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October 2011


ISSUE #216 - October 2011

Myspace Clocks, Video Clocks, Flash Clocks, Fun Clocks at

ISSUE #216 - October 2011 [350+1628=1978]

Much as I hate to temporarily discontinue the fun of publishing polls showing
President Barack Obama’s non-existent popularity, for September and October
daily updates of running scores from the 2011 Rugby World Cup takes priority

Now that the competition is over, with the All Blacks the worthy champions, I can admit that there is an even better score-tallying website, run by a car rental company of all things. Click here

Hat-tip: Richard O'Toole                   Back to List of Contents


Shalit Released from Hamas Captivity - 18th October 2011


Irish Medical Terminology - 13th October 2011


Civil Partnership as Sexual Apartheid - 8th October 2011


Issue 216’s Comments to Cyberspace


Quotes for Issue 216

Shalit Released from Hamas Captivity

Is one Israeli worth a thousand Palestinians?

On 18th October 2011, Israeli Sergeant Gilad Shalit, 25, after 5˝ years of captivity by Hamas, is freed at last, in exchange for over a thousand Palestinian convicts in Israeli jails. He looks tired and dazed, but otherwise healthy, as he replies to questions from an Egyptian TV reporter.

Hamas cameramen behind Shalit in Egypt interviewHowever, Melanie Philips observes that off camera behind Sgt Shalit was a “man in fatigues and wearing a black face mask and the green headband of the Qassam brigades – Hamas’s military wing – and with a video camera in his hand”, with his other hand resting on the back of Sgt Shalit's chair. The frail young man was clearly being intimidated.

Nothing is as it seems in that benighted part of the world. 

Meanwhile, in exchange, the Israelis released 1,037 prisoners, nearly all Palestinians and other Arabs, many of them unrepentant multi-murderers.  Little good can surely ensue. 

Back to List of Contents

Irish Medical Terminology

The Irish have the low stress rates because they do not take medical terminology seriously

Medical Term


Irish Definition



The study of paintings


Back door to cafeteria


What doctors do when patients die


What you be, after you be eight
Caesarean Section


A neighbourhood in Rome
Cat scan


Searching for Kitty


Made eye contact with her


A sheep dog


A punctuation mark


To live long


Not a friend


Quicker than someone else


A small lie


Distinguished, well known
Labour Pain


Getting hurt at work
Medical Staff


A Doctor's cane


A higher offer


Rates of Pay for Working at Night,
Norm ally more money than Days


I knew it


A person who has fainted


Second cousin to Elvis
Post Operative


A letter carrier
Recovery Room


Place to do upholstery


Nearly killed him


Hiding something


Roman Emperor


A small table
Terminal Illness


Getting sick at the airport


One plus one more


Opposite of you're out

Click here for more stuff of similar intellectual, er, integrity ... 

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Civil Partnership as Sexual Apartheid - 8th October 2011

The most unpopular man in a gay marriage university debate

Trinity College Dublin's Philosophical Society is one of the world's most prestigious student debating fora, and regularly invites celebrity guests to speak.  The Phil” as it is colloquially known was founded in 1683 as a paper-reading society for the “discourse of philosophy, mathematics, and other polite literature.  It is said to be the world's oldest debating society and is currently on its 327th annual session.  Its patrons, disreputable and otherwise, include


politician Bertie Ahern (d),


historian Niall Fergusson (o),


UN nuclear diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei (d),


US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg (o).

Three years ago I (distinctly not a celebrity) was invited to speak at a debate about drugs legalisation, which I reported on here

Last week (2nd October), they had me back again to speak against the motion “This House Believes Civil Partnerships are Sexual Apartheid”.  It's apparently not easy to find someone prepared to make himself unpopular by rejecting the social conformities of the day.  But if you need someone to speak against gay marriage, against global warming, pro-Israel, against Obama, I seem to be your man! 

The Phil's poster advertising the debate

My fellow speakers, all but one of whom spoke with great verve and oratory, were:

For the motion:


Peter Tatchell, for decades a vociferous gay-rights activist, who once attempted to make a citizen's arrest on Zimbabwe's illegitimate president Robert Mugabe in London for crimes against human rights, and was beaten up by Mugabe's goons for his trouble.  Mr Tatchell was one of two celebrity guests and argued that gays should be allowed to marry, and that heteros should be allowed to enter into civil partnerhips.  Weird. 


Anne McCarthy, a solicitor and LGBT Noise organiser from Limerick, considered opponents to gay marriage to be like anti-miscegenationists from Alabama of the 1950s and decried David Quinn as one of them. 


Max Krzyzanowski (Irish but of Polish extraction) was the other celebrity guest, who in 2009 was crowned the first ever Mr Gay World defeating 19 other younger contestants.  He had scoured this website and in particular my page in order to counter some of my evidence. 


Student David Doyle who pointed out that that in Ireland there are 169 legal differences between Civil Partnership and Marriage.  He also complained that a married person who wishes to change his/her sex must first divorce before the new sex will be officially recognized.  He was outraged by these pernicious inequalities. 

Against the motion:


Professor Ray Kinsella of UCD's Quinn School of Business, a scientist who is an expert on financial institutions, insurance and corporate governance, and bears an alarming likeness to Henry Kissinger.  The main thrust of his low-key speech was that marriage is as defined in the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah and this trumps everything else. 

 Professor Ray Kinsella Henry Kissinger


Owen Murphy and Jamie Donnelly were student members on, apparently, my side.  But each of them decried marriage itself and more or less made arguments favouring the Proposition rather than the Opposition.  What allies!


Me.  I was the only person who tried to present rational arguments in opposition to the motion (see below).  This made it a kind-of six against one contest with one abstention, but I'm not whingeing.  It was fun. 

Anyway, I showed up, was treated to an excellent dinner with Guinness and wine and presented my speech in front of an audience of about 300 attending the debate.  I was, inevitably, labelled by other speakers (especially Mr Gay World 2009) dishonourable”, “homophobic”, “dishonest”, “a bigot” and other colourful epithets I don't remember, and all without a shred of evidence.  I also elicited the evening's biggest cry of “Shame!”, of which I am rather proud.  

So I must have been saying something right. 

Moreover, I was delighted to see that the spirit and practice of free speech is so alive and robust at The Phil. 

(Incidentally, I have argued elsewhere that the Left often has to resort to fancy name-calling and lots of noise because their arguments are usually so thin that demolition of their opponents' case purely through logic doesn't work very well.) 

Following the debate itself, the evening proceeded with three successive drinking sessions and notwithstanding the earlier fireworks we all became best of friends.  It ended with a cohort walking to a nearby night club called Prhomo (which is a sponsor of The Phil) until the early hours; I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to a gay bar, not least because the beer was only €3 a pint (compared with €4-6 elsewhere). 

The Phil's own online account of the debate may be found here.

And here is my speech.  You can make up your own mind as to how dishonourable”, “homophobic”, “dishonest” and “bigoted” it is. 

“This House Believes Civil Partnerships are Sexual Apartheid”

Mr President, Members of the Council, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for inviting me here tonight.

Last month, a Brazilian Congressman called Jair Bolsonaro caused outrage among ordinary decent Brazilians when he declared that I'd rather have a dead son than a gay son”.  This so outraged many heartbroken Brazilian parents who had lost sons and daughters simply for the sin of being born gay that they set up an organization called the “Equality Moms”, which is campaigning to end violence, prejudice and discrimination against LGBTs, objectives I would wholeheartedly endorse. 

If I were a Mom I would therefore be delighted to support such an organization, were it not for that pernicious word “Equality”.  “Equality”, like “fairness” is one of those modern, feel-good epithets that totally deny the world in which we and all living things exist.  For if nature were signed up to the “equality” agenda, it would have provided me with the ovaries that so many of you happily possess, and I could indeed have become a Mom. 

Equality”, or some interpretation that has no bearing on the word, is I think at the heart of today’s motion, “This House Believes Civil Partnerships are Sexual Apartheid”. 

Apartheid” is another word co-opted so as to pretend it means something entirely different from what it actually does.  The Afrikaaners did this first when they took the original, neutral, Dutch world for “Separateness” or “Apartness” and made it decidedly unneutral by instituting a barbaric regime of systematic oppression and domination by Whites over people they classified as Blacks and Coloureds, enforced by segregation, suppression, harassment, brutality, imprisonment and often death.  Yet now some of the wilder elements among gay marriage proponents are using the word “Apartheid” to imply that LBGTs are being subjected to similar savagery.  This is preposterous, adolescent and an insult to those black and mixed-race human beings who were genuinely crushed under Apartheid’s vicious jackboot. 

The gross misuse of the word “Apartheid” is alone sufficient to dismiss this evening’s motion as ridiculous.  But there is more. 

Let me return to “Equality”.  Outside the realm of mathematics, it is, like beauty, a word that exists only in the eye of the beholder (or beer-holder as some wit once observed).  It has no absolute value. 


If my salary is 20% less than yours, that is not equal. 


Unless I work 20% less than you, then it IS equal. 


Or my work produces only half the widgets that you produce
in which case our salaries are unequal because even with
20% less salary I am clearly overpaid. 

All humans may be equal in the eyes of God, or Bhudda or Gaia.  But in human eyes is a person with testicles equal to a person with a womb? I dunno.  It’s a meaningless question; remember that we are all different, each of us is unique – just like everyone else. 

The argument is often advanced that to deny marriage to two people of the same sex is contrary to Equality.  But of course it’s not.  They are as free as anyone else to marry, to marry someone of the opposite sex; no-one is preventing them from marrying.  Their marital opportunities are the equal of those of heterosexuals.  Unless, as a beer-holder your view of “equality” differs – is not the equal of mine as it were. 

Of course the modern argument is that “marriage” no longer means a union between a man and a woman, as it has for thousands of years.  It just means a union.  But there we go again, trying to make words mean what they patently do not mean.  But nevertheless, let’s explore some ramifications. 

If the word “marriage” were to be mutilated to drop the inconvenient one-man-one-woman stricture, there would be no reason to stop there.  If one-man-one-man becomes OK, then why not


polygamy and polyandry,


or three women,


or a man and five camels,


or indeed 33-year-old Amy Wolfe and her wish to marry a fairground ride as The Sun gleefully reported two years ago?

And why must sex be involved?  Why shouldn't


a pair of bridge partners be eligible for the marital tax breaks,


or 2008’s English spinster sisters Joyce and Sybil Burden faced with eviction because of inheritance taxes,


or a man and his sons?   

Surely all this would be equality in action.  But of course I am being ridiculous, as is anyone who wants to pretend marriage means something other than what it does and that “equality” has some role to play. 

That’s why the concept of “Civil Partnership” or “Civil Union” was invented.  And for reasons never adequately explained by the legislators, it has recently become law in this country (and others).  In particular, what the State receives in return for marital tax, pension, inheritance and other advantages remains a mystery.  Another mystery is why this strange new institution created, supposedly, in the name of “equality”, is restricted to sexual partners yet is unavailable to, say, golf buddies who choose not to share a bed. 

As far as the golf buddies or those spinster sisters are concerned, Civil Partnerships are most certainly a form of “Sexual Apartness”.   No sex, no Civil Partnership (though I wonder who is supposed to police this). 

But I doubt the drafters of tonight’s motion had that kind of Apartness in mind.  I suspect the Apartness refers to the fact that the State has not legislated for same sex couples to enter into a “marriage”, notwithstanding that as discussed this would be an oxymoron. 

Nevertheless, it is worth restating exactly why, compared with other human institutions, marriage carries certain advantages, in particular tax breaks designed to encourage couples to marry.  Governments have no money, they only spend other people’s cash (called taxes).  Therefore they have no right to spend anything – or to grant tax breaks – without a clear and likely payback.  The marriage payback for the State is twofold, enormous and unique to marriage.   

Firstly, it is the institution most likely to procreate babies.  This is no laughing matter, for without babies there will be no future citizens.  Indeed no-one to repay the gigantic €120 billion debt this country has piled up and is still disgracefully adding to at an unconscionable rate of €22 billion a year.  Above all, babies are an existential issue: without them there will be no state.  Just ask babyless Russia, Japan and Germany which are in the throes of terminal and irreversible demographic decline. 

The second huge payback comes in the form of the overall quality of those future citizens, because, in general, children fare better in life when raised by their two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage [Loud outcry of SHAME!]

This statement is backed by overwhelming documentary evidence (which you can find at showing that outcomes are, in general, better for children in terms of


child poverty,


sexual & physical child abuse,


school drop-out,


physical & mental ill-health,






drugs misuse,


criminal behaviour,


becoming divorced or unwed parents themselves.

While of course there are exceptions on all sides – meaning there are instances of dreadful married parents and examples of wonderful single or gay parents – no systematic studies dispute this crucial finding. 

Legislation should be dealing with the general not the exception, and thus for the good of the State encouraging marriage over other family forms.  For these reasons, there is no case for the State to involve itself in either gay marriage or civil partnerships. 

Nevertheless it would be grossly unfair and unequal if the State or anyone were to attempt to prevent them taking place.  But they should simply be private arrangements and personal commitments made between willing individuals. 

It’s just none of the State’s damn business and it should keep its interfering nose out.   You have to wonder why otherwise somewhat anarchic LGBTs are so keen to bring the State into their bedrooms. 

So in conclusion, are Civil Partnerships Sexual Apartheid?  Well obviously not “Apartheid” so let’s say Apartness.  They are Sexual Apartness in the sense that for no rational purpose they are open only to couples who practice gay sex, not those spinster sisters or bridge partners or golf buddies. 

But in terms of Apartness vis-ŕ-vis marriage, such partnerships have been designed and constructed so as to be legally scarcely different from marriage, despite applying to a situation that is entirely different from marriage.  Applying the “same” or “equal” or non-“Apartness” solution to two entirely different situations makes no sense at all.  And it’s certainly not discriminatory to treat different situations in different ways. 

I ask you to vote against the motion. 

Thank you very much. 

A voice-vote was held after the last speech.  It fell overwhelmingly in favour of one side of the debate.  I leave you to figure out which!

Back to List of Contents

Issue 216’s Comments to Cyberspace

bullet Hydraulic Fracturing [P!] 
Letter published in the Sunday Times on 9th October

Many misunderstanding surrounds the technique of hydraulic fracturing that you discuss.  Fraccing (to use the oil industry's spelling) is by no means a new technology - it's been around for half a century. It is a matter of pumping fluid (usually water) into rock formation to cause it to fracture open and increase the paths by which ...

Ignorance about Hydraulic Fracturing in Leitrim
Letter to the Irish Times
Last week RTE ran a crazy Prime Time discussion about producing gas in Leitrim by hydraulically fracturing shale, crazy because it involved three spokespersons who clearly had a very shaky grasp of the technology ...


'Botox Bob' dilemma for men of a certain age
Online comment (p2+) in the Irish Times
This is a great article, very entertaining, especially because of all the whining comments it elicited - 10 out of 13!  Whingers - you sound more ridiculous than ... 


More power to us if we choose nuclear option
Online comment in the Irish Times
Good to see you back in the Irish Times, John, if only for the rich pickings you provide! This time it's your statement that “On the other hand, at least three million people will die this year as a result of ... mining and burning of fossil fuels ...” ...


Legal system provides no guarantee of justice
Online comment in the Irish Times
An excellent and shocking analysis. But the author is completely misguided when he complains about
all the trappings of a royal court – wigs, gowns, prayer bands, tipstaffs ... 


Let's make Norway joint owner of our oil and gas
Online comment in the Irish Times article
This article is unbelievably infantile! Firstly, Ireland does not have
reserves of 6.5 billion barrels of oil and 20 trillion cubic feet of gas off the western seaboard. This is just a wild futuristic guestimate of what might be there ... 


The end is nigh and it's all because of single mothers
Online comments (p3) in Irish Times Hourihane
No serious commentator is criticising single mothers per se [for the mass lootings in England]. The issue is the absence of fathers and the seriously deleterious effect of this ...


Merely a study document
Letter to The Economist on 9th August
You wrongly and misleadingly say that the Vatican dismissed child-protection procedures set up by Irish bishops in 1996 as “merely a study document”. The actual letter of 31st January 1997 from the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland where this phrase appeared is clear ...

Back to List of Contents

Quotes for Issue 216

- - - - - S T E V E   J O B S - - - - -

Quote: “The world has lost a visionary, and there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.” 

US president Barrack Obama pays tribute
to Steve Jobs, the late founder and CEO of Apple

Quote: To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community: I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come. I hereby resign as CEO of Apple.”

Steve Jobs, the founder and visionary CEO of Apple,
and inspiration for iEverything,
bows to the pancreatic cancer that, sadly, has been
slowly killing him for
seven years

10yrs ago we had Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope ... Now we have no jobs, no cash and no hope!


- - - - - L I B Y A - - - - -

Quote: We are asking Israel to use its influence in the international community to end the tyrannical regime of [Moammar] Q'Daffy and his family.”

Ahmad Shabani, a rebel spokesman and member of Libya’s emerging leadership, makes a curious and encouraging call to Israel for help;
perhaps for Mossad to find and even eliminate Libya's ex-leader.

Quote: I am afraid if we don't act, they will burn Tripoli.  There will be no more water, food, electricity or freedom.”

Libya's Col Q'Daffy, in a Chemical Ali moment,
as Tripoli falls, signalling his own demise

- - - - - U K - - - - -

Quote: “If we want to have any hope of mending our broken society, family and parenting is where we’ve got to start ... So from here on I want a family test to be applied to all domestic policy. If it hurts families, if it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keep people together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn’t do it.

David Cameron, in a welcome burst of pro-family oratory. 

Let's see whether he actually promotes such fine words into legislative action. 

- - - - O B A M A ' s   U S A - - - - -

Quote: Your policy has been one which I fully understand - I’m not second-guessing - of one child per family.”

US Vice President Joe Biden tells the Chinese Communist Party
that its policy of industrial-scale enforced abortion, infanticide and sterilisation,
with a strong bias for female gendercide,
is just fine by America


Quote: “Throughout history, poverty is the normal
condition of man. Advances which permit this norm
to be exceeded - here and there, now and then -
are the work of an extremely small minority,
frequently despised, often condemned, and almost
always opposed by all right-thinking people.
Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating,
or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a
society, the people then slip back into abject
poverty. This is known as ...
bad luck’.

Robert Heinlein, once America's
dean of science fiction writers,
who died in 1988


Quote: “We had
reversed the recession,
avoided a depression,
gotten the economy
moving again. But
over the last six
months we've had
a run of ...
bad luck


Barack Obama,
Decorah, Iowa

in 2011

Why can't someone just find a way to eliminate bad luck”? 

Quote: I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above above the world, he's sort of god.”

Evan Thomas, editor of Newsweek magazine,
being interviewed by Chris Matthews,
who once declared that Mr Obama gave him
 a thrill up his leg” or something.

Well he is a thrilling god.  Isn't he?

Quote: Those of us who were bewitched by [Obama's] eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography:


that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state;


that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and


that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted ‘present’ (instead of ‘yea’ or ‘nay’) 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.”

Drew Westen, a columnist in the New York Times,
belatedly agrees with my own contemporaneous observations
of Senator Obama as an empty gong

It is rare that the NYT will allow any criticism of the Chosen One.

Quote: President Obama - this is personal to you. All the black people was proud - we got a black president. You acting like one now, B. Pay your f**king bills on time!

Felonius Munk (real name Denis Banks),
 a black comedian and commentator, is not impressed
by the US deficit caused by out-of-control federal spending

Quote: It's true, I am not an American. I was not born in Hawaii, I wasn't born in the United STates of America, I come from Kenya.

This is an extraordinary, unforced admission on video
by the US president that he is constitutionally ineligible
to be the US president. 

But its' a hoax,
albeit an extraordinarily skilful one.
Enjoy the Youtube clip!

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

Martin McGuinness confronted by David Kelly, with a picture of his dadNew (11 Oct) - Quote: I want justice for my father.  I believe that you know the names of the killers of my father and I want you to tell me who they are.  You were on the army council of the IRA [when he was murdered by the IRA]”

David Kelly, 35, whose soldier-father was murdered
at aged 35 by an IRA team of four
while trying to rescue Don Tidy, a supermarket
executive kidnapped by the IRA in 1983,
discomfits Martin McGuinness, Irish presidential candidate and ex IRA boss

Quote: “Just because you are chained to the post doesn’t mean you can’t bark at the dogs.”

Dáithí Ó Sé, host of the 2011 Rose of Tralee contest,
and recently engaged to the 2009 New Jersey Rose Rita Talty,
after journalists chided him for observing
that all the Roses are “so beautiful”.

- - - - - S T E Y N - - - - -

Quote: A woman's place is in the kitchen dressing a 1,200-pound moose she took down out back at dawn.”

Mark Steyn, columnist, author and proud sexist

-  -  -  -  -

Government by condom
Hat-tip: John Connolly

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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 BP 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

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