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Indexes
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Letters
Blog
To find an archived article, simply click on Index and scroll the subject titles, or do a Ctrl-F search
Unpublished and Published [P!] 
Letters to the Press and Cybercomments, during 2012
For letters and cybercomments in previous years,
click on 2006
or 2007 or 2008 or 2009 or 2010 or 2011 or 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

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December 2012
Assorted Online Comments - December 2012

I made comments online during December in response to (inter alia) the following articles:

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November 2012
Higgins's wings clipped in full debate [P!]
Letter published in the Sunday Times on 11th November

Michaels Graham & Higgins Debate in 2010Sir, In her hagiography of President Higgins, Alison O'Connor describes her pleasure at hearing once more his slapdown of American radio host Michael Graham (Be true to yourself, Michael D, and become a great president, Comment, 4th November).

However she should do her research before indulging such glee. She clearly listened only to the four-minute Youtube clip that went viral last August with 1.8m hits (tinyurl.ie/2mikesedited), but which had been doctored in March 2012 to edit out Mr Graham's inconvenient contribution.

Had she played the original twenty-minute debate (tinyurl.ie/2mikesoriginal) which has been on Newstalk's website since it was broadcast in May 2010, she would have learnt that Michael Graham slapped down President Higgins's rants at least as much as the other way round, but without the rudeness and profanity. Yours etc,

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Children Rights Referendum [P!]
Letter to the Irish Times, published on 9th November, the day before the referendum,
AND to the Irish Independent which did not publish it

Sir, / Ireland's written constitution of 1937 is the third oldest in the world, after America (1789) and Australia (1901). It has stood the test of time like few others, through a world war, through a cold war, through countless dictatorships in Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and through domestic trials and tribulations. Like few others, it is a well proven document that should therefore be amended only where there is an overwhelmingly strong case to do so, and it is up to those who want to change it to make such a case.

Thus before we vote in this referendum, its proponents should at least name even a single instance of child neglect or child abuse or unlawful child death that would have been prevented or mitigated had the proposed amendment been in place, and explain just how. But they cannot, because no such instance exists.

The referendum may make people feel good, but that is no basis for altering Ireland's sacred constitution. It needs to be rejected. / Yours etc,

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Assorted Online Comments - November 2012

I made comments online during November in response to (inter alia) the following articles:

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October 2012
Assorted Online Comments - October 2012

I made comments online during October in response to (inter alia) the following articles:

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September 2012
Ireland's freedom of speech culture
Letter to the Irish Independent on 29th September 2012

Sir, / Regarding those remonstrating outside the Google headquarters and US Embassy about the availability of some pathetic Youtube clip ('Blasphemy' backlash spreads to Dublin as Muslims march on Google headquarters, News, September 29), is it not ironic that they should use Ireland's freedom of speech culture to protest against Ireland's freedom of speech culture? / Yours etc,

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Insult to Muhammad
Letter (unpublished) to the Irish Times on 21st September July 2012

Sir, / Richard Kimball thinks that offensive speech should be restricted for fear of possible public unrest (Letters, September 21st). I find that a highly offensive contention and call on him to retract it and apologise to me. Oh, and he recycles that old canard about not yelling fire in a crowded theatre. What if the theatre is on fire? / Yours etc,

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Price of medicines
Letter (unpublished) to the Irish Times on 7th September 2012

Sir, / The self-serving apologias in respect of Ireland's exorbitant cost of medicines, as advanced by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association's Philip Hannon and by opthalmologist Kate Coleman, would be amusing were they not so pathetic (Letters, September 7th).

Neither answered the central point. Why, for identical pharmaceuticals, do pharmacies in Ireland charge double, treble and sometime ten times what pharmacies charge in the rest of the so-called free-trade area that is the EU, eg in Britain, France, Italy, Hungary, Spain, Portugal?

Here are a few more like-for-like comparisons with Spain: Xalacom (for glaucoma), Ireland €55 vs Spain €15; Tenormin (blood pressure), €16 vs €3; Premarin (HRT), €19 vs €6; Imigrane (migraine) €15 vs €7; Multivite (general health), €5 vs €1.

This is not a victimless situation. One wonders how many people don't take preventive drugs because they can't afford the exorbitant Irish prices, and as a result unnecessarily suffer afflictions in later life.

It explains why the bags of returning Irish residents are often stuffed with, er, drugs. / Yours etc

Source of data for this letter is a Tallrite Blogpost, The Crime of Protected Pharmacists in Ireland”, October 2003. 
Note that this issue has been around unreported, unresolved and needlessly removing money from citizens' pockets for a decade

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Assorted Online Comments - September 2012

I made comments online during September in response to (inter alia) the following articles:

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August 2012
Assorted Online Comments - August 2012

I made comments online during the month, in response to (inter alia) the following articles:

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ESM Treaty an invitation to corruption
Letter to the Irish Independent and to the Irish Times on 1st August 2012

Sir, / The ESM Treaty, which when fully ratified will set up a permanent €urozone bailout fund (out of non-existent money), is a totalitarian abomination, which no patriot would ever sign his/her country up to (Bid to block ESM treaty rejected, Irish Independent July 31st, Court ruling allows for ratification of ESM treaty, Irish Times August 1st). Its ratification will be an act of national treachery against ordinary citizens. Here's why.

The treaty creates a new Eurocracy, the “European Stability Mechanism”, which is structurally designed to be an irresistible invitation to rampant, institutionalised corruption on an unprecedented scale.

This is because

  • the ESM can irrevocably at its whim demand (articles 9.3 and 10.1) unlimited funds up to and beyond €700 billion (of which Ireland's taxpayers MUST contribute 1.6%) payable in just seven days,

  • is specifically subject to no external legal or other scrutiny or action anywhere in the world (article 32.3-9);

  • its management and staff are likewise immune to all laws (article 35),

  • can set their own pay and conditions (article 33)

  • and of course they pay no tax except back to the ESM (article 36.5);

  • the ESM itself is likewise exempt from all taxes and duties everywhere (article 36.1 and 4).

The ESM piggy bank will thus contain a €700 bn cesspool of debasement available to enrich everyone who works in it and countless other bodies that come into contact with it.

The Germans are waiting for their Constitutional Court to make a ruling on the treaty next month. Meanwhile the German cabinet has apparently just rejected French, Italian and Spanish demands for ESM funding.

So what's Ireland's big hurry? Yours etc,

References provided -
http://tinyurl.ie/esm (my own analysis),
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPcWHBPYOSU  and
the ESM Treaty itself, http://www.european-council.europa.eu/media/582311/05-tesm2.en12.pdf

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July 2012
Constitutional convention  [P!]
Letter to the Irish Times on 13th July 2012

Sir, – With the ignominious repeal only last month of Canada’s so-called “Section 13”, its notorious censorship and hate-speech statute which provided for secret courts lacking proper rules of evidence while administering pernicious life-time punishments, a statute which was the bedrock of the country’s Human Rights Commission, I am astonished that Martin G Padgett of Toronto even admits he was a member of that commission (April 10th). Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms is in fact a charter which tells Canadians what they are allowed to do. As such it is an anti-freedom charter: in a free society, citizens can do anything they like except what is proscribed in law, not the other way round.

When it comes to a new Irish constitution, the lesson from Canada is to avoid its example like the plague. – Yours, etc,

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Jews and Palestinians in Israel
Letter to the Irish Examiner on 11th July 2012 (unpublished)

Sir, / If Charles Murphy wants to go back in history to before the creation of Israel in 1948 to support his questioning of the Jews right to be there, he should be more complete (Letters, July 10th). Jews have lived there continuously for more than 3,000 years.

  • The Jews got it (via UN Mandate) from the British in 1948,

  • who took it in 1917 from the Ottomans,

  • who took it in 1517 from the Egypt-based Mamluks,

  • who in 1250 took it from the Ayyubi dynasty (descendants of Saladin, a Kurd ),

  • who in 1187 took it from the Crusaders,

  • who in 1099 took it from the Seljuk Turks,

  • who ruled it in the name of the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad,

  • which in 750 took it from the Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus,

  • which in 661 inherited it from the Arabs of Arabia,

  • who in 638 took it from the Byzantines,

  • who in 395 inherited it from the Romans,

  • who in 63 BC took it from the last Jewish kingdom,

  • which in 140 BC took it from the Hellenistic Greeks,

  • who under Alexander the Great in 333 BC took it from the Persian empire,

  • which in 639 BC took it from the Babylonian empire,

  • which under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC took it from the Jews (the Kingdom of Judah),

  • who - as Israelites - took it in the 12th and 13th centuries BC from the Canaanites,

  • who had inhabited the land for thousands of years before they were dispossessed by the Israelites.

There is no evidence that today's Arab Palestinians are descended from the Canaanites who were completely wiped out in ancient times. Arabs come from Arabia, an entirely separate area as the name infers. / Yours etc,

 

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Assorted Online Comments - July 2012

Comments were made online during the month, in response to the following articles:

A great article, but I have a couple of observations.

 

I am not sure where your (optimistic!) in/out figures of €14.4bn / €18.8bn come from. The Government itself estimates that its receipts for (the whole of) 2012 will be €39.9bn, while its expenditure will be €61.5, ie we will blow FIFTY-FOUR PERCENT MORE than we take in.
http://www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2012/Documents/Estimates%20of%20Receipts%20and%20Expenditure%20for%20the%20Year%20ending%2031%20December%202012.pdf

 

As a point of interest, the Shell-to-Sea palaver will have at least trebled the delivery time of the project from 4 to 12 years, and trebled the cost from €0.8bn to €2.4bn. The effect of this is to have REDUCED BY OVER SEVENTY PERCENT the tax that would otherwise have accrued to the Irish State from Corrib production. The protestors, while pretending they have the interests of Irishmen and women at heart, have royally shafted them.
http://www.tallrite.com/blog.htm#Troubling_Trebling_of_Corrib_Costs_Irish_Taxpayers_75%

 

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June 2012
Assorted Online Comments - June 2012

Comments were made online during the month, in response to the following articles:

 

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May 2012
A warning to Israel
Online comment to an editorial in The Irish Times on 18th May

Ooooh! The EU is getting tetchy. Here are another couple of ideas.

Ask the Palestinians why they have refused their own state every time they have been offered it - in 1937, 1948, 1967, 2000 ... That's the ONLY reason there is no such thing as Palestinian land.

Secondly, ask them why a future Palestinian state has to be Judenfrei (and why the EU also seems to think it should be emptied of Jews, which I believe has tried before, within Europe). Why cannot Jews (in for example those controversial settlements) become full citizens of a Palestinian state just as Palestinians have been full citizens of Israel ever since its foundation?

A long - and indeed somewhat tetchy - exchange with mostly anti-Israel correspondents ensued in the Comments section

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About time Dev Óg was put in his place: Silence is golden [P!]
Letter published in the Sunday Times [behind paywall] on 13th May 2012

Sir, / I am shocked. Not content with silencing five priests, the Catholic church has now silenced Father Éamon Ó Cuív for daring to speak out against the sacred Fiscal treaty. Should he violate his pledge of silence, Bishop Micheál Martin will throw him out of the Church.

Oh wait, did I say church? I meant Fianna Fail, where gagging a member is apparently not shocking; just a sensible precaution to ensure the corporate message goes out. / Yours etc,

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Talking Property
Online comment on 11th May to an Irish Times column by property consultant Isobel Morton, trying to talk up property prices. 

Effectively, only people with cash are able to buy.

  • Who are they? Generally older people with life savings.

  • What do they buy? Generally smaller properties into which they will retire.

And then they sell their existing larger properties.

Effect?

  • The market for smaller residences is hardening,

  • for larger residences it continues to deteriorate.

Who are the people most desperate for houses?

  • Young people with growing families who need the larger houses.

    Conclusion?

  • The market for larger houses has nowhere near bottomed out.

  • Therefore ignore Isobel Morton. Don't buy, even if you can secure a mortgage. Prices still have a long way to drop.

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Cardinal Brady and Child Rape
Letter to the Irish Times on 4th May 2012 (unpublished)

Sir, Let's see if I've got this straight.

A man becomes aware, in the 1970s, of a vile child molester. Yet he fails to tell the police or take any action that might put a stop to the molester's depraved activities and even tells the child-victim to remain silent. So consequently the molester continues child-raping with impunity for years. That man today holds a senior position of authority.

Ireland's Tánaiste [deputy prime minster] Eamon Gilmore, Taoiseach [prime minster] Enda Kenny and numerous other worthies who are not members of - and indeed are hostile to - the entity which the man now leads, declare that he should not hold a position of authority and should therefore resign.

This sounds most honourable.

Yet why then do they remain so pally and respectful with Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein?

For decades, he hid and facilitated his allegedly debauched, incestuous, child-molesting brother Liam who is accused of routinely raping his own daughter Aine as from when the little girl was just four years old. Oh, and used to beat up her mother, his wife. Gerry not only protected his brother but got him work in youth clubs where he had easy access to children [Ref 1].

Gerry was outed as a child-rapist-protector only when Aine eventually told her story publicly in 2009. Liam was finally arrested only six months ago on charges of rape and gross indecency.

Now, what was that about Cardinal Sean Brady?

Then, on today's front page [Ref 2] Harry McGee reports that Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, said when the issue first emerged two years ago he had said Dr Brady should consider his position. He said many Catholics would be dismayed at the new allegations and Dr Brady should reflect on his stated position that he will stay on as leader of his church in Ireland.

Yet apparently Mr McGuiness's own leader, being Cardinal Brady's fellow child-rapist-protector Gerry Adams, does not need to consider his position and can happily stay on as leader of Mr McGuinness's own party Sinn Fein.

A cynical person might conclude that the current furore is more about attacking the Catholic Church than being concerned about the rape of children. Yours etc,

References

Explanatory Note

The context of this letter may  be understood by reference to a contemporaneous blog post entitled National Leaders and Child Rape.

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April 2012
Demand for same-sex marriage
Letter to the Irish Times on 24th April (unpublished)

Sir, - Tom McElligott blithely asserts that “there is now a body of evidence comparing straight and gay parenting and the results are negligible in terms of psychological and material wellbeing” (Letters, April 24th). Such an extraordinary and counter-intuitive statement should not be allowed stand without providing links to such evidence, which I challenge him to furnish.

In return, I offer him, at http://www.tinyurl.ie/oq, copious hard evidence in support of the statement that “married biological parents are better for children”. - Yours etc,

Reference:
Head 2 Head “Should the state sanction gay marriage”, Irish Times, 14th January 2008

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Parents' wishes count on denominational schools
Online comment on 18th April to an Irish Times column by Senator Ronan Mullen, a pro-Catholic activist

However the Moderator evidently deemed my comment
far too friendly to the hated Catholicism, so it was censored into oblivion

All necessary information should be disseminated by the department ... Other parties, particularly those with vested interests, should not be encouraged to circulate parents and other members of the community.”

As if this Report of the Forum of Patronage and Pluralism did not itself reek of “vested interests”! Anti-Catholic, pro-atheist, pro-multiculturalism vested interests.

And
jody12, if parents, who are CONSTITUTIONALLY the educators of their children, happen to want their young children to be proselytized by the Catholic faith, then who exactly are you to tell them this cannot be allowed? Where do you fit into the constitution in regards to the education of other people's children? Ditto Snukes and others who express a similar sentiment.

Moreover,
jody12, on what basis do you make the arrogant assumption that parents who want a Catholic education for their children are "thick and ignorant", rather than yourself? (BTW,why do you and Snukes hide behind pseudonyms? Ashamed? I would be.)

The problem will all these anti-Catholics is that they are convinced they are right. But that is the same as Catholics. Catholics also believe they are right when they talk of God, Jesus, his teachings, heaven, hell etc. They would therefore be remiss NOT to share this good news with their own beloved children.

Just as anti-Catholics want to share their bad news!

We'll all know the truth only when we're dead.

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Why people avoided paying household charge
Online comment (P2) on 16th April an Irish Times column by a doctoral law student and a law professor

Stop calling it avoidancewhich is perfectly sensible, widespread and wholly lawful. Non payment of the household charge is tax evasion, pure and simple, which is a criminal offence.

If author Dan Hayen doesn't know the difference between tax avoidance and evasion, he is unlikely to gain his law doctorate. Unless of course his law professor is the similarly knowledge-challenged co-author Colin Scott. ;-]

Jim O'Sullivan

And right on Tony Allwright, what next, herding pensioners etc into prison for tax evasion or even worse again, confiscating their homes!!! We really have, well and truely, lost the plot.

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It's time Ireland woke up to sevens
Letter to the Irish Times on 5th April (unpublished - I'm still blacklisted)

Sir, - Alan Quinlan's appeal for the IRFU to embrace seven-a-side rugby was more timely than he evidently realised (It's time Ireland woke up to sevens, April 4th). He rightly emphasised that Sevens will feature in the 2016 Olympics. But he forgot to mention that the quadrennial Sevens World Cup will be held in Moscow as soon as next summer.

Moreover because of the inclusio  of Sevens in future Olympics tournaments, the 2013 Sevens World Cup in Russia will be the last ever. Therefore whoever wins it will become Sevens World Cup Champion for all eternity. In similar fashion, the United States won the Olympic title when Sevens was last an Olympic sport - in 1924 - so has reigned as Olympic Sevens Champion ever since.

For information, the current Sevens World Cup Champion (Dubai 2009) is Grand Slammer Wales. On that occasion, underdog Ireland, under doughty coach John Skurr, participated enthusiastically and reached the Quarter Finals by defeating mighty Australia (sound familiar?). Tournament details at http://tinyurl.ie/09-7s.

The IRFU needs forthwith to get the Sevens ball rolling, so to speak, if Ireland is not to be left behind in a wonderful, fast and furious version of international rugby, as Mr Quinlan so eloquently described. - Yours etc.

PS - The Irish Times kindly published two articles by me about the 2009 Sevens World Cup:
Lining out for the Dubai sevens heaven
Alternative rugby brings many surprises

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March 2012
Rejection would jeopardise stability and employment
Online comment (P2) on 8th March to an Irish Times column by Trinity professor of economics John O'Hagan
You ask:
Those against ratifying this treaty should explain how day-to-day State expenditure will be funded from 2013.

By stopping spending, that's how.

This State employs far more people than it needs to (not a single layoff since the downturn despite the crash in activity), and pays each of them far in excess of comparable jobs elsewhere in Europe (eg €100k for a doctor; €50k for the same doctor in France; ditto professors BTW!). If the public service were to cut numbers by 33% and pay by 33%, its cost would be halved.

However, since both this and the previous administrations have shown themselves utterly unable or unwilling to take seriously the massive budget deficit of €22bn, the best thing that can happen is that foreign loans dry up and the necessary - and eventually inevitable - cuts are enforced.

Only when the cost base has been ruthlessly driven down, and quickly, has Ireland a hope of recovery, and a stop be put to the shameful looting of the future of children, babies, foetuses and the yet unconceived.

Pat De'mond
John, You can see that Tony Allwright and 'Shellshock' have put their fingers on the answer--- where we read on the same page that the head of Barclays got paid an obscene €7.5 million in 2011. John your cosiness as described by qwerty51 leaves your mind set fixed on the status quo -- you are conditioned to read the game you are programmed in one way only.
9th March, 13:00:42

Wexford Musings
(@ Tony) I wish people would stop attacking the public sector. Some people who attack the public sector turn around and then complain about the services we receive, whether in hospitals, our roads, our water, refuse collections, SNA's etc. You cant have your cake and eat it too. Reducing staffing in the public sector will lead to a reduction in services. As an example take the plan to move the processing of Higher Education Grants to Dublin City VEC. Why is this happening, it wasn't so long ago that we were questioning how VECs handled there [sic] money, but I digress.

Here are some facts about the public sector and the savings achieved under the CPA:

1. Changes in areas like medical laboratories (now saving €5 million a year) and radiography (estimated savings of €3.5 million a year).

2. The Croke Park Implementation Body has verified that the agreement directly led to annual savings of over €680 million in the year up to June 2011, exceeding Government targets.

3. €289 million in payroll savings (compared to a target of €223 million) arising from reduced staffing, cuts in overtime costs, and various efficiencies

4. €308 million in non-payroll savings arising from greater efficiencies, work reorganisation and better use of resources including property rationalisation, improved procurement practices, and reduced purchasing costs

5. Almost €86 million savings from cost-avoidance initiatives

6. staff reductions achieved under Croke Park have exceeded the targets set, leading to substantial savings in the public service pay bill. Public service numbers fell by 16,000 in the two years up to mid-2011, generating annual savings of €900 million. This trend has continued in the second half of 2011.

7. Public service gross pay was cut by an average 14% (through direct pay cuts and the introduction of the so-called ‘pension levy’) before the Croke Park agreement came into force. Pay for new entrants has been reduced by an additional 10%, which means that new entrants to the public service are being paid almost a quarter less than in 2008

8. While recent political attention has rightly focussed on indefensible and unsustainable pension packages for a very few senior public servants, an answer to a recent Dáil question revealed that 78% of civil service pensioners receive annual pensions of €30,000 or less.

I could go on but I think I've made my point. Public sector workers are doing their best to make savings. All have taken pay and pension cuts. The public sector is not part of the problem but is, and has been for more than 3 years a part of the solution

John Ryan
9th March 2012, 13:56:56

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February 2012

It can be a stretch for women who reach dizzy heights
Online comment (P1) on 27th February to an Irish Times column by nn Marie Hourihane

"Being a very tall teenager of either sex is tough" [writes Ms Hourihan].

Tell me about it! As an awkward shy teenager, I was a towering 6ft 5in but was
+ the sole white man in first a boys' Chinese secondary school,
+ then the sole Caucasian male in an all-giggling Chinese typing school,
+ after that the sole honkie student in the University or Hong Kong.

Not wanting to sound stereotypical or anything, but the Chinese, especially Southerners, are not renowned for their loftiness.

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While many nations are embracing sevens ... Ireland continue to lag far behind
Online comment (P1) on 25h February to an Irish Times column about rugby 7s by Emma Stoney

A singularly unimaginative response by the IRFU. They should emulate Nike: "Just do it". Use 7s as a development step for young players, a kind of Ireland Academy, for minimal additional cost. That's certainly worked for Felix Jones.

Ireland competed in the 2009 World Cup in Dubai and performed creditably. Will it compete in next year's World Cup in Moscow? Pretty pathetic if it doesn't. It will be a last chance to win a 7s World Cup before this is replaced by the Olympics.

Oh, and America may be the reigning Olympic Games 7s rugby champions, but Wales are the current World Cup champions. See
http://tinyurl.ie/09-7s

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Time to end abuse of veto by big powers at UN
Two online comments (P1) on 14th February to an Irish Times column by Dr Aidan Hehir, director of the security and international relations programme at the University of Westminster

Pathetic article. Who exactly cast your supposed veto re the Rwandan genocide? When did house building become a fit subject for the UNSC to even discuss? And why is a future Palestinian state supposed to be Judenfrei anyway?  

The P5’s veto is not the problem with the UN. It is the UN’s endemic corruption that gives the president of tyrannies like Zimbabwe or Saudi Arabia equal voting powers as those of democracies like the US or New Zealand. It is perverse to consider that a club whose majority membership is dictatorships should somehow be the world’s moral arbiter on matters or war or human rights.  

The sooner the UN and other democracies defund the UN and set up their own United Democracies the better.

From fearghalobrien

@Tony Allwright, since the "house building" in question is in an occupied region, it's considered in breach of the Geneva convention. Breaches of this convention are most definitely relevant to the UNSC.

From Tony Allwright

@fearghalobrien  
The so-called Occupied Territories of the West Bank were seized in the 1967 Six Day War in self-defence from Jordan who had occupied it (illegally) ever since the unprovoked war it and other Arab states launched against Israel in 1948. Prior to that it was still technically part of the area legally Mandated by the League of Nations to the British after the WW1 defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.  

Moreover, the UN has never demanded Israel's unilateral (ie non-negotiated) withdrawal from the West Bank (eg UNSC 242).  

As such, under UN rules, the West Bank is "disputed" territory, not "occupied" (no legal sovereign entity preceded Israel there). Therefore Israel is as entitled as Palestinians to build on it until such time as the dispute is resolved. Furthermore, after resolution, why cannot Jews continue to live there (as Arabs live in Israel), or does the world believe a Palestinian State that includes the West Bank should conform to Hitler's Judenfrei philosophy?  

Have a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4SOr6HvuoA

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The real reason why drink crisis will persist
Online comment (P1) on 10th February to an Irish Times column by John Waters

No discussion of the cost of alcohol-fuelled damage and of the taxation of alcohol is coherent unless hard numbers are provided. Which €uro figure is higher?

Taxes on tobacco and the early deaths that tobacco causes (reducing pension payments) far outweigh the cost of treating tobacco-fuelled damage (eg treating lung cancer). In Britain, smokers pay for themselves in just 13 years.

Similarly, the British pay £14 billion a year in booze taxes, whereas alcohol misuse costs the NHS £1.7 bn, to which should be added a further £7 bn as the cost of alcohol-fuelled crime. So drink renders a net profit of £5 bn to the taxpayer.

Thus it would be a fiscal disaster if Brits gave up their booze and fags. Do we think the situation would be different here in Ireland?

So, John, next time quantify your arguments.

Elpenor Dignam (p2)
@Tony Allwright
One could cynically justify going to war on the same basis however this makes the argument no less morally repugnant.

inotherwords (p4)
@Tony Allwright
Interesting information there and i would expect similiar statistics for this country. Makes me feel less guilty at continuing to smoke throughout my adult life but gave up drinking alcohol about 27 years ago except for the rare glass of wine no more than 4 times a year. Whatever happens, i am paid up in full!

Of course the fact that i actually agree with JW today could drive me to drink......

Jim O'Sullivan (p7)
"Tony Allwright"
Is money all that counts? Your logic seems to be that it is cheaper to let people suffer and die prematurely rather than control consumption. What next, minimum speed restrictions of 200K an hour and 300 in built up areas? That should result in a few less pension payouts! The PD train left the station sometime ago!

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Reclaiming the word 'slut' is simply a step too far
Sardonic online comment (P3) on 3rd February to an Irish Times article promoting a Slutwalk protest

Bere says Could the Irish feminist movement ask the sisters to dress in really revealing clothes during their march, for the boys?

Yes, please. The less you wear, the more you prove your point that ... actually what is your point? Who cares? Just tell us where we can find your demo so that we can cheer on your cause. Please don't disappoint!

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Great strides made towards gender equality but playing field is still not level
Online comments (P1) on 1st February to an Irish Times article

Trinity College's Philosophical Society will debate on Thursday 2nd Feb whether "Patriarchy is inevitable" (I am an invited speaker). This article and the CSO report certainly illustrate that within Ireland anyway, the Matriarchy is on a relentlessly upward trajectory!

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January 2012
No surprise in political surrender to ECB blackmail
Online comments (P1 & 3) on 25th January to an Irish Times article by Vincent Browne

These problems would virtually vanish were the Irish Government to drastically cut back it's utterly profligate spending so as to bring the budget back into balance.

Last year alone it added €25 billion - a record - to the €120 billion national debt. This is nothing less than looting the future (that means the future of today's youngsters, toddlers, babies, foetuses and the yet unconceived) solely in order to shield the present from the consequences of today's adults' own past behaviour. If that isn't child abuse I don't know what is.

By balancing the budget, there would be no need for additional borrowing, so the effect of bond rates would become largely moot. 

25 Jan, 10:10:25

Johnny Volume
How exactly do you suggest the Govt "cut back it's utterly profligate spending so as to bring the budget back into balance"?? By closing hospitals, schools, garda stations? How much more do you think can be taken from this society before it implodes?

25 Jan, 11:58:57

Johnny Volume asks whether the Govt should "cut back it's utterly profligate spending so as to bring the budget back into balance" by "closing hospitals, schools, garda stations?" 

If that is the only way to close the deficit, the answer is yes. The economic implosion was caused by the adult generations of today. Therefore it is they who should pay the price and take the pain, not innocent future generations. Why is everyone so keen to punish children by confiscating their economic future, in order to pay for the sins of and avoid suffering by adults?

26 Jan, 08:12:58

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Supreme Court 'X' case ruling not good basis for abortion law
Online comment on 19th January to an Irish Times article by William Binchy, a pro-life professor of law

Wouldn't it be a fairer regime if abortion were permitted only during, say, the baby's first year outside the womb. Then the child would have a chance to make its case for life. If, however, the parents still decided they didn't want it, they would be entitled to have the infant put down before its first birthday.

Even the bull in the ring, or the fish on a hook, or the pheasant in the sights of a shotgun, or the fox fleeing from hounds has a chance to escape its fate, unlike an aborted foetus. 

Why should animals be treated better? 

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Pay to view link: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/ireland/article856828.ece

Time to pardon soldiers who left to fight Hitler
Online comment (p2+) on 14th January to an Irish Times article by Joseph Quinn, a doctoral researcher

This is where you can find the BBC items:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16343906
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b018xtr9/Face_the_Facts_The_Disowned_Army/

Ireland's treatment of these men, and even of their children, was truly shameful and without precedent in the non-Communist world. It is indicative of Ireland's official sympathy with the Nazi cause. Now in their late 80s and 90s, many of the surviving soldiers still live in fear of a knock on the door from the authorities.

Memorial to Seán Russell, killed while running Nazi guns for the IRA; click to enlargeYet even today, Ireland is the only EU country which still honours a native Nazi collaborator with a public statue (it's in Fairview Park), which only two years ago it renovated after vandals understandably knocked its head off. Moreover, the statue is the only one in Dublin to an Irish volunteer killed during World War 2. The man commemorated is of course the IRA’s Seán Russell who drowned on a Nazi submarine after negotiating some Nazi gun-running. See this photo from the Irish Times - http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/images/2009/0709/1224250318117_1.jpg.

Sorry, Sean Russell's is not the only Irish memorial to a Nazi collaborator. http://markhumphrys.com/sfira.tyranny.html#nazi.memorials

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Fee-paying schools are not a drain on taxpayers
Online comment on 5th January to an Irish Independent article by columnist David Quinn

One of the biggest issues, not mentioned here, is the issue of personal liberty. It is a gross infringement of personal liberty for one person (Government minister, Trade Union official, Labour party apparatchik, whatever) to try to prevent another free citizen from spending his/her money as he/she sees fit, whether it is to be spent on drink, holidays, better food, personal insurance, a larger house - or better education for his/her kids.

Moreover, the only reason parents use private schools is because they don't think the State schools are good enough. The solution, therefore, is surely to bring State schools (adequately funded as David Quinn's article illustrates) up to the level of private schools, which would then put the latter out of business.

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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
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 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
in
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.

+++++

Superfreakonomics
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.

+++++

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