This archive, organized into months, contains all issues prior to the current week and the three
which are published in
the main Tallrite Blog (www.tallrite.com/blog.htm).
The first issue appeared on Sunday 14th July
You can write to firstname.lastname@example.org
#54 - 14th September 2003
For latest images (30th Sep) of
planet Mars, click here
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
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
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.
constitutes a double-barrier.
barriers intended to protect rich-world farmers keep out third-world
agricultural products from the developing-world.
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
Once, by paying those huge subsidies out of their
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.
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.
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,
rewarded (and will therefore continue), while
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
willing buyer at any price, without subsidy or tariff - is the solution to
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
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
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
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
Have a look at the KickAAS
campaign - Kick All Agricultural Subsidies - launched
last month by the Guardian.
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'
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.
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,
over centuries has been the welcoming repository of generation upon
generation of Irish emigrants,
own ethnic Irish population well exceeds that of Ireland itself,
has provided and continues to provide
foreign investment than any other country, plus
support for Ireland and its political processes,
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
Later (1st October), Joseph makes some pertinent
comments, published in the Letters page. He comments, inter alia,
these pictures is not an appropriate answer to the anti-Americanism that
is taking hold around the world.
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
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
that environmentalists are public-spirited and
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
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
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.
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 ?
I stammered in embarrassment, and mumbled something like,
No I am not,
he cried, without a hint
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
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,
- or combinations of them.
is the colour of the
wants to take charge, he's competitive and impatient;
is the thinker,
impulsive, emotional, instinctive.
the diagram on the right tries to show (click to enlarge Associated with
each colour is a range of qualities - both good
for there is no right
colour, just different colours reflecting the differences in
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
To do the quiz, click here.
Men in Boxes
What is it about New Yorkers and boxes lately ?
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
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.
Lucan the Entertainer
I was intrigued
by last week's news that
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
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
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
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 !
Who Needs Spellnig ?
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh
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.
Quote of the Week
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
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#53 - 7th September 2003
The Dilemmas of
week, pro-lifer Paul Hill was executed by lethal injection. Much of
the media reported
that he was the first American executed for
That's not true. He was executed for murder, not for the
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,
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
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
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
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
to 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
Of all the civil issues that divide Western democratic
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
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
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
This highlights another strange paradox.
Those who oppose the death penalty lie
generally left-of-centre and support women's
right to choose,
they oppose killing (guilty, ie convicted) adults but support killing
on the other hand, are usually right-of-centre and favour capital
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.
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.
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
a year to learn to walk again,
ever to lift weights (or babies),
Between 1950 and 1983, up to a thousand
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
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
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
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.
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
that in pre-wealthy Ireland there were clear economic
medical reasons for carrying out the procedure
in preference to Caesarean sections, and
that symphisiotomies are still being carried out for
in many poorer countries in the world.
I am prepared to be persuaded.
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
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
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
document from the BBC, you can read the original two interviews
and a fruity exchange with the hapless, bumbling Armed Forces Minister
The Government strongly objected to Mr Gilligan's
report, which BBC management supported (though subsequently regretted
Lest the Government be accused of a cover-up, it had no
option but to reveal Dr Kelly's identity as Mr Gilligan's
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
To that extent, Dr Kelly brought himself into disrepute,
and when he was found out, he was sadly unable to deal with the
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.
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
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
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
adulates the same government's action such as the doubling of aid-money to Uganda.
Anything to stay sweet with the guys holding the
I say it again. Don't give money to Trócaire or
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
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
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
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
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
to destroy the hopes and aspirations of ordinary
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
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
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
man, 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
But it's his guide-dog Josh I feel sorry for. He's
now frequently left sitting at home or in the car.
Compare Your Pay
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
My income ? Zero, just like everyone
way, according to blogcensus.net,
there are currently some 1.2 million blog sites out here in
of which 740,000 are
which 65% are
(ie updated within the past eight weeks)
which 6.2% are
(such as this one), most of the rest being personal
That means I have only
30,000 competitors. Perhaps that explains the zero income
Atkins Keeps You Fat
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
That's why I never met anyone who persevered with the Dr
Atkins Diet, much less adopted it as a lifelong habit.
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
water-skier across a lake,
take you to work in the city, and
chicks in St Tropez.
One hundred of them will
become available this year (cars, not chicks) for a mere $369,000 each, or eighteen
They make my boring old Honda, well, boring.
Quotes of the Week
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.
executed for double murder on 3rd September 2003
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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Now, for a little [Light Relief]
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
Note: I wrote
my own reports on Macondo
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
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
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics