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


This archive, organized into months, contains all issues prior to the current week and the three preceding weeks, 
which are published in 
the main Tallrite Blog (  
The first issue appeared on Sunday 14th July 2002

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September 2003

ISSUE #53 - 7th September


ISSUE #54 - 14th September

ISSUE #54 - 14th September 2003 [133+301=434]


The WTO and Pernicious Agricultural Subsidies


Nine-Eleven Remembered with Hatred


Bias Signals BBC's Demise


Your Colourful Personality


Men in Boxes


Lord Lucan the Entertainer


Who Needs Spellnig ?


Quote of the Week

For latest images (30th Sep) of planet Mars, click here

The WTO and Pernicious Agricultural Subsidies

The spectacle of people protesting, and often rioting, wherever leaders from Western governments gather has become a regular spectacle.  Right now, it's the turn of the World Trade Organization, comprising 146 rich and poor member countries plus 30 observer countries.  The WTO is meeting in the Mexican holiday resort of Cancun.  

This is part of the round of trade negotiations that began in Doha in 2001, named the development round because it is meant to focus on helping developing countries, unlike the previous Uruguay round.  If that is the genuine goal of delegates, in particular from the richer parts of the world, and if at the same time they want to increase the wealth and health of the folks back home, there is but one area to attack.  


The EU pays its farmers a subsidy of $2 a day for each cow in Europe.  Yet as World Bank boss John Wolfensohn recently remarked, more than 2.7 billion people in the developing-world have to live on this figure or less and they face a mountain of trade barriers that keep them poor.  

Agriculture alone constitutes a double-barrier.  


Firstly, barriers intended to protect rich-world farmers keep out third-world agricultural products from the developing-world.


Secondly, rich-world production-related agricultural subsidies (in the EU $100 billion a year, in the US $3 billion a year just for cotton) foster the production of surplus produce which is then dumped below cost on developing-world markets, undermining native producers.  

And it isn't just the developing-world producers who suffer twice.  So do rich-world consumers. 


Once, by paying those huge subsidies out of their hard-earned taxes, which is estimated to amount to over $1,000 a year for every working family in the EU, US and Japan.  


Twice, by paying inflated prices for the agriculturally-protected produce they buy in the shops.  

What the rich-world gives developing countries in aid is only one-sixth of the $300 billion they give their own farmers in subsidies.  

So imagine the burst in wealth across the globe if, for example, all subsidies were eliminated and aid from the rich-world were, for example, trebled.  Or indeed reduced to zero.  

As for those rich-world farmers and other agricultural workers unable to compete in the new, open marketplace, there will still be billions left over to retrain them into other, profitable pursuits.  

Subsidies in support of commercial production of any sort are intrinsically wicked.  They are paid to enterprises and individuals who are by definition unsuccessful, and there is no other way to fund them than by taxing enterprises and individuals who are profitable.  In other words, 


failure is rewarded (and will therefore continue), while 


success is punished (in a way that will always hamper growth and sometimes cause failure).  

The net result, every time, is, if not wealth reduction, then a brake on wealth creation.  

That is why it is incompatible to campaign against third-world poverty and against globalisation.  

Globalisation - meaning free, open markets, whereby any willing seller can freely sell anything to any willing buyer at any price, without subsidy or tariff - is the solution to poverty.  

People - and governments - have no right to insert themselves, as they currently do, between the willing buyer and the willing seller in order to remove money.  

It is curious and contradictory, therefore, that demonstrators will protest


against agricultural subsidies (they damage the developing-world), 


against removal of agricultural subsidies (they damage existing rich-world farmers), 


for improvement in the condition of people living in the developing-world,  


against the WTO meeting even taking place.  

And sometimes the same individuals will protest against all four simultaneously.  

Nevertheless, if the WTO meeting results in even a minor reduction in existing agricultural subsidies, it will rightly be seen as a resounding success in terms of boosting, instead of constricting, the prosperity of developing-world and rich-world alike.  Moreover, even a minor reduction would set the precedent for meatier reductions in the future.  

Have a look at the KickAAS campaign - Kick All Agricultural Subsidies - launched last month by the Guardian. 

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Nine-Eleven Remembered with Hatred

This cartoon is France's tasteless commemoration of September 11th, from the prestigious Le Monde, no less.  

Is there no end to French glee and depravity ?

Mind you, it may have been inspired by the New York Times' editorial on September 11th which begins, Death came from the skies. A building — a symbol of the nation — collapsed in flames in an act of terror that would lead to the deaths of 3,000 people. It was Sept. 11.  But the year was 1973, the building Chile's White House, La Moneda, and the event a coup staged by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

On September 12th, Blog-Irish made a devastating review of hatred and resentment of America in the wake of nine-eleven, in the Irish media in particular.  This merited a mention from Andrew Sullivan, which generated something of a blogstorm.  The widespread scorn of what seems to be a majority of Irish men and women towards the US is a constant source of bemusement to me.  If there is one country you would think Ireland would admire, 


which over centuries has been the welcoming repository of generation upon generation of Irish emigrants,


whose own ethnic Irish population well exceeds that of Ireland itself, 


which has provided and continues to provide 

more foreign investment than any other country, plus


unquestioning support for Ireland and its political processes,

it is America.  

Meanwhile, if you want to be reminded of just what Le Monde and others are making light of, take a look at these photos of real (though no longer live) people leaning and jumping out of windows on September 11th 2001.  Let us never forget.  

Later (1st October), Joseph makes some pertinent comments, published in the Letters page.  He comments, inter alia, that  showing these pictures is not an appropriate answer to the anti-Americanism that is taking hold around the world.  Click here.  

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Bias Signals BBC's Demise

Last week the Daily Telegraph started a BeebWatch service to illustrate the left-wing bias of the State-owned BBC, funded by an hypothecated tax of £116 a year called the licence fee.  

The BBC's mental assumptions are those of the fairly soft Left - 


that American power is a bad thing, whereas the UN is good, 


that the Palestinians are in the right and Israel isn't, 


that the war in Iraq was wrong, 


that the European Union is a good thing and that people who criticise it are xenophobic


that racism is the worst of all sins, 


that abortion is good and capital punishment is bad, 


that too many people are in prison, 


that a preference for heterosexual marriage over other arrangements is judgmental


that environmentalists are public-spirited and big business is not, 


that Gerry Adams is better than Ian Paisley, 


that government should spend more on social programmes, 


that the Pope is out of touch except when he criticises the West, 


that gun control is the answer to gun crime.

(Actually, this is not a bad shopping list against which to measure comment within the media in general - ie how Leftward or Rightward it is.)

BBC leftish bias is undeniable and has for some time been regularly monitored by bloggers and others.  There are even websites dedicated to monitoring BBC bias.  Similarly, there are campaigns to put a stop to the licence fee in this age of multiple channels, most notably by Sunday Times journalist Jonathan Miller who claims it breaches his human rights (yes, really).  Then has come the exposure by the Lord Hutton Enquiry of the disgraceful reportage of Andrew Gilligan and the support he has received from the BBC's governors.  

With all this, surely the demise of the BBC in its current form must be imminent.  

Unless there is a total and obvious and immediate change of behaviour and culture within the BBC (almost inconceivable), my money will be on a privatisation announcement by the end of this year.  This would look like the British Government's most elegant way - 


to give the corporation a fresh life in the (unprotected) commercial world, while


making itself popular by abolishing the licence tax, as well as 


raising a shovel full of cash for the exchequer to squander.  

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Your Colourful Personality

Many years ago, when I lived in Nigeria, I was once pulled over in Lagos by a large and very irate traffic cop.  

What colour am I ? he demanded.  

I stammered in embarrassment, and mumbled something like, Black or Dark Brown.  

No I am not,he cried, without a hint of humour.  

When I am like this - and he raised his right palm above his head - I am red.   

And then, waving his palm backwards over his shoulder, he added, “and when I am like this I am green.

Do not drive past me again when I am red.


We all have different personalities but (based on work by a Dr Carl Gustav Jung in the 1920s) they can apparently be accuratley expressed in just four colours - red, green, blue and yellow - or combinations of them.  

Red is the colour of the director”, 

he wants to take charge, he's competitive and impatient; 


Green is the thinker”, 

methodical, formal, reflective; 


Blue is the relator”, 

easygoing, persevering, modest; 


Yellow is the socialiser”, 

optimistic, impulsive, emotional, instinctive.  

behaviourstyles.jpg (69348 bytes)As the diagram on the right tries to show (click to enlarge Associated with each colour is a range of qualities - both “good” and “bad”, for there is no “right” or “wrong” colour, just different colours reflecting the differences in personalities.  

You can find out your own colour(s) by taking a simple quiz, which will also provide you with a thumbnail sketch of your personality.  

It's fun, but you will be astonished (and perhaps a little uncomfortable) at how close it is to the truth.  

The quiz was developed so that people would not only learn about their own personalities, but, by wearing a badge containing their colours they would let each other.  This should make it easier to work together.  

To do the quiz, click here.  

Back to Index

Men in Boxes

What is it about New Yorkers and boxes lately ?  

First you have New Yorker David Blaine who thinks there's nothing more fun than sitting food-free in a perspex box, 7 ft by 7 ft by 3 ft, dangling 30 ft up from a crane beside the River Thames.  He wants to stay there for 44 days (marking his birthday 4th April - geddit ?), with water dripping into his top end through a spout and out of the nether regions through a catheter.  Meanwhile, the ever fun-loving bystanders are providing him with entertainment and helping him not to sleep by teeing off golf balls aimed at his box, baring breasts (girls), mooning (boys), shining laser lights into his eyes, banging drums, and lobbying a steady stream of eggs, bottles, fish and chips, bananas and general abuse at him.  How he must be giggling.  

Then there's New Yorker Charles McKinley whose idea of a holiday is to pack himself into a wooden box, put an address on it, call the freight company and charge it all ( $550) to his employer.  Well, maybe not in that order.  Kitty Hawk Cargo duly showed up and in 36 hours door-to-door shipped the crate 2,400 kilometres south to his parents' address in Dallas, Texas, where the delivery man spotted him and called the cops.  Like David, Charles packed no food, but he did bring a mobile phone - that didn't work.  And his box was tiny - just 3ft x 3ft by 15 inch.  

Hardship is a function of the size of the box (bigger is easier) and length of stay (shorter is easier).  On this basis, David's stunt scores 3.3 cubic feet per day which is more than twice as tough as Michael's 7.5.    

Still, they're both crazy, and David thinks he'll get a lot crazier before his 44 days are up on 19th October.  As he said, The first three weeks of this I am pretty sure I can handle. It is the last three that are going to be insane.

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Lord Lucan the Entertainer

I was intrigued by last week's news that Lucky Lord Lucan, who faked his own death and disappeared in 1974 after murdering his nanny, lived out his life in comfort in Goa under the pseudonym Barry Halpin.  

A new book, Dead Lucky - Lord Lucan : the Final Truth” has revealed that he became quite a musician, if not a mystic, amusing the local Indians and visitors from 1991 until his death in 1996.  Photographs of the original Lord Lucan and of the mystic appear on the cover, and the author notes the “distinctive aristocratic forehead” on each.  

Not so, cry others.  The man with the wispy beard is actually the real Barry Halpin, musician, storyteller and Good-Time Charlie of the 1960s folk revival in Liverpool, Manchester, who went to live in India in 1968. 

Clearly Lord Lucan the musician was very busy after his original fake death in 1974, for Barry Halpin was not his first reincarnation followed by faked death. It was, in fact, his second reincarnation and third faked death.  

For before he invented himself as Barry Halpin he had enjoyed a great rock career with Queen, until, for the second time, he felt obliged to fake his own death in 1991 (the year he reappeared in Goa).  Not so, cry friends of Freddy Mercury.  As they would, wouldn't they.  

But look at those three distinctive aristocratic foreheads.  Photographs don't lie ! 

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Who Needs Spellnig ?

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't  mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.   

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Quote of the Week 

Quote : “All revolutions have succeeded around the world, except for the Palestinian revolution, because it is led by you.

Nasser Yousef, to his long-term patron Yasser Arafat, 
explaining his refusal of an appointment 
as head of some of the security forces 
while Mr Arafat would retain practical control himself

Back to Index


ISSUE #53 - 7th September 2003 [147]


The Dilemmas of Anti-Abortionism


Symphysiotomic Mutilation


David Kelly, Sainted Martyr


Trócaire Fisked not Fixed


Well Done, Yasser


Learning to See


Compare Your Pay


Doctor Atkins Keeps You Fat


Fun Cars


Quotes of the Week

The Dilemmas of Anti-Abortionism

Last week, pro-lifer Paul Hill was executed by lethal injection.  Much of the media reported that he was the first American executed for anti-abortion violence.  That's not true.  He was executed for murder, not for the motive.  

Nevertheless the Paul Hill case highlights a difficult dilemma.  

Not the execution, which is pretty straightforward in the US.  You murder, you die.  And if your local governor is Florida's Jeb, brother of Texas executionist Dubya, don't expect a last-minute reprieve.  

But what should you do if you genuinely believe - as most anti-abortionists surely do - that abortion is the premeditated killing of human individuals, albeit unborn, and that this is an intrinsically evil act ?  As Edmund Burke famously remarked, All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing”.    

Paul Hill reckoned that for him to do nothing was to allow the evil killings of babies to triumph, and so he murdered the abortionist John Britton and his bodyguard.  


Forget that he probably prevented not a single abortion as the pregnant women would simply have gone to a different abortionist.  


Am I, for example, in principle justified in shooting someone if I believe that that is the only way to prevent him from killing other people ?   


For wasn't that the underlying principle behind launching the deadly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to pre-empt further illicit killings by the evil Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein ?  

In a democratic society we have abrogated the individual's right to violence to the State's civil authorities, who exercise it on a monopoly basis via the national police (for internal matters) and army (external matters).  

But people tend to take the law into their own hands when the State's organs of violence fail or are perceived to fail, or people think they will fail.  Such failures, real or imagined, are due to either


incompetence (eg the police are unable to catch or deter thieves) or 


unwillingness (eg being unwilling to curtail certain behaviours)

In the case of Paul Hill, you could argue that his vigilantism arose as a result of the State's unwillingness to stop abortions (because they are not illegal).  

The peaceful alternative for anti-abortionists such as he, is to campaign to change the law and desist from violent action pending a satisfactory outcome.  But this is to allow the baby-killingto continue while you continue with your gentlemanly discourse over the merits of outlawing abortion.  You can see the lack of appeal.  Yet only a fool can seriously think that the slaughter of doctors who conduct abortions will result in the overturning of abortion laws in a free, democratic country.  Paul Hill was just such a fool.  

Of all the civil issues that divide Western democratic societies, nothing is so directly related to life and death.  And none generates such emotion and temptation to violence.  It is almost impossible to see rational and satisfactory answers to the abortion conundrum.  

On another front, the anti-capital-punishment movement found it hard to mobilise demonstrators outside Florida State Prison in the usual large numbers to protest against Paul Hill's execution by lethal injection.  Just fifty showed up, and they dispersed quickly.  

Apart from the anti-abortionists, the objectors objected mainly on grounds that Hill's execution might spawn further attacks on abortion-doctors rather than against capital punishment per se.  Moreover, the media did not devote their usual attention to the the anti-death-penalty cause.  

This highlights another strange paradox.  


Those who oppose the death penalty lie generally left-of-centre and support women's “right to choose”, 

ie they oppose killing (guilty, ie convicted) adults but support killing (innocent) babies.  


Anti-abortionists, on the other hand, are usually right-of-centre and favour capital punishment, 

ie they oppose killing (innocent) babies but support killing (guilty) adults.  

People who are opposed to killing babies and adults seem to be in short supply.  I am one.  

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Symphysiotomic Mutilation

Someone who read last week's leading post, “Chopping Bits Off Babies” reminded me that until recent years there has been another barbaric procedure - as heinous an assault on the person as male circumcision, female genital mutilation and infant oral mutilation - practiced here in Ireland upon women, without their prior consent or even knowledge, and for primarily religious reasons.  

Symphysiotomy is a surgical operation in which the pubic bone is sawn apart and then re-set so as to dramatically increase the size of the pelvic outlet to permit delivery of a baby.  It is an alternative to a Caesarian section, but frequently results in dreadful after-effects, such as


taking a year to learn to walk again,


unable ever to lift weights (or babies),


permanent back pain,


lifelong incontinence.  

Between 1950 and 1983, up to a thousand such operations were conducted on women in Irish maternity hospitals, when in the vast majority of cases the baby could have been safely delivered by Caesarian section. The medical need for a symphysiotomy is very rare.  

The Irish obstetricians' (perverted) reasoning for embracing the procedure so enthusiastically was as follows.  


Once a symphysiotomy has been conducted, future childbirths are relatively straightforward thanks to the widened exit.  


In the case of a Caesarian, however, a fresh operation is needed for each childbirth.  Understandably, the prospect of this might make the mother want to limit the number of her children.  And that means she will be tempted to (shock! horror!) practice birth control, which is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church and until the 1990s was banned in Ireland.  

Those holy Catholic doctors therefore performed symphysiotomies simply to remove the enticement to sin**.  And they told their patients neither that they were going to do it nor that they had done it.  Nor did they bother to warn them about the awful side-effects that could follow.  Many women, after suffering from these for 40 years, are only now learning the reason for their perpetual poor health.  

Ireland, long the most Catholic nation in Europe, was unique among European countries in terms of the number of procedures carried out.  

Unwarranted symphysiotomy is as brutal as the other three forms of coerced mutilation carried out solely for reasons of religion or tradition.  Though symphysiotomy is not banned, the medical profession nowadays has been shamed into adopting it only when medically necessary and with the informed consent of the woman.  

Sorry the same can't be said for circumcision, FGM and IOM.  

**Late Note (3 July 2014):

David Quinn of the Iona Institute wrote a very cogent piece in the Irish Independent in 2012 in which he argues


that the Catholic Church did not, in fact, promote symphisiotomy,


that in pre-wealthy Ireland there were clear economic and
medical reasons for carrying out the procedure
in preference to Caesarean sections, and


that symphisiotomies are still being carried out for similar reasons
in many poorer countries in the world. 

I am prepared to be persuaded. 

Back to Index

David Kelly, Sainted Martyr

As Britain's Hutton enquiry into the tragic suicide of weapons expert Dr David Kelly progresses, a fairly mundane picture of events seems to be emerging.  


The September 2002 dossier was written by the Joint Intelligence Committee, with some input from Alistair Campbell and the Downing Street machine.  After a number of drafts, it received the imprimatur of spy supremo John Scarlett. 


Some of the spies nevertheless had reservations about some of the dossier (it would be odd indeed if everyone agreed with every word).  


Alistair Campbell was not the author of the 45 minute claim; the spies were.


Dr Kelly spoke privately with a number of journalists, including the BBC's Andrew Gilligan.  


Mr Gilligan then sexed up his report on BBC Radio 4 by exaggerating what Dr Kelly told him, particularly in relation to the 45 minute claim; the other journalists did not endorse Mr Gilligan on these issues.  (In this 406kb  PDF document from the BBC, you can read the original two interviews and a fruity exchange with the hapless, bumbling Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingrams).   


The Government strongly objected to Mr Gilligan's report, which BBC management supported (though subsequently regretted doing so).  


Lest the Government be accused of a cover-up, it had no option but to reveal Dr Kelly's identity as Mr Gilligan's source.  


Prime Minister Tony Blair accepted full responsibility for his government's actions; conversely Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon passed the buck up to Mr Blair or down to his subordinates.  


Dr Kelly took his life because he was unable to withstand the pressure when the spotlight shone on him as the central figure in the row between the Government and the BBC. 

Frankly, nearly everyone seems to come out of this rather creditably; they simply did their jobs professionally.  

Andrew Gilligan is the exception because he clearly misbehaved, and the BBC Governors made a grave mistake in backing him.  No doubt these events will end both his career and that of Gavyn Davies, Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors.  Mr Hoon is probably also history for his buck-passing.  

But there was another major miscreant.  It has emerged that Dr Kelly himself was constantly chattering to whichever reporter would listen to him, and there were many on both sides of the Atlantic.  Part of his job was indeed to brief the Media, but in a controlled pre-agreed fashion.  He regularly went way beyond this, 


including secret meetings such as the one with Mr Gilligan in the Charing Cross Hotel, 


including divulging information he should not have, though no doubt with honourable intentions,


including telling different things to different journalists.    

To that extent, Dr Kelly brought himself into disrepute, and when he was found out, he was sadly unable to deal with the consequences.  

But do not expect the Hutton report to say as much.  Criticising Dr Kelly has become taboo.  He has become something of a sainted martyr.  He was not.  

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Trócaire Fisked not Fixed

Last week I illustrated how some Irish charities, notably Trócaire and Concern, are not to be trusted because of the amount of energy, and thus donors' funds, they devote to political matters,  including the defense of kleptocratic regimes such as Uganda's and to dishonest anti-American behaviour.  

This has prompted Blog-Irish to do a devastating Fisking of Trócaire, its director Justin Kilcullen and its chairman John Kirby who is bishop of Clonfert.  Called Chronicle of a Pious Fraud”, it is long but a must-read.   

It shows that far from Trócaire trying to reform its behaviour to better reflect the charitable organization devoted to good works that most people think it is, it is irremediably political and partisan.   

Personally, I had no idea how deeply embedded are Trócaire's (loony left-wing) political activity and its vitriolic anti-Americanism, nor that the Irish government regularly gives it huge dollops of cash and expenses. Quite extraordinary. No wonder Trócaire slavishly adulates the same government's action such as the doubling of aid-money to Uganda. Anything to stay sweet with the guys holding the purse-strings.  

I say it again.  Don't give money to Trócaire or Concern.  

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Well Done, Yasser

You have once again demonstrated your mastery in not only retaining power, but in ensuring that your personal power takes precedence over the well being of the Palestinian people whose interests you say you represent.  

When the prospect of peace and a future Palestine state threatened your personal power at Camp David in 2000 when Israel offered you 98% of the land you said you were seeking, you stormed out of the talks without making a single counter-offer.  You then launched the intifada that has killed 3,000 of your own countrymen, while not advancing their cause one iota.  

When, under pressure from the UN, EU, US and Russia, you appointed as your Prime Minster Abu Mhazen, that great hope of the Palestinian people, 


you denied him the full powers that he required, 


you kept control of the Palestinian security forces that he needed to arrest the killers of civilians in Hamas and such organizations, 


you refused to rein them in yourself and in fact encouraged them in their deadly work, 


your inaction forced Israel to hunt down like dogs the Hamas managers who sent a suicide bomber into a crowded bus of Israeli civilian families, 


you failed to allow Abu Mahzen the opportunity to embarrass the Israelis into taking the huge steps down the Road Map required to finally bring peace to your people.  

Abu Mahzen has resigned in disgust.  Your personal position is secured.  You have shown the world, once again, that you care not a whit for the Palestinian people.  

Note to Israel


Don't make him into a martyr by killing him or throwing
him into jail.  Don't give him renewed freedom of
action by expelling him.  Just keep him in his current
quarters, provide him with adequate food, water and 


But cut off all telecommunication facilities, ie telephone,
fax, internet, and keep out visitors.  


He must be totally quarantined and allowed no longer 
to destroy the hopes and aspirations of ordinary

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Learning to See

Mike May, who is 49, was blinded aged 3 after an accident, but went on to lead a fulfilling and successful life.  Married with two sons, his accomplishments while blind include


gaining bachelor and masters degrees,


developing audio-GPS technology, a fabulous concept for blind people to get around, 


CEO of three corporations,


inspirational public speaker, 


world record-holder for blind downhill skiing (104 km/hr) - he follows a guide,


winner of the American Foundation for the Blind Kay Gallagher award for his contributions to numerous community organizations for the blind, 


White House commendations from Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Al Gore for his community and professional activities.  

Then suddenly, new stem-cell technology arose which miraculously restored his sight in March 2000.  Holy Smokes” were his first words.  His vision was - and remains - poor, but his biggest challenge has been for his brain to interpret the signals coming from his eyes, to understand what he is looking at.  

Using a huge chunk of our brain, this is a massive computing task which we learn as young children, and become unaware of.  Mike has had to learn all this as a grown man, and just as learning a language is much harder for adults than children, so it is taking him a long time.  He initially took ten seconds to work out whether an upright shape was a Mike Mayman, a woman, a tree or a shadow, but after three years he's got it down to two seconds.  Not fast enough if you're skiing at 104 km/hr, so he still needs a guide.  

It's an uplifting story.  You can read his bio here

But it's his guide-dog Josh I feel sorry for.  He's now frequently left sitting at home or in the car.  

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Compare Your Pay

Payfinder is a great site to generate personal discontent by comparing your pay with your peers in the UK.  Though in my case, it is no surprise to learn that I am right in the middle of the average earners in the profession of blogging.  

My income ?  Zero, just like everyone else.  

By the way, according to, there are currently some 1.2 million blog sites out here in cyberspace, 


of which 740,000 are in English, 


of which 65% are active (ie updated within the past eight weeks) 


of which 6.2% are political(such as this one), most of the rest being personal diaries.  


That means I have only 30,000 competitors.  Perhaps that explains the zero income !  

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Doctor Atkins Keeps You Fat

The Doctor Atkins Diet has recently garnered a lot of publicity.  That's surprising because it's been around a long time.  My wife and I tried it in 1978 and it wasn't new then.  

It certainly works, but not in quite the way you might imagine.  The essence of the diet is that you can eat all the meat and fat you want, but not carbohydrates or sugar. It's great for the first couple of days of feasting.  


But then you gradually lose your appetite, so you eat less and less (while all the while craving a spud), which of course drives your weight down.  


You also lose your taste for alcohol, and a general feeling of dullness if not depression overtakes you.  


Your breath begins to smell dreadfully, even to yourself, so you lose all your friends -  and who can blame them as you're not much fun any more.  


This all adds to your despondency.   

So you're left with a choice - thin and miserable or fat and happy.  

That's why I never met anyone who persevered with the Dr Atkins Diet, much less adopted it as a lifelong habit.  

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Fun Cars

Two fun cars hit the market recently.  


Powered by a hybrid petrol-electric engine, the real claim to fame of the eco-friendly Toyota Prius is that it can reverse-park itself hands-free.  Toyota is planning to sell 75,000 of them in 2004 for $20,000 (which includes a DVD navigation system), and 300,000 the year after.  But drive it into the sea and it will swim like a stone.  


Then there's the Aquada which in a showy demo lept into the River Thames last week, for it is an amphibious sports-car/speed-boat.  Though it's a pig to try and reverse-park, the flashy open-top cabriolet is designed to 

tow a water-skier across a lake, 


take you to work in the city, and 


pull the chicks in St Tropez.  

One hundred of them will become available this year (cars, not chicks) for a mere $369,000 each, or eighteen Priuses.  

They make my boring old Honda, well, boring.  

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Quotes of the Week

Quote : I have great peace and joy in the Lord, in that I have done something I think the Lord is pleased with ... I'm unquestionably encouraging others who are called by God to do the same thing. There's no question in my mind that it was what the Lord wanted me to do, to shoot John Britton to prevent him from killing unborn children.

Paul Hill, anti-abortionist, 
executed for double murder on 3rd September 2003

Quote : I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.” 

Col Moammar Gaddafi, President of Libya, 
on the telephone to Silvio Berlusconi, 
Prime Minister of Italy and President of the European Union

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 What I've recently
been reading

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

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

See detailed review


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


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


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


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

More details on my blog here.


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

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

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

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

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


part of a death march to Thailand,


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


regularly beaten and tortured,


racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,


a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as


Why does asparagus come from Peru?


Why are pandas so useless?


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


Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

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


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


Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

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


Other books here

Rugby World Cup 7s, Dubai 2009
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After 48 crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are, deservedly,

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Argentina the Bronze.  Fourth is host nation France.

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Over the competition,
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tries per game =
minutes per try = 13

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