the eponymous lemon tree.  Some weeks later, the newly arrived Eshkenazi family move in to what has become an abandoned property and look with delight upon the lemon tree. 

The book then describes the lives of the two families as the tensions and further wars between Israel and the Palestinians develop, and inevitably the sincere and fiery son of one encounters the thoughtful if bewildered daughter of another.  Less inevitably, they become friends (not lovers) over several decades, who try to explain and to understand each other’s viewpoint, but fundamentally without changing their own.  Like the fruit of the tree they are each so fond of, the story is bitter and sweet at the same time.  Eventually, the Eshkenazi daughter moves out of the Khairis' former home, and with the support of the Khairi son makes the house available for the education and mutual understanding of Arab and Israeli children. 

This touching and true  human story provides the framework on which the history of Zionism and the emergence of modern Israel is described against the backdrop of Palestinian history and nationalism. 

Historical facts are copiously footnoted augmented by a lengthy bibliography (total 113 out of 536 pages) in an attempt to be totally factual and impartial, but this also provides scope for some subtle deceit.  Numerous source documents and websites are referenced, but it is notably difficult to link particular statements in the book to particular sources because there is no one-to-one correlation and the intervening footnotes muddy the water further. 

And yet, as you work your way through the book, you slowly begin to detect a constant if subtle pro-Palestinian anti-Israeli bias, one which seems to slowly grow as the book progresses. 

Specific instances are listed and discussed at the end of this post. 

As a result, to form as balanced a view as possible of the events described some kind of antidote is required. 

The Case for Israel, by Alan DerschowitzOne excellent example would be “The Case for Israel” (2004) by Alan Dershowitz, a famed American-Jewish law professor at Harvard who writes prolifically on Israeli matters, but whose name, significantly, appears nowhere in the pages of references and bibliography in The Lemon Tree.  The title of his book is self-explanatory, and – like The Lemon Tree – it meticulously supports all its contentions with copious references, but in this case on a one-to-one basis which makes them easily verifiable and thus more convincing.    

The Arab-Israeli dispute is characterised by an innate unwillingness of supporters of either side to seriously study the arguments that favour the other side, perhaps for fear of being persuaded. 

Nevertheless, these two great readworthy books, taken in conjunction with each other, are an enormous help to overall understanding of a very complex conflict situation, for which sadly no end seems in sight. 

Some instances of The Lemon Tree’s bias


On p45-7 the author recounts the recommendation of John Peel, head of a “Palestine Royal Commission” which reported in 1937, to split Palestine into two states – for the Arabs Jordan (originally called Trans-Jordan) and a Jewish one.  Yet The Lemon Tree presents this as an affront to the Arabs, rather than a reneging by the British of Balfour’s promise in 1917 that the whole area would become the new Jewish homeland.  This was the Arabs’ first rejection of a “two-state solution”: then as indeed now, they demanded a single Arab (ie non-Jewish) state.  Moreover, nowhere does the author acknowledge that Jordan is itself an Arab state created for Palestinian Arabs, albeit under an Iraqi king. 


On p48, for the period 1917-48, the League of Nations decreed that Palestine be administered under a British mandate.  The book dismisses this legal arrangement as “foreign occupation”, while dishonestly forgetting the preceding 500 years of truly “foreign occupation” by the Ottoman empire.  The British mandate represented the international community's liberation of Palestine from the Ottomans.   


On p92-93, the notorious Deir Yassin incident of 1948 is described, in which Israeli soldiers apparently and without reason “massacred hundreds of women, children and unarmed men”, a storyline that persists to this day.  But there is an alternative explanation – a fierce battle took place, in which Israelis threw grenades into houses from which snipers were firing (thus inevitably incurring civilian casualties).  They shot “women” because many Arab fighters dressed as women were shooting at Israelis to whom they had supposedly surrendered.  Both sides are probably exaggerating their descriptions, but a purportedly unbiased book should not confine itself to only one side’s version of events. 


The only refugees portrayed are Arabs who left Israel during the 1948 war, the vast majority apparently “forced”.  However there is much dispute about the extent to which they were “forced” to leave by the Israelis rather than encouraged by their own side or indeed fled through fear.  Furthermore, the similar number of Jewish refugees driven or fleeing from North Africa at that time are simply ignored – reference is made (on p185) only to such refugees post 1950.  That is not the way to write a balanced account.  The reason that only Palestinian refugees persist to this day is that the Arabs and their sympathisers want them that way for political purposes and have refused to give them homes (see my post “Why Are Palestinian Refugees Still Refugees”), whereas the Jewish refugees were quickly absorbed by Israel, America and other Western states. 


The mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini is often mentioned, in a non-disparaging way.  But

his  avid support for the Nazis and its Holocaust policy,


his request to Hitler that this be extended to Jews in Palestine and


his presence in Germany as a guest of Hitler for most of the Second World War

are quickly glossed over.  That the mufti’s nephew was none other than Yasser Arafat is not even mentioned. 


That there are Arab members of the Israeli Knesset is also not mentioned: Arabs have no comparable parliamentary representation anywhere else in the Middle East, other than in post-Bush Iraq. 


The president of Egypt, Gamel Abdel Nasser, sought to unite all Arab nations in order to destroy Israel, his objective in instigating/inciting the Six Day War of 1967.  On p209, the book broadly supports him while remaining silent on his alliance with the USSR (up to the war). 


For the Sabra/Shatilla massacres of hundreds of Palestinians in those refugee camps, the author on p307 nonchalantly places the blame on Israel’s commander Ariel Sharon rather than the Lebanese Christian Phalangists who actually conducted them.  Sharon’s sin was failing to prevent it (for which the Israelis punished him); the author expresses no outrage towards the actual – Lebanese – perpetrators.


UN Security Council Resolution 242, which followed the Six-Day War of 1967 (and incidentally is non-binding), calls for Israel to withdraw “from occupied territories”, with the definite article deliberately excluded after long negotiation, in order to recognize that the 1967 lines are not sacrosanct.  On p337 the author quotes UNSCR 242 but using the words “from the occupied territories”, a sleight of hand which for an author as meticulous as Mr Tolan is surely no accident. 


On p339, the author writes that in 1994 Hamas “abandoned its strategy of attacking only Israeli military targets”.  This is a very strange statement as civilians have been targets throughout the existence of Hamas.  (Even Judge Richard Goldstone, the pro-Palestinian UN investigator of Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2009 concedes “that the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional … its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets”.)  The author should know better than to swallow such deceptions. 


On p358, the author complains that during the second intifada there were more Palestinian casualties than Israeli.  Similarly on p376.  So what?  Once there is conflict, the superior force is bound to inflict more casualties, indeed that should be its objective or else there is no point in engaging in conflict. 


In 2002 a Palestinian suicide-bomber blew up an Israeli bus killing eleven and injuring 49.  On p367, the author reports – without giving a source – that Yasser Arafat issued a condemnation.  Whether this is true is moot, but an unbiased author would certainly note that Arafat frequently said one thing in English for gullible Western consumption and the complete opposite in Arabic for his followers.  It is inconceivable that he would have condemned such an act in Arabic.   


On p381, the author uses the emotional term “apartheid wall”, but neglects to explain that it is 80% fence and that it has saved countless lives by cutting suicide attacks by 90%.  Dishonestly, it is presented as just another humiliation for Arabs by Israelis. 


On p386 Mr Tol implies that all of Palestine was heavily populated by Arabs before Jews arrived.  This is simply not true.  Moreover, no account of this conflict should omit the thousands of years of history that pre-date 1948, in particular who exactly ran and was living in what is termed Palestine (itself a political term invented by the Romans to indicate, ironically, a place where people who live there – ie Philistines – don’t belong).   Here is a potted history of a region that has been inhabited by Jews continuously for at least 3,000 years.  People who since the 1967 war have come to be called Palestinians are Arabs; Arabs come from Arabia, an entirely separate area.   


The Jews got Israel (via UN Mandate) from the British in 1948,


who took it in 1917 from the Ottomans,  


who took it in 1517 from the Egypt-based Mamluks,  


who in 1250 took it from the Ayyubi dynasty (descendants of Saladin, a Kurd),  


who in 1187 took it from the Crusaders,  


who in 1099 took it from the Seljuk Turks,  


who ruled it in the name of the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad,  


which in 750 took it from the Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus,  


which in 661 inherited it from the Arabs of Arabia,  


who in 638 took it from the Byzantines,  


who in 395 inherited it from the Romans,  


who in 63 BC took it from the last Jewish kingdom,  


which in 140 BC took it from the Hellenistic Greeks,  


who under Alexander the Great in 333 BC took it from the Persian empire,  


which in 639 BC took it from the Babylonian empire,  


which under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC took it from the Jews (the Kingdom of Judah),  


who - as Israelites - took it in the 12th and 13th centuries BC from the Canaanites,  


who had inhabited the land for thousands of years before they were dispossessed by the Israelites.  

Finally, there is no evidence that today's Arab Palestinians are descended from the Canaanites who were completely wiped out in ancient times. As mentioned, they are from Arabia.  The clue is in the name. 

Back to List of Contents

Ticking Anglo Irish Bomb - 12th June 2011
Alternative easy-to-remember permalink:

Why did Anglo Irish Bank sell off its highly profitable, well-capitalised, deposit-rich
Austrian subsidiary, shortly before it strong-armed the Irish Government
into guaranteeing its debts,
bleating that because of lack of liquidity it would otherwise go bust
and bring down the entire Irish banking system and economy with it? 

Who are the mysterious depositors whose hundreds of millions of €uro
are now safely hidden in the Austrian bank sworn to

There is an interesting little angle to the self-destruction of Anglo Irish Bank in 2008 that seems to have caught very little public attention, yet it has implications that are potentially explosive. 

Anglo Irish BankAnglo Irish bank was founded in Dublin in 1964 and plodded on unremarkably for the next three decades.  From 1995 to 2001 it made seven important acquisitions, of which the first was Royal Trust Bank (Austria) AG, a Vienna-based bank with a century of history, which it renamed Anglo Irish Bank (Austria) AG. 

Banking Roller-coaster

Anglo Irish then splurged through the Noughties on a wild and blind rollercoaster of property speculation and property lending in Ireland and elsewhere, and securitisations, mostly funded by countless equally speculative billion-€uro loans from major banks in Germany, France, Belgium, Britain, America and elsewhere.  Anglo Irish also developed the practice of shifting deposits and liabilities in and out of the bank at annual audit time to deceive the auditors as to the financial rot that was growing within the bank and also to hide  its directors' personal financial shenanigans. 

Meanwhile, the heavily remunerated financial regulators in all of these domains, who are paid to keep a weather eye on foolish behaviour by their banks, snored on soundly, awakening only to avail of bounteous invitations from those selfsame banks to dinners, champagne, sporting tournaments and other worthy jamborees . 

Anglo Irish, especially, was on a roll.  It was even ranked as the world's best performing bank out of 170, by bank risk management consultants Oliver Wyman at the 2007 World Economic Forum in Davos (though curiously they've since deleted this chart from their site); they had also held up Anglo Irish Bank to others as a banking “supermodel”.

Anglo Irish: the world's best performing bank in 2006

If you're a senior banker, it doesn't get much better than this.

But so much for the hubris. Nemesis arrived in just a year. 

Global Financial Collapse

When Lehman Brothers, America's fourth largest investment bank, suddenly collapsed on 15th September 2008, it spread disarray throughout the world's financial systems.  Ireland was not immune.  Anglo Irish was one of six Irish banks (the others being Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Irish Life and Permanent, Irish Nationwide Building Society and the Educational Building Society) whose creditors started calling in their loans, but whose hugely over-extended balance sheets, built on smoke and mirrors, were hopelessly unable to meet these demands. 

So it was that on the Sunday night of 28th/29th September, a phalanx of Irish bank CEOs , all of them in a state of profound panic, raced to the Government Buildings in Dublin's Merrion Street, demanding an immediate meeting with the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his Finance Minister Brian Lenihan (who had been in Cabinet barely a year). 

Mr Cowen (with the delicious nickname Biffo - Big Ignorant F**ker From Offaly) was a small-town solicitor who never practiced and Mr Lenihan was a barrister who practiced law for only five years; both were dynastic politicians who entered parliament relatively young (24, 37) as replacements TDs (MPs) when their respective fathers (also TDs) died.  In other words, neither had any training or experience in finance or economics or indeed had ever had to suffer the vagaries of the world of private business; neither had ever created a single job nor had to meet a payroll.  Indeed, the Irish Cabinet was stuffed with such minor lawyers, pub-owners, farmers, teachers; the only minister with any actual real-world business experience was the Environment minister from the Greens, Eamon Ryan, and all he had done was run a bicycle shop for a few years. 

Bank Guarantee

So the banking CEOs told Biffo and Mr Lenihan that the their banks had run out of money and - crucially - out of the associated liquidity otherwise afforded by deposits, and were incapable of meeting their financial obligations.  Therefore the banks and Ireland's entire banking system would collapse the following Monday morning unless the State guaranteed all their creditors - all deposits (retail, commercial, institutional and interbank), covered bonds, senior debt and dated subordinated debt (lower tier II).  Otherwise, they said, there would be no money in the ATMs, and no money to pay anyone's salary - in the public sector in particular.  Mayhem would ensue as people across the land tried to force banks to hand back their deposits. Money and investment would flee the country, which would be instantly bankrupted. 

Poor Biffo and Brian.  Picture the scene.  They had no idea what the bankers were talking about, and from their position of ignorance no way to argue with or against them.  Faced with a situation for which they were utterly untrained, inexperienced and unprepared, they were completely bamboozled and underwater.  What was being demanded was a financial commitment of taxpayers' money of greater dimensions than had ever been made in the history of the State, or indeed any state if considered on a per capita basis. 

So they discussed this in Cabinet.  Only they
didn't.  It was in the middle of the night and their
Cabinet colleagues were in bed, so they phoned
them.  Did they demand that they drive
immediately to the office because we have to
make the most momentous decision in the history
of the state?  No they did not.  The Cabinet
members were allowed to take individual calls at
home, give their considered (!) opinion and grant
their hallowed approval, without ever bothering
to get their backsides out of bed.  So Biffo and
Brian were not only ignorant of the technicalities
of the issues, but equally ignorant of how to
orchestrate a tremendously important cabinet
discussion and determination. 

This part of the post was written before the ~
sad news that Brian Lenihan died of pancreatic
cancer on 10th June at the young age of just 52. 


He was an honourable and honest man who
did his best, while knowing he was
under a death sentence due to his illness. 


This does not alter the fact that he was
unsuited and ill-equipped for
the finance ministry that was thrust upon him. 


May he rest in peace. 

But that's how the deed was done, how the Irish Government kowtowed to the self-interested will of a bunch of frightened, scabrous bankers, on that fateful night, a night that will live in infamy, a night that today's Irish children, babies, foetuses and the yet unconceived will pay for through their sweat and treasure until and beyond their old age. 


But this post is not about that particular scandal, but about another that took place within Anglo Irish Bank, the worst offender of all the banks, barely three weeks earlier, on 5th September 2008. 

That day, in a move that to date has received scant media attention, Anglo Irish signed a virtually irrevocable sales agreement with the Valartis Group, which describes itself asa Swiss financial boutique with significant private banking business as well as asset management and investment banking operations.  In other words a bank which prides itself on a strict code of Sicilian-style omerta.  Under the agreement, Valartis bought Anglo Irish Bank (Austria) AG for €141 million, but as an extra inducement Anglo Irish kindly (and inexplicably) lent the wealthy Valartis €24m. 

Valartis renamed its new aquisition Valartis Bank (Austria) AG, which to this day remains a Vienna-based Austrian bank.  It reminds its depositors that

Austrian Banking Law contains comprehensive rules regarding Bank Secrecy ... to protect the bank's clients and provide for the prosecution of bank employees if they divulge confidential information to third parties. We take great care to ensure that our clients ... can fully benefit from the Austrian AdvantageMoreover it “protect[s] and grow[s our clients'] wealth [with] professionalism and discretion ”. 

In other words, the omerta continues. 

Since Anglo Irish, according to p72 of its 2010 Annual Report, ended up with a profit of €49m on its transaction, it might argue that this was a worthwhile deal for a bank in dire financial straits. 

Private Deposits

Yet that Austrian subsidiary was holding no less than €570m in private deposits, and unlike its parent did hardly any lending - just €34m.  This was at a time when lack of liquidity (ie lack of deposits) was the principal reason that Anglo Irish was just three weeks away from total collapse, only to be averted by massive intervention by the hapless Irish taxpayer at the hands of a financially illiterate Government. 

Moreover the subsidiary was also exceedingly well capitalised, with €92m in capital, almost five times the statuary requirement of €19 million, with a very strong capital ratio of  39%. Unsurprisingly, it was also profitable, delivering an 18% increase in pre-tax profits to €13½m for the year to 30th September 2008. 

Who knew all this?  Well, eight of the Anglo Irish top brass sat on its supervisory board, including chairman Sean Fitzpatrick himself, former finance director Willie McAteer and former chairman Peter Murray. These eight far outnumbered the two lonely Austrians sitting on the management board.

CEO David Drumm and Chairman Sean FitzPatrick

Is it conceivable, therefore, that the senior managers of Anglo Irish - in particular Mr Fitzpatrick (right) and CEO David Drumm (left) - were unaware of how close their bank was sailing to the edge of Niagara Falls? That disaster was only a few weeks away? If you believe that, you believe in the tooth fairy!

So why would they sign away a bank that was deposit-rich with its juicy €570m, highly liquid, strongly capitalised and very profitable?  Or more pertinently, who, exactly, are those depositors who placed over half a billion €uro in one of the most secretive banking jurisdictions in the world, never mind in the EU?  Deposits that quietly broke free of any control or oversight by Anglo Irish or by the Irish State, to end up in the distant embrace of Valartis?

As Cicero so perspicaciously asked over two thousand years ago, cui bono?”; who gains from such an arrangement?  Or in more recent times, we could turn to the 1976 movie “All the Presidents Men” where Deep Throat memorably advised journalist Bob Woodward that if he wanted to understand the Watergate mystery he should follow the money”. 

Unfortunately, thanks to Austrian and Swiss banking omerta, we cannot “follow the money”; we can only speculate.  But cui bono?” enhances our speculation. 

Clearly any Irish person


who had, say, a hundred million €uro deposited with Anglo Irish bank or a foreign subsidiary steeped in omerta


who knew (perhaps as part of a favoured golden circle) that, if the Austrian subsidiary were to be excluded from the equation, lack of liquidity was driving the rest of Anglo Irish to the verge of insolvency and/or effective nationalisation,

would very much want to put such deposits well beyond the reach of official Irish eyes and hands. Especially if, for example, you were - like Messrs Fitzpatrick and Drumm - heavily indebted, on a personal basis, to Anglo Irish and others. 

What better route, therefore, than to hurriedly hive off that subsidiary (along with your savings as part of its sumptuous half-billion deposit book) to a wholly separate organization distinguished by a similar culture of omerta, even if it meant throwing in, say, €24m as a sweetener. 

So who would such depositors comprise?  I have no idea, but we can make speculative guesses, on the basis of both cui bono?” and follow the money”. 

For starters, could the list include these men and perhaps some of their closest friends:


Sean Fitzpatrick?


Willie McAteer?


Peter Murray?


David Drumm ?


Members of the unnameable ten-person golden circle” to whom, after erstwhile billionaire Sean Quinn had suddenly to put up for sale his 10% ownership, Anglo Irish lent €451m to buy up those Anglo-Irish shares in order to prevent a share price collapse, who include


Gerry Gannon? 


Joe O'Reilly?


Seamus Ross?


Jerry Conlan?

Definitely not!  As Irish resident citizens taxable on their worldwide income, they would be obliged to reveal their deposits in Valartis' Austrian subsidiary to the fiscal authorities, in order to declare the resultant interest and dividends for taxation purposes.  Since there is no public knowledge of such revelations, clearly none of them belong on the list. 

Do they?

Bomb Ticks On

This is not (yet) a scandal, but if more investigative journalists were to do their job (ha!) it could quickly explode. 

Those deposits of €570m,


which since September 2008 have been safely hidden away from prying eyes,


beyond the reach of Irish authorities, and


whose removal contributed to the effective destruction of Anglo Irish bank and


in turn the beggary of the Irish nation,

belong to some real, and smugly relieved, people. 

The Anglo Irish Ticking Time Bomb - when will it explode?

I wonder will we ever know who they really are.  This is surely a ticking Anglo Irish bomb.   

Alternative easy-to-remember permalink:

Back to List of Contents

Aid Prolongs Poverty in the Developing World - 4th June 2011

Aid to the developing world is unaffordable to Ireland (and other bankrupt states) and anyway always does more harm than good over the long term, for all parties.

I was invited last week (30th May) to appear as an audience member on a weekly Frontline programme of political discussion put out by RTÉ, the Irish State broadcaster.  The theme was twofold:


the damage Ireland's budgetary cutbacks are doing to the care of disabled people, and


whether Ireland should curtail its €669 million aid budget (2011)**, which is 0.52% of Gross National Income, or indeed meet its UN Millennium Development pledge to increase this to 0.7% of GNI by 2015. 

**(Interestingly, Ireland's aid budget is equivalent to a 1½% reduction in the massive interest it is paying on its bailout to the IMF and ECB.  Meanwhile, its political leaders are desperately and vainly seeking a mere 1% cut). 

My invitation arose from a letter I had published in the Irish Times about poverty-reduction, way back in 2005.  Extraordinarily, the relevant RTE researcher keeps such stuff on file and is able to retrieve it, and it's not the first time he has referred back to my ancient witterings. 

With data culled from a blog post last March (The Madness of Voluntary Redundancy) on redundancy and another from 2004 which featured Ethiopia (Multiple Mass Killers), I made the following points, more or less, in two goes with the microphone.  I was astonished at the amount of positive feedback I received after the programme, from both audience members and privately, expressing agreement with the thrust of what I said:   

For every FOUR €uro Ireland spends, it borrows ONE €uro, and at exorbitant rates. This will have to be paid back not by today’s feckless adults under whose watch it was incurred but by their children, grandchildren, foetuses and the yet unconceived, until their own old age. This is a monstrous crime against children.

It is equally monstrous to wilfully add to this burden by gifting money Ireland does not possess to other people.

And that is to not even point out that aid to the developing world has proved to be an utter disaster. Other than sporadic  pockets of success, there is absolutely nothing to show for the hundreds of billions that have been poured into poor countries over the past 60 years since the Second World War, other than to instil and propagate a dependency culture and fill the pockets of kleptocratic tyrants.

Take Ethiopia.  In the 20 years after Bob Geldof and Live Aid in 1985,


the population of doubled (from 34m to 68m),


annual income per head almost halved (from $190 to $108),


food production per head went down by two-thirds (from 450 kg to 140 kg) and


the number fed by charities doubled (from 7m to 14m).

In other words, Ethiopia's personal misery at least doubled, and by some counts quadrupled. 

For Ethiopia’s problem was never lack of money, it was lack of democracy under successive tyrants and lack of open markets. It is the story of Africa.

The Western world has made donations of taxpayers’ money (a mere one trillion dollars, actually) to assuage their guilt for prohibiting free trade access of third world producers to protected Western markets. 

My contributions may be found here at Minute 39:44-41:15 and 51:40-52:30.   

There is a reason that aid can never do more than trim at the edges of poverty, and that reason is human nature. 

Imagine you are the chief of a jungle village mired in poverty and disease.  One day, an Irish aid worker arrives and offers help.  Perhaps he/she will


drill a well for clean water,


teach villagers about elementary hygiene,


arrange periodic nursing visits for rudimentary health care,


set up a small open-air school for reading, writing and arithmetic,


provide agricultural advice and fertilisers that improve yields,


build tracks to make it easier to bring produce to market.

After say five years, the Irish aid worker sees what fantastic progress has been made.  Not only are the villagers healthier and wealthier, but they have learnt to do most of the above list by themselves.  So the aid worker says great, what a wonderful success, this village can now stand on its own two feet.  My job is done, so it's now time for me to move the aid to the next village to work a similar miracle. 

Well, what do you think the village chief is going to think when he learns the aid flow will stop and another chief will get it instead.  He will be enraged; he will do everything he can to keep the aid flowing.  In fact, not being stupid, he will have long seen this coming and so will have made sure that his villagers are NOT healthier and wealthier.  There may be many ways of doing this, but the simplest is to just pocket the aid himself.  That's merely human nature.  (Even aid workers themselves can be similarly tempted.)  

Whenever you create incentives for certain types of behaviour, it is certain you will get more of it, whether good or bad.  That is why long-term aid can never work and has never worked other than in isolated pockets.  Foreign aid destroys, not enhances, wealth - and by the way the indomitable Melanie Philips thinks so too, as does the IMF.  Dambisa Moyo, a renowned former Goldman Sachs economist, declares that aid is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster.

Foreign aid is a main reason why Africa is a grimmer place for the vast majority of Africans today than when it was under the white colonialists' thumb during the last century. 

And it is equally why open markets and free trade always increase wealth, because the incentive - and the capability - then lies in producing goods that customers want and then selling them.  This would work equally for Africans if only those former white colonialists in Europe and America would allow it to.  But no, they prefer to close their lucrative markets and subsidise their own loss-creating industries (especially farming) in a myriad of ways.  This keeps the poor poor not only the developing world over which so many crocodile tears are shed.  It also keeps the poor poor in the West itself by punishing success, rewarding failure and pushing up prices (to which of course the poor are the most vulnerable). 

If the current recession forces democratic countries to cut back on their foreign aid and to open their markets to cheaper food and goods from the developing world, it will be ultimately to the benefit of both parties.  Sadly, the second half of such a bargain is unlikely to be fulfilled.  Too many vested interests. 

Incidentally, thousands of charities, big and small, also have an enormous incentive to keep poverty going because relieving it is their core business.  Without poverty, they would have no raison d'être, a disaster for them. None of them will ever however admit this self-evident truth. 

Back to List of Contents

Issue 213’s Comments to Cyberspace


Relieving Gaza Siege
Letter to the Irish Times
Fintan Lane of
Irish Ship to Gaza says the objective of his colleagues and him is to non-violently break the siege of Gaza and to deliver much-needed materials that are banned or heavily restricted ... Then why not ... simply waltz through the Rafah border with Egypt, which the new Egyptian regime has kindly opened ... 


Political stunts not the way to end Gaza conflict
Online comment an Irish Times (which responds to the one below)
David Smith and others say that the Jews have no right to be in Israel, though they have lived there continuously for at least 3,000 years.   

The Jews got it (via UN Mandate) from the British in 1948,


who took it in 1917 from the Ottomans,  


who took it in 1517 from the Egypt-based Mamluks ...  


Flotilla aims to turn tide on Israel's Gaza policies
Online comment to an Irish Times article
{Columnist Claudia] Saba writes: “Describing the myriad harassments to which the Palestinian population is exposed – be they bombs, hostile checkpoints or imprisonment – sounds like something out of a Kafka novel ...” Well if you as a Palestinian don't like what Hamas and Fatah are doing to Palestinians, stop voting them in ...


Argentina's 2001 Default
Online comment on an Irish Times article
The main message from this Argentina story is to get your money out now from any bank with the word Irish or Ireland in its name. Send it ...


Visit by Head of State
Letter to the Irish Times
How churlish of Clare Bourke to ask "Can we afford the visit of President Obama?". Oh wait, she said Queen Elizabeth. So that's OK then.


Shell and the Argument from Morality
Comment on a post moaning about Shell's development of Ireland's Corrib gasfield
This democracy thing is a pain. You vote for people to make laws on your behalf. They make them. And then they apply them. And if you don't like them, tough, you have to put up with them until you can persuade the elected politicians that they should be reversed or ...


Critics who demonised Israel should say sorry
Online comment in the Irish Times
... Some people argue that, notwithstanding his admissions of falsehood, the Goldstone Report nevertheless remains largely intact, since his admissions apply to only parts of it, much like the curate's egg. But a better analogy would be the mixing of a few spoonfuls of urine in with a bottle of fine wine ...

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Quotes for Issue 213

- - - - - W H O   A M   I ? - - - - -

Quote: The whole world knows who I am. I am General Ratko Mladic . . . I defended my people, my country . . . now I am defending myself.  I just have to say that I want to live to see that I am a free man. [Yeah, right!]

Ratko Mladic in the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague,
where he faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,
as he begins the rest of his life behind bars.

Quote: Don’t you know who I am?

Dominique Strauss Khan, then boss of the IMF,
as he allegedly exercises his droit du seigneur over a hotel chambermaid.

Quote: “Happily, we live in a country where, thanks to the presumption of innocence, one cannot show men or women at this stage of proceedings handcuffed.

Party leader Martine Aubry, leader of France's Socialist party
is struck by the “deeply humiliating” sight of
party bigwig Dominique Strauss-Khan doing the American perp-walk,
in traditional handcuffs, in New York,
where he is accused of various sexual crimes.

She doth protest too much. 

France is a country where suspects can be held without charge
for two years, while an investigating judge takes his time
to determine whether the accused has a case to answer. 

I do not recall Ms Aubrey expressing outrage when Bernie Madoff,
at that time innocent until proven guilty just as DSK is,
underwent a similar perp-walk.

- - - - - B E I N G   O F F E N D E D - - - - -

Quote: The first applicant may have taken offence at the presence of a crucifix in classrooms, but the existence of a right ‘not to be offended’ has never been recognised within the Convention. In reversing the Chamber's judgment, the Grand Chamber does no more than confirm a body of settled jurisprudence (notably under Article 10) which recognises that mere ‘offence’ is not something against which an individual may be immunized by law.”

A remarkable generic judgementby the Grand Chamber
(ie appeal division) of the European Court of Human Rights

No-one has a right to be protected against offence.

The atheist complainants, Ms Soile Lautsi and her children,
had moaned that they were
by a Christian Crucifix in an Italian classroom.

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

Quote: “Is feidir linn.

President Obama, in Ireland to visit his ancestral village of Moneygall in Co Offaly, copies the Queen (see below) with a bit of Irish. 

The phrase means his favourite cliché “Yes, we can”.

Curiously, the presidential couple failed to visit
the nearby Offaly village of Ballysheil,
which is Michelle's ancestral village, whence
her Irish forebear Henry Shields (or perhaps Dolphus Shields) emigrated to America. 

Once there, he established himself as a slave owner,
and fathered children through one of his black slave-girls, Melvinia
(valued at $475), from whom Michelle is descended.

Perhaps a super-injunction kept Ballyshiel off the visit itinerary.

Quote: A Uachtaráin agus a chairde” [“President and friends”]

Queen Elizabeth II's first public words in Ireland are in Irish.
Wow!” whispers President McAleese, her hostess.

Quote ... Quote: While we cannot change the past, we have chosen to change the future ... [We are] able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it

Both President MacAleese and the Queen
choose to look forward during the latter's state visit to Ireland

Quote: Ireland is facing economic ruin.” 

Morgan Kelly, professor of economics at University College Dublin
and much respected economic guru,
who correctly predicted Ireland's fiscal crisis - and was ignored. 

- - - - - B I N   L A D E N - - - - -

Quote: It [bin Laden's blood] will remain, with permission from Allah the Almighty, a curse that chases the Americans and their agents, and goes after them inside and outside their countries ... Their happiness will turn into sorrow, and their blood will be mixed with their tears.

Statement by Al Qaeda,
to SITE, a US-based Jihadist monitoring service,
which confirms the death of Osama bin Laden.

Quote: “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. His demise should be welcome by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”

A peculiar assessment by President Obama.  Who else?

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

Quote: “The Palestinian Authority must chose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility of peace with both.”

Israel's prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu
make the perfectly reasonable case that
since Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel,
anyone who makes peace with it - as the Palestinian Authority
has apparently just done - de-facto makes war with Israel. 

Quote: If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document ... Civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

Richard Goldstone, the (Jewish) judge from South Africa
who chaired an investigation by the rabidly anti-Semitic UN
“Human Rights Council”
into Operation Cast Lead, Israel's attack on Gaza 2008/9,
recants his principal finding.

His disgraceful, dishonest, fact-denying report
has done enormous damage to Israel's reputation,
to the delight of its many enemies.

Melanie Philips rightly skewers the charlatan judge.

But the UK Foreign Office, as ever operating its  policy of low-level anti-Semitism,
does not accept his recantation

- - - - - U S A - - - - -

Quote: “If you're complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting 8 miles a gallon, you know [LOL], you might want to think about a trade-in.

President Obama's answer to oil prices soaring over $100 a barrel.

Interestingly, you would have to go back forty years
to find gas-guzzlers that made even 10-15 miles a gallon, never mind 8.

And anyway, how, for cash-strapped citizens,
is buying a new car a solution to high fuel prices?

Or else by “trade-in” Mr Obama was simply
referring to next year's presidential election?

Now that would be a solution!

Quote: Do we use the term ‘intervention’, do we use ‘war’, do we use ‘squirmish’; what is it?

Sarah Palin shows that Mr Obama is not the only nutty politician in America. 

She decides to invent a new word as she philosophises over
the Obama Administration's reluctance
to use the word ‘war’ when talking about
the aerial attacks against Q'Daffy's forces over Libya

Quote: We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve.

President Obama, on being forced by Donald Trump to release
his so-called
long-form (ie genuine) birth certificate,
which at last proves that he was in fact born in the United States,
rather than in Kenya has his grandmother averred. 

Finally, President Obama provides proof of his birthplace, Hawaii

And what exactly were his “better stuff [and] big problems to solve”?

Well, immediately after his press conference,
he flew
to Chicago for an Oprah Winfrey show. 
Then he flew to New York for three fundraisers.

These events were obviously much better [and] bigger
than the “silliness” of finally establishing,
two long years into his presidency,
his fundamental eligibility to be America's president.

In fairness, he was also approving the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

- - - - - F R A N C E - - - - -

Quote: The art of philosophy is only worthwhile if it is an art of war ... Philosophy is war not debate”.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, France's celebrity philosopher,
who was the person who bullied Sarkozy
into the whole Libyan bombing campaign.

Sarkozy in turn bounced Cameron and Obama into it.

Why don't we get screwball philosophers like this in the Anglosphere?

- - - - - F O O T B A L L - - - - -

Quote: F*cking what? What? F*ck off.”

Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney
screams directly at a hapless TV cameraman
after scoring a hat-trick against West Ham.

This, he later helpfully explained,
was all part of his post-goal
not aimed at anyone in particular

So that's OK then. 

- - - - - K L E P T O M A N I A - - - - -

Quote: Is the president of the Czech Republic a pen stealer?

Online tipster Brett Michael Dykes thinks
the internationally respected Václev Klaus is a kleptomaniac. 

Here's the video evidence. 
It's a ceremonial pen which Chile furnished for signing
an international trade agreement between it and the Czech Republic

See what you think.

- - - - - I T A L Y - - - - -

Quote: When asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30% of women said ‘yes’, while the other 70% said ‘what, again?’”

Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister of Italy,
has clearly captured the female, er, vote.

What is it that attracts women to this ageing billionaire?

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 What I've recently
been reading

The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tol, 2006
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy Tol (2006),
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a household lemon tree as their unifying theme.

But it's not entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, 2004

See detailed review


Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


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


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


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

More details on my blog here.


Product Details
This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s incredible story of survival in the Far East during World War II.

After recounting a childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen, Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on Germany in 1939.

From then until the Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror. 

After a wretched journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless garrison.

Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,


part of a death march to Thailand,


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


regularly beaten and tortured,


racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,


a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.


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


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


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


Monkeys can be taught to use washers as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.

The book has no real message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.

And with a final anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in its tracks.  Weird.


False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics. 

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as


Why does asparagus come from Peru?


Why are pandas so useless?


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


Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

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


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


Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs


The US its cotton industry comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce

The author writes in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to digest. 

However it would benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide natural break-points for the reader. 


Burmese Outpost, by Anthony Irwin
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.

The author was a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to harass Japanese lines of command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of India.   

Irwin is admirably yet brutally frank, in his descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness. 

He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved authority of the British. 

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

Oh, and Irwin describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF Brennan.


Other books here

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