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TALLRITE BLOG 
ARCHIVE

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

You can write to me at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com
(Clumsy form of my address to thwart spamming software that scans for e-mail addresses)

For some reason, this site displays better in Internet Explorer than in Mozilla Firefox

Image of 2005

Finger stained purple after voting in an Iraqi election
January 2006

My apologies for the hiatus from October through December 2005
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ISSUE #112 - 8th January 2006

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ISSUE #113 - 15th January 2006

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ISSUE #114 - 22nd January 2006

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ISSUE #115 - 29th January 2006

 

ISSUE #115 - 29th January 2006 [284]

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Hamas ... the Future Peacemaker

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Those Central European Immigrants

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Spanish Smokes and Lollipops

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Unpublished Letters to the Press

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Quotes of Week 115

Hamas ... 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 election.  

 Party

 Seats Won

Nevertheless, Reuters called the (Hamas) result “a political earthquake that could bury any hope for reviving peace talks with Israel soon”.  

 

A political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal”, thundered George Bush.

 Hamas

 76

 Fatah

43

 Others

13

 Total

132

The Israelis said "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 resistance proclaimed 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 why.  

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 heroic assumptions.  

Hamas does two things, which are in stark - almost oxymoronic - contrast with each other.  

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First, 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 democratic man.

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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 with?  

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. 

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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.  

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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 the sea.  

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 agenda?  

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.  

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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 re-elected.  

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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.  

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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 

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what is possible though undesirable (a two-state solution) versus 

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what is impossible though desirable (bye-bye Israel).  

And when it does this, the makings of a genuine, durable peace will be there.  

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 together.   

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Those Central European Immigrants

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 immigrants.  

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, then.  

What happened? Well Eurostat and the CIA paint the following picture for the period since the new countries joined.   

 2005
Figures

 Net 
Immigration

Per 1,000 
population

GDP
pp

GDP
growth

Unemp

Sweden

37,000

 4.2

$29.6k

2.4%

6%

Britain

297,000

 5.0

$30.9k

1.8%

4.7%

Ireland

71,000

17.3

$34.1k

4.9%

4.2%

Other 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 unemployment).  

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 boom.  

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

  1. are well educated, 

  2. share the same European culture, 

  3. want to work, 

  4. by and large are practising Christians, and

  5. 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 LatIreland's population profile, 1840s to 2000s.  Click to enlarge. via, 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 plumbers 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 
by Roderick Hall published by Mark Steyn last November


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Spanish Smokes and Lollipops

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 OOL.  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 cigarette lighters.  

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 January.  

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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Unpublished 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.  

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One 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 ... 

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Chopping 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 ... 

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Exasperating 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" ... 

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Licensing 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 ...

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Risk 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. ...

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Quotes of Week 115

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

Quote: “[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

Quote: “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.” 

Ariel Sharon, in September 2005 before the UN, 
with prescient words about Palestinian sovereignty.  

Hamas, as elected leaders, now have t he responsibility 
to turn Mr Sharon's last sentence into reality

Hattip: Not a Fish 

Quote: 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.” 

Ireland muddies the waters 
with this (historically illiterate) remark in Dubliner Magazine 
by its former industry minister Justin Keating, 
which the Irish Government then refuse to disavow

----------E-U----------

Quote: “No political entity can be built on a movement of 
rapid and continuous
expansion whose limits are uncertain

France's 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.  

He would rather we believe that 
Any
political entity can be built on a movement of 
rapid and continuous
integration whose limits are uncertain.

Each postulation, in relation to uncertain limits,
is as as unproven as the other.
The shifty Mr de Villepin is simply pushing ideology

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See the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience

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ISSUE #114 - 22nd January 2006 [195]

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Iraq - The Exhilarating Notion of 2006

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Noam Chomsky Rants in Dublin

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Austria Rubbishing its EU Presidency

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Giving the Finger

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Quotes of Week 114

Iraq - 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.  

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First the American-led coalition toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq's vicious dictator for 32 years.

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It then, in May 2003, installed the American Paul Bremer as pro-Consul, or effectively dictator, who set the timetable for elections.

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A year later, Mr Bremer unilaterally installed Iyad Allawi as interim prime minister, or effectively yet a third dictator.  

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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 January election.  

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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.   

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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)

128

 

Sunni Arab groupings (2 main parties)

 55

 

Kurdish bloc with (2 main parties)

 53

 

Iyad Allawi secularists

 25

 

Assyrians, Turkomen, Christians, Yazidis etc

 14

 

Total

 275

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, head-hackings.  

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 happen?  

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 

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the end of the intifada in Israel, 

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the elections going on amongst the Palestinians, 

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the de-WMD-ification of Libya, 

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the hounding of Syria out of Lebanon, 

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a consultative parliament of sorts in Kuwait - with women,

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tentative albeit low-grade elections even in Saudi Arabia.  

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 in Dublin

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 action.  

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 political prisoners.  

(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)

The ostensible reason for his visit was to give this year's annual Amnesty Lecture, titled The War on Terror”, 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 Times transcripted here (in which he defends Mussolini, Hitler and Hirohito - see my quotes below). 

Apart 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.  

His 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.  

He 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.  

There 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.  

  1. Russia, France, Germany 82%; US, Britain, Australia 1%.  Click to enlarge (into a new window)According 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), and 

  2. Past misdeeds are in any case no basis for criticising present good deeds. 

Mr 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 Saddam.  

America's 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.  

His 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 of terror” (p10).  

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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Austria 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” and - 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 gentlemanly.  

As for the tax on investors, what he really means is hitting short-term financial speculators”.  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.  

Finally, 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 - 

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Tiny Montenegro and crazy Kosovo, soon to be excised from Serbia;

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a dismembered disgruntled Serbia and its nemesis Bosnia;

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an unruly, distrustful Albania.

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 of 2005” at the head of this page.  

This 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.  

She 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. 

But 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 

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counted all the fingers of its relevant employees and suppliers (none missing), 

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paid a $100,000 reward to identify whose finger it was, 

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determined, forensically, that no-one had in fact bitten into the finger, and

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gave 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 century-long terms 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 Abu Hamza, the notorious one-eyed hook-handed Muslim cleric from Egypt who has lived in Britain off welfare for 17 yearscourts 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 bars.  

Abu 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 lately?)

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Quotes of Week 114

---------- I-R-A-Q----------

Quote: “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 mark.” 

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 and 
he wrote the letter to his girlfriend 
because he believed his luck was running out

Hattip: Mark Humphrys

----------C-H-O-M-S-K-Y---------

Quote: “... 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.

Noam Chomsky, in an interview with the  Irish Times, 
explains approvingly that prior to 1946 
only Mussolini, Hitler and Hirohito were capable of 
humanitarian intervention, 
and certainly not Britain or America

According to Mr Chomsky, they are still not.

Quote (13½ Mb MP3; minute number 22)

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Noam Chomsky, in his only interview on Irish radio, 
Corporations are tyrannies ... the closest that humans have come to the totalitarian model. 

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Eamon Dunphy, the fawning ex-footballer, who interviewed him, 
Yes indeed they are.  They are the twin evils ... communism and corporatism. 

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Noam Chomskly: “Yes .   

Back to Chomsky post above

----------F-R-I-V-O-L-I-T-Y----------

Quote: “The [EU] constitution is not dead/” 

Austrian Chancellor European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, right, can't contain his mirth over the Constitution-Resurrection rubbish that Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel is spoutingWolfgang Schüssel fails 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

Headline by Mary Raftery, 
a senior columnist with the (subscription-only) Irish Times.

How true, you might think.  Hardly anyone 
wants to challenge the Left's ideological nonsense. 

But no, it appears this story is merely about 
a doctor allowed to harass his patients

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ISSUE #113 - 15th January 2006 [295]

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Disgruntled Hispanic Soldiers

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For Love of Totalitarian Mass Murderers

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Dreaming About Equalisation, Obviously

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Blast Those Ears

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Quotes of Week 113

Disgruntled Hispanic Soldiers

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 case, 

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from swathes of the Middle East and Asia, notably China (India, Israel, Japan, S Korea being shining exceptions),

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to most of Africa (honourable exceptions Botswana, Ghana, South Africa), 

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to a handful in Central America and the Caribbean, with Cuba sticking out, 

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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 freedictatorship

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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 undone.  

That's why it can be such an unwelcome surprise when you suddenly find it's not quite as embedded as everybody thought.  

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 more?  

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 bombing.

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 from Iraq.  

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 immeasurably).  

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 ago.  

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, 

Lieut Gen José Mena Aguado, Spain's chief of land forces, addresses a hundred senior members of the Spanish armed forcesIt 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 approved.  

The constitution marks strict limits restricting any autonomy statute.  

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 constitutional order’.” 

The 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 speak Catalan. 

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 outburst.  

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 dictator.  

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 be impeached 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 disbanded.  

Democracy is a flower which to remain vibrant needs constant nourishing, just as to stay aloft a jet plane needs constant fuel.  

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.  

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For 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 Castro.  

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. 

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The opinion of the Irish people is neither here nor there, they solemnly declared.  

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Sometimes the will of the majority cannot, and should not, have any bearing on vitally important issues

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it is the State's duty to ensure equality, not the people's.  

My retort, 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 Aonghusa took 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 him.  

Actually, 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 Mr
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 I.   

But I still don't understand why they do so without hiding in shame!  

Late Note: Richard Waghorne of the Freedom Insitute 
has reproduced my ding-dong with Mr Mac Aonghusa,
 
under the title An Amusing Exchange

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Dreaming About Risk Equalisation, Obviously
NEW!
You can listen to this post as a 7.9 Mb MP3 podcast 
(my first ever)

 News Headline, 29th December 2005 
Harney welcomes judgement in risk equalisation case

Ireland's Tánaiste [deputy prime minister] and Minister for Health Mary Harney [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 [2006].

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 for €2.  

New Government policy, 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.

Later 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 for  €3.20. 

B-b-but”, I ventured.  

Risk 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.”  

What a jerk” ... 

And with 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 cauchemar.  

I 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.  

I 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 similar track.    

I 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.  

But 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.  

I 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 three.”  

Then 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?”  

That'll 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 rating.

But this is madness.  

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People who need more clothes pay shopkeepers for more clothes, 

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people who are hungrier pay for more in the supermarket, 

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only myopic people buy spectacles, 

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people who have to travel longer distances pay higher fares or for more petrol.  

What is different about insurance?” 

Well, 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.”  

But 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?

Well”, 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.

Obviously,” I murmured.  

And obviously,” 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 company less?”  

I 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?

I 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.  Obviously.

Please, 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!”  

This 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.

The 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). 

But I still don't wake up.  My incubus continues.  Obviously

Note: Wulfbeorn has linked to this post

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Blast Those Ears

The CMAJ 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 his 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.  

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Quotes of Week 113

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Quote: “We [Germany] will not be intimidated by a country such as Iran.

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. 

She 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

Quote: “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’.” 

British foreign 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 ... 

Quote 
(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.

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

Quote:

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Corporation tax should rise by 5 per cent [to 17½%]

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The €uro should become the currency for Northern Ireland

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Extra borrowing should be spent on infrastructure

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PPPs [Public-Private-Partnerships] should not be used to fund motorways

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[Inefficient state-owned 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

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My apologies for the long hiatus since October 2003
ISSUE #112 - 8th January 2006
[157]

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From Gaseous Russia to Gasless Ireland, Without Love

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Charles Kennedy, Alcoholic

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IRA’s ‘Legitimate’ Targets

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Quotes of and up to Week 112

From 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 world.  

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

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increased pressure on opposition political parties and civil society, 

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pursued politically-driven prosecutions of independent business leaders (most notoriously the billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky now serving nine years hard-labour in Siberia) and academics, 

bullet

re-nationalised most of the hydrocarbon industry and the media (whilst browbeating the rest into docility), 

bullet

waged an uncompromising war on his citizens in Chechnya that takes thousands of lives per year,

bullet

restricted and outlawed the activities of numerous NGOs, 

bullet

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 northward.  

Which is why Mr Putin has recently

bullet

hiked the price of gas charged to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia,

bullet

turned off Moldova's gas supply, 

bullet

demanded 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 - 

bullet

in the south, Kinsale/Seven Heads, which is almost exhausted (produces just 0.8 BCM (billion cubic metres) per annum, less than 20% of current consumption, and 

bullet

in the 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 mainland.  

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, 

bullet

the tax regime is de-facto too generous, 

bullet

that hydrocarbon-rich Norway or Saudi Arabia should serve as statist models for exploiting oil and gas fields, 

bullet

that only a money-losing formula (for the developer) is acceptable.  

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 things.  

  1. Europe is highly vulnerable to disruption of supplies, and Russia is both the most able and the most likely to cause disruptions.  

  2. This vulnerability is not restricted to any single country or group of countries, even if only one is the target of the disruption.  

  3. 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.  

Hence 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 market.  

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 people.   

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.  

Late Note:

David Rolfe illustrates my point in the (subscription-only)
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, Dublin 6.

Later Note:

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 confidencein 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 have decided.  

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 future.  What he did not say is more significant.  

bullet

He did not use the hallowed formulation favoured by Alcoholics Anonymous, I am an alcoholic”, and 

bullet

he 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.  

In 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.  

When he is eventually gone - before the end of January no doubt - it will be with head rightly hung in shame.    

Of 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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IRA’s ‘Legitimate’ Targets                                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 Anti-American Scum.  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 ... legitimate targets". 

You 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: 184018504X. 

 
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
  1. 818 policemen and soldiers from both Britain and Ireland,
  2. plus 377 assorted loyalists. 
The balance of Republican victims comprised
  1. 802 ordinary civilians and
  2. 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 word is). 
Regards,
 
Tony Allwright
Dublin, Ireland

YOU’RE ANTI-AMERICAN SCUM
From 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.

Devin Leonard
Turbeville, Virginia

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.

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Quotes of and up to Week 112

----------W-O-R-L-D----------

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

Strangely, however the White House version  
does not include this quote!

Quote: The 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 Al-Khaleq Hussein, 
writing in the Arabic reformist website www.elaph.com

His words echo those of 
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: Israel 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.

Iran's 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 finished?” 

During his first Prime Ministers Questions,
David Cameron, the new leader of the UK's Conservative Party publicly scolds Labour chief whip Hilary Armstrong 

   ----------I-R-E-L-A-N-D----------

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.”  

Anjem 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

Quote: I am annoyed my reference to feeling betrayed has not been reported.

Ireland's 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.” 

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern explains why 
he will not contemplate Sinn Féin as a coalition partner.  
Odd, when you recall that, mystifyingly, 
he called himself a socialist a mere year ago

Quote: “The war is obviously over.  The IRA said formally it was bringing an end to its armed campaign.

Gerry 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

Quote: “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

----------R-U-G-B-Y----------

Quote: “It's a results business, of course, and they haven't been going well, but we've been playing some good rugby.” 

In 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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 What I've recently
been reading

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

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

See detailed review

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

bullet

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

bullet

the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

bullet

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

More details on my blog here.

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

bullet

part of a death march to Thailand,

bullet

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

bullet

regularly beaten and tortured,

bullet

racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

bullet

a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

bullet

Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

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

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

++++++

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

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as

bullet

Why does asparagus come from Peru?

bullet

Why are pandas so useless?

bullet

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

bullet

Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

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

bullet

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

bullet

Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

bullet

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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

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

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

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

+++++

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