Tony
Blog
Click to access RSS
Archive

Q4/14

Q3/13

Q2/13

Q1/13

Q4/12

Q3/12

Q2/12

Q1/12

1/12

12/11

11/11

10/11

9/11

8/11

7/11

6/11

5/11

4/11

3/11

2/11

1/11

12/10

11/10

10/10

9/10

8/10

7/10

6/10

5/10

4/10

3/10

2/10

1/10

12/09

11/09

10/09

9/09

8/09

7/09

6/09

5/09

4/09

3/09

2/09

1/09

12/08

11/08

10/08

9/08

8/08

7/08

6/08

5/08

4/08

3/08

2/08

1/08

12/07

11/07

10/07

9/07

8/07

7/07

6/07

5/07

4/07

3/07

2/07

1/07

12/06

11/06

10/06

9/06

8/06

7/06

6/06

5/06

4/06

3/06

2/06

1/06

12/05

11/05

10/05

9/05

8/05

7/05

6/05

5/05

4/05

3/05

2/05

1/05

12/04

11/04

10/04

9/04

8/04

7/04

6/04

5/04

4/04

3/04

2/04

1/04

12/03

11/03

10/03

9/03

8/03

7/03

6/03

5/03

4/03

3/03

2/03

1/03

12/02

11/02

10/02

9/02

8/02

7/02

Indexes
>Time
>Alphabet

Letters
Blog
To find an archived article, simply click on Index and scroll the subject titles, or do a Ctrl-F search

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)

Ill-informed and Objectionable Comment by an anonymous reader
For some reason, this site displays better in Internet Explorer than in Mozilla Firefox
October 2007
bullet

ISSUE #162 - 7th October 2007

bullet

ISSUE #163 - 18th October 2007

bullet

ISSUE #164 - 28th October 2007

 



Not quite rugby, but as close as I can get
Time and date in Westernmost Europe

ISSUE #164 - 28th October 2007 [557 + 231 = 788]

bullet

Death to the Two-Tier Health System

bullet

News From Iraq Can Also Be Good

bullet

Five Times More Fun Than Soccer

bullet

New Wine for Seniors

bullet

Issue 164's Letters to the Press

bullet

Quotes for Issue 164

Click here for Word Version of Issue #164

Death to the Two-Tier Health System

A debate has been raging in Ireland for the past couple of years or so about the poor quality of the state-provided healthcare system.   Similar complaints are heard from the UK to Canada to France - litanies of substandard service coupled with financial constraints.  I am not going to contribute to these tales of woe for the simple reason that on the very few occasions I have had to avail of Ireland's public hospitals (and indeed, many years ago, Britain's), I have been very happy with the experience.

But I have no doubt the negative stories are true - people wouldn't routinely lie about such things. 

In Ireland, much of the blame is laid at the door of the so-called two tier” health system, that is the public system and the privately insured system, which run side by side. 

A recent tragic case involved a 40 year old mother who was sent by her GP for a colonoscopy but since she was a public patient she had to wait seven months for it.  It eventually revealed she had bowel cancer which by then had become fatal.  She died last month.  A man who was given a similar referral was diagnosed within three days, received timely treatment and therefore survived.  The mother relied on the public system, the man was privately insured. 

In essence, private insurance not only gives you a better bed in the hospital (to my mind a trivial gain) but allows you to jump the queue of public patients to get attention of medical consultants, specialist analyses and necessary treatment, faster.  There is a very simple explanation for this:

bullet

in the public system, sustained by a fixed budget from state coffers, every patient is a cost and therefore undesirable,

bullet

in the private sector (insured or otherwise), every patient brings in revenue and is therefore welcome.

If you can't afford insurance, this already feels unfair.  It is exacerbated when the same consultant works both in the public sector (for a fixed stipend) and the private sector (for patient fees), the moreso when private patients occupy beds in public hospitals.  Public patients end up feeling like second class citizens, which to some degree they in practice are.  But if, as they contemplate a seven-month waiting list, they suddenly front up the money, they miraculously find they can see the very same consultant tomorrow.  Talk about an upgrade to business class. 

For these kinds of reasons there is a large lobby, which in the mantra of free healthcare for all regardless of means, calls for the abolition of the two tier system, in favour of a single system of which everyone from hobo to billionaire would avail depending solely on medical need.  Then, only then, would equity prevail with the poor no longer dying young while the rich prance on to their dotage. 

It is an appealing picture, but like all utopias fundamentally flawed and intrinsically totalitarian because it prevents people spending their own money as they might wish (eg on health).  It is, furthermore, designed to hide the defects responsible for the existing poor performance of the public sector. 

If you go to the supermarket, you are confronted with a choice of dozens of types of bread for which you personally and unencumbered can make your selection.  Why, then, would anyone think that when it comes to life and death issues - arguably of greater import than bread - people should be permitted no choice at all?  That the state alone should be empowered to make such a choice and to choose in every instance itself?  For that is what the utopian one-tier system would entail. 

Private healthcare gives better outcomes (and it certainly does, otherwise no-one would use it) for the simple reason that it is incentivised to do so.  It is run as a business.  Patients are customers who pay (whether personally or via their insurance) for their procedures.  The bigger the number of sick patients, the more revenue.  The more revenue, the greater reinvestment and expansion, and the better quality of care available.  It's the simple capitalist mechanism. 

When I put this to a very senior (very wealthy) doctor and a medical journalist a couple of weeks ago, both haughtily told me that healthcare was not a commodity like bread that could be bought and sold.  It is somehow above tacky trade.  And the hobo-to-billionaire mantra was repeated: death to the two-tier health system

But healthcare is a traded commodity.  Indeed, the doctor himself is a walking example.  All his life he has traded his undoubtedly excellent medical skills to the benefit of his patients, for €uros he can now count in the millions.  And it is a thoroughly honourable exchange which benefits both him and his customers patients.    And he is not alone, for it is a model replicated in the shape of every single employee of any health system: each is a one-person capitalist system, trading skills for as much filthy lucre as he/she can lay hands on. 

All the evidence, not just in the supermarket, is that where quality is rewarded, quality goes up.  This is the source of the great embarrassment caused to state health systems - which do not reward quality - when they operate side by side with private ones that do.  But rather than the state trying to emulate the private one, and in fact compete with it, many simply prefer to eliminate the private, so that care is dumbed down for everyone and poor service is no longer embarrassing because that's the only service there is. 

If the state wants to provide free healthcare to some or all of its citizens, that is no case whatsoever for it to own and run hospitals.  The state should simply buy such care on the open market, obtaining the best value for money, making hospitals compete for lucrative contracts, and giving public patients the power to choose between providers. 

bullet

Private patients and insured patients would be shopping in the same pool, receiving the same high-quality care as public patients, for the simple reason that every patient will be a revenue earner. 

bullet

Those who currently get free healthcare would continue to do so. 

Indeed, in Ireland this actually happens on a limited scale, via a hugely successful body called the National Treatment Purchase Fund launched in 2002.  If you are a public patient who has been waiting more than three months for your operation, the NTPF will pay for a private facility to do carry out your procedure - cataracts, varicose veins, hernias, gall bladders, prostate operations, tonsils, plastic surgery, cardiac surgery, hip and knee operations - you name it.  75,000 patients have been delighted with their treatment. 

Yet the NTPF, far from being seen as a successful role-model for an entire health system, is viewed with resentment and suspicion by the public health service. 

Extended to encompass all health care, something like the NPTF would truly give rise to a single-tier system, but one reaching for the the highest levels of care, not engaged in a race to the bottom.  But, for current employees of state-run institutions, it would also mean the end of

bullet

jobs-for-life unthreatened by redundancy or discipline, followed by

bullet

index-linked-defined-benefits pensions until death. 

Each individual's salary, pension and job-continuity would be determined solely by his/her skills and effort.  Just as it is within the private sector of health or of any other enterprise which has to pay its own way by persuading satisfied customers to part with their money. 

And that is what is really behind the call for death to the two-tier health system”, because the existence of the private sector threatens the sinecures of those hundreds of thousands who work in the public. 

It is nothing to do with the welfare of patients. 

Back to List of Contents

News From Iraq Can Also Be Good

 

Reports of bad news from Iraq are endemic.  This is not to say that bad news itself is endemic, only that the conventional print and TV media seem so singularly loth to report good news that you could be forgiven for thinking that there is none. 

 

But sometimes you do come across snippets of the positive, so I would like to share this little one. 

 

According to conservative radio jock Hugh Hewitt (minutes 10-12 in this audio clip), the White House recently reported the following as of 18 October, with regard to a 93 sq km sector of north-west Baghdad with a population of a million people, a sector controlled by the US army - 

 

bullet

There has been 85% reduction in violence since May. 

bullet

58 of 95 mahallas or neighbourhoods are now under control, with 33 in clearing status. 

bullet

Murders are down from 161 per week a year ago to less than five per this year. 

bullet

IED and small arms attacks are down from 50 per week in June to under five per by the end of August. 

bullet

Vehicle-born IEDs are down by nearly 85%. 

US forces are partnered by ten Iraqi army battalions and two national police battalions across the security districts of Mansour and Katayama.  These areas are commanded by highly competent patriotic Iraqi brigadier generals who are consistently demonstrating their unbreakable will to deliver security, reconciliation and reconstruction to NW Baghdad. 

But that is not to deny that dreadful news is happening in parallel, most recently the murder of 24 Iraqi police officers and recruits in Baquba, north-east of Baghdad. 

I wish I had a better handle on the balance of positive and negative news. 

Back to List of Contents

Five Times More Fun Than Soccer

If you want to know why soccer seems, to rugby enthusiasts, such a dreary game, have a look at these statistics.  Last year I, being a nerd, collected, calculated and analysed them for the Soccer World Cup (and wrote a post, World - (Yawn) - Cup”).

You can find
the full soccer results here:
Click here to see all the latest scores, points and rankings
This year I've looked at similar statistics for
the Rugby World Cup:
Rugby World Cup 2007

In the table below, I compare the results of these two sets of analyses in a world exclusive revelation.  They are divided into

bullet

the tournaments as a whole, ie including the group stages which tend to be freer flowing and higher scoring, and

bullet

the knockout stages alone, which tend to produce fewer scores but more nails bitten. 

The thrill of these matches, at least from the spectators' point of view, comes from making scores.  In soccer, that means goals - though obviously not penalty shoot-outs because they're not football.  In rugby it's mainly tries (five points), but to a lesser extent penalty goals and drop-goals (three points).  Of course, near-misses and valiant defences can also exhilarate, but ultimately it's actual scores we want to see.  Moreover, near-misses occur in roughly similar proportion to actual scores - so again, more scores mean more near-misses mean in aggregate more fun. 

Thus a good measure of the excitement a game generates is how long you have to wait between scores.  You can see how soccer and rugby contrast with each other in this table showing what happened in the 2006 and 2007 respective World Cups. 

Entire World Cup Tournament

  2006 ........ SOCCER 

RUGBY ....... 2007

Games Played

64

48

Games Played

Total Goals
(net of penalty shoot-outs)

149

296

Total Tries

531

Total scores
(tries + penalties + drop-goals)

Goals per game

2.3

6.2

Tries per game

11

Scores per game

Minutes Between Goals

39.9

13.0

Minutes Between Tries

7.2

Minutes Between Scores

Knockout Stages Only

 

SOCCER

RUGBY

 

Games Played

16

8

Games Played

Total Goals

32

26

Total Tries

70

Total Scores

Goals per game

2

3.3

Tries per game

9

Scores per game

Minutes Between Goals

50.6

25.0

Minutes Between Tries

9.1

Minutes Between Scores

As you can see from the Soccer summary -
 

bullet

64 soccer games were played in all
and 149 goals scored (excluding
24 penalty shoot-out goals). 

That works out at just
2.3
goals per game or
one goal per forty minutes. 

bullet

And if you look only at the
knockout stages, the averages drop
to just two goals per game or
one goal per miserable 51 minutes,
ie not even one per half.
 

 

Talk about a snoreathon.

In the Rugby summary, by contrast -
 

bullet

48 games were played, 296 tries
scored, plus a further 235 assorted
goals to give a total of 531 scores.
That averages out at a scintillating 6.2 tries per game (not counting
the penalty goals and drop-goals)
and just seven minutes between
scores. 
 

bullet

And looking only at the knockout
stages, the averages certainly drop,
but to a still respectable 3.3 tries
per game and nine minutes
between scores. 

 

Not much chance for dozing off, then. 

 

So in the final analysis, it's 51 minutes versus nine.  You can therefore see how, broadly speaking, rugby is five times more fun to watch than soccer. 

So why is soccer not rugby the world's most popular ball game, and by a mile?  I have no idea.  It makes no sense to me at all. 

Meanwhile, I await the next World Cup with bated breath - the Seven-a-Side Rugby World Cup, to be held in a single stadium over a single long weekend in February 2009 in Dubai.  In this fast, furious and foreshortened version of the game, scores will mount up at an even more astonishing rate, measured more in seconds than in minutes.  Be there! 

Back to List of Contents

New Wine for Seniors
(Hat tip: David in Fuengirola)

California vintners in the Napa Valley area, which primarily produce Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio wines, have developed a new hybrid grape that acts as an anti-diuretic.

 

It is expected to reduce the number of trips older people have to make to the bathroom during the night.

The new wine will be marketed as ...

Pino More

PINO MORE

I heard it through the grapevine.  [Groan - Ed].

Back to List of Contents

Issue 164's Letters to the Press

Neither letter published this week, despite my usual witterings. 

bullet EU Reform Treaty Referendum
- to the Irish Times
The Reform Treaty is a vote for climate change, a vote for environmental policies, a vote for the Common Agricultural Policy, a vote for social Europe, that is a vote for the reform treaty says Bertie Ahern to convince the Irish to vote yes in a referendum.  This is of course the document which he has already told us is 90% the same as ... 
bullet Dog-whistling Floor Space
- to The Economist
Yasser Arafat used to say one thing in Arabic to please his robust Middle Eastern audiences and quite the opposite in English to placate delicate Westerners.  Some politicians prefer the dog-whistle technique to speak different messages to different listeners.  Are you doing something similar over a Planned Parenthood facility in Aurora ...

Back to List of Contents

Quotes for Issue 164

- - - - - - - - - - J I H A D - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: There is a tendency ... to believe [the Iranian regime] are as they are because we have provoked them and if we left them alone they would leave us alone.  I fear this is mistaken.  They have no intention of leaving us alone.”

Tony Blair, warmongering as ever,
earns four standing ovations from his Blairophilic American audience

Quote: The US administration is like a madman running around with a razor blade.

President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in typically feisty form,
denounces America for demonising and imposing sanctions on Iran,
and wanting to erect an anti-Iran missile shield
in Poland and the Czech Republic

- - - - - - - - - - E U R O P E - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: [It is] a vote for climate change, a vote for environmental policies, a vote for the Common Agricultural Policy, a vote for social Europe, that is a vote for the Reform Treaty.”

Bertie Ahern, Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister),
unwittingly lists all the reasons to vote against
the euphemistically re-named
Reform Treaty,
to be euphemistically re-re-named the
Lisbon Treaty
”. 

It is of course, as Mr Ahern noted last June,
90% the same as the
Constitutional Treaty
which was soundly rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

Fearful of further popular rejection,
no other state but Ireland will subject the latest version to a referendum.
Constitutionally, Ireland has no choice.    

Quote: I could kill you as easy as spit on you.

Poland's former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, one of the indistinguishable potato twins”, pulls a gun on his rival Donald Tusk in a parliamentary corridor. Or so Mr Tusk, in a pre-election TV debate, alleged occurred in the 1990s. 

Mr Tusk soundly defeated Mr Kaczsynski in the election last week.  

But how does he know it wasn't
Poland's president Lech Kaczynski
who brandished the gun?

 

Quote: I hope you won't be giving grants to too many one-legged Lithuanian lesbians.”

Tory would-be prime minister David Cameron
sensitively suggests that lottery funds should be more carefully targeted.

I thought we just have, haven't we?
Arts Council chairman Sir Christopher Frayling replies

Meanwhile, one-legged Lithuanian lesbians are outraged.

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

Quote: “That's bullshit. Nobody saw me. I had a balaclava and gloves!

Killer and serial thug Leigh Crowe,
on learning he had been identified when, at a house party in Tipperary,
he shot Owen Cahill in the face killing him,
shot Mark Doolan in the arm, and assaulted Sharon Rossiter. 

However, this rum defence did not stand up in his trial.

Happily, Mr Crowe was sentenced to life for manslaughter
(manslaughter? Why not murder?  I don't know). 
He also got 15 years for attempted murder (not attempted manslaughter?)
plus five years for the assault.

The murder/manslaughter law works in curious ways.

Quote: I do wish I did come to Dublin more often - to evangelise the heathens.”

Rev Ian Paisley, First Minister of Northern Ireland and rabid Protestant,
with tongue firmly in cheek,
on a visit to the Historical Society of Trinity College Dublin,
in holy Catholic Ireland

- - - - - - - - - - R U G B Y   W O R L D   C U P - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: The [England world cup rugby] squad spent yesterday in recovery mode, the physios kept busy nursing bruises, many of them caused by players pinching themselves.

Daily Telegraph journalist Mick Cleary,
commenting on England's unbelievable [sic] progress to the World Cup final,
just after defeating France against all odds.

Quote (heard in a Sky News interview): Blimey, it can't happen to us, can it, what happened to them [Australia and France].  Can it?

England rugby coach Brian Ashton
tries to imagine what was going through the minds of South Africa
in the lead up to the World Cup Final between these two mighty teams.

South Africa president Thabo Mbeke helps his country's team celebrate winning the Rugby World CupWhatever they were actually thinking, it worked. 
South Africa are the new World Champions 

Quote : They say in politics a week is a long time, but in rugby, I tell you, 80 minutes is a fantastic thing.”

Jake White, manager and coach of
the South Africa rugby team,
reflects on the final against England
that won him the Rugby World Cup,
the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Back to List of Contents

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

Back to Top of Page

ISSUE #163 - 18th October 2007 [527+236= 763]

bullet

Burma and How to Boycott the Chinese Olympics

bullet

Agricultural Protectionism and Confiscatory Subsidies

bullet

Chatting Whilst Asteroid Collides

bullet

My (ahem) New Crime Novel

bullet

Issue 163's Letters to the Press

bullet

Quotes for Issue 163

Click here for Word Version of Issue #163

Burma and How to Boycott the Chinese Olympics

 


 

Brave monks protesting on the streets of Rangoon

We have all been alternately

bullet

exhilarated by the pictures of brave Burmese Buddhist monks peacefully protesting fuel increases and other anti-Junta grievances in the streets of Rangoon and other cities, and then

bullet

horrified to learn of the arrests, suppression, torture, killings and secret cremations that followed, in the best traditions of 1989 Tiananmen Square as exemplified, advised and trained by the Chinese politburo. 

The litany of Burmese grievances is familiar to us all; the fuel price hike is just a symptom. 

bullet

Since 1962, the country has been run as a tyrannical and incompetent dictatorship under a military Junta, currently headed by General Than Shwe. 

bullet

All opposition is brutally crushed. 

bullet

The media are all State run and controlled. 

bullet

Internet access is severely restricted to impede access to and communication with outside news sources. 

bullet

A 1990 multi-party election was annulled because it was overwhelmingly won by the National League for Democracy led by heroine Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under almost constant house-arrest ever since. 

bullet

China, India and other states in the vicinity happily plunder the country's abundant natural resources (timber, gems, oil), with proceeds going to the Junta whilst most people subsist on $1 a day. 

bullet

Forced prison labourers/slaves are worked ten-hour days on roads and infrastructure, for food only. 

bullet

Ethnic minorities, particularly the Karen and the Shan, are genocidally oppressed, forcing many of them to flee as refugees to next-door Thailand and Bangladesh.

The Junta is a vile regime, whose only saving grace is perhaps that it does not have aggressive designs on its neighbours.  The generals merely wish to consolidate and hold their own power in perpetuity and thereby to continue pillaging the national treasure for their individual personal enrichment and pleasure - as this wedding of Than Shwe's daughter illustrates. 

The world community is outraged by the Junta's latest antics against the monks, but outrage is pointless unless you also take action.  And there's the rub. 

The US has imposed sanctions on Burma since 1990, directed mainly at the individual generals, but they have had little effect.   The generals, few educated beyond primary school level, are just not interested in foreign travel, so barring them from shopping in New York doesn't do much.  Meanwhile, China and India have been delighted to carry on trading, and they have kept the regime economically propped up.  So the soldiers have remained ensconced in power, Ms Suu Kyi locked up, and democracy a distant dream.  China has long been Burma's de-facto defender. 

Stronger action by the Security Council has up to now been firmly vetoed by China, egged on by (of course) Russia.  For obvious reasons, these two states are distinctly uncomfortable at the thought of having to encourage democracy anywhere. 

However, the latest crackdown has embarrassed even China, to the extent that the UN Security Council at last, unanimously, strongly deplores [Burma's] use of violence against peaceful demonstrations”, as does the UN Human Rights Council (the original text said “condemns” but China and Russia negotiated this down to the weaker “deplores”). 

However, the UN statements are pretty toothless.  The two Councils urge the Junta to fix Burma's political, economic, humanitarian, and human rights issues, talk to Ms Suu Kyi, blah, blah, blah, but with absolutely no action to follow should the generals do nothing. 

There is a brutal truth about Myanmar that few want to acknowledge. 

Justice will only visit Burma once the generals are gone from the scene forever.  But they are never going to voluntarily relinquish their power.  It's going to have to be prised from their clenched fingers, and there are only two ways to do this. 

  1. The obvious way is forcible regime-change, a military option which, given that the thuggish Burmese soldiery have never faced an adversary more formidable than an unarmed woman or monk, would probably be quicker and easier than even Saddam's overthrow.  But only the west can or would do this and that of course means America (again).  It is a horrible prospect, and might the democratic aftermath turn out to be just as amicable as Iraq's?

  2. The only other way is to bring China in to play, because it is China (and to a lesser extent India) that is keeping Burma alive and the generals comfortable.   China is, effectively, the only country that can overturn the Junta peacefully, simply by growling and turning off the cash spigot.  But will the Chinese dictatorship do it?  Not if they can possibly avoid it. 

Thus, the wider world needs to find the means to encourage China to shunt the Junta aside, without bullets or bombs, so as to allow the democracy to flower in Burma that it's people voted for in 1990. 

But China is such a massive and growing economic power, whose economy is irretrievably linked through vast trade with the West and the rest of the world, that it is hard to dream up non-trade ways to encourage it to do what it has to do. 

However there is one point of weakness, and that of course is the 2008 Olympic Games, to be hosted by Beijing, a project to which the Chinese dictatorship attaches enormous prestige. 

People have called for a boycott, or a threat of a boycott, as a means to create pressure on China.  But this is fraught with its own difficulties.  

America boycotted the Moscow games in 1980 in protest at the Soviet Empire's invasion of Afghanistan.  But

bullet

it was the only boycotter,

bullet

the games went ahead,

bullet

America won no medals,

bullet

the USSR remained in Afghanistan and

bullet

in retaliation the USSR boycotted the 1984 games in Los Angeles. 

Nothing was achieved except ill-will and a lot of very unhappy athletes prevented from competing globally during the five year long spat, not to mention millions of sports fans forcibly precluded by American and Russian leaders from seeing a truly global competition.  Talk about punishing the innocent. 

This time around, a boycott of Beijing will only be effective if supported by large numbers of countries (ie EU plus USA).  But who can seriously see that happening?  And again, innocent athletes will be the main casualties, although in the unlikely event that a lot of Western countries do indeed participate in the boycott, the would-be Olympians will be joined in misery by the Burmese Junta.

But there is another way; another more democratic way involving personal empowerment.  Let the games go ahead.  Let no athletes be denied their chance to prove they're the world's best. 

Instead, it is the spectators who should boycott the games.  No individual who believes that Burma ought to be liberated should attend these games, or they should at least threaten not to.  Banners and bumper sticks that say Free Burma, are very nice but achieve zero.  But here is a way that regular folk can effect real change.   

For, from the Chinese perspective, worse even than a few countries not showing up in Beijing will be TV pictures, beamed across the world, of empty stadiums whilst the contests proceed, and everyone knowing why.  This would be the ultimate, unthinkable humiliation for the Communist dictatorship in China, where “face is such an important part of national culture, history and psyche.  And it would be made grimmer by the knowledge that no Government had done it; just ordinary free people with honourable principles.

If we can all convince the Chinese leadership that a popular boycott of the Beijing Olympics is really going to happen next year, they will move heaven and earth to prevent it. 

Or more particularly, they will move the Burmese Junta out of Rangoon and into obscurity, to make way for Ms Suu Kyi or whomever the beleaguered Burmese people elect to govern them. 

Back to List of Contents

Agricultural Protectionism and Confiscatory Subsidies

Last week I had the dubious distinction of being invited on Irish TV's weekly Questions and Answers programme to make a contribution from the floor about importing Brazilian beef.  This is a hot topic because Brazil with 200 million cows potentially represents a major threat to Ireland with only 6m.  So the agricultural lobby argues that Brazilian beef should be banned because it is unsafe, being riddled with foot-and-mouth, mad-cow disease, blue-tongue and God knows what else. 

In May, the the Irish Farmers' Association visited Brazil and reported back that there is unrestricted movement of infected cattle and a lack of traceability, therefore Brazilian beef is not safe and should be banned from Ireland. 

However the European Commission promptly rubbished their report, pointing out that the IFA had visited only two States which are already banned from exporting beef to the EU, and a third which is only partly authorised. In addition, the IFA did not visit any slaughterhouses, laboratories or veterinary offices.  Therefore, the IFA have no basis for their conclusions. 

Invoking safety” is an old and familiar ploy designed to shut down discussion, but safety standards can be looked at in two ways. 

  1. There are statutory standards designed to ensure that food is disease-free, pest-free and fit for human consumption. 

    bullet

    It's a bit like ensuring a plane will fly from A to B without
    crashing, while saying nothing about the pleasure or otherwise
    of the experience. 

  2. But often there are additional standards imposed or adopted within a given environment.  For example, in Ireland, following an admirable lead set by one of its smaller chains, all supermarkets, very many butchers and even some restaurants now provide DNA traceability of all indigenous meat back to the originating animal. 

    bullet

    In the aircraft analogy, this represents business-class, or even
    first-class service. 

The safety” argument advanced by the Irish lobby places a lot of emphasis on traceability and other qualities in the second category.  But desirable as such qualities are, they do not really make the difference as to whether or not your fillet steak will make you sick or kill you.  That's the job of the first category.  Meeting statutory minimum standards (category 1) should not be confused with attaining maximum standards (category 2). 

The reason  for objecting to the importation of Brazilian beef boils down to a very familiar refrain: protectionism, pure and simple.  It has nothing to do with the interests of the consumer and everything to do with those of the agricultural community, though they number just 5% of the EU's population. 

See minute 16-17That's why I argued (however ineptly) against a ban in that TV programme, where no-one else mentioned the long-suffering consumers who make up the other 95%. 

Provided Brazilian beef meets the same minimum (not maximum) standards required of any other beef import, and so long as its country of origin is clearly labelled so customers can choose whether they want to buy it or prefer more expensive and arguably better Irish meat, there is no case for banning such imports.  To do so would have consumers propelled into the wider trap of EU protectionism under the disastrous Common Agricultural Policy, which

bullet

confiscates €400 in extra tax from each EU family in CAP subsidies to farmers and agricultural behemoths,

bullet

adds a further €400 to each family's annual food bill because of higher prices,

bullet

fosters further poverty in the developing-world by penalising farmers - such as those in Brazil - through denying them access to lucrative EU markets,

bullet

and, most perniciously, turns EU farmers into social welfare recipients to the tune of 60-80%  (minute 8) of income in the case of Irish farmers. 

That's the vicious cycle EU citizens and politicians should be trying to break in the interests not of the EU's 5% of population who are employed on farms but the 95% who are consumers. 

Note: Those annual figures €400 + €400 per family (of four) are calculated from BBC estimates of CAP costs as at 2003 divided by the EU's 2003 population of 485m

José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, recently observed that the CAP budget has long been reducing as a proportion of the EU budget

bullet

from 61% in 1988

bullet

to a projected 32% in 2013. 

So this year it's at 35% - but this is still a whopping €45 billion out of the total EU budget of €126.5 bn.  Moreover, Mr Borroso's future “reductions are not really reductions at all as the table below shows, but merely represent hefty increases in the EU's non-CAP budget. 

Projected EU spending on CAP,
2007-13 (in €m)
 

2007
 

2008
 

2013
 

Total market support (production subsidies)

5,617

5,004

3,008

Direct aids (Single Farm Payment)

 36,878

 37,213

 44,319

Sub-Total

 42,495

 42,217

 47,327

Add Margin

 2,258

 2,737

 -487

Final Budget Plan

 44,753

 44,954

 46,840

There is only one solution for the CAP that is both equitable to all parties and ethical, and that is for the EU to kill it off in its entirety without further delay whilst opening up its food markets to the developing world. 

Most of the massive savings should be returned to taxpayers in tax cuts, but a goodly chunk should be set aside to re-train agricultural workers in other, marketable skills and to help them find alternative employment.  This will enable them to regain their pride by generating their own wealth whilst contributing to the EU's.  At present most of them subtract from it.

It should then be up to each individual state to decide how to manage and fund the maintenance of its countryside in accordance with taxpayers' desires.  That's not Brussels' business. 

Back to List of Contents

Chatting Whilst Asteroid Collides

Reuters must have too many journalists with too little stuff to report.  What else explains the story I have converted into a chart?

The result of a survey of British people in October 2007.  What's YOUR answer?

Go looting?  Why?

Back to List of Contents

My (ahem) New Crime Novel

Set in a leafy and expensive suburb of south Dublin, here's an extract.  Is it a page-turner, or what?  The movie rights are available for the right price. 

Charlie Chawke, the popular and well-known landlord of The Goat Grill pub and restaurant, left the building with a bag of takings amounting to nearly fifty thousand €uro in cash and cheques. 

As he was getting into his silver Mercedes he noticed, in the driver's mirror, two men running towards him from a red Volkswagen.

The man who got out of the driver's side had a shotgun hanging from his shoulder on a strap and opened the driver's door of the Mercedes with the gun pointing downwards and said, Give me the f**king money”. 

Mr Chawke saw an opportunity and dived for the gun but missed and fell to the ground. The man said, You are a f**king smart ass before he took aim from a distance of 12 inches and blew his knee away.  Despite the ministrations of a passer-by called Oliver MacDonald, five days later, the leg had to be amputated above the knee. 

Meanwhile, Garda Nigel Burke was in a patrol car which happened to have stopped at traffic lights outside The Goat Grill when he heard a load bang. He saw a man - Frank Ward - running away from a person lying on the ground beside a silver car. 

Garda Burke ran after Ward who got into the driver's seat of the red VW.  But the Gard and grabbed him in a bear hug.

Ward then shouted shoot the c**t to his co-robber Larry Cummins who was in the passenger seat.  When Cummins pointed a gun at him, Garda Burke backed off.

The VW then fled the scene, but not before his colleague Garda David Sweeney was able to break the rear window with his baton. 

They leapt back into their car, and with a third officer, Sergeant Michelle Gettings, at the wheel, began a hot pursuit of the red car through the Stillorgan area until it entered a cul-de-sac at Stillorgan Heath. Cummins pointed a gun at the patrol car through the broken window but no shots were fired.

The Gardaí stopped their vehicle some distance away as the two men got out of the red Volkswagen. They both turned to face the patrol car with shotguns raised. Ward fired at the patrol car, shattering the front windscreen.  Sgt Gettings saw a spark in front of her face when the pellets hit the windscreen and ducked down in fear for her life. 

Both fugitives then ran down a laneway.  Garda Burke and Garda Sweeney chased them along the lane, meeting a group of screaming schoolgirls running away, and a man on a bicycle.

Garda Sweeney took the bike off the man and continued the chase. He saw the men pushing the shotguns through a fence and when he rounded a corner he saw them standing in bushes. He arrested the men with the assistance of Garda Burke and the cyclist, and handcuffed them together. 

Four long years later, Cummins and Ward were convicted of injuring Mr Chawke, stealing €48,652 from The Goat Grill and various firearms charges.  Mr Cummins got fifteen years; Ward is awaiting his own hefty sentence. 

Two weeks later, after it emerged that Mr Ward was a long-time career armed robber with a shooting convictions dating back to 1981, he was sentenced to life in prison. 

As he was marched out of the court to begin his miserable decades of incarceration, he shouted A pox be upon you and all your houses!

It's a story that keeps on giving

After the shooting incident, Oliver McDonald, the passer-by who had kindly given first-aid to Mr Chawke, suffered such a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder, including nightmares, that he lost his business. 

As a result, he travelled to Prague (as one does), met up with a Czech lady who put him in touch with a compatriot back in Ireland called Susanna.  So he contacted her and then set himself up as a pimp making her services available to clients in room 212 of the Tullamore Court Hotel.   (I presume this is a typical cure for PTSD - or else a symptom.) 

Word got around, and outside the hotel one day, the Gardaí mounted a stake-out.  After watching no fewer than six customers go in, they raided the room at midnight.  There they found Susanna and a client, both naked, as well as her takings of €520 for the evening's work (who said Ireland was expensive?). 

Eight days after Mr Ward was marched away, Mr McDonald was sentenced to four months in the slammer for living off the proceeds of prostitution.

Except that this rattling yarn's not mine and not fantasy and I've not written a crime novel. 

It's entirely (save the last seven italicised paragraphs) culled from evidence given by the now one-legged Mr Chawke, Garda Burke and Sgt Gettings at the trial last week of Frank Ward.  But the tale is so thrilling, it belongs in the realm of fiction not fact. 

Don't you love the bit about the screaming schoolgirls and the commandeered bicycle?  You couldn't make it up. 

Back to List of Contents

Issue 163's Letters to the Press

Two letters; one published.  The Sunday Times wrote to say they would publish the other one, but in the end didn't.  Maybe it's too off-message.   

bullet

US Optimism on Iraq Conflict P!
- to the Irish Times
As the millionth brave American soldier passes through Shannon, you can almost taste the despair in Brendan Butler's letter on having read some rare positive tidings from Iraq, namely that Al Qaeda seems to be on the retreat.  Harking back to George Bush's (in)famous visit in 2003 to an aircraft-carrier which flew a banner saying Mission Accomplished ...

bullet

Just Stop the Attacks
- to the Sunday Times
Brenda Power is perfectly correct when she points out that if criminals in Ireland want to stop getting shot and harassed by the Gardaí they should simply stop breaking the law.  This same principle contains the seed of a solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict.  All that is required is that the Palestinians stop attacking Israel and that war is over, and both sides can live in peace.  It's that simple.  Unfortunately, it won't work the other way round. 

Back to List of Contents

Quotes for Issue 163

- - - - - - - - - - J I H A D - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.

138 leading Muslim scholars
write to the Pope and other Christian leaders,
pleading that the two religions

come together ... on the common essentials
”. 

Their bona-fides would have been more convincing

bullet

without the implied threat,

bullet

had they provided even a single contemporary
example of Christians
wag[ing] war against Muslims
on account of their religion
” (there are plenty of
examples of the converse - 9/11 for one),

bullet

with a disavowal of the Koranic injunction to
slay [infidels] wherever ye shall find them
(
Sura 9:5, :29, :41),

bullet

if the third Abrahamic religion - Jewry -
had not been deliberately excluded

Quote: I can't think of a worse fate for me and my constituents than being handed over to the weak and ineffective Palestinian Authority right now ... If there was a referendum here, no one would vote to join the Palestinian Authority.

Nabil Gheit, mayor of Ras Hamis,
a Palestinian neighbourhood on the eastern fringe of Jerusalem,
on hearing that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has suggested
handing over Ras Hamis and other parts of Jerusalem
to the Palestinian Authority to turn into
the capital of a new Palestinian State. 

Quote: The [Irish] anti-war movement [is] not a peace movement but a strident anti-American one ... Rather than an organisation which wishes to see the peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world through discussion and compromise, it is a collection of misty-eyed old Soviet Union sympathisers who have now befriended Islamic fundamentalists.

Alan Shatter, opposition member of the Irish Dáil (parliament),
to the outrage of the anti-war movement
which wanted to invite a member of Hizbollah
to address one of its meetings.

Thankfully, a visa was denied on security grounds. 

Quote: “Right now, I could kill George Bush.  No, I don't mean that. How could you nonviolently kill somebody? I would love to be able to do that.

Betty Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976
for work in Northern Ireland, has evidently,
now she's got her prize money of 650,000 Swedish Kroners,
concluded that peaceful solutions are only for wimps.

It's the second time she has publicly proclaimed
that she wants to
kill George Bush”;
the first time was to children.

- - - - - - - - - - E N T E R T A I N M E N T - - - - - - - - - -
(Hat tip Graham in Perth)

Quote: Hairiness. I like an animal. Hairy back, hairy everywhere. I don’t understand why a woman would want to be with a hairless man. If I was going to go for someone smooth, I may as well be a lesbian.”

TV cook Nigella Lawson, daughter of British former chancellor Nigel,
and her non-food predilections

Quote: I'd like to thank the press from the heart of my bottom.

England's rugby forward Nick Easter pays tribute to the media,
after England knocked Australia out of the Rugby World Cup
in a surprise win totally at odds with
its abject performance at the tournament up to then. 

The media had been consistently (and understandably
pouring scorn on the England team.

Back to List of Contents

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

Back to Top of Page

ISSUE #162 - 7th October 2007 [433+194=627]

bullet

Hunts Vindicated from Nazi Slurs

bullet

Osama bin Laden Is Long Gone

bullet

McCanns & Portuguese Police Brilliance

bullet

Week 162's Letter to the Press

bullet

Quotes of Week 162

Click here for Word Version of Issue #162

Hunts Vindicated from Nazi Slurs
Alternative permalink: http://tinyurl.ie/hunts

Limerick is home to the magnificent Hunt Museum, which houses over two thousand wonderful artefacts, antiquities and paintings accumulated over the lifetimes of Irish immigrants John and Gertrude Hunt. The art-dealing, art-collecting couple first moved to Ireland in 1940 where they remained until their deaths in 1976 and 1995, when they generously bequeathed their entire collection of treasures to their adopted nation.   John was an Englishman, his wife a Jewess who in fear of Nazis fled Germany for Britain in the early 1930s

Nearly four years ago, out of the blue, the Paris office of an outfit known as the SWC, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre (named after the famed Nazi-hunter), issued a withering letter to Mary McAleese, the president of Ireland inferring - 

bullet

that the Hunts had fostered Nazi connections, including personal ties to Adolf Mahr, head of the Nazi Party in Ireland

bullet

were members of the English Fascist Party (sic),

bullet

had indulged in anti-British espionage activity during WW2, 

bullet

had engaged in intimate business relationships with notorious dealers in art looted by the Nazis,

bullet

that the museum contained artifacts looted from Jews by the Nazis,

The SWC demanded that the Museum's pieces be displayed on the internet so that Holocaust families could reclaim them, and that the president withdraw a recent award.    

This sudden assault, addressed with stunning impertinence to an elected head of state, was quickly picked up by the world's media and received international publicity, much to the detriment of the museum and the memory of the Hunts. 

 

The Hunt Museum was convinced the allegations were false and malicious.  Nevertheless, it felt obliged to refute them.  For its part, the SWC - which has no expertise in the restitution of looted art - refused to divulge Lynn H Nicholas, renowned expert on art looted by the Nazisthe source and evidence of its egregious allegations, or to co-operate with any follow-up. 

 

The museum set up a number of independent committees to investigate, which turned out not to be very satisfactory.  So it eventually appointed, under the auspices of the Royal Irish Academy, an internationally renowned expert on art looted by the Nazis, Lynn H Nicholas

 

Within weeks of the original story breaking, however, this blog - which was privy to impeccable sources - published the true facts of the case, in two posts:

 

bullet

Hunt Museum and Nazi Looting - April 2004

bullet

Nazi Hunters Hunting Hunts - May 2004

 

Summarised these facts were - and remain:

 

bullet

The Hunts never belonged to the English Fascist Party” for the simple reason it never existed. 

bullet

The SWC has nothing to do with (the now deceased) Simon Wiesenthal other than renting his name.  It is merely a private Jewish lobbying outfit headquartered in Los Angeles, but with international offices, and often at loggerheads with other Jewish groups (such as the World Jewish Congress, B'nai B'rith).

bullet

The SWC relied on three independent scholars” but on closer examination only charlatans were behind it. 
bullet

The first such scholar was a respected historical author, Judith Hill, who had drafted an unpublished essay about the Hunts.  She is innocent of any malpractice, but her essay was without her permission leaked, plagiarised and misquoted by Irish Times journalist Arthur Beesley to dishonestly make the Hunts appear to be part of a network of dealers in looted artwork. 

bullet

Then there was Ciarán MacGonigal, the Museum's former Curator whose three-year appointment had been opposed by John Hunt's son, which no doubt created tensions.  Mr MacGonigal accused the Hunts of belonging to the English Fascist Party”. 
bullet

There was no evidence for the ludicrous idea that the Hunts were Fascists. 

bullet

Indeed, a recent survey reveals that there is no reference to the Hunts in the British Fascist files at the National Archives in Kew.

bullet

Moreover, the Hunts went out of their way to help wartime Jews where they could - hardly the behaviour of Fascist zealots. 

bullet

Finally, there was Erin Gibbons, pictured below, an archaeologist who told the SWC that the Hunts were linked to looted art merely because an acquaintance, later identified as Alexander von Frey, is known to have trafficked in looted art. 
bullet

As journalist Paul Cullen writes in the (subscription-only) Irish Times, just because the Hunts knew people who knew people who traded with the Nazis was not reason enough for assuming they shared a political viewpoint or participated in looting.

Archeologist Erin Gibbon, wife of Eamonn KellyThe overwhelming evidence all pointed in precisely the opposite direction: the Hunts were never Nazis or Nazi sympathisers - in fact the reverse - and they never (knowingly) dealt in looted art. 

Last month, the Royal Irish Academy at last published Ms Nicholas' report, which is concise (21 pages) and to the point.  And I've read it so you don't need to. 

She vindicates pretty much everything that was revealed in my earlier two posts.  But she adds another titbit. 

A further source of the scurrilous, kite-flying exercise undertaken by the SWC turns out to have been a file, with reference nbr G2/4371, on Gertrude Hunt put together by Irish military intelligence during wartime because she was a German, which by inference was said to reveal the Hunts' Nazi predilections.  In fact it does nothing of the sort.

Compared to similar surveillance files hundreds of pages long, the Hunts' file comprises just 30 sheets, and the only smoking gun is three letters exchanged with Mr von Frey in Switzerland, who is known to have been involved in the trading of confiscated art during World War 2.   This is what Erin Gibbons had been coyly referring to. 

But the letters are mainly of a personal nature with no reference to art deals.  Later examination of Mr von Frey's illicit activities - which were extensively investigated by US intelligence among others - revealed absolutely no business links with the Hunts. 

Eamonn Kelly, known leftist activistIt is interesting that the Irish military intelligence file first came to light during an Irish museums seminar in 2006, when a member of the audience, Eamonn Kelly, pictured, piped up from the floor.  But Mr Kelly turns out to be not only the so-called Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum, but the husband of Ms Gibbons, and a known leftist activist, aspects which Ms Nicholas does not allude to. 

Ms Nicholas calls for further research of the museum's pieces, most of which are undocumented, but then this applies to most artefacts in most museums in the world.  (Meantime, the museum has put all its collection on display on the internet.)

She castigates the performance of various committees set up to investigate Dr Shimon Samuels, Simon Wiesenthal Centrethe original allegations as well as the Irish government for providing insufficient support. 

But she reserves her main ire for the SWC's Dr Shimon Samuels, left, who signed the original letter, has fronted the anti-Hunts campaign ever since and has refused to co-operate with any attempt to verify or refute his allegations. 

bullet

The sensational and calculated manner in which Dr Samuels announced his suspicions in an open letter containing serious personal allegations and implied criticism of the wartime actions of the Republic of Ireland, then holding the Presidency of the EU, was both undiplomatic and offensive.

bullet

The decision to challenge the Irish authorities in a sort of blackmail game was unprofessional in the extreme.

He of course does not accept these criticisms,  won't apologise and vows to continue the fight. The show is not over”, he says.  But it clearly is

Ms Nicholas concludes her report tellingly:

bullet

Research provides no proof whatsoever that the Hunts were Nazis, that they were involved in any kind of espionage, or that they were traffickers in looted art.

bullet

There has been much talk about moral obligation during this inquiry. It is, of course, important to recover and return items unlawfully taken during World War II, but it is equally obligatory, in the pursuit of justice, to protect people and institutions from unproven allegations.

In other words, John and Gertrude Hunt and the Hunt Museum are fully vindicated from the Nazi slurs - as this blog illustrated three years ago.  I'm disappointed not to see it listed in the references: Ms Nicholas might have saved herself some legwork!

In the meantime, one might expect that the charlatan trio - Arthur Beesley, Ciarán MacGonigal and Erin Gibbons - who aided and abetted Shimon Samuels, would hang their heads in shame. 

But I doubt it.


Alternative permalink: http://tinyurl.ie/hunts

Back to List of Contents

Osama bin Laden Is Long Gone

Last month, Al Qaeda issues a 26 minute video (10 Gb) of a long rambling speech by someone in Islamic robes and a big black beard, identified as Osama bin Laden.  Much of the speech, transcribed here, is devoted to berating America for not fleeing Iraq despite having elected a Democrat Congress and Senate, and for various other sins such as not obeying Kyoto, not listening to Noam Chomsky, too-heavy taxes and interest rates, the genocide of Red Indians and Japanese. 

There have been acres of print and internet comment, but I have to wonder whether anyone has actually watched the video (which does take some forbearance). 

During the first few minutes, the man's mouth moves (though barely perceptibly), he nods his head a few times, he raises his right arm a couple of inches once or twice, some fingers occasionally twitch, his right hand sets aside a sheet of paper from his script (note that Osama is/was left-handed).  Then, around the two-minute mark, all movement ceases until the 13th minute when a bit of minor gesturing and page-turning by the right hand resumes for another couple of minutes, along with some lip-movement.  Then all movement stops - totally - for the rest of the tedious performance.  The speech itself is delivered as a droning monologue, with even less inflexion and emphasis than if you select the View/ReadOutLoud option for a PDF document using Adobe Reader.   

The last video authenticated by the US State Department was made public in December 2001, just after the invasion of Afghanistan.  True, a video surfaced in October 2004 in which a supposed (right-handed) Osama in effect advised the Americans to vote for John Kerry, and one or two others since.  But they have all been blurry, or stills or virtually motionless or historic footage; none truly authenticable.  Likewise, several audio tapes have also been released by Al Qaeda, all of them scratchy to listen to and discern, which is why everyone relies on transcripts and translations. 

Why are these fifteen recordings of such poor technical quality?  For years, now, anyone with a laptop, microphone and webcam can record audio and video of almost professional quality, undreamt of just a decade ago.  But with OBL recordings so few and far between, it is inconceivable that these productions would be other than of the highest calibre, designed to frighten the infidels and inspire the faithful. 

There is only one explanation: Osama bin Laden is dead.  His ideas may live on, but he is never coming back, ever.  In late 2001, he met his maker and no doubt 72 virgins in Tora Bora, either vaporised by one of Rumsfeld's infamous bunker-busters or else a victim of illness - either kidney failure (Pakistan's assessment) or lung disease (Egypt's) or both.  No other rationale makes any sense whatsoever. 

All recordings” since 2001 are fabrications, as I (and many others) have long argued.  The man in the latest video, hidden behind his bushy, improbably black beard, no doubt with a bit of judicious make-up and face sculpting, could be anyone - except the dead OBL.  Face analysis is just one demonstration of this.  The careless oversight of the actor's obvious right-handedness is but another.  Moreover, the Arab world is doubtless as replete as the West with skilled impersonators of the ilk of Rory Bremner, well able to fake OBL's voice, though evidently not his rhetorical flourishes.  Electronic voice identification systems are up to 1% inaccurate, which leaves plenty of scope to find a suitable mimic and still fool the experts. 

Why the US government chooses to perpetrate the myth of OBL's continued existence is a mystery to me.  Surely they don't think that's a prerequisite to motivate the troops or get the American public to back the war?

Nevertheless rest assured, Osama bin Laden is long gone.  His recordings are irrelevant. 

See my previous offerings on this theme -

bullet

Bin Laden Is Dead - September 2002

bullet

Osama Still Not Alive - January 2004

bullet

Bin Laden Springs Back to Life - October 2004
(I now repudiate this conclusion!)

Back to List of Contents

McCanns & Portuguese Police Brilliance

Others have written  with much greater eloquence Her distinctive eyesand insight than I can muster about the dreadful disappearance of little Madeleine McCann

And few can doubt the truthfulness of her distraught parents, Gerry and Kate, when they say their little girl disappeared during the evening of 3rd May last, whilst they were dining not a hundred metres away in a resort in Praia da Luz, Portugal. 

But I want to talk about the brilliance of the Portuguese police. 

Paradoxically, their incompetence has been stunning to behold.  Their response to the disappearance was desultory at best - until the world's media descended on Praia da Luz, forcing them to put up a semblance of investigation and search. 

bullet

They hauled in some unfortunate interpreter, declared him a suspect, interrogated him for hours, more or less ruined his life and business prospects. 

bullet

They failed to seal off the apartment from which the child was abducted for forensic examination. 

bullet

They later examined a car the McCanns had hired three weeks after the abduction, declared it contained some unspecified bodily fluids from Madeleine and a dog-detected odour of death, then released it back to the McCanns rather than impounding it as evidence. 

These are just some of the more remarkable activities of the police that we know about. 

And the more the investigation” continued, under the scrutiny of the international media, the more a laughing stock the Portuguese police became.  And the more the Portuguese tourist industry - and not just in Praia da Luz - was damaged. 

It all became too much, so finally the police executed a master stroke. 

Under intrepid Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, they declared both Gerry and Kate as formal suspects for having killed Madeleine, using the Portuguese legal term “arguida”, and subjected each of them to days of intensive interrogation, seeking confessions. 

Mr Amaral was not so fortunate as when he tried the same stunt with Leonor Cipriano, mother of  little Joana, who like Madeleine suddenly disappeared, in 2004 from nearby Figuera.  Ms Cipriano confessed to murder, but not until she sustained heavy bruising having mysteriously fallen down the stairs” in the police station during 48 hours of continual interrogation.  Though she retracted her forced confession next day, she was nevertheless convicted and is currently serving 16 years for murder of her (unfound) daughter.  But then she is a penniless single-mum with half a dozen children from as many fathers and no connections.  An easy target. 

Nevertheless, the pressure on the McCanns was finally more than they could bear, so they reluctantly left Praia da Luz and returned home to Britain with their other two children.  And the beauty of the arguida” status is that they are forbidden under Portuguese law from speaking publicly about the case. 

So from the Portuguese position, the McCanns are gone, unlikely ever to return and cause further embarrassment to the Portuguese tourist industry.  And they are gagged. 

Mr Amaral has since been demoted to inspector and taken off the case because of the bad publicity arising from the Cipriano case, but the pernicious seeds he has sown will flourish without him. 

The police in Priaia da Luz will continue with interminable investigations for years into the future, never of course getting anywhere, and the McCanns, forever arguida”, will be forced to remain dumb. 

A brilliant, if heartless manoeuvre, driven purely by the desire of the Portuguese police to hide their own undoubted incompetence. 

Back to List of Contents

Week 162's Letter to the Press

Just the one letter, on an Irish issue, which was published (for the first time in two months).  There has been uproar in the west of Ireland because Aer Lingus, recently privatised but for 25% retained by the State, has decided to replace its Shannon/Heathrow route with a new Belfast/Heathrow route.   

bullet Controversy over Shannon P!
- to the Irish Times
Instead of incessantly bleating that "Government", in the best traditions of a Communist state, should solve its Shannon-Heathrow problem, Tony Kinnane, Chairman of the Shannon Action Group, should actually take some, er, action.  He and his colleagues are all businessmen so they should know something about business. Aer Lingus has gone: nothing is going to change that. So get one or more competitors in. That's what businessmen do when faced with a supply shortage. Find competitors ...

Back to List of Contents

Quotes of Week 162

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

Quote: We may differ with our American friends about tactics … But my message to them is one of appreciation and gratitude. To them I say, you have liberated a people, brought them into the modern world … We used to be decimated and killed like locusts in Saddam's endless wars, and we have now come into the light.

Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq,
eloquently sums up America's contribution
to the liberation of his country.

This quote is taken from a superb essay by Bartle Bull,
bravely entitled
Mission Accomplished”.
The foul dictator Saddam Hussein is gone,
all-out civil war has been avoided,
democracy accepted and
life goes on despite the bloodshed,
which anyway is now principally criminal in nature,
according to Mr Bull.

- - - - - - - - - - L O O T E D   A R T - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Research provides no proof whatsoever that the Hunts [an art-collecting immigrant couple in Ireland] were Nazis, that they were involved in any kind of espionage, or that they were traffickers in looted art.

Lynn Nicholas, an internationally recognised expert
on Nazi-looted art during World War 2,
summarily debunks scurrilous claims made four years ago
by a private Jewish lobby group in America,
the Simon Wiesenthal Centre
(which is nothing to do with famed Nazi hunter, whose name it rents).

See this week's lead post

- - - - - - - - - - I T A L I A N   D E M O G R A P H Y - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Bamboccioni

How Italian finance minister Tommaso Padoa Schioppa describes
the astonishing 59% of Italians between the ages of 18 and 34,
including 34% of males over 30,
who refuse to move out of their mamas' home. 

Bambini means babies; bamboccioni means big overgrown babies.

It's one reason there is a dearth of real babies,
and a demographic death-spiral birth rate of just 1.23 per woman
from which it can never recover.

- - - - - - - - - - S P O R T - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Australia will get over [it]. New Zealand won't.  In Australia, rugby union is a side dish. It isn't in New Zealand. Rugby is the country's heart and soul, its identity. The All Blacks' brand is No.1. The land of the long white cloud is now the land of the long black cloud. New Zealand is in mourning.”

Rugby correspondent Greg Growden
on the ejection of the Australia Wallabies and
favourites New Zealand All Blacks
from the 2007 Rugby World Cup in the quarter-finals,
in their worst-ever World Cup results. 

Quote: Those decisions were right and we are quite happy with the situation we have ... I think we had a blip.

Philip Browne, chief executive of the Irish Rugby Football Union,
reflects smugly on his decision
not to fire Eddie O'Sullivan as Ireland's head coach
despite Ireland's ignominious ejection from the Rugby World Cup,
in its own worst-ever performance in the tournament's history. 

The chief executive has since acquired the nickname Blip Browne.

Quote (subscription only): Ireland represents nothing to me. If they are out of the World Cup I don't care. I'm just happy that we won the four matches and we are still in the World Cup.

Patricio Albacete, one of the Argentina team which defeated Ireland,
is not impressed by the Irish performance.

Nor are the Irish fans.

Quote (Hattip - Graham in Perth): I would love to gather all the fans together to say goodbye for the last time but they would crush me with their love.

Ex-manager of Chelsea, José Mourinho,
laments the impracticality of departing as he would wish

Back to List of Contents

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

Back to Top of Page

Return to Tallrite Blog
Ill-informed and objectionable as always  Comment by an anonymous reader

 

Now, for a little [Light Relief]

Hit Counter

2013 RWC7s Logo

Gift Idea
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home

Click for details  “”


Neda Agha Soltan, 1982-2009
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia

Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least alive.

FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY

Support Denmark and its caroonists!

Thousands of Deadly Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11

BLOGROLL

 

Adam Smith  

Alt Tag  

Andrew Sullivan

Atlantic Blog (defunct)

Back Seat Drivers

Belfast Gonzo

Black Line  

Blog-Irish (defunct)

Broom of Anger 

Charles Krauthammer

Cox and Forkum

Defiant  Irishwoman  

Disillusioned Lefty

Douglas Murray

Freedom Institute  

Gavin's Blog 

Guido Fawkes

Instapundit

Internet Commentator

Irish Blogs

Irish Eagle

Irish Elk

Jawa Report

Kevin Myers

Mark Humphrys 

Mark Steyn

Melanie Phillips

Not a Fish

Parnell's Ireland

Rolfe's Random Review

Samizdata 

Sarah Carey / GUBU

Sicilian Notes  

Slugger O'Toole

Thinking Man's Guide

Turbulence Ahead

Victor Davis Hanson

Watching Israel

Wulfbeorn, Watching

 

Jihad

Terrorism
Awareness Project

 

Religion

Iona Institute
Skeptical Bible  

Skeptical Quran  

 

Leisure

Razzamatazz Blog  

Sawyer the Lawyer

Tales from Warri

Twenty Major

Graham's  Sporting Wk

 

Blog Directory

Eatonweb

Discover the World

 

My Columns in the

bullet

Irish Times

bullet

Sunday Times

 

 What I've recently
been reading

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

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

See detailed review

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

bullet

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

bullet

the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

bullet

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

More details on my blog here.

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

bullet

part of a death march to Thailand,

bullet

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

bullet

regularly beaten and tortured,

bullet

racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

bullet

a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

bullet

Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

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

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

++++++

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

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as

bullet

Why does asparagus come from Peru?

bullet

Why are pandas so useless?

bullet

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

bullet

Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

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

bullet

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

bullet

Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

bullet

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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

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

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

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

+++++

Other books here

Rugby World Cup 7s, Dubai 2009
Click for an account of this momentous, high-speed event
of March 2009

 Rugby World Cup 2007
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.

 

After 48 crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are, deservedly,
SOUTH AFRICA

England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze.  Fourth is host nation France.

No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes

Over the competition,
the average
points per game =
52,
tries per game =
6.2,
minutes per try = 13

Click here to see all the latest scores, points and rankings  
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com