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

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March 2008

 


 

Time and date in
Westernmost Europe

Time in Moscow

ISSUE #173 - 24th March 2008 [476+1250=1726]

Click here for PDF Version of Issue #173 (360kb)

Global Warm-mongers Keep on Scamming

Global Warming Think Tank in the Sunday TimesLet's pretend there is an argument, about science say, which is funded by interested parties on both sides.  The opponents manage to gather a tidy sum - $19 million - to carry out research and demonstrate that they are the ones who are right.  But the proponents collect, from governments, the UN, industry, foundations and other sources, no less than $50 bn - yes, billion -  ie 2,600 times more. 

  • So who's going to win the argument?  David or Goliath?

  • Who's going to be better at convincing you, the undecided? 

  • Whose side do you think you're most likely to end up on? 

  • And when it comes to collecting further money for the cause, who will be better able to convince you to part with your hard-earned lucre? 

  • If you're looking for work, with which side are you more likely to find it? 

  • Does (financial) might make right?

These are interesting questions, and not hypothetical.  For those $19m/$50bn figures are the sums raised globally over the past decade or so to rebut and support, respectively, the case for man-made climate change.  And that's according to the august US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, so the (unbelievable) figures should be believed. 

With that kind of disproportionate financial muscle, it is perhaps little wonder, then, that nearly all the media coverage, not to mention the majority of politicians, celebrities, industrialists, scientists and other worthies, choose to support the curious notion that six billion people in a tiny dot within the universe control the climate of that dot, to the exclusion of the contribution of that universe. 

By cosmic proportions, the sun is also a dot - albeit 333,000 times heavier than the earth - but as a permanent, massive, violent, nuclear explosion, it is the primary source of all our energy.  Nevertheless, according to climate changeology cultists, the power of those six billion puny people to steer and control our climate is apparently even greater. 

How astonishing it is, therefore - and embarrassing for cultists - that measurements of climate change - and the associated physics - persistently fail to follow the cultists' script. 

Some reputable examples -

  • Over the past year, global temperatures [as measured by NASA and others] have dropped precipitously ... [wiping] out a century of global warming, according to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, an independent public policy think tank which tries to help Canada's prairie region live up to its economic potential.

  • An interview with Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs, a Melbourne-based think tank dedicated to economic and political freedom ... 

    Q: Is the Earth still warming?

    • Marohasy: No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature, because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years.

    Q: Is this a matter of any controversy?

    • Marohasy: Actually, no. The head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has actually acknowledged it.

     

  • Runaway greenhouse theories contradict energy balance equations and therefore cannot work ... the increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations must not be the reason of global warming, concludes Dr Ferenc Miskolczi, an atmospheric physicist in a recently publicised peer-reviewed paper about the greenhouse effect. He used to work for NASA until it refused to let him publish his anti-climate-change research findings. 

  • Research by Steven Schwartz of Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York finds statistical evidence that Earth responds to atmospheric carbon dioxide to be grossly overstated.  Hence global climate models continually predict more warming than actually measured.

  • Sorry folks, says atmospheric physicist James Peden, formerly of the Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh but we're not exactly buying into the Global Hysteria just yet. We know a great deal about atmospheric physics, and from the onset, many of the claims were just plain fishy.”

More than fishy, I'd say.  For the greenhouse effect that causes man-made “global warming does not stand up to the most rudimentary examination of the molecular physics involved.  And you don't need to be a physicist to understand this. 

An Ångstrom is 10-10 metres long.  Fundamental physics tells us that a molecule of carbon dioxide measures 2 Ångstroms across, and that in a 100% concentration at everyday temperature and pressure the molecules are spaced 33 Ångstroms apart.  But the concentration of CO2 in air is less than half a percent, which places each one some 7,000 Ångstroms away from its neighbour (33/.005).  And at an altitude of 5,000 metres, the air density is halved so the spacing is doubled to 14,000 Ångstroms. 

Late Note (July 08):
I've made a few mistakes here, which I'll have to correct. 
Oops.

It is electromagnetic radiation in the infrared range, reflected off the earth's surface, which causes CO2 molecules to heat up.  This is what constitutes the phenomenon people call the greenhouse effect, being CO2-induced global warming.  Yet physics shows that only 8% of the infrared spectrum can actually do this; moreover it only actually excites a CO2 molecule when it manages to actually collide with it. 

Thus, CO2 can cause global warming only to the extent that just 8% of infrared rays - which themselves have no width - can hit targets 2 Ångstroms wide but spaced 7,000 Ångstroms apart.  You don't have to be a physicist to see that this is a pretty long shot.  But it gets worse. 

Of that half-percent in the atmosphere, human activity contributes only 3% (the rest of the CO2 comes overwhelmingly from the oceans, but also from things like volcanoes, rotting vegetation and, interestingly, gases emitted from both ends by animals).  So, for the infrared rays to cause man-made global warming, 8% of them first have to bulls-eye onto the few (3% of ½%) man-made two-Ångstrom wide CO2 molecules.  This calculates out (7,000/.03) that they are spaced a whopping 230,000 Ångstroms apart - and 460,000 Ångstroms at 5,000 metres elevation. 

If I pick up my trusty Kalashnikov and start machine-gunning targets that are, say, one millimetre in diameter, I'll find it very hard to hit more than one of them if they happen to be 230-460 metres apart.   Especially when all but 8% of my bullets are duds. 

But that is, essentially, High Priest Al Gore's hypothesis about the greenhouse effect - that those infrared bullets are colliding with minuscule yet vastly-spaced man-made CO2 molecules, so consistently that the earth is warming up.  No wonder he screens out hostile questioners and audiences whenever he proselytises in public, and stays silent about atomic physics. 

James Peden has written a really excellent layman's guide to the relevant atomic physics, which Mr Gore would do well to study. 

So if the global warming hypothesis collapses at the first scrutiny of the science, not to mention the contradictory observed evidence, how on earth can Mr Gore be so worshiped that he has made himself into an Oscar-winning Nobel peace laureate multimillionaire, simply by giving the same inconvenient [un]truthlecture over and over again, for an appearance fee of $180,000

Well, we're back to David and Goliath: $50 billion trumps $19 million.  The emperor may have no clothes, but the hordes still want to jump on the bandwagon that has all the filthy lucre.  But enough of the metaphors and clichés. 

There are those who are ignorant or incurious of the facts. 

But there are also those who deliberately hide, disregard or obfuscate the facts. They are the global warm-mongers, led by Mr Gore and the IPCC, who should know better but choose to keep on scamming for the most dishonourable of reasons: money and fame.  They will eventually learn that even they cannot alter the laws of physics. 

Though at what cost to the world
in wasted wealth and effort? 
Ireland alone, tiny as it is, will have
to cough up twelve billion €uro
to meet spurious emission targets,
such as Kyoto's. 

But the biggest cost will be to the
poorest in society in suppressed
development opportunities - those
whom the global warm-mongers like
to pretend they are saving. 

Don't be taken in. 

The Economist's take, though it also claims (falsely) that the science of climate change [is] no longer widely disputed

At the end of Kyoto's rainbow

Back to List of Contents

Let Spectators Boycott Beijing Olympics

The Irish Times kindly printed a column by me
on 23rd May 2008 based on this post

Periodically, China hits the headlines because when faced with dissent, the approach of its illegitimate undemocratic Politburo and of that body's close friends is simply to kill a lot of awkward people and bystanders.  Sufficient death and fear usually cause the trouble to subside. 

The last public occasion was last October when China looked on benignly whilst the undemocratic military junta that illegitimately rules Burma/Myanmar arrested, suppressed, tortured, killed and secretly cremated thousands of Burmese protesting against fuel increases, in the best traditions of Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

The Chinese Politburo's other ongoing crimes include

  • Providing full support - by developing and buying oil, selling guns and investing $15 billion - with the undemocratic and thus illegitimate regime of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan.  This has enabled the al-Bashir executive, through its Janjaweed militia, to continue to genocidally cleanse Darfur of its non-Arab Sudanese, apparently to make way for further oil exploration by the Chinese and others.

  • The systematic extraction and sale of body organs from live Falun Gong practitioners (and their concomitant murder), in order to profit from the lucrative business of transplant tourism.  The Red army runs both

    • the jails where Falun Gong prisoners are unique in undergoing detailed medical examinations and blood tests as soon as they are captured, and

    • the hospitals which lure foreign patients with the promise of fresh, compatible organs on demand, and keen prices. 

  • And of course their most recent atrocities in Tibet. 

The latest Tibet crimes are part of an ongoing pattern that began when mega-murderer Mao Tse Tung sent in the Red Army in 1950/51 to steal - or as he would have it liberate” - Tibet from, well, the Tibetans.  And having taken control, the Chinese politburo for the next five decades have systematically used military might and terror to

  • suppress Tibetan dissent,

  • chase away or execute unco-operative citizens and leaders,

  • eradicate all vestiges of Tibetan identity, culture, language and holy or historic sites (the Dalai Lama understandably calls this “cultural genocide). 

Simultaneously, it has fostered massive immigration of ethnic Han and other Chinese settlers so as to dilute the Tibetans.  To further promote this nefarious cause, the politburo recently opened a $4 billion thousand-kilometre direct railway from Beijing which snakes sometimes 5,000 metres high till it gets to the faraway Tibetan capital of Lhasa.  This admittedly outstanding engineering feat is entirely uneconomic and has nothing to do with trade or tourism, but everything to do with making colonisation easier and if needed bringing in troops and police quickly. 

As a result of immigration, Tibetans have now become a besieged, discriminated-against minority in their own country, much as the Koran demands that infidels become dhimmis in Sharia-ruled lands.

So the surprise is, perhaps, not that sometimes - such as this month - Tibetans rise up in anguish, but that they don't do it more frequently.  On the other hand, faced with the Politburo's brutal crack-downs and vengeance, I don't suppose I would dare stand up very often either. 

Human rights will not improve by much until there is regime-change within China. 

  • This may happen over time through evolution (after all, the current politburo is undoubtedly less brutal and much more business-like than Mao was). 

  • But it can only be triggered in the short-term through

    • foreign invasion,

    • widespread internal uprisings (we're talking hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens) or

    • if the seven-million strong armed forces decide to act against their masters. 

    But none of these looks remotely like coming to pass.

So what can ordinary people do to express their disapproval with the behaviour of the Chinese thugs in a manner that might encourage better conduct?  Not much. 

But not nothing.  The Beijing Olympics represent a unique opportunity to apply pressure, though not by way of a conventional boycott by participating countries.  The boycotts of Moscow (1980) and Los Angeles (1984) punished the athletes yet had absolutely no influence on the offending country - the USSR for invading Afghanistan and the USA for revenge.  The respective games were still great successes.  

As I have argued previously and else-where, there is another much more democratic way.  The games should  go ahead as planned, but it is the spectators who should be doing the boycotting, in their droves. 

From the perspective of the Chinese politburo, nothing could be worse than TV pictures, beamed across the world, of empty stadiums whilst the contests proceed, and everyone knowing why.  This would be the ultimate, unthinkable humiliation for the leadership in China, where “face is such an important part of national culture, history and psyche.  And it would be made grimmer by the knowledge that no Government had done it; just ordinary free people with honourable principles. 

If the Chinese become convinced that a popular boycott of the Beijing Olympics is in serious danger of happening, they will move heaven and earth to prevent it. 

Otherwise, they will continue happily supporting fellow-dictators in Burma and Sudan, suppressing Tibetans and their culture and routinely harvesting transplant organs from healthy Falun Gongers. 

Each of us potential Olympic spectators has a personal choice.  I have cancelled my own plans to attend. 

Back to List of Contents

Jews Annoyed at Catholic Prayers

The Roman Catholic Church has a lot of formalised prayers, in Latin, that have been said through the centuries, though these days they're usually recited in the vernacular.  I am sure other churches and religions also do, but as a Catholic I only know about our own.  They reach a climax during Holy Week, the highlight of the religious calendar, which this year fell on 17th to 23rd March. 

The solemn service practised on Good Friday, which commemorates the actual Crucifixion, includes prayers drawn up during the 17th century, in which God's favour is sought for a hierarchy of people: the Pope, state rulers, those studying to become Catholics, actual Catholics, the unification of Christianity, Jews, other non-Christians, atheists, civil servants (yes!) and finally the oppressed.  Here's the prayer for Jews, as recently tinkered with (translations vary):

Let us pray also for the Jews, that our God and Lord will be pleased to look graciously upon them, so that they too may acknowledge Our Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of all mankind ... May the people chosen by thee of old attain the fullness of redemption through our Lord.”

This has suddenly enraged the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, who complains that it is an explicit declaration of [the Church's] desire that the Jews accept Jesus”. 

The rabbi is obviously a fast learner. 

He also thinks it shows lack of respect” for the Jewish faith.  Rabbi David Rosen, Chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations agrees, saying it represents a regression on relations between Catholics and Jews. 

They protest too much.  By all means, anyone can dismiss the Catholic faith as being anachronistic, false, the anti-Christ, devil-worship or just plain wrong. 

But such people in turn need to recognize - albeit without agreeing - that Catholics believe that theirs is the one and only true faith, established by God through the agency of his Son whom he sent to earth two thousand years ago, and who in turn urged his followers to proselytise the world.  Pejorative and malign as that word sometimes sounds to contemporary ears, proselytisation is in fact a great act of love to your fellow man if you believe you are showing him God's chosen route to Heaven.  That prayer is absolutely, and unapologetically, a call for Jews to abandon Judaism and become Catholics.  For Catholics to urge otherwise would be to say that Jews should be abandoned to their (post-mortem) fate in the knowledge that God will not be well pleased. 

In an age of resurgent and virulent anti-Semitism, both overt (think Hamas, Iran et al) and covert (whispers about neo-con conspirators such as Paul Wolfowitz or Richard Perle), you would think that prominent Jews would be glad that Catholics genuinely and benignly care about their eternal welfare, however (in their view) mistakenly.   They represent one less enemy to contend with. 

Surely their Rabbis have more pressing  things to worry about, such as the very survival of the Jewish race under credible threats of nuclear genocide. 

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Petrol/Gasoline Prices Around the World

Crude Oil is currently selling for around $100/barrel, or $2.38 per US gallon.  Refining costs brings the cost of petrol/gasoline to about $2.80 per gallon excluding transportation, handling, marketing and profit.  The difference between cost of providing the customer with the product and the price he/she pays for it is the government tax, or in some cases subsidies. 

A year ago, these figures were roughly half what they are today.  It is interesting to see what your car fuel would have cost you then in different cities around the world.  Anything less than $1½ a gallon represents a state subsidy. 


Oslo , Norway $6.82


Hong Kong $6.25  


Brussels , Belgium $6.16


London, UK $5.96


Rome , Italy $5.80  


Tokyo , Japan $5.25


Sao Paulo , Brazil $4.42


New Delhi , India $3.71


Sidney , Australia $3.42


Johannesburg, South Africa $3.39


Mexico City $2.22


Buenos Aires , Argentina $2.09


Riyadh , Saudi Arabia $0.91


Kuwait $0.78


Caracas, Venezuela $0.12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hattip: John Dixon

Clearly, Venezuela's the place to fill up your car and your boat. 

Back to List of Contents

Quotes for Issue 173

- - - - - - - - - - J I H A D - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “The attack at the yeshiva was a barbaric murder of eight children who were engaged in religious study ... This odious and inhuman terror attack exemplifies the extremist and inhuman path of the terror organizations Hamas and Hizbullah ... There is no link between a murderous terrorist act and the inadvertent killing of civilians in response to the firing of rockets by Hamas.

Incredibly and creditably, this was how
the Arab-language Kuwait newspaper Al-Watan commented
on the
terror attack which killed eight students
at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva seminary in Jerusalem.

Quote: “If the terror stops, if the Qassams stop landing on residents of Sderot and if Grads stop landing on Ashkelon... Israel will have no reason to fight the terror organizations there.... We will have no reason to retaliate.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert states the obvious. 
If Palestinians stop attacking Israel,
the war is over and serious negotiations can be concluded. 
The Palestinians alone are responsible for keeping hostilities active.

Even the Egyptian press is reporting this.

Interestingly, Mahmoud Abbas says that
Hamas is demanding an Israeli commitment
not to target its leaders.
 
Glorious martyrdom for foot-soldiers is one thing;
but quite another for the bosses!

Quote: We decided [my wife] Nadia should go out first, with [our] baby – they would be less likely to shoot her.  Now my first photo of my smiley baby is when she is dead.

Gaza taxi-driver Mohammed Abu Asser
describes how his 20-day-old daughter Amira
was shot during the recent Israeli incursion. 

Israel had issued a warning to evacuate the house
as it would be attacked. 
With astonishing cowardice,
Mr Asser sent his wife and baby out ahead
as a human shield for himself. 

The way he recounts the incident to a foreign reporter,
he seems to see nothing dishonourable in his craven behaviour.

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

Quote: God damn America!

Rev Jeremiah Wright, Senator Barack Obama's pastor
recently retired from his ragingly black-racist
Trinity United Church of Christ,
damns the America that nurtures them both.

Mr Obama, who claims to be a habitué of the Church
for the past twenty years,
attributes the title of his book,

The Audacity of Hope
, to the esteemed Rev Wright. 

Mr Obama describes Rev Wright as his pastor,
who Christianised Mr Obama,
officiated at his wedding
and baptised his two daughters. 

Quote: “If Obama was a white man he would not be in this position.  If he was a woman (of any colour) he would not be in this position.  He happens to be very lucky to be who he is.  And the country is caught up in the concept.”

Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic vice-presidential nominee
under Walter Mondale, in the 1984 presidential election
(which Ronald Reagan won).

Of course she herself would never have been selected
were she not a woman 

She was working on Hillary Clinton's campaign,
until forced to resign for these remarks. 

Quote: I have acted in a way that violated the obligations to my Governor Spitzer, forlorn. Click to enlargefamily and that violates my - or any - sense of right and wrong. I apologise first, and most importantly, to my family. I apologise to the public, whom I promised better.

New York governor Eliot Spitzer,
elected to office on an anti-corruption ticket,
apologises for the crime of getting caught,
after he ordered up Kristen”, aka Ashley Alexandra Dupré,
who is
a hooker from the Emperors Club VIP,
a high-price (up to $5,500 per hour) prostitute ring
that the FBI was investigating.

He had been very proud, when he was New York's attorney general,
of having broken up two prostitution rings.

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

Quote: France [has] essentially Christian roots ... A man who believes is a man who hopes. And the interest of the Republic is for there to be many men and women who hope ... In the transmission of values and in the teaching of the difference between good and evil, the schoolteacher will never be able to replace the priest or the pastor.

President Nicolas Sarkozy enrages
French secularists, atheists and agnostics (25% of the country) 
by daring to suggest that religion is not, after all, always a force for evil

- - - - - - - - - - R U G B Y - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “[The] Ireland [rugby team] are desperately in need of a Kidney transplant, a Matt gloss, a White wash or a Howard's way.”

Rugby correspondent Gerry Thornley wittily laments
the lamentable display of Eddie O'Sullivan,
the discredited lame duck coach
of the now lamentable All-Ireland rugby team. 

That he remained until this month in his job,
despite his lamentable performance
at the 2007 World Cup and ever since,
was due to the
crassly premature four-year contract
he was awarded before the World Cup began.

  • Irishman Declan Kidney is Munster's European Cup winning coach

  • Matt Williams is the Australian coach who turned Leinster from a minor provincial team into a potential European Cup winner

  • Jake White is South Africa's World Cup winning coach

  • Australian Pat Howard was the Leicester Tigers' most successful-ever coach, having delivered in 2007 two championships and almost a third

Back to List of Contents

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

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ISSUE #172 - 9th March 2008

Click here for PDF Version of Issue #172 (213kb)

CND - The Duracell Bunny

CND's iconic logoLast month, an article appeared in the (subscription-only) Irish Times to mark the Golden Jubilee anniversary of the founding of CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.  It was written by Canon Patrick Comerford, a Church of Ireland priest, long a CND member and presently the president of Irish CND.  He has conveniently reproduced it on his own excellent (non-subscription) blog

My Irish Times article in April 2008, based on this postIts title, 50 years later, CND is still on the march in a nuclear world”, aptly and with unintended irony, summarises CND’s principal, if not only, achievement: that, like the Duracell bunny, it just keeps on marching.  For, whilst the article attempts to show what a force for good CND has been over the past half-century, it blithely and innocently recounts a litany of failure and irrelevance. 

Principal among these is that, despite CND’s relentless efforts, no country has actually abandoned its nuclear arms and ambitions, except  for two.  South Africa did so as part of its disavowal of Apartheid, and Libya because its president feared America after Saddam was toppled.  CND had nothing to do with it.  

Indeed, the list of nuclear states has ratcheted up under CND’s watch from just three (the US, Soviet Union and Britain) to nine (France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea), with Iran and Syria desperately trying to join the expanding club, and perhaps also Venezuela through the Ahmadinejad/Chavez rapport.

Contrast this non-performance with a couple of other iconic do-good drives, whose resounding victories made them effectively redundant. 

  • The slavery abolitionist movement which began in Britain in the 18th century was so successful that, with the help of a robust Royal Navy which then ruled the waves, by the end of the 19th century its job was virtually complete.  Millennia of endemic slavery - and social acceptance of it - were now history.  The abolitionists had persuaded not only Britain to turn from pro to anti-slavery, but also America and the rest of the West. 

    • Disgracefully, though, traditional slavery does still persist in pockets of the Islamic world. 

  • Similarly, the anti-Apartheid movement, which began around the same time as CND as a move to banish from South Africa its legal, institutionalised, colour-based favouritism and prejudice, achieved stunning success more than a decade ago, epitomised by the release of Nelson Mandela. 

    • The ignominious apartheid still widely and openly practiced by brown and black people upon their fellow-citizens elsewhere - eg on Chinese minorities in the Far East, Jews in Arab countries, darker-skinned tribes in Africa - nobody cares few care about, because the perpetrators aren’t white. 

I remember the young CND from my teenage years, because of its annual four-day Easter march of protest from London to Aldermaston, home of Britain’s Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, which happened to be very close to my boarding school.  I didn’t understand what they were fussing about about then, and frankly, I still don’t. 

But Canon Comerford reminds me that CND was backed by very many luminaries of the day, including JB Priestley, Kingsley Martin, Bertrand Russell, AJP Taylor and assorted church leaders. 

And yet, decades of annual Aldermaston marches, of which the last was in 2004, had no effect at all on the AWRE, which is still operating happily

Meanwhile, CND sponsored numerous protests, court cases, debates etc in Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and in other countries throughout the 1960s and 1970s, which likewise had precisely zero effect on Britain’s nuclear policies (and those of America, France, China etc).  

As if CND did have something to do with it, however, Canon Comerford points out that the Soviets removed their missiles and nuclear warheads from Cuba in 1962.  Yet this was not because of CND but because they were afraid America would nuke the Kremlin if they didn’t.

Similarly, the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 and the subsequent arms reduction treaties were signed by the Americans and Soviets not due to CND but because of the mutual fear of nuclear attack and annihilation.  Paradoxically, the existence of nuclear weapons was itself a reason to reduce them. 

CND were invigorated in the 1980s when, to counter the Soviets’ deployment of nuclear-armed SS-20s in its Eastern Europe vassal states, aimed at Western Europe, the US deployed Pershing and Cruise nuclear missiles in Britain and West Germany.  This gave rise to the never-ending, Greenham Common Women in 1982 - CND logo on the missile-base fenceCND-endorsed Greenham Common protests where countless scruffy-looking women* set up camp with their children and looked pathetic for the TV cameras.  That CND Duracell Bunny in Greenham Common marched on for nineteen long years. 

*I have toned down the original adjectives which were unnecessarily gratuitous and ungallant.  

The target of the ladies’ ire was - incredibly - America and Britain, rather than the baleful Soviet enemy that had already swallowed half of Europe and now wanted the other half.  The women were backed up by massive protests in London, some addressed by Canon Comerford himself.   

But, once again, it was all for naught.  The missiles stayed; and eventually the rotten and corrupt Evil Empire began simply to collapse in 1990 under the sheer economic weight and madness of trying to outgun and outnuclearise the US. 

In everything that it has ever done, CND has found itself on the wrong side of the argument and been comprehensively defeated. 

Canon Comerford claims a CND success in that the Pershing and Cruise missiles were eventually removed in 1991, which he thinks proves that the nuclear arms race can be reversed at any stage”.

It proves no such thing, as the Soviet threat had disappeared by then so the Pershings and Cruises were no longer needed.  Rather, it demonstrates that wars, in this case the Cold War between the US and the USSR, can be won by the superior side, which fortunately was America.  That is the only reason the nuclear arms race ceased.  As usual, CND had nothing to do with it.   

In fact you can argue that CND prolonged it, by encouraging the Soviets to think that the West was irresolute and would never fight back. 

CND would be better off thanking God for the USA and its nuclear arsenal.  For without American arms, soldiery and backbone, not only would the Japanese empire not have been crushed and then democratised.  Neither would Nazi Germany.  And democracy would not have been restored across West (and – eventually – Eastern) Europe, and without American troops and (nuclear) missiles stationed in Europe the Soviet Empire would not have been kept at bay and eventually caused to implode.  This created the space for the Europeans to rebuild, to work together, to construct the EU, and since America took care of their defence against the Soviets, left spare cash to fritter invest in social programmes.  

You would have thought CND would be delighted at such beneficent outcomes, even if they were achieved via means that CND disdains. 

It’s not, of course, and still the Duracell CND Bunny marches on. 

Canon Comerford tells us that nowadays CND worries

  • about Pakistan, India and Israel,

  • about nuclear materials falling into the hands of corrupt regimes and terrorists”, and

  • about the (wholly benign) environmental effects of nuclear energy.

The one thing he can’t bring himself to mention is the existential nuclear threat of the moment: namely, Iran’s efforts to acquire a bomb in order, in President Ahmadinejad’s words, to wipe Israel from the map, thereby completing the Holocaust that he (ie President Ahmadinejad, certainly not the Canon) denies ever happened.   CND’s website is typically mealy-mouthed: “CND opposes both the use of force against Iran and any acquisition of nuclear weapons capabilities by Iran,” even relegating Iran’s nuclear threat to second place.  Moreover, as far as I can tell its is planning no mass rallies to the Iranian Embassy in London or elsewhere. 

But it’s all irrelevant anyway.  One thing is sure: CND will persist in having absolutely no effect whatsoever on any of these problems; yet it is “still on the march” (to nowhere). 

No doubt it makes its members feel righteous and virtuous.  Deluded more like. 

Ronald Reagan once said that a [nuclear] freeze ... would be a very dangerous fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we must find peace through strength.  CND would do well to ponder this wisdom. 

Happy 50th Birthday, CND.  If I were you, I wouldn’t bother with a 51st. 

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America’s Strong-Horse Weak-Horse Choices

Not everything the late Osama bin Laden said was wicked; it was sometimes wise.  For example, in December 2001 a translated transcript of him chatting to others included this gem: when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse”. 

It’s true: everyone wants to back a winner.  The US presidential shenanigans have sometimes reminded me of this universal truth, as they transfix and fascinate not just Americans but the rest of the world as well.  For the first time in two generations, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a pre-ordained candidate, and this has provided an object lesson in open, competitive democracy.  (Compare with Russia’s presidential election” last week).  No other candidate for any governing position anywhere in the world is subject to such rigorous, merciless public examination and attack as the would-be nominees have been undergoing.  Regardless of what you think of their politics or personalities, you have to be filled with admiration at the sheer doggedness and toughness under fire of each one of them. 

John McCain’s campaign is developing particularly well for him.  He has secured the Republicans’ nomination with a string of decisive victories in primaries and caucuses, which means that the many anti-McCain Republicans who hate him for some of his slightly Leftish ideas (soft on illegal immigrants, pro-Kyoto, critical of big business) now have no choice but to endorse him because they have no-one else.  At least they all love his conservative positions on defence and finance.  Moreover, how that he is the indisputable “strong horse”, it’s much easier for all his fellow-Republicans to stifle their moans and support him. 

By late February, Barack Obama looked  like the Democrats’ strong horse”.  So much so that there were nearly daily defections of delegates, legislators, and politicos from Hillary to Obama, stampeding to be well clear of Hillary Clinton’s perceived “weak horse”. 

But that turned out to be premature.  For Mr Obama failed to deliver the expected knockout blow at the Texas and Ohio primaries, which means the Democrats’ nomination battle may well carry on until June, and the party will therefore remain divided.  Even then, victory is expected to come by a close margin so the differential equine strength will probably not arouse much passion. 

This means that, while Mr McCain can now quietly plan and raise money for the actual presidential campaign, Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton are forced to spend everything they can raise in order to sling mud at each other for another three months.  Only then can one of them begin doing what Mr McCain is doing now.  Moreover, all that extra mud-slinging will provide him with further ammunition for the final campaign. 

Not that he needs that much.  For Barack and Hillary each have the same massive Achilles heel.  Iraq.  Each wants to extricate America from Iraq as quickly as possible, while trying to make it look like they are not cutting and running.  A year ago when they started campaigning, this was a rather popular position, and arguably it had some practical merit in that the only progress that seemed underway in Iraq was of the negative variety, with suicide-homicide atrocities, American casualties and fervid insurgency at every turn, every day.  It might not have been honourable to withdraw, but you can understand that people at a certain moment might say enough is enough, I want out of here. 

But that’s all changed thanks to the brilliance of General David Petraeus (or Betray-Us” as a moveon.org ad treasonously once proposed).  Against all expectations, his surge has resulted in a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the American military, and more importantly, of ordinary Iraqis. 

Thousands of once-disgruntled Sunnis have turned against al Qaeda, ceased most resistance, and begun flocking to government security forces and begging the Americans to stop both al Qaeda and Shiite militias.  They are volunteering information about terrorists and mines, and clamouring to sign up with the joint security force.  Tribal Sheikhs are driving the so-called “Anbar Awakening”.  In short, Al Qaeda is being comprehensively defeated, and at the same time exposed not as religious zealots but more like criminal thugs, bent on extortion, gasoline and food racketeering, petty theft, murder, pornography.  All this is providing space for Americans to rebuild government facilities, arbitrate tribal feuds, repair utilities, train Iraqi army and police personnel, and generally improve life on the ground. 

This may not be victory (yet) but it is certainly not defeat.  And there is now no doubt about who is the strong horse (the Iraqi and American security forces) and who the weak (Al Qaeda).  That in itself must be helping to influencing Iraqis of all clans and religious persuasions to support the emergent new Iraq over the criminal thugs. 

Meanwhile, back in America, the very absence of Iraq from the front pages bears witness to its successes there.  And the longer this progress continues, the more inescapable John McCain, the beaming Strong Horsewill it become, and the more inexcusable will become the retreatism of the two Democratic candidates.  If America is seen as the strong horse” in Iraq, the American people will want to back anyone who supports it.  So unless Hillary or Barack make a humiliating U-turn on Iraq, they will undoubtedly become, in the eyes of US voters, the “weak horse” to be crushed by “strong horse” McCain. 

No wonder he is beaming. 

If only Osama bin Laden had stuck to philosophising, he could have made himself a fortune on the lecture and after-dinner circuit. 

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Strange Lisbon Bedfellows

I have been watching with interest the debate developing over the Lisbon Treaty, in respect of which only Ireland’s paltry four million citizens, out of the EU’s 390 million, will be permitted a referendum and thus - in theory - a veto. 

The pros and cons arguments really fall into two broad baskets:

  • The pros tell us that Lisbon is good for Ireland and the EU in all kinds of ways.  Democracy, climate change, defence, terrorism, competition, protection, workers, bosses, neo-liberals, economics you name it.

  • Some of the cons claim certain details are bad for Ireland/EU (similar list to the above).  But their most powerful argument is simply that the document is deliberately incomprehensible, for the sole reason that the drafters do not want the approvers to know what they are approving because otherwise they wouldn’t.  And therefore there is no better reason to disapprove it. 

But what is also interesting is the motley crew from across society’s spectrum, particularly within Ireland, who are finding themselves on the same no side though in normal polite company and discourse they can’t stand each other.  The amount of nose-holding is extraordinary. 

  • On the Far Left:

    • Sinn Fein tells us the Lisbon Treaty is a bad deal for Ireland

    • The Socialist Workers Party gives us Reasons to vote NO to the Lisbon Treaty”.

    • For the anti-warriors of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance it’s all about  Centralization and Neoliberalism”. 

  • On the Far Right:

  • On the Capitalist front,

    • there are millionaire businessmen such as Declan Ganley ,who has created an anti-Lisbon organization called Libertas, which reckons that the Irish constitution [will become] completely subject to [the] EU”.

    • And of course Britain’s business-favouring Conservative Party are (so far unsuccessfully) demanding (as a prelude to rejection) a referendum on Lisbon - which the ruling Labour Party effectively promised on p84 of its 2005 manifesto (We will put it to the British people in a referendum”).

  • With some exceptions, Irish trade unionists don’t seem to be particularly bothered one way or another, and seem to view Lisbon more as an opportunity to use a NO vote as a negotiating threat

  • Irish Left-wing journalists generally seem to favour the No side, such Vincent Brown, who finds that Lisbon is both unobtainable from EU offices and gobbledegook

  • Then there are ordinary Joe Soaps like me, for whom it is execrable”. 

Frankly, I couldn’t care less who is on the same No side as I am, just so long as they vote No and persuade others to.  It’s the result that is important, and if some vote No for what I would regard as wrong or silly reasons, who am I to complain?

It may, however, all be academic in the end.  For all its talk about democracy, the majesty of the people, citizens rights etc, all this will probably be trumped by the desperate desire of EU politicians and bureaucrats for Lisbon to be ratified.   It’s understandable for Brusselarians as their careers depend on the EU’s influence to be ever-expanding, but to me it is inexplicable as far as national politicians are concerned. 

Meanwhile, the EU Parliament has shown a staggering contempt for Irish and EU democracy when, confronted on 20 February with the following amendment 32-2a:

The European Parliament undertakes
to respect the outcome of the referendum in Ireland

MEPs voted it down, by an astonishing 449 votes to 129.  The downers even included Proinsias De Rossa, one of Ireland’s own MEPs.   

The parliament is evidently shame-faced about it, because in its summary of the relevant debate, they dare report neither the amendment nor the voting result.  

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Páva, Budapest - Restaurant Review

The Four Seasons Gresham Hotel is not the most famous and venerable of Budapest’s five-star hotels, distinctions better applied to

  • the gracious Danubius Hotel Gellert with its historic spas, art nouveau style, high glass domed ceiling and ornate ironwork, or

  • the majestic New York Palace which, judging by the extensive gold leaf and especially the exquisitely painted ceilings, looks as if it has been abducted from the Sistine Chapel. 

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, BudapestBut the Four Seasons Gresham, by contrast, is housed in what can only be described as a palace on the Pest bank of the Danube, with exquisite views over the river toward the hills of Buda. 

It is a fine example of the Secession form of architecture, which stemmed from Art Noveau. Secessionists tried to move towards the eradication of ornament, and focused on architectural form as the main focal point of a design. The Gresham Palace exemplifies this style with its smooth façade that draws attention mainly to the curved roofline, the bay windows and the pilasters along the front of the building. The palace also features beautiful ironwork, including two magnificent peacocks at the gate of the courtyard, which shows the link between Secessionism and its counterpart, Art Nouveau.

The extravagant palace was constructed between 1904 and 1906 by Gresham Life Assurance Company and used as both the company’s headquarters and a residence for wealthy foreign aristocracy. The palace was eagerly occupied by Soviet troops during World War II and served as an apartment building during the drab decades of communism, when it was allowed to decay.

The Four Seasons group bought it in 2001 and spent $85m and two years restoring it to all its original turn-of-the-century glory, complete with sculptures and facade stones, metal decoration, stained glass windows and roof, ornaments, ceramic tiles, mosaics, stucco decoration and wrought iron. 

It is a stunning sensation just to walk in through the main doors.

In the Gresham Palace HotelAnd if you do, turn left and you will find yourself entering Páva, the hotel’s keynote, Italian restaurant. 

I visited three months ago as part of a private celebration of two big birthdays (not mine).  Páva’s speciality is a marvellous six-course dégustation menu accompanied by a different wine to complement each course, with the whole menu changing every fortnight. This was the chosen target of the celebration.  And it did not disappoint. 

Following some wonderful chilled and colourful cocktails of unknown content, each served in an individual silver shaker on its own silver salver, we proceeded to the dining room.  Each course was exquisitely presented as an individual work of art, but more to the point was totally scrumptious. 

It uses grand language such as this, but here is a summary of what I and my friends enjoyed. 

We began with a millefeuille filled with asparagus and other delights.  After this came a wonderful piece of fresh seabream with a custardy sauce, followed by the best risotto with porcini mushrooms you will ever savour.  Then came, as a kind of breather, what was called a granita, which was a kind of sorbet using mulled wine as the principal ingredient.  Yum.  Then a luscious fillet steak of veal, with a captivating bouquet of unusual vegetables, cooked al-dente they way I like them.  Each course was accompanied by a different wine - Hungarian, Italian, French.  But I cannot remember what they were, other than each was perfect.  Desert at Páva restaurant, Budapest

Finally, there was the desert.  Some delectable creamy stuff of peach and passion fruit in a sandwich of chocolate and biscuit.  A few nuts, a scoop of delicately fruited ice-cream and a wheel of sugar, and the picture - or perhaps I should say photograph - was complete. 

Throughout the service was efficient, attentive, smartly turned out and invisible.  As it should be. 

We ended the evening with strong coffees and glasses of Hungary’s famed Tokaji Azu sweet dessert wine. 

Though not cheap (€135 pp including drinks before during and after, plus a generous tip), it was a truly memorable evening, to be experienced only on the most special of occasions. 

My rating: 90% (I daren’t give it the perfect 100% score in case the manager reads this review and thinks he can put the price up). 

You’ll find the Páva at

  • Roosevelt Tér 5-6, 1051 Budapest, Hungary;

  • GPS co-ordinates 47º 29’ 59.15" N 19º 2’ 52.56" E;

  • telephone +36-1-268-6000. 

By the way, the Four Seasons Gresham Hotel
is nothing to do with the eponymous
Gresham Hotels group based in Dublin.

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Issue 172’s Letters to the Press

This letter was not published; neither will any more for a while.  This is because, now that I write an occasional column for the Irish Times, I am considered to be one of those with a privileged platform, for whom the Letters page is not intended.  So I may be reduced to harassing other publications when my frustrations bubble over. 

  • Violence in Gaza
    - to the Irish Times
    The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign is absolutely right to condemn the violence in Gaza, saying enough is enough.  So is its chairwoman, Marie Crawley, when she calls on the Irish Government to condemn what is happening in Gaza in the strongest possible terms and to break with the criminal negligence of EU foreign policy.  For too long, the ...

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Quotes for Issue 172

- - - - - - - - - - J I H A D - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: The negotiations are suspended, as are all contacts on all levels, because in light of the Israeli aggression such communication has no meaning.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Fatah president Mahmoud Abbas,
on Israel’s recent military incursion into Hamas-controlled Gaza
in response to sustained rocket attacks.

Apparently when Hamas lob Qassam and other rockets into Israel,
at a rate of up to fifty per day,
this is neither disreputable nor even worth reporting on. 

But when Israel takes action to prevent this,
they are (as usual) aggressors who,
according to the new UN chief Ban Ki-moon,
engage in disproportionate and excessive use of force,
a practice only Palestinians are permitted to employ
with their unilateral rocketing aimed at civilian Jews.

Quote: To those who reject democracy. To those who preach hate. To those who encourage violence. You are not part of the mainstream. You will not get public funding. You are not welcome as part of our society.

David Cameron, in a rare display of backbone. 

Quote: It’s very nice to be a sort of a normal person for once. This is about as normal as I’m ever going to get .

Britain’s Prince Harry reflects ruefully
on his few weeks serving with the British Army in Afghanistan
before America’s Drudge Report
disgracefully and treasonously
blew his cover

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

Quote (Sunday Times, 2nd March 2008, print-only edition): The process would be postponed until the second referendum.”

Antonio Misiroli, director of studies at the European Policy Centre,
chuckles at what EUrocrats will do
should the Irish electorate have the temerity
to vote down the execrable Lisbon Treaty.

Last month the European Parliament voted 3½:1
to
disrespect the outcome of the Irish referendum.

But Dick Roche, Ireland’s Minister for European Affairs,
says that
if Ireland votes no, then that is the result”.

The people’s vote is sacrosanct, therefore.  Yeah, right.

- - - - - - - - - - U S   E L E C T I O N - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “She [Hillary Clinton] is a monster, too - that is off the record - she is stooping to anything ... You just look at her and think, Ergh.

Harvard professor Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize winning author in 2003
of
A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,
is forced to resign as key foreign policy aide
from Barack Obama’s campaign

With a couple of intemperate remarks,
she destroys her nascent but glittering political career. 

Ireland only woke up to this brilliant young woman a month ago
when it realised she was Irish, born in Dublin.

Quote: Stand up with me, my friends, stand up and fight for America - for her strength, her ideals, and her future.

John McCain acknowledges that he will be
the US Republican’s presidential candidate for 2009

Quote: If he wants my pretty face standing by his side at one of these rallies, I’ll be glad to show up.

President George Bush endorses Senator McCain 

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

Quote: This partial-parliament in this little semi-statelet.”

Spitting vitriol, Sinn Féin parliamentarian Arthur Morgan
 uses parliamentary privilege
to treasonously besmirch his parliament and his country. 

So-called Irish Republicans such as Mr Morgan,
a convicted IRA terrorist who served seven years,
have a long history of not recognizing the sovereignty
of the Irish Republic and its people. 
They maintain that the IRA is the country’s sole legitimate
ruling body and standing army.

Three years ago I wrote about the way the same Mr Morgan
cosied up to convicted IRA thieves and killers 
of an Irish policeman, Jerry McCabe,
who had been guarding a cash delivery.

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

Quote: “All persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish.  Offenders will be severely punished.  It may be a laughing matter for some, but not for me.

Mayor Gerard Lalanne of Sarpourenx (pop 260) in south-west France
worries about the village’s overcrowded cemetery. 

He’s 70, so his own turn will not be far away.

Quote (spotted in a French newspaper): À l’eau, c’est l’air

From an advertisement to join the French Navy,
and nothing to do with Hello Sailor
” in a stage-French accent ...

Hattip: Gerry in Dublin

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

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I’ve become a newspaper columnist with the (subscription-only) Irish Times.  My first column appeared on 27th February, titled Don’t sign an EU contract you can’t even understand”.  The Lisbon Treaty is unintelligible and for that reason alone should be rejected.  For PDF version click on the image below.

 Click for PDF version (180 kb)

Readers may recall an expanded version here (on which you can comment). 

ISSUE #171 - 2nd March 2008 [633]

Click here for PDF Version of Issue #171 (187kb)

Eternal Russian Empire

That which we call an empire by any other name
would smell as foul.

(
with apologies to William Shakespeare and Juliet)

Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence (UDI), enthusiastically egged on by the EU and the US, is quite a development, without precedent in my lifetime as far as I can remember.  It's one thing for whole countries to break away or be released to set themselves up as independent entities, but quite another when a province does so. 

  • In the 1950s and 60s, numerous African and some Asian states became new countries when they were agreeably decolonised by their European imperial masters.  

  • A further fifteen new states emerged after the wretched Soviet Union imploded in 1989/90. 

  • The Yugoslav artifice created by the Versailles Treaty of 1919 blew apart into six more countries during the 1990s, and now a seventh. 

But these, save Kosovo, were already distinct countries in their own right; it was just that they were treated as the playthings of other regimes.  Ian Smith's UDI for Rhodesia in 1967 also applied to a whole country (under an imperialist's thumb) rather than a bit of one. 

There have not been many attempts, successful or otherwise, by provinces to break away. In 1971, Bangladesh split from Pakistan after a short war.  But when oil-rich Biafra had tried this in 1967-70, some two million Nigerians died before it was subdued. 

Serbia is enraged at losing a chunk of its territory as a result of Kosovo's UDI.  Serbs regard Kosovo as the original Serbian heartland and the home of the Serbian Orthodox Church, where Slavic Serbs first ruled in the 12th century, which is why they still call it Old Serbia.  But the Ottoman Empire defeated them there in 1389 and swallowed up Kosovo.  After that, and following further military defeats and massacres, Serbs began fleeing northward, which made way for Albanians (of Greek ethnic origin) to start immigrating in large numbers from the east.  The Ottomans, meanwhile, instituted a dhimmi regime on Christians and Jews, stripping them of property ownership and other rights and requiring jizya taxes.  This helps explain why the Albanians gradually converted to Islam, unlike the Serb minority who stayed behind, most of whom remained Orthodox Christians. 

However, with the Ottoman empire weakening in the early 20th century, Serbs re-invaded Kosovo, defeated the Albanians there, re-settled in significant numbers and though still a minority regained sovereignty in 1912. 

So you can understand the mutual hostility between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians, periodically stoked over the years by war-making and atrocities on both sides.  Russia has always backed the Serbs because of their common Slavic ethnicity and shared Orthodox religion.  Indeed, the First World War broke out precisely because Russia supported Serbia when it resisted humiliating demands of the Austro-Hungarian empire after Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serb nationalist. 

So today Serbian fury is fully shared by Russia.  But not just because they regard each other as blood brothers but because a breakaway Kosovo represents a sinister precedent.  For Russia's deep fear is for its own unity. 

Throughout the Cold War, the word imperialism was a pejorative adjective applied exclusively to Western nations - British imperialism, French imperialism and especially American imperialism.  A prime exponent of the expression was the Soviet Union, but it was joined by most left-wing intellectuals in the west.  Those who lean more to the right (eg, me) never stopped and questioned this.  Yet throughout the period there was only one major empire in the world and it certainly wasn't America.  It was the Soviet Union, which should have been called the Soviet Empire, for that undoubtedly was what it was.  Only Ronald Reagan actually used the word, when he called it - to universal horror - the “Evil Empire”.  But those fifteen countries that broke free in 1989/90 were the vassal states that prove its imperial identity. 

So today, Russia no longer calls itself a union” or an “empire”.  It now prefers to be known as a “federation”, though one which still, laughably, talks of American imperialism, while deploring the fall of the Soviet Union as a “geopolitical catastrophe”.   

But take a closer look at that federation.  It has 22 constituent republics, from Adyghaya to Udmurt, each with its own flag, anthem, history, traditions and often language, each apparently a voluntary member.   And each is headed by a chief executive or governor appointed by ... the Kremlin.  In case it comes up in a pub quiz, here they are.

Adyghaya

Altai

Bashkortostan

Bolkaria

Buryatia

Chechnya

Chuvash

Daghestan

Ingushia

Kabardino-
Balkar

Kalmykia-Khalm
Tangch

Karachaevo
Cherkess

Karelia

Khakassia

Komi

Mary-El

Mordovia

Northern
Ossetia

Sakha

Tartarstan

Tiva

Udmurt

 

 

Most are members of the federation” because they were swallowed up by Russia in its ever-expanding and colonising empire of the 16th century (Czar Ivan the Terrible) and onwards, either through military conquest or focused marriages or both.  Indeed, Russia was proud to call itself the Russian Empire until the Communists overthrew the Czar in 1917.  The Reds loved the concept but hated the name, so they called their inherited empire a union and in due course added those fifteen more subjugated countries.  The latest Russian leadership also love the empire concept but prefer the name federation as it sounds, well, friendlier. 

The name may be friendly but it smells as foul as the empire it actually represents. 

One thing is clear: the people of those 22 countries have never been consulted about their absorption by Russia, then or now, and it's no surprise to learn that secessionist movements are rife.  Chechnya is but the most extreme example of this. 

By any normal understanding of the word, that makes today's Russia not a federation but a traditional, old-fashioned empire.  It has never stopped being an empire, and is as illegitimate as any empire ever has been.  In similar vein, it is in the process of electinga pseudo-Czar to replace the current Czar, Vladimir Putin, who will assume the prime-ministership pretending to take orders from, rather than give orders to, the new pseudo-Czar Dmitry Medvedev.  And the election is being blatantly rigged, even though all the polls indicated that Mr Medvedev would win by a landslide anyway, even if it were free and fair.  Old imperial habits die hard, it seems.   

Russia knows full well that those 22 republics are looking with great interest at Kosovo and wondering if their own turn for freedom and independence might one day come. 

For if a province can break away from a country, to the general applause of the world, why not a country from an empire?

Russia's rejection of Kosovo's UDI is about much more than Slavic and religious solidarity with Serbs. 

Once an empire, always an empire.  An eternal empire. 

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Princess Obama, Girlie-man

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had a curious spat last week after the Drudge Report published a photo of Mr Obama in traditional Somali tribal robes during a visit to Kenya in 2006.  I heard the story on the radio when I was abroad, so naturally assumed he was togged out in a huge white turban much as a head-injury victim wears minus the bloodstains, and a great white billowing nightdress.  You see Somalis dressed like this at all the best parties throughout Africa and the Middle East. 

Anyone in such garb you must always presume to be a, er, Muslim and treat accordingly (don't offer him a beer or sausage, and women shouldn't shake his hand).  And I guessed that this was the reason Mr Obama was enraged when the photo of him emerged, and that he accused Ms Clinton of dirty tricks for allegedly releasing it (which she  does not deny).  His campaign manager David Plouffe called it most shameful, offensive fear-mongering” and a “smear”, though without making clear whether these robust adjectives applied to the photo itself or the fact that someone made it available to the public domain. 

For the one thing that Barack Hussein Obama does not want to appear to be is a Muslim, even though he was born to a Muslim father, and as such is - according to Islam - automatically a life-long Muslim for whom apostasy is punishable by death.  To be suspected of being a Muslim (thus generating even more mistrust on national security), or closet-Muslim, would deal a mortal blow to his presidential aspirations in this post-911 world, not to mention to his physical life. 

Princess Obama in 2006Meanwhile, Melanie Philips, has periodically been sneering at the Democratic primaries, and in particular the cult-following that has grown up around Mr Obama, whom she dubs Princess Obama, in memory of the Diana obsession.  I feel that is rather cruel. 

But then I eventually managed to catch up with the controversial photo. 

In 14 years in the Africa and the Middle East, I have never ever seen a Somali in a get-up like this, or indeed any African.  What on earth is it?

Ms Philips is right.  He is a right Princess Obama.  No wonder he hates the idea of people seeing him look this way.  It's not a Muslim issue at all. It's a girlie-man thing, to use Arnold Schwarzenegger's infamous epithet

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Altruism of Smokers and Drinkers

Some years ago I pointed out that we non-smokers in the high-tax social-securitised West should be eternally grateful to smokers and encourage them in their filthy habit.  For, based on British statistics, which I am sure must be typical,

  • the punitive taxes collected on the puffers' tobacco during their miserable smoking lives, plus

  • the pension payments they then forego due to their early deaths from hideous cancers

far exceed the cost of medical care when they get sick.  Moreover, unlike some diseases such as AIDS which cut down people in the prime of their earning power, smokers generally get sick only after they've retired so there is little effect on their productivity and remuneration. 

Therefore they are unfairly subsidising all the righteous non-smokers in the community, the same who lecture them on the wickedness and anti-social nature of their addiction. 

Were they all to give up the evil weed tomorrow, other taxpayers would have to immediately cough up, as it were, the missing revenue, or else public services would have to be cut back. 

A recent piece in the Sunday Times now leads me to a similar conclusion as regards British drinkers and their co-topers in Ireland and elsewhere. 

According to two reputable UK institutes, in 1998, HM Revenue collected nearly £11 billion in duty and VAT from sales of alcohol.  By 2005 this had risen to a colossal £14 billion, and there's no reason to suppose the steady rise is not continuing today. 

According to columnist India Knight in a moan about binge drinking, alcohol misuse currently costs the National Health Service £1.7 billion a year, to which should be added a further £7 billion as the cost of alcohol-fuelled crime. 

Big as they are, these figures nevertheless mean that alcohol actually produces a net financial profit of £5 billion to the Exchequer, to be shared among ... teetotallers. 

Ms Knight also says that employers lose another £6.4 million a year, but I don't think that should enter the equation, because, frankly, businesses are choosing to tolerate this loss.  All it demonstrates is that certain bosses are stupid or incompetent or both.  (Or drunk.) 

So, just as we should smile sweetly at smokers as they blow smoke in our faces, teetotalling non-smokers should equally beam indulgently at late-night binge-drinkers as they vomit all over their shoes. 

Both groups are sacrificing their bodies and lives so that others can live with more cash in their pockets to spend on wholesome pursuits like muesli and sandals.  As the Lord didn't say two thousand years ago in John 15:13, greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his lungs and liver for his fellow taxpayers

How altruistic can you be. 

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Intermezzo, Timişoara - Restaurant Review

The beautiful town of Timişoara in western Romania is famous for two things, as I found on a recent trip: street lighting and revolution.  And lately for a quirky third: ballet-dancing policemen. 

Timişoara – the 12th November 1884 – the first town of Europe with streets illuminated by electric lightOutside the entrance to the town’s principal museum, the Muzeul Banatului, stand two proud lampstands.  Inscribed on the quaint-looking lampshades, in different languages, are the words “Timişoara – the 12th November 1884 – the first town of Europe with streets illuminated by electric light”. 

Unfortunately and ironically, only one of them functions; the other is dead. But it's good to be famous for something. 

Then there are those light-footed policemen.  They recently made the international news when Sorin Baltica, a ballerina with the Romanian Opera for 27 years, agreed to train twenty officers.  They hope the ballet lessons will make them more agreeable and graceful, help them to move with elegance on the streets whilst also making the traffic also more fluent.  I must say, anytime I've been stopped back home by the boys in blue, I have noted how inelegantly they march up to my car and how unagreeably and gracelessly they demand I blow into a bag.  And downtown the traffic flow is anything but fluent.  So I am all in favour of ballet for bobbies.  If the 2003 World Rugby Cup Champions England can engage ballerinas to help them loosen up - as they did - then I don't see why the police shouldn't.  Those Romanians are ahead of their time. 

On a more serious note, Timişoara is also where Romania's remarkable anti-Communist revolution began in December 1989, which resulted in the execution just nine days later of the disgusting Communist killer and dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his slimy wife Elena.

On 16 December antigovernment demonstrations broke out in Timişoara. The next day, as protesters marched on the Communist Party headquarters in the city, Ceausescu ordered his security forces to fire on the crowd, as a result of which some 4,000 died, a huge number from a population of just 300,000 .  But then elements of the army joined the demonstrators and in a few days the town fell to the protestors.  This inspired the rest of the country, and demonstrations mushroomed up all over the country. 

The next day, the worried Ceausescus organised an adulatory demonstration of their own in Bucharest, which was broadcast live on TV.  Nicolai gave a speech, but was visibly shocked when  he was shouted down by chants rememRemembering 4,000 citizens shot by the Ceausescu regime in December 1989bering Timişoara and those he had had gunned down there.  Whitefaced, he retreated back into his palace and shortly after was seen fleeing from the roof in a helicopter.  By then the army and police had switched sides, and they tracked him down to a house a hundred kilometres away.  On Christmas day they tried him and his wife before a military tribunal, sentenced them to death and immediately shot them.  Images of the couple's bodies were aired on television to prove they were gone, to the wild delight of Romanians everywhere. 

This memorial in Timişoara, symbolising stylised bodies piled up on a tombstone, pays tribute to the thousands killed there on that fateful but historic day

Within Romania, you get the feel that there are quite strong associations with Italy.  At the least, a big proportion of the restaurants are Italian, many run by Romanians returning after years spent there, and the few I tried were of a very high quality.  Top of the list was Intermezzo, located in a basement just off the beautiful Unirii square, where the quality of food and the service were as good as you will encounter in the best restaurants in Rome. 

At the very table illustrated, my wife and I had a risotto with porcini mushrooms that was simply outstanding, followed by succulent steaks cooked perfectly to our liking, with crispy French fries and luscious spinach liberally impregnated with garlic.  For desert we shared a delicious panna cotta.  Including a couple of beers and a bottle of wonderful Romanian wine (a Byzantium cabernet sauvignon), the bill came to just €38, a hefty sum for Romania but fantastic value if you're a foreigner. 

My only complaint was that they served no Romanian beers, just Italian.  That's a pity, because the local beers are very good, but surprisingly hard to find in bars and restaurants.  It's as if the locals are slightly ashamed of their beer, but with no good reason to be. 

Nevertheless, my overall assessment is 75%. 

Intermezzo is at Piata Unirii 3, Timişoara, on the corner of Vasile Alecsandri,  telephone +40-61-25-643.2429. 

There's no website, but on Google Earth, you'll find it at 45°45'25.46"N 21°13'42.24"E. 

So now you have four reasons to visit this lovely town.

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Issue 171's Letters to the Press

Two letters, neither published.  In view of my new opportunity as a columnist in the Irish Times, I may have to curtail such missives - or have them curtailed for me. 

  • FF Was in the Red but Ahern Kept Raiding its Finances
    - to the Irish Times
    Madam, - In Fintan O'Toole's excellent article,
    FF was in the red but Ahern kept raiding its finances, he talks about the so-called B/T account in the name of Tim Collins, from which £30,000 was withdrawn as a loan to Bertie Ahern's life partner. 

    Surely "B/T" couldn't possibly mean "Bertie/Tim"?  Nah, of course not!
     

  • Israel and the Palestinians
    - to the Irish Times
    Theo Dorgan makes an eloquent case against what he calls the
    collective punishment of Palestinians due to the blockade of Gaza.  But he misdirects his ire.  For it is their fellow-Arabs in Egypt who actually hold the key to their incarceration, and whose security forces brutally injured 90 of them when the Egypt/Gaza wall was recently breached ... 

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Quotes for Issue 171 

- - - - - - - - - - J I H A D - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: There's one law for everybody and that's all there is to be said ... I think that's a bit of a danger.

Rowan Williams, the nutcase Archmullah of Canterbury,
makes a dhimmi call for Sharia law to partially displace
a thousand years of Common Law in England

Quote: “World powers have created a black and dirty microbe named the Zionist regime and have unleashed it like a savage animal on the nations of the region ... The cancerous growth Israel will soon disappear... we will witness the disappearance of this cancerous growth Israel by means of the Hezbollah fighters' radiation [therapy] ... Lebanese and Palestinian combatants... [will] continue the struggle until the complete destruction of the Zionist regime and the liberation of the entire land of Palestine.

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his leaders
of the
Revolutionary Guards Corps and of the Armed Forces
generously add to Iran's previous warnings
about its planned nuclear obliteration of Israel

Quote: Mugnieh's blood will lead to the elimination of Israel. These
words are not an emotional reaction
.”

Hizbullah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah threatens Israel
after Imad Mugnieh, one of his top military commanders
is assassinated, he presumes by the Mossad.

Israel usually claims responsibility for such targeted killings,
but denies this one

- - - - - - - - - - R U S S I A - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Although it seems as if the Kremlin would have won even a free election, even a fair election, they did not allow it, that's the real point. Why does a power, who can be sure to stay in power, not really allow a free competition?

Andreas Gross, head of a delegation from the Council of Europe,
the only major European democracy watchdog
that will monitor the upcoming coronation election of
President Vladimir Putin's chosen successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

- - - - - - - - - - A U S T R A L I A - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians ...  for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families ... for the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations.  To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities ... and for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

Australian prime minister apologises to the Aborigines and Islanders
for removing their children from them for almost a century,
supposedly for their own good.

- - - - - - - - - - O B A M A - - - - - - - - - -

Quote (minute 8:41-9:11 in the audio): Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

Michelle Obama explains that
there is going to be a lot of new compulsion from the US Government
once her husband becomes president.

Workshyness, cynicism, division, isolation, comfort, declination,
ordinariness, disengagement, uninvolvement, lack of information
- they will all be banned,
no doubt with hefty prison terms for miscreants.

Quote: Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox.

Hillary Clinton berates Barack Obama
for plagiarising material for his own speeches

- - - - - - - - - - U K - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Allowing some patients to access treatments that others could
not pay for is unthinkable
.”

Alan Johnson, the UK's health secretary,
want to forbid you from
spending your own money on your own health,
even if you're dying

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

Quote: Maireád was a brave, lovely and wonderful Irish woman.”

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin,  pays tribute to Maireád Farrell,
who was in fact a distinctly unlovely, murderous, IRA terrorist,
a convicted bomber, who was thankfully shot dead by the SAS,
along with two colleagues, in Gibraltar in 1988. 

They were there to plant a Semtex car-bomb
at the weekly changing-of-the-guard ceremony.

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 What I've recently
been reading

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

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

See detailed review

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

  • 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.

+++++

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

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

  • 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.

+++++

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