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Prodigal Blogger Returns

WELCOME TO THE 
TALLRITE BLOG
http://tinyurl.ie/g0

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Ill-informed and objectionable;

Perpetual contrarian;
You poisonous, bigoted, ignorant, verbose little wa*ker (except I'm not little - 1.97m).
- Reader comments

Muses, commentary and links, on various subjects, 
international, political, economic, quirky, other (with sometime leanings towards Ireland), 
by me, Tony, here in Dublin, Ireland.  Pet Hate: Unlawful killing and harming of humans.

You can write to me at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com

 

Each post appears simultaneously in the Archive with the permalink

ISSUE #225 - Quarter 3, 2014

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Prodigal Blogger Returns - 12th August 2014

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African Grey Sings Argentine Anthem - 12th August 2014

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Gazan Casualties: Who Do/Don't Deserve Sympathy - 12th August 2014

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Saddam's WMD Still There - 12th August 2014

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There Are No 72 Virgins! - 12th August 2014

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That Sinking Feeling - 12th August 2014

Prodigal Blogger Returns - 12th August 2014

I've decided to return to blogging, but on as-and-when basis and in chronological order of writing, rather than trying to publish batches of pieces in a kind of magazine format as I did for over a decade since starting in 2002. 

The main reason I have been off the blogosphere for over a year is Facebook.  Facebook is also why I am now returning.  On the one hand, FB is wonderfully easy for accessing interesting news stories, expressing your thoughts, getting feedback, engaging in discussion.  You can spend hours every day, and indeed I often have, to the detriment or exclusion of other more worthwhile activity.  So, yes, I have been sucked in by FB, like a junkie after a few heroin jabs.  And to a lesser extent by Twitter also.

On the other hand, FB is not an appropriate medium for expressing any kind of deep or detailed analysis, thoughts or ideas.  So while I have been chattering away on FB mindlessly, other mentations have been nibbling away at my brain saying come on, grow up, get a bit more depth to your witterings, develop your arguments properly. 

So I am back.  The itch must be scratched once more, with a mixture of depth, shallowness, prejudice, snarkiness and sometimes even humour. 

But first, let us stand for the Argentine Anthem ...

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African Grey Sings Argentine Anthem - 12th August 2014

All rise for the psittacotic anthem

I had intended to publish this clip to celebrate Argentina's World Cup victory. But with a parrot like this, no-one needs to cry for Argentina for only claiming silver.

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Gazan Casualties: Who Do/Don't Deserve Sympathy - 12th August 2014

Treat Hamas propaganda as ... propaganda

There are four categories of casualty in Gaza. It is not clear, due largely to Hamas obfuscation, how many fall into each, but only two of the groups deserve sympathy.

1 First, there are the Hamas fighters who have fallen, whom Hamas make every effort to hide or else miraculously turn into post-mortem civilians.  At the same time they threaten local and foreign journalists alike who might otherwise reveal the truth about such casualties. Such casualties are worthy only of contempt.

2 Then there are the children and babies. Without doubt everyone of those is an innocent victim, whose loss is unequivocally a terrible human tragedy, whatever the circumstances.

• The other two categories are the non-fighting adults. A free-ish election in 2006 brought Hamas to power with a plurality of votes - 440,409 (45%). A year later, Hamas consolidated its grip through extreme violence against Fatah who had come second with 41%.

The Gazan population in 2006 was 1.4m of which some 45% were/are under 16. Thus it is reasonable to assume that half, ie 700,000, were 18 or over and thus eligible to vote in 2006. This, incidentally, compares with the 991,000 who actually voted (evidently many Gazans subscribed to the Sinn Fein mantra - Vote early vote often).

3 Anyway, as noted some 440,000 Gazans voted for Hamas (including Hamas fighters of course). In other words these men and women took positive action to bring the current catastrophe upon their own heads. They are thus unworthy of much sympathy as victims and constitute the third category.

4 That leaves in the fourth category: those non-fighting adults who did not vote for Hamas and so as casualties must be considered as genuinely innocent civilian victims. Depending on what electoral or population numbers you want to believe, they number anything from zero to half a million.

• There is also a kind of fifth category: those non-existent victims that are included in the casualty numbers Hamas that release. Bloggers have done some analyses which show the same names popping up on the same Al Jazeera lists. There are probably a lot of invented names there as well. 

Think of all this when the media slavishly broadcast Hamas's propaganda casualty figures.

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Saddam's WMD Still There - 12th August 2014

They haven't gone away, y'know. 

People still trot out the old saw that Saddam never had any weapons of mass destruction, especially when it came to invasion in 2003, and that WMD were the only reason for that invasion. 

But here's the thing Saddam's WMD: they haven't gone away, y'know. And they never did.  And with ISIS now running the show they'll probably be back in action before too long.

My (somewhat truncated) letter to the Sunday Times on 3rd August 2014:

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There Are No 72 Virgins! - 12th August 2014

Jihadists - It's all just a scam; you're being conned

We in the West should declare loud and often that there are no 72 virgins for shahids or anyone else, it's all a scam.

They won't believe this, of course, at least not at first. But the idea is simply to sew little seeds of doubt in the minds of the sex-crazed Jihadists hot for martyrdom and an eternity of carnal debauchery unavailable at home. Even a tiny such seed could be enough to deter them at the last minute.

And when one of them hesitates, so surely will another ... then another ... and another ... 

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That Sinking Feeling - 12th August 2014

Fancy going down with the ship?

I recently stumbled over an online ad for Stena Lines.  How bizarre to expect you to pay good money to join a sinking ship. What were they thinking?  I wrote to them to ask, and now await their reply.

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 What I've recently
been reading

The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tol, 2006
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy Tol (2006),
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a household lemon tree as their unifying theme.

But it's not entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, 2004

See detailed review

+++++

Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
This
examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. 

BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term technical sustainability.  

Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in Russia.  

The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that had become poisonous and incompetent. 

However the book is gravely compromised by a litany of over 40 technical and stupid errors that display the author's ignorance and carelessness. 

It would be better to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying. 

As for BP, only a wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.

Note: I wrote my own reports on Macondo
in
May, June, and July 2010

+++++

Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

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how the death penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,

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the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

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Singapore's enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship

More details on my blog here.

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Product Details
This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s incredible story of survival in the Far East during World War II.

After recounting a childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen, Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on Germany in 1939.

From then until the Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror. 

After a wretched journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless garrison.

Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,

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part of a death march to Thailand,

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a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),

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regularly beaten and tortured,

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racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

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a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

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shipped to Japan in a stinking, closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,

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torpedoed by the Americans and left drifting alone for five days before being picked up,

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a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic bomb.

Chronically ill, distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life.  Only in his late 80s is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this unputdownable book.

There are very few first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical document.

+++++

Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies

This is a rattling good tale of the web of corruption within which the American president and his cronies operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.

With 75 page of notes to back up - in best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife. 

Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett, Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book. 

ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine it is.

+++++

Superfreakonomics
This much trumpeted sequel to Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment. 

It is really just a collation of amusing little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour and situations.  For example:

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Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

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People aren't really altruistic - they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.

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Child seats are a waste of money as they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.

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Though doctors have known for centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection, they still often fail to do so. 

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Monkeys can be taught to use washers as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.

The book has no real message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.

And with a final anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in its tracks.  Weird.

++++++

False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics. 

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as

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Why does asparagus come from Peru?

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Why are pandas so useless?

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Why are oil and diamonds more trouble than they are worth?

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Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

It's central thesis is that economic development continues to be impeded in different countries for different historical reasons, even when the original rationale for those impediments no longer obtains.  For instance:

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Argentina protects its now largely foreign landowners (eg George Soros)

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Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

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The US its cotton industry comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce

The author writes in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to digest. 

However it would benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide natural break-points for the reader. 

+++++

Burmese Outpost, by Anthony Irwin
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.

The author was a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to harass Japanese lines of command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of India.   

Irwin is admirably yet brutally frank, in his descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness. 

He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved authority of the British. 

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

Oh, and Irwin describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF Brennan.

+++++

Other books here

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