Everyone understands that alcohol in any quantity
impairs your judgement and reaction times and therefore agrees with the
principle that if you drink then don't drive.
Yet distractions abound that also impair, for example,
ringing (even if you don't answer it)
Munching a sandwich
Drinking a coffee in one of those sealed paper cups
squabbling in the back seat
(especially with pretty girls or small print)
work, mortgage, illness, whatever)
signs and road markings
Late note (31 Dec 09):
Readers have pointed out that there are plenty of other
non-alcoholic distractions, including
Women applying make-up (using rear-view mirror)
Dogs sitting on laps (and unrestrained)
There is therefore a certain level of alcohol impairment
that is no more malign than these other acceptable diversions.
We do not know what this level is
Late Note of 16th April 2011
below], but most
have settled on a
maximum blood-alcohol level that is legal for driving, for example -
UK, Ireland: 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood
Continental Europe, Australia: 50mg/100ml (50mg for short)
Late note (16th
The Economist wrote on
16th April that
“such distractions, according to one
study, make drivers more collision-prone than having a
blood-alcohol level of .08% [ie 80 mg per 100ml],
the legal limit in America [also in UK and Ireland].
It appears to raise the risk of an accident by four
times. Texting multiplies the risk by several times
The distractions to which it refers exclude texting but
includes things that range
kids to food or the radio. But [talking with]
mobile phones pose the biggest risk”.
Also included are“merely
listening to somebody speak ... [with]
hands-free use of mobile phone”and even“conversation
This is the first evidential answer I have seen to the
point I raised above that
“There is a certain level of alcohol impairment
that is no more malign than these other acceptable diversions. We
do not know what this level is.”
It seems we now do: it is the
legal limit of 80 mg per 100ml.
Indeed, an organisation has been set up,
FocusDriven, which seeks to make “distracted
driving” today as socially unacceptable as drunk
driving has rightly become.
This Economist article provides another reason to
bolster my contention below, that reducing the limit to
50 mg per 100ml is no more than a vanity gesture by
fickle politicians and grandstanders. Enforcement
remains the key.
In Ireland there have been commendable
efforts over the past decade to enforce the law by (semi-)random breath-testing,
upping the annual arrest rate for drunken driving from from 11,000
to 18,000 and applying penalty points licences.
See this chart covering the period 1999-2008
According to a study by
Lane Clark & Peacock, a respected international actuarial
consultancy, this has helped reduce by about a third the road death rate
per population and per vehicle, as this chart running from 1980-2007
illustrates (both are from an
LCP study into road deaths in Ireland).
Evidence from all over the world indicates that the
thing that deters criminals more is not the severity of sentence for a given
crime but the
likelihood of getting caught. A strong chance of getting
apprehended followed by a light sentence is a greater deterrence,
apparently, than a lengthy sentence but only a remote chance of arrest.
By the same token, the sure way to deter drink-driving
is to increase the enforcement rather than worsening the punishment or
indeed lowering the blood-alcohol limit.
However, in Ireland (and probably elsewhere), there is a
problem with being truly grim about enforcement.
Statistics published by Ireland's HSE (Health & Safety Executive) confirm what everyone instinctively knows: that most drunks crash their
cars at the weekend ...
and during the hours of darkness, with a peak at 3 am
in other words driving home after an alcohol-fuelled
out in the pub, club, disco or restaurant.
Since that's where the problem clearly lies, that's
where the enforcement should concentrate. Breath-testers
should be waiting outside such establishments late at night at weekends
to pounce on patrons as they stagger out and into their cars.
But this would naturally cause uproar, not only on the
part of the thousands of drunk drivers who would find themselves fined,
penalty-pointed or banned, but among the entertainment establishments
themselves whose patronage would drop off dramatically.
That's why politicians - Irish ones at any rate - are
hugely reluctant to oblige the boys in blue to properly enforce the
80mg drink-drive limit.
It's also why they much prefer to introduce new
legislation (also to be under-enforced) so that they at least appear to be
Hence the Irish government's current proposal to reduce the limit to
50mg. Yet to everyone's surprise, backbenchers have stopped this
wheeze in its tracks because of the effect it would have on rural pubs
and on the fabric of rural society centred on going to the pub.
“wheeze” because that's what it is. The reason advanced for the
proposed reduction is twofold.
that Continental Europe have largely adopted 50mg (so what?).
Secondly because, according to the HSE, eighteen drivers were killed in
2003-05 with blood-alcohol levels of between 50mg and the current 80mg limit. Indeed, when the backbenchers
stymied the new law earlier this month, one front-page headline screamed that “10
will lose lives”, having seemingly
divided eighteen by two to get an annual figure.
The source of the eighteen is a
report, published last
December by the HSE, which tabulates drivers killed against differing
levels of alcohol within their systems. I have reproduced the
highlighting the relevant bits.
Blood-Alcohol Content levels on
killed drivers in Ireland,
The fact that eighteen men died in road accidents with a
BAC of between 50 and 80mg by no means proves that
this range of alcohol caused their deaths.
Look more closely at the table: if this conclusion were
true so would be another.
The fact that no fewer than 165 drivers were killed with
zero alcohol in their system equally
equally wrongly, that sober drivers are 60% more dangerous than those
with up to twice the current legal limit (103 killed). Moreover
HSE earlier reportedthat 65% of all road deaths in 1990-2006 were unrelated to
alcohol. Is driving sober that hazardous?
The truth is that no-one has ever demonstrated any
increase in accidents attributable solely to reducing the blood alcohol
limit from 80 to 50mg. Indeed, you only have to peruse accident reports in
here) to see that alcohol levels are invariably described as being
several times over the legal limit. Never marginally above, let alone
It is extraordinary that most drivers only learn they
are over the limit when stopped and breathalysed. It’s like
inadvertently breaking the speed limit when you have no speedometer.
A ready means for drivers to measure and control their
own inebriation, coupled with more focused enforcement of the existing
alcohol limit, will do far more to reduce alcohol-induced road accidents
than any amount of tinkering with legislation designed to dodge hard
Low cost pocket-sized breathalysers (eg
online) should be sold across the land so that every
carouser can easily keep an ongoing check on his/her own
Retailers should seize this business opportunity.
Similarly, every establishment that serves alcohol
should install a wall-mounted breathalyser for clients to test
themselves, as is widespread practice in, for example,
Coin-operated, such machines are even an added source of
The threat to life and limb of drunken
driving is too serious to contemplate any action unless it has a high
likelihood of reducing alcohol induced road accidents.
On the offchance one of my readers is a prosecutor of Radovan Karadzic
in what will undoubtedly be his interminable
war crimes trial in The Hague (Holland), and needs a home to live in
with his family, here is an excellent family house within a few minutes
from the centre of the Hague. In fact anyone would love to live
there, regardless of his/her occupation.
Spacious and sunny in a good
residential area with shopping, public transport and motorway network
nearby, it is close to the
British School and not far from the
It sports six bedrooms (so plenty of opportunity to create an office,
bar etc), a large living/dining room with open fireplace, a double
garage and lovely gardens front and back. The house was heavily
refurbished this year, with a brand new fully-fitted kitchen and four
It is coming towards the end of a very long rental to the American Embassy
(which is cutting back on staff) and
as such meets all the stringent requirements of the US government in
terms of security, electrical integrity and so forth.
And of course potential tenants are by no means restricted to war crimes
Full details of the house are available on the site of
Kimmel, the estate agent.
If interested, please contact them (they
speak excellent English), or else drop a line to me on
No sooner had I finished typing my ignorant diatribe
above about drunk driving when I stumbled over
a story about a guy in St Gallen, Switzerland
committed fifteen traffic offences in just eleven minutes, thereby
breaking some kind of world record surely worthy of recognition by
And not one of them was alcohol related. So he is evidently part
of the 65% of non-drunk drivers who cause mayhem on the roads, though in
his case one of the fifteen was failing a drugs test.
His litany of violations were that he
an unmarked police car doing 150 kph (94 mph) in a 100 kph zone
close to other cars and
too close to
the kerb and
across the white dividing line in the road, while
stop for police sirens, and
at a road
at a set of
red lights, then
130 kph in an 80 kph zone and
the hard shoulder while all the time
under the influence of drugs,
drive with due care and attention,
car with no MOT and
mobile telephone at the wheel.
The Swiss police must, in that law-abiding place (if you
don't count white-collar international tax fraud and money-laundering), be leading a very
dull life. With no chain-saw massacres or Bonnie-and-Clyde-style
bank robberies to deal with, a spokesman
droned on that
“I can't remember a case this serious. It's remarkable”.
No wonder they are so excited about having bagged that
paedophile Roman Polanski.
The driver was an Italian of course, aged 47, and the St
Gallen fuzz are hoping to ban him for years (until
“Halley's Comet makes its next appearance”
according to one of them [ie
2062]) and with luck have him cast into prison as well.
There is nothing police like more than throwing the book at a foreigner
(provided of course it's a he, he's middle-aged, he's straight, he's
and he's a nobody).
My own record-breaking traffic violation took place in
Italy where I was living as a callow youth in my mid-twenties and
driving my beloved red Fiat sports car (what else?). Spotting a speed-limit sign
of 15 kph on a straightish stretch of road at dead of night, I couldn't
deliberately floored the pedal until I reached 150 kph.
Miraculously I emerged unscathed, uncaught, unpunished, unrepentant.
And I have never heard of anyone ever managing to exceed a speed limit
anywhere by a factor of ten. That wimpish non-callow
Italian in Switzerland didn't manage even to double it. I bet that
Formula-One guy Lewis Hamilton has also never come close.
Something else for the Guinness Book of Records perhaps.
Two comments this time, on drink-driving and
Obama, some people's favourite topics, whether for or against.
A drop too muchP! Letter published by the Sunday Times To justify the proposed reduction of the
drink-drive blood-alcohol limit from 80 to 50 mg per 100ml, you
report that according to HSE research
“at least 18 drivers killed
in crashes between 2003 and 2005 had a blood alcohol level of between 50mg
and 80mg”. On its own, this statistic
proves nothing. The
same research also concludes that
Just surrender and be done with it
Comment in Atlantic
Blog I like the way Bruce Thornton, Victor Hanson's buddy,
puts it: Taking no for an answer seems to have become Mr Obama’s “presidential
trademark”. He asks and asks, but always gets the same answer.
The International Olympic Committee? NO to games in
“What Vice President Cheney calls
President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs
responds to Dick Cheney's charge that
the Obama administration is “dithering” over
General Stanley McChrystal's request for a surge of
40,000 additional troops for Afghanistan.
- - - - - U K - - - - -
Quote: “My father
served in the RAF during the Second World War
- yours spent it in
prison for refusing to fight Adolf Hitler.”
Nick Griffin, chairman of the much reviled
British National Party,
responds pugnaciously to the charge of
by Jack Straw, Britain's minister of justice.
But it's a bit pathetic for a grown man to say
“my daddy is braver than your daddy”.
The BBC had hitherto refused to invite the BNP
onto this forum,
until it won two parliamentary seats
in the European
election in June 2009.
Mr Griffin won
132,094 votes in that election.
That's nearly three times more democratic
than all the other panellists combined (Jack Straw
11,192, Chris Huhne
19,216, Bonnie Greer zero).
- - - - - I T A L Y - - - - -
“I recognise you are increasingly more
beautiful than you are intelligent.”
Silvio Berlusconi, 72, tries to put down Rosy Bindi, 58,
a former minister (under Romano Prodi),
during a TV argument he was losing.
Ms Bindi feistily replied
“I am not one of the women at your disposal”.
This exchange woke up 98,000 Italian feminists who
“It is by now well evident that a woman’s body
a major political weapon
in the armoury of the prime minister.
He sees women as physically seductive, pretty young things,
totally submissive to the Big Boss’s will.
We protest against this cretinisation of women, of politics and of democracy.
This man offends women and democracy.
Let’s stop him.”
It used to be that if you did something, eg a week's work, you then got
rewarded for it (eg wages). And if you achieved something extra
special (eg single-handedly destroyed an enemy gun-nest, doubled your
employer's share price, won the US Masters), you got a special reward (eg
a bravery medal, a bonus, a Green Blazer). The key sequence was
always that the act came before the award. This is for the very
simple reason that if the award is bestowed pre-emptively, the act may
not get delivered.
But with the advent of the Obamessiah, the rule seems to have changed,
at least for One.
Working on the academic staff of the the
University of Chicago Law
School in the 1990s, he conducted not an iota of research and published
not a single piece of academic work. Yet the University
mysteriously awarded him a professorship. As far as I can
ascertain, no-one in the West is ever appointed professor without an
impressive portfolio of published, peer-reviewed research to his/her
name, to which he/she is expected to add in the subsequent years.
But Professor Obama has faithfully maintained his research-free status
up to the present day (despite my helpful suggestion that he study
red élitism). UCLS's pre-emptive award demonstrates my point
Nevertheless, the Democratic Party followed by the American electorate
then seemed to take their cue from UCLS. Of all the people
available in a mighty and developed nation of 300 million people, it
would be hard to find one with a thinner résumé (community organizer?
university lecturer? one-term Senator?) and less qualified than the Obamessiah
for the Democratic nomination, never mind to be president. Up till January this year, he had run
absolutely nothing other than his presidential campaign (which it must
be said was superb). Even his election to Senatorial office in
Illinois was marked by
skulduggery to nobble opponents
rather than campaigning. Yet the Democrats decided to reward him
with their nomination and not long afterwards the electorate
rewarded him with the Presidency, all in the hope that he would
deliver a performance that would make him worthy of their confidence.
So far we are still waiting -
it's true he has delivered a massive stimulus, but in view of the
associated trillion dollar debt it is distinctly moot whether the
stimulus will turn out to be a boon or a curse.
His socialised healthcare plan is stalled. It
is being stymied by
the millions of Americans who have serious doubts about whether they
want their bodies nationalised and strongly believe this can only be
detrimental to their current health care arrangements.
He promised to end the war in Iraq and close Guantanamo in a year but is
delivering neither. Indeed, far from winding down wars, he has
escalated drone attacks in Pakistan and looks likely to ramp up military
operations in Afghanistan. Any eventual withdrawal from Iraq will be
very close in nature to that planned by George Bush.
His foreign policy, marked so far by
kowtowing to foreign despots,
rudeness towards allies and
has delivered nothing substantive.
Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Vladimir Putin: none of them are bending any policies in
America's favour, indeed they seem emboldened by what they appear to view
as the Obamessiah's weakness.
Of this unpleasant triumvirate,
probably Mr Ahmedinejad is the most toxic in view of his nuclear weapons
programme and avowed intention to destroy Israel and cow the whole
While Mr Ahmediniead has been diligently building up his nuclear
arsenal, the Obamessiah is declaring that he wants to denuclearise
America's, an example he would expect everyone else to emulate (yeah,
right) though not a single country is doing so.
Israel is the main ally he has been chastising, but again without
effect. Prime Minister Netanyahu has stood up to his demands to
stop all building, and has laid down his own challenge - that he will
support the creation of a
Palestinian State provided the Palestinians accept the
right of the Jews to their own Jewish state of Israel. The
Palestinians of course refuse such a notion; nor is there any sign
of the Obamessiah signing up to a vindictive agenda that grants Jews
the same right to a country as Palestinians.
In Afghanistan he dithers over the carefully reasoned demand by General
Stanley McChrystal, his newly-appointed commander, for 40,000 more
troops or face an American defeat.
In so many ways, the award of the Presidency has not met with any
substantive successes that might warrant the people's trust.
taking no for an answer seems to have become Mr Obama’s “presidential
trademark”. He asks and asks, but always gets the same answer.
International Olympic Committee?
games in Chicago
a settlement freeze
talks with Israel
Saudi friendly gesture to Israel
more troops for Afghanistan
official in Scotland? (Or London)
stopping the release of the Lockerbie bomber
loosening his dictatorial control
taking back its deposed president
thanks for cancelling anti-missile batteries in Eastern Europe)?
meaningful sanctions on Iran
This is one way that satirist Fred Armisen
expressed it on the US comedy TV show Saturday Night Live (which -
hilariously - CNN then
And now, mirabile dictu, the once sane and noble Nobel Foundation has
awarded to the Obamesssiah its
2009 peace price
“for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international
diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.
Given that nominations closed on 1st February, the five-strong committee
had only twelve days of the Obama presidency to assess those
“extraordinary efforts” coupled with customary non-achievement,
but that apparently was enough for those canny Norwegians.
Reports say their intention is
“to encourage his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease
tensions with the
Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than
In other words, this is another pre-emptive award for the Obamessiah.
Of course, the Nobel Peace committee has form when it
awarding its prizes on the basis of lunacy:
Jimmy Carter in 2002 for, well nothing really, just going round the
anti-Semitic bile (Gunnar Berge, the
committee chairman called it a "kick
in the leg" to George Bush);
Kofi Annan in 2001 for standing idly by during the
genocides and slaughters in Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, North Korea
Michael Gorbachev in 1990, for being (until ousted
by the Nobel-prize-less Boris Yeltsin) the last emperor
of the illegitimate,
mega-murderous, thoroughly foul Soviet Empire;
Yasser Arafat in 1994 for duplicitous peace-making
in the Middle East whilst simultaneously waging his terrorist war
against the Jews;
Henry Kissinger in 1973 for negotiating America's
defeat in Vietnam, a man who is also
accused (within Europe) of war-crimes during that conflict.
As Daily Beast blogger Peter Beinart
remarks, “Perhaps next they’ll start giving Oscars not to the
people who have made the best movies of last year, but to the people who
have the best chance of making the best movies next year”.
Naturally there was no Nobel peace prize
Reagan or Pope John Paul II for
liberating 258 million central and east Europeans from Soviet
fascism in 1989,
nor for George H Bush for assembling a UN-approved,
multi-national but mainly American force which in 1991
liberated Kuwait by reversing the invasion by the fascist Saddam
his son George W for
liberating 27m Afghans (especially the
womenfolk) from the fascist Taliban in 2001, plus
25 million Iraqis
from Saddam's fascism in 2003,
Margaret Thatcher for
all the Falkland Islanders from
Argentina's fascist military dictatorship in 1982, or indeed
negotiating an improbably peaceful return in 1997 of Hong Kong to
People's individual freedom is far, far down the list of priorities of
Oslo's self-preening Nobel
comprised as it is of left-leaning politicians.
So there you have it. If you are cool enough the normal rule of
act-followed-by-reward need not apply to you. Without a single
relevant achievement to your name, you can be awarded, entirely on a
And once you have them in your hot sticky hand, you need feel no
compunction to deliver anything at all ever to merit them.
What a blessed life you lead if your name is Barrack Obama.
But what does the Goddess Nemesis of ancient Greece ultimately hold in store for you as
you wallow in your pre-emptive rewards? For she never sleeps; she
stalks perpetually; she waits patiently for her opportunity; it always
Thirty years ago, many kinds of human behaviour here in
the West attracted opprobrium, in the form of social stigmas and taboos, in a fashion rarely seen any longer.
All this has changed.
About the only thing that is taboo these days is the
concept of taboo. Nothing must be forbidden. Everything is
OK. No-one must make a judgement about the behaviour of another
person. No-one's life-style choices are superior or inferior to
anyone else's - a concept that has acquired its own modern expression,
All of this seems to be rooted in a desire to be seen to be
“nice”, “caring”, “compassionate”, without thought
for whether the new approach is in fact “nice, caring or
compassionate” in its effect on others, particularly the young and
And are we (or they) better off for all that?
Perhaps it's a bit like being “nice” to your children by always
letting them off their homework. But how “nice” is this
when you are knowingly encouraging them to grow up and enter the adult
world ignorant both in knowledge and of self-discipline?
Similarly, you have to look at the world around you and
ask how better or worse off people have become as a result of the
lifting of those stigmas and taboos.
This table contrasts
scenarios in several high profile areas.
Days of Stigmas and Taboos
No more Stigmas and Taboos
Marriage, between one man and one woman committed to
“till death do us part”,
was the bedrock of society, as it had been for centuries, underwritten
both by organised religion and by the State. It was the
unquestioned institution through which babies were procreated and within
which the two parents raised and educated their children to adulthood.
Thus divorce was difficult to obtain, divorcees
were largely disdained (unfairly, women more than men), and second
marriages similarly frowned upon. (Marrying a divorcée cost King
Edward VIII his throne.) You tried not to advertise your divorced state. Conversely, if your marriage was difficult
you made every effort to preserve it somehow, not just for
the sake of the children but also to avoid the stigma of divorce.
Cohabitation also happened of course, but people did not
flaunt it and generally tried to keep it hidden, at least from their
parents and other family. Similarly, family members tended either
to throw a tantrum over the cohabitation, or else pretend to be unaware it was going on. A man and woman living together who were
not married to each other was a societal taboo.
So was the result of cohabitation: a child born out of
wedlock was classified as
if you were polite or a
if not. Likewise for any child born to a single mother.
Unjustly, the child was often stigmatised more than its
mother, and the father would largely escape serious censure.
Society's message was loud and clear: unmarried people should not
The removal of stigmas associated with
cohabitation and illegitimacy have spawned more of both.
Personally, I don't care what mess individuals make of their own
lives as a result of their own choices, but I do care about the
mess they cause others. And the massive rise in children
of unmarried parents has vastly increased the misery caused to
the latter, in terms of
parenting (harassed working mother, lack of a father,
disinterest or hostility of a step-parent),
propensity to compensate through, say, alcohol, drugs,
leading ultimately to reduced chances in
There are countless such offspring for
each child who, under the old regime, would be miserable because
his/her parents are locked in an undivorceable marriage that has
become loveless and acrimonious.
Unfortunately, it seems that when a few adults suffer (eg
those unable to divorce), they get more attention than vast numbers of
children who suffer (eg from dysfunctional home life).
But if you have a desire for the greater good of
mankind, you have to mourn the loss of the old stigmas, for the
undeserved damage visited on a new generation.
Of course killing the
and any other foetus through abortion was also heavily
stigmatised and indeed in most jurisdictions illegal.
This led to a lot of back street abortions, many no doubt
competently performed, but some would lead to medical problems
and occasionally even death of the mother.
abortions were never talked about and I never heard of anyone
admitting to having had one.
Abortion has become such an
accepted part of modern society in most Western countries that
it is now considered no more than a medical procedure - like
having you tonsils out.
The only taboo seems to be to draw attention to the fact that
an innocent human life is being extinguished for being
inconvenient. Portrayals and descriptions of the abortion
process are beyond the pale, because, I suppose, truth hurts.
Strangely, however, it was one taboo area where
women were less reviled than men, partly perhaps because males
and maybe also females (famously Queen Victoria) found lesbian
activity something difficult to imagine.
There is no more justification for the
persecution of gays than there is of those born with a club foot
or red hair, and what adults choose to do privately and without
harming others is their own business not anyone else's.
You don't have to like such people or their behaviour (or anyone
else for that matter), but it is wrong to take steps to
them for being what they are, as God made them.
Nevertheless, it is a different matter to
“celebrate” such characteristics as if everyone should
aspire to them. Peter Davies, the outspoken and
controversial new mayor of Doncaster has it exactly right when
“I don't think councils should be spending
[taxpayers'] money on [gays and lesbians] parading
through town advertising their sexuality”.
This celebratory maxim is leading to the growing idea of a
an oxymoron if ever there was one. Civil societies
accord traditional one-man-one-woman marriage certain advantages
(principally reduced taxation) for the simple reason that this
is the proven best institution for procreating and raising
responsible future citizens who assure the continuation of that
As soon as you grant similar privileges to other forms of union
(gay, polygamous, sexless, economic, whatever) you downgrade the
special nature of traditional marriage while spending taxpayers'
money with no payback to taxpayers. Ultimately, this
will be harmful to the interests of children, whose needs become
secondary to the desires of gay adults.
when gays and lesbians are the sole additional group singled out
“marriage”, rather than say friendly bridge partners or
elderly sisters, society is saying in effect that gay sex is a
necessary pre-requisite for the tax benefits, an extraordinary
So the lifting of taboos against homosexuals,
while to be welcomed as far as halting their former persecution
is concerned, is undoubtedly of harm to society as a whole -
meaning children, the future of society. Bill Clinton had
it right, I think, when he brought in the
ask don't tell” legislation for gays in the US military.
This accepts the existence of gays and their right to be left
alone, but without rubbing everyone's nose in the issue.
Monotheistic religion was a central part of most
people's lives. Usually (in the West) this entailed membership of
one of the many Christian, Orthodox or Jewish
churches/temples/synagogues. Of course a minority might not
believe with the same fervour as their colleagues; many observed the rituals more out of habit or conformance than firm
Nevertheless to openly reject your religion was
socially suspect and to declare yourself an atheist almost
unthinkable. It was easier to go along with conventional
religion, and in the process absorb the associated lessons of
morality (love your neighbours instead of killing/robbing/raping
them) not just in childhood but throughout your life.
As far as religion is
concerned, Christianity and Judaism, in all their forms, have
been marked by one huge good for society: their admonishment for
us to behave well towards our fellow man and woman - no killing, lying,
raping, stealing etc.
These are taken to be
self-evident virtues, but they are not. They are, in a
sense, unnatural. Our base instincts are, like all
animals, to grab what we want, not to earn it honestly, nor to
politely ask for it nor to quietly accept a rebuttal. It
is these two religions which in western societies have for
centuries nurtured modern virtues of civilised behaviour.
Yet today, militant
anti-religion and atheism are the new badges of sophisticated
society, worn with pride.
But without the
architecture of Christianity and Judaism, it is much harder to
make the case for civilised behaviour, for intrinsic morality,
regardless of whether you actually believe in the existence of
There is surely a strong
link between the rise of crime and anti-social behaviour and
today's lack of religious instruction, at home, school or
church, about the Ten Commandments and Jewish equivalents.
That's another lost taboo which is having untold harmful
consequences for society.
Finally, there was unemployment benefit, or the dole.
In Britain it was introduced
in 1911, but its use really took off on a long-term basis during the
economic slump that followed the first oil price explosion in the 1970s
and further during the 1980s downturn triggered by Margaret Thatcher's
vital restructuring of the hopelessly imploding British economy.
The point of the dole was that it was a safety net to
help you out for the (hopefully brief) period when you were out of work
and desperately seeking a new job.
But it was something shameful,
to be avoided if at all possible. You certainly wouldn't tell
everyone you were taking the dole (which you recognised was money
removed from the pocket of the sympathetic taxpayer) and society
expected you to get out and find employment as fast as possible.
dispute the moral imperative to help those who for genuine
reasons fall on hard times or lose their job, provided the
grounds are indeed authentic and outside their reasonable control and
they make every effort to get back on their feet?
But who can defend those who spend their
life on the dole, or who regard it as a legitimate way to take
voluntary time-out between tiresome jobs?
It is to expect other people to pay your
way, without limit or indeed sometimes without reason.
Yet removal of the stigma of the dole
has fostered just such an attitude, which not only robs the taxpayer
but erodes the incentive to get off the dole. It ultimately
destroys the dignity of the claimant who takes no responsibility
for his/her own welfare.
Those stigmas and taboos may have had unpleasant effects on individuals
finding themselves on the wrong side of them, but there is no doubt that
their erosion has had even worse consequences for a far greater number
of human beings.
Experience over the past few
decades have abundantly illustrated that stigmas and taboos play
a constructive role in society.
I've never seen it, I've hardly ever heard it, I've
never done it; cliff diving that is. And I can think of no way to
work this Youtube clip from Discovery Channel into a coherent post.
But it's thrilling and frightening so I'd love to share it. Judge
There are plenty more, filled with equal terror, where
that came from.
A single submission this week, based on my previous issue's
lead post about the respectability of statutory rape.
Perverts' defense association
Comment in Atlantic Blog Tom Shales and Anne Applebaum are merely exemplars of the growing
respectability, among certain (largely celebrity-obsessed) parts of the
liberal West and media, of grown men raping under-age pre-pubescent
girls. As I write in my latest Tallrite Blog, it seems that child rape
“I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the
decision of the Nobel commission.”
President Barack Obama on learning that
he has “won” the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize having so far
achieved absolutely nothing in the field of peace.
He is not half as surprised as everyone else,
from every persuasion, at this lunatic award.
“We’re going to treat [Fox News] the way
we would treat an opponent.”
Anita Dunn, the White House's communications director,
puts the Obama Administration on a war footing
against one of America's major news networks,
the only one not sufficiently obsequious to the Obamessiah.
“Every time they do it [criticise us], our ratings go up.”
remarks Bill Shine, Fox’s senior vice president for programming.
“What has become of America, when Chicago can't
steal an election?”
Mitch Daniels, the Governor of
despite special pleading by Barack and Michelle Obama
in person in Copenhagen -
the International Olympic Committee voted down Chicago
for the 2016 Olympics in favour of Rio de Janeiro
“A Ceann Comhairle, I regret to say this, but I
consider that your position is no longer tenable. I think you
will either have to resign, or I think you will have to be removed
Eamon Gilmore, leader of Ireland's opposition Labour party,
does something that is rarely if ever seen
in the famously unaccountable world of Irish politics.
He calls for the resignation not just of a Minister but of
John O'Donoghue, the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of the house).
Mr O'Donoghue's sin was to fritter half a million €uros
of tax-payers money on luxury junkets around the world
during four boom years (2002-07) as Minister of Arts, Sports and
followed by €200,000 over the past two recessionary years as
Within a day Mr O'Donoghue had agreed to resign.
Interestingly, it seems that the previous Taoiseach,
the corrupt Bertie Ahern, had,
when demoting Mr O'Donoghue in 2002 from Justice Minister
to Minister of Arts, Sports and Tourism,
told him to enjoy himself with lavish jaunts by way of compensation.
“I never transgressed any procedure, guideline or
regulation. I never committed any offence. I am not guilty of
any corruption. I never took money or abused my office for my
In a half-hour resignation whinge,
Mr O’Donoghue makes plain
that he doesn't know the difference between right and wrong,
only how to keep within the (ridiculously lax) rules.
Stephen Hunt, an Ireland soccer international,
accurately portrays soccer pundit Eamon (“Worzel
Gummidge”) Dunphy, who
had branded as a
“travesty, a terrible performance, shameful”
his country's performance against Italy
in a world cup qualifier.
Yet unfancied Ireland had come within a whisker of
defeating the world
conceding a 90th minute goal that saved Italy's blushes
by bringing the score to 2-2.
It used to be that one crime was heinous above all
others: the rape of children. The horror of this crime would be
shared across the spectrum of civilisation, from socialist to
capitalist, from rich to poor, from young to old, from gay to straight.
The Irish Catholic clergy is the butt of all kinds of
odium because of the appalling way some of its clergy maltreated children in their care in the 1970s and earlier, as documented earlier
this year in what has become a notorious
chronicle of child abuse, including rampant sexual abuse.
Similar abuses occurred in the US, Australia and Canada and were not
exclusive to the clergy of the Catholic faith, or indeed clergy.
All such behaviours have attracted universal horror and opprobrium.
But last June,
David Letterman, host of America's most popular chat show, mocked the
hated and feared Sarah Palin in one of his stand-up comedy routines.
Nothing wrong with that; she's a grown-up politician who has put herself
into the limelight. However his jibes also included the following(last
two minutes of video clip):
Palin went to a Yankees [baseball] game yesterday. There was
one awkward moment during the seventh-inning stretch: her daughter
was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”
daughter accompanying Ms Palin was Willow, 14; Mr Rodriquez, 34, is one
of the Yankees' stars.
So the nub of Mr Letterman's joke was the impregnation by an adult of a
fourteen-year-old girl. Statutory rape of a child - what a laugh.
He later, between sniggers, apologised
to Willow pretending that be meant her 18-year-old sister Bristol.
However the mass
media were extraordinarily reluctant to report on the issue in any
detail. They preferred to tolerate the idea of paedophilia then
expose a story that was other than mocking of Sarah Palin and her
And over the past month, there have been two
cases involving the rape of thirteen-year-old girls, yet elements of
society (take a guess, Left?, Right?) seem to consider this to be a far
less serious offence than that perpetrated by those who have been trying
to do something about it.
First there is the scandal of
ACORN, an acronym
for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
ACORN, funded in part by the US government, is
ostensibly an organization which provides assistance to poor people and
minorities and also helps mobilise them to vote - for the Democrats.
Community organizer Barack Obama used to work for and with ACORN and
arrange donations to it. ACORN in turn made an important contribution
to getting out the vote for his successful election to the presidency,
albeit partly through
massively fraudulent voter registration (of
repeat, dead and non-existent people); it also donated money to his
campaign. In gratitude, he promised to invite ACORN to the
White House to
help him formulate policy.
He also appointed
Patrick Gaspard, a longtime ACORN operative, as his political
director in the White House where he has become one of its most powerful
figures (as did Karl Rove who held the job under George Bush).
A few weeks ago, James
O'Keefe (25) and Hannah Giles (20), a couple of rookie journalists working for
syndicated columnist Andrew
Breitbart, mounted a sting against ACORN.
O'Keefe posed as a
would-be pimp and Ms Giles as his girlfriend, a provocatively dressed hooker.
visited an ACORN office in
Baltimore, Maryland, where Mr O'Keefe identified himself as
a businessman with plans for pimping and his girlfriend as a prostitute.
He asked for assistance in
setting up a brothel to be staffed by fourteen-year-old girls who would be illegally brought in
from San Salvador. Far from calling the police, the two ACORN
ladies manning the office provided every kind of advice:
how to get
disguise the nature of their illicit business,
how to dodge
the immigration authorities so as to smuggle the underage girls
illegally into the country
how to cheat
But the young couple were filming the whole thing by secret camera, and
then released the results
The Youtube clips went viral, and Americans have been outraged at the thought that their
tax dollars have undeniably been funding activities that are not just
blatantly against the law, but in facilitating child sex are demonstrably evil.
But not all Americans. Not pro-Obama Democrats.
Apart from token support for the summary dismissal of two ACORN staffers
involved in the sting and the curtailment of some Federal funding, they are more concerned with nailing the two
rookie journalists than condemning and stamping out the child-sex-promoting culture within ACORN. ACORN
plans to sue the investigating pair and others involved, because
they “recorded the staff members without their consent, which is
illegal [in Maryland]”.
Child-sex clearly takes a lower priority than protecting the Obama aura.
Not unlike that other child-sex story on the other side
of the Atlantic.
Undoubtedly, movie director Roman Polanski had a
difficult start to his life that none would envy. Born in
Paris in 1933 to a Polish Jew and a Russian half-Jew, the family moved
to Krackow a few years before Hitler invaded Poland. As Jews, the
family was in due course herded by the Nazis into the Krackow Ghetto in
1941; father and son survived the war but in 1942 mother was murdered in
Moving back to Soviet-occupied Krackow after the war, Mr Polanski
launched himself as an actor and director of movies. As his film
success grew, he moved progressively to France, England and America in
pursuit of greater opportunities. In 1968 in the US he married
a beautiful young actress, Sharon Tate. The same year, his movie reputation really took off
in Hollywood with
Rosemary's Baby, his career never having really looked back since
then. However in 1969 his wife, then 8½
months pregnant, was
brutally murdered at home by Charles Manson and his drug-crazed gang of fellow
So with these personal
traumas, anyone should cut Mr Polanski a bit of slack.
In 1977 then aged 44, he
pleaded guilty to
“unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor”,
in other words what would today be called statutory rape. This was
a plea-bargain in order to escape additional charges, which
included rape, sodomy (twice), child molestation and giving alcohol and drugs to
a minor, in the home of his friend Jack Nicholson. Such a package
would probably have attracted incarceration for life.
However between his guilty plea and receiving his lesser
jail sentence, he skipped bail and fled to France. He has been
living in Europe ever since, making great movies, travelling all over
the world (except America), being universally feted and collecting countless awards.
And there's not much evidence of remorse from this
self-confessed paedophile rapist either. In 1979
bragged to Martin Amis
“If I had killed somebody, it
wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see. But …
f**king, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f**k young
girls. Juries want to f**k young girls. Everyone
wants to f**k young girls.”
But last week, after more than three decades on the run
from the US, he
showed up in Zurich for one award too many: the Swiss locked
him up on foot of an international
arrest warrant issued by the Americans
who are still doggedly seeking his extradition.
So has the world applauded the Swiss for finally
apprehending a convicted paedophile rapist? No, not exactly
everyone is cheering.
The movie industry
and others are working themselves into a lather of indignation over the arrest.
Under the co-ordination of the
des Auteurs et
a film industry
also represents performance and
visual artists, more
than seventy film industry luminaries have
signed a petition
demanding his immediate release.
Polish film-makers have joined the chorus to prevent what they like to
call a “judicial
Berlin Film Festival expressed its solidarity by
treatment of one of the world's most outstanding film directors.
We declare our deep respect for Roman Polanski and we demand his
The media in general refer coyly only to
to Mr Polanski in 1977.
There is little mentionabout the heinous crime this monster
that he raped a child barely in her teens. The lack of outrage
over this minor detail is palpable. (How might the media have
reacted had his name been Father Polanksi?)
So it seems that child rape - whether as a
(Letterman) or planning a brothel (ACORN) or actually doing it (Polanksi)
- is becoming just a further
expression of the West's rich cultural heritage.
At least Islam is more honest and open about embracing
the same foul practice, widespread in many Muslim countries.
Mohammed set the pattern when, in his fifties, he married six-year-old Aisha and
deflowered her at nine.
In 1979, one of the first acts of Ayatollah Khomeini - himself a
paedophile - was, in evident homage to Aisha and Mohammed, to lower the age of consent in Iran to the same
But we Christians, Jews, agnostics and atheists in the
West like to think we are morally superior. Many of us, it
appears, are not.
The statutory rape of children is becoming respectable
in certain quarters on both sides of the Atlantic.
Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Castro, Kim ... what have they got
in common with Barrack Hussein Obama?
They all believe that school children should be
indoctrinated into singing the praises of their beloved leader,
preferably using a patriotic melody. You expect that kind of stuff
from totalitarian dictatorships. But in the world's greatest
Judge for yourself. This was recorded at
the B Bernice Young elementary school in
New Jersey earlier this year.
Unlike the unfortunate semi-brainwashed American children, I am rendered
are the nauseating words of the two hagiographic songs the kids are
forced to sing.
Mm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama
He said that all must
lend a hand
To make this country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama
He said we must be
Equal work means equal pay
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama
He said that we must
take a stand
To make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama
He said red, yellow,
black or white
All are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama
Mmm, mmm, mm
Barack Hussein Obama
Hello, Mr. President
we honor you today!
For all your great accomplishments,
we all doth say "hooray!"
You are number one!
The first black American
to lead this great nation!
Hooray, Mr. President
we honor your great plans
To make this country's economy
number one again!
Hooray Mr. President,
we're really proud of you!
And we stand for all Americans under the great Red, White, and
So continue ---- Mr.
we know you'll do the trick
So here's a hearty hip-hooray ----
Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!
As the Chinese Communist Party celebrates the 60th
anniversary of seizure of power in China on 1st October 1949 , let us
not forget ...
The appalling crimes of President Hu Jin Tao's Communist
which continues to illegitimately rule China after six long decades, are
by far the most evil of anyone or any entity anywhere on earth, since
the beginning of time.
Thank God the degree of State criminality
and inhumanity within China has hugely decreased
since the death of the Party's foul founder Mao Tse Tung, but it
To emphasise the Party's ongoing reverence to Mao, Mr Hu
dressed up for the 60th anniversary celebrations on 1st October in a Mao
suit, which says it all.
This is a regime which all humans beings
should spit at, not congratulate.
Conspitulations from the Tallrite Blog.
Last week Ireland staged its second referendum to consider whether to
execrable Lisbon Treaty.
June last year, the Irish with a 53% turnout soundly
rejected Lisbon by 53.4% to 46.6%. The reaction of the horrified
Irish politicians was to immediately rush to Brussels to apologise
the people's impertinence, to grovel for a few titbits and promise to do
better next time.
Well, that and the fear induced by the country's subsequent (though
unrelated) economic collapse, did the trick. Last week in the
result was reversed. 59% of voters voted Yes by 67% to 33%.
we Naysayers, who (according
to Ireland's pro-Lisbon Commissioner Charlie McCreevy) unlike in
Ireland constitute the vast majority of populations across the EU were
they only to be asked, have to rely on the Czech and Polish presidents
and a British general election to save us from Lisbon.
course natural justice would demand that the Irish now hold yet another
referendum, so as the ultimate result would be determined by the best of three.
enough of the whingeing.
During furious correspondence raging in the Irish newspapers and online,
I stumbled across this little
anti-Lisbon gem by a commenter
who identifies himself as “Brian
It needs to be sung to the tune of
Phil the Fluter's Ball, which for those who have forgotten sounds like
incidentally, is the nickname of the much reviled Irish Taoiseach
Brian Cowen: a Big Ignorant F**ker From Offaly.
He leads the ruling Fianna Fail
stands for the National Assets Management Agency, Biffo's cunning
bail out his friends in the banks by frittering taxpayers' money to buy their toxic
property loans for 70% of face value, a ridiculously inflated price
in the current collapsed market.
The Pride of Brussels
you heard of Little Biffo, sure the man was out of luck
The times were going hard for him, he had the country broke
So he sent an invitation to the gentry one and all,
As to how he'd like their company to prop up Fianna Fáil
And when writin' out he was careful to suggest to them,
That if he lost the Lisbon Vote they’d all be out the dure,
The more they joined in, whenever he requested them
The better would their chances be to keep themselves secure.
Sure they don’t give a hoot, And they diddle on the fiddle, O;
Hopping in the middle, like a herrin' on the griddle, O.
Up! Down turn around we’re heading for the wall
But they don’t have to worry, they’re in bed with Fianna Fail.
Well, they came from every corner of the country with their wads
Credit cards were flashin’ between the winks and nods
Civil Society were totally aghast
At the thought of losing all their perks if Lisbon wasn’t passed.
What will we do said Biffo to the gatherin,
We’ll have to promise somethin’ to get them on our side
If they vote NO again we’ll all take a batterin
With NAMA comin’ down the road they’ll surely have our hide.
Sure they don’t give a hoot, And they diddle on the fiddle, O;
Hopping in the middle, like a herrin' on the griddle, O.
Up! Down turn around we’re heading for the wall
But they don’t have to worry, they’re in bed with Fianna Fail
When they all heard this they were totally distraught
No more trips on private jets or jaunts to foreign parts
But the Big Boys of Business put the smile back on their gobs
“Sure we’ll scare the daylights out of them, then promise them all jobs”.
Well they all leapt up with the greatest joviality
Jigs were danced, Biffo leppin’ like a hare
Hands were grasped with great conviviality
To be the Pride of Brussels – was their one and only care.
Sure they don’t give a hoot, And they diddle on the fiddle, Oh
Hopping in the middle, like a herrin on the griddle, Oh .
Up! Down turn around we’re heading for the wall
But they don’t have to worry, they’re in bed with Fianna Fail
Five submissions, none of them reaching the printed media,
but all managed to
“scratch my itch”.
Punitive responses continue the cycle of violence Comment in the the Irish Times to an article by Breda
Ghandi is often trotted to show how non-violence can defeat a global
empire. It is a false example. Ghandi succeeded only because of the
inherent civility and morality of the British Imperialists. What would
have been the outcome, does Ms O'Brien imagine, had Ghandi's adversary
been the Stalinist Soviet Empire, or ...
Comment in William Sjostrom's Atlantic Blog Funny how these "brave" "cutting edge" "comedians" and others love
having a go at Christians ("piss Christ" etc) and Jews (Tommy Tiernan).
Yet when did they last put Mohammed into a bottle of urine or proclaim
that they would have love to have killed twice as many Mohammedans as
the Crusaders did? Wonder why their silence? Interestingly, even
atheists seem to be off-limits for "comedians" ...
Would you welcome the introduction of a new postal code system? Comment in the Irish Times in response to a poll
question Yes, postcodes please, but ONLY if they are
all numerals, like in America, or failing that all letters. The worst of
all combinations is the mix of numerals and capital letters you have in
UK and Canada. Why? Well, they were designed for an ancient world of
handwriting that ...
Libel Comment in Atlantic Blog
Stalin was responsible for at least 24½ million deaths, through
slave-labour camps, man-made famine and executions - each category
exceeding Hitler's paltry six million Jews. See
this chart ...
Just who is the racist? Comment in Atlantic Blog Of course, what
Richard Cohen skilfully dodges as regards the "birthers" is that
Obama has never to this day produced his original birth certificate and
has spent a reported $100k on lawyers to prevent its release. What he
has provided is a Hawaiian, computer-generated
Chinese Uighur prisoners at Guantanamo Bay,
speaking to visiting reporters.
They also held up offensive messages that included references to
Completely coincidentally, President Obama,
in the spirit of the greater openness and transparency
much touted during his campaign,
has drastically curtailed the programme of visits by reporters
to Guantanamo that was set up by his disparaged predecessor.
Reporters are being punished for the
(embarrassing) sins of prisoners.
Meanwhile two Uighur prisoners released from
are being resettled in Ireland,
renowned for its shortage of home-grown terrorists.
“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated
animosity towards President Barack Obama is based on the fact that
he is a black man, that he is an African American. In the
south ... and the rest of the country ... racism ... still exists
and I think it has bubbled up to the surface because of the belief
of many white people ... around the country that African Americans
are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable
Without producing a single shred of evidence,
blatantly anti-Semite old fraud ex-President Jimmy Carter
brands as racist all white people who dare object to
President Obama's healthcare and other plans.
Shame on the TV interviewer for not asking Mr
whether he was expressing feelings or facts,
and if the latter what evidence they were based on.
“The goal is clear: Two states living side by
side in peace and security -- a Jewish state of Israel, with true
security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian
state with contiguous territory that ends the
occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the
President Barack Obama, speaking the to UN
at the opening of its General Assembly
in New York on 23rd September.
Short of digging a
36 km tunnel,
Gaza and the West bank can become a
only by bisecting Israel into non-contiguity.
This is a new demand by America,
that places Palestinian contiguity above Israeli contiguity.
Is this the same man who declared,
when campaigning last year before American Jews (AIPAC),
that Jerusalem (never mind Israel) “must
“It's just unambiguously a bad decision. Russia and
Iran are the big winners. I just think it's a bad day for American
John Bolton, pugnacious former US ambassador
to the UN under George Bush,
castigates the Obama administration
for appeasing both Russia and Iran
by cancelling America's plans for
anti-missile defences in Poland and the Czech Republic.
While Russia now fearlessly mounts
provocative war games titled
Iran can continue happily developing its
long-range missiles and nuclear warheads.
Now it's only those dratted Jews who stand in
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
quotes the Jewish leader Hillel,
who lived in Jerusalem in Roman times.
He is referring to putting a definitive stop
to Iran's nuclear weapons programme,
which is a growing threat of the utmost gravity
to the very existence of the Jewish state and its population.
“The Jews say they never killed Jesus ... well it wasn't the
f**kin Mexicans ... These Jews, these f**kin Jew c**ts come up to
me, f**kin Christ-killing bastards. F**kin six million of them
- I would have ten or twelve million out of that, no f**kin problem.
F**k them. Two at a time they would have gone. Hold
hands, get in, leave us your teeth and your glasses.”
Tommy Tiernan, an Irish
displays rabid 1930s-style Teutonic anti-Semitism
of a sort that had supposedly disappeared
save in the depraved atmosphere of Islam.
course St Paul kicked off the Christian calumny
about Jews having killed Jesus Christ
when, in his first letter to the Thessalonians (2:14-15)
during the first century, he wrote bluntly and falsely that,
“the Jews … killed … the Lord Jesus”.
They didn't; the Romans did, under the
Rome's colonial governor Pontius Pilate.
Therefore all Christian anti-Semitism through the centuries
should have been directed instead at the Italians.
Mr Tiernan's rant should not, as some advocate,
Rather, his career should be destroyed
by people avoiding his shows in disgust.
- - - - - I R V I N G K R I S T O L
- - - - -
government is a terrible idea since it can lead to world tyranny.
International institutions that point to an ultimate world
government should be regarded with the deepest suspicion.”
Irving Kristol, 1920-2009,
a towering American intellectual,
“godfather of neoconservatism”.
Clearly, those who by voting Yes to the Lisbon
pave the way to the interim solution
of an all-Europe government,
would not agree with the late Mr Kristol.
“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