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preceding weeks, which are published in
the main Tallrite Blog (www.tallrite.com/blog.htm).
The first issue appeared on Sunday 14th July
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#68 - 22nd February 2004[150+153]
Condemned to Unthinking Leadership
Raymond Dean is one of
Irelands leading contemporary composers.
With over 80 compositions and operas to his name, he is an
accomplished musician with a well-deserved reputation.
However, thats just
his day job. For he is also
Chairman of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity
Campaign, and I recently
attended one of his talks about the Palestine question.
He gave an excellent
review of the history of modern Palestine and the creation of Israel,
starting with the arrival in 1882 of the first Jews fleeing pogroms in
Eastern Europe, which I have summarised and fleshed out below.
| the Jews pursued
their Zionist dream with single-minded vision, organization and
determination, and |
| the British as the occupying power up to 1945 showed
benign neglect and a desire to get out, |
|the Arabs just wandered about
disorganized and not really understanding what was going on in their
homeland and being ignored by both the Jews and the British. |
Then came the newly
founded UNs (non-binding) Resolution
181 in 1947, which established the State of Israel in 55% of the
Palestinian lands and handed the West Bank to Jordan. It was swiftly
followed by further post-Holocaust Jewish immigration and the build-up of a
well armed Israeli Military.
UN resolution was however rejected by most Arabs, understandably.
But their rejection also means that the areas occupied by the Palestinians
do not form a State and are thus, in effect, unallocated land. (This
is important, because it means the so-called
where Israel has built settlements are in fact
In 1948 the first
Arab/Israeli war broke out, which resulted in defeat for the Arabs.
Israel took the opportunity to ethnically cleanse some 750,000 Palestinians, who became
refugees and whose numbers have today swollen to nearly four million.
Some years later, Gamel Abdel Nasser, the
strongman president of Egypt, began to flex his muscles, culminating in
the nationalisation of the
Suez canal in 1956 (to finance building the Aswan Dam). Outraged, the
Israelis, British and
French invaded Egypt to reclaim it, only to have to retreat
humiliatingly under disapproving US financial pressure. This
was the Arabs first and sole victory over Israel, albeit only because
of the Americans.
Following the Suez crisis of
1956, the PLO was formed and Yasser Arafat emerged to found Fatah, both
bent on armed guerilla resistance to the Jewish presence in
Meanwhile, Nasser, spurred on by victory and thus now a hero, talked of uniting the Arab nation and driving the Jews
into the sea. He found a ready audience among not just Palestinians but all Arab
countries, who spent fortunes on armaments. In alarm, Israel prepared for war, simultaneously provoking Nasser by encroaching on demilitarised zones between Israel and its neighbours.
In June 1967, Israel pre-emptively attacked all its neighbours at
stunning days, it
their air forces and armies on the ground, |
Arab East Jerusalem with Israeli West, and|
Shortly afterwards, the UN passed (non-binding) Resolution 242 which essentially calls for three things :
- Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the
- The need to achieve a just settlement of the refugee problem;
- Acknowledgment of the right of every States in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of
From then to now, the Arab/Palestinian side and its advocates continually stress the first two items but remain silent on the
But so long as the Arabs ignore #3, they provide a cast-iron excuse for the Israelis to ignore #1 and #2.
The weary story goes on.
|In 1964, Yasser Arafat assumed leadership of
a merged PLO/Fatah and they set themselves up in Jordan as the
pre-eminent violent resistance movement against Israel.|
|But by 1970, Jordan felt they had become so powerful its own sovereignty
was threatened, so evicted them (they ended up in Lebanon) and killed over 100,000 resident
Palestinians deemed to be PLO supporters.|
|The Yom Kippur war of 1973 resulted in another Arab
|In 1980 the Israelis returned the Sinai Peninsular to Egypt in return for
recognition and peace (it cost Egyptian president Anwar Saddat his
|In 1982 they invaded Lebanon to drive out the PLO, and turned a blind
and shameful eye to the Christian massacres of Palestinians in the Shatila and
Sabra refugee camps.|
|In 1991 the PLO backed Saddam against the US, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia, and in effect suffered yet another defeat. |
Finally, 1993 brought something positive : the Oslo accords between the
PLO and Israel, the first real peace process. It earned the Nobel Peace
Prize for Mr Arafat and Israeli ministers Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin
(and Rabin his assassination).
Mr Arafat returned home to chair the new Palestinian Authority after a
pseudo-election, and aid money poured in. The process sputtered on, with acts of bad faith on both sides,
throughout Bill Clinton's presidency until, just before it ended, he
eventually managed to corral the two antagonists in Camp David in a final thrust for
Yet as we know, the Camp David talks between Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli
Ehud Barak in 2000 failed, and the current deadly intifada broke out,
with no end now in sight. Several first-hand recollections have been
published of what went on and why the talks collapsed, but they
are biased towards one side or the other and frequently conflicting.
You therefore have to read an array of different accounts to get some
sense of what actually happened. The New York Review of Books
has published a good
series of such articles featuring the memories Robert Malley (pro-Palestinians),
Dennis Ross (pro-Israelis) and Mr Barak.
From these and the pro-Palestinian views of Mr Dean, this is my best
understanding of what happened and why.
basis of the 1993 Oslo accords was that a series of relatively easy steps
would be taken by each side over time. This would build the
confidence to negotiate the most contentious issues (Jerusalem,
settlements, refugees) at some later undefined date.
The easy concessions were always easy; but they did not make the
hard concessions any easier, so the tough items were never tackled at all.
The process was eventually going nowhere.
Barak's big idea at Camp David in 2000 was therefore to tie everything,
big and small, into one great all-or-nothing deal, and
would mean no Oslo either. High risk, high reward. But he was afraid to put his proposals
all on the table at once, or in writing, for fear Mr Arafat would grab the
concessions and run. Therefore they were communicated personally and
verbally by Mr Clinton as a series of
his part, Mr Arafat apparently never wanted to attend in the first place -
so I wonder why he did. Nevertheless, once there he was so acutely suspicious
of a trap,
that he gave no serious consideration to any of the proposals and just
said no to everything for two solid weeks, to the exasperation of Mr
Other than vague threats of a unilateral declaration of
independence, he made no proposals of his own whatsoever and eventually
just walked out and launched the present violent intifada. He was not helped by the internal wrangling and
indiscipline of his own team.
Mr Barak's offer for peace was so extraordinarily broad it might never
have been sold to the Israeli population. It is quite incredible that
Mr Arafat turned it down, letting Mr Barak off the hook :
A demilitarized Palestinian State would be
established on some 92% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza
with some territorial compensation for the
Palestinians from pre-1967 Israeli territory.
Most of the settlements would be dismantled, with
the bulk of the settlers concentrated inside the 8% of
the West Bank to be annexed by Israel;
East Jerusalem would become the Palestinian capital,
with the various Arab and Christian neighborhoods reverting to
either sovereign Palestinian territory or Palestinian functional autonomy.
Temple Mount, sacred to both Muslims and Jews,
would come under Palestinian custodianship
though remain under Israeli sovereignty.
Refugees would be settled in the new Palestinian state,
though with no right of return
A massive international aid program would be
organized to facilitate the refugees' rehabilitation and compensation.
There can be only one conclusion from Camp David.
That Mr Arafat was simply incapable - or (more likely) selfishly unwilling
make peace. He knows only war and sees no function for himself in a
The Palestinians' Curse
This encapsulates the curse of ordinary well-meaning Palestinians, and
indeed citizens in nearly all Muslim countries. Most are led by corrupt,
illegitimate, selfish thugs such as Mr Arafat, and no analysis or thought
goes into their wild actions.
This was the very lament of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed
in his (in)famous valedictory speech to last October's Islamic Summit
Conference in Kuala Lumpur, remembered for the line
Jews Rule the World by Proxy. But his true message was
that fourteen centuries of Muslim failure are because Muslims, unlike
Jews, lash out blindly at their enemies, instead of thinking first.
fact, as Muslim pundit Irshad Manji says in her new book
Trouble with Islam,
their clergy actively prevent free thought and this has led directly to
Mr Arafat goes, to be replaced by a thinker with
| some sort of democratic
| a genuine desire for a solution and |
| an ability to think,
perhaps like the short-lived previous prime minister Abu
the Palestinians have
absolutely no hope for peace or victory, regardless of how many
suicide-bombers their cowardly leaders dispatch. Their outlook
is truly bleak.
by large enemies who openly want to drive them into the sea,
are thoughtful, determined, strong, armed with nuclear weapons, democratic
and have nowhere to go. They will never give up or be
defeated. Those Holocaustan words never again ring
in their ears.
Light of Slaughter
A curious little kabuki of words was played out last week in the
columns of the (subscription-only) Irish Times and on RTÉ's Liveline
It began innocuously when Arthur Morgan, a Sinn Féin TD (member of the Irish
on 12 February that the Minister of the Environment sometimes poses for
the cameras surrounded by comely models. The Minister, he said, is treating
brightly coloured and unusual attire ... as ornaments in campaigns ... to
enhance a photo and get him publicity ... He should remember he's a
Government Minister, not Michael Schumacher, and instead be encouraging
the participation of women in politics and decision-making.
How very worthy.
Sean Ward then wrote in to ask
whether Mr Morgan also had a problem with four Sinn
Féin TDs (including Mr Morgan) being photographed, smiling proudly, beside the killers of
Detective Jerry McCabe in Castlerea Prison last year ?
Garda McCabe had been shot
dead during a post office robbery in 1996 by thugs who claimed they
were members of the IRA, even though the IRA was on ceasefire at the
time. Seventeen bullets were fired in two bursts. Four men were convicted and are currently serving sentences
of up to fourteen years.
Last September, Sinn Féin published in its weekly newspaper An
Phoblacht the photo in question, taken within Castlerea Prison (but
unfortunately I have been unable to locate a copy to share with
Mr Morgan quickly responded to Mr Ward by saying the real question should
be, Why are the prisoners
of involvement in the tragic events that led to the death of Garda
McCabe still in jail, when they should have been released a long time
ago, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement ?
That's where I stepped in with an innocent question.
Is that clumsy phrase in red
a new Sinn Féin euphemism for convicted killers
The debate then shifted to the airwaves, or tried
to. Mr Morgan refused to come on air to defend his words fearing he
would be ambushed.
Three other Sinn Fein TDs likewise refused to come on air. From
slaughtering Garda McCabe, the discussion moved
to the ethics of the IRA's blowing up of Lord Mountbatten in 1979 together
with an old lady and two young boys. Other ex-IRA Shinners made
| to avoid calling
killers killers, |
| to avoid apologising
for killing bystanders, |
| to justify killing for Ireland.
It went on
for three days. The level of Irish fury at IRA behaviour and Sinn Féin
was extraordinary. I've never heard anything like it.
Sinn Féin needs to keep well out of such public discussions in the
future if it doesn't want to be heavily punished in the polls.
EU Meetings Upset Others
On 10th October 2001,
Belgium in its role as EU President, hosted a summit of EU leaders at
Ghent. But Romano Prodi, Silvio Berlusconi and others took great offence
when Jacques Chirac set up a private one-hour pre-meeting with Gerhard
Schroeder and Tony Blair to discuss Afghanistan. It was unprecedented for
such a meeting of EU leaders to take place outside the framework of the
Then just three weeks
later, even more umbrage was caused when Tony
Messrs Chirac and Schroeder to 10
Downing Street for a private little dinner party for further talks about
ejecting the ruling Taliban out of Afghanistan.
Mr Berlusconi and Spain's
José María Aznar wondered why they were being excluded, considering the
earlier row. Oh, all right then, Tony Blair eventually told
you can come to my dinner party too.
enough. Hours before the aperitifs were served and the hors d'oeuvres hit the table,
Guy Verhofstad, prime minister of Belgium which then held the EU
presidency and - oddly - the EU's High Representative
Javier Solana demanded an invitation,
so they got one too. So, at short notice, poor Cherie had to
increase the seating arrangement from a cosy three to a bad-tempered
seven. And still the other non-invited EU leaders were
How then was Gerhard
Shroeder able last week to assemble the same Big Three Cabal that had got
Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair into hot water, with barely a squeak out of
the rest of the EU, nor even EU President Bertie Ahern of Ireland, today's
EU President ?
Maybe because no food and drink was involved.
But the others have
made it clear that they have absolutely no intention of implementing any of the
bright ideas about competitiveness dreamt up by the
Cabal. So there.
The case against
gay marriage is based on the axiom that marriage is the union of a man
with a woman. To extend it to
same-sex unions would undermine the sacred institution
of true marriage.
The case for
is anti-discrimination. If
straights can marry each other why not gays? And if gays commit to each other through marriage, it would surely
reduce undesirable promiscuity amongst gays, while in no way affect a
single marriage of the man-woman variety.
Where to go from here ?
First, the sacred
institution is already grievously undermined by heterosexuals. For what other function has divorce? And the more liberal the divorce laws, the more undermined is
marriage. There is great
entertainment in Britney Spears 55-hour
marriage and Zsa Zsa Gabors eight,
not to mention Henry VIIIs six
which started it all (in the English-speaking world anyway). But
these and countless other examples of a frivolous approach to marriage all
serve to undermine its central tenet that it should be an inviolable
union until death do us part.
With easy divorce available on demand, we can therefore unless
constrained by religious beliefs go into marriage in a much more
relaxed state of mind than if it were a real life sentence.
And for a further
undermining of marriage, just think how in France you can
even marry a corpse, which of course begs the question does
it only dissolve when the second partner dies?
(Or, indeed, when the corpse dissolves.)
Thus, there is surely a
case for having two discrete institutions.
One would be an
inviolable lifetime union (marriage) with no possibility
of divorce, a contract closely aligned with religious customs, a
marriage that is essentially un-underminable.
The other would be a
civil union with clauses dealing with, inter alia, duration. For
one-year, five-year, ten-year term, or evergreen union, renewable or
otherwise, with or without mutual termination provisions. This
would be deliberately flexible in nature, requiring only that the
couple agree terms and conditions before signing up.
Underminability would be built in.
Each type of union would
attract the same civil advantages of marriage, such as tax breaks,
inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights etc.
But the civil union would permit people with doubts to be more
honest in their vows.
Now for the gays.
Reserving marriage for man-woman
unions (excluding corpses and animals) is not actually discriminatory.
For no gay is prevented from marrying someone of the opposite sex;
institution is equally closed to same-sex unions whether the participants
be heterosexual or homosexual.
may sound pedantic, uncompassionate, unreasonable, but it's not discriminatory.
Under a two-union regime,
the more flexible civil union would be open to same-sex couples, though not marriage.
This would take care of all the factors, real or imagined, that
undermine traditional marriage.
In the longer term, as
society becomes more accustomed to the concept of gay civil unions, people
may see that gays would not be undermining traditional marriage, and that many are opting for lifetime
durations - and sticking to them. In that case, it will be time to re-consider whether marriage be opened to gays
But it is too much of a
leap to do so in one fell swoop today.
It is more pressing to re-establish marriage as a sacred
institution for those who want it.
Note (January 2008): Over the following three years or so, I
changed my position somewhat. Like, totally. Have a look at
which I posted in November 2007 and my
newspaper column and discussion which followed this.
Kerry's Accidental Heroics
Weve heard the stories.
George Bush is a faithful deserter; John Kerry is an adulterous war
hero. Mark Steyn picks the
apart in a scabrous piece.
But lets have a closer look
at the war hero part.
Where Mr Bush wangled himself
into the Texas Air National Guard and became a fighter pilot, Mr Kerry
volunteered for Vietnam service in 1966, which was very patriotic,
courageous and creditable. However
by volunteering instead of waiting to be drafted, Mr Kerry was allowed to
choose his service. He chose
the US Navy, where only pilots were seeing much combat and he wasnt a
pilot. Moreover it positioned
him to try for officer candidate school, a cinch for a Yale graduate.
All in all, an excellent Vietnam survival plan.
According to Tour
of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, he spent his first few
months of duty serving on a ship offshore, the frigate USS Gridley, far
from the reach of the Vietcong. By
the time he was an officer, he asked in 1968 for the command of one of the
aluminium vessels, so-called Swift boats, that were
confined to doing uneventful (and safe) Coast Guard patrol duty off Vietnam.
But it was his bad luck that a
few weeks later the mission changed, and the Swifts were sent perilously
up Vietnamese rivers into the heart of the enemy, essentially to draw its
fire. So it was that Mr Kerry saw action, largely against enemy (and
sometimes civilian) junks. In fairness he distinguished himself in
combat, earning a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.
He was also wounded, which qualified him for an early trip home,
which he gratefully took.
Mr Kerry is to be admired for
his undoubted heroics under fire, but it is relevant to point out that he
faced action despite every effort he made to avoid it, and he then bailed
out at the earliest opportunity.
He was an accidental hero.
Meanwhile, Mr Bushs own
Vietnam survival plan had him flying F102 fighter planes all over Texas
and keeping the Mexican Airforce at bay.
Though he was no hero and faced no combat, last weeks piece
Baa Two Bags Full suggests that even his war was not all beer and
skittles. Though by all accounts
there was plenty of beer.
a strictly arithmetical viewpoint It goes like this:
makes one hundred percent ?
does it mean to give MORE than 100% ? Ever wonder about those people who
say they are giving more than 100% ? We have all been to those meetings
where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 103%
What makes up 100% in life ?
a little arithmetical formula (thanks, Zeynap) that might help you answer these questions:
HEY, look how far ass kissing will take you.
one can then conclude with mathematical certainty that while
and Hard work will get you close, and
will get you there,
and Ass kissing will put you over the top.
Quote of the Week
: Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear.
John Edwards, the only remaining serious challenger
to frontrunner John Kerry,
and the candidate the Republicans fear most,
reminds Mr Kerry in Wisconsin t
hat his 40%-to-34% lead is only slender
THE ARCHIVE and LINKS BARS AT TOP LEFT and RIGHT, FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE
#67 - 15th February 2004
During the Iraq War
I attended a seminar recently on ethics in the media,
and found particularly interesting the concluding talk by Richard Downes,
a foreign correspondent with Irelands state broadcaster RTÉ,
who covered the Iraq war from Baghdad.
or In Bed The Search for Truth in
War, but since it wont be published for some months, let
me share some key points.
There were three principle categories of Western
reporter in the lead-up to and during the war
Those in Baghdad working for juggernauts like the
BBC, CNN, Reuters, ITN, Fox, Sky
Those in Baghdad working for minor broadcasters
Those embedded and travelling with either the US
or British forces
He contrasted the role and freedom of the three
Not only were Category 1, because of their prominence,
monitored by better-quality Iraqi minders.
But their 24/7 rolling news format, with live dispatches every 15
or 30 minutes, meant they could never leave the hotel, even for an hour,
which necessarily restricted their ability to gather good quality data.
Conversely, Mr Downes and his ilk in Category 2 could
roam fairly freely, tell lies to their minders, evade them from time to
time, hide proscribed broadcasting equipment, and thus see and talk to
ordinary Baghdadis. This
enabled more of the human stories to emerge, such as a mini-epidemic of
gastro-enteritis that broke out days before the war, just when hospitals
were closing down and staff leaving for fear of what was to come.
Nevertheless, Iraqi minders made special effort to
keep reporters from seeing bomb damage in Baghdad, especially in the early
stages of the war. However,
as the war progressed and they began to see the writing on the wall, those
minders eased their draconian control and eventually slipped away back to
The world of the Category 3 embeds was very different
again. There were 777 of
them, including - interestingly one French crew embedded with the US
forces. Wearing the same
fatigues as the soldiers, eating and sleeping among them, the embeds got
to see real front-line action, but then were severely constrained by the
Military in what they could report. Each
had been required to sign up to a stringent set of ground rules, with the
sanction of being sent home (terminated)
should they disobey them. (The
US Military have made the rules available online as a 48kb pdf file here,
but in such a difficult format that I have transcribed the document into a
more reader-friendly version in htm here.)
On first reading, the ground rules suggest a rather
liberal regime. However, everything broadcast was subject to
clearance by the unit commander, and he was not generous.
The list of items forbidden to be broadcast made most reports
thoroughly anodyne, as anyone who watched the broadcasts can attest.
Juicy bits left out would usually include identification of
locations, troop numbers/types/names, aircraft, equipment, movements,
methodology, tactics, special operations and particularly enemy
effectiveness. In other
words, pretty much everything of interest.
Yet, bizarrely, the ground rules end by saying that
lipstick (yes) and helmet-mounted cameras on combat sorties were not only
approved but encouraged to the greatest extent possible !
Only two journalists were actually de-embedded.
Philip Smucker of the Christian Science Monitor was removed for speaking
freely to a CNN interviewer but it turned out he wasnt properly embedded anyway.
When Judith Miller of the New York Times embedded with a special operations
team requested to be moved to a different unit because she was unhappy, she promptly found herself
out of action in Kuwait.
With information an intrinsic part of the war effort,
the Military did not shrink from sometimes feeding false stories to their
embeds, including the so-called
For embedded journalists, therefore, the Military
that was hosting them was in fact the enemy of good journalism.
Dedicated journalists had to resist the trap of becoming military
mouthpieces and find every way to circumvent the restrictions without
being terminated. Similarly
it was the Militarys job to prevent this, because for them information,
the journalist's stock-in-trade, was often intelligence,
to be guarded jealously.
For non-embedded journalists, such as Mr Downes, the
problem was the Iraqi Ministry of Information and its minders.
Therefore it was incumbent on reporters to bribe, ignore, lie to
and subvert the officials in every way possible.
This included applying both low-tech and high-tech solutions as
appropriate. He gave the
example of spending just $500 on a wooden hut installed on the roof of the
Palestine Hotel, in which he could lock himself in order to use
sophisticated recording and transmitting equipment unsupervised.
In the modern age, no major military operations will
again be undertaken without close media observation.
For this reason, the Military has in recent years set about
acquiring the skills necessary to deal with the media.
Even the tiny Irish army has sponsored officers on MA and PhD
courses in media studies.
Likewise, however, it is equally incumbent on
journalists to acquire military skills, yet the media industry has by and
large been derelict in this area. No
media outlet would assign to a business story a reporter who lacks
financial expertise. But they
think nothing of sending into military situations reporters who have no
knowledge at all about military matters.
Mr Downes concluded his talk with a plea for
journalists to recognize their need to acquire military expertise before
going into battle again.
From a reader's
perspective, this talk drove home to me the need to read many
sources for information about a war - embeds, non-embeds, major outlets,
minor publications and of course blogs from both sides.
In this way, as was
the case with Iraq, you can get a reasonably accurate overall picture,
which because of constraints and often flimsy evidence, no one reporter
Warfare in Warri, Nigeria
Historically, three major
tribal groups inhabit the swampy region of the Delta State of
The Ijaws, living
in poverty and deprivation in the muddy inlets and channels of this part
of the Niger Delta;
The Itsekiri, seen as the wealthiest, landowners; and
The Urhobo, a kind of middle class, or merchant.
the lawless oil town of Warri (pop 600,000), these distinctions
are hijacked by street gangs of disaffected youths battling for control of
different swathes of the squalid conurbation, wherein they suck an evil living
through protection rackets that gather piles of low value Naira notes from
fearful stall holders, shopkeepers, small businessmen.
Behind and loosely controlling
the street gangs, tribal chiefs play a crude game of territorial dominoes
and front up with local political aspirants who stand for election for the
few constituencies within the town. As an election season nears, so the
general level of local violence rises.
A recent election was preceded by
nearly three months of kidnappings by Ijaws. Kidnap income is used to
stock up with small arms and ammunition and so gain an upper hand on
opponents. Expatriate workers are especially favoured because they
will always command much higher ransoms than locals.
During those three pre-election months,
therefore, seventeen expatriates were kidnapped at various times by Ijaw youths. Some
had been taken at gunpoint from popular bars late in the evening. Two
Eastern Europeans were grabbed as they came out of Lords, the only
gambling hall in town. And
most bizarre, the headmaster of the sole expatriate school and his four year
old son were spirited away from the waterfront within an oil company
residential camp. They were forced into the bottom of a dugout
canoe, covered with blankets and paddled off to the nearest village.
All in the end were
freed in exchange for handsome if unacknowledged payments.
Yet all this kidnapping
and violence is having but one outcome : it is reducing the value of what the gangs
are fighting for. Businesses are leaving Warri in droves and heading for Port
Harcourt in the East, the oil companies are shifting their operations to there and
thus the total wealth left in Warri reduces.
The Ibos, Ogonis etc of the Port Harcourt area are smiling.
Read the rest of Michael's whimsical tale Henry
to the Rescue, set against this backdrop.
Last week I tumbled for the first time (thanks, Frank)
on the blog of Mark
Humphrys, robustly and unapologetically describing itself as
|Pro-free private life: Atheist. Pro-science. Pro-reason. Pro-free
speech. Pro-liberal democracy.|
|Pro-free economic life: Pro-capitalist. Pro-West.|
|Pro-interventionist: Anti-isolationist. End tyranny everywhere.
End communism. End Islamic law.|
Particularly sparky is a recent ding-dong with the Irish
Peace Society which he accuses of being
They take offense of course and what follows is a lengthy e-mail
give you a flavour, the IPS calls itself to be
and non-discriminatory an all matters of race, ethnic origin, religion,
sex and any other form of discrimination ... [and] seek[s] to promote
the study, appreciation and awareness of peace ...
But Mark takes it to task for, inter alia, consorting with Hizbollah
without condemning it for bombing the Israeli
Embassy in Buenos Aires (in 1993 killing 29), as well as its other
attacks on civilians.
I thought you were a peace
society. Surely you would be against all killers?
Now I'm not against all killers myself. I'm in favour of the
Israeli military for example. But then again I don't believe in peace
and non-violence. I believe in western victory.
You don't often hear such a blunt defense of violence. In similar
vein, he fillets every pro-peace argument that the IPS advances. Read the
whole exchange, and other posts. They're nothing if not entertaining,
as well as thought-provoking.
That's why I've added Mark to my blogroll.
Baa Baa, Two Bags Full
Last November, Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated
(subscription-only) wrote the article below, titled
detailing his experiences when given the opportunity to fly in a
F-14 Tomcat. Thanks, Eileen, for alerting me.
this message is for America's most famous athletes: Someday you may be
invited to fly in the back-seat of one of your country's most powerful
fighter jets. Many of you
already have ... John Elway,
John Stockton, Tiger Woods to name a few.
If you get this opportunity, let me urge you, with the greatest
your own death!
you do ...
know. The U.S. Navy
invited me to try it. I was
thrilled. I was pumped. I was toast! I should've known when they told me my pilot
would be Chip (Biff) King of Fighter Squadron 213 at Naval Air Station
Oceana in Virginia Beach.
you're thinking a Top Gun named Chip (Biff) King looks like, triple it.
He's about six-foot, tan, ice-blue eyes, wavy surfer hair,
finger-crippling handshake -- the kind of man who wrestles dyspeptic
alligators in his leisure time. If
you see this man, run the other way.
King was born to fly. His
father, Jack King, was for years the voice of NASA missions.
(T-minus 15 seconds and counting ... Remember?) Chip
would charge neighborhood kids a quarter each to hear his dad.
Jack would wake up from naps surrounded by nine-year-olds waiting
for him to say, We have a liftoff.
was to fly me in an F-14D Tomcat, a ridiculously powerful $60 million
weapon with nearly as much thrust as weight, not unlike Colin Montgomerie.
I was worried about getting airsick, so the night before the flight
I asked Biff if there was something I should eat the next morning.
the potassium? I asked.
Biff said, because they taste about the same coming up as they do
next morning, out on the tarmac, I had on my flight suit with my name sewn
over the left breast. (No
call sign -- like Crash or Sticky or Leadfoot ....
but, still, very cool.) I carried my helmet in the crook of my arm,
as Biff had instructed. If
ever in my life I had a chance to nail Nicole Kidman, this was it.
fighter pilot named Psycho gave me a safety briefing and then fastened me
into my ejection seat, which, when employed, would egress me
out of the plane at such a velocity that I would be immediately knocked
as I was thinking about aborting the flight, the canopy closed over me,
and Biff gave the ground crew a thumbs-up.
In minutes we were firing nose up at 600 mph.
We leveled out and then canopy-rolled over another F-14.
twenty minutes were the rush of my life.
Unfortunately, the ride lasted eighty.
It was like being on the roller coaster at Six Flags Over Hell.
Only without rails. We
did barrel rolls, sap rolls, loops, yanks and banks.
We dived, rose and dived again, sometimes with a vertical velocity
of 10,000 feet per minute. We
chased another F-14, and it chased us.
broke the speed of sound. Sea
was sky and sky was sea. Flying
at 200 feet we did 90-degree turns at 550 mph, creating a G-force of 6.5,
which is to say I felt as if 6.5 times my body weight was smashing against
me, thereby approximating life as Mrs Colin Montgomerie.
I egressed the bananas. Baa. I
egressed the pizza from the night before.
the lunch before that. I
egressed a box of Milk Duds from the sixth grade.
I made Linda Blair look polite.
Because of the Gs, I was egressing stuff that did not even want to
be egressed. I went through
not one airsick bag, but two.
said I passed out. Twice.
I was coated in sweat. At
one point, as we were coming in upside down in a banked curve on a mock
bombing target and the Gs were flattening me like a tortilla and I was in
and out of consciousness, I realized I was the first person in history to
used to know cool. Cool was
Elway throwing a touchdown pass, or Norman making a five-iron bite.
But now I really know cool. Cool
is guys like Biff, men with cast-iron stomachs and freon nerves.
I wouldn't go up there again for Derek Jeter's black book, but I'm
glad Biff does every day, and for less a year than a rookie reliever makes
in a home stand.
week later, when the spins finally stopped, Biff called.
He said he and the fighters had the perfect call sign for me.
Said he'd send it on a patch for my flight suit.
is it? I asked.
Two items for idle people.
While sitting at your desk or behind your PC, lift your right foot off the floor and
make clockwise circles. Now, while doing this, draw the number
couple of times in the air with your right hand.
Your foot will change direction and there's nothing you can do about
Quote of the Week
: We know full well that these are difficult decisions but those
single states which until now have enjoyed total sovereignty must learn to
relinquish a part of that sovereignty . . . They must learn to take into
account European interests rather than selfish national ones.
Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy,
advancing a novel concept,
that national interests should take second place to EU interests,
in order to persuade Spain and Poland
to reduce their voting rights
by agreeing the baleful EU Constitutional Treaty.
actually means that Spain's and Poland's interests
should take second place to Germany's and France's
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#66 - 1st February 2004
Human Rights Watch and
I am getting a little weary of ploughing through weighty tomes or
listening to worthy lectures by seemingly benevolent organizations that
are the pillars of society, only to find them misleading or untruthful or
- to coin a topical phrase - sexing up their message to ensure it fits
with their ideology.
I've written before about
|the corruption-loving Irish charities Trócaire and
|the UNs dissembling Food and Agriculture Organization
which claims hunger is getting worse when its own figures show the opposite; |
(and poverty-prolonging) Kyoto protocol so beloved by
deluded environmentalists; |
|Amnesty International's reluctance
to condemn Saddam's human rights abuses, lest it encourage military
action and lead to fewer donations; also it's embrace
of communist ideology for children|
This time it's the New York-based Human Rights Watch in its
latest 407-page Annual, titled World
Report 2004: Human Rights and Armed Conflict
(pdf, 1.6 Mb). Broken into fifteen essays, its
central message is that Messrs Bush and Blair should not try to
justify the Iraq war retrospectively as an effort to save human life.
Kenneth Roth, HRW's executive director has written the keynote essay, called
War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian
Intervention. Its a long (5,700 word) rambling, turgid, piece riddled with repetition, generous with distortion and
And it seethes with spite for US
Republicans. All America's sins are committed in the 1980s and early
90s and during the War on Terror. Curiously, none happened between
1992 and 2000.
Its heavy going believe me.
The essay boils down to propounding six conditions which must be met
to justify humanitarian intervention using military force, and then
showing that these went unmet.
All but one make sense, but it is fascinating how Roth bends and
shapes the evidence to prove his foregone conclusion.
Let's look at them.
One : Only large-scale murder can justify the death, destruction, and
disorder that so often are inherent in war and its aftermath.
As examples that meet this condition, Roth quotes
the recent interventions in Congo, Liberia and Cote dIvoire, all
led of course by France, backed by the UN and supported by the invaded
Governments. However he
says the American participation
in Liberia was so small it had little effect (tell that
to the Liberians who begged them to intervene and whose arrival
finally brought the fighting to a close).
Iraq, he says the killings in 1988 (Kurdish genocide) and 1991
(suppression of the post-Gulf War Shiite rebellion) would have
justified military intervention but it was not forthcoming (the
Americans can get nothing right).
contrast, the killing rate in
March 2003 was insufficient for HRW to warrant action
it wants a peak of killing, not just a steady pre-war annual death
rate of 30,000. 30,000 is the
accepted number, and it comprises judicial and death-squad killings as
well as avoidable deaths due to starvation, malnutrition and disease
caused because Saddam hijacked the copious oil-for-food money.
30,000 unnatural deaths a year - 82 daily - are too few to
Condition Two : Military
action must be the last reasonable option to halt or prevent slaughter.
apply public, diplomatic and economic pressure on Iraq (has he not
heard of 12 years of UN sanctions ?), and wait for it
indict Saddam at some international court.
would eventually have undermined Saddam and caused his downfall.
For evidence of success, he cites the fall of Serbias Slobodon
Milosovic and Liberias Charles Taylor, while conveniently forgetting
that bombs on Serbia and Western soldiers in Monrovia may have played
just a miniscule role in destroying their respective power bases.
other words, the patent illogic of Roth's own ridiculous solution leads
to the conclusion that military action was the last
Condition Three : Intervention
must be guided primarily by a humanitarian purpose
The perceived threat of
WMD, not humanitarianism, was undoubtedly the primary purpose of the
war. This of course
gets rubbished by Roth in light of current knowledge, but at the time
absolutely everyone believed those weapons were
there. Even, as we also now know, Saddams own generals.
But Roth makes out that
humanitarianism was only a minor factor, which is not true.
Look again at Tony Blairs December 2002 dossier
(pdf, 197 kb) on Saddams crimes and human rights abuses,
whose sole purpose was to make the humanitarian case. Unlike
his other two dossiers, this was neither sexed up nor
plagiarised from the internet, though Amnesty
objected to the use of some of their data.
However, I would maintain
that Condition Three is in any case wrong-footed.
If the humanitarian purpose is strong, why does it also have to
be primary ? Another
purpose may be even stronger, but that doesn't make the humanitarian one
Condition Four : Intervention
must itself respect international human rights and humanitarian law.
I doubt there is ever a
war that never contravenes this condition, yet there is no doubt that
the US went to exceptional lengths to minimise civilian casualties.
Indeed, Roth can come up with only two examples, one
questionable, the other relatively minor under the circumstances.
America used cluster
bombs in populated areas (this is a fair complaint, though I am not sure
if it's correct - I remember both accusations and denials).
America bombed a few
where it believed Saddam was hiding and in so doing killed innocent
civilians. True, but had the missions been successful, Iraq might
have crumbled even faster with even fewer casualties.
Condition Five : Intervention
must do more good than harm
is really miserable here, because even he cannot
claim that Iraqis are worse off now than in Saddams time. Therefore
hes reduced to saying, ever hopefully, that
chaos or abusive
civil war might well become even deadlier, and it is too early to say
whether such violence might still emerge in Iraq.
And anyway, that one factor, in light of the failure to
meet the other criteria, does not make the intervention humanitariant
: Intervention should
be endorsed by the UN Security Council or other significant multilateral
here, Roth wont face the truth.
The unanimously adopted UN Security Council UN
Resolution 1441 of November 2002 required
Iraq, under pain of serious consequences, to prove it was
no longer in material breach of umpteen prior disarmament resolutions
- which it failed to do. Other than the Iraqi ambassador, nobody at the UN
debate at which it was passed suggested that serious
meant other than military action.
Its of course correct that a further
(and legally unnecessary) UN resolution was not passed and that France, Germany and Russia
backtracked furiously when they realised their threat of serious
consequences was about to be delivered.
But thats all history.
Whats been shown is that UN endorsement is in fact not
needed at all, as it wasnt when President Clinton bombed Serbia. It's
a nice-to-have but not a must.
The US went to war first for fear of WMD and
second to rescue the Iraqi people. Subsequent events have shown that
the abuses on the Iraqis were considerably worse than envisaged whereas
the WMD are considerably less.
Human Rights Watch want to deny the humanitarian
part of this finding and wish the Iraqis had not been freed of Saddam if
it means making the a US Republican administration look good.
Finally, its worth recounting the rather
thin gruel that is the best Roth can come up with about Americas dastardly support of Saddam
during the (Republican) reigns of Reagan and Bush Snr. The US
intelligence information to Iraq during the Iran/Iraq war,
commodity credits and import loan guarantees, and
permission for Iraq to use its helicopters to suppress the 1991 Shiite uprising.
Compare this with Saddams
arms suppliers. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,
over the period 1973-2002,
Iraq spent 82 times as much on weapons bought from peaceniks Russia/USSR, France and China,
compared with weapons from the
warmongering US, Britain and Australia.
No a word from Roth on this.
So, on the basis of this dishonest essay, Human
Rights Watch is another do-gooder organization that is added to my list of
Why must they misrepresent, mislead and obfuscate, whilst
pretending to be benevolent ?
Immigration and Repopulation
Immigration is a terribly touchy subject in European countries, because
it gets tied up with colonialism, racism, freeloading, birthrates, culture
clashes, all of which to varying degrees are forbidden subjects for
Lack of discussion leads to woolly thinking which makes sensible
discussion even harder.
So it is worthwhile sometimes to go back to basics; to
personalise things. For in the end what is society is but a collection of
persons, with the family as the basic unit of organization ?
As a fundamental principle, I am entitled to invite into my home anyone I
want, for as long as I want (though whether
he/she wants to enter is another matter !), and not invite those I don't . Moreover if someone is,
say, being flayed alive on my front doorstep, I have a moral obligation to
bring him in and provide refuge even if he is no friend of
Second principle. Once I have invited someone in, I am obliged to
treat him as respectfully as everyone else in the house for as long as he is with me. He/she is my guest, not
a freeloader and not a slave.
Whether my household is improved or disimproved by these arrangements
is my responsibility, no-one else's. I must live with the
And so it should be with countries. Countries can open their
doors to whomever they like, keep out whomever they don't like and not
apologise to anyone for their decisions. Yet they too must be prepared
to take the consequences, including any flak from criticisers.
Under such principles, Australia had every right to run a whites-only
immigration policy up to the 1970s, just as today it has every right to allow only young,
wealthy, educated people to immigrate. Both are discriminatory but
so what, it's their country.
Australia's whites-only policy crumbled under international
pressure, which it eventually felt was doing more harm than the policy was
supposedly doing good, but the policy itself was not morally wrong.
What was morally wrong was when they treated their aborigines poorly, grabbing their
land, snatching their children. Wrong because the abos were its own
residents and worthy to be treated with the same respect as other
Japan is another country which to this day lets in almost no-one who is
not ethnically Japanese (which is why Peru's erstwhile crooked president
Alberto Fujimori is able to hide out there). But they are wrong to
treat, for example, their few Korean residents, many descended from
slaves, as second class citizens.
Similarly, all countries are entitled to set whatever immigration
standards they want. And when you look at civil conflicts around the
world, it is notable that warring parties nearly all divide along ethnic,
tribal or religious lines.
| Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Nigeria,
Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Israel/Palestine and especially Rwanda to name but a few. |
| And even
when civil war is absent, there is usually civil tension between groupings
- in America, most Latin American countries, Malaysia, England. |
By contrast, you never hear of civil conflict or tension within
(almost) ethnically-pure Japan or South Korea, or for that matter
predominantly white Catholic southern Ireland.
Why then, if you have a choice, would you not want your immigrants to
|as similar to your indigenous population as possible, and |
|able to fill shortages in your own workforce and population, |
so as to maximise the chances of smooth and complete integration within
a generation or two ?
Accepting foreigners is always difficult in
any culture. Where is the virtue in making this more difficult by
encouraging immigrants of different race or beliefs, when there are less
alien alternatives around ? Of course, a country doesn't always have a
choice - it may have to look further afield to find immigrants able and
willing to take up the jobs (whether skilled or unskilled) that it has
to offer, or consider time-limited work permits, in which case that's what
it should do.
But its immigration policy should not be driven by an ideology that
says being different is no grounds for refusal. In an open, democratic society, immigration policy should
be unapologetically tailored to the short- and long-term benefit of the
indigenous population not the immigrants. Naturally, once an
immigrant has immigrated, he/she becomes a de-facto indigene and should
thereafter be treated as such - and should make every effort to behave as
such. The grave responsibility of immigrants to integrate
themselves into their host society is often ignored, in favour of praising
immigrant ghettos for their differences and multicultural diversity.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a recent
to the EU parliament, notes that Europe, Japan, Russia and South Korea are all
running short of people, and encourages them to open their doors to
Migrants are part of the solution, not part of
But even he remarks that
it is the sovereign right of all states to decide which
voluntary migrants they will accept, and on what terms,
though the tone of the speech suggests the opposite.
surely the smoothest solution of all is to produce more babies ? Yet just as you will never hear a politician say that immigrants
should be as similar as possible to the natives, you will also never hear
him propounding policies that encourage higher birthrates.
This is a mystery. For confront any citizen with the following
alternatives for increasing the population :
- more native babies,
- more immigrants similar to natives, or
- more immigrants dissimilar to natives,
and it will be very hard to find anyone who wants to prioritise the list
Therefore, in open democratic societies, why does this not form the
basis of population policy ?
Asylum is a separate issue of humanitarianism, unrelated to the need
People being unjustly persecuted in their country are entitled to expect
asylum in another. But equally, the receiving country is
entitled to take any necessary, humane steps to determine whether the asylum-seeker is
genuine or not. There is therefore nothing wrong with placing asylum claimants
in (well appointed) detention centres while ascertaining their genuineness,
throwing out the frauds - having charged them for board and lodging.
Indeed it is hard to imagine genuine
asylum-seekers objecting to temporary detention if they are truly in fear
of their lives back home.
Meanwhile, however, the bad-tempered debate rumbles on about open
borders, migrant freeloaders, multiculturism, racism etc.
Ireland is on the point of introducing a ban on smoking in the
workplace, which includes pubs. (Before Christmas, this blog hosted
some in-depth discussion about the science and merits of this.)
I was astonished to learn recently of the existence of herbal
cigarettes. These are apparently not covered by the ban because they
contain no tobacco, and are therefore to be touted as an alternative
to tobacco cigarettes, to be loaded into cigarette machines in pubs and
They sound disgusting and I cannot imagine any hardened nicotine addict
persevering for long with puffing on the fumes of chamomile, parsley,
thyme, lavender etc.
Nevertheless, the health industry has been quick to condemn herbal
cigs. The Irish Cancer Society tells
Smoking herbal cigarettes is not a safe alternative, as these 'pseudo cigarettes' contain tar which is a carcinogen and other harmful substances such as carbon
Schroeder Standing Tall
Gerhard Schroeder, esteemed Chancellor of Germany, is nothing if not
genuine. And he would like you to know he's a macho but modest
kind of guy.
That's why he objected when in April 2002 Stern magazine ran a cover
with him pictured paunchy and nude, his propriety protected only by a large (of course) fig
leaf in the colours of his ruling coalition.
why around the same time he sued Germany's DDP news agency for claiming that he dyed his
hair - quel horreur.
Extraordinarily, he won,
though the judge failed to rule on whether Mr Schroeder's hair was
actually dyed or not. (I guess no-one plucked a sample.)
Let's hope the intrepid Chancellor is not equally successful should he
choose to sue David
Kaspar or the photographer (or perhaps this blog) for suggesting that the little pixie augments his
Queen of Clubs
First we had the would-be Queen of Hearts, though
she never made it
Now it's the Queen of Clubs after Queen Elizabeth was photographed
switching off a pheasant's lights with several thwacks of her walking
stick after shotguns wounded but didn't kill it.
Perhaps we should try to build up another pack of cards, like those three
Saddam-inspired decks :
- The US Military's Iraq's
with Saddam himself as the King of Spades;
- The Deck
with one card for each of 54 leaders and celebrities who opposed
America over the war, and
- The Deck
of Vast Right Wing Conspiracy,
the term invented by Hilary Clinton for those who didn't feel her
husband made a worthy president.
Who would be in the Windsor deck besides the said Queen of Clubs and
Queen of Hearts ?
|Charles - with his knavish disdain of Diana and love
of rural pursuits and earthy things/women, could be the Knave of Spades,
pending promotion to King of Spades. |
| The eternally
bejewelled late queen mother would have to be Queen of Diamonds. |
|Lover-boy Andrew, the Knave of Hearts, |
|Anne with her nose like an inverted 7 and her unruly dogs, the seven
of clubs. |
|William, the Joker. |
|Dozy Edward, the - well - two of ... nothing ? |
I could go on, but you'll be glad to hear I won't.
Quote of the Week
is just flipping unbelievable. He is a mixture of Harry Houdini and a
greased piglet. He is barely human in his elusiveness. Nailing Blair is
like trying to pin jelly to a wall
Conservative MP and columnist,
the colourful blond bomber Boris Johnson,
marvelling at the British prime minister's political resilience
after he was cleared of wrongdoing by the Hutton enquiry.
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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
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
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 =
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics