A car races along a four-lane freeway at
120 km/hr (75 mph). It encounters a sudden instability. The car
careers towards the central reservation, bounces off it, twists around and
eventually comes to a halt, a write-off of course. It strike no other
vehicle in its terminal paroxysm.
Occupants strapped in with their seatbelts survive,
albeit with serious injuries.
Those who have failed to belt up die.
Paris France in August 1997;
Monasterevin Ireland in August 2007.
In Paris, Princess Diana,
her boyfriend Dodi and the (drunk) driver Henri Paul, were all unbelted and
all died. Trevor Rees-Jones, Diana's (useless) bodyguard, in the front
passenger seat was the only one in a seat belt and he survived. I call
him useless because he not only failed to ensure Diana was belted up, but
allowed an intoxicated man to drive her - and his sole job was to protect
her life. In fact Diana never wore a belt when she was a back-seat
passenger, as TV images repeatedly showed.
The sudden instability they encountered
was a white Fiat Uno whose back left wing their Mercedes clipped whilst
The Monasterevin accident
involved my brother and some of his family.
sudden instability was a (so far unexplained) blowout to the right rear
tyre. After five somersaults, the car ended up upside down. All
three occupants wore their seat belts and all three survived. They
suffered nasty injuries but are making full recoveries, although one of them
is left with a permanent disability. But for their seatbelts, the outcome
would undoubtedly have involved three funerals instead of three hospitals.
I recount this incident solely to
highlight what most of us surely already know. Seatbelts save lives.
For this reason alone - and certainly not to satisfy legislation - we should
always wear them in every vehicle every time and ensure that everyone else
in the car also wears them. Moreover, an unbelted occupant is a lethal
hazard not only to himself but to the other belted occupants because in a
crash his body will be thrown around the inside of the car like a missile,
breaking people's necks and other bones.
Seatbelts really do mean the difference
between a funeral and a hospital.
For someone like me, it's the only show in town, six weeks
of glorious rugby that come around only every four years. Click on the
logo - also at the top right above my blogroll - to get the current scores,
points and rankings, which I am updating in (almost) real time.
The kings of the sport, such as South Africa and
tournament favourite New Zealand delight us in demonstrating, with their
sublime rugby skills, just why they are kings.
The minnows such as Georgia and Portugal sometimes leave
us aghast with wonder at their skills, fitness and above all courage in
the face of daunting oppression by the top-class teams.
Pacific dots, with average populations of just
400,000, stun the big boys (average pop 33m) with dazzling displays
and thunderous hits.
And then you have two of the so-called big boys, England the
current world champion and Ireland ranked sixth in the world.
England struggle to beat the minnows and go down to a
humiliating defeat by South Africa by a thumping 36-0, that is 0 as in
nil, zero, zilch, naught, nothing, nada, nix, nowt, zip.
Ireland, scarcely able to defeat even the minnows
Namibia (32-17) and Georgia (14-10) whom the others crushed by, on
average, 53-4, goes on to succumb massively to the French 25-3, with
barely a murmur.
It so happens that both nations have the same proud sponsor,
a phone company. It's ponying up
£12m to back the England team and perhaps half as much as again for the
Irish. I am sure O2's
shareholders thought these were very astute investments at the time, though
they're not so sure today.
But O2 has
accorded England and Ireland the opportunity to mount a separate
competition, one that they can actually win, to be known as the Rugby World
Cup Shirt-Championship. These are their entries:
Cry your eyes out, New Zealand, you haven't a hope of
winning this one.
on rugby, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga all insist on performing, prior
to their every game, what they call a Haka, a kind of girly war dance which
is not unlike Michael Flatley's infamous
Two years ago, I wrote a piece,
Dissing the Haka,
pondering why the opposing team just stands around respecting the farcical
pantomime instead of, say, ridiculing it. In the current World Cup,
their opponents still allow these teams to play their silly
ritual and thus start the rugby feeling all charged up like warriors of old.
But I've just come across this clip where one team, once upon a
time long ago, stood up to the Haka. Ireland in 1989.
But the rugby bosses were so outraged by this effrontery
that such presumptuousness was never again permitted.
Only three letters over the past month or so,
and none of them published. I am obviously losing my touch.
Why did the IRFU extend Eddie O'Sullivan's Contract? - to the Irish Times The IRFU needs to explain why it extended by four whole years Eddie
O´Sullivan´s contract as Ireland manager immediately BEFORE the Rugby
World Cup began. His and his team´s abject failure in the competition
illustrates the IRFU´s folly.
Capitalism and Climate Change - to the Irish Times Eugene Tannam is quite correct to blame climate change entirely
on perfidious capitalism. But we in the West are so utterly immersed
and embroiled in capitalism that we are beyond repair. Not so for
others. Thus, the only way to solve climate change is for the West to
immediately cease all trade and investment in China and India ...
Sectarian Racist Sexist Heterphobic Police Associations - to the Irish Times The London Metropolitan Police Sikh Association thinks An Garda
Síochána is racist for refusing to allow its uniformed members to wear
turbans. That's a bit rich coming from an overtly sectarian association
open only to Sikhs. Of course it's not alone. Britain is also home to
the similarly sectarian
Association of Muslim Police ... as well as numerous overtly racist
... sexist ...heterophobic associations ...
“Iran ... is
the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. ... Iran funds
terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which
murder the innocent and target Israel ... Iran is sending arms to
the Taliban. ... Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who
have committed no crimes. ... Iran's active pursuit of technology
that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already
known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear
holocaust ... Iran's actions threaten the security of nations
everywhere ... We will confront this danger before it is too late.”
the American Legion Convention in Las Vegas
is necessary to prepare for the worst ... the worst, it's war, sir.”
French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner recognizes
the danger posed by allowing Iran to continue developing its nuclear
He later backtracked saying he didn't mean what he
seemed to imply
- but he clearly did.
- - - - - - - - - - I R A Q - - - - - - - - - -
“You see Sunnis who once fought side by side with al Qaeda
against coalition troops now fighting side by side with coalition
troops against al Qaeda. Anbar is a huge province. It was once
written off as lost. It is now one of the safest places in Iraq.”
George Bush in Anbar province on a
“Day after day, hour after hour, they keep the pressure on
the enemy that would do our citizens harm.
They've overthrown two of the most brutal tyrannies of the world,
and liberated more than 50 million citizens. In Iraq, our
troops are taking the fight to the extremists and radicals and
murderers all throughout the country. Our troops have killed or
captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other
extremists every month since January of this year ...
“Like our enemies in the past [Japan, North Korea,
North Vietnam], they [Islamicists] kill Americans because
we stand in their way of imposing this ideology across a vital
region of the world. This enemy is dangerous; this enemy is
determined; and this enemy will be defeated ...
“One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of
America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose
agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like
“It's not up to politicians in Washington, D.C. to say
whether he [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] will remain in his position - that is up to the Iraqi
people who now live in a democracy, and not a dictatorship
“The greatest weapon in the arsenal of democracy is the
desire for liberty written into the human heart by our Creator.”
George Bush addresses US military veterans of
“[My] government has been active in fostering national
reconciliation ... US officials should think first before criticising
[my] administration ... This sends messages to the terrorists that the
security situation is weak and the political situation is not strong. These
are negative messages, encouraging the terrorists”
Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki
has a dig at Senator Hilary Clinton and other US Democrats
who are calling for his removal
“On our fundamental rights if we have to make a choice
between Boston and Berlin, then the Green Party looks to Berlin.”
Eamon Ryan, Ireland's Green party
for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources,
sticks to anything so long as it is Leftward.
Why do you never see a Rightwing green party,
when greenery is surely independent of Left or Right ideologies?
And in any case when Leftist ideology (think USSR and China)
is so obviously ruinous for the environment?
- - - - - - - - - - I R E L A N
D - - - - - - - - - -
“Ireland is a coarse place with a sad history where the
natives are obsessed by money”
Christian Pauls, German Ambassador to Ireland,
in an unscripted speech in German to German industrialists,
which unluckily for him was simultaneously translated into English,
to the humourless outrage of Irish MEP Gay Mitchel who was present.
Some wag remembered Thomas Mann's immortal line:
“A German joke is no laughing matter”.
“[If they fail to hold an EGM] Ryanair could then convene
the EGM itself and any cost incurred by Ryanair must be discharged
by Aer Lingus and deducted from Aer Lingus' director fees. I
can envisage booking out the Four Seasons or perhaps the Shelbourne
Hotel with a free bar for the Aer Lingus [shareholders who
attend], with the Aer Lingus directors personally meeting the
expense. One can but dream.”
Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary,
on being informed that its competitor Aer Lingus had refused
to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting that had been
requested by Ryanair, which at 29.4% is its biggest shareholder.
- - - - - - - - - - O T H E R - - - - - - - - - -
“Don’t worry, Mummy. I will give it back to you one day
when I am king.”
As reported by Tina Brown, author of
Diana Chronicles”, Prince William, then aged 14, comforts
his mother Princess Diana
after she lost her HRH title in 1996
following her divorce from Prince Charles.
“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