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October 2006

ISSUE #136 - 8th October 2006


ISSUE #137 - 15th October 2006


ISSUE #138 - 22nd October 2006


 Time in Ireland 


ISSUE #138 - 22nd October 2006 [244+305= 549]


Are We Safer?


Jihad Front Lines


Enron Justice, US Style


Madonna & Child


Pope George


Week 138's Letters to the Press


Quotes of Week 138

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 phrase compared with something else.  After all, that is what makes a comparative adjective like happier comparative - it must be compared with something. 

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 alway say No! We are not safer.”.  Pro-warriors will likely wobble a bit more, but many of them will also say “No”. 

But the question is meaningless unless 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,


The 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.


The 1993 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 one.


The 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 efforts to 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. 


The 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 concession. 

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 2,752 people. 

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 Iconic symbol of the modern Middle Eastern would-be democratscale 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 peace). 

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 Westerners. 

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

But safer doesn't mean we are safe.  Not whilst uncounted thousands of Islamicists still want to convert, enslave or kill us. 

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Jihad Front Lines

In my previous post, I observed that while Westerners are 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 this. 

  1. 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. 


    For example, Ireland spends a pathetic 0.9% of GDP on its military, out of tax revenues which exceed 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. 

  2. Secondly, 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 various warlords.  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 insurgents
    - 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
    interview with
    Richard Smith, the ex long-time editor of
    the British Medical Journal
    , who was discussing his recent
    The Trouble with Medical Journals”.  This exposes,
    inter alia, issues of
    research fraud, editor probity, the
    rubbish that sometimes gets published, and the harm this
    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 contemplate. 

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Enron Justice, US Style

Rodney Hobson, a commentator with 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 so-called 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 recalled, 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, posthumously, not guilty”.  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 witchhunts where confessions 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 a technicality.

At least we don't have to witness Lay gloating and exulting in his peculiar and unjust exoneration.

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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 has bought” the child,


she just wants another fashion accessory,


why doesn't she adopt an English child,


it's wrong to remove the boy from his birth family,


it's wrong to take the baby out of his native environment,


she's just using her money to bribe locals,


she should just give her money to African orphanages,


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 than hairy-fairy. 

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 connections. 

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?

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Pope George

Gay pop icon, a natty dresser with a glint in his eye

A one-time Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also a natty dresser 

Boy George, cheerful Pope Benedict, pensive

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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 (shamelessly 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 P
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 ...


Veiled Anonymity
How can anyone tell who this is?  Click to enlargeYour striking front page photograph on October 20th features a veiled person identified as Aishah Azmi (24), a Muslim teaching assistantHow do you know?

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Quotes of Week 138

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

Quote: “This  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

As the Daily Telegraph reported earlier this year,
Iran’s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an
unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order,
sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies

Only regime-change, or an Osirak-style raid,
will prevent Iran's planned nuclear attack on Israel

Quote: 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 secretary
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 - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: We don't make those kind of mistakes here.”

Justin Geoghegan, an arrogant consultant-surgeon,
haughtily dismisses a question from his patient
Alan O'Gorman,
whose stomach he had just removed. 

It later emerged that he had in fact mistakenly
performed the gastrectomy
because the hospital had mixed up biopsy samples.
The patient was later awarded €450,000 compensation. 

Quote 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 reasonable men.

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 som
e 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.

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

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ISSUE #137 - 15th October 2006 [253]


Turkey and the EU - There Is a Third Way


Mock the Veil


Danish Cartoons, Again


Refrigerator Blindness in our DNA


Week 137's Letter to the Press


Quotes of Week 137

Turkey and the EU - There Is a Third Way

Last week, 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 genocide its WW1 massacre of 1½m Armenians, which de-facto creates a new condition for entry (or excuse to deny it). Indeed, France's parliament has just voted to make it a criminal offence to deny that the genocide happened.   

Within Turkey, by contrast, this is such a sensitive issue that anyone supporting the genocideview 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 identity. 

While the boundaries are geographical fact, the whiteness argument can be dismissed as intrinsically immoral because it is racist.

Nevertheless, though the Christian contention may at one level be also dismissed as laughable, given


the collapse in Church attendance across the continent,


the many Jews that have historically lived there and


the rise of atheism,

its modern interpretation would be non-Muslim

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 interests. 

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 refused,

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 way. 

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.

  1. The Islamicisation of Europe

    if it gets into the EU


    (what Europeans fear), or

  2. The Fundamentalization of Turkey

    if it doesn't get into the EU


    (what Mr McShane fears), or

  3. The Secularization of the Middle East area on Turkey's model

    if it doesn't get into the EU,


    (my expectation). 

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 Turkey's leadership. 

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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 Masked, incommunicado defenders - click to enlargewill be a barrier to our communication and thus our mutual understanding.  I am sure Batman and Robin had this problem all the time.  That Muslim dissident Salman Rushdie simply and rudely says, Veils suck.

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 more easily. 

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. 

Hide your womenfolk - they're uncontrollable and dangerous

So what should be the proper response to the Jack Straw controversy?

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. 

John Simpson has no further need of his Burqa - click to enlargeYet 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. 

Here 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.

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Danish Cartoons, Again

And while we're on the subject of mockery ...

Earlier this month Danish state TV 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 and here, but it's rather boring - like watching drunken antics when you're sober. 

Late note (31 October): The videos have since disappeared from
Believe me, you're not missing much.

Note, however, that this was in Denmark, home of the 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 Organization of Islamic Conference not decided to express outrage:

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.

Ah yes, the values of tolerance.   

Clearly, 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 year,


Muslim rioters in Nigeria destroyed eighteen Christian churches;


an Indonesian Muslim mob burned a church to the ground;


Palestinian Arab rioters attacked seven Christian churches;


two Christian journalists were kidnapped in 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;


other Indonesian Muslims 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 accusation);


the Saudis deported (after a month of beatings) four East African Christians for leading a prayer service in Jeddah. 

As Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay astutely - and presciently - observed 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.

Tolerance for all religions

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Refrigerator Blindness in our DNA

One of this year's Ig Nobel awards went to Princeton University's Daniel Oppenheimer for his research into the Consequences 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 aboutSelective loss of visual acuity in association with a common foraging behaviour”, a lot of meaningless words that translate to Refrigerator Blindness”.  It appears in the CMAJ, which describes itself as Canada's leading medical journal.  

Don't know what Refrigerator Blindness” 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?

This Refrigerator Blindness” 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 Refrigerator Blindness”, such as


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, Refrigerator Blindness” 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. 


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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 gas from 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, has 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. 

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Quotes of Week 137

- - - - - - - - - - N O R T H   K O R E A - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: 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.

A furious Pak Gil Yon, North Koreas' ambassador to the UN,
responds to the just-passed unanimous UN Resolution 1718,
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 nuclear-weapons free.

President George Bush is pleased with the UN Resolution

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

Quote: 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! proclamations
about sharing government with Republicans,
seems to say

Quote: 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.

Michael McDowell, 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 assimilation. It is trying to kill my identity. It should be integration 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 Sagdiyev, TV journalist from the Kazakh ministry of tourism.  Click to enlargeQuote: 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,
who in a serious review of the new Borat
Sagdiyev movie,
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,
completely misses the point of Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy character.

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ISSUE #136 - 8th October 2006 [259]


Wherever Green is Propaganda


Ryanaer Lingus to Take on the World


White Slaves in Irish Football


World Through American Eyes


Week 136's Letter to the Press


Quotes of Week 136

Wherever Green Is Propaganda

Tim Pat Coogan, journalist and green propagandistTim Pat Coogan demurely considers himself to be one of the best known journalists and historians in Ireland. I've italicised historians” and put it between ears for reasons that will become clear. 

He 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. 

A 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.

Green dishonesty, ignorance and propagandaOne of his major offerings, Wherever 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 Nomenklatura, for whom elevated positions were reserved in Irish society, no 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 here

They represent a thorough Fisking of Wherever Green is Worn”, even before the name of that journalistic charlatan Robert Fisk had been so peremptorily hijacked in so honourable a cause. 

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 vagrants shortly after the Normans arrived in Ireland in the Twelfth Century. The irritation of the British with the Irish question had begun.”

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.


Page 7: The “Connacht Rangers.” Oh God. You actually spell it right further down.


Page 14: The “fiercesome” Irish infantry charge. Fearsome, presumably.


Page 25: 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.


Page 35: “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 years.


Page 54: “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 says.


Page 112: 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 O’Connor.

Attitudes within the Police force also have a bearing on the fact that the Irish have the highest rate of stop and search by Police.”

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.


Page 137: “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 recently.


Page 167: “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.


Page 202: “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?


Page 286: 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 would suggest.


Page 349: “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.


Page 359: You refer to Bugs Moran of Chicago as an Irish gangster. I think you’ll find that he was of Polish extraction.


Page 363: “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 the following:

In 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 historian.


Page 663: “... 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? 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 five letters

They're well worth perusing. 

If “Wherever 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 Propaganda, indeed. 

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Ryanaer Lingus 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 Aer 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 €30m and include UBS, 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 offering €2.80 for the rest of the shares.  This would value the airline at €1½ bn - precisely thattoo ambitious aspiration. 

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. squealed John Sharman, chairman of the Aer Lingus Board, which immediately rejected the bid.

If Ryanair's offer of €2.80 per share significantly undervalues” 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 slashing costs 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. 


They 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 preventthe 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, unreported thought.  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 irritating. 


US investors are questioning the wisdom of the takeover approach for an airline whose cost base is significantly greater than that of Ryanair.

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 substantial.

There is a general rule that the louder the special interest parties howl with outrage the more likely a given plan of action is appropriate. 

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. 

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White Slaves in Irish Football

What's a White Slave”?

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 trainee-type positions,


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.  

The 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 carry” him. 

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, nobody cares. 

Irish Football

I was surprised, however, to see that there are cases where the white slave” trade exists here in Ireland as well. 

Notoriously, in football. 

The 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 winner 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). 

Irishman 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 and junior 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 published a 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 Martin O'Neill, but they are so successful and busy that the FAI could not afford their gargantuan salaries. 

So, knowingly or otherwise, the FAI simply fell back on the tried-and-tested 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.  This was 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 brain tumour. 

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 parachute in Kenny Dalglish, another British football legend with an outstanding record as player and manager, to become Mr Staunton's latest white slave”.   

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 continues. 

Or (hopefully) to put the national team back to its former winning ways. 

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World Through American Eyes

American view of the world.  Click to enlarge.Have a look at this great map of the world, as viewed through American eyes. 

If America didn't exist, whom would we ever have to sneer at?  Oh, to be European and therefore superior. 

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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 same paragraph. 


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 ...

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Quotes of Week 136

Quote: 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 UN.

The Sudanese government warns the United Nations
- and other foreign forces -
to stay out of Darfur.

Excellent advice. 
As I 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.

Quote: 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 veil.

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 article
in an obscure Lancashire newspaper.

We await the customary riots etc.

Quote: 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 journalist
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.

Quote: 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. 

This 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.

Unlike them, Mr Ahern seems to have got away with it.
Unless there are more revelations.

Quote: 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.

Irish entertainer Graham Norton upsets everyone
by glorifying drugs in a magazine interview. 
Many think the BBC should cancel his £3½m a year contract.

Quote: 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.


9/11 Videos

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 is silent. 

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 What I've recently
been reading

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

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

See detailed review


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


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


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


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

More details on my blog here.


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

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

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

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

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


part of a death march to Thailand,


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


regularly beaten and tortured,


racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,


a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as


Why does asparagus come from Peru?


Why are pandas so useless?


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


Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

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


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


Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

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


Other books here

Rugby World Cup 7s, Dubai 2009
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of March 2009

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

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

No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes

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

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