This archive contains all issues prior to the current week and the three
preceding weeks, which are published in
the main Tallrite Blog (www.tallrite.com/blog.htm).
The first issue appeared on Sunday 14th July
You can write to firstname.lastname@example.org
#21 - 15th December 2002
Paul ONeill Fired
President Bush recently fired his Treasury Secretary Paul ONeill, who
was also automatically US governor at the World Bank and of the
International Monetary Fund. Few who followed his puerile tour of
Africa in June with do-gooder rock singer Bono, when they ridiculously
dressed up for the cameras in
African tribal attire, will be
surprised. This was not a man with sufficient gravitas to inspire
confidence, and thats exactly what he didnt inspire.
It also showed that Bush, the retarded
monkey moron, has the cojones to take nasty decisions against
his own when he
feels he has to. Lets see whether hes also brave enough to fire
Trent Lott as Republican Majority Leader in Congress for praising the 1948
racist presidential platform of Congressman Strom Thurmond at his 100th
birthday party, followed by a mealy-mouthed
Incidentally, the new Treasury Secretary, John Snow (63), was formerly head of SCX
Corporation, Americas third-largest railroad freight company, was
|last year paid $20.5 million, |
and (according to
the Wall Street Journal) will get, for life,
| country-club membership, |
|physicals (whatever they are), |
| accounting services and |
occasional use of company aircraft. |
Therefore, I am sure he
will be content with his new salary of just $157,000 a year.
Is France Perfidious ?
Not long ago in a subscription-only service, I stumbled across a
diatribe against France and its alleged perfidy since 1939.
It was triggered by reports
|of French fury over the
treatment of one of its citizens in the United States suspected of
international terrorism and |
|that the French describe
American reaction to 9/11 as being hysterical (which
many would find deeply
offensive to the victims and their families). |
To many (most ?), the
American reaction to 9/11 is everything that France is incapable of
doing : ie
This is the same
In response to the war on
|has tried to stall and
hinder US efforts at every |
|has held an international
trade-fair in Iraq very |
recently, touting for construction contracts
rebuild Iraq, and
|refuses to take action
against known al-Qaeda |
operatives in their safe houses in Marseilles
fear of retribution,
|is meanwhile a major arms
supplier to Arab |
France was also the Friend of the Serbs
throughout the war or the Yugoslav
succession, and in particular the friend of their despot leader
Milosevic, now on
trial in The Hague for war crimes.
And whilst telling everyone
else how to behave, they elect a president who is alleged to be
neck-deep in corruption, though perhaps they had no choice seeing that
the other candidate was a neo-Nazi !
I cannot find much to argue with in the above. See what you
think. Let me know.
Internationals Ambiguity over Torture
Last week I mentioned Tony Blairs graphic and compelling dossier
(197 kb) on Saddams crimes and human rights abuses. Highly
readable and cogent, it makes extensive use of data from Amnesty
International, the hitherto thoroughly respected NGO which for several
decades has been commendably exposing human rights abuses around the
world, such as torture, imprisonment without trial, summary execution
Amnesty have, however, expressed outrage at the temerity of the British
Government to denounce Saddams eye-gouging etc, as this is a task which
Amnesty evidently believes should be reserved solely for itself and its
ilk. The British and Americans, who are in a position to take
direct action to remove the offending Iraqi regime, should not criticise
it as a means to garner support for an attack. Only NGOs such as
Amnesty who are incapable of taking such action may censure.
This brutally betrays Amnestys real agenda. They don't want
change. They want the torture to continue because otherwise they
will have nothing to criticise and thus no reason to attract further
donations. Their own continued existence is their number-one
Amnesty member Sarah Baxter wrote a devastating and enraging
indictment of this attitude in last Sundays Sunday Times (8th
Dec). To give you a flavour, it begins,
For sheer cynicism it is hard to beat the
current assertion on Amnesty Internationals website that it has not
yet had time to study the report issued by the Foreign Office
detailing human rights abuses in Iraq. Not had time to form an opinion
on the gouging of eyes, the electric shocks administered to penises, the
rape of women or the amputation of tongues in Saddam Husseins jail of
a country? No thoughts on the execution of dissidents and the torture of
their families, even though the contents of Jack Straws dossier were
drawn in large measure from Amnestys own reports?
Absolutely recommended reading, which would surely make you reconsider
your continued support of Amnesty International.
Read it here
if you are a Sunday Times subscriber, otherwise here.
Lies that Get Them - Every Time
Poor old Cherie Booth, Queens Counsel barrister (the highest kind there
is), part-time judge, mother of four, wife of the British Prime Minister,
daughter of a reprobate actor.
She has recently been exposed for a number of ill-judged
|To buy two apartments in Bristol, one for their son studying there,
she dipped into the familys so-called Blind Trust (set up to avoid
potential conflicts of interest by the Prime Minister, and supposed to
be administered solely by a Trustee). |
|As purchasing agent she appointed Australian Peter
Foster, the boyfriend of her curious personal style guru,
Carole Caplin, but Foster turned out to be a convicted fraudster
jailed in three continents and currently under extradition proceedings
to Australia for more fraud. He in turn appointed two additional
fraudsters as solicitor and finance adviser. |
|Cherie got on the phone to the authorities and Fosters lawyers in
connection with his deportation proceedings, supposedly to help him. |
All pretty embarrassing stuff, but nothing
So why is she in trouble ? Because when the story broke, she lied
about the whole affair, then prevaricated.
In public life, that is
the ultimate sin for which it is very difficult to gain the publics
It is never the original sin that causes the problem :
|RIchard Nixon was felled from the Presidency for lying and covering up
Watergate, not for the Watergate breakin itself. |
|John Profumo lost his job as British War Minister for lying to Parliament
about his affair with Christine Keeler, not for actually sleeping with
|Bill Clinton disgraced himself by lying about Monica Lewinsky not for
actually cavorting with her (and numerous other women). |
|Jeffrey Archer, the Lord, is in jail for lying about being with prostitute Monica
Coghlan on a particular night, not for the dalliance itself. |
With such a history to look at, why do public figures lie if caught,
when admitting it is so much easier and instantly forgiven ? I dont
Prince Obolenskys Try
Prince Obolensky, born in 1915, was a Russian aristrocat and émigré
to Britain, sent there for his own safety by his father. He was
educated at Oxford where, apart from his academic achievements, he
distinguished himself as a rugby player par excellence. Nicknamed Obo, he played many times of England but is best remembered
for a classic solo try he scored in 1936 against the (then as now)
virtually unbeatable All Blacks of New Zealand, leading the way to their
first defeat by England, with a scoreline
13-0. This was the first time England had conquered the All
Blacks, and they have rarely done so since, apart from last
View the Obolensky try, as recorded by the Pathe News service that used
to screen news bulletins at the cinema prior to every movie. Click here,
or if that doesnt work, here.
The video clip is 1.2 Mb so be patient, its worth the wait.
This will be the last issue of the Tallrite Blog
before Christmas and
the New Year.
So, to finish off, here are a few yuletidish
Mortality of Santa Claus
Lee Rayfield, vicar of Maindenhead in England, recently got into hot water when he
used his weekly sermon to make a scientific
analysis of Santa Clauss annual trek round the world to deliver
Christmas presents to children. He concluded that with only 31 hours
available to deliver the necessary 378
million presents to 91.8 million homes in the UK alone, the reindeer would
have to travel at 3,000 times the speed of sound. This would
vaporise them in four milliseconds and Santa himself would be killed by an
acceleration force of almost 2,000 tons.
There was the sound of small children wailing up and down the land as
they learnt of the demise of their beloved Father Christmas. Eyes were dried only
when they learnt that Father Christmas does his stuff by magic, and has no
need of the laws of physics.
The Reverend duly apologised for his apostasy.
of Santas Reindeer
The Reverend was not the only one to have a go at poor, beleagured
Santa. According to the Alaskan Department of Fish and
male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year.
| Males drop
their antlers at the beginning of winter after their annual rut, usually late November to
| Females retain their antlers till after they give birth in the
Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santas
reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolf to Blitzen, had to be a
should have known that only females would be able to drag a fat man in a
red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost.
Peace to Men of Good Will
Some who feel uncomfortable with the above Godly injunction, the stuff
of many Christmas cards and homilies, prefer to
see it translated from the original Aramaic as Peace and Good
Will to All.
Leaving aside the feminist thing that objects
to the use of men to mean men and women, the
reason for the desired change is obvious. The original requires us
to earn our peace through goodness; the other gives us infinite
But not everyone is taken in.
this month, more than 8,000 sailors and marines left the US naval base at
Norfolk, Virginia, bound for the Gulf region.
As the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
Harry S. Truman led the battle group out to sea, a voice on a loudspeaker
said, Peace on Earth to men of good will. All others stand by.
#20 - 8th December 2002
Beauty of the uro
is at the moment congratulating itself for not suffering from the
constraints of the uro
as it deals with the current slowdown. For when you surrender your
own currency in favour of the uro,
you are no longer able to adjust interest rates or float your exchange
rate; moreover under the Stability and Growth pact you must restrict your
borrowing to just 3% of GDP.
This reduces your wiggle room
considerably. If you over-spend you must either raise taxes, cut
costs or both.
Of course, it is exactly during a downturn or
recession that you :
|suffer from reduced tax takes, yet|
|are forced to increase spending on things like welfare and
|seek to step-up spending on public works (roads etc) to boost
|need to borrow heavily to finance all this, and meanwhile |
|want to reduce interest rates to stimulate business investment and
personal spending, and|
|are tempted to encourage inflation so as to reduce the burden of
Under the uro,
you suffer from the first two on the list, but cant do the next
four. Therefore the downturn can be more savage that it otherwise
Britains chancellor Gordon Brown boasts that sterlings
fiscal rules, unlike the uros,
take account of the state of the economic cycle, so that he can borrow
more freely when the economy is weak. The Economist concludes that
by doing so, he helps boost demand one reason why Britain has
fared better in the global slowdown that has the uro
this is a short-term view of the situation.
countries are indeed right now suffering directly from their lack of
fiscal freedom during a recession, but this in fact is the uros
strength. For a bitter lesson is going on. In
future, finance ministers will know they must set aside funds in the good
times to tide them through the inevitable bad times without borrowing,
devaluing or inflating, and at the same time must seek ever-better value
for money through efficiencies and modernisation.
For isnt that exactly what you and I must do in our lives
If our incomes are suddenly cut, we also must find ways to reduce our
daily expenses, whilst seeking new ways to boost our earnings. And
meantime, we will dip into the savings we have prudently accumulated to
help us through the difficult period. The options of borrowing with
abandon, much less devaluing and inflating our way out of trouble simply
The beauty of the uro
is that it has taken currency control out of the hands of venal politicians who are
therefore forced to manage the finances responsibly over both the short and
long term, and to be honest with the voters.
No wonder so many of them are squealing !
War of the (Iraqi)
In helping to make the case for war against Saddam Hussein and his
henchmen, Tony Blair has produced two graphic and compelling dossiers that
are well worth reading -
|in September a 55-page assessment
(427 kb) of Iraqs weapons of mass destruction
(WMD) and |
|this month a 12-page report
(197 kb) on Saddams crimes and human rights abuses. |
In response to Iraqs requirement under UN
Resolution 1441 to produce a full statement of its WMD by 8th
December, Saddam has now tried to trump both these puny efforts
with the issue of his own massive dossier comprising 529 megabytes, 11,900
pages. It apparently covers
Iraqs entire biological, chemical, nuclear and missile
activity. (He has also apologised to Kuwait for raping it in 1990
though says nothing about releasing the many Kuwaiti prisoners-of-war he
In releasing his mega-dossier, Hussam Mohammed
Amin, who is the
head of Iraqs National Monitoring Directorate said
that Iraq was empty of any weapons of mass destruction,
although the document did contain some activities which were potentially for
dual military and civilian use. This statement means you dont even
need to read the report, doubtless an extraordinarily tedious
This sounds a very curious and dangerous tack for Saddam to take
because it makes Americas task so easy.
As everyone knows, America alleges that Iraq does hold
WMD and that it has proof of same. It seems inconceivable that
America holds absolutely no such proof at all, that it possesses not a
single shred of evidence of Iraqi WMD.
Therefore, with Iraq declaring that the dossier says it is WMD-free,
America has only to point the UN weapons inspectors to a few of the known
sites to prove to them, to the UN and to the world that
|Iraq is not WMD free and |
|that it is therefore lying, |
|which is a material breach of UN Resolution
President George W Bush needs no more than that to launch his war, with
or without a further UN resolution.
The end-game is very close.
Miss World 2002
Last week I wrote about the pogrom
mounted against Christians in Nigeria by some Muslims who took offence at
a newspaper article saying that the Prophet Mohammed might have wanted to
marry one of the contestants.
The pageant has now been concluded in London. By a wry irony, it
has been won by Miss Turkey, the gorgeous Azra Akin, a Muslim, seen here
being congratulated by last years Nigerian winner Agbani Darego .
She deserves our best wishes.
Until maybe 20 years ago, Catholic Ireland was virtually one
word, such was the pervasive influence of the Church throughout the
land. It was, in effect, an old-style theocratic
How things have changed. The country is now fully secularised
with the Church playing no role at all in how the country is run, and
being regularly castigated for its failings, particularly in relation to
child sex abuse. In fact you can say anything you like about the
Catholic Church provided it is bad.
Extraordinarily, Irish broadcasters are not, however, allowed to say
that the Catholic Church does any good at all. The relevant
Broadcasting Act prohibits the broadcast of any religious
advertisement which addresses the merits or otherwise of adhering to a
particular religious faith.
The small Irish Catholic newspaper (circulation just 27,000 and
no website) recently wanted to run an advertisement on the Irish airwaves,
These are hard times for the Catholic Church, so hard that its
easy to forget all the good the Church does. To remind us
of that, the Irish Catholic will be running an Advent series, starting
this week, showing how the Church puts Christ into Christmas through the countless
good deeds of thousands of ordinary Catholics.
RTÉ, Irelands state-owned licence-funded national broadcaster,
together with the Broadcasting Commission of
Ireland which regulates privately-owned broadcasters, have refused the
ad because the words I have highlighted suggest - shock ! horror ! -
that there might be a good side to Catholicism.
Perfectly acceptable are
|unremitting promotion of Irelands drug of choice, alcohol, the
liquid route to instant happiness, sporting prowess and sexual success|
|sex used to sell everything from cars to pot noodles, |
|incessant programmes about the misdeeds of the Catholic
But nothing remotely positive about Catholicism.
Fordham University in New York recently hosted a conference entitled
: The Last Acceptable Prejudice which contrasted Western
acceptance of anti-Catholic hostility with their strong outlawing of
anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and homophobia. There is no logic to
accepting one form of bigotry but not another.
Meanwhile, Ireland has indeed reached a sorry state when a statement of
Catholic goodness cannot be broadcast - at least not if it is made by
Meanwhile, the mainly-Catholic Philippines reports
that its 100,000 policemen are to undergo spiritual renewal seminars and
will each be given a pocket-sized Bible or Quran. This will
apparently provide spiritual cleansing of policemen, rid the
service of scalawags and misfits and bring them closer to God.
Horses for courses, I suppose.
One Nation Indivisible
Ireland is not the only country with childish confusion over religious
Every day in the USA, teachers and over 60 million schoolchildren,
along with thousands of citizens at meetings of the Boy Scouts, Girl
Scouts, American Legion and many other fraternal and patriotic
organizations, recite the Pledge of Allegiance (to the flag). It was
written back in 1892 by a socialist journalist, Francis Bellamy, in a
family magazine called The Youth Companion, and contains the phrase one
nation indivisible. The pledge was codified into Public Law by the
US government in 1942 at the height of World War II.
Then, in 1954, in a wave of religious fervour and McCarthyism, and in a
deliberate ploy to differentiate God-fearing America from the godless
communists of the USSR, two key words were added, so that the whole phrase
now reads, one nation indivisible under God.
Recently, some atheists, agnostics and other citizens with scant regard
for religion are anxious to remove the two offending words as they see
One American wit has proposed that the phrasing should be altered to,
one nation indivisible under Canada.
A thoroughly appropriate response to such a ridiculous controversy, dont you
Pay For Themselves
Last weeks Sunday Times ran a
story on the back page saying, Smoking
related diseases kills 120,000 Britons a year and hospital treatment for
the 360,000 people a year made ill by it costs about £1.7bn.
Do the sums.
Even if the tax on a packet
were only £1 and those sick people smoked only one packet a day, it would
mean that they pay for their own medical treatment in just 13 years.
Therefore, a truly successful
anti-smoking campaign would have dire consequences on the exchequer which
would necessitate compensating tax rises for all and/or cuts in services
such as hospitals.
next time you see smokers, smile at them and thank them for their
self-sacrifice that so benefits the rest of us.
This goes for any country that taxes tobacco heavily.
and see my
letter in this weeks Sunday Times, transcribed below for your
SUNDAY TIMES, 8th December 2002
Smoke in our eyes
NO CURE: You report that 360,000 Britons per year
require hospital treatment at a cost of about £1.7 billion. Even if the
tax on a packet were only £1 and those sick people smoked a packet a day,
it would mean that they pay for their own medical treatment in just 13
years. But cigarettes take far longer than 13 years to make smokers sick,
not every smoker gets sick, the tax is far in excess of £1 per packet,
and smokers die disproportionately younger than non-smokers, thus drawing
less in pensions.
A successful anti-smoking campaign would have dire consequences on the
exchequer and would necessitate compensating tax rises and/or cuts in
services such as hospitals.
Late Note (very late), 20th July 2012
This letter appeared in the Irish Times. Ten years later, and
my point about smokers funding themselves (and others) still stands up:
Smokers' health care
Sir, – If, as is often reported, smokers die 15 years early at the
average age of 72, then each smoker is actually saving the State,
€163,000 in pensions (at €10,868 per annum x 15), in addition to the
high cost of longterm healthcare for the “expensive” years from 75 to
Based on these maths, one might expect our indebted HSE to encourage
smokers. But then, my maths are probably wrong, because Japan has the
highest life expectancy, yet they are the fourth highest smokers. –
Oh, and as I wrote in 2008 (“Altruism
of Smokers and Drinkers”),
drinkers fund themselves too.
#19 - 1st December 2002
To me, the crowning achievement of the European Union is the creation
of the common market under which people may freely trade their goods and
services without regard to the national borders that otherwise separate
them. Willing buyers and willing sellers can trade without
The common market has been a remarkable success despite some of the
EUs trade distorting policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy,
the Common Fisheries Policy and numerous protectionist devices for
individual industries like insurance, that directly punish the EUs
citizens as well as people throughout the third world who are prevented
from freely trading with the EU.
Free trade under a transparent legislative environment that ensures
open competition always results in the same thing : lower
prices and higher quality for consumers. Because it is only through
lowering prices and/or raising quality that producers can survive when
their competitors are constantly snapping at their heels.
With this therefore as a central pillar of the EU (notwithstanding the
distortions mentioned), is it not curious that several EU countries are
agitating for what they call tax harmonisation ?
Countries such as Italy, Germany and France with corporation tax rates
of 35-40% are annoyed at Britain (30%) and especially Ireland (15% about
to go down to 12½%), because the latter two use their lower tax rates to
attract foreign direct investment away from the former three. Unfair
! they cry, we should have a level playing field !
Meanwhile, Ireland and Britain are still growing providing employment
for (nearly) all, while Italy, Germany and France are stagnating if not in
recession with heavy dole queues.
Taxes are the charges that governments impose on their citizens for
providing services - roads, schools, hospitals, defence, welfare payments,
While the EU governments thoroughly agree that companies and indeed
citizens should be subjected to the rigours of open competition, is it not
curious that they feel they themselves should be exempt by harmonising
taxes ? If, in the real world, a new shop opens that undercuts the
existing shop, the existing shop must either find ways
|to cut its costs, or |
|provide a better service that its customers are willing to pay extra
for, or |
|get into another line of business or |
|close down. |
As indicated, the result for the consumer is always lower prices and
Governments should take the same approach. Cut their costs and
improve their services so that citizens feel they are getting value for
money. In other words, give their citizens lower taxes and better
Tax harmonisation is but a ruse whose sole purpose is to protect ruling
politicians from their own incompetence at the price of their
Miss World and Islam
In 2001, the lovely Agbani
Darego of Nigeria won the Miss World competition, the first time a
black from Africa has done so.
As a consequence, Nigeria, a West African federation of 130
million people, comprising 31 states of which
12 are governed under Sharia law, was selected as the venue for the 2002
Thus it was that early this November, 92 beautiful young contestants - Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus,
Buddhists - from all over the world flew in. Another eager
21-year-old woman, from Nigeria, who had recently graduated from a journalism
course at the University of Lancaster in England, penned an article for
Nigerias This Day newspaper.
Isioma Daniel suggested that had the Prophet been alive he would have
approved of the pageant and might have selected one of the 92 as his
This offended many Muslims and sparked a three-day rampage against
|killed 220 people, |
|left 12,000 homeless and |
|22 Christian churches and |
|eight Islamic mosques. |
The competition was rescheduled for London and the 92 contestants
gratefully flew out of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor of Nigerias Zamfara State, Mamuda Aliyu Dallatun
Shinkafi, issued a fatwa (religious sentence of death) against Ms Daniel, remarking
Holy Quran has clearly stated that whoever insults the Prophet of Islam,
Mohammed, should be killed. He went on to liken her
to the British author Salman Rushdie who for over ten years has been
subject to a fatwa imposed by Irans late Ayatullah Khomenei for offending
Muslims in his book, the Satanic Verses.
Understandably, Ms Daniel resigned her job and fled to the USA.
The editors of This Day then issued an extraordinarily grovelling
apology for publishing the article.
But where is the apology for the monumentally criminal anti-Christian
pogrom that killed 220 ? As is sadly becoming all too familiar, no
senior Islamic voice is raised against those who commit atrocities in the
so-called name of Islam. At the same time, there are many, many
wonderful, humane, God-fearing Muslims in the world who lead lives that
are an example to all; I have been privileged to know many of them.
Yet the silence of Islamic leaders leaves many people to conclude the
criminal acts of a few do indeed accord with the teachings of Islam, which puts into question the
whole Islam is Peace mantra.
With one crucial difference, it seems to me that Islam, which came into
being 600 years after Christ, shares many characteristics with
Christianity of several centuries ago. In European cultures,
the Roman Catholic branch of the Christian Church used to reign supreme.
|Dissenters, such as Galileo who dared suggest the earth was not the
centre of the universe, were persecuted. |
|Heretics were burned at the stake. |
|Christians mounted crusades to North Africa to either convert or
else kill Muslims. |
Richelieu, prime minister of France in the 17th century, famously
told his troops, in respect of non-Catholic Huguenots and any
unwitting Catholics among them, to kill them all, God will
know his own. |
Pretty nasty things done in the so-called name of God.
The one crucial difference, however, is that this despicable behaviour
is not backed up by the four gospels. Christ did not tell us to kill our
enemies or non-believers. He unequivocally told us to love our
enemies, forgive those who trespass against us, turn the other cheek, try
to convert (but not murder) pagans.
By contrast, we are constantly told that the Quran supports the killing
Nevertheless, I would like to think that in time a peace-loving version
of Islam will emerge, just as it did with Christianity. But let us
all hope it doesnt take the centuries it took Christianity.
The Baralong Affair
I am currently editing the memoirs of an elderly Irishman who has led a
very eventful and colourful life and met many interesting people. He
recalls a little-known First World War event told to him by a number of
ancient mariners he sailed with in the 1930s. The Royal Navy was
involved in a very shameful affair, if understandable under the
circumstances, involving a German U-boat that had caused many Allied
When you read it, it will be clear why the Navy did its best to suppress
It became known as the Baralong Affair, after the main ship responsible
for what happened. Click here
for the whole story; its well worth reading.
Note : you will find a toolbar at the bottom for flipping
Do you sometimes
get e-mails that tell you things like
If you send
this to your friends, some big corporation will make a donation
to a charity
There is a
kidney-theft ring in New Orleans
will happen to you if you dont respond as directed
to find the truth about all this nonsense.
to Top of Page
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Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
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
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
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
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
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
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Won by New Zealand
Won by New Zealand
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Won by Wales
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the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
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the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics