This archive, organized into months, and indexed by
contains all issues since inception, including the current week.
You can write to me at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com
(Clumsy form of my address to thwart spamming
software that scans for e-mail addresses)
some reason, this site displays better in Internet Explorer than in Mozilla
ISSUE #138 - 22nd
Are We Safer?
We often find ourselves asking ourselves (or others)
reflective questions such as, am I happier? is this better? was
this the right thing to do? Inherent in these is the
with something else”.
After all, that is what makes a comparative adjective like
happier comparative - it must be compared with
Yet it is surprising how many people who use
comparative adjectives are either so sloppy that they fail to
realise what they are supposed to be comparing against, or else
through ignorance or malice choose to compare against something
unrealisable if not ridiculous.
How many times, for instance, has the question been
asked, in relation to 9/11 and the two wars which followed it,
“are we safer now”?
Responders who are against the war(s), will almost
“No! We are not safer.”. Pro-warriors will likely wobble a bit more, but
many of them will also say
But the question is meaningless
“safer than what” is first answered. Consider.
“Safer than when I was a baby?”
“Safer than September 10th, 2001?”
“Safer than I would like to be?”
“Safer than I would have expected to be by now?”
These would all, surely, elicit a negative answer from most of us.
But both the question and the
answer are fatuous: they refer either to times past or to stuff that
might rattle around futilely in my head. So what if the answer
is no. It is inconsequential.
But if the question becomes
“Am I safer now than I would have been
if America had not launched its two wars”,
we are dealing with an issue that has real resonance, for we're now
trying to evaluate real alternatives. And it's much tougher.
Imagine today's world of 2006,
if during the preceding five years
the Americans had responded much as they and the rest of the West
responded to the escalating Islamicist outrages of the previous
decade, where terrorist attacks were treated as little more than
irritating breaches of the law. For example,
two car-bombings in Buenos Aires of the Israeli embassy in 1992
and of a Jewish centre in 1994, which together killed 115, were
largely ignored. Despite evidence that Iran had engineered
them, nobody was caught.
car-bombing of the underground carpark of New York's World Trade Center killed six and
threatened to collapse the buildings. Though ten Islamicist conspirators earned hefty
jail sentences, this was treated merely as a crime, albeit a bad
truck-bombing of Khobar Towers near Dharan in 1996 killed 19
US servicemen, for which fourteen Iranian-trained terrorists
were eventually indicted (excluding the two leaders who live
happily in Iran); this was despite the administration's own
suppress knowledge of Iran's involvement.
The American embassies in
Dar es Salaam and Nairobi were
bombed in 1998, killing 257 people. The response was a
few cruise missile strikes, some ineffectual economic sanctions
against Al Qaeda (yes!) and the
conviction of just four perpetrators.
boat-bombing in 2000 of the USS Cole whilst refuelling in
Aden killed 17 sailors. The main response was the
targeted assassination of a single suspect by a CIA drone in
the Yemeni desert two years later.
With such a litany (and these
are just some of the more egregious samples), we certainly can get
some sense that feeble responses do not stop Islamicist attacks.
I remember many years ago doing
a negotiating skills course, and learning - to my surprise - that if
the other party gives you a concession, it doesn't necessarily
follow that you should give him one in return. Quite the
contrary. This is because he is showing weakness, and this
should be a signal for you to demand more concessions and bigger
concessions, not to go offering some of your own. Brutal but,
if you think about it, rational.
Likewise, during the 1990s,
when Islamicists did bad things that earned no serious reaction,
they interpreted this as evidence of weakness, the equivalent of a
They must have attended the
same negotiating skills course because their response was to demand
more, ie to bomb more. And more. Until the acme of
attacks on September 11th, which murdered
This unspeakably evil act at
last elicited a commensurate reaction from the West, showing it was
not in fact as weak as its previous responses suggested. For
it launched two regime-changing thug-deposing wars, which to
different extents are still raging today.
And guess what?
Whilst there have indeed been
more terrorist outrages aimed at Westerners similar to those of the
1990s (Istanbul, Bali, Madrid, London etc), there has been no repeat
anywhere near the
of 9/11. Moreover, the real jihad against Islamicists is
currently being confined to Iraq and Afghanistan, which can only be
a source of relief from a Westerner's viewpoint (though sadly not
for the Iraqi and Afghani majorities who have demonstrated with
their iconic purple fingers their desire to embrace democracy and
But had 9/11 elicited just
another ho-hum supine response, representing just another open door,
there can be no doubt that Islamicist attacks on such a scale, or
indeed worse, would have been repeated in America and other
conurbations of infidels and Jews. We would be measuring
Western casualties not in the hundreds but in the tens of thousands.
For not only would Islamicists have been immeasurably emboldened by
America's virtual non-response to the worst-ever attack on their
native soil, but their bases in Afghanistan would have remained
forever secure, whilst people like Saddam would have continued to
protect, fund and encourage Islamicists in their attacks against
So, going back to the question,
of whether we - selfishly meaning we Westerners - are safer than we would have been without the Afghan
and Iraq wars, to me the answer is an emphatic YES.
doesn't mean we are safe. Not whilst
uncounted thousands of Islamicists still want to convert, enslave or
to List of Contents
Jihad Front Lines
In my previous post, I observed that while
“safer” than they would have been without the Afghan and Iraq
campaigns, this may not be so for “the
Iraqi and Afghani majorities who have demonstrated with their iconic
purple fingers their desire to embrace democracy and peace”.
That is because actions by America and its Coalition have brought
the front line of the jihad into these countries.
On the face of it, this sounds
unfair and unjust. Afghanis and Iraqis have to die so that we
in the West can be safe?
I would have two responses to
The first and overriding duty of any government
is to protect its own citizens from death
and harm. This comes way ahead of hospitals, roads,
schools, pensions, subsidies, etc, though to look at national
budgets - in much of Europe especially - you'd sometimes wonder.
Ireland spends a pathetic
0.9% of GDP on its
military, out of tax revenues which
30% of GDP.
That's because it smugly expects, in return for nothing,
that the UK and the US will
protect it, who spend
2.4% and 4% of their respective GDPs on defence.
Governments need to do whatever it takes to keep their own
people safe. If that includes ensuring wars take place far
away rather than on native soil, than this is not only
defensible, but a bounden duty. One's own
citizens/electorate come first.
of course, whether the Iraqi and Afghan death rate is higher
than it would have been anyway is a moot point, because huge
numbers of Iraqis and Afghanis were, over a period of decades,
terrorised and murdered by the evil regimes of Saddam, the Taliban and
At least now the people perhaps have some measure of hope which
they didn't have before.
There is that recent
Lancet study that says 654,965
more Iraqis have died (thanks alone to Coalition forces,
apparently) than would otherwise have lost their lives.
But this ridiculous study and conclusion have been
comprehensively debunked by Mark Humphrys and others.
Think about it. Even if the previous death-rate were zero
(and remember that Saddam used to slaughter 30k per year),
654,965 deaths - such precision! -
since the invasion on 20th March 2003 works out at 603 dead per
day, each and every day, without remit. There are indeed a
lot of killings every day, but can anyone name even one single
day where some 600 people died, let alone those for whom solely
foreign armies - rather than so-called
- were responsible?
Also you have to wonder
what a medical journal like the
Lancet is doing estimating war-dead anyway, which is
hardly a medical issue. Last month
I reported on an
Richard Smith, the ex long-time editor
the British Medical Journal,
who was discussing his recent
Trouble with Medical Journals”.
inter alia, issues of research fraud, editor probity,
rubbish that sometimes gets published, and the harm
can do. It is interesting
that he cited as one his most
egregious examples a study in the same Lancet.
In conclusion, the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan undoubtedly do represent the front line in the
global jihad against the West and Western values, which the
Islamicists precipitated in their attacks throughout the 1990s
culminating in 9/11. To cut and run would not only leave the
(purple-fingered) peaceable and democratic majorities in those
countries to a life of oppression under illegitimate, violent, Sharia
regimes. It would also suck into America and Europe the front
line of the Jihad, in which the Islamicists would be a heartened and
strengthened force, just as the defeated Americans and Europeans
would be demoralised and weakened. The thought of then sending
armies back to the Middle East would fill everyone with horror.
It would bring the dream of a
global Caliphate that much closer.
That is too ghastly a scenario
to List of Contents
Enron Justice, US
Rodney Hobson, a
Hemscott, a financial advisory service, made an
interesting observation last week.
He wanted to contrast the extradition to the US,
without evidence having been heard in a UK court, of
three British bankers for Enron-related offences, the
NatWest Three, with an extraordinary turn of events
in the Enron case.
Enron's founder and chief executive Kenneth Lay
(Kenny-boy to his friend George Bush) was
convicted by a jury of ten counts of fraud, conspiracy
and lying to banks. But then he suddenly died, two months later,
without going to prison. Enron, it will be
collapsed in 2001 wiping out thousands of jobs and
$60 billion worth of investments in its shares, not to
mention what was owed to its creditors. This came
about as the result of one of the largest and most
coldly calculated frauds ever committed.
It has now transpired that because Lay died before he
had time to appeal, his convictions have been
voided. In other words he has in effect been found,
This will make it more difficult for the Department of
Justice to recover Lay’s ill-gotten gains, in particular
the $43m it was seeking.
Bizzarely, this amount will now be added to the $139m
being sought from fellow convictee Jeffrey Skilling, who
has not had the foresight to die.
So people can be convicted in McCarthy-style
implicating others (such as the Natwest Three) are
traded in return for lighter sentences. Yet a
conviction for a massive clear-cut fraud is wiped out on
At least we don't have to witness Lay gloating and
exulting in his peculiar and unjust exoneration.
to List of Contents
Madonna & Child
I am sick of all the guff on TV, radio and newspapers about
Madonna and her new brat. Not of the underlying story, which
is heartwarming. But of all the hype, hypocrisy and begrudgery.
Let me see if I've got this straight. Madonna is a
multi-millionaire pop star, happily married to her second husband,
movie director Guy Richie, has two children Lourdes and Rocco, and
the family all live in England.
For some reason they want a third child. He
is 38, but at 48 her time is no doubt past, so they
decided to adopt. Madonna went to Malawi and applied
to adopt a 13-month-old boy David from an orphanage.
Through a combination of influence, money and fame she
managed a few short cuts and earlier this month had the
child brought to England.
This has provoked outrage:
it's a publicity stunt,
she just wants another fashion
why doesn't she adopt an English child,
it's wrong to remove the boy from his birth
it's wrong to take the baby out of his native
she's just using her money to bribe locals,
she should just give her money to African
she's too old to be adopting.
This list all boils down to a view that the adoption
is wrong and it would be better if it did not go ahead.
But better than what? The objectors never say.
We're back to comparing one course of action
(adoptions) to alternatives that are realistic rather
Most people would agree that any child's best
life-chances - though nothing is guaranteed - will
result from being brought up by its own (not too old)
married birth mother and birth father. Its
life-chances deteriorate the further you deviate from
that model - unmarried parents, single parents, elderly
parents, homosexual parents, adoptive parents, foster
parents, parents from different
cultures/races, institutions such as orphanages.
However, before condemning, say, a proposed adoption
of a child by a different-coloured elderly gay couple,
you have to look at the realistic alternatives open to
that particular child, for it is only his/her interests
that count. Undoubtedly, the future for some
children is so dreadful (one thinks of the worst
Romanian orphanages), that almost any type of parent is
preferable, assuming he/she is loving and not abusive.
However, the rights should rest with the child alone; the prospective parent(s) should have
no rights in the adoption decision-making.
In the case of baby
David, his mother had died and his dad dumped him in an
orphanage for God's sake. His father and granny got
interested in him only when Madonna got interested
(money has its own aroma).
So the child's alternatives are a childhood either in a
Malawi orphanage or with Madonna's family in England.
Being raised by his own family is not an option as his
own family rejected this when they institutionalised
him and are not offering to take him back.
The baby's the only person who is important here, and
Madonna is undoubtedly his better option. The only
point I would make is that she would have had a little
less grief had she selected an orphan with no family
Nevertheless, little David is one African who now,
thanks to Madonna, has better life-chances. Is
this not heart-warming? Why
would people not rejoice instead of carp?
to List of Contents
|Boy George, cheerful
||Pope Benedict, pensive
to List of Contents
Week 138's Letters
to the Press
Two missives this week, one published, one not.
The interesting thing about the published letter is that, for the second
time in a month, the editor has chosen not to publish my assertion
filched from Mark Humphrys who in turn got the idea from an
unguarded remark by George Bush) that all it takes to stop hostilities is
for Israel's neighbours to cease attacking it. Why would she want
to suppress this?
Call for Boycott on Israel
In supporting the 60 Irish academics passionately calling for a boycott of Israeli
academic institutions, Cathal Kerrigan cites the example of
his friend Simon Nkoli, a black gay South African ... Pretty much the only place
in the Middle East where a black gay such as Mr Nkoli can today live
openly and at peace, without fear of attack or prejudice, is the hated
Israel, and certainly not the areas known as Palestine ...
striking front page photograph on October 20th features a veiled
person identified as
“Aishah Azmi (24), a Muslim teaching assistant”. How do you know?
to List of Contents
Quotes of Week 138
- - - - - - - - - -
J I H A D - - - - - - - - - -
regime, thanks to God, has lost the reason for its existence ... You should
believe that this fake [Israeli] regime is disappearing ... it is in
your own [America's and its allies'] interest to distance yourself
from these criminals ... This is an ultimatum. Don't complain tomorrow.”
Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
again reminds the world that his nuclear bomb
is intended to wipe Israel from the map
Daily Telegraph reported
earlier this year,
“Iran’s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an
new fatwa, or holy order,
sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its
Only regime-change, or an
will prevent Iran's planned nuclear attack on Israel
“We live in a world of terrorism where evil
acts are being regularly perpetrated in the name of your faith. And
because it is your faith that is being invoked as justification for these
evil acts, it is your problem ... Speak up and condemn terrorism.”
Andrew Robb, Australia's parliamentary
for immigration and multicultural affairs
tells a hundred imams who address Australia's mosques
that these are tough times requiring great personal resolve.
Why don't any other
Anglophone leaders speak up like the Ozzies?
- - - - - - - - - -
I R E L A N D - - - - - - - - - -
“We don't make those kind of mistakes here.”
Justin Geoghegan, an arrogant
a question from his patient Alan O'Gorman,
whose stomach he had just removed.
It later emerged that he had in fact
performed the gastrectomy
because the hospital had mixed up biopsy samples.
The patient was later awarded €450,000 compensation.
“In comparison to some of the people that I think we are dealing
with here, those two [Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley] are two very
Noel Dempsey, Irish Minister for Marine
and Natural Resources,
responds to Michael Ring, an opposition TD, who said
“Any man who can get Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley working together
might have some prospect of getting
Shell and the Rossport community [to].”
The dispute is over Shell's plan to process natural gas
onshore in Galway, piped in from its offshore Corrib gas field.
to List of Contents
Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
Back to Top of Page
ISSUE #137 - 15th
the EU - There Is a Third Way
Denis McShane, a respected British MP for the Labour
Party, who was Europe Minister from 2002 to 2005, wrote a thoughtful
article in the Financial Times about Turkey's long-standing aspiration to join the EU.
It is common knowledge that this is giving rise to deep
misgivings among many Europeans, and that this in turn is raising
anger and hostility among many Turks.
Few political leaders are, however, willing to articulate the
true reason for the misgivings, and so they set up smokescreens.
European Commission president José Manuel Barroso simply states,
baldly, that the era of EU enlargement is over.
As another example, President Jacques
Chirac of France, host to a large Armenian minority, recently
declared that Turkey should recognize as
its WW1 massacre of 1½m Armenians,
which de-facto creates a
new condition for entry (or excuse to deny it). Indeed, France's
just voted to make it a criminal offence to deny that the
Within Turkey, by contrast, this is such a
sensitive issue that anyone supporting the
“genocide” view has long been committing a criminal
offence. Only in 2005, was the Turk,
Orhan Pamuk, now the
2006 Nobel prize winner for literature,
facing jail for saying that Turkey had killed a million
Armenians. So it is a big ask to require that the whole
Turkish state now commit this
“crime”. Mr McShane reminds
us that the Turks do have a
point in that it was the decaying Ottoman Empire that did the
killing, rather than the modern Turkey founded by Ataturk.
The true reason for Europe's misgivings are, however, that Europe
sees itself as a white, Christian space within clearly understood
geographical boundaries. Turkey is largely non-white, is
predominantly Muslim and lies outside those geographic boundaries;
moreover it has a very big population of 70m. In short, it is
not European and its admittance will seriously dilute the European
While the boundaries are geographical fact, the
argument can be dismissed as intrinsically immoral because it is
Nevertheless, though the
contention may at one level be also dismissed as laughable, given
collapse in Church attendance across the continent,
the many Jews
that have historically lived there and
the rise of atheism,
modern interpretation would be
For the overwhelming cause of concern among Europeans is simply
the potential influx into the existing EU of a goodly proportion of
Turkey's 70m Muslims, most of whom are far poorer (GDP
$8,200 pp) than current EU citizens ($24,000).
Pre-9/11 this would not have been a
major issue. Europe has in the past accommodated numerous
Christian sects, as well as minorities of Jews (pace Hitler),
Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and - yes - Muslims.
But today it is most certainly an issue, because of Europe's
ubiquitous suspicion towards all Muslims that has been generated by
the violent actions, in the name of Allah, of Islamicist
extremists both home-grown and foreign,
the fiery words of their supporters,
the belligerent behaviour towards the West of Islamicist states such as Iran
and its proxies, and
the utter silence and lack of protest on the part of most of
the world's remaining Muslims, which are taken to mean, rightly
or wrongly, they are
(secretly) acquiescent with
all that pugnaciousness.
No matter how peaceable Muslim immigrants to Europe have been,
and grateful for the earning opportunities they have gained (eg
Bangladeshi shop-keepers in England, Turkish gastarbeiter in
Germany, Algerian construction workers in France, Somali
taxi-drivers in Norway), the children of some of them have become
radicalised, Islamicised and bellicose.
The great fear is that the huge wave of Muslim immigration from
Turkey, that would inevitably follow its accession to the wealthy EU,
will be followed within a generation by untold violence and
terrorism, as we have seen in the streets of Paris, Copenhagen,
Madrid, London. This, people fear, would only hasten the eventual
Islamicisation of Europe itself.
Mr McShane, however, argues that the non-admittance of Turkey
will give rise to its own set of problems, of a nature even more
grave for Europe.
He fears that disgust at the EU's rejection will
fuel radical groups in Turkish domestic politics, who may turn for
friends towards authoritarian Russia, nuclear-armed Iran,
energy-rich republics to Turkey's east that share its language and
culture, even Pakistan. He postulates a crescent of influence,
power and no doubt fundamentalism linking a series of Islamic states
governed by strong semi-military regimes, aggressively pursing their
interests in the Mediterranean and Middle East, all at the expense of European
In other words, he sees a threat of Turkey becoming another
fundamentalist Islamic state bound closely to similar states in the
neighbourhood, all in search of a mythical global Caliphate
founded on Sharia law. This can only augur ill for Europe, as
forces of Fundamentalism seek to subdue the West, starting with
Europe, by any means possible including terrorism.
As Mohammed Bouyeri wrote in the
note he stabbed into the corpse of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch
filmmaker he had just assassinated,
“Islam will be victorious through the blood of martyrs who
spread its light in every dark corner of this earth ... I surely
know that you O Europe, will be destroyed”.
But personally, I think that such a two-way vision of
either the Islamicisation of Europe should
Turkey join the EU,
or the Fundamentalisation of Turkey if it is
is too narrow. Furthermore, it insults Turkey by
portraying it as no more than a weathervane swinging in whatever
direction the breeze blows strongest, but too pathetic to have any
influence on the wind itself.
The Turkish Republic is a powerful, democratic, secular state
with both a Muslim ethos and a disciplined army whose remit includes keeping
the country secular. Founded in 1923, it is older than many
established EU republics such as modern France, Italy, Germany.
It knows that, whether within or without the EU, its way to
prosperity is through capitalistic policies coupled with respect for
human rights. It realises that, short of a Saudi-style oil bonanza, no state can
foster the creativity and entrepreneurialism needed to become universally wealthy,
if it keeps its people in fear.
But Turkey is also home to Islamic radicals and dissident groups,
some of whom such as the Kurds in the (mildly oil-bearing) East seek
independence. In its efforts to remain secular and unitary,
Turkey still exercises brutality and punitive laws to suppress such
movements. Yet its record over the past decade or so has been
one of gradually removing the worst aspects of these and
strengthening its observations of people's rights.
The surest way to encourage both of these reformist tendencies - capitalism and
human rights - is for Europe (and the rest of the West) to open wide
their markets to Turkish goods and services, an act that would
benefit European consumers as well.
Frankly, it doesn't need to join the EU for this and,
with merely a free-trade agreement, it would have a lot more freedom of action unencumbered by EU
bureaucracy and petty regulation. Some like to pontificate
that Turkey is only reforming because the EU is forcing it to, as a
condition of entry. However, these reforms are good for Turkey
regardless of whatever clubs it may or may not want to join, and the
Turkish leadership undoubtedly knows this.
This all points to the third, non-Islamicisation, non-Fundamentalisation
Why should a successful, prosperous, strong, secular Turkey not
be the beacon and exemplar for the populations in the crescent of its neighbouring
states, rather than a helpless victim swallowed up by the depravity
of their respective, venal dictators.
The EU began when, effectively, France inspired West Germany,
its mortal enemy of just six years earlier, to
work closely with it on iron and steel, and they then brought in a
further four European states to sign the initial treaty in 1951.
Things grew from these modest beginnings.
It is not inconceivable that Turkey could play a similarly
inspiring role among its neighbours north, east and south, creating
not just a common economic market of their own, but also spreading
Turkey's own proven values of capitalism, secularism and democracy,
within a strong but peaceable Muslim ethos.
So rather than the usual two pessimistic results,
there are in fact three possible
outcomes to the issue of Turkey's accession-or-not to the EU.
The Islamicisation of Europe
if it gets into the EU
(what Europeans fear), or
The Fundamentalization of Turkey
if it doesn't get into the EU
(what Mr McShane fears), or
The Secularization of the Middle East area on Turkey's model
if it doesn't get into the EU,
Of these, the third way provides much the most encouraging hope for the
future for all parties concerned. Indeed it provides a far more
likely non-EU scenario than the pessimism of number two.
Turkey should simply stop wasting its time over its EU
application (which will never succeed), concentrate on concluding a
free-trade agreement with the EU to mutual benefit, and look to
export its worthy values to its other neighbours, who badly need
to List of Contents
Mock the Veil
Everyone should wear one.
Jack Straw MP is
in trouble because he dared to state the blindingly obvious:
that if I wear a mask or veil over my face, I will be able to see
you but you will not able to see me, and that disparity
will be a
barrier to our communication and thus our mutual understanding.
I am sure
and Robin had this problem all the time. That Muslim
dissident Salman Rushdie simply and rudely says,
So Mr Straw often asks - not demands - that veiled Muslim women remove
their veils when they come for consultations at his constituency
surgery in heavily-Muslim Blackburn, so that he can talk to them
This has elicited the predictable Muslim outrage about Western
cultural intolerance, a woman's right to choose etc (which makes it
sound weirdly like he is opposing abortion).
Yet, the Koran
does not demand the veil; it is indeed a
“cultural” issue (I use the term advisedly) and no prizes for
guessing which of the two sexes dreamed it up.
(Hint: look at my little
green book of Ayatollah Khomenei's sayings).
The origin of the veil boils down to sex: males of a certain
“culture” happen to be obsessed with sex and with their own
insecurity over sex. So their women must be hidden at all
times from the view of other males, lest those other males - or
indeed the women themselves - are so overcome with lust at the sight
of each other's faces that they
immediately fling off their clothes and succumb to wild congress. Just to
be certain, many menfolk also ensure their female progeny are brutally
circumcised at prepubescence so as to eradicate any vestige of feminine
lechery in the
future. This apparently helps ensure faithfulness and thus enhances marriageability at a higher dowry.
There are degrees of hiddenness, from the
Hijab (which resembles how my mother once used to wear a veil to attend church) to the
full-monty Burqa which BBC journalist John Simpson
famously wore to sneak into Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in 2001.
The illustration below of veils is from the Sunday Times. Missing, though,
is the thick, beak-like leather mask, coloured purple inside, which because of
the open pores caused by profuse sweating due to the summer's heat
eventually tattoos the face. I used often see unfortunate
women wearing this when I lived in Qatar, where it was called a
Burka, spelt with a k.
So what should be the proper response to the Jack Straw
Well, no-one is going to easily convince anyone else to change his/her
mind. You're either with them (the veils) or against them.
If you're a Muslim woman, of course, your vote doesn't count, you
just do what's expected or what you're told.
I happen to think the veil is iniquitous and an affront to women,
and not very respectful to men either, but others clearly don't.
Yet perhaps John Simpson had the seed of a solution back in 2001.
He donned the Burqa for survival, and doffed it again as soon as the
Taliban were driven out of Kabul.
But supposing it was done for
mockery. Suppose it was done to illustrate how ridiculous and
offensive it is.
in the West, every time a veiled woman passes in the street, perhaps
every other woman should clip a removable veil across her face to
register her protest. If it catches on, maybe men could do so
as well, in the best John Simpson spirit.
It is often said that, in Tony Blair's heyday when everyone loved
him (remember that?) and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were
at their most supine, the only true opposition were satirists like
Rory Bremner who
mocked him mercilessly on the TV. Mockery was the one thing
that kept Mr Blair on his toes.
A bit of universal veil mockery might go someway to eliminate
this foul practice so demeaning to women.
to List of Contents
Danish Cartoons, Again
And while we're on the
subject of mockery ...
Earlier this month Danish
aired amateur video footage showing young members of the
anti-immigrant Danish Peoples' party engaged in a puerile
competition to draw silly cartoons of the prophet Mohammad. It
had been filmed by an infiltrator to the party to document the
behaviour of the youngsters. You can find the three minutes of
footage on You-Tube
here, but it's rather boring - like watching drunken antics when
note (31 October): The videos have since disappeared from youtube.com.
Believe me, you're not missing much.
Note, however, that this was in Denmark, home
original Mohammed cartoons last year.
Under the circ-umstances, it is to the credit of
the TV station that it had the courage to broadcast such stuff,
though the story itself is of little or no value. (Young
people acting the fool and being rude? When did that become news?)
The matter would have been quickly forgotten,
had the ever-solemn
Islamic Conference not decided to
“Muslims have noted with concern that the values of tolerance
are eroding and there is now shrinking space for others' religious, social
and cultural values in the West.”
yes, the values of tolerance.
however, the lazy Western press forgot to publish the second part
of the statement recalling, in the interests of the Islamic values of tolerance, how, within OIC member states over just the past
Muslim rioters in Nigeria
eighteen Christian churches;
an Indonesian Muslim mob
church to the ground;
Palestinian Arab rioters
seven Christian churches;
Gaza and then
forced at gunpoint to convert to Islam;
two Christian teenagers
in Pakistan were
killed (Christians would say martyred) for
refusing to convert to Islam;
beheaded three young Christian girls (but botched the fourth) on
their way home from school;
Muslim kidnappers in Iraq
beheaded a Christian priest -
and that was after their ransom demands had been met;
another teenage Christian in Pakistan faces
life imprisonment on a false charge of defacing
a Koranic book (a standard
deported (after a month of beatings) four East African Christians
for leading a prayer service in Jeddah.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay astutely - and presciently
in respect of all bigots, in a lengthy essay he wrote in 1835,
“I am in the right and you are in the wrong. When you
are the stronger you ought to tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate
truth. But when I am the stronger I shall persecute you; for it is my duty
to persecute error.”
to List of Contents
Blindness in our DNA
One of this year's
Ig Nobel awards went to Princeton University's Daniel
Oppenheimer for his research into the
of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity”,
in other words problems with using long words (and too many of them) needlessly.
He would feel quite at home engaging in mutually
satisfying interlocutory verbalised communication (ie chatting) with
Canadian Andrew Macnab and Mary Bennett who not long back published
a paper about
loss of visual acuity in association with a common foraging
a lot of meaningless words that translate to
It appears in the CMAJ, which describes itself as Canada's leading
Don't know what
is? Does this conversation between a teenage son and his
mother sound familiar?
“Ma, where's the milk?”
“In the fridge.”
“Where in the fridge?”
“On the top shelf, right in front of you.”
“Where? I can't see it!”
“Are you blind?”
preferentially and unremittingly afflicts adolescent males.
Young females sometimes are affected, but only rarely, and adult
females never. However adult males occasionally suffer from
the condition throughout their lives. But the evidence
suggests that the condition becomes less severe with
advancing age, most likely through spousal conditioning.
Various other phenomena have been linked to
classic snow blindness on opening the fridge (albeit selective blindness), and
childhood obesity (the youngsters can see only junk food).
But the most convincing explanation comes
from correspondent John Fisher. He
reckons that, in effect,
is embedded in our DNA. This is because
historically we brave men have been the hunters, and as such
our eyes and brains are
programmed to spot moving game, rather than a stationary
bottle of milk. Conversely, women, as gatherers, are
programmed to spot stationary edible plants, fruit,
slaughtered animals - and by extension milk.
to List of Contents
Week 137's Letter
to the Press
My only letter this week defends Shell
from some standard lies that one of Ireland's left-wing charities Afri
chose to repeat (I have
written about Mr Murray and Afri in the past). Ireland is
trying to build a gas processing plant and pipeline to bring to market
Corrib, one of Ireland's only three gas fields, which is
83 km off the west coast. The letter was published.
Protests of Mayo Pipeline P!
Madam, - Joe Murray, co-ordinator of the NGO
Afri repeats known untruths
about Shell. Ken Saro Wiwa and eight colleagues were arrested and
- after a rigged trial - executed in 1995 by Nigeria's brutal military
dictatorship of the day, not for "trying to protect their people and
land" [from Shell], but for inciting the murder of four elders from
their own Ogoni tribe ... The Irish legal system jailed The Rossport
Five for contempt of an injunction to stop interfering with Shell's
lawful construction activities ...
Overtime for the policing at the construction site
obstructed by anti-Shell protestors is apparently running close
to €375,000 per week. So Jerry Cowley, the local parliamentary representative,
said Shell should be bearing this cost. Huh? Maybe the
protestors should be charged this sum since they are the ones causing the trouble
and in some cases breaking the law. Or at least split the cost 50/50.
to List of Contents
Quotes of Week 137
- - - - - - - - N O R T H K O R E A - - - - - - - - - -
“Pyongyang totally rejects the sanctions ... It is
gangster-like of the security council to have adopted today a
coercive resolution while neglecting the nuclear threat and moves for
sanctions and pressure of the US against [North Korea] ... The nuclear test
was entirely activated by the US nuclear threat, sanctions and pressure ...
If the US continues to pressurise [North Korea], Kim Jong-il's regime would
consider this as a
‘declaration of war’.”
furious Pak Gil Yon, North Koreas' ambassador to the UN,
responds to the just-passed unanimous UN Resolution
which places sanctions on North Korea
as punishment for its nuclear and rocket testing.
(Among others, the sanctions will
cut off President Kim Jong Il's access
to lobster, caviar, vintage French wine, cognac,
Czech beer, Russian pickles and Italian pizza.
And that's just for breakfast.)
“This action by the
United Nations, which was swift and tough, says that we are united in
our determination to see to it that the Korean peninsula is
President George Bush
is pleased with
the UN Resolution
- - - - - - - - I R E L A N D - - - - - - - - - -
“The DUP will meet its requirements provided IRA-Sinn Féin meet theirs. Then [we] would
all be on the way to a proper
peace and a better life for every child in Northern Ireland.”
Ian Paisley, the
Democratic Unionist Party's fiery leader,
famed for his frequent
“Ulster says No!”
about sharing government with Republicans,
seems to say
“We have some idea [from other countries' experience] of
the things which don't work [in relation to immigration] - and this
is our strength. This window of opportunity is not a very wide window and
the immediate years ahead are crucial.
“Let us therefore seek to ... make sure the future generation of
newcomers become more Irish than the Irish themselves, but with perhaps a
changed concept of what it means to be Irish in the 21st century.”
Ireland's Tanaiste (deputy prime minister)
on immigration, a new phenomenon for Ireland,
which has been a net emigrator for over 150 years.
“I hate the word
It is trying to kill my identity. It should be
and allow us all grow together.”
Ali Salem, general secretary of
the Irish Council of Imams, replies
I'm with Mr McDowell.
Immigrants should assimilate
to the new country they have freely chosen, or go home;
they should not expect the host country to assimilate to them
“Borat's most striking features are his rudeness, ignorance,
racism and chauvinism. He is a pig of a man: stupid, belligerent,
charmless ... Kazakhstan is in reality an increasingly modern,
prosperous secular state.”
Erlan Idrissov, Kazakhstan's worthy
ambassador to the UK,
in a serious review of the new Borat Sagdiyev
“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious
Nation of Kazakhstan”,
completely misses the point of Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy character.
to List of Contents
Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
Back to Top of Page
ISSUE #136 - 8th
Wherever Green Is
Pat Coogan demurely
himself to be one of the best known journalists and
in Ireland. I've italicised
“historians” and put it between ears for reasons that will
makes no apology for his strongly Irish republican leanings, and his
dozen or so books, which mostly deal with recent Irish history, are
liberally laced with pro-IRA, anti-British diatribes, and why not.
They're his books, and there is a healthy market in people who enjoy
reading that sort of stuff.
His journalistic credentials
are impeccable, insofar as he edited a major Irish newspaper for
nearly two decades, and still writes for the print media and appears
from time to time on TV and radio. Of course, you don't have
to be a good journalist to be a journalist; to earn
the epithet you just need to get stuff published, whether worthwhile
or rubbish, and maybe join a union.
“historian” however has a tighter remit. A “historian”
is supposed to seek out and record, well, history, ie stuff that
happened in the past.
If, instead, he peppers his work with checkable factual errors,
whether through ignorance, laziness, bias or malice, to the extent
that the essence of his work constitutes a lie, he can not be
considered a “historian”. He is merely a propagandist.
And if on top of that he can't even spell, doesn't apply the rules
of grammar and syntax and writes sentences of incomprehensible
contortion, then he is an incompetent propagandist.
He is, in short, Tim Pat Coogan.
of his major offerings,
Green is Worn”, written in 2000, purports to tell the story
of the Irish Diaspora in 768 pages. As expected, everything
Irish (ie Catholic and republican Irish) is both wonderful and -
especially - a victim of malicious prejudice from everyone else,
particularly the Brits. So far, so par for the course. How
he loves his Irish victimology.
However, a year ago I came
across a series of five letters to him, that utterly destroys not
only Mr Coogan's claim to be a serious historian, putting fact
before partiality, but illustrates how he can't even write English.
They are signed by J F Cronin, a Londoner whose two Irish Catholic
parents had to emigrate from a then impoverished Ireland in order to
find work. Unlike, as Mr Cronin bitterly observes, Mr Coogan
who as the son of a TD (member of Parliament) was one of the Irish
for whom elevated positions were reserved in Irish society,
matter how talentless you were”.
I had many a chuckle as I went through these
letters, replete with similarly pithy comment. I cross-checked
them against the book itself and the web to make sure it wasn't Mr
Cronin who was the mountebank.
As far as I am aware, Mr Coogan has not
dared answer any of the letters, and frankly, when you go through
them you'll not be surprised.
I have only recently gained agreement to
publish them, so you'll find them all
They represent a thorough Fisking of
Green is Worn”, even before the name of that journalistic
Robert Fisk had been so peremptorily hijacked in so honourable a
Here's a modest smorgasbord of extracts from
the letters, to give you an appetite for the rest. (I've re-sorted
them in page order.)
Page xii of the
introduction: “The British
began passing laws to contain Irish
shortly after the Normans arrived in Ireland in the Twelfth
Century. The irritation of the British with the Irish question
The “British” did
no such thing, for the very good reason that the concept of
“British” did not exist at that time, and neither did
a country called Britain. The French-speaking Anglo-Norman
ruling class passed those laws.
The “Connacht Rangers.” Oh God. You actually spell it
right further down.
The “fiercesome” Irish infantry charge. Fearsome,
You refer to “the British attempts to gain control over the
Irish Church during the reign of Henry II.” As I keep trying
to explain to you, no such country as Britain existed at the
time in question.
“By 1770 Vatican diplomacy had come to recognise that the
policy of attempting to control the Irish Church through
Catholic monarchs in England, initiated under Nicholas
Breakspear, was ceasing to pay dividends.”
I would have thought that even the most
obtuse Vatican diplomat would have recognised this, since by
1770, England had not had a Catholic monarch for over eighty
“Sabina Hertz who lectures at the Celtic Department of the
University of Berlin told me that from one hundred students,
attendance at classes had dwindled to eighteen. Sabina
attributes the lack of funding to the Germanization of German
society in which Celts don’t fit.”
I have read this paragraph several times, and
still do not have a clue what it means.
Page 58: Coogan on
the Irish experience of right-wing extremism in Germany: “the
Irish finding on the threat of fascism tends to be that while it
is “not absent” and has to be a cause of concern, neither
is it present.”
Yep, I’ve read it again, and that’s what it
As far as anti-Irish prejudice in the [British] Police generally
is concerned ... well, the Commissioner is called Condon. And
the last commissioner of the City of London Police was called
Owen Kelly. And the Chief Constable of Kent is called Michael
O’Brien. And the last head of the Flying Squad was called
“Attitudes within the Police force also have a bearing on the
fact that the Irish have the highest rate of stop and search by
I note that you do not
provide any source for this assertion, which I would have
thought was extraordinarily unlikely. Afro-Caribbeans have a
stop and search rate about six times higher than the
national average, and I think it unlikely that Irish rates
could be higher than this.
Page 133: You refer
to the “bad years for the Irish in Britain” after the
Tories came to power. A few pages later, you are talking about
the huge wages that Irish construction workers were making in
the Thatcher boom years. Make your mind up.
“The psychotherapist remarked on the high incidence of
repressed sexuality she encountered among her Irish patients.
This characteristic, as we shall see, had a horrific impact on
the AIDS issue.”
Eh? There are lots of ways of acquiring the
AIDS virus, but repressing one’s sexuality
would not, I think, be one of them. And I must say I have
not noticed any mass outbreak of HIV on Kilburn High Street
“As Liz Curtis has pointed out, British colonists, be they
Norman, Elizabethan, or Victorian, argued in justification of
their campaigns that the Irish were a culturally inferior race,
in need of English civilisation.”
The Norman colonists were not “British”.
They were Normans. They had conquered the Anglo-Saxons only
a century or so earlier. And I think it unlikely that they
ever felt the need to justify their conquests anywhere, and
I think it equally unlikely that they were spreading English
civilisation, since they spoke French, and were assisted
mainly by Welsh, Flemish and Breton mercenaries. I doubt
that there was a single man on Strongbow’s expedition who
could speak the English language.
Also, can you name any campaigns of
colonisation waged by the Victorians in Ireland? I can’t
think of any off the top of my head.
“The Police are suspected by the Irish
community of being responsible for the desecration of the Irish
memorial in Moston Cemetery, a National Front area”.
Do you have any evidence
to back up this suspicion? If not, why make such an
assertion? And how can a cemetery be a National Front area?
You refer to Robert Wagner as the last Irish mayor of New York.
I think you will find that he was of German origin, as his name
“As someone who was close to the subterranean negotiations of
those days, I can testify to the fact that if the views of
senior Dublin politicians and diplomats involved in the Irish
Peace Process at the time had been made known, the classrooms of
New York would have resonated to a view of a London toad under
the harrow of a Unionist plough which would have occupied the
letter writing efforts not only of ambassador Kerr, but of the
entire embassy staff than did the Pataki affair.”
Actually, I’ve changed my mind again about
the worst passage in the book.
You refer to Bugs Moran of Chicago as an Irish gangster. I think
you’ll find that he was of Polish extraction.
“Jack Kelly, father of the actress Grace Kelly, won a gold
medal in the 1920 Olympics, having been earlier debarred,
through anti-Irish prejudice, from sculling in the prestigious
British event at Henley.”
I had a quick look at another tome:
Princess Grace by Steven Englund ... [and] came across
1920, Kelly’s rowing club, the Vesper Boat Club, was
rejected in its efforts to compete in the most prestigious
competition, the Henley Diamond Sculls ...
due to a fifteen year old dispute over how to define the
amateur status of its members.”
Page 415: Your
reference to the “sacking of Trim”: I suggest you read
The Black and Tans by Richard Bennett. It is hardly a
sympathetic account of that not so fine body of men, but points
out that the “sack of Trim” was actually a sacking of one
shop, belonging to Mr and Mrs Chandler, a Unionist couple ...
You are a propagandist, rather than a serious
“... most people in England blamed Sinn Fein for the collapse
of the Belfast Parliament.”
Oh dear. The I.R.A. have sappers these days?
“... the sheer energy of
The Celts? The “Celts” called Adams and Hume
and Morrison and Hartley and Hendron will overwhelm the non
Celts called McMichael and Campbell and O’Neill and McCrea
and Maginess and McGimpsey and McCartney? Apart from
the sheer propagandistic untruth ...
I have lived all my life in
London, and hardly ever encountered any anti-Irish prejudice. On
the contrary, I have usually found English people to be friendly
and well-disposed towards the Irish ... I did however come
within five minutes of being blown up by the Chelsea Barracks
bomb of 1981, which maimed twenty Irish Guardsmen and killed a
widow in her fifties and a teenager called O’Leary.
you are an ... Irvingesque falsifier and propagandist and
mountebank ... Actually, I take that back.
Irving is a propagandist and falsifier, but he’s actually
quite good at it.
There are whole passages where you just seem to be making it up
as you go along.
There's plenty more
green, incompetent and hilarious propaganda which Mr Cronin exposes
in similar fashion in his
They're well worth
Green is Worn” is the measure of
Mr Coogan's credentials as a serious historian, there seems little point in
looking at any of his other books except for their entertainment value.
Wherever Green is
to List of Contents
to Take on the World
After years of dithering, and in the process driving away the
only management team (under
Willie Walsh) that had ever managed to turn
Lingus, the Irish state-owned airline, into a money-making machine, last Monday, 2nd October, the
Irish Government finally floated 57.1% of Aer Lingus on the London
stock exchange at
€2.20 per share, valuing the airline at €1.16 billion.
(Though at one stage the Government aspired to a valuation of €1½
bn, its advisers, who were paid
AIB Capital Markets and
Goldman Sachs, had said this was too ambitious.) It is
retaining 28% and the employees a further 14.9%.
All the shares on offer were snapped up immediately.
Then, just three days later, Ryanair surprised everyone by
suddenly revealing it had bought a 19.2% stake and was
€2.80 for the rest of the shares. This would value the airline
at €1½ bn - precisely that
The universal horror that has greeted this hostile bid has been
wonderful to behold, and has nothing to do with its merits.
“This approach is unsolicited, wholly opportunistic
and significantly undervalues the group's businesses and
attractive long-term growth potential.”
Sharman, chairman of the Aer Lingus Board, which immediately
rejected the bid.
If Ryanair's offer of
€2.80 per share
Aer Lingus, why did Mr Sharman go along with a flotation
price of only €2.20? And isn't every deal “opportunistic”,
ie no opportunity means no deal.
Clearly he is terrified of losing
his cushy job once Ryanair's demon
Michael O'Leary is in charge and starts
including ineffectual, surplus managers and chairmen.
Aer Lingus's notoriously bolshie unions unanimously
condemned the bid and
welcomed the Board's rejection of it.
This is probably the first time they've ever
“welcomed” any Board action.
are also suddenly, miraculously, in favour of airline
competition between Ryanair and Aer Lingus - another first.
In the Dáil (parliament) there were
calls for the use of
“every means possible to prevent”
the deal, and the Government declared it definitely would
not be selling its 28% stake to Ryanair,
“even if it was the last buyer on earth”.
Actually the last phrase was only an unspoken,
For this is the Government that is in permanent war with Ryanair because Ryanair keeps offering to build a new
terminal at Dublin Airport
for free instead of a fancy state-owned one costing
taxpayers €395 million. For some reason, the
Government find this offer - and Mr O'Leary - extremely
US investors are
“the wisdom of the takeover approach for an
airline whose cost base is significantly greater than that of
That ignorant question highlights the glorious thing
about O’Leary’s brash takeover bid. He knows how to run an
airline at minimum cost. Aer Lingus’s unit costs are
multiples of Ryanair’s. So once he gains control (ie 51%),
he can make a fortune simply by slashing Aer Lingus’s costs
- as he
has said he will -
and pocketing the difference. And he still has the option of
expanding intercontinentally or of simply selling Aer Lingus
on at a profit which, thanks to his brutal cost-cutting, will be very
There is a general rule that the louder the special interest
parties howl with outrage the more likely a given plan of action is
Of course it’s not going to be much fun for Aer Lingus
management, unions and perhaps staff, having to face up to true
market realities, unprotected by a flabby government.
Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing how Ryanaer Lingus
takes on and conquers the world in the years ahead.
to List of Contents
“White Slaves” in Irish Football
I worked most of my life as an expatriate in far-away countries
in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. These years coincided
with the tail end of colonisation and the birth of various
liberation movements. Simultaneously, foreign businesses,
including the ones I worked with,
tended to go through a transition
from being largely the fief of foreign workers like myself
in all the better jobs and calling all the shots, with the locals in more menial and
into becoming companies primarily run by
the locals with the
foreigners - by now much fewer in number - being mainly confined to filling specialist
requirements, or training roles or very senior management posts.
This transition was often tough to manage. It involved
trying to accelerate locals into positions of responsibility whilst
making way for them by easing expatriates out of their jobs - and
indeed expecting these same expatriates to help train those who
would make them redundant.
During the last decade, and as an
offshoot of this transition, the concept of the
“white slave” took hold in a great many foreign - and indeed
local - businesses in the so-called developing world. This
term of course was/is never officially used: rather, it is the
sotto-voce nickname, which equally insults both parties to the
arrangement. It has no formal name because no-one wants to
officially admits it exists.
“white slave” trade in business works like this.
A promising local fellow is identified for a
future position of responsibility, currently occupied by an
expatriate, that requires technical and managerial skills that he
has not acquired yet. The usual process is to put him through
a work and development programme over a number of years to enable
him to acquire those skills, and then to move him into the position.
But suppose there is extreme pressure to promote him faster than
that (and host governments are very hot on prestigious jobs going to
their own citizens)? To promote the man while he still lacks the competences is to
jeopardise the business, or to put unnecessary strain on his
colleagues if they have to
But you could hire a skilled expatriate (maybe
even the one he is replacing) to work under and assist him, but to
remain in the shadows.
He is the
“white slave” who undertakes much if not most of the work of
the newly promoted local, whilst ensuring all credit goes to his
boss, whom he also helps to train, notionally at least.
The “white slave” has no status in the organization, no
title, no power and a tiny back office probably with no windows. His job is to make
his boss look good in all circumstances, and if things go really
wrong his head will be the one that rolls. But he is
paid handsomely and accepts the conditions of his employment.
So successful is this arrangement that many local bosses, who feel
uncomfortable with their duties, or who have lucrative interests
that occupy their time elsewhere, yet love the status of being a
senior manager in a big firm, hire a “white slave” directly
and unashamedly to do their work for them on a permanent basis.
They have no intention of phasing out the “white slave” as
their own skills base expands.
He is a permanent part of the establishment.
It means paying two
salaries for the one job, but if the business is sufficiently profitable,
I was surprised,
however, to see that there are cases
“white slave” trade exists here in Ireland as well.
Notoriously, in football.
Football Association of Ireland had a
great run of success when for the first time it hired two expatriate
managers of proven ability, from the top-class world of English
Premier football (a brave decision). England's World Cup
Jack Charlton served from
1986 to 1996, and then
Mick McCarthy until 2002.
Among other successes, they took Ireland to
three out of four World Cups (previous record: zero World Cups).
Brian Kerr then took over, a very
popular choice, especially since he was a
“proper” Irishman (ie no hated English accent like the ethnically
Irish Mick McCarthy from Yorkshire). But
though Mr Kerr had an excellent record in coaching Irish domestic
teams, he was not in the same league as his two illustrious predecessors, and it
showed as the team's prowess started to flag. Just three years
later, having failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup,
he was gone (the subscription-only Irish Times
letter from me in which I claimed that I too could
manage a football team to failure
So the dilemma facing the FAI early this year
was to find another
“proper” Irishman, but with skills honed in the English
Premier League. There were a few, such as
David O'Leary and
but they are so successful and busy that the FAI could not afford their
So, knowingly or otherwise, the FAI simply fell back on the
“white slave” solution.
It hired 37-year-old
Steve Staunton from
Drogheda, who has a long and distinguished playing career spanning
19 years with top English clubs and a record 102 caps for Ireland.
followed by just a few months as assistant manager with Wallsall FC, a
minor second-division club. Undoubtedly he has potential to be
a promising manager of the future, but first needs an awful lot of
training and experience in the art of managing a football team at
the top level as
distinct from playing in it.
So simultaneously, the FAI
also hired 72-year-old
Bobby Robson, regarded as the sprightly grandfather of English
managers, with a coaching CV as impressive as any in world
football. Since he is well past his prime,
he does not command the same kind of money as serving managers.
The title given him was
“International Football Consultant”,
but don't let that fool you. Sir Bobby is simply Steve
Staunton's “white slave”, in the best African tradition.
And, by God, with four losses out of his first five games, he needs
one. But not Sir Bobby, because two months ago he was laid low by a
The FAI is moving fast, however. In the
aftermath of Ireland's
dreadful loss 5-2 to tiddler Cyprus on 7th
October, it is trying to
Kenny Dalglish, another British football legend with an
outstanding record as player and manager, to become Mr Staunton's latest
Remember. The job of the
“white slave” is to do most of the work, make sure the right
things happen, ensure all credit goes to the manager, and be the
fall guy in the event of failure. Since poor old Sir Robby has
already fallen, the FAI are in dire need to find another “white
slave”, if only to fire him if Ireland's losing streak
Or (hopefully) to put the national team
back to its former winning ways.
to List of Contents
World Through American Eyes
a look at this great map of the world, as viewed through American
If America didn't
exist, whom would we ever have to sneer at? Oh, to be European
and therefore superior.
to List of Contents
Week 136's Letter
to the Press
Just the one letter this time, and unpublished.
Multiculturists don't like to hear circumcision and barbarity in the
Court Ruling on Transfusion
The courts have ruled, in the case
of the Jehovah's Witness who was forcibly given a blood transfusion contrary
to her religion and her will, that religious beliefs must now be ridden over
roughshod, for the sake of the health of the patient, even where the subject
is a fully compos mentis adult. This is excellent news, because if it
applies to an adult it must surely apply to minors. From this moment on,
therefore, all (but medically necessary) circumcisions ...
to List of Contents
Quotes of Week 136
“In the absence of Sudan's consent to the deployment of UN
troops, any volunteering to provide peacekeeping troops to Darfur will be
considered as a hostile act, a prelude to an invasion of a member country of
The Sudanese government
warns the United Nations
- and other foreign forces -
to stay out of Darfur.
recently argued, it is not Darfur
but Khartoum that needs to be invaded
and its presidential thug
Omar al-Bashir captured or killed,
because the Darfur genocide starts at the top.
But of course the UN with its record of tolerating genocide
(Srebinica, Rwanda, Congo etc) will never take tough military action.
Once again, it will up to the usual Anglophone suspects.
“Communities are bound together partly by informal chance
relations between strangers - people being able to acknowledge each other in
the street or being able pass the time of day. That's made more difficult if
people are wearing a
Jack Straw, the former
British home secretary,
thinks Muslim women in the UK shouldn't wear the veil.
He had sparked this latest row with a measured
in an obscure Lancashire newspaper.
We await the customary
“I am absolutely sure that risk is [a] usual part
of my job; job of [a] Russian journalist, and I cannot stop because
it's my duty. I think the duty of doctors is to give health to their
patients, the duty of the singer to sing. The duty of [the]
journalist [is] to write what this journalist sees in the reality.
It's only one's duty.”
Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian
and fierce critic of the Kremlin's actions in Chechnya,
and of Russia's president Vladimir Putin generally,
who was shot dead in the lift of her Moscow apartment,
presumably to shut her up.
She spoke these words to the BBC in 2004.
“It was not illegal or impermissible to have done what I
did but I now regret the choices I made in those difficult and dark times.”
Bertie Ahern, Ireland's
Taoiseach (prime minister)
explains to the Dáil (Parliament)
that his receipt of unsolicited cash gifts and non-repayable loans
when Finance Minister in the 1990s
was nothing to do with corruption.
apparently differentiates him from
his fellow parliamentary and ministerial colleagues
Charles Haughey, Ray Burke, Liam Lawlor and others
who died in disgrace or went to jail or both
for similarly getting caught receiving similar largesse.
them, Mr Ahern seems to have got away with it.
Unless there are more revelations.
“The only time I took ecstasy was years
and years ago. It was absolutely amazing. It was just fantastic - really,
really fun. I've tried loads of drugs.”
Graham Norton upsets everyone
by glorifying drugs in a magazine interview.
Many think the BBC should cancel his £3½m a
“I have no wish to be disrespectful to the Scots.
But it is outrageous that I as an English MP can be outvoted on issues such
as Oxfordshire's NHS without corresponding powers the other way. The
Scots should not get free university education subsidised by us in England.
They shouldn't get free nursing care. As a Scot Gordon Brown will find it
hard to convince people in England he should be Prime Minister.”
Bottle-blond but beloved
buffoon Boris Johnson, MP
demonstrates that he has every wish to be disrespectful to the Scots,
at a Conservative Party fringe meeting.
By the way, in case you missed them,
you can find the Sunday Times scooped videos of Osama bin Laden, Mohammed
Atta and others 9/11 players
here. I would have quoted from them, except that all the footage
to List of Contents
Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
Back to Top of Page
to Tallrite Blog
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
is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE
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
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
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
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and