Musings Warning! Here be rude words! Go away if you are prudish or under 18!

Say ‘Salaam’ to my little friend!

May 4th, 2011

I’m not sorry Osama bin Laden is dead.

I’m not glad either. Unlike the many who gathered in Times Square, I do not celebrate death. OBL probably got what he deserved and his last words may well have been: “Say ‘Salaam’ to my little fr…”

This probably did not happen.

President Obama ordered Navy SEALs into OBL’s compound and watched the proceedings live. I imagine Obama knew that OBL would not want to be taken alive, but we do not know whether the mission was a planned assassination from the outset. Initial reports said that a SEAL shot OBL in the head when OBL fired at him, but the Whitehouse now says that OBL was unarmed. Even so, considering the penchant Muslim terrorists have for blowing themselves and people around them to Paradise, I probably would have shot him on sight too. Or thrown up. Not sure which. But one of those two.

Of course, the Whitehouse is already backtracking on what supposedly happened, but that is to be expected. It turns out OBL was not armed, he was not using a woman as a human shield, the mission was not carried out by Navy SEALs but by actual seals, the blubbery kind.

I don’t believe the mission was ever to take OBL alive, however, because what would they have done with him? Put him on trial? That may well have had every self-esteem-lacking, brainwashed Al Qaeda wannabee flying planes into buildings all over the world, demanding the release of OBL. Alternatively, it might have made the statement that counter-terrorism should be about law, and not a military mission that kills thousands more innocents than terrorists.

No, I believe it was an assassination and that’s fair enough. OBL was a bollix. Mourn him not. Even if you are a Muslim reading this and you hate what the West does in many Islamic countries, OBL was not a bearded Robin Hood. He was a murdering bollix who sent other people out to kill and die. Quite similar to most world leaders in that respect.

What interests me, though, is the two-faced language that has come out since.

President Obama said: “Justice has been done.”

Really? Justice?

Let’s see what the Merriam-Webster dictionary of American English has to say about justice. There are several definitions relevant to this context:

  • the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments
  • the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
  • the quality of being just, impartial, or fair
  • the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action
  • conformity to this principle or ideal
  • the quality of conforming to law

Notice the use of the word “impartial”. Justice is impartial. But what happened in Abbottabad was not about justice, despite what the eloquent Mr. Obama might say. It was highly partial. I don’t have a problem with that. Had my loved ones died in New York, London or Madrid at the hands of terrorists, I doubt I would have the dignity of the “September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows”. Read their response to the news of the killing of OBL here. I would probably be punching the air.

But Obama revealed his true nature when he said this was about justice. The naive part of me was hoping he would be honest and say it was about revenge. Although, to be fair, it might not have been about revenge for Obama. As Frank Castle said:

“In certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law. To pursue… natural justice. This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it’s an emotional response. No, not vengeance. Punishment. “

Of course, I should point out that the Marvel character ‘The Punisher’ is a vigilante who is himself considered a criminal by the authorities.

In any case, Obama is just another politician playing to the crowd.

Speaking of the crowd, I assume that the majority of those gathered in Times Square to celebrate where Christians. I couldn’t quite make out what they were shouting and at first I thought it was:

“In your face, Jesus, with your panty-waist, un-American, turn-the-other-cheek nonsense!”

It turns out the ordinary citizens were claiming credit for the actions of the US Military with cries of “We killed bin Laden!”As Gary Younge points out, if they claim that, then they must also claim collective responsibility for the many atrocities committed by coalition forces in the the so-called “War on Terror”.

Again, if I had lost a loved one, I would probably be chanting too, but I hope, with a little more honesty.

I think Steve Bell sums it up beautifully and without a single word:

My final word is to recommend a book by Pumla Gobodo-Madikize, titled “A Human Being Died That Night” (subtitle: ‘Forgiving Apartheid’s Chief Killer’).

Musing #50

April 17th, 2011

Are ninjas banned in France?

French police arresting a dangerous ninja yesterday


Live long and prosper?

February 26th, 2011

Somehow I don’t think Mr. Spock meant to say “Die old and make loads of money”.

And yet most dictionaries define “prosperity” in terms of rising profits. Politicians and the media seem to bombard us with the notion that aggressive economic growth is our main goal. Economic growth is certainly important in order to avoid stagnation but the popular emphasis seems to have been on an unhealthy type of prosperity, a prosperity that serves only to enable us into consume more.

That leads us in the consumption trap:

We live to work, we work to earn, we earn to consume.

I have friends who work in the retail business and their sales targets are never based on studies of the economic realities that might actually influence sales, such as footfall, or the disposable income of the local community, but on how much money the company directors decide they want to make (I’m convinced unrealistic sales targets are also used as a technique for making sure staff don’t qualify for a bonus).

Prosperity has almost come to be synonymous with greed, but the sad thing is that most people haven’t noticed.

How many people in Ireland bought a big house out in some new development, then spent four hours a day commuting to and from a job which paid them more money than they had ever earned before, only to spend it on things that have a very short life-span: TVs, Smartphones, clothes, 4x4s?

We don’t own out stuff. Our stuff owns us. It’s like a virus that takes over its host, forcing us to spend more time making more money to buy more stuff.

Last year I spent €600 on an iPhone 4. Not with credit. Not on any kind of monthly plan. I paid the full amount up front because I had it. When a colleague asked why I had bought it, I started to think about the functional characteristics of the device, but then I paused and remarked: “Because out of the past five months I have spent only four weekends at home.”

How often we use our prosperity to buy us things to comfort us for the lack of quality of life that very same prosperity costs us.

What values have we been passing on to our children over the past fifteen years?
Greed is good?
You are entitled to stuff?
Economic success is what makes you a decent person?
And the one I hate the most, Burger King’s mantra: Have it your way.

Ireland’s deficit is not just an economic one.

What about the message that it’s better to spend less time earning money in order to spend more time with your family? There is something incredibly warming about the story of the couple who built a working “Angry Birds” birthday cake for their son’s birthday. It took hours to make and it was something the child could enjoy only for a few minutes. On the other hand, an XBox would have taken minutes to buy and the child could have played with it for years. Which would the boy remember fondly in years to come? Which would make him know that his parents truly loved him?

I like the Merriam-Webster definition of prosperity because it uses the phrase “economic well-being”, rather than “wealth” or “rising profits”.

I’m an a-theist, so when I use the word “soul”, I mean it figuratively, but I believe true “prosperity” has to have something for the soul and not just for the pocket.

Here is a lovely article in The Irish Times on the concept of “enough“.

Social networking experiment

February 17th, 2011

I am going to get someone to post the following text on Facebook. I am curious to see how far it goes.

Post this as your status if a family member, or someone close to you, suffers from being an arsehole. Being an arsehole is a debilitating and socially embarrassing afflication. Its effects go largely unnoticed by the afflicted, but it is believed that up to 60% of the population suffers from arseholery all of the time and 100% of the population some of the time. Let’s expose arseholes to the sunlight.

I am also curious to see if “arsehole” gets changed to “asshole”.

Musing #49

February 12th, 2011

Tolerate the tolerant.


January 28th, 2011

When people send text messages to each other via their mobile phones it is called “texting”. When people send each other sexually charged messages via their mobile phones it is called “sexting”.

Semtexting: (n) When terrorists use a mobile phone to detonate a bomb and trigger the detonator by sending a text message to the phone.

Sometimes semtexting works out very nicely indeed.

Fly, child of mine! Be free!

A true American hero has passed

January 11th, 2011

“We saved your asses in World War Two!”

On many occasions, I have seen that same comment from young American men on blogs and web forums, directed at Europeans. It makes me laugh, because the closest those (likely overweight) keyboard jockeys ever came to saving somebody’s ass in a war was playing “Medal of Honour” on their XBox.

They also use that phrase as a poor attempt to cajole Europeans into accepting the policies of modern American governments out of gratitude for the actions and sacrifices of their grandparents and great-grandparents. For example, we should (apparently) have supported the illegal Iraq war because young Americans died fighting the Nazis.

Yet Europe does owe a debt of gratitude to a whole generation of Americans, one of whom has just passed.

Major Richard Winters, highly decorated veteran of the War in Europe, died on January 2nd. He was a great American and a European hero, that is a hero in Europe and to Europe.

Major Winters’s words on liberating the labour camp at Landsberg-am-Lech (from Citizen Soldiers, by Stephen E. Ambrose, page 464):

Major Winters was the first to appear at Landsberg, “The memory of starved, dazed men,” he related, “who dropped their eyes and heads when we looked at them through the chain-linked fence, in the same manner that a beaten, mistreated dog would cringe, leaves feelings that cannot be described and will never be forgotten. The impact of seeing those people behind that fence left me saying, only to myself, ‘Now I know why I am here!'”

Episode 9 (Why We Fight) from the TV series Band of Brothers is about the liberation of the concentration camp at Landsberg-am-Lech.

Stephen E. Ambrose (Citizen Soldiers, by Stephen E. Ambrose, page 473):

“At the core, the American citizen soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought, and won, and we all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly grateful.”

If you want to know what Major Winters and his generation of Americans did for Europe, read Citizen Soldiers and watch Band of Brothers.

Happy whatever-you-want-to-call-it

December 22nd, 2010

How does an a-theist like me wish someone a happy Christmas?

After all, I am not a follower of the Christ. “Happy Christmas” trips off my tongue largely out of habit, thanks to my Catholic upbringing, but midwinter celebrations probably pre-date civilisation itself, so why should I be left out of wishing my fellow humans well when the nights are longest?

I feel love for my fellow humans as much as the next person, regardless of their spiritual leanings,  so here is my midwinter wish for you. Please take it very personally.

A roundabout way to park

December 16th, 2010

I love Spain and the Spanish and they are a very talented race of people.

But there is one thing they just don’t get: parking.

They park on corners, on pedestrian crossings, across multiple bays in parking lots and around the outside lane of roundabouts (also known as “islands”).

They also stop wherever they happen to be when they want to take a phone call, be that on a road or by the side of a motorway (the hard shoulder in Spain is very narrow, so when you pull over, you are partially on the motorway itself).

The best was today, though. I was navigating a roundabout, glancing over my shoulder to see if I could change lanes safely, when out of the corner of my left eye, I noticed a car stopped on the inside of the roundabout. I had to swerve to avoid him and I thought he had broken down, but then I noticed that he didn’t have his hazard lights on and he was on the phone (although he did put his hazard lights on after I passed him the first time). I pulled over and switched on the video camera in my phone and this is what I recorded:


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