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Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy Hajj

Belated happy holidays to everyone. I had a suitably grumpy Christmas, and am now back online to rant again.

First up, though, let's move away from the Christian fairy tale for a moment to consider some other ones. Apparently six million people celebrate Kwanzaa in North America each year.

It's a week long celebration of pan-African culture that runs, conveniently for those seeking to extend their Christmas break into New Year, from the 26th of December to the 1st of January.

It's also totally made up. Some random Marxist invented it in the heady counterculture days of the late Sixties, because he reckoned that 'Jesus was a psychotic' that black people should distance themselves from.

Fast forward to today and George Bush is dishing out the patronising 'Happy Kwanzaa' wishes.

Maybe black citizens of the US and other places should pay more attention to their African origins (which are predominantly West African rather than the East African celebrations pastiched in Kwanzaa, incidentally). But spoof festivals made up by muppets who can't even spell in Swahili surely aren't the answer.

A much bigger party is set to kick off over at Mecca/Makkah though. The annual Hajj, wherein the world's Muslim population is encouraged to gather in a tent city in the Saudi desert and re-enact the trials of Abraham, is this coming week.

No doubt, the duty of a Muslim to pay this pilgrimage weighs heavily on many. And many save for years and dedicate their lives to the experience of doing their hajj. And equally no doubt, hundreds of those who attend this once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage will die as a result.

Surely it is time for someone, either in Islamic religious authority or in the Saudi regime, to stand up and say that it is no longer practical for a community that now numbers over 1.2 billion people to converge on a desert for a week at a time this year, all circling the ka'aba at once, all stoning the pillars at once, all listening to the sermon in the desert at the same time.

Of course, the full 1.2 billion Muslims do not all attend the hajj at once. But at least 2.5 million do each year, plenty more than the authorities can cope with. And the annual mass deaths that occur as a result of stampeding and crushing are the evidence that no infrastructure exists to deal with the movement of so many people.

Let's review recent statistics, kindly gathered by the BBC:

2006: 345 die in a crush during a stone-throwing ritual
2004: 251 trampled to death in stampede
2003: 14 are crushed to death
2001: 35 die in stampede
1998: At least 118 trampled to death
1997: 343 pilgrims die and 1,500 injured in fire
1994: 270 killed in stampede
1990: 1,426 pilgrims killed in tunnel leading to holy sites
1987: 400 die as Saudi authorities confront pro-Iranian demonstration

That's a lot of deaths for what should be a celebratory religious festival. One wonders how come people consistently die in their hundreds at the Hajj when 70 million can gather in the one spot for the Hindu Kumbh Mela in 2003 with only 39 deaths due to stampeding.

Yet somehow, mass deaths and the Hajj seem to go hand in hand, more years than not. So to anyone heading for the Hajj, I wish you all the best. Keep those elbows out and don't fall over, whatever you do.

For some, the real problem with the Hajj is that the lack of a quota system means that some affluent Muslims can fly in for the pilgrimage annually, while others never get a hope of going throughout their lives.

For others, it's putting their safety in the hands of the Saudi authorities, the same guys who have overseen all the stampedes listed above. Already there has been one large fire in Mecca, injuring 16 people. How many more will die this year?

kick it on kick.ie

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Seven months wasted

A Guardian journalist just spent seven months undercover as a member of the British National Party. Amazingly, he made it as high as London organiser for the party during his stint.

Splashed all over the paper's front page today are his exclusive revelations, gleaned as a result of his undercover efforts. These include:
  • Members are advised not to be racist or anti-semitic
  • They are told to act at all times in a way that brings credit to the party
  • They use encryption software to protect their member lists
  • They occasionally use false names while on party business for fear of losing their jobs otherwise, especially those in the public sector.
Is it just me, or do all of those 'revelations' seem perfectly sensible, and in some cases, admirable? I'm no fan of the far right, but from the sounds of these 'revelations', the BNP under Griffin has transformed itself from a fascist bootboy organisation into an anti-immigration party which is little further right than some Tories or PDs.

If this is the best the Guardian can do in terms of a smear job after having obtained unprecedented access to the party's inner circle for months on end, then perhaps it really is the case that the BNP of today is not the beast it once was.

In fact, to me the biggest concerns arising from the article are that the Guardian is prepared to 'out' people who are not politicians as members of a political party, and that people who are members of a legitimate political party fear losing their public sector jobs solely because of that membership.

If we're talking fascism, then publishing member lists of a political party in a newspaper or threatening people's jobs because of their political affiliations seem to be fairly fascist acts to me.

And it is very possible that the tame aspect of these 'revelations' will have the opposite effect to that intended by the Guardian - that of encouraging more people to think of the BNP as an increasingly mainstream organisation.

Of course, this is a process already underway. The BNP are gaining up to a hundred new members a week and obtained nearly 10% of the vote in recent British council elections.

There are of course major concerns with aspects of the British far right. Their policies in relation to Ireland for starters. Or the recent arrest of former BNP members in a bomb plot that was almost totally ignored by the media, including the Guardian.

But the weakness of these revelations about the current state of the party is likely to attract rather than repel people in the UK who are as concerned about the tidal wave of immigration they are experiencing and angry about the lies they have been told about immigration by more centrist parties.

And since I'm guessing that wasn't the intention of the Guardian when they set out on this undercover mission, I'd say that was seven months wasted.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Kudos to El Blogador for his photoshopping skills which provided a much needed giggle today.

My personal favourites among his collection of humorous doctored images are the Sinn Fein/British Government marriage cert and the report card for British rule in Northern Ireland.

We'd like the island and the big house back, thanks

First things first. Let's save trees. That's what the interweb is for. Download your copy of the Moriarty Report here. Now you have your Christmas reading material sorted.

Of course, Charlie Bird and numerous other breathless hacks have already spoiled the best gags in there, like how our evil hero Charlie Haughey stole three quarters of his best mate's liver transplant fund.

Or how he lived a mere 171 times beyond his means while telling the people of Ireland to tighten their belts and sell more of their children into emigration.

But really, we've all known for an awfully long time what a total scumbag and crook this venal little man was. Terry Keane, another venal little person, has repeatedly sold her story, so we already have it on eyewitness account that he was an adulterous man who splashed enormous cash because his bossy mistress made him feel like the uncultured shitehawk he actually was.

And as far back as the McCracken tribunal, we knew Charlie was dodgier than Gary Glitter running a kindergarten.

So really, the only outstanding issues that remain are as follows:

Why did it take so long to publish this report? Could some form of it not have emerged during the old thief's life, so that he knew exactly how disgraced and rumbled he was? Why was he permitted to bullshit the tribunal that he wasn't fit to attend for six years, during which he fecked off to regattas in the south of France and holidayed on his personal island?

Our current Taoiseach, now revealed as Charlie's cheque-signer, is allegedly a trained accountant. Since even children know that you don't sign blank cheques, how in the name of God does the Moriarty report whitewash Bertie? Either he should be stripped of both being Taoiseach and his accountancy qualifications for being a total moron, or else he should be facing corruption charges too. Saying he's a gobdaw is not sufficient.

Now we know Abbeville and Inishvickillaun are the products of corrupt behaviour. So why aren't they being turned over to the people? Why should Haughey's ugly brood benefit from this corruption? Apparently Haughey's €20 million in legal bills to the tribunal are to be paid by the state. Why should you and I have to pay that scumbag's legal bills, which he ran up while telling porkies to the tribunal to try to cover up his massively corrupt lifestyle? Sell the big house and the private island to pay the fucking bills.

Remember all of these questions come the next election, people. This report shouldn't go away. The people in power now were around then and knew what was going on.

When some candidate comes to the door crowing about Fianna Fail's success in the Irish economy or some such crap, demand that the Haughey family are made to pay their corrupt pappy's legal bills. Demand that the Criminal Assets Bureau seize the family estate and private island as products of corrupt behaviour and ill-gotten gain.

And via your votes, remove from power a man who considered it fine business practice to sign blank cheques for crooks.

kick it on kick.ie

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Performance art kills me

If ever there was need of evidence that performance art is spurious and dangerous nonsense for the most part, we now have it.

Everyone's favourite mass-murdering Loyalist psychopath painter Michael Stone has offered a defence of 'performance art' for his recent incursion into Stormont, armed with a bomb and guns.

I'm worried this could catch on. Saddam's defence for the gassing of the Kurds? 'I was aiming for the Turner Prize, m'lud.' The Ipswich ripper? 'It's my latest one-man show, learned gentlemen.'

Perhaps Michael Stone might even proffer this defence for his murder of three mourners at a funeral in 1988.

Hopefully if Stormont ever gets properly up and running, they can quickly pass a law preventing the defence of 'performance art' in psychopathic murder attempts. Then the Assembly members could legitimately tell Stone, 'Quit the performance, Michael, you're killing us!"

kick it on kick.ie

One dead hack

To some people, the concept of a dead tabloid journalist is a good thing.

These people are usually the sort who 'take' the Irish Times at their desk each morning and think that McDowell's forthcoming censorship law, or privacy law as he calls it, is great because it'll stop people from rumbling their off-shore accounts and payments to Fianna Fail in future.

To most right-thinking people, the idea that a journalist should die in the course of their work is abhorrent. It is a frontal attack on the nature of a free press, as well as a personal tragedy for a family.

Hence, after Veronica Guerin's death, there was a stunning public outcry which led to the formation of the Criminal Assets Bureau and stringent new legislation relating to organised crime, as well as a massive manhunt for her killers.

But there was no such response for the other Irish journalist murdered in the course of their work. Today, Martin O'Hagan's inquest heard how he was shot dead by a Loyalist death squad after writing repeatedly in the Sunday World about their drug-dealing activities in September 2001.

Over five years on, not a single person has been arrested for the murder, despite strong suggestions from the NUJ that the police know who his killers are. Why won't they arrest them? They say they have insufficient evidence. The NUJ says the killers were informers and are being protected by the very people who should be arresting them.

Where is Martin O'Hagan's Hollywood movie? Where is the manhunt for his killers? Most importantly, where is the public outcry?

Martin O'Hagan RIP.

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Criticising my authority is CLASSIFIED!

And the Big Brother state creeps ever closer in America.

The latest move in the war on liberty is Georgie Boy's attempt to declare criticism of his policies in Iraq as classified material.

When a former CIA analyst, who was once a senior member of Bush's administration and a director of the US national security council, attempted to let Dubya know he'd repeatedly ballsed up chances to get along with Iran, his report was declared top secret and the White House threatened to sue him if he went public.

However, being former CIA, Mr Flynt Leverett (devastating spy name he has too, don't you think?) had already cleared his report with them and knew it wasn't classified in the slightest. So Georgie's boys were spoofing. Again.

Perhaps he'll seek to sue the Pentagon next, after their own latest report revealed that the American occupation in Iraq is going to hell in a handbasket.

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Fuck off, Santa, we own you!

Doesn't the crass commercialisation of Christmas just fill you with a warm feeling inside? One of disgust and nausea perhaps?

No? I congratulate you on your childlike insistence on the magic of this special time of year. Well done.

But just in case you were languishing under the delusion that peace and goodwill to all men was in fact a universal trait, let us pause to consider the wonderful world of Disney (TM).

There's no way to gild the lily here, so I'll just give it to you straight. Disney threatened to throw some poor old geezer with a white beard out of one of their crappy themeparks just because he looked like Santa Claus.

On what grounds did they do so? Because they consider Santa Claus to be "a Disney character."

I wonder what other European saints they also own. Was there a Vatican firesale we didn't hear about?

They 'own' Santa, threaten old men in their themeparks and treat their workers so badly that one threatened to throw himself off a rollercoaster recently. Something to think about before you buy a little one you love a Disney DVD this festive season, perhaps.

Disney - a magical kingdom of fascist scumbags who treat their workers and their customers like shit.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

There's more than one holocaust being denied

I've been thinking all week about the Iranian conference on the holocaust, and all sorts of things are disturbing me about it.

Obviously, there are the initial concerns about holocaust denial in general. Western media coverage has been vociferous in its condemnation of the motley crew of white supremacists, rogue rabbis, neo-Nazis and other dubious types who gathered in Tehran to 're-examine' the holocaust.

I share the concern that so many varied interests would seek to deny the mass murder of millions of people. It is certainly deeply worrying to see so many bizarre fellow travellers gathered together with the intention of casting doubt on the historical veracity of the holocaust.

But there are plenty of other things to get concerned about in relation to this conference. The first would be the erosion of the concept of journalistic objectivity. When BBC correspondents happily say that one must 'take sides' when reporting a story, I get very worried about whether even good old Auntie Beeb can be relied upon to provide objective reportage rather than propaganda anymore.

The result of this lack of objective reporting is that we in the West fail to either understand why this conference was convened, nor what it's ultimate purpose is.

In one sense, it is a knee-jerk response to the 'freedom of speech' defence offered by Danish newspapers and others after they published derogatory cartoons about the prophet Muhammed which were deeply offensive to Muslims worldwide.

And in that regard, one is forced to ask, in what way has the West's adherence to the Holocaust come to resemble an article of religious faith? We have laws in countries like France and Austria that send people to jail for questioning the holocaust, just as we once had laws on heresy.

Whether these laws genuinely impact upon the ability of historians to examine World War Two is debatable, but there is no doubt that they act as a genuine infringement upon the concept of freedom of speech.

Then there is the issue close to Iranian President Ahmedinejad's heart - the formation of Israel in Palestine following World War Two. Like so many Muslims, especially his Arab neighbours, Ahmedinejad is outraged by the continuing atrocity committed on the Palestinian people by the Jewish state.

His analysis traces the formation of the state of Israel to European guilt at how the Jewish population of Europe was treated during the 1930s and 1940s, and he has asked in the past why a Jewish homeland could not have been created in Europe instead of on Palestinian lands following the war.

And that, unlike querying the historical veracity of the holocaust, is a fair question to ask. But the West's continuing Holocaust guilt ensures blind loyalty to the Zionist state, so that our media tends to ignore or seek to justify Israeli atrocities committed against the people whose homes, lands and lives they stole and continue to steal.

There is little doubt that the Iranian President would wish to see the eradication of the state of Israel. He has said as much in the past. But despite how Israel and their US supporters would like to spin it, this is not the same as calling for a second holocaust. Basically, Ahmedinejad's position is that the Jewish homeland should not be located on land stolen from others.

The whole issue of holocaust denial is more complex than many in the West realise. Thanks to continued Israeli and general Jewish insistence that there was only one holocaust (usually with a capital H for added effect), we are generally left in ignorance about other genocides which were equally horrific, such as the Turkish holocaust against its Armenian minority which inspired the Nazis, or indeed the Naqba which Zionists perpetrated upon the Palestinian people.

Intriguingly, the official Israeli position in relation to the Armenian holocaust is that it didn't happen. Why is this their position? Because secular Turkey is one of their few friends in the entire region, and because Turkey itself still has laws to lock up people like this year's Nobel laureate in literature Orhan Pamuk for 'defaming Turkey', when they highlight this atrocity in Turkey's history.

So Israel itself is happy to deny a holocaust despite posters about it littering every wall in the Armenian quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. But they aren't very happy when the holocaust which led to the foundation of their own state is queried in Iran.

To my mind, the coverage this Tehran conference has received is deeply suspect and disingenuous. The howling headlines in usually sober British broadsheets must be seen in the context of George Bush and Tony Blair's phoney war with Iran, as well as the erosion of impartial reporting.

Blair is off to Turkey at the moment, in an attempt to patch up relations which have gone frosty as the EU backs away from Turkish accession. Will this great warrior against holocaust denial raise the issue of the Armenians with his hosts? Of course not.

And while George Bush seeks to make a case for the invasion of Iran due to a potential nuclear weapons capacity, a case as spurious as the one made against Saddam's Iraq, will he also invade Israel, after Ehud Olmert admitted accidentally to his country's nuclear capacity? Of course not.

We are utterly right to condemn those who would seek to deny the deaths of six million people in the last century in Nazi death camps. They are inhumanly wrong.

But if we cannot understand the reasons that underpin the hosting of this conference, we will inevitably find ourselves watching from the sidelines as America and Britain jihad across the entire Muslim world in order to placate Israel's unending imperialist quest for an Eretz-Israel cleared of its indigenous population and surrounded by weak or occupied Arab states.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Half-crocked Bertie goes off half-cocked

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern revealed today what we all already knew - he's half-crocked.

Discussing BUPA's pull-out from Ireland, he said: "I’m not acting tough at all, I’m just saying that somebody wants to come along and say great, sure, listen, if insurance is all about going out and getting 100 people who are likely to get sick for the next 10 years, and sure make greater profits, sure, that’s great, that’s marvellous. And I’m supposed to be impressed with that argument."

“Then you get 100 people who are like myself, are half crocked, and then we have to pay far more for it (insurance), and they say that’s fair. Market forces, competition ... who are they coddin’?”

Amidst the virtual incomprehensibility of that statement, clearly Ahern is unimpressed with BUPA's failure to take the profits they make in 137 other countries and plough it into the Irish health system in place of him doing so.

He also admits to being half crocked and pleads poverty. If the Taoiseach can't afford Irish health insurance, then what the hell was he and his cronies thinking when they forced the main competitor out of the market with their half-cocked scheme to get them to subsidise the VHI?

Here's another numpty we could do well without.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Harney - worst minister ever

Mary Harney, Europe's least healthy looking health minister, has really done it this time.

Not content with presiding over the further erosion of the Irish health system and selling off what bits she can to her developer pals, she must now watch in free marketeer horror as BUPA pulls out of Ireland today.

That's 300 jobs down the Swanee, half a million punters without health insurance and a big load of egg on the Minister's face, given her espousal of competition in the marketplace.

Thanks to a bonkers ruling in court the other week that BUPA should give a million quid a week to the dominant force in the marketplace VHI, this result was inevitable. Expect Vivas to follow shortly.

This health minister is a liability. Can someone please put her out to pasture immediately?

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Your Newsnight

Flagship BBC current affairs show Newsnight is inviting the public to vote on a series of 13 short films of 'citizen journalism', the best of which they will then show on the programme.

Whether you care to vote or not, the subjects are all fascinating, each film is only two minutes long, and every one of them is worth a viewing.

From a poor Cuban woman in a hurricane to the extent of immigration and integration in London and the now infamous video on how cocaine is made in Colombia, all the material on show is diverse, current, important and fascinating.

My vote? It's gone to this lad's succinct and searing expose of the British government's witch hunt against alleged dole fraud:

Leave them there to die next time

The Darwin Awards were invented to celebrate the deaths of people so stupid that their removal from the human gene pool is considered to be an improvement for humanity as a whole.

But sadly, in this day and age of affluence and emergency services, fewer and fewer of the morons who so deserve this award are able to attain it, due to being saved from their own idiocy at the last minute.

Chief among these are the unnamed 'extreme' surfers, who refused help from the coastguard last month when they ran into difficulties at sea off the Cliffs of Moher.

(Incidentally, when is the usage of the word 'extreme' to describe acts of fratboy stupidity going to run its course?)

These imbeciles were facing death as they jetskiied around the Atlantic in search of a 35 foot wave (apparently called Aileen) to kill them. Yet they refused help from the helicopter crew that came to assist, because the chopper crew refused to take their surfboards too!

Well, why not save the exchequer the cost of the rescue and the human gene pool while you're at it by simply leaving dickheads like these to die next time?

It really infuriates me when peabrains go sailing in force nine gales, or climb mountains in bikinis during December, then cost the State tens of thousands for their rescue. And this at a time when grannies still lie on trollies for days in hospital for lack of funds for beds.

If people want to get 'extreme' in their pastimes, they can do so safe in the knowledge of the safety net provided by emergency services and funded at great cost by you and me, the taxpayers.

So in future, I'd suggest that when total spanners get themselves into difficulty in the sea and up mountains where they'd no sensible reason for being, they should be forced to pay the total cost of their rescue themselves.

It'll save money, and cut down on the amount of incidents where well-meaning emergency crews end up risking their own lives for people who would otherwise undoubtely be Darwin Award recipients.

The first politician to call for dickheads to pay the cost of their own rescue gets my vote next time out.

Do it for granny on the trolly in the Mater. Do it for the future of the human gene pool, dammit.

kick it on kick.ie

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nigga Moment

Aaron McGruder has copped a lot of flak in recent times, partly for cancelling his strip cartoon 'The Boondocks' and partly for the content of it and its spin-off animation series.

Both feature two lil' black kids trying to find their way in contemporary American society. One is a politically aware advocate of black consciousness, the other aspires to be a gangsta.

Needless to say, the scenarios that McGruder has created for his protagonists have inflamed quite a lot of people, Stateside.

Sadly, there is no indication of 'The Boondocks' series making its way across the Atlantic just yet. But as a taster of what he offers, let me provide you with the 'Nigga moment'.

Beards are cool

Apparently, beards are the new black. So cool are beards, that even GQ magazine editors have gone and joined the 40% of blokes who fail to shave.

Now, while the full Ronny Drew or Taliban look is not being recommended for men this winter, unless of course they've a regular slot playing in a seisiun in Galway or lead their own Islamic fundamentalist movement, nevertheless a spot of hair on the face is apparently the in thing, so the cool kids are all saying.

Even Daniel Craig (the heretic Bond, the anti-Bond, the blond Bond) has donned a bit of face fur for his forthcoming role in the movie of His Dark Materials.

So it must be true.

My concerns are two-fold. Firstly, how will I possibly cope with this sudden and unintended trendiness, and secondly, how will women emulate this latest fashion craze?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fruit and nut case

Thanks to the Great Wee Azoo, I've become aware that former DUP posterboy and afficionado of hot and steamy rubdowns, Paul Berry chose to vote AGAINST the new sexual orientation regulations in Stormont the other day.

For those who had hoped to put this incident behind them, let me remind you about Mr Berry.

As a card carrying member of the DUP, and a married man to boot, Berry's cherubic good looks and gospel singing career destined him for Willie McCrea type heights within the howling mad fundamentalist wing of Unionism.

However, it all came to grief when a Sunday paper set him up in a sting operation. Berry met up with a man he had encountered online in a gay chatroom at a prominent Belfast hotel, and asked, before they got down and dirty, that now legendary Ulster chat-up line: "I hope you're a Prod, big man?"

He is alleged to have then carried out a sex act with the man, an incident he vehemently denies.

The DUP swiftly carpetted the young turk, and eventually his protestations of innocence fell silent and he accepted being booted severely out of Big Ian's 'No to Sodomy' Party, after he had tried to sue them to stay.

His defence, which has no doubt launched a whole new wave of euphemistic usage?

"I was looking for a sports massage."

He is not believed to have sought to sue the newspaper that stung him, presumably because having lost one court case, he doesn't fancy another. He does, apparently, still claim not to be gay.

Which is, after all, an issue best left for him and his wife Lorna to sort out among themselves. There's no news on his sports injury, though.

However, the vote in the temporary Assembly this week was tied at 39 votes each, and Berry's was one of the 39 block vote (all UUP and DUP, bar him) against the regulations, which are designed to protect sexual minorities from the undoubted harrassment they receive in the North of Ireland.

My question: if you were gospel singing, former DUP member Paul Berry's psychiatrist, where would you even begin?

And if you were a gay or lesbian member of the Unionist community, what would you like to say to Mr Jeffrey Donaldson, who kicked off the debate by saying:

"Let me be clear from the outset that the motion is not about homophobia or gay bashing, as some have accused it of being. It is about something far more important — religious freedom in this country."

Because, you know, Northern Ireland has a wonderful history of religious freedom being respected by all to cherish, and of course there is no such thing as gay bashing in Ulster.

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The evil that men do

It's not been a great week for world peace so far, when all's said and done.

On the down side, mass-murdering rightist nuthouse General Pinochet kicked the bucket without ever going on trial for overthrowing the Allende regime and subsequently 'disappearing' tens of thousands of people during his reign of terror.

Ethiopia's former psycho leader Mengistu Haile Mariam was found guilty of committing genocide during his 'red terror' regime that led to mass famine in the country. But since he's hiding out in Zimbabwe with his old pal Mugabe, there's little chance of him facing prosecution either.

Then, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert let slip the Middle East's worst-kept secret - the weapons of mass destruction reside in the Negev Desert under IDF control, not in Iraq at all.

And while mass murderers like Mugabe, Mengistu and others continue to roam free from harm, the might of the West remains pointed at the poor, beleaguered people of Iraq, dozens of whom died in the latest round of bombings.

When will we ever see the West intervene in a genuine tragedy? It was aid agencies who responded to the Tsunami, to the Ethiopian famine. When a bitter little genocide breaks out in Africa, it is the African Union we send in to resolve it, not our own troops.

Countries like West Papua, currently and viciously occupied by Indonesia, Tibet, all but devastated by the Chinese, or Burma, controlled by a murderous junta, could all do with some regime change, but you won't see Tonee or Dubya arranging an invasion in any of those places.

The evil men do is compounded by the lack of action of others. For a petty tyrant like Mengistu or Pinochet to succeed and survive, they require if not the overt support of the West, then at least their tolerance for the regime to continue.

As our governments act to destroy Iraq for at least the fourth time in a single century, it might be pertinent to remind them that their self-appointed roles as global police are not mandated by the UN, and that it is the job of police to protect everyone, and not just their own oil interests.

If they truly wish to spread democracy, let them over throw al-Saud and his Wahhabist state that bred the 9/11 killers. Let them restore democracy to the poor people of Zimbabwe, so tortured by their own maniacal leadership.

If they wish to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, let them disarm and cease providing support to Israel, whose nukes reside, according to that brave whistleblower Mordecai Vanunu, at Dimona in the Negev.

Remember, Israel has always refused to permit weapons inspections of the Dimona site, and locked Vanunu up for decades for telling the British media about their sordid little secret.

So, why no American invasion of Israel, which is also in breach of a series of UN resolutions? After all, much sketchier evidence (let's say, none whatsoever) was used to justify the current atrocity in Iraq.

If they want peace in our time, let them quit starting all these disingenuous wars that their own people object to. Let them instead turn their attention to the scores of mass murderers that, like Pinochet and Mengistu, manage to retire without punishment.

Of course, to tread down that path would mean to bear close scrutiny for their own war crimes in Afghanistan, in Iraq. It would tempt people to seek to bring Blair and Bush to account for the murder of civilians.

And that would never do.

As I said, it's been a bad week for world peace, and it's only Tuesday.

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Do your own research, you lazy mare

How much do you hate lazy journalism? Do you hate it as much as me? Does it make your eyes bug out of your head in despair when completely lazy hacks cog stories and ask other people to do the work for which they get paid?

If so, you'll not be surprised to know that one of the Irish mediaocracy's shining lights, the aforementioned Roisin Bu-, sorry Roisin Ingle, desperately needs your help to do her work for her!

Yes, you too can be a completely forgotten, unpaid researcher for La Ingle, as she seeks to duck responsibility for sourcing her own bloody stories.

Simply email her with suggestions for things she could do on Christmas day, via the linky above. Any suggestions you like. After all, she did ask for it. So give it to her, this once, for me.

Consider it my Christmas pressie.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Been there, done that...

Following on from my holiday conundrum as detailed below, I'm still looking for suggestions for somewhere I could go for my summer break next year.

This Dutch geezer has kindly knocked together a little program that helps you work out what part of the globe you've already been too, so that you don't happen across the same place by mistake.

"Aw, crap! Not Courtown again!" You know the feeling.

Judging from my map, Africa, Australia and South America are all hithertoo unexplored options, but then again, we've already discovered that the Brits have overrun them all already.

So I'm open to suggestions. Where's the best part of the planet to go on holiday where you won't run into either English soccer louts or GAA-happy gobdaws?

Where can I run to get away from pasty white people who go red in the sun and drink lager all day long? Is anywhere safe from muppets in Dublin jerseys?

Tell me in strictest confidence, and I'll buy you a pina colada.

Best investment ever

Hope y'all got yer Georgie Best fivers. Because according to some evil shysters on Ebay, the value of Georgie Boy's stock has gone up many times over in a matter of only days.

One looper reckons that a single fiver is now worth eight times as much, plus post and packaging, of course.

But he's only pitching at the market rate, according to these memorabilia mongers, who are banging out the fivers at a mere £38, with post and packaging kindly thrown in.

Basically, according to my simple understanding of mathematics, that approximates to an increase of 700% or so in a mere fortnight. Which would make George Best's stock the fastest climber since a lovesick yeti chased Edmund Hilary up Everest.

Not bad for a lad whose wisdom on financial acumen was best summarised by his famous aphorism: "I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and cars - the rest I squandered."

How to avoid the Brits

... or, to put it another way, which holiday destinations have the lowest density of English soccer hooligans?

As Christmas hastens hard upon, it is at times like these that a man's thoughts, honed by the howling wind outside his door, turn to the holidays. The SUMMER holidays, that is. The time you get to soak up beers and sunrays as opposed to the time imminent when you soak up abuse from distant relatives.

According to some research by the BBC, there are a number of countries out there best ignored if you want to avoid Brits, and apparently only one of them is Britain. (Three if you're being picky.)

Scarily, one in ten Brits now live abroad, a figure approaching the European record set by Ireland where something like thirty out of every ten passport holders live abroad, due to the fact that it has become the designer second citizenship of choice for many Yanks and Brits.

Yup. If they're not taking out Irish passports, those pesky Brits are emigrating en masse to your and my favourite holiday destinations, intent on making a shite of them. Which raises some questions about the popularity of Tony Blair's regime back home, when you think about it.

Australia, Spain, America, Canada and Ireland might as well be British already (should that be again?) there are so many Brits living there. And poor old New Zealand, South Africa and France are next to be Britified. (Again, one thinks, not for the first time either.)

Most of South America and large chunks of the Gulf and East Africa are also showing disturbing signs of turning Brit, according to the Beeb, and even countries like Thailand, Libya and China are not safe from their baleful influence.

So where does this leave the poor Irish holidaymaker, desperate to avoid the tens of millions of Brits masquerading as Irish people?

I'd suggest Berlin, Budapest and the Cape Verde Islands for your summer break this year, people. Such is the rate of property purchase by Irish investors, that the likelihood is that by summer there won't be any indigenous people left in any of those places, and you'll have it all to yourself.

Well, you and the half a million Paddies who bought up the neighbourhood, that is.

So in short, Santa, I'd like downtown commercial property in the historical centre of Tallinn for Christmas because I've been very good.

And baby Jesus, can we swap the six million British people pretending to be Irish for the 1.5 million Irish people pretending to be British, and then we could have world peace, just like Miss World promised?

Screw it, we'll even take the septics too. In the name of world peace, like.

kick it on kick.ie

Sunday, December 10, 2006

It could be you, weeping over the lost millions

Sorry for the lack of updates, and an especial apology to Missing Neighbour, who gets highly strung if he doesn't get a regular dose of Skin Flicks. I've been lazy. It happens.

Anyhow, the ancient curse of sending a moron to get your lottery ticket has struck again, this time in Belgium, where a syndicate are around €27 million poorer this week.

It is an unerring rule of lotto number picking that the week you change your numbers, fail to buy a ticket, or send a moron to pick up your ticket for you is the very week that your numbers come up.

This dates back to the ancient days of football pools long ago, when any deviation from carefully crossing off the same numbers every week would spell certain doom to your likelihood of becoming filthy rich.

I particularly like the bizarre recriminations that such events always leave behind though.

"In twenty years time, my hair will stand on end if I ever see that bitch," one poor Belgian is thought to have (approximately) said about the muppet she sent to get the ticket.

Nice grudge bearing there. We should give that lass Northern Irish citizenship for bearing grudges above and beyond the call of duty.

Here's the skinny, though. The lottery is a tax on stupidity. The more you spend on lottos, the thicker you are. Give up now, and watch your IQ and bank balance soar.

Furthermore, if you want something done right, do it yourself. Really want the same numbers on your ticket every week? Then go buy the ticket yourself and don't send a moron to do it, you lazy sod.

And finally, like an Irish ambassador I knew once used to say, whatever it is you'd spend your lottery winnings doing, just go and do it anyway. There's more likelihood of you managing to fulfil your dreams for less money than there is of winning the national lottery.

Don't put your dreams on ice for lack of money, people. There are plenty of ways to skin an egg. Here endeth the sermon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Floating up the Lagan in a bubble market

Just when you thought there was nothing about the Irish property market that could possibly make you raise an eyebrow, along come the kind folks of the University of Ulster with their quarterly house price index to tell you that wartorn backwater Northern Ireland is currently experiencing the kind of precipitous increases last seen when people in Dublin first started talking about tigers.

That's Ulster, you know, the economically bereft, paramilitary plagued zone of bitter religious strife. Where the majority of the GDP is produced by the government paying for state jobs.

Yup, the six counties have apparently managed to move beyond the stereotype by becoming a more expensive place than Wales, Scotland or even Northern England in which to buy a house.

Quoth the good professors, "The average house price now stands at £180,128 up by 32.1% on a year before and up by 11.9% over a quarter."

Rockefeller knew he was in the end of the bull market when his shoeshine boy was offering stock tips.

Surely a bubble market in Belfast is a sure sign that the Irish property bubble is set to pop at last?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mommy knows best, even when she doesn't

Further evidence that courts all over the world believe Mommy knows best, even when she doesn't came with the news today that the High Court in Lahore, Pakistan, has ruled that Misbah Rana must leave her loving, affluent family and return to a bleak housing estate on the Scottish isle of Stornoway to live with her mother.

When I first wrote about this case, I noted how the child had sought her sister's help in fleeing her mother's care, and fervently desired to live with her father in Pakistan. This fact was confirmed again in court, when the child burst into uncontrollable weeping when the verdict that she would be forced to return to Scotland was announced.

It seems that the great social experiment of our era - the eradication of fathers from their children's lives - is continuing apace, even in countries previously seen to have tendencies to rule in favour of fathers, such as Muslim Pakistan.

Despite the fact that Misbah (or Molly as she was once known) has repeatedly acted and stated that she wishes to live with her family and father in Pakistan, where he is an affluent and caring man well respected in the community, it seems that the courts in two countries are insistent on ignoring her wishes.

Instead, they wish to foist her back into a bleak, windswept housing estate that is riven with drugs, and where she suffered racism, into the care of a mother who refused to even attend the hearing in Pakistan such is her love for her daughter.

A mother whose marriage fell apart after she had an affair, a mother who is apparently physically unwell, a mother who is accused of plying her own underage daughter with alcohol, a mother whose son Adam, Molly's older brother, left to return to his father as soon as he turned 18.

How is any of this in the interests of the child? Her interests have been expressed and utterly ignored. Instead, the British media were more than happy to accuse her father of abducting her, and reprinted her mother's lies that she was being taken to Pakistan for an arranged marriage. Thankfully, now that the full truth has emerged, their tone has changed somewhat.

But despite the augmentation of the media coverage, the facts remain heartbreaking. A child must be separated from the environment and family she loves because her selfish mother, who was not even inclined to attend the hearing about her daughter's future, wants her back.

And that's that, because Mommy knows best, even when she doesn't, in the eyes of the law the world over.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

Teflon Tone is, apparently 'sorry' about Britain's role in the slave trade. I wasn't actually aware that the UK was still trading in slaves. They're not? So why apologise now, two centuries after the evil practice was abandoned?

This stunt is reminiscent of his apology to Ireland for Britain's fault during the Irish potato famine, which was delivered on the 150th anniversary of the Great Hunger back in 1997.

On the one hand, it's sort of nice that Tony at least recognises that these were great wrongs. On the other, his predeliction for looking up anniversaries of horrors to apologise for smacks of PR nonsense.

By apologising for things that happened generations before his birth, he can give the impression of being a compassionate leader, a Christian soul moved by the sins of his forefathers.

But if he really feels the degree of remorse about evil actions committed by the British state, why the reticence in assuming responsibility for those he actually caused himself, such as the current state of Iraq?

And if Blair was genuinely animated about the evil of slavery today, would British troops not be in West Africa, preventing child labour today, or in Darfur protecting the Black southern Sudanese from their northern kidnappers, or in Eastern Europe, where women are being trafficked into the sex industry?

Britain benefited economically from both the slave trade and the Irish famine, and while mealy mouthed apologies are possibly preferable to no apology at all, no reparations appear to be forthcoming.

Both Africa and Ireland remain torn by divisions caused by British overlordship to this day, and the continuum of British influence in the Middle East has been an ongoing reason for the many internecine troubles afflicting that region.

Will Blair's successor one day be apologising to the Iraqi people some time in the 23rd century? And if so, what good will it do them anyway?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Baby's called a bad, bad thing

I was reading last Christmas's cult non-fiction book 'Freakonomics' the other day, and was fascinated by the chapter on how what you name your child can actually harm them in later life prospects, as employers unconsciously discriminate when they see ridiculous names on CVs.

Then I came across this primer on parental naming cruelty originating in the States, which uncovers the full horror of the lengths some morons will go to to burden their children with preposterous names, because 'they're unique.'

The site is best enjoyed in its full glory, with a glass of beer in hand and no one in the house to come running when you scream with laughter at what some people actually thing passes for a decent name for their kid. It is compiled by a waspish and witty editor who scoured baby naming websites to uncover the delusions of some people who probably ought not be permitted to breed.

But permit me to highlight a few classics below:

I was thinking of naming my son Toolio. Does anyone know the origin on that one?
---[Jane] DeSac

I m thinking of naming my baby Vashara Rashea.

I am 7 months pregnant, and I am having a boy. I think i'm going to name my son Kakinston ,, What do you think... ??

It seems to me that the name "Scatman" is a great one. you know: after semi-singer and comedian Scatman Crothers. I keep envision having a son named Scatman. I can imagine everyone he meets saying, 'What a cool name.' Which is good because that way they'll have something to like about him even if his personality is really off-putting. Or if he's shallow or a bully when he's like 13, when he should be getting into punk rock or something. At least they'll think he has a hip name. But don't use it, cause I thought of it.

My daughter-in-law would like to name the baby River Sunshine. That's the first and middle names. I think he's going to be teased in school.

We named our son Ty. People always ask, is it Tyler, or Tyrone or Tyrus? No - just Ty. We have a long last name (Troutman), so we wanted to be sure that his name wasn't too long.

My husband and I have already decided to name our son Cinsere. It's unique and it will be the first name in our family that is non-traditional. Many of our family members disagree with our decision, but we have decided and nothing is going to change our minds. We appreciate their opinions, but it is our choice.

For a girl Tierrainney Mackanzie [last name]
for a boy Tristin Gabrielle Reese [last name]

I didn't enjoy the bad baby names pages because the first one I saw was D'Artagnan, which is the name of my son. His nickname is "Tag," so we don't think the name's difficult pronunciation is an issue. Most children seem not to notice his unique name, but adults can be rude. When I was a child, many other children had the same name as me, which I didn't like. I accept not everyone likes my choices of names, but I am upset when I think they are being rude. My children's names are Bayne, Quillon, Griffon, and D'Artagnan.

I'm expecting triplets in April and we've picked out the girls names: Alexana Chenaur and Kia Nicasey. the boy my husband wants to name Richard Allen, I think it's a bit boring and prefer Shaden Elijah. Last name Zane. What do you think? I prefer unusual but not to far out.
And so on, and so on. There are pages of this stuff, each worse than what has gone before, and all wittily commentated on by the compiler of the site.

The first thing to point out is that Americans have a real preponderance towards giving their kids Irish, Scottish and posh English sounding names currently. This, in conjunction with previous trends towards posh French and Scandinavian names, would seem to indicate a degree of subtle racism going on, even (or perhaps especially) among parents of ethnic minorities who name their kids in these ways.

The second thing to note is that it's happening here too. The other day, I heard a woman calling little Britney and Dane in for their dinner. And the neighbour's little moppet is called Shakira. I kid you not.

Now there's always been the odd punter with a risible name. I've met a girl called Annette Curtin in London, and my mate swears she encountered a Dutchman once called Jeroen Coch (pronounced 'Yer own cock'). But these pale into insignificance alongside Toolio DeSac and Shaden Zane.

I guess the moral of the story, other than laughing out loud at the pretension of some parents and feeling sorry for their babies, is that if your family has a tradition of Irish names and you continue it, your nippers are going to have no chance of a job in the US in years to come, as employers will simply assume that their parents were moonshine-swilling illiterates from the Ozarks.

John or Mary. Play it safe. You have been warned.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Fair Play, Red Ken

Fair play to London's mayor, 'Red' Ken Livingstone for being probably the only politician in this hemisphere to own up to the fact that Muslims are being vilified on an unprecedented scale.

According to Ken, nonsense 'debates' like that about the veil have been deliberately fomented in order to avert the public's eye away from real issues, such as the devastation of Muslim Iraq by the British and American militaries.

"Over recent weeks we have seen a demonisation of Muslims only comparable to the demonisation of Jews from the end of the 19th century," says Ken.

This is actually a very useful analogy. Will we ultimately involve ourselves in statebuilding for the Muslim peoples we are currently occupying and killing, or will we simply commit genocide upon them? Or will we do both, as we did with the Jews?

In today's world, old habits continue to die hard. While the US-led occupation has directly caused over 650,000 excess deaths in Iraq, we are still being told that Muslims are the 'terrorists' - a word which itself has become a grubby, meaningless mantra parrotted by those who invariably have the most blood on their hands.

Robert Fisk's superlative book 'The Great War for Civilisation', which is perhaps the only primer on the mess that is the Middle East any of us will ever need, makes this very point in such wonderful prose that it is worth quoting in full:

Terrorism is a word that has become a plague on our vocabulary, the excuse and reason and moral permit for state-sponsored violence - our violence - which is now used on the innocent of the Middle East ever more outrageously and promiscuously. Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. It has become a full stop, a punctuation mark, a phrase, a speech, a sermon, the be-all and end-all of everything that we must hate in order to ignore injustice and occupation and murder on a mass scale.

Terror, terror, terror, terror. It is a sonata, a symphony, an orchestra tuned to every television and radio station and news agency report, the soap opera of the Devil, served up on prime time or distilled in wearyingly dull and mendacious form by the right-wing 'commentators' of the American east coast or the Jerusalem Post or the intellectuals of Europe.

Strike against terror. Victory over terror. War on terror. Everlasting war on terror. Rarely in history have soldiers and journalists and presidents and kings aligned themselves in such thoughtless, unquestioning ranks. In August 1914, the soldiers thought they would be home by Christmas. Today, we are fighting forever. The war is eternal. The enemy is eternal, his face changing on our screens.

Once he lived in Cairo and sported a moustache and nationalised the Suez canal. Then he lived in Tripoli and wore a ridiculous military uniform and helped the IRA and bombed American bars in Berlin. Then he wore a Muslim Imam's gown and ate yogurt in Tehran and planned Islamic revolution. Then he wore another white gown and lived in a cave in Afghanistan and then he wore another silly moustache and resided in a series of palaces around Baghdad. Terror, terror, terror, terror.
When you hear the word 'terror', now is the time to stop, think and listen. To what extent are those dispossessed of their land, homes and even lives 'terrorists' in Palestine, while those who committed those evils upon them are not?

If North Korea and Iran are 'terrorists' for seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, how is America, the only country to use one, not?

If Saddam Hussein was a terrorist for invading Kuwait, how come those who invaded Iraq repeatedly in the past century - ie Britain and America - are not terrorists?

Terrorism is the word used to stop people questioning the persecution of Muslims in Western interests. And this brings me back to Red Ken.

"The attack on Muslims in reality threatens freedoms for all of us, which took hundreds of years to win - freedom of conscience and freedom of cultural expression. Every person who values their right to follow the religion of their choice or none should stand with the Muslim communities today."

We are living in Orwell's world of perpetual war, shifting enemies and Newspeak news broadcasts. If you truly value your freedom, the freedoms that Ken refers to, then the rejection of the 'terror' terminology and the defence of Muslim freedom of cultural expression and self-determination are the only things standing between you and total acquiescence to the Big Brother state.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

There's no such thing as a free lunch

... unless you're the worms of San Francisco, of course, who will soon be feasting on the father of monetarism, Milton Friedman, who died today.

If that sounds a bit harsh on someone who was esteemed as the father of the free market and a Nobel laureate to boot, then consider his legacy - Reagan, Thatcher, the massive growth in the wealth disparity between rich and poor over the past three decades, and of course bubble markets such as our own property boom.

Now, obviously Milt did not intend all of that to occur when he first championed monetarism. And in later years, he was an outspoken advocate of equality of access in education.

But there is little doubt in my mind that, visionary though Friedman may have been, his theorems have proved incredibly destructive in the hands of lesser minds over the latter third of his life.

The destruction of the British Miners in 1984, the degradation of the American working class into what Barbara Ehrenreich has termed 'canned labour', and of course the phenomenon of overseas outsourcing are all direct developments of Friedman's ideology being put into practice for the benefit of the few and to the detriment of the many.

His legacy, not presumably something he might have wished for, will be the enrichment of a tiny cabal of people worldwide at the expense of all the rest of us. His ideology, lacking as it does in human compassion, leaves itself open to the self-serving sociopathy of big business and big businessmen (and their puppet politicians.)

Farewell then, Milt. You've had your last free lunch, though the fat cats you inspired still have their head in the trough more than ever.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Global Warming is SO unfair

Here I am, in the hills of Northern Spain (in the preposterous republic of Basqueland), in mid-November, and the sun is splitting the trees. Not only that, but today and yesterday it was in the low twenties, centigrade wise.

Now, locals inform me that in times past, being in a mountainous region meant getting snowed on at this time of year. Instead, they´re wearing T-shirts to the shops and enjoying their swimming pools.

Meanwhile, in huge chunks of Africa, where the delightful combo of AIDS, war and corruption have already made life beyond difficult for most people, global warming is destroying what little arable land was left. Kenya, among others, is losing its farmland and, just as important, the habitats in which wild animals live.

And in Ireland, global warming has so far managed to lead to even more bloody rain than we had before.

My conclusion is that climate change is inherently unfair, and that those who benefit from it, like the Basques, should ante up for those losing out, like the Kenyans and the Irish.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

When I'm world dictator...

... the very first decree I'll introduce is that all advertisements of any kind must be able to PROVE all claims or face the loss of 50% of company profits.

"Because you're worth it?" Prove that EVERY SINGLE PERSON exposed to the ad is 'worth' it, ie they can all afford to purchase overpriced cosmetics. Since poor African feckers obviously can't, L'Oreal hands over the profits.

"Probably the best lager in the world?" Show us the test results of blind tastings held under clinical conditions in every country on earth, indicating that Carlsberg won on every occasion. There aren't any such tests? Oops, hand over the money you lying Danish gits.

Overnight, my blood pressure would be spared the excess lying of ponytailed advertising and marketing scumbags, and so would yours.

We'd soon see ads like 'Renault, decent enough cars that will rust after a while, though' and 'Casillero del diablo, it's mass produced cheap South American plonk but we're marking up the price for Britain and Ireland.'

Think about it. You could learn to trust the media again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Man down

And the first casualty of the Republican Party's dismal performance in the US elections appears to be Donald Rumsfeld.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke.

Now, will someone please charge him with war crimes and ship him to The Hague to make my joy complete?

This sudden move seems to imply that George Junior reckons it is Iraq that has seen the House and probably the Senate too fall to the Democrats.

Which just shows he really is as thick as people say, since it's clearly the falling house prices, spiralling budget deficit and rising unemployment. In other words, it's still the economy, stupid.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Getting rid of the evidence

In a totally unforeseen move, the US kangaroo court in Baghdad -

Sorry, let's try that again. The Iraqi High Tribunal has sentenced Saddam Hussein to death. He gets one appeal, then once that's refused (because it will be of course) he will be murdered by the state within 30 days.

I won't be weeping for Saddam, but it does strike me as a little odd when the White House has to issue a statement denying they were scheming for the verdict. Surely that's the biggest confirmation that they were?

Mind you, they probably would like rid of Saddam as quickly as possible. You wouldn't want him going and writing his memoirs in prison implicating all sorts of Western governments in all sorts of arms deals, now would you?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wanted: New Stalker for Top Irish Model

So Glenda Gilson's stalking nightmare is over.

Following her 'court ordeal', in which the alleged stalker received a suspended sentence, 'top Irish model' Glenda expressed her relief to any tabloid entertainments correspondent who happened to be on hand.

Hence her preposterously eyebrowed gob on the front page of the papers today, not to mention on TV all day yesterday.

This leads me to a number of thoughts:

1. How much of a loser do you have to be to stalk Glenda Gilson? I mean, Jessica Alba I can see the attraction. Scarlett Johansson, fair enough. Angelina Jolie? Well, she'd probably be more likely to stalk you. But Glenda sodding Gilson?

2. How bereft of news are the papers when Glenda's stalker hell makes front page? Seriously, there isn't a person in the country doesn't see through this painful puff for what it is - which is another sorry and desperate attempt to promote GG as the future of television presenting in England.

3. Do we really not have better looking women in this country? Maybe I need my eyes checked, but it seems to me that you could trip over better looking girls than 'top model' Glenda, just by walking up Grafton Street at 3am.

4. What sort of a name is Glenda anyway? What were her parents thinking? I mean, is she supposed to be the Good Witch of the North or something?

5. Now that her stalker has been rightly chastened with a suspended sentence, what will Glenda do to keep generating the press interest? No one watches that obscure cable MTV rip-off she presents, and most people just groan and turn the page when they see her eyebrows selling some snake-oil tit cream or similarly ridiculous product. Perhaps she'll be looking for a new stalker to keep those headlines rolling in.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Getting a rise out of Chinese 'medicine'

It came as no surprise to me to hear that some unscrupulous Chinese medicine practitioners in Northern Ireland have been dosing their Oriental snake oils for impotence with Viagra.

This doesn't surprise me for two reasons. Firstly, I have first hand experience that Chinese medicine doesn't work, and secondly, Chinese people rarely pass up a genuine business opportunity.

If the GP's research is correct, and I appreciate the vested interests involved in his motivation for researching this, then it seems like some naughty Chinese medicine practitioners saw fit to take a substance that ought only be sold subject to a doctor's prescription and add it to some amusingly exotic looking and sounding herbal treatments to make them actually work, while simultaneously quadrupling the price for gullible Westerners.

Nice mark-up if you can get it. Since there are no formal qualification requirements to open up a Chinese medical practice, anybody of an Asian extraction can open up premises with some inscrutable Asian qualifications mounted on the wall, and sell quack cures to the gullible with relative impugnity.

And it's only when they get supergreedy and start adding generic Viagra to their impotence snake oil, and a vigilant doctor catches them out, does anyone stop to think of the potential dangers of these charlatans.

Does Chinese 'medicine' work? No doubt some of their herbal remedies have certain physiological effects. In fact, some of them are actually downright dangerous. And when they include prescription drugs, you can see how dangerous it can be to permit people with no medical training to be handing these substances out.

Once, on a trip to Beijing, I decided to visit the Great Wall of China and the Ming era tombs of the Emperors. Like so many tourists before me, I was kidnapped into a traditional Chinese medicine centre near the tombs, so that the operation could try to sell us shit we didn't need.

Or as they put it, 'to permit us the pleasure and excitement of diagnosis of our ails by the most estimable doctors of China.'

The brief backstory is that I was actually viciously hungover and also suffering the after-effects of a kidney infection I'd caught in Russia. My travelling companion, however, was in rude good health.

The experts of the clinic, dressed in white lab coats gave us a talk and then mingled to 'diagnose' us, by drumming lightly on our pulse points with three fingers. These people made a great deal out of having treated Chairman Mao no less back in the Seventies. It seemed churlish to point out he died shortly afterwards.

I was declared hail and hearty by my attendant consultant, albeit in need of something anti-inflammatory for my entirely unpained ankle. Its yin and yang were allegedly out of kilter, requiring a $20 purchase of some random ointment that was swiftly produced from a box and waved in my face.

My colleague, however, was warned severely about heart, kidney and liver troubles, and it was sternly advised that she part with nigh on $100 for seemingly randomly chosen boxes of pills and tinctures.

I refused and so did she, at first politely then with increasing annoyance and frustration. It became evident that our tour group was captured until someone parted with money for some quack cure.

Eventually, an American gave in and on we went. I noticed that he smartly dumped the 'cure' in a bin at the tomb site, later.

As with all placebo cures, there will be some who will claim miraculous results from the kindly attentions of their local well- (or ill-) meaning Chinese quack doctor with his amazing exotic array of Oriental herbs and preparations, so evocative of a medieval apothecary.

But the bottom line for me is that Chinese medicine is not evidence based medicine.

And medicine that is not evidence based,
medicine that seeks to diagnose by drumming on the pulse points only,
medicine that proffers expensive and potentially dangerous cures without first investigating whether patients are already taking medications,
medicine that thinks it is okay to adulterate snake oil cures with knocked-off prescription drugs,

- such medicine is bad medicine indeed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Samhain

Happy New Year to all the druids and New Age types out there.

Now could you please stop your kids from knocking on my door dressed as numpties begging for cash? I don't send my nipper round your house on December 31st looking for pocket money.

I saw a load of kids in a shopping centre today walking around overtly begging for spondulicks. They nearly ate the face off some old lady who offered them twix bars instead of cash.

Security only threw them out when I pointed out that if it had been some Roma gypsy begging for cash, they wouldn't even have been let into the centre in the first place.

When did Halloween turn into an American 'trick or treat' session on this side of the Atlantic, and when did it become acceptable to send your kids out begging around shopping centres dressed in witches' hats?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Not exactly Florence Nightingale

It seems that former Naas hospital nurse Noreen Mulholland has been found guilty on at least one charge relating to poisoning patients while working in Kildare in 2003.

As if it wasn't bad enough that people are dying while trying to gain admission to hospitals, then being infected with drug-resistant bugs and dying once they get a bed, do patients now need to worry about the staff killing them too?

This week alone, we've seen a surgeon taking out a patient's stomach by mistake, ten thousand people marching to complain about the continued downgrading of their local hospital, and a record number of complaints against doctors.

Years into the so-called reform of the Irish health service, when are we actually going to see a reversal in the slipping standards, never mind the long-promised improvements?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Posh Spice's knickers and Robbie Keane's girlfriend are not news, or are they?

It seems that everyone is very animated all of a sudden over the recent spate of fatal car crashes in the country. I won't call them accidents - in the vast majority of cases, human error or impairment is to blame.

On top of the media calling for Martin Cullen's head (no bad thing in itself, but in fairness, it's not like he was driving any of the cars), all sorts of Irish bloggers from Sunday Times' Sarah Carey to acerbic smoker Twenty Major to the Swearing Lady appear to be very agitated about the issue.

So, working on the counterintuitive logic that people have heard enough about road safety, and also operating on the basis that as long as we have cars we'll have car crashes, I'm going to discuss something entirely different.

What passes for news in this country?

The front pages of the morning papers make desolate reading sometimes. Whether it's the warmed over Government press releases that dot the Irish Times front page, or the shrill moralising usually found on the front of the Irish Daily Mail, it's hard to discern actual NEWS anywhere.

Today's Daily Mirror - and I'm not picking on them specifically, it was just the only one I bought this morning - was a case in point that actually had me wondering whether the papers in this country would recognise news if it swanned into their offices wearing a T-shirt that read 'I'm news, print me!'

Front cover of today's Mirror had the jawdropping revelation that Robbie Keane is going to marry his long-term girlfriend. Yup, a football millionaire is going to marry the girl he's been with for five years. Sometime. We're not sure when. But they are engaged. Even though she's had a ring on her finger for weeks. And this is FRONT PAGE NEWS.

The other revelation from the same front page? 'POSH - Raunchiest pictures yet.' Accompanied by a snap of Skeletor flashing half a malnourished silicon tit.

Now, were the reader somehow brave enough to get past this smorgasbord of irrelevance and actually open the paper, page two is equally fascinating. Actual news - that we're not going to let the Bulgarians or Romanians in - makes an appearance.

And down the side of the page, between a tale of rabbits in Antarctica and the fact that apparently lots of Japanese people are really old, we get the following story. This is it in full, by the way:

France behind 1994 Genocide
France is being accused of taking part in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. French troops there are believed to have armed the Hutu militants who killed 800,000 Tutsis in a 100 day bloodbath. France has denied officially taking sides.

That's it. That's all you're getting. Yes, I know it's a tabloid. Yes, it's about a massacre long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away from CelticTigerland. But clearly I'm missing something here.

Isn't the suggestion that one of the world's major powers armed and caused the massacre of nearly a million people NEWS? More than a suggestion, in fact. A downright overt allegation from someone who ought to know - the man who was Rwandan ambassador to France at the time.

We get a full page of puff about Posh Spice's new 'fashion guide', and three sentences about how one of our allies and neighbours conducted the devastation of an entire country?

According to Reporters Sans Frontieres today, we have the most free press in the world, along with Finland, Iceland and Holland. This, of course, is an assessment that predates Minister McDowell's plans for a privacy law that will devastate the media's ability to report the news.

So with such press freedoms, why do we get such an appalling news agenda across the board?

Go on, people. Someone please explain this to me before I go mad entirely.