From June 2010, starting with this issue,
I have changed the system of the Tallrite Blog.
Instead of issuing every couple of
weeks or so a blog which contains a variety of articles, ranging from
serious analysis to increasing frivolity, I will issue posts on this page as
and when I write them, as most other bloggers do. They will then be
collated into a monthly archive.
When Quotes and Cyberspace items are
subsequently added, I will colour them or mark them as NEW.
Mark Humphrys has put out a
summary of the whole flotilla saga.
I have restricted myself
to a little analysis of the letters pages of just one
Irish newspaper, the Irish Times, which has hosted a lively discussion
on the subject. I simply totted up the score of
anti-Israel and pro-Israel letters
over the period
Tuesday 1st June 2010 to Saturday 12th. Here's the result.
There was a total of 79 such letters, of which
70% roundly castigated Israel, 24% expressed support or understanding
for Israel's dilemma, while 6% were neutral.
It is my guess that, sadly, this three-to-one ratio probably mirrors
not just the Irish Times' anti-Israel
(anti-Jew?) editorial leanings
but also the numbers of letters
actually sent to the editor,
that this also reflects the general attitude
in Irish society at large.
These could of course be false or distorted conclusions
because the Antis are undoubtedly more vocal than the Pros, in Ireland
as in the rest of the world.
far as Irish politicians are concerned it is distorted in the other
direction. Of 226 parliamentarians, only one,
consistently speaks up for Israel. He is also the sole Jew.
The others, from ministers down, thoroughly enjoy denouncing the Jewish
Update 14th June:
I stand corrected. Fine Gael TD Seymour Crawford is a second Irish
prepared to speak openly in support of Israel.
“The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6
million - that number again - hard by the Mediterranean, refusing
every invitation to national suicide. For which they are
relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending
themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists - Iranian in
particular - openly prepare a more final solution
Sadly, if reaction to the flotilla is anything to go by,
this has the ring of truth.
It has proved so popular that Youtube
have unilaterally taken it down, supposedly for copyright reasons,
even though under the US Copyright Office's own
Fair Use Doctrine “use in a parody of some of the content of
the work parodied” is specifically exempted from copyright
I am an avid Economist subscriber, have been for decades. But I
have just read, albeit a little late, the latest cover story of the 3rd
June edition, and find its anti-Israel tone and so-called remedies
appalling. In effect it seems to be advocating, at best, the capitulation of
Israel to the foes that surround it.
Here is the article, which I have
Fisked. My comments
are in indented
red italics. See if you agree
The government’s macho attitude is actually making Israel weaker
Jun 3rd 2010
THE lethal mishandling of Israel’s attack
on a ship carrying humanitarian supplies that was trying to break the
blockade of Gaza was bound to provoke outrage—and rightly so.
Rightly so? That is your (prejudiced)
judgement. Wrongly so would be more objective.
The circumstances of the raid are murky and
may well remain that way despite an inquiry (see article).
But the impression received yet again by the watching world is that
Israel resorts to violence too readily.
Too readily? You seem to endorse this
view. Yet the violence was begun by the jihadis on the Marmara who beat
each Israeli soldier on roughly a four-to-one basis, with sticks and
perhaps knives, as they rapelled singly down from their helicopter. Is
there no stage at which it is considered legitimate for the Israeli
soldiers to defend themselves?
More worryingly for Israel, the episode is
accelerating a slide towards its own isolation.
It is the attacks of neighbours and the
world generally which is isolating Israel. It would be no less isolated
were it not to defend itself as you seem to advocate.
Once admired as a plucky David facing down
an array of Arab Goliaths
which it is still doing,
Israel is now seen as the clumsy bully on
Israel’s desire to stop the flotilla
reaching Gaza was understandable, given its determination to maintain
the blockade. Yet the Israelis also had a responsibility to conduct the
And safely is exactly how the Israelis
conducted their interception on all boats but the Marmara where they
were attacked by jihadis. “Safely”
cannot mean that the Israeli soldiers should submit to their own
The campaigners knew that either way they
would win. If they had got through, it would have been a triumphant
breaching of the blockade. If forcibly stopped, with their cargo of
medical equipment and humanitarian aid, they would be portrayed as
victims—even if some, as the Israelis contend,
and the video and still photographs
demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt
brought clubs, knives and poles. As it was,
disastrous planning by Israel’s soldiers led to a needless loss of life.
Agreed. Had the Israelis been prepared for
battle rather than crowd-control, there would probably have been fewer
casualties but just as great an outcry.
For anyone who cares about Israel, this
tragedy should be the starting point for deeper questions—about the
blockade, about the Jewish state’s increasing loneliness and the route
to peace. A policy of trying to imprison the Palestinians has left their
jailer strangely besieged.
Surrounded by hostile Islamic states bent on
the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of its Jews, Israel is
indeed besieged, and not
Losing friends, strengthening Hamas
The blockade of Gaza is cruel and has
Not very cruel – the Gazans can get
everything they need, food, water, fuel, medicines, and even luxury
restaurants and hotels. And not a failure, because Hamas has been
unable to import weapons of the efficacy and in the quantities that they
The Gazans have suffered sorely but have
not been starved into submission.
Hard to be starved when you’re not short of
Hamas has not been throttled and
overthrown, as Israeli governments (and many others) have wished. Gilad
Shalit, an Israeli soldier taken hostage, has not been freed.
Weapons and missiles can still be smuggled
in through tunnels from Egypt.
But not the heavy artillery they want and
Iran and Syria want to supply. Nevertheless, to stop the other stuff,
Egypt is building a
steel subterranean wall to put a stop to the
tunnelling. (Notice how no-one criticises the Egyptian blockade of
Just as bad, from Israel’s point of view,
it helps feed antipathy towards Israel, not just in the Arab and Muslim
worlds, but in Europe too. Israel once had warm relations with a ring of
non-Arab countries in the vicinity, including Iran and Turkey. The
deterioration of Israel’s relations with Turkey, whose citizens were
among the nine dead, is depriving Israel of a rare Muslim ally and
Haven’t you seen the steady Islamicisation
of Turkey over the past
decade as demographic trends propels into the
forefront the devout
high-breeding Muslims of Anatolia at the expense of
childless, secularist West-leaning Ataturkish Turks of
Have you forgotten that Iran became Islamicised
with the arrival of
Ayatollah Khomenei back in 1979?
towards Islam have nothing to do with Israel but fully explain Turkey’s
and Iran’s growing Jew-hatred.
It is startling how, in its bungled effort
to isolate Gaza, democratic Israel has come off worse than Hamas, which
used to send suicide-bombers into restaurants.
Agree. Startling how much of the world draws
such a conclusion.
Most telling of all are the stirrings of
disquiet in America, Israel’s most steadfast ally. Americans are still
vastly more sympathetic to the Israelis than to the Palestinians. But a
growing number, especially Democrats, including many liberal Jews,
Ah yes, Stalin’s “useful idiots”!
are getting queasier about what they see as
America’s too robotic support for Israel, especially when its government
is as hawkish as Binyamin Netanyahu’s.
Israel is the Middle East’s only mature
democracy. That is why it is constantly changing government from
accommodationist to hawkish and back again (no fewer than
“regime changes” since 1983),
always trying to find different avenues towards making peace with
Palestinians who don’t want it. When Netanyahu’s current “hawkish”
approach fails no doubt Israel’s electorate will once again change tack
in its never-ending search.
A gap in sympathy for Israel has widened
between Democrats and Republicans.
Partly a result of the Democrats’
love-affair with Mr Obama and his twenty years of Jew-hating
indoctrination in the Rev Jeremiah Wright’s church.
Conservatives still tend to back Israel
through hell and the high seas. Barack Obama is more conscious that the
Palestinians’ failure to get a state is helping to spread anti-American
poison across the Muslim world, making it harder for him to deal with
Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. His generals have strenuously made that
point. None other than the head of Israel’s Mossad, its foreign
intelligence service, declared this week that America has begun to see
Israel more as a burden than an asset.
I doubt the head of Mossad was making a case
for surrender, just a sad observation.
That has led to the charge by hawkish
American Republicans, as well as many Israelis, that Mr Obama is bent on
betraying Israel. In fact, he is motivated by a harder-nosed
appreciation of the pros and cons of America’s cosiness with Israel, and
is thus all the keener to prod the Jewish state towards giving the
Palestinians a fair deal.
I wonder how you know what Mr Obama’s
“motivation” is? The only people
needing prodding to make “a fair deal” are the Palestinians to
make peace, of which the outlines have long been on the table (eg Bill
He has condemned the building of Jewish
settlements on Palestinian territory more bluntly than his predecessors
did, because he rightly thinks they make it harder to negotiate a peace
Rightly? That’s your judgement. The real –
and only – blockage to peace is the Palestinians’ own steadfast refusal
to recognize the right to exist of Israel and its Jews, without which no
peace agreement will ever be possible.
Mr Obama’s greater sternness towards Israel
is for the general good — including Israel’s.
This is a bland statement unencumbered by
foundation. Its underlying premise is Jewish surrender.
Harmony is not
just a dream
Israel is caught in a vicious circle. The
more its hawks think the outside world will always hate it, the more it
tends to shoot opponents first
when they attack it (eg the
and ask questions later, and the more it
finds that the world is indeed full of enemies. Though Mr Netanyahu has
reluctantly agreed to freeze settlement-building and is negotiating
indirectly with Palestinians, he does not give the impression of being
willing to give ground in the interests of peace.
He has publicly stated his willingness to
make a two-state agreement and the necessary conditions. As usual,
neither Palestinians nor the wider Arab and Muslim world have shown the
slightest interest in following this up. Destruction of Israel is
clearly still more important for them than peace.
Yet the prospect of a deal between
Palestinians and Israelis still beckons. The contours of a two-state
solution remain crystal-clear: an adjusted border, with Israel keeping
some of the biggest settlements while Palestine gets equal swaps of
land; Jerusalem shared as a capital, with special provisions for the
holy places; and an admission by Palestinians that they cannot return to
their old homes in what became Israel in 1948, with some theoretical
right of return acknowledged by Israel and a small number of refugees
let back without threatening the demographic preponderance of Jewish
This is largely what Ehud Barak offered
Yasser Arafat in 2000 under the auspices of Bill Clinton. Arafat’s
response was to say no, to make no counter-offer and to return to the
West Bank and start the Second Intifada. Your paragraph should be
directed to the Palestinians not to the Israelis, who more or less
And what about Hamas, if Israel is to lift
the siege of Gaza? How should Israel handle an authoritarian movement
that refuses to recognise it and has in the past readily used terror?
One answer is to ask the UN to oversee the flow of goods and people
going in and out of Gaza. That is hardly a cure-all,
An understatement. The UN has become so
rabidly anti-Jew, led by such toxic sub-bodies as the Organization of
the Islamic Conference and the UN Human Rights Council, that it can never
be relied on to police the flow of weapons into Gaza and bombers and
fighters out of it. This would be tantamount to an Israeli
but Hamas would become the world’s problem
neighbour, not just Israel’s.
And who cares? Just look, for example, at
the Hamas (and Hezbullah)
flags and symbols in anti-Israel rallies
across Europe, as well as the
“humanitarian” “aid” flotilla. And when even Gays and Lesbians align
themselves with the homosexual-executing fascists of Hamas – as they do –
it is clear that few are worried about Hamas so long as Jews are their
The Arab world must do more, pressing Hamas
to disavow violence, publicly pledge not to resume the firing of rockets
at Israeli civilians and revoke its anti-Semitic charter.
The West, led by Mr Obama, should call for
Hamas to be drawn into negotiations, both with its rival Palestinians on
the West Bank as well as with Israel, even if it does not immediately
recognise the Jewish state.
And what, exactly, will the Jewish state
talk about when Hamas’s primary objective remains its obliteration? The
IRA is sometimes used as an example of negotiating with terrorists. But
this happened only when the IRA had been militarily defeated and was at
a standstill. Hamas are a long way from that happy condition.
It is still the party the Palestinians
elected in 2006 to represent all of them. None of this will be easy. But
the present stalemate is bloodily leading nowhere.
“solution” would accelerate the disappearance of Israel and its
Israel is a regional hub of science,
business and culture. Despite its harsh treatment of Palestinians
behaviour has consequences
in the land it occupies, it remains a
vibrant democracy. But its loneliness, partly self-inflicted, is making
it a worse place, not just for the Palestinians but also for its own
people. If only it can replenish its stock of idealism and common sense
before it is too late.
Why do you persist in placing the whole onus
on Israel? Why not call for Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims to
“replenish their stock of idealism and
common sense before it is too late”?
They are the only ones determined to continue with war.
When it comes to BP's Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, no matter which side different media outlets may dress - left, right or
centre - there are all playing pretty much the same game, or at least
reading the same script. Yet it is a script of abject Ignorance at all public levels,
reaching from the highest echelons of the US Administration, to the
prestige newspapers of the world, to TV and radio and down to the
man-in-the-street. But it is worse than ignorance because it is
accompanied by completely unfounded confidence in what is being
The basic problem is, as I alluded to in my previous post, that outside
the small circle of engineering-oriented people (of whom I am one) who
already understand the intricacies, technologies and limitations of
drilling deep, hot, high pressure wells in very deep waters, no-one can
visualise what is going on. There is nothing to see but a
collection of vessels floating on the surface and a large oil slick, or
perhaps sheen, on the surface of the sea, plus some blurry video footage
of oil spewing at the seabed.
So let's go through some of the ridiculous assertions that are being
Start with the beginning.
The drilling rig Deepwater Horizon did not
An explosion occurred, followed by a fire and the rig sank. The
explosion took place because BP lost control of the well, allowing high
pressure gas to force its way up the well and into the rig area where it
ignited, probably due to a random spark somewhere.
Oil is not leaking from the rig at the bottom of the sea (other than
maybe from its fuel tanks), it is flowing from the well.
Moreover, the situation is not what
White House energy adviser (and top environmental adviser) Carol Browner
would have you believe. (Her ignorant remarks largely explain why Irish
bookie Paddy Power are giving
16-1 odds that she will shortly
We know how much oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez - its
it was a thick crude and it was spilled close to shore. Therefore it
exacted the maximum environmental damage imaginable on the wildlife and
scenery of the Prince William Sound area.
As regards Macondo, no-one has the faintest idea
how much oil is spilling, other than
“a lot”. That is because there is no way of actually
measuring the flow. All the estimates are based on the same thing:
technologists' guesses by eyeballing black emission from the leaks as
portrayed by underwater TV. And even the eyeballing is based on
what measured flows look like on surface, yet who knows whether 5,000
barrels a day flowing from a pipe on surface looks the same as 5,000
bbl/day viewed on TV in 1500 metres of water? That's why guesstimates
5,000 and 80,000 bbl/day.
Yet the important thing is not so much the quantity
of escaping oil but the damage it causes, and for Macondo there are
several other mitigating factors. One of BP's many brilliant
innovations in this catastrophic saga is the injection of dispersant at
the sea bottom, which reduces the amount of crude that reaches the
The crude itself is comparatively light (85% of the
density of water) compared to the more syrupy crude on the Exxon Valdez
(84%). The difference is significant because lighter crude is
easier to refine which makes it some
more valuable. It also
means that much of the Macondo oil is evaporating in the balmy Gulf of
Mexico weather, which is why the slicks are so relatively thin compared
with those of the Exxon Valdez.
explains why the Macondo slicks bear no comparison with those of the
But here is the clincher. How many TV and
newspaper pictures have you seen of birds and animals clogged with oil?
How many beaches turned black with the dreaded sludge of crude?
The answer is very few, because there is very little actual
environmental damage, at least so far. A week ago the
Sunday Times included a graphic in the print edition claiming
there were 444 dead birds, 200 dead turtles and 19 dead dolphins; seven
days later the bird count had soared to ...
Look, I am sorry if one of those dead or damaged birds is your auntie, but these
numbers are derisory. Every day in the USA, domestic
cats alone kill
over half a million wild birds.
recent study found that windfarms in just one area of Washington
state kill over 6,500 birds and 3,000 bats every year.
The only living things that look polluted are
protestors who have poured black paint over themselves.
President Obama flew to Louisiana to look at
environmental damage and all he could find was this pristine beach.
If there was an oil-clogged one, do you think he would not have wanted
to be photographed there to show his concern if not his (manufactured)
Another big reason is the
1,400 vessels and 20,000 people that BP has engaged to lay booms to
contain surface oil, skim and scoop it up, keep it from the coastline
and to clean up beaches and wildlife where oil is found. Where has
it sourced this armada and army? In a pretty clever PR strategy,
they are mostly local fishermen and others, who are apparently now
making more money from BP than they would in their usual pursuits, which
explains why there have been so few of them protesting. For
example, there's a class-action lawsuit against BP on behalf of
Louisiana shrimpers being worked up by ...
just two shrimpers - hardly a mass movement.
So that's most of the environmental nonsense put to bed. It's not
to say that there won't be serious damage in the future, but it
certainly has not remotely happened so far.
Then there is BP's response. In my previous post, I made it pretty
clear that there were serious shortcomings in the way the well was
drilled and perhaps in the BP cost-cutting culture which might have
However, my reservations there have been completely blown away by the
thoroughness and professionalism of what it's being doing ever since,
not to mention its
It rapidly built up a huge team of experts, not just from within BP but
from its contractors and even its competitors to develop solutions to
the unprecedented problem it faces. While there are many
techniques for dealing with a wild well such as Macondo, which are
proven on land or shallow water, they have never been attempted in deep
water, where currents across the 1,500 metre water depth are
unpredictable and different, while on bottom there is no light, the
temperature is close to freezing, the ambient pressure is some 160
atmospheres and no human diver can survive. Every activity must
therefore be conducted by remote control.
BP broke its workforce into teams that systematically developed an array
of different options for controlling the well. These ranged from
trying to lessen the flow by poking pipes into pipes to draw off some of
the oil, to commencing two relief wells which will each cost about $100
Over twenty vessels have at times been active on the surface in the
vicinity of the well at the same time, most with pipes or wires running
into the water. The water depth is too deep to anchor, so each of
them is dynamically positioned, meaning that computer-controlled
thrusters keep them on station using GPS, which in itself is a pretty
For example, each of 14 ROVs (remote operated vehicles, ie unmanned
submarines) is controlled by a tether connecting it to surface. A
specific team - perhaps with an air-traffic control background - is
therefore allocated merely to manage the positions of the surface vessels and to
ensure that submarine cables and pipes don't get tangled with each
As each technique has been tried and failed, the
next technique has been brought into play. Here are a the main
Close BOP Close the BOP (Blowout Preventer), the series
of horizontal ram-type valves (item 26 in the diagram below
Hydril]), which are fixed to the
top of the wellhead and whose function is to close off the well, and
slice through anything caught in the middle - such as pipe.
When the Deepwater Horizon caught fire and sank, attempts to close
the BOP from surface failed for reasons yet unknown. So ROVs
were deployed to activate the rams manually, pressing buttons on a
control panel like the gold one below; the rams would draw power
from the energy stored in high-pressure accumulator bottles (item
But this didn't work. Maybe the BOP didn't function, or
perhaps the ROV was unable to press the buttons properly; we don't
Draw off oil
Prior to that, a pipe was inserted into the
(item 17) which is the main pipe from the broken upper end of which,
lying on the seabed, most of the oil is emanating. Some 2,000
bbl/day is being collected this way and lifted to a drillship, the
Discoverer Enterprise, on the surface, thereby reducing somewhat
the impact of the spill.
When closing the BOP failed, the next effort
was to lower a massive so-called cofferdam, or inverted funnel, over
the wellhead in an attempt to catch the oil as it emerged from the
well and pipe it back to surface. This failed however when the
cofferdam became clogged with hydrates. These are solid icy crystals
that form when methane comes into contact with moisture under the
conditions of high pressure and low temperature that prevail at 1,500 metres of water.
Methane is the principal ingredient of the natural gas that is
bubbling up along with the oil. Methanol will dissolve
but evidently BP was unable to pump this down in sufficient
quantities to prevent the cofferdam from seizing up with hydrates.
Topkill After that, BP attempted the highly complex
“topkill” which has been in the news so much.
Its aim was to kill the well by pumping heavy fluid into the well from the top
down, such that it would push the escaping oil and gas back into the
reservoir and keep them there.
had to connect on to the so-called kill
and choke lines through which fluids could be pumped into the well.
Such lines are always connected from rig to BOP for just
such a purpose. In this case, once the rig sank, the kill and
choke lines broke free from it and lay strewn on the seabed, yet
were still connected to the BOP. After some ROV-assisted
refurbishment, the loose ends were cut off and connected via a specially constructed
manifold to a pipe suspended
from a multi-service semisubmersible called the
Q4000”, through which the heavy mud would be injected.
For maximum redundancy in case things went wrong, no fewer than four
boats full of pumps and mud were lined up to the Helix Q4000, with a
total of nearly 50,000 barrels of mud available. Also
available were tons of junk - random pieces of rubber, rocks and
other material - to try to clog up the well shaft or preferably the
Sadly, although the operational aspects were entirely successful,
the outcome was not. No-one can be sure why, but the challenge
always is that while mud is pumped downwards, the lighter oil may
simply move to the side and continue flowing upwards, helped by the
Cut and Replace Riser So for BP it was on to the next heroic plan, simple in
concept but devilishly difficult at this enormous water depth and
with almost no visibility because of the cloud of black oil.
This was to cut off the riser from the top of the BOP stack and tie
on to the stub a replacement riser which would lead to the surface
drawing off most of the flow. After several attempts, the cut
was accomplished with ROVs and angle-grinders, but this of course
means that there was no control at all on the escape of oil - it was
all rushing out of the stub.
At time of writing (7th
June), BP seem to have succeeded in fitting the new riser
over the stub of the old, but with lots of vents through which a
proportion of oil can continue to escape, but in so doing prevent
water entering the pipe and creating hydrates to clog up the works
It is an imperfect solution but a big improvement over
what has gone before. Some
10,000 bbl/day is being captured. BP has produced a
490kb PDF file of good illustrations.
Second BOP If this indeed proves to be successful, then BP may decide
not to deploy its final, more risky option, which is to fit on to
that riser stub on top of the existing BOP a second BOP. The
latter could then in principle be closed in order to finally either
shut in the well or indeed to re-enter it and kill it properly with
pipe reaching down to the reservoir.
Relief Wells However, if current attempts all fail to effect a complete
and permanent kill, the two relief wells will. They are being
drilled to intersect with Macondo at reservoir level, a huge task
considering the well is only 12 cm in diameter. The wells must
reach down to a vertical depth of 5,500 metres and a horizontal
displacement of perhaps 1,000 metres and be navigated precisely,
like a jet fighter stalking its prey, to the tiny target. (A
future post will explain in simple terms how this is done.)
Once drilled, water will first be pumped down the relief wells to
establish circulation into Macondo, then heavy mud to at last kill
it, and finally cement to keep it killed.
You would think that not just for BP but for the US Administration and
the general public the most important issue right now is to kill that
damn well, make it permanently safe and clean up any damage, and that
nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of this.
Yet solving Macondo seems not to be in the forefront of the priorities
of the President and his cohorts. They have launched both a
Congressional enquiry and
criminal investigation in respect of the blowout, meanwhile coming
out with meaningless blather like keeping the
boot on BP's neck and being
There will be plenty of years and decades for anger, recrimination,
retribution, lawsuits, enquiries, investigations, compensation, fines,
prison sentences, sanctions or whatever once the well is safe. The
future is a long time.
But launching such processes now in the midst of this gargantuan battle
against nature means that to defend itself BP is forced deploy its most
senior managers and hire umpteen lawyers. And who will brief those
managers and lawyers? Why the top technologists that BP can
muster. The very men and women who should be devoting all their
expertise and energy to solving the problem. You could hardly do
more to damage America's interests.
There seems no limit to the ignorance if not malice of the Obama
While I've been lazy in recent weeks about blogging, I have
still been harrassing innocent publishers with my witterings online.
Ignorance not poverty causes obesityP! Letter to the Sunday Times on 30th June and
(edited and) published on 4th July Minette Marrin is incorrect to assert that parents feed their children
fattening food because it's cheap, quoting biscuits, cakes ...
takeaways. These foods are in fact much more expensive than healthy
foods, and the "poor" can afford them only because their poverty is
relative not absolute. A trip to any supermarket will soon reveal that,
for example, potatoes, meat and tapwater are not only much healthier but
cost far less than chips, burgers and colas, and they are dead easy to
Rights of children vs wishes of gays Letter to the Irish Independent Earlier this year the US Congress received a formal report on Child
Abuse and Neglect. It found that, in terms of physical, sexual and
emotional abuse and neglect, and of education, children fared up to
ELEVEN times better when raised by their married biological parents than
by any other parenting arrangement. This dramatically underscores the
right of all children to their own ...
Ban on Prostitution Letter to the Irish Times on 22nd May 2010 In arguing for a ban on conventional prostitution, Tristan Mulhall
confidently informs us that women "willingly choose a life of
prostitution" only out of "dire necessity". If that is
the case, why does he want to deny women in dire necessity the means to
earn their living in a manner they are willing to pursue? ...
Letter to The Economist Your opposition to the growing movement to ban the burqa in Western
societies begs an obvious question. If it is acceptable for women
to hide their faces, it must therefore also be OK for men to ...
15th June -
stand here and say you represent Iranian people ... I don't want to
be attacked by these fucking murderers ...Murderer! ... Why did you
murder political prisoners? ... Do not touch me. You can't touch me
... What the f**k is going on here? ... Down with the Islamic regime
A little bit of Iranian
thug politics comes to Ireland.
Shaho Zamani, an
Iranian Kurd seeking asylum in Ireland, shouts his protests
at Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran's Foreign Minister,
invited to Ireland to address the Institute of European Affairs in
The Minister's own security thugs (believed to be armed)
tussle with the Kurd until the Irish Gardaí intervene
to save him and escort him out of the building.
14th June -
Quote: “The Irish
Times ... is ... quite a dangerous paper.”
of State Martin Mansergh of the ruling Fianna Fail party
is unhappy that the latest Irish Times poll puts his collapsing
for the the first time, in third place behind Labour and Fianna
compliment can a government minister pay a newspaper.
- - - - N E T H E R L A N D S - - - - -
10th June -
“More security, less crime, less
immigration, less Islam -- that is what the Netherlands has chosen.”
Gert Wilders, head of the
Party for Freedom,
on winning 24 seats in the Netherlands' recent general election.
His party demands demands,
an end to immigration from Muslim countries
and bans on new mosques and the Koran
This makes his party the
and potentially the king-maker in a coalition.
- - - - - U K - - - - - (10 June)
“I think that the best thing now is
not ... to attempt to damage the reputation of a great British
company ... but to sort out [the problem].”
Conservative mayor of London, responds to
President Obama's childish, anti-British rhetoric over the BP
(fire the CEO, boot on neck, kick ass, British Petroleum etc)
“Follow the Islamic way to save the world.”
The thoroughly nutty
Prince of Wales,
future head of the Church of England and future British king,
extols Islam, the CofE's main competitor in Britain,
for its AlGorian environmentalism.
No wonder the 84-year-old
Queen won't step down and hand over to him.
She is obviously hoping to find a way to skip a generation
and pass her throne on to her more stable grandson Prince William.
Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.”
Liam Byrne, Labour's outgoing
Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
leaves a handover note for his successor, Liberal-Democrat David
It it rare
indeed you get a truthful statement from a Minister,
especially a Labour one.
pretty soon afterwards
there was no Chief Secretary to the Treasury left either,
when Mr Laws had to resign for fiddling his expenses.
- - - - - I S R A E L - - - - -
Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Mohammed will return!”
Activists get themselves in the mood to greet,
with rods, knives and bottles,
Israeli soldiers as they rappel
down from helicopters
onto the Marama, 130 km offshore Gaza.
The Marmara is a Turkish vessel which was
attempting to carry
10,000 tons of
“aid” to Gaza along with 600 people to deliver it (600?).
The battle-cry commemorates Mohammed's'
ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arabia in the eighth century
“Shut up, go back to Auschwitz!...
We're helping Arabs go against the US. Don't forget 9/11 guys.”
Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza
replies when warned by the Israeli Navy
that it was approaching the blockaded area.
When boarded by Israeli commandos, persons
aboard the Marmara
attacked them with rods, knives, catapults and bottles.
Eventually, in self-defence, the commandos drew their guns
and killed twelve of their attackers.
Quote: “This mission is
not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking
Israel's siege on 1.5 million Palestinians.”
Greta Berlin, one of the organizers of the
“humanitarian” “aid” flotilla, makes clear that
the humanitarian so-called needs of Gazans are irrelevant.
“Peace could be achieved in no more than a week if Israel
is willing ... Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his
ministers must understand that peace is in [Israel’s]
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is absolutely right,
except for one small detail.
It is he and his fellow-Palestinians who must be “willing” -
willing to renounce violence and
willing to accept the existence of a Jewish state in historic Jewish
As George Bush famously
whispered to Tony Blair,
all it takes is to
get Syria to get Hezbollah
to stop doing this shit and it's all over”.
In other words,
stop attacking Israel and a peace accord will quickly follow.
Israel has demonstrated time and again its willingness to make
Each time this has been rejected by the Palestinians, most recently
- - - - - R U S S I A - - - - -
“Russia is guided by its own long-term state interests ...
Those who speak on behalf of the friendly Iranian people must
remember this ... Any unpredictability, any political extremism ...
is unacceptable for Russia.”
Sergei Prikhodko, a senior diplomat in the Kremlin,
slaps down Iran's
who had threatened that Russia's actions could
“place Russia in the ranks of their historic enemies”
I hate to praise an autrocracy such as Russia,
but why cannot the West be equally assertive
in defence of its interests?
13th June -
Barack Obama am]
still a Muslim, the son of a Muslim father, the stepson of Muslim
half brothers in Kenya are Muslims, and ...
that he was sympathetic towards the Muslim agenda.”
Minister Ahmed Aboul Ghei
(according to the latter).
It serves as a reminder of a
curious statement he made
during an interview on the campaign trail that “John
McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith”.
See how long it takes the mainstream media to pick up this little
the president's admission is rather disappointing.
One of the few things I had admired him for
was his apostasy from the Muslim faith he was born into,
and his conversion
to Christianity via the United Church of Christ,
albeit under the auspices of the toxic Rev Jeremiah Wright.
But it seems I
had formed too high an opinion of him (hard to do).
Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts
and a big buddy of the US president, on his assessment of
Republican opposition to the Administration's policies
the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the
world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free
With this fatuous clause, Barack Obama pays
to the memory of Daniel Pearl at the signing of a new
“Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act”.
Surrounded by still grieving relatives of Mr
Pearl, the American Jew journalist
whom jihadists triumphantly beheaded on video in Karachi in 2002,
Mr Obama displays not just his now familiar ignorance and disdain of
but an astonishing lack of human sensitivity.
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF