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Ill-informed and Objectionable Comment by an anonymous reader

March 2009


ISSUE #189 - 15th March 2009


ISSUE #190 - 29th March 2009


Date and time
in Westernmost Europe

ISSUE #190 - 29th March 2009 [280]


Contempt for Irish Citizens over Gitmo


Violent Video Games Replace Children's Fighting Games


Smoking Has Benefits as well as Costs


Know Your Customers


Quotes for Issue 190

Contempt for Irish Citizens over Gitmo

Irish Times Column, 26th March 2009Do you remember all  those World War 2 stories and movies where the Germans ran prisoner-of-war camps, usually called something like Stalag, where plucky American and British servicemen were interned who had been captured in battle or after being shot down?  The dashing  lads were always trying to escape but usually failed and often got roughed up by way of punishment.  You remember the bit where the Germans' own allies, the Italians and the Japanese, would roundly denounce the Nazis for keeping these men illegally locked up, their human rights violated, with no mention of a trial or defence lawyers?  Especially the bit where the Germans eventually relented a bit, held a few military tribunals and then let out a number of the less vociferous inmates to return free to their countries.  They would then of course re-enlist and return to fight the Germans once again.

They were such inspiring stories, were they not?  What's that?  You don't remember this kind of plotline? 

Well how about the more recent version, involving the redoubtable 007, sorry 008. 

Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, now aka Mullah Abdullah Zakir, was an armed Taliban fighter who was captured during George Bush's 2001 invasion of Afghanistan following 9/11.  Since he wore no uniform he was designated an unlawful combatant and in due course found himself in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay as Detainee 008. 

Over the following years, America's allies (eg France) and friends” (eg Ireland) urged it to close down Gitmo as it came to be known, put the prisoners such as 008 on trial according to civilian rules of evidence, and in effect to free the vast majority of them because juries were likely to find very few of them guilty “beyond reasonable doubt”.  Of course Bushitlerburton generally turned a deaf ear, which suited his “allies and friends” quite well because all they really wanted was to garner headlines by criticising him as a war criminal, rather than let loose a whole lot of tribal wild men. 

Nevertheless, the occasional prisoner, judged no longer a threat, did leak out.  One of these was 008 after he promised to go back to his family and henceforth pursue a peaceful life.  In 2007, he was released from six years detention in Gitmo and flown by to Kabul where for a while he was re-interned.  But a year ago he was set free and, to no-one's great surprise, re-joined the Taliban as a fighter, no doubt laughing at the gullibility of his erstwhile captors.  He rapidly rose to become its new operations chief in Helmand Province and the architect of a fresh offensive against British troops, exemplified by a spike in roadside bombings that have killed more than forty brave Tommies. 

008 is just one of sixty Gitmo alumni to have resurfaced on the battlefield. 

Meanwhile, the Cowboy is gone from the Oval Office replaced by the Big O.  One O's first acts was to announce that Gitmo would close in a year (yeah, right!) and would his new-found friends in Europe and elsewhere kindly take the tribal wild men off his hands.  Of course very few volunteered, though there's lots of talk of considering” it and “studying the practicalities”.  For example, Jacques Barrot, vice-president of the European Commission declared last week that without “total transparency” of information about the inmates, the EU “can’t assume that responsibility” of accepting them for resettlement.

Not to be put off by curmudgeonly tales about freed inmates returning to terrorism, the moment arrived for Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister) Brian Cowen to step forward.  Having first granted Big O an audience in Washington where he


bestowed shamrock on him,


read his welcome speech for him and


no doubt demonstrated the finer points of Riverdance,

he headed off to CNN for a big announcement. 

Doubtless thinking it would curry favour with Big O, he chose a foreign land and the grizzled correspondent Wolf Blitzer as his medium for informing his fellow-parliamentarians back home, not to mention his fellow-countrymen, that Ireland would be delighted to accept Gitmo inmates for resettlement. 

Here is his unequivocal commitment:

We were one of the first countries to ask for the closure of Guantanamo. As you know, the EU has asked that we try to come together and put a full package to the Americans showing the countries in the EU that will take these prisoners. I think it's incumbent for those who called for its closure to ensure that certain prisoners be relocated elsewhere ... We'll take proportionate amounts.” [my emphasis]

After all, since the Northern Ireland peace process broke out more than a decade ago, the island of Ireland has suffered from a distinct dearth of terrorist outrages (ever since the Omagh bombing, in fact) and this evidently needs to be rectified, notwithstanding the efforts of IRA dissidents to do exactly that by murdering in cold blood two soldiers and a policeman earlier this month. 

As far as I have been able to ascertain, neither the Cabinet nor the Dáil (parliament) have publicly decided that Gitmo detainees will be accepted by Ireland - or indeed even been so informed.  It is therefore a massive breach of protocol that Mr Cowen should choose a foreign correspondent, foreign media, foreign shores and a foreign audience to announce such a momentous domestic fait accompli, and without any public debate whatsoever.  Indeed, it constitutes nothing less than a massive contempt for his fellow citizens and parliamentarians of Ireland.  All you can really say is that, born in County Offaly, he was living up to his nickname, Biffo (Big Ignorant F***er From Offaly). 

And no, those Nazis I alluded to in my opening paragraphs, did not free their prisoners to go back to battle.  I think the world is irony

The German military kept their POWs locked up until the war was over, as all warring parties did and have done through history (if they didn't kill them).  The Americans should do likewise, until the war against Islamic jihad is over and the jihadist movement has been crushed, destroyed and humiliated. 

Biffo has no business volunteering that the Irish public should provide a safe haven within its vulnerable midst for Gitmo prisoners freed by the Big O for the latter's own political reasons.  And if the president does not want these people wandering untethered up and down the malls of America, he should not be trying to inflict them on anyone else's malls.  The Jihad is not over yet by a long shot, and won't be for many, many more years. 

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Violent Video Games Replace Children's Fighting Games

From time to time, a comfortably-off young man from a good home commits an outrage on society.  Typically he picks up a gun, goes to a school, shoots as many innocent people as he can and then turns the gun on himself.  In recent years, some of the more publicised events have included -


In 1996, Thomas Watt Hamilton murdered sixteen children in Dunblane Primary School in Scotland.


In April 2002, Robert Steinhäuser, a 19-year-old killed eighteen people in Germany at the school from which he had been expelled. 


In 2007, a Korean Cho Seung-Hui shot dead 32 fellow students and teachers at Virginia Tech, USA. 


In 2008, 22-year-old Matti Juhani Saari used a semi-automatic pistol to slaughter ten people in Seinäjoki University in Finland. 

Clearly the phenomenon is not confined to any one country (though mainly to rich Western democracies) and is no respecter of whether or not anti-gun laws are in place. 

As you would expect, these dreadful occurrences always prompt a frenzy of soul-searching to find and understand underlying reasons.  Sometimes people conclude that the perpetrators were mentally unbalanced, or suffering from a recent rejection (girl, school, parent, whatever), or just plain wicked. 

But violent video games nearly always come up as a contributory factor.  Young men (and some older ones) play these games, usually taking the part of a tough guy, often a criminal from the underworld, with one or more big guns who seeks out victims, buildings, bridges, trains as his targets to be blown away, with lots of blood, while not suffering the same fate himself. Grand Theft Auto is one of the more notorious examples of the genre. 

People conclude that the visual reality of these games inspires testosterone-fuelled young men to emulate in real life the heroics they perform on screen, and the only outlet for this is to grab a gun and start shooting.  Instinctually, these arguments seem to make sense, but I believe they lack a critical element. 

It is a very modern phenomenon, and one unique to humans, that has a solitary young male acting out war-like activities via a screen while sitting for hours on his backside. 

What is not modern, what is carved indelibly into the DNA of practically every young male animal almost from the moment of his birth, is the urge to fight, or failing that to play-fight and generally to expend energy.  Look at all those wild-life programmes: see how the young cubs, especially the males, wrestle with each other, and in a manner that gets increasing aggressive and purposeful as they grow, get stronger, mature.  This is to prepare them for life ahead, when they will have to fight for females and to protect themselves or their territory. 

Humans have the same urge and also from a very early age, and for not entirely dissimilar reasons.  That's why small boys want to play with any knives, guns, sling-shots or other weapons they can get their hands on, and to fight or play-fight among themselves, simulating injury and death, victory and defeat.  And why they love playing football and other high-energy contact sports. 

Just go to any public park where, say, under tens may be found and watch how they spend their time trying to kill each other.  Except they don't.  Not any more.  Their parents won't let them.  Over the past couple of decades, society seems to have completely feminised the poor guys.  They are told it is wrong to fight; they must settle their differences through discussion; they should take up more peaceful pursuits like soccer, or maybe embroidery.  When was the last time you saw a young boy with a pistol strapped to his waist, or a mediaeval sword in one hand and a shield in the other, as he goes into battle with another boy similarly equipped?  When did an Indian last scalp a paleface or a soldier shoot a German?  It doesn't happen any more; for one thing the unfortunate boys can't any longer get their hands on the military equipment they need.  Go round any toystore.  Where are the shelves stacked high with knives, rifles, tomahawks, machine-guns, bows-and-arrows?  At best you might find a small plastic tank with - oh horror - a tiny gun on the turret. 

What do people buy boys for their birthdays or for Christmas when weapons of mass destruction are off the menu?  Video games, likely as not. 

Any sense of fighting is discouraged.  It is many decades (eg my own childhood) since boys were taught to box as a matter of course and as a tool of self-defence, and told that if a couple of them had an argument to get in a ring and slug it out under the Marquis of Queensbury rules rather than let it fester. 

(One of the ridiculous consequences is that when drunken brawls break out in the street in the early hours of the morning, the resultant injuries are as likely to be damaged hands and wrists as a broken jaw.  Men swing haymakers and end up hurting themselves because they've never been taught how to punch properly.) 

But trying to suppress a young male's urge to fight is like trying to squeeze a balloon.  It just bulges out somewhere else.  There is a ready outlet for those youngsters fortunate enough to engage in vigorous sports, such as football, rugby, tennis, water-polo, karate, skiing.  But for others, it is those video games, unknown a generation ago, that provide the necessary outlet.  The blood and guts and realism of a video game are much greater than anything boys could manage as they would routinely kill each other in the local park, but it is a solitary pursuit accompanied by no physical exertion which makes it all weirdly unnatural, and I would think innately unsatisfying. 

So if video games do contribute in anyway to the random killing sprees, it is only because boys have had no natural outlet for their natural urges to fight among themselves in a healthy, vigorous but relatively harmless way.  They spend testosteroned hours absorbed in virtual combat yet taking no exercise, mixing with no people, feeling no thuds on their bodies. 

No wonder some of them occasionally go nuts. 

Boys are not girls and should not be expected to behave and play like girls, any more than girls should be encouraged to engage in fighting games if they don't want to. 

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Smoking Has Benefits as Well as Costs

I have written before about the benefits and costs of smoking, both of which are twofold. 


Benefits -


The pleasure that nicotine gives to smokers (pleasure is a legitimate aspiration that we all seek in some shape or form). 


The revenue that tobacco taxes yield to society and pensions foregone due to early death.   


Costs -


The suffering of smokers who contract smoking-related diseases and in many cases die long before their otherwise natural lifespan, plus the diversion of their wealth to fund their habit.


The burden on society of supporting such people through their sickness, plus the possible loss of or detriment to their productivity. 

It is rare, however, that the benefit side of the equation, either for the individual or society is ever acknowledged.  Indeed, you hardly ever hear of any addictive drugs providing positive outcomes for users, other than occasional articles about the therapeutic value of an odd glass of red wine. 

I must confess, therefore, to having been surprised when two speakers, at a university debate on drugs that I participated in last year, spoke glowingly about the good that illegal drugs can do, whether in merely giving pleasure to the user, or in providing medical benefits by treating either pain (eg with marijuana) or else trauma and bereavement (eg through psychedelic drugs).  Indeed, one of the speakers, Rick Doblin, later figured heavily in a long Economist feature at Christmas time entitled Agony and Ecstasy (geddit?). 

When it comes to cigarettes, however, it is impossible to make any convincing case that smoking is of overall benefit to the user.  The large percentage of people who suffer horrible illness and/or die prematurely can surely never offset the transient pleasure of having a drag, a delight no non-smokers and few ex-smokers yearn for.  It's not like galloping on a horse or skydiving or riding the rapids or gross overeating or a hundred other dangerous pursuits, where even if you don't do them yourself you can easily understand and dream of the pleasure or adrenaline rush they undoubtedly bring. 

But if the joy to the individual of smoking seems perverse, the same cannot be said of the undoubted gains from the filthy habit to society as a whole. 

For, as I have argued previously, smokers not only pay for themselves in terms of their exorbitant tobacco taxes and premature non-pensionable deaths, but provide a healthy surplus which exclusively favours their non-smoking brethren.  As such, you would have to conclude that smokers and, for similar reasons drinkers, are intrinsically altruistic, whether they mean to be or not. 

Yet still the debate rattles on about how smokers are costing society a fortune.  Earlier this month some newspaper correspondents complained that “in Ireland, 7,000 people a year die from smoking-related illnesses [costing] the Irish health budget €1.5 billion a year”.  Their solution was a “€2 increase [in a packet of cigarettes which would] raise up to €420 million.  The foolishness of this argument is self-evident.  The current price is nearly €8 a pack, of which at least 80% is tax.  Thus cigarette taxes are already more than funding the necessary health care, and that is not to talk about billions saved in foregone pensions due to early smoke-induced deaths, which on average cut a decade from the life of every smoker.  

In Ireland there are 224,850 male pensioners (ie over 65) and 278,661 females, and of these 16% of men and 14% of women smoke.  Thus, 75,000 old-age pensioners will, by graciously dying ten years early, save the state 750,000 pension-years at €219 per week, or a cool €8½ billion, over a period.  Each of them will have contributed €114,000.

On an annual basis, since 7,000 people die of smoking-related illnesses, the pension-savings works out at a juicy €0.8 billion, a bounty to be added to tobacco taxes collected, reinforcing the selfless social good that is smoking. 

It is dishonest to try to hide this inconvenient truth. 

None of this, however, takes away from the utter folly of smoking and the misery it so often causes to the individual.  Their loved ones also suffer collateral damage and unhappiness.  Why adults would choose to do such damage to themselves is an utter mystery. 

But they know the consequences, and it's their right.  And the rest of us benefit. 

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Know Your Customers

A disappointed salesman of a new Cola company returned from his Middle East assignment.

A friend asked, “Why weren’t you successful with the Arabs?

The salesman explained, “When I got posted in the Middle East , I was very confident that I would make a good sales pitch as our special Cola is virtually unknown there. But, I had a problem - I didn’t know to speak Arabic. So, I planned to convey the message through three posters” ...  

First poster:
A man lying in the hot desert sand ... totally exhausted and fainting.

Second poster:
The man is drinking our delicious new Cola.

Third poster:
Our man is now totally refreshed and bounding away happily.

I then had these posters pasted all over the place.

That was certainly very creative”, said the friend It should have worked a treat!

The hell it should have!” said the salesman.

I didn’t realize that Arabs read from right to left.

[Hat tip: Barry O'N in Dublin]

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Quotes for Issue 190

- - - - - - P O P E - - - - - -

Quote: This Pope is beginning to pose a real problem.

Alain Juppé, a Catholic and a former French Prime Minister
who left office a failure and was later convicted of abusing public funds,
dislikes the way Pope Benedict XVI points out that
condom promotion has failed to inhibit the spread of AIDS,
whereas the evidence shows that fidelity and abstinence have succeeded.

Condoms help prevent infection on an individual basis,
but since they make promiscuity seem
acceptable (even when not worn) and safe,
they seem to foster AIDS on a population basis. 

- - - - - - - M U T I L A T I O N - - - - - -

Quote: We will save many litres of water if more men were circumcised because there would be less fiddling in the shower to keep it clean.”

Dr Paul Cowie, circumciser-in-chief
at his Adelaide and Gawler clinics in Australia. 

As far as I can see, this way of saving the environment
through conserving water
is about the most robust reason anyone has ever advanced
for the non-medical butchery of circumcision. 

Does it apply for women also,
or must they continue to enjoy FMG
without doing anything for global warming?

Such chopping of bits off babies should only be performed
if it means saving the polar bears.

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

Quote: It's like - it was like the Special Olympics or something.

President Obama, on the Jay Leno TV late-night chat-show,
disparages his own ten-pin bowling skills by
insensitively comparing them to those of disabled athletes. 

He later apologised, but only after
the White House was flooded with outraged calls.

Quote:  “[President Obama's stimulus plan is a] road to hell.

Mirek Topolanek, the outgoing Prime Minister
of the Czech Republic, draws on AC/DC's most lasting hit,
Highway to Hell”, to show that
he doesn't think much of Big O's trillions.

- - - - - - B R A Z I L - - - - - -

Quote: “This crisis was not caused by a black man or woman or by any indigenous person or by any poor person.  This crisis was fostered and boosted by the irrational behaviour of some people that were white and blue eyed.

A bit of naked racism by Brazil's
dusky brown-eyed president,
Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva.

Except that only “white and blue-eyed” people
are capable of racism

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

Quote: We begin by welcoming today a strong friend of the United States ... Who said these things [teleprompters] were idiot-proof?

Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Brian Cowen
welcomes himself to Washington,
after inadvertently reading the start of
Barack Obama's just-completed welcome speech.

The White House teleprompter
had failed to switch over to Mr Cowen's reply. 

There doesn't seem much about Mr Obama's presidency
Hillary Clinton's mistranslated Russian 'Reset' button; click to enlargethat doesn't go wrong
from the sublime (eg appointing tax-cheats)
to the ridiculous (mistranslating
Reset into Russian).

Quote: We were one of the first countries to ask for the closure of Guantanamo. As you know, the EU has asked that we try to come together and put a full package to the Americans showing the countries in the EU that will take these prisoners. I think it's incumbent for those who calls for its closure to ensure that certain prisoners be relocated elsewhere ... We'll take proportionate amounts.

Brian Cowen, Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minster),
tells American correspondent Wolf Blitzer on CNN that
Ireland will take Guantanamo inmates. 

Too bad he hasn't bothered to tell, as far as I can ascertain,
his Cabinet colleagues or his fellow parliamentarians or the Irish public,
much less ask whether they agree. 

Quote: RTÉ would like to apologise for any personal offence caused to Mr Cowen or his family or for any disrespect shown to the office of the Taoiseach by our broadcast.”

RTÉ, Ireland's national broadcaster,
funded mainly through an enforced
tax on the citizenry
at the whim of the government of the day,
issues a grovelling apology. 

It's crime?  It had broadcast a newsworthy story
that a prankster had sneaked in
and hung these unflattering portraits of a nude Brian Cowen
in two of Dublin's
most prestigious art galleries.

View the original two-minute RTÉ report in full
[Hat tip: Mark Humphrys]. 

The police also stormed into the offices of a radio station
demanding details of the artist, Conor Casby, who painted them;
the radio station refused.

Nevertheless the artist gave himself up to the police
who questioned him under caution
and prepared a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions

State manipulation of RTÉ and police
to protect leaders from embarrassment
is reminiscent of those halcyon days of the Soviet Empire,
and indeed of the Castros' Cuba or Chavez' Venezuela today.

Strangely, however, it does not seem to extend
to cartoons where Mr Cowen
is regularly lampooned,
such as in this toilet-oriented drawing. 

Biffo Cowen is earning his nickname
(Big Ignorant F***er From Offaly). 

Quote: This is a family issue involving 27 family members. I find the prospect of a second No [in Ireland's upcoming second Lisbon Treaty referendum] frightening and I am going to continue making that case.

Christian Pauls, Germany's ambassador to Ireland,
dips his toe into the toxic waters of Ireland and the Lisbon Treaty

Quote: Honesty, trust, hard work, willingness to go the extra little bit. It’s like what I said earlier, nobody was blaming anybody. We had none of that, no cliques, no nothing. We gave it a go in the best way possible. You cannot overestimate honesty.”

Declan Kidney, Ireland's inspirational rugby team coach,
explains the magic of Ireland’s Grand Slam rugby victory.

It is an excellent philosophy for any endeavour -
sporting, business or otherwise.

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ISSUE #189 - 15th March 2009 [346+359=705]


Domestic Vermin Need a Robust Response


Sevens Heaven in the Middle East


Why, Why, Why? (It's Just So Unfair)


Issue 189’s Comments to Cyberspace


Quotes for Issue 189

Domestic Vermin Need a Robust Response

Two brave soldiers and one brave policeman lost their lives earlier this month, shot by so-called republicans.  Some might think this was to advance their cause that Ireland should be re-united, as it was for 700 years under - ironically - hated British rule, with sovereignty of Northern Ireland wrenched from the UK to the Republic of Ireland.  It was of course no such thing.  Nor can there be any doubt that an Ireland united by such violent means is today anathema to nearly every Irishman and woman of whatever religious or political persuasion. 

Thirty-plus years of brutal guerrilla warfare between the IRA and the British Army ended in, if not quite defeat of the IRA, at least a stalemate, with the IRA at last recognizing that it could never achieve through armed struggle the unification it sought.  With this reality on the ground, its representatives (ie Sinn Féin) and those of the other main paramilitary/sectarian groups entered into tortuous negotiations with the British and Irish Governments.  What emerged was the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, signed by all parties, which was then ratified overwhelmingly through an all-Ireland referendum, with implementation following in fits and starts over the succeeding decade.  And with that decade finally came peace as a cross-party coalition of former enemies ruled the province, often bad-temperedly, frequently incompetently, with several childish hiatuses, but - significantly - with no-one resorting to the gun to settle their political differences. 

So the vermin who perpetrated these murders - the first sectarian killing of British law-enforcers for over a decade - who describe themselves as dissident republicans will be in no doubt of the utter futility of such killings in terms of achieving any political change.  For if the mighty IRA were unable to unify Ireland by force and send the British and other Protestants scuttling back to the mainland for their own safety, tiny splinter groupings taking pot-shots certainly cannot. 

Therefore the question arises why did they do it?  Why was it so important for them to take three lives and destroy three families?  As Kate Carroll, the heartbroken wife of Stephen, the murdered policeman rightly pointed out, These people have just taken my life as well.”

What do they think they will gain, other than notoriety?   

I think the answer is obvious.  They kill in order to kill.  That's all.  These domestic vermin are no different from the Islamist vermin of Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda and related terrorists, whose sole objective for killing their enemies is to kill them, not to advance any cause whatsoever. 

Abbas Hussein al-Musawi, the erstwhile leader of Hezbollah whom the Israelis blew up and who was succeeded by Hassan Nasrallah the current incumbent, once pithily observed,

We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.  

Leaving little doubt as to his genocidal intentions, he had promised that Hezbollah would

wipe out every trace of Israel ...the cancer of the Middle East ... and intensify its military, political and popular action in order to undermine the peace-talks.

Satirist John Oliver, commenting on the Mumbai Islamist attacks on Comedy Central's the Daily Show, hit the nihilistic nail on the head when he said, “We hate and kill everything you stand for - Join us!

Inasmuch as the domestic vermin who call themselves Irish republicans have behaved exactly as such Islamists do, they should be treated in the same way.  They need to be stopped in their tracks. 


It is encouraging that parts of the Sinn Féin leadership have been prepared to condemn the slaughters.  In particular, Martin McGuinness, its number two and also Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, declared:

I supported the IRA during the conflict, I myself was a member of the IRA, but that war is over ... these people, they are traitors to the island of Ireland,

while standing shoulder-
to-shoulder with the
First Minister Peter
Robinson and the Chief
Constable Hugh Orde.


But Leader Caoimhghín
Ó Caoláin its leader in
the Dáil (Irish
parliament) prefers an
otherwise vilified hierarchy of victims

 Peter Robinson, Hugh Orde and Martin McGuinness condemn the murders

wherein murdered British soldiers are worthy of less outrage than murdered British
policemen -

Those killings [of soldiers] were wrong because they were in breach of a Peace Process entered into in good faith by Irish republicans.” 

He was on-message with his boss Gerry Adams:

What happened Saturday night is wrong and counter-productive.

Neither of them seems to consider the murders to have been immoral or unlawful - or even murders.  Just annoying. 

As for the rest of the political establishment in Britain and Ireland, they have indeed been unequivocal in their condemnations.  However, in my view, their follow up proposals are universally wishy-washy, as they drone about bringing those responsible to justice”.  Compare such language with, for example, President Asif Ali Zardari's much more forceful promise to punish with iron hands the Islamist killers who attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. 

When dealing with domestic vermin with the mindset and behaviour of the worst of Islamist terrorists, they should be treated with a similar rugged approach.  They need to be hunted down and captured or killed. 

Last October, the Spanish police were faced with a bank robbery in Alicante on the East coast.  The robber had seized hostages and was threatening to kill them if he was not allowed to escape.  So in return for freeing them, the police provided a getaway motorbike and allowed the robber unmolested to race away from the bank on it. 

The getaway, which appeared on CBS television with English commentary, can be viewed in this dramatic 55-second video clip.   Note the well-planned, simple, direct manner in which the Spanish police brought the whole incident to a striking conclusion [Hat tip: Dave in Spain]


I wish the politicians on both sides of the Irish border and of both traditions would use robust language and be prepared to advocate whatever tough steps are necessary to end the careers of the vermin who murdered those three courageous soldiers and policeman. 

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Rugby Dispatches

Every four years, I head off to make my own Hajj, or religious pilgrimage, to watch the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament, a short, fast and furious version of the normal 15-a-side game.  This month it took place in sunny Dubai for the first time.  I wrote before and after dispatches, which were published in the Irish Times.  To give you a flavour of the event, and perhaps tempt you to the next one in Cardiff in 2013, here they are. 

Rugby Dispatch Nbr 1
Sevens Heaven in the Middle EastIrish Times, 4th March 2009

ONLY A few days ago every paper and broadcast in Ireland was full of just one sporting event – the defeat of the mighty English by the plucky Irish in the latter’s quest for a first rugby Grand Slam since 1948 under the legendary try-scorer Jackie Kyle, when, coincidentally, England were also beaten by a single point.

So how could another rugby event, with a far more international flavour than a contest between a mere six countries, a World Cup no less, have glided so silently beneath the Irish radar? The quadrennial Rugby World Cup Sevens, just about to begin in Dubai, is one of the world’s great unsung competitions, and this time it’s not just for the boys.

A parallel competition has brought 16 women’s teams to Dubai to battle (minus burkas) for an inaugural Women’s Cup, with the Irish currently ranked sixth in the world (and ahead of England and France).

Sevens rugby is played on a full-size pitch, but each team has only seven players – three forwards and four backs – and each half lasts just seven minutes; yellow cards mean two minutes in the sinbin. Apart from that, the game follows the same laws as the 15-a-side version, but is played at a much more frenetic pace which is only for the super-fit.

Matches follow each other at strictly choreographed 22-minute intervals, which allow for stoppage time and changeover.

This means spectators gorge on a non-stop feast of fast, skilful, international rugby, for 2½ crazy days, interrupted only when attendants bring food and refreshment to your seat. It’s almost like getting up to go to work every day, except that every night is party time, which can make it hard to get up in time for the first game.

Bar a handful of games, the whole tournament takes place in a single stadium, which means not only do you see every knockout contest, but you never have to miss even a pool game.

The men’s 36 pool games occupy the first day and a half, after which a points system divides the teams into three groups of eight. On the third and final day they compete in three knockout battles for a bowl, a plate and the big one, the 2009 Rugby Sevens World Cup. In the midst of this, there is a break for a big parade of all the players and match officials and some extravagant entertainment.

The Sevens Stadium in Dubai; click to enlarge in new windowThe Sevens are being staged at a just opened stadium called, er, The Sevens (click on photo to enlarge in a new window), located on the outskirts of Dubai, a half-hour’s drive from downtown. It sports a permanent grandstand with 4,000 seats, plus temporary stands for a further 36,000 people. The complex has a secondary pitch which caters for 5,000 spectators where some of the men’s and most of the women’s games will be played, plus a further four.

It also incorporates changing rooms, hospitality areas, broadcast and medical facilities, as well as a 30-metre wide rugby promenade, featuring cafes and food outlets. Though intended to become the new new home of rugby in the Middle East, it will also target cricket, football, basketball and netball.

There is no doubting from the international array of colourful shirts, hats and other accoutrements on display in the streets and haunts of Dubai that there is a very big rugby event in the air.

You know it is rugby and not, for example, soccer because of the way all the men walk.

It is more of a slow, exaggerated, nautical swagger, with hips moving deliberately fore and aft while the manly shoulders sway in a kind of horizontal circle that says “I’m a tough guy, I could win this competition single-handedly, don’t mess with me”.

However, exchange a few words and they are instantly your best friend, as eager, enthusiastic and childish as you are to talk about the forthcoming games, the players, the beer, the rankings, the Fijians (current world champions), the All Blacks (everyone’s nemesis) and plans for the next competition in four years. And no player has even kicked a ball yet.

It all begins at 5pm today with Wales v Zimbabwe. An hour later Ireland, under manager Jon Skurr, plays its opener against a formidable Samoa. Australia and Portugal also share this tough pool.

Can’t wait. 

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So two days later ...

Rugby Dispatch Nbr 2
Why, Why, Why? (It's Just So Unfair)

Rugby World Cup Sevens - Dispatch nbr 2The fifth Rugby World Cup Sevens hosted by Dubai was certainly a festival of surprises.  The spectators' unforgiving hard benches in the unforgiving open sun was one.  The parade taking place, without the combatants, on Day One instead of Day Three as advertised was another.

A third, monumental surprise was the unceremonious dethronements of the current champions (Fiji), the perennial favourites (New Zealand), the other big guns (England and South Africa) in the quarter-finals by no-hopers  (I exaggerate) Kenya, Wales, Samoa and Argentina, Ireland having previously taken out doughty Australia.  Then there were the sweet eventual cup-winning victory over Argentina by a deserving Wales and the gripping women's inaugural final where the Aussies overcame the All Blacks. 

The women's world cup competition was an innovation, which many welcomed but most found a tiresome interruption to the smooth progress of the mens'.  It meant matches had to be held simultaneously on two pitches which you had to yo-yo between and still would miss crucial contests.  Moreover, apart from the final few games, the standard of the women's matches was mostly akin to primary schoolchildren's and great if you enjoy the delights of slow play, knockons and dropped catches, but at least you could follow what was going on more easily. 

Some of the winsome cheerleadersPredictably, curmudgeonly chauvinists far preferred the troupe of leggy cheerleaders with their black and orange outfits and silver pompoms as, with the same verve and energy as the players', they  danced and leapt and cartwheeled all over and alongside the main pitch whenever there was a brief respite in the rugby. 

The Day One parade was very well choreographed and entertaining:  half a dozen gaily-bedecked camels haughtily strutting their stuff like catwalk models, bare-chested kung-fu tumblers performing impossible acrobatics, Arab drummers in traditional robes providing a thrilling beat, children in beautiful Graeco-Roman tunics dancing in perfect unison, the lovely cheerleaders of course, and other black-clad children releasing clusters of coloured helium balloons and rocketing streamers. 

Within the compound outside the stadium, franchisees in  huts and marquees sold their coffee and pies and chips and beer and ice-creams, having, of course, ensured everyone at the entrance gates had first been frisked of all food and drink.  You had to buy coupons to effect payment.  An amusing sign in the bars admonished you not to drink and drive, while advising that the only way to dispose of Colourful shirts brighten up a couple of curmodgeonly chauvinists at the RWC7s 2009 in Dubaiunused coupons was by taking the car to a particular alcohol outlet in the distant fellow-emirate of Ras al-Khaimah.    A merchandising store sold multi-coloured, overpriced rugby shirts and hats emblazoned to commemorate the event, which were irresistible.  Raucous bands played in shifts from a large temporary stage to keep the noise levels and atmosphere almost as elevated outside the field of play as at it. 

Back within the stadium, we were regularly exhorted over the loudspeakers to join in with what has become the de-facto anthem of big Sevens tournaments everywhere, “Hey, baby, will you be my girl”, which has as much relevance to rugby as the “Fields of Athenry”, the lusty rugby anthem of Munster and Ireland.  But likewise, when belted out with gusto to the non-existent rafters, you cannot fail but feel uplifted.  Disappointingly, the Irish crowd was so small and scattered that Athenry was never heard, except from my own spindly throat. 

But what was heard roaring round the stadium, especially once Wales had secured the mantle of world champions and posed on the sward before the dignitaries and the crowd as the cameras whirred, was Tom Jones' timeless rendition of Delilah, that curious paean to violent domestic abuse (“I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more”). 

 Wales: Rugby World Cup Sevens Champions, 2009-2013

It was dark by then, and the sumptuous finale of fireworks that then lit the night sky made the floodlights redundant.  People started to drift away for another four years.  But as Wales gloried on noisily, in the distance you could faintly hear disappointed Fijian, New Zealand, South African, Australian and English accents with their plaintiff wails (Wales?), Why, why, why, Delilah?


My two newspaper columns on the tournament
are transcripted at


Some trivia from the tournament -

78,000 – Cumulative attendance over three days, comprising 12,000 on Thursday, 32,000 on Friday and 34,000 on Saturday.


0 – points conceded by England and New Zealand women during their pool matches.


98 – number of matches played in total across the men’s and women’s tournaments.


480 – total number of players in squads across two tournaments.


34.5 – average number of points scored per match in the men’s tournament , 1968 in total.


28.8 – average number of points scored per match in the women’s tournament, 1180 in total.


20 – number of tries scored by Scotland in the men’s tournament, the most of any team.


29 – number of tries scored by New Zealand in the women’s tournament, the most of any team.


24 – Number of points scored by Aled Thomas of (eventual Champions) Wales in the men’s tournament, the highest of any Wales player.


14 – number of players in the men’s tournament who scored more points than Aled Thomas. The highest points scorer was Scotland’s Colin Gregor.


52 – number of points scored by New Zealand’s Selica Winiata, the highest in the women’s tournament.

You can watch video highlights (free)
of previous world cup tournaments

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Issue 189’s Comments to Cyberspace

An unaccustomed burst of energy generated half-a-dozen comments, of which two emerged in [P!] print, one of which appeared in the Economist (a rare achievement for me). 


Tolerant, except for an opposing view P!
Published in the Irish Independent on 3rd March 2009
Gary Brown objects to David Quinn's objection that, on "Today With Pat Kenny" on 23 February, no dissenting voice or hard questions were heard in a four-person panel-discussion in favour of same-sex marriage (Gay marriage rant is outdated, February 28th), asserting that "people are more open-minded and tolerant".  Except it seems when it comes to opposing views.  Has this "tolerant" man no sense of irony?


The farce of the international community
Comment in William Sjostrom's Atlantic Blog on 2nd March 2009
If you want to learn more about the devious Trócaire, try Unworthy Charities, Trócaire Fisked not Fixed and especially Trócaire and Child Labour


Ah, now I finally understand
Comment in William Sjostrom's Atlantic Blog on 2nd March 2009
That's cos those lazy Americans use only one side of the supersoft paper. They could halve global warming by using both sides as we enlightened Europeans do.


Screwing the poor
Comment in William Sjostrom's Atlantic Blog on 2nd March 2009
"Our schools don't just need more resources; they need more reform." The seeds of failure are right there in that sentence [of Obama's], which no-one in business would ever dare utter. "More resources" must never precede "reform", otherwise you hear "thank you for the resources" and the "reform" never happens ...


A City on a Hill  P!
Or, Schwarzenegger - the unbalanced governor
Published in the Economist, 12th March 2009
I must protest at the photograph of California’s governor in your article on the
state’s fiscal crisis.  The laws of physics will simply not permit Arnold Schwarzenegger, even as the Terminator, to carry a coffin, empty or otherwise, on one shoulder while the position of his body is, as shown, vertical. He would simply fall over to his left, unless ...



An American addition to the Islamists' armoury?
Comment in the Spectator-hosted Melanie Philips Blog
In a Spectator article entitled "Down with Saudi Arabia", Mark Steyn identified Charles Freeman as what the Irish would term a sleeveen way back in March 2002. Does Obama know what he is doing (ie vindictively anti-Semitic) or not (ie incompetent)?

Furthermore, last week saw my debut as an occasional columnist in (Irish edition of) the Sunday Times, with an article entitled Hypocrisy of Animal Rights Campaigners.  Links on the right hand border of this blog give access to all my newspaper columns. 

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Quotes for Issue 189

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

Quote: The women had loose morals and were rightfully shot.  Women [are] the property of their husbands and their main role is to bear children.

Ramzan Kadyrov, President of Chechnya,
justifies the right of male relatives to carry out honour killings
after seven young women were found shot dead.

Now you know. 

Quote: Either live and be hated, or die and be loved.”

Natan Sharanksy, one time Soviet dissident who was jailed for a decade,
now a leading Israeli thinker and human rights activist,
reflects on the international Jew Hatred that marks out the 21st Century,
and not only in the Jihadist world

Quote: It's an absolute disgrace.  The power was cut. Under cover of darkness members of our convoy were attacked with stones. Vandals also wrote dirty words and anti-Hamas slogans. Several people in the convoy were injured in the attack.

Yvonne Ridley, organizer of a George Galloway 110-truck relief convoy
bound for Gaza via the Egyptian crossing at Rafah,
moans at treatment by local Egyptians. 

She is amazed that every Arab
does not love Hamas and every Palestinian,
never stopping to ask herself why
the Egyptians have long sealed off Gaza. 

She and Mr Galloway also seem surprised that
negative consequences might ensue from his call to
the great people of Egypt, the heroic armed forces of Egypt,
and the heroic army of Egypt of 1973,
to rise up and sweep away this tyrant
[President Hosni] Mubarak.

- - - - - - E U - - - - - -

Quote: We should not allow a new Iron Curtain to ... divide Europe into two parts [rich and poor].  At the beginning of the Nineties we reunified Europe. Now it is another challenge – whether we can unify Europe in terms of financing and its economy.”

Ferenc Gyurcsany, the scandal-ridden prime minister of Hungary, uses apocalyptic language to frighten leaders of the older EU countries into
lending €190 billion to stop social collapse in the Eastern nations
spilling over into the rest of Europe.

He was rebuffed.

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

Quote: And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

President Barack Obama enthrals
a joint session of Congress (well, the Democrats anyway).

But he needs to brush up on his history or use of Wikipedia,
or else improve the quality of his selection of
advisers, speech writers etc.

The internal combustion engine and
then consequently the modern automobile
were invented in Germany by Germans
(Karl Benz, Wilhelm Maybach, and Gottlieb Daimler)
in the 1870s and 1880s.

Hat tip: William Sjostrom in his Atlantic Blog

What's the difference between the Obamamessiah and the original Messiah?

At least Jesus knew how to build a cabinet.

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

Quote: Put it this way, if you get into bed with anyone you have prostituted yourself! We [the Green Party] are lying there bollix naked next to Fianna Fail. We’ve been screwed by them a few times, but we are hoping we can roll them around to get what we want, over the longer term.

Paul Gogarty, a Green TD (Irish MP)
comments on his party being in governing coalition with Fianna Fail
as they jointly and recklessly steer the Irish economy
onto the Lorelei rocks

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

Quote: I’d have everyone in the England team apart from the front five playing Sevens [rugby] at some part of his career. Lawrence Dallaglio shows off his two Rugby World Cup medalsIt teaches you to tackle. A player is most uncomfortable in Sevens when there is space either side of him. Tackling becomes paramount.

Wise words from England rugby legend
Lawrence Dellaglio, one of only two men
to have won a Rugby World Cup medal
in both Sevens (1993) and 15-a-side (2007). 

Quote: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” 

Brian O'Driscoll, captain of Ireland's rugby team,
just before narrowly defeating England at Croke Park in Dublin.

No, I have no idea what he's talking about either.

Similar aphorisms here

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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

Rugby World Cup 7s, Dubai 2009
Click for an account of this momentous, high-speed event
of March 2009

 Rugby World Cup 2007
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to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.


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

England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze.  Fourth is host nation France.

No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes

Over the competition,
the average
points per game =
tries per game =
minutes per try = 13

Click here to see all the latest scores, points and rankings  
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics

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