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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Old Europe grows a set of balls

And about time too. German prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for the CIA spooks who kidnapped a German man and took him to be tortured in Afghanistan.

Mr Masri, right, is German of Lebanese descent. He was kidnapped by the CIA while living in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, on New Year's Eve, 2003.

Happy new year, waking up in Kabul about to be tortured by America's proxy medieval inquisitors, I don't think.

Obviously Mr Masri wants compensation for being flown across the planet with a bag over his head and being subsequently tortured for no good or legal reason.

Italian prosecutors are also about to indict CIA operatives and Italian nationals for arranging and carrying out a kidnapping on Italian soil.

The whole world knows that America is kidnapping people at will in any country they choose and taking them to remote parts of the world, beyond media scrutiny, to be tortured. All in the name of the war on terror.

In fact, this is the war OF terror. Remember Paster Niemoller's famous statement about the climate in Germany during the Thirties:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Will you demand that your Government stop being complicit in kidnap and torture and start prosecuting US agents and troops that kidnap, torture or transport kidnap and torture victims through your country? Will you do it before the CIA start kidnapping you, or your family or your friends or neighbours?

Germany is remembering that it is a sovereign nation that upholds the rule of law. So is Italy. When will Ireland and Britain remember they are not the 51st and 52nd states, and begin to insist on inspecting the shady planes full of spooks that come in the night to refuel at Shannon and Prestwick?

If your Government won't listen to you when you ask them to stop supporting kidnap and torture, then it's time to get rid of them. Their hands are as equally covered in blood. Tell your local political representatives that. And keep telling them until you can remove them from office or until they decide that human rights and the rule of law are worth respecting again.

kick it on kick.ie

Monday, January 29, 2007

Child-free aviation

As my first flight of the year approaches, I am filled with trepidation at hurling myself into the pit of contemporary human misery that is air travel today.

Nothing can ever habituate you to the squalid overcrowding of Dublin airport, the terrorist frisk-downs at destination airports on arrival and on return, or to the contemptible service standards of certain low-cost airlines, where everything has a price and the customer has no value whatsoever.

But I could, with the assistance of prescription pharmaceuticals, somehow manage to handle all of the above if only someone in the aviation industry would hear my plea and provide child-free flights.

There has been reports that a smoking airline might be about to set up in business. But frankly, and I speak as a smoker here, that idea is really pretty disgusting in the context of recycled air.

That's not what the customer wants or needs. We would like to be treated like human beings, and at least in my case, we would welcome the offer, even if we had to pay a little extra, to fly without the accompaniment of colicky newborns and their sleep-deprived, frazzled parents, especially on long-haul flights.

Next week, I have a short hop. Even if I get allocated next to a mewling, puking brat, I can flee their presence within a couple of hours.

But later in the year, I may be flying much further afield. And no amount of tranquilisers, airport bar gin and tonics, or over the counter sleeping tablets will be able to take the edge off the shrill caterwaul of someone else's infant for hours on end at 40,000 feet.

The O'Leary's and Willie Walshes of this world are supposedly innovating air travel daily, constantly seeking to open up new opportunities for diversifying airline income.

Well, if they value making an extra few quid, let someone speculate on raising prices on long-haul flights that are guaranteed over-twelves only?

I appreciate that sometimes people HAVE to travel. Granny's funeral and so on. But surely it is always possible not to mention preferable to leave a young infant behind? Even older children do not enjoy hours on end stuck in a seat in a cramped jet airliner.

So if it is Granny's funeral, and you can prove it, then alright, take the child with you. But won't someone give me the option of catching the next, child-free, flight too?

And if it's not Granny's funeral, then please, leave your rugrats at home with someone, or better still, holiday locally. It's better for the environment, better for your stress levels and better for the general sanity of the rest of us who didn't volunteer to bear witness to your offspring's marathon ability to tantrum.

Bill Hicks was right. But then again he usually is...

kick it on kick.ie

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Vote McCord

Raymond McCord senior has announced that he intends to run in the forthcoming Assembly elections in North Belfast.

I would urge people of all political persuasions in the constituency to vote for this brave individual, in the hope of breaking the deadlock of headcount politics in Northern Ireland.

In the interests of truly creating a modern society that offers freedom from hatred, respect for all and a severing with our violent past, it is absolutely essential that we now have a full public inquiry into ALL allegations of collusion, be they those that relate to the RUC and Loyalist terrorists or those that relate to British or Irish forces and Republican terrorists.

And those found guilty of colluding with terrorists in the murder of civilians from ANY community ought now to be prosecuted, and if found guilty, to serve at least token sentences under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The normal people of Northern Ireland, who never saw fit to lift a gun to their neighbour, deserve no less. It is time to look forward, not back. It is time to create a province at peace with each other and all of our neighbours.

But before we can do that, we must pay the honour due to those innocents who were murdered for no reason by getting to the bottom of the crimes that caused their deaths and holding those responsible to account.

kick it on kick.ie

Monday, January 22, 2007

Collusion - the proof

Hot on the heels of the recent independent international panel report into 76 deaths in the 1970s, now we have Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman report into collusion.

Thank you, Nuala O'Loan for your brave and comprehensive report into the biggest scandal of the entire 'Troubles' period.

It is now incontrovertible that the state's police and security services routinely colluded with Loyalist gunmen in order to bring about the murder of Catholic citizens of Northern Ireland.

No doubt the Paisleyites will be suddenly silenced, as they always are when evidence of the wrongdoings committed against the Catholic community of the six counties are highlighted.

But with the DUP's eternal ranting about murderers and terrorism, with the UUP's continuing demands for Nationalists to ally themselves to and offer respect for the organs of state control, surely now is the time for both of those parties to stand up and loudly state that they condemn utterly the activities which saw those state organs take part in the murder of innocent citizens?

Well, Ian? Well, Reg? A single condemnation will do. Though of course, it would be even better if you could convince those members of your electorate who refused to talk to Nuala O'Loan, likely due to their own guilt, to come forward and reveal the full extent of their complicity with Loyalist death squads.

A few arrests wouldn't go amiss either. There are former RUC officers who, we now know from two reports, were involved in plotting the killing of innocent civilians, yet they live in comfortable retirement paid for by the taxpayer out of their extensive pensions.

They could be released after a token sentence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement if necessary.

But if the Unionist parties really want to convince anyone that they really do stand by justice and against terrorism, now is the time for them to step up to the plate and do so, unequivocally.

Bertie Ahern, a man usually known for saying nothing in a thousand words, has been refreshingly clear in his response to this report. I await the response of Tony Blair with interest. But not as much interest as I await Paisley's and Empey's responses.

Update: Tony Blair didn't see fit to comment himself, instead leaving it up to an unnamed mouthpiece to make the following statement:

"This is a deeply disturbing report about events which were totally wrong and which should never have happened. The fact that they did is a matter for profound regret, and the prime minister shares that regret. But this is also a report about the past, and what is important now is that, under the new structures introduced along with the formation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, these events could not happen now."

Hugh Orde and Peter Hain appear to be towing the same line of 'it couldn't happen now.' Surely the point is that it happened THEN? Despite repeated denials from all the same sources now wringing their hands and seeking solace in recent change, these death occurred in the Nineties, some less than a decade ago.

I do very much welcome Hain's statement that he wants to see those involved arrested though:

"There are all sorts of opportunities for prosecutions to follow," said the direct rule Secretary of State. "The fact that some retired police officers obstructed the investigation and refused to cooperate with the police ombudsman is very serious in itself."

Well, feel free to start with the group of former Special Branch officers quoted in The Guardian as saying they had "nothing to be ashamed of', Peter.

kick it on kick.ie

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Programmed to be racist?

Are we all programmed to be racist? Is a degree of racist response endemic in our DNA? I was wondering about this while the Celebrity Big Brother programme row over racism raged last week both in the media and in comments from senior politicians like Gordon Brown.

I have a theory, which I will happily admit to nicking partly from my old pal Missing Neighbour, about the nature of racism and why, despite the fact that our contemporary intelligence would counter such insane prejudice, many people are still capable of iterating racist opinions.

The gist is basically that we're predisposed to fear as 'the other' those from visually different tribal backgrounds as ourselves, since back in the day they offered a tangible threat to available resources (ie they'd nick your bint, your grub and then kill you painfully.)

The other stuff - mean Scots, big black cocks, Pakistani corner shops or whatever, is therefore just our civilised minds' attempts to justify the animal brain fear.

Missing Neighbour says that he believes that there is a 'low level anxiety' we all have when we are placed in unfamiliar situations/environments with people we don’t know. We are unable to make rational informed choices about our situation because our conscious mind has so little information to go on.

So what happens next is the good old brain stem (the bit left over from our long gone knuckle dragging days) kicks in and hey presto we turn into a prehistoric fearful raging ape. Obviously this effect varies dramatically from person to person but our primal brain sees change and difference as a threat, especially if the way things are at the moment (as far as our selfish self preserving brain can tell) are just fine and we are ticking along nicely.

On a more macro level racism and many other socially unacceptable behaviours seem to be extreme reactions to human beings being taken outside their comfort zones and the old ‘Its all mine and I am fucking keeping it attitude’ kicks in rather rapidly.

The important thing to remember though, is that we all have frontal lobes to override our animal responses.

This is why most men don't rape all round them, why it is unacceptable to rob other people's stuff and why racism is wrong.

But if you acknowledge the existence of the low level anxiety Missing Neighbour talks about, especially when there are visual cues of 'otherness' around you, like some punter with different coloured skin, or the fact that you aren't in your home environment, then the explanation for that, as I see it, is the animal response.

But it is up to all of us to use the 200,000 years of civilisation and development of our frontal lobes to override such responses.

If you consider Northern Ireland, where both tribes look, behave and think like each other in the same cultural context, or you consider footie crowds, where each side is made up of many different races, visual cues need to be created in order to generate the flight or fight response (kerbside painting, orange order sashes, footie scarves and shirts).

Once otherness is established, then it is up to the individual who feels threatened in themselves to override their animal response. Most of us do. Obviously the chavs of BB, threatened by the 'class' of Shilpa Shetty, haven't managed to do that and responded by seeking solace from their fear in greater numbers - ie bullying.

Is it racist? Yes, of course it is, even if Jade Goody happens to be of part-black inheritance. She wouldn't be the first racist of such a background and white people certainly do not hold a monopoly on racist attitudes.

But primarily, it is fear, safety in numbers, and ignorance that has inspired this bout of bullying. If you wish to ensure that neither you nor your children are racists or develop racist attitudes, then the crucial issue is to prevent your animal brain from taking over when you encounter people you automatically identify as 'other.'

Because if you manage to turn off that response, which is pre-programmed in us all, you are likely to discover that the people inspiring that response are human just like you, friendly just like you, worth knowing just like you and all of a sudden they are no longer 'other', just like you.

kick it on kick.ie

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Treasury seek to destroy a Dublin treasure

Bewley's famous and much-loved cafe on Grafton Street is once again facing closure, this time due to a lawsuit threatened by the property's landlords.

The cafe, which closed briefly two years ago to the dismay of all Dubliners and those who visit the capital, was reprieved after it was bought over (with the famous name retained.)

It was deemed back then to be uneconomic to retain such a large cafe with such high overheads in one of the most expensive rental streets in Europe. However, current management Cafe Bar Deli have proved that to be wrong.

The threat this time around comes from the actual owners of the premises, the controversial and notoriously litigious Treasury Holdings. Because of their penchant for aggressively pursuing court cases, I am sadly not in a position to express my true feelings about the way they conduct their business.

But I hope I am safe in suggesting that Treasury would be only delighted to force the forfeiture of Cafe Bar Deli's lease on the beloved old cafe, as it would enable them to either develop the site or rent it for a higher price to a tenant likely to renovate it for retail use, which would put an end to the 80 year history of Dublin's favourite cafe.

Their predatory eye has clearly been on the site for some time, given the revelation that they sought to buy out the lease for €6 million only two years ago.

Treasury have been censured in the past by the likes of An Taisce for their bully-boy tactics, producing potentially dangerous developments and riding roughshod over local communities.

Anyone with a love of Dublin's cafe culture and the unique atmosphere of Bewley's in Grafton Street can only hope that Treasury's latest attempt to get their own way through bullying litigation is unsuccessful.

kick it on kick.ie

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Luas goes North?

The powers-that-be, ie the direct rule Mandarins of the Department of Regional Development, are considering a rapid transit system for Belfast.

The top option on the table, aimed at reducing Belfast's growing gridlock, is a Luas type light rail system.

But at the risk of sounding like a MOPE, why is it that this plan only focuses on East Belfast when the worst tailbacks in town are located along the Falls Road, the Westlink and parts of South Belfast?

This is reminiscent of when the Brits gave Stormont millions in the Sixties for a motorway to Dublin and they built one into the middle of Protestant nowhere (ie Dungannon) instead.

Or indeed of the time in the early 1980s when the Southern authorities decided to build a little seaside railway for the affluent coastal suburbs of Dublin rather than one that would actually take the most car-bound commuters off the roads.

Comber does not need a Luas. It's a village, for goodness' sake. They should instead build a tram line that goes up the Falls, and another route that takes some of the commuters off the Westlink.

Belfast needs a transport system that serves the greatest number of people rather than a partisan Protestant community light rail.

kick it on kick.ie

Monday, January 15, 2007

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and France

Documents recently uncovered in British archives reveal that a beleaguered French leadership proposed a full union between Britain and France in the 1950s.

They were prepared to accept the crown, join the Commonwealth and share common citizenship, according to proposals made by French Prime Minister Guy Mollet in 1956, at the height of the Suez crisis.

Needless to say, the discovery of this jaw-dropping proposal, which Mollet quietly shelved after Suez was lost and tensions between Israel and Jordan dissipated somewhat, hasn't impressed French nationalists very much.

And it certainly offers a different perspective of Anglo-French relations to de Gaulle twice vetoing Britain's entry into the EU only a few years later.

Though of course there is a precedent - England did occupy regions of France around Calais and Bordeaux in the early Middle Ages, and they still bear traces of their lost English heritage in the ancient architecture of those regions.

Nevertheless, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and France would have turned Irish and world politics on its head, had it actually happened.

There would have been a different centre to the burgeoning EU than the subsequent Franco-German axis that developed later. There would have been a ready made superpower in Western Europe to offer an alternative pole of power to the Eastern Bloc and America.

English dominance of the isles would have been exceedingly dissipated by French influence. It would be much harder for a country of 45 million people to dominate 100 million of a total union, rather than just the 60 million of the isles.

One intriguing question is whether a UK of Britain and France would have applied sufficient pressure of the stagnant, virtually bankrupt backwater of Fifties Ireland to rejoin the fold.

Certainly had it proved a successful union, I suspect that there would have been moves, possibly even a viable Unionist party in the Republic, agitating for union with Britain and France.

It didn't happen though, and probably couldn't have happened, despite Mollet's flirtation. And we can say 'Vive la difference!' to that. But it poses an intriguing counter history for the latter half of the twentieth century.

Would a Western European UK superpower have suppressed the creation of an EU? Would they have created rival client states in Western Europe to stifle the spread of the Eastern Bloc? Would they have retained their empires, as France largely has done and Britain has not?

Most interestingly, would we now be living in a UK dominated world, with America merely an affluent backwater, had this union come about?

kick it on kick.ie

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The meaning of life?

I've just discovered below that there are 42 people with my exact name in the United States of America. Which is strange really, since there were at least two people with that name in my family home when I was growing up, and it was an awful lot smaller than the USA.

The other interesting element of this is the number 42, which as every geek knows is the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything in the late and much missed Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

Like Marvin the paranoid android (above), I'm still pondering the meaning of all of this.

It seems also that there is only one person with Mrs Skinner's name in the US. I think it may actually be her. There is also one person with Mini-Skinner's name in the States too, but I'm pretty sure that's an imposter.

Either way, I'm miffed to discover that they both have more exclusive names than me. Perhaps it's time to review the bad names list and pick something unique to change to. Like Toolio, perhaps. Only we already know there's at least one of them in America already.

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

kick it on kick.ie

2007 Predictions

I suppose I am a little tardy rolling out my predictions a fortnight into the new year, but I really did want to chew them over first. Last thing I need is to have you all on my back come December going ner-ner-ner-ner-ner! at me for getting it all wrong.

So here are my predictions for 2007, carefully considered and guaranteed to come true or your money back.* Get down to the bookies now!

Mystic JC gazes into his crystal ball and sees:

  1. The NI elections will see a bump in the SDLP vote, but not enough to overhaul Sinn Fein. Both parties will hail their performances as a success. The UUP will similarly close on the DUP and both parties again will claim public support for their strategies. Ian Paisley will then find further nit-picking reasons not to enter power-sharing, and the whole process will end up on ice again, and Northern Irish citizens will still be denied democracy.
  2. More American troops will enter Iraq, which will deteriorate further, if that is indeed possible. The US government will blame Iranian influences within Iraq for the upsurge in violence and, with the support of Tony Blair, though without British troops, will attempt to overthrow the Ahmedinejad regime.
  3. The destruction of Afghanistan will continue apace, in media silence and to no particular outcry from the Western world. Al-Qaeda will retain a presence there, and British and American troops will start to leave in order to free up manpower for Iraq, and later, Iran. Opium will flow out of the place, children will starve, women will be suppressed and many people will die needlessly.
  4. Fianna Fail will be returned to power in a bad-tempered election marked by the emergence of negative campaigning for the first time in Ireland. Expect particular trouble in the Dublin Central constituency, where Bertie the cheque signer faces off against the fashion wing of the Republican movement, Mary-Lou.
  5. However, the PDs will not be returned to power, leaving McDowell in control of himself only in the Dail, as Mary Harney, Mae Sexton and the rest all bow out ungraciously. The PDs will be behind Joe Higgins' Socialists in parliament after they secure a second seat.
  6. The Shinners will boost their number of TDs, but not so much as to create a hung Dail. Bertie will make up the numbers of his government with randomers like Jackie Healy-Rae as he did previously.
  7. Enda Kenny will face a leadership challenge, as will Pat Rabbitte. Enda may survive his, but Pat will not. Expect to see Brendan Howlin in charge of Labour by year's end.
  8. Tony Blair will finally get thrown out of Number Ten, to be replaced by Gordon Brown after a late party leadership challenge from John Reid and some other numpties. 'New' Labour will continue to ignore the needs of the British working class despite the figurehead change, and will continue to leak support to the Tories. The BNP, Respect and Scots and Welsh nationalist votes will all inexorably rise.
  9. The Basque peace process will collapse, leading to further sporadic bombings and violence. Shinners will wring their hands about it and talk about the need for dialogue.
  10. Conflicts will flare across Africa, in Sudan, Somalia, and along the Western coast. But that happens every year, so that's not really much of a prediction, I admit.
  11. Manchester United will win the Premiership, leading to the 'mutually agreed' departure of Jose Mourinho from Chelsea. In a fit of pique, he will take Frank Lampard with him to Real Madrid. Whoever wins the Barcelona-Liverpool tie will win the Champions' League.
  12. There will be a major spike in oil prices again.
That's your lot! Thanks for listening. Remember, I'm on 5% of all winnings, which can be remitted to me in used notes of either Euro or Sterling (no soft currencies like the dollar, which is going down further this year than a deep-throating hooker). Non-consecutive numbers please.

kick it on kick.ie

*Guarantee dependent on acts of God, and of people who think they're God, like Georgie Bush, Tony Blair, Jose Mourinho, etc.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution

Emma Goldman's famous quotation sprung to mind today when I heard how an English National Ballet dancer's debut was disrupted by some numpties waving placards.

Basically, as I previously wrote, the Guardian newspaper disgracefully published lists of BNP members in their newspaper that they had obtained by infiltrating the party for seven months.

But despite their lengthy undercover investigation, the worst they could find about the BNP was that - shock, horror - many of their members were afraid to lose their jobs just because of their membership of what is accepted in the UK as a legitimate political party, and that they use encryption software to protect their membership lists.

Now, I am no fan of the far right. But nor am I a fan of fascism when it comes from the far left either.

And the scum who protested at Simone Clarke's debut performance are, despite their chin-stroking, anti-racist, lemon-sucking intentions, classic contemporary fascists who want to stifle opinions they disagree with and shout down those whose political outlook differs from their own.

One wonders when any of them last attended a ballet performance or if indeed they are ever likely to again.

And while they interrupted the performance to yell nonsense slogans against racism, the irony that Ms Clarke is herself in a relationship with a Cuban-Chinese dancer was no doubt was lost upon them.

But rent-a-mobs aren't really the issue here. Like the poor, we will always have with us those who consider it a useful pastime to wave placards and protest against allegedly right-wing ballet dancers while their allegedly left-wing government conducts a murderous imperialist occupation of at least three other countries.

The real problem is the continued campaign by the Guardian newspaper to seek to justify and legitimise their witch hunt of BNP members, solely on the basis of their party membership.

Either the Guardian believes that the BNP is a dangerous and seditious body that ought to be banned and should launch a campaign to see it proscribed. But seven months of trying to prove that particular thesis resulted in precisely nothing.

Or they can admit that the BNP is a small anti-immigration party seeking to make in-roads into the centre-right ground being ceded by the Tories.

But if they were to do the latter, they would also be forced to accept that their witch hunt against private BNP members, such as Ms Clarke, is itself a fascist act that is incompatible with democratic reporting.

kick it on kick.ie

Friday, January 12, 2007

Where's my gong?

In a world where entire squadrons of failed English cricketers can get MBEs, where even Scousers, amateur golfers and cycling historians are granted gongs, surely it is time to reward your humble servant JC Skinner with a blog award?

Yes, it's that time of the year when the Irish Blog Awards seek nominations of the good, the bad and Twenty Major for their annual recognition of Irish contributions to the blogosphere.

And that means it is also the time of the year for my shameless plug and undignified begging for your nomination.

Feel free to go here and give me a nomination before the 26th of January. Or I'll come round your house because I know where you live.*

*May not actually be true.

Idiots rule

Like the song goes, idiots rule. But for them to rule, then a large proportion of the rest of us have to follow. Which makes us the even bigger idiots. How does this work? Let's examine a few current examples:

1. China expects to be short by about 30 million marriageable women by 2020. This one's not rocket science. They couldn't have seen it coming?

Okay, so first the Government tells you to stop breeding under pain of death and prescribes stringent laws punishing people for having more than one child. What to do? Overthrow your mad-as-a-brush government is what.

Don't listen to the idiots - if you do, you end up killing your girl children and your sole son will have no one to marry when he grows up, which he will have to do entirely surrounded by other lads, which will probably make him gay.

2. A thousand Poles have applied to join the PSNI. Again, when you throw the doors open for half of Eastern Europe to come in, sooner or later those people are going to want the nice public sector sinecure jobs instead of the nasty meat-packing ones. This one could have been predicted.

But again, idiots rule. Why? Well, primarily because such is the endemic xenophobia in Northern Ireland that Polish officers could expect plenty of trouble everywhere they go.

Also because there does not appear to be sufficient vetting of the candidates, and because even Poles with police experience back East are unlikely to be suitable due to the fact that up until not very long ago their police were psychos suppressing the people.

Not unlike the PSNI, you say? Fair enough. As you were, gentlemen.

Don't listen to the idiots who reckon you deserve a yellow-pack police service, people. My suggestion? When PC Pawel comes knocking on the door, conduct your conversation in Irish or Ulster-Scots. If he arrests you, appeal to Nuala O'Loan. You'll get off, you'll get millions in compensation and Pawel will be deported.

3. Also, little Albania has shown up the rest of us so-called civilised countries by taking in as refugees those people who, after five years (Happy Birthday, Gitmo!) of incarceration by the US in Guantanamo Bay, have been proved innocent but are unable to return to their homelands for fear of death.

America is sending these people to Albania because, of course, it fears for their safety and is concerned about human rights in their countries of origin, which include Uzbekistan, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

According to the US State Department's deputy director for War Crimes (yes, they really have such a role in Government, and no, she isn't pursuing George W!), one Sandy Hodgkinson, "The US position is clear."

Tell us what that position is please, Sandy?

"We will not send individuals to places where we believe it is more than likely they will be tortured," she says. So that's nice and clear. Except for one thing: The US sent them to be tortured BEFORE they got to Gitmo, and the entire time they were held against all international law and human rights IN Gitmo.

Among the places, Gitmo incarcerents were sent to be tortured by the CIA are Uzbekistan and Egypt, ironically enough. So why the sudden crisis of conscience when letting them out?

Yes, idiots rule alright. Don't listen to the idiots who tell you they're concerned about torture and human rights while they're simultaneously practising torture and ignoring human rights. Their double-think permits them to rule you despite their being idiots.

kick it on kick.ie

Monday, January 08, 2007

The JC Skinner guide to drinking

There is much discussion these days of drinking. People giving up the drink for the New Year. People in the country who needs lifts to get to the pub to go drinking. EU stats that show Irish people drinking more than Russians, nearly.

But what has been overlooked in the debate is what we're all drinking. Hence, in the spirit(s) of enlightenment, let me share with you my discerning young man's twelve point guide to good drinking:

  1. Real men drink beer and whiskey. And only real beer and real whiskey, not Bud or Bourbon. Except in Russia, where they drink meths by the quart. Safer by far to stick to the beer and whiskey.
  2. Cocktails and gin are acceptable drinks only in tropical climates. Brandy is for after dinner.
  3. Quality indigenous rum and tequila exist only because the locals didn't have early access to quality ales and Scotch. So if you see Mexicans or Cubans drinking these drinks, it doesn't make them homos. However, they will laugh long and hard if you start knocking back shorts of their national drinks, or mixing them into girlie cocktails.
  4. Whisky is made by Scottish people and whiskey is made by Irish people. No one else makes proper whiskey, no matter what they might claim.
  5. Blended whiskies go from crap to great. The Irish make the better blends. Single malt means one type of whisky in the bottle only. The Scots make the better single malts.
  6. Beer is best brewed by English, German and Belgian people. But drinking the local beer is always the best option, since beer needs to be enjoyed fresh. So forget imports if you want good beer. Drink from the local tap.
  7. Alcopops are Satan's piss. The government should cut out the middle man and just hand out ASBOs at the bar to anyone even ordering one.
  8. If you're drinking wine, start with the lightest white and work towards the strongest red, in order to appreciate the taste of each in turn. Wine tasters are supposed to spit, which is why it's more fun to be a beer or whiskey taster.
  9. Knowing the grape type is more important to assessing a wine's taste from looking at the label than knowing the place it came from. Trying to know about vintages and terroirs is totally pointless, unless you are a wine buff looking for a job in alcohol retail. Even the experts regularly get it wrong, picking £5 bottles over £100 bottles in blind tastings. Most wine on the market that doesn't come in boxes is drinkable, unless it's corked.
  10. Screwtops do not mean shit wine anymore. They stop wine from getting corked and a lot of top wineries use them now. Plastic corks are also good, but once you open the bottle, they won't go back in, so you'd better finish it. Wine doesn't keep overnight.
  11. Corked wine smells musty, like your granny's wardrobe. If there's a smell of damp mould about a wine, it's corked. Send it back or take the bottle back untouched to the off-licence. Don't drink it anyway.
  12. Stop drinking before people start staring.
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In memoriam - the noodle king

The king is dead - long live the noodle!

The man who invented instant noodles died just before the weekend.

Fair enough, he was 96 and made billions out of his 1958 invention. But I'll still miss him. His genius fed me for many impoverished student years.

Momofuko Ando, RIP.

I'm raising a cup of beef ramen to you now.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

The lies they tell part two

(of an occasional series)

On September 2nd 2004, George W. Bush received the presidential nomination of the Republican Party for the second occasion, in order to run as incumbent, a race he won.

At the time, under his orders, US military forces had been present in Afghanistan for almost three years, since just after the tragedy of the Twin Towers.

In his acceptance speech to his party, he told them:

" Our strategy is succeeding. Four years ago, Afghanistan was the home base of Al Qaida... Today, the government of a free Afghanistan is fighting terror."


"In Afghanistan, terrorists have done everything they can to intimidate people, yet more than 10 million citizens have registered to vote in the October presidential election, a resounding endorsement for democracy."


"So our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear. We will help new leaders to train their armies, and move toward elections, and get on the path of stability and democracy as quickly as possible. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned."

And also:

"Our men and women in uniform are doing a superb job for America. Tonight I want to speak to all of them and to their families: You are involved in a struggle of historic proportion. Because of your service and sacrifice, we are defeating the terrorists where they live and plan, and you're making America safer. Because of you, women in Afghanistan are no longer shot in a sports stadium. Because of you, the people of Iraq no longer fear being executed and left in mass graves."

Today, the Observer newspaper has revealed how famine in large areas of Afghanistan has forced families into selling their children in order to survive.

Afghani heroin now provides 90% of the world's supply, poisoning people in Ireland, America and everywhere. Under the Taliban, opium production was banned, and in the year America invaded, 2001, Afghanistan regained its position as the world's biggest supplier of opium almost immediately.

Newborn twins died today in a bomb attack in the Khost province of Afghanistan. Attacks on civilians by Islamic extremist insurgents against the American-led occupation are expected to increase again once the weather warms up in Spring.

However, even coalition forces admit that they are losing the population to insurgent support because of the amount of civilian deaths they are responsible for. So high is the level of murder of innocents by coalition forces, that it has led to calls in Canada for an immediate withdrawal of their troops.

The murder of babies, the sale into sexual slavery of girl children, the beheading of schoolteachers, the massacre of civilians by all sides, the roaming bands of insurgents in control of large swathes of the country...

The strategy is not and never was succeeding. The country is deteriorating into a worse state than either the Taliban or the Soviet occupation ever created.

Afghanistan is anything but a resounding endorsement for democracy.

The troops who have caused such a high toll of death among the civilian population of Afghanistan have accrued no honour whatsoever.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

There'll always be an Ingle-land

There really will, you know. That's what I'm afraid of.

Some of you may recall I recently invited people to mail Ireland's laziest hackette with suggestions of what she could do with herself on Christmas Day.

After all, she'd gone public asking people to do her work for her.

For those waiting with bated breath to discover what all of our suggestions for La Ingle to do on Christmas Day led to, I can point you in the direction of the resulting 'article' here (if you have an Irish Times subscription.)

Permit me to summarise for those too lazy or poor to access the real thing. In Ingle-land, you don't have to watch telly and eat too much on Christmas. You could go out and swim in the sea, or hillwalk, or do some charity work. But it's probably more fun to sit at home watching telly and eating too much.

As promised, no one else was credited with helping La Ingle to her state of Xmas enlightenment.

While perusing the full horror of the Ingle Christmas, I also accidentally encountered this fresh diatribe against New Year.

It's all so awful and reminds her of being dumped in Brum by some cider guzzler back in the Eighties because she was fat, or something. But fear not, Inglettes, she's spending this New Year in the Big Apple glugging champers, so that's all right then.

Pace Richard Delevan, who recently opined here that the Sunday Times Rich List has become the apogee of Irish journalism. This blathering nonsense, these postcards from the edge of Ingle-land, are the nadir, the perigee, of Irish journalism today.

The lies they tell us

(Number one in an occasional series)

Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea, writing in his Sunday Independent column in Summer 2002, spoke out about the Nice Treaty then being debated in the country. He told us:

"The second myth is that the Nice Treaty will mean mass immigration from the new EU member countries in Eastern Europe. This is probably the most odious of the myths propagated by some in the "No" campaign."

According to today's Irish Times, over 200,000 people legally migrated to Ireland for work last year, and of those 130,000 came from the new accession states. Just so we're clear - this number does not include asylum seekers or illegal migrants.

The Times quotes the Department of Social and Family Affairs thus:

"Of the 130,000 PPS numbers provided to accession-state nationals during 2006, most were from Poland (87,115), followed by Lithuania (14,805), Slovakia (9,857) and Latvia (7,368)."

Now, doesn't that sound just a little like the mass immigration from new EU member countries in Eastern Europe that Willie O'Dea vociferously swore wasn't going to happen?

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