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September 2008


ISSUE #182 - 14th September 2008


Date and time in Westernmost Europe

ISSUE #182 - 14th September 2008 [474+947=1421]


Russian Demographic Calamity


Ireland's Spending on Public Education


Bin Laden Lives On ;-]


Issue 182’s Comments to Cyberspace


Quotes for Issue 182

Click here for PDF Version of Issue #181 (125 kb)

Russian Demographic Calamity

In my last issue, I alluded to the imminent self-extinction of Russians within Russia, due to a combination of age, ill-health, vodka, net emigration, abortion and an abysmal, population-destroying fertility rate of just 1.3 babies per woman.  Some have suggested I expand on this, because it is surely the defining feature of the Russian geopolitical landscape over the coming decades, whether in Russia's tacit acceptance of its slow-motion catastrophe or the actions it takes to deal with it. 

When the USSR disintegrated in 1991 it had a healthy fertility rate of 2.4 babies per woman and a population of 293 million.  The combined population of its constituent countries has remained unchanged over the last 17 years but combined fertility has dropped to a infelicitous 1.54.  

Driving this has
been mighty
Russia whose
level, currently
141m is drop-
ping off the wall
thanks to a
fertility rate of
around 1.3. 
Ukraine (46m)
and Belarus
(10m) are
similarly dying
with even lower
rates of 1.25
and 1.23. 

Population (in millions) of Russia 1992-2007
Population (in millions) of Russia 1992-2007.

The higher figures in the other countries are largely due to the large Muslim make-up of the population, to whom the disease of childlessness has not spread. 

For pretty much a full generation, Russian women have been producing, on average, 1.3 babies each and this is killing the Russia as a race of people.  Because with such a low birthrate, you quite quickly reach a point of no return. 

The self-sustaining reproduction rate is 2.1 babies per woman.  Two to replace the mother and father, and 0.1 to make up for children killed by accident or disease or indeed not born at all to some couples or grow up to  be infertile.   

That means that, on average, each woman would expect 2.12 = 4.4 grandchildren and 2.13 = 9.3 great-grandchildren.

There is already an entire generation of women born as part of the 1.3 average who will soon be reaching maturity.  Unless they radically change from the habits of their mothers they are also going to produce one-and-a-bit children, to be optimistic say 1.5.  Thus when existing mums become Mamushkas, they are only going to see 1.3 x 1.5 = 2 grandchildren.  So if Mamsushka wants to get back on track, genealogy-wise, she has to convince her lonely pair of grandkids to produce 9.3/2 = 4.7 children so that she can proudly survey the 9.3 great-grandchildren she needs merely to ensure the family line doesn't die out, not to talk about increasing.  But after two generations of families averaging well under 1 children, it seems highly optimistic to suggest, in the absence of some unforeseen cataclysmic event that changes everyone's world perspective, that young Russian women are suddenly going to have four or five babies apiece.  And if they don't?  The target for their own (few) daughters will be 2.14 / 1.53 = 5.8 babies per woman.  It's just not going to happen. 

Russia is doomed unless it can find another way to create people. 

A number of Russians have talked obliquely about the demographic crisis, for example,


Alexander Lehmann, a specialist on Russia's macroeconomy at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London observed that “in 2007, Russia's labour force reached a peak of 90 million. It will be 15 million fewer by 2020”. 


Last year, Nikolay Petrov, a specialist on Russian society at the Carnegie Center in Moscow, said that over the next 20 years, Russia will need 20 million immigrants to compensate for the labour shortage

The projected labour shortage in 2027 is of course merely a manifestation of, if not a euphemism for, a baby shortage in 2007.  And they certainly don't want the kind of immigrants that would want to immigrate - mainly Muslims and ethnic Chinese from ex-Soviet republics and from China itself. 

Nevertheless, in the past couple of years, the imperial establishment itself began to take some notice and introduced both a down-payment and monthly stipends to second-time mothers.  While this resulted in a much-hyped 8% increase in births last year the overall fertility rate has crept up from 1.3 only to 1.4.  And since there seem to be no special effort to encourage mothers to produce more than two, current efforts can only slow but not reverse the inexorable downward trend. 

Simply put, the empire needs more citizens and its women are not going to produce them. 

So the most obvious and easiest solution is simply to steal other countries with large Russian populations.  Which is what's going on, starting with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. 

The South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoity has already exulted,

Yes, we will be part of the Russian Federation ... Now we are an independent state and we look forward to uniting with North Ossetia and joining the Russian Federation,

at least until Czar Putin made him retract his premature ejaculation, saying:

We have no imperial ambitions which people can accuse us of, and nor will we ... we took that decision a long time ago and we have no desire, and no basis, to threaten the sovereignty of the former republics of the USSR.”

Yeah, right, he would say that wouldn't he, but his actions say something different.  For who can doubt that Mr Kokoity's vision will indeed come to pass, adding a football stadium of Russians (ie 70,000) to the Empire.  Abkhazia's absorption will contribute a further 190,000 (Russia has given passports to 90% of its population). 

But these numbers are just drops in the bucket.  The Empire needs Russians in their millions to make up for the six million it has already lost since 1991 and the further millions projected to disappear. 

That is why West-leaning democracies such as Moldova (250,000 Russians), Kazakstan (4.6m) or the biggest prize Ukraine (8 million) with Crimea thrown in, are feeling so threatened, under the baleful eye of the new Russian Empire. 

Demography more than oil, minerals, industry, art, sporting prowess or prestige is what determines the long term success of any society.  When it's not going your way you have a calamity on your hands. As Mark Steyn once wrote in a seminal article that evolved into America Alone, his best-selling book, it's the demography, stupid

The Imperial Bear has awoken and found it has no cubs. And this demographic calamity is not making it happy.  Indeed it is the very reason the Bear has once again donned his imperial purple of bygone years. 

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Ireland's Spending on Public Education

The OECD recently issued its annual report, Education at a Glance 2008, a 525- page, 5Mb door-stopper which you can download here

It has given the left-wing (for there is no other) Irish media and unions what can only be described as a fit of the vapours, all because of one statistic buried in the depths of the tome, on page 237.  This says that the Irish exchequer spent 4.6% of its GDP on education, compared with 6.2% of the OECD as a whole.  On this measure, this ranks Ireland as 30th out of 34, with Israel first and Russia last. 

That's all that has been reported, and it has prompted all kinds of ill-informed comment to the effect that this figure demonstrates that Ireland is under-educating its children, over-filling its classrooms and - above all - underpaying its teachers. 

Of course it does no such thing, as it tells you nothing about what is actually being disbursed, ie the amount of money the State expends to educate each child.  Though the effectiveness of money spent certainly varies from country to country, if money is going to be talked about, then the spend per student is the only measure that makes sense. 

Had lazy correspondents and voracious teachers' unions bothered to look beyond the single statistic of 4.6% of GDP, they would have learnt the following. 

Source: OECD - Education Expenditure per student, US$
at a Glance 2008 OECD Avg Ireland Ireland's Rank Best Worst
Annual Expenditure          
Primary $6,300 $6,000 14th out of 31 Luxembourg Brazil
Secondary $7,700 $8,000 15th out of 34 Luxembourg Russia
Tertiary $10,300 $11,500 14th out of 34 Luxembourg Russia
Total schooling          
Primary + Secondary $90,000 $90,000 15th out of 33 Luxembourg Brazil

From this, it is apparent that in terms of education spending by the State, Ireland is firmly in the middle of the road, very close to the OECD average.  This may be nothing much to brag about, but Ireland is certainly not near bottom as some of those excitable headlines would suggest. 

One reason for the very average performance may be the cosy relationship between the State and the various teachers' unions, which like their counterparts in many Western countries, seem to view schools more as a medium for pursuing teachers' personal interests (pay, leisure, pastimes) rather than children's education. 

For a graphic illustration of the State's acquiescence in this regard, consider the case of Maura Harrington.  She is the full-time principal of Inver National School, a State-funded primary school in Broadhaven Bay on the spectacular west coast of Ireland.  But since 2002 she has been a very active protestor, regardless of term-time or school-holidays, against Corrib, an offshore natural-gas project that Shell is developing.  Her latest stunt is to go on hunger-strike to the death” unless and until the Solitaire, the world's largest pipe-lay barge, departs Irish waters. 

After the long summer break, children returned to school just a couple of weeks ago, yet this headmistress has the effrontery to blithely observe, I think going on hunger strike counts as a tinneas pearsanta [Irish for sick leave].”  That she hasn't long since been fired for dereliction of duty, not only on this occasion but regularly for the past six years, tells you as much about the laxity of her employer (the State) as her own cavalier attitude to her pupils' education.  Extend this cavalier attitude across the State education system and it is no surprise about Ireland's middling ranking. 

Nevertheless, that 4.6%-of-GDP statistic getting all the publicity is a reflection less of Ireland's inattention to education than of its astounding economic success in recent years.  With a GDP of $43,100, it is surpassed in the OECD solely by the USA on $45,800 and Luxembourg with an outlandish $80,500. The bigger the GDP, the smaller any expenditure becomes as a percentage of GDP. 



could Ireland do more to educate its young? 


Yes, indubitably; it is distinctly mediocre and over-unionised. 


But is it near the bottom of the OECD league? 


Not remotely.

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Bin Laden Lives On ;-]

I have written several times to justify my belief that Osama bin Laden is either dead or so badly injured that his image cannot be shown nor his voice recorded. 


Bin Laden Is Dead - September 2002


Bin Laden and the Latest Audio Tape - November 2002


Bin Laden Springs Back to Life - October 2004


Osama bin Laden Is Long Gone - October 2007

All those appalling-quality videos and audio tapes we've been treated too ever since he was last verifiably heard of in December 1991 are clearly fakes.  Their quality is deliberately lousy so that he cannot be seen or heard distinctly enough to make a positive identity.  Al Qaeda clearly has a number of impersonators, clumsily trained to emulate his speaking manner and gestures, even if they do get the left and right hand mixed up sometimes (bin Laden was left-handed). 

Aaron Barschak, the "Comedy Terrorist", in his bin Laden outiftAl Qaeda is not alone in its ability to make dreadful impersonations. 

Sometime ago I wrote about Aaron Barschak, the camp Osama bin Laden, in trademark peach dress, women's shoes, false beard and - ugh - false pubic hair, who famously gate-crashed Prince William's 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle. He calls himself by the oxymoron the comedy terrorist”.  As a result of this and other antics, he has on several occasions enjoyed the hospitality of the local police station. 

Chief Superintendent Colin Terry, in his bin Laden outfitNow the constabulary itself has finally caught up with the fun.  All except the very top brass, of course. 

Earlier this month, Chief Superintendent Colin Terry, a 24-year veteran with the Police, attended a village fete in his home village of Grampound in Cornwall, an annual event which raises money for charity. 

To add to the hilarity of the occasion, and no doubt to mark the seventh anniversary of 9/11, he dressed up as Osama bin Laden, and was just as convincing in that guise as any of those famous fake video tapes emanating from Tora Bora.

But his superiors were not amused and condemned his behaviour as unacceptable.  However since he happens to be on secondment to the British Foreign Office, to help in Afghanistan in the hunt for - you guessed it - the mythical, elusive, long-dead Osama bin Laden, it seems he cannot be chastised. 

This Osama guy is certainly full of surprises.  Never say die. 

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Issue 182’s Comments to Cyberspace

I wrote to cyberspace twice during September, of which one, a tongue-in-cheek ribbing, was actually published. 


Lent is not a "feast" P!
Published in the Sunday Times on 7th September 2008
Matt Cooper talks about "the Catholic feast of Lent".  He must have been looking out of the window during his religious education classes at school.  Lent is a season of fasting and abstinence ...


Is the conflict in Georgia a sign of renewed Russian aggression?
To the Irish Times on 2nd September 2008
This is not only a case of Russian aggression. It is the first step in no less a project than a new expansion of Russian Imperialism under Czar Putin (whether he calls himself president or prime minister). And it's not merely Russian pride that is driving this new empire. Russia is a dying country, losing nearly a million people a year due to ...

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Quotes for Issue 182

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

Quote: Through its response to Georgian aggression, Russia has set a kind of standard for reaction, which fully complies with international law.  Russia has returned to the world stage as a responsible state which can defend its citizens.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister under Czar Putin
makes clear there is plenty of fuel in the Empire's expansionist ambitions.

He also called on the West to abandon
the democratically elected leader of Georgia

Quote: We believe in the right of men and women to live without threat of tyranny, economic blackmail and military invasion or intimidation.”

US vice-president Dick Cheney, to bickering Ukrainian democratic leaders
Viktor Yushchenko and prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko,
reminding them of the bellicose, smouldering Bear next door.

The Russian Empire, under Czar Vladimir Putin, is understandably furious
at this allusion to the bleeding obvious.

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

Quote: I can't stand John McCain.”

At the Republican Convention,
Sarah Palin quotes Harry (
This war [Iraq] was is lost”) Reid,
the Democratic Senate Majority Leader,
after which she adds, witheringly,

no accolade we hear this week
is better proof that we've chosen the right man

Quote: I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.

I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening.

Sarah Palin savages Barack Obama at the Republican Convention

Quote: “The idea that a conservative may be an attractive, youthful, smart and principled, funky grizzly bear-hunting beauty queen doubling up as Elliot Ness ... rip[s] apart ... the core belief of the left that they are uniquely good and everyone else is universally bad.

Columnist Melanie Philips rips apart the Left for its hypocrisy

Quote: What's the difference between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama?


One is a well turned-out, good-looking, and let's be honest, pretty sexy piece of eye-candy.


The other kills her own food.

Gerard Baker, in a syndicated column for The Times.

Hattip: Atlantic Blog

- - - - - - I R A N - - - - - -

Quote: Iran is taking a major risk by continuing the process of obtaining nuclear weapons, which is a certainty for us.  Whatever government is in power in Israel, we may wake up one morning and find that Israel has struck ... we must avoid this catastrophe.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy gives warning to
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad,
Sheikh Hamed al-Thani the Emir of Qatar and
prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey,
in a closed session in Damascus that was, however,
inadvertently transmitted to a local hotel.

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

Quote: This action was carried out according to tribal traditions. These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them.”

Israrullah Zehri an MP from Baluchistan,
speaking in Pakistan's national parliament,
expressing a view backed up by other male lawmakers.

He was defending the honour killing
of three teenage girls from the Umrani tribe
in the Naseerabad district

Because they had the audacity of wanting
to choose their own husbands,
they were shot to injure them, then buried alive in a pit. 

Two relatives who tried to intervene received the same treatment.

- - - - - - Z I M B A B W E - - - - - -

Quote: They want Mugabe to go. Where should I go? I can't go anywhere.

Robert Mugabe is of course right,
as he whines about the opposition
wanting to take power after the recent elections
he rigged but not sufficiently. 

Amazingly, a few days later he and Morgan Tsvangirai
signed a power-sharing agreement. 
We will wait and see how this works out. 

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

 Quote (heard on the radio; no link): You here in Dublin are nearly the best-dressed people in the UK.

Ghastly TV fashionistas Trinny & Susannah
putting on a show in Dublin's Merrion Square
get their geography wrong.

There followed a deadly hush from the boisterous crowd.

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 What I've recently
been reading

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

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

See detailed review


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


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


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


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

More details on my blog here.


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

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

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

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

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


part of a death march to Thailand,


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


regularly beaten and tortured,


racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,


a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as


Why does asparagus come from Peru?


Why are pandas so useless?


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


Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

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


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


Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

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


Other books here

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