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Indexes
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To find an archived article, simply click on Index and scroll the subject titles, or do a Ctrl-F search

TALLRITE BLOG 
ARCHIVE

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

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

Ill-informed and Objectionable Comment by an anonymous reader

October 2009

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ISSUE #197 - 4th October 2009

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ISSUE #198 - 18th October 2009

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ISSUE #199 - 25th October 2009

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Date & Time in Westernmost Europe

See the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience

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ISSUE #199 - 25th October 2009 [225+1472=1697]

Just for fun, the latest Rasmussen poll on President Barack Obama's popularity will
from now on be published at the head of the Tallrite Blog. The date is on the chart.

Rasmussen Daily Poll - 3 Nov 2009Rasmussen Daily Poll - 3 Nov 2009

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Don't Lower the Drink Drive Limit

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Hague House for Rent

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Fifteen Laws Broken in Eleven Minutes

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Issue 199’s Comments to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 199

Don't Lower the Drink Drive Limit

Don't lower the drink-drive limit; instead measure and enforceEveryone 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, 

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Car radio

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Phone ringing (even if you don't answer it)

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Munching a sandwich

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Drinking a coffee in one of those sealed paper cups

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Spouse's chatter

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Kids squabbling in the back seat

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Billboards (especially with pretty girls or small print)

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Worry (about work, mortgage, illness, whatever)

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Traffic signs and road markings

Late note (31 Dec 09):


Readers have pointed out that there are plenty of other
non-alcoholic distractions, including

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Women applying make-up (using rear-view mirror)

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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 [but see Late Note of 16th April 2011 below], but most jurisdictions have settled on a maximum blood-alcohol level that is legal for driving, for example -  

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USA, Canada, UK, Ireland: 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood

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Much of Continental Europe, Australia: 50mg/100ml (50mg for short)

Late note (16th April 2011):

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 again.

The distractions to which it refers exclude texting but includes things that range

from 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 with passengers”.

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 weekend night 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 doing something.  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. 

I say wheeze” because that's what it is.  The reason advanced for the proposed reduction is twofold.  

Click here for Today's PaperFirstly 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 table below, highlighting the relevant bits. 

Blood-Alcohol Content levels on killed drivers in Ireland, 2003-05
Blood Alcohol Level, mg per 100ml Male Female Total
Nbr % Nbr % Nbr %
Not recorded as done/not available 169 33.6 45 41.7 214 35.1
Zero 132 26.2 33 30.6 165 27
1-19 7 1.4 5 4.6 12 2
20-49 12 2.4 6 5.6 18 2.9
50-80 18 3.6 0 0 18 2.9
81-159 50 9.9 5 4.6 55 9
160-239 65 12.9 9 8.3 74 12.1
240+ 50 9.9 5 4.6 55 9
Total 503 100 108 100 611 100
Source: Alcohol in Fatal Road Crashes in Ireland 2003-2005”, p15 Table 8
              Health & Safety Executive (of Ireland), December 2008

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 proves, equally wrongly, that sober drivers are 60% more dangerous than those with up to twice the current legal limit (103 killed).  Moreover the HSE earlier reported that 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 newspapers (eg here) to see that alcohol levels are invariably described as being several times over the legal limit. Never marginally above, let alone below.

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 decisions.

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Low cost pocket-sized breathalysers (eg €20-30 long available online) should be sold across the land so that every carouser can easily keep an ongoing check on his/her own alcohol absorption.

Retailers should seize this business opportunity. 
 

Perfectly adequate; pocket size; €30 (delivered to Ireland)

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Similarly, every establishment that serves alcohol should install a wall-mounted breathalyser for clients to test themselves, as is widespread practice in, for example, Australia. 

Coin-operated, such machines are even an added source of revenue. 


Wall-mounted, coin-operated.  Should be installed in every club, pub and restaurant

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.   

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Hague House for Rent

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 American School.

 Beautiful refurbished house in Mariahoeve, just outside The Hague, Netherlands

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 new bathrooms. 

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 prosecutors!

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 blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com. 

Oh, and the rent is negotiable. 

Declaration of interest:
It's my house

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Fifteen Laws Broken in Eleven Minutes

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 Scene of the crime: St Gallenwho committed fifteen traffic offences in just eleven minutes, thereby breaking some kind of world record surely worthy of recognition by Guinness.  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

  1. raced past an unmarked police car doing 150 kph (94 mph) in a 100 kph zone while

  2. driving too close to other cars and

  3. too close to the kerb and

  4. weaving across the white dividing line in the road, while

  5. failing to stop for police sirens, and

  6. at a road block and

  7. at a set of red lights, then

  8. driving at 130 kph in an 80 kph zone and

  9. endangering life through

  10. reckless driving then

  11. driving on the hard shoulder while all the time

  12. driving under the influence of drugs,

  13. failing to drive with due care and attention,

  14. driving a car with no MOT and

  15. using a 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 white and he's a nobody).  

My beloved, speed-limit defying Fiat 124 SpiderMy 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 resist.  I 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. 

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Issue 199’s Comments to Cyberspace

Two comments this time, on drink-driving and Obama, some people's favourite topics, whether for or against. 

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A drop too much P!
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 ...

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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 Chicago ...

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Quotes for Issue 199

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

Quote: It feels just unbelievable, it’s like as if the past 3½ months have been like a dream.

Nightmare more like.  Sharon Commins,
an aid worker with the excellent Irish charity GOAL,
upon her release
107 days after being kidnapped in Darfur,
along with a Ugandan colleague, Hilda Kawuki. 

Amongst other abuses, the young women
were subjected to frequent mock executions. 

The rumour - hotly denied - is that the Irish government,
via the Sudan government,
paid a $150,000 ransom for their freedom.

We know them by name, clan and tribe,
so they will never escape punishment,

said Sudan’s humanitarian affairs minister
Abdul Bagi al-Jailani of the kidnappers

- - - - - J I H A D - - - - -

Quote: What is a proportionate attack against an enemy dedicated to exterminating your people? A dedication to exterminating all of his?

Harold Evans, former editor of the Sunday Times,
writing in the Guardian's
Comment is Free” column
about about Israel's' recent war in Gaza. 

He generated an enormous stream of entertaining vitriol,
all along the lines of -
how dare he say anything in defence of Israel and
how dare the Guardian publish such tripe
”.

Quote: What Vice President Cheney calls dithering, President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform.”

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 Nazism
by Jack Straw, Britain's minister of justice. 

They were sharing a platform on the BBC Question Time programme.

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 votes
than all the other panellists combined (Jack Straw 17,562,

Sayeeda Warsi 11,192, Chris Huhne 19,216, Bonnie Greer zero).

- - - - - I T A L Y - - - - -

Quote: 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 declared
It is by now well evident that a woman’s body has become
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.

So there.

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See the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience

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ISSUE #198 - 18th October 2009 [386]

Just for fun, the latest Rasmussen poll on President Barack Obama's popularity will
from now on be published at the head of the Tallrite Blog. The date is on the chart.
Rasmussen Daily Poll - 12 September 2009

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Nemesis Stalks Pre-Emptive Rewards

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Stigmas and Taboos Play a Constructive Role

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Terror of Cliff Diving

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Issue 198’s Comment to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 198

Nemesis Stalks Pre-Emptive Rewards

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 about non-delivery.

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 -

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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. 

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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. 

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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.   

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His foreign policy, marked so far by

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serial apologies,

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disparagement of George Bush,

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kowtowing to foreign despots,

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rudeness towards allies and

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tokenistic gestures,

has delivered nothing substantive. 

Presidents 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 Middle East. 

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

Indeed, taking no for an answer seems to have become Mr Obama’s “presidential trademark”. He asks and asks, but always gets the same answer.

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The International Olympic Committee? 
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NO to games in Chicago

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Israel?
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NO to a settlement freeze

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Mahmoud Abbas?
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NO to talks with Israel

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King Abdullah?
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NO to Saudi friendly gesture to Israel

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America's NATO allies?
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NO to more troops for Afghanistan

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A government official in Scotland? (Or London)
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NO to stopping the release of the Lockerbie bomber

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Fidel Castro?
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NO to loosening his dictatorial control

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Honduras?
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NO to taking back its deposed president

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Russia (in thanks for cancelling anti-missile batteries in Eastern Europe)?
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\ to 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 fact-checked for truthfulness):  

Fred Armisen as Obama, on Saturday Night Live

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 unilateralism”.  In other words, this is another pre-emptive award for the Obamessiah.

Of course, the Nobel Peace committee has form when it comes to awarding its prizes on the basis of lunacy: 

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Al Gore in 2007 for his climate-changeology nonsense (what's it to do with peace anyway?);

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Jimmy Carter in 2002 for, well nothing really, just going round the world spouting anti-Semitic bile (Gunnar Berge, the committee chairman called it a "kick in the leg" to George Bush);

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Kofi Annan in 2001 for standing idly by during the genocides and slaughters in Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, North Korea and Zimbabwe; 

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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; 

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Yasser Arafat in 1994 for duplicitous peace-making in the Middle East whilst simultaneously waging his terrorist war against the Jews; 

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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

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for Ronald Reagan or Pope John Paul II for liberating 258 million central and east Europeans from Soviet fascism in 1989,

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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 Hussein,

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nor for 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,

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nor for Margaret Thatcher for liberating 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 China. 

People's individual freedom is far, far down the list of priorities of Oslo's self-preening Nobel peace committee, 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 pre-emptive basis

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a law professorship,

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the Democratic nomination,

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the US presidency,

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the Nobel peace prize.  

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 emerges eventually. 

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Stigmas and Taboos Play a Constructive Role

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, moral equivalence.  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 vulnerable. 

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 then and now scenarios in several high profile areas. 

“Then”:
Days of Stigmas and Taboos
“Now”:
No more Stigmas and Taboos

Marriage, between one man and one woman committed to each other 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 illegitimate if you were polite or a bastard 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 produce babies. 

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

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poor parenting (harassed working mother, lack of a father, disinterest or hostility of a step-parent),

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poor education,

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poverty,

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propensity to compensate through, say, alcohol, drugs, gang-membership,

leading ultimately to reduced chances in  adult life. 

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 bastard” 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.  

Actual 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.

That's why 35 million abortions are committed every year in the developed world. 

In the UK, for example, abortion rates per woman during 1975-2005 rose by some 50% to reach a gory 200,000 per year.  Is this some kind of improvement?

Among the most stigmatised in society, however, were perhaps gays, especially of the male variety.  Homosexual behaviour was not only an utter social taboo but a criminal one as well. 

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Oscar Wilde was jailed and ruined for it. 

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WW2 code-breaking hero Alan Turing suffered chemical castration

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In earlier centuries death was the penalty. 

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 punish 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 he says: 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 statutory gay marriage, 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 society. 

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. 

Moreover, when gays and lesbians are the sole additional group singled out for 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 position. 

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 don't 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 conviction.

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 God.

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. 

Few would 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. 

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Terror of Cliff Diving

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 for yourself. 

There are plenty more, filled with equal terror, where that came from. 

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Issue 198’s Comment to Cyberspace

A single submission this week, based on my previous issue's lead post about the respectability of statutory rape. 

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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 ...

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Quotes for Issue 198

Quote: 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.
 

Quote: 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.

Quote: What has become of America, when Chicago can't steal an election?

Mitch Daniels, the Governor of Indiana, when - 
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

Quote: 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 from office.”

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 Tourism,
followed by €200,000 over the past two recessionary years as
Ceann Comhairle.

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.

Quote: 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 own enrichment.

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.

Quote: Dunphy's a rat, a skinny little rat!

Stephen Hunt, an Ireland soccer international,
rather accurately portrays soccer pundit
See full size imageSee full size imageEamon (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 champions,
conceding a 90th minute goal that saved Italy's blushes
by bringing the score to 2-2. 

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ISSUE #197 - 4th October 2009 [293+373=666]

Just for fun, the latest Rasmussen poll on President Barack Obama's popularity will
from now on be published at the head of the Tallrite Blog. The date is on the chart.
Rasmussen Daily Poll - 12 September 2009

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Growing Respectability of Statutory Rape

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Worshipping the Beloved Leader

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Conspitulations to China's Communist Party on its 60th Anniversary

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Pride of (Phil the Fluter's) Brussels

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Issue 197’s Comments to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 197

Growing Respectability of Statutory Rape

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):

Sarah 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.

The only 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 family. 

And over the past month, there have been two more notorious 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.  Mr O'Keefe posed as a would-be pimp and Ms Giles as his girlfriend, a provocatively dressed hooker.   The pair 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: 

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how to get rent assistance,

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how to disguise the nature of their illicit business,

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how to dodge the immigration authorities so as to smuggle the underage girls illegally into the country

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how to cheat on taxes. 

But the young couple were filming the whole thing by secret camera, and then released the results on Youtube

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 Auschwitz. 

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 psychopaths. 

So with these personal traumas, anyone should cut Mr Polanski a bit of slack. 

But not unlimited slack. 

In 1977 then aged 44, he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor”, thirteen-year-old Samantha Geimer, 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. 

The sordid details can be found in the victim's own testimony to the Los Angeles Grand Jury, none of which Mr Polanski contradicted before his guilty plea, and which includes more sexual violations by Mr Polanski than those mentioned above.

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 he 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 Roman Polanski's arrest was greeted with anger at the Zurich Film Festival, where he was to have received an awardarrest 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.

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Under the co-ordination of the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques, a film industry organisation which also represents performance and visual artists, more than seventy film industry luminaries have signed a petition demanding his immediate release.

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French and Polish film-makers have joined the chorus to prevent what they like to call a judicial lynching

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The Berlin Film Festival expressed its solidarity by protesting at the arbitrary treatment of one of the world's most outstanding film directors.  We declare our deep respect for Roman Polanski and we demand his immediate release”. 

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Even the highest levels of the French government, who consider him a cultural icon, have reacted with horror. 

The media in general refer coyly only to what happened” to Mr Polanski in 1977.  There is little mention about the heinous crime this monster perpetrated: 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 joke” (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 nine years.  

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. 

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Worshipping the Beloved Leader

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 democracy? 

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 dumbfounded. 

Here are the nauseating words of the two hagiographic songs the kids are forced to sing.

Song 1

Song 2

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 fair today
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

 

Yes!
Mmm, mmm, mm
Barack Hussein Obama

 

Hello, Mr. President
we honor you today!
For all your great accomplishments,
we all doth say "hooray!"

 

Hooray, Mr. President!
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 Blue!

 

So continue ---- Mr. President
we know you'll do the trick
So here's a hearty hip-hooray ----

Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!

 

Eeugh!

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Conspitulations to China's Communist Party on its 60th Anniversary

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 Party dictatorship,
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 continues nevertheless. 

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. 

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Pride of (Phil the Fluter's) Brussels

Last week Ireland staged its second referendum to consider whether to ratify the execrable Lisbon Treaty. 

In 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 profusely for 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%. 

So 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. 

Of 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.  Yeah, right. 

But 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 in Dublin.  It needs to be sung to the tune of Phil the Fluter's Ball, which for those who have forgotten sounds like this

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Biffo”, incidentally, is the nickname of the much reviled Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen: a Big Ignorant F**ker From Offaly. 

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He leads the ruling Fianna Fail party

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NAMA” stands for the National Assets Management Agency, Biffo's cunning plan to 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

Have 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

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Issue 197’s Comments to Cyberspace

Five submissions, none of them reaching the printed media, but all managed to scratch my itch

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Punitive responses continue the cycle of violence
Comment in the the Irish Times to an article by Breda O'Brien
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 ...

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Holocaust Humor
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" ...

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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 ... 

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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 ...

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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

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Quotes for Issue 197

- - - - - A F G H A N I S T A N - - - - -

Quote: “Can I say how much more confidence I have now in my chain of command than I had after Prime Minister Gordon Brown was here a couple of weeks ago.”

Flight Lieutenant Victoria Anderton of the RAF speaking bluntly
at the International Institute for Strategic Studies to
General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan. 

Flt Lt Anderton will be deployed next year to Kandahar

- - - - - O B A M A - - - - -

Quote: Is Obama a communist or a democrat?

Chinese Uighur prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, speaking to visiting reporters. 
They also held up offensive messages that included references to Hitler.

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 Guantanamo Bay
are being resettled in Ireland,
renowned for its shortage of home-grown terrorists.

Quote: 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 circumstance.” 

Without producing a single shred of evidence,
that 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 Carter
whether he was expressing feelings or facts,
and if the latter what evidence they were based on.

Quote: 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 Palestinian people.”

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
contiguous territory
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 remain undivided”? 

Quote: It's just unambiguously a bad decision.  Russia and Iran are the big winners. I just think it's a bad day for American national security.

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
West 2009,
Iran can continue happily developing its
long-range missiles and nuclear warheads. 

Now it's only those dratted Jews who stand in its way.

- - - - - I S R A E L   &   J E W S- - - - -

Quote: If not now, then when?

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. 

Quote (minute 28-30): 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 comedian
displays rabid 1930s-style Teutonic anti-Semitism
of a sort that had supposedly disappeared
save in the depraved atmosphere of Islam.

Posted in 2004 outside the Lovingway United Pentecostal Church at Colorado and MississippiOf 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 instructions of
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, be censured.
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 - - - - -

Quote: World 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,
dubbed the godfather of neoconservatism

Clearly, those who by voting Yes to the Lisbon Treaty
pave the way to the interim solution
of an all-Europe government,
would not agree with the late Mr Kristol.

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 What I've recently
been reading

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

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

See detailed review

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

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

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the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

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

More details on my blog here.

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

bullet

part of a death march to Thailand,

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

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regularly beaten and tortured,

bullet

racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

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a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

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

bullet

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

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

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

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

++++++

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

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as

bullet

Why does asparagus come from Peru?

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Why are pandas so useless?

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

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Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

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

bullet

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

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Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

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

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

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

+++++

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

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

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

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

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

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

+++++

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