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Indexes
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To find an archived article, simply click on Index and scroll the subject titles, or do a Ctrl-F search

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

Ill-informed and objectionable;
You poisonous, bigoted, ignorant, verbose little wa*ker. (except I'm not little - 1.97m)
Reader comments

February 2011

bullet

ISSUE #211 - February 2011


Myspace Clocks, Video Clocks, Flash Clocks, Fun Clocks at WishAFriend.com

ISSUE #211 - February 2011 [370+2057=2427]

Daily poll on President Obama’s popularity; date is on the charts. (Click to get the latest version.)
Worrying improvement lately!

Rasmussen Daily Poll - 29 January 2011

47% Total Approval as at 29 January 2011

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Leinster's Glory

bullet

Have Fun with your Economic Stimulus

bullet

Vicious to Virtuous Spiral

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Drowning in Oil: BP & the Relentless Pursuit of Profit - A Review

bullet

Irish Judiciary Copy Catholic Church

bullet

Monckton vs Gibbons on Climate and AIDS

bullet

One Ronnie and an Eggs Box

bullet

Fastidious Sharks

bullet

Issue 211’s Comments to Cyberspace

bullet

Quotes for Issue 211

Leinster's Glory

Leinster Rugby has at last come out with a rambunctious song of its own designed to rouse fans and players alike to ever more heroic endeavours on the playing field, whilst intimidating opponents. 

It's called Leinster's Glory and it premiered on Youtube on 16th February. 

The new song will have its first outing when Leinster plays Leicester in the 2010 Heineken European Cup Quarter Final in Dublin's new Landsdowne Road stadium on Saturday 9th April 2011. 

Back to List of Contents

Have Fun with your Economic Stimulus

What an Economic Stimulus is, and how to enjoy it patriotically

Sometime this year, we taxpayers will again receive another Economic Stimulus payment. This is indeed a very exciting program, so let’s explain it by using a Question & Answer format:

Question. What is an Economic Stimulus payment?
          Answer. It is money that the government will send to taxpayers.

Q. Where will the government get this money ?
          A. From taxpayers.

Q. So the government is giving me back my own money?
          A. Only a smidgen of it.

Q. What is the purpose of this payment?
          A. The plan is for you to use the money to purchase
               a high-definition TV set, thus stimulating the economy.

Q. But isn't that stimulating the economy of China?
          A. Shut up.

Below is some helpful advice on how to best help your home economy by spending your stimulus cheque wisely:

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If you spend the stimulus money at Asda or Tesco, the money will go to China, Taiwan or Sri Lanka

bullet

If you spend it on petrol, your money will go to the Arabs and Iranians.

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If you purchase a computer, it will go to India, Taiwan or China.

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If you purchase fruit and vegetables, it will go to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.

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If you buy an efficient car, it will go to Japan or Korea.

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If you purchase useless stuff, it will go to Taiwan.

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If you pay your credit cards off, or buy shares, it will go to management bonuses and they will hide it offshore.

Instead, keep the money in your home country by:

1) Spending it at car boot sales, or

2) Going to night clubs, or

3) Spending it on prostitutes, or

4) Beer or whisky or

5) Tattoos.

These are the only domestic businesses still operating in most European countries. 

Conclusion:

Be patriotic - go to a night club with a tattooed prostitute that you met at a car boot sale and drink beer day and night!

No need to thank me, I'm just glad I could be of help.

Hat tip: Barry O'Neill

Back to List of Contents

Vicious to Virtuous Spiral

There is no better way to destroy a wicked state than through economics

There is a country somewhere with some remarkable attributes.  Let's call it Country N. 

Splendid meticulously maintained highways, from four to ten lanes, radiate out from the capital, which sports the museums, high-rise thousand-room hotels, massive monuments, football stadia (including the world's biggest, seating 150,000) etc that one would would expect from such a city. 

The capital also sports a magnificent if small underground railway system built over four decades ago.  At an average depth of 110 metres, it is the world's deepest.  Each of its seventeen stations is an extravagant work of art festooned with mosaics, bronze plaques, victory arches, chandeliers. 

It also has some remarkable technical achievements to its name which lead to lucrative export earnings.  It is among world leaders in nuclear weapons technology, rocket technology, tunnelling technology. 

Country N is a strong defender of its sovereignty, fortified by a huge military - the world's fourth biggest, with 1.1 million personnel (5% of its population) under arms.  Of course this comes at a price: 25% of its GNP.  So there is not much left for the general populace, which anyway earns a mere $2½ per day per person. 

This is how A compares with other major military countries, including one we'll call U. 

 

Country

National
Income

Military

Active Personnel

Expenditure

GNP, $/d
per citizen

Number,
million

 As %
of population

As % of GNP

N

$2½

1.11

5.0%

25%

U

$25

3.00

1.0%

16%

China

$19

2.29

0.2%

6.1%

USA

$125

1.58

1.0%

4.1%

India

$9

1.33

0.3%

3.1%

N and U share one mighty characteristic. They spend a huge chunk, 25% and 16%, of their citizens' income on the military. 

Thanks to these enormous, handsomely funded armies, navies and air forces, comprising millions of men under arms and countless weapons systems including nuclear ones, N and U make themselves virtually impregnable.  So what can possibly go wrong?   

Well eventually, they can suffer an colossal economic implosion due to the endless spending which leaves almost nothing for anything or anyone else.  And then, without even a (Tunisian/Egyptian style) popular uprising by the masses who have been systematically pauperised over many decades, such a country can disappear altogether. 

That is precisely the calamity that befell Country U in 1991, which was of course the malign, murderous, incompetent Soviet Union, with its railways, roads, airports monuments, hotels, skyscapers, industries and all the trappings of modernity.  Ronald Reagan cunningly helped it on its downward vicious spiral by steadily increasing America's military expenditure throughout the 1980s.  The % of GNP” column in the above table shows it could well afford this.  But when the Soviets tried to keep up, they couldn't remotely manage to because the wider economy had long been ruined thanks to their socialist policies - the vast percentage of GNP going to the military (16%) was unsustainable.  As Mrs Thatcher had sagely observed way back in 1976, Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money.  And then you die, she could have added. 

So the Soviet Union died - and without a shot being fired. 

I lived through the long years when a nuclear war with the Soviets looked inevitable.  No-one in those days could envisage an outcome that did not involve

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either total surrender by the West followed by the brutal subjugation already suffered within the Soviet Empire,

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or else a Pyrrhic victory achieved at the cost of hydrogen and neutron bombs obliterating major cities and people in their millions - suffered by both sides of the conflict. 

Yet by the end of 1991, hundreds of millions of oppressed people had been rapidly liberated across Russia and in the states formerly shackled to it as part of its sinister Soviet empire, from Vladivostok to the Black Sea to Berlin to the Baltic.  The Cold War stopped dead in its tracks, handing resounding victory to America and the West, while creating countless new countries with strange names (Kyrgyzstan?) that few Westerners had ever heard of.  Incredible to imagine at the time, but true.  Truly a black swan event. 

So what about Country N?  Can we expect the same? What is Country N?  You probably guessed that it's North Korea. 

Chun Yung-woo is South Korea's chief presidential adviser on national security and foreign affairs and was once the South's top negotiator on the now-stalled six-nation talks on the North's nuclear weapons programme.  He recently remarked that

I think they will come to the point where they can no longer sustain the burden of military expenditure ... their obsession with their military capabilities, especially weapons of mass destruction like nuclear weapons, chemical weapons ... would be a short-cut to their demise”. 

When you see how, despite the impoverishment of its people, each making just $2.50 a day, from which the diabolical dynastic despot Kim Jong Il (progeny of state founder Kim Il Sung, thankfully dead since 1994 but constitutionally the president for all eternity) then confiscates 62 cents for his army, navy and air force, you have to wonder for how long this will be sustainable.  In recent years North Korea has had to cope with natural disasters and famine in the 1990s, botched currency reform in 2009 and massive flooding last year, all of this misery massively amplified if not caused by a ruling élite distinguished by its stunning ineptitude and endemic corruption. 

Yes, its nuclear arsenal is terrifying, the more so because of the lunacy of its dictator and the uncertainty about the timing and nature of his succession (believed to be to a sour-looking son, Kim Jong Un).  Kim Jong Il could at any time obliterate Seoul, the capital of his mortal enemy South Korea, in a matter of hours, after which God knows what direction the inevitable war and response would take.  Moreover, until that happens or the North Korean regime falls by other means, it will continue to export its nuclear technology to terror states such as Syria, Iran and Burma, which in turn encourages other states in those neighbourhoods to counter this by building their own nuclear arsenals in the interests of defence.  Where that leaves the world in terms of its security is anyone's guess, but none of the guesses is going to be healthy. 

To me the fear and helplessness that many today feel at this kind of Armageddon scenario is eerily reminiscent of the mood during the 1980s.  Then, as indicated above, the terror that permeated the world was of a sudden nuclear conflict triggered by the MADness (mutually assured destruction) of the Soviet Union and its opponent the United States, both of them armed with enough such weapons to destroy everything and everyone on planet several times over. 

But if that threat were suddenly defused by simple economics - the inability of one adversary to continue functioning simply because it had no more money - then there is hope that North Korea will similarly crumble for the same reason.  For dire as the finances of the USSR were, the table above illustrates that North Korea's are worse by an order of magnitude. 

This therefore represents a message of hope.  Diplomatic and economic sanctions, and indeed any measures that will require the regime to spend money, pursued doggedly, will eventually squeeze the illegitimate regime of Kim Jong Il and his odious family until finally the pips squeak and they're gone - deposed, imprisoned, exiled, killed, or all four.  Who cares so long as the regime is history? 

N Korea's Diabolical Kim Despots

Economic and migratory mayhem will doubtless follow for a while, as the two Koreas reunite like two geological continents.  But if the Germans can manage such a transition without gunfire, then with the goodwill and assistance of the rest of the world, the Koreans certainly can. 

We have seen in recent history how a vicious spiral can turn into a virtuous one.  We - and more importantly the Koreans - have therefore reason to be sanguine. 

Back to List of Contents

Drowning in Oil: BP & the Relentless Pursuit of Profit - A Review
By Loren C Steffy, McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (November 5, 2010), 285 pages, £12.54

BP's blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was the inevitable consequence
of BP's unprofessional culture

Drowning in Oil - Macondo BlowoutNot long ago I was invited to place a review of this book on Amazon's website by its publisher McGraw-Hill, who kindly sent me a copy.  I received no payment (regrettably). 

This is my full review, which I sent to them with the request it be forwarded to the author.  I doubt they enjoyed it very much - truth hurts.  I have now submitted a somewhat shorter version to Amazon, the only review there that so far appears. 

Drowning in Oil is one of the first books published that examines in detail the events leading up to BP's Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.  Extremely well structured and argued, it grabs the reader’s attention in the first few paragraphs and holds it for the succeeding 285 pages. 

The author builds up a convincing picture of a major company, one of the fabled “Seven Sisters”, which in 1995, eight years after privatisation by Mrs Thatcher, acquired an ambitious and energetic CEO John Browne.  Mr (now Lord) Browne expanded BP and its reserves by buying Amoco and Arco, two mid-level US companies, and embarking on ever more ambitious offshore exploration targets. 

Meanwhile, he improved profitability by instigating a massive, relentless and never-ending cost-reduction drive.  His mistake, however, was to make it clear – though without actually saying so – that cost-cutting trumped everything else including safety.   As a result maintenance was slashed, skilled and experienced older engineers were fired, key technical expertise and activities were outsourced, safety issues were neglected – especially if money was involved.  These were all steps for which the negative effects do not become fully apparent for some years, whereas the dollar savings are immediate. 

Moreover, Browne’s practice of grooming and broadening his bright young protégés (whom he called his “turtles”) by shifting them from job to job with only a few months or years in each, meant that not only did they fail to pick up the necessary technical skills normally obtained through long hard grafting, but they didn’t stick around long enough to suffer the problems their inexperience and incompetence often engendered. 

In such a climate, mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying  and deadly accidents in refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, giving BP the worst safety record – by far – of all the US oil industry.  It also contributed to the business disaster that befell BP when Russia virtually commandeered its operations in that country and BP's local managing director Bob Dudley (now BP's CEO) had to flee for his life.  

The Macondo blowout was, therefore, not a freak, unlucky event, but merely the inevitable outcome of all this.  Yes, appalling technical errors were committed by the staff both offshore and more pertinently onshore.  But the people, systems and organisation involved were the product of the poisonous corporate culture that Browne, and Tony Hayward, the turtle who replaced him, engendered and fostered.

The author develops this central argument very effectively and convincingly, and it is undoubtedly sound.  Indeed it is supported by the findings in January 2011 of the Oil Spill Commission appointed by the White House. 

What a pity, therefore, that the book is rife with technical errors, mistaken terminology and even silly arithmetic mistakes and typos.  Indeed the very first page of the Preface contains a typo: “the America”.  With just a little bit more effort and proper technical editing, the book would have offered so much more.  For example,

bullet

It would have benefited hugely from a few simplified line drawings and charts to illustrate some of the complex technical issues described (often wrongly) by the author. 

bullet

And a few photographs would have further enlivened the volume. 

bullet

Furthermore, while the book is well annotated at the back with a per-chapter listing, it is annoying that the chapter numbers in the listing do not contain the chapter titles, while the chapter titles in the header of each page do not include the chapter numbers.  This makes cross checking the annotations clumsy and irritating.  

The most schoolboyish arithmetical mistakes surround the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker that ran aground in Alaska in 1989 spewing its entire load of heavy viscous crude onto the cold, pristine shoreline and wildlife. 

bullet

In 1969 a blowout in Santa Barbara California spilled 200,000 gallons (ca 50,000 barrels);
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the author says on p183 that the Valdez spill was 50 times greater, implying its load was 2,500,000 barrels. 

bullet

On the next page he says that at 30,000 barrels per day, the Macondo blowout would exceed the that of the Valdez in two weeks –
bullet

which would mean the Valdez spill was around 420,000 barrels. 

bullet

The page after that, a different Macondo estimate, of 70,000 barrels a day, would apparently take four days to exceed that of the Valdez,
bullet

ie the Valdez contained 280,000  barrels. 

So how much oil did the Valdez spill, Mr Steffy?  2½ million barrels?  400,000? 280,000?  Answer: between 260,000 to 750,000 barrels, as any quick internet search reveals.  The issue is further confused by the author’s bothersome habit of switching units between barrels and gallons and not defining whether the latter are US gallons (42 to the barrel) or Imperial gallons (35).   Moreover, the author neglects to explain that, in the absence of any means to take quantitative measurements, all the Macondo flow rates provided are mere guesstimates - mostly made by eyeballing oil flowing from a pipe at seabed as viewed on a TV monitor filmed by a robot submarine. 

The technical errors are so pervasive in those areas where I happen to possess expertise (deep-water high-pressure drilling operations), that I would have to assume a similar degree of technical blunders in areas where my expertise is more limited (refineries, Arctic pipelines, Russian petropolitics). 

Moreover, it is clear from the nature of the errors that the author believes – and is able to convince others who are similarly uninformed – that he in fact knows what he is talking about.  (Listen to him, for example, in this recent interview with the Daily Telegraph).  Therefore he has not sought specialist advice and editing.  But his confidence is unfounded, and his lack of technical knowledge seems to lie in the realm of Donald Rumsfeld’s much derided “unknown unknowns”.  That can be the only reason he failed to seek expert input to what would otherwise be the defining book of the Macondo blowout. 

The book is in bad need of technical editing before the second edition is issued (naturally I have offered my services). 

I have listed the forty or so errors that I found on just a first reading, on a separate page entitled Drowning in Oily Mistakes

My overall conclusion: unless you are relaxed about all the errors (which in fairness do not materially impinge on the reasoning and overall conclusions), it would be better to wait for the second edition before buying.  By then, however, the subject matter could have become old hat. 

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

+ + + + +

Note: I wrote my own analysis of the actual blowout in two posts and two related newspaper articles last year.  I have seen no data since then that would disprove what I concluded then:

bullet BP's Macondo Catastrophe - How it Happened - May 2010
bullet Coverage of oil slick catastrophe fails to address its cause
- Irish Times, 10th May 2010
bullet Click for Wordle's visual analysis of this postBP's Brilliant Manaigement of its Blowout - June 2010
bullet Ignorance winning out over expertise in Gulf blowout
- Irish Times, 2nd July 2010

Back to List of Contents

Irish Judiciary Copy Catholic Church

Moving criminals around allows them to continue creating victims

I came across two criminal stories recently that occured in Ireland.  One appeared in the national press.  The other did not but I heard about it from someone who was closely involved with the victim. 

The second story first:  

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In an expensive nursing home, €47,000 was stolen over a six month period from elderly woman by an employee who had stolen her credit card and talked her out of revealing her PIN number.  The thief made daily cash withdrawals from ATMs and also purchases, until the bank alerted the woman's relatives about the atypical pattern of her account activities.  The culprit was quickly identified and apprehended and sentenced to 16 years.  However, since the culprit was a foreigner, five years were suspended on the condition that the person left Ireland. 

Now the other story:

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In 2009, Rebecca French, a mother of two, had been beaten to death with golf clubs and her body hidden in the boot (trunk) of a car which was then set alight.  Two Lithuanians, a Pole and an Irishman were apprehended for this heinous crime, but managed to escape a murder charge through a technicality.  They were however convicted of hindering the murder investigation and of hiding the victim's body in the car, for which they were sentenced to ten years each.  However the three foreigners had the final 2½ years suspended provided they agreed to leave Ireland. 

This raises the following question.  What exactly is the qualitative difference between prematurely moving these known criminals to other jurisdictions to continue plying their nefarious trade and shifting known paedophile priests from one parish to another?

The Catholic Church has been rightly vilified for a practice which

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placed the public reputation of the Church and its clergy above that of abused children, and

bullet

which moreover facilitated the abusers to find new victims and so continue their evil perversions unabated if they so wished. 

But isn't this precisely what the Irish judiciary are now openly doing?  Copying one of the most iniquitous past practices of the Catholic Church? 

Known criminals are being released early with the express instruction that they go somewhere else where they can create further victims if they so wish. 

Unless such wrongdoing can be linked to the Catholic Church, however, no-one seems to care. So the Irish judiciary will no doubt continue doing it. 

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Monckton vs Gibbons on Climate and AIDS

A rambunctious radio debate

Readers of the blog will know I am quite fan of Lord Christopher Monckton, at least insofar as he repeatedly and eloquently demolishes the arguments and lies of the global warm-mongering brigade. 

He visited Ireland last month, but unfortunately I found out so late I was unable to attend any of the functions where he was speaking. 

I did, however, record a rambunctious ten-minute debate with him on Irish radio (Today FM).  His adversary was John Gibbons, a tiresome environmental activist and polemicist who swallows whole anything that comes from Green Orthodoxy and runs two sites, Climate Change and Think or Swim

The Lord with the plummy accent crushes Gibbons first on climate changeology and second on AIDS.

Enjoy: http://tinyurl.ie/30m

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One Ronnie and an Eggs Box

The show must go on

Everyone who ever came across him misses the hilarious TV comedian Ronnie Barker who died in 2005.  Of all the work he left behind, his most enduring legacy was probably The Two Ronnies, a double act with the diminutive Ronnie Corbett, that ran for 16 years in the 1970s and 80s and is still regular re-run on our TV screens. 

It is rather poignant, therefore, that a now elderly Mr Corbett (born 1930) has recently launched a new TV series, The One Ronnie.  But as you will see from this sketch, he has lost none of his wit and delivery, and nor have the script writers. 

Back to List of Contents

Fastidious Sharks

Beware those fins

Two great white sharks, swimming in the ocean, spied survivors of a sunken ship.

Follow me, son”, the father shark said to the son shark and they swam to the mass of people.

First we swim around them a few times with just the tip of our fins showing.” And they did.

Well done, son! Now we swim around them a few more times with all of our fins showing.” And they did.

Now we eat everybody.” And they did.

When they were both gorged, the son asked, “Dad, why didn’t we just eat them all at first? Why did we swim around and around them?

His wise father replied, “Because they taste better without the s*1t inside!

Hat tip: Barry O'Neill

Back to List of Contents

Issue 211’s Comments to Cyberspace
[Addition on February 11th]

bullet Gender-neutral language
Letter to the Irish Times
Ted Mooney
had hoped that the new missal would show a willingness to espouse inclusiveness in relation to women — a fond hope, the third person singular is invariably male throughout.  He displays ignorance of English grammar. In the absence of gender-neutral nouns and singular pronouns, the use of male terms — man, mankind, he etc has always ...
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Micheál Martin, Hamas & Castros
Letter to the Irish Times
Now that [Ireland's ex-Foreign Minister] Micheál Martin is no longer running Ireland's foreign affairs, can we take it that there will be an end to this country's kowtowing to the dictatorships of Hamas and of the Castro brothers?

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Click to enlargeDid bankers breach anti-monopoly legislation?
Letter to the Irish Daily Mail
Jason O'Toole's exclusive interview with Anglo's ex-CEO David Drumm is both fascinating and incredible. He describes how as Anglo CEO he visited the executives of AIB and of the Bank of Ireland, three publicly quoted corporations, to get them (unsuccessfully) to invest in Anglo. As such, these men seem to have been meeting in private to conspire against ...

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Time to take the tough decisions on oil and gas
Comment on an Irish Times article
This is probably Fintan O'Toole's most ignorant article! The posts of the evidently erudite
sexitoni”, brendan, Brian Flanagan, Peter C, hughsheehy demonstrate this with great clarity. I would only add that the enormous delays and cost overruns of Corrib caused by the carry-on of a handful of locals with spurious safety concerns has only added to the political risk ...

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Suit you P!
Letter published in the Sunday Times
You describe how UBS, a prominent Swiss bank, has issued guidelines for its staff to smarten themselves up, because the way you look is the first impression you convey to others. You create the second impression the moment you open your mouth, fairly or not. Therefore one would hope speech guidelines on pronunciation and grammar ...

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Inflated bonuses rushed through as bailout loomed
Comment to an Irish Times article
An excellent exposé of nefarious goings-on at AIB. If this happened, you can be sure that other dubious shifts of money also occurred that we don't (yet) know about, and at all of the bailed-out Irish banks, not just AIB. Keep digging, Fintan!

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Specifics Needed from BOTH Sides
Letter to the Irish Times
Specifics now, Mr Netanyahu, you conclude in your editorial of 14th December calling for Israel to present proposals for Middle East peace. Yet Israel has repeatedly set out its stall over the past decades. Comprehensive compromises and proposals were put to Yasser Arafat in 2000 ...

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Do you support the Government's plan to replace Fás with a new agency?
Comment on an Irish Times poll question
Yes but only if the replacement is a proper replacement. That means, in this order: (1) Shutting down the agency entirely and making every member of staff, top to bottom, redundant, (2) Setting out in public ...

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Quotes of Week 211
[Additions on February 4th, 8th, 12th and 16th]

Quote: Jew! Jew!

Cries from that nice Egyptian pro-democracy crowd in Tahrir Square
as a couple of hundred of them dragged off CBS's chief foreign correspondent
Lara Logan (young, blonde, pretty) and subjected her
to a brutal and sustained sexual assault and gang-rape, and beating.

Quote: This kind of documentary is ideal fodder for the EDL [English Defence League]. Channel 4 is putting the safety of children at risk by criticising a school which is doing its job properly.

John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham,
objects to the
exposure by Channel 4 of a Birmingham madrassa,
which has been secretly filmed beating young children
and indoctrinating them in hatred of infidels,
while enjoying
favourable reports from Ofsted, Britain's school inspectorate.

He thinks such abuses (ie a school doing its job properly) should be kept secret.

Quote: I support and want abortion on demand in Ireland now.

Bernard Cantillon, chairman of the Equality Committee of Ireland's Labour party
makes plain that Labour is the pro-abortion party,

This re-enforces a recent, controversial newspaper headline that
Any vote for the Labour Party is a vote for abortion

Quote: If [farting] was not there during the time of dictatorship because people were afraid of the consequences. Now because of multipartism or freedom, people would like to fart anywhere ... nature can be controlled.”

George Chaponda, Malawi's minister for justice and constitutional affairs
defends a bill before parliament to outlaw the breaking of wind in public. 

The law will state that
Any person who voluntarily vitiates the atmosphere in any place
so as to make it noxious to the health of persons in general dwelling
or carrying on business in the neighbourhood
or passing along a public way,
shall be guilty of a misdemeanour
.

Like breathing in other people's tobacco smoke,
I am sure this must also give you cancer.

Also, those Egyptians rioting in favour of multipartism and freedom
should be careful what they wish for.
 

Quote:

Billboards going up across Ireland

A billboard, with a surprising observation, goes up across Ireland.

The slogan references a recent WHO/UNICEF Report on Maternal Mortality
- probably this one, which records for Ireland
a maternal mortality rate in 2008 of 30 deaths per million live births.
(Actually, the figure is inconveniently lower in Greece, which permits abortion.)

The safest country for pregnant women in South America is Chile,
(with 260 deaths per million putting it 57th out of 172 in the world);
Chile is the only country besides Ireland whose constitution forbids abortion.

Quote: You might as well wander down Grafton Street and see if you can meet a couple of good looking women and say: ‘Would you ever mind coming up for the photograph’.

Pat Rabbitt, Justice spokesman for Ireland's Labour Party,
gets into trouble for accusing Micheál Martin,
leader of the ruling Fianna Fáil party,
of elevating to his front bench
a pair of non-parliamentary women
solely in order to show his feminist credentials.

Mr Rabbitt was accused of having an “Andy Gray approach to women

- - - - - U G A N D A - - - - -

Quote: “Hang them!

The cry of Uganda's tabloid Rolling Stone,
as it prints the names, photographs and addresses
of a hundred Ugandan homosexuals in October 2010.

 

Tabloid advocates the killing of gays; click to enlarge

Click to enlarge
Just legible if you click and print it out

In January 2011 David Kato, on the left on the above front page,
who was the advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda,
was brutally beaten to death in his Kampala home,
just weeks after winning a court case against the paper.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda,
and a bill was introduced in October 2009 that would
impose life imprisonment or even the death penalty
for some homosexual acts.

Citizens are evidently taking at face value
the trenchant advice of their newspapers and lawmakers

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

Quote:

.He has never proved that he was born in the USA

Controversial billboard in Colorado demanding that
Barack Obama provide conclusive evidence
that he was born in America and is thus eligible to be president. 

He has spent thousands of dollars on lawyers
to prevent the release of original documents
that would put this constitutional issue beyond doubt.

Why?

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

Quote: We have to get our head out of the sand. They [the Iranian regime] disagree fundamentally with our way of life and will carry on unless met with determination and, if necessary, force.”

Tony Blair tells the Chilcot Enquiry (into the Iraq war)
some uncomfortable present day realities,
particularly regarding Iran's efforts to build nuclear weapons in order to
annihilate Israel and dominate the rest of the Middle East. 

Quote: “These girls are being passed around and used like meat.”  [Halal meat?]

Alan Edwards, a Detective Chief Inspector with the West Mercia Police,
says that Muslim gangs are systematically
recruiting, grooming and gang-raping young white girls. 

This is believed to have been going on for over ten years
in, among other places,
Northern England, the West Midlands,
East London and Slough. 

Last year, Scotland Yard estimated that 5,000 British-born children
were under the control of sex-slave gangs across the UK.
At least ten towns on both sides of the Pennines face the problem.

Yet this seems to be the first time it has really been admitted. 
Up to now the authorities have pathetically preferred
that the paedophilia continue rather than face accusations of racism.

This preference was even apparent among panellists and audience
when the  issue was discussed on 13th January on BBC's Question Time.

Quote: “You are not f**king royalty, Mr Speaker!

Mark Pritchard, Deputy Chairman of the Tory
backbench 1922 Committee,
objects when Speaker John Bercow demands
that he stand aside to let the Speaker and his entourage
proceed down a corridor in Westminster,
in accordance with usual protocol.

Apparently, T-shirts with the phrase
You are not f**king royalty, Mr Speaker!

have already been printed. 

Quote: Keep Your Truncheon In Your Pockets” ... You Told Me The Handcuffs Were Kinky

Slogans by female protestors outside Scotland Yard,
outraged that some of their ilk had been hoodwinked
into sleeping with undercover police spies. 
They want to call it rape. 

How outrageous that a man should tell fibs about himself
as a ruse to get into bed with a woman. 

This has never happened in history before. Ever.

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

Quote: There are occasions when the imperative of serving the national interest transcend other concerns, including party political and personal concerns.

Hat tip: Theodore Dalrymple

Brian Cowen, Ireland's (soon to be ex-)Taoiseach
proudly explains (last November) that it is solely in the national interest
that he wants to push through a budget and then call an election.  

But his mask has also slipped. 

For he has proclaimed that the national interest
usually comes third behind party interest and personal(!) interest.
And this from a serving Taoiseach,
oblivious to the explosive meaning of his words!

It explains a lot, and not just how the lining of pockets and protecting of cronies,
which have evidently been guiding principles in his ruling Fianna Fáil party,
have led the country to ruin. 

It also explains the thievery of his predecessors
Bertie Ahern, Charlie Haughey and party founder Eamon de Valera. 
For them, personal interest clearly took a high place on their official agenda.

Quote (Minute 1:50): Let me tell you: the problems of Ireland were created by the irresponsible financial behaviour of some Irish institutions and by the lack of supervision in the Irish market.”

José Manuel Barroso, one of the EU's multiple post-Lisbon presidents,
shouts at Irish MEP Joe Higgins about why Ireland has a financial crisis. 

Of course, like any slippery EUrocrat, he tells only half the truth. 

He conveniently forgets that for every irresponsible Irish borrower
there is an equally irresponsible lender, and most of them are in the EU. 

Thus Ireland's problem is inescapably also the EU's and the €uro's. 

Quote: But they cannot continue to say ‘come and help us’ while keeping a tax on company profits that is half [that of other countries].”

President Nicolas Sarkozy sets his sights on
Ireland's long-standing 12½% Corporation Tax rate. 

If he were really concerned about the discrepancy,
he would of course advocate that all the other EU states lower their tax rates,
including France's 33%. 

That's the way competition works in a capitalist system
with the open markets that are supposed to be a core value of the EU.

But this would be just too painful for him. 

Quote: “The lads have all turned off their mobile phones in case they might be offered a Cabinet post.”

A former Irish Minister points out that
a Cabinet post is now viewed as a poisoned chalice

Quote: If [Taoiseach] Brian Cowen rings me,
I’m not f***ing answering the phone
.

One of those “lads”, an unnamed backbencher
from the ruling and thoroughly despised Fianna Fáil party,
displays uncharacteristic reluctance to accept a Cabinet job and Mercedes

Quote: De Burgh’s set list ... doubtless included such favourites as

bullet

Don’t Pay The Ferryman (Germany Will Pay Instead),

bullet

Nation in Red,

bullet

An IMF Man Came Travelling, and

bullet

Patricia the Asset Stripper.”

Miriam Lord of the Irish Times speculates
on what Ireland's crooner and Miss World progenitor
Chris de Burgh might, as guest of honour at the
Christmas party of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union,
have sung to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

- - - - - S W E D E N - - - - -

Quote: “I came to Sweden as a refugee publisher involved with an extraordinary publishing fight with the Pentagon, where people were being detained and there is an attempt to prosecute me for espionage ...So I am unhappy and disappointed with how the Swedish justice system has been abused.

Strange ramblings from Julian Assange, Wikileaks publisher

- - - - - G E R M A N Y - - - - -

Quote: I saw it as my duty as a father.

Helmut Seifert puts a permanent stop to an affair between
his 17-year-old daughter and her 57-year-old lover Phillip Genscher
- by castrating him with a breadknife. 

Mr Seifert took the severed little spheres away with him. 

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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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