Soldiering in Ireland

Spot the odd one out…

  1. Yesterday, over 30 Irish soldiers reported symptoms of dizziness, nausea, and even vomiting, after consuming over 10 pints of larger, each. They are suing the Irish government for not warning them of the hazards of drinking.
  2. In other news, several soldiers at McKee Barracks in Dublin left the building, crying. One soldier was reportedly very upset at being called a “ninny” by the Sergeant Major and wanted to go home to his mummy.
  3. A soldier in Cathal Brugha Barracks locked himself in the toilets on Tuesday. He was protesting against conditions in the barracks that he described as atrocious. He was being expected to march around and practice shooting all day, when he wanted to develop his knitting skills. When his needles were taken from him, he experienced a panic attack, according to his lawyer.
  4. Finally, 30 soldiers were injured in a pile up on the M50 roadway yesterday, when the three trucks they were in collided with two civilian vehicles. No one in the civilian vehicles was injured however.

It is hard, I know. Actually no. 4 is true, the others are false. You’d hardly have guessed, would you?


Heather Mills demands more money

Heather Mills today demanded $12m from Donald Trump, because she claims she shared a flight with him to the United Arab Emirates last year. It was important for Donald to realise that he owed Ms Mills a living in keeping with the style she was accustomed to while she knew him. Mills is also demanding $25m from Arnold Schwarzenegger because she passed through California in May 2003; another $10m from Hugh Grant because he kissed her on the cheek in June 2001; and $500m from Roman Abrahamovich, because, well, he can afford it and he’s a right mean bastard.

North Korea to stop forging dollars

North Korea has announced that, effective from today, they will no longer forge US dollars. They described the dollar as a useless piece of shit and had spent many laborious years perfecting their copying techniques, only to find that it was costing them more to produce fake dollars than they were worth. They will now switch their attentions to the Euro, the currency of choice for the mafia, the IRA, and Eastern European drug lords alike. Kim Jong-il was contemplating one last splurge with the $500 million left in his bank account. He wasn’t sure whether to buy two bottles of bourbon or that nice hat he saw in Macy’s last spring…

Why did Moses get mad on returning from the Mount?

When Moses first came down from the mountain, with the ten commandments all carefully chiselled onto stone slabs, his first reaction was to smash them to pieces, storm off in a huff, and then do it all over again. Why?

KJB Exodus 32:19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

Just prior to this, he spoke with Joshua:

32:18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

Then I came across Charlton Heston as Moses in the 1955 movie, The Ten Commandments. In it, writing can clearly be seen on the tablets.

It took a little bit of fiddling, but I eventually got the text turned up the right way and translated, using Google’s Ancient Hebrew to English Translate tool…



Translated, this means: Great Party! Bring All Your Friends! Dancing and Song and Drink!

So that was it! Moses was pissed because he hadn’t been invited. There, simple as that. One disgruntled old man with a chip on his shoulder. Afterwards, he ordered the slaying of 3,000 people. All for having a party he wasn’t invited to!

Obama the placebo

Medical research has revealed that placebos can have as much effect on people as the real thing, particularly for so-called “subjective disorders”, like depression, anxiety, or irritable bowel syndrom.

It got me thinking: what is Barack Obama except an outlandishly elaborate political placebo? His high-blown rhetoric and promise of change is the elixir of dreams, the pregnant hope-mobile for the soul. Who cares if it lacks substance? Who cares if he’s going to be unable to enact change or cash-in that hope? Right now, he is the political placebo of first-choice.

Placebos depend on deliberate passivity on the part of the recipient, where they trust their care to a powerful individual with authority. But like all placebos, the effect wears off when you know it’s a placebo. Obama’s campaign is riding the first wave of optimism – that stage when you’ve just received the first dose of the new drug and before you can even contemplate that it’s a fake.

Can his placebo trick carry him all the way to the general election in November? Possibly. Can his political placebo solve some of America’s problems? Quite probably he can start to heal some subjective wounds, cure some ills in the body politic. But, to carry the analogy further, placebos don’t work well for objective disorders like a broken leg, cancer, or diabetes. Obama will likely have to confront the intractable, hard problems of the war in Iraq, the budget deficit, a possible recession, and terrorism for real. His rhetoric and pomp won’t solve those problems.

America is like a hospital patient desperate to believe in the first person to offer them a cure. What happens when they buy it and discover it’s a fake?

Property and the press

Property prices are not neutral. There are vested interests who strive at every turn to twist, manipulate, distort, and downright lie about them. Too many mortgage brokers depend on the commissions they receive. Too many banks have profits to turn over. Too many developers have properties on their hands that they need to sell. So they generate a veneer of calm when prices are falling, a sense of panic when they’re rising, and put up a united front throughout.

This whole conspiratorial stitch-up over property is understandable, if immoral and corrupt. But what is more disturbing to me is the involvement of the press in perpetuating the lies. The Irish Times is the worst in this regard. Their ownership of makes them part and parcel of the entire industry: they cannot be neutral as regards house prices. And they consistently defer to a coterie of vested interests as “experts” in the housing markets: the bank economists, the estate agent chairmen and the like. What objective answer as regards house prices are they expecting to receive from these so-called “experts”?

But recently, the word-acrobatics that the press have been indulging in have made Bertie Ahern look positively slothful. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so serious for so many people. Today’s article in the Irish Independent is a classic illustration of the art-form. The headline strikes the right tone: “House price fall continues but rate of decline slows”. Ah, the sobering reality of falling prices is tempered by the ever-positive “but rate of decline slows”! 

Then the article revs up into second gear: “House prices fell at the slowest rate in four months in January.” Our reporter is reassuring us by trumpeting the “positive” news that the rate of decline of prices is the lowest in four months. This would be like saying that “Rate of increase of deaths in Iraq is lowest for four months”. You sense the desperation, the clinging to dubious reasoning.

Another illustration of this art form is to state a fact – hardly avoidable sometimes – but then end the sentence with opinion or conjecture. Thus, our report continues: “Some builders have cut the price of new houses by up to 20pc, but most seem to be holding prices.” What does the phrase “most seem” mean? This sentence is risible. All well-trained reporters (and editors) should have spotted this for what it is: subjective opinion masquerading as fact.

The article then accelerates into third gear with another whopper: “The figures revealed an improvement in the market for second-hand houses.” Obviously the prices increased then, did they, one would ask? Ah, but then wait for the clincher: “Prices for new houses were reduced by 0.4pc in January, while second-hand prices fell by 0.1pc.” So, the prices still fell, but this, announces our intrepid reported, amounts to an “improvement” vis-à-vis new homes. This is patently absurd.

Now, ever more confidently into his stride, our reporter zooms into fourth gear by wheeling in an “expert”:

“There is mounting evidence that sellers are adjusting to more realistic asking prices and buyers are getting better value,” said Niall O’Grady, Head of Marketing, permanent tsb bank.

Head of Marketing. The naked self-interest summed up in that title is so gob-smackingly appalling. Truly awesome. And he’s the only quoted person in the entire article. Of course, it is hardly his fault that the reporter asked him for a quote. He would, after all, say that. But why was he asked in the first place?

The press should be ashamed of themselves.