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.
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 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
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
However this time the rise was less due to direct action by OPEC than other
factors, principally increased demand and fears about supply, the
economic growth in the rich countries of the West,
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 rise of food prices is a direct
consequence. Oil is integral to
food production, in terms of fuel for
the transport of food to global
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.
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
billion[link disappeared before Oct 08]
was reported and in 2007, when the oil price averaged around $70 it was
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
it was inevitable that [**tera =
go bust ...
people would be
thrown out of work and the lowest-paid first ...
they would then
default on their sub-prime mortgages ...
across the West would collapse ...
would implode ...
the world would
enter recession ...
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
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
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
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 50.
“The 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
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.
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
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.
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
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
People do not have sufficient knowledge of the dangers of drug use
Again, this is probably true
Therefore the Government must protect them from it
This need for protection trumps freedom of choice for adults,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
say “Give 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
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.
I have just learnt the tragic news that 25-year-old Kate Fitzgerald
died suddenly in Dublin on 22nd August 2011, apparently of suicide
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
you'll see what I mean. He too was dragooned in at very short notice
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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,
“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 US “the 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
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
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
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
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
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
averring “he 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
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
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
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
Abroad deigned to show up, despite invitations.
Meanwhile, to see a true American hero,
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.
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.
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
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
“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!”
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
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.
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 ...
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.
“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.
The unarguable conclusion of journalist
following the award of this year's Nobel Peace Prize
to former Finnish president
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 - - - - - -
“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.”
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 - - - - - -
“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
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 - - - - - -
“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
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
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.
“Why do they always
have to die or get caught before we find out?”
Andrew Sullivan, prolific
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
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
Prof Dawkins was mauled by Dr Lennox in an
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 - - - - - -
“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!”
Valentino Rossi, the 250cc MotoGP World Champion,
after winning the Malaysian MotoGP in Sepang.
Brad Pitt, who loves the sport, had
“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
love hath no man than this,
that he lay down his wife for his friend”.
“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.
US president George Bush the Capitalist persuades
Congress to spend
billion of US taxpayers' money to prop up Wall Street.
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,
“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
Assuming 75% of American adults (say 100% of men
plus 50% of women) pay tax, the US bailout
amounts to about $4,500
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.
on adults comprising
68% of Québec's
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?
Largely those of poorer people with those
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
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
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.
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
Click and enjoy [Hat tip, banker Max
in New York].
[Another full disclosure:
I term myself an
Draw your own conclusion.]
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
trying to create a European Union in the 1930s-40s,
Communists trying to create a European Union in the 1940s-80s,
Communists trying to create a Korean Union in the 1950s,
Communists trying to create a Vietnamese Union in the 1960s-70s,
deposing tyrannies in the 2000s in trying to create
Iraqi Union or
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,
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.
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
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
(or is that
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.
by anyone’s definition, there are Irish soldiers in Afghanistan. They
seven Irish Defence Forces soldiers with ISAF [Nato's
International Security Assistance Force. Four
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.]
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.
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?
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
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
(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.
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.
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.
charges are ruthlessly applied - even 1½kg, surely within the accuracy
of the weighbridge, attracted a €30 charge at the airport.
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.
staff now delight in pointlessly lecturing passengers if bags cannot
easily be stowed or they otherwise
Of course they also never answer the call bell and
look for every opportunity to slide out of providing support to their
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.
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,
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.
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 little
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
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.
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
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
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 -
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
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
You can find Villa Borghese at
Calle San Bartolomé, 130
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
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
“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
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
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
criminal felon under
Section 953 of the US federal penal code, extant since the late 18th
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
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
the McCain/Palin team wants to
That's quite a difference.
“She's friends with all the teenage boys. You have
to say no when your kids go,
‘Can we sleep over the Palin's?’
Radio talk-show hostess Randi Rhodes makes
without a shred of evidence,
that Sarah Palin is a predatory paederast.
“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
- - - - - - - L I S B O N T R E A T
Y - - - - - - -
“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
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF