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This archive, organized into months, and indexed by
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Ill-informed and Objectionable Comment by an anonymous reader
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July 2007

ISSUE #156 - 8th July 2007


ISSUE #157 - 15th July 2007


ISSUE #158 - 29th July 2007


Time and date in Westernmost Europe
Did you catch that magic, fleeting, early-morning moment on Saturday 7th July? -
07:07:07 07:07:07

ISSUE #158 - 29th July 2007 [512+384=896]


Human Rights Without Responsibilities - A Car Without Brakes


BBC: Three Times It's Enemy Action


Audio-Economist - An Unexpected Application


Judge the Rose of Dublin ... and of Tralee?


Week 158's Letters to the Press


Quotes of Week 158

Click here for Word Version of Issue #158

Human Rights Without Responsibilities - A Car Without Brakes

I have long felt uncomfortable about the slew of Human Rights legislation that has cropped up in recent years, and even more uncomfortable about admitting this.  Of course I support - as I suspect most of us in the West do - the notions that ...



there are certain intrinsic wrongs that should not be perpetrated on people, such as killing, torture, slavery, discrimination,


other things are intrinsically wrong unless there has been due judicial process, such as imprisonment and other punishments,


certain intrinsic human freedoms should be respected: of thought, conscience, religion, expression, marriage, reproduction, assembly.  

This is the perfectly reasonable essence of the human rights convention, first drawn up by the Council of Europe back in 1950, which many EU countries have incorporated into their national law.   Therefore anyone who objects must ipso facto be a cretin of flog-'em and hang-'em persuasion. 

And yet. 

All kinds of people have won cases by applying human rights laws of either their own country or the EU.  Recent rulings in the UK (which adopted the convention in 1998), based on human rights laws, have included ...


The selective privacy of celebrities who routinely seek out publicity for their own career and financial advancement has been protected from paparazzi (think Naomi Campbell). 


Ministers have been prevented from influencing the punishment meted out to killers.


Terrorist suspects have been freed when evidence against them has been insufficiently robust. 


Evictions of gypsy travellers from public lands have been overturned. 


Deportation to country of origin of aircraft hijackers has been prevented. 


A schoolboy' expulsion for arson was overturned because it would have denied his right to education.


A rapist was given £4000 compensation because his second appeal was delayed. 

In my view, many of these cases look pretty odd, though since I'm not privy to the nitty-gritty, I am not really in a position to say the decisions were as wrong as they instinctively feel. 

But it seems to me there is one gaping void in all modern legislation of rights, court-cases concerning rights, popular debate about rights. 

Where do you ever hear about people's responsibilities and duties?  Is that a deafening silence that roars?

For example, that convention contains 59 articles, divided up as follows


18 articles on rights of various shades and nuances,


33 articles on judiciary/enforcement of those rights,


8 miscellaneous articles dealing with administrative issues.

Not a word about an individual's responsibilities or duties is anywhere to be found, other than a passing mention in Article 10 related to freedom of expression. 

Moreover, rights as set out in such a document quickly became regarded as only the starting point.  Pretty soon, thanks to populist legislators and liberalist judges, rights-creep sets in.  Here in Europe, we are today told that everyone has a right” to all kinds of things: a house, a job, a minimum wage, a livable income even if not working, an education, medical care, maternity (and even paternity) leave, and the one that Sinn Fein has adopted and that trumps everything else, a right to “equality”, whatever that means. 

It all sounds wonderfully warm, fuzzy and compassionate.  In each case, the “right” releases me from any real obligation to do anything about it myself.  More than that, if my behaviour prevents me from enjoying one of these rights, for example I get fired for incompetence from the job that is my “right”, I have a “right” to get another job if I want one, and a “right” to still get paid even if I don't. 

When such “rights come free of charge, unencumbered by any sense that people must give something commensurate in return, or indeed when people are protected from whatever unpleasant consequences might derive from their freely taken actions, it leads to the ultimate, utopian, welfare state and the infantilisation of the populace. 


Everything is gratis.


There is no connection between cause and disagreeable effect. 


I'm OK, because it's always someone else who pays for my mistakes and foolishness, whether in money or misery or both. 


Time to change my diaper. 

Examples abound.  Here are just a couple. 

State-funded housing

When housing is considered to be a right, and thus without a concomitant duty to pay for it, this leads to the creation all over Europe of state-funded council housing leased at uneconomic rent.  Such houses then entrap their occupants for evermore in a bricky embrace of dependency, provided at enormous cost by the tax-paying, productive end of the workforce, who don't live there.

Meanwhile, such housing fosters the development of an entirely separate housing market for the less poor only, with those in council houses never able to participate.  If large-scale council housing did not exist, a market in housing to meet the limited means of the less affluent millions would undoubtedly spring up, both for purchase and for rental.  And this would slot seamlessly into -  and also moderate - the higher-end housing market, thus providing a path open to everyone for both upgrading and downgrading. 

Thus if the State believed in personal responsibility and adulthood, its role in providing housing would not extend beyond meeting emergency needs and only on a strictly temporary basis.  Margaret Thatcher is the only major politician in recent times to have recognised this, when she sold off millions of such homes to their occupants in the 1980s (to their delight). 

State Welfare Payments

Apart from charming every woman who ever met him (and almost every man), Bill Clinton left office with one huge and wonderful achievement to his name, which he pushed through in the teeth of opposition, not least from within his own party.  In 1996 he signed a welfare reform bill that very much targeted single mothers utterly dependent on state aid, most of them undereducated from underprivileged backgrounds. 

Thenceforth, if such mothers wanted the benefits, they had to look or train for work, and even then there would be a five-year lifetime limit on receiving them.  At the time this was regarded as unbelievably brutal to an especially vulnerable demographic.  Think tanks predicted it would throw a million more children into poverty. 

Yet because the bill demanded responsible behaviour and eliminated the something-for-nothing-forever principle, it has been outstandingly successful in terms of encouraging single mothers (and other welfare recipients) to become self-reliant.  They and other welfare dependants have risen to the challenge.  In just nine years, Americans on welfare dropped from 12 million to 4½m; teen birthrates also dropped dramatically.  Incomes, work capabilities and personal self-esteem all rose.  While poverty was reduced, it was not eliminated.  But its persistence was no longer because the same individuals remained eternally in penury, but because as they got richer, poor immigrants poured in to the US in search of a more prosperous life and future. 

These two examples - council housing and welfare - illustrate a basic truth: where there are incentives for certain types of behaviour, you will get more of it, good or bad. 

And where rights” are offered without responsibilities or duties, demand for such rights” will go up without limit and willingness to suffer consequences will disappear. 

This dearth of responsibility and duty is the main reason I have strong reservations about the rights” climate, but there are two other grounds:

  1. Brussels is making these rights” laws and doing its best to cram them down the throats of EU member states, with a high degree of success. 

    Why can't member states make their own laws? 


    What's happened to subsidiarity, the notion that decisions
    should be taken at as local a level as possible?

  2. The rights” regime does not adequately discriminate between the rights of, for want of a better word, perpetrators and the rights of victims. 

    The sharp end of this aspect comes into focus when
    someone like Tony Martin defends his home by shooting two
    burglars, killing one and wounding the other. 


    Tony Martin goes to jail for manslaughter and is sued for
    injuring the surviving burglar. 

    Whose rights are being given precedence?  Those of the victim of criminal behaviour (Mr Martin) or of the perpetrators (the

In summary, rights” have proven to be a very slippery legislative slope, in which the notions of “right” and “wrong” seem to have been turned on their heads.  Untrammelled “rights” are like a car which has an accelerator but no brakes: it can never slow down, and most likely just speeds up until it crashes with untold bad consequences. 

The missing brakes are the missing responsibilities and duties.  Only when these are allowed to countervail the associated “rights”, can a modicum of balance be restored and the concept of “rights” regain credibility and public support.   (Or at least, my support.) 

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BBC: Three Times It's Enemy Action

In my previous issue, I carried a post Never Trust the BBC Again, prompted by the BBC's fraudulent calumny of Queen Elizabeth by switching round video tape sequences to make her look bad.  Things just couldn't get worse, but then they did.  The snivelling Auntie was caught cheating again - at least twice. 


Early in July it was fined £50,000 after its Blue Peter TV programme for kids faked the winner of a phone-in contest, dragooning in a young girl as co-conspirator in the scam.  The BBC first tried to cover it up, then blamed a junior employee.  No fewer than 40,000 children who had innocently entered the competition last November had been defrauded.  

Richard Deverell and Richard Marson, respectively the BBC's children's controller and the programme's editor, are still in their jobs.


But this is apparently quite normal behaviour by the BBC.  For an internal investigation revealed a week later a fresh batch of six programmes featuring fake phone-ins, including charity collections for Comic Relief, Children in Need and Sports Relief.  Production staff would pass themselves off as viewers or listeners, or invent competition winners.

Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, accepted that the buck stopped with him, but naturally insisted he would not resign.  Heaven forefend. 


Nor, naturally enough, would his deputy Mark Byford

With these latest revelations, BBC management were quick to promise a zero tolerance approach to any future lapses, calling them totally ... utterly unacceptable while expressing deep disappointment at ... evidence of insufficient understanding among certain staff of the standards of accuracy and honesty expected, blah-blah-blah.  Meanwhle, everything continues unchanged. 

A few unnamed executives were eventually suspended, but the five big men - Messrs Thompson, Byford, Deverell, Marson and Peter Fincham (Controller of BBC One, responsible for the Queen fiasco) - remain steadfastly in place. 

Remember what that arch-villain Auric Goldfinger once said to his foe 007, who was getting too close for comfort: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times it's enemy action, Mr Bond.”

In the BBC, after being caught out three times, the enemy action is in the hands of the Corporation's management itself.  The senior managers should be fired and the corporation broken up and sold off by public auction for the benefit of the Treasury, and  no longer forcibly funded through a special tax on ordinary citizens on pain of imprisonment.

An excellent remedy for any State broadcaster, come to think of it. 

Other TV channels have been found guilty for similar frauds.  For instance, Channel 4's Richard and Judy Show was fined a record £150,000 for misleading viewers over their chances of winning competitions.  But the big difference is that these miscreants are private companies, which will have to confront the full brunt of their scandal and their executives the fury of shareholders if their stocks drop. 

But the BBC faces no such rigour, and it shows. 

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Audio-Economist - An Unexpected Application

Just a month ago, the Economist magazine started publishing an audio version of its weekly edition, the first leading international publication to do so.  For subscribers it's free, for others it costs $8. 

For this, you can listen online, or else download as MP3 files discrete articles or the entire issue, adding up to about 130 Mb in all. 

The articles are read out, word for word, by professional broadcasters and actors, male and female, and the quality is superb.  To get a feel, listen to the latest edition's leader on demography, How to deal with a falling population” (which I hope they forgive me for ripping and providing free publicity). 

This new service has been a marvellous addition to the life of an elderly friend of mine who is blind, partly disabled through a stroke, but of wonderfully alert mind. It is about the only thing that gives him intellectual stimulation where he can be in control and not depend on someone else, and at the same time gain a good grasp of what is going on in the world.

He now has two MP3 players. With the press of a single button, he can listen at his own pace to one of them during the week, starting and stopping when desired.  Meanwhile I load up the other with the following week's edition, and then we swap at the weekend.

This is yet another example where technologies developed for one set of applications -


the MP3 audio compression format was invented for
downloading music files onto hard drives, to listen to or make
into conventional CDs,


MP3 players were created for youngsters to listen to music
while on the go without bothering with CDs,


the audio-Economist is for those of a more serious bent who
are too busy to stop and read their favourite magazine. 

- are finding imaginative uses never envisaged by their originators.  

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Judge the Rose of Dublin ... and of Tralee?

It is now five years since I first described that weird but wonderful, beauty-plus-mysterious-other-qualities annual Irish competition, the Rose of Tralee.  I couldn't resist returning to it in 2005 because it was won by a theoretical physicist and there are not many of us of a scientific persuasion who find ourselves (ahem) winning such stuff.  Aoife Judge, 2007 Rose of Dublin

The 47th such event kicks off in mid August, so I am going to pre-empt the result.  It will be won by the lovely Aoife (pronounced Eefuh) Judge, who has just been selected as the Rose of Dublin against a tough field of fifty gorgeous women.    Most of the eight other Irish Roses from other parts of the country faced only five or six competitors.  The remaining 22 finalists hail from all over the world. 

At the finals in Tralee, Co Kerry on 20th and 21st August, she'll be singing Eva Cassidy's incredible interpretation of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

If you don't believe Aoife Judge will win, you can “judge for yourself from these publications (which I will add to as new stuff gets published). 

View Evening Herald 16Jul07 The Star
VIP Magazine
August 07


Quick View (JPG)
60-90 kb
Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, JPG file Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, JPG file VIP Magazine features all the Irish Roses, August 2007, front cover as JPG file Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, JPG file
Detailed View (pdf)
½-8 Mb
Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, PDF file Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, PDF file VIP Magazine features all the Irish Roses, August 2007, full 9-page spread as PDF file Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, PDF file
Irish Daily Mail 15Aug07
Quick View (JPG)
60-90 kb
    Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, JPG file Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, JPG file
Detailed View (pdf)
½-8 Mb
    Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, PDF file Aoife Judge, Dublin Rose, PDF file

Declaration of interest:
She's my nephew's long-term girlfriend. 
So of course she'll end up as the 2007/08 Rose of Tralee.
(But unfortunately she didn't quite.)

Late addition (August 2007):
View Aoife Judge's sparkling TV interview and song
during the final Rose of Tralee sessions by clicking

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Week 158's Letters to the Press

Three letters this week, of which the one about Roma was published.  The Roma referred to were deported back to Romania shortly afterwards after spending three miserable months in tents in almost continuous rain. 


Roma on the M50 Roundabout P!
It is strange that among the many who demand the Irish Government provide the Roma camping out on the M50 Roundabout with shelter and food, none seemed to have opened up their own homes to take them in. Isn't charity supposed to begin at home? When was it completely outsourced to the State?


Channel 4 and Climate Change
Don't believe the tabloid rubbish that you hear on Channel 4, which has raised doubts that climate change is down to humans' activities. There is an overwhelming consensus that we are driving it.  So said John Sweeney of the NUI Maynooth, one of the scientists who contributed to the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.  Presumably Channel 4's “The Great Global Warming Swindle” broadcast last March and still viewable on Youtube is the programme he declines to name ...


Non-Recognition of Israel by Hamas
Your editorial of July 17th criticises,
the ill-considered conditions laid down to ensure Hamas recognises the state of Israel.  Does the Irish Times now support the non-recognition of a democratic state created by fiat of the United Nations ...

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Quotes of Week 158

Quote: Each of you is British. You were born here, your families live here, you went to school and university here. You hold British passports. You live under the protection of its laws, which give you freedom of speech and religious observance. Yet each of you was prepared to break its laws. Why? Because in my judgment you were intoxicated by the extremist nature of the material that each of you collected, shared and discussed – the songs, the images and language of violent jihad. So carried away by that material were you that each of you crossed the line. That is exactly what the people that peddle this material want to achieve and exactly what you did.

Judge Peter Beaumont pulls no punches,
as he sentences five young British-born Muslims
to between two and three years,
for downloading Islamic extremist and terrorist material. 

Quote: “My name was destined to be on the trophy.”

Padraig Harrington from Dublin,
on winning the Open Championship, aka the British Open,
golf's oldest (1860) and most prestigious competition. 

He is the first European to win it for eight years
and the first Irishman for sixty. 

Quote: The alternatives before the Palestinian people are stark. There is the vision of Hamas, which the world saw in Gaza - with murderers in black masks, and summary executions, and men thrown to their death from rooftops. By following this path, the Palestinian people would guarantee chaos, and suffering, and the endless perpetuation of grievance. They would surrender their future to Hamas' foreign sponsors in Syria and Iran. And they would crush the possibility of any - of a Palestinian state

George Bush in a speech about the Middle East,
warns Palestinians of the risks they face
by continuing to support Hamas

Quote: The scenes [in Iraq] are incredible. I have been in Iraq for more than 11 years, and I have never seen anything like this.  Traffic is everywhere. It's extremely meaningful here. I spoke to a young boy this morning who said if only our prime minister would learn from the team.

Hoda Abdel-Hamid of Al Jazeera
reflects Iraqi's euphoria as their country
wins soccer's 2007 Asian Cup for the first time,
defeating Saudi Arabia 1-0 against the odds in the final in Jakarta.

Not all news about is Iraq is bad.

Quote: Politics is sometimes difficult but it is not as difficult as having your house flooded out.” 

Tory leader David Cameron,
on the England's recent flooding.

Quote: I want France to live, to grab life with both hands, for people to want to give of themselves, create, innovate, and hope in the future.

President Nicolas Sarkozy
tries to breath new life into the French, on Bastille Day

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

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ISSUE #157 - 15th July 2007 [364+412=776]


Forgotten Lessons of Post Invasion Management


Ungreen Orangery


Never Trust the BBC Again


You Don't Bring Me Flowers Any More


Week 157's Letter to the Press


Quotes of Week 157

Click here for Word Version of Issue #157

It's the fifth anniversary of the Tallrite Blog
157 issues and 989 posts later, it remains proudly
ill-informed and objectionable”,
as well as
the only weekly blog that I have ever come across.

How long will it continue?  I have no idea.

Forgotten Lessons of Post Invasion Management

Invading Europe ...

My father, still going strong at 92, sometimes regales me with tales from the second world war, where he (voluntarily) served throughout the full six years as a dentist in the RAF, with the rank of Squadron Leader.   He participated in the invasion of Normandy, then marched all over Europe - gun in one hand, forceps in the other - fearlessly pulling Allied and Axis teeth across the length and breadth of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and into Germany, as the Nazis were driven backwards to the Vaterland.  The years were 1944 and 45. 

He followed closely behind the British front line as it advanced over Europe, liberating it town by town from the hated Germans, and was able to witness at first hand what happened next, as indigenous administrations were installed to replace the Nazis. 

Once inside Germany, of course, liberating towns gave way to defeating them and occupying them.  Then came the interesting part, once the Allied airmen and soldiers had finished their shooting and captured the town. 

The German armed forces (those who had not fled) had their weapons removed, were taken prisoner and put into camps.  Then, a British army major would arrive who would be appointed Town Major, a de-facto pro-consul, with absolute power and authority over the town.  He would summon the (trembling) local mayor and instruct him to resume his mayoral duties and re-activate the civil administration in the town, including policing, with a line-reporting relationship to the Town Major.  Within a short time, normal service and order resumed, civil servants were relieved to still have jobs and be able to support their families, the town's citizens could start picking up their lives again.  Coupled with the exhaustion caused by years of all-out war, this meant there was little stomach for insurgency. 

Indeed, my father remembers how calm and orderly everything quickly became within successive German towns, once defeat and occupation had taken place.  He remarks that, driving northward through German conurbations, signs had already been erected advising Allied forces that they must apply to the Town Major before taking over accommodation in the town. It gave them quite a cosy feeling - could be Bournemouth or Southend-on-Sea. Nevertheless, they didn't dare leave the safety of their vehicles on the main roads when needing a pee for fear of roadside bombs. (Sound familiar?) 

It turned out that hundreds of such majors - mainly but not only British -  had been meticulously trained in Britain for their future roles as Town Major, at the same time as the more visible and glamorous preparations for Operation Overlord were underway.  The Americans adopted a similar methodology for the (separate) sectors of Europe and Germany that they marched through. 

In other words, from the very earliest stages of preparation for the invasion, careful provision for the post-conflict phase was integral.  No-one imagined that once Germany was conquered, all would be sweetness and light, democracy would flower all by itself and the victors could just go home.  And six decades later, the invaders have still not gone home.  Today, there are over 70,000 US troops on German soil and successive German governments, for all their moaning about America, like it that way.  And those German governments (excluding the Eastern half when under Soviet Russia's tyrannical thumb) have been impeccably democratic and peaceful throughout this period. 

Meanwhile, over in the Far East ...

A brave, dogged Irish doctor survives Japanese brutality, shipwreck and imprisonmentI've just finished readingA Doctor's War”, outlined in the panel on the right.  It is a moving account of an RAF doctor's brutal experiences as a prisoner of war of the Japanese, ending up in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb went off.  Aidan McCarthy escaped harm from it because he was in a bunker.  Despite the human suffering and material devastation the bomb inflicted and he witnessed and to some extent doctored to, it carried great joy for him and his fellow captives because it brought the war to an abrupt end by forcing Japan to unconditionally surrender.      Emperor Hirohito and his cosseted war planners, so brave in sending young kamikaze pilots out to die, did not want to find themselves fried at the receiving end of a third atomic bomb - dropped on Tokyo. 

So, with surrender, the roles of Western prisoner and Japanese jailer were suddenly reversed, as the Westerners rounded up their tormentors with a view to having them put on trial for war crimes; some were summarily dispatched. 

I was particularly interested to read how the Americans organised things from the moment of surrender, even before they arrived in large numbers.  Their first act was to air-drop food, clothing, medicines and  radios.  They then contacted the (now ex) POWs by radio, appointed leaders (usually the senior officer in a given camp) and gave them daily instructions.   They were to commandeer vehicles, work with local police chiefs to organise civilians and urban services in the area (water, electicity, sewage etc), to seek out and catalogue armaments and food stocks.  Meanwhile, the Japanese army was disbanded (or disbanded itself).  Eventually regular US troops began to arrive and took over these tasks from the ex-POWs, freeing them to be taken home. 

Again, the conquerors of Japan quite clearly had a plan for what was to follow their success, and they put it into immediate, and successful effect.  And they did not expect it to be a rapid and easy job to convert Japan to the stable, democratic state it became.  Again, the Americans are still there today, more than 40,000 of them, at the invitation of successive Japanese governments, which have been as impeccably democratic as Germany's. 

Dr McCarthy writes these prophetic words about the methodology of America's occupation in those early days ...   

On the whole, the [Japanese] police were helpful and cooperative and can be credited with maintaining law and order.  If this had broken down the disbandment of the army would have meant looting, anarchy and eventual civil war. 

Sound familiar? 

And so to Iraq ... 

As I wrote at the time, the invasion of Iraq and defeat of Saddam's forces represented a stunning military performance of unparalleled virtuosity by America and Britain, with an unprecedentedly small number of their own and of non-combatant casualties, regrettable though each of these was.  

My favourite saying, usually applied metaphorically to non-combat situations, is the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in battle”.  It was clear that an enormous amount of such sweat” had gone into preparing for the Iraq invasion, because such success could never have been achieved without it. 

But how did we get from that heady time to the present where indiscriminate bombings by insurgents, whether Sunni or Shi'ite, are perpetrated on an almost daily basis? 

A civil war rages between these two religious factions in all but name.  Three free elections have taken place to install the first legitimate constitution and government in the history of Iraq, a feat achieved only by Lebanon in the Arab world.  Despite appalling intimidation, an astonishing 74% of Iraqi adults voted in the third, definitive election, proving beyond all doubt that they genuinely desired a reborn, democratic Iraq.   

Yet still the carnage continues.  Every day another Omagh style atrocity, with up to a hundred children, women and men slaughtered indiscriminately by their fellow Muslims. 

Few must doubt that the planning that went into the post-invasion phase of the Iraq adventure was virtually nil.  The army, the police, the Ba'ath party were all disbanded, with no attempt either to give the suddenly unemployed people some alternative work, income or hope, or to collect their weapons.   That left youths armed and angry, ordinary people wondering how to feed their families, normal services (water, electricity, sewage, schools, hospitals) in disarray. 

In retrospect, it is perhaps not surprising that matters descended into chaos in parts of the country (thankfully not most of it). 

What is surprising, however, is that the Americans and British seemed to have been utterly oblivious to the brilliant manner in which they had handled the post-invasion occupation of Germany and Japan six decades before and within living memory.  There is clearly an enormously rich vein of information about how it was done, what worked and what didn't.  But above all, how could the planners have so quickly forgotten that lesson from the past, that the same amount of sweat” you need to plan an invasion, you also need to expend in planning the aftermath? 

Readers of this blog will be aware that I have always supported the invasion and still do.  I cannot see how a retreat, however dressed up, cannot fail to be a defeat, which will give fresh gloating heart and a free hand to the world's Islamicists to continue their wicked unGodly work of converting, enslaving or killing infidels everywhere.  And such a defeat will have been inflicted not militarily but by American and British people and politicians back home. 

However, the lack of planning for how the post-invasion phase was to be managed is absolutely unforgivable, when our fathers and grandfathers had so clearly laid out both the need and the methodology, and proven to be so effective themselves.   The lessons were there for the taking. 

It is an old cliché, but those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  Sadly, it is invariably other people who pay for such failures with their lives, as in Iraq today. 

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 Ungreen   Orangery

Every year, celebrations are held to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne when in 1690 at the site of that pseudonymous river close to the border that today divides Northern Ireland from the Republic, brave English and Irish Protestants under an orange banner defeated, for once and for all, a motley rabble of scurrilous Catholic Papists from Ireland and Scotland with all their green paraphernalia and  ridiculous talk of an independent Hibernia.   

So on 12th July, people march in bowler hats and orange sashes, pipe bands play, bonfires are lit, Taigs (ie Catholics) are taunted, beer is drunk.  What fun everybody has. 

This year several absolutely monumental bonfires were prepared, using old tyres.  Here's a picture of one in Co Antrim.

A mountain of tyres, burnt on the night of 11th July

These days everyone who's not a Protestant fundamentalist seems to be a climate changeology fundamentalist.  So in homage to Saint Al Gore, I did a few calculations to estimate how much CO2 this pile would generate.  Turns out it is equivalent to flying about a thousand people to New York. 


Assume an average tyre diameter of 65 cm, thickness 25 cm (per my own car) and weight 9 kg,


to get an average tyre density = 4w/pd2t = 108 kg/m3. 


Diameter at the base of the cone in the photo is, by counting, about 35 tyres, ie 35 x 0.65 = 22.75 m. 


Height of the cone is 26 tyres, from the ground to the colour change, which when scaled up works out at 60 tyres in total, ie 60 x 0.25 = 15 m. 

This gives


volume of cone = pd2h/4 = 2,032 m3,


weight of cone = 108 x 2,032 = 219 tonnes,


of which approx 70%, ie 153 tonnes is more or less pure carbon. 

Relative atomic masses tell us that 12 gm of carbon generates 44 gm of carbon dioxide, so the conical pyre will have spewed out 153 x 44/12 = 561 tonnes of CO2 into the night air.   

According to the CarbonNeutral Company a flight from Belfast to New York produces 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per person on board. 

Thus this bonfire did the equivalent environmental The Green White and Orange of Irelanddamage of flying 935 Orangemen clad in sashes and bowler hats to New York, say about three airliners.  Distinctly un-green behaviour. 

It seems that in Ireland you just can't be green as well as orange.  But the Irish always knew that.  That's why there's a neutral white band to keep them apart.

The Irish Times kindly published a letter from me based on this post

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Never Trust the BBC Again

It is hard to imagine a greater, more public, less defensible, indeed less necessary, betrayal of public trust than that just wilfully undertaken by the BBC. 

The BBC had been following Queen Elizabeth around for about  a year for a fly-on-the-wall documentary.  This included a photoshoot with renowned photographer Annie Liebowitz, in which there was a sharp exchange of words when the Queen was asked to remove her crown.  Cartoonist Nick Newman finds some humour

In a short video about the documentary that the BBC released to journalists to garner a bit of free advance publicity, this altercation was shown, followed by a shot of the Queen storming out and muttering darkly, in an apparent hissy fit at Ms Liebowitz's effrontery. 

Yet this was an utter, deliberate FRAUD.  The clip of the Queen was taken on her way in to the photoshoot, not after it.  Switching clips around in this way totally changes the essence of the story by maliciously portraying her as apparently having a teenage tantrum. 

View this clip (clicking on BBC clip that sparked Queen row”), where you can see the original “incident”, followed by the true sequence of events.  Listen also on the same link to the audio item “BBC's shabby treatment of the Queen”. 

It is inconceivable that the short publicity video was not constructed with great care and approved at a high level within the BBC.  The Queen is far too important and revered a personage to treat superficially.  Even if, as it has suggested, a mere contractor put the short film together, it still would have obtained the imprimatur of the BBC's highest bosses before being released to the squalid hacks. 

Even the BBC's apology” when caught out is a miserable and deceitful one. 

The clips shown were not intended to provide a complete picture of what actually happened ... The BBC would like to apologise to both the Queen and Annie Liebowitz for any upset this may have caused.”


There was no failure to provide a complete picture”. 


What was provided was a picture that was both wrong and duplicitous. 


The Queen and Ms Liebowitz “may” have been caused upset? 


Can the BBC envisage any circumstance where its nasty little charade that would not have upset them? 


And what about the rest of its long-suffering financial backers, those who are forced to pay its licence fee? 


Don't they deserve an apology for the deliberate misuse of the money strong-armed out of them?

This affair proves for once and for all something that many of us have suspected for a long time.  The BBC is perfectly prepared to use its unique, precious, global reputation of utter trustworthiness to manipulate and deceive in order to put across its own preferred version of events and views. 

Its anti-capitalistic, atheistic, pro-dictator, anti-Semitic bias has been evident for a long time.  Now we have proof-positive that it regards the distortion of facts and images to reinforce its bias as a thoroughly routine way of conducting its business. 

And remember that British people, whether or not they watch or listen to the BBC, are forced to fund it through a special tax (euphemistically called a TV licence fee), on pain of imprisonment, no less.  This completely insulates it from the rough and tumble of market forces. 

From now on, nothing the BBC ever says or portrays can ever again be assumed to be true, without cross-checking. 

At least not until it is privatised and forced to survive in the real world of competition, transparency and accountability. 

Meanwhile, I hope that other state broadcasters, funded by special taxes and which model themselves on the BBC, such as Ireland's RTÉ, take careful note. 

Late note:
More on this in Issue #158.

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You Don't Bring Me Flowers Any More

What a great song this was as recorded back in 1978 by Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand.  She reprised it in a €500-a-seat chaotic, rain-sodden, mudbath of a concert in Co Kildare last week where, ever the diva, she demanded two hundred of the fluffiest peach-coloured bath towels be placed backstage for her use (how do you use 200 towels in one evening?).  Funny girl. 

The ukulele is probably the most ridiculous stringed instrument ever invented, good only for comic performers like George Formby with his When I'm Cleaning Windows.

The idea of a ukulele orchestra is even more ridiculous, and using it for a lyrical love song utterly so. 

But then, by way of disproof, watch this great effort by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, a name as clunky as the instruments they play.  It'll bring a smile to your lips. 

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Week 157's Letter to the Press

One letter, and it was actually published.  I guess slagging off Protestants always goes down well in the south of Ireland!


Twelfth of July Bonfires P!
On Wednesday night, the eve of the Twelfth, several monumental pyres of tyres were set on fire in Northern Ireland as part of the annual celebrations of the Orange community.  From the photographs of just one of these massive cones in Co Antrim, you can count the tyres involved and from this estimate the ... spewed into the night air 575 tonnes of carbon dioxide ... 
This is of course based on the above post, Ungreen Orangery

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Quotes of Week 157

Quote : I fully understand how tough the war is on the American psyche. And I know people are looking at their TVs and asking if it is worth it.

President George Bush

The terrorists are in this to win it.
The question is, are we?

Senator John McCain comments

Quote: When I started in the States, my sister said to me, ‘Rule number one: smile at everyone 24/7’. She said because I was wearing the hijab everyone would think I was a terrorist. I took her advice – grinning at everyone like crazy.

Wise advice for Rajaa Alsanea, a youthful lady dentist,
but better renowned as Saudi Arabia's first ever chick-lit author.

Victoria (Posh Spice) Beckham, on moving to the US,
seems to have listened to similar advice:

I think they have this impression that
I'm the miserable cow who doesn't smile.
But I'm actually quite the opposite.
I'm going to try and smile more for America

(Hattip: Graham in Perth)

Quote: I don't call myself a hero. Heroics had nothing to do with it. [The would-be bombers] got what they deserved. I think the judge was chillingly accurate with what he said and I don't think [at 40 years without parole] he gave them a day too long.” 

The indisputably heroic old soldier Arthur Burton-Garbett (72),
who pursued Ramzi Mohammed, one of the failed London bombers,
through the Oval underground station with, in the words of the judge,
determination and fearlessness, to say nothing of impressive speed.

Quote: To be honest, the French gave us the medical report, that stated that the cause of Abu Ammar's [Yasser Arafat's] death was AIDS.  I am not saying this, they did.

Ahmed Jibril, Secretary-General of the
Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command,
recounting, on Hizballah's Al-Manar television, a conversation he had had
with Arafat's successor as Palestinian president and head of Fatah,
Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) and his entourage.

That Arafat was gay and probably died from AIDS
has been an open secret for a long time. 
This is the first semi-official confirmation.

Quote : The first lady [Maria Kaczyńskiais] is a witch, who should be submitted to euthanasia ... Lech Kaczyński [her husband, the president] is a conman surrendering to the Jewish lobby.

Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk, head of Poland's ultra-Catholic Radio Maryja,
withdraws support for the country's president (and prime minister),
the Kaczyński twins, for not tightening up on abortion

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ISSUE #156 - 8th July 2007 [292]


Gordon Brown's Phoney Anglicisation


Legitimately Rejecting Legitimate Electoral Results




Week 156's Letters to the Press


Quotes of Week 156

Click here for Word Version of Issue #156

Gordon Brown's Phoney Anglicisation

So he's finally made it.  He's now Prime Minster Gordon Brown.  He's waited ten long years, or thirteen if you start counting from that infamous Granita lunch in 1994, when he foolishly ceded the Labour Party leadership to Tony Blair. 

And everyone hates him, so I hope he enjoys the new job in the few years allotted before he's booted out either by his own party or the electorate. 

South of Hadrian's Wall, where most of the voters live, they hate him because he is dour, they hate him because he's Scottish.  And he has no answer to the West Lothian question: why should Scottish MPs pontificate and legislate on English-only matters when English MPs, thanks to Scottish devolution, can't return the compliment on Scottish-only matters? 

Over the years, he has made many pathetic attempts to show he cares about England (as if any Scot ever did!). 


The subtext of all this our countryphraseology that he has become so fond of uttering isI mean England too, not just Scotland, honest”. 


Last year he made a bit of a show of pretending to hope that England would win the soccer World Cup.  It was a  perfectly safe aspiration since England never had a chance of winning, but Mr Brown was the only Scot who expressed such treason.  Scotland's teenage tennis prodigy Andy Murray, for example, instantly lost England's support at Wimbledon forevermore after he pronounced that he was an ABE supporter - Anyone But England.  But he was only saying what every one of his countrymen was fervently hoping. 

Mr Brown's latest wheeze to try to woo Englishmen is to change his accent.  Have you noticed how decidedly less Scottish, softer, slower and quieter he is sounding these days?  In other words how he is attempting to become English?  Of course he might be trying to emulate the way the Duke of Wellington famously denied his Irishness by observing, in impeccable Oxford tones, Being born in a stable does not make one a horse”.  But somehow, I don't think Mr Brown is really trying to abnegate that he is Scottish, just bamboozle ignorant English voters into thinking so. 

Watch this clip of his first speech as prime minister, outside 10 Downing Street.  Ignore the switching head suggesting he is watching Tim Henman lose at Wimbledon, and the self-conscious smirk that fleetingly flashes (at Minute 3:50) and as quickly vanishes.  Concentrate on the accent and the language.  Isn't he very much the serious Englishman?  Well, almost.

You can contrast this with earlier clips of speech recorded over thirty years ago as illustrated in a recent article in The Times ...

1975 2007
I’m Gordon Brown Ah’m Girrrdn Brrn Eye ahm G-oh-don Bw-oww-n
Prudence for a purpose Prroodns frra a prrpus Pw-ooo-dens fow a puh-pus
Tony’s removal van T’nees r’moovl vn T-oh-nee’s ri-moo-vul van
See you, Jimmy See-yoo-Jmi See-eh yooo, Ji-ih-me

As prime minister, he said he would, as his school motto demanded, try my hardest” in his new job, and I have no doubt he will, and trying his hardest to make himself seem English is probably the biggest single challenge.  His nervous performance at his first Prime Ministers Questions on 4th July, with his plaintive “I've only been in the job five days!”, are marks of someone doing his best, albeit a little out of his depth. 

But I'm sure he will be better as a prime minister than as an Englishman, though this will not save him from the electoral wrath of genuine Englishmen.  Meanwhile, let him enjoy his honeymoon, his calm before the storm. 

I wish him well.  Actually, I don't. 

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Legitimately Rejecting Legitimate Electoral Results

Ever since Hamas, to everyone's relief, engineered the release, after four months captivity, of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston in Gaza, it has been enjoying a degree of unaccustomed respectability in the West and Arab worlds.  Soft comments by politicians are accompanied by equally soft pieces in organs such as the BBC.  The word has gone out: go easy on Hamas.  Don't mention


their de-facto coup d'état in Gaza last month,


or the Fatah bureaucrats they gaily flung from high buildings or beat to death on TV or kneecapped,


or Israeli soldier Gilud Shilat whom they still hold, having kidnapped him a year ago, triggering a nasty little war. 

This comes to the considerable relief of many uncritical Palestinian apologists, who argue that since Hamas were democratically elected in Gaza and the West Bank, in a fair ballot blessed by the sainted Jimmy Carter, the West should deal with them, uncritically and unconditionally, as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinians.  You wanted democracy, they cry, you've got it, and now you don't want to respect the result because you don't like the winners. 

This is to completely miss the point. 

No-one has to like the result of any fair election anywhere.  Indeed, in most democracies, a huge minority do not like” the result because they voted for a rival (and sometimes, as in George Bush's first election, even the majority dislike the outcome).  The point is one not of “liking” but of legitimacy, which is why we accept electoral outcomes even if we don't like them.  For example, in the US the perennial political mood music is one where many Republicans bear an abiding hatred for Democrats, which is lustily reciprocated.  So opponents spend their time trying to disparage and dislodge and discredit incumbents, or sometimes simply ignoring them in malice, which is all part of the daily fun of democratic politics everywhere. 

Hamas' legitimate election has had a profound affect on how the world views the Palestinian people.  Hitherto, a strong case could always be made that the destructive behaviour of the Palestinians was in reality that of its self-declared dictatorial leaders rather than of the people themselves.  Thus their support for the Nazis, anti-Semitism, suicide bombing of civilians, and their failure to grasp serial offers for a second state of their own (1937, 1948, 1967, 2000) in addition to Jordan, could be laid at the door of their venal presidents (Yasser Arafat and co).   

The popular election of Hamas, however, changes that.  Hamas openly calls for the violent obliteration of Israel and Jews through Jihad.  Moreover, it refuses to foreswear violence or to honour previous agreements made by the Palestinian Authority.  Thus, since the Palestinians voted for Hamas, it is for the first time the majority of the Palestinian people themselves who are now demanding the destruction of Israel and repudiation of previous concords. 

So of course the rest of the (civilised) world cannot accept this, and it is utterly logical and proper that the West's free gifts of vast amounts of money cease, and that any talks with Hamas be conducted extremely tentatively if at all.  If the Palestinians suffer as a result, that is purely the consequence of their own freely-taken electoral action; no-one else's. 

It is by no means unusual that a democratically elected body be shunned by other democrats who find their odour offensive.  Two examples:


Following a democratic election in 2000, Jorg Haidar, leader of Austria's right-wing - many would say racist - Freedom Party became a minister, in a coalition with the centre-right People's Party.  Because of the whiff of neo-Nazism emanating from Mr Haidar, the leaders of the fourteen other EU states were horrified and refused to have anything to do with Austria, even disdaining to shake hands with members of the Austrian government.  America was similarly outraged though didn't actually do any boycotting. 


The following year, it was Italy's turn to attract the EU's wrath over a general election that looked like producing a wrong result.  With Belgium holding the EU presidency, its foreign minister, Louis Michel, spoke for the EU when he threatened sanctions (without really explaining why) against Italy should voters dare to support Umberto Bossi’s separatist, rightist Northern League.  Voters, however, had the temerity to ignore Mr Michel, and promptly propelled the Northern League into a ruling coalition with Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, which lasted for five years, far longer than any of the other fourteen post-war Italian governments.  And Mr Michel was not able to deliver the EU spite he had promised. 

Hamas is a political organization committed to terrorist solutions to its problems, whether with the hated Jews, or as we have so recently seen their co-religionist brother Palestinians from Fatah. 

Their election to the PA was entirely legitimate; their rejection by right-thinking people and countries is equally legitimate.  Their enforced, violent, murderous seizure of Gaza is, however, illegitimate. 

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This picture was taken at Dublin's International Financial Services Centre last month.

Haven't the diligent workmen done a wonderful job on the bollards?  See how they are now meticulously cleaning up in order to go home for a well earned drink. 

But they may have overlooked something.  Anyone out there who can't see the problem? ...

I'm a van, get me outta here

Thanks Steve K for the tip-off.

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Week 156's Letters to the Press

My blacklisting in newspapers evidently continues.  I battle on, unpublished, regardless. 

bullet Jesus and Social Radicalism
Father Tony Flannery and his defender Karl Deering both suffer from the same fundamental misunderstanding of Jesus' position in relation to poverty.  They seem to believe that when Jesus praised the poor, he was in fact praising any economic mechanism provided it would make or keep people poor ... 
bullet Scooter Libby's Conviction
Scooter Libby is the only person tried, convicted and sentenced in connection with the leaking to the press of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame, a felony under US law.  Mr Libby's crime was perjury.  Yet the men who actually perpetrated the leak, Richard Armitage and Karl Rove, are not even brought to trial, nor is the journalist Robert Novak who wrote the story, nor the editor of the Washington Post which published it in 2003 ...
bullet Americans are Defending Iraqi and Afghani Democracy
Various tired left-wingers regularly rant in your letters column about America's so-called penchant for torture, invasion, terror, civilian slaughter etc.  But may I remind them of a central truth about Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is Islamicists, not Americans, who are ...
bullet High Rises for Dublin
[Columnist] Kevin Myers is right to extol the virtues of high rise apartments.  City-centre high rises make the land-cost per apartment trivial, since so many people share it, as well as minimising the construction and maintenance costs.   They thus allow for proper, roomy, well appointed, efficiently sound-proofed units to be built. Moreover, the reduced costs coupled with increased availability are also likely to drag down the price of other properties in the city to more sensible levels ... 

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Quotes of Week 156

- - - - - - - - - - I R A Q - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “You had all the civil and military authority for northern Iraq.  You gave the orders to the troops to kill Kurdish civilians and put them in severe conditions. You subjected them to wide and systematic attacks using chemical weapons and artillery. You led the killing of Iraqi villagers. You restricted them in their areas, burned their orchards, killed their animals. You committed genocide.

Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa,
on sentencing Ali Hassan al-Majid,
Saddam's trusted cousin and lieutenant,
otherwise known as Chemical Ali,
to death by hanging

Thanks be to God,
mutters the sentenced man in reply

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

Quote: The police and the security services deserve the fullest support and co-operation from each and every sector of our society, including all Muslims.

Muhammed Abdul Bari,
Secretary General of the MCB (Muslim Council of Britain),
in a surprising reversal of policy.

Less than a year ago, he threatened that
police investigation of Islamicist crimes would result in
Muslim terrorists proliferating in number to
two million, 35% of them in London

Quote: Let's not create a hypothetical problem … [the Glasgow and London terrorist attacks] can be the work of Muslims, Christians, Jews or Buddhists.” (Yeah, right). 

Daud Abdullah, the MCB's Deputy Secretary General,
doesn't seem to be quite on message

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

Quote: “The extreme, female embodiment of that [Fianna Fail party] culture is the unspeakable Flynn-woman, a proven liar, a fraudster, a creature of no integrity, and a traitor who, in any state with a clearly defined public morality, would be in jail..

Columnist Kevin Myers describes Beverly Cooper Flynn,
Irish parliamentary member for Mayo,
who narrowly escaped bankruptcy
by cutting a dubious, secret, 54% discount deal
with RTÉ, Ireland's state broadcaster,
whom she owed €2.8m for foolishly taking a failed libel case
over her encouragement of others to evade taxes.

- - - - - - - - - - U N - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: The way of selecting ‘new seven wonder’ is not scientific ... It is not sufficient to recognise the emotional value of certain sites, but they have to be evaluated with scientific criteria.”

UNESCO (and other critics) dislike the way
seven modern-day Wonders of the World have been selected
by one million people in an online poll. 

They think this honour of selection
should fall to the high and mighty of the UN,
not the unwashed hoi-polloi.

The wonders are


The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu at Cuzco, Peru


Mexico's Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza


The Colosseum in Rome


The Taj Mahal in India


The Great Wall of China


Petra in Jordan


Brazil's statue of Christ the Redeemer

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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
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
May, June, and July 2010


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


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


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


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,


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 Singapore’s docks,


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 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.


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.


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


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 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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After 48 crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are, deservedly,

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