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October 2008


ISSUE #183 - 5th October 2008


ISSUE #184 - 26th October 2008

Date and time in Westernmost Europe

ISSUE #184 - 26th October 2008 [504+569=1073]


Oil: The Cause of and Solution to the Financial Turmoil


Two College Debates - Drugs and Obama


Trinity Debate: That this house would legalise all drugs


DCU Debate: “That this house would vote for Obama


Tax Code Explained Through Beer


President Palin in the Oval Office


Issue 184’s Comments to Cyberspace


Quotes for Issue 184

Oil: The Cause of and Solution to the Financial Turmoil

Earlier this year I wrote a piece about Peak Oil, the theory that the world is reaching a peak in oil production and that supplies will shortly collapse.  For various reasons, associated with markets, alternatives and technology it's a theory to which I do not subscribe.   

However there is no doubt about the enormous importance of oil to the global economy.  In fact, the more I think about it the more I think that oil is at the base of today's financial turmoil.

The engine of world growth is undoubtedly the capitalistic systems of the Western democracies, where freedom allows hundreds of millions of individuals to decide how best to use their money to improve their personal lot.  Collectively, these decisions create wealth at a rate that no other system can match or ever has.

Using their money” means covering day-to-day costs while investing capital in order to make more money in the future. 

But it's axiomatic that if some of your money is confiscated, you have less capital to invest so you won't get as rich as you had hoped. 

On the other hand, if the person who confiscates it then invests it wisely, you might lose out but the overall economy will not.  But confiscators rarely do invest wisely; that's why they're confiscators, because it's their easiest way to get rich. 

This in essence is how the oil price has operated.  We first saw its malign magic in the 1970s. 

In 1973, to show solidarity with other Arab states in yet another futile war against Israel, oil producing states in the Middle East used OPEC to punish the West by restricting supplies for not annihilating Israel.  This had the unintended - though from OPEC's viewpoint welcome - consequence of tripling the oil price, from roughly $4 to $12 a barrel. 

This generated the first Oil Shock.  After a quiet period of a couple of years, a tsunami of money suddenly hit the Gulf states - I remember it well, I was living in one of them - and boy did they spend and party. 

Meanwhile, with the same tsunami flowing out of the pockets of consumers and investors in the West, it plunged into recession and invented the term stagflation, meaning stagnant growth coupled with high inflation and eye-watering interest rates.  Colossal amounts money, otherwise invested to create economic growth by making more money, had disappeared into the hands of oil producers.  But they had nothing much to do with it so they squandered much of it; it was unproductive. 

But by the late 1970s the world economy was beginning to adjust to the new reality (oil conservation, more exploration, lower growth expectations). 

Then the second Oil Shock struck.  This was triggered by 1979's Islamic revolution in Iran and the kidnapping of 55 American diplomats in their Teheran embassy, which marks the start of the current violent Islamic Jihad against the West.  OPEC used the turmoil of these events to further triple the oil price from $13 to nearly $40 a barrel, thereby extending the West's long period of no or slow growth. 

Only when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1982 did prices fall again as the OPEC countries became distracted by the next eight years of vicious slaughter between two of its most influential, oil-rich members. 

With lower prices, the rest of the world again had sufficient cash available to invest and make money, so the world economy grew healthily.  Click to enlarge, with full details

Click on this chart to view the connection  between events and the oil price.

The OPEC countries, particularly in the Gulf, also learnt from this decade of upheaval. 


On the one hand, they saw how their high prices had reduced demand for their oil by encouraging conservation, destroying energy-hungry industries and virtually creating the North Sea oil boom of the 1980s (I was there too).  So they moderated their avarice. 


On the other, they eventually saw the futility of making billions yet having nothing much to do with it, so they decided to invest


in Western enterprises


and indeed in their own previously pitiful infrastructures with the help of Western technology. 

This gave them a stake in the continued prosperity of the West, and thus a further incentive to moderation. 

All this is in fact a classic example of globalisation in action where everyone can win.  Sustainable oil prices, notwithstanding that thanks to the OPEC cartel they still remained several factors greater than the cost of extraction and replacement, led to one of the longest periods of steady growth the world has ever seen.  For the world in general became open to free globalised trade, with India and China in particular freeing their people's ingenuity by abandoning ridiculous Marxist economic policies. 

But then, once again, oil began a long climb upwards as from, roughly, the start of the Iraq war in 2003 when it was $30/bbl.  However this time the rise was less due to direct action by OPEC than other factors, principally increased demand and fears about supply, the result of


unprecedented economic growth in the rich countries of the West,


rapid industrialisation of giants China and India, and


the supply risks of the Iraq war and the Iranian nuclear threat,

But the effect has been the same, except that because of globalisation the effect is felt globally not just in the West. 

The rise of food prices is a direct consequence.  Oil is integral to


food production, in terms of fuel for farm machinery,


petroleum-based fertilisers,


the transport of food to global markets,


the diversion of land from food production to growing biofuels. 

Moreover, as poorer countries have prospered millions of newly enriched peasants now (entirely reasonably) want to eat more meat, but each kilo requires 7-8 kilos of cereal.  So of course food prices were going to rise, which has taken yet more cash from people that would otherwise be spent on more productive activities than merely eating. 

The rise of commodity and raw materials prices is likewise a direct result of the oil price, and for the same reason: oil is integral to their production, extraction and distribution. 

Crude Oil Prices, from the US Energy Information System

Aside from food and commodities, I have tried to estimate how much money the rise in oil price has transferred from the West to the oil producers, though published information is sparse.  In 2004 a windfall of $300 billion [link disappeared before Oct 08] was reported and in 2007, when the oil price averaged around $70 it was $2 trillion.  This year the average could be closer to $100, which means the windfall will be more like $2½ trillion.  Using these figures and interpolating means that since 2003 the windfall calculates out in excess of a ginormous eight trillion dollars

That's $8 trn that has been removed from those who would make the most productive use of it and placed into the hands of those who will certainly not, and that is not to count how much of it finds its way into the hands of the West's toxic Jihadist enemies, whether via Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Sudan or other oil-rich states. 

So, although it has taken four years for this extraordinary, unprecedented oil price rises to hit home, how one earth could you NOT have a global meltdown?  With this tera**”-confiscation, it was inevitable that                                       [**tera = 1012]


industries would go bust ...


they did,


people would be thrown out of work and the lowest-paid first ...


they were,


they would then default on their sub-prime mortgages ...


they did,


house prices across the West would collapse ...


they did,


stock markets would implode ...


they did,


the world would enter recession ...


its happening. 

The situation has been exacerbated by foolish banking practices (such as lending to people who can't pay), by wild gambles on fancy derivatives, by regulators asleep at the wheel and by consumers irresponsibly building up ridiculous debts.  But it is the obscene oil prices that turned it all into a house of cards.  The sub-prime mortgages merely triggered the global collapse.  

But because of precipitate fall-off in industrial activity, oil consumption is dropping too and so therefore is the oil price.  Towards the end of October it's down to $65 and still falling. 

So there is cause for optimism.  The same mechanism that caused the global financial meltdown is now, slowly, working to resurrect it again. 

Let us hope, however, that bankers, traders, regulators and consumers, sufficiently chastened, do not also resurrect their past stupidities like some ghastly Frankenstein monster.

Back to List of Contents

Two College Debates - Drugs and Obama
No, not Obama and his drugs! 

This month, on foot of newspaper columns I had written, I was invited to speak at debates at two of Dublin's prestigious universities. 

First it was Trinity College Dublin's Philosophical Society.  Trinity College was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, has long been the third choice of British students after Oxford and Cambridge and is the only Irish university ever to make it to the world's top 50The Phil” as it the society is colloquially known was founded in 1683 as a paper-reading society for the “discourse of philosophy, mathematics, and other polite literature.  It is said to be the world's oldest debating society and on 9th October launched its 324th session.  John McCain is a patron.  

It has a peculiar and ancient debating style: a member presents an essay and invited speakers then give speeches about it.  The audience can stand up and interrupt, but the speaker has the option to accept the question or tell the interrupter to get lost - which nine time out of ten he/she does, which seems terribly rude.  Finally there is a vague vote. 

The second debate, hosted by Dublin City University (DCU), followed the more conventional format of two proposers, two opposers and questions/discussion from the floor.  DCU is a relatively new establishment, founded only in 1989, but its debating society is proud to be the university's oldest club. 

Both of these societies have attracted speakers of considerable international renown over the years.  Inviting me broke with this laudable trend.   

Trinity Debate: That this house would legalise all drugs

Philander Magazine The event, on 16th October, was advertised with this rather ghoulish poster, more redolent of a suicide than someone floating happily high on magic mushrooms

Mathematics scholar Jonathan Wyse kicked off the debate by presenting his carefully wrought paper entitled Damaging Freedom: Psychoactive Drugs and the Duty of the State”, making the case that drugs should remain illegal because of the harm they cause. 

Ten papers followed.  Speakers included Dr Werner Pieper from Heidelberg, with waist-length dreadlocks, who announced he was a former drug dealer who now researches and writes books about the joys of drug-taking.  He gave an entertaining account of drugs through the ages, noting that it is only in modern times that drugs have become available to other than the élite, which is why they have been criminalised. 

The other long-distance invitee was Dr Dick Doblin, flown in from Boston, who promotes the use of psychedelic drugs for its medical benefits, in particular in treating victims of trauma and bereavement.  His was another high quality paper promoting decriminalisation. 

I came last and was received well.  Eagle-eyed surfers may recognize that my speech was based on a post from last January, Declare Drug-War on Users and Kids

The eventual vote was vague and inconclusive; I voted for both sides. The debate was recorded but has not yet been posted online. 

Here's what I said ...


Mr President, Members of the Council, Ladies and Gentlemen. 

Thank you for inviting me here tonight. 

I listened to and read, with great interest, the erudite essay just presented by Jonathan Wyse and commend him for his insight and argumentation.  In particular, let me say I admire anyone with the courage to disagree with Saint Mahatma Gandhi! 

The essence of his paper is, as I understand it, that

  1. Drugs are inherently dangerous; they are quickly addictive and often cause short and long-term brain damage. 

    This appears to be a matter of scientific fact, so I would not dispute it. 

  2. People do not have sufficient knowledge of the dangers of drug use

    Again, this is probably true

  3. Therefore the Government must protect them from it

  4. This need for protection trumps freedom of choice for adults,

  5. Freedom anyway “is not an end in and of itself”. 

It is on these last three points that I would diverge.  First and foremost I believe that freedom is indeed “an end in and of itself”.  After food and sex, it is probably humankind’s most basic impulse.

In full (verbal) flightIndeed, the wonder and beauty of Western civilisation is in essence that it has enshrined personal freedoms, which are constrained only if and to the extent that they interfere with others’ freedoms.  It is this very freedom to act that has fostered western culture, technology and democracy, which in turn have led to the comfortable lifestyles we in the West generally enjoy and take for granted. 

So there need to be very strong arguments indeed before Governments should be allowed to remove individual freedoms, such as the freedom to take mind-altering substances. 

The issue is firstly whether the adverse effects of drug-taking constitute such an argument, and secondly whether criminalising them improves the situation. 

Besides drug-taking, there are many other behaviours by which humans may potentially damage themselves. 


Cigarettes and alcohol, motor-biking, mountaineering, free-diving, horse-riding, over-eating, under-exercising. 


Drivers alone kill nearly 400 people a year and injure another 4,000 in this tiny country of just four million people. 

But none of these things are criminalised, so you have to wonder what makes drugs so special. 

And does criminalisation improves the situation?  NO. 

The Gardaí regularly catch drug dealers and seize kilos of illicit drugs worth millions of €uro, and are congratulated in the newspapers next morning, often with photos of their haul (and of themselves). 

But such efforts are a total waste of taxpayers' money. 


Not a single user will go without his fix.


Locked up dealers are immediately replaced by others. 

This is the utter fallacy of the much-touted war on drugs, vigorously pursued by well-meaning jurisdictions and police forces all over the world, and with equal lack of beneficial impact whatsoever.  That includes the US, spending $50 billion a year

The reason for failure is a simple one: they are aiming at the wrong targets: drug-peddlers and drug-growers – those wondrously industrious and inventive developing-world farmers of such places as Afghanistan, Columbia, Laos.  You have to marvel at how stone-age Afghanis meet over 90% of the world's demand for opiates. 

The “right” targets are of course the customers, who alone create the demand and provide the money that fuels the drugs industry.  While users remain untouched, no amount of destruction of crops or putting traffickers under lock and key can halt the production and trade. 


Firstly, therefore, users themselves need to be hunted down in their thousands and punished, because this would instantly cut demand and thus the drugs business. 

But it would of course put any politician who suggests it instantly out of commission as his voters see their friends and relations carted off into the Paddy wagon. 

It’s just not going to happen. 


The second approach should aim to cut people's desire for drugs in the first place.  Certainly, widespread TV advertising about the dangers would help, just as ads about the horrific effects of alcohol-fuelled car-accidents help to reduce drink-driving. 

But a wholesale change in the drug-taking culture requires that people be targeted when they are so young they are only beginning to form their own world views.  That means starting anti-drugs education at primary school, if not earlier, and keeping it going, relentlessly, so that by the time they’re adults, drug-taking seems as ridiculous to them as driving without a seat-belt or leaving all the lights on. 

Such social brainwashing of the very young and upwards has a long history of success – whether for good or ill – stretching over millennia. 

Indoctrinating generations of Ireland's kids in the Catholic Catechism maintained this country as almost a theocratic state until only a couple of decades ago. 


Instilling a pride in one's own nation – and, yes, race – helped create and fuel countless empires.


Tribal loyalties and prejudices, inculcated from the cradle, have led to conflicts such as the Rwandan genocide, Northern Ireland's 30-year war, Kikuyo vs Luo violence in Kenya just a few months ago. 


To this day, madrassas across the world propagate Muslim victimhood and hatreds which will keep the jihad going long into the future. 

As the Jesuits used to sayGive me a child of seven, and I will show you the man”. 

Brainwashing kids with anti-drug ideas can thus certainly succeed.  But though not especially expensive, it is unglamorous, difficult to implement, pretty boring and will take twenty years to yield results.  It requires every teacher in every school to drive home the message of drug-danger at every opportunity and every lesson, with parents doing much the same at home. 

One of my hats is as an industrial safety consultant.  If a firm is serious about wanting to improve its safety performance, it has to lead from the top and convince every manager and supervisor to fight for and talk about safety every day to everyone on almost every occasion and forever.  That is the only way a true safety culture gets imbued into an organization, making safe behaviour and attitudes second nature to every employee. 

It won’t be different with drugs education, any more than it was any different when schools used to indoctrinate children with the Catholic faith morning, noon and night. 

However, compared to the fun of routing out drug dealers and poisoning poppy fields, drugs education provides few kudos or newspaper headlines for anyone. 

Nevertheless, the real challenge is to bend that most powerful of mankind's attributes – the attitude of the human mind. 

It is all very well to criminalise drugs.  But when unenforced and ineffectual as current drugs laws are throughout the Western world, the law is an ass.  

There is of course the other, radical alternative, by comparison cheap and easy.  Drugs could simply be legalised, decriminalised, regulated and taxed.  They could be treated no differently than those two other dangerous drugs tobacco and alcohol whose massive tax revenues more than cover the financial cost of the damage they cause. 

Jonathan Wyse has eloquently explained why he rejects this course.  He believes adults have insufficient knowledge about the dangers of drugs and thus should be denied the freedom to make their own decisions. 

But he also apparently believes that educating people is a lost cause. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,


I do not. 


And I do not believe the law should be an ass. 


Back to List of Contents

DCU Debate: “That this house would vote for Obama

Proposing the motion were Kate Fitzgerald**, chair of the Irish chapter of Democrats Abroad and Emmet Ryan a jocular journalist, the latter have stepped in at short notice after Senator David Norris suffered an accident. 

The late Kate Fitzgerald**Late Note (January 2013)
I have just learnt the tragic news that 25-year-old Kate Fitzgerald died suddenly in Dublin on 22nd August 2011, apparently of suicide following depression.  But a year later her parents persuaded the police to investigate whether murder was involved, the outcome of which is not yet known.  May she rest in peace.

My partner in opposition was the indomitable Dr Mark Humphrys, cyberscourge of anyone who doesn't want to destroy all tyrants everywhere.  Just visit his long-standing site and you'll see what I mean.  He too was dragooned in at very short notice after journalist Richard Waghorne was suddenly struck down with illness. 

The debate was chaired by Mark Little, whose proper job is presenting RTE's flagship current affairs TV programme Prime Time

As might have been expected, the 120-strong audience of mainly students was overwhelmingly pro-Obama.  The (civilised) discussion that followed the speeches was directed almost exclusively to the NO side, and I believe we won all the arguments.  However, when it finally came to voting, the YES side won by a landslide.  Nonetheless, I would like to think that our debating skills doubled the NOs from, say three votes to six ... 

Mark's speech was very much derived from what he has already written about Mr Obama on his own site. 

Here is what I had to say, in what was probably the least civilised presentation of the evening.  Seasoned surfers may recognize shades of “Obama the Empty Gong”, which I posted last August.


Mr Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Would I vote for Senator Obama?  Absolutely … not …
and for reasons that are freely available online. 

In deciding whom to vote for, you generally have only three things to go on – the candidate’s résumé, policies and  character, and if one or more is missing or thin, then you need to place greater emphasis on the others. 

So let’s first spare a thought for Mr Obama’s résumé.  Where is it?  Prior to his current, and I have to say brilliant, campaign, he seems to have done only four things in his working life. 

  1. He was a “community organizer” a term which few understand, and which has left no legacy, or we would surely have been told of it.

  2. He then practiced and lectured on law at the University of Chicago Law School but published not a single academic work, which is most unusual for someone termed a professor. 

  3. Then he launched his Senatorial career, 7 years in Illinois plus 3 in Washington, yet his only accomplishment is as the number-two co-sponsor of just two pieces of legislation,

    plus the most left-wing voting record in the Senate last year. 

  4. Meanwhile he did write two highly successful books, both about himself, which are earning him millions, but whether due to their content or his rock-star status is moot. 

For someone aiming to run the entire United States and two wars, his résumé is notable for its absence of actually running anything to date, other than his campaign.  For example, he has never run – 


a business,


a town as the Mayor,


a state as the Governor


or indeed something like the Alaska National Guard. 

So with such a slim résumé, let’s have a look at policy and character issues.  

Like so much with Mr  Obama, you have great difficulty in knowing what his policies actually would be because he keeps changing them, and sometimes they just make no sense. 


Is he for unconditional talks anywhere anytime with Iran or not? 


Does he want to pull out of Iraq, on a fixed timetable, regardless of what happens, or does it depends on circumstances? 

It sounds very white-flag-ish that he always talks

about “ending” the war


rather than “winning” it. 


Is he for NAFTA or against it, or indeed free trade in general? 


Is Jerusalem to be undivided or separated? 


Does he respect the white grandma who raised him or despise her as a racist?


What about his much-touted “tax cuts for 95% of Americans”? 

Turns out that since only about 65% of Americans even pay federal tax this is simply impossible. 


How will be displace the four million barrels of Middle East and Venezuela oil imported every day?   

No amount of fashionable wind, wave, tidal, solar and bio fuels, and certainly not blowing up your car tyres properly as he once advised, will achieve this – measures that will only tinker with America’s energy deficit. 



for the short term, widespread additional domestic drilling – including Alaska’s waiting ten billion barrels


to be followed by robust nuclear expansion for the longer term,


both of which Mr Obama is distinctly equivocal about,


his promise is just hot air
– another “renewable energy source”, perhaps!

But the overall point about Mr Obama’s policies, is


Can they be understood?


Which version of them will he implement?


How will he deal with the unexpected?

For answers you have to look at his overall character and behaviour. 

There are his notorious friends of long standing. 


Rev Jeremiah Wright, the “crazy uncle” who

Converted him to Christianity 20 years ago,


Was his private mentor, providing quotes and titles for his books,


Married him to Michelle and baptised his kids,


Preached to his family every Sunday,


EXCEPT, apparently,

Goddamn America” Sunday,


Chickens Come Home to Roost on 9/11” Sunday,


America created AIDS to kill Black People” Sunday,


The US of KKK A” Sunday. 


Father Michael Pfleger, the Catholic priest he calls his “dear friend”, who so nastily mocked Hillary from Jeremiah’s pulpit. 


Preacher Jim Wallis, his new post-Jeremiah America-hating pastor, who calls the USthe great power, the great seducer, the great captor and destroyer of human life”.  


The “Weather Underground” domestic terrorist leaders from the 60s and 70s, notoriously still unrepentant – 

Bernardine Dohrn, today a Law School professor and


her husband Bill Ayers, an Education professor in Chicago.


He plotted to blow up thousands of American soldiers and their girlfriends at a dance in 1970,


And also the Capitol and the Pentagon in 1971. 


He lamented, after 9/11, that he had not set off enough bombs. 


He hosted a party at home for Mr Obama to kick off his political career in 1995. 


He is a close buddy of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s America-hating terror-supporting president. 


He co-opted Mr Obama for four years to a big-spending, $100m charitable board with a dubious record

in supporting Ayers’ own left-wing educational causes, which included indoctrinating black children in white hatred, 


and which shared Jeremiah Wright’s extremist, anti-White anti-American philosophy. 


Obama fund-raiser and frequent dinner host Prof Rashid Khalidi,

who hates Israel which is fine


but also supports Palestinian terror which is definitely not fine.


Obama fund-raiser Tony Rezko a property developer and fraudster convicted on 16 counts

and currently singing to Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

Of course, anyone can make a mistake by choosing a friend who turns out to be a knave.  But eight of them?  Swimming easily in a fetid pond of friends like these, what kind of cabinet would a President Obama appoint? 

As these and other embarrassing issues have come to light, the distinguishing reaction of Mr Obama and his campaign team has been denial, obfuscation, distortion and threats, aided and abetted by adoring media who resolutely refuse to investigate such matters. 

Here are some others -


According to Islam Mr Obama – as the son of a Muslim – was automatically born a Muslim.  And indeed as a child in Indonesia he sometimes attended mosques and madrassas.  Hence his adoption of Christianity makes him an apostate. 

There’s nothing dishonourable in any of this, but what is wrong is his consistent denial. 


Even in today’s Irish Times, we have Colin Powell averringhe was always a Christian”.


Just three months ago in Baghdad, Mr Obama privately urged Iraq’s foreign minister Hoshya Zebari to delay ongoing negotiations with the Bush Administration on future deployment of American troops until the new administration had formed.

But interfering like this in foreign treaty negotiations has been a criminal felony under US federal law since the 18th century. 


Then there is an outfit called ACORN, a radical left-wing activist group. Mr Obama has long provided it funds with other people’s money and has personally given training. 

One of ACORN’s key activities is voter registration among minorities and the young, amounting to 1.3m for this election.  This would be laudable were it not that ACORN have been repeatedly caught fraudulently registering voters who are dead, absent, repetitive, fictitious, even cartoonish (Mickey Mouse in Nevada). 

In Lake County, Indiana, over 40% of ACORN’s registrations were fraudulent;


In Washington, it was 2,000;


Philadelphia gave up checking 233,000 ACORN registrations after the first 57,000 were all found to be fraudulent. 


Yet Mr Obama’s campaign

not only gave ACORN $800,000 this year,


but the Senator himself has already promised on TV to invite them to help form White House policy!

Ladies and Gentlemen, there are simply too many ACORNs, Ayers, Rezkos, Pflegers, Wrights and so on in Mr Obama’s intimate sphere not to suggest a pattern unbecoming of a future American President.  We are supposed to accept Mr Obama’s apotheosis, replete with


Latinate seal,


Greek columns,


biblical injunctions about receding oceans and healing planets,


and prophesies that he is The One whom Americans have all been waiting for (I thought that was José Mourinho).

The presidency of the United States, embracing also the de-facto leadership of the free world, is a monumental assignment with huge implications for everyone on earth.  It is, therefore, the height of irresponsibility to bestow it on an individual who has shown himself to be unqualified, untested, naïve, slippery, untrustworthy. 

That is why I urge you to join Mark Humphrys and me in opposing the motion.  Thank you.


At a recent meeting in Manhattan of something called Democrats for McCain, its New York State Chairman, Bartle Bull observed, with great perspicacity, that eight years of an Obama-Pelosi-Acorn administration would give America


8 years of spread-the-wealth socialism,


8 years of Chicago-style corruption,


8 years of UN-style foreign policy. 

I wish I had used these three punchy bullets in my speech ...

... as well as this video to illustrate the outrage that is Bill Ayers, one of Mr Obama's many knavish buddies. 

My partner Mark remarked that it was certainly amusing to be defending the honour of the US troops while the Democrats Abroad Chair (Kate Fitzgerald) was slurring them.  For of what other country do its mainstream representatives abroad attack the country and snub those few foreigners who dare to defend it? 

It was rather shameful that no-one from Republicans Abroad deigned to show up, despite invitations. 

Meanwhile, to see a true American hero,
watch this just-released 1968 video of grievously injured
prisoner-of-war John Sidney McCain, age 31,
being interviewed by French TV from his sickbed in Vietnam. 

This man is a long, long way from Barack Hussein Obama.

Back to List of Contents

Tax Code Explained Through Beer 

Suppose that every day, ten men decide to go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.  If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:


The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. 


The fifth would pay $1.


The sixth would pay $3.


The seventh would pay $7.


The eighth would pay $12.


The ninth would pay $18.


The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

 Just imagine ten of these ...

So, that’s what they decided to do.  The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beers by $20 .  Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.”

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected.  They would still drink for free.  But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33.  But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. 

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’ s bill by roughly the same percentage, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.  And so:


The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).


The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings). 


The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).


The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). 


The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).


The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings). 

Each of the six was better off than before and the first four continued to drink for free. 

But once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings. 

I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man.  He pointed to the tenth man, “but he got $10!

Yeah, that’s right, “exclaimed the fifth man.  “I only saved a dollar, too.  It’s unfair that he got TEN times more than I did!”  

That’s true!!” shouted the seventh man.  “Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!”  

Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison.  “We didn’t get anything at all.  The system exploits the poor!

So the nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. 

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him.  But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something very important … they didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors (and fellow-bloggers), is how a typical tax system works.  The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction.  Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore.  In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier. 


For those who understand, no explanation is needed.  


For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible!  

And when Senator Obama promises “tax cuts for 95% of Americans”, despite the fact that only 65% pay federal tax, what he means is he is going to give cash gifts to the 30% who pay no tax at all and call these handouts “tax cuts”. 

In effect, he is going to pay them to drink beer - using the hard-earned money of actual taxpayers for his largesse. 

[Hat tip: Professor Shane in Dublin]

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President Palin in the Oval Office

So you want to know what President Sarah will be like in the Oval Office after she's shot Johnny Mac with her moose-gun? 

First click on this fauxto (with those fetching drapes), then after checking your speakers click all over the webpage that comes up. 

[Hat tip: Barry in Dublin]
Click here for an animated President Sarah

GO OUT AND VOTE! - vote early, vote often (just kidding!)Now, you Americans, including those of you who live away from your homeland, go out and vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.

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Issue 184’s Comments to Cyberspace

Just two cyberspace comments, pretty much ignored.  


Barack Obama: Why I [Boris Johnson] believe
he should be the next President

To: The Daily Telegraph (online) on 22nd October 2008
Really, Boris, you have written nothing but a great big fat racist meme. Your main argument is that Mr Obama is black, therefore go vote for him, because otherwise you're a racist ...


British Columbia rights commission
rejects Muslim complaint over Maclean's article

To: Kayren Ow, who a female blogger and student, on 17th October 2008.
You write that "Islamic ideologies are not evil, contrary to what you [ie Mark Steyn] believe".  Actually, pick up the Koran and you will quickly find that Islam is first and foremost not a "religion" but an "ideology", and not "good" but "evil". There is no such thing as "extreme" Islam, just Muslims who follow the letter of the Koran, and those (thankfully the vast majority) who pay as much attention to its wicked commands as Christians do to Leviticus ... 

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Quotes for Issue 184

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

Quote: “Before I even get inaugurated, during the transition, we’re going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda.  We’re going to be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so that you have input into the agenda  for the next presidency of the United States of America.”

Senator Barack Obama assures members of ACORN,
the left-wing radical organization responsible for, inter alia,
tens of thousands of fraudulent voter registrations,
that they will help shape White House policy. 

Quote: No, Ma'am.  He's a decent family man, a citizen.”

When a lady says that Barack Obama is an Arab,
John McCain is outstandingly maladroit as he tries to defend him
by assuring her that Mr Obama is better than an Arab.

There goes the Arab-American vote!

- - - - - -N O B E L - - - - - -

Quote: To achieve peace, one should make war.

The unarguable conclusion of journalist John Rosenthal,
following the award of this year's Nobel Peace Prize
former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari,
apparently for mediating a peaceful solution for Kosovo.

He did no such thing. 

After two months of NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999,
Mr Ahtissari dictated the ceasefire terms to Yugoslavia,
in effect the instrument of surrender,
in due course submitted to the UN Security Council.
These included withdrawing the Yugoslav/Serbian police and army,
to be replaced by a NATO occupation force.

His “Ahtisaari Plan for the final status of Kosovo
the underpinning of his Nobel Peace Prize,
was thus not a negotiated agreement,
but merely implemented the forcible removal
of sovereign territory from Serbia,
cemented by a permanent military presence of 16,000 NATO troops.

It's unusual for the Nobel Committee
to award its Peace Prize to a military victor.

Will George Bush be next for defeating Saddam Hussein?

- - - - - - C R O A T I A - - - - - -

Quote: The state is faced with an unprecedented challenge from the criminal circles. Now it is them or us ... rule of law and safety of citizens against criminals, terrorists and mafia.

Croatian president President Stjepan Mesic,
in response to the latest Mafia outrage -
the murder by car bomb of two prominent journalists.

It's about time Croatia woke up to
the organized crime cancer long in their midst.

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

Quote: Other public servants in leadership and senior positions may wish to consider whether it is for them to make a similar move in current circumstances.

After Ireland's cabinet and president voluntarily took a 10% pay cut,
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan puts the pressure on others. 

Hopefully, this disease will soon spread to bosses in the private sector. 
If nothing else, it will be amusing to watch them squirm when asked.

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

Quote: And it is stupid to imagine that the whole world is afraid of Mr Haider. He is the leader of a 27 percent party in Austria. It's unbelievable that the whole world is afraid. Mr. Clinton is afraid of Mr. Haider?

The late Jorg Haider,
leader of Austria's Nazi-sympathising Freedom Party,
after it had joined the Austrian government as a coalition partner,
following resounding 27% electoral success in 2000.

A highly controversial figure,
he killed himself earlier this month in a car crash,
allegedly speeding and drunk. 

Yet daring to exercise its democracy and sovereignty,
Austria was condemned around the world,
with President Bill Clinton joining the chorus,
and the rest of the EU imposing sanctions.

Just as with Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty,
democracy is acceptable only if the ignorant unwashed masses
vote in a way approved by Leftist élite.

A highly controversial figure,
Mr Haider killed himself earlier this month in a car crash,
allegedly while drunk and speeding. 

Quote: Why do they always have to die or get caught before we find out?

Andrew Sullivan, prolific blogger,
long-time Sunday Times columnist and openly gay, as it emerges
that Austria's highly controversial deceased right-wing leader,
Jorg Haider, married with two adult daughters
had a male lover.

After a row with him in a gay bar,
Mr Haider crashed his car while driving drunk and fast
to his mother's 90th birthday party.

- - - - - - A T H E I S M - - - - - -

Quote: “A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

Evangelical atheist Richard Dawkins
seems to be undergoing a slow-motion Pauline conversion
during a public debate with
fellow Oxford science academic John Lennox,
which an anonymous
Jason has summarised

Prof Dawkins was mauled by Dr Lennox in an earlier debate
so was probably speaking pre-emptively.

A deistic God is one who, in essence,
lights the fuse that sets of the Big Bang
but then stands back and plays no further part
in the evolution the universe.

- - - - - - L E V I T Y - - - - - -

[Mis]quote: If Brad Pitt wants to be me for a couple days then I wouldn't mind being him. He can ride my Yamaha and I can ride his Angelina!

Motorcyclist Valentino Rossi, the 250cc MotoGP World Champion,
after winning the Malaysian MotoGP in Sepang. 

Brad Pitt, who loves the sport, had said
I would give anything to be like him
It remains to be seen whether indeed that includes his wife. 

For as the Gospels never said in John 15:13,
greater love hath no man than this,
that he lay down his wife for his friend

Quote: Sudden death during laughing just does not happen. There are very few people who die laughing.

Dr Bill Fry, psychiatrist and professor emeritus
of the Stanford University School of Medicine,
explains that laughing will never kill you
and twenty seconds of it is better than a workout at the gym.

It apparently relieves heart attacks, stress, anger,
circulatory sluggishness, strokes, depression, cancer,
chronic pain, obesity, blood pressure.

I nearly died laughing when I heard it. 

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ISSUE #183 - 5th October 2008 [512+1144==1656]


Baby-Boomer Bosses Bail Out Baby-Boomer Brethren


Damn It Feels Good To Be A Banker


Ireland at War Overseas


Ryanair at War with Its Customers


Villa Borghese- Restaurant Review


Issue 183’s Comment to Cyberspace


Quotes for Issue 183

Baby-Boomer Bosses Bail Out Baby-Boomer Brethren


US president George Bush the Capitalist persuades Congress to spend $700 billion of US taxpayers' money to prop up Wall Street.


French president Nicolas Sarkozy the Capitalist says “The idea of an all-powerful market without any rules and any political intervention is mad. Self-regulation is finished. Laissez faire is finished. The all-powerful market that is always right is finished.


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown the (albeit always reluctant) Capitalist, having nationalised Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley banks to prevent them going bang, then advocates a £12 billion fund to prop up business. 


Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen the Capitalist guarantees €400 billion-worth of deposits in Ireland-based banks, saying We face stark choices. If we do not make the right ones, it will have catastrophic consequences.

What's going on?  The global economy is apparently teetering.  But why are these avowed Capitalists, red in tooth and claw, turning to Red in their politics as they use public funds to counteract the supremely rash behaviour of countless lenders and tens if not hundreds of millions of borrowers?   The dead Stalin and Mao and the almost-if-not-also-dead Kim Jong Il and Castro would be proud of such nationalising attitudes.   

They all seem to think that without Government intervention, there will be a run on the banks, the banks will collapse, people will lose their  deposits, mortgage lenders will foreclose on homes, shares and pensions will shrivel, or any combination of these outcomes.  Such a  disastrous scenario must, it seems, be avoided at - literally - any cost, even if it means bailing out opulent bankers and stockmarket traders who have been enjoying the fruits of the 15-year global boom.  There is no guarantee that the various imaginative bailout schemes being dreamed up will avert the disaster, but it is apparently more worthwhile to do something than nothing.  The one certainty is that the (unknown) cost of the rescue packages will be born by ordinary citizens for decades into the future, which means that our (unconsulted) children and probably grandchildren will have to pick up the tab through their taxes in the decades ahead. 


Assuming 75% of American adults (say 100% of men plus 50% of women) pay tax, the US bailout amounts to about $4,500 each.  


By contrast, the financially-disastrous Montreal Olympics of 1976 landed some four million unfortunate taxpayers in Québec** with a debt of $1½ billion, or $400 each, yet even this piffling sum took until 2006 to pay off.
[**based on adults comprising 68% of Québec's 7.5m population.

I am an engineer not an economist so cannot pretend to know what I am talking about in this sphere, but here is how the situation and government interventions seem to me. 

As I understand it, we are being told that if nothing is done, banking systems will implode because millions of overstretched people (eg sub-prime mortgage-holders, over-borrowed businessmen) are unable to repay their debts. 


Banks will go into administration,


homes will be repossessed,


people will lose their life-savings,


share prices will plummet,


private pension funds will collapse. 

If this were to happen, the demand for and price of almost everything would crash.  Then, from a base of ultra-low costs, the economy would have to rebuild itself again.  This it would undoubtedly do rapidly, since the bargain-basement costs would make almost all activities profitable, with millions of people seeking every opportunity to rebuild their finances.  Ultra-low costs is not necessarily an environment that should fill everyone with fear - those with little or no money would surely welcome it. 

The key point of this is that today's people would be the ones who rebuild, at their own cost, the economy, rather than placing the burden of payment on future generations. 

Nevertheless, let's examine a little closer the horrifying components of a financial meltdown.   


Banks go bust? 


Who really cares?


The shareholders of course, for whom, with any business, this is always an intrinsic risk.  Shareholders lose investment money all the time, just as others gain.  Why is this suddenly a big deal?


Anyone with lots of money in the bank definitely cares at the prospect of losing it,


but this excludes most youngsters and by definition the poor.


Homes will be repossessed? 


Whose homes? 


Largely those of poorer people with those sub-prime mortgages. 


True, they will lose their investment to date, but given that the sub-prime business didn't exist ten years ago, this will not be much.  Moreover, when house-rentals that would otherwise have been disbursed are offset against the high interest rates that made sub-primes attractive to banks in the first place, the actual equity lost would have been maybe 10% if that.  Remember that for the first decade or so of a typical mortgage, the vast majority of your repayments go on interest not capital reduction.  So the losses would be bad, but not catastrophic. 


On the other hand, those homes don't just disappear; they're still standing there.  So the bank administrators would suddenly find themselves with a huge stock of them on their hands, and they would have no alternative but to sell them off in cut-price firesales.  So at a stroke, the same houses would become instantly available again but at a markedly lower price, whether to purchase or rent. 


This sequence of events does not seem to me to be an unmitigated disaster and indeed very many poor people are likely to end up better off and maybe even back in their same homes. 


Of course the houses of wealthier people will also be vulnerable to repossession. 


Younger mortgage-holders will probably not have redeemed much equity so their losses will likewise be limited. 


But for older people, it is likely that most of the equity will have been paid off which could indeed mean disastrous equity losses of 75% or more. 


People will lose their life-savings?  A horrifying prospect.


But again, there are poor people, young people and rich old people.


The poor by definition don't have much in the way of life-savings to lose. 


The young struggling with housing, children and trying to climb up the income ladder don't have much spare cash in the bank either.


But the rich?  And those reaching the end of their working lives, at maximum earning power and with the kids flown from the nest, who are saving like they've never been able to?  The old/retired with their nest-eggs?  They are the ones who will be dreadfully hurt, not the young or the poor. 


Share prices will plummet?


Maybe, but who is holding those shares?


Why the wealthy and the comfortably off of course.


Not many youngsters and even fewer among the poor are sitting on hefty share portfolios.


Private pension funds will collapse? 


The story is similar.  Most poor people and most young people simply don't have significant pensions, so losing them is not an issue. 


But it most certainly is for those who are wealthier, older and/or retired.  For them to lose their pensions would indeed be catastrophic.

The point I am making is that for all the pious talk of people like Henry Paulson about saving citizens from financial collapse, painting mental pictures of soup kitchens and shoeless urchins, the demographic which is actually going to suffer is not the supposed weakest in society, the poor and the young. 

It is those who are comfortably off, are in their 50s, 60s, 70s with the house paid for or almost so, plenty of money in the bank, robust share portfolio, monthly pension flowing in or imminent, who rightly view with terror the prospect of losing all this featherbedding in a financial meltdown.  In short the baby boomers and their ilk, a minority but a very vocal powerful minority. 

And who are making all the decisions to save the financial system?  Why those self-same baby-boomers of course, such as Messrs Paulson, Sarkozy, Brown, Cowen.  They don't really care about the poor or the young, who will continue to face high prices instead of the windfall opportunities of a financial collapse.  Or today's children or infants yet to be born who will have to pay off the multi-billion government debts they are running up.  They only care about themselves and their peers.   
[Like me - full disclosure]

In other words, baby-boomer bossess are bailing out their baby-boomer brethren. 

As the ancient Romans said,
Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

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Damn It Feels Good To Be A Banker

Hey, but forget everything I wrote above.  Bankers are human too - or at least so I've been told.  They're hurting. 

But while we're busy blaming them for lending money they don't have to people who can't pay, they have their own bêtes noires to blame.  Consultants.  This is an all-purpose term for anyone you choose to look down on.  Provided you have a ready supply of Consultants to blame for life's little tribulations, damn it makes you feel good.

Click and enjoy
[Hat tip, banker Max in New York]

[Another full disclosure:
I term myself an
Engineering Consultant
Draw your own conclusion.]

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Ireland at War Overseas

Since its creation as an independent state in 1922, Ireland has famously (and to some, disgracefully) declared itself to be neutral in all international conflicts, taking neither one side nor the other, whether it is


Nazi fascists trying to create a European Union in the 1930s-40s,


Soviet Communists trying to create a European Union in the 1940s-80s,


Chinese Communists trying to create a Korean Union in the 1950s,


Viet Cong Communists trying to create a Vietnamese Union in the 1960s-70s,


Americans deposing tyrannies in the 2000s in trying to create


a democratic Iraqi Union or


a democratic Afghani Union. 

Happily, however, in true Orwellian tradition, whilst theoretically regarding both sides to these wars equally, in practice Ireland has always treated the democratic side as more equal than the other.  Thus, for example,


Germans crash landing in Ireland during WW2 were interned (in virtual holiday camps), whereas Allied crews were quietly slipped across the border into Northern Ireland to fight again. 


American planes have always been, to this day, welcome to refuel in Shannon; rarely its antagonists, though it's true that Soviet planes on their way to/from Cuba sometimes did. 

But Ireland has never deployed its soldiers overseas to aid one side or another in a conflict, only to help keep the peace.  Even then, only when approved, via a so-called triple-lock system, by -


the UN (that notorious club of tyrants),


Dáil Éireann (ie the lower house of parliament) and


the ruling Executive (meaning the Taoiseach [prime minister] and his cabinet).

This is the basis on which soldiers of the Irish Defence Force, as the army is known, have long served as peace-keepers in Lebanon and are currently in Chad to help protect Darfuri refugees. 

I was therefore astonished to recently learn that, in fact, Ireland is currently at war in faraway Afghanistan on the side of Nato against the Taliban, yet almost no-one seems aware.  Personally, I think this is a most honourable development as the Taliban really need to be defeated and humiliated as Al Qaeda has been in Iraq, and as Tesco like to say every little helps (or is that every Lidl helps?).    .   

A colleague, Michael Mac Guinness, wrote to the Irish Times last month to make Ireland's involvement clear to a wider audience, but to my surprise it decided not to publish.  So, with his permission, I am publishing it below instead (with some hyperlinks and square bracketed clarifications inserted by me). 

Irish Soldiers in British Uniform /
Ireland and Irish Soldiers at War


There has been debate whether Irishmen of [Britain's] Royal Irish Rangers in Afghanistan are Irish soldiers.

But by anyone’s definition, there are Irish soldiers in Afghanistan.  They are the seven Irish Defence Forces soldiers with ISAF [Nato's International Security Assistance ForceFour of them are employed in the Liaison and Negotiations Branch; it's not clear what the other three do.]

Some, eg Raymond Deane (August 11) [a fiery musician noted more for his virulent pro-Palestinian anti-Israel rhetoric than for his music], consider the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan an illegal occupation.  The commitment of Irish Defence Force soldiers to ISAF is only possible because of the UN [Security Council] mandate in Resolution 1386 and subsequent renewals and Irish Government approval.  The Dáil was informed though since the Government has kept the number of soldiers under twelve it has not invoked the “triple lock” requirement of Dail approval.  [The existence of such a loophole is news to me.]

As the Irish Times reported in its editorial on September 10, the conflict in Afghanistan is a war.  It is not simply a peacekeeping operation or a “NATO-PfP led Peace Support Operations” as it is described on the Army’s website.  The myth that somehow some ISAF forces can be at war and others simply peacekeeping is a lethal delusion.  The Taliban have made it crystal clear they make no such distinction.  It should be honestly acknowledged that the deployment of Irish Defence Forces soldiers with ISAF undeniably means Ireland is a participant in the Afghan War. 

For the first time in history, an independent Ireland is at war overseas. Yet without Dáil assent as required by the Constitution.  Has anyone in the Government understood the momentous implications of their decision?

Yours, etc,

Michael Mac Guinness

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Ryanair At War With Its Customers

Ireland is involved not just in wars overseas.  There is another one being waged on the home front, by one of its foremost enterprises. 

Since it burst onto the international scene a decade ago with its low-cost low-fares business model, I have been a great admirer of Ryanair and its prickly, brilliant, energetic, combative, foul-mouthed CEO Michael O'Leary.  His relentless battle to drive down costs was reflected in a concomitant reduction in airfares, while at the same time seizing opportunities to push them up again whenever he could.  The result was an explosion in air travel within Europe due to the low fares of not only Ryanair, but those of its rivals such as EasyJet, and indeed of stodgy national carriers such as BA, Aer Lingus, Iberia who were forced to slash their own bloated costs in order to compete. 

Cheap travel in turn stimulated the local economy and jobs prospects at any destination that Ryanair or Easyjet chose to fly to, in terms of hotels, restaurants and other amenities that cater to visitors.  It also led to property booms (nowadays a dirty word) as foreigners flocked in to buy up holiday and investment homes, and at the same time made it easier for workers to travel around Europe seeking employment.  It is hard to underestimate the good these low-cost airlines and their national competitors have done, and continue to do, in terms of wealth creation and distribution. 

At the same time, everyone nowadays hates Ryanair, even as its flights remain full.  Up to now, however, I have been a great admirer of both the airline and its boss; indeed only two months ago I wrote in approving terms about their rude crude advertising (“Ryanair Finger”)

But though its primary achievement of flying from A to B without crashing remains unsullied, I have now, following recent experiences, switched sides to join the growing ranks of haters. 

Though my list of complaints will be familiar to all its passengers, here are some of them. 


To find out a fare is to enter an almost impenetrable jungle whose sole purpose is to keep you in the dark so that yo buy without knowing the extras.  The only way you can ascertain a flight cost complete with taxes (different for every flight), extra charges for insurance, baggage, check-in, credit card etc is to go through the whole purchase process up to but excluding clicking the final button to purchase.  This means providing name, address and credit details, which need to be false because the Ryanair software ensures that a second visit by the same person a short while later will push up the fare a few further €uro.  This is all unbelievably time consuming and irritating. 


After XL Leisure collapsed last month, Ryanair delayed several flights (including one of mine) for six hours in order to send planes to pick up stranded XL passengers at, reportedly, £1000 each.  I don't blame Ryanair for moonlighting, but it has no excuse for breaching its contract with existing paid-up passengers. 


In compensation, I was offered a five-€uro refreshment voucher, but told I would have to wait three hours and then claim it after going through Security.  I never got my hands on it and neither did any other passenger.  I don't need five €uro, but object strongly to being offered then denied it, an act of contempt. 


Excess baggage charges are ruthlessly applied - even 1½kg, surely within the accuracy of the weighbridge, attracted a €30 charge at the airport. 


With no announcement, a small sign in some Spanish airports says that your handbag, laptop and departure lounge shopping are now to fit into your one and only allowable 10kg cabin bag instead of being additional to it. 


Obnoxious cabin staff now delight in pointlessly lecturing passengers if bags cannot easily be stowed or they otherwise misbehave”. 


Of course they also never answer the call bell and look for every opportunity to slide out of providing support to their passengers supplicants. 


And why is the sound system on Ryanair flights so terrible and shrill?  It's only a matter of using cheap software to distribute sound in a manner everyone can hear, understand and not get an earache. 

In short, Ryanair is waging war against its customers, and for no discernible reason.  There is no other explanation for its belligerent behaviour as led from the top.  This surely cannot be a sustainable, healthy, long-term strategy. 

That is why I have now joined the many thousands who are prepared to pay extra simply to avoid Ryanair and will seek opportunities to damage its business.  I hope this moaning post contributes in this regard. 

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Villa Borghese- Restaurant Review

Villa Borghese means, of course, House of Borghese, referring to the  powerful, scheming, ruthless Borghese family that virtually ruled Italy, Rome and the Vatican from the 13th to the 17th century, numbering among its serried ranks counts, princes, generals, senators, cardinals and of course Pope Paul V, with untold wealth expressed in land, buildings, businesses, art, gold and jewels.  Villa Borghese thus denotes not just the opulent mansion in Rome where they all used to hang out, but the dynasty itself, which incidentally is still going strong though not so rich. 

The Villa Borghese I am talking about, however, has nothing to do with any of this other than in name. 

It is a charming Spanish/Italian family-run restaurant, with Dad (who looks like Van Morrison), Mum and a grown-up son up in front taking care of the customers with most unRyanairlike solicitude.  As the photo shows, it nestles just in from the Costa Blanca beach, in the Villa Borghese Restaurant, near the beach in El Campellolittle town of El Campello, near Alicante. 

I was there last month with a group of old friends trying to catch a little late sun after a disastrous summer in Ireland, notable mainly for its complete absence of Al Gore's promised global warming. 

In cosy surroundings, the eight of us did our best to do justice to the menu, having skipped lunch to help work up an appetite.   This was a  merge of Italian and Spanish in beautiful surroundings.

Lobster, herrings, prawns, dorado, rabbit and salmon all lost their lives in their noble quest to satisfy us. 

Our starters comprised, variously, lobster bisque (yummy), what looked - and apparently tasted - like rollmop herrings from the north of England (ie nothing but vinegar) and succulent scampi fried in breadcumbs with their tails sticking out, which I was told were to die for. 

Seven out of eight, then. 

This was followed by garlic prawns, dorado a la plancha, rabbit in a tomato sauce, salmon en papillon (ie in a pastry case) and osso bucco. 

Inside Villa Borghese; ignore the weird guy with the eaglesMost garlic prawns along the Spanish costas are described as “gambas pil-pil” and comprise little fellahs cooked and served in red, sizzling oil heavily flavoured with garlic and chilli pepper.  But these ones were twice the size, fried more lightly and with the garlic, chilli and other spices administered with greater delicacy.  They were different, juicy and scrumptious. 

Dorado is the name given, in different parts of the world, to several different fish, large and small.  I used to catch them offshore Muscat (Oman) - great thumping brutes of 15 kg and upwards thrashing around with their magnificent golden skins glinting in the sun.  But that was a version of dorado elsewhere called dolfino, though they have nothing to do with dolphins. 

In Spain a dorado is something much humbler, a smallish sea-bream raised in offshore farms you can occasionally spot a few miles from the coast.  It is a delightful white fish to eat.  The one served in Villa Borghese, lightly grilled to perfection, skin gently charred and sprinkled with olive oil and sea-salt, was sublime. 

The rabbit, served in the powerful yet sweet tomato jus it had been cooked in, was very popular, despite the bones, although I suspect some diners thought they had ordered - and were eating - chicken. 

Osso bucco is one of my favourite Italian dishes and did not disappoint.  It comprises a cross-section of a cow’s lower shin, about three centimetres thick by fifteen centimetres in diameter.  The meat is slow cooked for several hours, typically in a tomato-based sauce, until you can cut it with a fork.  Mouth-watering as the meat is, however, it is really only the vehicle for the dish’s distinguishing feature.  This is the bone itself, or more particularly the marrow embedded in its two centimetre wide core, the eponymous “bucco” (hole).  Some people, of course, throw up at the mere thought of eating bone marrow (no doubt thinking of all those hospital stories about painful bone marrow transplants to cure leukaemia).  But for those of sterner stuff, there is no sweeter meat and on this occasion, Villa Borghese certainly stepped up to the mark.  Outstanding. 

Then there was the Salmon encased in its pastry.  Such a simple dish, for which the golden rule - as with all fish - is don't overcook it.  It's actually harder to wreck fish by overcooking it than it is to cook it properly.  This one had been the in oven far too long and was reduced to a dried-up something.  A big disappointment. 

But taking the main dishes as a whole, seven wonderful plates out of eight is a pretty good record. 

Few of us could face desert so only a dame blanche (whipped cream and hot chocolate sauce poured over vanilla ice cream) and a chocolate ice cream emerged from the kitchen along with several spoons.  You can't go wrong with ice cream so that gets a 100%. 

Since we had ordered a people-carrier taxi to take us home, we polished off a few beers, some fizzy water, several bottles of wonderful local red and white wines and complimentary house-speciality limoncello liqueurs, before rolling out of the restaurant. 

The total bill for the eight of us came to €270 including tip.  For the wonderful evening we had, it was worth every penny, except perhaps for the unfortunates who had ordered the rollmop and salmon. 

Total score has to be seven out of eight, ie 88%. 

Next time, I want to pig out on their tempting pastas, which I saw being ferried in great steaming piles to other tables. 

You can find Villa Borghese at

Calle San Bartolomé, 130
El Campello
Alicante 03560

Phone: 00-34-96-563.6011

I'll add GPS co-ordinates if I can find them. 

21 Oct 08:
Found them on Google Earth -
38° 25' 51.84" N x 0° 23' 16.88" W

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Issue 183’s Comment to Cyberspace

Just one little comment this time. 


Subversives for Obama
Comment in the Spectator-hosted Melanie Philips Blog on 30th September 2008
No-one in the mainstream media is asking any questions?  Not quite.  Have a look at my column in Ireland's broadsheet paper of record, the Irish Times, Obama is a triumph of style over substance

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Quotes for Issue 183

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

Quote: Why [are you (the Iraqi Government)] not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington? ... Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops.

Senator Obama, in a private meeting in Baghdad in July 2008
with the Iraqi prime and foreign ministers,
tries to undermine ongoing negotiations
between the US and Iraqi governments,
as reported by
Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari
to journalist Amir Taheri

Mr Obama clearly fears that an agreement
might bring plaudits to president Bush.

Moreover, Congress has, constitutionally, no direct role in foreign affairs,  
which is the exclusive preserve of the president

Mr Obama's  remarks would make him a criminal felon under
Section 953 of the US federal penal code, extant since the late 18th century. 
This forbids US citizens to carry on intercourse with any foreign government
that is aimed either to defeat the measures of the United States
or to influence the foreign government’s dealings with the United States. 

Quote: “Your plan [for an unconditional withdrawal timeline] is a white flag of surrender in Iraq and that's not what our troops need to hear.” 

Sarah Palin puts down Joe Biden
during the vice-presidential debate on 2nd October. 

The Obama/Biden team wants to end the war;
the McCain/Palin team wants to
That's quite a difference.

Quote: She's friends with all the teenage boys. You have to say no when your kids go, Can we sleep over the Palin's? ...No!, No!’”

Radio talk-show hostess Randi Rhodes makes overt insinuations,
without a shred of evidence,
that Sarah Palin is a predatory paederast. 

Quote: With regard to the American elections, it appears that Obama's Biden his time while McCain's Palin into insignificance.”

Correspondent Kevin McDonnell in the Irish Times

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Quote: Although I voted to ratify Lisbon in the French parliament, I was never enthusiastic about the treaty because it was too long and complicated to be understood.  I don't find the body and soul of the Europe I love in it.  It's the death of inspiration ... I'm not weeping over Lisbon.

François Bayrou, France's centrist leader
who is considered the country's most pro-European politician,
begins to lean Ireland's anti-Lisbon way

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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

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