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
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#52 - 31st August 2003
Bits Off Babies
In recent months, we've heard a lot about the need to
circumcise baby boys and adolescent girls in the name of someone or
other's rich cultural heritage.
The issue came to the fore recently in Ireland when a
botched back-street circumcision of a Nigerian baby resulted in the baby
bleeding to death. Groupings such as Muslims, Jews, many Africans
and others practice circumcision of male infants for no reason other than
that it has always been done. It is widespread across the
When there is a medical requirement for circumcision, this
presents no problem, and there are clear procedural
However, medical need is rare;
parents usually request that their son be circumcised only for religious
or traditional, not therapeutic, reasons. In this event,
the Jews, Muslims etc want circumcision on demand with
no ifs or buts,
many others (myself included) consider doctors have no
right to chop bits off children without the informed consent of the
The British Medical Association has managed to anger both
sides by publishing ethical
guidance for doctors which amounts to saying if you can get both
parents to agree, then you can go ahead and do the non-therapeutic
Female circumcision, more commonly called FGM
(Female Genital Mutilation), is at least specifically outlawed in many
Western jurisdictions, for it is far more barbaric and dangerous than the
male equivalent. It is practiced extensively in 30
African and Middle Eastern countries and by their nationals when they
emigrate. Unlike the religious dimension and utter pointlessness of
male circumcision, FGM is not religion-based but has a sinister purpose -
to remove a woman's sexual pleasure and thus ensure her
faithfulness. As well as the agony the young girl has to undergo and
the infection that frequently follows, it also causes lifelong genito-urinary
problems and - similar to the male procedure - there is hardly ever
any medical justification for it.
There is a third way that children are cut (without
anaesthetic as usual).
The British Dental Association's (subscription-only) Launchpad
journal recently described
infant oral mutilation (IOM), in which baby teeth, usually the canines,
are dug out of the baby's mouth using a bicycle spoke, knitting needle,
knife, screwdriver, whatever comes to hand, even finger nails. IOM
is practiced in Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia and
is based on neither religion or culture, but on ignorance. For
practitioners believe that the the infant's tiny white tooth follicles -
precursors to the emergence of their baby-teeth - are
worms which cause fever and diarrhoea. So they are
brutally rooted out, with much pain and loss of blood. As with the
other mutilations, IOM results in lifelong disfigurement and often causes
infection and sometimes death.
forms for child mutilation may be summed up and compared as follows
? (no anaesthetic)
term damage ?
Actual Function ?
Redeeming Feature ?
The only things in common is that they are all medically
unnecessary, hazardous, painful, result in long term damage and have no
This is reason enough to trample roughshod over religious and
cultural sensitivities and ban all forms of child mutilation in the
West. A condition of living in the West should be to respect
children's rights. Meanwhile we should be campaigning for similar
bans in countries where this barbarity finds a home.
When children are old and mature enough to make their own
informed decisions, they should be allowed to undergo the procedures
should they wish. But neither parents nor doctors should be
permitted to assault children. We make enough fuss when the
religious orders abuse them.
Late Note : There is a fourth kind
of religious-driven mutilation,
this time of pregnant women. It's called symphysiotomy
The Will to
Lose in Iraq
Let me summarise a great 2,000 word article
by columnist Victor Davis Hanson.
He argues that it
is not hard to determine who wishes the United States to succeed in
rebuilding Iraq along lines that will promote consensual government,
personal freedom, and economic vitality.
Apart from the
Iraqi and American people, hardly anyone.
the Baathist holdovers in the Sunni triangle, doomed to
popular Iraqi hatred for their past sins.
the theocrats all over the region who fear their loss of control and the empowerment of women
and other hitherto repressed segments.
the Shiite extremists in Iran who feel threatened if Iraqi Shiites discover that freedom,
affluence and Islam can be compatible after all.
Not Iraq's Arab
neighbours such as Saudi Arabia, whose corrupt rulers were comfortable with the powerful thug next door because he made their own crimes look unimportant and
who received US support accordingly.
Syria and its Lebanese clients, along with
Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, who share similar concerns, and did lucrative business with the monster on their borders on terms that they
won't manage with a noisy and independent Iraqi parliament.
Egyptian dictatorship, which for 20 years has received billions in US aid for very little in return, and
which has consistently undermined Israel/Palestine peace attempts.
Not the United
Nations which, unable to disarm Iraq, hindered the invasion and
is dismayed that America might create a just society when they themselves could not.
France and Germany who, apart from their now thwarted commercial deals with Saddam, invested their prestige in
obstructing America by way of the UN; and for whom a successful Iraq would
be a humiliation.
pacificsts and socialists in general who hate to
acknowledge that a unilateral war has routed evil and offered hope to millions of oppressed.
Europeans in general, who cannot conceive that crass, naïve Yankees can bluster into the complexities of the Middle East and solve problems that sophisticated Europeans have struggled with for centuries.
Democratic contenders for the US presidency, who preach gloom and quagmire
simply because an American success in Iraq probably means a Bush re-election.
All this hysteria and unrest
should come as no surprise given the audacity of the American endeavour,
which is no less than a war of civilization to end both terrorism and the
culture and politics that foster it, across the globe.
Moreover, after two major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US has
lost only 10% of those who perished on 9/11.
In assessing the value or
otherwise of what has been accomplished, I would paraphrase Internet
Communicator's question (most
recently on 24th August) that trumps all other questions.
Are the Afghanis and
Iraqis better off than before the Americans conquered the previous rulers
Forget the bedgrudgers and
disparagers. The answer speaks for itself.
Anti-Semitic Zayed Centre
My colleague Graham in Abu Dhabi informs me that the country's innocent-sounding
yet rabidly anti-Jewish Zayed
Centre for Co-ordination and Follow Up
has been shut
down on the orders of its namesake, UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin
Sultan Al Nahyan, for engaging in a discourse that starkly
contradicted the principles of interfaith tolerance ... a basic principle of
No doubt the bad publicity it has been getting in recent months
sites such as Memri,
which translates inflammatory Arabic-language news and comment into English and
last May did a major exposé on the Zayed Centre,
blogs such as this post of mine
and many others,
the refusal of respected institutions such as Harvard
Divinity School to accept
gifts from Sheikh Zayed because of his association with the Zayed
all had something to do with it.
I had a run in a couple of months ago with the Justin
Kilcullen, Director of
Ireland's largest charity, when he deliberately
misquoted a Paul Wolfowitz speech that purported to say that oil was
the purpose of the Iraq war. Mr Kilcullen half-apologised when I
caught him out (ah, the power of cyberspace).
Unchastened by this, he was on the radio last week being
together with Tom Arnold the CEO of
the next biggest Irish charity. (You can listen to the interview
up to Monday 1st September.)
Ireland recently decided to double its aid budget to the
Ugandan government. Pat suggested the behaviour of the Ugandan
government made this a mistake. Surely it was better that aid be
channelled via NGOs like Trócaire and Concern so as to make sure it goes
where it is needed.
However, Justin and Tom put up a robust defence as to why
the Irish taxpayer should indeed send more money to the corrupt Ugandan
Museveni and his government, while Uganda continues
militias who are fighting, killing, limb-chopping and raping in the Congo
civil war that has killed some four million people over the past five
to export diamonds in quantity though it has no
diamond reserves of its own whereas Congo is full of them.
The interviewer therefore posed a simple question - if the
current circumstances warrant an increase in aid, how much worse
must the Ugandan authorities behave before aid should be frozen or
withheld ? The two charitymongers were unable to answer coherently, only to say
that there were
some signs of improvement and that should be
sufficient to keep shovelling across the cash.
When questioned about Ugandan corruption, they said that
there are no clean leaders in Central Africa, therefore you must deal with
what you have. Isn't that racism, asked the interviewer, to apply
lower standards to Africans than to Westerners ? If France were to
support a brutal civil war in Austria should we support it ? Should we
overlook Saddam's minor infractions and invite him back to help rule Iraq
in the interests of stability ?
The charityeers were pretty dumbfounded.
have to make judgments,
they mumbled. NGOs can't do their business unless the Irish taxpayer
pays money to the Ugandan government, which according to Pat Kenny, creams
It was an ignominious performance, prompted, I can only
think, by an expectation that some crumbs of the Irish taxpayer's
subvention ends up in those charities' coffers. Either that or the
charities want to suck up to the governments of Ireland and Uganda in
exchange for unspecified favours.
By comparison, John Shea, the head of GOAL,
Ireland's third biggest charity, in an earlier interview had clearly
stated his opposition to sending any aid at all to the Ugandan government
while it continues its illegal activity.
So long as certain charities devote their energies to
politicking instead of the causes they purport to support, I for one will
give them nothing.
So, Trócaire and Concern are taboo for me; my vote and
uros go to GOAL.
: Read this follow-up, entitled
Trócaire Fisked not Fixed
Mars Gets Close
Counting outwards, Earth is the third planet (after Mercury and Venus)
to whizz around the sun, and the next one out is Mars.
Mars is coloured red by iron-rich dust kicked up in the swirling,
wind-blown atmosphere as the planet spins like a toy top. It
has polar caps of ice and frozen carbon dioxide, an incredible
25-kilometre high extinct volcano, a canyon system 5,000 km long, dunes
and channels carved by water, and surface temperature averages minus
Earth, bigger and heftier than all four planets, is double the diameter
of Mars and ten times heavier. Because of these variations and their
different orbits, their proximity to each other varies over
To see what Earth looks like from Mars click here.
Mars generated a flurry of interest last week when it skidded by within
a mere (sic) 56 million km of earth, and was visible with the naked eye as
a reddish dot.
The last time it was this close was 59,619 years ago, so the last
people to have seen it this easily were the Neanderthals who lived in
parts of Eurasia during the last Ice Age. They looked similar to us but
with more pronounced foreheads, wider noses and larger jaws. Neanderthals
were short, stocky and said to be robust, though not enough to avoid
mysterious extinction 25,000 years later.
friend Samir, a skilled amateur astronomer, was the first to send me a
photographic image, achieved with his computer-controlled 8
telescope mounted on the roof of his house in Muscat. He remarks
that thanks to digital technology there is no comparison between
photographs produced by professional observatories in the 1950s and what
his $100 webcam can achieve today, such as this marvellous picture.
Altogether, he took 200 photos, five seconds apart, exposed for a 50th of
a second, then started picking out the best.
he publishes his full selection on the web, I'll provide a
Latest Images are now (30th Sep)
To see more of his Mars photos and a
comparisons of these with images obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope
(latest and best at Mars' closest) and also from the Mount Wilson
Observatory from the 1950s, click here.
cartoonist Martyn Turner is not convinced that everyone is happy to see
Mars and Earth pass so close.
And that's plenty close enough
Mars News : Earth closest for 60,000 years ... 35 million miles away
A lot of people think wealthy people become wealthy because they either
make a lot of money or they inherit a lot. But that's not true for
the vast majority people. In fact, most of the wealth accumulated by the
so-called well-off was accumulated over a lifetime by simply making a
habit of saving.
The reason rich people get richer and poor people get poorer is
rich people keep doing the things that got them rich in the first
poor people keep doing the things that keep them poor.
So let's examine how rich people became, well, rich.
To begin with,
is a state of mind;
is a state of purse.
It's not so easy to fix being poor, but we can fix being broke.
There's no magic. We must just work hard, get a little money,
save some of it, and turn this process into a habit for very long periods
of time. Eventually, we won't be broke any more. But the poor people next
to us will remain poor - because they will spend any small amounts of
money they might come upon, so preventing themselves from accumulating
To make this work ...
We need to start early. Don't wait until next month or next year. We
must start to save as early as we can, because we want to take maximum
advantage of time.
The next thing we need to do is save or invest often - not every six
months, not once a year, but at least monthly.
We mustn't let anything stop us from investing. It's easy to
get sidetracked when we're hit with unexpected expenses or changes in
our life. But if we want to be financially successful, then we must
continue investing, through thick and thin.
All those who lament their poverty can offer dozens of reasons why
they don't save. Lots of people face challenges, but what sets the
financially successful people apart is that they didn't let life
events interfere with their goal to save for the future.
We can make all the excuses we want, but the fact remains. Either
we will or we will not achieve wealth.
We can make excuses for why we are not saving, or we can move past
the excuses and save anyway.
We can lament our low pay, our high expenses, our difficult
circumstances, or our bad luck.
Or we can ignore all those problems and save anyway. It's entirely up
to each of us. That means we need to start saving money now - no matter
how little we have, no matter how old or young we are. For
Save $£10 or $£25 before you pay this month's bills. Then
pay the bills. You'll be broke when you're done (like you are every
month), but this way, you'll have saved a few bucks before you went
Stop spending small coins (change below $£I). By saving your
change every month, you'll accumulate $£20 or more - literally
It won't take long to realise how remarkably easy it is to save money.
And, over time, the wealth will come, little by little. It's just a
matter of habit.
This wisdom is plagiarised from a print-only article in the
September 2003 edition of Dublin's PORTfolio
I've noticed that there's much less rhubarb in the shops this summer
than in previous years. Apparently we should blame the global
warming that we Europeans have all been enjoying (well, perhaps not French
Rhubarb, which has been flourishing since its first mention 4,700 years
ago in China, just can't take the heat.
With its pharmaceutical roots, delicious stalks and poisonous leaves,
the Chinese over the centuries used different bits of it variously
a potent drug,
an anti-plague medicine,
a suicide drug,
a wound-healing palliative,
though apparently not as a foodstuff.
Cultivation began in Europe only in the 17th century and in America the
following century, and rhubarb gained notoriety in the dual function of
medicament (the roots) and pie-filling (the stalks). In England,
medical rhubarb was often sold by Englishmen dressed up as Turks to give
it a convincing exotic aura.
Some say the name comes from Rha Barbarum, because it once grew along
the river Rha (now the Volga) on the other side of which foreigners
(barbarians) lived. Others think it comes from rheo, the Greek for
'to flow', a coy allusion to the purgative properties of the root.
Still others think rhubarb simply means red beard.
Whatever, it's not going away, just north to cooler climes.
Icelanders are apparently keen growers - they love rhubarb
Quote of the Week
: Americas bitter victory in Iraq has been described a thousand
times. The mistake made by the international community, and by France, is
to see nothing beyond this apparent failure and to cynically rejoice,
proving America wrong. Even if the US is not going at it right, it is
trying to defend freedom against an aggressor who wants total war, as
proven by the attack on the UN.
We must remember and never forget the original act of terror against
the World Trade Center: the war against the World.
This war is not a war against America, but against a rich world
of trade and against its democratic partners ...
This is a war waged by an enemy without a face but with a vision:
killing knowledge and emancipation ...
This is not blind terrorism.
Its goals are clear: whether we are French, American or Moroccan ...
Christians, Jews or Muslims, we are all a target. The US is caught in a
quagmire in Iraq. To join them under the banner of the UN is an act of
Alain Genestar, editor of Paris Match,
writing on 28th August 2003, and demonstrating that
there is still a segment of common-sense in French society
THE ARCHIVE BAR AT THE TOP LEFT, FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE
#51 - 24th August 2003
in Baghdad as a Breakthrough
That dreadful UN suicide-bomb in Baghdad snatched 23
innocent lives last week, including that of Sergio Vieira de
Mello, the UN High Representative to Iraq, who was also successor
to Ireland's ex-President Mary Robinson as UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights. Some 100 more people were
injured. Yet, to the disappointment of those malefactors who planned
the outrage, it may herald a breakthrough into a new era of mutual understanding,
respect and co-operation between the UN and the US, after the bitter row that
followed the UN's unwillingness to enforce its Resolution
For it has surely driven home a few truths.
Baghdad is a very dangerous place, if not all of Iraq.
It contains well-equipped thugs, whether Ba'athists or
who have no interest in the well-being of Iraqis and no respect for
benevolent international institutions such as the UN or NGOs.
The UN therefore is no safer than the US/UK/Oz
Coalition, nor will any UN mandate make any of them any safer.
The bad guys just want to kill everyone.
Only American muscle has the capability and command
structure to provide what security there is (though the UN would let
it provide very
little for the Canal Hotel which housed the UN offices that were
Without security, nothing constructive can be achieved
America will be blamed for everything that goes wrong
and will get little credit for anything that goes right.
Actually, columnist Mark Steyn expresses
the American blame thing much more elegantly than I ...
It's the Americans' fault
they made Iraq so insecure their own
troops are getting picked off every day;
okay, fewer are being picked off than
a few weeks back, but that's only because the Americans have made
their own bases so secure that only soft targets like the UN are
okay, the UN's only a soft target
because they turned down American protection, but the Americans
should have had enough sense just to go ahead and install the
concrete barriers and perimeter trenches anyway;
okay, if they'd done that, the
beloved UN would have been further compromised by unduly close
association with the hated Americans, which is probably what got
them killed in the first place.
Nevertheless, those red bullet points above surely must point in only one direction - the need for
the US and UN to co-operate together in the reconstruction of Iraq, but
with overall responsibility remaining in US hands.
In such a dangerous maelstrom, it is naive to think
that the UN could take over the management of Iraq without its own
large, well-armed force of blue berets with robust rules of
Equally, the experiences of Srebenica, Rwanda
elsewhere illustrate the utter unwillingness of member states to provide
such a force, and what can happen in dangerous situations when
Nevertheless, the US is undoubtedly struggling.
It sorely needs help in a wide sphere of
humanitarian and nation-building functions, help that the UN is
uniquely equipped to provide.
We have to assume that the countries of the UN -
refuseniks like France, Germany and Russia included - do at heart have the best
interests of the Iraqi people, no matter how much they may resent
what they see as America's high-handed action in removing
All parties should now therefore seize the opportunity to use the bombing of the UN
offices as a breakthrough - an excuse to put their differences behind them
- in order to confront the common enemy in the pragmatic way
suggested. But will they ?
There is much to do on the civic front; appointing the
Governing Council was only the first step towards democratisation.
In fact, democratisation is in a sense not a beginning but
an end point that
you achieve only after doing more difficult things - services and
constitutionalist things - such as
restoration of electricity, water, waste-removal, etc;
building of a professional police force (which is now
proceeding apace with 37,000
fostering of a free press, radio and TV;
federalist protection for the different religious and
ethnic groups - Shi'ites, Sunnis, Marsh Arabs, Kurds, Turkomen etc
creation of an independent judiciary;
Separation of powers between the future parliament,
executive government and new judiciary;
conducting of a census;
writing of a constitution and getting it approved in a
The contribution that the UN can make in many of these
areas is immense, if it can put its mind to it.
But the US, because there is no-one else and because they
will continue to provide up to 80% of the manpower, will have to remain in overall charge, though
should be prepared to allow the UN significant input in decision-making. The
UN should be pleased with such a pact - involvement and influence, yet
still leaving America to carry the can for any and all
Kofi Annan recently remarked
that America should share
with other countries not just the burden of managing Iraq but also
decisions and responsibility. This is doable provided
sharing is interpreted to mean
rather than the unworkable paralysis of
As for responsibility, everyone is going to blame America no matter what,
and for non-Americans you would think this was just fine.
There are therefore grounds for optimism that some sort of
UN Resolution will take shape to embrace such concepts in a face-saving
formula. In that case, the sacrifices of those unwitting UN victims
will not have been entirely in vain. And the chances of
creating a successful new democratic Iraq will have been
The alternative - where everyone just walks away and
leaves Iraq to descend into civil
war - is too dreadful to contemplate.
Yet I heard on the radio only today (Sunday 24 Aug),
Ireland's distinguished Senator David Norris declare exactly that - that the
Americans and British should
get out of Iraq.
Once again, the Israel/Palestine question looks utterly intractable.
A three-month ceasefire is supposed to be in place.
The Palestinians call it a
hudna, whose true Islamic meaning is
a short-term truce against a stronger enemy, to be employed as a tactic to
build up forces in order to subsequently vanquish the foe. Both
sides have taken a few tiny, bad-tempered steps down the roadmap.
But violence has continued and it looks like everyone is now abandoning
The violence has a grim pattern, which precedes the
The Palestinians send some youth strapped with
explosives into a place crowded with Israeli civilians. They
can identify him because his head is always blown off
recently it was a bus full of Jewish families in Jerusalem returning
from prayer at the Wailing Wall, of whom 20 were killed including many
The Israelis respond with the assassination of a leader
of one of the terror-sponsoring organizations, usually killing a few
bystanders in the process.
Most recently it was Ismail Abu Shanab, a high-profile senior leader of
Hamas, the group that claimed responsibility for the bus-bomb; two
of his bodyguards also died.
The Palestinians send another suicide-bomber, and so
the cycle continues.
The first job of any Government is to protect its
citizens. That includes Israel, the only proper democracy in the
Middle East and thus its only legitimate Government with a mandate from
its people. There are only three ways for them to respond to an
attack on their civilians.
Unrealistic. The bad guys are certainly not
going to stop
bombings if they know there will be no retaliation.
Attack civilian targets
Gross. The Palestinian attacks on civilians
unforgivable, but do not justify retaliation in kind, under
Target militant leader(s)
The only remaining alternative. And it has some
justice, despite the civilians that also get (unintentionally)
killed in the process. And of course, Israel is berated
round the world for doing it.
Israel is thus in an impossible situation.
Yet the world remains largely tolerant of the
Palestinians' suicide-bombing behaviour, even though, because they overwhelmingly target
non-combatants, their human rights record is far worse than
Israel's. A study
last year showed that
Only 20% of the Israelis killed were combatants, whereas
62% of Palestinians killed were combatants.
This highlights the irony
that Palestinians attack soft civilian targets because they cannot get
close to tough military ones. In
other words, the very success of the Israeli Defence Forces as a fighting
unit established to protect Israeli civilians is in fact contributing to
the Israeli civilian casualties. What
is the solution ? To
downgrade the IDFs capabilities so that Palestinians can kill them more
Nevertheless, I am still hopeful about Palestinian Prime Minister Abu
who at least denounced the bombing as
a horrible act
which does not serve the interest of the Palestinian people at all,
and vowed to hunt the bus-bomb organizers despite threats by Hamas not to
act against it.
ever the pragmatist, has
said that Israel has the capability to defeat
every Arab nation, simultaneously, if it so chooses.
He must fear
that a point may come when Israel feels it no longer has anything to lose
from a decisive military defeat of Palestinian lands, accompanied by mass deportation
of Arab inhabitants.
At a stroke, crowded Israel would increase its landmass by
a third, win valuable extra Mediterranean coastline (Gaza), and
strengthen its defences to the East (ie regaining absolute control over the West
Bank and its commanding hills).
The Palestinians, and most of the 21 Arab dictatorships
around Israel, have long proclaimed their intention to
drive the Jews into the sea.
Israel may one day feel it is time to do that to the
The recognition by realistic Palestinian leaders such as
Abu Mahzen of such a scenario is probably the only grounds to hope that a
peaceful settlement might one day be struck.
In recent months, five cameramen
have tragically died in combat zones in Iraq and Israel.
On 8th April 2003, cameramen Taras Protsyuk from Ukraine
and Spaniard José Couso were shot
dead in Baghdad's Palestine Hotel by soldiers in an American tank
during fierce combat with Iraqi defenders. The US Army mistook
the cameramen for enemy fighters.
On 19 April, Nazeh Darwazi, a cameraman for both Palestinian TV and Associated
Press, was shot
dead by an Israeli soldier after a small Israeli army unit captured
three Palestinians in the Casbah area of Nablus, one of whom was preparing
for a suicide
attack. When the soldiers were attacked by a group of young people
with stones and home-made fire bombs, they responded with rubber bullets
and then live fire.
On 3 May, freelance British cameraman James Miller was shot
dead as he covered a clash between Israeli troops and
Palestinian gunmen in an Israeli anti-arms smuggling operation in Gaza,
near the Egyptian-Israeli border. This was an operation taking
place at night, in which the (Israeli) force came under fire from an
anti-tank weapon and in which
the force returned fire with light weapons, hitting Mr Miller.
On 17 Aug, Mazen Dana, a veteran Palestinian television cameraman for Reuters,
was shot dead
in Baghdad while filming a US tank driving towards him outside the city's Abu Ghraib prison,
where where six Iraqis had been killed and 59 wounded in a mortar
attack the night before. The US soldiers thought Mr Dana was aiming
an RPG at them.
The thing in common is that the five cameramen were all trying to
film armed US or Israeli soldiers at a time of high tension when armed conflict was
either going on or reasonably to be expected.
The other thing in common is the bulky, shoulder-mounted
cameras that they were carrying. Which in each case, the soldiers in
their jumpy state mistook for RPGs (rocket-propelled
Should we be surprised at this ? Look at the
of Mr Dana, the most recent casualty,
of another cameraman atop a phone booth and
of a soldier carrying an RPG.
Suppose, in your heightened state of mind, you were
expecting people to shoot at you with an RPG, and the ongoing situation
was confused, or at a distance or in poor visibility (or all
Would you really want to wait and get up close to ensure
that that big thing pointing at you really was only a camera - and not
an RPG ? Or would you say, I'm not taking a chance, I'm taking him
This is not to defend the killing of innocent
But I am astonished that some cameramen don't seem to take
every possible measure to ensure that everyone in the conflict zone knows
they are only taking pictures.
does not mean simply wearing a bullet proof vest that says TV
in big letters.
It means getting confirmation that
everybody - especially those with the guns - understands your rôle,
and without that confirmation, it means keeping your head
So long as cameramen ignore these essentials, they will
continue to get shot.
Last week, I watched a TV documentary made by the BBC and
Jerusalem TV called
The Virgin Mary,
who is the second most important person in Christian iconology after Jesus
Christ himself. It's anti-Christian bias was unmistakable in the
incessant snide remarks along the lines of,
there is no truth in the rumour that ...
other things, the programme suggested that
became pregnant as the result of being raped by a Roman soldier rather
than by divine intervention, a cornerstone of Christianity because it
is the foundation of believing that Jesus was the Son of God;
had four brothers and two sisters, which of course further repudiates
Christian doctrine that Mary remained a virgin;
crucifixion was the sole work of the Romans with no mention that it
was in fact the Jewish hierarchy and Jewish mob who demanded it, not the
Roman colonial masters who wanted to wash their hands of him.
the BBC made a programme which similarly distorted the story of Mohammed
the Prophet and grossly offended believers in Islam, there would be an
uproar in the liberal West. Had it been screened in a Muslim
country, riots and killings (probably of Christians) would have
followed. Remember the lethal rampage in Nigeria when a journalist
suggested that Mohammed might have liked to take a Miss World contestant
as his wife ?
causing deliberate offence to believing Christians is apparently OK. We will not go on the
rampage. The BBC is safe. But our disgust is no less for
Ten Sports Photos
The Observer has published the top ten of what it calls
greatest sports photographs of all time,
with a little story about each of them. They are all quite
This is my favourite, a shot of Mohammed Ali knocking out
Cleveland Williams in Houston in 1966.
The dramatic effect is enhanced by the plain white ring
with no billboard ads, the champion in plain white shorts, the defeated
challenger prostrate in black.
This photo is also ranked number one by The Observer, but
only third by a poll of its readers.
To see the full selection, click here.
Arnie for Governator
In his race to become the next Governor of California,
Arnold Schwarzenegger has probably received a set of the best endorsements
he could hope for. For there is an equation :
California = Hollywood = Left-Wing Movie Stars =
Arnold is, however, both a movie star and a right-wing
Republican. Hollywood is appalled. Here is a roll-call
of some who have sworn to block his ascension to the State's highest
Barbra Streisand, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds,
Ed Asner, Martin Sheen, Mike Farrell, Rob Reiner, Steven Spielberg,
Susan Sarandon, Tom Hanks, Warren Beatty, Woody Harrelson.
In typical understatement, Cybill Shepherd the
once-upon-a-time presidential hopeful (yes,
really !) says it
would be the worst tragedy in the history of California.
So that's about the end of the campaigning. With
people like these as his enemies, Arnie cannot fail to be elected
Governator by the sensible and disgruntled voters of California.
Quote of the Week
: "An attack on the United Nations is an attack on the United
States. The UN is a soft target, just like oil pipelines and water
mains. They got very lucky, and we got very unlucky because we lost some
of the best people in the international system today."
a former US ambassador to the United Nations
THE ARCHIVE BAR AT THE TOP LEFT, FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE
#50 -17th August 2003 
This is the 50th
issue of the Tallrite Blog;
some sort of milestone I suppose.
It gets more difficult every week !!
Nauru - Enriched and Impoverished by Guano
Nauru is a dot of just 21
square kilometres in the Pacific, three thousand kilometres north-east of
Australia and a further three thousand from Hawaii.
Throughout most of its antiquity, it was a nesting place for
seabirds, who, over the aeons, deposited thousands of tons of droppings
right across the island, until it lay 60 metres thick.
This huge reserve of guano was to shape its modern-day history, for
better and for worse.
It was first inhabited by
seafaring Polynesian and Melanesian explorers. A
future blog will explain
the curious story of how they sailed there, against the wind, from
The first European who set
foot on Nauru was English whaleship captain, John Fearn in 1798. He liked
the little settlement with its small houses and called it Pleasant
But around 1850, Europeans
began to arrive in some numbers, bringing with them firearms and alcohol.
These products destroyed the social balance and defied the
islands name by leading to a ten-year internal war, which reduced the
population from 1,400 to 900.
In 1888, and with no reference
to the inhabitants, the island was
allocated to Germany as part of an Anglo-German Convention. But when the
British realised that it was covered in guano, from which valuable phosphate
fertilizer could be made, it quickly concluded a deal with the Germans to
start exploitation in 1906.
was around this time that the name Nauru began to replace Pleasant
The peace conference of 1919
which followed the carnage of World War 1 then allocated it from defeated Germany to
victorious Britain, with participation of Australia and New Zealand who
said their agriculture would collapse without it.
Guano exports resumed, with a royalty paid to the few thousand
Apart from three years of
Japanese occupation during World War 2, these arrangements continued until
1968 when at last the local people gained independence as well as control over
But they had not been suffering
through the years, because by this time they had one of the highest per-capita incomes in the
world, though at the same time their homeland was disappearing under their feet.
For it was not just the guano that was being removed on an
industrial scale (680,000 tons in 1994), but the vegetation and wildlife
habitat that overlay it. Astutely, the Naurans in the 1980s began a campaign of
investment in Australia, Southeast Asia and elsewhere as a hedge against
the future. Indeed I remember hiring offices in downtown Manila in 1993 in the
Pacific Star building, which had been built by the Nauru Government as
part of this multi-billion dollar programme.
Today, with its population of
10,000, Nauru is turning into a bit of an environmental and economic disaster.
The phosphate reserves are nearly exhausted, and but for a few
fields still used for agriculture, the place is barren. Most of the plants, trees, flowers, animals and birds are
gone, while young people are leaving to find work elsewhere. Everything
has to be imported, even water, so the cost of living is high. GDP is down to $5,000
per head, ranked 100th in the world. Income from those foreign investments
as does a limited amount of fishing and tourism. But it has found a
lucrative fresh source of income in money-laundering for the Russian mafia.
Yet there is some spark of
hope. Effort is going in to
restore the islands fertility removing the coral outcrops laid bare
by the removal of guano, relaying fresh soil. But they reckon effective rehabilitation will take over
The guano, with the help of
human hands, has truly enriched
and impoverished an island race.
Heartening Riots in Iraq
Last weekend rioting
erupted in the southern Shi'ite city of Basra. Residents angry at shortages of power and fuel barricaded roads with burning tyres and attacked vehicles with chunks of concrete.
The city was calmer the following morning, but electricity was still off for most of the day, leaving residents at the mercy of searing summer temperatures. British forces distributed fuel to petrol stations in 25 tankers; some people were furious at rationing that restricted fuel supplies to 25 litres for each car.
Isn't it great to hear such encouraging news from that unfortunate
country ? Let's pray for more such riots.
For if Iraqis dare vent their fury over lack of services, it means they are feeling increasingly secure over, well, security. The menace of Ba'athism is receding.
The riots are thus another sign of returning normality. The Iraqis are becoming just like us pampered people in the West, moaning when things don't work properly. OK, we may not be attacking vehicles with chunks of rock, but the difference is one only of degree.
There's no doubt it will be a long, slow grind for Iraq to drag itself into the modern, confident, free world where it deserves to be. So while we may deplore the bloodshed arising from the
violent actions of dissidents, we should also rejoice at the evidence of normalcy.
Riots over no electricity in the 50°C heat of summer is one. New
Yorkers have hardly been relishing
their own power
cuts. They might as well be Iraqis.
I can't resist sharing with you
Were Three Of Us
Suppose I were to take into my home a known murderer and protect him
from the authorities who want to bring him to justice. If the murder
were an evil act, would that not make my protection also evil ?
Suppose he were a multi-murderer, multi as in 400,000 murders, would the
extent of my evil behaviour also be multiplied 400,000-fold ? And
suppose he was also a cannibal ? And had evicted 40,000 people
from their country of birth ?
Step forward Saudi Arabia. Congratulations on having protected
for 24 years the despicable, cannibalistic, multi-murderer Idi
Amin, granting him a life of comfort which ended only when he
(thankfully) died in a coma a few days ago.
I suppose it's all of a pattern -
Provide protection to a mass-murderer;
Nurture home-grown suicide bombers (of the infamous nineteen
murderers of 19/11, eleven were Saudis, as is Osama bin Laden);
Fund numerous schools at home and all over the world that preach
jihad to children.
The harbouring of Amin is yet another example of the moral depravity of
the drinking, smoking, womanising, money-grabbing Saudi royal regime which
pretends to defend Islam while squandering the patrimony of the 18
million Saudi citizens it rules over without their permission.
Perhaps it really is all about oil. If you have enough of it, you
can get away with murder.
Guidance from the Old Testament
we're on the subject of morality, Dr Laura
Slessinger is a well-known conservative talk show host in the US.
supports and advocates biblical morality on her TV and radio shows, and on
basis, has expressed very negative beliefs about homosexuality.
anonymous American correspondent, Jim, recently wrote an open
letter on the internet seeking Dr. Laura's advice on applying biblical
morality and religious duties in today's world.
failed to respond, so I have tried to provide meaningful
to the dilemmas
Jim has posed.
you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have
learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge
with as many people as I can.
people try to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply
remind them that Leviticus 18:22** clearly
states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
18:22 - You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an
do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws
and how best to follow them.
I know you have studied these things
extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding
us God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your devoted disciple and adoring fan,
I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odour for the Lord (Lev.1:9).The problem is my neighbours.
They claim the odour is not pleasing to them.
should I deal with this?
And the priest shall burn the whole [bull] on the
altar, as a burnt offering, an offering by fire, a pleasing odour to
! Youre supposed to remove the intestines and internal
organs first. Then
apply some BBQ sauce. The neighbours will love the
odour. Get in some beer; invite them round
would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus
this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall
not go out as the male slaves do
days renting is usually more profitable than selling.
You should aim for around $100/hour, a typical rate for a
good IT consultant
know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her
period of menstrual uncleanness (Lev.15:19-24).
problem is, how do I know? I have tried asking, but most women take
When a woman has her regular discharge of blood, she
shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches shall
be unclean until the evening,
her ugly friend. Shes
bound to tell.
states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female,
provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of
mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians.
you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are round
I recently saw a TV programme about a bridge to be built joining
Alaska to Russia. I
would wait for that and then buy Siberians they will be cheaper
and more obedient
have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2
clearly states he should be put to death.
I morally obligated to kill him myself?
Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day
you shall have a holy Sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord; whoever
does any work on it shall be put to death.
modern way is to contract out such tasks.
not on the Sabbath as otherwise youll have to hire a second
hit-man to kill the first.
friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
abomination (Lev.11:10-12), it is a lesser abomination than
don't agree. Can you settle this?
Anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins
is an abomination to you
of their flesh you shall
to heterosexual shellfish as they are less abominable than
lay off the gay prawns as they are more abominable than anything.
states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect
in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.
my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
No-one who has a blemish shall draw near,
a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a defect in his
sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles shall not
come near to
contact lenses will fool the Lord every time.
of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around
their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.
should they die?
You shall not round off the hair on your temples or
mar the edges of your beard
problem with rounding off the hair on your temples is that you end
up looking like the Beatles in 1964, which is an abomination.
this reason, tell your friends that trimming is OK, but not rounding
know from Lev.11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me
may I still play football if I wear gloves?
And the swine, because it parts the hoof and is
cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you.
Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you
shall not touch; they are unclean to you
up your own hands until they are as hard as pig hide
uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different
crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made
of two different kinds of thread, cotton/polyester blend. He also
tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.
it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the
whole town together to stone them (Lev.24:10-16)?
we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do
with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)
you shall not sow your field with two kinds of
seed; nor shall there come upon you a garment of cloth made of two
kinds of stuff.
the Israelites son blasphemed the Name and
and the Lord said
let all the congregation stone
If a man takes a wife and her mother also,
shall be burned with fire, both he and they
your uncle to paint a line between the two crops; this will divide
the field into two fields.
are so cheap. Tell him
to give his wife a proper clothing allowance so she can buy pure
silk dresses like all her neighbours.
hes done that you better get on with the stoning, but you only
need your church congregation, not the whole town.
a day of it. Afterwards, invite
them back for that beer and bull barbecue
Instant Water Purification
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
So goes Part II of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's
epic poem, The
Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
But It isn't just mariners who run short of good drinking water when
there is plenty of unpotable water around. Think of
Africans living on the swamps of the Niger,
mothers drawing water from the putrid Chittagong River in
water tables contaminated by waste,
the water-borne cholera that breaks out after every earthquake
the 50% of patients hospitalized in Iraq due to bad
An astonishing new product has recently hit the market that, with no
moving parts or power or chemicals, will purify the dirtiest,
most contaminated bilge you can imagine, full of viruses, bacteria,
essentially a bag made from a membrane with pores so small that even the
tiniest particle, bacteria, virus or solvent cannot pass through it, but
pure water can. Just drop the bag, which contains some nutrient
material, into the dirty water or cesspit. Osmosis will then suck
pure water into it, while the small pore size will ensure that the
contaminants and the nutrients keep to their own sides of the
membrane. Then just drink the water through the outlet
And for what it is, the price
isn't bad. Weighing just 175 grams, a two-liter bag costs $17, and
gets cheaper the bigger the set-up you buy. No doubt mass-production
- and competition - will reduce costs further. In a disaster or
emergency situation, flying in 175 grams is nothing compared to the 2 kg
weight of two litres of water.
Hydration Technologies Inc
has full details on its website
and more information is available here.
The US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
is apparently planning to use the technology for the first time to supply hospitals and clinics
across Iraq with clean water for use as oral rehydration therapy.
Oh, and I've ordered one
||Update September 2009
The company that makes these and similar
devices things has changed its name to
You can learn
about an alternative product in the Tallrite Blog
and Paedophilia on Coronation Street
I admit it. I watch Coronation
long-running soap opera featuring ghastly people living in some working
class slum near Manchester.
I have been intrigued lately by the casual acceptance
of serious crime as nothing to get overheated about.
Two police officers, long-term Coronation Street star
Emma and newcomer Mick, blatantly perjure themselves in court. The judge does
not permit rigorous cross-examination of witnesses and an innocent man
(the horrible Les Battersby) gets sent down for six months for
assault. No-one cares; Emma gets promoted. According to Hello! (always an impeccable
source), she is not
about to be written out of the script, which means she will not get locked
away for two-plus years for her perjury like Jeffrey Archer. In other words, she
will get away with it, as presumably will Mick.
In another storyline, 35-year-old Martin
(a grandfather) is regularly sleeping with Katie, a child of 16, still at
is much talk and drama concerning the need not to get caught, especially
by the child's parents (who are friends of Martin's),
mainly because Martin will get beaten up. But not a word to
acknowledge that one of the most serious crimes on the statute books is
This criminal activity is held to be all good fun.
But imagine the outcry from the media if (when) they
get hold of such stories in real life, especially the paedophilia. I find it pretty hypocritical
for the same media to tacitly condone such behaviour just because it
occurs in a soap opera that is meant to represent real life and that
millions of all ages watch addictively.
Quote of the Week
: These are people who have been displaced three or four times in
the last few months, people who can fit everything they own into a plastic
worker David Tropp
on conditions in the Liberian capital Monrovia
THE ARCHIVE BAR AT THE TOP LEFT, FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE
#49 - 10th August 2003 
Behaviour of Catholics
Consider three Catholics, or three classes of Catholic.
A convicted terrorist who lives with a partner, and who for many years has held senior leadership positions in terrorist organizations that have murdered 2,000 people; 29 in a single bomb blast.
A tyrant president of a country, who lived with a partner, and who tortured, executed, massacred and generally terrorised his countrymen for fourteen years, causing up to
60,000 violent deaths.
A conservative journalist who lives with a partner, and advocates personal liberty, personal responsibility, fiscal rectitude, transparency, honesty and non-violence, which he also practices.
The Vatican condemns the behaviour of only one of these as
And its not the behaviour of married man Mickey
leader of the Real IRA,
jailed for twenty years last week for directing terrorism,
that attracts the epithet evil from the Vatican. Nor has any IRA member - Catholics all - been
excommunicated from the Church.
Nor did the Vatican call evil the behaviour of Catholic-born Papa-Doc
Duvalier, the (married) tyrant of Haiti, from whose knee perhaps Saddam Hussein might have learnt his craft. Oh, and shortly before the Iraq war, the Pope gave an audience to Saddams Vice President Tariq
Catholic, shook his bloodied hand and never used the word
evil in respect of that regimes behaviour.
No. Evil is reserved solely for the behaviour of number three,
the peaceable web-logging journalist
Sullivan, because he lives with another homosexual.
And for that of all other co-habiting or practicing homosexuals, male or female.
This use of evil comes from a document entitled,
Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual
Persons, which was published a week ago by the Vatican under the Popes authority. In four pages it reiterates the Catholic Churchs position on such unions. It points out that marriage between a man and woman is, in effect, societys founding unit, blessed by God, whose prime purpose is the procreation and raising of children. Few can find fault with that.
But obviously no gay behaviour will result in procreation. Therefore, from the Churchs viewpoint, it is
gravely contrary to chastity,
and thats why gays may not marry each other. The Pope is perfectly entitled to state - indeed make - the rules of the Church, regardless of whether others agree with them or find them offensive. Providing guidance to adherents in matters of faith and morals is the very function of every religion.
However one of the main objectives of the Considerations is to tell
Catholic politicians across the world that not only are Catholic marriages between gays impermissible, but so are
civil unions, in whatsoever form. This is where things get freaky.
Gays who seek a form of marriage typically want to get State recognition of mundane things that many unmarried co-habiting heterosexuals in the West are also demanding, such as
shared tax allowances,
pooling of pension rights,
mutual inheritance rights.
How do these fall into any religious ambit ? An argument put forward is that
to recognise any kind of gay civil union is
to delegitimise a straight civil union and that this in turn
downgrades a straight religious marriage,
but frankly I just cant see the logic of such connections.
If anything, gay unions would reduce promiscuity among gays which from both the religious and the society viewpoint is presumably something desirable.
The Considerations also say that for gays to adopt children is to perpetrate violence upon them, which is another blatant non-sequitur (my Oxford dictionary says violence means physical force). Nevertheless, while few can doubt that a married father and mother represent the best possible environment in which to raise their child, two caring gay parents adopting, for example, an abandoned child certainly seems preferable to a Romanian orphanage, a Brazilian street, an African slave-market. Life is often about seeking out least-bad alternatives.
The Considerations are heavy on what is wrong with gay behaviour and how society should treat them,
and they do reserve some words of compassion for people with
homosexual tendencies, saying that unjust
discrimination must be avoided.
However the document contains absolutely no guidance for those at the very centre of the issue. The only thing Catholic gays themselves can glean from it is that they must remain single and celibate for life, the only group so required. (Priests and nuns have
voluntarily vowed to remain single and celibate, which is a totally different
And this is really at the nub of the matter. Because the Church believes that
innate homosexuality does not really exist.
It is a chosen lifestyle or
a tendency or,
going by what Monsignor Andrew Baker of the Vaticans Congregation of Bishops
said last September, it is essentially a curable disease (like leprosy).
Therefore, gays should get themselves cured and marry a nice spouse of the opposite sex.
When someone is born with an incurable mental disability, physical deformity or congenital disease, the Church teaches that this is Gods will and the rest of us should therefore rally round and do what we can to make life more bearable for the afflicted to the best degree possible.
But if the Church were to designate homosexuality as an inborn affliction, not only would it mean recognizing it as Gods will, but that we should seek ways for such people to enjoy companionship and fulfillment to the best degree possible. And thats the slippery slope leading to recognition not of civil unions but of religious marriage itself. Which is just too radical for any leading Churchman to contemplate.
So against all the scientific and social evidence throughout the history of mankind, not to mention the large percentage of its own priests and nuns who are gay, the Church maintains that homosexuality is curable.
And its fighting tooth and nail to protect the façade. Even if it means branding gay behaviour as more evil than mass-murder.
Declaration of Interest :
I am a practicing and believing heterosexual Catholic.
There's an interesting dialogue on the
evil issue over on Internet
Mark Steyn also has a great, ironic piece
Sour Reception to
Release of Palestinian
It is said that the Palestinians never lose
an opportunity to lose an opportunity.
This time its over the release of Palestinian
prisoners, of which the Israelis hold some 6,000. Last week they let
out 330 as part of the UN/EU/US/Russia-backed Road Map to a Palestinian/Israeli peace. At
just 5% it was a pretty miserly move, especially since many were due for
release pretty soon anyway, but it was at least a step in the Palestinians direction. And as Mao Tse Tung said,
the longest journey begins with a single step.
You would think that the Palestinians would
want more releases, but to call the first 5% worthless and
as Palestinian Minister Mr Yasser Abed Rabbo did,
will hardly encourage more such steps. Furthermore, judging by
photos of the joyful reception that families and friends gave to the 330,
the new-found freedom was anything but worthless and
Abu Mahzen (Mahmoud Abbas), the Palestinian
Prime Minister, is a sensible pragmatist, which is the main reason I have
called him the Palestinians great
hope. He believes in doing things that work, things that help
achieve Palestinian objectives, rather than making empty or
In this vein, he now has to drum into his
people - including Minister Rabbo - the concept that tit-for-tat applies just as much to a peace
process as it does to a war process.
One side makes a small gesture (such as
the other side responds with a small
gesture (such as rounding up a minor terrorist suspect).
In this way progress along the road-map is
made on both sides, and at the same time mutual confidence grows. And
perhaps with time the individual steps get bigger.
Sour reactions can only put a break on the
process. Just look at the sourness that bedevils sectarian politics
in Northern Ireland, where no-one ever gives the other side credit for
anything ever. Where graciousness exists in no-ones
Rejoices in his Death Sentence
In one sense there is grim satisfaction in the death
sentence an Indonesian court passed last week on Amrozi Bin Nurhasyim, a 40 year-old
Javanese mechanic, for his part in the Bali bombing of 12th October 2002
which killed 202 people. He himself turned to the cameras and punched
the air in delight, shouting Allahu
(God is Great). The execution will probably be carried out in a
matter of days.
One of 50 men in custody for the Bali outrage, he is
utterly without remorse and says he welcomes death as a martyr.
After the sentence, he burst into song,
This is us, the warriors of Allah,
We are not shaken by the death penalty;
Always continuing jihad, whatever happens.
Get rid of cruel Zionists;
Get rid of the Christian filth;
Yell to Allah, Allahu Akbar;
This is my song.
And yet, is a death sentence really the most appropriate punishment for
his crime and the right deterrent to others ?
Put yourself in Amrozis shoes.
you have psyched yourself up to die;
as a martyr, you have been promised eternal happiness in heaven
(including those 70 virgins);
you are convinced you are a holy warrior;
you have been encouraged, nurtured and revered in these beliefs by all
those around you;
your colleagues will celebrate your martyrdom for years to
you will become an international icon for the fanatical, Islamist
men of violence.
And so you are not afraid of dying (a quick, painless death of
course). Even death by judicial execution.
But suppose instead you were to to be sentenced to life
life means life and
imprisonment means incarceration in one of Indonesias stinking
To eke out your life, to grow old, in utter despair, year after year,
behind those hostile prison walls, despised and - worse - forgotten.
To die a broken nobody in perhaps thirty years time.
Could there be a more dreadful prospect, for Amrozi and for others who
might want to follow his path ? Shoe-bomber Richard
Reid is currently living out this hell in the US.
I do not support the death penalty under any circumstances mainly because I believe it is morally
wrong. But in this instance,
sentence would simply be more effective;
My signature is illegible as are those of many
others, particularly those of doctors who write prescriptions. It
has never caused me any difficulty anywhere, nor those doctors.
But Glaswegian Charles Weinstein, 45, has difficulty
precisely because his signature is legible and this can
sometimes really irritate the authorities.
Recently, he visited the Delaware Division of Motor
Vehicles to register a change of address on his driving licence. But
they told him his signature was unacceptable
and he would not get his new licence unless he stopped
fooling around and signed
Right as in right way up.
Charles signs his name perfectly legibly, but upside down.
He refuses to sign any other way, saying that this is his valid legal
signature that hes been using without problem for more than eight years on all official
papers, cheques, credit cards - even his old driving licence. So the
licence office threw him out as a trouble maker and wouldnt give him back
his old licence.
Its now become an issue for the American Civil Liberties
Union, who say they know of no provision in the law requiring a signature
to be legible; therefore who is to say if it is right-side
up or upside-down. Since no-one else has been able to find any statute that
defines an acceptable
signature, the matter has been sent to Delawares attorney general for a
Oh, and since you ask. My own illegible signature is
upside-down also. But this is acceptable because it is illegible
when viewed from any angle.
With Joy Not Tears
Northern Irelands (print-only) Farm Week newspaper - not one Id ordinarily subscribe
to - informed its readers on 8th August that supermarket
chain Tesco is about to launch the worlds first tear-free onions.
Its what millions of cooks have been waiting years for, the chance to
cook with tears of joy instead of tears of pain.
Supasweet onion contains less than half the usual amount
of pyruvic acid, the volatile
constituent which stings your tear ducts, skin and nostrils and makes
your eyes weep. Tesco are apparently waxing lyrical about the social
revolution now in the making :
can munch into the Supasweet raw, like an apple, as you always
wished you could.
Its high in Vitamin C, so itll do you good.
For the minority who are especially allergic,
the Supasweet will open up a whole new onion-filled culinary world.
the nations actors will suffer. For with the Supersweet,
how will they be able to play tear-filled scenes on stage and screen ?
The most curious
claim is that itll
reduce knife accidents in the kitchen, of which there
were almost 30,000 in the UK last year. And no, I dont understand
the connection either.
other strange thing is that though the Supasweet story features on such
reputable websites as those of, for example, the BBC
and the Sydney
Morning Herald, Tescos own
website contains not a word.
Also, no-one is
talking about onion breath or sweat.
while were on the subject of food ...
Japanese have always loved fresh fish. But the waters close to Japan have
not held many fish for decades.
feed the Japanese population, fishing boats got bigger and went farther
than ever. The farther the fishermen went, the longer it took to bring in
the fish. If the return trip took more than a few days, the fish were not
fresh. The Japanese did not like the taste.
solve this problem, fishing companies installed freezers on their boats.
They would catch the fish and freeze them at sea. Freezers
allowed the boats to go farther and stay longer. However, the Japanese
could taste the difference between fresh and frozen and they did not like
frozen fish. The frozen fish brought a lower price.
fishing companies installed fish tanks. They would catch the fish and
stuff them in the tanks, fin to fin. But after a little thrashing
around, the fish stopped moving. They were tired and dull, but alive.
Unfortunately, the Japanese
could still taste the difference. Because the fish did not move for days,
they lost their fresh-fish taste. The Japanese preferred the lively taste
of fresh wriggling fish, not sluggish fish.
did Japanese fishing companies solve this problem of getting fresh-tasting
fish to Japan ?
they did was to add a small hungry shark to each tank. The shark eats a
few fish, but the remaining fish arrive in a very lively state. The fish
are challenged, to put it mildly.
Moral of the
Instead of avoiding
challenges, jump into them. Enjoy the game. If your challenges are too
large or too numerous, do not give up. Failing makes you tired. Instead,
reorganize. Find more determination, more knowledge, more help. If you
have met your goals, set some bigger goals. Once you meet your personal
or family needs, move onto goals for your group, society, even mankind.
Dont create success and lie in it. You have resources, skills and
abilities to make a difference.
So, put a shark in
your tank and see how far you can really go!
Quote of the Week
panel of [five] judges declare that the defendant Amrozi has been found
guilty of criminal acts in carrying out terrorist crimes ... and the
sentence on the defendant Amrozi is death ... [The bombings were] actions
beyond the bounds of humanity and outside any religious teaching.
Chief judge I Made Karna passing judgment and
on Amrozi Bin Nurhasyim for his part in the Bali bombings
that killed 202 people, mostly young Australian revellers,
in October 2002
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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