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TALLRITE BLOG 
ARCHIVE

This archive, organized into months, and indexed by
time and alphabet,
contains all issues since inception, including the current week.

You can write to me at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com
(Clumsy form of my address to thwart spamming software that scans for e-mail addresses)

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

May 2010

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ISSUE #205 - 16th May 2010


Myspace Clocks, Video Clocks at WishAFriend.com

 [356+1054=1054=1ISSUE #205 - 16th May 2010 [423+890=1313]]

Rasmussen Daily Poll - 19 May 2010

Rasmussen Daily Poll - 19 May 2010

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BP's Macondo Catastrophe - How it Happened

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Get Out of Irish Banking

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Truthful Terrorists; Lying Democrats

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Obama's Easterless Message

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Calculating Chinese Children

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Scandal! Counterfeit Hair Straighteners

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Bouncing Gore-Tex

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Issue 205’s Comments to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 205

Coverage of oil slick catastrophe fails to address its causeBP's Macondo Catastrophe - How it Happened

Most of the media coverage about BP’s disastrous well in the Gulf of Mexico has concentrated on the oil slick, the potential damage it can do, the measures being taken to contain it and efforts underway to stem the underwater leaks.  All of this is visible on the surface and easily grasped.  Conversely, the events which led to the catastrophe were of a technical nature, out of sight at depths of thousands of metres, and poorly understood outside the industry. 

Last February, the floating rig Deepwater Horizon” (Oilonline photo), under contract to BP on behalf of itself (65%) and its partners Anadarko (25%) and Mitsui (10%), moved into Mississippi Canyon Block 252 to drill exploration well Macondo at a water depth of 1,522 metres eighty kilometres from shore

Deepwater Horizon; click for a closer view

Built in Korea in 2001 for $350 million, Drilling Horizon was an 8,000-ton state-of-the-art behemoth, known as a semisubmersible because it sat on two huge floats submerged well below wave action in order to minimise movement.  Designed for 2,400 metres of water, far too deep for anchors, it kept station by means of satellite positioning and computer-controlled multi-directional thrusters; in other words it would motor at full speed to go nowhere.  BP paid its owner-operator TransOcean, the world’s biggest offshore drilling contractor, a day-rate of $500,000, which the ancillary activities (helicopters, boats, fuel, specialist services etc) doubled to a cool daily million. 

By April, the rig had drilled Macondo to its 5,500 metres objective where, to great joy, high-pressure oil and gas were found.  The next step was to disconnect from the well with a view to reconnecting later when production facilities were ready. 

Wells are drilled using rotating pipes which circulate a heavy “mud” to cool the drillbit, control pressures, plaster the bore and remove drill-cuttings.  Drilling mud is in fact a highly technical, sophisticated and expensive cocktail of chemicals). 

As the well progresses, a succession of concentric tubes, known as casing, is lowered into the hole, with cement pumped into the annulus between it and the hole to seal off upper layers.  This allows the next section to be drilled at a smaller diameter, also to be subsequently sealed off with a narrower casing, and so on, telescope fashion.  The annuli of the concentric casings are further sealed mechanically at the surface in a wellhead device. 

Subsea BOP stackDuring drilling a BOP (blowout preventer) is always secured to the wellhead to control unwanted influx from the well.  Weighing 200 tons and standing 12 metres high, it comprises up to six hydraulic valves which, to shut off the well, can clamp around – and if necessary slice apart – any pipe sticking through it out of the wellbore.  Typically, with the annulus sealed off in this way, heavier mud would be pumped into the well to overcome the pressure beneath the BOPs until they could be safely opened and normal operations resumed.  This is a skilled task and like airline pilots, drilling supervisors are regularly re-certified to ensure they master the physics and the practice. 

In deep water, the BOP, activated from surface, sits on the wellhead on the seabed.  The floating rig far above  connects to the BOP by a 50-centimetre diameter so-called riser, which provides access to the well. 

On Macondo, the final 12-centimetre diameter casing was installed, stretching from seabed down to 5,500 metres, cemented through a non-return valve at the bottom and up the annulus, and hung off in the wellhead.  This would leave the well ready for another rig to re-connect later. 

On April 20th, once the cement was set, the BOP was closed to pressure-test the cement, the casing, the wellhead and indeed the BOP itself.   This is done by pumping mud from surface down a separate pipeline parallel to the riser to below the BOP. 

Only two steps remained before disconnection: to pump another wodge of cement into the well to provide a plug as an additional safety barrier against untoward pressure from below (it is unclear whether this was done) and to replace the heavy mud in the riser with seawater so that its imminent removal would not cause pollution by mud. 

Once full of seawater, the 1˝ kilometre long riser exerted 200 atmospheres less pressure on the top of the well than when full of mud.  When the BOP was opened, the reduced pressure proved insufficient to prevent an enormous bubble of high pressure gas that had inexplicably accumulated, from bursting into the riser expelling the huge column of seawater out of the riser and seventy metres into the air.  This of course lowered the pressure in the riser even further which sucked in ever greater quantities of first gas then oil from the newly-discovered reservoir over five kilometres deep. 

With no wind to disperse it in that calm night, the gas quickly spread across the rig until inevitably a spark somewhere ignited it.  A huge fireball ensued and though the majority on board managed to evacuate, eleven men sadly lost their lives

Fuelled by gas and oil, the conflagration raged for 36 horus until the rig sank.  In the immediate chaos no-one could get to the control panel to close the BOP.  The riser and control lines in due course broke free of the rig and fell haphazardly onto the seabed where it continues to spew the oil that is causing such environmental alarm. 

BP’s efforts are now focussed on using unmanned submarines to try and close the BOP, funnelling the oil into a cofferdam, containing the slicks on the surface and drilling a relief well to intersect Macondo at reservoir level. 

How had gas built up in the wellbore in an apparently sealed casing? 

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Faulty casing?

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Poor cement? 

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Lack of plug? 

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Defective equipment? 

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Inadequate procedures? 

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Insufficient expertise? 

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Organizational dysfunction? 

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Human error? 

These are big questions to which only a formal enquiry will provide definitive answers. 

Personally, I would be surprised if the answers to any of those questions will reflect favourably  on BP. 

There is another issue raised in a Sunday Times article by Tom Bower, which notes that BP have suffered no fewer than four other disasters in the past five years -

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An explosion at the Texas City refinery killed 15 people in 2005 (for which it was fined $87 million)

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After a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, a dangerous 25° list developed in the billion-dollar semi-submersible Thunder Horse floating production platform, almost sinking it

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Two serious oil-spills from pipelines in Alaska in 2006. 

Mr Bower, author of The Squeeze: Oil, Money and Greed in the 21st Century, argues that a culture of cost-cutting pervaded BP which probably contributed to its five catastrophes in five years. 

This line of thinking could suggest that technical requirements and hence safety considerations sometimes took second place.  In this vein, it seems plausible that, among other things, BP denuded themselves of much deepwater high-pressure expertise they now desperately require, by laying off a cadre of highly paid employees with vast deepwater high-pressure experience and specialist skills.  It is my guess that they would have numerically replaced these experts with bright young PhDs on a fast-track to development which entailed much fore-shortened hands-on experience compared to the old-timers, together with excessive reliance on contractors whose skills and interest (rightly) lie in their equipment not the actual hole. 

In the oil and gas business it is always the oil company and none other which is responsible for the hole.  Eleven men died and disastrous oil pollution is unfolding because control was lost of the Macondo hole. 

See also my follow up post in June,
BP's Brilliant Management of its Blowout

Back to List of Contents

Get Out of Irish Banking

The Irish Government, in order to save the country's banking system, is bending over backward to spend billions upon billions of taxpayers' money, whose repayment will extend to future generation upon future generation. 

Without a functioning banking system, all commerce will apparently cease.  Or something. 

A state-owned National Assets Management Agency, NAMA, has been set up to buy the banks' bad debts, the vast majority property-related, so that the banks can resume normal banking.  It is buying the debts at a discount of between 30% and 50%, though the actual housing crash well exceeds 50% everywhere.  In other words NAMA is overpaying.  The reason given is that otherwise the state will have to pour even more taxpayer billions into the banks to recapitalise them.

The process has now begun and already the state is doing both anyway - NAMA is overpaying for the debts AND the government is pouring extra money into the banks. 

The question that the government has never, as far as I am aware, answered is what is the practical effect of not taking such measures.  What does a banking system failure and economic collapse mean for ordinary citizens? 

For the past year or more, it has been borrowing €400 million a week just to pay ongoing costs.  Yes, notwithstanding the evidently bankrupt state of the finances, and last December's “slash-and-burn” budget that trimmed €4 billion pa from government spending, borrowing is still continuing apace.  So presumably with economic collapse, the lenders (who are they anyway? the Chinese?) will stop lending, there will be insufficient money to pay civil servants, dole, pensions, schools, hospitals etc.  So state employees, perhaps a hundred thousand or more, will be thrown out of work and all state payouts will be drastically cut.  Riots and civil unrest will surely ensue, following the example of our Greek brethren. 

But that will not be the half of it.  If (When?) the ever-wobbling Irish banks collapse, they will take with them all or most of their deposits, because we know these don't exist anymore because they have already been disbursed on those property loans that are now being sold off at a discount to NAMA.  Of course the Government has guaranteed those bank deposits.  But it has no money either - that's why it's borrowing that €400 million weekly to stay (weakly) afloat.  The idea of the guarantee, therefore, is to provide sufficient confidence such that depositors do not in fact demand their money; it does not however mean your money is safe should a large number of people choose to call it in.  Therefore, once people get a whiff of the failure of any one the Irish banks (undoubtedly Angli-Irish will be first - see below) , they will stampede their way to their respective banks to withdraw their savings, and only those few at the heard of the queue will get lucky before the money runs out. 

If you think newly redundant civil servants and pension-less pensioners can cause trouble, wait till you see what happens when the vast majority of the population of all ages realises that its life savings have been vaporised. 

Anglo-Irish Bank

All the Irish banks are currently struggling to remain alive on the edge of a precipice.  But Anglo-Irish bank, which lost over €10 billion in 2009 and is on life support thanks to taxpayers' billions, is the zombiest of them all.  Back in December 2008 we were told that it would get one billion €uro from the taxpayers to help it survive, which horrified everyone.  But another €2.4 bn went into the Anglo-Irish pot over the following months, while last March the taxpayers were forced to toss a further €8.7 bn, bringing the bail-out total to €12 bnIn defence, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan says that “finding a long-term solution for Anglo-Irish Bank is by far the biggest challenge in resolving the banking crisis”.  This latest tranche brought the total bail-out money for all Irish banks to an eye-watering €73 bn, or €17,678 per head of population, from infant to geriatric. 

How will they ever pay this in their lifetimes? 

The bailout to Anglo-Irish could even swell further - from the current €12 bn to €22 bn according to Mr Lenihan, who in  almost the same breath makes a case for winding it down - but only over a period of twenty years.  An immediate liquidation would apparently cost the taxpayer €70 bn altogether, but the way the bailouts are escalating I wouldn't rule that option out either. 

Now consider this.  Anglo-Irish, the penniless zombie bank, currently holds (if that's the right term) €27 billion in customer deposits.  How safe do you think this money really is? 

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How long before increasing numbers of Anglo-Irish depositors decide to do the prudent thing and withdraw their money while they can? 

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How long before their numbers swell to a flood and there is a true run on Anglo-Irish like we saw in the UK with Northern Rock? 

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How long before customers of other Irish banks start to fear the modern disease of contagion” and decide to do the same? 

Get out now!

Therefore, and this is the point of this post, why wait until a banking Armageddon scenario unfolds?  In a globalised world, what earthly benefit is there is keeping your savings in a banking system on the brink of collapse?  As well as foreign banks within Ireland, there are plenty of reasonably robust non-Irish banks outside the country in which money can be held and normal banking services conducted, albeit with a bit of inconvenience. 

My advice, dear readers, is to do what I have done. 

Remove all you can from not just Anglo-Irish (of course), but all Irish banks.  Move it to other banks in other countries.  Store it under the bed.  Buy gold.  It doesn't matter.  Just put it out of reach of an Irish banking collapse.  With miserable interest rates for savers everywhere, there is almost no downside that I can think of. 

The Greeks, in an even worse economic situation than the Irish, are beginning to do just this.  They are shifting billions of €uros into foreign banks within Greece such as HSBC and Société Generale and into foreign jurisdictions including Switzerland, the UK and Cyprus. 

The canny Irish should do likewise now, before others get the same idea as they surely at some stage will.  The Irish banking system, like the Greeks', is in effect a giant Ponzi scheme and only the early quitters will get out alive.  Be one of them. 

Form

I have form. 

Back in July 2006, in a post entitled Ireland's About-to-Crash Housing Boom”, I gave detailed reasons why the Irish housing market boom was unsustainable and that a crash was imminent - I predicted this would commence at the end of that year.  In fact it began just three months beyond that, in March 2007

What I said then in respect of the teetering housing market holds true for the probable run on the currently teetering Irish banks. 

The moment that a few people begin to feel that there might just be a little bit of a wobble, everyone suddenly wants to get out while the going is good.”

I am already out. 

Back to List of Contents

Truthful Terrorists; Lying Democrats

We know that [the Taliban in Pakistan] helped facilitate it. We know that they helped direct it. And I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence which shows that they helped to finance it. They were intimately involved in this plot.”

So said US Attorney General Eric Holder last week when he admitted that the Taliban were behind the attempted car-bombing in Times Square.

Initially, of course, the official line, on the basis of little or no evidence, was that the perpetrator was a “white male”, a “lone wolf”, a little bit strange, an objector to Obamacare, a man unhappy because his finance company was “foreclosing on [his] property” and similar preposterous nonsense. But not a word about jihad. 

One reason the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani with naturalised US citizenship, couldn't pay his mortgage was that he had recently spent from five unremunerated months in Pakistan - doing what? - go on, guess. Something to do with training camps perhaps?  Actually, he's already admitted to having received bomb-making training in a Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan. 

Within days of the bombing attempt the Taliban in Pakistan put out at least two videos claiming responsibility, yet the New York police dismissed all that saying there was “no evidence” that the videos were authentic as if their own statements were backed by any. 

Taqiyya, which permits Muslims to lie to infidels is a central feature of Islam.  Yet if there is one lesson we should have learnt in these past nine years since 9-11, it is that when Islamic terrorists say they have done something bad, they are nearly always telling the truth, taqiyya or no taqiyya.  I have written before that

when totalitarians [which would include would-be totalitarian jihadists] threaten bad things, you cannot afford not to believe them.  It's the one area where they don't tell lies (unlike many democratic politicians issuing empty threats!)

Politicians in western democracies often seem to live in a world of such public mendacity and dissimulation that they cannot conceive of the idea that their enemies, in contrast to themselves, might for once not be speaking with forked tongues, especially when they are claiming responsibility for atrocities or threatening them. 

So when an Islamic terrorist organization such as Al Qaeda or the Taliban claims it was behind Christmas Day's isolated extremist panty-bomber or the Times Square lone wolf car-bomber, the CIA should have immediately used this as hard evidence, not fluff around wasting valuable investigation time and energy with fantasy unsubstantiated stories about mythical right-wing white nutjobs. 

Back to List of Contents

Obama's Easterless Message

As is customary at major festival occasions, the US president delivered an message for Easter to the American people.  Actually, President Obama called it his Holiday greeting, which in itself is rather telling. 

In his peroration, Mr Obama quoted from a morale-boosting Easter sermon given to US troops by a Christian clergyman just six days after America had conquered the Japanese on the island of Iwo Jima in a ferocious five-week battle with 20,000 casualties on each side. 

But he chose to leave out a crucial passage, which happens to feature the central figure of Easter - Jesus Christ.  Without the latter Easter is meaningless.  Here is the relevant section of the president's speech, with the omitted bits shown [bracketed in bold].  You can listen to 3˝ minutes of the original sermon here

“American dead – Catholic, Protestant, Jew: together they huddled in foxholes or crouched in the bloody sands [under the fury of enemy guns here on Iwo Jima]. Together they practiced virtue, patriotism, love of country, love of you and of me.

[Together they stand before the greatest soldier of them all Jesus Christ to receive the token of our triumph.  For Christ has said greater love than this no man hath than that he lays down his life for his friends. And so our beloved friends have gone from the world of hate to the world of eternal love.]

The heritage they have left us, the vision of a new world, [was] made possible by the common bond that united them [in the drudgery of recruit-training or here in the chaos of bursting shouts].  Their only hope that this unity will endure.”

Removing Christ from Easter in this way was no accident.  It is part of the president's campaign to delegitimize Christianity while continuing to pretend to particular audiences that he is a true believer.  Of course his Muslim audience, nodding and winking over his middle name, are convinced otherwise. 

Back to List of Contents

Calculating Chinese Children

96 - 38 + 97 - 82 - 12 = ?

Can you reach the answer (61) in the time it takes to read out the figures?  I certainly cannot.  Yet, for a classroom of average six-year-old schoolchildren in Hong Kong, this seems no bother at all.  They just imagine, within their tiny heads, an abacus or their fingers counting, and out pops the (correct) answer in seconds.  Watch the first four minutes of this Youtube clip from a recent documentary about Britain's former colony by Gryff Rhys Jones, and be astounded. 

Not only at these little kids' mental arithmetic capabilities but their command of English as a second language.

The total dedication to learning among the Chinese in Hong Kong is something I became painfully familiar with as a teenager.  I completed my final year of schooling at Wah Yan College in Hong Kong where I was the only white man.  I passed my final exams but only by sitting them twice with two different examining boards and combining the best results from both!   I then went on to study engineering at Hong Kong University where I was once again the only white man.  This time I failed a couple of subjects and rather than repeat the year I left Hong Kong and completed my engineering studies in Ireland. 

What was apparent during two years studying amidst Chinese fellow-students was their total dedication to learning to the exclusion of practically everything else - sports, alcohol, girls, partying, even ordinary friendship.  Seven days a week, you woke, you ate, you went to lectures, you studied (till the early hours), you went to bed.  It was a fiercely competitive environment, which did little to develop the personality but certainly achieved high academic standards. 

I was astonished - and delighted - when I got to University College Dublin at

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how laid back everything and everyone were, with plenty of time for the extra-curricular activities that were so absent in Hong Kong,

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how concentrated study took place only around exam time rather than throughout the year. 

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Oh, and what a low standard of mathematics was expected of and taught to engineering students in their first year (fortunately this toughened up in later years).

So back to those little Chinese kids today.  How many PhDs will they have by the time they grow from six years to 26?

That is the frightening kind of global intellectual competition that modern youngsters here in the West are going to have to face.  And, as the Youtube clip vividly shows, the contest clearly starts at kindergarten level. 

Ireland is steadily falling back in its training of mathematicians, scientists and engineers, the only professions that actually create new wealth.  This seems largely because teachers (and the media) tell youngsters that these technical subjects are too difficult (ie too difficult for the mediocre teachers) and therefore they should take up easier subjects like accountancy, history, media studies, languages.  This is apparently rather a common trend across the developed world. 

In this context, it defies belief to hear Mary Coughlan, Ireland's half-witted Education & Skills Minister and Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) recently demand that universities and colleges accept school-leavers who have failed their “honours” (ie higher-level) mathematics examinations.  Her state-run school system is incapable of educating kids to pass the exams needed to get in to university, so her “solution” is simply to lower the bar.  Yup, according to her, that's the way to create the great engineers of the future.  Pass the problem of under-educated teenagers from the schools to the universities, just as the Catholic Church is roundly and rightly castigated for passing the problem of paedophile priests from one parish to another. 

Look again at those calculating Chinese six-year-old children.  With ministers like Ms Coughlan, does the West have any hope of staying ahead of the intellectual curve?

Late Note (18th May):

Graham in Perth (Oz) writes to say that
Australian schools have a similar problem to Ireland's
New course too hard to teach, screams a headline
in The West Australian newspaper. 

Teachers are too thick, it seems, to teach
a new national physics curriculum
to students in their last two years at school. 

The Ozzies can surely adopt Ms Coughlan's Irish solution
and simply call a fail a pass
and let the would-be scientists into university anyway.   

 

Back to List of Contents

 

Scandal! Counterfeit Hair Straighteners

Heard the one about the Navy rating who was court-martialed for possession of counterfeit hair-straighteners?  What about the sailor in trouble because he had a leak while on board?

Ah the old jokes, they're always the best ones; it's the way you tell 'em. 

What's that?  They're not jokes?  They're for real?  You must be joking. 

Able Seaman Eoin Gray served on the LÉ Orla, a proud Peacock coastal patrol vessel of the Irish Naval Service.  A month ago Mr Gray was court-martialed in Dublin's McKee Barracks because his eight hair-straighteners (yes, I know, today's sailors aren't what they used to be) are all counterfeit How appalling.  How scandalous.  How reassuring, therefore, to learn that there are upright naval officers like the presiding military judge, Colonel Anthony McCourt, to root out the cancer of counterfeit hair straighteners from the Irish Navy. 

Sure, there were a couple of unrelated trivial matters.  A/B Gray was also charged with a snort or two of cocaine and something about leaking of State ships at sea (then why are they at sea?).  But the hair straighteners are clearly the big one. 

If you think the scandal of counterfeit hair straighteners is of little consequence, tremble at the dire warning spelled out in Wales by the intrepid Department of Trading Standards within the Vale of Glamorgan Council:

Fakes ... are not only poorly made and short-lasting but are also very dangerous. Users run the risk of damaging their hair or even being injured from electric shocks or burns.

And in Australia, hair straighteners can get you killed (as columnist Mark Steyn helpfully points out).  So the Navy certainly knows its priorities - stick with the sailors' naturally curly hair. 

Hah! I'd like to see some dastardly foreign naval power try to mount a sea-borne invasion requiring them to take on the Irish Naval Service.  They might be encouraged by the leaks or the white powder. 

But one look at the undamaged naturally curly hair of its ferocious men-of-oak, and they'd soon turn tail.   

I once lost a pub quiz by just one point
back in the days before I knew about hair straighteners.

The question was where do women mostly have curly hair? 
Apparently, it's Africa

Hat tip: Dave Parker in Spain

Back to List of Contents

Bouncing Gore-Tex

Be careful who you lend your raincoat to ...

Back to List of Contents

Issue 205’s Comments to Cyberspace

While I've been lazy in recent weeks about blogging, I have still been harassing innocent publishers with my witterings online. 

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De Valera's Constitution continues to serve us well
Comment on an Irish Times article
This is a good article about the need to understand the Irish Constitution before criticising or trying to replace it. However, you could have added one incredible feature. Through this 1937 constitution, Ireland is Europe's oldest constitutional democracy, which in itself tells you that it is a pretty robust document, challenged in longevity only by America (1787). Just think about --- Germany, Italy, France, Greece, Spain ... 

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The Incredible Unlikelihood of the Transocean Deepwater Horizon Disaster
Comment on a post in blog called Debunk House
This was not a
freak accident and certainly far too difficult for it to have been driven by political opportunism.  There is already enough evidence in the public domain to demonstrate that it was clearly caused my serious mistakes.  How could gas have ever built up in the wellbore in an apparently sealed casing? ...

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Obama's Birth Certificate
Letter to the Irish Times on 6th May 2010
Scoffing at the belief of America's so-called “birthers” that Barack Obama has no right to be president because he “wasn’t born in the US”, Frank McDonald asserts that Mr Obama has both a birth certificate from Hawaii and a classified ad in a local paper.  The ad is true, but Mr Obama has only ever produced a computer-generated ...

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Should employers remove staff who are not performing their core job due to industrial action from the payroll?
Response in the Irish Times on 21st April to a poll question
No; of course striking and go-slow staff should not be removed or fired. That would be an abomination. In fact they should get a bonus and tax-break for bravely asserting their God-given human right to slack.  It is part of Ireland's rich cultural heritage to ...

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Partial Birth Abortion
Letter to the Economist
Lexington, in describing the pro-choice credentials of potential Supreme Court nominee Judge Diane Wood, takes the trouble to put within quotes the term
partial birth abortion, which she supports.  It would seem logical, therefore, to briefly enlighten your readers that these words refer to the killing of a live and perhaps viable foetus just before ...

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Do you support the introduction of a ban on hunting deer with packs of dogs?
Comment in the Irish Times in response to a poll question
The express objective of conventional huntin'-shootin'-fishin' is to kill the prey. Minister Gormley-the-Green thinks this is absolutely fine and has said he has no intention of disallowing it. Therefore, it is ridiculous to ban the hunting of deer with packs of dogs, as practiced in Ireland by the Ward Union hunt, when the express objective of such hunts is to NOT kill the prey ...

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Just so we're straightened out
Letter published by
columnist-to-the-world” Mark Steyn
If you think those counterfeit hair straighteners are of little consequence, tremble at the dire warning about them as spelled out by ... the Vale of Glamorgan Council: “Fakes ... are ... very dangerous ...

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Brian Lenihan is no tough guy P!
Letter published in the Irish Independent
So the Association of Assistant Secretaries and Higher Grades told Finance Minister Brian Lenihan that members' pay of up to €146,000 was
way behind what was on offer in the private sector.  Mr Lenihan's response should have been curt and pointed: Make my day ...

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Do you think the car scrappage scheme has been a success?
Comment in the Irish Times in response to a poll question
The car scrappage scheme is a disgraceful bit of pandering by a corrupt government to one particular favoured industry (which you can be sure is reciprocating the favour to the government in its own way). If taxes are too high, they should be lowered for everyone ...

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‘Mr. Drumm, It’s Charlie Bird from RTE, Can I talk to you?’
Comment to Maman Poulet blogpost
It is extremely dangerous to walk up to someone's house in America because (a) it is quite possible - even probable - the owner has a gun and (b) it is perfectly OK for him to shoot a trespasser ...

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Quotes for Issue 205

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

Quote: That was a disaster. You should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? ... It’s Sue [Nye] I think. It's just ridiculous ... [Gillian Duffy]is just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour.  I  mean it's just ridiculous. I don't know why Sue brought her up towards me.

Gordon Brown implodes Labour's re-election campaign,
following the mildest of discussions with a Labour voter. 

He had forgotten his TV mike was still switched on. 

The cause of his ire was that Mrs Duffy dared
to mention immigration as a problem. 

Labour of course has spectacularly and secretly
stage-managed mass immigration to Britain in the expectation
that every immigrant will vote Labour
and so help permanently destroy the Conservative party.

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

Quote: Show me the money.

Matthew Elderfield, Ireland's Finance Regulator,
throws down the gauntlet in having put into administration
Quinn Insurance, Ireland's largest indigenous insurer,
because it is insufficiently capitalised to meet claims. 

Sean Quinn the founder claims his company is healthy
but was unable to meet the Regulator's challenge. 

The tough Mr Elderfield was brought in from England
to replace the disgraced Patrick Neary,
who was fast asleep at the wheel throughout the years
leading up to the financial crash.

Quote: The current economic situation is pretty much testosterone driven.

Mary McAleese, Ireland's president, makes another loopy remark,
this time at a sisters' symposium on Women in Philanthropy
”. 

Her last one was the ludicrous assertion,
without a scrap of evidence from the people,
that Ireland “strongly supports” Turkey's admission to the EU.

Quote: The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost all credibility.”

His Hairiness Rowan Williams, ArchMullah of Canterbury,
decides to have a go at a rival religion.

No, not Islam - he's all in favour of that
and as much Shariah law as he can get.

No, this rival religion is one that - you know -
actually believes in God and Jesus Christ
and the teachings of the latter
(even if members don't always follow them).

He later apologised.

- - - - - V A T I C A N   M A D N E S S - - - - -

Quote: The current violent and concentric attacks on the church and the Pontiff [over clerical sexual abuse of children] were reminiscent of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.

Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household,
digs an ever-deeper hole as he tries to defend Pope Benedict XVI.

With this kind of ridiculous drivel,
it is clear that the Vatican badly needs the services
of a skilled PR consultant, such as Max Clifford

- - - - - S O U T H   A F R I C A   M A D N E S S - - - - -

Quote: Get Security to remove this thingy ... Don't come here with that white tendency ... You are a small boy ... Bastard! ... You bloody agent!

Julius Malema, president of the ANC youth league,
throws BBC journalist Jonah Fisher out of a press conference,
accompanied by some robust racial and other epithets. 

Mr Malema is 29 years old, which is a stretch on the word youth

Worryingly, South Africa's president Jacob Zuma has described him a
s a potential future president of the country.

- - - - - E U   M A D N E S S - - - - -

Quote: Travelling for tourism today is a right.

Antonio Tajani, the EU commissioner
for enterprise and industry lectures a group of ministers
at The European Tourism Stakeholders Conference in Madrid. 

He is piloting a programme whereby already beleaguered taxpayers
must subsidise, to the tune of 30%, foreign jaunts for
pensioners, teenagers, the crippled, the poor, the unhappy.

- - - - - U S A   M A D N E S S - - - - -

Quote (p8): Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs.”

US Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Barack Obama's nominee
for the Supreme Court, does her best,
in June 2009 before the self-same Supreme Court,
to destroy the First Amendment by saying that,
in effect, bureaucrats should decide what speech is to be free or not free.

Great.  A would-be Supreme Court Justice who wants to
destroy the American Constitution's very first amendment. 

Quote: When it comes to foreign policy, it looks increasingly like there are three pillars to the “Obama Doctrine” –

  1. (1) Apologize for America,

  2. (2) Abandon our allies, and

  3. (3) Appease our enemies.

Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick, spells out some grim truths
to a
Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. 

Her speech elicited some wonderfully incoherent rebuttals,
in the vein of F*ck off, Liz Cheney and
They don't come any nuttier than Liz (go f yourself) Cheney.

I've often remarked that the Left has to be more passionate
than the Right because there is no sense in what it advocates
 and it has no logical response to the Right's flights of reason. 

Quote: It is stupid for a country to treat old friends like belligerents and old belligerents like friends.

Professor Victor Davis Hansen, in reference to
Mr Obama's snubs and hostility to America's allies
Britain and Israel (he could have added Canada),
as compared to his cosying up to the autocratic rulers
of Russia, China, Iran, Venzuela among others. 

Quote: I can understand Obama being touchy on the subject of producing your papers.  Maybe he's afraid somebody's going to ask him for his.”

Radio host Rush Limbaugh finds a new way
to infuriate the president about his ongoing failure
to produce a
Certificate of Live Birth
proving he was born in the USA,
a constitutional requirement for the presidency.

He has made available only a computer-generated
Certification of Live Birth which even Hawaii,
though it issues such certificates,
does not accept as proof of birth in Hawaii.

Obama's Hawaiian “Certification of Live Birth”
Obama's Hawaiian
Certification of Live Birth
Click to enlarge
A Hawaiian “Certificate of Live Birth” in 1961, Obama's birth year
A Hawaiian

Certificate of Live Birth
in 1961, Obama's birth year
Click to enlarge

Quote: The start of spring: otherwise known to Al Gore as proof of global warming.”

Ex-president Bill Clinton, who signed the Kyoto Protocol
(knowing it would then promptly be defeated Senate, 99-0),
mocks his vice-president. 

It seems Mr Clinton has now joined us deniers. 

Quote:

Mr & Mrs Obama will be similarly exempt
from the US Congress's forthcoming 10% tax on sunbeds
because according to Italy's Silvio Berlusconi they are already, er, tanned.

Quote (Minute 1:16): My fear is that the whole island [of Guam] will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.

Hank Johnson, US Democratic Congressman for Georgia,
and member of the House Armed Services Committee,
shares with Admiral
Robert Willard, Commander of the Pacific Fleet,
his deep concern about the imminent upending of Guam
due to its small size and big population. 

The Admiral replies, with exquisite politeness and deference,
we don't anticipate that”.

Mr Johnson's laughable explanation confirms his raving lunacy,
The subtle humor of this obviously metaphorical reference
to a ship capsizing illustrated my concern
about the impact of the planned military buildup
on this small tropical island
.
” 

Oh, and he issued the latter statement on April Fools Day.

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 What I've recently
been reading

The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tol, 2006
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy Tol (2006),
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a household lemon tree as their unifying theme.

But it's not entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, 2004

See detailed review

+++++

Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
This
examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. 

BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term technical sustainability.  

Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in Russia.  

The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that had become poisonous and incompetent. 

However the book is gravely compromised by a litany of over 40 technical and stupid errors that display the author's ignorance and carelessness. 

It would be better to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying. 

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

Note: I wrote my own reports on Macondo
in
May, June, and July 2010

+++++

Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

bullet

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

bullet

the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

bullet

Singapore's enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship

More details on my blog here.

+++++

Product Details
This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s incredible story of survival in the Far East during World War II.

After recounting a childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen, Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on Germany in 1939.

From then until the Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror. 

After a wretched journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless garrison.

Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,

bullet

part of a death march to Thailand,

bullet

a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),

bullet

regularly beaten and tortured,

bullet

racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

bullet

a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

bullet

shipped to Japan in a stinking, closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,

bullet

torpedoed by the Americans and left drifting alone for five days before being picked up,

bullet

a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic bomb.

Chronically ill, distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life.  Only in his late 80s is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this unputdownable book.

There are very few first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical document.

+++++

Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies

This is a rattling good tale of the web of corruption within which the American president and his cronies operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.

With 75 page of notes to back up - in best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife. 

Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett, Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book. 

ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine it is.

+++++

Superfreakonomics
This much trumpeted sequel to Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment. 

It is really just a collation of amusing little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour and situations.  For example:

bullet

Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

bullet

People aren't really altruistic - they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.

bullet

Child seats are a waste of money as they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.

bullet

Though doctors have known for centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection, they still often fail to do so. 

bullet

Monkeys can be taught to use washers as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.

The book has no real message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.

And with a final anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in its tracks.  Weird.

++++++

False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics. 

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as

bullet

Why does asparagus come from Peru?

bullet

Why are pandas so useless?

bullet

Why are oil and diamonds more trouble than they are worth?

bullet

Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

It's central thesis is that economic development continues to be impeded in different countries for different historical reasons, even when the original rationale for those impediments no longer obtains.  For instance:

bullet

Argentina protects its now largely foreign landowners (eg George Soros)

bullet

Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

bullet

The US its cotton industry comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce

The author writes in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to digest. 

However it would benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide natural break-points for the reader. 

+++++

Burmese Outpost, by Anthony Irwin
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.

The author was a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to harass Japanese lines of command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of India.   

Irwin is admirably yet brutally frank, in his descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness. 

He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved authority of the British. 

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

Oh, and Irwin describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF Brennan.

+++++

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