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#90 - 12th December 2004
Alternative easily-remembered permalink:
How much further must the United Nations slide before
people start calling a halt ?
Created in 1945 in the ashes of World War 2 to stop all
future wars, it is today an organization of 191 states, of which 10% are
almost invisible dots (eg Andorra). Of the remainder,
72 by my reckoning are what you might call proper
democracies (eg New Zealand),
27 are flawed democracies (eg Russia), while
the remaining 73 are dictatorships of varying degrees
of thuggery from Nepal to Cuba to Iran to North Korea.
Other than the five permanent members of the Security
Council (being the victors of the Second World War, America, Russia and
Britain, plus China and France who were liberated by the victors), all
members have equal voting weight, without regard to size, population,
economic or military strength, political legitimacy or contribution to the
It was designed as a talking shop so would-be belligerents
could argue out their differences, with help from the international
community if necessary, instead of going to war, and where necessary the
UN would lay down the law. It served this purpose for a long time,
but it no longer does. It has been internally corrupted to the
extent that its main function seems to be to provide cover for
thugogracies to do what they like; no longer part of the solution, it has
become part of the problem.
Thus, among other things,
it failed to send troops to prevent the Rwanda
genocide when its own general on the ground Romeo Dallaire was begging for them;
it tried to prevent America and its coalition from enforcing
its own Resolutions relating to the disarmament of Iraq, dating back 12
years, even though the last one (1441)
unequivocally threatened serious
it hosted the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal (or oil-for-fraud
as columnist Mark
Steyn prefers to call it) which enriched not only Saddam to the
tune of some $21 billion, but countless of his friends, cronies and others
he wished to influence (including associates of Presidents Chirac
and even the senior UN official in charge of the whole scheme, Benon Sevan;
through a lack of either will or ability, it is
effectively ignoring the unfolding genocide in Darfur, as it did in
Bosnia, and abandoning 1½
million people to their fate;
its peacekeepers and other staff have been indulging in
Most of this happened on Koffi Anan's watch, which, together
with his curious declaration that the Iraq war was illegal,
a number of US Senators have been calling for his head. But, in the
UN world of thugocracies, he managed to receive a well-choreographed
standing ovation from the General Assembly last week, specifically
supported by those renowned havens of democracy Algeria, Russia, Cuba and
Gabon. Mind you, liberal Senator Edward Kennedy was quick to support him as
well. I guess it's a question of rogues hanging
Actually, demands for Mr Annan's resignation are
wrong-footed, despite his accountability for the UN's repeated misbehaviour
in recent years. The whole UN as currently structured is past its
sell-by date, and with the large thugocratic clique in its membership, no
amount of reform is going to change it significantly. Not even
those suggested in his recent 99-page report by a High-Level Panel of prominent big-shots, with the
catchy title, A more secure world: our shared
responsibility - Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and
available as a 341kb pdf file here.
Just as the League of Nations collapsed when it no longer became able to
prevent a catastrophe such as World War 2, so the impotence of the UN
means it too has run its course.
It is time to move on, and a solution is very
Humphrys repeatedly points out that there is already a
proven, known solution to ALL of the world's problems - and
it's not religion,
government or the
UN. It is called democracy, the only thing that will
ever end war on earth. The entire world becoming democratic will mean the
end of war and famine, forever.
To bring this moment closer, the current 72 proper
democracies should without delay form their own club, the United
Democracies, and make a graceful exit from the UN. This is
easy to do, it's just a question of phasing up their subscription to the
UD while simultaneously phasing down their payments to the UN (America
alone pays 22%). Within a short time, the UN edifice will come
crashing to the ground, since the remaining thuggish members are certainly not going to
fund it in the lavish style to which they are accustomed. Other UN
agencies, such as the WHO and the UNICEF could move across to the UD, but
only on the UD's own stringent terms which, inter alia, would involve
Where the UN's charter opens by calling
international peace and security
without saying how,
the UD would have as its unapologetic purpose the spread of Western-style
democracy across the rest of the world, in the sure knowledge
that this is
the foundation of international peace and security,
that true democracy
that elimination of poverty promotes effective
environmentalism and countless other benefits.
of Human Rights gives everyone, in theory, the right to
equality before the law,
democratic governance and
freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and
But whereas the UN largely pays but lip-service to all
this, the UD would be prepared to defend it, using its standing army if
It would, for example, be disposed to intervene where a state
(eg Sudan) attacks its own citizens or fails to protect them from attack,
since such a state would be deemed to have forfeited the right to national
Itself governed under democratic principles, the UD would
be a wealthy and desirable club to join. Even without direct
intervention in external affairs, its very example and success would act
as a beacon to others to join it, much as the EU today is a beacon to
people like the orange democratic revolutionaries in the Ukraine.
And unlike trading blocs, the UD's doors would be permanently open to new
members, who would only have to demonstrate to the UD's satisfaction their bona fide democratic
And the downside of creating the UD and allowing the UN to
Unless you're a
member of the thugocracy, it's hard to see one.
Note : The Freedom Institute
reproduced this post on its own site
Alternative easily-remembered permalink:
to List of Contents
Ian Paisley Rescues the IRA - As Usual
For some four decades, the Reverend Ian Paisley, founder
and head of the Democratic Unionist Party, has been the bogeyman of
Republicans and Catholics in Northern Ireland, and a stirrer of souls
among the Loyalist and Protestant communities. A wonderful orator
(whether you like what he says or or not)
with boundless energy, his two favourite words have been No
in relation to anything pertaining to co-operation
between Loyalists/Protestants and
between the governments of Northern Ireland and of the
Republic of Ireland.
Nevertheless, though he might be a thoroughly unpleasant
individual, his own democratic credentials have been
admirable and he has never advocated violence, even if his rhetoric
probably incited quite a lot of it in his followers. He himself
has only once been known personally to be connected with violence, when
guns were found in the car of a group he was associated with, but he
immediately parted company with it.
Republicans have heartily hated and derided Mr Paisley
throughout this period, and indeed to this day.
Since the recent Troubles
began around 1969, 5,214 people have been killed, of whom only 31% could
be called combatants (Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries,
Army, Police), the remaining 3,622 souls being civilians (including
politicians) who were killed by the combatants.
(These figures and those in my chart below are from David McKittrick's authoritative
Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died Through the Northern Ireland
as you can see above the paramilitaries, when compared with the
authorities, were so adept at killing others (as shown in green) and not
getting themselves killed (blue), the wonder is, therefore, why Republicans never murdered him. The answer
is that he was one of their most valuable assets. His behaviour
probably recruited more Republicans into the IRA than any other single
cause. Killing him would have created a martyr for the Loyalists and stemmed the flow
of young recruits to the IRA.
even today, with the DUP now the biggest political party in Northern Ireland,
Mr Paisley is still doing the Republicans' work for them. Last week,
an historic and extraordinary deal that would have seen the DUP running
Northern Ireland in partnership with Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, fell at the final
hurdle. It required
total decommissioning of
all IRA guns (which the IRA
hates the idea of)
as well as Sinn Fein
to hold hands with the DUP
(which the DUP hates the idea of),
enthusiasm was muted to say the least, even though parties were itching to
embrace the trappings of ministerial power. As part of the deal, the DUP wanted photos of
the decommissioning as a confidence-building measure and Sinn Fein did not
publicly demur. Given all the doubt about previous
decommissionings, photos were not unreasonable.
then it was time for Mr Paisley to save the IRA's bacon. In a
trademark fiery speech to adoring fans in his Ballymena heartland, he
declared (see last week's Quotes
of the Week) that, the IRA needs to be
humiliated ... they need to wear their sackcloth and ashes
and so on in similar vein.
With enormous relief, Sinn Fein then declared that this
meant the photos were humiliating,
and therefore off-side.
Cosying up to the despised DUP in the
council chamber was not humiliating,
declaring an end to your
criminal activity from kneecapping, to exiling to counterfeiting to
smuggling was not humiliating (though now there's
on this one),
decommissioning all your weapons was not
having a Protestant and Catholic
priest witness this was not humiliating,
but taking photos was. Because
Ian Paisley says so. Well, he didn't say this, but it's good enough
to pretend he did.
So Sinn Fein, to the doubtless relief
of the IRA (if not itself) called the deal
For how long more will the IRA continue to rely for its
welfare on the malign offices of Dr Paisley?
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Nicknamed Georgeous George for his natty dress sense and
outlook on life, Geoge Galloway is the ex-Labour MP for Glasgow-Kelvin in Scotland.
out of the Labour Party in October 2003 after the Daily Telegraph
newspaper found papers seemingly demonstrating that he had been in the pay
of Saddam Hussein, to the tune of £375,000. He certainly was
Iraqophile and a Saddam-lover,
who was vehemently opposed to the war and
only nine years earlier had been filmed grovelling
in hero-worship before the dictator.
Already a successful serial litigant, he sued the Telegraph for the story claiming
the papers were forgeries. He recently won his
case, including £150,000
in damages and a further £1.25 million in costs, and maintains that the
documents are bunkum,
bogus or doctored.
So game, set and match to Gorgeous.
Not quite. For the judgement does not clear him of the central
charge that he was taking bungs from Saddam, nor does it rule that the documents were bogus. The essence
of his victory is that
the Telegraph published the incriminating documents without
ascertaining that they were true, and
it didn't give him a reasonable opportunity to review and rebut
I think (b) is a perfectly reasonable expectation and certainly the
Telegraph were sneaky in their dealings with him. It certainly
wasn't playing cricket.
But (a) raises a more fundamental issue. Should newspapers, under
pain of libel, be expected to authenticate all documents that they
publish? If so to what depth?
We know that within an hour, bloggers began to detect that Dan Rather
had broadcast fake
documents incriminating George Bush, so he was outstandingly
negligent, though subjected not to litigation for it, only to ridicule (and
he was eventually
forced to resign), .
But should the media be expected to go to the opposite extreme and
make available only information that has been through the most
rigorous forensic examination, even in a war zone?
If this is the case as the Galloway judgement seems to imply, it means
that Britain's libel laws have become extraordinarily draconian to the
extent of truly curtailing legitimate freedom of the press.
Meantime, though, keep a weather eye out for this story, because it's
not over. I can't believe the Telegraph will not pull out every stop
to demonstrate that the documents - and thus their allegation about taking
money from Saddam's regime - are in fact genuine. They consider
George has a thundering
case to answer,
and they're not going to let him get away with his Gorgeous
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of Religious Offence
The British Government wants to protect faith groups
by creating a new
offence, punishable with seven year in prison, of incitement to
religious hatred through threatening, abusive, or insulting behaviour or
perhaps insulting words. It is aimed at protecting faith groups and
in particular Muslims - which is a bit rich since theirs is the only
mainstream religion that calls for all other faith groups to be killed wherever ye shall find them.
Moreover, such legislation will only encourage trouble since an offensive
billboard, for example, will only fall under the purview of the new law if
it is likely
to lead to disorder,
a self-fulfilling condition.
Thus under this circular reasoning, Dutchman Theo van
Gogh if he weren't dead would be prosecutable for his film, Submission,
about the abuse of women under Islam, because it prompted disorder
in the form of his own brutal murder and the mayhem that erupted
throughout Holland in disgust at this vile deed.
Comedian Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) is outraged
from a different perspective. He reckons that the right to offend
someone's beliefs and ideas is a fundamental freedom of expression, that there
should be no subject about which you cannot make jokes. Atlantic
Blog also has some worthwhile excerpts
agree with Mr Bean's sentiments, even though I personally hate to see jokes
about my own religious beliefs, of which the West abounds. But my
dislike does not mean I think they should be banned.
And I don't
think the sensibilities of Muslims (or for that matter of Jews, Hindus,
Buddhists, Rastafarians, atheists etc) should be protected any more than my
examples of how I have been offended include the following
(click thumbnail to enlarge in a new window).
waxwork museum Madame
Tussaud's has just come up with a Nativity
scene featuring David Beckham and his popstar wife Posh as Joseph
and Mary, as well as Tony Blair, Prince Philip, George Bush, Kylie
Minogue, Samuel L Jackson, Hugh Grant and Graham Norton in various roles. It
makes a tacky joke out of one of the most sacred moments in Christendom,
the birth of its founder.
spotted this advertisement in a Paris bus shelter, making a mockery of the most sacred
activity in the Catholic faith, namely the transubstantiation of bread into the body of Jesus Christ.
The ad is about turning a hamburger into money.
And at a Dublin suburban railway station
last week, I saw a billboard
featuring a sexy young woman in a spiky tiara and diaphanous dress
standing with her arms outstretched in unmistakable mockery of the
crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whose subsequent resurrection proves his
divinity to Christians worldwide. (The ad was
gone when I returned some days later to photograph it).
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Demise of Common
This week we mourn the passing of a beloved friend by the
Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.
No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth
records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.
He will be remembered as having cultivated such value
knowing when to come in out of the rain,
why the early bird gets the worm,
that life isn't always fair.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial
policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting
strategies (adults, not kids, are in charge).
His health began rapidly to deteriorate when well
intentioned, but overbearing regulations were set in place ...
a six-year-old boy charged with sexual
harassment for kissing a classmate,
teens suspended from school for using mouthwash
a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly
only worsened his condition.
It declined even further when
schools were required to get parental consent to
administer aspirin to a student,
but, could not inform the parents when a student
became pregnant and wanted an abortion.
Finally, Common Sense lost the will to live
the Ten Commandments became contraband;
churches became businesses; and
criminals received better treatment than their
Common Sense finally gave up the ghost after
a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She
spilled a bit in her lap, and was awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death by
his parents, Truth and Trust;
his wife, Discretion;
his daughter, Responsibility; and
his son, Reason.
He is survived by a stepbrother, My Rights and a
Stepsister, Ima Whiner.
Not many attended his funeral, because so few were
aware he was gone.
If you still know him, pass this on. If not, join the
majority and do nothing.
to List of Contents
houd van jou
Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, North and
South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky & parts of Florida :
ass, get in the truck.
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Quote of Week 90
This is no longer a question for discussion. We are now
sure that we can confirm which substance caused this illness. He received
this substance from other people who had a specific aim [which was] of
course [to kill him] ... Maybe it was administered through injection,
maybe in water, maybe through eating, but the way to give it to him is
very simple. This substance can be given very precisely to only one
On 8th December, Dr Nikolai Korpan
of Viennas exclusive Rudolfinerhaus
on the illness which has left Ukranian presidential candidate
Victor Yuschenko's face and trunk disfigured with cysts and
Other symptoms include his face half paralysed,
severe abdominal pain, back pain,
swollen liver, pancreas and intestines and
a digestive tract covered in ulcers.
John Henry, a prominent British toxicologist,
suggested the symptoms are consistent with dioxin poisoning,
which causes a severe form of acne called chloracne
On 12 December, the dioxin diagnosis was confirmed.
Political foes (ie the existing regime that he is the process of
are suspected of having mixed the poison into his food
last September at the outset of his presidential campaign.
Dioxin is an industrial agent used as a
The US sprayed it during the Vietnam war as a defoliant.
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#89 - 5th December 2004
One of the reasons
I started blogging over two years ago was my frustration at failing to get
letters published in newspapers. My early posts were nearly all
drawn from failed attempts. Though I do in fact get a respectable
number published, mainly in the (subscription-only) Irish
Times, for example 17 in 2003 (out of 56 submissions), 20 so far this
year (out of 37), I still get
annoyed when so many fail to make it, even if some deserve to be
One which recently failed
to make the grade was in response
to a proposal that Margaret Hassan, the murdered head of Care
International in Iraq, should be elevated to (Catholic) sainthood by the
Pope. The justification of David Grant of Waterford for saying she
that she was
woman who had dedicated her gentle life to the rescue and betterment
of the poor and oppressed of her adopted country;
[who had} sacrificed her life for her beliefs and charitable works.
This was of course all true (provided you accept his definition of martyr).
Moreover, Mrs Hassan was born and raised a Catholic in Ireland, but after marrying her Iraqi
husband adopted his Muslim faith. This detail would apparently make her
canonisation by the Pope pleasing to Islam.
the canonisation proposal
outrageous and preposterous. In fact, were the Pope to follow Mr
Grant's advice it would certainly prompt me, for one, to leave the Catholic
Let me explain my churlishness.
Hassan's virtues and good works are not in doubt, nor are the savagery,
pointlessness and wickedness of her slaughter. The example she gave
others through her good works and the legacy she leaves
behind are beyond reproach.
Yet not only did she abandon her Catholic religion, whose guiding
light was a man who preached love and peace, and was cruelly executed for it.
She embraced an alternative faith, Islam, whose guiding light was a multi-murderer,
looter, rapist and paedophile, and which advocates, inter alia, Seize
the unbelievers and slay them wherever ye shall find them
4:89 and 2:187-189 ).
The letter I wrote to this effect was medicine apparently too strong for the gentle readers of
Ireland's left-leaning newspaper of record. But people in the West
need to know more about Islam if they are to understand the dynamics that
we see unfolding around us. There is a widespread perception
that Islam is somehow on a moral par with the other two great
monotheistic religions, Christianity and Judaism, that it is equally valid.
It is not, because its essence is perpetual jihad against all unbelievers,
either converting or killing them.
is true that the vast majority of Muslims are intrinsically good,
honest, humane people, as indeed was Mrs Hassan. But making this
observation gives a completely misleading picture of the underlying
For the faith they adhere to exhorts, as indicated, very different behaviour, and it
is those who
conscientiously obey all Islamic precepts and
try to emulate in detail the life of the Prophet
that today we call fundamentalists. Make no mistake, these
followers are indeed out to slay the unbelievers (ie non-Muslims) wherever
they can find them. And what a successful day they had on September
The good behaviour of the many should not blind us to the evil of the
ideology. We need to keep up our guard.
It is one thing to be borne into a particular faith, such as
Islam. But it is extraordinary that good-thinking Christians and Jews should ever
convert to Islam. Yet some still do.
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Make Her Pay
At the height of the liberal West pre-Iraq-war, anti-war, pro-Saddam
hysteria, a woman called Mary Kelly, 51, broke into Shannon Airport in
January 2003 and took an axe to a US Navy aircraft parked there and hacked
it thirty times. The jet was
part of the American war machine.
Ireland's miniscule, though valuable, contribution to the enforcement of
UN Resolution 1441 and the conversion of Iraq from tyranny to democracy
was to allow US planes to refuel in Shannon and overfly Ireland.
This has caused more outrage in Ireland than the Abu Ghraib prisoner
abuses, and Ms Kelly was
one of several unwashed demonstrators at Shannon
Peace Camp outside
the airport as part
of their protest.
She was eventually convicted of criminal damage to the tune of US $1½
million, despite her defence that she was helping prevent the
wanton killing of innocent Iraqis (such as Saddam). The judge ruled
that the connection between her actions and the Iraqis was so remote as to
Like a naughty schoolgirl, last week the mother-of-four -
received a two-year suspended jail sentence,
got a further year, also suspended, for entering the airport
was ordered to stay one mile
away from Shannon Airport,
was told to be of good behaviour for four years.
free from the courthouse, she emerged in triumphant mood to a large
group of applauding supporters. And who can blame her for her
smiles? Such incidents notwithstanding, Ms Kelly is in principle a
law-abiding person, and the idea that in the next four years she is going
to be hauled in to serve her sentence because she has been caught in
another misdemeanor such as a drunken brawl or peddling heroin, is
ridiculous. So, to all intents and purposes, the court has let her
off without a care in the world.
However, this offends natural justice, and the affair should not end
There is also the small matter of the American taxpayers' US$1½
million. I would hope that the US Navy will now be hardnosed enough
to press for full damages, since the conviction tells them unequivocally
who caused them. Of course, as a nurse, she is never going to be
able to cough up the money. But a lifetime under the burden of a
huge debt, with liens on her property and income, will in itself be a
fitting punishment as well as a warning to others.
should not get off scot-free for their wanton behaviour.
12th December 2004
I've just learnt
from Liam Fay in the Sunday Times that it is in fact the Irish taxpayer,
not the Americans, who are having to foot the bill. Therefore it's
the Irish Government that I now urge to press Ms Kelly for full damages.
to List of Contents
Dublin Climbing Skyward - At
Dublin has a terrible traffic problem,
which is steadily heading towards the airless gridlock of many Asian
cities such as Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta. People spend two-to-four
hours in their cars commuting daily to work in the city. These
commutes are due to a combination of
heavy traffic (it's a throbbing, successful metropolis),
long distances (imposed by the high cost of homes) and
poor public transport (no metro, mysterious, unintegrated bus
Parking is either a nightmare (no places) or a fortune (parking meters
charge over 2 per hour).
The root of the problem is the
high price of urban land which, with Ireland's boom of the last ten years,
has led to a house-price explosion. Unless you can raise
half-a-million uro-or-so, you are forced to buy further and further out
of town. Of course, the Irish love affair with purchasing homes
rather than renting them is another issue, which further inflates prices
while depressing rents to uneconomic levels. Indeed, no sane person
would dream of buying when rents are so cheap (disclosure - I am one of
the insane majority.)
I have therefore long argued that what
is needed is to despoil the skyline with high rise apartment blocks.
There are plenty of existing apartment blocks, but due to planning
restrictions they rarely exceed about six storeys, which means the
exorbitant land price is shared by only six flat-owners. To keep
costs down, they are often small and cheaply-made in order to offset the
high land price.
A city-centre high rise, on the other hand,
will make the land-cost per apartment trivial, as well as minimising the
construction and maintenance cost. It will thus allow for
proper, roomy, well appointed, efficiently sound-proofed units to be
built. Moreover, the reduced costs are also likely to drag down the price
of other properties in the city to more sensible levels.
at a stroke,
good accommodation comes within reach of ordinary working people,
people have more leisure time and less stress though shorter
congestion and pollution of the city's streets are cut,
international business competitiveness is enhanced through lower
property costs and better lifestyle,
many, living within the city, within walking or bicycling or easy
bussing distance from work, will conclude they don't need a car at
And the beauty is that it can all be accomplished entirely through
Yes, Dublin's skyline changes, though whether for the worse or better is a
matter of personal opinion. But something has to change and no-one
has come up with anything better that does not entail huge cash infusions
from the brow-beaten taxpayer (eg building overhead highways, underground
So I was very pleased to see that Dublin's
(and Ireland's) first high-rise worthy of the name was given planning permission
last week, for a location just a mile from the city centre with lovely
views across the River Liffey and Phoenix Park. It'll be 32 storeys
and 117 metres high, with 96 apartments. Not a record-breaker, but a
There is a fine example of high-rise lifestyle
which is familiar to all of us. For if living in an apartment close
to the stars is good enough for New York millionaires (few of whom are in
houses), it should certainly be good enough for Dubliners.
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Who Is Stephen Quinn ?
The story that
has been dominating the British press for the past couple of weeks, with
Mirror as cheerleader,
an unlikely lothario, the blind and bearded Home Secretary David
who conducted a three year affair with
the American publisher of Britain's right-leaning Spectator
magazine, Kimberley Fortier, 44,
who has produced a son, William,
and is seven months pregnant with a second child, both conceived during her liaison
with Mr Blunkett, which commenced just three months after she
a successful businessman Stephen Quinn, 60, a natty
dresser who rose
from humble Irish origins to become the publisher of Vogue magazine in
Nast stable, and
who had seduced Ms Fortier away from her now embittered first
husband wealthy US banker Michael Fortier.
Got that ?
The current state of play, neatly summarised by Melanie
Phillips, is that Messrs Blunkett and Quinn are both are claiming paternity
of both children; meanwhile Mr Blunkett is in trouble for allegedly using
his high office to give ministerial perks to Ms Fortier and to fast-track a
residence permit for her Filipina nanny. All this kerfuffle
undoubtedly means that his ministerial career, one way or another, is
over. For it is a cherished British tradition that cabinet
ministers caught with their trousers down - from John
Profumo to Cecil
Parkinson to David
Mellor to Tim Yeo (and now Blunkett) - lose their jobs.
But there is a curious twist about Mr Quinn and his
background that has hardly seen the light of day.
According to the Sunday
Mirror last August and other
later, Mr Quinn
was born in Craignamanor near Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, the illegitimate son of a woman who
for her sin was then banished from holy Ireland to a life in godless
Britain, never to be heard of again. Mr Quinn, meanwhile, was raised
as an orphan first in a Protestant schoohouse, then by an elderly foster
couple. But he was a bright young
fellow, who moved to London in his twenties and got into the newspaper
sales business. In due course he made his way up the corporate ladder and through his own
abilities reached the top of the UK's business world, discarding along
the way his native Kilkenny accent for a neutral English one. It's a
very uplifting story about a man overcoming a dreadfully underprivileged
start in life.
Or is it?
Last week, I happened to listen in to an Irish radio
talk-show, in which a 57 year old man called Stephen Quinn called
up. He said that -
he was also from Craignamanor, near Thomastown, Co Kilkenny,
there had never been any orphanage in the area,
he was one of nine Quinn siblings,
all the Quinns in the area were related and known
to each other and had been there for generations,
there was no other Stephen than he, and
certainly not a namesake just three years older,
none of the Quinns was illegitimate, and
neither he nor his family ever heard of Ms
Fortier's Stephen Quinn, the big businessman, until reporters from the
Daily Mirror arrived on his doorstep sniffing for details.
So what's going on ? Unless the man who phoned in is
a fraud - and he certainly doesn't sound like one - who exactly is Ms
Fortier's Stephen Quinn ? Has he fabricated his own background, if
not his name, and if so why ? Why have the newspapers not picked up
on this strange situation ?
Anyone out there have any ideas ? I'm
Up to and including Monday 6th December, you can listen to
the interview with Stephen Quinn here
: it lasts six minutes starting at Minute 48. Alternatively,
download it as a 5.2 MB MP3 file from here.
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The Joke of Blonde Jokes
a bar and find his way to a barstool. After ordering a drink, and
sitting there for a while, the blind guy yells to the bartender,
"Hey, you wanna hear a blonde joke?"
The bar immediately becomes absolutely quiet. In a husky, deep voice,
the woman next to him says, "Before you tell that joke, you should
know something. The bartender is blond, the bouncer is blond and I'm a
6' tall, 200 pound blonde with a black belt in karate. What's more, the
fella sitting next to me is blond and he's a weightlifter. The woman to
your right is a blonde, and she's a pro wrestler. Think about it
seriously, mister. You still wanna tell that blonde joke?"
The blind guy says, "Nah, not if I'm gonna have to explain it
Not according to Hungarian blonde Zsuzsa Kovacs,
who together with 29 year old blonde Krisztina Timar and the Blonde
she founded, recently led a march of angry (and presumably natural)
blondes to the Parliament, which is set beautifully looking over the Danube in
There they handed in a petition
to the Equal Opportunities Minister Kinga Goncz and waved banners with
slogans like We're
blonde, not stupid
us for our minds.
With nearly 100,000 signatures, the petition claimed that blonde jokes
were as discriminatory as jokes against Jews and Blacks and should
therefore count as racial discrimination. On this basis, they want a
new law which bans blonde jokes.
Thus fired up, the ladies
then proceeded to a downtown bar insultingly called Blondy,
where they shouted, threw cakes
and eggs at the windows (my, how those girls are violent) and urged
the blonde employees to come out on solidarity strike.
thanks to stunts like this that people look down on us - and we have much
worse chances of getting a job,
declared Ms Timar, not quite getting the irony.
it's not jobs the blondes should be looking for but blond partners.
As I remarked in an earlier
except for the majority of blondes who are a dyeing breed,
natural blondes are a dying breed which in two centuries will be
extinct. According to the World Health Organization
Hence the need for volunteers of the hefty, sun-kissed, beach-bum
variety to patiently demonstrate to the disgruntled Hungarian girls how to
make more blondes.
Or was that another of those forbidden
blonde jokes? More here
to List of Contents
Quotes of the Week
days apart, take your pick !
Paisley the Destructive
on 27th November
Paisley the Constructive
on 29th November
: The IRA needs to be humiliated.
And they need to wear their sackcloth and ashes, not in a backroom,
but openly. We have no apology to
make for the stand we are taking. I say look at the heartache
the IRA has brought to the countless homes across the province. The
pride of republicans cannot be allowed to prevent progress any
Ireland's Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley,
speaking to supporters
in the DUP heartland of Ballymena,
in front of BBC cameras
: If this decommissioning problem can be
solved, then we are on our way. But it is not solved at the present
The same Ian
after discussing how further acts of IRA decommissioning
would be verified,
with Canadian General
John de Chastelain,
who heads the
Independent International Decommissioning Commission
will happen if he wins the election while he's in prison? I don't think
anyone really knows the answer to that
Mokhaimer Abusada, a political science
at Al Azhar University in Gaza City,
referring to the fiery, charismatic, quintuple-killer Marwan Barghouti,
currently serving five life-sentences in Beersheva Jail,
Mr Barghouti is challenging Abu Mazen for the
Presidency of the Palestinian Authority,
vacated by Yasser Arafat's death
media ... face a newer and more unpredictable source of competitionthe
blogosphere. Bloggers have discovered that all you need to set yourself up
as a pundit is a website and an attitude.
The (subscription-only) Economist's
Lexington column muses
on the downfall of US top anchorman Dan Rather,
precipitated by the blogosphere's exposure
of the forged documents he used
to denigrate George W Bush's service history.
Perhaps this blog's
post contributed in a tiny way.
to List of Contents
the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
to Top of Page
to Tallrite Blog
Now, for a little [Light Relief]
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel
and Palestine told through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from
either side, with a household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
Note: I wrote
my own reports on Macondo
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
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
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
to get a
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and