This archive, organized into months, and indexed by
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)
#96 - 14th March 2005
Kong - A Democratic Opportunity Let Slip
Back in 1997, following tumultuous negotiations
between Margaret Thatcher and the Chinese politburo, the sovereignty and
status of Hong Kong was changed from British Crown Colony to Special
Administrative Region of China. Wags referred to it as the Chinese
At a stroke, seven million people were delivered
from a largely autonomous though essentially
dictatorial regime presided over by a distant but genuine democracy
that undoubtedly had the wellbeing of Hong Kong's citizens at
into the arms of a Communist dictatorship that,
ever since it illegally seized power in 1949 from a democratically
elected government (the Kuo Ming Tang), had unapologetically killed over
fifty million of its own citizens, the most recent notorious
example being the shooting of seven
thousand peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen
Square in 1989.
To replace Chris Patten, the last British governor,
China unilaterally appointed
as Chief Executive a sympathetic Hong Konger, the shipping magnate Tung
Chee Hwa. Though a skilled and successful businessman, this
China-loyalist (who, ironically, first entered Hong Kong as a refugee
fleeing from Communist China where he was born) had no experience of
politics, governance or the common touch. This quickly showed, in
examples such as his
fumbling of Hong Kong's economic collapse in 1997
(probably triggered by loss of confidence following the Chinese
bungling the SARS epidemic in 2003
Kong will take
your breath away as the tourist posters unfortunately
advertised at the time),
mishandling of the
Asian bird flu crisis,
with Beijing to curtail civil liberties,
attempts to widen democracy,
down on pro-Taiwan and pro-Tibet protestors,
anti-China debate in the media.
Unsurprisingly, he has remained steadfastly unpopular
throughout his eight turbulent and incompetent years, even while Hong
Kong's economy has perked up over the past year and a half.
But now, at last, even China has lost patience and
confidence in him. Last week they booted him out of his job, under
the face-saving figleaf of health
Meantime, the Middle East has been awash with excited talk and action about
while the world's media fall over themselves to get shots for their front pages of what they
variously call raven-haired “beauties”, “hotties”,
“babes”, “totty”. This follows similar
people-power waves in Georgia and Ukraine last year.
Fresh gusts of invigorating democracy are clearly in
You would think, therefore, that this would be an ideal opportunity to try and spread a little more democracy in
Hong Kong, that tiny corner of the People's Republic.
And who better to do this than Mr Tung's
illustrious predecessor, the thoroughly competent Chris Patten, erstwhile EU
external relations. If you doubt his competence, just read his book, East
about his service in Hong Kong. But all he can
now do is regret he didn't democratise faster when he had the chance, and mumble about hoping China would establish a realistic plan that would make Hong Kong more
democratic, blah, blah, blah. Now that he is no longer involved in any big time job, he has no further need for diplomatic
niceties. It is unfortunate therefore that he doesn't use his well-earned
standing in the world and new found freedom to stick it right to the Chinese.
He should demand that they allow Mr Tung's successor to be elected by universal suffrage
forthwith, rather than be appointed by their Politburo of tyrants, no
matter how worthy - and indeed popular - their appointee Sir
Donald Tsang may be.
I would have expected some leadership from George Bush, to back up his
freedom and democracy rhetoric. For if China - probably America's
biggest military threat in a decade's time - is ever to become a democracy,
and let us hope this happens before it sucks America into a war over
Taiwan, it will be because of the benign example of its Semi-Autonomous
Region, an increasingly democratic and ever successful Hong Kong.
Therefore it makes every sense for the US to encourage Hong Kong down
the democratic route, especially in the current global climate of
for the EU, since it's on the brink of belittling the thousands of massacred victims of
Tiananmen Square by resuming weapons sales to the perpetrators, what
better moment to demand as part of the quid pro quo that China allow Hong
Kong's new chief executive to be democratically elected.
the UN could have made some democratic noises, albeit in the certainty
that anything substantive would have been vetoed by China.
however, this is all a pipe dream.
wants to offend the delicate sensibilities of the world's mightiest and
wealthiest Communist regime. Democracy is to be reserved for weaker
targets; at least for now.
to List of Contents
Fein/IRA : Crumble or Machiavelli?
Last week the IRA issued its bizarre three-page statement
concerning the murder of Robert McCartney.
How generous of the IRA to offer to shoot its own
members in order to appease the bloodlust of the vengeful five sisters of
Mr McCartney, who was butchered in a bar brawl over a woman.
However, the girls did not co-operate - they demanded instead that the
culprits turn themselves in to the police and face criminal
But the offer is nevertheless curious in the
extreme. For did they mean it? Would they have done it?
Why did they seek permission?
If nothing else, it shows the IRA nervously biting
its fingernails, uncertain what to do in the unfamiliar barrage of odium
that the murder has generated from its core Sinn Féin/IRA
constituency. The old IRA would have done what it has always done
made up its own mind,
acted decisively and
not apologised now or ever.
On this model, the killers would by now be firmly
dead. So why aren't they? Has the IRA really lost the
courage of its convictions? It would be great news if this were so,
because it would signal a crumbling of the organization,
towards the irrelevance contemplated under the Good Friday Agreement, that
most well-minded people desire.
However an alternative interpretation of events is
that everything the republican movement has done since the murder is but a
Declare publicly that you want justice for the
condemn all murders and punishment
provide assurances that witnesses are not going
to be intimidated or threatened,
order the perpetrators to subject themselves to
the courts and speak the truth,
offer to shoot them,
assert that all this is a sign of Sinn Féin/IRA
Whilst all the time in nod-and-wink-land, everyone
who matters understands that these are no more than carefully crafted
words designed to confuse and appease the ignorant masses in Ireland, UK
and America, and their democratically-elected leaders. The cognoscenti
know that the words actually mean the precise opposite of what they say,
and that if people should actually start running off to the police to
truthfully explain what happened, they would do so at their immediate and
Result: a moral victory for Sinn Féin and the IRA,
for they can say they have done their utmost
to achieve justice, whilst actually achieving precisely
nothing. Regrettably the crime is never solved; predictably the
police are painted as a bunch of bumbling oafs. And meanwhile the
all-powerful Sinn Fein/IRA machine marches on towards its
Personally, notwithstanding wishful thinking, I can't
make my mind up which of these two theses to believe - the Crumbling or
But I am sure there will be some sort of denouement
within the month.
to List of Contents
EU Wealth, Subsidy and Blarney
The Economist recently wrote a long article about travails
over the EU budget (Britain's rebate, France's CAP, impoverished new
entrants etc). But when it ended with this
chart whose purpose is to illustrate who is paying for Britain's
rebate, what caught my eye was the huge subsidy per head that Ireland gets
out of the EU.
So I decided to plot subsidies against GDP, on a per
capita basis, and this is what I got.
I know the Irish are famed for
their blarney, but the other EU countries really need to sharpen up their
negotiating skills. It is ridiculous that Ireland, the club's richest country
(after Austria) contributes zilch while running away with the biggest subsidy.
to List of Contents
Two years ago, the various e-mail addresses I use
were being targeted by around twenty spams a day, well manageable with the
delete button. But over this period, it has screamed up fifteenfold
or more, requiring something more drastic. For what it's worth, here
is how I have solved the problem.
very good built-in spam filters, so I diverted my most heavily
bombarded addresses to my yahoo address. Yahoo is currently
removing about a hundred spams a day, and the remaining ten or so that
still get through are a tolerable if irritating number.
On the suggestion (though not recommendation) of
my web-hoster, I signed up to Spam
Arrest to catch the spams heading for my remaining addresses, and
this has been remarkably successful.
Every message from an unauthorised address is put on hold for a week
while a reply is sent inviting the sender to a particular webpage.
There the sender is told he can authorise his address simply by typing
in a code that appears in faint type that cannot be scanned.
Thus only a human being can fill in the code; machine generated spams
are flummoxed and so remain unauthorised. After a week, they're
I can review the unauthorised e-mails at any time and authorise them
manually if I wish. I can also authorise or block particular
addresses in advance; ditto with domain names. Spamarrest also
allows me to deal with my e-mail from internet cafes etc. The
system is brilliant and at $35 per year not expensive, plus you can
sign up for a months free trial.
As a result of these two measures, I no longer have a
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Ukraine for Eurovision 2005
Last year, the Ukraine's Ruslana won the Eurovision
song contest for the first time, largely bolstered by votes from its
ex-master Russia and from its brother-nations of the ex-Soviet
Union. That was of course before it got carried away with all that
people-power democratic nonsense and freed itself from its Kremlin-loving,
Kremlin-controlled leaders. Therefore it will only win this year if
the lost Soviet votes are replaced by sympathetic EU votes.
As always, the competition will be decided not on the
merits of the songs sung (which are always identical, and the same year in
year out), but on the politics of the singers' countries, for instance
co-operating countries vote for each other (eg
diasporas vote for the homeland,
you vote nul point if you don't like a
country's foreign policy (Iraq anyone?).
As reigning champion, the Ukraine gets to stage this
May's competition in Kiev, in this the fiftieth year of the
So what's their entry to be?
Well they've selected a group called Greenjolly (good
name - environmentally friendly and cheerful) and it'll be singing Razom
which translates as Together We Are Many. It turns out this
was the anthem adopted by the pro-Yuschenko orange-revolutionaries, which
absolutely confirms they'll be getting nul point from the
You might enjoy the catchy lyrics.
A summary ...
Together we are many
We cannot be defeated.
Falsifications - no!
Machinations - no!
Unwritten rules - no!
No to lies!
Yushchenko - yes!
Is our president - yes, yes!
We aren't beasts of burden
We aren't goats
We are of Ukraine
Sons and daughters
It's now or never!
Oh yes, I can see us all cheerfully humming along
with these merry words. Just the thing for Eurovision. Can't
to List of Contents
Idiots Cause Heart Attacks
Well, here's a surprise. According to a
reputable university in Sweden, as reported
in Weekly World News, just as much stress and hence heart attacks are
caused in the office by idiotic co-workers as by more familiar causes such
as cigarettes, caffeine and greasy food.
Out of five hundred heart attack victims, the
researching doctor found nearly two-thirds were free of the conventional
vices and attributed their stress to stupid work colleagues. Many of
them had keeled over clutching their chests within about twelve
hours of a particularly annoying episode in the office - for example,
someone fed vital papers into the shredder instead of the
It seems the underlying problem is that while you can
control your own habits (give up smoking, say), you are forced to tolerate
the behaviour of the dolts.
So isn't this a much more satisfactory way of
dispatching your boss to the sanitarium.
Get lost wandering around the office,
use correction fluid on your PC monitor,
delete all important documents,
add salt to the coffee.
Pretty soon he'll be gone. Or you will
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Quotes of Week 96
we don't want your democracy
Banner televised in a
pro-Syrian demonstration in Beirut.
The authors evidently did not appreciate the irony
a typical democratic freedom-to-demonstrate,
in order to demonstrate that they don’t want democratic freedom
Quote : The
IRA knows the identity of all these men ... The IRA
representatives detailed [to the McCartney family] the outcome of the internal disciplinary
proceedings thus far, and stated in clear terms that the IRA was prepared
to shoot the people directly involved in the killing of Robert McCartney.
IRA, in an extraordinary official statement,
offers to murder the IRA murderers of Robert McCartney.
Yet clearly has not the courage to do so
without seeking permission.
Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of the
Police Service of Northern Ireland
the IRA meant it would kill the men
: Ireland's failure to stick to its millennium target of
giving 0.7% of GNP in aid by 2007 is a disgrace ... and its excuse is
Geldof excoriates the Irish Government.
chief excuse appears to be the non-sequitur
that it is unable to meet the target
because of its rising prosperity
Aer Lingus's loss is BA's
Ryanair's abrasive chief executive Michael O'Leary
in response to the appointment
of former Aer
Lingus CEO Willie Walsh
as the new CEO of British
Mr O'Leary once described Aer Lingus as
a crap service with poor punctuality,
high rates of lost bags and
far [too many] cancellations
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the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience
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#95 - 7th March 2005
Passionate Left and Logical Right
A couple of issues ago, I wrote a post
why the Palestinians refugees, for whom a right of return is sought, are
still refugees. Based on a letter of mine published in the Irish Times, I
answered that it was because of
(a) Israel's refusal to massacre them in the 1948 war launched by Arab
armies, as it could have (who
doubts that the Jews would have been massacred had they lost?),
(b) the steadfast refusal of disdainful fellow-Arabs to absorb the
refugees into their respective countries ever since.
I mentioned that my letter elicited some anonymous phone
calls of a generally threatening nature, from people who from their words
were clearly Left-leaning.
This got me to thinking.
What is the common thread when (apart from football
hooligans) you see, here in the West, demonstrations, marches, violence,
threats concerning this or that? With the exception of a few
neo-Nazi groups, they always seem to come from the Left, the harder the
Left the wilder the behaviour.
During the build-up to the Iraq war, as a centrepoint
to the Left's passionate campaign against it, tens of thousands poured into the streets of
Europe's capitals for Not
In Our Name
marches. And why not, they were expressing their views in a public
Yet is it not odd that Right-leaning supporters of the war
did not also stage demonstrations under banners such as Free
the Iraqi People? After all, which slogan sounds more honourable?
who object to multinationals such as MacDonald's
under the rubric of anti-Capitalism, are the ones who see fit to smash up
their premises, with widespread approval from many of their peers.
Why don't Rightists similarly smash up icons of Leftism such as trade
union offices? I know there have been exceptions such as the French secret
a Greenpeace boat in New Zealand in 1985, but they are few and far
between and not popularly driven.
threats of physical harm are invariably directed - and delivered - against
Right-leaning individuals. Rarely do you hear that, for example,
raging Lefties like George Galloway need bodyguards, except for perhaps
intrusion by the press or paparazzi. The Left know they can express
their views without fear of intimidation from their opponents, which
cannot be said for the pro-Capitalism camp.
terms of 20th century politics, the right-wing Franco, Mussolini and
Hitler were responsible for perhaps 10 million non-combat deaths. Yet they are vilified far more
than the Soviet Communists Lenin, Stalin and successors whose tally was around 36
million, which I've tabulated here
and illustrated in the chart below.
So in history, as today, the Left
seems to be more violently inclined than the Right. Of course it is
quite wrong to suggest that modern Lefties should be compared with those
evil, blood-drenched Soviet or Chinese tyrants, other than in aspects of
ideology. But on a street level, the Left does seem more inclined to
direct action than the Right.
Is it just that Lefties are more sure of themselves,
more courageous, more outspoken, more correct, and thus prepared to be
more physically assertive?
Whilst Righties can do no
more than cower in the corner, whispering their views in a fog of
Or is there something deeper at work?
are some who maintain that the atheistic Left lacks the constraints of a
more Christian Right and those tiresome Ten Commandments.
own (albeit jaundiced) view is rather more prosaic.
overwhelmingly on the side of the Right. For example, it is logical that
you give people the freedom to improve themselves, that is what they
will generally do;
you give them the freedom to chose their own leaders, they'll
generally select ones who have their constituents' best interests in mind;
everyone has such freedoms, then society as a whole will
you enforce people's property rights and contracts, and protect them
from crime, they will be even better able to improve themselves;
you provide rewards for particular behaviour, you will get more of it,
whether it is
(think of low taxes and hard work) or
desirable (such as welfare payments for long-term
you provide services or benefits completely free of charge and without
regard to their costs (eg
medical, schooling, subsidies), you will get unlimited demand and
is very difficult for the Left to develop a coherent basis for countering
policies that are guided by such flights of reason. That is why
it must resort to waffly arguments such as what is fair,
what is compassionate,
what is hurtful,
the implication being that everything of the Right represents the
heartless side of these adjectives.
such terms are intrinsically emotional while presenting no logic.
Therefore to push them you have to put your own emotion into play, your
passion. This in turn leads to the shouting and the demos, and for
some the threats and violence.
right-wing logic against left-wing passion is a contest that no side can
really win on an intellectual or physical basis, because neither can comprehend the other, nor wants
on an individual level, I never met or heard of anyone who did not want
personal freedom for himself/herself to pursue his/her own dreams.
It is only other people's freedoms that some, particularly on the Left,
would like to curtail.
the greatest Leftist of them all, Mao Tse Tung, relished his own personal
freedom to pursue his own personal dream of killing as many of his
countrymen as possible, being over
50 million souls - see my chart above. (Actually, this delight in personal
freedom is a hallmark of every tyrant throughout history.)
But I would maintain that to be truly compassionate
for others, in the sense that you would like to see them making the most
of their efforts, abilities and lives - as well as not getting murdered, you
would have to advocate the Rightist policies of freedom not the Leftist ones of
Thus it is that the application of
logic to the
Palestinian question can evoke violent thoughts in the minds of the Left,
as I experienced. Like a frustrated child stamping his foot in
to List of Contents
An extraordinary (to me) story, entitled Hydroelectric
power's dirty secret revealed
caught my eye in a recent issue of the (subscription-only) New Scientist,
which is reproduced here.
Industry groups, and the public generally, have
usually regarded hydroelectric dams as climate-friendly
because they produce no emissions. By contrast, electricity
generating installations powered by fossil fuels emit large amounts of the
air pollutants and greenhouse gases that contribute to global
But this is apparently wrong. Dams actually
produce copious quantities of both carbon dioxide and methane, and in some
cases more climate-damage per kilowatt-hour than do those much-disparaged
coal and fuel-oil plants.
It seems that large amounts of carbon tied up in
trees and other vegetation are released as CO2 when the reservoir
is initially flooded and the plant matter rots. Then much of it
settles on the bottom where it decomposes further but since there is no
oxygen it produces methane (CH4), which is 21 times more
damaging to the climate than CO2. Seasonal changes in water level
then provide an ongoing supply of decaying material. The process
works fastest in the hotter parts of the world, home to many large dams,
and the larger the dammed area, the bigger the gas
in size order
indeed huge tracts have been dammed as this table of seven out of
eight of the world's biggest countries shows - their total dammed
area (36m hectares) adds up to the size of Germany.
Because of these findings, moves are afoot to include dams in
global warming calculations under conventions such as the Kyoto
As you can imagine, this is bad news for the seven huge nations,
so we should not expect action any time soon.
But it explains the article's ominous title.
to List of Contents
Uncovered by Tsunami
hard to imagine any good having been perpetrated by the Indian Ocean
Tsunami. So for those who might have missed the story, its receding
sands exposed part of what is believed to have been a 1200 year old small
seaport city on the south coast of India. This includes these
incredible two-metre high carvings half-buried in sand, fashioned in the
same ornate style as a famous, rock-hewn, 7th-century temple
nearby. Elsewhere a sculpted elephant has been exposed. In 2002, a
diving expedition found extensive ruins stretching
over several square kilometres submerged just offshore, including monuments
of a lion and also an
elephant's foot. The two finds appear to be natural extensions of
The BBC provides more details here
to List of Contents
I have lost about three weeks of my life (and two
issues of this blog) trying to
commission a new Fujitsu-Siemens computer with Windows XP
and all the latest bells and whistles. It replaces my previous,
Windows 98 machine which was overloaded and weary and used to crash at
least a dozen times a day.
It might help someone out there if I
share some of the things learnt during my weeks of frustration.
Hard Drive Reformatting
the twenty continuous years I have been using PCs, I have never ever had to reformat my hard drive. But with my new
machine, I had to do it no fewer than five times.
Microsoft Works (I wish)
Apparently a poorboy
version of Microsoft office, Microsoft Works came pre-installed. But when I
then loaded Microsoft Office 2000, the machine crashed fatally and only
a reformat would resurrect it. This happened twice before I
twigged that Microsoft Works was the culprit. Nothing on msn.com
warns you of this lethal incompatibility.
Throw all copies of Microsoft Works in the bin.
the past two or three years, I have been burning CDs using (a legally
purchased copy of) Roxio CD Creator Platinum Version
5. But when I
loaded it onto my new machine, it fatally crashed requiring a
format. Again, I did this twice before I diagnosed the
Reserve this software for Windows 98, because it is incompatible with XP; otherwise bin or upgrade it.
the few times I actually managed to connect with the internet, I still
found myself riddled with viruses, bugs, spyware and worms of a nature I
had never encountered with my old machine. With professional
advice, I cleared most of them using these five freeware packages:
Anti-Virus, self-explanatory, downloadable here
for spyware and nasty cookies, downloadable from here
for removing various data-mining, aggressive
scumware, keyloggers, trojans,
dialers, malware. Its executable file aawsepersonal.exe
is available here
Winsock, which restores registry keys that may
corrupt, whose executable file winsockxpfix.exe is
which lists all installed browser add-on, buttons,
startup items and
allows you to remove questionable ones,
is downloadable here
the biggest single problem was that within a minute or two of connecting
to the internet, I found myself hijacked to a mysterious webpage called http://*h-1.us*/*cream.html,
which itself never properly loaded (I've inserted three asterisks to
ensure you don't inadvertently click on it). From that moment on,
my internet speed dropped to just 5% of normal, which meant it took an
hour to download a few e-mails and made meaningful surfing impossible. None of the above fixes nor
countless other wheezes saved me, and therefore I was reduced to the
nuclear option of a reformat for yet a fifth (and final) time.
Keep your machine clean at all times
Measuring Connection Speed
In my travails, I was put in touch with a great
little diagnostic page, put up by a private individual. It simply measures
your connection speed and compares it with what it should be. Just
and then add it to your Favorites/Bookmarks.
Finally, a little serendipity.
When I get
writer's block (often!), one of my diversions is to play Minesweeper (how sad
can you get), which comes free with Windows, so I have become quite adept and fast. You have a
choice of Beginners, Intermediate and Expert. Whilst it took me
something like two years to get my Expert speed down below 200 seconds,
and my record on my old machine eventually reached 180 seconds, it was
rare that I could ever complete it in less than about 250, in fact unusual
if I could complete it at all.
On the new machine under XP, Minesweeper looks and
feels nicer, but I am convinced it is also easier. For within only
three days I was down below 200.
Anybody have similar/different views? Are we
seeing expertise inflation? Has the Evil Empire downgraded
Minesweeper, like exam papers, to make us all feel cleverer?
Other tips added subsequently
If in trouble making an internet
connection, and the connection itself is OK, the problem lies with
XP, which is not allowing Internet Explorer (or Mozilla Firefox) to
access the connection. Typically, this happens after removing spyware using
Adaware or Spybot. referred to above under Hijack.
Fix the problem with
winsockxpfix.exe (also referred to above under Hijack),
which is described here,
from which it can also be downloaded. It certainly got me out
of this trouble recently.
New Hard Drive
If having difficulty getting
your Internet Explorer to recognize a new hard drive, then perform
Look for Disk
Click left and right
to List of Contents
Tribute to a New Nonagenarian
Born in the early part of the First World War, a
couple of months after the famous football matches between British and
German soldiers that so infuriated their respective, bloodthirsty
officers, Walter grew up to
become a dental surgeon,
marry Margaret until
death [did them] part
after 63 years,
produce four children,
serve with the RAF throughout the Second World
War, taking part in the Normandy invasion,
create Hong Kong's public dental health
service, which thrives to this day,
found (in 1950) what is now the
1500-strong Hong Kong
practice for two decades in Ireland,
edit the Irish Dental Journal for
years on end, and
serve for a long period on the board of the
Irish Dental Association.
Last week he turned ninety, sprightly in mind and
body as always, and shows no signs of slowing down, other than no longer
Happy Birthday, Dad.
to List of Contents
Quotes of Week 95
not a snowball's chance in hell that I would even involve myself in an
incident like that. I totally refute that allegation ... I'm as much a
victim of circumstances as everybody else.
Gerard Jock Davison, a senior
denying involvement in the lynch-style butchering and murder
Belfast Sinn Féin supporter, Catholic Robert McCartney,
after a bar room brawl over a woman
seems very keen to exonerate himself. The best way to do that is in
court, not in a newspaper.
He ... knows what happened from start to finish.
The response of McCartney's sister Catherine
Quote : Sure
we got the bounce of the ball and a couple of decisions but, when you get
days like that, you just have to jump on the back of them.
O'Driscoll, captain of Ireland's rugby team,
commenting on its 19-13 victory over England on 27th February,
while England's coach Andy Robinson just whinged
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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