oil industry in Nigeria is in disarray.
In terms of its enormous proven reserves
(36 billion barrels) it lies in
10th place in the world. With a production
capability of 2½ million barrels a day
(more or less steadfastly since I first worked there way back in the
1970s), it should be the world's
12th biggest producer. But, due to the dreadful security
situation, it's only able to produce around
75% of this, which at
around $60/b represents a daily shortfall in revenue of some $35m.
Wells and fields are
being voluntarily shut in by the producing companies either because
they have been attacked by militants and criminals or attacks are
threatened. Big companies like Shell and Chevron, the bulk
of whose production takes place onshore or in the swamps, are
especially vulnerable to direct assault compared to, say,
Exxon-Mobil most of whose
production is offshore. The companies refuse to restore production until they are reasonably confident there will
not be a problem.
In most jurisdictions,
if your property is attacked by outlaw elements, you call the
police. Not in Nigeria. Because calling the police
almost certainly leads to lethal force, often augmented by army
units, and that lethal force may not stop at the installation that's
been attacked. There have been instances of the state forces
then moving on to attack the village where the outlaws live, killing
men, women and children and then burning it to the ground. In
the court of international public opinion, it is the capitalistic
greedy imperialistic rich multinational oil company that gets blamed
for ordering the massacre to protect its profits, not the
out-of-control police and army .
So the oil companies
won't ask for help; they take it on the chin (and the balance
The security issue is
pervasive in the oilfields. Whilst, as noted, fields located onshore and
in the swamps are especially vulnerable because they are easily
accessible, the hugely more expensive offshore operations are not immune. For if the
fields themselves are not being attacked, the workers are, which
almost amounts to the same thing.
And it all adds up to a
huge cost premium that the oil industry has to bear, in addition to
losing that 25% of its production potential.
Less skilled black
workers from the locality are attacked without compunction, and if necessary murdered,
simply because they have jobs and therefore (a pittance of) money for the
taking. The hours of darkness are the most dangerous.
Therefore, they understandably don't want to set out for work before
daybreak and want to be safely home by nightfall. This places
a major constraint on the hours available for work and thus imposes
a big premium for getting the work done.
For the skilled (often white) workers, the risk
is kidnap. They are being kidnapped almost daily (though only
a few make the
international headlines). The reason is simple: ransom.
And despite official denials by employers, negotiations with the
kidnappers nearly always take place, money changes hands and the
captives are freed unharmed. They are in fact treated quite
well by their abductors, not only because they are worth nothing
dead, but because there's nothing personal about the kidnaps - it's
pure business. And lucrative business. The going rate
for an expatriate worker is $500,000. That's US dollars, not
Nigeria Naira (NN130=$1). This risk in turn fosters a huge and expensive
private security infrastructure to protect each expatriate worker,
while each worker in turn demands ever higher remuneration to stay
in the country.
Nigeria's oilfields are
located in the Niger Delta, with roughly half on either side of the
river (map). Thus Warri and Port Harcourt have
grown up as the country's major oil towns, where workers live, and
from where supplies are warehoused to be dispatched to the
oilfields, whether overland by truck, or by watercraft through the
swamps, or by supply boat to offshore locations. However, in
recent years, Warri has become so dangerous that it can scarcely
fulfill its role any longer. Port Harcourt (PH), in the centre
of what the 1960s secessionists used to call
Biafra, is becoming the
sole oil service centre, taking over much of Warri's business.
But even PH is
struggling. It's main seaport is no longer safe from attack,
so offshore supplies are now arranged though Onne, 30 km south east
of PH. Onne was set up a few years ago as an
Free Zone for the industry both within Nigeria itself and along
the West African coast.
But while the Onne facility itself is
well protected from intruders, it is not without problems because
the waters beyond are crawling with pirates in fast boats.
There is a green buoy
some ten kilometres offshore. To avoid the pirates, ships wishing to
enter Onne must arrive there at 8 am precisely, to be piloted, in
full daylight, up the Bonny River (part of the Niger Delta) and into Onne port, tying up at
maybe 10 am. If they're not ready to sail again by 4 pm, ie
well within daylight hours, they're stuck in Onne for the night.
Coming or going, they must ensure that in the darkness of night,
they are far out to sea, beyond easy reach of the pirates.
Meanwhile, with only six working hours available to offload and
reload, and the stevedores anxious to get home well before dark, it
is impossible to run a normal, efficient logistics operation.
Once again, this translates into higher costs for the industry.
Then there's Port
Harcourt's international airport. For some months, it has been
shut down after a fire and due to potholes in the main runway,
which remain unrepaired. The rumour is going round that the
President's son plans to start an airline in January and would like
to use PH airport as its exclusive base. Therefore, current
users are being obliged to get used to making other arrangements, so
as to pave the way for the new airline. The story may be
apocryphal, but people are certainly having to learn to do without
PH airport - though again, at a cost.
For oilfield operations, Owerri has
stepped forward because it has a big runway at its Imo Airport.
Owerri was Nigeria's major oil town in the 1960s, but was gradually
overshadowed as the more conveniently situated PH grew, 120 km to
the south. Thus to bring oil workers to offshore or other
distant locations, they must today pick up a helicopter in Owerri,
fly the 30 minutes or so to Port Harcourt, refuel and then fly
offshore, and the same for the reverse journey. Those extra
helicopter journeys add significantly to the cost of moving people.
Then there is the perennial corruption problem,
where people have their hand out at almost every step of the supply
chain. Sometimes it is blatant bribes, sometimes kick-backs or
commissions, sometimes the use of
to arrange things, sometimes the hiring of unnecessary extra staff.
Whatever form it manifests itself in, corruption amounts to a hefty
additional tax on doing business.
So what does this all add up to, what's the net
Here's a typical example.
today's international market place, a standard jack-up offshore rig,
able to work in, say, a hundred metres of water depth, will command
in the order of $100,000 per day.
To this you need to add about the same again to cover the cost of
boats, helicopters, numerous specialist services and supervision, to
give a so-called
But in Nigeria, you must also cope with the unparalleled security
issues, concomitant wage inflation, inefficient logistics forced by
external factors, and of course endemic corruption.
So add 75%. You need to budget $375,000/day for that jack-up
Nigeria is a hard and hazard place to do business. Only the
most dedicated and robust need apply. Yet, at $60/bbl big money is
nevertheless being made.
The curse of Nigerian oil, however, is the manner
in which the proceeds are distributed. The companies pay heavy
taxes and royalties (“Government
Take”) on what they produce, leaving them a
margin of just a dollar, regardless of how the oil price climbs, as
this chart based on
Shell data shows.
These taxes and royalties go to the
Federal Government which is responsible for spending and
redistributing them. Since the birth of the Nigerian
independence in 1960, very little has been spent or redistributed
in the direction of the oil producing areas. As I described in
previous post, the bulk goes to benefit the (Muslim) north who
provide most of the leadership and into the pockets of Nigeria's
For decades, the local people in the
oil-producing provinces thought that penury was their natural,
But no longer. They now ask, perfectly reasonably,
there is so much oil under our own feet, aren't we seeing the
benefit? Why are we still poverty-stricken, with no jobs, no
schools for our children, no medical services, no electricity, water, sewage
or mail services to our villages?”
Most dare not rage at the
government which is of course the party that is guilty of withholding their
patrimony, because they will be simply gunned down. Therefore,
they rage at the oil companies because, though they scrupulously
obey the law to the letter, they are a soft touch and
won't shoot, even though those companies, notwithstanding occasional
slip-ups, have always done their utmost to be benign neighbours and
employers of local people.
70% of the population lives on
less than $1/day, and if you travel around the Nigerian
oilfields in the Niger Delta, you have to conclude that's where the
Until the Federal government introduces equity
(as if!) to the distribution of oil proceeds, ie directs a lot more
than the current nominal 2% to the oil-producing regions, the
Nigerian oil industry will remain in disarray, or get worse.
I am very grateful to my first-hand
sources for much of this post;
they wish to remain anonymous.
Late Note (May 2007):
In 2007, Imo Airport in Owerri became virtually unusable
because of attacks on the road between it and Port Harcourt.
Port Harcourt International Airport meanwhile remains closed,
so the favoured airport for the oil industry has become
the NAF (Nigerian Air Force) base in Port Harcourt.
In 1999 in England,
Tony Martin a Norfolk farmer who lived alone,
shot dead a teenager (with several previous convictions) who, with
another man, broke into his home at night to burgle it. Mr
Martin had been burgled many times before, so was lying in wait and
fired his gun at the intruders as they were trying to escape.
The teenager died; the other man escaped with a bullet in the groin.
When Mr Martin was
sentenced to life for murder, public opinion was outraged.
On appeal, his sentence was reduced to five years for manslaughter
and he was
freed on licence after serving nearly 3½.
a Co Mayo farmer who was living alone,
shot dead an intruder (with a dozen prior convictions for
burglary etc) who seemed to be looking for stuff to steal. Mr
Nally shot the man once, then beat him with a stick, and as he tried
to escape he reloaded and shot him again. Mr Nally, too, was
convicted of manslaughter, is currently serving a
six year sentence, and public opinion is outraged.
As the law in Ireland and Britain currently stands, if your home is
invaded, you are supposed in the first instance to
avail of any opportunity to retreat and only as a last resort may
(an undefined term) to protect your family and home. Also, you
can't own a gun without a licence, which you'll be granted only for
hunting and certainly not self-protection.
Oh, and if you do injure the intruder, he may
well be able to secure state funding to sue you for damages.
This is what the surviving intruder to Mr Martin's farm did, since,
he had been wounded in the groin. He was a career criminal
serving time for drug-dealing when a judge gave him
permission to sue, with potential damages of £15,000. He
dropped the case only when Mr Martin claimed
This is all madness.
Criminal intruders have
more rights than householders.
You must run and hide
You must do everything
to avoid harming them.
They can sue you for
They can get their hands
on guns but law-abiding citizens cannot.
Americans utterly fail to
see the logic of this. They have a quite straightforward
philosophy. If someone enters your property uninvited, he
leaves his human rights at the gate. You are at liberty to
take whatever action you deem appropriate. Thump him with a
baseball bat if you wish, or a five-iron. Set a booby-trap.
If you have a gun (which most do) you can shoot him. No
law-enforcement officer or court is going to take the intruder's
side in such an encounter.
The result? A far
lower rate of household burglaries in the US than in UK and Ireland,
for the simple reason that would-be intruders fear the hostile
reception that may be waiting for them.
I remember watching a TV
investigative documentary not long ago, featuring the ghastly
Street-Porter. She was trying to track down some dodgy
characters, first in England then in America.
In England, she would
march boldly up to a front door with her film crew, knock loudly and
confront the householder with aggressive questions about his
But not in America.
There, she stayed well outside the wide open gates to the
property, where she spoke to camera and tried to politely
telephone her prey. There was no way she was going to
enter his property without permission. In another clip,
she didn't even dare enter the lobby of her quarry's apartment
block. Wise woman.
The American way is the way
it should be. No unwanted intruder should expect to enter your
house and expect to leave again other than in an ambulance.
It is encouraging therefore,
that at long last Ireland's rottweiler
Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has promised to
rebalance the law to allow householders to repel intruders.
He hedged around this a bit, adding things like
“... this would not amount to a
whilst other have
commented along the lines that “there
should be a minimum level of threat before the use of force becomes
acceptable ... violence should be imminent and life-threatening to
justify a lethal response.”
However, it seems pretty clear that that is
precisely what the new law is intended to permit, ie robust force if
the householder thinks the threat so warrants, and rightly so.
is ridiculous. If once you decide to use force, it should be
unreasonable, disproportionate and overwhelming, so as to make
absolutely sure that you win and the intruder loses, not the other
way round. You are not looking for a
“fair” result but a decisive
The only remaining piece of the legal jigsaw is
a right for householders to keep a gun for self-protection.
But perhaps, here in Europe, that's asking too much for now (which is not to say
householders shouldn't buy a gun anyway).
I look forward to the enactment of Mr
McDowell's new law in the near future, as well as something similar
in the UK. It is bound to result in a fall in residential
burglaries to approach American levels (currently
around 30 per thousand households, down from the 50 in the 1996 in
the chart above).
If people want to force themselves into your
home, you have a moral right - indeed a duty - whatever the law
says, to protect your family, yourself and your property, using
force to the extent you deem appropriate.
Richard Corrigan is an excellent and successful chef but a
dreadful poser. Last June, he shot to fame for winning a
TV Competition to cook the
starter in a four-course dinner for 300 hosted by the Queen to
celebrate her 80th birthday. (Smoked salmon with Irish soda
bread, woodland sorrel and wild cress, if you want to know).
Behind this question are various erudite remarks he has recently
pasta sauce is
“full of antibiotics [and] poorly exercised”.
would you put shit in your mouth?” he
asked on TV earlier this year, in typical vein(/vain).
These are the emotional
witterings of an ignoramus. Why? Because he never attaches any
factual or quantitative information to them.
What do these kind of remarks actually mean? How,
quantitatively, do such Irish products compare with those produced
elsewhere? How - if at all - does this affect the nutritional
value of the food? Does he mean it will poison you? And what about the taste, how many people
prefer Irish food to competitor food?
Take just the last question.
I have never met anyone, Irish or not, who didn't totally rave about
the flavour of Ireland's
sausages, unparalleled by any other country. Riots break out
when anyone produces a big dish of Irish cocktail sausages.
Try it. Maybe they have too much salt, fat and bread and the
only pork meat is hooves, scrotums and eyeballs; perhaps they're not very nutritional and they
contribute to your cholesterol problem. But by God, they're
delicious! Any poll would corroborate this, but Mr Corrigan
doesn't want to know this lest it challenge his prejudice.
As a skilled, experienced
chef, he relentlessly tells us he is an expert on flavour, but
frankly this is a diversion. The only experts on food flavour
are in fact the consumers, and it is consumers (Irish and many
others) who are freely choosing, in vast numbers, to patronise Irish
rashers,sausages, pasta sauce and chicken. They do
it because they like what they buy, they accept the price and they
trust the regulatory authorities to ensure the food is safe to eat.
Mr Corrigan should spend
more time in the kitchen where his undoubted expertise lies, and
less swanking about looking for TV cameras for his unsubstantiated
Two letters this week; neither made it into
print. The Sunday Times wrote to me to say the one about atheist
Richard Dawkins, based on last
week's post would be published, but in the end it wasn't. I
thought the anti-Catholic sentiment expressed in the Saddam Hussein letter
would endear it to the Irish Times, but no; I think I am blacklisted there
Richard Dawkins Confronted
So, professional atheist Professor Richard Dawkins wants to flood schools
with atheism propaganda. He perpetually gets away with his special
kind of agitprop because he is charming, mellifluous and articulate, and
fits in well with the modern, post-Christian leftishness much beloved of the
bien-pensants. Meanwhile, his interlocutors ...
Penalty on Saddam Hussein
Anthony Redmond quotes the Vatican in support of his contention that
Saddam Hussein should be spared the death penalty. The Vatican, in its
inexplicable endeavours to keep the tyrant Saddam in power, has no
credibility in this matter and should be ignored. Who can forget the
photo of the late Pope disgracefully shaking the bloodied hand of Tariq
Aziz, Saddam's deputy, just before the invasion? Even today, Cardinal
Renato Martino seems to continue to regret Saddam's removal ...
“"Today is the beginning of a new history. The doors of peace
have been opened and Nepal has entered a new era ...
Nepal has set an example in ending the bloody conflict though
Girija Prasad Koirala, prime minister of
following the signing of a historic peace agreement,
which brings an end to ten years of bloody conflict
between constitutionalists and Maoist guerrillas
which cost 15,000 lives
and which emasculates the monarchy.
“I believe, and my party
believes that today, in a sense, marks the breaking of a 238-year old
cycle. But specifically speaking, today represents the breaking of the
cycle of the decade long armed struggle that the nation has been mired
in over the last decade.”
Maoist Chairman Prachanda replies.
Democratic elections will be held
“You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your
most hostile critics have claimed. You have shown yourself to have no
respect for life or liberty. The world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your
ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done.”
The last words of
Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent,
who defected to Britain (which granted him citizenship),
who was a heavy critic of
Russia's president Vladimir Putin,
and who was investigating the recent murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another
fierce critic of Mr Putin.
dictated them just before he died
after having been poisoned by the radioactive isotope Polonium-210,
which he blamed on Mr Putin.
The Kremlin denies any responsibility.
(Well it would, wouldn't it?)
“My intention was to assassinate Gerry Adams and Martin
explains why he stormed
Northern Ireland's Stormont parliament building,
firing a pistol and throwing grenades,
before being subdued.
No-one was hurt.
Sentenced in 1989 to
684 (!) years for the murders of six Catholics,
he was released under license in 2000
under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement,
to a hero's welcome.
he has been re-incarcerated to serve the rest of his punishment,
plus whatever extra he gets for the Stormont attack.
He will leave prison
in a coffin.
Photo of the Week
The cast of
The Mikado take a final curtain call
at the Asia-Pacific Summit in Hanoi on 20th November.
Karen von Hahn has the
How many world leaders can you identify?
Ireland kills almost 400 people on its roads each year.
Though detailed statistical data and analysis are sparse to
non-existent, the largest group of victims is men under 30, and
alcohol is a feature in well over half of accidents.
Naturally, young men under the influence of drink is a major
demographic among the mortalities.
There are legal limits to the amount of allowable alcohol in your
system when driving, and they are notable both in people's ignorance
of them and in the lack of enforcement. In Ireland, the
80 milligrammes of alcohol
per 100 millilitres of blood, and
107 milligrammes of alcohol
per 100 millilitres of urine, and
35 microgrammes of alcohol
per 100 millilitres of breath.
These are similar to the limits in the UK and Australia, and some
60% higher than those in most of mainland Europe.
The lack of knowledge about drink-driving and the law is
astonishing, as is the nation's singular aversion to do anything serious
about the drink-driving problem.
The methodology of enforcement is simple. The police ask
drivers to blow into an electronic breathalyzer that measures
alcohol content, and a heavy penalty follows if the reading is over
the limit. Where to do this? Why at accident blackspots
(mainly narrow, winding rural roads, much favoured by young men in
fast cars) and outside pubs and clubs at closing time.
But in Ireland, despite fanfare about the recent introduction of
random breath-testing, this has been concentrated
on broad urban thoroughfares where few fatalities occur,
and also - bizarrely - on mornings-after-the-night-before.
The unspoken reason for avoiding the pubs is that police cars parked
outside at 11 pm would undoubtedly drive away a great deal of trade,
whereas very many Irish legislators are themselves owners or
investors in lucrative pubs.
Nevertheless, everyone pays pious lip-service to the
“don't drink and drive”.
Thus it was that when Tipperary councillor Michael Fitzgerald
(50), who has a previous drink-driving conviction, recently
said he sees nothing wrong with motorists (including himself)
“three or four pints”
before getting behind the wheel, his enraged party-leader
immediately decided to withdraw the whip (ie suspend him). Mr
Fitzgerald wanted to make the point that for many rural people for
whom public transport is non-existent,
driving to the pub for a few pints is their sole social outlet,
without which they would be prisoners in their homes. The
air-waves filled with indignation at the councillor's effrontery: he
should obey the law, any drink was wrong, he's setting a dreadful
example to the young. A front-bench spokesman declared that a
zero alcohol limit would now be his party's policy.
All based on ignorance of the law and how the body deals with
alcohol, which is different for every individual. In similar
vein, a zero limit is ridiculous because a zero measurement is only
as good as the sensitivity of the machine.
Your blood-alcohol level at any given moment is a function of
How much alcohol you have drunk,
over what period,
whether/what you eat whilst drinking,
your personal metabolism.
Clearly, a bottle of whiskey will put me over the limit - or will
it? If I down it in an hour, it certainly will. But if I
take a thimbleful with my cornflakes every morning till the bottle's
empty, it won't. If chunky giant Arnold Schwarzenegger scoffs a can
of lager, he's going to have a lower reading than the elfin Wynona
The truth is that, without actually measuring it, there is no way
you can know or calculate your blood-alcohol level. This puts
you in the curious position that you can only find out when a
policeman stops you, tells you and prosecutes you. It's like
driving a car without a speedometer and only knowing you've broken
the speed limit when the cops pull you over.
Thus few people are aware that a drink-drive limit of
80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of
blood is in fact quite generous.
A decade ago, I was living in
Perth (Australia), where nearly every pub and restaurant had
its own breathalyzer on the wall on the way out. You inserted
a dollar and out popped a straw, which you would use to blow into
the machine and get a digital reading. From this, you knew
whether you could drive home, or needed to wait an hour or two or
should get a taxi.
I found - to my surprise - that
I could have two pints of beer and share a bottle of wine with my
wife over dinner, and still be well within the limit.
In Ireland, the UK or
continental Europe I have never seen a breathalyzer in a pub, and I
think it is partly because it might suggest drink-driving is OK.
Also, the police sometimes
disapprove of a pub installation; maybe they find it unsporting.
there is no reason for ordinary people to persist in ignorance.
There are now plenty of hand-held personal breathalyzers on the
market. This is one of the most accurate and at an Irish price
of €120 is one of the most expensive (these illustrations are hyperlinked to the suppliers). However it is rather big and
clunky, so not convenient to carry round with you in pocket or
And, because of human
psychology, it is essential
to keep it on your person rather than leaving it in the car.
Imagine a cold, wet February
night (OK, August night if you're Australian). You've had a great time out on the town with
friends and now it's time to go home. You and your date get
your coats, wrap up well and rush into the night to get into the car
parked a hundred metres down the road. You then test
yourselves. You're both over the limit. What are you
going to do? Are you really going to race back in the rain to
the pub (which is preparing to close and all your pals have now
left) to wait an hour before taking another reading? Or are
you going to phone for a taxi on a busy Saturday night and sit
shivering in your car hoping it will eventually show up? Or
are you going to say, dammit, I'll just drive slowly and carefully,
keeping an eye out for the fuzz?
Alternatively, when the
breathalyzer sits quietly in your pocket, you can take unobtrusive
readings as the evening progresses, and decide in good time whether
to switch to Pepsi or to keep boozing
and book a taxi. You'll have no dilemma and your evening won't
be spoiled. For this, the instrument must be small.
This is the little device I have
carried in my pocket on nights out for the past five or six years.
It sits snugly in the palm of my hand or my top pocket, and at only €40 is pretty
much bottom of the range, yet perfectly adequate. Extreme
precision is not required since I want to ensure I am well below the
limit, not a bare 5% below. But I just must ensure I haven't drunk
anything for the previous 30 minutes as otherwise I'm not measuring
the alcohol in my system but in my mouth.
Of course, it is true that one
sip of alcohol impairs your driving ability and to that extent you
shouldn't get into your car at all. But the law does allow a
measure of latitude and imposes a limit based on accident
statistics (gained in other jurisdictions). So if you do
decide to drink-drive, measuring yourself is the only way you can
ensure you remain within the law.
One other thing, people who
measure themselves are already taking conscious steps to behave in a
responsible manner. They should be encouraged.
And that Tipperary councillor
should buy his own breathalyzer. I don't know whether his
drinking sessions are long or short, but he might find that his
“three or four pints”
leaves him comfortably within the drink-drive limit.
I was recently lent an interesting DVD,
In Plane Site”.
It is an hour-long documentary made for TV and shown in America not
long before the 2004 presidential election (I wonder why).
Its central thesis is that all four attacks by civilian aircraft
on September 11th 2001 were frauds perpetrated by the US
Before you scoff, let me outline the documentary's case.
Flight 77, a Boeing 757-200, slammed into the Pentagon.
actually saw or filmed the aircraft,
bodies or engine parts were recovered,
the hole it
made in the Pentagon was a lot smaller than the dimensions
of the plane.
Therefore it wasn't
flight 77 at all, it was something else (I wrote in more detail
last April, which generated some comment).
video clip of an F4 Phantom shows that when a jet plane hits
a concrete wall it utterly disintegrates, as Flight 77 must have
American Airlines Flight 11 was flown into the
north tower of the World Trade Center and
United Airlines Flight
175 into the south tower. However, analysis of the video
footage shows that there seemed to be,
based on a few shadows
a long cylindrical
beneath Flight 175,
according to just one or two distant eye-witnesses, no markings or
windows on the aircraft,
according to slow-motion close-ups, a flash emanating from
the nose of each plane just before its impact.
Therefore the aircraft apparently weren't flights 11 and 175 at
all, they were something different. We are led to conclude
they were military aircraft specially kitted out to cause
maximum havoc on hitting buildings.
Moreover, explosives were said to have been pre-installed in the
WTC which ensured the buildings came down in a controlled
vertical fashion, at the
command of Larry Silverstein
who owned them,
thereby earning himself a net $500m from the insurance (those
United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field near
Shanksville Pennsylvania, after Tod Beamer and fellow passengers
heroically attacked the hijackers and aborted their intended
attack on the White House, the black boxes were never recovered.
Therefore there was something fishy about this flight too.
Assuming the video footage is not faked (which
some claim it is), Dave Vonkleist, the presenter, is to be
commended for presenting pieces of evidence that raise a number of
serious questions with no glib answers.
However, far from seeking rational explanations, he immediately
goes off the tracks in making a giant leap to conspiracy. That
is his only attempt to explain the anomalies. The US airforce
must have sent its own planes to crash into key buildings. In
collusion with Mr Silverstein (clearly part of the Jewish cabal
trying to control the world), US secret services set demolition
explosives in the WTC to help things along.
They removed evidence and suppressed video of all the crashes to
hide the truth. And, by implication, the CIA, FBI, USAF or
whatever are so internally disciplined that not a word of the plot
has leaked out to this day, despite the dozens if not hundreds of
operatives that must have been involved to ensure such a complex,
wide-ranging operation ran so smoothly and to plan. Makes you
wonder how they ever allowed those Abu Ghraib photos to slip past
their iron security.
Substituting three flights with other aircraft is one thing.
But Mr Vonkleist spares not a word about the original flights 11,
175 and 77, with all
passengers and crews lost. Their fate clearly does not interest him;
they just disappeared. Perhaps they were flown to a secret
airbase, where the CIA gassed everyone on board and quietly
incinerated the bodies, baggage and planes. And, once again,
not a hint of this has leaked out. You've got to admire the
CIA's impregnable omertà.
Pity they couldn't extend that to their infamous rendition flights.
Then there is Lucius
Cassius Longinus's famous question, “cui
bono?”, who benefits?
Well I suppose it is those born-again, amoral, ruthless, neocon,
Zionist, bloodthirsty warmongers Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and
Wolfowitz, who needed an
excuse because God told them to ignite a new killing crusade against
Muslims. And what better way to do God's will than by
some 3,000 of your own innocent, God-fearing citizens within a
few months of taking office having been elected by those citizens.
There are two types of court of law where prosecutors and
defenders make their case to juries.
In a criminal court, the prosecutor must prove his case
“beyond reasonable doubt”.
Defense counsel merely has to pick holes in the arguments to get
his client off. I think I've shown that's easy to do in
“911 In Plane Site”
In a civil court, the prosecutor's job
is easier because he only has to prove his case
“on the balance of probabilities”. But there again,
the conspiracy theory doesn't stand up. Notwithstanding
certain pieces of evidence which are hard to explain, what is
That the US government under a newly-elected president planned and mounted a massive, complex,
military operation of quite unprecedented depravity,
savagery, immorality and treason against itself and its
Or that the attacks were perpetrated by Islamicist
terrorists who had trained for the mission, were seen
boarding on CCTV, whose names were on the manifest and whose
actions were confirmed contemporaneously in numerous
telephone calls by passengers to loved ones?
Yes, the documentary raises interesting, and in some cases
troubling, questions. But if you want to be convinced there
was not a conspiracy, watch it and follow the
so-called logical trail it tries to lead you along by the nose.
I mention on the right-hand panel that I have
Richard Dawkins, a distinguished biology professor, who has
carved out an additional career for himself as an articulate
professional atheist. As a practicing Catholic, I reckon it's
healthy to have my beliefs challenged.
The professor is a wonderful man to listen to in terms of
his mellifluous voice, flowing English, carefully explained
arguments. However, because he subscribes to the modern
post-Christian values of leftish atheism that nearly all the bien-pensants in the media so love, not to mention many/most
political leaders in Europe, for whom the practice of (the
Christian) religion is, frankly, an embarrassment, he is never
seriously confronted. Perhaps like that charlatan Noam
Chomsky, he ensures that he always has an easy ride; I don't know.
The closest I have seen to challenge is this
interview by Jeremy Paxman, the BBC's noted rottweiler who is
usually sneeringly merciless in eviscerating politicians who want to
dodge difficult issues. Yet he is decidedly soft on Mr
Dawkins. (It is rather typical, in the discussion of how
excessive religious zeal can be lethal for humankind, Bush and
fundamentalist US Christians are trotted out as the examples, with
not a word about Kohmeini, Osama, Ahmedinejad, Hamas, Hezbollah,
Wahhabism, etc, for whom - unlike Christianity or Judaism or Sikhism
or Hinduism - wielding the sword in the name of God is the central,
However In October, Prof Dawkins came to
Ireland on the standard book-promotion tour, which naturally include
a number of radio interviews.
But wow! Did he find himself ambushed!
the state broadcaster, invited him on to a morning radio show hosted
by Ryan Turbridy to discuss his book with David Quinn. Mr
Quinn is a (Catholic) writer on religious and social affairs,
reasonably well known within Ireland but almost unknown elsewhere.
He writes incisively, but prefers to use common sense rather than
dogma to put across his largely orthodox views.
Well, Mr Quinn had clearly read
and researched the professor in careful detail, and discovered a
multitude of flaws.
Richard Dawkins didn't know what hit him. With
his smooth talking and charismatic presence, he is accustomed only
to respect and adulation from the elevated circles he mixes with, as
he experienced with Jeremy Paxman, who in fact appeared
slightly intimidated. If people do oppose Mr Dawkins, it is usually in the
careful, friendly, modulated tones of people like the Archbishop of
Canterbury, or other religious people who are innately polite and
Mr Quinn's approach was totally different.
His arguments were well-focused and articulate, whilst his demeanour
lacked any deference to the great man and was in fact thoroughly
aggressive. There was nothing the professor could say that was
not immediately repudiated. He was aghast.
His total defeat was embodied in his final
“I am not interested in free will”.
Extraordinarily, he denies that humans possess free will because he
fears this might suggest the existence of God. Rather, he
prefers to argue - though without much conviction - that we just do what we do
solely because our genes and upbringing force us to
(so it's my DNA writing these words, not my free will).
It will be a long time before Prof Dawkins
ventures into the public arena in Ireland again, for fear of a
You can listen
to or download the (17 Mb MP3) interview
here (or, for easy
“Quinn Dawkins 2006”). It's generated
loads of debate around the world, including this
thoughtful piece by fellow-atheist Mark Humphrys.
And there's very lively comment on the professor's
own site, with comment nbr 60 by yours truly.
See also my letter in the
Sunday Times on 26th November, based on this post
Two months ago, I included in my
of the week the words of Colin Carroll
(35 years and 75 kg), Ireland’s first-ever sumo wrestler, who was
about to depart for the Sumo World Championships 2006 at Sakai in
“I wear my nappy with
pride. My nappy is Ireland's nappy ... Japan will soon know all
about the little mean green sumo machine.”
Well the competition has been
and gone and so has Mr Carroll.
Having signed a compulsory
the little mean green sumo machine’s journey to world glory was brought to a swift
two brutal bouts. In the first, Ukranian thug Vitaly
Tikhenko swatted him like a fly and he collapsed in a heap.
Next, he was flung out of the dohya towards unsuspecting spectators
by a mighty Russian, Igor Krunninoy (85kg), in just two seconds, as
YouTube have wonderfully captured.
But the indomitable Mr Carroll escaped
relatively unscathed, with just a burnt backside, slight concussion
and a broken baby toe. (With some prescience, the bookies had
offering odds of 2/1 that he'd come home with one broken bone,
100/1 that he would end up as world champion).
The Cork born thrill-seeker commented that,
looked like a deranged man on day release from a high security
jail. I smelt the stench of death off him. He seemed born
to kill! He knocked me out of the ring with a lethal move,
pulling one of my arms, reaching for my jugular and with his
other hand he swivelled me and sent me flying off the raised
dohyo and sent me flying
“[He] scared me senseless. I thought he
was going to maim me. I'm a novice. That way it keeps life fresh
adventure may have come to an abrupt end, but Colin is delighted
that Sumo Ireland has now been accepted by the
Federation, which is the world body for amateur sumo. Thus
Ireland will now have a vote on the ISF Council. As
Sumo Ireland's President (and no doubt only member), Mr Carroll said,
I am one of the most
powerful men in the world of sumo. India has one vote on the
International Sumo Federation Executive Council and now so do does
Ireland. And I intend to use it wisely.”
“Colin may have been flung
out of the ring after 60 seconds but he has provided us with hours
of entertainment bringing our tagline
‘imag!ne and anything is
to life in the most colourful manner possible.”
This terrifying man has many
sporting talents. Besides sumo, he has been a tennis coach in
Germany, a bobsleigher in Latvia, is today an
elephant polo world champion (Nepal, 2005), and his next
competitive exploit will be a tilt at the three-legged world record
at next year's Dublin marathon.
To pay the bills, however, by
day he is a boring old solicitor in Cork.
Three letters this week, one of them to the Sunday Times for a change,
and it was published, albeit in a watered down form. As usual, the
Irish Times shies away from anything vaguely critical of the left and
particularly of the nominally
“anti-war”, but actually pro-war, crowd.
In Mary Fitzgerald's interesting review of the new Al Jazeera English TV
channel, she contrasts it with the
Fox News and the
“sombre, earnest and careful”
BBC. Why does she omit the epithet
from the BBC's description, being its most abiding characteristic?
Shannon Airport's Contribution to Iraq I would hope that when Roger Cole, chair of the Peace and Neutrality
“makes an issue”
in the next general election of the use of Shannon Airport, he spares a
thought for the twelve million Iraqis (an astonishing 74% of adults) who
only last December bravely voted for a new, liberal, legitimate,
democratic Iraq, and who so proudly displayed their purpled fingers to
the cameras. For ranged against them are a deadly minority of ...
A killer father such as Gavin Hall may indeed see himself
as a victim, but society, the media and the courts do not, and there is
no compunction in locking him up for the vile crime he has committed ...
“I have benefited greatly from criticism, and at no time have I
suffered a lack thereof.”
US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld,
who stepped down after the ruling Republican party
were defeated in America's mid-term elections.
Of course he doesn't mean a word of it.
“We are sad
that he has resigned. We are very pleased and very grateful for
support for Afghanistan.”
Ludin, chief of staff for Afghan President Hamid Karzai,
has been on the side of ordinary Afghanis
“Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hailed Bush’s defeat in the
mid-term elections last week as a victory for Tehran. He has rightly
concluded that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is off the
Baxter, writing in the Sunday Times
(though I would question her use of the word
If Iran is
rejoicing, the West should be worried.
“I call on all Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds to
forgive, reconcile and shake hands ... Both the prophet Mohammed and Jesus
forgave their enemies.”
A subdued Saddam Hussein,
two days after his death sentence for crimes against humanity in Dufail,
pleads for forgiveness and reconciliation,
as he appears in court on charges of
genocide against the Kurds
during his 1988 “Anfal”
Quote: “Although I cried when Saddam fell, it was because I felt
dishonoured as a soldier who could not defend his country. Now I am
proud. The difference is that the Iraqi army under Saddam fought the
Iraqi people. The new army is fighting to protect the people.”
Jamal Ahmed, a general in the new Iraq army,
who served in a similar capacity under Saddam Hussein.
There are many threads to the threat
Iran poses in its programme to develop nuclear weapons and means of
delivery. Diplomacy to constrain the long-suspected programme,
accelerated after its (secret) existence was confirmed in 2003
dissident's revelations, has utterly failed so far, and at
present still has no prospect of making substantive progress.
Recent stories in the media have included ...
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made no secret of his
annihilate Israel, and has recently received theocratic
clearance that use of nuclear weapons in pursuit of jihad is, er,
As he and others have rightly observed, Israel is so small
that it can be quickly obliterated with just a few bombs whereas
huge, populous Iran can withstand several nukes and still
survive. Hashemi Rafsanjani, his
predecessor but one,
said five years ago in a sermon that the
“application of an atomic bomb would not leave any
thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce minor
damages in the Muslim world.” (Pity the victims, but
Iranian leaders don't care about
those, even when they're fellow-Muslims.)
Few can doubt therefore that unless someone stops him, Mr
Ahmadinejad will complete his bomb development and then drop it
A “security source” in the Israeli Government
said last month that, “Israel will not allow Iran to
build an atomic bomb, and even if it did, the Iranians know very
well that we’ll bomb them back to the Stone Age before they’ve
launched a single missile.”
Israel has an
(officially denied) military alliance with Iraq's Kurds in
the north of the country, which enables it to keep an eye on
Iran and arguably to use Irbil Airport as an attack base or a
Turkey's threats to invade Iraqi Kurdistan means that Israel
may not have much longer to exploit its position there.
Meanwhile, George Bush has indicated that he does not want
to bequeath the Iranian mess to his successor. In similar
said on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, that we must not
“leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by
terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear
an obvious reference to Iran. Hate him or love him, Mr
Bush, like Hezbollah's
Nasrallah Hussein, usually delivers what he promises.
Dick Cheney, his vice president, has made no secret of his
distrust of the Iranian regime and his
desire to change it.
On 7 November, the US will hold their mid-term elections, in
which there is a strong possibility the Republicans will lose
control of both houses to the Democrats. This would render
Mr Bush a lame duck president for the remaining two years of his
term, unable to get his way on any major issue.
The Democrats will have won these elections mainly due to
their visceral opposition to the Iraq war, and by extension any
Since George Bush cannot seek re-election in 2008, he cannot
be electoral hurt any more (though his party can of course).
On 31st October, the US Navy began a
massive war game, codenamed
in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea involving two so-called
Strike Groups and 23 countries and lasting several days.
It was ostensibly to practice fighting the war on terrorism and
not aimed specifically at Iran, though you can safely infer that heavy armaments
and delivery systems are in the area.
Join these red squares together and what do you get?
A rapidly closing window during which Mr Bush can try to stop
Iran's nuclear programme through presidential fiat. We've seen
that dialogue isn't working; moreover the chance of an internal
revolution to overthrow the mullahs is extremely remote, at least in
the short term. That leaves only a military solution, focused
either on destroying Iran's many nuclear sites or killing the
top mullahs, or both.
As Charles Krauthammer has
described, the costs will be terrible, in the areas of economics
(a soaring oil price), military (terror cells unleashed around the
world) and diplomacy (America and Israel as pariahs). To these
should be added the casualties - not just in the attack itself but
especially in the rage that will follow.
But the costs of doing nothing will be even higher.
Iran will instantly become the superpower of the Middle
East, imposing its will and its craziness on any trembling
neighbour it chooses, which will surely include subsuming Iraq and its
oil into its resurgent Shi'ite empire.
Israel will certainly become Iran's test-bed for nuclear
weaponry; the resultant casualties on both sides will be
measured in their millions.
Iran will not hesitate to use its new weapons in other
theatres, nor to make them available to terrorists willing to
commit nuclear mayhem against the West.
The West, having failed to prevent Iran from acquiring its
weapons when it was (relatively) easy to do so, and having by
then witnessed the nuclear devastation visited on Israel, will
certainly be too craven to launch an all-out nuclear war on
Iran, which would be the only way to bring it to heel.
It would be the fulfilment of the dream of that revered Iranian,
Ayatollah Khomeini, of which he
“Islam wants to conquer the whole world ... Whatever
good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of
the sword! ... There are hundreds of other [Koranic]
psalms and hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging
Muslims to value war and to fight [non-Muslims].”
Sir Nicholas Stern, in a recent
seminal report about the threat of climate change, sternly warns
us that the cost of doing something about it is 1% of world GDP,
compared with the cost of doing nothing (between 5% and 20%).
Therefore, he concludes, we should do the something.
I would wager that Mr Bush and his coterie are making a similar
calculation as regards Iran's nuclear programme. And if his
Republicans lose the mid-term elections, he has only days left in
“do the something”,
to de-fang Iran's nuclear threat.
I believe therefore that an attack is both certain and very
imminent, whether by America or Israel or both.
We wait in trepidation for the inevitable tempest that will
It is ironic that a Democrat defeat would lessen the chance of
this by providing a further two years to seek alternative solutions.
Here are few recent news stories about parents who have killed
their own children ...
Andrea Yates, a Texas woman convicted
three years ago of
drowning her five children in a bathtub in 2001, was
sentenced to life (though the verdict was this year
“not guilty by reason of insanity”
but only due to a legal technicality bizarrely connected to a TV
In 1995, Susan Smith loaded her two sons, 14-month old
Alexander and 3-year-old Michael, into her car and rolled it
into a lake in South Carolina where
they drowned, and then concocted a story about a carjacking.
She was sentenced to life.
A woman in Japan, who stabbed her two children to death and
then stabbed herself ten times but survived, was
sentenced to eight years last February.
Three years ago, Christopher Crowley abducted and shot dead
his six-year-old daughter Deirdre, and then himself. No
pussyfooting about language here, and no blaming the mother
either. Mr Crowley was simply (and rightly) called his
In Crete last August, Englishman John Hogan, 32, after a row
with his wife, jumped off a 15 metres high hotel balcony, with
his two young children in his arms. His six-year-old son
Liam died; Mia his daughter, 2, suffered a broken arm. Mr Hogan
himself also survived and, despite claiming mental
disorientation, has been
charged with murder by the Greek authorities who have him
firmly in custody; no-one expects him to escape a lengthy prison
Gavin Hall, from Northamptonshire,
choloroformed his three-year-old daughter Amelia to
death, to punish his wife for being unfaithful. This
month he was jailed for life.
In each case, a parent committed what is probably the most
appalling act imaginable - the despicable murder of his/her own
innocent young child(ren). And was (or will be) severely
punished for it.
Now here are a few more heart-rending tales ...
Last year, Sharon Grace (estranged from her husband)
drowned her two daughters Mikhala, 4 and Abby, 3 plus
herself off the beach in Wexford. It was termed a tragedy;
in addition Social Services were
blamed for not doing more. No-one called it what it
was - a foul double murder of little innocents, followed by a
suicide. No-one wants to say that this was either a
wicked, selfish act or the woman was criminally insane.
The murders were not tragic; they were deliberate atrocities.
In Birmingham during October, a 22-year-old
Bangladeshi woman, Musammat Mumtahana,
hanged her two
sons, Reheem, 2, and Nahim, 1, and then herself. The
papers call this a
too; none seem to consider it a foul double murder of
little kiddies, followed by a, perhaps tragic, suicide.
Then, in Newcastle, there was Danielle Wails who set fire to
her flat and
burnt her infant
son to death (what a horrible way to die), apparently to win
back tiny Alexander's father. Despite having first removed
the batteries from the smoke alarms, and concocting a story about an attack by
intruders, she got off with a three-year
“community order” rather than jail because she was
suffering from post-natal depression. If her mental
illness was so bad she was reduced to killing babies she
belongs in a lunatic asylum. And, extraordinarily, it
turns out that the infanticide of which she was convicted is
lesser crime than murder.
If anything, it should be worse.
Last January, a court tried Mary Collins for the murder of
her own children. She had pushed a buggy off the quay
wall into the sea in Westport, Co Mayo and jumped in after it.
The buggy contained her three-year-old daughter Teresa and
one-year-old son Liam, whom she was hoping to drown, along with
- apparently -
herself. But due to the fortuitous presence of mind of some
nearby girls, all three were rescued; however the boy, sadly, died
later. Mrs Collins then concocted a tale about a
wheel falling off the buggy, followed by another story about
abuse by her husband. Once again, her evil, outrageous
act was reported as a tragedy with all sympathy for the mother
and not a hint that she'd done something, well, wrong. And
though she was rational and smart enough to create fictitious
fables, the jury decided she was
guilty but insane, in other words that she was not rational
and smart enough to be responsible for the atrocity she
perpetrated. Go figure, as the Americans say.
The difference between these two sets of stories is clear.
In Britain and Ireland, a mother can do no wrong, she is always a
victim, indeed the principal victim. She can therefore commit
the most heinous of crimes on her own defenceless little children
and get away with it. The courts and media wring their hands
about her tragic circumstances, and, frankly, couldn't care less
about the dead kids.
But it's a different story if the matriarchal killer is in
America or Japan. Or if the murderous parent in Europe is a
male. In these cases, the perpetrator will attract no media sympathy or legal leniency at all.
Moral of the story. If you want to murder little kids, get
the mother to do it in UK or Ireland.
Yep, that's right. That's the plan. If Ian Paisley for
the DUP and Gerry Adams for Sinn Féin sign up to Northern Ireland's
agreement, English taxpayers (never Welsh or Scots) will be forced
to cough up yet another
€7 bn per year
(plus other goodies) in the direction of Northern
Ireland, with Irish taxpayers in the Republic chucking in a further
year and every year, for the next decade. That adds up to an
astonishing eighty billion €uro.
The population of Northern Ireland numbers
1.7 million, so they'll be getting another annual present of
€4,700 per man, woman and child, to be added to the
£5,000 million the beleagured English have already being paying
them, net, every single year, for a very long time. Tot up the two presents and each Northern Irelander gets
the equivalent of an astonishing £6,300, or €8,800.
Wife and two kids? The family figure mounts to
£25,000 per annum.
I know the money will arrive as
not cash-in-hand, but it still represents a very
respectable income, especially in NI's relatively low-cost economy.
So why get out of bed in the morning?
With this kind of largesse, in return for nothing but normal
democratic behaviour as routinely practiced throughout the West, no wonder
Northern Ireland is a failed state, and will remain so until its
people grow up and start paying their own way.
And when will the average English man and woman realise how
they're being taken for a ride?
This image is the concluding entry in a grovelling
photographic tribute by the BBC, earlier this year, to the
jihadist Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei. A full-on snog with
that other late unlamented jihadist Yasser Arafat, complete with
lips, tongues the lot. Does anyone know what happened next?
I thought you had a
wall toppled on to you for this kind of carry-on.
Since they're both now undoubtedly in Paradise together, do they
spend their time continuing where they left off in this pic, or
concentrating on their combined 144 virgins? (And once de-flowered
do these lucky ladies get replaced, or reflowered or what?)
Two missives this week, neither one published.
The non-publication of the letter accusing Ireland's Anti-War Movement
of being pro-war makes plain the editorial inclinations of the Irish
The Dingle Plebiscite
Peter Pallas of Ennis finds it “inexcusable”
that the native people of An Daingean/Dingle voted to retain the name of
Dingle. Such arrogance. Those townspeople think they own the
Anti-War Movement Seems Pro-War
You report that the Irish Anti-War Movement has invited to Ireland
Ibrahim Mousawi, who is “a
prominent member of Hizbullah ... from the pro-Hizbullah television
According to Mr Mousawi, Hizbullah will welcome Irish troops so long as
they stick to their mission, which he says is
“to help the Lebanese army to defend the Lebanese people”.
However, UNIFIL's remit under UN Resolutions 425, 426 and last August's
1701, is much more specific than this ...
“It is disgusting that St Andrews university
[at 583 years, Scotland's oldest] is conferring an honor on this man.
He is responsible for more than 1,300 deaths during his presidency.
This regime was responsible for the oppression of people that I knew and
Maryam Namazie, of the
Iranian Women's Liberation group,
who fled the country in 1980,
on the conferral of a degree on Muhammad Khatami,
the mullahcrat who was Iran's president from 1997 to 2005.
That poseur Sir
Menzies Campbell, the university's chancellor
and also the leader of Britain's supine Liberal Democrat Party,
championed the award and planned to do the conferring,
but at the last minute chickened out due to the ethical outcry
“The insurgency [in Iraq] is actually failing in the
first and most important of its objectives — to destroy this political
settlement. For all the appalling carnage, Iraq’s [democratically
constituted and elected] government continues to function. Far from civil
war, it has passed a new plan for peace and reconciliation backed by all
factions pledging to act together.”
astute as ever, and against in the tide,
in the Daily Mail
- - - - - - - - - - U S E L E C T I O N - - - - - - - - - -
“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study
hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do
well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.”
Loser John Kerry
disrespects US troops in Iraq.
At least calling then uneducated is better than
war criminals, including himself, as he did after his Vietnam service.
“The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our
military are somehow uneducated is insulting and it is shameful.
The senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology.”
George Bush responds
“Mr Kerry is the gift
that keeps giving—to the Republicans.”
“When I was a kid, I inhaled [cannabis]. That was
Democratic presidential candidate, Barack
has a sly dig at Bill Clinton,
who famously and ridiculously said in 1992
“I didn't inhale and never tried it again.”
- - - - - - - - - - A S S O R T E D - - - - - - - - - -
Quote: “Unabated climate change risks raising average
global temperatures by over five degrees - equivalent to the difference
between now and the last Ice Age.”
Sir Nicholas Stern
gives us a stern warning,
in a 575-page report entitled
of Climate Change”.
He reckons it will cost 1% of world GDP to thwart climate change.
Nicholas is head of the British Government Economic Service
and a former chief economist of the World Bank
“Africa is not badly governed because it is poor. It is poor
because it is badly governed.”
John O'Shea, chief
the only major Irish charity worth supporting.
He was commenting on
a $5m bribe
prize to be paid to the first African president
who can show he's not corrupt.
would rather see my grandson dead that see him become an American bastard.”
Irishman Timothy Blake, who
with his wife Ethel,
visited their daughter in America in 2004,
kidnapped her nine-year old son Dylan and brought him back to Ireland.
The couple now face extradition to the USA and up to 30 years in jail.
“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