Sunday, September 30, 2007

Someone Has To Say It. Boycott Beijing 2008

Boycott. It’s a world coined in Ireland in 1880, when impoverished tenants in County Mayo took passive action against land agent Captain Charles Boycott who, not only, refused to reduce rents, had the unfortunate people evicted for failing to pay on time.
The local people decided they would have nothing to do with Boycott or those working for him. It hurt the people. But, in the end, it hurt Boycott more.
It was the Times of London which first used the word as a verb.
There are those who think a boycott is a crude tactic. And it may well be.
But it not half as crude as the tactics employed by, say, the Burmese generals. It is nowhere near as crude as, for example, the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe. It is in the same league when it comes to the crudity and unpleasant tactics used by China to suppress the people of Tibet.

What have they all got in common?
China. China which supports the Burmese generals. China which props up Robert Mugabe’s regime.
And that is why it is utterly wrong for the people of the world to travel to China next year for the Olympic Games, as if everything was fine.
Indeed, you don’t even have to look to Tibet or Burma or Zimbabwe to begin to ask yourself if it right for the nations of the world to give legitimacy to the Chinese government with its appalling human rights record.
China has mistreated millions of its own people, forced them out of their homes to nowhere in particular in the name of progress.
Its use of the death penalty is not only frequent, but in many cases, for purely political reasons.
It oppresses religious practice. It will not permit freedom of speech (Google this in Shanghai and you won’t find it). The Tiananmen Square massacre still lives in the memory.
China too, is fast becoming the world’s greatest polluter, not caring a whit about the future of the planet.
But even if you could leave aside China’s dreadful record on human rights and pollution and the death penalty within its own borders, it is its opportunistic support for corrupt regimes which should result in those from civilised countries refusing to travel to Beijing next year.
Sure, winning medals can bring joy,especially to those in poor countries. And certainly, the financial rewards for the winners of gold medals are, potentially, enormous.
But is any of it worth the repression of the people of Burma? Is any of it worth the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe? It is worth what the Chinese do to their own people?
Of course not.
Has any world leader the courage to suggest a boycott?
And we won’t be looking to our own ‘leader’ Bertie Ahern, he being a great admirer of all things Chinese.
But someone, somewhere, should make sure that China’s odious regime is not legitimised by something, once, as fine as the Olympic Games.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

English Grammar Are Important

English are my first language.
I are speaking English since I were two years of age.
I are also able to spoke Irish and a little bit of French.
Language are important. It are important for communication. It are important to distinguish us from other species.
And so, it is important for we to preserve language.
It are important for the media to do so also.
Which is why it baffled me when I see newspapers such as the Irish Times and the London Times and broadcasters such as RTE in Ireland and the once venerable BBC, abandoned all pretence at the correct use of English.
Grammar are a thing of the past.
Oh, I can’t keep this up.
I find it a great deal easier to be correct than to be incorrect.

Why do the four institutions named above, seem to believe that the world government is plural?
Why do they think the word couple is plural?
And the words team, family, company, club, organisation, committee and syndicate?
Why is it always: “The government are...” and “the team are...” and “the couple are...”?
The BBC occasionally refers to itself in the plural: “The BBC are....”
And it’s not just grammar.
Listening to radio and television news, we are often informed that, for example, “a man was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for assaulting a man in the district court today.” To which I say that the district court is a pretty daft place in which to assault somebody.
What we should have been told, is that “a man was sentenced to six months imprisonment in the district court today, for assaulting another man.
Another example: “The Minister said he would tackle the difficulties in the economy when he arrived in Paris today.” To which I say, I wish he would tackle the difficulties in the economy before he goes to Paris at all.
What we should have been told was that “the Minister said, on his arrival in Paris, that he would tackle the difficulties in the economy.
And here’s another: “Gardai today named the man who died in a road accident yesterday.”
To which I say: That’s nice of them. What did they call him?
What we should have been told is that “gardai have released the name of the man...” and so on.
We are told that “over a million pounds has been stolen” when what is meant is “more than a million pounds has been stolen.”
The English language is constantly being eroded by laziness, bad teaching and bad example.
There is barely a politician in the English speaking world who has any grasp of grammar or syntax.
Indeed, George W Bush is marginally ahead of our own Bertie Ahern when it comes to the garbled use of English.
You may think none of this matters once we can understand each other.
Oh, but it does.
Man started off communicating by making basic sounds. “Ugh” “Oogh” “Aagh.”
The way we’re going, that’s the way we will be communicating in the not too distant future.
If you don’t believe me, ask a question of a moody teenager.
(PS You don’t need to tell me that I too make mistakes. I don’t claim to be perfect!)

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Referees: Why They Are Utterly Useless

YOU will know, from my description of myself above, that I love rugby.
I don’t just love Irish rugby – it’s a struggle to do so right now anyway. I love rugby – period.
And although my own country has been, so far, an enormous disappointment at the World Cup in France, there have been some wonderful games.
And despite a few lopsided scores, it seems, to me at least, that the gap between the strong and weak countries is narrowing, however slightly.
But one thing is spoiling the tournament for me.
It is the same thing that spoiled last year’s Six Nations tournament.
It is the same thing that, week after week, spoils the Premiership.
It spoils international games at whatever sport wherever they take place.
It spoils our domestic games of hurling and football.
It is referees.

I first encountered referees at a very young age, playing rugby in Willow Park School in Dublin.
I came to the conclusion then, that they were, without exception, eejits. I formed the opinion that they were, to a man, incompetent. I reckoned way back then, that they were ego maniacs who believed the games centred around them, inadequate folk who got their jollies ordering people around on a football pitch, nasty, authoritarian figures who craved attention.
Nothing that has happened in the intervening 47 years has changed my opinion.
In this Rugby World Cup, the refereeing has ranged from incompetent to farcical to downright suspicious.
The worst thing the rugby authorities ever did, was give these attention-seeking dimwits microphones, at least, microphones that permit television viewers and radio listeners to pick up what the referees are saying.
They now, God help us, feel obliged to talk every micro second of every damned game.
“Hands away blue, stay on your feet red, bind green.”
It is incessant.
And the rugby authorities then invited them to talk even more with their nonsensical "crouch, touch, pause, engage” nonsense. In fairness, most front rows – I was a prop – ignore the poor eejits completely. Listen, and you will hear referees trying to get as far as ‘pause’ before the front rows have actually engaged.
(I presume, on this score, that the rugby authorities, chuffed with themselves will now bring this idiotic idea one, or even two further. Why not “crouch, say hello, have a wee chat, kissy kissy, touch, hug, have a little rest, engage.)
I have seen more forward passes in this World Cup than I had in my life heretofore.
I have seen more balls but crookedly into scrums, more blatant offside, more crossing, more obstruction, more crooked throw-ins and more refereeing incompetence than I thought it possible to witness in a lifetime, never mind a few weeks.
The other night (I had better not say which match, I’d reckon the little Hitlers are litigious too) I saw a referee standing three feet from a player who knocked on and then proceeded to pass the ball for a try. Do these boneheads not realise we can see and hear them (unfortunately)?
And it’s actually worse in soccer.
A blind man would see some of the dives. Indeed, commentators do the sport no favours, generally either ignoring dives or saying something like ‘there was minimal contact’ when, clearly, there was none.
In Gaelic football, players are, variously, penalised for taking five steps with the ball or not penalised at all for taking ten.
And did you know, for example that it is illegal, in Gaelic football, to trip, punch, hold, drag, pull or rugby tackle another player.
God help us, there’s nothing but dragging and pulling and holding going on for the entire 70 minutes!
There is debate, in most sports, about the use of electronics.
I cannot see a single argument against employing technology.
In the first instance, computers don’t have egos.
In the second, they don’t have faces, which they wish to be seen on television.
In third, while they are fallible, they are, generally speaking, unbiased.
Get rid of referees, I say.
Chuck ‘em out.
Let them all go off to become traffic wardens or school attendance officers or something else with a uniform and which involves ordering people about.
But sport can do without them.
There has to be a better way.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

The British Royal Family: Can Anybody See The Point?

I WAS lying awake in bed the other night.
I had something on my mind.
It wasn’t really something that concerns me an awful lot. It wasn’t something that impacts on my life one way or the other.
It was just a question that popped into my head.
And it was this.
What is the point of the Queen?
Seriously, what purpose does she serve? What use is Prince Charles? Why do people bow in front of Princess Anne? What do they all actually do, apart from wave at people?
And why do they dress up in daft outfits?
Why is Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg the Queen of England in the first place (The family name was changed to Windsor in 1917 because Saxe-Coburg didn’t seem to be an appropriate name for a family ruling a country which was at war with Germany.)

What is the point of any royal family come to that?
Liz Saxe-Coburg-Windsor is not only queen of England, people in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, are also expected to revere her as their monarch.
God knows how many castles and estates she has.
Balmoral, where the British royal family goes occasionally to shoot small and large animals, is an astonishing 250 square kilometres of private estate.
Of course, she can afford it. Some say she’s worth £10 billion. Others put it as low as £500 million.
Which begs the question as to why the British taxpayer stumps up more than £30 million a year in Civil List payments and other handouts.
She’s a big tourist attraction, people say.
So is the guy in the Mickey Mouse outfit at Disneyworld. And I think you’ll find that he doesn’t get £30 million a year, doesn’t own a 250 square kilometre estates, doesn’t get involved in seedy scandals and doesn’t expect people to bow when he enters a room.
It’s a desperate pity that people don’t research the history of their royal families.
With the possible exception of Monaco, they would find such histories dripping in the blood of ordinary people.
Royal families killed their peasants for pleasure over the centuries. (Nowadays, they limit their killing for pleasure to small animals like foxes and pheasant and large animals like deer.)
Royal families were, universally, cruel.
Generally speaking, royal families weren’t given their thrones by a grateful populace, they simply took them. Stole them. Killed people to get them.
What use are royal families today?
Well, you couldn’t for a minute suggest the British version sets anything like a good example. Affairs, divorces, drunken escapades, inappropriate comments (largely from the big Greek chap who is also paid vast sums to be a Big Greek chap) and all around bad behaviour.
Male British royals seem never to have been able to keep it in their trousers. Edward VII wasn’t the first to have a bevy of hookers - they probably called them something posh like ‘concubines’ back then - at his beck and call.
The females all seem just a little on the weird side of normal. What mother - other than Liz Saxe-Coburg-Windsor - would greet her children with a handshake, not having seen them for months, having been away looking at her peasants in other countries?
This is, of course, why Diana never fit it. She was so normal, she not only unsettled the Saxe-Coburg-Windsors and their Greek pal, her presence made it patently obvious that they were all, largely, off their collective trolleys.
All this was going through my mind as I lay there staring at the ceiling.
Their spongers, I thought to myself.
They’re al barmy, I said to myself.
They’re a complete waste of space, I told myself.
They are clowns. Expensive clowns.
Think what else could be done with the money they get? Think how many homeless people could be housed in Windsor Castle (from where they stole their name) or Clarence House or any of their other vast mansions.
So why doesn’t Britain just turf them out, give them one estate and a couple of mill, turn Buck House into Disneyland Britain and hire a guy to dress up in a Mickey Mouse outfit to entertain the tourists?
Why doesn’t Britain become fully democratic?
Sadly, I think I know the answer to that.
Democracy gives you the likes of Blair and Bush and Sarkozy and, in our case, Bertie Ahern who has a rare form of Alzheimer's which only makes him forget anything to do with large sums of money.
Still, it’s better than having Phil the Greek gobbling up all your tax bucks.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Less There Is The More The Better

A friend of mine used to say, apropos absolutely nothing: The less there is the more the better. Or was it: The more there is the less the better? Not that it makes any difference.
He came from Northern Ireland which may or may not be an explanation.
And even though I haven't the foggiest notion what he was on about, I think he was right.
It is universally, agreed, I think, that the quality of television programmes is in inverse proportion to the number of television stations which exists.
It stands to reason, I suppose, that when available resources are thinly spread, the result is poor quality everywhere.
So these days, with hundreds and hundreds of television stations available on satellite and cable, we are more likely to hear people complaining that ‘there’s nothing on television.’
It is true too, that the more cars people buy in an effort to get from A to B more quickly, the slower it’s going to be. Our roads are becoming more and more clogged as more and more people can afford to buy cars and do so.

It’s the same with aeroplanes. There are now more of them flying than at any time in history. And the result is, that while actual flights don’t take much time, travelling by air does because of the endless hours we all seem to spend in airports due to security, delay and the sheer volume of people travelling.
We have more policemen on our streets than ever before. And, guess what? We have more crime than ever before.
We have more news outlets than ever before what with newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. And the result is, we’re told more lies and subjected to more spin, than every before.
Science and research have ensured that we now have more medicines and drugs to fight disease and illness than ever before. We also have more people dying of disease than ever before.
The world produces more food than ever before. And more people are dying of hunger than ever before.
We produce more energy than ever before. And there are, world wide, more shortages of energy than ever before.
There are more countries in the United Nations than ever before. And there are more countries in conflict than ever before.
There is more recycling than ever before. And there is more waste dumped than ever before.
There are more species of animal being discovered than ever before and more being made extinct than ever before.
There is more knowledge about what food is good for us than ever before. And there is more bad and dangerous food than ever before.
There is more education than ever before. And there is more stupidity than ever before.
There is more reason to share than ever before. And there is more greed than ever before.
And here’s are a few corollaries.
There is less religion and more sin.
There is not as much faith in God and more evil.
There is less good and more bad.
There is less love and more hate.
There is less hope and more despair.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

They Would Treat Christ The Way They Treat Madeleine

SOMETIMES, the media embarrasses me.
Sometimes, it appears as a creature without morals, without feelings, without purpose.
Indeed, sometimes it seems that the only reason for the media to exist, is to fill the pockets of the decreasing number of people who own its outlets.
While there are many out there now claiming to be bored by the whole Madeleine McCann saga, while some allegedly satirical magazines seem to think Madeleine Mc Cann jokes are de rigeur, while the hysterical sign online petitions calling for the McCann twins to be taken into care and while amateur sleuths claim to have solved a crime that professionals cannot solve, I believe the McCanns are due as much sympathy now as they ever were.
I have no idea who did what to whom on that balmy May night in Praia de Luz.
But i do know these inevitable truths.

Whether she is alive or dead, Madeleine McCann suffered and may well still be suffering.
Whether or not they are involved - and I hope and believe they are not - Madeleine’s parents are going through hell.
The ability of the media to turn on those they first put on a pedestal has never been better illustrated than by the Madeleine McCann story.
Parents admired for their courage, their faith, their tenacity, their strength and their fortitude, are now derided as drunks, ego maniacs, child abusers and murderers.
There is no doubt, none whatsoever, that some Portuguese police have lined their pockets selling tidbits to a hungry media, tidbits that may or not have any basis in fact.
Others in the Portuguese justice system have systematically fed information to the media which attempts to show that system in a better light.
And then there are those in the media who simply overhear gossip in pubs or cafes and present what they hear as credible theories or fact.
Others still, believe me, just make it up.
The result is that the focus turns from the search for Madeleine, to a search for someone to hang.
It has become, with all the classic elements, a witch hunt.
Do those who own media outlets feel happy or proud when they see a pack of reporters and snappers camped outside the McCann house?
Do they not see the irony when, for example, Sky News flashed along the bottom of the screen Gerry McCann’s plea for privacy while the picture being shown was that of a helicopter hovering over the plane that brought the family back from Portugal?
Do they care?
The media didn’t snatch Madeleine McCann.
The media didn't kill her.
But they could help.
They could help, for starters, by doing something novel and innovative.
Like only printing what they know to be true.
Wouldn’t that make a nice change.
They could be ethical and not accuse people in a bit, simply, to up circulation or viewing figures.
They could be moral, and show sympathy for the McCanns, regardless of what happened that night.
They could be decent, and move away from their home.
But then, the media, and the British media in particular, is a soulless creature.
If Christ returned to earth today, He would first be praised before the media then turned on Him.
They would call Him a fraud. They would call for Him to be arrested.
They would call for Him to be crucified or put to death by lethal injection.
They would shove cameras into the faces of Joseph and Mary.
They would hound the apostles.
They would try to photograph Christ’s body (if it was there!)
And if people then blamed the meda for what happened, the would, Pilate-style, wash their hands of it.
Then, in an effort to keep the story going and to exonerate themselves, they would find someone else to blame.
The media feeds on people, decent people.
It gobbles up heroes and spits them out.
It tells us how wonderful people are only so that it can later revel in their falling from an even greater height.
Sometimes, the media embarrasses me.
This is one of those times.
And, unfortunately, they are becoming more and more frequent.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

If They Can't Drink, Don't Let Them

THERE is a phenomenon which is almost unique to Britain and Ireland.
It is a thing you see mainly at weekends, though you may step in the results on a Monday morning.
It could put you in hospital.
It could end your life.
It will certainly make you feel uncomfortable.
It is binge drinking.
Binge drinking fills the gutters of our streets with puke. It leaves urine stains down the walls of pubs inside which, are perfectly good toilets.
It results in young men and women who will go to work or college or, sadly, school all week, turning into caricatures, the stumbling drunk, the silly drunk, the singing drunk and, worst of all, the aggressive drunk.
Too much beer, mixed with too many spirits and, probably, a chemical or two, fill the Accident and Emergency departments of our hospitals.
Too much wine, too many cocktails and, maybe, something to sniff, fill the cells of our police stations.
Too many cans, too many gulped pints and, maybe, a smoke of something, fill our cemeteries.
There are three kinds of people in the world.
1. Those who drink.
2. Those who don’t drink.
3. Those who shouldn’t drink.

The problem is, that those who drink generally do so in a reasonably civilised manner. The worst they will do is tell the same joke a few times in succession or, maybe, sing when they’re not very good at it or, occasionally, make a remark that’s out of place.
Those who don’t drink just don’t. And whether it’s for religious reasons or just because they don’t want to, that’s their choice, even if it is boring for them hearing the same jokes over and over again.
The problem with those who shouldn’t drink is that they usually drink more than anybody else.
They are usually louder than anyone else.
They usually think themselves funnier than anyone else.
And they are certainly more aggressive than anyone else.
It is they who think it’s funny to, say, wreck a bush shelter.
It is they who think it’s a bit of a wheeze to snap a sapling tree.
It is they who get a laugh from frightening an elderly person.
It is they who have sex more often than others, who gets sexually transmitted diseases more often than others, who get pregnant or who get someone pregnant more often than others.
It is they who get the hump when they are refused by a barman, turned away by a bouncer or rejected by a girl, or indeed, by a bloke.
It is they who cause the damage to property, public and private. They who start rows. They who put others in hospital or end up there themselves. They who get arrested and bring shame on their families. They who wonder why it is that others get ahead in life.
As one who enjoys having a pint of Guinness and who…
No. Let’s be honest here.
As one who enjoys having lots of pints of Guinness. As one who enjoys several glasses of wine, I wonder why it is that those who shouldn’t drink persist in doing so.
I suppose that, if it were proposed to bring in a law banning such people from drinking, we would be told that their civil liberties were being infringed.
But we ban bad drivers, don’t we?
So why not ban bad drinkers?
Three month bans. Twelve month bans.
Life bans, maybe.
Teach them how to drink.
Make them do a test to prove they can drink.
And if they can’t do it, don’t let them.
Makes a lot of sense.
It would keep our streets cleaner, more pleasant and – above all – safer.
And would leave bars for people who can drink.
Even if they will burst into song every now and then.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

How Ireland Invented a New 'N' Word

You don’t hear the ‘n’ word being used these days, to describe people of a different colour.
The ‘n’ word. Nigger. A deeply and gratuitously and deliberately offensive word.
Those who use it nowadays display nothing but their own ignorance.

It is a word, which has, thank God, been consigned to history, a word despised by the civilsed, abhored by the decent and never spoken by those with a shred of respect for their fellow human beings.
So it is extraordinary, that one of Ireland’s most respected newspapers, and its national broadcasting service – I am talking about the Irish Times and RTE – have invented a new ‘n’ word which they have taken to using.
And this ‘n’ word is almost as insulting as its predecessor.
It litters conversations in Ireland.
It is used by those who would believe themselves to be part of the intelligentsia. It is used by politicians. It is used by leaders in almost every area of society.
It is a word, which indicates that we believe some of those in our society are different. It indicates that we believe ourselves to be, in some way, superior to others in our society.
It is a racist word.
We Irish know all about racism. When the people of Ireland first left its shores to seek better lives abroad, they were often greeted with signs reading: NO DOGS NO BLACKS NO IRISH.
They took on the lowliest of jobs, jobs nobody else wanted.
They were the subject of often pretty vicious jokes.
Right up to the end of the IRA’s hideous campaign of murder, the Irish in Britain were, in some places, vilified.
Paddies. Micks. Whatever.
The word now used in Ireland to discriminate against others may not sound as offensive as those or as ‘nigger.’
But it is.
And that word, the new ‘n’ word is ‘non-nationals.’
Let me explain why it is so nasty.
It is nasty because it is used only to describe those from Eastern Europe, Asia or Africa who have come to make their lives in Ireland.
We are told in a newspaper and on the radio “three non-nationals’ have been arrested for something or other.
We are told that the driver of a car involved in an accident is a non-national.
You know it is not an American to which they are referring.
You know it is not an Australian.
You know it is not a Norwegian.
You know it is not someone from England or Canada or Germany or Holland.
Because those we call Americans and Australians and Norwegians and English and Canadian and Dutch.
Non-national is reserved for Latvians and Romanians and Nigerians and Filipinos and Chinese and so on.
And it’s unpleasant.
And it’s insulting.
And it’s condescending.
And it’s wrong.
Because they are all nationals of their own countries. Some may very well be on their way to becoming Irish nationals.
It’s sad coming from a race of émigrés,
And I hope those who use the term, have the good grace to stop it.

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

I Wonder

DID you ever wonder about the way we treat our politicians?
Did you ever wonder why we pay them so much?
Did you ever wonder why we allow our taxes to be used to pay for big cars and chauffeurs to drive them?
Did you ever wonder why politicians are, generally speaking, applauded when they walk into a room?
Did you ever wonder why we pay for their pr consultants, their style consultants and the consultants they consult to decide what consultants they need to consult next?
I wonder. I wonder all the time.
And I wonder why there are so many charitable organisations in rich countries.
Look at Ireland for example.
It is a wealthy country.
That’s what they tell us.

We’re the richest country in the world, some say.
Others put us third or fifth or eighth.
Few suggest we are outside the top ten.
I wonder why, then, that our telephone book contains pages and pages and pages of number for charitable organisations.
I wonder why it's something that doesn't seem to bother politicians.
I wonder why they think it's important they're seen at the opening of new buildings and roads and equally important that they're not seen near the homeless or the addicted or those in dire need of official help.
I wonder why so many people, so many of the disadvantaged, have to rely on charity to get by.
I wonder why politicians, who in Ireland gave themselves 22 pay rises in ten years, do nothing to help those who need help most.
I wonder why the St Vincent de Paul society has to run breakfast clubs for kids so that they get a decent breakfast every day.
I wonder why it has to provide resource centres in so many
I wonder why it has to provide education grants to those who cannot afford education, even at primary level.
I wonder why it has to provide holidays for poor children.
I wonder why it has to provide shelter for the homeless.
I wonder why those who look after children with Down Syndrome and Autism, have to beg the public for money to provide a service the government should provide.
I wonder why Americans allow George Bush to stay in the White House he having spent $800 billion killing Iraqis and the young men of America based on a lie.
I wonder why people buy products knowing they have been made by slave labour, sometimes even child labour.
I wonder why some people who are worth hundreds of millions want to be worth hundreds of millions more.
I wonder why African leaders applauded the despot Robert Mugabe a couple of weeks ago.
I wonder why, in the heel of the hunt, nobody is actually doing anything about Darfur.
I wonder why Muslim clerics don’t simply say that murder is wrong, that suicide bombing is wrong and that those who do such things offend Allah.
I wonder why doctors who swear to protect life, thing that killing fetuses, viable fetuses, is a good thing.
I wonder how the parents of whatever little boy it was who killed Rhys Jones in Liverpool, think they’re doing the right thing by not going to the police.
I wonder how governments, just about everywhere, can lecture about drug abuse, can pour millions into the frontline fight against heroin and cocaine and ecstasy and fail, utterly, to provide medical support for those addicts who want to stop.
I wonder why people hurt children.
I wonder why I never seen policemen on the streets anymore.
I wonder what politicians think when, as they sit in the back of their chauffeur driven cars, they see homeless people slipping under their cardboard sheets for the night.
I wonder why some wealthy people are generous and some are plain greedy.
I wonder why people throw litter on the street.
I wonder why gazillions of euro/pounds/dollars aren’t diverted from making things that kill people into discovering ways of keeping them alive.
I wonder.
I wonder.
I wonder.
But most of all, I wonder why, when you think of all the solvable problems there are in the world and in our countries, we treat our politicians the way we do, why we pay them so much, pay for their cars and applaud them when they walk into rooms.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Monkeys, Caretakers and Apostles

Here are three little stories.
I think they're all relevant in our world today.
The first two aren't original, but they're worth repeating.
The third is about a favourite subject of mine.

1. Start with a cage containing five monkeys.
In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the monkeys with cold water.
After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when any monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.
Now, turn off the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace him with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.
Again, replace a third original monkey with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four monkeys that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.
After replacing the fourth and fifth original monkeys, all the monkeys who have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced with new ones. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs.
Why not?
Because that's the way it's always been around here. And that's how company policy begins.


2. Smallish town in the American Mid-West.
The town council has a bit of a problem with abandoned cars.
And so, the members decide to allocate an area, on the outskirts of the town, where people can leave their old cars when they’re finished with them.
It proves to be a popular move, and soon, hundreds of cars occupy the site.
Indeed, people come from other towns and, for a small fee, are allowed to dump their cars there.
Then, at a council meeting, someone raises a worrying scenario. What if somebody started a fire at the site?
And so, after some debate, it is decided to hire a caretaker.
He is duly hired. But it’s not long before he points out, that he’s only there eight hours a day, and, really, it’s at night and at weekends when young men have drink on them, that there is danger of something happening.
And so, after more debate, another couple of caretakers are hired. And some retired local men are hired to cover the weekends.
Now, a toilet is installed on the site and a cleaner is hired to visit three times a week to keep the place clean and tidy.
Then, a council official points out that there are now three full time and five part time caretakers working at the site. And there is a part time cleaner too.
So it is decided that a member of the council accounting staff will be assigned, on a part time basis, to organise wage payments and to deal with the small fee being paid by those who wish to dump their cars.
Because of annual leave and occasional illness, he is given a part time deputy too.
Now, there is a large staff at the site, and it is suggested that it would be wise to appoint a site manager. And, of course, a deputy.
And so, two senior appointments are made.
The first thing the new manager does, is organise a review of costs.
This takes two weeks.
And when it is complete, he presents his report to the council.
He has concluded that, while the project is, obviously, worthwhile, it has become costly. And savings should, and could, be made.
He makes a proposal to the council.
And it is accepted unanimously.
And the caretaker is made redundant.


3. Small town in Bethlehem, two thousand years go.
There is a man there, a preacher and holy man, who has twelve close associates. He calls them apostles.
One day, He gathers them all together.
“I have bad news,” He says.
“Things are tight. I’m afraid, I’m going to have to let you all go.”
They are devastated. They trust Him. They rely on Him. Everything they have comes from Him.
“Why, master?” they ask.
“Quite simply, I have managed to secure some apostles from South East Asia and from Africa. I can look after twelve of those apostles for the price of four here, and I'll have lots of money left over for other things.”
“Other things?”
“Well, things. Just things. Look, I’m in charge here. My decision is final.”
“But the people won’t be happy.”
“No. But I will be. And I’m the boss.”
Of course, it didn’t happen.
But oddly, people who, these days, proclaim their belief in Jesus Christ, who tell us they understand his message and who pay public homage to Him, do precisely that with their workers.
Simply put, businessmen who outsource with the sole intention of making more money for themselves, are not, and can not, be Christians.
They should really be thinking camels and needles and eyes.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

I Beg Your Pardon, Do You Have A Moment?

❍Litter: It's just a symptom of a mannerless age

I remember, as a child, being told to put sweet wrappers into my pocket, rather than throw them on the street. I did. I learned the lesson. And as a result, generally speaking, I have the dirtiest car in Christendom.
I remember being told to say “yes thank you,” or “no thank you.”
I was taught to say ‘please.”
I was taught to leave seats for my elders. I was taught to open doors for ladies.
I was taught not to speak until I was spoken to.
I was, in short, taught manners.
What, oh what, has happened?

It is my generation, and most likely, the one that has followed, which has failed utterly to pass on any sense of decorum to the children and teenagers of today.
God, it makes me feel 100 years old – thank God there are 46 years to go until I reach that landmark – but I despair of the ignorance, rudeness, lack of sensibility, total disdain for etiquette and complete contempt for manners of today’s young people.
They will barge past you as you enter a shop. Worse still, they will barge past an elderly lady as she enters a shop.
They will grab what’s on offer without a by your leave.
They will roar, often obscenities, at each other on thestreet, in shops, on public transport.
They will sit, on the bus or train, in the seat reserved for the handicapped, regardless of whether or not it is needed by someone infirm.
In their cars, they speed noisily through urban areas. They rarely if ever show any knowledge of drivers’ etiquette or road manners.
They throw their litter on the street outside shops, out of car windows – anywhere but into a waste bin.
During what we had of a summer, Connie and I sat in Merrion Square with Charlotte, hoping to spend a nice, quiet sunny afternoon there.
Not a hope.
A gang of youngsters invaded the park, chucking empty beer bottles around, playing football and shouting obscenities at their children to ensure, I presume, that yet another generation will grow up lacking manners.
Bus queues? They went out of fashion with black and white television. It’s everyone for him or herself, these days. And tough luck on the elderly woman who was first in the queue but wasn’t on quick enough to get a seat.
The thing about manners is, they’re not difficult.
If everybody had them, the world would be a much nicer place in which to live.
If shop assistants, for example, could put their mobile phone calls on hold for just a minute, if they could just resist chewing gum while they’re at work, if they could manage to abstain from talking to their fellow workers while there are customers in the shop and if they could turn down the damned music for a while, shopping would be something to enjoy.
If youngsters driving down your road at night, when you’ve just managed to get the baby to go to sleep, could turn the music down a little – just so they can’t hear it ten streets away - it would be nice.
If young men could have the courage to do something on their own, something brave like get on a bus, walk down the street, go to a shopping centre, wouldn’t it make a nice change from seeing gangs of them, hoodies up, menacing old women?
And what if children answered their parents with other than a caveman like “ugh”, what if they had the manners to actually talk to them, would the world be a better place?
I think it would.
The sad thing is, as I have said, that it is my generation which has failed to pass on the message.
It’s not just parents, it’s business and politics too. Their disdain for environment, for culture, for heritage and for the ordinary things of life which make it worth living, set the kind of example that kids all too eagerly follow.
Which is a pity.
Oh. And by the way.
Thank you for reading this.

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Saturday, September 1, 2007

It's A Conspiracy!!

They call them 'conspiracy theories.' It's a pejorative term. It's a put-down.
But just because things are called 'conspiracy theories' doesn't mean there aren't conspiracies behind them.
So where are the conspiracies then?
1. JOHN F KENNEDY. Very, very few people believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing John F Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Indeed many believe he had nothing to do with it at all and was the ultimate patsy. The Warren Commission which investigated the assassination failed to interview those who opposed the view that the fatal shots had all come from the book depository building. That farcical investigation is the subject of a wonderful book called “Rush to Judgement” by Mark Lane. Read it and you will realise that, yes, this one is a conspiracy. CONSPIRACY RATING. 10/10
2. .MARILYN MONROE. Marilyn’s death on August 4, 1962 is, of course, linked to the Kennedy’s. The death was ruled suicide though the actress had been upbeat and optimistic at the time, according to friends. Neighbours and, indeed, a policeman on surveillance outside her home, all say they saw Bobby Kennedy and the Kennedy brother-in-law, actor Peter Lawford at her home the night she died. She conducted affairs with Robert and John F Kennedy. Some in the FBI believed her to be communist. CONSPIRACY RATING: 8/10

3. POPE JOHN PAUL I. Born Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I, reigned for just 33 days before his death on September 28 1978. The cause of death was given as a heart attack, though there will always be uncertainty because of the tradition of not carrying out autopsies on Popes. This, of course, led the a rash of conspiracy and cover-up theories, not least because Pope John Paul I was perceived to be a liberal. CONSPIRACY RATING: 1/10
4. ROSWELL. On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) issued a press release stating that personnel from the field's 509th Bomb Group had recovered a crashed "flying disc" from a ranch near Roswell. The Army later said that what had been found was, in fact, a weather balloon. Witnesses claimed, however, that the military had been acting suspiciously, that debris had been switched, that the body of an alien had been found and so on. There is every likelihood that there was a cover-up at Roswell. But not of the finding of an alien craft. CONSPIRACY RATING: 2/10
5. JOHN STALKER: As Deputy Chief Constable of Manchester, John Stalker was asked, on May 24, 1984, to investigate a shoot-to-kill policy being operated by the RUC against the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland. On June 5, 1986, just as he was about to submit his final report, he was suspended from duty over false allegations that he associated with criminals. The main allegation was that Kevin Taylor, a friend of Stalker’s was a professional criminal. He wasn’t. The shoot-to-kill investigation was taken over by Colin Sampson and his findings never made public. CONSPIRACY RATING: 9/10
6. THE MOON LANDING: The world watched, on June 20, 1969, as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. Is that what they really saw? Websites will spell out all the ‘errors’ in the moon footage. Shadows going the wrong way, dodgy reflections in the astronauts visors and so on. Others will claim that, if man could travel to the moon almost 40 years ago, the place should be colonised by now, or at least, revisited on a regular basis. However, it is now claimed that anyone on earth with a powerful telescope, can see three retroreflector arrays, left on the moon by US missions. It is, however, much more fun to believe that it’s all a hoax. CONSPIRACY RATING: 5/10
7. PRINCESS DIANA: Muhammad al Fayed, for one, is 100 per cent convinced that his son Dodi, Diana and the driver Henri Paul, were murdered. And there is no doubt whatever, that Diana had become a thorn in the side of the British establishment. Furthermore, the idea of someone who was once royal traipsing around with a Muslim. Well. That was just too much. There is of course the mysterious white car which has never been found. The allegation that Henri Paul wasn’t drunk at all. There were suspicious ambulances and the like. But you’d have to say, it’s hard to imagine the British being quite so efficient in bumping Diana off. Good theories though. CONSPIRACY RATING: 5/10
8. THE TARA MOTORWAY: The Irish government blathers on about climate change and global warming and what it’s doing to reduce carbon emissions. And yet when presented with the opportunity to build an efficient railway (mostly using the old, abandoned line) from Dublin to the town of Navan in County Meath, it decided to build a motorway. The route chosen is destroying 5,000 years of history, yet, the government remains implacable. They talk about building the railway, but the route of the motorway, crosses the line of any proposed railway twice, making it vastly more expensive to ever go for the rail option. And still, no explanation as to why they flew in the face of logic. CONSPIRACY RATING: 10/10
9. WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION: Strange, isn’t it, how the leaders of two of the world’s most powerful country, simultaneously, found evidence of something that never existed? Yet, that’s what happened as George W Bush and Tony Blaire lied over and over and over again about Saddam’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. So what were the motives for war? Oil, for one. And ask Dick Cheney about the others. CONSPIRACY RATING: 10/10
10. PAUL IS DEAD. It all began on October 12 1969 with a call to a US radio station claiming Paul McCartney was dead. The theory was, that on November 9, 1966, Paul stormed out of a recording session after a row with the other Beatles, and drove off, subsequently crashing his car. He was replaced, the story goes, with a lookalike and soundalike. Proof of the death? Paul’s bare feet on the cover of Abbey Road. Paul facing backwards in the photo on the Sgt Pepper album (it was actually Mal Evans. Paul wasn’t available for the shoot.) A hand over Paul’s head on the front cover of Pepper. Personally, the only real question is this. Would the real Paul have married Heather Mills? CONSPIRACY RATING: 1/10
Briefly, here are the ratings for another few.
ELVIS: Good fun and worth listening to all the nonsense 5/10
TWA FLIGHT 800; It crashed on July 17, 1996, off Long Island killing 230 people. Official verdict: Accident. But questions remain as there is some evidence it was struck by a missile. CONSPIRACY THEORY: 7/10
DUBLIN AND MONAGHAN BOMBINGS: Ii was May 17 1974 when Dublin and Monaghan were struck by no-warning bombs. Thirty-three people died. Nobody has ever been prosecuted. Conspiracy? Maybe. Ineptitude? More likely. Still, if there had been collusion and someone didn’t want it to come out... CONSPIRACY RATING: &/10
THE TUSKAR ROCK CRASH: Aer Lingus flight 712 from Cork to London went down on March 24, 1968 killing 61. Some suggested the plane had been hit by an RAF drone, or something similar. But it seems unlikely. CONSPIRACY RATING: 2/10
THE LUSITANIA: The ship was sunk off Cork on May 7, 1915, by a German U boat. Almost 1,200 died. One torpedo struck the ship and it is believed the second, larger, explosion heard, was munitions, which were being transported illegally, blowing up. CONSPIRACY RATING: 9/10
FLIGHT 93, 9/11: Did it crash? Or was it shot down? Well, who do George Bush and his cronies think more important? Themselves, or ordinary Joes? CONSPIRACY RATING: 8/10
THE DA VINCI CODE: God, the movie was awful. The book is based almost entirely on the premise, that if something isn’t A or B, well then it definitely must be C. Or G. Or K. Or Z. CONSPIRACY THEORY: 0/10
BRITAIN’S BRIBERY OF SAUDI ARABIAN OFFICIALS TO WIN ARMS CONTRACTS: Well. They admitted it. And they said it wouldn’t be in the ‘national interest’ to pursue those involved. So...CONSPIRACY THEORY: 0/10 or 10/10, whatever.
SHOWBIZ: How many scandals, rapes, drug overdoses, bouts of the clap, sexual preferences, sexual encounters, deaths accidental or otherwise have been covered up over the years? CONSPIRACY RATING: 10/10
IRISH POLITICS: Perhaps, after North Korea, Zimbabwe and Turkmenistan, Ireland is the most corrupt country on the planet. They’ve been getting away with it since the foundation of the state. And they’re still at it. CONSPIRACY RATING: 15/10

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