Just for fun, the latest Rasmussen poll on President
Barack Obama’s popularity will
from now on be published at the head of
the Tallrite Blog. The date is on the charts.
(Click on them to get the latest version.)
This great ad, with a very clever punchline at the end, was
produced by my niece, film-maker Kate McLaughlin, for a competition being
run by the UK employment agency Reed. Out of 250, she's been
shortlisted to the final twelve.
I, of course, think her submission deserves first prize.
If you agree (and even if you don't!), perhaps you would be kind enough to
give her your vote
We are all familiar with elderly people sometimes being a
bit forgetful. This is no surprise, for just as the body gets weak
over time, so can the brain.
What is surprising, however, is that organizations can
likewise become forgetful and this can be very costly. The memory
of an organization is held in two ways: in its paper and electronic
records and in the minds of its employees, however the latter are also
relied upon to access the former.
Last week, Irish TV showed a programme about Shell's
travails, over many years, to bring gas ashore from an offshore field
treat it and to sell it to the Irish grid, supplying 60% of the nation's industry and
Shell is spending
nearly €2 billion developing Corrib.
With full planning permission and legal backing for every piece of work
completed, this technologically complex project entails
several 3,000-metre wells in 350 metres of water depth,
laying an 83
km subsea pipeline to shore
plus a 9
km section onshore,
a gas treatment terminal to clean the gas ready for consumption.
Ireland, with no indigenous energy resources other than
a little hydro power,
a puff of methane and some filthy peat, is situated at the very end of a
8 ,000 km long gas network stretching across Europe. It
begins in faraway Siberia within the de-facto empire that is Russia,
notorious for cutting off exports in unpredictable hissy fits.
Considering this extreme vulnerability to disruption of energy supply to
Ireland, you would think the strategic value of Corrib is obvious.
Yet for over five years, Shell has been fighting a
rearguard action against a small number of local residents who maintain
that Corrib represents a threat to their lives because the inland gas
pipeline or the gas plant - based on no scientific evidence - might explode, and to the offshore pipeline
for perceived damage to fish stocks. The locals have been skilful
in mobilising professional international objectors (to Shell, to oil and
gas, to capitalism, to colonialism, to racism, to whatever) who
periodically descend to join protests and gain media airtime.
Somewhat menacingly, they are also supported by Sinn Fein and other
ex-paramilitary groups, which have had the effect of chilling the
vast majority of local people who in fact strongly support the project.
Five local protestors were jailed in 2005 (for contempt of court),
another last year (for assault) and
several more jail sentences are pending, but this has been no
deterrent to the protestors.
It's a kind of asymmetric warfare, where a small gang of
insurgents is successfully engaging the vast might of multinational
Shell and the Irish State itself, and causing huge time and cost
overruns. Police overtime alone is costing
€5m per year.
How ever did Shell get itself into this mess?
Through organizational dementia, that's how.
Enterprise, an independent UK oil company, discovered
Corrib in 1996, the first commercial discovery since 1973, after the
exploration industry had spent over
€2 billion in
otherwise fruitless offshore exploration. It launched the development project at the turn of
the millennium, but had little experience in mounting such a difficult
endeavour (offshore, deep water, bad weather, new country). So it
was with some relief, as far as Corrib was concerned, when Shell
bought Enterprise in 2002 for Ł3˝ billion
in cash. A project such as Corrib was right up Shell's street.
The seeds of trouble had been
sewn when Enterprise, in its naďveté,
had made a basic mistake when it embarked upon Corrib. But Shell had no
excuse to make the same and more.
I worked for Shell in Nigeria,
for a total of seven years in two different postings, the second as a
senior manager, until just before the PR disaster that erupted in 1995
with execution of
Saro Wiwa. I can state categorically that Shell as a
corporation - both its Nigerian arm and its twin head offices in The
Hague and London - never entertained any kind of conspiracy whatsoever
to engineer the harassment, imprisonment or execution of Mr Saro Wiwa
and his eight colleagues. As the record shows, they were convicted
and executed for murdering four Nigerian chiefs, not for anything
connected to or demanded by Shell. The Nigerian judicial process
may have been flawed, but Shell had not hand or part in it.
It is of course true that over
the years Shell, the country's biggest company, made lots of mistakes
which occasionally resulted in accidentals oil spills, injuries and even
deaths. But accidents they were, fully investigated and promptly
rectified (and compensated) to the extent possible. In the early days of attacks
from enraged locals, Shell would sometimes call the Nigerian police for
protection. However when it became clear that this might result in
disproportionate violence by the police (and/or army) it discontinued the practice, and merely
closed down operations instead, at great cost in forgone oil. On
not a single occasion did Shell call in Nigeria's security apparatus
with the intention (much less instruction) of having demonstrators
Nevertheless, protestors -
with a legitimate complaint that almost none of the vast tax money from
Shell's production (some 90% went in tax) was used to improve the lot of
the local people - chose to vent their anger at Shell (safe) rather than
the true culprits, the State and Federal Governments (deadly).
From this simple scenario, the
PR disaster unfolded that engulfed Shell around the world, with the
gross calumnies that Shell was causing wanton pollution and death in
pursuit of profits, culminating in the execution of Mr Saro Wiwa and his
On the day they were
killed, I was a guest at a long-service dinner in the Hague hosted
by Shell's then Chairman, Cor Herkströter.
I vividly remember the extreme emotion of this otherwise
expressionless Dutchman, and the deathly silence that befell the
room, as he announced the horror that had happened a few hours
earlier. The earlier gaiety of the evening did not return.
This PR disaster coincided
with the other one in the North Sea when Shell announced it planned to
sink an obsolete cylindrical floating platform, the
Spar, in the Atlantic Ocean. Environmentalists and other angry
people concluded that Brent Spar was a toxic, oil-laded monstrosity
whose disposal in the North Sea (sic) would cause untold damage to
marine life. Clever media campaigns and distortions by Greenpeace
and others captured the world's TV screens and imagination.
Growing its own international legs, amplified by the Nigeria
accusations, the story caused enormous damage to the Shell brand,
eventually forcing a U-turn. Yet the accusations were totally
untrue, and even Greenpeace eventually acknowledged that the planned
dumping posed no hazard to the environment. Brent Spar had been
meticulously cleansed of all oil and other pollutants, and was planned
to be sunk in the Atlantic far beyond territorial waters and at 2,500
metres, a depth so enormous that virtually no marine life existed
In the end, Shell ran a
competition which resulted in disposal by slicing up the Spar to make a
quay for a roll-on-roll-off ferry in Norway. Due to the complete
openness of this approach, there were no further demos.
The common lesson from both
these catastrophes was that it is insufficient to be right - whether
factually right, scientifically right, technologically right,
environmentally right, logically right, legally right, morally right. In fact
might as well have no meaning unless and until it is successfully
communicated to the people who need, or want, to know about it.
Shell worked hard to
improve the lot of Nigerians (certainly during all the twenty year
span during which I worked there).
Shell came up with an
elegant, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective solution for
safely disposing of Brent Spar.
Yet a great many people
didn't know any of this, didn't believe it when/if they were told,
and in the resulting knowledge-vacuum drew precisely the opposite, most malign
If you fail to
convince people, especially the neighbours among whom you are
working, of your bona-fides, they can cause all kinds of grief to
A further difficult lesson was that, for multinational
giants like Shell, the world had - perfectly reasonably - moved on
“Trust me” to “Show me”.
Within Shell, this message was
drummed relentlessly into everyone throughout the second half of the
1990s, especially among managers (such as I was) and other senior employees. Every
effort was made to put the new philosophy into practice.
Never again would Shell propose big projects without clearing the way
first with the locals.
Just one example was the
accolades Shell won from all bodies of all persuasions for their
sensitive development in 2001 of
Malampaya gas field in
very deep waters offshore Philippines, a $4˝
billion project even more demanding than Corrib in almost every respect.
One such was the International Chamber of Commerce and the United
Nations Environment Program naming Malampaya, at a World Summit on
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, as one of its
Best Examples of Sustainable Development Partnerships in Action”.
Yet ignoring this philosophy has
been the root of the problem with Corrib.
I believe that Enterprise started the rot by ignoring
and not respecting the locals. But for the above reasons, Shell
had no excuse, when Shell bought their way in, for forgetting the horror
stories of Brent Spar and Nigeria. Shell simply didn't bother to get
the locals on board at a very early stage and to secure their support.
Why did the corporate memory apparently hit the Delete
button? It's a good question. It is doubtless associated with
the large numbers of senior people who left the company (with juicy
packages) at the beginning of the millennium as part of corporate
restructuring, and took their expertise and experience with them.
For that elementary, inexcusable mistake made in Corrib, Shell
shareholders are paying a ridiculous premium in terms of Corrib's hugely
increased cost and delayed revenue, not to mention badly damaged
There is an interesting parallel in recent Irish rugby,
In 1872 Dublin built the world's first international
rugby venue in
Lansdowne Road on which a stadium for 49,000 in due course emerged.
Largely for reasons of comfort and safety, the IRFU (Irish Rugby
Football Union) launched a project in
2004 to tear it down and replace it with a much larger, modern stadium.
A landmark deal was reached, for the duration of the
construction, to play big rugby and soccer matches at the huge, 88,000
person Gaelic Games stadium across the river. (This stadium was
heretofore closed to non-Irish games ever since police militaries,
protected by the British Army, invaded the pitch during a match in 1920
mowed down fourteen people including a team captain. This was
in retaliation for the earlier killing of fourteen British Agents by the
Croke Park, the fourth largest stadium in Europe, has
been filled to capacity for nearly every rugby and soccer match played
there since 2007.
But, like Corrib, the Lansdowne Road redevelopment
quickly ran into massive resistance from local residents who didn't want
the extra crowds, the loss of their views, the noise, the floodlights
etc etc. A compromise was eventually reached which entailed
reducing the seating capacity to 50,000 and also the size of the pitch.
This compromise has ensured that the new stadium
- elegant as it has undoubtedly been planned - will be
a €365 million white elephant, not to mention the delays and overruns
Thanks to Croke Park, we now know that, due to the downsizing, every single
match will create at least 35,000 enraged and frustrated fans unable to
get tickets. How long will such anger be sustainable before
something gives? Will they one day storm the bastions of the IRFU like
some latter-day sans-culottes? Who knows.
Alternatively, the new stadium will stand empty while
matches are switched to Croke Park. Conversely, moreover, the less
popular Gaelic games, which often fail to fill Croke Park, will be
unable to use Lansdowne Road because the pitch is too small.
As I said, a white elephant. And all because the
failed - like Shell - to consult the local residents early enough, to
respect their views, to explain the project, to cut lucrative deals with
them, to do whatever was necessary to secure their support.
(It is said that the GAA - which had
skilfully expanded Croke Park over many years - is a game for
amateurs run by professionals, whereas rugby is a game for
professionals run by the amateurs of the IRFU.)
By contrast, the management of rugby in the province of Munster
also needed to upgrade and expand its Thomond Park stadium in Limerick,
from 12,500 to 26,500. But Munster Rugby first went to all the
neighbours and flattered them to the high
heavens. It then bought out a pile of nearby houses at inflated
prices. Only when everyone was onboard and happy, did they give the
go-ahead to build the
new Thomond Park, the first step of which was
to demolish all those houses to make room for a big enough stadium.
It was delivered on time and within its paltry €40m budget.
Shell should get over its organizational dementia and learn (ie re-learn) from
Munster Rugby. So should the IRFU.
I failed to have a letter published in the Sunday Times
last month addressing a pet grievance of mine. I find it most odd,
and intensely irritating, that the cult of political correctness has
infected women, and men who think they are being nice to women, in a
most unwomanly manner.
There follow four examples: female nouns, unladylike
phraseology (the subject of my Sunday Times letter), ungrammatical
feminism, and jobs for the girls.
Why are there no more actresses and stewardesses,
but only actors and stewards? Why do movie superstars like
Meryl Streep or Angelina Jolie, who are very obviously female,
nowadays call themselves actors, as do their Hollywood employers?
(The only exception is for the Oscars as otherwise there would be
instead of two.)
Women seem to think that by admitting that they are different from
men (D'oh!) they are therefore inferior to men (Huh?), while men -
not wanting to offend the sisters - go along with it. This is
utterly bizarre - women wanting to publicly proclaim a belief that
men are superior by demanding they be described using male
identifiers in order to deny their inferiority (unless, of course,
it means competing with men for an Oscar, in which case it's OK to
admit you're a woman).
Let's be clear. The only way an actress can be inferior to an
actor is if her acting is less accomplished than his.
Similarly, she can be superior to him. The two nouns convey
neither inferiority nor superiority.
So can we please go back to using the female form of nouns when
referring to females. A woman who acts, stewards, hosts or
whatever is an actress, stewardess, hostess (with the mostest).
It is ridiculous to pretend otherwise.
There is an increasing tendency of women to use
words and expressions that for good reasons have been the exclusive
preserve of men, but only in all-male company and often only in the
locker-room. This was the subject of my (rejected) Sunday
Times letter (see below).
The paper's regular columnist India Knight is a particular exponent.
One of her favourite moans is about women being
“knackered” - she has glibly thrown this around the newspaper
no fewer than fourteen times since 2004.
But "knackered" doesn't simply mean tired, it means
your knackers have been removed. Therefore a woman, such as Ms Knight, can
never be "knackered", or alternatively is born that way.
"Getting your finger out" is another of her expressions.
But this doesn't simply mean getting down to work, it means removing
your finger from your anus in order to do so, a rather unsavoury
I single out Ms Knight, but on TV and radio as well as in print you
increasingly encounter women who use these and similar male-only
expressions as if they are some cool way of talking, of showing they
are the same as (subtext: not inferior to) men. But
they are not being cool. Such words have no place in the
mouths of women, and their use merely confirms women's own curious
view of their own inferiority. Bizarre.
What exactly is wrong with a woman being a woman? Outside the
wilder reaches of Islam and other isolated pockets, no Western men
believe females are inferior to males, just that they are different.
This is an intractable area and one that I
have a great deal of sympathy for.
The English language uses
three genders - masculine (he), feminine (she) and neutral (it). But
it has no singular pronoun that is inclusive of both male and
For centuries until the last couple of decades, this conundrum was
solved by saying that use of the masculine gender includes, where the
context so requires, the feminine gender. So everything singular
“he”, “him”, “his”.
But women ask,
fairly, why should theirs be the gender that is subsumed within the
male, rather than, say, the other way round?
However the problem goes away in the plural, since
“they”, “them” and “their” embraces both
genders. So the modern fashion is to use the plural, together
with plural verb if necessary, as if it is a
singular. But this is to butcher the English language with
ghastly phrases like these, even from eminent writers -
them headed off to the nearest sports shop where
they secured a tennis ball”
“You can wave cheerily at
day for 20-odd years without knowing
In most cases you can solve the problem,
while respecting the grammar, in a very
simple way. For instance the last phrase can be re-stated as:
name”. Of course this gets awkward if you have lots of
pronouns in the same sentence. However, it is surprising how
often you can simply pluralise the problem away, which protects both
the ladies and grammatical purity. For example, “a
third of Americans call themselves evangelical”.
When all else fails, however, I believe we just have to go back to
the original way of using English - select one gender (feminine if
you prefer) and if necessary explain
that it should be read to include the other. There is simply
no excuse for atrocious grammar,
as in “Each person for themself!”
What serious woman could
Jobs for the Girls
Finally, there is the case of jobs for the girls. These are
jobs that are given to women not because they have any merit or
proven ability, but just because they are women.
In December I
commented on two recent EU examples
that illustrate this perfectly.
Following a typical EU insiders'
closed-shop convocation, the
the new Lisbon-enabled “High Representative of the
(translation: Foreign Minister) and later
“First-Vice-President of the European Commission”.
admitted that she got the first (and no
second) job because she’s a female centre-left Brit,
because she has superior ability, much less
any expertise in
foreign affairs where her experience is
awarded her a baronetcy in 1999 after
an undistinguished but
Labour-supporting career first with
the left-wing and
ineffectual CND, then various
she's a woman, so of course accomplishment is superfluous to
Then Ireland's Taoiseach Brian Cowen
appointed as his
current EU Commissioner the political has-been
“ahead of other well-qualified candidates”
just because she’s a
woman, in other
words not on her own merits (though unlike
Ashton, she at least
This was in obeisance to the
president José Manuel Barroso: “I would ...
urge you to pay
particular attention to the
of women in the college
A third example: in the UK, David Cameron
the idea of
all-women selection lists as a means to
parliamentary representation. This too
would mean that any
woman so elected
sneers, as her success would - rightly or wrongly
dismissed as due solely to her sex not her expertise.
Tory MP Ann Widdecombe had the correct response when
said the idea was
would make women
“second class citizens”.
In America, the feminism-driven Obama
“to litigate, regulate, and legislate the
until women obtain half of all
academic degrees in science
and technology and hold
half of the faculty positions in
Nothing there about improving women's actual, you know,
expertise to win those juicy degrees and jobs in fair and
competition. It's seems a given that he thinks they're
must such women rightly feel as they take up their new roles secure
in the knowledge that they owe them solely to their sex, or at least
that everyone is thinking this even if it's not so. And
how their male colleagues (and countless other men and women -
including me) must snort in derision, whether behind the ladies'
backs or to their faces.
Feminists are in the vanguard of
pushing the kind of special treatment for women described in the four
illustrations above. As such, they are womanhood's own worst
enemies, both in terms of attracting scorn and eroding, for their sex,
incentives to hard work and achievement. Even women who have
attained their position entirely through merit become tainted - because
others look at them and wonder whether they too have had special
Indeed it seems to me
guilty of the very disdain for women of which they would accuse some
This ad, for some ugly vehicle called an Audi A3 TDI,
designated as environmentally friendly, must be giving Greens all over
the world wet dreams, as they salivate over how a true Green Police
Force would behave. Shown at this year's Super Bowl, it seems to
me a mad premise to try to sell a car - buy it and you won't be harassed
by the Green Gestapo?
At the other end of the scale, the same event also aired
anti-abortion ad where a mother describes how her failure to abort
resulted in the creation of
Tim Tebow, a college football superstar. Feminists were
enraged by this crass infringement on their sacred right to kill
Maybe the Super Bowl isn't so bad after all. (The
New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis
Of course acronyming is an old sport dating back at
least a century.
Founded in 1899, the carmaker
FIAT dreamed up one of
the cleverest acronyms ever. Not only does this simple word
stand for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, or Turin's Italian
car factory, but it also means, in Latin,
“Let it be made”.
Radar is another clever, early one - Radio Detection
followed a few decades later - Light Amplification by the Stimulated
Emission of Radiation -
and indeed is also pretty old by now, as is
Sonar - Sound Navigation And Ranging.
Nimby - Not In My Back Yard,
has also been around a long time.
Cars attract their fair share of acronymic abuse, for
Dodge (Drips Oil & Drops Grease Everywhere),
Volvo - Very Odd Looking Vehicular Object,
Buick - Big Ugly Indestructible Car Killer,
VW - Virtually Worthless, or Very Worrying;
PIA - Perhaps It'll Arrive,
Sabena - Such A Bloody Experience Never Again (no
wonder it's now defunct),
BOAC - Better On A Camel (or by now on
BA - Bloody
During the Cold War how we chuckled at
MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction), to counter which we
SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks),
START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and indeed
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
However GULAG, an acronym albeit a Russian one
grimly meaning Main Administration of Corrective Labour Camps, was
no laughing matter.
For politicians, Ireland's beleaguered
and bumbling Taoiseach (prime
minister) gets first prize:
- Big Ignorant F***er From Offaly (his home county).
Among those that reflect different life-styles, we have
- Dual Income, Married, With Teens
- Kids in Parents' Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings
The credit crunch has spawned a few more:
First there were the
BRICs (Brazil, Russia,
India and China), singled out as fast-growing developing economies that
are bucking the recessionary trend.
At the other end of the economic scale are the
PIGIS (Portugal, Italy, Greece,
Ireland and Spain), derided for coming close to defaulting on their sovereign debt
and jeopardising the €uro, and a whole
pile of other problems.
that Ireland has taken budgetary action by swingeing public sector
cuts, the PIGIS have become mere
PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain),
whose star member is Greece with its ingrained budgetary cheating,
financial mistatements, over-borrowing, tax-evasion and inability to
cut spending. The PIGS are keeping the €uro under threat.
But when the bad-boy net is spread beyond €uroland and beyond
Europe, you get the best credit-crunch acronym of all, the ...
is there for destroying the Ł with its Mugabeconomics
quantitative easing and its refusal to cut spending,
for the Greece disease but worse and
for its spectacular property bust despite temporary relief
$5-10 billion bail-out from Abu Dhabi.
But the overall acronymic winner comes (almost) last,
the Quintuple A -
AAAAA - Amateur Association
Against the Abuse of
Meanwhile, on today, Saint Valentine's Day, our
thoughts turn to
Do you agree with George Lee's decision to resign his Dáil seat? Comment on an article in the Irish Times
Through the spurious and premature abandonment of the mandate graciously
bestowed upon Mr Lee by 27,000 well-meaning voters, Mr Lee by his abrupt
resignation has grossly insulted his electorate. He reminds me of a
certain feckless president who ...
Unsavoury Expressions Letter to the Sunday Times (unpublished) I hope you will publish this letter because I would like female
journalists such as India Knight to understand the true meanings of a
couple of male locker-room expressions they glibly throw around as if
they are some cool way of talking.
“Getting your finger out”
doesn't simply mean ... [See also
Disdain for Womanhood” above]
Intergovernmental Perjury over Climate Catastrophe (ctd) Comment in the Spectator-hosted Melanie Philips Blog
For the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the
AGW scam, all in one place, there is no better source than the public
lecture given last October by Lord Monckton ...
Ho-hum, just part of the typical rough-and-tumble
of a meeting of the Oxford Union
A heckler shouts, with impunity, at Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister
who was invited to speak on the history of Israel.
“Iraq was rubbish, we did nothing but look
at kids. Northern Ireland was boring. Afghan, however, was
brilliant: we were fighting every day.”
The British Army's Corporal Tel Byrne,
whose leg and a finger were blown off by an IED in Afghanistan,
expresses the soldiers' unself-pitying attitude,
while being fitted for a well-deserved Saville Row suit
- - - - - - O B A M A - - - - -
“I’m very optimistic about Iraq. I think it’s going
to be one of the great achievements of this administration ... You're
going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving
toward a representative government.”
Vice President Joe Biden, bragging - incredibly
that the Democrats have re-made Iraq.
And for once, the Obama administration is not
“Bush did it”.
Of course they've quietly forgotten that
“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and
he's going to meet his maker. He will be brought to justice
and he's likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he
committed in killing and masterminding the killing of 3,000
Americans. That you can be sure of
Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary,
provides the perfect defense for KSM,
the alleged mastermind of 9-11,
at his forthcoming civil trial in New York.
The feckless Mr Gibbs has pre-judged KSM,
found him guilty and sentenced him to death.
This totally compromises the essence of a fair trial
and the ancient concept of being innocent until found guilty.
There seems no end to the incompetence
with which the incompetent president surrounds himself.
President Obama seems to think that
the US Navy nurse is the corpse, not the patient on the gurney.
In case you're reading this, Mr Obama the great
and it's nothing to do with dead humans.
It derives “corps”, which is a French word
(hence the non-pronunciation of the p),
which in turn gets it from the Latin “corpus”.
Both these words mean
“body” as in body of men, not as in dead body.
Ever heard of “esprit de corps”?
Who writes your speeches?
Don't you check them and rehearse
Didn't you study Latin and French at school?
rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term
President Obama, in a softball one-on-one
interview with ABC News.
he failed to consider the [most likely] third option -
“a mediocre one-term president.”
- - - - - C L I M A T E G A T E - - - - -
Quote: “Every day, new scandals emerge about the so called ‘facts’ in
the UN reports. The integrity of the data and the integrity of the science
have been compromised... The UN’s general assembly and UN Secretary Moon
must pressure Dr. Rajendra Pachauri to step down as head of the United
Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming calls out the IPCC.
Pity his EU near-namesake
José Manuel Barroso doesn't do the same.
“Ancient Chinese considered three a breaking point. They
could forgive two errors, but not a third. Now that the IPCC has
admitted three ‘human’ errors, isn't it time scientists gave
its work a serious review?”
Journalist Li Xing writing in the China Daily.
I had always thought that
“three strikes and you're out”
was an American not Chinese invention.
However the existing Climategate strikes by now
well exceed three.
“We really do love our trees. I named my
daughter Willow. Isn't that granola enough for them?”
Sarah Palin polishes her environmental
- - - - - B A N K E R S - - - - -
Ginger Meggs cartoon strip: “99 percent of bankers give the rest a bad
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF