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TALLRITE BLOG 
ARCHIVE

This archive, organized into months, and indexed by
time and alphabet,
contains all issues since inception, including the current week.

You can write to me at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com
(Clumsy form of my address to thwart spamming software that scans for e-mail addresses)

Ill-informed and Objectionable Comment by an anonymous reader

February 2009
The Tallrite Blog returns from two months of enforced hiatus

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ISSUE #186 - 1st February 2009

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ISSUE #187 - 8th February 2009

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ISSUE #188 - 22nd February 2009

    

Go boss-eyed trying to read the time in Westernmost Europe on the left; answer on the right

ISSUE #188 - 22nd February 2009 [372+558=930]

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No Representation Without Taxation

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Cosying Up to Blood-Soaked Tyranny

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Ireland's Phoney Lisbon Poll

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Human Imagination

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New Seat Belt System

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Issue 188’s Comments to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 188

No Representation Without Taxation

No taxation without representation!

This was the rallying cry of uppity colonial English settlers in His Majesty's thirteen British colonies in North America, from 1763 to 1776.  These rebels considered it fundamentally wrong and unjust that they should have to pay taxes decided by the Mother of All Parliaments in faraway London without having any MPs sitting there to represent them.  After a lot of blood and thunder, they eventually broke away from the imperialistic yoke of (Mad) King George III and in 1776 declared their own little country of 2½ million, which they called the United States of America. 

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Unlike Rhodesia's UDI in 1965, the USA is still a country today, with the same 1776 constitution, albeit with a few amendments.  That means the USA has been around as a constitutional state for more years than most European countries combined (the next most ancient being Britain, Belgium and Ireland).    But I digress. 

From its inception, the USA was set up as a democracy in which elected representatives met in a Congress and a Senate to decide on laws and, yes, taxation.  You would not be taxed unless you were represented.  In those early days you had to be male, white and a land-owner to get a vote or get elected.  But it was a start and over time the franchise became universal, to the extent that the first mixed-race president was elected in 2008. 

No taxation without representation is still a fundamental principle, not only in America but in all democracies, but over the last century it has been undermined in a perverse way no-one could have anticipated. 

For fewer and fewer people are actually paying tax. 

In the interests of fairness and compassion, parliaments have long freed those at the bottom of the financial ladder from the need to pay tax.  They have enough burdens on their back trying to feed and house their families from a small income without extracting further money from them in the form of taxes.  Similarly, those on lower pay are taxed at lower rates than those whose hefty salaries render them able to contribute more. No right-minded person can dispute the fundamental justice of these notions.  Sympathy for the less fortunate goes further: many with very low - or no - earnings are given welfare payments, which could be viewed as a kind of negative tax. 

The challenge is to get the balance right:

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collecting sufficient revenue to provide the services people need or want (defence, law-and-order, infrastructure, health, education etc)

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through an equitable distribution of tax demands according to citizens' ability to pay

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(while minimising cheating).

Instinctively, one would think - and indeed hope - that those unlucky enough to be so poor that they are spared tax would be a small minority, and that indeed over time, they would have a good chance of dragging themselves out of their financial hole and would want to do so. 

When compassionate tax and welfare schemes were first established, people too poor to be taxed would indeed not have been very numerous.  But that's not the case any more. 

Over time, the proportion of people in the prosperous democracies who pay no tax and has crept up to astonishing proportions. 

A couple of weeks ago, mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York city (pop 8.2 million) observed that just one percent of his city's households, ie 40,000 people, pay half the city's taxes.  The Economist reports this week that in California in 2006 the top 1% of earners paid 48% of all income taxes. These remarkable figures would be consistent with the Economist's earlier observation of America as a whole - that only about 66% pay tax.

Ireland mirrors this: any household making under €31,000 pa pays no tax.  Such people amount to an astonishing 36% of all income-earners - a decade ago, before the Celtic Tiger took off, it was 25%.  National prosperity, which you would have thought would have lifted people out of penury, seems to have narrowed the tax-paying base from 75% to just 64%.   It is preposterous to suggest people have on average become poorer; the only explanation is that the state has become more generous, for want of a better word. 

The percentages and trends seem to be similar in other Western democracies, and are giving rise to pernicious effects, that are becoming more visible as the credit crunch crunches. 

With tax revenues from all sources shrivelling and unemployment driving up welfare payments, Governments now, in order to avoid Iceland-style bankruptcy, having to take ferocious and unpopular measures to balance their books.  These entail, inter alia, slashing their own payroll costs - meaning the pay and jobs of thousands of public servants, as well as cutting back on essential services, and raising taxes for everyone. 

Naturally, everyone hates this and in many countries there have been street protests, in Greece, France and Lithuania for example.  In Iceland and Latvia these brought down the Government.  The strongest and most numerous objections often come from the lowest paid, for the very understandable reason that they have the least spare cash.  Their universal refrain is that richer people should take more pain and that the poor should, in effect, suffer none because they're already suffering enough through poverty. 

This line of argument should be ignored.  When pain is needed to correct a country's financial turmoil, no-one should be exempt.  No-one.  It is naive to think that only certain people - ie those who are wealthier than you happen to be - should be martyred. 

Moreover, there is a certain injustice in people clamouring for changes in political decisions who simply do not pay any tax; who for whatever reason make no financial contribution to the running of the state.  Of course, it is not only poor people who pay no tax.  Quite a lot of super rich people employ tax experts who successfully structure their client's wealth in a manner that they also pay no tax

If it is wrong to tax people without representing them, the other side of that coin is that it is equally wrong to grant them representation without also extracting tax for the privilege. 

I'm not sure how a democratic state should deal with this paradox, since the one-person-one-vote principle is rightly regarded as sacrosanct.  Yet there is something fundamentally undemocratic about a system where perhaps a third of the population pays no tax yet has a third of the say in how much tax the other two-thirds should pay and indeed how that tax should be spent. 

Moreover the bigger the non-taxpaying constituency grows, the greater the threat it will pose to the very existence of state.  On current trends, non-taxpayers could exceed taxpayers within a couple of decades, and thereafter vote for never-ending payments to themselves funded by the dwindling and foolish band of taxpayers. 

Just as democratic states build in safeguards to prevent discrimination against minorities, so perhaps they need safeguards to prevent sizeable non-taxpaying minorities influencing how much tax should be extracted from those who do pay tax.  This would be very hard to implement in practice - it would imply two different sets of parliamentary representatives depending on the subject being discussed. 

But at least the media should keep asking whether advocates who participate in tax arguments in the public domain actually pay tax.  Some may, of course, not wish to disclose this or indeed lie about it (especially the non taxpayers).  But even asking the question will at least raise the issue within the consciousness of the public in a manner that will add a measure of balance to the discourse.  Perhaps over time, people will see the wisdom of ensuring everyone pays something in tax, however small, so as to become true participants in body of the state. 

In principle, there should be no representation without taxation.  If only putting this into practice were as straightforward and inherently satisfying as the American revolutionaries' converse slogan. 

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Cosying Up to Blood-Soaked Tyranny

In the current credit crunch, there is one cabinet position that all other ministers must secretly envy.  For, while providing very high status, profile and glamour, it removes him/her from the depressing domestic grind of trying to

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borrow billions,

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cut costs,

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squeeze ever more tax out of newly unemployed citizens,

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avoid ejection from office,

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while telling everyone this pain is all for their own good - eventually. 

So surely the job of Foreign Minister requires at least a modicum of competence and integrity. 

But over in Britain, they have David Miliband.  In the past couple of months he has gone out of his way to demonstrate his incompetence,

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He enraged Sri Lanka by unilaterally appointing a  humanitarian watchdog at a senior level to keep an eye on its war against the Tamil Tigers

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He enraged India by blaming the Mumbai terrorist attacks on India's behaviour in Kashmir while almost exonerating Pakistan.  But the attacks were launched from Pakistan and the murderous assault on a tiny, obscure Jewish centre demonstrates that this was above all a Jihadist operation with Kashmir at best a peripheral consideration.  British correspondents in Delhi were appalled. 

Here in Ireland, Micheál Martin is the lucky minister to hold the Foreign portfolio and regularly escape these fiscally wrecked shores.  In his previous jobs, he has been singularly competent and effective.  One of his main achievements was the introduction, as Health Minister in 2004, of the world's first national smoking ban, since copied by countless other countries. 

So what's happened to him now?  He has never separated himself from the ruling Fianna Fail party's visceral hatred of - along with much of the rest of Ireland - Israel and Jews, but at least that's not something new. 

What is new is his recent embrace of the tyranny that runs the prison state known as Cuba.  In a shameful effort to legitimise it and its current dictator Raul Castro, he visited Havana for three days last week.  He stood smilingly the under a mural of Che Guevara while a band of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces played Amhrán Na bhFiann, Ireland's national anthem (annoyingly, I can't find a photo).  He also did his best to rubbish the US embargo, making it plain that he considers it to be unjustified. 

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Does Minister Martin not know that the Castros' Cuba remains a prison state

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which no citizen is permitted to leave;

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which has killed at least 73,000 citizens;

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which denies free speech, political opposition, freedom of religion;

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which persecutes homosexuals?

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Does he not know that Fidel's murderous homophobic buddy Che was, among many other things, Fidel's chief executioner, sending thousands of Cubans to their deaths during just the first year of the revolution?  

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While a legitimate case can be made that dropping the US embargo might hasten the collapse of the Cuba regime, does he not recognize the folly of undermining Ireland's own most important ally and military defender?  Moreover, America has to live with the volatile Cuba next door; Ireland does not. 

Minister Martin says he discussed human rights with his Cuban counterpart, Felipe Pérez Roque, but only behind closed doors ... yeah, right, Mr Roques must have felt very chastened.  Conversely, Minister Martin was not shy about publicly promising Minister Roques trade co-operation in telecommunications, biotechnology and software, as well as €100,000 of Irish tax money that he thinks will go to hurricane relief. 

One of the things I personally find most upsetting about this visit is the total lack of outrage from the Irish citizenry.  So perhaps what he is doing is not really the matter of incompetence and (lack of) integrity that it seems to me.  Maybe he is merely reflecting the instincts of many Irish voters to cosy up to any old blood-soaked tyranny they can find. 

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Ireland's Phoney Lisbon Poll

Last June the Irish voted in a referendum to soundly reject the Lisbon Treaty 53%:46%, in defiance of all the main political parties.  The Government immediately decided that rather than convey the democratic will of its electorate to the EU Magisterium in Brussels, which would have killed the treaty, it should instead devise a way to solve” the problem that Paddy the Pesky Voter had created. 

Eventually it announced that a second referendum would be held in October in the hopes that Paddy would get it right this time around.  And no doubt successive referenda would if necessary follow until the penny finally dropped.  In return, the Magisterium would gracefully issue certain guarantees that were of concern to Paddy, relating to his EU commissioner, military neutrality, abortion and taxation. 

In the meantime, there has been a continuous low-level campaign from the Yes side (the Yessirs”), while the “Naysayers” have been pretty much silent - though they haven't gone away.  One of the subliminal if deceptive messages is that if Ireland doesn't vote Yes in the new credit-crunch era it will follow the bankruptcy path of non-EU member Iceland. 

Last week the Irish Times published a poll it had commissioned, which reported that support for Lisbon had now switched to 51% in favour versus 33% against, or 61%:39% if you exclude the 33% who were Don't Knows.  This was a bit of a wake-up call for the silent Naysayers (like me). 

But like so much in life, the devil is in the detail.  Pollsters did not ask a straightforward question such as do you support the Lisbon Treaty?”. 

Rather, they asked a thousand people across the country how they would vote in the light of the commitment to allow Ireland to retain a European Union commissioner along with legal guarantees on other Irish concerns about neutrality, abortion and taxation. 

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This is a phoney question because the legal guaranteesare phoney.  They cannot be guaranteed” unless written into Lisbon or else forming part of another new treaty because that is the way EU rules work.  And such a change will need be ratified by all 27 members, who have very little appetite to try and smuggle through either a new version of Lisbon or an additional treaty, given their restive populations and the rocky path to get thus far in the Lisbon ratification process. 

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All the EU Magistgerium can say is that they will do their best to get the legal guarantees into place in due course.  Not good enough. 

A separate question asked whether in the light of the current economic crisis, it was better for Ireland to be in our out of the EU (unsurprisingly, 80% want to remain in, which would include me). 

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Another phoney question, clearly designed to put the frighteners on wavering Naysayers.  No-one is talking about Ireland leaving the EU should it again vote no, and there is no legal or other basis to force it to do so.  The EU has been marvellous for Ireland, including the €uro, and you'd be mad to want to bail out. 

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Nevertheless, a separate EU-wide poll came to a slightly different conclusion - that Irish support for EU membership dropped from 77% in 2006 to 67% after last year's referendum.  I guess this probably just illustrates how the wording of a poll question can influence the outcome of a poll. 

You have to give credit to the Yessirs for trying every stunt they can think of to convince the electorate of the merits of their case, especially during the Naysayers' current period of silence.  But it would be really astonishing if they can indeed pull this particular rabbit out of the hat when campaigning begins in earnest later this year and the Naysayers marshal their own formidable forces. 

From the cover of The Economist, 19 June 2008To me, the single biggest selling point of the Lisbon Treaty remains also the single biggest reason to vote it down.  Lisbon will make EU decision making more efficient”. 

Easier law-making means only one thing: more laws being made. 

Does anyone really want the rate at which the EU already issues new laws - responsible for 70-80% of domestic law-making across the EU - to go up even further?    How many new EU laws do you want? 

Ireland's Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche was clearly close to panic at the thought of another rejection when he remarked last week,  [Did] we have a kind of death wish in this country in voting No to the Treaty on June 12 last year?”  If we did, it was a wish that death would come swiftly to Lisbon. 

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Human Imagination

I always maintain that the human imagination knows no bounds.  If you doubt this, just look at everyday technology and then try to put yourselves into the shoes of an educated, knowledgeable, observant Victorian.  What would s/he make of paintings that move and talk, vehicles that fly through the sky, encyclopaedic answers instantaneously available at the touch of a button.  I have also written that oil, for example, is found not in the ground but in the limitless human brain, which is why fossil fuels refuse to run out.

In our arrogance, people today sometimes think that imagination and ingenuity are our exclusive preserve.  But they're not.  Human brains have always defied the impossible”, but nearly always by building on the work of those who went before them.  There are occasional exceptions such as Charles Darwin and his discovery of evolution or Albert Einstein with relativity, though even they drew to some extent on the work of their forbears.  Who can doubt the imagination and ingenuity that went into building, with the most primitive of tools and measuring instruments, the mighty Egyptian pyramids five thousand years ago, or the Ancient Greek's intricate astronomical computer

Imagination takes many forms.  I remember being struck by imaginative fertility when I visited a museum in London called the Britain at War Experience and looked at some of the inspiring posters and slogans that were created to warn and rally civilians.  They were created by people who - the few that survive - might today be disdained as old codgers just because they might no longer be quite as sharp and agile as they were seventy years ago. 

 Loose lips sink shipsKeep mum - she's not so dumbDon't waste foodFor the conquered - steel not breadDig for victory  

Regardless of whether you like what it is conveying, the 41-second video ad below falls into the category of an extraordinarily imaginative message.  Without the ad even articulating what it is advocating, it is unmistakeable.  And by cleverly linking its message in a primal, intimate way to a massive celebrity who happens to oppose it vigorously, in a manner which maligns no-one, an instant dilemma is created in the minds of all antagonists. 

No wonder it has caused a furore in the USA, with NBC and other networks refusing to run it.   Its opponents can find no answer to it. 

The ad is called Imagine.  Imagination is what has created it. 

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New Seat Belt System

I am told a new seat belt system is to be introduced, with effect from 1st March 2009. 

The Road Safety Council has apparently conducted extensive testing and their results have shown that, when the belt is properly installed, accidents can be reduced by as much as 45%.  And divorces by a similar percentage.

Correct installation is illustrated below ...


...

...

...

...

...

Hat tip: Dave in Spain

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Issue 188’s Comments to Cyberspace

Three comments this time around.    

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Barack Obama as an exemplar of competitiveness and ethics
To the Sunday Times
Sir, - Christina Lamb is absolutely right when she says "There is no conflict between being competitive and having a proper sense of right and wrong".  But she then cites Barack Obama.  Would that be the highly competitive Obama who won the US presidency against formidable opposition?  Or the Obama who associated closely with the racist Rev Wright ...

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Canada vs Free Speech [P!]
To Mark Steyn, international columnist
Mark, - Congratulations on your stellar performance in front of Ontario's Standing Committee.  In a couple of the commentaries to which you link, much is made of the name of the Irish bar to which you later repaired with some of your admirers, the "Pogue Mahone", as this is also the alias used by Richard Warman when posing in cyberspace as a neo-Nazi ... 

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How did they [the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]
ever get away with this?

Comment in the Spectator-hosted Melanie Philips Blog
Melanie, I am with you on this topic. I have analysed in some depth data published by the Energy Information Administration, which lists the CO2 emissions of every country in the world each year from 1980 to 2005. I have compared the emissions performances of Kyoto ratifiers (eg the EU) with non-ratifiers (eg the USA), over the period 1997 (when Kyoto was formulated) to 2005.
And guess what ...

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Quotes for Issue 188

- - - - - - C A M B O D I A - - - - - -

Quote: I ask your forgiveness, I ask your forgiveness.”

To his victims, Cambodian torturer-in-chief
Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch,
and ex-commandant of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison
gets maudlin, having converted to Christianity (or something). 

He is finally on trial in Phnom Penh for
crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and homicide,
three decades after his atrocities. 

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

Quote: What do you say? What do you say about anyone like that? What do you say? I don’t know. Just. There’s no words to describe it, other than it’s mass murder.”

Kevin Rudd, Australian prime minister,
on reports that some of the fires which have ravaged Australia,
killing up to 200 people and destroying 750 homes
in the country's worst peace-time disaster,
may have been started deliberately.

- - - - - - J I H A D - - - - - -

Quote: Obviously, this is the worst form of domestic violence possible.

District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III
comments on the beheading of the beautiful Aasiya Hassan, 37
in Buffalo, New York by, allegedly,
her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44,
after she dared to demand a divorce. 

Mr Hassan gained prominence when in 2004 he launched
Bridges TV, a network whose stated aim was to counter
negative stereotypes of Muslims (as wife-killers, beheaders, etc).

Mr Sedita seems blind to (or more likely is terrified by) the irony,
and the press refuse to give the murder any prominence.

After all, decapitations are nothing to do with Islam
and happen all the time in New York.
Don't they? 

Quote: There are many problematic things [such as honour killings] that happen in our community and we have to make choices because we can't respond to everything [such as honour killings].”

Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner of the
Ontario Human Rights Commission,
and long an advocate for women's rights. 

She was explaining why she chooses to hound
(Judeao-Christian) journalists such as Mark Steyn
for promoting harmful Islamaphobic stereotypes”,
while smugly ignoring young women murdered
by Muslim men in so-called honour killings
”.

She certainly knows her priorities. 

Quote: If you don't believe in free speech for people you hate, you loathe, you revile, you don't believe in free speech at all.

Columnist Mark Steyn being grilled at a legislative assembly
of Ontario's Standing Committee on government agencies.

The purpose of the meeting was
to gather information for a report to the Attorney-General
on the Ontario Human Rights Commission,
which had tried (unsuccessfully)
to censure Mr Steyn over some of his writings
critical of the influence of Islam on Western societies.

Quote: Great Britain is sacrificing freedom of speech. You would expect something like this to happen in countries like Saudi Arabia, but not in Great Britain. This cowardly act by the British government is a disgrace. I was invited by a British member of parliament.

Dutch MP Geert Wilders comments
on his banning by the British Home Secretary
from visiting Britain for a meeting with the House of Lords
and a screening of his short film
Fitna”,
which shows how Koranic verses have
fostered Islamic terrorism, including 9/11.

He was invited by UK Independence Party peer Lord Pearson
and British peer Baroness Caroline Cox,
who is
honorary vice-chairman of the
International Islamic Christian Organisation
for Reconciliation and Reconstruction

Mr Wilders showed up at Heathrow Airport anyway
and was promptly deported. 
I have written to him suggesting he make another attempt,
this time through Ireland
which has an uncontrolled frontier with Britain.

Quote: F**king Israelis, f**king Jews ... [Israeli soldiers should be] wiped off the face of the earth.”

Rowan Laxton, a senior mandarin in Britain's foreign office,
screams his comments in his local gym at a TV showing scenes from the Gaza war.

He is head of the South Asia Group at the Foreign Office,
a former Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan and
before that Head of Chancery in Islamabad.

Let's await the (in)action of the Foreign Office and Foreign Secretary
at this outburst of rank anti-Semitism
within exalted levels of seniority inside their hallowed ranks.

- - - - - - O B A M A - - - - - -

Quote: Has Barack Obama’s presidency already failed?

Martin Wolf, columnist with the Financial Times,
deviates from the Obamessianic script

Quote: Don’t let a crisis go to waste.”

Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's new chief of staff
relishes the credit crunch as an opportunity
to push the Democrats' ideological agenda,
much as Tony Blair's Jo Moore told staff that 9/11 was

a good day to bury bad news”.

Every cloud has, it seems, a silver lining for someone
unburdened with ethical faculties.

Quotes:

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Suntanned” Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi describes Barrack Obama

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El Negro” Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez describes Mr Obama

Strange how Mr Berlusconi was castigated
for his supposedly insulting description, clearly given in jest,
whilst only silence greeted Mr Chavez' far more disparaging epithet

Quote: “I'm proud to have big ears ... I mean, look who's the most powerful man in the world. Barack Obama. Big ears are in fashion.

Dev Patel, the auricly-over-endowed slumdog star
of the multiple award winning movie
Slumdog Millionaire

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

Quote: What Europe really needs is a bit more veritas and a lot less Libertas.

British Liberal MEP Andrew Duff, after it emerged that Libertas,
the anti-Lisbon treaty party created by Ireland's Declan Ganley,
which had claimed to have seven big European MEP backers,
had in fact only six, or perhaps five. 

It needs seven to secure EU funding.

Quote: I think my total disclosed compensation in the report on accounts, I think, was €2.9m [in 2008] ... this year it will be less than two million.

He thinks

Accountant Brian Goggin,
chief executive of the Bank of Ireland
has difficulty remembering small numbers,
and draws our tears when we learn of
the massive cut in compensation he must endure in 2009.

This is part of a long, miserable decline. 
Back in the halcyon days of 2007 he was paid €4m.

Back to List of Contents

See the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience

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ISSUE #187 - 8th February 2009 [450+459=909]

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Kyoto: Ratify and Ignore - Like Everyone Else

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Destroying Jews

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Skating on Thin Ice

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Los Argentinos - Restaurant Review

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Issue 187’s Comments to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 187

Kyoto: Ratify and Ignore - Like Everyone Else

Irish Times columnSince my first blog nearly seven years ago, I have been regularly moaning about the Kyoto Protocol, that multi-country agreement to cut green house gas emissions - mainly carbon dioxide -  by 5.2% from 1990 levels, by the year 2012.  This will supposedly delay a 1.9ºC rise in global temperatures from 2094 to - wait for it - 2100.  These are some of the arguments I (and others) have made. 

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The money spent to meet Kyoto targets is multiples of what would bring clean water and sanitation to every person on the planet, which would give a firm advantage to humankind a matter of a few years rather than a nebulous one in a century's time. 

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Since fighting climate change is supposed to help the world's poor (not the rich white world that I live in), you have to wonder whether the poor would choose six years of cooler climate for their great-great-great-grandchildren in 2094 or help for their present families today - not that anyone of course asks them. 

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The molecular physics of global warming being caused by man-made CO2 just doesn't stand up to any kind of scrutiny - which is why the environmental lobby never dare go close to the subject

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There is abundant evidence that other factors, such as sunspots and cosmic rays, affect our climate more than anything else and that CO2 levels increase after temperatures rise, not the other way round (hint: when oceans warm up they release dissolved CO2).

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Scientists cannot even forecast the weather a week ahead, so how can any sane person commit gigantic sums of (other people's) money to predictions a hundred years into the future?

David Bellamy, silenced by the BBCWorld renowned botanist and green campaigner David Bellamy recently made similar points in an Irish TV interview(He also complained he has been blacklisted by the BBC since 1992 for his anti climate changeology views).

But never mind all that. 

Let's just pretend for a moment that CO2 does indeed increase global warming etc, and that Kyoto is helping to reverse this and save the world (before the Obamessiah gets round to his promise of slowing the rise of the oceans and healing the planet). 

The world is today divided between those who have ratified it - three-quarters of all countries - and the one quarter who haven't.  The most notorious among the latter is the United States under that cowboy Bush.  Oh wait, he wasn't the problem.  Bill Clinton had signed Kyoto in the knowledge that it would never get ratified. 

In the summer of 1997, the Senate held a vote to advise President Bill Clinton whether or not to proceed with the Kyoto negotiations, scheduled to be completed later that year.  They voted against Kyoto-to-be by the narrow margin of 95 to zero.  That is, every Democrat, Republican and Independent senator - with Al Gore as Vice President chairing the proceedings - voted not to proceed with Kyoto.  Nevertheless, Mr Clinton, in a show of Alpha-maleship, went ahead and agreed the Kyoto Protocol the following December anyway, signing it a further year later, knowing full well the Senate wanted nothing to do with it.  But this petulant little rebellion went hardly noticed because Bill Clinton could do wrong and anyway the professional Greens were happy. 

But when the cowboy was elected, what was one of the first things he did?  Why, he publicly stated the bleeding obvious - that America was not going to be ratifying the treaty any time soon because the Senate unanimously opposed it.  To this day, the opprobrium from the world's Greens and anyone else with an anti-Bush axe to grind has been heaped on his head for this dastardly display of honesty.  For let no good deed go unpunished. 

Anyway, I have recently spent many, many hours analysing the ratification situation and have discovered some stunning facts. 

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The US Government issues official energy statistics via a body called the Energy Information Administration.  These include an International Energy Annual 2005, within which there is a spreadsheet which lists World Per Capita Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption and Flaring of Fossil Fuels, 1980-2005, which you can download, so I did. 

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I then found a list of Kyoto ratifiers buried in the site of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

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Population data came from the glorious CIA World Factbook

I selected the eight-year period 1997-2005, because 1997 is the year that Kyoto was adopted, in Kyoto, and 2005's were the most recent comprehensive data I could find. 

It turns out that 61 countries have failed to ratify, representing 10% of the world's population .  (Other than the USA, Turkey and Ukraine, they're generally the smaller countries.)  And, as you'd expect, these naughty anti-Kyoto boys and girls have signally failed to control their emissions. 

Over the time-frame 1997-2005, far from reducing CO2 emissions by Kyoto's 5.2%, the non-ratifying rogues have actually pushed them up by almost 5%. 

It's people like these (there are seven hundred million of them) who deserve criminal sanctions to force them to cut their carbon footprints and stop destroying the planet, causing sea levels to rise, glaciers to melt, polar bears to drown, forests to desertify, children to die. 

To look at what is possible once you have signed up to the modern, low-emissions green agenda, they should look no further than their wiser colleagues who support Kyoto. 

Take the EU - nearly half a billion well-meaning folk.  All 27 countries have ratified Kyoto.  And, as you'd expect, they have cut their emissions by ... hang on a minute, there must be some mistake.  Their emissions have actually climbed, and by over 6½%, even more than those wretched non-ratifiers.  How can that be?  How can environmental virtue send you to environmental hell? 

It must just be that the EU figures are some kind of statistical quirk, not significant in the global scheme of things.  After all, there are five times as many other countries, containing twelve times as many people, which have also ratified Kyoto.  Obviously, if you take all of them together, CO2 emissions will have gone at least some way towards reaching the entirely laudable reductions demanded in Kyoto. 

So have they?  Er, no. 

When you add up all 161 Kyoto ratifiers - 6.1 billion people, 90% of the world's population - you find, astonishingly, that their emissions have increased by almost 30%!   

It gets worse.  The world's most vilified non-ratifier is the United States of America under that arch environmental scoundrel George W Bush.  But from 1997 to 2005, America was one of the few countries that actually reduced its emissions.  Not by much, about 1%, but no other major country came close to meeting this achievement. 

Not, for example, non-ratifier Australia.  But when it finally dumped that anti-Kyoto war-mongering Bush-lover John Howard in favour of New-Age earwax-eater Kevin Rudd last year, one of Mr Rudd's first acts was to mend the sins of the past by ratifying Kyoto.  Australian emissions had risen by 15%.  Let's see whether Mr Rudd's act of piety makes any difference other than that attributable to the economic downturn. 

Here are the figures, summarised. 

KYOTO PROTOCOL RATIFICATION
CO2 EMISSIONS PERFORMANCE OF RATIFIERS VS NON-RATIFIERS, 1997-2005
SUMMARY KYOTO
RATIFIERS
EU
(ALL RATIFIERS)
KYOTO
NON-RATIFIERS
USA
(NON-RATIFIER)
WHOLE
WORLD
Nmbr of Countries 162 27 60 1 222
World Percent 73% 12% 27% 0.5%  
Total Population, m 6,105 476 668 304 6,773
World Percent 90% 7% 10% 4%  
Emission Increases
1997-2005
28.6% 6.6% 4.8% -0.8% 26.2%

If you don't believe the table, have a look at my Excel Work Book, which includes all the raw data as well as my calculations, in seven separate Worksheets entitled

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Emissions 1980-2005

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Change 1997-2005

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Kyoto Ratifiers 2006

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NON-Ratifiers' Emissions

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RATIFIERS' Emissions

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EU Emissions

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Summary

Of course the table above shows consolidated totals.  Within those some countries, the US was not the only country to achieve reductions. 

It is instructive to look at those whose CO2 achievements were outstanding, because we can learn from them how easy it is to make progress in this important area. 

Astonishingly, a handful managed to more or less half their emissions: ratifiers Congo Democratic Republic and Eritrea plus non-ratifiers Afghanistan, Guam. 

With the exception of Guam, a US military base in the northern Pacific, the common denominator appears to be war, economic destitution, strife and poverty. 

And this is probably the Kyoto future, if it has one. 

Meeting its strictures, and those of its successors, would require drastic curtailment of economic activity which would lead to mass impoverishment of populations.  From this, the prospect of new wars does not seem improbable.  War, in addition to the starvation of penury, would kill lots more people, which would certainly put a smile on the face of the British Government's environmental guru and the country's leading Green, Jonathan Porritt.  He advocates demographic suicide by restricting babies to two per couple (the replacement rate is 2.1): he is convinced people themselves are intrinsically bad for the planet and therefore should be eliminated. 

But hey, if it means that climate changeologists like Mr Porritt are happy, who am I to complain.  Bring it on I say. 

The alternative is to do as the ratifiers have been doing all along: ratify and ignore, or at least only do stuff that makes you feel good but does little or nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  What's a little hypocrisy in today's world? 

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Destroying Jews

I can't resist sharing with you this cheeky chart which I found  over at Not a Fish

All Gone

However, to me its last line is a bit optimistic.  Not that Hamas will in due course be destroyed - it will.  Its business model of killing Jews to the exclusion of all other activity or consideration, is simply unsustainable.  People have to eat. 

But where on the list are Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, Al Qaeda, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya and countless other Islamic organizations and regimes committed to wiping Israel and Jews from the face of the earth? 

I suppose everyone of those existential threats from the past looked insuperable at the time.  Nevertheless, the way even free nations are today quietly acquiescing in what is now a global Islamic war against Jews and allowing innate and ancient Jew-hatreds to rule their heads, it is hard to see where the the Jewish people are going to find their escape route this time round.   

But I hope they do. 

On a related point, how is it that the Singhalese majority in Sri Lanka are able right now to do to the the Tamil minority, with a but a smidgeon of the provocation, ten times what the Israelis did to the Palestinians in Gaza, without the world batting a bored eyelid?  It's true it was the Tamils that taught the Islamists about suicide bombing. 

But in return, the Palestinians have taught the Tamils about fighting from behind civilians and turning from fighters into civilians the instant they are killed.  In they eyes of the West, this ups your opponent's war crimes while minimising your own losses. 

As the Sri Lankan army’s Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara explains,the Tamil Tigers have told their cadres to fight in civilian clothes, and that the moment they get killed, they go into the civilian category”.  So the civilian death count in the current conflict has been relentless - measured in scores per day for days on end, with few figures for dead fighters. 

There is only one reason that there is little Western outrage over Sri Lanka the way there was over Gaza.  It is that no Jews in Sri Lanka, so that's OK.  William Sjostrom has made a similar observation

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Skating on Thin Ice

If you think soccer is the number one sport in the Netherlands, think again. 

map elfstedentochtEvery winter, millions of Dutch, young and old, hope and pray for ten continuous days of minus ten degrees Centigrade across the north of the country.  For only then can they hold their iconic Elfstedentocht, or eleven cities tour, the nation's prime sporting event - and passion.  Up to 20,000 skaters take to the ice to compete in a gruelling race over frozen canals and lakes that takes them in an extensive circuit through, yes, eleven cities, in the Friesland province of the country.  Beginning and ending in Leeuwarden, the route is 200 km long, starts before dawn and takes anything from seven to eighteen hours to complete.  The winner is a national hero, and makes speeches and opens supermarkets until the next winner is crowned.  And that can be for a very long time. 

For therein lies the issue.  The Netherlands rarely experiences -10ºC for ten long days.  The last time was in January 1997.  So the race is very rarely held, and when the opportunity does present itself it must be arranged at extremely short notice.  This also plays havoc with training schedules of the very committed.  The very cold spell last January raised hopes for a 2009 Elfstedentocht but they were dashed after about a week. 

For if you don't make sure the ice is solid enough, it takes only ten seconds, not ten days, for this to happen ...

  

Hat-tip: Barry in Dublin

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Los Argentinos - Restaurant Review

I'm sure someone somewhere is out there in the depths of the munching world solving the dilemma facing very gourmet, every gourmand and everyone else who is neither - except for the vegetarians. 

Where can you sit down and gorge on the best steak in the world? 

My wife and I often argue over this - she favours an obscure restaurant somewhere in the deep undergrowth of Georgia, near a military base I think.  As I happened to be particularly grumpy that day, I've never been able to conjure up much joy from the bovine memory of that occasion. 

My own favourite dates back to a couple of magical visits a decade ago in Dubai.  Before the current building boom, the clubby JWs Steakhouse in the Marriott Hotel was beyond compare if you ordered one of their prime steaks. 

American corn-fed beef, they were thick and succulent, aged, matured, marinated and cooked to perfection.  The more the years pass, the better these hunks of meat age and mature in my own unreliable memory. 

We spent much of January on business in the Netherlands capital of The Hague, a delightful and picturesque little city of half a million.  Los Argentinos, in The HagueIt is clean and well organised, with great public transport and cycle lanes which are so efficient there is never a rush hour, and courteous people who speak better English than I do. 

If you walk through and out of the Passage” downtown, a baroque arcade of the most exquisite small shops, and turn left, you'll come to a singularly unimaginatively named Argentine restaurant called Los Argentinos

Charcoal grill, always burningStroll in and you'll see immediately in front of you a raging charcoal fire.  It is always a good sign when a restaurant is prepared to do all its cooking in front of you - it means it can have no nasty secrets. 

As you walk through, you see a preponderance of raw wood, designed to make any ranchero feel at home as he ties his horse up to the parking meter outside.  Even the chandeliers - well, the lamps hanging over each table - are made from chunky planks that sway threateningly above your head. 

Within the rancho-themed restaurantYou are now sitting in carnivorian heaven.  But forget all that chicken and seafood on the menu; those are reserved for people who shouldn't really be there.  Oh and skip the starters as well, as they serve only to take up valuable stomach space for the glories to follow.  Except maybe the warm toasted little loaf of stokbrood (garlic bread), served for you to carve on your own wooden breadboard - which isn't even on the menu. 

For the main event, stick to the lamb, spare ribs, steaks.  Especially the steaks, which are divine, beyond anything I've ever found in Europe.  You can choose from rump, sirloin, fillet, ribeye and gigante T-bone, in sizes ranging from 180 to 500 gm.  Not one is other than glorious, both in the quality and tenderness of the meat, just the right amount of rendered fat, and the way it is seasoned and cooked to order (in my case, rare) and to perfection.  Also remember to ask for the restaurant's own Argentinean chimichurri sauce - made from a closely guarded secret of garlic, peppers, herbs and exotic spices, which they will neither divulge nor sell you to take home and analyse. 

If you are having a rare non-beef day, try the juicy spare ribs.  You get all you can eat, served on your own little charcoal grill brought to the table.  Mmmmm. 

The average cost for two, including a bottle of excellent Argentine wine and more beer than is good for me, was around €65 (two-thirds of what I would expect to pay in Dublin). 

Los Argentinos brags that it serves the best steak in town.  It is too modest.  My wife and I are unanimous (for once): Los Argentinos is undoubtedly the best steakhouse in Europe, narrowly pipped only by JW's in Dubai and that mystery place in Georgia.  

You can phone it on +31-70-346.8523 and find it at Kettingstraat 14, The Hague.  But if you're more modern than that, simply zoom to 52º4'41.22" N by 4º18'36.44" E. 

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Issue 187’s Comments to Cyberspace

Only one comment this week.  (The newspaper said it would print it but in the end didn't).      

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Bodies - and Smut
To the Sunday Times (Irish edition), 4th February 2009
I am surprised - and a little disappointed - to see Brenda Power join the media bandwagon that says the "Bodies" exhibition in Dublin has no scientific and or artistic merit, solely because the provenance of the bodies has not been proven to their satisfaction ...

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Quotes for Issue 187

- - - - - - - U S A - - - - - - -

Quote: I screwed up.

It pains me to admit it,
but I approve of and admire President Obama
for saying this publicly. 

He was taking responsibility for the mistake of nominating tax-evaders
Tom Daschle as
Health and Human Services secretary and
Nancy Killefer as Chief Performance Officer (whatever that is).

Timothy Geithner remains as treasury secretary
though he too has had difficulty in understanding the need to pay his taxes

Quote: [Barrack Obama] is a community organizer like Jesus was, and now we're a community, and he can organize us.

Susan Sarandon, that well known movie star geopolitical thinker. 

I bet Jesus is surprised to learn he was
a Chicago-style community organizer, whatever that is.

Quote: When you hear Obama, you can see a big difference [to president George W Bush in terms of environmental performance.]

Savros Dimas, the EU's environment commissioner.

He surely cannot be aware that, over the period 1997-2005,
as regards Kyoto,

America decreased its CO2 emissions by nearly 1%
while the EU increased its by 6½%

Ratifiers as a whole increased emissions by 29%
while the non-ratifiers increased by 5%

Conclusion: Kyoto ratification increases CO2 emissions;
that's why Mr Bush's CO2 performance is far better than the EU's. 

- - - - - - - U K - - - - - - -

Quote: “[In the UK] we’ve got this one-eyed Scottish idiot.

The BBC's star motoring correspondent Jeremy Clarkson
tells Australians he doesn't think much of
Prime Minister Gordon Brown. 

Later he said he was sorry. 
But curiously he apologised for the truth of what he said,
while specifically refusing to apologise for the unsubstantiated part. 

Gordon Brown is indeed a Scotsman who is
blind in one eye following a student rugby game,
but no men in white coats have declared he is clinically an idiot.

When Margaret Thatcher's daughter Carol
was recently snitched on after using the the term
Golliwog
in a private conversation, the BBC fired her.

It did not fire Jonathan Ross or Russell Brand
for their offensive remarks to 79-year-old Andrew Sachs,
nor Jeremy Clarkson.

The difference:
for the BBC, it's OK to insult white males
but not anyone
of colour.

Quote: I think we will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible.” 

Sir Jonathon Porritt, chairman of
the British Government's Sustainable Development Commission
and the country's most prominent environmentalist.

Since the population replacement rate is 2.1 babies per woman,
Sir Jonathon is advocating the demographic suicide
of the United Kingdom. 

And he's still in his job!

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

Quote: Nowadays, in more politically correct times, [Detective Sergeant James Lugs Brannigan] would probably be abolished by the [Police Ombudsman] and possibly also prosecuted.  Had his unit, known as Prevention and Detection of Street Nuisances, been continued rather than disbanded on his retirement [in 1973], I suspect that the streets of Dublin would be considerably safer than they are now.”

Justice Paul Carney,
Ireland's foremost - and most outspoken - criminal judge. 

He was bemoaning the demise of the instant rough justice
that the legendary policeman Lugs
, an ex-boxer, used to dispense,
with fists, boots and truncheons, to youthful offenders,
at a time when both Mr Carney and I were Dublin students in the 1960s
(and learnt to keep our heads down when Lugs was around).

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See the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience

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ISSUE #186 - 1st February 2009 [374]

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Who Wants to Be a Million UN Refugees?

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President Obama's Promising Start

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Presidential Ladyboys

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Highest Position in the World

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How to Beat the Claw Game

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Issue 186’s Comments to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 186

Who Wants to Be a Million UN Refugees?

You really don't want to be a refugee, or indeed anyone, under the protection and administration of the United Nations, better described as the Club of Tyrants for Tyrants. 

Right up there in its opening preamble, the 1945 founding charter of the sainted UN states that we the peoples of the United Nations are determined ... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person

That must be a source of tremendous relief and comfort, therefore, for anyone who ends up relying on the UN to protect him or her, to be assured that human dignity and worth are paramount in everything the UN does. 

But of course the UN is only human (we the peoples”) and so human failures are bound to occur from time to time even with the best of intentions.  But sadly, whenever you wield a magnifying glass on what it gets up to, you see stuff you would rather not.  Not just occasional human failures, but systematic, institutionalised abuse of powerless people and the prolongation of their suffering. 

Examples abound. 

Notoriously, UN peacekeepers and other staff were caught earlier this decade indulging in 
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a sex-slave trade in Bosnia

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an extortion racket in Kenya,

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a sex-for-food scandal in West Africa. 

In Kosovo, children found themselves poisoned to death or permanently brain-damaged and organ-damaged thanks to lead emanating from the toxic lands on which the UN had kindly built and operated three refugee camps for gypsies.  This went on for five years after the problem was first identified in 2000. 

The UN is famous for averting its eyes as humanitarian disasters unfold under the very noses of its forces.  Srebrenica, Rwanda, Darfur, Chad and Congo are blood-chilling names that spring to mind. 

People are being slaughtered and [17,000 UN peacekeepers] did nothing.

This bitter crie de coeur was referring not to the unfolding genocide in Rwanda in 1994 as frenzied Hutus slaughtered 800,000 Tutsis under the disinterested gaze of the Club of Tyrants' own peacekeepersIt was uttered only three months ago by a spokesman for Joseph Kabila, the elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as unfettered fighting broke out in the east of his country next door to, yes, Rwanda and between yes, Hutus and Tutsis. Plus ça change.  There are  now 20,000 of these peacekeepers, making it the UN's biggest such operation - and probably one of its least effective. 

And then there are Palestinian refugees. 

Four years ago I asked the question, Why Are Palestinian Refugees Still Refugees?” after over sixty years, pointing out that all other refugees throughout recent history have ended up absorbed into one society or another within a generation -
 

 Refugees

Year

From

Absorbed by

 All Asians expelled

 1972

 Idi Amin's Uganda

UK  

 152,000 ethnic Turks
+
30,000 ethnic Turks

 1951-52
+ 1989

 Bulgaria

Turkey 

 Fleeing boat-people

 1970s
and 80s

Vietnam under
the Viet Cong 

Many
Western countries 

 Over three million
fleeing
Chinese

1950s, 60s
and 70s
 

Mao Tse-Tung's
China
 

Hong Kong
under British rule 

 Countless refugees
(including Palestinians)

 1945-2009

Across the
(unfree) world 

Many
Western countries 

820,000 Jews
expelled
1978-72 Muslim countries in North Africa Israel
 

I posited that Palestinian refugees are still refugees for two reasons. 

Israelis chose not to massacre them in 1946

Israel, in the war its Arab neighbours launched on the day the UN proclaimed Israel's birth in 1948, forced or allowed Palestinians in their hundreds of thousands to leave Israel, rather than massacring them, as it was militarily capable of doing (who doubts that the Jews would have been massacred had they lost?); and

Fellow Arabs want nothing to do with them

Due to the disdain of fellow Arabs for Palestinian Arabs ever since, the former have resolutely refused to absorb the refugees.

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How many ex-Palestinian refugees are now running around with
Saudi, UAE, Qatari or Kuwaiti passports?  Nil. 

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Compare this with, for example, the thousands of Vietnamese boat people, or indeed Palestinian refugees who today sport American or British passports. 

Over the following weeks, this all elicited a furious response - including anonymous threats - from assorted pro-Palestinian groups (as if my remarks were anti-Palestinian).  But not a single person was able to refute my basic facts. 

Nevertheless I had neglected two other vital factors.

Fellow Arabs welcome the running sore

Non-Palestinian Arabs don't want Palestinians anywhere near them (why else is Egypt penning them into Gaza?).  However, they are absolutely delighted with the idea of a running sore of miserable Palestinian refugee camps, providing a permanent rebuke to Israel and all other compassionate people, and a ready means to stoke up age-old Jew Hatred.  In this regard it's been a fabulous success, which they are more than happy to prolong through generous funding.   

Palestinian refugees provide great livelihoods for the UN

The UN is similarly thrilled to have a long-running, permanent - and expanding - humanitarian project on its hands, which began with some 700,000 refugees but through high birth-rates and lack or resettlement now stands at an eye-watering 4.6 million (larger than the population of Ireland).  For how else can the UN demonstrate its indispensability while at the same time providing fabulous career and promotion opportunities for its lucky, handsomely remunerated, jobs-for-life, fully pensionable employees? 

That is why the UN relief agencies, and in particular UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) whose sole purpose is Palestinian refugees, assiduously court the most depraved Muslims they can - whether in Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas.   (It's the only UN agency devoted to a single group of refugees.)

According to its Commissioner-General, Karen AbuZayd last month, UNRWA's mandate is to assist and protect a population of 4.6 million refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territory”.  Yet she makes clear that Israel alone is to blame for the Gaza war, and is entirely silent on
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Hamas's barrage of 8,000 rockets,

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its violent coup in Gaza in 2007 and

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the hundred-plus Fatah members it killed and maimed during and after the Gaza war. 

It gets worse.  UNRWA's humanitarian facilities (schools, hospitals, welfare stations etc), whether in Gaza, the West Bank or South Lebanon, are not only thoroughly infiltrated with proven terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah - they knowingly employ such people as teachers and social workers. 

Irishman John Ging, Hamas's UNRWA front-man in Gaza, when asked last month whether UNRWA has been infiltrated by Hamas, said he is just not going to answer” the allegation, which is as close to a bald admission as you can get. 

A couple of examples:
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Hamas Interior Minister Said Sayyam, responsible for Hamas terror operations, was a teacher at UNRWA schools for 23 years;

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Awad el-Kik, the principal of an UNRWA school in Rafiah, was also head of weapons and rocket manufacturing for Islamic Jihad in Gaza. 

With such members of staff, UNRWA schools specialise, it seems, in teaching youngsters terror tactics and the virtues of suicide-bombing, augmented by children's TV programmes

UN and Hezbollah, happy bedfellows in LebanonOver in South Lebanon, the UN is as bad, as exemplified by its flag and Hezbollah's flying side by side within a UNIFIL compound before the last war there as this pair of photographs illustrates.  UNIFIL stands for United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which since 1978, early in Lebanon's dreadful 1975-90 Civil War, has been supposed to have been keeping the peace between warring factions. 

UN peacekeepers continue to protect Hezbollah from Israel as, with Iran's help, Hezbollah rebuilds its military capability ready for the next futile war there against the Jews. 

Meanwhile, as UNRWA (and indeed the UN) steadfastly eschew any action that might deter Palestinians from terror, and incline them towards, for example, education, science, engineering, business, entrepreneurialism, medicine, they UNIFIL and Hezbollah in glorious technicolour; click for full sizekeep them dependent, simply by relentlessly feeding and housing them. 

By happy coincidence, this keeps all the UNRWA boys and girls safely in their jobs.

Their mission is effectively to infantilise their Palestinian refugees the same as Australian Aborigines and American/Canadian Indians.  Confined to reserves, they are given money and sustenance, with nothing demanded in return. 

In Australia and North America, the result is unproductive, directionless, miserable human beings who depend on alcohol to make life interesting.  Among Palestinians under UNRWA's tender mercies, Jihadism replaces the alcohol. 

Unless and until UNRWA is disbanded - and all it takes is for America, paying 22% of the bills, to walk away from the UN to found, as I've argued previously, a new United Democracies - the Palestinian refugee problem will grow and grow and get worse and worse. 

And perhaps the new UD can then start spelling out to the Islamic world the open secret that the 4.6m Palestinian refugees are never ever going to return to Israel.  That's not a judgement of what is right or wrong or fair, just what is blindingly obvious.  So the Islamic world better forget about it, and set about fulfilling its moral obligation to absorb their unfortunate fellow-Muslims, in the way other countries have throughout history provided homes to displaced people . 

It's not has if there is a shortage of space (vast open deserts) or money (petrodollars).  And the Gulf countries in particular are actually short of workers, which is why they import millions of Asians, who then export their earnings out of the host economy. 

Until, in the name of humanitarianism, the UN is destroyed, who Wants to Be a Million UN Refugees? 

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President Obama's Promising Start

The biggest headline-grabber during my hiatus was, of course, President Obama's inauguration.  I have made no secret of my dislike and distrust of the fellow.  However, as a non-American who is virulently pro-American, I wish him every success as America's new president, as only success will improve the world not just for Americans but for the rest of us as well. 

In my previous post about him, I commented that once in office, and he has access to all the details and is accountable for his decisions, his actions might be more what I would call rational than what he has been proclaiming on the stump over the past two years.  And indeed his early behaviour, at least in terms of foreign affairs, seems to support this. 

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Many of his senior appointments have been sombre and sensible, such as

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retaining Robert (Surge”) Gates as Defence Secretary and

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appointing the basically level-headed Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State.

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(After 12 years without a white male in the job, will one ever again be appointed?!).


It's also encouraging when Obamaniacs like
Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the Nation, a lefty magazine fumes thatMr Gates [is the] wrong man for the job ... Not a single member of Obama’s foreign-policy [and] national-security team opposed the war”. 

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He is also supporting America's latest Surge into Afghanistan under General Petraeus, the brilliant victor over insurgency in Iraq. 

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He has wasted no time in bombing Talibanis in Waziristan, Pakistan, killing 22, letting them know there is plenty more to come. 

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His vow to immediately close Guantanamo has been muted to within a year”, as he realises the risks of releasing dangerous killers back into the wild.  He is clearly relying on Western governments to save his blushes by taking the inmates off his hands. 

Indeed, they seem clamouring to do so, clearly pandering to Obama-worship. 

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Over the past two years, those same governments persistently refused whenever the Bush administration asked them, even though that would have strengthened the case to close Guantanamo.  The desire to hurt Bush/America clearly exceeded any so-called concern for Guantanamo prisoners. 

It will be interesting to see how Western populations react when they realise they have insufficient violent criminals and terrorists of their own, so their Governments have arranged to import a few more. 

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What is curious is why no-one is putting pressure on the likes of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan and other Muslim states to take these people, since that's where they mostly come from.  The refrain is that they will be persecuted if returned to their home countries; in that case they should be sent to one of the others.  Saudi can take Yemenis, UAE can take Egyptians, Pakistan can take Indonesians, and so forth. 

Then there's bipartisanship”, the holy grail of all presidents when they start out.  Like his predecessors, Mr Obama talked about “reaching out across the aisle” so as to develop policy in a spirit of cooperation with his opponents rather than striding out unilaterally (à la Bush).  But what all presidents forget is that bipartisanship is not remotely within their power.  Only the opposition can deliver bipartisanship, by agreeing to collaborate with the administration, and the chances of that happening within a few weeks of being brutally defeated in an election is slim to zero. 

Actually there was some unexpected (and unwelcome) bipartisanship over Mr Obama's massive $819 bn bailout (to be added to Mr Bush's own $700 billion bailout).  Mr Obama's bill was carried in Congress by 244 to 188, with not a single Republican voting in favour of it.  However, in a show of political friendship and co-operation, no fewer than eleven Democrat congressmen reached out across the aisle to vote No, in solidarity with their Republican opponents.  How bipartisan was that!  Change you can believe in!  But not quite what Mr Obama had in mind. 

So all in all, a promising start to America's glamorous new chief executive.  Will it last?

Back to List of Contents

Presidential Ladyboys

However, having just been nice and respectful towards the new president, I need to counteract that with another side of him, when he decided we needed to see his nipples.   

Vladimir Putin wants us to believe he is not a LadyboyFirst to show us chief-executive tits, however, was Vladimir Putin, Czar of the Russian Empire.  No doubt this Sun-Page-3-style display was intended to bolster his attempts to expand his empire through absorption of territories containing diaspora Russians (South Ossetia, Eastern Ukraine ...) . 

He also doesn't want us to think his demotion from President to Prime Minister means he is somehow less of a man.  Hence this topless photo-shoot while river-fishing somewhere in the wilds of Siberia. 

But in case you are wondering about his target audience, here on the right is a Viagra ad from the same webpage, right alongside where Mr Putin is shown with that long thing in his firm, manly grasp.

Barack Obama ShirtlessSo, not to be undone, the President-elect (as he then was) wasted little time showing that he has man-boobs as well, and he's maybe even fitter than the Czar.

I mean, who needs Viagra?

Mark Twain once remarked, Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society.

But what did he know?

Are these two the world's best Presidential Ladyboys or what? 

But here's a hint for Mr Putin.  Evoking erotic dreams among Russia's hidden gay community is no way to reverse your country's catastrophic demographic decline caused, as it is, mainly by a plummeting birth-rate which lusty gays are doing nothing to reverse. 

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Highest Position in the World

Do you know who is works in the highest position of the World?  Would that be -

bullet

US President Barack Obama?   NO

bullet

Osama Bin Laden? NO

bullet

UN General Secretary? NO

bullet

Chairman of the World Bank? NO

bullet

Pope Benedict? NO

Babu, in the crane cabin alongside the world's tallest building

Hat tip: Dave in Spain

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How to Beat the Claw Game

This little girl wants a toy from inside the claw game and figures out a way to cheat the game

Back to List of Contents

Issue 186’s Comments to Cyberspace

I've produced a few pathetic comments to cyberspace over my long blogging hiatus.    

bullet

Is George W Bush the worst president in US history?
Comment in the Irish Times in response to a poll question,
Yes dammit, he WAS the worst ever. When was the last time any US president overthrew two vicious dictatorships, replaced them with democracies however flawed and liberated 50m people?  I am appalled that he has finally achieved victory in Iraq - yes, victory ...

bullet

Some bigots you just can't please (post about Amnesty International and Gaza)
Comment in William Sjostrom's Atlantic Blog
On 7th January, Amnesty did me the (dis)honour of inviting me to join their anti Gaza war protest in St Stephen's Green on 9th January. FYI, this is what I replied ...

bullet

Lisbon Treaty not some Guide is the Treaty
Letter to the Irish Independent
Fionnan Sheahan ends his otherwise admirable 13-step guide to getting Lisbon II passed by saying, If people want a copy of the treaty, give it to them. But what people really want is a legible guide.  Wrong.  They don't want a legible guide, they need a legible treaty.  For it is the actual, deliberately unintelligible treaty that ...

bullet

Happy Days
Comment in William Sjostrom's inestimable Atlantic Blog
Sorry to disappoint you, William, but Éamon Ó Cuív is a member not of the Greens but of Fianna Fail, and a grandson of the revered Eamon de Valera. He is one of the most useless members of the cabinet, superseded in uselessness only by ...

bullet

Ruling by a radical
Comment in the Spectator-hosted Melanie Philips Blog
It appears Obama is simply delivering on the solemn promise he made to ACORN before the election, when he said, “Before I even get inaugurated, during the transition, we’re going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda. We’re going to be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so that you have input into the agenda for the next presidency of the United States of America.”  See for yourself on Youtube ...

bullet

Hamas militants step up rocket attacks on Israel
To: The Times (of London)
Alex Hogg comments that malnutrition amongst Gaza's 1.5 million population is due to "Israel's blockage of the ghetto". Excuse me, but it is equally Egypt which is enforcing the blockade against its fellow Arabs. It keeps the Gazans locked up and won't let food in through the Egypt/Gaza border.

Back to List of Contents

Quotes for Issue 186

- - - - - - - O B A M A - - - - - - -

Quote: The president-elect is ... announcing the strictest, and most far reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.

Well, maybe the leopard can change his spots after all. 

After the ethical slipperiness of Barack Obama's successful campaign
(eg non-use of federal funding, fraudulent voter registrations,
disabled online donation credit-checks)
and earlier life in Chicago
(eg nobbling political rivals by leaking sealed details of their divorces),
the introduction of ethics rules on anything will be a welcome departure. 

Quote: “All I can tell you is that it is just pure garbage.

The response of an Obama Campaign spokeswoman
when asked to produce Barack Obama's birth certificate
to prove he was born within the United States,
which he is required to be

under Article 2 Section 1 of the Constitution that states that

No person except a natural born citizen of the United States,
at the time of adoption of this Constitution,
shall be eligible to the office of President
.

Why not just produce it?
Unless, of course, it doesn't exist ...

Quote: We ask you [God] to help us work for that day

bullet

when black will not be asked to get in back,

bullet

when brown can stick around ...

bullet

when yellow will be mellow ...

bullet

when the red man can get ahead, man; and

bullet

when white will embrace what is right.

So white is currently embracing what is wrong, eh?
(Unlike black, brown, yellow and red.)

In delivering President Obama's post-inauguration benediction,
Reverend Joseph Lowery shows the deeply racist nature
of the new administration. 

Racist Rev Jeremiah Wright was, it appears, no mere aberration.

Quote: The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering.  They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.”

US federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald
on the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich
for trying to auction Barack Obama's newly vacated Senate seat
with himself as beneficiary. 

This would make Mr Blagojevich the
fourth crook out of the last eight Illinois governors.

So, crooked Chicago politics continues as usual
even after the departure of Mr Obama. 
Who says he hasn't left a legacy? 

Quote: F**k” (x19)

Rod Blagojevich, governor of Illinois, accused of trying to auction off
Barack Obama's shortly-to-be-vacated Senate seat. 

(Of course Mr Obama claims he knew absolutely NOTHING
of such a dastardly plan.  Yeh, right.)

This expletive, with its variants, appears no fewer than nineteen times
as direct quotes from the lips of Mr Blagojevich
in the Federal criminal indictment.

- - - - - - - J I H A D - - - - - - -

Quote: It was a big mistake to end the war this way. The fact that Hamas is still in power is bad for all.  There's no room for these Hamas thugs in the West Bank. We won't allow Hamas to turn the West Bank into another Islamic republic.

A Palestinian spokesman for Fatah - yes, Fatah -
bemoans that Israel withdrew from Gaza too early,
without finishing off Hamas.

Quote: Osama Bin Laden is putting a lot of energy into his own survival, a lot of energy into his own security.  In fact, he appears to be largely isolated from the day-to-day operations of the organisation he nominally heads.

CIA director Michael Hayden continues with the CIA's mysterious myth
that Osama Bin Laden lives on when all the evidence,
not least that he has not been verifiably seen or heard from
since December 2002,
demonstrates that this is false.

- - - - - - - L I S B O N   T R E A T Y - - - - - - -

Quote: A multicultural society is a multi-conflict society.”

France's Viscount Philippe Le Jolis de Villiers de Saintignon,
who has long campaigned against abortion, gay marriage, immigration
and every European treaty including Lisbon.
He also equates Islam with terrorism.

He led the referendum campaign in France
which defeated the would-be EU Constitutional Treaty,
prompting it to be re-written as the Lisbon Treaty

Quote: I will now meet an EU dissident [Declan Ganley] and I regard myself as such as well.”

During a State visit to Ireland,
Czech president Vaclev Klaus severely irritates the Irish Government
by having dinner with Declan Ganley,
Ireland's leading anti-Lisbon Treaty campaigner

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

Quote: We didn't notice the downturn.

Brian Lenihan, Ireland's rookie Minister of Finance,
in July 2008, a full
two years after slowdown indicators
first became apparent and
when the country was actually in the grip of a full-scale crisis

Quote: The economy is banjaxed.”

Batt O'Keeffe, Ireland's Minister for Education & Science,
justifies budget cuts - which have still (Feb 2009) to be defined

Quote: Today we have 1,800 legal handguns [and] in three years' time that number could exceed 4,000 and rising. This is completely unacceptable.

Dermot Ahern, Ireland's Minister for Justice, in a bid for immortality,
wants to cut down on legal ownership of handguns
even though not a single legal handgun has ever been involved in crime.  

But, hey, banning legal guns is so much easier
than eliminating the illegal guns that the criminals actually use. 

- - - - - - - M I S C E L L A N E O U S - - - - - - -

MaxPlanckQuote: “... Jade-like girls in the spring of youth, beauties from the north who have a distinguished air of elegance and allure, young housewives having figures that will turn you on ... Their enchanting and coquettish performance will begin within the next few days.

The front cover of the prestigious Max Planck Institute's Q3/2008 journal
inadvertently advertises a strip club in China. 

That's what happens when you show off
by using fancy Chinese characters in your magazine
without carefully checking their
subtler meanings and double-entendres.

Quote [viewable by UK surfers only]: I think it's disgusting that drunken people leaving pubs throw up on the pavement; it should be stamped out.”  Uugh.

When he encounters the vomit of drunks,
Jeremy Hunt MP, Conservative Shadow Secretary of State
for Culture, Media and Sport,
likes to put his foot down.

Quote (Hat tip Graham in Perth): It matters not whether you win or lose; what matters is whether I win or lose.

Wisdom from a recent issue of Ginger Meggs,
Australia's longest-running comic strip.

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 What I've recently
been reading

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

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

See detailed review

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

bullet

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

bullet

the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

bullet

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

More details on my blog here.

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

bullet

part of a death march to Thailand,

bullet

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

bullet

regularly beaten and tortured,

bullet

racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

bullet

a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

bullet

Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

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

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

++++++

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

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as

bullet

Why does asparagus come from Peru?

bullet

Why are pandas so useless?

bullet

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

bullet

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:

bullet

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

bullet

Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

bullet

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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

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

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

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

+++++

Other books here

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