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contains all issues since inception, including the current week.
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Image of 2005
My apologies for the hiatus
from October through December 2005
#115 - 29th January 2006
... the Future Peacemaker
People are expressing shock that the terrorist party Hamas
convincingly won last week's election to the Palestine Legislative
Authority, defeating Fatah. No less than 78% of the electorate voted
- which should be an inspiration to the complacent democracies of America
and Europe. Fatah is of course the long-dominant
party founded and run by the late, unlamented Yasser Arafat, whose
greatest contribution to the welfare of his people was to die last
year. Today the party is led by Mahmoud Abbas, whom I have described
as the Palestinians' “great
hope”. Notwithstanding Fatah's loss, Mr Abbas fulfilled
this destiny by staging this wonderfully executed free
the (Hamas) result “a political earthquake that could bury any hope for reviving peace talks with Israel
“A political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal”,
"If a government led by Hamas or in which Hamas is a coalition partner is established, the Palestinian Authority will turn into an authority that supports
terror. Israel and the world will ignore it and make it irrelevant.”
“The Palestinian people voted for resistance and Hamas will
turn this victory to the service of the Palestinian people and the protection of the
Ismail Haniya who is from (Israeli-cleansed)
Gaza and is Hamas's senior leader.
If nothing else, the surprise result gives the lie to
Arafat's perpetual claim that he and his personal party Fatah represented,
for 40 years, the hopes, confidence and aspirations of the Palestinian
people. January's poll was the first and only time this canard was
ever properly, transparently, fairly tested in an unrigged fashion.
And the people comprehensively rejected Fatah for its mismanagement,
corruption and utter political failure to - nay, its absence of any real
effort to - find a lasting solution to the Israel problem.
Other than the private bank accounts of Fatah nomenklatura, there is
almost nothing to show for the billions of €uros and dollars raining
down on the Palestinian Authority thanks to EUropean and American taxpayers
over the years.
My view about Hamas's assumption of Palestinian power is
different from that of many politicians and commentators. I think
the election result is to be welcomed. The more radical, violent and
antipathetic to Israel the winning party the better. Let me explain
But let me first confess that my reasoning assumes that Hamas
will remain democratic and accept the will of the electorate in future
elections, rather than turn into a Nazi party. Also I am assuming
that Fatah will accept the current Hamas victory without starting a civil
war. I hope these are not
does two things, which are in stark - almost oxymoronic - contrast with
it fights Israel and Israeli civilians, largely via the medium of
suicide bombing, all the while rejecting a two-state solution because
that would mean acknowledging the right to exist of Israel, which it
emphatically declares should be obliterated. Moreover it is
committed to delivering Sharia law, as God should be the ruler not
Second, on a charity basis it provides, for tens of
thousands of poorer Palestinians, much appreciated social services
such as clinics and schools, with efficiency and without much
corruption - making it very different from Fatah.
In brief, Hamas delivers, Fatah doesn't. Hamas walks the talk,
Fatah just talks. So whom would you rather do business
For Hamas, the time for games is over. It is no longer merely
sniping from the margins. It has nowhere to hide for it is now indisputably
accountable to its electorate.
The Palestinians are first and foremost looking to Hamas to solve
their daily problems, through delivery of services such as water,
sewerage, education, health, transport, a much broader and more
complex brief than executing charity works.
But they are also expecting solutions to the Israel issue, and
judging from their voting are perfectly prepared to accept the violent
approach that is Hamas' hallmark, predicated on driving the Jews into
Let's assume that Hamas makes a reasonable stab at delivering the
social services. This is only to be welcomed and it can hardly do a
worse job than Fatah. Their standing among Palestinians can only improve
as a result.
But what will happen if it decides to implement its radical
Many Muslims may find the idea of Sharia law attractive in principle,
but few have enjoyed it in practice. Just go to Afghanistan and ask
any woman or one-handed man, or peruse any of dozens of Iranian
blogs. Sharia is not the way to enhance your appeal to the broad
body of voters.
Fighting Israel, with bullet and suicide bomb will certainly be
popular. But it will not be without price.
Firstly, if the perpetrator is the legitimate government of
Palestinians bent on war, no-one will be able to fault next-door
neighbour Israel for racing ahead with its “security”
barrier, consolidating its settlements and seeking the military defeat
of the Palestinians in a warlike (as distinct from a targeted,
retaliatory) fashion. As Mahmoud Abbas and history have
repeatedly said, not even all the Arab countries combined, and
certainly not tiny Palestine, can defeat Israel on the
battlefield. So if Hamas implements its rhetoric, humiliation
and misery are inevitable. Again, not a great way to get
Secondly, even to rattle sabres and talk about destroying Israel
without actually launching attacks, will cause much of the world to
squeal loudly, particularly the UN, the US, the EU, though of course
Iran's president Ahmadinejad will be cheering on the sidelines. There
are those who say Palestinians are entitled to elect whom they want
without the west punishing them for choosing the “wrong”
party. Yet though other countries certainly have no right to
overturn the results, they are equally entitled to decide whom they
want to do business with, and in particular to withhold gifts and
goodies from those they don't like. Handouts are gifts not
rights. Withdrawing the generous EU/US subventions will,
rightly, have an immediate, deleterious effect on service
delivery. Again, this is not a vote-winning formula.
Moreover, any negotiation with Israel is unthinkable so long as
Hamas's declared objective is its elimination.
With the burden of office, these are the kind of dilemmas that Hamas is
going to have to deal with, while the eyes of their people, Israel and the
world remain steadfastly upon it.
Though it may take some skirmishes with Israel for Hamas really to
understand the alternatives and consequences facing it, I believe a sense
of reality will emerge through the fog. Hamas will begin to compare
the pros and cons of
what is possible though undesirable (a two-state solution)
what is impossible though desirable (bye-bye Israel).
And when it does this, the makings of a genuine, durable peace will be
For no-one on the Palestinian side has ever been in a better position
to deliver peace, and under better terms, than Hamas the future
peacemaker. Israel's new government better watch out. Their
easy negotiating days, with a worthless adversary or none at all, are
coming to an end. For the first time, someone with authority and
legitimacy is going to be driving a really hard bargain.
And when that bargain has been struck, I hope the negotiators come to
Belfast and knock a few DUP and Sinn Féin heads
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Ireland, UK and Sweden are the only three countries that
allowed full and free access to their respective labour market by
nationals from the ten states in Central Europe and the Mediterranean that
joined the EU in May 2004. The other twelve EU countries, fearing
that a tsunami of low-wage professionals and artisans from the new states
would overwhelm them, drive down salaries and steal jobs from locals,
placed various cunning restrictions to thwart the would-be
Many of those accession states, incidentally, shared a
similar fear - that a tsunami of money from the rich western countries
would swallow up their (cheap) houses from under them and drive up
prices. So they placed their own tiresome restrictions on EU
foreigners buying property, though sadly without exemptions for
investors from Ireland, UK and Sweden.
Modest estimates were made about how many Central
Europeans would invade and swamp the local economies. For example,
the British government, when it was trying to sell its open-door policy to
parliament and the people, averred that only 5-13,000
would come and stay, too few to notice. Comparable figures were
bandied around in Ireland and Sweden. But it was all tosh and spin,
numbers played down for ideological reasons to push through a policy which
countries such as Germany, France and Italy and the rest of Old Europe
were vociferously rejecting. No free labour markets for them,
What happened? Well Eurostat
and the CIA
paint the following picture for the period since the new countries
sources indicate that the bulk of the immigrant numbers in this table are
coming from the new EU countries. The rest of the immigrants are
either offset by emigrants, or else fail to register and thus don't appear
in the official figures. (A separate report
shows that no fewer than 166,000 migrant workers from the new accessions
states have registered in Ireland alone since May 2004, though these
include migrants that were in the country illegally prior to that date.)
What we see from the table is not only that actual
immigration is far greater than the politicians warned, but that, as you
would expect, it correlates very much with the receiving country's wealth
(GDP per person, GDP growth) and job opportunities (low
Though Sweden with its high unemployment might be an
exception, these immigrants, far from stealing jobs from the Irish and
Brits, are in fact fuelling their respective economies by filling vital
vacancies, and thus enabling the natives to get even richer. Ireland
alone will need another 30-50,000 new workers each year for the next
decade or more, ie maybe half a million. Unless there's a baby
Long may this immigration flow from Central (and for that
matter Eastern) Europe continue.
For by mistake, these countries - and proportionally
Ireland in particular - have blundered into attracting large numbers of
immigrants who might otherwise have found their way to other EU countries,
and these immigrants
are well educated,
share the same European culture,
want to work,
by and large are practising Christians, and
are the only white immigrants that exist in the world.
If you don't want to build up or increase social problems
in a generation's time, particularly of the Islamicist sort that France,
Britain, Germany, Australia and other countries are currently
experiencing, this migration is to be encouraged not thwarted.
If there is to be any real objection, it should surely be
about whether a disservice is being done to the source countries such as
Lithuania, Poland, Estonia. Yet even they benefit from worker
remittances, as Ireland did during its 150 years of emigration following
the Great Famine, which will help them in their own development.
Those Irish, Brits and Swedes who are shouting for
immigration controls to stop these “Polish
and their friends are being disingenuous. In fact they are just
playing to a particular gallery and do not have the best interests of
their country and countrymen in mind.
Note: The idea for this post
came from a letter
Roderick Hall published by Mark
Steyn last November
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Spanish Smokes and
On 1st January, Spain, as I witnessed on a recent visit,
introduced its own version of Ireland's smoking ban. Smoking is Spain’s number one
killer with the country ranking second in Europe for per-capita
consumption, so you can understand why it has followed the Irish lead.
Although the ban applies to workplaces and (some) public
areas, the most visible symptom, for a foreigner, is that bars and
restaurants now have to declare whether they are smoking or non-smoking
and put a sign to that effect in their window.
If they declare themselves as non-smoking, all is
sweetness and light.
But if they opt for smoking, then children (below 18) are
not allowed in. And if the establishment is over 100 m2 in size, it
has to reserve at least 30% as a properly ventilated non-smoking area. This is evidently
on the same basis that if someone pees in one end of the swimming pool,
people at the other end won't drink it.
That reminds me of the sign in the swimming pool of the
beautiful marina in Muscat, Oman where I once had the good fortune to live
and work. “You will note that there is no P in our
Please keep it that way.” I always felt that for the more,
er, robust members, they should augment this with another one that read
along the lines of
“... there is no *** in our L, please keep it that way.”
Ireland's smoking ban spawned a number of new businesses,
including patio heaters and awnings for pubs whose tobacco-addicted customers have to
puff and huddle outside in the cold and rain of winter, and hurricane-proof
In Spain, the big new business is apparently ...
lollipops, and manufacturer Chupa Chups
(slogan : “Sucking
is good for you!”)
expects domestic sales to soar this
year. With no extra promotional effort, January sales are already
going to be 5m pops, worth €1.1m, compared with 2m last
Why is this? Well, Chupa Chups believes
that anxious smokers keen
to quit, or loathe to go out into the sunshine for a drag, crave lollipops’ on-stick holding and sucking qualities,
which apparently make you feel you are pulling on a cigarette.
Furthermore the ingestion of glucose is an added source of pleasure.
It all sounds rather raunchy.
Anyway, the indomitable Chupa Chups is rushing around installing vending
machines in typical smoker hangouts such as restaurants, cafes and bars.
It has so far placed over a thousand of the contraptions across Spain and plans to
put in many more.
You have been warned.
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Letters to the Press
I started producing this blog in 2002, for better or for
worse, out of frustration at the non-publication of various letters I
would write to newspaper editors on assorted topics. I still write
them and many (most) still don't get published. So unless the
material already constitutes the particular topic in a post, I am going in future
to include unpublished letters as a line item in the blog. As if
anyone is interested.
Here are five for January.
Finger Equals Two Lives? - 25th Jan 2006
Last week, a couple in California were sentenced to nine years
imprisonment for planting a human finger in a bowl of chili ...
Bits Off Babies - 24th Jan 2006
So a Government-appointed expert committee warns that 'any injury to
an infant arising from a
circumcision carried out by "an incompetent person" could
be deemed to be a form of child abuse ...
Pinochet - 17th January 2006
Your excellent editorial, "Bachelet
victory breaks the mould" reminded us that "Salvador
Allende's left-wing reformist regime between 1970 and 1973 ... ended
with Allende being overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet's army coup
and an era of savage repression followed it" ...
of Stringfellow's Club - 12th January 2006
Peter Stringfellow should never have been granted a licence to open his licentious and sexist pole-dancing
club [in Dublin]. Its sole purpose is the inexcusable exploitation of pathetic Irish men
Equalisation in Health Insurance - 10th January 2006
Simon McGuinness, in defending medical insurance risk
equalisation informs us,
"If you allow insurance companies to decide who they will insure,
you create a system which
penalises the sick" through higher premiums. Well
of course. ...
to List of Contents
Quotes of Week
“[Hamas] would be willing to extend its year-old cease-fire with Israel.
But ... we have no peace process. We are not going to mislead our people to tell them we are waiting, meeting, for a peace process that is nothing.”
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar Mahmud Zohar,
ninth in Hamas's hierarchy and its senior ideologue and hardliner,
puts out conflicting messages
“The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.”
Sharon, in September 2005 before the UN,
with prescient words about Palestinian sovereignty.
as elected leaders, now have t he responsibility
to turn Mr Sharon's last sentence into reality
Not a Fish
“I have reached the conclusion that the Zionists have absolutely no right in what they call Israel, that they have built their state not beside but on top of the Palestinian people, and that there can be no peace as long as contemporary Israel retains its present form.”
muddies the waters
with this (historically
illiterate) remark in Dubliner Magazine
by its former industry minister Justin Keating,
which the Irish Government then refuse
“No political entity can be built on a movement of
rapid and continuous expansion whose limits are uncertain”
poet prime minister Dominique de Villepin,
in celebrating Mozart's 250th birthday in Salzburg,
makes a plea for deeper EU integration
rather than wider expansion.
would rather we believe that
“Any political entity can be built on a movement of
rapid and continuous integration whose limits are uncertain.”
postulation, in relation to uncertain limits,
is as as unproven as the other.
The shifty Mr de Villepin is simply pushing ideology
to List of Contents
the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
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#114 - 22nd January 2006
- The Exhilarating Notion of 2006
A month after its third successful, election in the space
of a year, Iraq finally has a truly democratic government. The steps
taken to get to this point, orchestrated by George Bush, are astonishing,
especially 2005's three elections, all carried out to the pre-set
timetable, in the face of naysayers insisting they be delayed.
First the American-led coalition toppled Saddam
Hussein, Iraq's vicious dictator for 32 years.
It then, in May 2003, installed the American Paul
Bremer as pro-Consul, or effectively dictator, who set the timetable
A year later, Mr Bremer unilaterally installed Iyad
Allawi as “interim”
prime minister, or effectively yet a third
Mr Allawi then set up the electrifying first of 2005's
three elections, in January, when we all saw the purple fingers for
the first time. 8.4m
voters (58% turnout) braved bullets and bombs to install a nationwide
all-Iraqi transitional government under a temporary constitution
written by the Americans. Mr Allawi expected to win it, but
graciously conceded defeat to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who took over as
prime minister. The principal job of Mr Jaafari's government was
to write a permanent constitution, which with great difficulty and
much American prodding it did. Notably, it went to great pains
to include the concerns of Sunnis who had largely boycotted the
The new Iraqi constitution was then, in October,
convincingly ratified, 78% to 21%, by 9.9m
Iraqi voters. This time, Sunnis who had largely abstained from
the first poll, took part in the referendum enthusiastically.
More purple fingers.
This set the scene for last December's historic
election for a permanent 275-member Iraqi National Assembly. As
expected, most voted
along ethnic/tribal/religious lines, yet it is encouraging that the
predominant Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance didn't get quite enough
seats to form a government so will have to enter into coalition with
rivals and so deal in compromises. It means of course that the
UIA will provide the new prime minister.
Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance (2 main parties)
Sunni Arab groupings (2 main parties)
Kurdish bloc with (2 main parties)
Iyad Allawi secularists
Assyrians, Turkomen, Christians, Yazidis etc
And therein lies a remarkable sequence. Two unwilling
and yet peaceful transfers of power, in the space of under two years, from
Mr Allawi to Mr Jaafari, and now from Mr Jaafari to whoever the new guy
is. I wonder whether this has ever happened anywhere in the Middle
East. They say that the mark of true democracy is the ability to
kick the rascals out. Perhaps the true mark is the ability of
kicking out someone who is not even a rascal.
It's worth recapping on these remarkable events because
they tend to get submerged in the media by the succession of bad-news
stories of bombings, battles, kidnappings, ransoms,
Thus 2006 kicks off with one of the most remarkable
transformations of a country ever achieved, from autocratic totalitarian
dictatorship to Western style representative parliamentary democracy in
less than three years. No Western country in history has achieved
this on anything like such a timescale.
So when was the last time something comparable did
Why, only a year ago. That time it was Afghanistan,
and it took almost four years.
So not only is George Bush's vision of defeating IslamoNazi
terrorism through freeing the peoples of the Middle East by democratising
them, coming to fruition, country by country, but he's getting better at
it each time. And if you doubt that the rest of the Middle East is
also changing, look at
the end of the intifada in Israel,
the elections going on amongst the Palestinians,
the de-WMD-ification of Libya,
the hounding of Syria out of Lebanon,
a consultative parliament of sorts in Kuwait - with
tentative albeit low-grade elections even in Saudi
I find incipient liberation of the Middle East from its
thugs, tyrants and other illegitimate rulers an exhilarating notion to
begin the year. Though not, of course, for TTIRs.
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Noam Chomsky Rants
That pin-up of the Left, the USA-hating Israel-hating
American Jew Noam Chomsky, renowned professor of linguistics at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was in Dublin last week. It
was a rare chance to get a glimpse of his techniques and rants in
There is hardly any US non-politician who is more
outspokenly political and partisan than Mr Chomsky, nor more (in)famous.
So it is curious that he visited Dublin as a guest of the supposedly
non-partisan charity Amnesty International which campaigns on behalf of
(Despite Amnesty's high sounding Mission
Statement, it is of course highly partisan, favouring the Left of
every argument, whether unilateral withdrawal from Iraq, the blind eye
turned to Russia's contrived nine-year incarceration of billionaire
Mikhael Khodorovsky, or simply the propagation of John Lennon's
Communist manifesto, “Imagine”.
But that's all a story for another day)
ostensible reason for his visit was to give this year's annual Amnesty Lecture,
titled “The War on
available both as a 157
kb PDF and as a podcast,
which includes a radio interview, embarrassing in the obsequiousness of
Eamon Dunphy, his ex-footballer interlocuter. He also gave a
somewhat less tame interview on
TV and a lengthy one to the (subscription-only) Irish
here (in which he
defends Mussolini, Hitler and Hirohito - see my quotes
from his preposterous ongoing claim that America's aim in Iraq is to prevent
democracy in order to control its oil etc, it was fascinating to observe
his technique. He is undoubtedly a skilled and articulate orator
with a prodigious mental encyclopaedia and a moderate-sounding tone, yet
since he talks such nonsense, it is extraordinary how convincing he sounds
and how many people believe him.
modus operandi is to decide on his conclusion (eg the West is evil), then
to seek out any facts that support it, whilst suppressing those -
generally the overwhelming majority - that don't. In interviews, he deals
with the (occasional) hard question by quoting from various academic,
published and newspaper sources, including himself, in such detail and at
such length that it is impossible to refute his argument without going
away to forage for his references and their context.
started his Dublin speech by declaring that it wasn't George W Bush who declared
today's War on Terror, but Ronald Reagan 20 years ago, his target
being Central America and other areas (p2). This is to show that
members of the current administration (Rumsfeld, Negroponte etc, p7)
fought on the side of American terror then (eg the canard of facilitating
Saddam's WMD, p9) - and of course they continue to do so now. He even says
the first George Bush “authorised Saddam to crush the Shi’ite
rebellion in 1991”(p12), cleverly and wickedly equating Bush's
failure to support the rebellion with authorising Saddam's brutal
suppression of it.
is no doubt that the US did support Saddam during his eight-year war
against Iran, judging him to be a lesser threat than the Ayatollah Khomeini, but
this neglects two things.
to SIPRI (the
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), it was Russia,
France and Germany who predominantly armed Saddam to the tune of 82%,
as my chart shows (click to enlarge),
misdeeds are in any case no basis for criticising present good
Chomsky classifies the US/UK invasion of Iraq as a criminal aggression
because it meets the Nuremberg definition, “Invasion of its armed
forces, with or
without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State”
(p4). But in a classic legerdemain, he neglects to note the illegitimacy
and criminal behaviour of Saddam its ruler whose violent overthrow was the
only means of liberating the Iraqi people from him, and that Saddam was
the target not the people. He quite clearly prefers
use of vetoes to avoid censorious UN resolutions is cited as yet more
proof of guilt (p6), yet without acknowledging that the UN, a club of
predominantly dictators, is intrinsically anti-American, which is
reflected in all those vetoed resolutions. Incidentally, he also refers to
vetoed resolutions as “resolutions”, subtly giving the
impression they were passed anyway though they were not.
principal criticism of the Iraq invasion would be laughable if it were not
believed by so many. It amounts to the fact that to fight terrorism
is to spawn more terrorism (p8), therefore you should eschew fighting and
allow the terrorists to continue to ply their trade unmolested. To
use his words (p8), “stop acting in ways that – predictably
– enhance the threat”.
His solution? To “begin
by considering the [Islamic terrorists'] grievances, and where
appropriate, addressing them, as should be done with or without the threat
If you're an American or an Israeli and I kill you, it's
your fault for not bothering to understand me. Therefore you're the
terrorist not I.
And that about sums up Mr Chomsky's world view.
For a more rounded summary, have a look at what Mark
Humphrys has to say about someone he calls a “life-long
enemy of human freedom and human rights”.
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Rubbishing its EU Presidency
On 1st January, Austria assumed its Buggins alphabetical
turn at the coveted yet poisoned chalice that is the EU Presidency, taking
over from the UK. An advantage of the rotation is that each
six-month presidency is full of energy and new ideas as the presiding
country tries to make its mark in the short time available before
collapsing in exhaustion. The flip side is that there's no
continuity of presidential policies, but on balance that's probably
desirable as most of them are rubbish anyway.
In the UK's case, one of its big things was to conclude a
seven-year budget that was equitable (in particular cutting those
egregious CAP subsidies that massively reward huge agricultural
conglomerates). Tony Blair succeeded in the former part but failed
miserably in the latter, handing bitter rival the virulently pro-CAP
Jacques Chirac a rare and untrammelled victory. So here was a
sensible policy (cut the subsidy), but rubbishly executed (abandon the
effort ignominiously just to get a deal - any deal). Result: rubbish
presidential policy, resulting in an inequitable overblown €862 billion
budget that punishes success and the poor.
Now we have Austria's chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel with
his own hare-brained ideas.
Last May he steered Austria's parliament into ratifying
the EU Constitution (though wisely without the risk of a
referendum). So, with this victory under his belt, you might
understand why one of his big EU presidential things is to - yes - resurrect
it from the Franco-Dutch grave to which it has been consigned.
His foreign minister Ursula Plassnik, believes
it is not actually dead but merely “hibernating”
- ever atuned to the mawkish cause of the day
- thinks all that is needed to defrost it is a good dose of Kyoto-style “climate
change” - I'm not making this up. These are sentimental
notions and so poignantly expressed that as I read about them I could not
prevent the tears welling into my eyes.
After I had stopped laughing and got back up off the
floor, I had a look at what other ticklish delights are nestling in
Austria's menu du jour. And indeed there is more.
Understandably, he wants to avoid another budget wrangle
like Tony Blair's, although someone a bit more rational might say that
what was needed was more wrangling, not less, in order to secure a more
equitable budget. Mr Schüssel's wheeze for reducing wrangling is a
classic EUrocratic non-sequitur - more money.
The EU already filches €215 billion directly from EU
citizens by way of customs duties and VAT, the rest coming via their
respective governments. He wants to increase the EU's
filching. Who could wrangle about that?
It gets better. To get this extra dosh, he wants to
impose a special EU tax on travel and investors.
Now I've just flown to Malaga for a fare of one €uro-cent
each way, which led to Ryanair's astonishing calculation 2 x 0.01 =
€46.00 charged to my credit card. The difference is taxes and
landing fees I am told. So with these kind of punitive rates, I
can't see Mr Schüssel gaining many plaudits from EU travellers by upping
them even further in the vain hope of EU budget discussions becoming more
As for the tax on investors, what he really means is
These low-lifes are of course disposable wicked capitalists, especially
when (or because) they read the markets better than he or I do.
That's why many choose to ignore the inconvenient fact that speculators
actually add to the world's wealth by redirecting investment money from
less to more efficient uses. Adding fresh taxes to this valuable
process will simply deter it.
Austria's top foreign policy priority as EU president is to sort out the
Balkans, the continent's festering problem for two centuries, in the
allotted 180 days. This may be honourable, but is it a realistic
project in the time frame? In practice, it means steering up the EU
enlargement ladder a disparate, mutually misanthropic assemblage
not unlike a bag of cats -
Montenegro and crazy Kosovo, soon to be excised from Serbia;
dismembered disgruntled Serbia and its nemesis Bosnia;
an unruly, distrustful
At the same time, Austria will want to ensure that Turkey
makes no progress whatsoever.
So, resurrect the constitution, reduce budget rows,
ratchet up citizen taxes, herd a bag of Balkan cats and no Turkish
delight. All in six months. And all rubbish - either in
concept or execution.
Just like most of the other EU presidencies. But
it'll make Mr Schüssel feel good, and that's the main thing.
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Giving the Finger
And no - I am not referring to the purple-stained “Image
at the head of this page.
is about husband-and-wife team Jaime Plascencia and Anna Ayala. For
$50, Jaime bought a finger from a colleague whose well manicured digit (right)
had been severed in an industrial accident. Anna then dropped it in
a bowl of chili at a Wendy's restaurant in San Jose, California, said she
bit into it, complained to Wendy's, and went on national television to
publicise her traumatic experience. She was looking for a healthy
$2½m in compensation.
had form. She had previously filed claim against several
corporations, which included a $30,000
win against El Pollo Loco, a Las Vegas restaurant that supposedly
poisoned her daughter. She also stole a woman's life savings of $11,000 in a 2002
phoney mobile home purchase scam.
this case may mark a turning point in the lure of the compo culture, for Wendy's,
facing losses of some $20m in lost sales caused by the bad publicity,
fought back vigorously. Amongst other things, it
all the fingers of its relevant employees and suppliers (none
paid a $100,000 reward to
identify whose finger it was,
forensically, that no-one had in fact bitten into the finger, and
away free ice cream to entice back customers.
The law eventually caught up with the couple and found
them both guilty. They apologised profusely and tearfully for their “poor
judgment” (translation: “getting caught”).
Their reward was a massive nine-year
sentence plus a fine of $22 million in restitution.
Truly the judge gave them the finger.
But again, this case illustrates the huge jail sentences
that the American judiciary doesn't hesitate to hand out. Life without parole, or
are not unusual. This is one reason, a suspect such as the infamous
one-eyed hook-handed Egyptian cleric, Abu Hamza al-Masri, is so furiously fighting
accusations in British courts for incitement to murder. His real
fear is that a guilty finding will be followed by an extradition
to the US, where he is wanted for conspiring to provide material support to the al-Qaeda terror network,
for which he can expect to spend the rest of his ill-begotten life behind
Hamza, whilst living in Britain since 1979 on British welfare benefits, has
been giving the West, and Jews in particular, the finger for many years -
even though he hasn't got any at all. (Checked your chilli
to List of Contents
Quotes of Week
“I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my
US Corporal Jeffrey B Starr from the First Battalion
of the Fifth Marine Regiment, to his girlfriend,
in a valedictory letter found on his laptop computer
This brave American hero had died from small-arms fire
while conducting combat operations
against enemy forces near Ar Ramadi, Iraq
on 30 April 2005, aged just 22
It was his third tour of duty in Iraq
he wrote the letter to his girlfriend
because he believed his luck was running out
three cases of humanitarian intervention prior to the UN Charter. You know what they were? Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia, Hitler's takeover of the
Sudetenland, and Japan's invasion of Manchuria in north China. It's not that the author
[Cole] regarded them as humanitarian, it's that they were carried out with a very impressive humanitarian rhetoric and in fact a fair amount of support in the West, not open support, but tacit support.
That's humanitarian intervention.”
Chomsky, in an interview with the Irish Times,
explains approvingly that prior to 1946
only Mussolini, Hitler and Hirohito were capable of
and certainly not Britain or America
to Mr Chomsky, they are still not.
(13½ Mb MP3; minute number 22):
Chomsky, in his only interview on Irish radio,
“Corporations are tyrannies ... the closest that humans
have come to the totalitarian model.”
Dunphy, the fawning ex-footballer, who interviewed him,
indeed they are. They are the twin evils ... communism
Noam Chomskly: “Yes”
Back to Chomsky post
“The [EU] constitution is not dead/”
the reality check
at his first news conference
after Austria assumes
the presidency of the EU.
EU Commission President
Jose Manuel Barroso
can't control his mirth
Quote: “Left free to harass in Ireland”
by Mary Raftery,
a senior columnist with the (subscription-only) Irish Times.
true, you might think. Hardly anyone
wants to challenge the Left's ideological nonsense.
no, it appears this story is merely about
a doctor allowed to harass his patients
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the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
to Top of Page
#113 - 15th January 2006
A key distinguishing feature of a
democratic society is the control of the military by elected civilian
representatives of the people. Scan the globe and you can see
countless countries where this is obviously not the
from swathes of the Middle East and
Asia, notably China (India, Israel, Japan, S Korea being shining
to most of Africa (honourable
exceptions Botswana, Ghana, South Africa),
to a handful in Central America and the
Caribbean, with Cuba sticking out,
to just one micro-State in Europe, the
Vatican, plus Uzbekistan and Belarus, as well as Putin's Russia which
is now classified by Freedom
House as a “not
to none in N or S America (though you'd
have doubts about Venezuela).
Bringing the military under civilian
control does not happen easily, as the emerging democracies of South
America can ruefully attest, but once embedded is rarely
That's why it can be such an unwelcome
surprise when you suddenly find it's not quite as embedded as everybody
Who can forget the horror of 11th
March 2004 when Al Qaeda detonated ten vicious bombs on Madrid trains,
which took the lives of 191 innocent people and horribly injured many
The next day two million Spaniards poured
into the streets to protest
the outrage. Over the next few days, another 9m demonstrated in
other cities. Notably, however, these were quiet vigils of mourning;
none demanded that the perpetrator organization be hunted down and
ruthlessly destroyed. Rather, many Spaniards believed that the
presence of Spanish troops in Iraq was a major contributory cause of the
The conservative People's Party government
of the day behaved abominably. They tried to score electoral points
by pinning the blame on the home-grown terrorists, the ETA Basque
separatist movement, when it was pretty obvious
from the outset that Osama's boys were behind it.
The PP were rumbled and when a general
election followed a few days later - they were turfed
out in favour of the (current) Socialist Party under Jose Rodriguez
Zapatero. Only the most craven of appeasers would have done what he
then did in the face of an unforgivable IslamoNazi attack: he immediately
declared an abject withdrawal
The soldiers, whose largest project was to
rebuild and modernise the maternity hospital in the city of Diwaniyah
where they were based, were overwhelmingly
opposed to the retreat. Yet just a month later, flee is what
they did, feeling shame, dishonour and guilt at letting down the Iraqis
and their Coalition partners (whilst of course perking up Al Qaeda
So a disgruntled military returned home,
job unfinished, to live in a fast-liberalising society, hell-bent on
uncomfortable (to them) issues such as secularisation, socialisation and
gay marriage. This can't have been cheering them up.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks
Lieut Gen José Mena Aguado, Spain's chief
of land forces, shocked the Spanish establishment, as if out of torpor
when he declared
to fellow officers,
is our duty to warn of the serious consequences, both for the armed
forces as a body and to the people who make it up, if the statute is
constitution marks strict limits restricting any autonomy
If these limits
were to be crossed, the military would be forced to apply article 8 of the constitution, which states:
‘The armed forces of land, sea and air, has the duty to intervene
to guarantee the sovereignty of Spain and to defend the integrity of
thing he was objecting to is a plan put by Mr Zapatero to the
democratically elected central Cortes Generales (parliament) in Madrid
that would grant greater autonomy to Catalonia (host to Barcelona and the
Costa Brava). This would include calling Catalonia a ‘nation’,
granting it sweeping tax and legal advantages, and obliging people to
Though Lieut Gen Mena found himself, within
24 hours, sacked and placed under house arrest, his stance was popular
with the military.
It would be naive not to think that
military unhappiness at the withdrawal from Iraq contributed to his
Moreover, the incident has echoes of 1981
when a coup
was mounted by the military, because they were annoyed at Spain's
transformation from fascist dictatorship under Francisco Franco to
parliamentary democracy under the new king, Carlos. The coup
collapsed when he courageously faced down the military rebels.
It is also reminiscent of South America for
much of the 20th century, where a succession of proud, bemedalled soldiers
(Argentina's Galtieri, Chile's
Pinochet, Bolivia's Banzer to mention but three) appointed themselves
Maybe it's something in the Spanish DNA
that keeps Hispanic soldiers itchy.
For most Europeans and Americans, such
meddling is hard to imagine. Occasionally a senior soldier might
speak out against a military policy (such as the war in Iraq, the merging
of regiments, the closing down of bases, the selection of a particular
warplane). And an ex-soldier might be more robust in his criticism,
such as Britain's ex-General Sir Michael Rose who thinks Tony Blair should
over the Iraq war.
But it is unthinkable that serving officers would ever interfere in domestic
politics of a non-military nature in the way that Lieut Gen Mena just
did. (And for that matter, as the huge army of EU aspirant Turkey is
always subliminally threatening to.)
It seems the Hispanic armed forces (and
others such as Turkey's) need either to be kept busy doing something
constructive and honourable (like helping transform the Middle East to
western democratic values and political systems) or else largely
Democracy is a flower which to remain
vibrant needs constant nourishing, just as to stay aloft a jet plane needs
The devil makes work for idle Hispanic
military hands and their disgruntled
minds. And that's dangerous for not only for those Hispanic
countries but for mankind.
to List of Contents
Love of Totalitarian Mass Murderers
I never cease to be astonished that so many
people are prepared to defend - in public - the most vile mass-murderers
that history has produced, and to disparage democracy while they're at
it. At the least, I would have expected them to hide in a closet and
keep their views to themselves to avoid ridicule or lynching.
Stalin has plenty of defenders, of whom
perhaps the America-hating Israel-hating American Jew Noam
Chomsky is the most notorious. Stalin even has his own website
devoted to his defence.
I wrote previously
about a spat I recently had in a newspaper and on radio about the trivial
glorification of Mao Zedong, and how people - Chinese and non-Chinese
alike - sprang to his defence. How can I say Mao killed 70m people,
asked one, when I hadn't counted the corpses?
Last week I was engaged in another curious
exchange in the (subscription-only) Irish Times, this time about Fidel
In the context of a separate discussion on
same-sex civil unions, correspondents Owen Corrigan and Michael Keary expressed
horror at a suggestion
that the issue might be settled with a referendum.
The opinion of
the Irish people is “neither
here nor there”,
they solemnly declared.
Sometimes the “will
of the majority cannot, and should not, have any bearing on
vitally important issues”;
is the State's duty to ensure equality”,
not the people's.
that such totalitarian, anti-democratic views would be embraced by
every thuggish dictator in the world, from Kim Jong Il to Saddam Hussein
to Robert Mugabe to Fidel Castro, men not renowned for their friendliness
to gays and lesbians, elicited another furious response. S P Mac
me to task for including Mr Castro in the list because because he “was
last returned to parliament as an ordinary member by a majority of those
who voted in his constituency on April 19th, 2003”.
He said I should respect the people of Cuba in their choice.
I had a double-take before reaslising Mr
Mac Aonghusa was not joking. So, with a little research and
plagiarisation, I enlightened
Mr Castro was one of 609 pro-government candidates who
were elected (in January 2003 not April) by 97% of Cuba voters. Not
a single opposition candidate ran. This election was as credible as
those that returned Stalin, Brezhnev et al in the Soviet Empire days.
As Mark Humphrys observes,
Mr Castro has been in power for 46 continuous years, running a prison
state whose citizens are forbidden to leave the country. He denies free
speech, political opposition, and freedom of religion, and has wrecked
Cuba's economy (GDP
$3,000 per capita). According to R J Rummel of Virginia
University's Center for National Security Law, he had killed, up to 1987, over
72,000 of his own people so far, by executions, camps, and the deaths
of refugees (boat people) trying to escape. The running total of
such deaths must by now be considerably higher.
If this is not the behaviour of a thuggish dictator, what is? It is
Castro who disrespects the Cuban people, not I. If only it were
possible to ask them.
Yet let us be grateful that so many of us
live in a free and democratic society where cretinous individuals such as
the likes of Messrs Chomsky, Corrigan, Keary and Mac Aonghusa can advance
their objectionable views without fear or favour. As can
But I still don't understand why they do so
without hiding in shame!
Late Note: Richard Waghorne of the
has reproduced my ding-dong with Mr Mac Aonghusa,
under the title “An
to List of Contents
About Risk Equalisation, Obviously
can listen to this post as a 7.9 Mb MP3 podcast
(my first ever)
Headline, 29th December 2005
Harney welcomes judgement in risk equalisation case
Ireland's Tánaiste [deputy prime
minister] and Minister for Health Mary
[who is also leader of the Progressive
Democrats party] has welcomed the High Court's refusal to grant an
injunction blocking the introduction of risk equalisation [in the
private health insurance industry] on January 1 .
I was feeling a bit peckish the other day,
so I went to a fish and chip shop and ordered a €2 bag of chips. Ahead
of me was a ravenous young man who hadn't had anything to eat since
breakfast, so he ordered two bags of chips. When it came time to
pay, I was astonished that we were each charged the same amount, €3.
Naturally I protested - my order was only
replied the chippy chippily. “It's
called risk equalisation. They have the same
thing in Australia, Germany and Holland. That other fellah is more
hungry than you, so you have to subsidise him so that you both get charged
the same amount.”
I went to the pub for a beer and, being a modest sort of chap, ordered
just half a pint (€2.40). I happened to notice the man beside me
ordering a full pint (€4). The barman then asked each of us
equalisation,” he interrupted smugly. “New system.
Just like South Africa and Switzerland. The other guy is thirstier
than you, so you have to contribute to the extra cost of his thirst. Stop
moaning and drink up. He's already finished his and needs another.”
a jerk” ...
a jerk, I wake up. It's 3 o'clock. In the afternoon. It
was just a dream. Whew, what a relief! It felt more like a
am slumped in my leather-bound super-recliner auto-massage Chief
Executive's chair. I guess I should have declined that big boozy
lunch and eaten a small salad instead. Still, when you're running a
huge insurance company like APUB which provides private health cover, you
deserve to spoil yourself occasionally.
glance through the latest finance papers sitting on my desk.
Business has been good, we've been signing up loads of new customers,
luring many away from IHV, the state-owned company, our primary and hated
rival. Our 600,000 customers just love our low prices and high service
levels. We're not quite doing a Ryanair/Easyjet yet, but we're on a
am pleased to see that we're projecting fat profits of €64m for the next
three years. This will please the shareholders, and then hopefully
they'll please me with with some generous share options.
what's this? A court order saying that over these same three years
APUB will have to give a present of €161m
to its dreaded competitor IHV simply because IHV finds it hard to pay its
bills? They can't be serious. It will obviously be the death knell
of APUB. Obviously.
call my finance director. “Risk equalisation,” he calmly
informs me. “The Government's new policy. Apparently IHV
are upset that they have more elderly and sick clients than we do, and as
a state-run outfit they are inherently inefficient. Therefore, of
course, their costs are higher than ours. So we have been told to
pay them a fat subsidy to cover their losses. Unfortunately, and
that subsidy happens to exceed our own profits by a factor of nearly
why don't IHV just charge more for their higher risk clients, like the
motor insurance companies do? For that matter, why don't we?”
be another Government policy. All customers must be charged the same
premium whether they are strapping youths of 25 or decrepit,
disease-ridden geriatrics. It's called community
this is madness.
who need more clothes pay shopkeepers for more clothes,
who are hungrier pay for more in the supermarket,
myopic people buy spectacles,
who have to travel longer distances pay higher fares or for more
is different about insurance?”
you have to remember that this country is run by a business-friendly,
low-taxation coalition of two Right-leaning parties who, unlike those
raving Lefty loonies, act at all times rationally and in the interests of
the population and tax-payers.”
what's business-friendly about asking a successful private company to
cross-subsidise its principal competitor, a bloated state-run, inefficient
behemoth, grown fat and lazy thanks to 40 years as a protected monopoly?”
he explained patiently, “if our political leaders - bless them - were
of a Leftward persuasion, and they wanted to help the less fortunate, they
would do this openly and through the taxation system, even if it meant tax
rises. But the Left's modus operandi is rooted in Socialism, whose
own roots are Marxism, the most wicked ideology ever devised by man, which
as we all now know killed 100m innocent people in the last century.
Obviously a coalition that dresses to the Right can't do that.”
he added calmly, “the
Coalition wants to be seen to be caring for the infirm and elderly.
Even (or especially) those infirm and elderly who are wealthy and own
their own homes, as most people who can afford private insurance by
definition are ... and who also love voting - and voting Rightward.
And obviously, it sees no inequity in overcharging young people who are
starting out their lives, building their families, and facing huge bills
every month - huge largely due to the inflated property market that has
made those older people so rich. Why should the healthy young pay
cheaper health insurance premiums just because they cost the insurance
see. You make it all look so sensible. But why single out the
health insurance industry for cross-subsidies? For example, surely
the most important input for survival and health is not insurance.
It is food. So why not devise a system to cross-subsidise food?”
told you”, sighed my Finance Director, eyes rolling to heaven.
“The governing coalition is totally rational. What is
irrational to you is rational to it. It's obvious. Plus the
trades unions, in their perpetual quest to reward the rich old and punish
the poor young, love risk equalisation, and most of them happen to be
headquartered in the Taoiseach's
own constituency. So they also have to be pandered to.
please,” I pleaded with him, “wake me from this latest dream,
this nightmare. My head is spinning, my company is going bust.
I can't stand it any more. Shake me, rouse me, rescue me from
the arms of Morpheus!”
is no dream,” he replied curtly as he spun and left the room.
“This is Ireland in 2006 under the Right-of-centre Fianna
Fáil party in coalition with the neo-conservative Progressive
Democrats. Get over it.”
next day, the shareholders deliver my dismissal letter, for presiding over
the future destruction of APUB due to risk equalisation. My last act
is to send redundancy notices to all my 300 employees - including my
Finance Director (heh, heh).
I still don't wake up. My incubus continues. Obviously
has linked to this post
to List of Contents
calls itself “Canada's
leading medical journal”.
I don't know about that, but there is no doubt about the learned erudition
of some of its offerings.
Last month, for example, it announced a
revolutionary breakthrough in that perennial problem of ears bunged up
with wax, to the point of deafness.
The patient in question was a 45-year-old
father, holidaying on a remote lake-island in rural Ontario, who was so
deaf that not even his screaming baby would waken him. As a result
it was always the wife who had to get up in the middle of the night, and
she was not well pleased.
The standard medical ear-syringe was not
available for flushing out his ears. So the doctor asked assistance
from a relative, Charlie Bannister. In view of the this urgent
clinical need, Mr Bannister, age 4, graciously agreed to make available
Super Soaker Max-D 5000 pressurised water-gun, designed for blasting
friends, animals, birds, girls and other aliens. “Nothing
outsoaks the Super Soaker” is its slogan.
Filled with body-temperature water and then
mildly pressurised using its hand-pump, the Super Soaker Max-D 5000 was
able to deliver a superbly pressured, gentle, narrow, easy-to-focus stream
of water ideal for the job. A standard ear-syringe requires to be
refilled ten times to empty your average ear. But after jetting with
just two loads using the Super Soaker Max-D 5000, both ears released their
disgusting debris in chunks, to the delight of the patient with his
restored hearing ... and the revulsion of onlookers.
Read the article
yourself, if you can stomach phrases like posterior wall, otoscopy,
tympanic membrane, cerumen.
to List of Contents
“We [Germany] will not be intimidated by a country such as
Germany's new Chancellor
Angela Merkel, referring to
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recommendation
that Israel be “ wiped off the face of the earth”,
and forgetting that it is not Germany that is being intimidated.
would be better saying that Germany will not tolerate
a fellow democracy being intimidated in this way,
but that would not be Old Europe's way
“This can only be resolved by peaceful means ... nobody is talking about invading Iran or taking military action. To quote the White House,
‘Iran is not Iraq’.”
secretary Jack Straw
on the standoff between Tehran and the West
over Iran's nuclear (weapons) programme,
contributing to the smokescreen about
Israel's inevitable destruction of Iran's nuclear infrastructure
whilst back in October 2005 ...
(From an interview of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
by a clearly confused and bewildered journalist
from the German magazine Der Spiegel):
SPIEGEL: How concerned are you about Iran?
Rumsfeld: All of us have to be concerned when a country that important, large and wealthy is disconnected from the normal interactions with the rest of the world. They obviously have certain ambitions, powers and military capabilities ...
SPIEGEL: ...and nuclear ambitions...
Rumsfeld: That's apparently what France, Germany, the UK and the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded. Everyone wants to have the Iranians as part of the world community, but they aren't yet. Therefore there's less predictability and more danger.
SPIEGEL: The US is trying to make the case in the United Nations Security Council.
Rumsfeld: I would not say that. I thought France, Germany and the UK were working on that problem.
SPIEGEL: What kind of sanctions are we talking about?
Rumsfeld: I'm not talking about sanctions. I thought
you [ie Germany], and the UK and France were.
SPIEGEL: You aren't?
Rumsfeld: I'm not talking about sanctions. You've got the lead. Well, lead!
SPIEGEL: You mean the Europeans.
Rumsfeld: Sure. My Goodness, Iran is your neighbour. We don't have to do everything!
SPIEGEL: We are in the middle of regime change in Germany...
Rumsfeld: ... that's hardly the phrase I would have selected.
Corporation tax should rise by 5 per cent
The €uro should become the
currency for Northern Ireland
Extra borrowing should be spent
PPPs [Public-Private-Partnerships] should not be used to fund
champions] Aer Lingus
[planes], Bus Éireann [buses] and Iarnród Éireann [trains}
are all profitable, and should not be privatised.
From Sinn Féin's
ludicrous Marxist new economic policy,
designed through job destruction
to create a larger army of malcontents,
the party's natural constituency.
It would be cause for amusement were it
not for the possibility
that Sinn Féin might one day in the not too distant future
come to a position of power in the Republic of Ireland
to List of Contents
the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
to Top of Page
for the long hiatus since October 2003
#112 - 8th January 2006
Gaseous Russia to Gasless Ireland, Without Love
Russia has never really forgiven its vassal states, such
as Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, for their impertinence in breaking free from
the Soviet Empire. Indeed Russian president Vladimir Putin has declared
the break up to have been “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the
[20th] century”, which requires quite some chutzpah to say
with a straight face, especially from the land that begat Communism and
the 100 million non-combat deaths this wicked ideology spawned across the
Since his election at the turn of the millennium,
Mr Putin has nostalgically and malevolently concentrated on turning himself into a dictator
in all but name. He has
increased pressure on opposition political parties and civil society,
pursued politically-driven prosecutions of independent business leaders
(most notoriously the billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky now serving
years hard-labour in Siberia) and academics,
re-nationalised most of the hydrocarbon industry and
the media (whilst browbeating the rest into docility),
waged an uncompromising war on his citizens in
Chechnya that takes thousands of lives per year,
restricted and outlawed the activities of numerous
made governors appointed apparatchiks rather than elected officials.
As far as foreign policy is concerned, he has managed to
keep dictatorships such as Belarus and Uzbekistan close to Mother
Russia. But he is outraged that other ex-Soviet states such as Georgia and
Ukraine, having flexed democratic muscle, are now choosing to steer firmly
towards the freedoms and prosperity of the west rather than kow-tow
Which is why Mr Putin has recently
the price of gas charged to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia,
off Moldova's gas supply,
from Bulgaria a higher price despite an agreement running to 2010.
But the action which has attracted most publicity and
outrage is the cutting off of
gas exports to Ukraine on 1st January on the pretext of a price
disagreement. Russia is demanding $230 per 1,000 cubic metres,
compared to the $50 that, according to Andrei Illarionov, a former senior Kremlin
adviser, was pre-agreed for the period 2004-2009. Mr Putin wants to put
manners on Ukraine's rebellious pro-democracy leaders but was dismayed when,
taking Ukraine's side, it was he whom the world condemned. A few days later he resumed gas supplies after some
sort of compromise deal was reached.
But look at the instant effect of the Ukraine dispute.
Russia supplies much of central and western Europe via the pipeline that
traverses Ukraine. So Kiev simply filched gas destined for other
countries, leaving Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Bosnia, Austria, Poland and Germany
short of gas.
This illustrates the interconnectedness of European gas
markets and their marked dependence on Russia. Had the dispute
continued, you can be sure even more countries would have been found
themselves without the gas they need and have contracted for.
Which brings me to energy-starved, energy-barren,
gas-burning Ireland. It has no oil resources at all, but two indigenous gas fields, both offshore -
in the south, Kinsale/Seven Heads, which is almost exhausted (produces
BCM (billion cubic metres) per annum, less than 20% of current
west, a healthily plump but undeveloped Corrib
capable of another 1.3
BCM pa for over two decades.
The shortfall (50% and rising) must thus be augmented by dirty-burning local peat for power
stations, by fossil fuel imports, and my electricity cabled in from the UK
The billion-€uro development of Corrib has been the subject of a dispute raging
now for over a year between those who believe it should go ahead and those
who don't. The irrational essence of the objections is that any hydrocarbon development is
mad, bad and dangerous and a prostitution of the nation's patrimony. Why,
five local residents even marched themselves off to jail for three months
to prove their ignorance of the issues. Some objectors declare that
since the developer (in this case Shell) will make money,
the tax regime
is de-facto too generous,
that hydrocarbon-rich Norway or Saudi Arabia should
serve as statist models for exploiting oil and gas fields,
that only a money-losing formula (for the developer) is
This is all to miss the central point, and that is that
Ireland is at the very end of a very very long gas pipeline system that begins
8,000 kilometres away in the gas fields of frozen Siberia and beyond.
The argument between Ukraine and Russia illustrates three
Europe is highly vulnerable to disruption of supplies, and Russia is
both the most able and the most likely to cause disruptions.
This vulnerability is not
restricted to any single country or group of countries, even if only one
is the target of the disruption.
The further away you are from the
source the less likely you will be in a crisis to get any gas, because
everyone between you and the source will help himself first.
development of indigenous supplies, if you are lucky enough to have any,
is of paramount strategic importance. As indeed is also the
development of alternative energy sources (eg solar, wind, tide etc).
And if, like Ireland, you are at the very end of the
gas import queue, you would have to be a raving lunatic or a treasonous saboteur to
stand in the way of bringing your own hydrocarbon supplies to
But it seems futile to point out such elementary facts of
life to the motley leftists, environmentalists, trade-unionists, anti-globalists,
anti-capitalists and poverty-lovers who would rather a valuable resource
stay in the ground than be used for the good of the
There's not much love lost on the part of any of the
parties along that 7,000 km gas chain. It's strictly business
... and politics.
David Rolfe illustrates my point in the
Irish Times in December 2006
Madam, - The fundamental question the Irish people
need to ask themselves about [Ireland's controversial] Mayo gas
field is this: Which end of the European gas pipeline do they want to be
on - the producing end or the consuming end?
Without the Mayo gas, Irish supplies will be
indirectly controlled by a Russian government that has an increasingly
toxic relationship with its neighbours and a demonstrated willingness to
use interruption of gas supplies as a political and economic weapon.
Ireland's position at the end of the distribution chain means it will
inevitably suffer if any of the countries between us and the Kremlin
annoy Mr Putin.
A two-week cut in natural gas supplies in the
middle of winter would lead to a national crisis and a wave of deaths
among the old and infirm that would eclipse the worst-case scenarios for
an industrial accident at the gas facility in Mayo. - Yours, etc,
DAVID ROLFE, Leinster Road, Rathmines,
On 14th October
2010, The Economist ran a
piece demonstrating how
technological change and new pipelines can improve security of gas
supplies for Europe, accompanied by this illuminating map.
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Charles Kennedy, Alcoholic
So poor, dreamy old useless Charles Kennedy, leader of
Britain's third political party the Liberal Democrats, is on the way out,
kicking and screaming and in complete denial.
For several weeks we have been told that his fellow
Lib-Dem MPs had “lost
in their leader and wanted him to go, yet without specifying
why. He had done nothing obviously wrong, indeed in 2005 he had
delivered a stunning election victory in which, with 23% of the vote, the
number of his MPs rose from 52
to 62, the highest number since the 1920s. Something fishy was
clearly going on, and know we know what. Long famed
for his fondness for the bottle, he has turned into an alcoholic.
Evidently this came to a head last November - we can only speculate that
there must have been one or more spectacularly drunken incidents in front
of his colleagues and behind closed doors. Enough is enough they
His continuing state of denial was very much in evidence
when he finally went before the cameras last Thursday (5th January) to
admit he had an drink problem. He told
us, “I haven't had a drink for the past two months
[ie since the November incident] - and I don't intend to in the
What he did not say is more significant.
He did not use the hallowed formulation favoured by Alcoholics
am an alcoholic”, and
did not say he had given up alcohol “for life”, which is
the only solution for the disease of alcoholism. He has clearly
left the door ajar.
another denial of the reality of his situation, he did not do the
honourable, sensible thing and resign and so preserve his dignity.
He merely offered himself for re-election as leader against any other MP
who might choose to stand against him. Needless to say, since
spinelessness is the Lib-Dems' defining ethos, not one of them has done
so. They all hoped Mr Kennedy would simply depart the scene quietly
and voluntarily, and so spare them any embarrassment or the need for
ruthlessness. And in the end, last Sunday, he did.
he is eventually gone - before the end of January no doubt - it will be
with head rightly hung in shame.
course if Mr Kennedy does go on the wagon - for life - there is no reason
why he should not return to a leadership role in public life at some point
in the future. It's just that it will take some time (a year
perhaps?) to convince himself and others that he really is off the
booze. If he is.
Yet in the current debate about the incompatibility of
leadership and alcoholism, I haven't heard a single participant in the
drama or one media pundit mention the elephant in the room. For
there is a glaring precedent of compatibility.
The leader of the world's only superpower is an
alcoholic. George W Bush. But he hasn't had a drink since his
40th birthday, and whatever you might think about his vast right wing
conspiratorial neocon warmongering crusader politics, alcohol has played
absolutely no part whatsoever in his behaviour. He the world's
leading walking advertisment that alcoholics can lead fulfilling and
fruitful lives, and as such he should be an inspiration, especially to a
hitherto successful fellow-politician such as Charles Kennedy.
Ah, but that would be admitting something positive about “the
word's greatest terrorist”. Can't have that, can we?
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12th November 2005
On 12th November, the
inimitable Mark Steyn accorded me “Letter
of the Week”
for the submission reproduced
below, though he left out the links. Devin Leonard's letter, to which mine refers, has gone from Steyn's
website but I've preserved a copy below, charmingly entitled “You’re
It was a hugely emotional
diatribe that claimed that the IRA killed only legitimate targets not
civilians. He was attempting an indignant response to a Steyn column in the
Jewish World Review,
“These Irish eyes are smiling at White House snub of IRA”,
which rejoiced at Gerry Adams' exclusion from George Bush's St Patrick's
Day party earlier this year in favour of the sisters and fiancée of
murdered Sinn Féiner Robert McCartney. Mr Leonard, who is a
fireman, concluded his rebuttal by recommending
that Steyn have a fire extinguisher rammed up his butt.
Letter of the Week
THE IRA’S ‘LEGITIMATE’ TARGETS
From Mark Steyn's Mailbox, 8th November 2005 (approx)
That was an, er, interesting letter
in your mailbox from the Irish-American armchair-patriot-firemanDevin Leonard of
Turbeville, Virginia, who says that the IRA's victims were "mostly
Soldiers, Police and UDA/UVF members, in other words ...
might with to refer him to this illustration of three decades of
killings in Northern Ireland. I constructed it for a blog
post from data found in David McKittrick's “Lost
Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died Through
the Northern Ireland Troubles”, Mainstream Publishing, ISBN:
Behind the numbers in my chart lie the following.
Republicans (IRA and its associates) suffered 397 of their own number
killed. In reply, they killed 2,157 people, of whom so-called
"legitimate targets" were made up of
818 policemen and soldiers from both Britain and Ireland,
plus 377 assorted loyalists.
The balance of Republican victims comprised
802 ordinary civilians and
160 of, extraordinarily, their own men.
Excluding the "own goals", civilians thus constituted over
40% of the Republicans' victims. No other party to
the conflict killed so many civilians or such a high proportion.
Mr Leonard is talking tosh. I hope that that fire
extinguisher doesn't prevent you from disabusing him (or whatever the
YOU’RE ANTI-AMERICAN SCUM
Mark Steyn's Mailbox, 8th November 2005 (approx)
As a proud former US Marine (1st Force Reconnaissance Co.) (15th
MEU), and proud Irish American...I wish to express my disgust for the article
These Irish Eyes Are Smiling, For White House Snub of IRA.
Only someone with the vast stupidity and ignorance of Mark Steyn could have written such a piece of shit.
Here are a few facts for the obviously racist and idiotic Steyn.
1. Sinn Fein is a LEGALLY recognized political party. This is the first time they have not attended St. Patrick’s Day festivities at the White House in 10 years. This has far more to do with the fact that George Bush and his inner circle are anti-Irish pussies, who like to suck up to the Brits, then it is does any legitimate grievances with Sinn Fein or the IRA.
2. Seeing as how the JWR is known for it's GOP "Ass Kissing" and racism, it's not surprising that a JWR "hack" like Steyn would propagate these types of administration lies.
3. Like the brave Jewish soldiers of the Irgun and Stern Gang, the French Resistance, and the great American Revolutionaries...The IRA is a legitimate guerilla army fighting against oppression and injustice. Unlike the REAL terrorists of
Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaida, the IRA has killed mostly Soldiers, Police and
UDA/UVF members. In other words they killed people who would be legitimate targets in any war. My Force Recon unit targeted these same types in both Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and never once were we considered terrorists.
4. The IRA has killed civilians, but then so did the Jewish Irgun and Stern Gang, the French Resistance, and even the American Revolutionaries...I never hear any condemnation of these attacks by Israelis, Jews, French or Americans.
The reason for this is simple: Unfortunately innocent people die in all wars, we killed 500 innocents in
Kosovo. We didn't mean to, but that's the way war is.
I find it strange that Republican cowards and anti-American scum like Mr
Steyn, always talk about the IRA while never mentioning the Loyalist terrorists of the UDA and
UVF, who have (according to the US State Dept.) killed several hundred more civilians then the IRA has...and yet are apparently ok because they represent Britain as opposed to Ireland. If the IRA are terrorists, then the Jewish groups that fought against the Brits are too. In fact, so are the
KLA, Northern Alliance, French Resistance, and even our own American Revolutionaries...Now, I don't know about a puke
"wanna-be Irishman" like Steyn, but I consider those groups to be anything BUT terrorists. Sinn Fein will ALWAYS have the support of the vast majority of Irish Americans. As for the IRA, they are patriots who kicked the shit out of the British for 30 years, and unfortunately...they were justified in doing it.
I am sick of right wing, panty wearing faggots like Steyn, insulting their own people. If Mr. Steyn has any guts (which we all know he doesn't) he can come out to the Turbeville Fire Dept in South Boston and talk his anti Sinn Fein shit with a bunch of us REAL Irish American patriots. And he can bring some of those "Pussy" Brit soldiers he gets whiney ass E-mails from. We will give him and his "Brit Buddies" an old fashioned Irish "ass
whippin" and send him back to the JWR offices, with a fire extinguisher up his butt...Which come to think of it, probably would be something his faggot ass would enjoy.
THE RACIST IDIOTIC WANNABE IRISH PANTY WEARING FAGGOT REPLIES: A note to all readers in the Turbeville area: If your house is on fire and the fire truck shows up without an extinguisher, at least you’ll know where to look for it – although whether that counts as improper storage of municipal property is something you should take up with your elected representatives.
to List of Contents
and up to Week 112
Quote: “[Al-Qaida's] objective
[in Iraq] is to drive US and coalition forces out; use the vacuum that would be created by an American retreat to gain control; and use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America, overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East, and establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain”
National Strategy for Victory in Iraq,
a 35-page document published by the White House
on 30th November 2005
the White House version
does not include this quote!
Iranian and Syrian regimes made a strategic pact to oppose democracy in Iraq. The regimes made a pact to fight America,
'the Great Satan', on Iraqi soil and with Iraqi blood, and to turn Iraq into
'a new Vietnamese quagmire', in which, they said, the arrogant Americans would sink. [They made this pact] in order to spare [themselves] the fate of Saddam Hussein and his tyrannical regime.”
Iraqi reformist Dr Abd
writing in the Arabic reformist website www.elaph.com.
His words echo
current Palestinian Authority president,
Abu Mahzen some years ago
“Many Arab and Islamic countries want to fight Israel through us,
or, as they say, they want to fight Israel to the last Palestinian,
and through us achieve what their armies could not.”
In similar vein, Quote:
Is a disgraceful blot that should be wiped off the face of the earth ...
[and] ... a new wave of Palestinian attacks would be enough to finish off Israel.”
president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks plainly
at a “ World Without Zionism”
conference in Tehran.
Later he amended
his statement to the effect that
Israel should be shifted to Germany and Austria.
Let no-one doubt that Mr Ahmadinejad
is sincere and should be taken at his word.
Quote: “This is the last mile of a long road. I have been exiled, jailed and tortured on the way.”
Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,
long known as the Iron Lady,
who became the first-ever woman president
of an African country.
Quote: “That's the problem with these exchanges - the chief whip on the Labour side shouting like a child. Is she finished? Are you
his first Prime Ministers Questions,
David Cameron, the new leader of the UK's Conservative Party publicly
scolds Labour chief whip Hilary Armstrong
Quote: “If you are going to allow your country to be used to refuel a US plane, which is going on a bombing raid, what do you expect our reaction to be? This is not neutrality.”
Choudary, a London-based lawyer
who believes that Ireland is a legitimate target
for Islamic terror groups
because it allows US military planes
to refuel at Shannon airport
am annoyed my reference to feeling betrayed has not been reported.”
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern expresses displeasure
with the media for failing to report that
his use of the word “betrayal”
in a speech,
even though he in fact failed to use such a word.
(Apparently the word had appeared
in his accompanying speaking notes.)
Quote: “Even a radical overhaul of Sinn Féin economic policy would have little real credibility after 35 years of Marxism. I believe Sinn Féin are agents of poverty and
disadvantage ... delivering real benefits for ordinary people would be impossible with Sinn Féin in government.”
Bertie Ahern explains why
he will not contemplate Sinn Féin as a coalition partner.
you recall that, mystifyingly,
himself a socialist a mere year ago
“The war is obviously over. The IRA said formally it was bringing an end to its armed campaign.”
Adams, leader of Sinn Fein/IRA,
uses for the first time the explicit form of words
that unionists have been demanding for over a decade
“Sinn Fein will lie about it and conceal it. They will cover it up because it makes the leadership look stupid.”
Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA commander in south Belfast
who is now a historian, commenting on
infiltration into the IRA by the British.
This was typified by the outing of Donald Donaldson,
Sinn Fein’s head of administration at Stormont,
as a British spy of twenty years standing
a results business, of course, and they haven't been going well, but we've
been playing some good rugby.”
true hypocritical fashion Alan Gaffney,
the assistant/backs coach of the
dismal Australian rugby team
dissociates himself from the bad stuff
(“they haven't been going well”)
whilst claiming full credit for the good
(“we've been playing some good rugby”)
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Cuddly Teddy Bears
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Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
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 table with
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 nation France.
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 table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics