Quarter 1,  2012, Tallrite Blog posts
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Tallrite Debates Fraccing on TV


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 Quarter 1 - 2012

ISSUE #219 - Quarter 1, 2012  [


Tallrite Debates Fraccing on TV - 13th March 2012


Tale of Two Mothers - 13th March 2012


Frank Carson One-Liners (RIP) - 13th March 2012


Sofa King's Ads are Too Low - 13th March 2012


Fiscal Treaty Referendum Ballot Paper - 3rd March 2012


Crazy University Courses - 1st March 2012


Troubling Trebling of Corrib Costs Irish Taxpayers 75% -21st February 2012


Patriarchal Inevitability - 21st February 2012


Morality of Bombing and of Total War - 21st February 2012


Issue 219’s Comments to Cyberspace - 21st February 2012


Quotes for Issue 219  - 21st February 2012; newest 27th March

Quote: “If women are so bloody perfect at multitasking, how come they can’t have a headache and sex at the same time?

The Greatest Living Scottish Thinker
– Billy Connolly

Quote: “It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people.

Australia's new Section 18C of its 1975 Racial Discrimination Act
puts a peremptory stop to any of that
free speech nonsense that's being going on there for the last century

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Tallrite Debates Fraccing on TV - 13th March 2012

My earlier post, “Truth About Fraccing”, which I wrote in frustration at the awful dearth of fraccing knowledge that passed for “debate” in the Irish and much of the foreign media. As a result, protestors were setting the terms of discussion, projecting an aura of competence about fraccing that they clearly did not possess, any more than their interlocuters. Indeed, even the occasional representative of the fraccing industry seemed to me to have but a shaky grasp of the technology.

So what was the unfortunate listener or viewer to make of it all? Well, he/she in the absence of any coherent alternative view, would have no choice but two swallow the line dangled by the protestors.

One particular radio discussion drove me to such despair that I sent the RTE, the state broadcaster, a copy of my post to try to set the record straight. It seemed to have disappeared into a black hole, but to my surprise two weeks later I suddenly got a call from RTE asking if I would partake in a TV discussion of fraccing on its weekly Frontline programme. My e-mail had triggered the invitation.

So on 6th February I went along to the studio. You can access the programme here; I first appear shortly after Minute 5.

After the programme, I had a lively discussion with Leah Doherty (with long black hair), the first lady to speak. It afforded me a brief glimpse into the world of the professional protestor, a world fill with non-facts, devoid of science, impervious to logic. It must be strange indeed to inhabit such a head.

A couple of weeks later I was called again to appear on RTE's Prime Time current affairs programme, on this occasion to debate one-to-one with a professional protestor called Jessica Ernst who had flown in (at whose cost I can only guess) from Canada to join Irish protests against fraccing.

International jet-set professional anti-fraccing protestor Jessica Ernst

She peddled her story (as she regularly does, to anti-fraccers around the world) about fraccing in shallow formations on her land in Alberta, which has absolutely no relevance to the case for fraccing in Leitrim. Any more than the swampy land she notes in Leitrim has any relevance to conditions one kilometre deep where fraccing is proposed. Nevertheless, her professional protesting is evidently earning her a reasonable living and an exciting international jet-set life-style.

You can access the Prime Time programme online too. I first appear at about Minute 26 and you will see how my contribution was repeatedly cut short before I could finish my points. Nevertheless, I think I was able to inject a bit of common sense and scientific knowledge into the debate.

This appearance made me a minor hate-figure among anti-fraccers, who now apparently call me Oilwright, meant to be an insult, but which I regard as a great compliment.

A central member of the Irish anti-fraccers is a nun, Sister Majella McCarron, apparently an engineer from Belfast, who worked as a missionary in Nigeria for thirty-odd years (unless it's a fake identity, which it might well be). She also (unsurprisingly) doesn't like Shell!

Sister(?) Majella McCarron, virulent anti-fraccer

Here is one of her contributions to the No Fracking Ireland Facebook page. I don't know whether her complaint about me was actually sent to RTE, but I hope it was - it's good for my street cred.

No Fracking Ireland Facebook Page

Majella McCarron
From Sister Majella McCarron to Primetime - about Tony Allright

Attention of Producer

For a second time I have noted that one Tony Allwright has spoken on programmes in favour of fracking. I note that he worked with Royal Dutch Shell for over 30 years - 1970 - 2000 - a point that might be of interest to viewers. He owns the company Tallrite Ltd. as a company consultant since 2000. In the programme he mentioned a study done in "the jungles of Nigeria". It is worthy noting that oil and gas exploration took place on a delta landscape where Shell has been the predominant player over the last 50 years. I am not sure what rocks could be found in a delta and as far as I am aware the word fracking has never been applicable in Nigerian terrrain and I worked there for over 30 years.
Majella Mc Carron
24 February at 17:045 people like this.

Theresa Carter nice :)
24 February at 18:08

Davide Gallazzi are you sure about the fact that there is no bedrock in a delta? And that there has not be any fracking in Nigeria?
24 February at 21:43

Majella McCarron Davide - it's the other Sister Majella McCarron - not me. I've never been in Nigeria in my life; :)
25 February at 09:45 · 1

Davide Gallazzi ‎Majella McCarron, the questions still stand, even if she is not you
25 February at 23:44

A lively debate also ensued at a site called Irish Oil and Gas, where I am clearly the devil incarnate (because I know my subject better than do my assorted opponents). 

I have prepared a forty-minute presentation/lecture called “Truth About Fraccing”, which I have already given to some schools and private groups, who loved it. If you have a group that you would like me to give it to, just drop me a line at frac@tallrite.com. I make no charge other than expenses if it is outside Dublin.

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Tale of Two Mothers - 13th March 2012

The contrast is too stark to ignore

Dublin, Ireland

On 1st March, a 34-year-old mother, whose identity is being kept secret to protect her children's anonymity, was convicted in a Dublin court of the gross neglect of her five young children. 

Over many years they had been underfed, unwashed, ill-clothed, beaten, raped (by their father) and were not even toilet-trained. 

She was sentenced in a Dublin court to (an extremely lenient) 18 months in jail.

Indiana, USA

On 2nd March, Stephanie Decker was at home with her eight-year-old son and even younger daughter when her husband texted her that a tornado was hurtling directly toward their three-story home in Henryville, Indiana. 

So she hurried them down to the basement, covered them with a blanket and used her own body to shield them further against falling debris.  Two successive tornados came roaring through and completely demolished their house.  The children, though screaming in terror, survived unscathed. 

But their mother's protective action cost her several broken ribs and two severed legs

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 Frank Carson One-Liners (RIP) -  - 13th March 2012

It's the way he used to tell them

Frank Carson, knighted in 1987 by Pope John Paul II into the order of St GregoryNorthern Ireland’s much beloved comedian, Frank Carson, famous for his one-liners and catch-phrase “it’s the way yah tell it”, died on 22nd February, aged 85. May he rest in peace.

In tribute, here is a smidgin of his legacy:


The Grim Reaper came for me last night, and I beat him off with a vacuum cleaner. Talk about Dyson with death.


Paddy says “Mick, I’m thinking of buying a Labrador”. “Really, ...” says Mick “Have you seen how many of their owners go blind?


I woke up last night to find the ghost of Gloria Gaynor standing at the foot of my bed. At first I was afraid...then I was petrified


The wife has been missing a week now. Police said to prepare for the worst. So I have been to the charity shop to get all her clothes back.


A mate of mine recently admitted to being addicted to brake fluid. When I quizzed him on it he reckoned he could stop any time.


I went to the cemetery yesterday to lay some flowers on a grave. As I was standing there I noticed four grave diggers walking about with a coffin. Three hours later and they’re still walking about with it. I thought to myself, they’ve lost the plot .....


My daughter asked me for a pet spider for her birthday, so I went to our local pet shop and they were €70! “Blow this”, I thought, “I can get one cheaper off the web”.


Statistically, six out of seven dwarves are not happy.


I was at a cash point yesterday when a little old lady asked if I could check her balance, so I pushed her over.


I start a new job in Seoul next week. I thought it was a good Korea move.


I was driving this morning when I saw an Automobile Association van parked up. The driver was sobbing uncontrollably and looked very miserable. I thought to myself, “That guy’s heading for a breakdown”.


On holiday recently in Spain I saw a sign that said “English speaking Doctor” - I thought, “What a good idea, why don’t we have them back in England? 


My boss phoned me today.

He said, “Is everything okay at the office?


I said, “Yes, it's all under control. It's been a very busy day, I haven't stopped”.


Can you do me a favour?” he asked.


I said, “Of course, what is it?


Speed it up a little, I'm in the foursome behind you”.

Hat tip: Dave Parker

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Sofa King's Ads Are Too Low - 13th March 2012

A slogan is banned for being too witty

An English cut-price furniture store in Northampton called The Sofa King has been in business for nine years, and has already survived at least one challenge to its advertising slogan.

Now another challenge has persuaded the Advertising Standards Authority to ban the slogan. I suppose it had to happen, given the wording:

Where our  Prices are Sofa King Low!

Who can resist prices that are Sofa King low?

Hat tip: Graham Hunt

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Quote (5th March 2012): We're making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel fuel and jet fuel that's actually made from a plant-like substance ... algae ... If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we'll be doing all right. Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17% of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel we can grow right here in the United States.”

President Obama, speaking at the University of Miami. 

Incredibly, he was not cracking a joke.

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Fiscal Treaty Referendum Ballot Paper - 3rd March 2012

Broadsheet.ie leaks the ballot paper. 

No-one understands EU referendums like the Irish. 

The Irish have perfected the art of the EU referendum

Hat tip: Tom Carew

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Quote (3 March 2012): "Die, die, foreigners!"

An Afghan mob's reaction after a few books,
defaced by forbidden prisoner-to-prisoner secret messages,
are burnt.  Korans apparently.

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Crazy University Courses - 1st March 2012

If you are one of those young people who desperately want a university degree but with the minimum of effort, along with a five-figure university debt you have no hope of repaying with the degree you have earned, then Anne Coulter has a great list of courses and American universities for you to choose from. 


Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” (University of South Carolina, Columbia),


GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender and Identity” (University of Virginia),


Arguing With Judge Judy: Popular ‘Logic’ on TV Judge Shows” (University of California, Berkeley), 


The Phallus” (Occidental College), 


Zombies” (University of Baltimore), 


Comics” (Oregon State University), 


Harry Potter: Finding Your Patronus” (Oregon State University), 


Underwater Basket Weaving” (University of California at San Diego). 


Self-Esteem” (Cal State, Fresno) 


Women’s Studies 


Early Childhood Education 


Physical Education 




Queer Studies

Alternatively, either knuckle down, get proficient in mathematics and study something scientific, technical or medical, or else go out and get a job or better still an apprenticeship.  In other words, acquire skills that other people will pay you good money for. 

Then, just live a little. 

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Troubling Trebling of Corrib Costs Irish Taxpayers 75% - 21st February 2012

Those who have been protesting against the development of Ireland's Corrib offshore gas field 
have caused its cost and delivery-time to each treble.  
This has directly resulted in the deprivation of Irish citizens 
of 75% of their rightful tax income from the field. 

Last November I wrote a post about Corrib, Ireland's offshore gasfield in the Atlantic Ocean being developed by Shell, and how local protests alone have trebled both


the cost (from €800 million to €2½ billion) and


the delivery time (from four years to twelve). 

Neither technical issues nor financial difficulties nor industrial relations strife have contributed to this very troubling trebling.  It is the result solely of the efforts of a handful of local people, aided and abetted by left-wing sypathisers (eg Sinn Fein, Labour) and international professional protestors (eg the son of Ken Saro Wiwa who was executed for multiple murder by the Nigerian judicial system but with Shell being blamed). 

Many of the protestors like to make the further point that Ireland's taxation terms are far too favourable to Shell, denying the Irish taxpayer its rightful share of its hydrocarbon patrimony.  They draw the contrast with the prolific oil and gas  provinces of Norway and the UK.  However they make no allowance for the fact that these countries' discovery rates are around one per five exploration wells drilled, whereas Ireland's is closer to one per four hundred.   When you don't have much to offer in terms of prospects you cannot demand much either, at least until prospects improve. 

But picking up on the theme that taxpayer take should be maximised, it is instructive to calculate what the protestors alone have denied to Irish taxpayers as a direct consequence of their troubling trebling. 

If a company exploits an Irish oil or gas field, it is taxed at 25% of profits; there are no royalty payments.  The profits are calculated at revenue from sale of product, less operating costs, less capital investment.  No tax is paid until all the capital has been recovered. 

Thus the troubling trebling has cost the taxpayer real money in two ways:


Firstly, the trebling of capital costs means the taxable profit is considerably reduced and hence the tax take likewise. 


Secondly, the trebling of project delivery time means that the income will start arriving eight years later than it should have.  When you take into account the time value of money (Net Present Value, NPV) the cost of this delay in receipt of tax revenues is also considerable. 

I do not have access to actual figures so I have had to make some simple assumptions.  I have assumed that revenue minus operating costs is €100m per year, but declining to zero at 4.2% pa over the field's final years.  In order to make a comparison between pre- and post-trebling, I have also had to assume a field life long enough to yield any tax revenues at all (a moot point).   I have also taken a discount rate of 5%. 

Though my assumptions are entirely my own, I have run many iterations using different assumptions.  The interesting point to note is that the overall conclusion does not vary very much. 

Consider first annual tax take in cash terms.  According to the original (non-trebled) plan shown in blue below, production would have commenced in 2007 and it would have taken, with an assumed annual net revenue of €100mm eight years to recover the €800m capital cost.  Thus tax income at 25%, ie €25m per year or €100m per four years, would begin in 2015, yielding a total of €650m if field life extended to 2047. 

However, after the troubling trebling as shown in red, it takes 25 years to recover the trebled €2.5bn cost, leaving only €250m for the beleaguered taxpayer - a reduction of 62%.  The field produces for eight years longer, ie to 2055. 

Corrib tax take, in cash terms

But it gets worse, because of not only the 16 year delay in first tax revenues (from 2015 to 2031) because of the trebling of capital cost that must first be recovered, but there is a further eight year delay, to 2039, because the whole project delivery time has trebled. 

The effect of these delays becomes clear when the figures are calculated on NPV terms, for which I have used a conservative discount rate of just 5%.  Here the time value of money reduces both the blue and the red bars, but especially the latter.  

Corrib tax take, in NPV terms

When the bars are added up, the cumulative values appear as in the chart below. 

The total tax revenue under the original plan comes to an NPV of €268m, whereas under the troubling trebling it will reach a mere €42m, an astonishing reduction of 84%

Corrib tax take, cumulative, in NPV terms


As mentioned, these calculations can be run with many different assumptions, as to income, field life, production decline rate, discount factor, which give different values for the 84% shown above.  However they are all in a similar ballpark.  Indeed under some scenarios - eg a field life too short to recover all the trebled costs - the loss of tax is 100%.  The most optimistic set of assumptions still showed a loss of over 70%. 

Therefore the overall rational, non-exaggerated conclusion to draw is that the protestors have, Click to follow linkdirectly through their own unreasonable* antics, cost the Irish taxpayers - whose interests they would proclaim to protect - at least three-quarters of the revenue from Corrib to which they were entitled. Inside sources tell me that this is by no means an unrealistic figure. 

Thanks, guys 'n' gals.

Please spread this dirty little secret to all and sundry.  It needs to be widely known. 

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Patriarchal Inevitability - 21st February 2012

A lively debate has a predictable outcome

The University Philosophical Society, 326 years oldI have occasionally been invited to speak at debates hosted by the world's oldest debating club, Trinity College Dublin's University Philosophical Society, The Phil”, usually when it is at a loss for someone to speak for the unpopular side of a politically correct issue.  For example, gay marriage, drugs legalisation.  Aside from the stimulation of the debate itself, the reward is an excellent dinner and copious drink. 

Earlier this month (2nd February) The Phil kindly asked me to speak in favour of the motion that “This House Believes Patriarchy Is Inevitable”.  Once again I was on the non-PC side as everyone knows that male dominance is doomed - or at least it damned-well ought to be


My fellow proposers were

Daily Mail columnist Richard Waghorne and


two students, Clíodhna Ní Guidhir and Andrew Linn,


On the opposition benches sat

English feminist Holly Combe of the F word who had flown over from the UK,


Trinity Professor of Sociology, James Wickham, and 


students Lily McKillop (making her maiden speech) and Sorcha Finlay.

The banter went something like this


Clíodhna insisted that, notwithstanding two female Irish presidents, workplace barriers to women persist such as working hours, wolfwhistles (I paraphrase) and general antipathy towards feminism.  In fairness, she also recognised the bad deal fathers get from family courts. 


Holly, despite her label as a feminist, was very agreeable but had some weird ideas.  Apparently women's problem is that their wombs get in the way of work and therefore someone should develop an artificial one to even the score desptie procreation.  Oh, and women only want to care for their children because the structure of society demands it.  She pointed out that a few matriarchal societies do exist, in India for instance, though the matriarchy seems to be confined to inheritance rather than giving the orders. 


Richard was very controversial: he said the sexes were ... different! Gasps of horror. Then he got worse by noting that the world's geniuses and great leaders are nearly always male, and said women's desire for equality never extends to unpleasant workplaces like coal-mining, fire-fighting, front-line soldiery or bin-collecting.  The collapse of masculinity in the West is however a great ally for the matriarchal cause. 


Lilly's maiden speech began with the pithy observation that men are stupid”, which drew a laugh (try saying that about protected species - women, blacks, travellers, gays, Muslims!).  She considered that male dominance was no longer an important factor in the affairs of the world. 


The droning professor sent everyone to sleep (well, me certainly).  I think he muttered something about men bossing women around.  But for him, anything less than 100% patriarchy is already matriarchy; this seemed to be the basis of his case for the Opposition.


Andrew said men were bigger and stronger and therefore patriarchy would - and should - always hold sway. 


Sorcha retorted by pointing out that she was bigger and stronger than Andrew so there was no way he could reach higher in the workplace than she could (I think she challenged him to a fight to prove her thesis). 

Here's what I had to say, in my view one of the best speeches of the evening (but then I would think that).  The photo is from The Phil's Facebook page.

Here's what I had to say, in my view one of the best speeches of the evening (but then I would think that).  The photo is from The Phil's Facebook page

Tony Patriarching

Mr President, Members of the Council, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for inviting me here tonight.

Just because I could”, said Bill Clinton explaining why he used to hit on Monika and cheat on Hillary.

Likewise, the world is Patriarchal just because it can be.  It has been thus since the beginning of time.  But over the last century, one part of it has become if not Matriarchal then much less Patriarchal than the rest.  That is, broadly speaking, those countries under the brutal tyrannical thumb of … Western democracy.   

Let’s examine the reasons for this. 

Imagine if you will a caveman.  He is big, he is unwashed, he is aggressive, he is hairy, he is scary.  Now a cavewoman.  She is also unwashed, but she’s not so big, not so aggressive, not so scary.  So when they have a difference of opinion, the ugly brute is in general gonna get his way.  Mrs Cavewoman does not enjoy the caress of a club across her skull. 

Multiply this little trial of strength across each continent, and it is no surprise that men have held the balance of power from time immemorial. 

We might like to cling to the belief that in some distant jungle or desert or sun-kissed island, there is a race of people where the women are bigger and meaner and the men are all – well – Denis Thatcher.  The mighty Amazonians of the rain-forest, for example, with their voluntary mastectomies to facilitate the drawing of a bow, infest our imaginations, but alas no-one has ever found them. 

So how is it that the Western democracy model has empowered the smaller sex? 

Well, it’s essentially down to the intellectual and physical freedom that comes with democracy.  Freedom to do what you like, to experiment, to fail, to try something different, to think, to argue, to progress, to prosper – according solely to your abilities, courage and energy rather than because of who your mum and dad are  – or indeed the paraphernalia between your legs. 

Early forms of democracy and its associated freedoms are what eventually lit the blue touch paper of the industrial revolution.  In its initial stages, the revolution still demanded hard physical labour that naturally favoured the stronger sex – coal-mining, labour-intensive factories, construction of buildings, ships, roads. 

But over the years, as surplus wealth and time were generated, investment in schemes took root which demanded less physical sweat (think of the spinning factories) and/or more mental effort (such as teaching children or treating the sick). 

Then wars came and snatched away the menfolk, so women stepped into the breach often doing jobs that were the traditional preserve of men – think munitions factories or truck-driving. 

The male-only paradigm snapped apart, opening the way for women.  For, while females can never compete in terms of brawn, when it comes to mental ability and agility, the playing field is entirely level, and – wow! – how women have shown this is true!

Every day here in the West


that we have moved towards a knowledge economy,


that mankind’s lot has been improved by the contributions of, for example,

intellectual professions like the law,


wealth-creating professions like engineering,


caring professions like medicine,

every such day of this is another day that the old Patriarchy is eroded.  That’s because women can perform the equal of men in all these diverse spheres, that are primarily cerebral rather than physical. 

Meanwhile the need for physical labour becomes every day a smaller proportion of the wealth-creating economy. 

So though the world has for thousands of years been thoroughly Patriarchal, in the democratic West, the rise of the Matriarchy has been relentless and is continuing. 

I stress the Western democracies, because elsewhere you will not see any serious threat to the Patriarchy.  And whaddya know, those non-democracies are also far behind the West in terms of wealth and all other measures of human welfare, notwithstanding the current economic tempest. 

Their lack of individual freedom translates both to economic non-development and to the non-development of women in society.  Moreover, how can a country expect to reach its full potential if it hobbles half of its intellectual workforce.

So the question, “is Patriarchy inevitable” has two strands. 

  1. Will males lose their dominance within Western democracies? 

  2. Will Western democracy inevitably encompass the world? 

In the 1980s after Soviet Communism imploded and Western democracy-stroke-capitalism triumphed, its global spread seemed unstoppable.  The hitherto respected historian Francis Fukuyama even wrote a tome which in a fit of hubris he named “The End of History”, because he thought the entire world – having witnessed the dead-endism of socialism – would now clasp the Western system to its collective bosom. 

But he and everyone were wrong.  Yes, democracy did spread to parts of Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia that had never known it – and reaped multiple rewards for their peoples.  But


Communism, sometimes of less virulent varieties, remains entrenched in China (with 19% of the world’s people), in North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba.


Crony and Mafia varieties of capitalism quickly found homes in Russia, some countries of Eastern Europe and of South America.


Islamic extremism grows across the Middle East and sections of Africa in its Messianic quest for a global Sharia caliphate.

And what is the common denominator of these rivals to Western-style democracy?  Since they depend upon constraining individual freedom of activity and lifestyle, they all require the physical subjugation of populations – entailing guns, prisons, beatings, executions, and the pervading threat of these.  And because men are physically stronger, men will always do the bulk of the subjugating, not women.  Such systems are Patriarchal because they have to be, simply to survive.  Just look at Syria. 

So forget Mr Fukuyama.  The world will always be in turmoil; different systems will advance and retreat throughout future history. 

But only one – Western democracy – will consistently give women a fair crack of the whip, indeed allow them to wield the whip.  But will it, can it, ever rule the world? 

No.  Therefore, in the global sense, Patriarchy is inevitable. 

But what about within the Western democracies?  Will the gals eventually overtake the guys?

Intellectually, there is no reason why they can’t or shouldn’t.  Go round the schools and universities, look who is attending what, look at the exam scores, and in general you will find what Rudyard Kipling found: “that the female of the species is more deadly than the male”.  Indeed a Central Statistics Office study released only last Tuesday confirmed that women are better educated.  So the female superiority we see in the classrooms today is a fair reflection of what we will see in the boardrooms tomorrow …  

… Unless of course there’s a roadblock

For it’s not all about intellectual prowess, is it?  Innate human nature is always there – we can dodge it but few of us can escape it altogether. 


For whatever Holly Combe may say about artificial wombs and the structure of society, women are the baby-bearers and the primary nurturers, at least in the infants’ early years. So for most of them, there are going to be long periods when their work-lives are significantly curtailed because of much more important priorities. In the competitive work place, that is always going to be a serious roadblock.


On the other side of the ledger, male testosterone is what gives most men the edge in terms of ambition, and eagerness to take risks and seize opportunities. Like the opportunity of a job left vacant or filled only part-time for prolonged periods.


Frankly, I cannot see, even in Western democracies, a world in which the balance, ie more than 50% (not the !% that Professor Wickham seems to talk about), of the Archy shifts from Pater to Mater. 


It’s not an issue of ability or effort.


It’s not a matter of glass ceilings or prejudice or misogyny.


It’s not an issue of fairness or right versus wrong.

It’s simply a matter of human nature.  Patriarchy is inevitable.  Bill Clinton can relax. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to support the motion.  Thank you very much. 

Needless to say, when it came to the customary voice vote at the end of the debate, they didn't: the nays far out-shouted the yeas.  As was to be expected. 

A most entertaining evening nonetheless and I am most grateful to The Phil for inviting me. 

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Morality of Bombing and of Total War - 21st February 2012

Sometimes blanket bombing and total war are the moral options

On 15th February 1945, towards the end of World War 2, when the Nazis were clearly on the back foot and the Allies were fighting their way relentlessly towards Germany from France and from Russia, the RAF under Air Marshal Arthur (“Bomber”) Harris mounted a massive areal bombardment of Dresden.  Around 35,000 people were killed and probably ten times that number injured.  They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind”, he said, quoting the Bible, and he meant it.

With the wisdom and safety of hindsight, people ever since then have denounced this and similar attacks as unwarranted war-crimes inflicting untold suffering on civilians. 

I leave it for now to columnist Eoghan Harris (no relation) to demonstrate how puerile such moral posturing is. 

What caught my attention was a BBC TV documentary about Bomber Command marking the 2012 anniversary, presented (and experienced) by actor Ewen McGregor and his present-day RAF fight-pilot brother Colin. 

Called Bomber Boys, this programme explored what life must have been like for the RAF crews who flew massive (and speedy, manoeuvrable) four-engined Lancaster bombers in those sorties over Germany, ignoring searchlights and flak, trying to dodge German nightfighters, delivering their deadly cargo and suffering 50% casualties in the whole process. 

Notwithstanding the magnificent shots of Lancaster bombers then and now, the programme really came alive for me when existing veterans were interviewed - a pilot, a gunner, a navigator - now all in their late eighties, but as mentally alert as ever. 

So, how did they and their colleagues feel at the time about raining hell on cities like Dresden for two solid days with an armada of 700 aircraft?

Actually, they thoroughly approved.  The Germans started it” was the common refrain. 

I then put similar questions to my own father, now 97 years old, then a Squadron Leader who served with the RAF throughout the six years of war and took part in the Normandy invasion, marching through France, the Netherlands and into Germany itself.   He was not flight crew, he was a dentist to flight crew (and other RAF staff).  But naturally he was in tune with the mood among his colleagues in the RAF. 

His view was identical to that of the RAF veterans on TV: “They started it”.  Moreover, he added, “we were in favour of anything that might shorten the war and anything that was bad for the Germans”.  For similar reasons he and his pals were delighted to learn of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, especially since they considerably reduced the chances of being transferred to the Far East, which had been the much dreaded plan for most of the military in Europe once Germany had surrendered. 

I also asked him did he hate the Germans at the time or just view them as adversaries (as you might an opposing football team).  He was adamant: we hated them”.  But when asked did he stop hating them: “Yes, not long after the war ended”. Any residual hatred: “none whatsoever

To those among the educated liberal elites who from the comfort and security of their armchairs in the 21st century choose to denounce as war crimes


Bomber Harris's shocking and awesome raids on Germany that flattened cities like Dresden, or


President Truman's nuclear attacks on Japan that ended the war by causing Emperor Hirohito (who had heretofore felt safe in Tokyo) to instantly surrender in terror,

raids that killed tens of thousands at a time, I would ask, “what part of total war do you not understand”?  War is hell and therefore should always be the last resort.  But once entered into, its most humane, and indeed moral, option is to wage it fast and hard and lethally in order to win it and end it in as short a time as possible.  If that is not our objective we shouldn't engage in it at all.  In other words, total war or no war. 

We who have lived blessed, peaceful and prosperous lives thanks directly to the total war waged and won from 1939 to 1945 at enormous cost by our fathers and grandfathers, from many of whom was exacted the ultimate price, have forgotten what it is to live under such existential threat that total war is the only answer.

In the West today, only Israel faces a comparable menace - from its neighbours and from a nuclear Iran sworn to wipe it from the map, with a single bomb.  Total war is becoming its only remaining - and entirely moral - option. 

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Issue 219’s Comments to Cyberspace - 21st February 2012


It can be a stretch for women who reach dizzy heights - 27th Feb
Online comment to an Irish Times column

"Being a very tall teenager of either sex is tough" [writes Ms Hourihan].  Tell me about it! As an awkward shy teenager, I was a towering 6ft 5in but was the sole white man in ... 


While many nations are embracing sevens ... Ireland continue to lag far behind - 25th Feb
Online comment to an Irish Times column
A singularly unimaginative response by the IRFU. They should emulate Nike: "Just do it". Use 7s as a development step for young players, a kind of Ireland Academy, for minimal additional cost. That's certainly worked for Felix Jones. Ireland competed in ... 


Time to end abuse of veto by big powers at UN
Two online comments to an Irish Times column
Pathetic article. Who exactly cast your supposed veto re the Rwandan genocide? When did house building become a fit subject for the UNSC to even discuss? And why is a future Palestinian state supposed to be Judenfrei anyway?  The P5’s veto is not the problem with the UN. It is the UN’s endemic corruption ...


The real reason why drink crisis will persist
Online comment to an Irish Times column
No discussion of the cost of alcohol-fuelled damage and of the taxation of alcohol is coherent unless hard numbers are provided. Which €uro figure is higher? Taxes on tobacco and the early deaths that tobacco causes ... far outweigh the cost of treating tobacco-fuelled damage ...  smokers pay for themselves in just 13 years ...


Great strides made towards gender equality but playing field is still not level
Online comments to an Irish Times article
Trinity College's Philosophical Society will debate on Thursday 2nd Feb whether "Patriarchy is inevitable" (I am an invited speaker). This article and the CSO report certainly illustrate that within Ireland anyway, the Matriarchy is on a relentlessly upward trajectory!


No surprise in political surrender to ECB blackmail
Online comment to an Irish Times article
These problems would virtually vanish were the Irish Government to drastically cut back it's utterly profligate spending so as to bring the budget back into balance. Last year alone it added €25 billion - a record - to the €120 billion national debt. This is nothing less than looting the future ...


Supreme Court 'X' case ruling not good basis for abortion law
Online comment to an Irish Times article
Wouldn't it be a fairer regime if abortion were permitted only during, say, the baby's first year outside the womb. Then the child would have a chance to make its case for life. If, however, the parents still decided they didn't want it, they would be entitled to have the infant put ...


Increasing prices fails to solve drink problem - Thanks for the tip-off [P!
Letter published in the Sunday Times
In these straitened times and on behalf of your many esteemed readers aged over 21 years, I would like to thank you for telling us where and for how much we can find Ireland's 25 cheapest beers, ciders, wines and spirits.


Time to pardon soldiers who left to fight Hitler
Online comment to an Irish Times article
You can find the BBC items [here] and [here].  Ireland's treatment of these men, and even of their children, was truly shameful and without precedent in the non-Communist world. It is indicative of Ireland's official sympathy with the Nazi cause ...


Fee-paying schools are not a drain on taxpayers
Online comment on an Irish Independent article
One of the biggest issues, not mentioned here, is the issue of personal liberty. It is a gross infringement of personal liberty for one person (Government minister, Trade Union official, Labour party apparatchik, whatever) to try to prevent another free citizen from spending his/her money as he/she sees fit ...

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Quotes for Issue 219 - 21st February, 13th, 15th, 27th March 2012

- - - - - - S C O T L A N D - - - - - -

Quote: If women are so bloody perfect at multitasking, how come they can’t have a headache and sex at the same time?

Scotland's greatest living thinker – Billy Connolly

- - - - - A U S T R A L I A - - - - -

Quote: “It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people.

Australia's new Section 18C of its 1975 Racial Discrimination Act
puts a peremptory stop to any of that free speech nonsense
that's being going on there for the last century

- - - - - U S  /  P R E S I D E N C Y - - - - -

Quote (5th March 2012): We're making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel fuel and jet fuel that's actually made from a plant-like substance ... algae ... If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we'll be doing all right. Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17% of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel we can grow right here in the United States.”

President Obama, speaking at the University of Miami. 

Incredibly, he was not cracking a joke. 

Quote (3 March 2012): "Die, die, foreigners!"

An Afghan mob's reaction after a few books,
defaced by forbidden prisoner-to-prisoner secret messages,
are burnt.  Korans apparently.

Quote - 23rd February: I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident ... I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies ... The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.

Yet another grovelling apology from
America's excruciatingly embarrassing and utterly incompetent head of state. 

President Obama was writing to Afghanistan's President Karzai
because some books had been burnt.  Koran's apparently. 

Muslims then murdered 30 people as a result.
No apology from Mr Karzai for that crime

Quote: “When Congress refuses to act — and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk — then I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them. I have an obligation to act on behalf of the American people. I'm not going to stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people that we are elected to serve. Not with so much at stake, not at this make-or-break moment for middle class Americans. We're not gonna let that happen.

President Obama decides that he is bigger than the nation's parliament,
which should therefore be ignored when convenient to do so. 

He appointed, inter alia, Richard Cordray as director of
a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,
without the bother of the Senate confirmation
that the US Constitution mandates.

Quote: “The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is — and I mean this seriously — the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been.

The almost late, certainly unlamented,
former tyrant of Cuba, Fidel Castro,
joins in the hurly-burly of America's 2012 presidential election

Quote: “You know, back in my days, they’d use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives.  The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.

Foster Freiss, the biggest financial backer of
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum,
gets into hot water with moustachioed unwashed feminists
for repeating a very old joke.

For example, the National Organization for Women
demands an apology.  

Everyone then seems to jump on the anti-Santorum bandwagon;
Mr Santorum, a devout Catholic, is noted for his pro-family values.

The real objection is to the outrageous idea that
avoiding sex might be a method for avoiding pregnancy.

- - - - - I R E L A N D - - - - -

Quote: “Life begins around the time of natural birth.

Leading pro-choice advocate Sinead Ahern,
of Choice Ireland, which provides a pro-abortion forum

Glad that's been cleared up then. 

Those seeking work are expected to dress as if they were seeking work

While collecting their dole, downtrodden unemployed women
get trodden down further. 

Nevertheless, it is disgraceful that young women
show up in pyjamas.
Out of respect for others, they should be made
to remove them immediately ...

4th December 2011

Quote: Let me say this to you all: you are not responsible for the crisis.

Irish Taoiseach
(prime minister)
Enda Kenny addresses
the Irish people,
from causing the economic meltdown




26th January 2012

Quote: “What happened in our country was that [the Irish] people simply went mad borrowing. The extent of personal credit, personal wealth created on credit was done between [Irish] people and banks - a system that spawned greed to a point where it just went out of control completely with a spectacular crash.

Just two months later,
Taoiseach Enda Kenny addresses a plenary session
during the 2012 World Economic Forum at Davos,
the Irish people
for causing the economic meltdown

24th November 2010

Quote (Minute 1:33): We all partied

Ireland's disastrous, incompetent, charismatic
Finance Minister, the late Brian Lenihan,
in the previous Fianna Fail government
similarly blamed the Irish people

Quote: “As far as [I am] concerned, it was my first cruise and my last!

Irishman Séamus Moore after he and his wife Carol
escaped from the giant cruise liner Costa Concordia
that hit rocks and capsized just a few metres off
the Italian island of Isola Del Giglio in the Mediterranean

- - - - - R U G B Y - - - - -

Quote: “I don't think we've met before, but I'm the referee not you ... This is not soccer.

International rugby referee Nigel Owens berates Treviso's Tobias Botes
for shouting at him during a rugby match
between Italy's Treviso and Ireland's Munster.
(Munster won 29-11)

The difference with soccer refereeing is stark.

So we can await howls from the world of soccer.  

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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
examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. 

BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded BP 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
May, June, and July 2010


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


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


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


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

More details on my blog here.


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,


part of a death march to Thailand,


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


regularly beaten and tortured,


racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,


a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,


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


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


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.


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:


Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.


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


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


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


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


Why does asparagus come from Peru?


Why are pandas so useless?


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


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:


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


Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs


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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