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TALLRITE BLOG 
ARCHIVE

This archive, organized into months, and indexed by
time and alphabet,
contains all issues since inception, including the current week.

You can write to me at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com
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Ill-informed and Objectionable Comment by an anonymous reader

August 2009

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ISSUE #194 - 2nd August 2009

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ISSUE #195 - 16th August 2009

 

 

Date & Time in
Westernmost Europe

 

Calendar/Clock Source 

ISSUE #195 - 16th August 2009 [318+865=1183]

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Voting NO to Lisbon - Again

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Why Does the Left Favour Death? 

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Troublesome Software Upgrade

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Issue 195’s Comments to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 195

Voting NO to Lisbon - Again

    Four reasons to vote No
    Four reasons NOT to vote Yes

 

 

 

Why you should vote No to the Lisbon Treaty

Pjtimmins's Blog
attempts to Fisk my arguments,
not in my view very convincingly. 

You can listen to a summary of this post as a Podcast,
as presented to the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament
on 9 September 2009

Like Frankenstein's monster or Banquo's ghost, here comes the Lisbon Treaty once more rising from the undead in its latest incarnation, having been comprehensively killed in three referenda, twice in 2005 by French and Dutch electorates and once last year by the Irish. 

But the 52 million French plus 14m Dutch voters were then simply ignored and bypassed so as to avoid another pesky referendum, and their respective governments proudly ratified the treaty in 2008.  Sadly, however, the Irish constitution does not permit such an elegant solution, so Ireland is now being forced to vote for a second time on the same treaty, albeit with a few legal guarantees and assurances tagged on.  These will apparently address what are apparently the five main concerns of the hyper-sensitive Irish citizenry.  Or at least those that it is convenient to talk about:   

  1. Ireland will keep its Commissioner for all time

  2. Ireland will remain in control of its own tax rates, ie no harmonization of its corporate tax rate of 12½%, much resented by the French among others and much envied by American conservatives.

  3. There will be no conscription of innocent Irish lads into an EU army as cannon fodder for its imperial wars.

  4. The EU will not impose the “human right of abortion onto the recalcitrant Irish (notwithstanding the EU's latest draft Equality Directive which would apparently deny the right of doctors to not perform abortions on religious/conscience grounds). 

  5. Workers’ rights and public services will be protectedin Ireland (whatever that means). 

I don't know how legal or binding these guarantees or assurances are, but since they are not copper-fastened into the treaty itself they cannot be unchallengeable.  It seems to me they amount to political promises to make them binding at some point in the future.   This makes them sound more like assurances than guarantees” and thus a fertile future hunting ground for treaty lawyers.  

More to the point, however, these five issues only nibble at the edges of the Lisbon Treaty and studiously avoid its rotten core.  For it is this core to which a great many people (OK, me) fundamentally object. 

Arising from this, there are four powerful reasons to vote NO and four more NOT to vote yes.  Here they are in a handy, colour-coded cut-out guide. 

 

 Why we SHOULD vote NO

 
 

VOTE NO NBR 1:To start with, there is the dishonesty of having converted

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the readable, understandable if internally contradictory Treaty Establishing A Constitution For Europe” (or TEACoFEe as I once dubbed it - a “tea-coffee-or-whatever-you're-having-yourself” mishmash designed to please and annoy everyone in equal measure),
 

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into the Lisbon Reform Treaty, an interminable series of deliberately un-readable, un-understandable amendments to two prior EU treaties (Maastricht and Rome), while otherwise retaining nearly all of the contradictory content of the TEACoFEe rejected by the French and the Dutch. 

The first major reason to reject Lisbon is that no proposal founded on such purposeful dissembling should ever be supported, for you can never know what other dangerous deceits are hidden in it. 

Remember the words of Belgium's Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht, so honest in their dishonesty:

The aim of this [Lisbon] treaty is to be unreadable … The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear. It is a success.”

 
  VOTE NO NBR 2

The second major reason is similar but different.  Just as no rational person would ever dare sign a contract that he/she couldn't understand, so no-one should vote for a treaty that he/she couldn't understand, a point I argued last year (as did others). 

Think you can understand it?  See if you feel the same after you have set aside the necessary thirteen hours to give just a first reading to its 272 pages, which I've timed at three minutes per page.  It's here.  Of course to truly understand and absorb it you'll have to go through it a few more times.  So you better take a week's holiday so you have 40 free hours.   

In some ways, the US Congress and Senate face a problem similar to being asked to vote for an un-understandable treaty.  President Obama asked legislators to vote:

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in February for a 787 billion dollar stimulus bill, which they did;

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then in June for a Carbon Cap and Trade Bill, likely to add up to a trillion dollars in energy-related taxes, which Congress did and

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they are now being asked to vote for President Obama's $1.6 trillion Health Care Bill. 

In each case the problem is not (necessarily) the bills' complexity per se or indeed the horrendous price tags that will bankrupt America's grandchildren.  It is the enormous physical length of the bills - over a thousand pages each, filled with new policies and programs that require government or businesses to spend money - coupled with the short time allowed to study them because Mr Obama has wanted them passed in a hurry.  In the case of Cap'n'Trade, it was was hours; indeed at the time it was passed well before dawn the administrative staff had not even finished typing it.  (It is of course part of Mr Obama's cute strategy, perhaps learnt from Mr de Gucht - get the stuff passed without being read, because if it is read and understood it will never be passed.) 

It's not clear how every US legislator deals with such bills, but two of them have shared with us their canny methodology. 

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Senator Arlen Specter (originally Democrat, then Republican, now Democrat again) simply divides it up and distributes it to his staffers to do the reading for him.  Then he votes yes.  As a professional lawyer and big-shot professional law-maker he is far too busy self-preening to do the only job he is paid (handsomely) for. 

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House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (a Democrat) is perhaps more forthright, in a dishonourable sort of way.  He sees no point in reading these door-stopper bills whatsoever, in particular the thousand-page Health Care Bill, unless you have two days and two lawyers to interpret it for you. After all, it's only going to reform fully one-seventh of the US economy, so why bother to read it before voting to approve it?  In fact, why doesn't he get a voting button installed in his boudoir so he doesn't even need to get out of bed. 

Who can really believe that (m)any of America's other 533 Federal legislators will, before casting their vote, have scrutinised and fully absorbed the contents of these three gargantuan Bills?  Even Mr Obama himself has admitted he doesn't know everything that's in his signature health care bill. 

However the fact that highly-remunerated professional American legislators are so shameless that they vote away their citizens' money for generations into the future without even taking the trouble to read, study and understand what it is they are voting for, is no example for free Irish citizens to emulate. 

If we cannot understand the Lisbon Treaty - and rest assured few of us will be able to - we would, were we to approve the referendum, be as irresponsible to ourselves and future generations as Messrs Specter and Conyers. 

 
  VOTE NO NBR 3

Across the EU, some 60 to 85% (depending on your sources) of all legislation already originates in Brussels, which national governments are then obliged to promulgate into national law.  In recent times, new EU laws have been churned out at almost two thousand per year, now standing at over 30,000.  That leaves not even half which are originated by and within the EU countries concerned. 

Not content with this, Lisbon would transfer over a hundred new competencies from the national to the EU level, covering foreign, security, defence, trade, justice and economic policy.  Moreover, another sixty-plus EU mandated areas would move from unanimity to majority voting, reducing further the influence of individual EU nations.  This would represent the single largest transfer of powers, from States to Brussels, in the history of the European Union.

Just one example.  At present the EU gets its money from individual States, and doesn't like going cap-in-hand to them.  But would anyone feel comfortable knowing that under Lisbon the EU would gain power to impose its own taxes to raise money, with no stated limit - 1%, 5% 10%? ...

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See Article 259 on page C306/121 of Lisbon which

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amends Article 269 in

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either the Rome Treaty

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or the Maastricht Treaty,

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neither of which actually runs to 269 articles,

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in order to create Article 311 on p238 of a so-called consolidated treaty

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which supposedly consolidates all three treaties

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but is not itself a treaty thus has no legal force. 

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See how easy and fun this all is when you get stuck into it, and how potentially lucrative if you're lucky enough to be a treaty lawyer. 

Honestly, do citizens really want faceless EU power over member nations to increase even further, with ever more areas of national sovereignty surrendered to the Brusselarians, effectively forever? 

This is the third major reason to vote no. 

 
 

VOTE NO NBR 4:

In Ireland  all the main political parties are united in urging us to vote yes.  Lisbon is good for you,” they will say, “and voting No will destroy the country.  Trust me”. 

Trust you?  Really? 

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Trust the same ruling coalition that has brought the country to the brink of financial ruin with reckless, self-serving policies and neglect? 

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The same opposition parties so supine they effectively colluded and refused to oppose in any meaningful manner? 

Puhlease! 

In mid-2007, as certain prescient individuals began to warn that the Irish economy was about to collapse, an outraged Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach (prime minister) in the current ruling coalition, urged them to commit suicide”, such were his and his party's own economic ignorance and hubris.  No wonder he has had to cancel his lucrative lectures extolling himself as driver of the now defunct Celtic Tiger. 

As regards what is good for Ireland's economy, if there is one group of people whose judgement is supremely suspect it is that of the current political élite. 

If they are united in saying vote Yes, then that is the fourth major reason we really must vote No. 

 
     
 

Why we should NOT vote Yes

 
 

DON'T VOTE YES NBR 1

The difficulty of readability and understandability are recognized, even by the Yessirs who would have us approve the referendum.  That is why they are putting out postcards, pamphlets, websites and print, radio and TV blitzes to explain it to us plebs too ignorant to work it out for ourselves.

But the point always to remember is that we will not be voting on these explanations, however lucid or even correct, because they are not the treaty.  Moreover, why should we take on trust from people partisan to their cause that their exegeses are complete and accurate, rather than biased attempts to highlight and embellish the good stuff while obfuscating the bad? 

So while media campaigns, even when coherent and rational, are not in themselves a reason to vote No, they are also not a reason to vote Yes. 

 
 

DON'T VOTE YES NBR 2

Many prominent politicians, in Ireland, Brussels and elsewhere are urging us all to vote Yes.  Well, as Mandy Rice Davies so astutely observed in 1963, they would wouldn't they?  They are heavily invested, on a personal basis, in the continued enlargement of EU activity, because that is where all their careers lie. 

With the EU so influential in domestic law-making, very few domestic legislators are going to advance their careers by vigorously opposing what the EUrocracy wants. 

And if you're part of that EUrocracy - or bodies such as lobbies, lawyers, think-tanks, service providers which feed directly off the EUrocracy - you know that Lisbon's expanded powers can mean only one thing: much more work and even bigger budgets.   Thus you can expect massive recruitment of additional staff to administer the extra work load, which in turn means juicy promotional opportunities for you, not to mention enhanced job security. 

This may not be a strong reason to vote No, but the passionate exhortations of heavily self-interested individuals is no reason to vote Yes. 

 
 

DON'T VOTE YES NBR 3

Yessirs mostly frame the argument as one of remaining within or departing the EU.  For example, Pat Cox, Ireland's former president of the European Parliament, who has - understandably - gone native is an avid exponent of this dishonest line of argument, especially as you can couple it for good measure with a bit of traditional Brit-bashing since there is a huge anti-Lisbon constituency in the UK. 

In fact, none of the Irish Naysayers want to leave the EU.  We love the EU and we love the €uro.  Just as they are.  What we don't want is

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to expand the EU's powers with untold consequences and

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to create through an appallingly written document a treaty lawyer's paradise. 

The slippery reasoning of people like Mr Cox is again not a reason to vote No, but is certainly no argument for voting Yes.

 
 

DON'T VOTE YES NBR 4

The final red herring in the Lisbon soup is the credit crunch.  With absolutely no evidence to back it up, the Yessirs are claiming that the EU will so disdain Ireland should it have the temerity to vote No that somehow it would exact economic revenge on the country. 

This is such a calumny on the workings of the EU that it leaves me breathless.  Of course there will be some mightily unhappy EUrocrats who in a fit of spite will want to block what goodies they can from Ireland's maw. 

But the EU is not the Brusselarians - it's the 500 million citizens and it is only if they collectively decide Ireland must be punished that it will.  But the citizens of, at least, France, the Netherlands, Britain and Germany would clearly reject Lisbon if given the chance.  Moreover Charlie McCreevy, Ireland's own EU commissioner, has declared that if the Lisbon Treaty were put to referendum in every EU country, 95% would probably vote no like the Irish.  So a mass plot against Ireland is inconceivable. 

The economic crisis is another non-reason to vote Yes, and no impediment to voting No. 

 

In conclusion, why should we put up with being force-fed the Lisbon Treaty when it is so wrong: 

Vote NO for Ireland's future, and indeed for the future of the rest of the citizens of the EU.

Back to List of Contents

Why Does the Left Favour Death?

[We] love death, as you love life!” 

So said Arabia's Caliph Abu Bakr to Khosru, commander of Persian forces, on the eve of the Battle of Qadisiyya (within today's Iraq) in 636 AD between assembled Muslim forces and Persia.  He was trying to coax the Persians to submit to Islam or face death.  (They didn’t, they lost the battle and eventually converted to Islam anyway.)

Suicide bomber posters; click to enlargeThe concept has taken hold within Islam ever since, and been given new legs in recent decades with the Palestinians' war against Israel and Al Qaeda's against the West.  The Jihadists have renewed their enthusiasm for suicide bombing, and this is being ingrained into children in the West Bank and Gaza on an almost daily basis, though lessons, chat-shows, videos and pin-up posters of dead bombers. 

They love death and (the Islamic version of) martyrdom, whereas we in the West undoubtedly love life. 

Or do we, do we all?

Actually there is a big section of Western society that behaves in a manner that disdains life and seeks opportunity to destroy lives other than their own. 

This death cult seems to be embedded in the modern Left, covering all stages of humanity.  Consider:

Abortion

The Orwellian-named Pro-Choice movement favours abortion as the pre-eminent solution to a problem pregnancy.  You will not find their clinics advocating that the troubled pregnant mother carry the baby to term and then either raise it of have it adopted.  Nor will they explain in any detail the abortion procedure nor the effect on the baby.  Indeed they consider it an outrageous affront to, for example, show the woman videos of her living foetus or of abortions or a plastic model of a foetus or to explain some of the long-term physical and mental consequences of abortion.   Too much information is a dangerous thing - If she better understood the mechanics and implications of abortion she might be deterred from such a route. 

Instead, outfits with names such as Positive Options” offer advice using the key dogwhistle expression of non-judgemental” or variants, whose subliminal meaning is we will fix you up with an abortion

Euthanasia

At the other end of the life scale is euthanasia, or assisted suicide.  While anyone is entitled to take his/her own life, to provide assistance for this is to help kill another human being. 

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Yet on the one hand, there is an ever-strengthening movement to provide legal immunity for this, which can only encourage more such killings.  It also creates the moral hazard that some relatives might be tempted to encourage granny to exit her expensive nursing home and do the decent thing, before the juicy inheritance in her bank has been depleted too much. 

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On the other hand, when the State runs the health care system as it does in Britain (and as President Obama is trying to implement in America), budget constraints mean that bureaucrats must decide whether it is worth spending money keeping granny alive.  In Britain, they've settled on £30,000 as the maximum to spend on prolonging a human life by a year.  So if granny's £35,000 treatment would extend her life by twelve months, then the administrator will tell you to tell her bye-bye.  The NHS, brainchild of the post-war Left-wing Labour government, mandates she must die. 

Gay Marriage

For those lucky enough to escape abortion and who haven't yet reached the euthanasia stage, there comes the business of children.  Once again it is the Left that it is in the vanguard of making this difficult. 

Marriage has existed highly successfully through the ages as the institution that fosters procreation and provides the best environment for rearing children.  That's why society has always arranged its laws to encourage this process.  For without babies, any society will die, as Japan and Russia are currently and irreversibly dying with demographically suicidal baby rates of and 1.26 and 1.17 per woman.  Yet now we have a Left-driven movement to get the state involved in same-sex marriage under the all-purpose rubric of human rights.  It wants to extend the tax, pension and other advantages of couples who are in a position to propagate and rear productive future citizens, to other couples who simply can't.  Once again, the Left favours solutions that don't favour life.

People can privately marry whom (or what) they want in whatever ceremony they choose, and call it marriage or union or whatever.  But since this brings no benefit to the state, the state has no business getting involved. 

Moreover, once the one-man-one-woman formula for marriage is violated, why stop at one-man-one-man?  Why not three people, or a man and five camels, or indeed a woman (Amy Wolfe, 33) and a fairground ride?[**]  And why must sex be involved?  Why shouldn't a pair of bridge partners or spinster sisters or a man and his sons be eligible for the tax breaks?  Everyone has human rights”. 

**Late Note (March 2010)
Or, for that matter a man (Lee Jin-Gyu from South Korea, 28) and his
dakimakura.  This is a long, huggable pillow from Japan, with a picture printed on the side.  In Mr Lee's case the illustration is of Fate Testarossa, a woman from the magical girl anime series Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha.

Greenery

Meanwhile, in a further anti-life move, it is the Left, under the guise of greenery, that believes the solution to overpopulation is for the underpopulated Caucasians to reduce their own reproduction rate to a demographically perilous two children per couple while ignoring the high birthrates of most African and Asian societies. 

IVF

Yet in the midst of all this anti-lifery, the Left is also prominent in promoting IVF reproduction, a lucrative business that now earns more money than plastic surgery.  It targets not only infertile married couples, but unmarried couples, singles, lesbians, surrogates and women beyond child-bearing age, with little thought for the future prospects or emotional wellbeing of the confused offspring that result.  Intrinsic in the technology is the need to produce many embryos of which only a few will survive and the majority are eventually destroyed.  For anyone who believes that life begins at conception, this is further destruction of human life. 

Capital Punishment

Yet there is one area where the Left is most vehemently pro life, in stark contrast to some elements on the Right who are anti in equal measure: capital punishment.  Personally I am with the Leftists on this - I too oppose executing even the most heinous criminals because I believe it is intrinsically wrong to take human life if you don't need to.  To protect society you only have to take them out of circulation permanently - a life sentence which means life. 

Yet is it not odd that the Left oppose only the killing of people who have been proven guilty of crimes, yet foster the killing of innocents? 

And we haven't even talked about the Left's tolerance of murderous dictatorships, from Mao to Stalin to Castro to Pol Pot to Ho Chi Minh to Saddam, to name but a few. 

+ + + + + + +

I have no way to rationalise this.  But it clearly isn't just Islamic suicide-bombers who love death and disdain life.

Back to List of Contents

Troublesome Software Upgrade

TO:
IT Support Team

Dear IT Support Team:

Last year I upgraded from Girlfriend 5.0 to Wife 1.0.

I soon noticed that the new program began unexpected child-processes that took up a lot of space and valuable resources. In addition, Wife 1.0 installed itself into all other program and now monitors all other system activities. Applications such as Stagnights 10.3, Rugby 5.0, BeerWithBuddies 7.5, and Outings 3.6 no longer run, crashing the system whenever selected.

I can’t seem to keep Wife 1.0 in the background while attempting to run my favourite applications. I’m thinking about going back to Girlfriend 5.0, but the “uninstall” doesn’t work on Wife 1.0. Please help!

Thanks,

A Troubled User

REPLY:

Dear Troubled User:

This is a very common problem that people complain about. Many people upgrade from the latest available version of Girlfriend to Wife 1.0, thinking that it is just a Utilities and Entertainment program.

But Wife 1.0 is an OPERATING SYSTEM and is designed by its Creator to run EVERYTHING!!! It is also impossible to delete Wife 1.0 and to return to Girlfriend 5.0. It is impossible to uninstall, or purge the program files from the system once installed.

You cannot go back to Girlfriend 5.0 because Wife 1.0 is designed not to allow this. (Look in your Wife 1.0 Manual under Warnings - Alimony - Child Support).

I recommend that you keep Wife1.0 and work on improving the environment. I suggest installing the background application “Yes Dear” to alleviate software augmentation. The best course of action is to enter the command C:APOLOGIZE because ultimately you will have to give the APOLOGIZE command before the system will return to normal anyway.

Wife 1.0 is a great program, but it tends to be very high maintenance. Wife 1.0 comes with several support programs, such as Clean 2.5, Sweep 3.0, Cook 1.5 and DoLaundry 4.2. However, be very careful how you use these programs.  Improper use will cause the system to launch the program NagNag 9.5. Once this happens, the only way to improve the performance of Wife 1.0 is to purchase additional software. I recommend Furla 2.1, Prada 6.1 and Cartier/Jewellery 5.0.

WARNING: DO NOT, under any circumstances, install SecretaryWithShortSkirt 3.3. This application is not supported by Wife 1.0 and will cause irreversible damage to the operating system.

Best of luck,

Tech Support Team 

English Weather

In deference to The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Royal Commission for Political Correctness, it was announced today that the local climate in the UK should no longer be referred to as English Weather”.  

Rather than offend a sizable portion of the population, it will now be referred to as Muslim Weather”. 

In other words - partly Sunni, but mostly Shi'ite.

Back to List of Contents

ssue 195’s Comments to Cyberspace

Four submissions for this issue, one of which (the second in the list) got published in print in edited form, though not my rebuttal of my rebutter. 

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Obama "Birthers" (Again)
Letter to the Sunday Times
Andrew Sullivan's adulation and self-abasement before President Obama and horror that some Americans might actually oppose him or his policies are, frankly, becoming embarrassing.  His disparagement of the "birthers" by misrepresenting their argument is the latest illustration. He surely knows that ...

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Obama 'Birthers' P!
Letter published in the Irish Independent on 12th August 2009
In his tale of personal horror at the very idea that some Americans might oppose President Obama or his policies, David Aaronovitch demonstrates exactly why the "birthers" have gained such traction.  He describes how the birthers are questioning whether Mr Obama was, as the Constitution demands, born in the US. This is due to some flimsy evidence such as ...

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What Obama and My [ie Chuck Norris's] Wife Have in Common
Comment on an article by Chuck Norris
The Hawaii document everyone is providing links to in this thread is NOT President Obama's birth certificate. It is a computer-generated Certification of Live Birth, a different document altogether and one which for certain purposes even the State of Hawaii does not accept as a birth certificate. 

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Obama's gesture to the Jews
Comment in the Spectator-hosted Melanie Philips Blog
Not content with insulting Jews, Mary Robinson then insulted the Irish people by aborting her term as president before full term simply because Koffi Annan made a better offer at the UN.  Actually anti-Semitism in Ireland is closely linked to anti-Unionism ...

Back to List of Contents

Quotes for Issue 195

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

Quote: “Tolerance alone is not acceptable, as it is often accompanied by contempt.”

Niall Crowley, the director of Ireland's Equality Authority
until last December, when he quit in a huff over budget cuts.

He was commenting on the unacceptable face of tolerance,
tolerance of gay lifestyles in this case.

Apparently these need to be celebrated as well as tolerated.

It is unacceptable to feel any contempt (for anything? anybody?),
even if you never act on it 

- - - - - N E T H E R L A N D S - - - - -

Quote: Dutch embrace Islamic name  Embrace?

A delicious Australian headline on a report that
Mohammed is now the most popular choice of name for male babies
in the Netherlands' four biggest cities,
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

Muhammad is also the most popular first name in the world
and the second-most popular baby name in Britain.

- - - - - O B A M A - - - - -

Quote: “There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

Linda Douglass, communications director
for the
White House’s Health Reform Office

The White House is disgusted by freeborn US citizens who
traitorously dare to disagree with President Obama's health care plans. 

E-mails, casual conversation and thoughts need to be rigorously suppressed.
Citizens must be encouraged to participate in this endeavour
by eavesdropping and reporting on their fishyneighbours to the White House.

  George Orwell would be proud.

Quote: “You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you are talking about.”

In an unteleprompted response, President Obama admits
that not even he is aware of what's in his Obamacare bill, named HR 3200,
when asked if Section 102 of the House health legislation
would outlaw private insurance.

Quote: “By the authority vested in me ... I hereby determine ... to furnish assistance [of] $20.3 million ... for ... refugee and migration needs ... related to humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza.

President Barack Obama commits US taxpayers' money
to facilitate the immigration into America,
including
housing and food allowances,
of thousands of Palestinians who voted for Hamas
in the parliamentary election of January 2006,
some of whom may well even be members of same.

Few American citizens seem to have noticed
this his fifteenth such
Presidential Determination.

Quote: “Mary Robinson’s Medal of Freedom [indicates that her] anti-Americanism and anti-Israel activism win Obama’s approbation.” 

John Bolton, America's acerbic former ambassador
to the United Nations under George W Bush,
is not impressed by President Obama's decoration of
Ireland's feckless former president.

Her anti-Semitism is eloquently chronicled in an
open letter to her from
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch

Quote: What we want to do is to send a message to whoever is making these decisions, that if you're pursuing nuclear weapons for the purpose of intimidating, of projecting your power, we're not going to let that happen ... We're going to do everything we can to prevent you [Iran] from ever getting a nuclear weapon ... We believe, as a matter of policy, it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons.

Hilary Clinton, Mr Obama's Secretary of State,
seems to go completely off-message
as she revs up the US Air Force for its anti-nuclear bombing raid. 

For are not the Iranian theocracy now Mr Obama's best friends,
enjoying all the fruits of his renowned
Reset button?

Quote: I have absolutely no belief in my mind that that is going to happen.

Hilary Clinton, in her Machiavellian way, confirms
that she will challenge her boss for the presidency in 2012

- - - - - P A L E S T I N E - - - - -

Quote: Fatah will continue to sacrifice victims until Jerusalem will be returned [to the Palestinians], clean of settlements and settlers ... including the outlying villages.” 

Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah, the moderate” party leading the Palestinians
and (unlike its rival Hamas) recognized by the world,
finally reveals its true colours following a three-day convention in Bethlehem. 

Nothing is acceptable but the ethnic cleansing of all Jews
both from all of Jerusalem east and west
and from the
outlying villages”,
meaning the rest of Israel and its settlements
.

Any talk of a peace agreement or a two-state solution
is therefore, as far as Fatah (and of course Hamas) are concerned,
nothing but a smokescreen and a sham.

It's good to have clarity.

- - - - - C O M M E R C E - - - - -

Quote: “Commerce: A kind of transaction in which

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A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation

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B picks the pocket of D of money belonging to E.

Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil’s Dictionary
(written between 1881 and 1906)

In our cynical and bitter Credit Crunch era,
many people are quoting this hoary but amusing dictum

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ISSUE #194 - 2nd August 2009 221+255=476

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Tale of a Fallen Irish Warrior

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Burma/Myanmar: Observations from a Trip

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Lion World, Yangon - Restaurant Review

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Billions and Trillions

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Issue 194’s Comments to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 194

SPECIAL BURMA / MYANMAR EDITION

I am back, after two months of distraction caused by
unwarranted business, travel and even pleasure.

This included a trip to Burma,
or Myanmar as its ruling junta now likes us to call it,
the inspiration for the next three posts. 

Tale of a Fallen Irish Warrior

Click to view newspaper articlePhilip Francis Brennan was born in the little village of Kilsheelan in South Tipperary in 1916, his mother’s fifth child and second son, with one baby girl to arrive a year later.  His father, also Philip, had another three teenage daughters by a first wife who had died. 

With a small farm and some merchant interests that included wine trading (for which the market must surely have been tiny), Philip père was able to support his large brood to a reasonable standard.  His passion was coursing; indeed he was a founder in 1916 of the Irish Coursing Club which prevails to this day.  (Coursing is the popular, largely Irish pastime of setting greyhounds to catch hares, much reviled today by animal rights groups.) 

But then disaster overtook the family.   He succumbed to the Spanish Flu which swept the world in 1918/19, spread largely by returning WW1 soldiers, which killed more people than the war itself.  There has been no pandemic like it since, though some say the H1N1 swine flu has the potential to become equally lethal. 

He left behind his widow Ethel to care for their six children under eight plus three unruly step-daughters, but little in the way of assets or income other than the farm.  Life became immeasurably harder and in 1930 Ethel expired, still a youthful woman of, essentially, exhaustion.  Her children were all under 20 when they were orphaned and had to make their own way in life. 

After his father died, little Phil had been sent to England to live much of the time with his aunt Rachel, known universally as “Me-Ant”, in Bury St Edmunds where she was a primary school headmistress.  Thus, though he also attended Rockwell College in Tipperary as a boarder, he spent many of his formative years with Rachel.  

Hence it was as a young adult in England that he joined the Shepherd Neame Brewery (makers of today’s iconic Spitfire ale) as an apprentice brewer with an assured-looking future.  These were the peaceful mid-thirties and before long he signed up to the volunteer reservists of the British Territorial Army.  Many young guys did likewise because, simply, it was good fun.  You did a bit of marching, went on camping trips, got to shoot guns, enjoyed great camaraderie drinking beer together and chasing girls, and even got paid a little money.  What’s not to like? 

However as a reservist Phil discovered in 1939, as did so many American reservists in 2002 and 2003, that when war breaks out you can to your surprise quickly find yourself in combat zones, not through conscription but because you are already a trained volunteer member of the armed forces. 

That’s how Phil found himself commissioned as a Second Lieutenant gunner with the Royal Artillery in France in 1940, as part of the British Expeditionary Force sent in the vain attempt to keep the Nazi military behemoth at bay.  And of course it ended in disaster with the BEF chased ignominiously back to the beaches of Dunkirk.  There, over a fraught period of just nine days in the early summer of 1940, a plucky armada of 850 professional and amateur boats sailing from southern England rescued a third of a million men.  Phil was one of the last, having stayed behind to destroy guns which would otherwise have fallen to the Germans, for which he got mentioned in despatches.  But his travels, travails and war were just beginning. 

He was just one of 70,000 men (and some women) from the Republic of Ireland who joined the British armed forces in order to fight the rising fascism, imperialism and global aspirations of Germany, Japan and their assorted hangers-on, or should I say allies.  With Ireland staying out after deciding it didn’t have a dog in this fight, some joined up for altruistic reasons, others for adventure, a number for the money, some ended up conscripted while many, like Phil, were yoked in by accident. 

Memorial to Seán Russell, killed while running Nazi guns for the IRA; click to enlargeAll were honourable and courageous young people who should never have been regarded in their home country with the disdain they endured for so many decades afterwards. 

[Late (January 2012) note: Five thousand of them, who had deserted the Irish Army to fight Nazi and Japanese fascism, were singled out for vindictive revenge by the State]. 

It is extraordinary (and disgraceful) that the only statue in Dublin to an Irish volunteer killed during World War 2 is to the IRA’s Seán Russell in Fairview Park, who was the only one who supported and collaborated with the Nazis. 

Within two months of his rescue from Dunkirk, Phil had sailed to India during its monsoon season, seconded to the 23rd Mountain Battery within 25 Mountain Regiment.  This formed part of the Royal Indian Artillery, a unit to which he remained attached for the remainder of his service.  Always an avid equestrian, he was delighted his duties included responsibility for the horses and mules that supported the unmechanised Battery. 

My nonagenarian father remembers him well as a handsome, jovial, chatty fellow with a great turn of phrase.  This is evident in a letter he wrote to one of his sisters shortly after his arrival.  Having waxed lyrical about a batch of flirtatious “airgraphs” he unexpectedly received from some glamorous soldier-struck young ladies evidently in their final year of school, he doesn’t say much about the fighting but laments that he has never ridden an elephant or killed a tiger.  However there are lots of wild animals right there inside his tent doing a highland fling round his hurricane lamp – beetles, grasshoppers and assorted bugs. 

From India he is transferred to Burma but by late 1941 he has been moved westward again, to Quetta in today’s Pakistan, and after that to Waziristan to the town of Razmak, better known in those days, he tells us, as “the hole of the Empire”.  It’s all territory familiar to today’s Taliban and Al Qaeda and I doubt if contemporary soldiers fighting them would much dispute such an epithet.  Phil writes to “Me-Ant” that Ramzak is but a cantonment completely surrounded by barbed wire and “no woman has ever been let within 40 miles of it”.  He observes that the local Pathan “has a great sporting instinct and considers careless British officers fair game”.  One such local, “Buckshee Bill” with his “prehistoric” rifle, gains notoriety when he “shoots up six columns all on his own and then comes and sits on a hill slap outside the wire, taking further pot shots at officers, just for fun”.  But he melts into nothingness whenever soldiers are sent to stop him.  Being Irish, Phil admires these doughty men “because they’re all agin the government” and wishes he could recruit such able fighters. 

Yet he regrets not being in the thick of Japanese action, until he’s suddenly whisked back to Burma, as adjutant to his regiment with the rank of Major, one of the youngest in the British Army.  Even then however he is grumbling because “the Japs won’t fight” in Burma, a thoroughly misguided conjecture as he later admits.   He travels all over Burma as no-one is sure where the invaders will appear, meeting Shans, Chins, Kachins, Karens, all with their own  language and customs.  In fact it seems as if there are no Burmese in Burma at all. 

His pleasant surroundings remind him of Ireland, except for the bamboo and banana plants and “funny looking houses on stilts”.  But the fun stops when the army moves south to meet the Japanese invaders at last and some mighty battles ensue with plenty of casualties on both sides, though unfortunately the censors don’t allow him to relate details.  In his last letter, in June 1942, he is relieved to have survived “Round One” unlike many of his pals, while he and his comrades prepare, uncomplainingly, for the next round. 

Next three paragraphs re-written 27th August 2009,
due to emergence of additional information

Further clashes with the Japanese follow over the next five months but details are sketchy, largely no doubt because he has apparently volunteered to become part of the Army's secret, special forces guerilla organisation called V Force (V for volunteer).  This operates along the 1300 km mountainous Eastern Frontier of India running from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south and the Arakan region in Burma's north-west. V Force's remit is to remain behind enemy lines to harass their lines of command, patrol enemy occupied territory, carry out post-occupational sabotage and provide intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the Japanese out of India.   

It attracts adventurous young volunteers who are brimming with energy, find army regulations and traditions irksome and stuffy and are seeking action, excitement and the danger of working behind enemy lines. 

Major Phil Brennan's colleague in V ForcePhil is working and fighting in Arakan.  However on Tuesday 23rd November 1943, as part of his V Force remit, he sets off early on his horse to spy on Japanese positions with a colleague, Anthony Irwin, whom he has to meet up with on the other side of the Kalapazin river (on Google Earth, 20°50’14.60"N x 92°33’11.78"E).  Though it is deep and flowing deceptively fast, Phil is a strong swimmer, so rides his horse into the water but they quickly get into difficulty.  He sends his horse back while Irwin swims out to help him.  But Phil, weighed down with his trousers, boots, pistols and explosives, sinks from the grasp of his friend who himself almost drowns in the attempt to save him.  Irwin tells us that Phil’s last dying look is one of infinite sadness rather than fear.  He was just 27 years old. 

 My uncle, in his heyday

Today Phil, who was my uncle, lies in the majestic Taukkyan War Graves Cemetery, 35 kilometres north of Rangoon in Burma, to use the old names, which I had the At my uncle's graveside; poppies dedicated from all his nephews and niecesprivilege of visiting in July.  He is but one of the cemetery’s 6,465 fallen warriors who heroically gave their vibrant lives for an honourable cause, each with his own story such as Phil’s.  They come from Ireland, from all parts of Britain, from India including today’s Pakistan and Bangladesh, from West Africa; Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists; of every rank from high to low; each grave adorned with the same style of simple gravestone; all equal in death.  The majority of them were, like Phil, in their twenties.  But one was only sixteen.  Imagine.  Some of the inscriptions from distraught families would break your heart: “my only son”, “his warrior grave”, “he vowed to do his best and he did”, “our own lives shattered”. 

Another monument names 1,074 fallen Indian soldiers who have been cremated as their religious rites require.  28 monumental pillars are inscribed with the names of a further 27,000 men and women whose bodies were never recovered – hailing from Burma, India, Nepal, Africa and numerous other parts, many of them slave-labour victims of the brutal Japanese project to build a railway line to bring military supplies from Bangkok to Rangoon, immortalised in the 1957 movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai”.  And Taukkyan is just one of three such cemeteries in Burma, which was itself just one small corner of a vicious global conflict. 

We in the free world truly owe an extraordinary debt to these brave young people who fought and died so valiantly to preserve it for us.  We can repay it only by doing whatever we can to continue to safeguard human freedom.  Sadly, Burma itself is one country where it has been extinguished, by its totalitarian junta. 

Let me close by using the final, poignant words of Pat Carmichael, in his book Mountain Battery, which provides further details of my uncle Phil's deeds in Burma and ends by transcribing Anthony Irwin's account of his death. 

When you go home,
Tell them of us and say,
For your Tomorrow
We gave our Today

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Burma/Myanmar: Observations from a Trip

All that glisters ... Rangoon.  Click to enlarge.Myanmar may not be every tourist’s first port of call, but it has much to recommend a visit, assuming you have the perseverance to obtain a visa.  I made a trip there in July. 

The nearest embassy is in London, but requires that you post away your passport for three days.  Alternatively, you can visit a Myanmar embassy in person.  Once you have filled in countless forms, provided copies of your passport and travel details, furnished three passport photos and paid the requisite fees, the process is rather simple and courteous.  I applied in Kuala Lumpur, where I was impressed to read a sign saying that passports would not be issued or renewed for Myanmar citizens unless they could prove they were income tax compliant.  What an excellent idea to emulate. 

Flights to Myanmar are few, but there is a daily service out of Bangkok.  Yangon airport, though small, is very new, spacious and all glass and marble.  Immigration and customs work fine once you’ve filled out even more forms and had the stern uniformed officials minutely scrutinise your papers.  There is a helpful, English-speaking tourist office in the airport when you’ve cleared customs.  You’ll find that foreign mobile phones don’t work (you need to buy a local SIM card) but the internet does – just about and very slowly, but not Skype, all subtle reminders that you’re in a totalitarian state where communication must remain controllable.  

Unlike the airport, Yangon city, 20 km away, is really ramshackle – clearly no maintenance has been carried out for the 47 years the generals have been running the place. 

Downtown in ramshackle yet charming Yangon

It reminded me of Lagos (Nigeria) in the 1970s or Hong Kong in the 50s – dirty, broken paving stones, potholed roads, rust-bucket vehicles, dilapidated one-time gracious buildings from a bygone colonial era, hawkers selling food on the street (in fact after dark every pavement transmogrifies into a restaurant), mothers washing their naked toddlers in the drains, laundry hanging out of the windows to dry (in the rain), coolies asleep on make-shift beds (their only home).  The only things in good condition seem to be huge and magnificent gold-clad pagodas – hence the country’s moniker, “the golden land”.  Yet it has a certain charm, and at the same time, everyone seems very friendly and eager to talk to a foreigner – of whom there seemed to be very few. 

Everything is extraordinarily cheap for someone with hard currency.  Moreover, you quickly learn not to change money in the bank: a private money-changer will give you three times as many “Kyats” (pronounced Cha’).  One Thousand Myanmar Kyats, worth a US dollarThe biggest banknote is a thousand Kyats, worth about a US Dollar, so you end up with a huge wad of bills.  My downtown hotel, the Panorama, cost US$30 a night for a huge clean room, complete with bathroom, TV, minibar, aircon and breakfast.  A typical dish in a restaurant will set you back a couple of Euros; another Euro will buy you a pint of the local beer, called Myanmar.  For under forty Euro, you can have an ancient car with English-speaking driver at your disposal for a full day’s sightseeing. 

Myanmar, the size of France, is the largest country in Southeast Asia, 1900 km north to south (its coastline is of similar length), with 48 million people, 90% of them Buddhists.  It’s divided into fourteen provinces, most with their own language and culture – Hmongs, Shans, Chins, Kachins, Karens and of course Myanmarese to name but a few.  So you’ll need a lot of car-days to see much of that. 

On the other hand, a day-trip out of Yangon can delight.  The pagodas that dot the Shwedagon Pagoda in downtown Yangoncity of four million and the surrounding area are magnificent places of worship, in immaculate condition and wonderfully illuminated  at night by search lights, all funded by private donations from people who have very little to spare.  To see the wonderful buildings, statues, paintings and other icons and the devout behaviour of worshippers coming to pray almost makes you want to convert to Buddhism.

If you talk privately to the people – and a surprising number have a good command of English – you quickly learn that there is a visceral hatred, shared by perhaps 90% of the populace, for the military junta that governs them.  Citizens believe that spies and informants are everywhere, and that you can trust no-one you don’t know, much as the Stasi infiltrated East German society during the depraved decades of the Soviet Empire.  There is a ban on all (self declared) foreign correspondents, while photographing anything remotely military will have your camera confiscated. 

On the other hand, citizens welcome illicit activities such as black markets as symbols of political defiance as much as acts of economic necessity.  This includes sale, by men armed with oildrums, jugs and hoses, of unlimited petrol for a 50% mark-up, since the state will sell you only nine litres a day at its official filling stations. 

People will tell you they yearn for democracy and truly revere Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, currently facing a five-year prison term on trumped up charges, mainly because her period of house arrest has expired.  They have watched with fascination the recent upheavals in Iran, as similarly repressed people have sought to seize freedom from an equally wicked fascist regime.  The Myanmar junta fear only one thing: what would ensue were they to do the obvious thing and kill the pesky lady.  They seem to believe that the consequent public outrage would indeed spell the end of not just the junta but no doubt the lives of the “Leader General”, Tan Shwe and his cohorts.   

In the best traditions of nationalism and socialism (a deadly combination - especially when combined into a single word),  the generals forbid most forms of foreign investment and ensure major industry, such as there is, remains in the hands of the State.  It prefers to deal with fellow totalitarian governments, for example China for mineral mining and timber exports, North Korea for secret tunnel building (and maybe even outsourced nuclear activity).  For this reason, you see none of the familiar multinational names – such as McDonald’s, Exxon, Starbucks, Citibank, nor can you use your credit cards.  Private enterprise itself is impeded by bureaucratic red tape, except for very rudimentary businesses such as taxis, primitive restaurants, small shops.  Yet as in every totalitarian state, you are in no danger of being mugged in the street.  This is because crime, like all important businesses, has been nationalised and is the monopoly of the junta’s all-pervasive state machinery, the only entity allowed to rob, rape and kill you. 

Though several other Asian and African countries illustrate the same point, Myanmar is a classic illustration of the power of freedom and capitalism, or rather what happens when these are suppressed – poverty and lack of development.  Myanmar has an average GDP of just US$1,200 per person which puts it among the bottom eighth in the world, even poorer than Haiti.  Yet it is a nation rich in potential, with plenty of arable land, a 1900 km eminently fishable coastline, timber, metal ores, marble, limestone, precious stones, hydrocarbons, hydropower and a large young bright population.  The people know that the only reason Myanmar fails to emulate the performance of their much envied Asian neighbours such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore is the iron hand of the reviled junta.  They live in hopes that one day democracy will arrive, even if, some will whisper, courtesy of an American invasion. 

I am reminded of what Thomas Jefferson once said,

When the people fear their Government, there is tyranny. 
When the Government fears the people, there is liberty.
 
 

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Lion World, Yangon - Restaurant Review

Lion World by night

In Yangon, the main city of Myanmar (Rangoon and Burma for the more traditional) you seem to have a choice of three kinds of restaurants. 

There are a couple of five-star hotels, such as Traders, where you will get the kind of service, cuisine and prices you expect at the Four Seasons or Mandarin Hotel in any major city (so why would you go to one in Yangon?). 

Then there are establishments, Global Restaurant came highly recommendedsome with grand names such as the Global Restaurant, that front onto and over the street with ancient tiled floors and decrepit furniture like your granny’s kitchen but without her attention to cleaning, sweeping and maintenance.  These, and similar ones that appear only on the streets after dark, are the city’s busiest restaurants, many with open charcoal fires cooking strange-looking body parts, but with plenty of rice and delicious spicy smells.  They are so cheap the proprietors almost pay you to eat there.   

The third type aspires to be upmarket and goes some way to achieving this.  Lion World is one, situated on the corner of Shwedagon Pagoda Road which leads to the magnificent golden-roofed eponymous pagoda (Illustrated in previous post), and Bogyoke Aung San Road, which commemorates the assassinated father both of independent Burma and of the brave, beautiful, jailed Aung San Suu Kyi.  It is located on a wide verandah on the first floor of a bedraggled building, with tables set out in pairs along its length and a lit stage at one end.  You can get there via an outside staircase or take the lift.  But if you take the lift you have to wait while a little man runs to switch on the generator, and hope the generator keeps chuntering till you reach our destination. 

I went there two nights in a row and enjoyed the identical culinary and other experience each time.  The attraction wasn’t just the wonderful spicy fried rice served with microthin slices of pickled onions (1500 Kyats, pronounced Cha’, or €1.20 at the black market rate) and the big, plump, freshly barbecued prawns (60 cent each), or even the man-sized milk-jug of ice-cold Myanmar beer – that’s the brand name, not just the country – for a princely two  euro.  Or the pages of other delights that filled the menu, mainly variations on curries involving pork, fish, goat, chicken, mutton.

There also was, for want of a better word, a perpetual floor show.  Accompanied by a one-man electronic keyboard band, Singing Myanmar love songs, garlanded in tinsela succession of young girls would get up and sing the latest Myanmar love-songs.  These were delivered with deadly solemnity, the girl’s face always hidden behind her huge microphone, sometimes even singing in tune, and often garlanded by a waiter with a tinfoil boa or a bouquet of plastic flowers.  The important thing was the amplifier with the bass set at its thud-thud-thud maximum, which would have the barbecued prawns jumping off the plate and into your spicy fried rice.  Her number accomplished, the singer would then immediately rush off the back of the stage lest anyone should add to her confusion by applauding.  Which nobody ever did. 

The singers would then be interspersed with an extraordinary fashion show down a scruffy red-carpeted catwalk constructed between the tables.  Here come the girls ... identically attiredEight slender young ladies would show up on stage and one-by-one parade, steely-faced, looking neither right nor left and obviously consumed with embarrassment, down the catwalk.  But each would be wearing the identical attire, either an evening gown or a day outfit and always altitude-sickness heels, preferably studded with diamonds.  Sadly, it was impossible to elicit as much as a smile or a grin or a twinkle from any of these Myanmar models.  I know; I tried (but then sensible girls always run a mile when I attempt to be suave). For their final act, the mannequins would parade in a crocodile line up and down the catwalk.  Then, after another warbler, the eight girls would return and perform the selfsame act but in a different communal costume. 

Since there were no announcements or advertisements to tell you where you could buy the clothes being displayed, it was a mystery to me who was paying for the costly show and why.  At the ridiculous prices being charged for food and drink, the restaurant itself could not have had much of a margin for such frivolity. 

Photography in Lion World is strictly forbidden, especially of the fashion models, for fear that this would inexorably lead to the collapse of public morals.  So I dodged the waiters and photographed them anyway on the principle of act-now-apologise-later.  Sorry. 

Despite everything I have said, however, the atmosphere was rather charming and delightful, and the food was delicious and very economical.  I would certainly recommend Lion World – but don’t sit too near to those monster loudspeakers with their woofers.  And leave your camera at the hotel. 

Late Note (1 Sep 09):

Oh, and as I later discovered via the internet, the far end of the long thin restaurant turns out to be the centre of Yangon’s gay scene, though it looked pretty tame to me.  In any case I escaped unscathed. 

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Billions and Trillions

In this extraordinary age of Government stimuli and bank bailouts, ultimately to be funded by taxpayers, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as yet unborn, it is helpful to understand the kinds of units being bandied around.  In Europe it’s stimuli in the Billions and hundreds of Billions of €uro (or Pounds); in America the Messiah prefers Trillions of Dollars. 

But who can really understand what these numbers mean in practice?  Well here’s a way. 

Suppose instead of €uros, Pounds and Dollars, we were talking about seconds ticking by. Suppose, for example, that you are being being paid, per second, one €uro or one Pound or one Dollar.  How long, do you think, before you will have earned a million, or a billion?

Here’s the answer:

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One second = 1 second

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Ten seconds = 10 seconds

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A Hundred seconds = 1.7 minutes

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A Thousand seconds = 17 minutes

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A Million seconds = 12 days

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A Billion seconds = 32 years

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A Trillion seconds = 32,000 years

This illustrates the terrifying reality of exponentialism in action. 

Makes you think, no?

And as I’ve argued separately, these stimuli are entirely unwarranted, because the drops in oil price and associated commodities over the past year are providing more than enough stimuli to world economies, and should at least be given a chance to work their magic before adding to them out of taxpayer's pocketsw.  Moreover, they not only never need to be paid back, but will last only so long as the depressed world economy requires them. 

Why should our grandchildren and yet unborn great-grandchildren be burdened, without any consultation, with repaying the trillion €/£/$ debts to meet our unnecessary profligacy? Why, as a result, should they be forced to lead less wealthy, less comfortable lives than we ourselves are living? 

Don’t listen to people’s guff about caring for the wellbeing of children and for their future.  Anyone who supports these billions and trillions of spending clearly has nothing but the utmost contempt for children, for tiny babies, for the unborn and for the yet unconceived. 

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Issue 194’s Comments to Cyberspace

I have been idle during my two months absence - only managed to stir myself into making half-a-dozen cybercomments of note. 

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Do you think the G8 commitments on climate change
mark a new departure in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Comment in the Irish Times in response to a poll question
The G8 commitments mark a new departure certainly, in the sense of committing even more of taxpayers’ money to the cause. But it won’t make the slightest difference to the march of the climate. Firstly, the world’s average temperature has been cooling throughout this century ...

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Do you think Bernard Madoff’s 150 year sentence is excessive?
Comment in the Irish Times in response to a poll question
You’ve got to hand it to Bernie. Once the law was on to him, he knew the game was up for him personally. The gigantic nature of his frauds, plus his advanced years, meant that he would never get out of prison alive.  So he obviously brought his family together (wife, sons, brothers) and said words to the effect, I’m dead meat ...

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Should the entire primary school infrastructure be taken into public ownership?Comment in the Irish Times in response to a poll question
Absolutely not. When was this government - or any government anywhere - able to run schools, or indeed any business? That is where their competency most definitely does not run. If the schools are to be wrenched from the religious orders ...

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The modern heresy of true science
Comment in the Spectator-hosted Melanie Philips Blog
The “science” that purports to prove global warming is caused by anthropogenic CO2 is indeed bunkum.  Just have a look at this excellent layman’s guide to the molecular physics involved.  To summarise, CO2 molecules warm the world by vibrating when hit by infrared rays from the sun bouncing off the earth.  It’s the vibrations that give off heat.  But the molecules are tickled into vibrating by only 8% of the infrared spectrum.  Moreover, ...

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Should the world fear North Korea’s latest sabre rattling?
Comment in the Irish Times to a poll question
North Korea’s improved nuclear weapons, its renunciation of the 1953 armistice and the unpredictability of Kim Jong Il its dictator make for a very dangerous combination indeed. With the two Koreas now technically back in a
hot war, does Seoul wait for a bomb to arrive from the North or does it pre-empt and invade? In either event, dreadful conflagration could follow, sucking in both China and America, the respective allies.  And what will Iran do as it watches ...

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Should the Government freeze the assets of religious orders
that refuse to pay more compensation to abuse victims?

Comment in the Irish Times in response to a poll question

The Government voluntarily landed itself with 90% of the compo tab due solely to the utter ineptitude of Minister Woods, his negotiators and the Cabinet of the day. Nevertheless, a signed contract cannot under the law be unilaterally invalidated, which is what in effect the freezing of assets would be attempting ... Every - EVERY - adult played his/her part in these hideous abuses ...

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Quotes for Issue 194

- - - - - O B A M A - - - - -

Quote: I don’t have all the facts ... the Cambridge Police acted stupidly.”

President Barack Obama responds stupidly to a planted question
over a minor irrelevant law-enforcement incident
in spite of knowing that he didn’t know the full facts about
the rightful arrest of his friend Professor
Henry Louis Skip
Gates
for disorderly conduct.

The next day he reinforced his comment. 
The day after that he semi-retracted it but didn’t apologise. 

Then he invited all involved for a beer at the White House.

Is such behaviour presidential, or just racist? 

Quote: “And so next to Obama beach, we join President Obama to pay particular tribute to the spectacular bravery of American soldiers who gave their lives.”

A Freudian slip by a fawning Gordon Brown,
speaking at D-Day commemorations at Omaha Beach

Quote: I would hope that a wise white male with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman, who hasn’t lived that life.

Oops! 

That’s what President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee
Sonia Sotomayor, a second generation Hispanic American,
and obviously a racist, didn’t quite say. 

A member of the National Council of La Raza (The Race),
she said it with the wise white male
and the Latina woman transposed.

Quote: The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, for other than manslaughter or corruption [ie infidelity] in the earth, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.  Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s sovereignty), but afterwards lo! Many of them become prodigals of the earth. The only reward for those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land.

President Barack Hussein Obama quotes
verses 5:32-35 from the Koran, approvingly. 

Except he leaves out the inconvenient bits in red
in order to deceive his infidel listeners
into thinking that the Koran somehow promotes peace and harmony. 

More here

Quote: “[Overseas,] neither friend nor foe respects Obama.  And neither will be led by him.

Jed Babbin, editor of Human Events magazine,
and one time deputy undersecretary of defence under George HW Bush.

He is commenting on, inter alia,
North Korea’s rocket and nuclear testing,
Israel’s continued expansion of West Bank settlements,
Iran’s deployment of warships in the Gulf of Aden,
Nato’s allies refusal to send combat troops to Afghanistan.

Joe Biden was uncomfortably prescient when,
alluding to his running mate’s inexperience, he said last October
it will not be six months before
the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy

... we’re going to have an international crisis
.”

Quote: Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me.

Rev Jeremiah Wright, the deeply unpleasant pastor
who married the Obamas, christened their children
and preached to the Obamas for twenty years,
reminds everyone that he is as thoroughly racist as ever.

Quote: I’d burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt.

Farouk Hosni, Egypt’s Minister of Culture,
who has been nominated as the next head of UNESCO,
the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization”.

His confirmation will confirm the UN’s belief that
Jews cannot possibly contribute anything to education, science or culture.

Personally, I would put the UN in charge of dishing out Nobel prizes
 to ensure Israel doesn’t add to its unwarranted tally of eight.

- - - - - C A N A D A - - - - -

Quote: So much of the criticism Israel faces is motivated by a dangerous form of anti-Semitism that tries to hide behind anti-Zionism and is represented by a coalition of the far left in the West with extreme currents of jihadi Islam that seek the destruction of the Jewish nation. They seem to believe that the Jewish people are the only people in the world that don’t have a right to a homeland.

Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of
citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism
,
elected Canada’sBest Overall MP by fellow parliamentarians.

He is that rare breed of Western politician,
prepared to identify the blindingly obvious
modern incarnation of ancient anti-Semitism.

- - - - - G E R M A N Y - - - - -

Quote: The fall in the [ethnic German] population can no longer be stopped.  The downward spiral is no longer reversible.  It will be a Muslim state by 2050.

The German Government, via its Federal Statistics Office
is the first in Europe to admit a horrifying reality. 

The Germans’ current fertility rate is just 1.3 babies per woman,
a demographically suicidal rate
which history has shown to be impossible to recover from. 

- - - - - L I S B O N   T R E A T Y - - - - -

Quote: In France, 80% of the legislation passed by the National Assembly in Paris originates in Brussels — that is, at the European Union’s civil service. Who drafts it? Who approves it? Whom do you call to complain? Whom do you run against and in what election? And where do you go to escape it? Not to the next town, not to the next county, not to the next country.

Mark Steyn encapsulates EU lawmaking and the Lisbon Treaty nicely

- - - - - C L I M A T E - - - - -

Quote: Worrying is the way the responsible citizen of an advanced society demonstrates his virtue: he feels good by feeling bad.

Correspondent Adam Boysel of Muscatine, Iowa, writing to Mark Steyn
about (what I call) the
Climate Changeology Cult

Quote: Politics is made up of two words: poli, which is Greek for many, and tics, which are bloodsucking insects.

Gore Vidal, sometime in the 1980s;
cousin of Al the professional global warm-monger

- - -  - - C L E R I C A L   A B U S E - - - - -

Quote: As a congregation, we recognise and accept our culpability along with our moral obligation to former residents, to present and future generations of children and to society as a whole.

The Christian Brothers, one of Ireland’s leading clerical orders,
accepts responsibility for
the physical, sexual and emotional abuses it heaped
on children under its care during the past century. 

There were eighteen other clerical orders
who committed similar violations

- - - - - - M I C H A E L   J A C K S O N - - - - - -

Quote: We want to celebrate this white man. He belongs to us and we shared him with everyone else.

In typical racist fashion, Jamie Foxx claims
Michael Jackson as a fellow white man.

Oops! Typo!  For white” read “black”. 
Of course, when black guys such as Mr Foxx
say this stuff, it’s not racist. 
Click on this image to see the weird transformation in actionThough it is surely racist to measure blacks’ racist behaviour
by a lesser standard that that of whites’.
 

It all gets rather complicated.

But the irony is that Michael Jackson hated being black
and spent his life (and a chunk of his fortune)
changing himself through drugs and surgery
from being a black man into a white woman,
with, interestingly, children who are fully Caucasian. 

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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:

bullet

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

bullet

the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

bullet

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,

bullet

part of a death march to Thailand,

bullet

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

bullet

regularly beaten and tortured,

bullet

racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

bullet

a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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:

bullet

Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

Why does asparagus come from Peru?

bullet

Why are pandas so useless?

bullet

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

bullet

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:

bullet

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

bullet

Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

bullet

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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