This archive contains all issues prior to the current week and the three
preceding weeks, 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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#29 - 23rd February 2003
Embarrasses His Citizens
The French left can thank themselves for stupidly
engineering the re-election of right-of-centre President Jacques Chirac by a thumping
majority last May. Because they wouldn't unite around their
front-running candidate, the Socialist Party's Lionel Jospin, then Prime Minister, their votes in
the first round were
shared among Jospin (16%), Arlette Laguiller (Workers Struggle, 6%)
and five other left-wing candidates totalling a further 9%. This
allowed Jean Marie Le Pen, the poisonous leader of the semi-Nazi Front
National to sneak in as runner-up (with 17%) behind Chirac (on 20%). Aghast, the left were forced in the two-candidate second round
to vote overwhelmingly (82%) for their mortal enemy Chirac just to keep
out Le Pen, who got 18%.
Emboldened by this landslide, Mr Chirac is now running rampant on the world stage,
determined to get noticed at any cost, convinced of
his own invincibility, annoying his friends and embarrassing his
In recent weeks he has :
|blocked at every turn attempts by America and
its friends to deal decisively with the unarguable threat posed by Saddam Hussein in
the only manner Saddam understands, and cajoled Germany and Belgium to
join him (to form the so-called axis
of weasel !); |
|tried to veto the deployment of NATO matériel
to defend Turkey in the event Iraq mounts a war-driven counter-attack
(to its credit, NATO found a procedural way to outflank him); |
|berated the many would-be EU member states
because they openly sided with America over Iraq (they were, he
fumed, dangerous, reckless,
very well-behaved, badly
brought up, frivolous; they missed a great opportunity to shut up, and their action could reduce their chances of entering
greeted that racist murderer, Zimbabwe's
tyrannical President, Robert Mugabe (see photo and next
article), as an honoured guest at the Elysée Palace in defiance
of EU sanctions. Britain's shadow foreign secretary, Alan
Duncan, called Chirac's fulsome welcome to the 22nd bi-annual
France-Africa Summit the
bloodiest handshake of the year.
Leading Germany's Gerhard Schröder
and Belgium's Guy Verhofstadt in opposition to America's Iraq policy in
the axis of weasel, or Old Europe as Donald Rumsfeld prefers to call them,
Mr Chirac is banging on about a transatlantic America/Europe
He is very mistaken.
Of the 15 existing EU countries and 10 planning to join in May, only
three - Germany, Belgium and France - openly oppose America. The
remaining 22 either publicly support America (Britain, Spain, Italy and
ten others) or remain silent.
Thus Mr Chirac's split is within Europe itself, and Old Europe is in a
distinct minority. America is but a spectator in this dance macabre.
However his personal vanity comes first, above any consideration of
world security. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how he
will endeavour to save his face when presented with a second UN resolution
next week authorising
war. Or, indeed, when war breaks out.
This is not a time when honourable Frenchmen - the vast vast majority -
can feel very comfortable with their leadership. He is an
Evicts Landless Black Farmers
According to Africa
Confidential, a British-owned newsletter analysing the situation
throughout Africa, a recent Zimbabwe government audit of the country's
land reform programme, has backfired, causing embarrassment to the
President Robert Mugabe. This is because it has found (suprise,
suprise) that numerous senior politicians, military
officers and Mugabe relatives have been using corruption and violence to evict landless small farmers
(all black) the very people the President claimed the land reform policy would help.
Moreover, not only has the policy
precipitated a catastrophic fall in food crop production which, along with
the regional drought, is causing some seven million Zimbabweans to
go hungry but, above all, the policy has financially benefited the
nomenklatura of Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic
The report of those violating the one
man, one farm rule reads like a list of the ZANU-PF elite and their
I'm not sure why I'm relaying this information. it contains
nothing we didn't already know. But it is notable that the report
has been written by the Government itself, which of course has instantly
tried to suppress it.
Luckily, Africa Confidential manage to obtain a copy.
Kurds Will Lose From the War
Towards the end of the First
Gulf War in 1991, when it was quite clear the Iraqi armed forces were
going to be ejected from Kuwait, the then US President George H Bush, father of
W, used the radio waves and dropped leaflets to encourage ordinary Iraqis to
rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein, saying that the West would back them
Vast numbers of Iraqis
believed him, particularly the non-Arab Kurds in the North-east and the
Shiite Muslims in the South. Fifteen out of eighteen provinces staged joyous uprisings across the
But they shouldnt have trusted H, because the American back-up never
Instead, Saddams ever-loyal Republican Guard arrived from Baghdad
and brutally put down the rebellions, killing everyone in sight, driving
the Kurds and Shiites into their respective hinterlands.
of a Free Iraq
by Zainab Al-Suwaij, a courageous
Iraqi lady who experienced all the euphoria, abject disappointment and
suffering of those momentous times.
When the slaughter was over,
notwithstanding their terrible suffering, the result was, however, not all bad for
the Kurds and Shiites, because the Americans and British set up no-fly
zones over northern and southern bands of the country.
Saddams forces were not permitted to patrol them, either by land or
by air, which effectively turned these areas into military protectorates.
The Kurds in particular seized
this opportunity with gusto, and quickly -
Within a short time,
|razed villages were
|schools and hospitals
sprung up, |
| use of the Kurdish language
was permitted/encouraged, |
|a free press was
|oil revenues were
re-invested in infrastructure, |
|farming flourished, |
| manufacturers set up enterprises, |
| trading blossomed.
And the sanctions on the rest of Iraq have served as an additional
business opportunity for ambitious Kurdish traders.
So, over the intervening
decade, the Kurdish protectorate has come more and more to resemble a
sovereign country, to the delight of its inhabitants.
But neighbouring Turkey and Iran are not happy at all, as they see
their own restive Kurds watching this development enviously.
Moreover, the three sets of Kurds live above many
of the largest oilfields of the area, so you can see why Turkey, Iran
and Iraq have a common interest to keep the Kurds divided rather than let
them coalesce into a single entity.
Meanwhile, the forthcoming war now puts
the Iraqi Kurds in a bit of a dilemma.
|Of course on the one hand
they could not be more pleased to see the back of Saddam after all he
has done to them. |
|On the other hand, a
successful war will result in a new pan-Iraq regime, hopefully democratic, but
certainly acceptable to the Americans.
And the first things that the
new Iraqi government will do, under the approving gaze of the rest of the
world, will be to unify Iraq, abolish the no-fly zones, lift all the
sanctions, re-open the oilfields, and encourage trade and industry, while
benign foreigners pour in copious aid for reconstruction.
But that means no more special
status for the Kurds, no more sanctions-busting opportunities and the end
of their dream of having their own state.
There is no doubt that once
Saddam is overthrown and the Americans and their allies march in to
Baghdad, the streets will be filled with jubilant Iraqis, as
Dr Salih last month told
the Socialist International Council in Rome. Let us remember,
|the joy of
liberation in Rome in June 1944,|
|the scenes of cheering
crowds in Kosovo in June 1999, |
|the Afghans who danced
in the streets in November 2001. |
Liberation did not create
paradise in any of these places, but it created hope and opportunity.
On balance, I am sure the
apprehensive Kurds will be rejoicing as well.
But it is well to remember that they are one group of Iraqis that
will conceivably be worse off after liberation.
Defence Minister Under House Arrest
The Guardian reports
that, to prevent a coup, President Saddam Hussein has placed under house
arrest his heir-apparent and defence minister, whose daughter is married to Qusay, Saddam's 36-year-old younger
son. Several other high-ranking military and government
officials have also apparently been arrested in the past few days.
Apprehension is growing in Baghdad that the Iraqi
army, including the elite Republican Guard, might desert in the event of
As well they might. The American forces will give them the choice
of certain death or humane treatment as POWs.
As for the commanders, their choice will be
|grave (death), |
|cave (a lifetime in Tora Bora or equivalent), or |
|Hague (a war-crimes trial and sentence). |
The abiding fear of Saddam's senior lieutenants that I wrote
of last September is devouring them from the inside
Saddam is right to fear for their loyalty.
Traffic Congestion and
According to the (subscription-only) Economist,
Britain has the most congested roads in Europe. London in turn has
the most congested roads in Britain.
For this reason, London's rabidly socialist mayor, Red
Livingstone, turned capitalist last week by introducing a
congestion charge for those driving into the city's eight square
mile central area.
His numerous opponents within the Labour party hierarchy, Labour's
opponents the Conservatives, the motoring organizations, the media, and
not a few actual car-drivers all avidly awaited disaster in the form of
chaos on the roads as the scheme came into effect on 17th
Disappointment. No bedlam.
|Traffic in central London was down 25%, |
|the roads were clear, |
|buses that should have been stuck in jams piled up in the
|only 10% of cars failed to pay the congestion charge. |
The media were especially forlorn because there were no calamities to
report. And that's more or less been the story ever since. As
it would had the charge been only £1.
That the scheme is proving so successful could have been predicted by
|with a passing understanding of humans' abhorrence of paying for
something they're used to getting for nothing, and |
|who had been a recent observer of plastic bags in
Plastic bags ?
year ago, as discussed in a previous
blog, Ireland introduced a spectacularly successful government
tax of just 0.15 on every plastic bag given out free by shops, supermarkets
etc. This was in order to
cut their polluting usage, while raising cash
for environmental causes. With
people resolutely refusing to part with fifteen
cents for a lousy supermarket bag to carry home their 100-worth of
groceries, bag consumption dropped overnight from 1.2 billion per
year to just 200,000, raising around 10m per year in the
process. The reduction in plastic bags cluttering up the streets,
stuck in hedgerows, floating around in the air, is palpable.
both cases, it is not the size of the levy that deters people, nor the
effect on their bank balances.
is the principle of the damn thing. Never underestimate the
perversity of human nature.
Earlier this month, the Consumers' Association lambasted
the extended warranties sold by electrical retailers, saying they were
"too expensive, generally go unused and you'll probably get a
better deal elsewhere". Last year, the Office of Fair Trading
the same point.
Dixons claims to be
Europe's largest specialist retailer of consumer electronics. John
Clare, its new Group chief executive has taken exception to the attack on
extended warranties and has
written a public
letter in response. But it's not at all convincing.
He asserts that because we buy more electrical/electronic products
today than a few decades ago, we suffer more breakdowns.
|This is technically
true, the absolute number of breakdowns has indeed gone up. |
| But it's
mathematically dishonest. For with vastly improved reliability built
in to modern products, the breakdown rate per device has reduced substantially. |
Therefore this is no reason
to buy an extended warranty, which is sold per device.
Dixon's extended warranty apparently covers things like
toddler sticking toast in the VCR, |
| bra wires jamming in the washing
| dropping a digital camera in the sea or
| spilling coffee on your
Great, but so will your household contents
Mr Clare publishes a table in his letter which shows - extraordinarily
- that you can expect that between a third and all of the white
goods and TVs you buy from Dixons will break down within three years, and
within five years many of them will break down twice ! He tells us
this to convince us to take out Dixons' extended warranty.
Rather, it is a clear sign never ever ever to buy any of these utterly
untrustworthy items from Dixons. An own goal if ever there was
|Extended warranties are a waste of money; it is rare to have to
|If you do suffer from a breakdown,
|you may well be covered by the original warranty of usually
twelve months, sometimes longer;|
|or you may well be covered by existing sale-of-goods legislation
which protects all consumers against faulty merchandise; |
|and in any case just calling an independent repair man will
usually be cheaper.|
|Accidental damage will already be covered under your household
|But if you still want an extended warranty, shop around. The
shop selling you the goods is rarely the cheapest supplier of the
The only positive thing to say about extended warranties is that they
are great little earners for the shareholders.
Nip in the Air
On 3rd May, the world's first
nudist flight leaves Miami for Cancun Mexico with 170 lucky
Travel, a Texas agency which specialises in nudist holidays and cruises,
has chartered the aircraft and will transport passengers afterwards
to the nudist El Dorado Resort and Spa for a week's holiday.
The airline has agreed to increase cabin temperature for
the comfort of the naked passengers, but has insisted that towels are
placed on all seats. No hot beverages or ice-cold drinks will be
served; all meals will be catered at, er, blood temperature. To
protect the tourists' privacy (very shy people these), Castaways is
keeping the flight time and airline's name secret
If you want to join, hurry. They're still looking
for bums on seats (provided you use the towels). A seven-day holiday
costs just $3,100 for four cheeks.
Face in Real
Last November, I wrote
about Michael Jackson and his ghastly plastic plastic
You can watch the deterioration of his face
over his lifetime by clicking on the image on the left.
#28 - 16th February 2003
Blix/Baradei Report and Debate
So Doctors Blix and
have delivered their Valentine's Day report to the UN Security Council, chaired by
the redoubtable Joschke Fischer of Germanys Green
party (the premier refuseniks in Europe).
There is something in it for everybody.
Iraq, the inspectors said, is continuing
to co-operate in process, and has started to in substance
by, for example, permitting scientists to be interviewed in private, U2
overfights (Bono eat your heart out), fewer minders of inspectors,
commissions to investigate what happened to Iraqs weapons of mass
forbidding further work on WMD. More
inspections, they believe, will lead to more co-operation in substance.
|This is exactly what
France, Germany and Russia want to hear as it provides cover for
further appeasement. Lets
carry on inspecting and have another UN progress meeting in a month's
time, which will no doubt result in another step-up in co-operation
and an opportunity for a further month of inspections and reports,
until the weather gets too hot and/or the troops too bored to fight.|
On the other hand, inspectors criticize
the Iraqis for failing to cooperate actively and unconditionally.
They say it possesses banned missiles and facilities to construct new
engines. Moreover, Iraq continues to fail to account for 1,000 tonnes of
deadly anthrax and VX nerve gas.
is what the warmongering US, UK, Turkey, Spain etc want to hear as it
provides evidence of the material breach for which the UN
Resolution 1441 requires serious consequences, ie
Each side argues that its own interpretation of
the situation is correct. Yet only one can be right. To see which,
you need to read the resolution in detail, because it is very cunningly
crafted with the express purpose of providing clarity and removing
Here are a few key points :
has been and remains in material breach of its obligations
puts the onus on Iraq, not the inspectors, to prove it is no longer
in material breach
Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious
consequences as a result of its continued violations of its
continued material breach
resolution affords a final opportunity to comply with its
One opportunity to comply, not a string of
Iraq must make a currently accurate, full,
and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop
chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and
other delivery systems
A single omission is a breach, and the inspectors have found
several, including :
non-accounting for the 1,000 tonnes;
How many breaches equal a material breach ?
that Iraq co-operate immediately, unconditionally and actively with
UNMOVIC and the IAEA
they were doing this, Doctors Blix and El Baradei
would be only too delighted to say so
statements or omissions in the declarations and failure by Iraq at
any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation
of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach
The inspectors state unequivocally that
Iraq is failing to comply fully. This is self-evidently
a continuation of the pre-existing material breach
Other than the Iraqi ambassador, nobody at
the UN debate :
claimed that Iraq has fulfilled its
denied that serious consequences means military
disputed that, just three months ago, Resolution
threatens serious consequences for material breach, was passed unanimously
by the councils 15 members.
The key words are
immediate. Resolution 1441 deliberately
makes no provision for
steps in the right direction,
and as such they represent continuation of the material breach. To use such phrases as a reason
to prolong the inspection regime is to wilfully flout 1441.
the UN Security Council really sanction the overt flouting of its own
unanimously-adopted, legally-binding demands ?
If so, it will have
become a paper tiger.
And how ironic it would then be if America and
those who choose to join
its coalition were to uphold the Councils Resolution
1441 in the teeth of opposition from many Council members.
However I dont believe it will come to
that. Before 16th March, the Council will have specifically
authorised, by a majority and with no veto, the use of force to disarm
Now for those peace marches on 15th February.
We are told one
million anti-war protestors (1.7% of the UK's population) turned up at Hyde Park and proportionately comparable levels in
other cities around the world. Huge numbers, but are they a majority
? Those who, like myself support the Blair/Bush position, were not
there. Does our absence make us a minority ? Sky TV conducted a
UK poll the next day in which
56% advocated immediate action against Iraq,
26% for more inspections and
just 16% who rule out war altogether.
Also, I am reminded of a brilliant Alistair
a couple of weeks ago. He recalled that in 1938, 10 million British
voters out of 11 million signed an unconditional peace ballot whose slogan
war and fascism,
which is like being against hospitals and disease. How wrong they were
as Hitler and events proved. But in fairness, they backed the war as
soon as it broke out.
are all in favour of peace. But being responsible for
that have consequences
are two quite different
things. Blair and Bush are right to trust their own consciences in
this matter. They will have to live with the
consequences. The protestors will not.
It seems to me that the major part of the anti-war
movement have become so obsessed by a rabid anti-Americanism that they
prefer to support a genocidal tyrant against the liberation and democratic
aspirations of his own people. Why else would you not want to remove
Finally, I recommend you read Tony Blair's
stirring and coherent speech
delivered on the day of the marches. Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity.
It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane.
Reader Michael comments,
The American and British armed forces are acting as
world policemen. With, we hope and trust, the full authority of the United
Nations they will execute their policing duties, release the peoples of
Iraq held hostage and apprehend the master criminal and his gang of thugs.
How can anyone demonstrate against police carrying out their duty?
I certainly can't. Read the full letter.
the UN, NATO, EU
We are hearing a lot at the moment about how
America is undermining the UN by threatening
to go to war with or without another resolution;
France, Germany and Belgium are undermining
NATO by refusing to allow NATO equipment to be mobilised to defend
Britain, Spain and others are undermining the
EU by openly siding with America over Iraq rather than with France and
Here is a philosophical question.
How do you
determine who is doing the undermining ? For if you and I have
different views, am I undermining you or are you undermining me ?
In all three examples above, you
can make a plausible case for saying the opposite party is actually the
Its not at all clear cut.
I guess what it means is that if from time to time
a multilateral body finds itself unable to act in unison, it either has to
live with that uncomfortable reality, hope it doesn't happen too often and move
on. Or else be prepared to
In either case, the failure, if thats what you
want to call it, belongs to the body as a whole, not to particular
Maybe its time for some of these bodies to
rethink and perhaps reconstitute their structures. Why should
they stay the same forever ?
Royals : Margaret, Charles & Edward
I must have been really bored last week because I found myself watching
two programmes on ITV about Britain's Princess Margaret and Prince Charles
But they set me to thinking.
Many share the view that Princess Margaret led a pretty pointless
existence, where regular hedonistic splurges in her Mustique paradise were
interspersed with deadly-dull royal engagements back in Blighty,
along with half-hearted wifely
duties and occasional childrearing. And as, with the
help of copious quantities of whiskey and cigarettes, she grew
old and frail ahead of her time, even the holidays withered away, until
she died a year ago.
It is often claimed that the turning point for her was
in 1955 when she
wanted to marry the love of her life, Group-Captain Peter Townshend, a
dashing RAF fighter pilot hero of World War II. Inconveniently,
he already had two children and a wife, although she obligingly agreed to
a divorce when his affair with Margaret became known.
a princess marrying a divorcé was seen as unseemly and neither Parliament
nor her sister the Queen would accept it. This, we are told, broke
her heart and her life began to deteriorate from then on.
The Queen never objected to the marriage. She merely said that if
it went ahead, Margaret would have to forego
| her title, |
| her £6,000
annual stipend (= £¼m today), |
| her royal palace, and
| live outside
In other words, become an ordinary wife.
unthinkable for Margaret who adored her creature comforts and so she dumped
the hapless Townshend.
Her heart was so
broken that only three months later she was engaged - for a while - to a Billy
Wallace. A few years later she married photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones and produced two children, before reverting to her party-centred
We all know (though dont remotely understand) that Prince Charles was desperately
unhappy being married to the enchanting Princess Diana, because all along
his heart belonged to the more, er, robust Camilla.
But commentators never ask the simple question, why didnt he marry the
love of his life, whom he knew (in the biblical sense) long before Diana
The reason is rather straightforward. Camilla was (and remains) a
Catholic. And you can't just resign. You need to be
formally released by the senior bishop of the land after a lengthy
bureaucratic process, which very few undergo. So once a
Catholic, always a Catholic.
In 1701, Parliament passed the so-called
of Settlement designed to pacify belligerent Scottish and
who wanted to ensure the likes of Catholic bonny Prince Charlie (the
First) or James Stuart II would never again ascend the British throne and
rule over Protestants. The Act stipulates that the sovereign may
neither become nor marry a Catholic. Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, Hindus,
Rastafarians - theyre all fine. But no Catholics
had he married Camilla, he couldnt have become King, and this was too
heavy a price to pay. So enter Protestant Diana whose job was to
produce an heir and a spare (which she did). Mean while, in the best traditions
of monarchy, Charles continued to cavort with Camilla, then herself
married, to their mutual hearts' content. There were three
of us in the marriage, declared Diana.
dont feel sorry for Charles. His disastrous personal life is entirely of
his own making, driven by his desire to be King. Regardless of
whether the British people want him or not (which many dont).
Then theres King Edward VIII.
In 1936, just a few months after ascending the throne on the death
of his father George V, he faced similar choices to those
of Margaret and Charles when he fell for twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, she who
woman can never be too rich, too thin or have too many silk blouses.
But Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister of the day, told
him that if he (that is Edward, not Stanley) were to marry her,
he would have to surrender his throne and move into exile.
no quibbles, thats exactly what he did. He accepted demotion to
Duke of Windsor, she became his Duchess and they moved to France. And, as far as we know, the two
of them lived more or less happily ever after in peace and tranquillity.
What a shame his niece and grand-nephew chose to ignore his admirable
example. Rather than marry the spouses they wanted, they chose lives of
personal misery instead,
for the sake of hanging onto their pathetic titles, fat income and juicy
So we needn't feel a bit sorry for Margaret or Charles.
World Cup Wobbles
political pressure, England last week pulled out of their opening Cricket
World Cup game in Zimbabwe and will thus be punished
of World Cup points since Zimbabwe has been deemed to have won, |
because a fine will be imposed, and |
cancellation of Zimbabwes planned summer tour of England. |
cricketers have used the
mealy-mouthed and dishonest excuse of players safety. Dishonest
because the personal security of 20-odd people for a few days can always
be assured with sufficient resources (bodyguards etc). It only costs
money, and the English Cricket Board has plenty.
The real reason
is honourable disgust at the tyrannical and brutal behaviour of the racist president
of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, toward unfavoured sections of his own
people. So in exchange for the heavy price the English cricket team
are paying, they wont even get the kudos of having taken a moral stand
against Mr Mugabe.
seemed to be taking second place as the World Cup kicked off last
week. There were :
armbands bravely worn by Zimbabwes
Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, who issued a passionate statement about the
of democracy in their country; |
Warne, Australias cricket hero and an international icon, being
drummed out of South Africa in disgrace after failing a drugs test
(how dumb can you get ?). |
least, though, there has now been some actual cricket at last. Let's
hope it will remain the principal feature for the rest of the
seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant
a very good looking girl who LOVES to play. I adore long walks in the
woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping, and fishing trips,
cozy winter nights lying by the fire.
dinners will have me eating out of your hand. Rub me the right way and
watch me respond ! Ill be at the front door when you get home from
wearing only what nature gave me. Kiss me and Im yours.
xxx-xxxx and ask for Daisy.
ad recently appeared in the Classifieds section of the New
15,000 men found themselves talking to the
local Humane Society about an
eight-week-old black Labrador retriever.
speak to Germans daily, and to say they are embarrassed by
their leader is putting it mildly.
At least one reader seems to share my own negative
views about him. See the full letter.
#27 - 9th February 2003 
of the Social Democrats (SPD) came into office as Germany's Chancellor in 1998
full of socialist dreams. He booted out out the 15-year incumbent Helmut
Kohl of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who then
rapidly lost grace as his financial shenanigans came to light (corruption
the consequence, as always, of being in power for too long).
Schröder's main promise was to get unemployment down - in fact he said he
would not deserve to be re-elected unless be got it to below 4
four years later unemployment had climbed to 4½m but he got re-elected
last September anyway, though only by the skin of his
teeth. Today it's 4.6m,
or one in nine. (Actually, because the figures get massaged, some
say the true jobless count is closer to 6m
figure associated with the country's pre-Nazi Weimar era of the 1920s and
however, his world is falling apart as his venality becomes apparent to
Throughout his rule, the economy has remained
last year's GDP
growth was just ½% or less
Government spends almost 50% of GDP, compared with 33% in the
of workers' earnings go in payroll and income taxes, and
people angrily accuse him of waiting until after
his re-election to reveal a large hole in the budget.
And as the economy continues to stagnate, he has
to introduce meaningful reform of Germany's pandemic anti-business
example, German stores, to this day, are forced to close from
Saturday lunchtime until Monday.
he has raised taxes, which has angered voters and cut consumer
taxes is typical of a venal socialist politician when faced with
cost-overruns, rather than the tougher option of cutting costs
which is what a competitive business has to do.
Iraq, he acknowledges that Saddam is an evil dictator, but says he
will not support the US in a war under any circumstances, whether or
not the UN supports one.
kind of policy is that ?
it designed to make Germany ignored as a serious participant in
world affairs ?
and Germany currently holds the presidency of the UN Security
In his rush to demonise President Bush's warmongering,
he seems to have forgotten that it was the Americans who :
liberated his countrymen in 1945 from their mad
dictator Hitler (just as they will liberate the Iraqis from
protected the West Germans for 45 years from the
threat of the Soviet Empire, and then defeated it,
Forced an end to the Yugoslav war when Germany
(who provoked it by prematurely recognizing breakaway Croatia) and
the other Europeans could only dither,
Charged nothing for the aforesaid services.
successfully sued a German newspaper for daring to suggest that he
dyes his hair
he nothing better to do with his time ?
is trying to sue Britain's Daily Mail for suggesting he has marital
problems with wife number 4, Doris.
Audi for his four wedding
rings, again has be nothing better to do ?
His opinion poll rating has plummeted
from 55% on re-election to 33% in December. Furthermore,
according to pollsters Forsa
69% say his ability to run the country is
His SDP has sunk to 27% approval compared to 49%
for the rival CDU conservatives.
He has just
suffered a humiliating
defeat in regional elections, including his home state of Lower
Saxony, which means the SDP has lost control of the Bundesrat (upper
house) to the CDU with whom he will now have to
This is a man who has lost the desire and ability to
He seems to have no ideals of his own, no views that he is
prepared to argue and advance in the face of opposition.
Instead, he will do only what the loudest protesters tell him he should
do. He has become a follower not a leader.
But it looks like the German people have finally found him
out. They're sick of him. My prediction is he will be driven
from office well before completing this his second term as
People on Building Sites
Ireland is not
unique in the poor safety record of its building industry, but it's worse
accident rate in recent
years - insofar as accidents are even reported - was 8.1 lost-time
accidents per million man-hours worked, which, for example, is at
30% worse than that of the UK building industry,
twice as bad as that of the worldwide oil
Last year 22 construction workers were
killed, which for small country of only 4m people is an awful
There have been demonstrations in the
streets of Dublin and calls for tougher safety legislation. Such
demands, while well-meaning, are however misplaced.
Accidents only happen due to one or more of just three
inadequate knowledge of procedures;
inadequate motivation to apply known procedures.
Only management, starting with the CEO, can resolve all
three things. And unless the CEO is personally motivated to protect his
workforce, and demonstrates this by his own daily behaviour, his
organisation will continue to hurt and kill people.
His daily behaviour might include:
reviewing every safety incident;
making regular safety inspections;
joining or leading safety audit or investigation
ensuring safety measurements are made and publicised
so everyone knows whether safety is getting better or worse;
giving safety talks to the workforce;
making safety the first item on the agenda of every
unequivocally backing up anyone with safety
ensuring adequate training is provided as
treating sub-contractors with the same respect as his
The CEO also has to motivate his own managers to ensure
adequate procedures exist,
the workforce is trained,
people willingly comply with the procedures and
their own daily behaviour demonstrates their personal
This is a continual and strenuous process. It doesn't
cost much money but it takes an awful lot of effort. The reward is always
a dramatic reduction in accident rates.
No amount of legislation or threats will result in
anything close to what will be achieved if the CEO is, on a personal
level, utterly and demonstrably committed to keeping his workforce alive
CEOs alone can reduce the building industry's appalling
But an awful lot of them are driven by but one safety
objective : doing just enough safety things to stay out of jail.
The Irish Times published a letter
from me last week along these lines.
Airline Triopoly to Duopoly
Five weeks ago I wrote
about how the three European cut-price airlines, Ryanair, Go and Buzz,
compete only with the major airlines, never with each other.
Well, just as Easyjet bought Go from British Airways a year ago, a
couple of weeks back Ryanair suddenly purchased Buzz from KLM (for a
Ryanair, Easyjet and Buzz
flew to and from no fewer than 102 airports in
fifteen European countries.
only seventeen of these destinations were serviced by
two of the airlines, and only one Londons
Stanstead by all three.
and Easyjet now fly to and from no fewer than 102
airports in fifteen European countries.
only fifteen of these destinations are serviced by
both the airlines, and no route is
for the details.
In other words, the Cut-Price Airline Triopoly I wrote of
last time has now become a Duopoly offering the customer
even less cut-price choice.
Someone once said, competition
is all about avoiding competition.
Just look at Ryanair and Easyjet.
Meanwhile, Ryanair has set about slashing costs at Buzz
(17½% layoffs) and imposing its own low-cost work model.
No wonder Ryanair's share
price has been performing so robustly compared with, say, British
Dobby of Russia
Harry Potter has made it to
the Tallrite Blog for an unprecedented second
key character in the movie Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
is Dobby, a short, pink, filthy, floppy-eared, pointy-nosed,
bug-eyed house-elf who tries to discourage Harry from returning to
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft.
in order to put on funny clothes and become embroiled with
a child's truancy.
Harry Potter websites and chatrooms have been inundated
with angry Russians posting messages, while Russian lawyers are
threatening to sue Warner Bros for wasting their president's time or
something. In the best traditions of Kremlinology, however, the
President himself is maintaining gritted-teeth silence. Read all
about it in
Novaya Gazeta (in Russian of course).
different things are in laid-back Holland. The Dutch think
nothing of their talented former prime minister, Jan Peter
of the Christian Democrats, changing into short pants to learn the
occult arts of witchcraft and calling himself Harry.
Perhaps he is right now applying some of the magic he has learnt in
order to renegotiate himself back into the prime
minister's slot following last month's general election.
of Two TV Interviews
Two compelling TV
interviews of weird middle-aged men last week -
Journalist Martin Bashir (of Princess Diana interview
fame) spent eight months following, filming, quizzing
and embarrassing Michael Jackson;
Long-running British MP and former post-office
minister Tony Benn sat down for a polite
chat with Saddam Hussein with no nasty questions.
Both interviewees surround themselves with yes-men - Mr
Jackson by using his enormous wealth, while Mr Hussein prefers torture and
murder (he killed his doctor for diagnosing him as schizophrenic).
Both clearly have no concept of the real world out there, as their
respective staffs only dare tell them those things they want to hear which
merely reinforces their own misbeliefs and values.
say that Tony Benn, smiling benignly at his friend, made the case for
war more cogently than Colin Powell. Suddenly we saw what we
were up against, face-to-face, lying and mocking, and it galvanised
even the most faint-hearted.
have transcripted the real (unexpurgated) Benn interview - Quote Let
me tell you my friend - and through you the world - that Iraq has
never possessed such weapons. And those we had, we never used. And
even when we used them it was purely in self-defence. And then we
destroyed them. Except for some warheads and bombs that got lost.
others just got the whole thing mixed up. Fighting back
tears, Saddam Hussein lashed out at the British interviewer who, he
left me distraught and humiliated. I welcomed him into my
family. I let him hold the hand of my son-in-law. Then I made him put
it back on the mantelpiece.
you glad not to be weighed down with the burden of fame.
World War 2.5
this for a
doomsday scenario; it's excellent (if that's the word).
War 2.5 is the name given to the upcoming war against Iraq. Hope
this version is only a game and not a forecast.
#26 - 2nd February 2003
|State of the
Union Speech & Polls
Sky News broadcast a replay of the retarded
spell-binding State of the Union speech from 9 to 10 am on Wed 28th
January, which I watched. Simultaneously, they launched a phone-in
poll asking British viewers whether President Bush had made the case for
war. The results developed during the day like this :
"Has President Bush
Made the Case for War ?"
hrs - Start of State of the Union Speech
1000 hrs - End
2200 hrs - 12
It just shows how a good speech with a strong rationale, skilfully
presented, can rapidly change people's views.
Never misunderestimate W.
the awful attacks of September 11th, the US in its war on terror has
issued a number of pretty naked threats. (Though not to the Taliban
in Afghanistan, who were just attacked and overthrown.)
America's threats have
been directed not only at Saddam but also to the UN and to its friends and
allies, with some interestingly benign results. Consider a few of
: Having dispatched the Taliban, America threatened, convincingly, to
invade Iraq to enforce the numerous binding UN Resolutions on Iraq
that have been passed since the Gulf War ended in 1991 and routinely
flouted ever since. President Bush told the UN that if they
didn't take action to enforce their own resolutions he would.
other result : Saddam accepted Resolution 1441 and re-admitted
inspectors, having booted them out four years earlier. |
No amount of
polite diplomacy would have achieved either result.
: Hans Blix has now issued his well-balanced report.
- It says
his inspectors have found no hoard of forbidden weapons (thus he's
not in breach say France, Germany and others), but
- it also
says that Saddam has provided no evidence of having destroyed them
(which is a material breach say the US).
wants to bring a second resolution to the UN Security Council to
authorise an attack, yet threatens to attack anyway even if it doesn't
France, Germany, Russia and China, all of them keen to avoid war, in a
support the Resolution, they will be forced to share responsibility
they don't, not only will they once more make the UN irrelevant,
but they will be cut out of any opportunities that arise out of
the rebuilding or Iraq, and the $8
bn Iraq owes to Russia will be in jeopardy. |
: Meanwhile, France's TotalElfFina,
Russia's Lukoil and China's CNPC
have respectively signed huge oil deals with Saddams regime linked
to the lifting of sanctions. If
these countries try to obstruct the war, there is every chance America
will ignore the three agreements and award them to oil companies from
can be sure America has made them well aware of this threat. |
will be feeling threatened from yet another, more personal
angle. Although they hate the idea of the war going ahead, they
hate even more the thought of being left out of it. For them, French
pride, prestige and influence will be damaged in the eyes of the
world, especially of their beloved Francophone countries, if their own
troops are not seen playing a prominent rôle. A
that the French may also fear that a successful war might expose
effect of these pungent threats all point in one inescapable
direction. The Americans will get their second UN Resolution
authorising the use of force, although perhaps not unanimously. And they
will attack at the head of a willing coalition. Crucially, none of
the permanent members will veto it, although my guess is that China will
if some members are voting yes despite not believing in the war, they will be
voting for their own national interests.
the most curious aspect is that, apart from launching the war itself, none
of the threats will have been consummated. And it is a moot point
whether they ever would have been as they would have caused enormous
damage to Western alliances. It was sufficient for the threatened
parties to think the threats might have been
classic game of poker.
people are strongly opposed to launching a war against the Iraqi regime
under any circumstances. They are entitled to their view, but would
be much more convincing if they would come up with reasons backed by
logic. Even to say,
I think Saddam causes fewer innocent deaths than would a war
to remove him
would be at least be coherent. But they never say anything
Have a look, for example, at
Stop the War" website.
It is very busy, crowded with lots of information, but is basically
|It's full of exciting material about past and future demonstrations
in different countries|
|The names of hundreds of distinguished supporters are provided|
|You are invited to take part in online and offline petitions|
|There is an appeal for participation and funds (£20
yearly subscription); |
|Two CDs are for sale, with noxious
titles like Public Enemy
Son of a Bush
(though actually some of the tracks are quite good)|
are judiciously selected extracts from Hans Blix' recent report to the
UN Security Council, yet no link to the entire text (it's here
by the way). |
all, however, there is not a single mention of an alternative
strategy for dealing with Saddam and his weapons of mass
destruction. No weighing of the pros and cons of war with a view to
showing that on balance war should be rejected. Just phrases like inspire
people towards non-violent action against the War on Terror,
whatever that means.
kind of approach only serves to underline the vacuity of the anti-war
movement. The pro-warriors are bursting with reasons for launching
the attack, which may be good or poor. But why do the vociferous
the issues ?|
holes in the pro-warriors' arguments ?|
out their own case ?|
in mature evidence-based debate ?|
excellent item on the website, however is this chart
which shows who has nuclear weapons, with the US and Russia each holding
20 times more than anyone else. But again, left-wing dishonesty
shows through. North Korea isn't shown at all.
Fears Too Much Nuclear Disarmament
Fitzpatrick is the Chairman of the Irish branch of the Campaign for
Nuclear Disarmament. He recently wrote
to the (subscription-only) Irish Times decrying the upcoming war against
it not odd that Irish CND should object to action whose primary purpose is
to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons ?
is as if CND is afraid it may have to disband if there is too much
the same issue, Mary van Lieshout of US
Citizens in Ireland for Alternatives to War
also decried the war, but she provided no alternatives
(Of course such people never
What is it with these organisations?
Neither could come up with a coherent response when I
put these points in the following day's issue
of the newspaper.
Richard Reid, the self-confessed suicide shoe-bomber and
self-proclaimed soldier, was convicted in Boston last week, and in passing
sentence, Judge William Young delivered a stinging
You are not an enemy combatant. You are
a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To
call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the
officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that
happens to be your view, you are a terrorist.
And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with
terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists.
We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.
You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple
You hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our
freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we
choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose.
We will bear any burden, pay any price, to preserve our freedoms.
The sentence was massive :
|Life imprisonment, plus|
|4 x 20 years + 30 years = 110 years, plus|
|Fines/Restitution of $250k + $2m + $298 + $5,784 + $800 =
For a young suicide-bomber, the thought of living out your long life in
a hostile prison is about as dreadful a prospect as one can imagine.
Because he is someone who -
|has psyched himself up to die; |
|as a martyr, has been promised eternal happiness in heaven
(including those 70 virgins);|
| is convinced he is a holy warrior; |
| has been encouraged, nurtured and revered in these beliefs by all
those around him. |
And so he is not afraid of dying (a quick, painless death of
course). Even death by judicial execution.
But to rot forever behind lonely prison walls, despised if not
Even the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay will have some (probably
misplaced) hope of one day being freed. But not Richard
His sentence will give pause to many other would-be suicide bombers who
want to ply their wicked and godless trade against the West.
da Silva at Davos
da Silva, Brazil's new socialist president, was born in penury in
1945. He started work at age seven selling peanuts, tapioca and
oranges in São Paulo, and by 12 he was a shoeshine boy, dry-cleaner and
office boy. In adulthood, he learnt to be a lathe operator and
mechanic, and as a metalworker became a fiery and radical trade unionist
leader, eventually founding the Workers Party in 1980 which launched his
he was greeted with some trepidation a couple of weeks ago when he rose to
address the annual meeting of the World
Economic Forum, that talking shop of the world's heartless capitalists
and business billionaires.
his impassioned speech
had them entranced.
urged rich countries to "create a global fund to fight poverty"|
times, poverty, hunger and misery are the trigger for fanaticism and intolerance",
still see walls that separate
that eat from those that are in hunger; |
that have jobs from those that are jobless; |
who live in dignity from those who live in the streets or in
But his punch line was
|"Export efforts will be worth nothing if the rich countries
continue to preach free trade and practice protectionism." |
was a forthright attack on the West's protectionist policies in the huge
areas of agriculture, textiles and steel.
only do these disgraceful policies keep poor countries poor by
shutting out the lucrative markets in the rich countries, |
it also punishes rich Western consumers by forcing them to pay
exorbitant prices for uncompetitive home-produced goods. |
honesty of Lula's hard-hitting speech made him the star of the whole
conference, and as he sat down, the chamber filled with applause and
has made a most impressive start to his presidency of the world's fourth
How Good Is Your Credit ?
If you've ever been refused credit, you might wonder how you've ended
up blacklisted, so to speak.
Central records are kept of your credit standing and
behaviour which banks and credit companies consult before offering you a
You're a good risk if you :
Another very important factor is the number of applications for credit
you've made. This is registered on your file and it counts against you if
you've been applying for credit willy-nilly over a short period of
If you live in the UK, for £2 you can check what your
file holds from
Other countries have their equivalent sources of credit
checking, if only to correct any misinformation that may be filed
to Top of Page
to Tallrite Blog
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