Much as I hate to temporarily discontinue the fun of
publishing polls showing
President Barack Obama’s non-existent popularity, for September and
daily updates of running scores from the 2011 Rugby World Cup takes
Now that the competition is over, with the All Blacks the
worthy champions, I can admit that there is an even better score-tallying
website, run by a car rental company of all things. Click
On 18th October 2011, Israeli Sergeant Gilad
Shalit, 25, after 5˝ years of captivity by Hamas, is freed at last, in
exchange for over a thousand Palestinian convicts in Israeli jails. He looks
tired and dazed, but otherwise healthy, as he replies to questions from an
Egyptian TV reporter.
observes that off camera behind Sgt Shalit was a “man in fatigues
and wearing a black face mask and the green headband of the Qassam
brigades – Hamas’s military wing – and with a video camera in his hand”,
with his other hand resting on the back of Sgt Shalit's chair. The frail
young man was clearly being intimidated.
Nothing is as it seems in that benighted part of the
in exchange, the Israelis released 1,037 prisoners, nearly all
Palestinians and other Arabs, many of them unrepentant multi-murderers.
Little good can surely ensue.
The most unpopular man in a gay
marriage university debate
Trinity College Dublin's Philosophical Society is one
of the world's most prestigious student debating fora, and regularly invites
celebrity guests to speak.
“The Phil” as
it 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 is currently on its
327th annual session. Its
disreputable and otherwise, include
politician Bertie Ahern (d),
historian Niall Fergusson (o),
UN nuclear diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei (d),
US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg (o).
Three years ago I (distinctly not a celebrity) was
invited to speak at a debate about drugs legalisation, which I reported on
Last week (2nd October), they had me back again to speak against the
motion “This House Believes Civil Partnerships are Sexual Apartheid”.
It's apparently not easy to find someone prepared to make himself unpopular
by rejecting the social conformities of the day. But if you need
someone to speak against gay marriage, against global warming, pro-Israel,
against Obama, I seem to be your man!
My fellow speakers, all but one of whom spoke with
great verve and oratory, were:
For the motion:
for decades a vociferous gay-rights activist, who once attempted to make
citizen's arrest on Zimbabwe's illegitimate president Robert Mugabe
in London for crimes against human rights, and was beaten up by Mugabe's
goons for his trouble. Mr Tatchell was one of two celebrity guests
and argued that gays should be allowed to marry, and that heteros should
be allowed to enter into civil partnerhips. Weird.
Anne McCarthy, a solicitor and
LGBT Noise organiser
from Limerick, considered opponents to gay marriage to be like anti-miscegenationists
from Alabama of the 1950s and decried
David Quinn as one of them.
Max Krzyzanowski (Irish but of Polish extraction)
was the other celebrity guest, who in 2009 was crowned the first ever
Mr Gay World defeating 19 other younger contestants. He had
scoured this website and in particular my page
order to counter some of my evidence.
Student David Doyle who pointed out that that in
Ireland there are 169 legal differences between Civil Partnership and
Marriage. He also complained that a married person who wishes to
change his/her sex must first divorce before the new sex will be
officially recognized. He was outraged by these pernicious
Against the motion:
Professor Ray Kinsella of UCD's Quinn School of Business, a
scientist who is an expert on financial institutions, insurance and
corporate governance, and bears an alarming likeness to Henry Kissinger.
The main thrust of his low-key speech was that marriage is as defined in
the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah and this trumps everything else.
Owen Murphy and Jamie Donnelly were
student members on, apparently, my side. But each of
them decried marriage itself and more or less made arguments favouring
the Proposition rather than the Opposition. What allies!
Me. I was the only person who
tried to present rational arguments in opposition to the motion (see
below). This made it a kind-of six against one contest with one
abstention, but I'm not whingeing. It was fun.
Anyway, I showed up, was treated to an excellent dinner
with Guinness and wine and presented my speech in front of an audience of
about 300 attending the debate. I was, inevitably, labelled by other
speakers (especially Mr Gay World 2009)
“dishonourable”, “homophobic”, “dishonest”, “a bigot”
and other colourful epithets I don't remember, and all without a shred of
evidence. I also elicited the evening's biggest cry of “Shame!”,
of which I am rather proud.
So I must have been saying something right.
Moreover, I was delighted to see that the spirit and practice of free speech
is so alive and robust at The Phil.
(Incidentally, I have
argued elsewhere that the Left often has to resort to fancy
name-calling and lots of noise because their arguments are usually so
thin that demolition of their opponents' case purely through logic
doesn't work very well.)
Following the debate itself, the evening proceeded with three successive
drinking sessions and notwithstanding the earlier fireworks we all became
best of friends. It ended with a cohort walking to a nearby night club
called Prhomo (which
is a sponsor of The Phil) until
the early hours; I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to a gay bar, not least
because the beer was only €3 a pint (compared with €4-6 elsewhere).
The Phil's own online account of the debate
may be found here.
And here is my speech. You can make up your own mind as to how
“dishonourable”, “homophobic”, “dishonest” and “bigoted”
“This House Believes Civil Partnerships are Sexual Apartheid”
Members of the Council, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Thank you for inviting me here tonight.
Last month, a
Brazilian Congressman called Jair
Bolsonaro caused outrage among ordinary decent Brazilians when he
rather have a dead son than a gay son”. This so outraged many
heartbroken Brazilian parents who had lost sons and daughters simply for
the sin of being born gay that they set up an organization
called the “Equality Moms”, which is campaigning to end violence,
prejudice and discrimination against LGBTs, objectives I would
If I were a Mom I would therefore
be delighted to support such an organization, were it not for that
pernicious word “Equality”. “Equality”, like “fairness”
is one of those modern, feel-good epithets that totally deny the world
in which we and all living things exist. For if nature were signed up
to the “equality” agenda, it would have provided me with the
ovaries that so many of you happily possess, and I could indeed have
become a Mom.
“Equality”, or some
interpretation that has no bearing on the word, is I think at the heart
of today’s motion, “This House Believes Civil Partnerships are
“Apartheid” is another word
co-opted so as to pretend it means something entirely different from
what it actually does. The Afrikaaners did this first when they took
the original, neutral, Dutch world for “Separateness” or “Apartness”
and made it decidedly unneutral by instituting a barbaric regime of
systematic oppression and domination by Whites over people they
classified as Blacks and Coloureds, enforced by segregation,
suppression, harassment, brutality, imprisonment and often death. Yet
now some of the wilder elements among gay marriage proponents are using
the word “Apartheid” to imply that LBGTs are being subjected to
similar savagery. This is preposterous, adolescent and an insult to
those black and mixed-race human beings who were genuinely crushed under
Apartheid’s vicious jackboot.
The gross misuse of the word “Apartheid”
is alone sufficient to dismiss this evening’s motion as ridiculous. But
there is more.
Let me return to “Equality”.
Outside the realm of mathematics, it is, like beauty, a word that exists
only in the eye of the beholder (or beer-holder as some wit once
observed). It has no absolute value.
If my salary is 20% less than
yours, that is not equal.
Unless I work 20% less than you, then it
Or my work produces only half the widgets
that you produce
in which case our salaries are unequal because even
20% less salary I am clearly overpaid.
All humans may be equal in
the eyes of God, or Bhudda or Gaia. But in human eyes is a person with
testicles equal to a person with a womb? I dunno. It’s a meaningless
question; remember that we are all different, each of us is unique –
just like everyone else.
The argument is often advanced
that to deny marriage to two people of the same sex is contrary to
Equality. But of course it’s not. They are as free as anyone else to
marry, to marry someone of the opposite sex; no-one is preventing them
from marrying. Their marital opportunities are the equal of those of
heterosexuals. Unless, as a beer-holder your view of “equality”
differs – is not the equal of mine as it were.
Of course the modern argument is
that “marriage” no longer means a union between a man and a
woman, as it has for thousands of years. It just means a union. But
there we go again, trying to make words mean what they patently do not
mean. But nevertheless, let’s explore some ramifications.
If the word “marriage” were
to be mutilated to drop the inconvenient one-man-one-woman stricture,
there would be no reason to stop there. If one-man-one-man becomes OK,
then why not
Surely all this would be equality
in action. But of course I am being ridiculous, as is anyone who
wants to pretend marriage means something other than what it does and
that “equality” has some role to play.
That’s why the concept of “Civil
Partnership” or “Civil Union” was invented. And for reasons
never adequately explained by the legislators, it has recently become
law in this country (and others). In particular, what the State
receives in return for marital tax, pension, inheritance and other
advantages remains a mystery. Another mystery is why this strange new
institution created, supposedly, in the name of “equality”, is
restricted to sexual partners yet is unavailable to, say, golf buddies
who choose not to share a bed.
As far as the golf buddies or
those spinster sisters are concerned, Civil Partnerships are most
certainly a form of “Sexual Apartness”. No sex, no Civil
Partnership (though I wonder who is supposed to police this).
But I doubt the drafters of
tonight’s motion had that kind of Apartness in mind. I suspect the
Apartness refers to the fact that the State has not legislated for same
sex couples to enter into a “marriage”, notwithstanding that as
discussed this would be an oxymoron.
Nevertheless, it is worth
restating exactly why, compared with other human institutions, marriage
carries certain advantages, in particular tax breaks designed to
encourage couples to marry. Governments have no money, they only spend
other people’s cash (called taxes). Therefore they have no right to
spend anything – or to grant tax breaks – without a clear and likely
payback. The marriage payback for the State is twofold, enormous and
unique to marriage.
Firstly, it is the institution
most likely to procreate babies. This is no laughing matter, for
without babies there will be no future citizens. Indeed no-one to repay
€120 billion debt this country has piled up and is still
disgracefully adding to at an unconscionable rate of
€22 billion a year. Above all, babies are an existential issue:
without them there will be no state. Just ask babyless Russia, Japan
and Germany which are in the throes of terminal and irreversible demographic
This statement is backed by
overwhelming documentary evidence (which you can find at
showing that outcomes are, in general, better for children
in terms of
& physical child abuse,
physical & mental ill-health,
becoming divorced or unwed parents themselves.
While of course there are exceptions on all sides –
meaning there are instances of dreadful married parents and examples of
wonderful single or gay parents – no systematic studies dispute this
Legislation should be dealing with
the general not the exception, and
thus for the good of the State encouraging marriage over
other family forms. For these reasons, there is no case for the State
to involve itself in either gay marriage or civil partnerships.
Nevertheless it would be grossly
unfair and unequal if the State or anyone were to attempt to prevent
them taking place. But they should simply be private arrangements and
personal commitments made between willing individuals.
It’s just none of the State’s damn
business and it should keep its interfering nose out. You
have to wonder why otherwise somewhat anarchic LGBTs are so keen to
bring the State into their bedrooms.
So in conclusion, are
Sexual Apartheid? Well obviously not “Apartheid” so let’s say
Apartness. They are Sexual Apartness in the sense that
for no rational purpose they are open only to couples who practice gay
sex, not those spinster sisters or bridge partners or golf buddies.
terms of Apartness vis-ŕ-vis marriage, such partnerships have been
designed and constructed so as to be legally scarcely different from
marriage, despite applying to a situation that is entirely different
from marriage. Applying the “same” or “equal” or non-“Apartness”
solution to two entirely different situations makes no sense at all.
And it’s certainly not discriminatory to treat different situations in
I ask you
to vote against the motion.
Thank you very much.
A voice-vote was held after the last speech. It fell overwhelmingly in
favour of one side of the debate. I leave you to figure out which!
Letter published in the Sunday Times on 9th October
Many misunderstanding surrounds the technique of hydraulic fracturing
that you discuss. Fraccing (to use the oil industry's spelling) is
by no means a new technology - it's been around for half a century. It
is a matter of pumping fluid (usually water) into rock formation to
cause it to fracture open and increase the paths by which ...
Ignorance about Hydraulic Fracturing in Leitrim Letter to the Irish Times Last week RTE ran a crazy Prime Time discussion about producing gas
in Leitrim by hydraulically fracturing shale, crazy because it involved
three spokespersons who clearly had a very shaky grasp of the technology
'Botox Bob' dilemma for men of a certain age Online comment (p2+) in the
This is a great article, very entertaining, especially because of
all the whining comments it elicited - 10 out of 13! Whingers -
you sound more ridiculous than ...
More power to us if we choose nuclear option Online comment in the Irish Times
Good to see you back in the Irish Times, John, if only for the rich
pickings you provide! This time it's your statement that “On the other
hand, at least three million people will die this year as a result of
... mining and burning of fossil fuels ...” ...
Legal system provides no guarantee of justice Online comment in the Irish Times
An excellent and shocking analysis. But the author is completely
misguided when he complains about
“all the trappings
of a royal court – wigs, gowns, prayer bands, tipstaffs”
Let's make Norway joint owner of our oil and gas Online comment in the
Irish Times article This article is unbelievably infantile! Firstly, Ireland does not
“reserves of 6.5
billion barrels of oil and 20 trillion cubic feet of gas off the western
This is just a wild futuristic guestimate of what might be there ...
The end is nigh and it's all because of single mothers Online comments (p3)
in Irish Times Hourihane No serious commentator is criticising single mothers
per se [for the mass lootings in England]. The issue is the absence of fathers and the seriously
deleterious effect of this ...
“Merely a study document” Letter to The Economist on 9th August You wrongly and misleadingly say that the
Vatican dismissed child-protection procedures set up by Irish bishops in
1996 as “merely a study document”. The actual letter of 31st
January 1997 from the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland where this phrase
appeared is clear ...
Quote: “The world has lost a visionary, and there may be no greater
tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of
his passing on a device he invented.”
US president Barrack Obama pays
to Steve Jobs, the late founder and CEO of Apple
“To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community: I
have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my
duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you
know. Unfortunately, that day has come. I hereby resign as CEO of Apple.”
Steve Jobs, the founder and visionary
CEO of Apple,
and inspiration for iEverything,
bows to the pancreatic cancer that, sadly, has been
slowly killing him for
“10yrs ago we had Steve Jobs,
Johnny Cash and Bob Hope ... Now we have no jobs, no cash and no hope!”
- - - - - L I B Y A - - - - -
“We are asking Israel to use its influence in the
international community to end the tyrannical regime of [Moammar]
Q'Daffy and his family.”
Ahmad Shabani, a rebel spokesman and member of Libya’s
emerging leadership, makes a curious and encouraging
call to Israel for help;
perhaps for Mossad to find and even eliminate Libya's ex-leader.
“I am afraid if we don't act, they will burn Tripoli.
There will be no more water, food, electricity or freedom.”
Libya's Col Q'Daffy, in a Chemical Ali
as Tripoli falls, signalling his own demise
- - - - - U K - - - - -
Quote: “If we want to have any hope of mending our broken society,
family and parenting is where we’ve got to start ... So from here on I want
a family test to be applied to all domestic policy. If it hurts families, if
it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keep people
together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn’t do it.”
David Cameron, in a welcome burst of
Let's see whether he actually promotes
such fine words into legislative action.
- - - - O B A M A ' s U S
A - - - - -
“Your policy has been one which I fully understand - I’m
not second-guessing - of one child per family.”
US Vice President Joe Biden tells the
Chinese Communist Party
that its policy of industrial-scale enforced abortion, infanticide and
with a strong bias for
is just fine by America
Quote: “Throughout history, poverty is the normal
condition of man. Advances which permit this norm
to be exceeded - here and there, now and then -
are the work of an extremely small minority,
frequently despised, often condemned, and almost
always opposed by all right-thinking people.
Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating,
or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a
society, the people then slip back into abject
poverty. This is known as ...
Robert Heinlein, once
of science fiction writers,
who died in 1988
Quote: “We had
the last six
a run of ...
Why can't someone just find a way to eliminate
“I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above
above the world, he's sort of god.”
Evan Thomas, editor of Newsweek magazine,
being interviewed by Chris Matthews,
declared that Mr Obama gave him
“thrill up hisleg” or something.
Well he is a thrilling god. Isn't he?
“Those of us who were bewitched by [Obama's]
eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting
aspects of his biography:
that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having
never run a business or a state;
that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor,
publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than
an autobiography; and
that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted
‘present’ (instead of ‘yea’ or ‘nay’) 130 times, sometimes dodging
Drew Westen, a columnist in the New York Times,
belatedly agrees with my own contemporaneous observations
of Senator Obama as an
It is rare that the NYT will allow any criticism of the Chosen One.
“President Obama - this is personal
to you. All the black people was proud - we got a black president. You
acting like one now, B. Pay your f**king bills on time!”
Felonius Munk (real name Denis Banks),
a black comedian and commentator, is
by the US deficit caused by out-of-control federal spending
“It's true, I am not an American. I was not born in Hawaii,
I wasn't born in the United STates of America, I come from Kenya.”
This is an extraordinary, unforced
admission on video
by the US president that he is constitutionally ineligible
to be the US president.
(11 Oct) -
Quote: “I want justice for my father. I
believe that you know the names of the killers of my father and I want you
to tell me who they are. You were on the army council of the IRA [when
he was murdered by the IRA]”
David Kelly, 35, whose
soldier-father was murdered
at aged 35 by an IRA team of four
while trying to rescue Don Tidy, a supermarket
executive kidnapped by
the IRA in 1983,
discomfits Martin McGuinness, Irish presidential candidate and ex IRA
Quote: “Just because you are chained to the post doesn’t mean you
can’t bark at the dogs.”
Dáithí Ó Sé, host of the 2011
Rose of Tralee contest,
engaged to the 2009 New Jersey Rose Rita Talty,
after journalists chided him for observing
that all the Roses are “so beautiful”.
- - - - - S T E Y N - - - - -
“A woman's place is in the kitchen dressing a 1,200-pound
moose she took down out back at dawn.”
“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 BP 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