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November 2008


ISSUE #185 - 9th November 2008

Date and time in Westernmost Europe

ISSUE #185 - 9th November 2008 [550+5,160=5,710]


Tale of a Sub Prime Mortgage 


So Obama Has Won


Red Turns Men On


Chess for Everyone


Quotes for Issue 185

The Tallrite Blog went on hiatus from 9th November 2008 till 1st February 2009

Tale of a Sub Prime Mortgage 

or:  How Ill Disciplined Financial Mayhem
Has Led to a Nine Trillion Dollar Hangover!

by Guest Blogger Michael Hey in Aberdeen

Discover -


the arcane world of Collateralised Debt Obligations, and


Credit Default Swaps,


how a bank's very own credit rating agency can turn the Value at Risk assessment of its loans entirely on its head and then


pass the exposure to a highly leveraged hedge fund that


gambles in an unregulated market with your money in a zero sum game that


simply takes wealth from the savings of thousands to the pockets of few. 

Meet -


Heronimus Clinch - an SPM salesman,


Grabbit 'n Run a hedge fund that operates right on the edge and


ZIT the insurance behemoth that insures the risk of failure of pumped up SIV's


plus many many more! 

Feel free to embellish the tale with your own perspective and maybe one day we can publish that too!


The Miller's house in Smallsville, OhioOnce Upon a Time there was a hard working baker by the name of Miller who, with his family, lived in a simple vinyl sided house in Smallville, Ohio. They rented the house from a greedy landlord and dreamed of one day owning their own home.   But however hard Miller worked and however many long hours he put in at the local bakery he could never save enough money to place a deposit down.  And each year the price of houses in Smallville went up and up and up, and each year his greedy landlord would increase the rent so that any rise in pay Miller could earn vanished into the landlord’s pocket.

Then one sunny Saturday morning a smart young man drew up in a shiny car on the road in front of Miller’s home. He stepped out and walked confidently up and rapped on the front door ...

... Click here to read all abaht it (PDF, 114 kb).

Back to List of Contents

So Obama Has Won

So Barack Obama has won the US Presidency as the culmination of a truly gruelling campaign that was record-breaking in terms of its duration (nearly two years) and spending (nearly a billion dollars). He won fair and square, despite the crookery of his campaign -


through enlisting up to a million multiple, illegible and fictitious voters via ACORN and


the campaign's website fund-raising in terms of deliberately disabling online checks that would otherwise screen out illegal donations. 

His winning margin was large enough to conclude that that these illegal behaviours were unlikely to have swung the balance.  Nevertheless, it was disgraceful that the fawning media resolutely refused to give them the widespread publicity they deserved; details were to be found only in conservative publications and blogs. The silence of the law-enforcement agencies was also mystifying. 

Mr Obama is to be sincerely congratulated on his skilfully wrought campaign, certainly better than those of either John McCain or Hillary Clinton. 

But he has a back-history that either is unknown or else is appalling, and what he has offered the American people in terms of policies has been dreadful, conflicting or indecipherable.  Again, conventional media worldwide made every effort not to dig in and find out details.  They got far more excited about the cost of Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe (having first complained what a hick she was) than whether, for example, Mr Obama


spent his first few years as a Muslim (he did, so he's an apostate), or


palled around with those unrepentant terrorists Mr & Mrs Bill Ayers (he did, up to 2005) or


whether he had passed most of his adult life subscribing to the black racist philosophies of Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan (the evidence is plain).  

As for exploring his conflicting policies (eg Jerusalem undivided or separate?) or his dishonest language (eg tax “cuts” for the 30% of Americans who don’t even pay tax), the media simply looked politely the other way. 

But Mr Obama certainly has a couple of very strong positives. 

  1. He is undoubtedly a magnificent, inspirational orator.  I don't like hearing him but that is because of my own personal dislike of the fellow which makes him sound irritating to me and makes me want to give him the malefit of any doubt.  But he enthuses hundreds of millions of others not just in America but across the globe.  So, whatever actions he wants to take, he is very well able to sell them to that broad swathe of people who are so favourably predisposed towards him. 

    For example it takes some rhetoric to make someone believe that under his presidency she will no longer have to worry about filling her car or paying her mortgage. 

    Tony Blair has similar skills which he used to remarkable effect in engineering three decisive elections in Britain even when the majority of people disliked his policies, particularly the Iraq War. 

  2. Secondly, the new president is certainly calm under pressure.  He appears not to have got upset or emotional even once during his two long hard years of campaigning, despite a lot of provocation both on the stump and off it.  An example of that was on show in all three public debates with John McCain where the latter certainly tried and failed to rile him and was himself rather emotional.  If at some point of his campaign Mr Obama had, for example, erupted in a wholly understandable rage as John McCain sometimes does and Bill Clinton also did, the conservative blogosphere would certainly have reported it, and with glee. 

While this icy calmness may make him seem humourless and a bit of a cold fish, it is however a very valuable and pretty unusual quality which will stand him in good stead in the tough negotiations and challenges, both domestic and international, that will confront him in the next four years.  Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian Empire’s deputy Czar, and Khaled Mashaal the boss of Hamas have already laid down arrogant challenges which have the potential to make any American president very angry. 

Expecting a softer time than with George Bush or John McCain, assorted jihadist groups from Iraq to Indonesia have expressed their (surely unwelcome) pleasure at the Obama victory. 

But Mr Obama will not allow himself to get emotional over such provocations. 

The big question is, however, to what objectives will be apply these two formidable talents?  If he wants to raise taxes, run away from Iraq, enter unconditional talks with Iran, appoint Supreme Court justices intent on promoting left wing causes - all that policies he has promised - then he will truly prove to be one of America’s most disastrous presidents.   

But many chief executives have said one thing when vying for the top job and then behaved completely differently when they actually get to work.  This is usually due to two things. 


Firstly, once they see the true facts and details of the situation for the first time, they  realise the recklessness of  their earlier advocacies. 


Secondly, while on the stump or in opposition it is easy to say anything you want because you have no real responsibility for the consequences.  But once you assume office the whole ball game changes.  As chief executive, you no longer have anyone else you can blame.  This again can lead to a radical reassessment of previous views. 

Personally, I fervently hope President Obama goes through this honourable transition, and if he is indeed a patriotic American it is hard to imagine he will not.  Nevertheless only time will tell. 

If he adopts a common sense approach, his oratorical skills and calmness under pressure can make him, against my worst fears, into a truly great American president.

In the meantime, we should all at least stand back and marvel at the extraordinary masterclass in democracy that the United States has put on and which the world has been privileged to witness.  It has been an example to us all.   

Back to List of Contents

Red Turns Men On

It's an unfair world - the reds have itOne of the numerous non-accomplishments of President-elect Barack Obama was that, despite having been a professor of the University of Chicago Law School, he never authored a single academic piece of work.  When I pointed this out in a recent newspaper column, an irate Obamaniac had a letter published saying that this was only because he was too busy teaching, giving legal aid, being a state senator, and serving on the boards of several charitable foundations, as if ordinary professors have too much time on their hands.  In fact, no other university in the world appoints professors unless and until they have already accumulated a body of academic work, which they are expected to add to after their appointment. 

Maybe Professor Obama simply lacked the imagination to find anything interesting to write about. 

For it must sometimes be be hard for university staff, whether professors or would-be professors, to dream up worthy subjects to study and pen learned articles about in academic journals.  This might explain research undertaken in recent times by, for example,


Anthropologists Dr Russell Hill and Dr Robert Barton of Durham University,


Professor Martin Attrill, of Plymouth University's School of Biological Sciences, 


Professor of psychology Andrew Elliot and Dr Daniela  Niesta of University of Rochester in New York. 

What do they have in common? 


They all published learned articles about ... the colour red.  


And the findings are stunning ... not. 

Red Rugby Wins: Twice European Champions Munster

First the brainboxes of Durham and Plymouth Universities. 

Their work revealed that sportsmen in red tend to do better than, and against, those in other colour(s).  This applies both to team sports such as rugby (above, Munster, the current champions of Europe) and football and to one-on-one combat such as tae-kwon-do (or is that no-can-do?). 

The combat theory was tested at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Contestants in four combat sports - boxing, tae-kwon-do, Greco-Roman wrestling, and freestyle wrestling - were randomly assigned red or blue outfits, or body protectors. In every case, those wearing red won significantly more fights.

This daring display of academia succeeded in enhancing the professorshipism of the authors by getting published in the much respected scientific journal Nature, twice

For examining team sports, professional soccer in England was selected.  The academics found that, over the thousands of league matches played from 1947 to 2003 between the country's top 68 clubs, teams with red strips (such as Manchester United or Liverpool) won the league 60% of the time, compared with only 20% for those in blue (such as Chelsea), despite more teams wearing blue.  But the red teams perform well only when they actually wear red: when they have to wear a different colour, such as for away games, their advantage disappears. 

The learned gentlemen who came up with this hope to score their own professorial goals when their findings are published later this year in the Journal of Sports Sciences

Meanwhile the geniuses in New York looked at red from a different angle.  They wanted to find out how good it is as a man-magnet. 

Calling it a psychological experiment to make it sound important and scientific, they showed an assortment of lusty men photographs


of women framed by a border of either red or white and


of women wearing red clothes and then another colour. 

In all cases, so the proud researchers concluded, red did the trick; men love ladies in red.  In red, the little minxes were more likely to attract a good-looking guy, to receive an invitation and to be treated to a more expensive date.

It might have been easier to simply ask crooner Chris de Burg about ladies in red, but I guess it was more fun dressing up pretty women in different colours and inviting them out on expensive dates. 


Moreover, Mr de Burgh would not have enhanced their careers, whereas their latest findings have just been published as Romantic red: Red enhances men's attraction to women in the very impressive-sounding Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  Incidentally, you can make your own judgement about the erudition of this scientific periodical by having a look at a few other articles in the same edition, gems such as

So why are men so turned on by red

In humans, anger is associated with a reddening of the skin due to increased blood flow, whereas with fear you get increased pallor; moreover animal studies show that red in males is a signal of dominance. Hence in human competitive situations, redness stimulates deep-rooted aggression and dominance, whereas non-red players are pale, trembling and defensive (I exaggerate) . 

Baboon babe buttAs for the ladies, research has shown that male primates are more attracted to females who put on a red display (hence those embarrassing rear ends). That's why female baboons and chimpanzees redden when nearing ovulation to give the boys the come-on. 

Once the baboons and chimps had evolved into humans, it was sexy red dresses that the girls employed for the same purpose. 

The latest research confirms what women have long suspected - that in the sexual realm men are not the thoughtful sophisticates that they (we) imagine but are consumed by primitive animal-like predilections. 

Since the universities that unearthed all this wealth of information are largely funded or subsidised by public funds, is it not heart-warming to learn in today's straightened times that there is such value being won for taxpayers' money?

Thanks to the academics' selfless research, we now know beyond all doubt that wearing red gives any male or female an unsporting opportunity to score, whether in games or love - or indeed who knows in what other sphere of human life as well. 

But this situation, like conservative talk radio in the US, is obviously unfair. The US Democrats are right; we need a Fairness Doctrine

So here is a suggestion for Law Professor Obama in his spare presidential time in order to plump up his empty professorial credentials.  He ought to research the legal implications of allowing a red élite to continue selfishly to enjoy more than its fair share of red, with a view to spreading the wealth redness around

This is surely hope and change we can all believe in. 

Lady in red

Back to List of Contents

Chess for Everyone

No words ...

Hat tip: Barry in Dublin
Chess for anarchists

Back to List of Contents

Quotes for Issue 185

- - - - - - U S   E L E C T I O N - - - - - -

Quote: Change has come to America.

Barack Obama in his victory speech
as president-elect of the United States.

Whatever happened to hope?

Quote: As January 20th draws near, some of you may be anxious about finding a new job or a new place to live.  I know how you feel.

President George W Bush, in jocular mode,
addresses his White House staffers
as he calls for a smooth transition to the Obama presidency

Quote: “So, where were we? It's been a long eight years.  Eight years later, here we are. And you know the story. The economy started to go downhill when the policies changed. It started on 20 January 2001. I know. I was the first one laid off.”

Al Gore who, in his own words,
used to be the next president of the United States
still has a witty turn of phrase. 

He was campaigning for Barack Obama in Florida,
the scene in 2001 of his political demise by hanging chad. 

Quote (minute 27:20 to 27:35): If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

Barack Obama threatens to destroy the coal industry,
oblivious - or uncaring - as to the consequences
for its 150 million consumers. 

He made the remarks to the San Francisco Chronicle's
editorial board in January 2008,
but in order to minimise damage to the Obamessiah,
the newspaper released the video
only a couple of days before the US election

Quote: “The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it.

The LA Times excuses itself for
not publishing a 2003 video showing Mr Obama
at a farewell party for Palestinian terror-supporting academic
Professor Rashid Khalidi who was leaving the University of Chicago
(to join Columbia University

Mr Obama, speaking to guests who included
the unrepentant former terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn,
congratulates Prof Khalidi for his work apparently saying that
Israel has no God-given right to occupy Palestine
and that there's been
genocide against the Palestinian people by Israelis”.

Why, I wonder, would the LA Times be so shy
about releasing such an explosive tape (unless it’s true)? 

And anyway, whoever heard of someone giving a tape to a newspaper
on condition it not be published?

Quote: I won't need to worry about putting gas in my car, I won't have to worry about paying my mortgage.  If I help him, he's gonna help me.

Citizen Peggy Joseph in ecstasy
after hearing the Obamessiah speak at a rally
just before he was elected.

She is going to be one of millions of
very disappointed Obama voters in the years ahead.

Quote: Mr Obama's election [has] been hailed by world public opinion as the arrival of a Messiah ... who is also handsome, young and suntanned.

Silvio Berlusconi, speaking in Moscow to
the Russian Empire's vice-Czar
Dmitri Medvedev,
prompts righteous indignation from assorted PC multiculturists
who think his jocular remarks are
racist, or youngist or handsomist or whatever.

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

Quote: People are being slaughtered and [17,000 UN peacekeepers] did nothing

No, not the unfolding genocide in Rwanda in 1994
as frenzied Hutus murdered 800,000 Tutsis
under the disinterested gaze of the Club of Tyrants' own

This time it's the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The bitter remark was made by Joseph Kabila its elected president,
as fighting broke out in the east of the country
next door to, yes, Rwanda
and between yes, Hutus and Tutsis.

- - - - - - J A P A N - - - - - -

Quote: “It is certainly a false accusation to say that our country [Japan] was an aggressor [in World War 2] … Roosevelt trapped Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor in December 1941.”

General Toshio Tamogami, chief of staff of Japan's air force,
who has been sacked for such remarks,
which appear in his essay “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?

- - - - - - G A Y   M A R R I A G E - - - - - -

Quote: Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised in California.

Proposition 8, which Californians carried in a referendum by 52˝%,
after a campaign to which the Mormon Church contributed $70m
for the Yes-side (the No-side spent a similar amount).

No More Mr Nice Gay”,
Daniel Ginnes, a gay activist
vowing to protest the result.

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

Quote: “Sorry lads, I can't shake hands with you now. I'm like John McCain, I can't raise my arm above my shoulder.”

Conor Lenihan, an Irish Minister of State,
speaking to journalists after being censured
for calling a fellow parliamentarian a fascist
and allegedly raising his arm – above his shoulder – in a Nazi salute.

Quote: Sharon [is] simply wonderful ... straightforward and honest ... very loving and giving ... a decent lady ... one of the nicest people you could ever have been fortunate to know ... I will not give up on Sharon and will have no hesitation in living with her again.

Wealthy Irish businessman PJ Howard
at the sentencing of his would-be murderess Sharon Collins,
his former live-in girlfriend. 

She will serve six years for having tried to contract
an Egyptian hitman to kill him and his two sons
in order to inherit his money
via a phoney Mexican wedding certificate. 

Clearly, PJ is still starry eyed and besotted.

For the full fascinating story,
with all its twists and turns, see my post
My (ahem) Latest Crime Novel 

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 What I've recently
been reading

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

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

See detailed review


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


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


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


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

More details on my blog here.


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

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

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

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

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


part of a death march to Thailand,


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


regularly beaten and tortured,


racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,


a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as


Why does asparagus come from Peru?


Why are pandas so useless?


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


Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

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


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


Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

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


Other books here

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

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Over the competition,
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