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ISSUE #190 - 29th
Contempt for Irish Citizens over Gitmo
Do 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
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
(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
“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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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.
Back to List of Contents
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
In 2007, a
Korean Cho Seung-Hui
shot dead 32 fellow students and teachers at Virginia Tech, USA.
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
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
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
(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.
Back to List of Contents
Smoking Has Benefits
as Well as Costs
I have written before about the benefits and costs of
smoking, both of which are twofold.
that nicotine gives to smokers (pleasure is a legitimate aspiration
that we all seek in some shape or form).
that tobacco taxes yield to society and pensions foregone due to
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.
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
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
“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
€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
€219 per week, or a cool €8½ billion, over a
period. Each of them will have contributed
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.
Back to List of Contents
Know Your Customers
A disappointed salesman of a new
Cola company returned from his Middle East
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” ...
A man lying in the hot desert sand ...
totally exhausted and fainting.
The man is drinking our delicious new Cola.
Our man is now totally refreshed and
bounding away happily.
“I then had
these posters pasted all over the place.”
“That was certainly very
said the friend.
“It should have worked
“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]
Back to List of
Quotes for Issue 190
- - - - - - P O P E - - - - - -
“This Pope is
beginning to pose a real problem.”
a Catholic and a former French Prime Minister
who left office a failure and was later convicted of abusing public
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
Condoms help prevent infection on an
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 - - - - - -
“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?
chopping of bits off babies should only be performed
if it means saving the polar bears.
- - - - - - O B A M A - - - - - -
“It's like - it was like the Special Olympics or
President Obama, on the Jay Leno TV late-night
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.
- - - - - - I R E L A N D - - - - - -
“We begin by welcoming today a strong friend of the
United States ... Who said these things [teleprompters] were
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
doesn't go wrong
from the sublime (eg appointing tax-cheats)
to the ridiculous (mistranslating
“Reset” into Russian).
“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
Brian Cowen, Ireland's Taoiseach (prime
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
his Cabinet colleagues or his fellow parliamentarians or the Irish
much less ask whether they agree.
“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,
mainly through an
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
that a prankster had sneaked in
and hung these unflattering portraits of a nude Brian Cowen
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
questioned him under caution
and prepared a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions
State manipulation of RTÉ and police
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.
Cowen is earning his nickname
(Big Ignorant F***er From Offaly).
Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
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ISSUE #189 - 15th
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
“These people have just taken my life as well.”
What do they think they will gain, other than
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
“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
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
“I supported the IRA during the conflict,
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
vilified hierarchy of victims
wherein murdered British soldiers are worthy of
less outrage than murdered British
“Those killings [of soldiers] were wrong because
they were in breach of a Peace Process entered into in good faith by
He was on-message with his boss Gerry Adams:
“What happened Saturday night is wrong and
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
“bringing those responsible to
Compare such language with, for example,
Asif Ali Zardari's much more forceful
promise to punish
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
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.
Back to List of Contents
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 East
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
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
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 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.
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So two days later ...
Rugby Dispatch Nbr 2
Why, Why? (It's Just So Unfair)
The 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.
Predictably, 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
unused 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”).
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
are transcripted at
trivia from the tournament -
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
28.8 – average
number of points scored per match in the women’s tournament, 1180 in
20 – number of
tries scored by Scotland in the men’s tournament, the most of any
29 – number of
tries scored by New Zealand in the women’s tournament, the most of
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
You can watch video highlights
of previous world cup tournaments
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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
Comment in William Sjostrom's Atlantic
Blog on 2nd March 2009
If you want to learn more about the devious Trócaire, try
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
Or, Schwarzenegger - the
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
Furthermore, last week saw my debut as
an occasional columnist in (Irish edition of) the Sunday Times, with an
of Animal Rights Campaigners”.
Links on the right hand border of this blog give access to all my newspaper
Back to List of Contents
Quotes for Issue 189
- - - - - - J I H A D - - - - - -
“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
after seven young women were found shot dead.
Now you know.
“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
“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
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
“the great people of Egypt, the heroic armed forces of
and the heroic army of Egypt of 1973,
to rise up and sweep away this tyrant [President Hosni]
- - - - - - E U - - - - - -
“We should not allow a new
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
Ferenc Gyurcsany, the scandal-ridden prime minister of Hungary, uses
apocalyptic language to frighten leaders of the older EU countries
lending €190 billion to stop social collapse in the Eastern
spilling over into the rest of Europe.
He was rebuffed.
- - - - - - - O B A M A - - - - - - -
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 - - - - - -
“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 - - - - - -
“I’d have everyone in the England team apart
from the front five playing Sevens [rugby] at some part of
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).
“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.
Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
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to Tallrite Blog
“ill-informed and objectionable”
- Comment by an anonymous reader
Now, for a little [Light Relief]
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
Note: I wrote
my own reports on Macondo
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s
incredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics