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
under contract to BP
on behalf of itself (65%) and its partners
Anadarko (25%) and
moved into Mississippi Canyon Block 252 to drill exploration well
Macondo at a water depth of 1,522 metres eighty kilometres from shore.
Built in Korea in 2001 for $350 million, Drilling Horizon was an
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
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.
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.
During drilling a BOP (blowout preventer)
is always secured to the wellhead to control unwanted influx from the
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
eleven men sadly lost their lives.
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.
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
How had gas
built up in the wellbore in an apparently sealed casing?
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
by Tom Bower, which notes that BP have suffered no fewer than four
other disasters in the past 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.
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,
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
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
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.
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 bn. In
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
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
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?
before increasing numbers of Anglo-Irish depositors decide to do the
prudent thing and withdraw their money while they can?
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?
before customers of other Irish banks start to fear the modern
“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
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.
I have form.
Back in July 2006, in a post entitled
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
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.”
“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.
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
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
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
[which would include would-be totalitarian jihadists]
threaten bad things, you cannot afford not to believe them. It's
the one area where theydon'ttell
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
or the Times Square
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.
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
greeting, which in itself is
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
“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.
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
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
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
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
back everything and everyone were, with plenty of time for the
extra-curricular activities that were so absent in Hong Kong,
concentrated study took place only around exam time rather than
throughout the year.
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
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
Ireland's half-witted Education & Skills Minister and Tánaiste (deputy prime
minister) recently demand that universities and colleges accept school-leavers
“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
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
Late Note (18th May):
Graham in Perth (Oz) writes to say that
Australian schools have a similar problem to Ireland's.
‘too hard’ to teach”,
screams a headline
in The West Australian newspaper.
Teachers are too thick, it seems, to
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
and let the would-be scientists into university anyway.
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
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
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
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
While I've been lazy in recent weeks about
blogging, I have still been harassing innocent publishers with my
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 ...
The Incredible Unlikelihood of the Transocean Deepwater Horizon Disaster Comment on a post in blog called Debunk House This was not a
and certainly far too difficult for it to have been driven by
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? ...
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 ...
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
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 ...
Do you support the introduction of a ban on hunting deer with packs of
dogs? Comment in the Irish Times in response
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 ...
Just so we're straightened out Letter published by
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
Brian Lenihan is no tough guyP! 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
what was on offer in the private sector. Mr Lenihan's response
should have been curt and pointed:
“Make my day ...
Do you think the car scrappage scheme has been a success? Comment in the Irish Times
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 ...
“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]isjust 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.
Matthew Elderfield, Ireland's Finance
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
but was unable to meet the Regulator's challenge.
The tough Mr Elderfield was brought in from
to replace the disgraced Patrick Neary,
who was fast asleep at the wheel throughout the years
leading up to the financial crash.
“The current economic situation is pretty much
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.
“The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost all
His Hairiness Rowan Williams, ArchMullah of
decides to have a go at a rival religion.
No, not Islam - he's all in favour of that
and as much
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).
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 - - - - -
“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
Great. A would-be Supreme Court Justice who wants to
destroy the American Constitution's very first amendment.
“When it comes to foreign policy, it looks increasingly
like there are three pillars to the “Obama Doctrine” –
(1) Apologize for America,
(2) Abandon our allies, and
(3) Appease our enemies.”
Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick, spells out some
to a Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New
Her speech elicited some wonderfully incoherent rebuttals,
in the vein of
“F*ck off, Liz Cheney”
“They don't come any nuttier than Liz (go f yourself)
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.
“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.
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
“Certification of Live Birth”
which even Hawaii,
though it issues such certificates,
does not accept as proof of birth in Hawaii.
“Certification of Live Birth”
Click to enlarge
“Certificate of Live Birth”
in 1961, Obama's birth year
Click to enlarge
“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.
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,
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
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
“we don't anticipate that”.
Mr Johnson's laughable
explanation confirms his raving lunacy,
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
“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