This week a huge
jamboree kicked off in the delectable Indonesian holiday island of Bali.
More than 190 countries have sent along senior representatives, and then
there are the NGOs and other special interest groups. Thus the whole
conference will probably host somewhere in excess of 1500 earnest people,
travelling in from all the corners of the globe, each flying
average of perhaps 13,000 km round trip (the
transatlantic span). According to the
CarbonNeutral Company such a return flight - on a commercial airliner - produces 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per person on
board. So, roughly speaking, even if you exclude private jets, spouses, boyfriends,
girlfriends, mistresses, toyboys, journalists, cameramen, commentators and
myriad other hangers on, the conference in Bali will generate nearly two
thousand tonnes of that environment-unfriendly special gas, not to mention the delegates' unlimited
hot air emitted in the conference hall.
bad for a UN summit attempting to broker a worldwide deal to defeat climate
change and replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012. And while
they're there, you can be sure they'll be enjoying some out-of-season global
warming in Bali's beautiful beaches and resorts.
The event bears the enigmatic name COP-13,
where COP stands for the equally enigmatic
COP-13 participants will vigorously
maintain that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming
is a man-made, man-controllable phenomenon. This conclusion is mainly
based on the series of reports produced this year by the
UN Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC). Nearly 4,000 scientists from 130 countries
have helped to produce these, which certainly makes the enterprise
feel like there is an
“overwhelming scientific consensus”.
Until you realise that dissenting scientists - and there are very
many of them - have been deliberately excluded and ignored. Moreover,
where the dissenters are largely reviled in the media and typically starved
of the money they need to pursue their own climate change research, those
who keep the faith are showered with almost limitless funds by governments
and corporations anxious to prove their green credentials. Why, they
will even get awarded Oscars and Nobel peace prizes.
So no, there is no scientific consensus on
climate change. Not yet; not by a long shot.
Just in time for COP-13, the UN Development Programme has produced a
massive 400-page door-stopper, its annual
Development Report 2007/2008. It's opening sentence sets the tone:
“Climate change is now a scientifically established fact.”
No it's not - see above. And neither is how to fix it.
The rest of the report goes on to explain the catastrophe
we're all facing and how we have to cut back on our CO2 emissions to save
the planet for future generations, blah, blah, blah.
There is of course a pivotal issue of whether anything
humans do or don't do will have the slightest effect on a climate dominated
that massive violent nuclear-exploding star, a mere
333,000 times heavier than the earth, which we call the sun.
But, putting that aside, the question I would always put to members of what
I call the
cult of climate changeology when they advocate various mitigation
measures, is whom do you think you're helping? After some mumblings
about mother-earth, great-grandchildren, flora, fauna and so forth, the
world's poor people always emerge at the top of the list.
And of course, nowhere on the list can the rich be found, for the
simple reason our Western capitalistic decadence has made us wealthy enough
to take measures to protect ourselves from the ravages of climate change,
whether by installing powerful air conditioning, moving up a mountain,
building our houses on stilts, buying a boat, desalinating our water,
translocating to tropical Siberia, whatever it takes.
The HDRP 07/08 report is no different in stressing that the
main and moral purpose of fighting climate change is to help those who are
too poor to help themselves:
“Millions of the world’s poorest people are already being
forced to cope with the impacts of climate change ...
“Climate change will undermine international efforts to combat
“Failure [to deal with climate change]
will consign the
poorest 40% of the world’s population - some 2.6 billion people - to a
future of diminished opportunity ...
“It is the poor who are bearing the brunt of climate change
“Increased exposure to drought, to more intense storms, to
floods and environmental stress is holding back the efforts of the
world’s poor to build a better life for themselves and their children
“When people in an American city turn on the air-conditioning
or people in Europe drive their cars, their actions have consequences
[that] link them to rural communities in Bangladesh, farmers in
Ethiopia and slum dwellers in Haiti ...
“Allowing [climate change] to evolve would ...
represent a systematic violation of the human rights of the world’s poor
“The world’s poor cannot be left to sink or swim with their
own resources while rich countries protect their citizens behind
climate-defence fortifications ...
“Many of the world’s poorest people ... are already being
forced to adapt to dangerous climate change ...”
And the good news is that putting all this to
rights, by the simple expedient of controlling emissions and so forth, will
cost a piffling 1.6% of GDP between now and 2030, a0 mere two-thirds of
military spending. It's right there in the report on page 23, and in
case you're a slow learner, also on p32, 66 and 67 (thrice). And since
the CIA tells us the world's GDP last year was
$66 trillion, the bill for the next 23 years is a paltry $24 trillion -
that's 24 with twelve zeroes.
Can you just imagine the unremitting joy the world's
poor people will experience when they learn that this sum is going to be
spent to save the world - for their benefit. I don't know exactly how
many they number. The HRDP 07/08 would have you believe the world's
poorest 40% (2.6 billion) are all
but that's clearly nonsensical. On the other hand, the World Food
Programme says 854 million
people in the world don't have enough to eat, which I reckon is a pretty
good proxy for poverty. That's more than the combined
populations of the USA, Canada and the EU.
So here's a question. If you have a budget of
$24 trn to help the poor, this works out at $28,000 each, or about $3 a day
until 2030. Given that another definition of poverty is having to live
on less than one dollar a day, I wonder what a poor person would actually
say if you were to give him/her a choice:
his/her environment from the effects of climate change (maybe, if the
measures actually work)? or
his/her income from now and for the next generation?
Actually, I don't wonder. I know exactly what
the answer would be as I am sure you do. But B has the disadvantage
that it amounts to a debilitating, humiliating, disincentivising handout; moreover what
happens when the money is spent?
As the current
witty ads for Carlsberg say,
“It's not just A or B. There's
It's the old story of give a man a fish and you feed him
for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for life.
Option C, the answer of what to do about the poor in
the event that climate change does become a serious problem, can be found hidden
within that list of quotes from the UN
report. It's all about the ravages of poverty. People who are
poor can't cope with disasters like we rich people can.
The UN report tells us that
“climate shocks already figure prominently in
the lives of the poor. Events such as droughts, floods and storms are
often terrible experiences for those affected: they threaten lives and
leave people feeling insecure”.
This is true, but the disparity between rich and poor
though bad - as this (pink) chart from the UN report illustrates - is
actually not nearly as bad as it once was.
The document contains the fascinating chart on the right. You can see how,
over the past century, disaster-related death rates have fallen dramatically
as people have become, on average, less poor. Much of this is, of
course, because the rich West has been quick to assist the poor in their
hour of need - just think of how the much-reviled US and Australian armed
forces rushed to the aid of the victims of the 2004 tsunami and the Pakistan
earthquake - whilst others just watched and talked.
Incidentally, Greenpeace tried to refute this chart by
the rather insipid (and incorrect)
claim that a particular constituent member of the CSCCC is “in the pay of
the world’s biggest oil company”. The CSCCC itself says
that its study was funded “entirely from private individuals and
foundations” who had no input to it.
UN's solution - and indeed that of all climate-changeologists - remains that
the only way to protect poor people is for rich people to take action such
as controlling emissions.
But here's a revolutionary thought.
What about, instead, making it possible for poor people to become rich so
that they can look after themselves just like we do?
Whoah, I hear you say. That's impossible.
But is it? In mediaeval times, everyone
everywhere bar the tiny ruling Úlites were miserably poor, just like in many
parts of Africa today. What changed all this was the introduction of
some simple, post-Enlightenment concepts:
These - and nothing else - are the
behind the people's riches of America, Europe, Japan, to name but a few.
So why not use some of that $24 trn to encourage
precisely these principles?
pro-democracy organizations that seek to replace dictatorships such as
Robert Mugabe's -
John O'Shea of the excellent Irish charity
observes that “it is only when the international community
has the courage to stand up to all dictators that we will begin to see
an end to abject poverty”.
assistance and training for establishing civic institutions such as
courts, police, parliaments.
the measures will even make money for the rich world - in particular if
Europe and America would only tear down their despicable agricultural
subsidies and trade barriers, which would provide lucrative markets for
developing world farmers as well as cheaper food for the West.
are other areas where direct investment by the West will make a huge
difference in terms of enabling the poor to get back on their feet and
start making money.
these is undoubtedly to provide clean drinking water and efficient
sewage systems. Kofi Annan and the World Bank, back in 2002,
us that US$ 200
billion would be sufficient to provide this to all of humanity and thereby avoid
two million disease-ridden deaths per year in the developing world.
It's a thumping sum, but only 8% of that $24 trn and will have a massive
humanitarian payout for the poor.
Much cheaper, but also with proven
massive life-saving potential, is making available
insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets to protect against Africa's
biggest killer, malaria.
world, malaria kills more than a million people each year, mainly
African kids under five years of age.
In Kenya, these nets have cut child death
44% at a cost of just $4-5 per net.
When mothers sleep under the
nets, miscarriages and still births are cut by
up to a third while the number of underweight babies drops by a
Other steps in the developing world
an expansion of credit, particularly the microcredit
regimes that have proved so effective in places like Bangladesh, and
encouragement for private companies to invest in infrastructure, both
physical and cyber.
In fact all the things that helped make the
rich world rich.
If you were to ask any penniless peasant from Bangladesh to Chad to
Uruguay whether he would prefer you to concentrate on reducing your
emissions or helping him to become rich, you know very well his answer.
So whom do the wealthy climate
changeologists think they are helping with
their pathetic attempts to counter sunspots and cosmic rays by foregoing Christmas tree lights
and the like?
Certainly not those peasants - but perhaps
their own consciences. As I've said before, climate changeology is the
equivalent of a religious cult, relying on faith and feeling good rather
than evidence and constructive action.
Late Note (7th
December): Columnist Kevin Myers
excoriates the Bali ballyhoo
in typically robust and humorous fashion,
and publishes a comment from me based on this post.
Last week, CNN and Google subsidiary Youtube staged a two-hour debate in
Florida between the eight presidential candidates who are competing for the
Republican nomination for US president in 2008. The debate is available in two hour-long
I must say, I found it quite entertaining and revealing. CNN
selected thirty assorted questions from five hundred Youtube
clips apparently submitted at random by the general public, with candidates given ninety seconds
to respond. The questions were varied and many of them were tough, yet
I thought the candidates handled them skilfully, articulately, courteously and with
Having taken it all in, I intend on balance intend
to vote for Mitt Romney, and if he drops dead Rudy Giuliani, and definitely
not for abject defeatist Ron Paul. Except I'm not American (despite
disparaging accusations to the contrary), so I'm not allowed to vote for
I was, however, somewhat taken aback by the blogosphere storm that
followed, when it quickly emerged that at least five of the Youtube
questioners were openly anti-Republican activists, whether in support of
particular Democratic candidates or of militant trade unions or of dubious
Islamic organizations. Blogger Michelle Malkine has the
lowdown, gleaned solely through a little bit of googling. CNN are
furious at having been caught out, and don't know whether to say that
they knew such people were
deliberate plants (but dishonestly withheld this information from the
candidates, audience and viewers) or
they didn't know and so had
been unforgivably slapdash, cavalier and incompetent in selecting the
This short clip is a compilation of four of the plants ...
When, however, you download the entire debate, you will find no sign of
the intrepid Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who is both angry and gay.
He should have appeared at Minute 43:22 of Part Two - but has found himself
With India under British rule, Tippoo was an Indian sultan born in 1750 in
the state of Karnataka, who in 1783 he was enthroned as the ruler of Mysore.
He was a constant pain to the British Raj which occupied the country because
he refused to submit to them as did most other leaders and maharajas (in
exchange for continued riches and a quiet life). Instead it was one
war after another. After winning two of them over a period of 23
years, thanks to alliances with the French, Afghanis and Turks, he was
eventually defeated in 1792 by Lord Cornwallis, Britain's Governor General,
to whom he had to submit his two sons as hostages against payment of massive
Not long after, Lord Cornwallis's own son went on a tiger hunting expedition
but ended up being killed by a tiger. This understandably caused great
joy to Sultan Tippoo, and even greater pleasure when in 1793 one of his
subjects presented him with a curious, life-size depiction of the happy
Moreover, he was so encouraged he adopted the tiger as his emblem, and had
his throne shaped like a tiger, carrying the head of a life-size tiger in
He went on to
recreate his war machine, modernise his administration on the European
model, build a chain of excellent roads, and construct tanks and dams to
promote agriculture. He introduced new industries, promoted trade and
commerce, established factories, and sent commercial missions to Oman,
Persia and Turkey.
He had once more become a threat to the British.
So in 1799 found himself in yet a fourth Mysore war. This had an even
worse outcome for him, because - apart from being again defeated by Lord
Cornwallis - he ended up dead, with his favourite sword looted.
The British plundered a lot more of Tipoo's
stuff, all of it ending up in London. In particular, within Tipoo's palace
they came across a curious wooden tiger apparently mauling a prostrate
British soldier. It was a long time before the true provenance of
Tipoo's Tiger emerged, and its connection to the hated Lord Cornwallis.
But Tipoo's Tiger is itself an
extraordinary curiosity in its own right, quite apart from its history.
For it is an automaton, combining
movement with two windpipe mechanisms, and still operates despite the
attention of Luftwaffe bombers during the Second World War.
The crank on the
animal's shoulder turns a shaft within the body. A wire connects to this
shaft, which passes down from the tiger between his fore-paws into the
soldier's chest, where it works a pair of bellows, forcing air through a
pipe that exits through the soldier's mouth and emits a whistling wail. The
soldier's hand covers his mouth, but when the air is forced through the pipe
the arm rises in a manner which the artist intended to show helplessness.
Moreover, the movement of the hand in front of the mouth causes the wail to
The wail is repeated
as often as the handle is turned, and while this process is going on, an
endless screw on the shaft turns a worm gear slowly round, which has four
cams. Each cam progressively raises the actuator of a larger bellows in the
tiger's head. When the bellows is full, a lead weight falls, closes the
bellows suddenly, expelling air through two pipes which emit a harsh
The man in the
meantime continues his wailing, and after a dozen cries the tiger's growl
Meanwhile, if you open
up the tiger's body lengthwise (it is hinged), you will reveal a small
musical organ completely unconnected to the growling and wailing mechanism.
The strange keyboard has 18 ivory keys, behind which are two rows of copper
pipes. Each row can be made silent via stops that emerge at the tiger's rear
end. Behind the pipes, on the other flank of the tiger, is another bellows
that provides wind for the organ.
So you can take your pick - whether you
want to play dulcet music or listen to the death throes of a British soldier
being eaten alive by a hungry tiger.
Tippoo Sultan had
been so delighted with the device that he is said to have passed many hours
in his music-room with an attendant turning the handle of the machine, until
the fun ended with is own violent death in 1799.
Two letters this time. I not surprised the one criticising Saint Al
Gore was not published, but I was astonished to see the Israel/Palestine one
appear which says that the Palestinians simply have to stop attacking Israel
for the problem to cease. I have been trying for over a year to get a
letter published along these lines, and confess that the original concept
was plagiarised from
(with his post-factum permission).
Al Gore Eschews Debate - to the Irish Times So former US Vice-President Al Gore has been and gone to Ireland,
where at a conference in Dublin he spoke on climate change to 400 Irish
and international company executives and investors as well as Green
party ministers. You note, significantly, that all media apart from
official photographers were barred from attending his address, and there
is no suggestion that climate-change dissenters were admitted either
Israel and the PalestiniansP! - to the Irish Times Raymond Deane of the Ireland Palestine
Solidarity Campaign once again attempts to portray Israel's self-defence
actions, such as the separation barrier, as unwarranted acts of
aggression. And, typically, he refuses to address the issue in David M.
Abrahamson's letter of November 14th, to which he purports to be
responding. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be resolved at
a stroke. The Palestinians merely have to stop attacking Israel ...
- - - - - - - - - - Z I M B A B W E - - - - - -
- - - -
“If Mugabe and I walk together into a black
township, only one of us will come out alive. I’m ready to put that
to the test right now. He’s not.”
The late Ian Smith in 2002, the one time RAF fighter pilot hero from
who later, as the prime minister of a hugely prosperous Rhodesia,
made his famous Unilateral Declaration of Independence
(from British colonial status),
and continued to rule until forced in 1980 by the British
to relinquish power to Robert Mugabe,
who proceeded to systematically lay waste to the new Zimbabwe.
[Hat tip: Nautical Tim in Dublin]
- - - - - - - - - - S U D A N - - - - - - - - -
“Shame, shame on the UK. No tolerance:
Execution. Kill her, kill her by firing squad.”
The (no doubt orchestrated)
chant of a Sudanese mob against
the leniency of the
15-day prison sentence handed down by a Sharia court
to volunteer British primary school teacher Gillian Gibbons
for having permitted seven-year-old children
vote to name a teddy-bear Muhammed.
So quick to demonstrate against teddy-bears,
cartoons and knighthoods,
it is abjectly shameful that Muslims never protest
the cold-blooded murder of Muslims by fellow-Muslim jihadists.
It is in fact they who bring
ridicule to the Prophet and disrepute to Islam.
- - - - - - - - - - P H I L I P P I N E S - - -
- - - - - - -
“There will be no surrender. We are not going
to negotiate ... Dissent without action is consent.”
Antonio Trillanes IV, ex navy lieutenant,
holed up in the luxury Peninsular Hotel in Manila
as part of a farcical attempted coup,
on the point of surrendering, negotiating and ceasing action
by capitulating to the heavily armed forces surrounding the hotel.
For leading another coup attempt in 2003,
- which, coincidentally, also
fizzled out in a Manila hotel -
he and fellow coupsters had been on trial in Manila when,
shortly before the verdict was due to be delivered,
they broke out of the courthouse and invaded the nearby Peninsular.
The Philippines is a constitutional democracy
led by its elected executive president
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,
daughter of a previous elected president succeeded by Ferdinand
- - - - - - - - - - U S - - - - - - - - - -
“Probably, the strongest experience I have in
foreign relations is the fact that I spent four years living
overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia.”
US presidential hopeful Barak Obama tries to
impress US voters
by revealing the fountainhead of his vast expertise in foreign
English opera star
Tony Henry singing the Croatian national anthem
in front of a crowd of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium,
before Croatia dumped England 3-2 out of the Soccer Euro 2008
Only thing is, he
should have sung
kuda si planina”
“You know my dear how we love your mountains”).
What he actually sang was
dear, my penis is a mountain”.
English bravado or English
Either way, the delighted Croatians have adopted him as their soccer
[Hat tip: Sporty Graham
“The British Empire at its peak was even better than
Rowan Williams, (caricature of an) Archbishop of Westminster,
head of the Anglican Communion,
talks more of his usual anti-American anti-freedom drivel,
in a typical act of
while he continues to fear US success in Iraq.
He was giving a (dhimmi) interview to the Muslim magazine
**The actual headline
reads, “Archbishop of Canterbury: US
‘is worse than the British Empire at its peak’”
“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.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible 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