This archive contains all issues prior to the current week and the three
preceding weeks, which are published in
the main Tallrite Blog (www.tallrite.com/blog.htm).
The first issue appeared on Sunday 14th July
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ISSUE #3 - 28th July 2002
Stock Market Jitters,
Booms & Busts
stock market crash of 2000/2002 has taken everyone totally by surprise, as
such crashes always have done since the South Sea Bubble in 1720.
thinking about the mechanism of these crashes when I spotted this chart
in The Economist. The
talked about how the Asian economies have recovered since their crises
began with the collapse of the Thai baht in 1997.
What I found interesting from this chart is that growth has not
only recovered from its low of 1998 but by 2001 appears to have got back
onto a similar growth path as if the slump had never occurred.
wondered about the stock market crash of 1929, the crash of 1987, the
current crash ...
I am no
chartist but when I looked at those and other 20th century crashes, it
appeared that each follows a similar pattern :
|after a period of steady growth, a boom appears;|
|this boom eventually crashes, creating a bust;|
|the bust is followed by a steady recovery;|
|eventually the steady recovery brings the market back
onto the original growth path that was being followed prior to the
Look at four charts below for examples of boom and bust
as evidenced by movements of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the charts
having been constructed using data from the Dow Jones Indexes website.
(Though the Dow Jones tracks US companies only, the US economy is so
dominant that what happens there is pretty much representative of what
happens to the world economy.)
look at the circumstances of the boom that ended with the Wall Street
Crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The chart above shows that for the first 15 years of the Dow Jones
Industrial Index since it was created in 1895, it hovered at around 75.
Then, around 1910 it began its first steady upwards trend.
(Click on above chart and the two below to get a larger images; click
your back button to return to this page)
1924 this turned into a boom nearly quadrulping from 105 to a peak of 381
in five years. The crash that
began in 1929 did not reach its nadir of 41, a massive drop of 89%, until
1932. The scale of this shock
meant It took a further 15 years to effectively recover.
And then, lo and behold, the index resumed the same growth path
that it had in 1924, just as if nothing had been happening for the
previous 23 years.
Then look at the same pattern in the boom sparked by World War 2
and the bust that followed.
This was a
much shorter cycle, only three years, and the crash at only 26%
trough was less severe. However
the pattern is the same and by 1947, as shown by the red line in the
chart, the growth trend reverted to the same as it had been in 1944 prior
to the boom.
the crash of 1987, still so fresh in many minds.
Over the three years of 1985-1987, the
market boomed then busted, dropping 36% from 2750 to 1750 in 1987.
recovery was particularly quick so that the Dow Jones Index was back on
trend almost immediately after the bust.
can all this tell us about what is happening now in 2002?
that we are well and truly beyond the longest uninterrupted growth period,
lasting 107 months, in the history of the world.
chart above shows, the trend departed from the post-1987 path in 1995, and
screamed upwards from 4000 to its peak of 11,800 in early 2000, when the
first technology stocks began to wobble.
The market has been tumbling ever since and is currently (end July)
at around 8,200, a drop of some 30 %.
if, based on the evidence of the previous charts, as summarised in the
table on the left, we assume that growth will eventually stabilise at the
pre-boom trend (ie the post 1987 trend that ended in 1995) as has happened
with every other boom/bust for the past century, you can extrapolate the
red line in the chart to get an idea when this will happen.
final chart, below, shows that the deeper the fall the sooner we reach the
red line and get back on trend.
If, for example, we say that the market will drop in
|by around 45%, ie to a trough of around 6,500, my
guess is that we would be back on trend by about 2004/5 - as per the
blue dotted line on the chart; or if|
|by around 40%, ie to a trough of around 7,000, I
think we would be back on trend by about 2009 - as per the green
dotted line on the chart.|
These scenarios each represent massive cycles of 10 and
15 years respectively, second only to the Great Depression.
pain to come before it gets better. Meanwhile, stick to cash not
equities, at least until the market approaches the red line, after
bottoming out at (my guess) around 7,000 in a couple of years time or
the Dow Jones is an index showing movements of the US stock market as a
whole, not the performance of individual companies. In the midst of those
booms, and especially the busts, there are -
a purge of failing companies,
resurgence of successfully restructured companies,
a rash of mergers &
an advent of new companies, and
other companies that have
just plodded through the whole show as if nothing much has happened.
when you go back to equity investing, is to avoid investing in those
companies that are getting purged.
that's how I see it !
Nice Treaty; Ireland's Referendum Nbr 2
from a Jason Fitzharris, who argues that Nice will strengthen not weaken
the influence of the smaller states :
The anti-Europeans are advocating a
rejection of the Nice Treaty because it will give more power to the
larger states. As in many other areas, the anti-Europeans have got their
From 1958 to 1973 the EU had only six
member-states, three of which were large. Since then each new country
that has joined has diminished the power of the larger states.
Currently in the Council of Ministers
the five largest states have 48 of the 87 votes, representing 55 per
cent of the vote. However, in an enlarged union of 27 states they will
have 143 votes out of 345, representing 41 per cent of the vote.
Currently in the European Commission
the five largest states have two Commissioners while everyone else has
only one. But post-Nice they will lose their second Commissioner,
putting them on a par with everyone else.
In the European Parliament the five
largest states currently have 424 MEPs out of 626, or 67 per cent of the
seats. In an enlarged union of 27 states they will only have 365 MEPs
out of 732, or 50 per cent of the seats.
In view of these very simple numbers
could the anti-Europeans possibly explain how more power is going to the
larger states when their percentage control is going down as each new
It's the only piece I've seen that might
make me waver in my opposition to Nice.
On balance, however, I am still of the view
that Nice would give too much power to central bureaucrats with the
objective of making decision-making easier for them when the EU
enlarges. Personally, with the single market and the common currency
now in place, I am not inclined to make things easier for the
bureaucrats. If they have good ideas for improving the EU in the
future, let them work harder to convince all the members, including the
And the statement that rejecting Nice will
prevent enlargement is a canard. The Amsterdam Treaty already
provides for the admission of six further members, and the additional four
can be admitted by individual negotiated treaties. Even Romano Prodi,
the Commission President, has said so.
Moreover, it will be no bad thing for the
ten applicants to compete among each other to be among the first six
! Competition always raises quality and lowers cost.
The Governments (not the people) of all EU
states but Ireland have now ratified Nice, which is due to be implemented
in January 2003. Ireland will vote on ratification in a second
referendum in October 2002, having already voted No last year. Thus
whether Nice stands or falls now depends solely on the whim of Ireland's
three million voters, who constitute just 1% of the EU's population.
There are those who say that this is a ridiculous distortion of the
democratic process. Others say the populations of much of the rest
of the EU (Germany ? UK ? France ?), who were not consulted about
ratification, are depending on Ireland's 1% to save them from the
decisions of their own venal politicians.
Classical Music, Composers and
I was recently invited to a concert at
Ireland's National Concert Hall, which
happens to have been my former university. The graduation hall,
where I received my graduation papers, was several years ago converted
into a magnificent auditorium, the finest in the country.
As I listened to the National Concert Hall
play Tchaikovsky's Concerto Nbr 1 in B flat minor (Opus 23) and
Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony Nbr 3 in E Flat (Opus 55), it
struck me how what we term as classical music was written over a period of
some 200 years, 1700-1900, by a small cabal of perhaps 100 composers, all
of them white European males, mostly Germanic, Latin or Slav, and nearly
all of them now dead for 100 years or more. Think of Beethoven,
Mozart, Bach, Wagner, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky. Why is it that no
thrilling classical music has ever been written by somewhat who's not a
dead white male ? Some say that they wrote all the wonderful music
that there is to be written. Yet would anyone suggest that had the
titans lived longer they would not have kept creating their magical
The other thing that struck me was the
musical instruments - the piano, the strings, the oboe, clarinet, flute,
trumpet, bassoon, trombone. Each of them was invented at least 200
years ago. How is it that nobody has invented a musical instrument of note
in all that time ? Yes, I know, there've been the harmonica, the
steel bands, the saxophone. But with the possible exception of the
latter, none come anywhere close to the majesty of the classical
instruments. When you think back on what was invented in the
industrial revolution and the marvellous technical creations since, is it
not quite extraordinary that no-one has come up with something as simple
and evocative as, say, the violin ?
Reform of the EU's Common Agricultural
Franz Fischler, the EU Commissioner for
Agriculture, is making a brave attempt to overhaul the biggest obscenity
of the European Union, the Common Agricultural Policy or CAP. If you
want to single out one project designed to attack the poorest people in
European society and in the Third World and to make and keep them poorer,
the CAP is it. Period.
The production-based subsidies to European
farmers provide an incentive for them to produce more and more farm goods
that no-one will buy without the subsidies because the farmers are totally
uncompetitive. Farmers are so uncompetitive that they get 1/3rd of
their income from these subsidies, which eat up 40 billion a year -
half of the EU's budget. Yet farmers constitute only 5% of the EU's
population. Taxpayers provide this mega-subsidy and then, due to the
EU's protective tariffs designed to keep out lower-cost produce, end up
paying 15-20% higher than market prices for the food they buy in the
shops. Who suffers most ? The EU's poorest, since they can
least afford to fritter their meagre money on subsidies for
But that's not all. Thanks to the
subsidies, more is produced in the EU than can be sold to the EU. So
the excess is exported at subsidised prices to the Third World (disguised
as charity), thereby undercutting and ruining the Third World
farmers who - remember - are themselves thwarted from exporting to the EU
by those protective tariffs.
According to Comhlámh,
an Irish organisation which furthers international development
co-operation, blocked opportunities such as these for trade deny
developing countries 14 times what they receive in aid. If Africa were
allowed to increase its share of world exports by just 1 per cent, it
would earn for itself five times what it currently receives in aid.
But the CAP massively undermines EU aid programmes. For example, the EU
spent 3.75 million as aid to develop Namibia's livestock sector. Yet in
1997 alone Namibia lost 62 million through the dumping in South Africa
of subsidised beef.
And who is gaining out of all this CAP
largesse ? Why EU farmers, or course, and how they love it. As
I would if the EU bureaucrats kindly added 50% as a no-strings-attached
gift to my income. In fact, these gifts are so generous that they
have become a business driver in themselves to create ever-bigger farms,
so that 80% of the subsidies now go not to single, struggling EU peasants
of the land, but to multinational farming combines.
Franz Fischler, bless him, is not asking to
stop the subsidies - only to decouple them from production and attach them
to environmental performance instead. The farmers would get the same
money, but at least would have no further incentive to produce expensive
unwanted food, but to care for the land, something they are notoriously
not interested in. (In Ireland, for example, farmers are furious
at a recent report, Making Ireland's Development Sustainable
that identifies farmers as the principal culprits of Ireland's most
serious environmental pollution problem, the eutrophication
(over-enrichment) of rivers and lakes.)
Of course the EU farmers smell a rat -
decoupling would make it easier to reduce the subsidies in the future,
which must of course be the ultimate objective.
His proposals will be vigorously and
cynically opposed by those countries that gain most cash from the CAP,
being those net leeches of the EU - France, Spain, Greece and
Ireland. However the net contributors such as Germany, the UK, the
Netherlands and Sweden will back the reforms to the hilt, and thanks to
the majority voting rules that apply to this issue, they will be likely to
Courage, Herr Fischler.
ISSUE #2 - 21st July 2002
After seeing those wonderful stadia in Korea and Japan
during the soccer World Cup, I wonder who knows what is the biggest
stadium in UK and Ireland ?
No, not the magnificent Millenium Stadium in Cardiff
which seats 74,300, nor Old Trafford (67,600), nor Elland Road (40,200),
nor Celtic's Parkhead (60,500) the biggest soccer stadium in Scotland, nor
Murrayfield (67,500). Wembley stadium used to accommodate 80,000 but
has been closed down. The biggest stadium is in fact the recently enlarged
Park in Dublin, which housed 75,000 for a Gaelic Football final last
Sunday 14th July, and has plans to go up to 82,000.
But here's the rub. Owned by the fiercely nationalistic
Gaelic Athletic Assocation (GAA), only Gaelic games (football, hurling,
camogie) may be played there, and definitely no "foreign" games
such as rugby or soccer. This means, bizarrely, that it cannot be
included in the joint Scotland/Ireland bid to host the 2008 European
soccer Championships. Instead the Irish Government is contemplating
building a new stadium at a cost of over GBP 1 billion, included in which
is £100 million to be paid to the GAA to persuade (bribe ?) it to stage
some if its games there instead of Croke Park. Curiouser and curiouser.
By the way, if you're interested, http://www.footballgroundguide.co.uk
provides info on all the major soccer stadia in England and Wales.
The IRA's recent sincere
apologies and condolences
for inflicting non-combatant,
ie civilian, deaths over the past 30 years can
only be welcomed as a step - albeit a small one - in the right and moral
direction, even if they are only words with no hint of follow-up action
such as declaring the war over, desisting from its ongoing gangsterism or
offering reparation. The Unionist response, churlishly dismissing the
apology as a cynical ploy, is disappointing, but typical of both sides.
The relative restraint showed by the Orange order during its recent
marches similarly received no kudos from republicans.
If each side of the divide would at least recognise,
with some graciousness, when the other makes a positive move, it would
suggest they do indeed want to find ways to live in an atmosphere of
mutual acceptance and respect. But it seems they don't really.
There are in fact three sides to this conflict - the
republican side, the Unionist side and the general public being the vast
majority. Unfortunately, unfairly, undemocratically, though, it's
the first two who drive the peace process agenda and they are both of the
"all or nothing" persuasion, which invariably results in
achieving the nothing.
Late note : Lo and behold -
David Trimble has just (21st July), and contrary to his remarks earlier
in the week, said that he now welcomes the apology. Well done !
Catholic Church & Sexual Abuse
...... legal agreement signed between the
outgoing Minister for Education and certain religious orders within the
Irish Catholic Church in the dying days of the last Government granting
immunity from potential lawsuits taken by victims of child abuse in
residential institutions beggars belief. The tone of this
recent letter to a newspaper is typical of the rage felt by many many
people when it comes to the sexual abuse that took place within religious
institutions during the last century.
The Roman Catholic religious orders are getting an awful
amount of flak for what was perpetrated by a handful of their members upon
children in their care in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and Ireland,
and for the way in which this was covered up by the hierarchy.
There are many who believe punitive pecuniary sanctions and compensation
should now be levied that would, in effect, bankrupt the Church.
Others are outraged that some countries, notably Ireland (see quote
above), have placed caps on the amount of money the Church should be
liable for, with the State - ie the taxpayer - taking up the excess
liability. For Ireland, the cap is 128 million
Euros, which is about 25% of the total expected claims.
The abuse and the coverups were of course utterly
inexcusable, and the tardy manner in which the Church even today is
recognizing its scandal is deplorable. However, a few things
need to be taken into account to gain a proper perspective.
|The individual members of religious orders who
committed the abuse were in the order of 2-3 %. That means 97%
were innocent. |
|Most of the abuse occurred in religious institutes
(schools, homes, hospitals, asylums) set up to provide help to
society's rejects, such as orphans, unwanted children, disabled
people, unmarried mothers. And it was the State that consigned
most of these individuals to the institutions. Therefore, the
State must also accept a big share of responsibility for its failure
to check and ensure proper care was being administered on its behalf.|
|And, most significantly, the religious who manned
these institutes were paid no wages. Zero. For their
entire working lives. They did their skilled and unpopular work,
that society was only too pleased to avail of, in exchange for no more
than food and shelter and the belief that they were obeying the call
of God. |
Now do the sums. Assume a minimum wage in real terms of £5
sterling per hour, paid from age 30 years (taking of final vows) to 70
(retirement). Multiply by a 40-hour week and 50-week year and
you get £400,000 in foregone wages per individual. Or £1
million per person over the century. And how many of these
religious persons were there on average in the country? In
Ireland, probably 10,000.
So how about a counter-claim by the Church against the State to the
tune of 10,000 x £1m = £10 billion in unpaid wages for vital services
performed at the request of the State ? And that's just
for a tiny country like Ireland.
Taxpayers should therefore be very cautious in deciding
how aggressive they want to be in pursuit of financial claims against the
Church. They need to recognize the enormous free ride they have
obtained at the expense of the 97% of priests, nuns and brothers who
selflessly and blamelessly devoted their lives to the Word of God and the
betterment of society's rejects.
John PIlger on Afghanistan, Iraq etc
I am reading an intriguing management book at the moment
Ideas That Work by Robert I Sutton. Number 8 of the 11½
ideas presented is to innovate by thinking and doing ridiculous
and impractical things and by way of example suggests that you
brainstorm a list of absurd things to do, reverse the ideas, and talk
about why you should or shouldn't do these things. This is an
excellent approach to take towards some of the more off-the-wall left-wing
Last Sunday 14th July, John Pilger ranted
on in The Observer about the USA's reaction to the September 11th attacks,
its plans to attack Iraq and various other evils that lie at the heart of
America. A couple of examples :
|More than 5,000 civilians have been bombed
to death in stricken Afghanistan.
However, the proven
Afghan civilians accidentally killed is in the hundreds not thousands;
and because of the ejection of the Taliban, Afghanistan is no longer
|Should anyone need reminding, Iraq is a
nation held hostage to an American-led embargo every bit as barbaric
as the dictatorship over which Iraqis have no control. The
embargo regime is specifically designed to allow Iraq to use oil
export revenues for the importation of food and revenues, yet people
are hungry, hospitals are without drugs, the well-paid armed forces
bristle with weapons and Saddam pays $25m to the families of
Palestinian suicide bombers. Who is the barabaric hostage-holder
The article makes excellent reading when you adopt thee
Robert Sutton approach : take Pilger's absurd arguments, reverse his ideas
and talk about them. Most sane and humane people will draw the
conclusion that America was right to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan,
is right to continue to pursue Al Qaeda and is right to plan to dislodge
Saddam Hussain before he starts nuking, gassing, poisoning, diseasing.
Spain & Perejil
There is a sweet irony and whiff of hypocrisy about
Spain's spat with
Morocco over the latter's invasion earlier in July of the island of
Perejil ("Parsley") just off the Moroccan coast, and its long
running spat with Britain over Gibraltar.
| Perejil :
|belongs to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the
Mediterranean coast of Morocco,|
|which, under some duress, Morocco ceded, along
with the nearby enclave of Melilla, in perpetuity to Spain in 1956
when Morocco gained independence from Spain;|
|the enclaves are internationally recognized as
|Morocco wants them back;|
|Spain wants to keep them;|
|the enclaves' inhabitants unanimously don't want
to be given away. |
|is an enclave on the Mediterranean coast of
|which, under some duress, Spain ceded in
perpetuity to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713;|
|the enclave is internationally recognized as
|Spain wants it back;|
|Britain wants to get
rid of it;|
|the inhabitants unanimously don't want to be
Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1731) said that War
is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means.
Does Spain's use of military force to eject the Moroccans from Persijl
signal that that this is now their preferred mode of politics for solving
the Gibraltar issue ? Or simply that smart people like to get
physical, but only with those weaker than themselves ?
a look at the take of the
Irish Times' cartoonist, Martyn Turner
(with apologies) ...........
Click to enlarge
ISSUE #1- Sunday 14th
Under the heading, Letting us eat organic
Sunday Times published this letter on 14th July, but edited out some words
as indicated :
I was much encouraged by one of your headlines Organic food prices plunge (News, July 7th) because it
suggested that, at last, the benefits of organic food are becoming
accessible to those unable to afford the premium they have hitherto
commanded, only to read that the plunge in prices is actually bad news
because a handful of organic farmers, including Prince Charles, are
Then John Humphrys
in his weekly column rabbits on
upon the same theme - that the organic farmers are more important than
the organic eaters, and preposterously suggests that the
organic revolution is about to peter out. Where is the logic ? Organic
foods have become so popular that supermarkets are stocking them, prices
are falling and more and more people are eating them and presumably the
health of the nation is benefiting. And this is supposed to be bad news
Tony Allwright, Killiney, Co
I am remarking on the absence of logic rather than supporting
organic food per se, which I believe is pretty much a con-trick with no
measurable health benefits and which eats up much more farmland than
conventional growing methods. I do however support giving animals a
reasonable life style, but for their sakes not ours.
You can access the letter here,
but unfortunately you have to subscribe at £39.99 per year, or here
for a scanned version.
Nice Treaty Referendum
There is huge debate in Ireland at the moment about the Nice
Treaty. All countries but Ireland have ratified it via their
parliaments. However Ireland's constitution requires it to be put to
the people in a referendum. Which it was in November 2001. But
after a lacklustre Yes campaign by the Government and main Opposition, and
a vigorous one by the naysayers, Ireland voted No by a small margin with a
The Taoiseach, most of his cabinet and all of their European
counterparts, were horrified by the No result. It caused embarrassment for
the Irish ministers and enormous irritation to the rest. So the
Taoiseach quickly promised a second referendum, which will be held in
October 2002. A red herring has been put about that the only reason
for the No was fear that Nice would mean diminution of Ireland's
neutrality (it won't), and for this reason an irrelevant assurance on
neutrality will be included with the second Nice referendum.
However, Ireland will undoubtedly vote No again, with a bigger
turnout and by a wider margin. All the publicity will galvanise more
people to vote, and the reason for the second No is that the Nice Treaty
contains so many elements, actual or perceived, that people might object
to, for example :
|EU Interference with Ireland's budgeting|
|Fear of tax harmonisation|
|Increase of majority voting|
|Formation of an EU Army|
|Affect on Irish neutrality (now perhaps neutralised !)|
|EU money diverted from Ireland to new members|
|Low cost competition from new members|
|Reduction of CAP payments.|
|Loss of the Irish commissioner|
|Overall complexity of the treaty ("if you don't
know, vote no!")|
You only have to disagree with one element to vote No, but you
have to agree with everything to vote Yes.
The Football Association of Ireland
A couple of weeks after the World Cup, the FAI suddenly
announced it had sold TV rights to the next four years of Ireland's
international soccer matches to Sky TV for 7 million Euro, plus another
500,000 Euro to the Irish independent station TV3 to broadcast the games
one hour after the final whistle. The losing competitor was the
national broadcaster RTÉ which offered only 1 million Euro in what
appears to have been a pretty inept negotiation.
There has been uproar in Ireland at the thought that to watch
these games on TV people will now either have to subscribe to Sky or
suffer the indignity of watching the recording on TV3 one hour later.
How dare the FAI, hitherto excoriated for its bumbling lack of
business acumen, turn around and accept 7½ million
Euro instead of 1, and thereby have for the first time the means to put
resources back into the game.
People now expect the Government to designate
certain sports games, ie force them to be shown live
and free. Ministers in turn are wailing at Brussels to dig up some
obscure EU legislation that will allow them to do this, because they can't
figure out how do so under Irish law.
But the howls of outrage from the millions of self-declared
devoted soccer fans are riddled with hypocrisy. For there are
devoted fans who go to matches and pay the entry fees, and they are
unaffected by Sky's new deal.
And there are devoted fans who currently watch the games for
free, but hate the thought of paying something to support their beloved
sport. And asking them to watch the game an hour later is seen as an
is that ?
Ireland, along with other EU members, recently ratified
the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, and in New York no less. That was
certainly one in the eye for Kyoto-shy President George W Bush.
But hang on.
The experts, according to their publications, (as do even groups
such as Greenpeace
of the Earth) agree that implementing Kyoto world-wide will have
negligible impact. It will merely defer global warming by six years in a
century's time, ie without Kyoto the temperature will rise by 1.9 deg C in
2094, with Kyoto it will not rise by this amount until 2100 [Refs 1,
Experts also inform us that the global cost of reducing CO2
emissions to achieve this derisory benefit will be in the order of US$ 100
billion per annum between now and 2094, or 2% of World GDP [Ref 4].
(Of course Kyoto is just the first step, the advocates say. But it's also
the cheapest - that's why it's the first - so you can make your own
guesses about how many trillions are needed before the impact on global
warming becomes significant. )
And whom is the prevention of global warming supposed to help ?
The rich first-world that can well afford air-conditioning and other
mitigating comforts and whose agriculture will probably be better off in a
warmer climate ? Or impoverished people in the destitute third-world
already sweltering in jungles and deserts ? If the latter, then
surely there is a better use of US$ 100 billion per annum than something
that will give them marginal relief in a hundred years time.
For example, Kofi Annan and the World Bank tell us that US$ 200
billion, ie just two year's "subscription" to Kyoto, is
sufficient to provide all humanity with clean drinking water and
sanitation and thereby avoid 2 million deaths per year in the third world [Refs
Maybe we should hesitate before congratulating ourselves for
ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.
|Ref 1 : T M Wigley, 1998, "The Kyoto
Protocol: CO2, CH4 and Climate Implications", Geophysical
Research Letters 25(13):2, 285-8|
|Ref 2 : Richard Benedick, 1998, "How
workable is the Kyoto Protocol ?", Weathervane,
|Ref 3 : Science magazine, 19 Dec 1997,
Section 1, p10|
|Ref 4 : John Weyant and Jennifer Hill, 1999,
"Introduction and Overview", The Energy Journal, Kyoto Special Issue :
xxxiii-xxxiv, BEA 2001b-c|
|Ref 5 : Kofi Annan, 2000, "Progress
Made in Providing Safe Water Supply and Sanitation for all During the
1990s Report of the Secretary-General", p5, UN Economic and
Social Council, Commission on Sustainable Development, 8th
|Ref 6 : World Bank, 1994, "World
Development Report 1994 Investing in Health", Oxford
Late Note - See Sunday Times Letter
published 18th August 2002
Is The Economist Anti-Semitic ?
There is a real ding-dong going on between The Economist and the
Jerusalem Post, which has made a powerful claim that The Economist has
been anti-semitic in its reporting on the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Read the original charge,
The Economist's riposte
and the riposte to the riposte. I must say, though, that
compared with the aggression of the Jerusalem Post, The Economist's
riposte is pretty feeble, so there may be some truth in the charge.
The Economist is not noted for feebleness. Does it have a guilty
My own observation is that the Economist has in general been
pretty even-handed in laying out the facts. Those times when it
might seem to favour one side or the other, it nevertheless presents
sufficient information for you to easily make up your own mind.
Just after September 11th, they produced a particularly well-researched
and balanced piece
about whether America is paying for the crimes of Israel, which I found
fascinating. See what you think.
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Cuddly Teddy Bears
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Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
Note: I wrote
my own reports on Macondo
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s
incredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics