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
You can write to firstname.lastname@example.org
#25 - 26th January 2003
Yet another Iraq dossier - the fourth - has just been
issued, this time by America. It's called "Apparatus
of Lies" and sets out in a dozen pages Saddam Hussein's
disinformation and propaganda over the period 1990 to 2003. With an
extensive bibliography and 31 references (most of them non-Governmental)
it makes for convincing reading. The dossier divides the behaviour
of Saddam and his regime into four categories.
|Crafting Tragedy: Civilians are placed close to military
equipment, facilities and troops; military men and materiel are placed
next to or inside mosques and ancient cultural treasures. This
is to deter attack, yet in the event of attack, plenty of civilian
casualties and damage to the mosques and treasures will provide
propaganda points for the regime. |
|Exploiting Suffering: For this, Saddam
blames starvation and medical crises often of his own making
on the United Nations or the United States and its allies. This
blaming cancer and birth defects caused by Iraqi use of chemical
weapons at Halajba
on the US's depleted uranium shells from the Gulf War; |
|blaming malnutrition and lack of medical facilities on sanctions
whereas there is plenty of money from the UN oil-for-food program
were it not diverted for new palaces ($2bn) and armaments; |
shockingly, dead babies are stored until sufficient are available to
stage mass funerals blaming the deaths on UN
|Exploiting Islam: Despite being utterly non-religious, Saddam
adopts expressions of faith in his public pronouncements, and the
Iraqi propaganda apparatus erects billboards and distributes images
showing him praying or in other acts of piety. All the while,
the regime prevents pilgrims from making the Hajj or extorts money
from them for
the privilege. |
|Corrupting the Public Record: To corrupt the public record,
the regime uses a combination of on-the-record lies, covert placements
of false news accounts, self-inflicted damage, forgeries, and fake
Worth reading for the details.
And if you haven't already studied them or read my
and you have the stomach for it, the other three dossiers are :
|Tony Blair's 55-page assessment
(427 kb) of Iraqs weapons of mass destruction
issued in September 2002, |
|His 12-page report
(197 kb) on Saddams crimes and human rights abuses
issued in December 2002, and|
|Saddam's massive dossier
comprising 529 megabytes, 11,900 pages issued in December 2002 in
response to a demand of UN
Resolution 1441. |
be quick, there's another one coming. Today's Sunday Telegraph leads
with : Blair demands new dossier to
drum up support for Iraq war.
While we're on the subject, do you think the following
amount to a material
breach of said UN
Resolution 1441 ?
|The UN inspectors have found 16 (albeit empty) chemical warheads
that were undeclared by Iraq. Meanwhile Iraq is silent about the other 29,984
from the 30,000 identified by the Inspectors in 1998|
|Other unaccounted-for materiel identified by the UN Inspectors in
1998 includes :
|550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas|
|400 biological weapons-capable aerial bombs |
|26,000 litres of anthrax |
|Botulinum, VX, and Sarin gas|
|New documents have been uncovered about Iraq's nuclear and missile programs|
|Scientists are refusing to be interviewed without an Iraqi minder|
The inspectors are not in the country on a scavenger hunt for weapons. They
are there to confirm that Iraq has destroyed and dismantled the weapons
that the UN knows exist. In the absence of evidence that it has done
so, are we safe to assume that they have all disappeared ?
Certainly sounds like a material breach to me.
Do the Palestinians have rocks in their heads or do they not want their
war with Israel to be replaced with a peace settlement ?
Israel's last four governments, each democratically
elected, have alternated between soft
|Labour (1995-96) under Shimon
Peres and dominated by so-called doves, eager to give the Oslo
peace process of 1993 a chance. |
|Likud (1996-99) under hardliner Benjamin
Netanyahu, elected to teach the Palestinians a lesson for their
obduracy (as perceived by Israelis) over Oslo. |
|Labour (1999-2001) under Ehud
Barak who under President Clinton's admirable sponsorship and
cajoling offered Yasser Arafat no less than 97% of the land he was
demanding for a Palestinian State, but Mr Arafat stalked off without a
single counter-proposal. |
|Likud (2001 to the present) under ultra tough guy Ariel
Sharon in response to the Intifada and suicide bombings that
Yasser Arafat launched with weeks of walking out of Camp
Regardless of whether you support them, it is to Israel's considerable credit that it has a powerful democratic
system which, when confronted with failure, allows different approaches
and different leaders to be given a chance. Would that the
Palestinians were given such opportunity.
Nevertheless, the Palestinians are playing, as they always have done
and whether they like it or not, a
crucial rôle in influencing Israel's next choice of party and
|They can continue to send suicide bombers and other attackers to
kill Israeli citizens. This will ensure that another Likud
hardliner will be elected - probably a re-run of Mr Sharon or Mr
Natanyahu. With such a renewed mandate, he will undoubtedly continue
responding with heavy military force to every attack, convinced that a
crushing military defeat is the only way to end further
|They can stop their attacks, which will result in a dove-ish leader
from Labour being elected. The consequence will be renewed
attempts to settle their differences through negotiation again rather
than guns. |
And which of the two parties are the Palestinians backing ?
The continuing attacks
over the past two weeks show they are voting convincingly for the hardline
At the same time the Palestinians are distracting
attention away from corruption
scandals involving Mr Sharon's son Omri and other party
members. They can't believe their luck.
- Houston Replaces Microsoft Office
The US Department of Justice spent years dragging Microsoft through the
courts to prove it is a wicked monopolist and should therefore be broken
up. Although most of us might have thought the case was obvious,
Microsoft with its army of lawyers managed to slide out of it all with little
more than a slap on the wrist and the promise of better behaviour in the
But if the DoJ were unable to tweak the tail of one of America's
mightiest corporations, the City of Houston in Texas has.
It all started after Microsoft threatened to audit Houston for
allegedly having more copies of Microsoft Office than they have licences
for, unless Houston signed a new three-year $12 million
This bully-boy approach has backfired badly.
According to USA
Today, it galvanised Houston to think of alternatives to Microsoft
Office. As a result of a chance meeting on an aircraft, Houston
has awarded a five-year $9½m contract to an obscure, unproven
competitor called SimDesk, to
replace Microsoft Office on the desks of some 6,500 city workers and,
eventually, up to three million city residents.
It is true that SimDesk does not possess all the glorious (and about
90% unused) functionality of Microsoft Office, but it is apparently
perfectly adequate for the word processing and spreadsheeting that most
people require, and is easy to learn and use.
Meanwhile, not only is SimDesk way cheaper to buy, but It operates from
a central server rather than being installed on every PC. This means Houston don't have
to upgrade their existing
computers. Had they stuck to Microsoft, they would, in addition to
that $12m contract, have had to
replace thousands of computers to enable them to run Office
Microsoft, known by many as the
evil empire, are
whinging but seem powerless. Few are shedding
Munster and Tough
Saturday night a week ago, 18th January, the city of
Limerick in the Munster province of Ireland erupted in an all-night orgy
of revelry. Limerick is the heart of rugby in Ireland, and the
Munster rugby team, in their crummy home ground of Thomond
Park, had just pulled off an utterly impossible win against the
(hitherto) all-conquering English club, Gloucester in the annual Heineken
European Rugby Cup competition.
Having played in the semi-finals and/or finals of this prestigious
competition for the past three years, yet never won, Munster were on the
verge of being booted unceremoniously out of the competition. Their
only chance was to defeat Gloucester (who three months earlier had trounced
them 35-16) by no fewer than four tries and 27 points.
In an extraordinary match, that for Munstermen is
equalled only by the classic 12-0 defeat in 1978 of New Zealand's All
Blacks that has spawned an award-winning stage play, Alone
It Stands, Munster defeated Gloucester by the required margin, with
the winning two points coming only in the last seconds of injury
time. The final
score was 33-6 in front of a frenetic crowd of 14,000.
Gloucester just didn't know what had happened to them.
Then over the next couple of days, a curious story emerged.
Limerick taxi-driver and avid Munster fan Tom O'Donnell will
tell you he is small, fat, bald, 52 and now the toast of Limerick,
and considering launching himself on the after-dinner speaking
The day before the match, he happened to carry in his taxi an official
of the Gloucester contingent, who committed the fatal mistake of leaving
behind in the car Gloucester's top-secret game-plan.
Tom realised what it was, but at first no-one would listen to
him. It was only with great difficulty that he managed to deliver it
to the Munster squad on the morning of the match. Thus it was that
Munster knew in advance
|what Gloucester planned to do, |
|what their lineout calls were, |
|what were their plans of attack against Munster. |
This undoubtedly helped towards the win, though they will never admit
In one of the many radio interviews that followed after the story
broke, Tom was asked whether he considered giving the game-plan back to
Gloucester rather than passing it to the opposition. A stunned
silence followed - he simply did not understand the question. It was
like expecting the British to return the Enigma machine to the
Gloucester have considered taking some kind of legal action, but,
frankly, they are just too embarrassed by everything to do with their
disastrous weekend in Limerick.
So that's the story of why Tom O'Donnell is the toast of Limerick !
Flt Lt Henry Botterell, 1896-2003
Henry Botterell died
in Toronto earlier this month at the massive age of 106, the last
surviving fighter pilot of World War I.
Flying his Sopwith Camel biplane, his one
"kill" was to shoot down a German observation balloon in
Northern France in 1918, as illustrated in this
painting. By then he had crashed three planes, nearly
annihilating himself in the process.
As well as countless bombing raids (tossing bombs by hand out of the
cockpit) over the course of the four year war, he also participated in
seven dogfights, clocked up 251 combat hours and claimed he had also
killed an enemy observer. Every dogfight ended with bullet holes and
flak damage to his plane.
In those days, planes were made of wood and canvas and I am reminded of
how my own grandfather, eight years his senior, escaped from the trenches
and all the horror that they entailed. He was an upholsterer by
trade, and his possession of curved needles (seen as a novelty) coupled
with his skill in wielding them found him a ready home in the Royal Flying
Corps. He spent the rest of the war sewing up aircraft
battle-damaged like Flight Lieutenant Botterell's.
I wonder did they ever meet.
#24 - 19th January 2003
North Korea and Iraq
America and Britain are in the final stages of launching
their war against the Iraqi regime (with or without another UN resolution,
with or without further allies). Lots of people - besides Saddam -
object to this, though none ever come up with a coherent alternative strategy
for dealing with
|this master despot, |
|his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and |
|the need to neutralize the threat to the world that this
combination entails. |
Many whatabouters say
why pick on Iraq which (as far as we know) doesn't yet have nuclear
| and yet practice diplomacy with North Korea which
Moreover, neither of them are making deals with Al Qaeda. |
It doesn't make
sense, they claim.
fact it makes chillingly good sense. This table compares some of the
nasty qualities of Kim Jong Il's North Korea and Saddam Hussein's
Chemical and Biological WMD ?
invaded and/or threatened neighbours
weapons to other states
known terrorist connections ?
See how similar they are to each other. But a couple of
key contrasts and conclusions stand out.
|Iraq has used his WMD with gusto (chemical attacks
killing some 4,000 of his own people at Halajba
in the 1980s) but doesn't yet have the bomb. North Korea's
position is the exact reverse.
|Having seen the effectiveness of chemical weapons, it would be
| if Saddam didn't hanker after a bomb of his own, or |
Kim Jong Il were to rule out the use of his own WMD - including
his bomb. |
|Though neither has links to international terrorists
at present, impoverished North Korea has been selling its weapons for
years (they're its only significant foreign currency earner).
Only last month it was caught sending a clandestine shipment
of Scud missiles to Yemen.
|And if Kim Jong Il is so eager to sell his weapons, why would he
- and for that matter Saddam - refuse sales to international
terrorists such as Al Qaeda who have demonstrated their zeal for
mass murder ? |
North Korea thus provides the very reason to attack and disarm
Saddam. And NOW while it's still possible, before he
gets his bomb and starts using or selling it.
North Korea, because of its nuclear arsenal, is essentially
But Kim Jong Il cannot help but notice and be influenced by a swift and
successful action to disarm Iraq, and thus to be more inclined to
negotiate a reasonable and verifiable stand-off arrangement with the rest
of the world.
In the early 1980s, the UK tried in vain to get China - then as now a
merciless communist dictatorship - to negotiate seriously about the future
of the British colony of Hong Kong whose lease would expire in 1997.
China was dismissive and said the Red Army would simply march in and take
over, and might not even wait until 1997.
Then in April 1982 the Argentine dictator General
Galtieri (who died
a few days ago) invaded the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, another British
colony. Margaret Thatcher, then the British Prime Minister, was
having none of it and sent a huge naval task force. After a short
war, it evicted the Argentines ignominiously. The war destroyed
Galtieri's career and paved the way to the restoration of democracy in
Meantime, China, never itself under any military threat
from Britain, took note of Mrs Thatcher's determined military
action. It concluded that it would be wiser to start being sensible
over Hong Kong, because you never knew what that mad woman might do
next. The result was a negotiated and peaceful settlement under Deng
country two systems
So it will be with Kim Jong Il after Saddam has been disarmed and
eliminated. He will start being sensible.
The effect on other dictatorships in Arabia will likewise be
A reader with strong dissenting views writes There
are a dozen countries in Africa with regimes far worse than Mr. Sadam's
but nobody is talking about sorting them out cause
there's nothing in it for anybody apart from doing the MORAL thing.
It's no coincidence that a huge lump of the US arms industry is located
in Texas. War is GOOD for business.
Read the full letter on the Letters
page, together with a little song.
over the past few days we've seen anti-war
protests in New York, Washington, Bahrein, Berlin, Cairo,
Christchurch, Goteburg, Karachi, London, Moscow, Paris, Shannon,
Tokyo, and God knows where else.
But if the
protesters don't want war, why are they massing outside US embassies and
other US institutions ?
For it is not the
USA but Iraq, under the thumb of Saddam Hussein, who for more than a
decade has been violating binding UN resolutions - including agreements he
specifically signed up to as a condition of ending the 1991 Gulf
War. The upcoming Second Gulf War is the direct consequence if his violatory
actions and his alone.
So if the
peaceniks don't want war, it is to Iraqi embassies and institutions that
they should direct their rage. Otherwise, it means they support
Saddam's violations and regime. Not to mention his human rights
abuses so eloquently articulated in Tony Blair's graphic and
Pornography and Sentencing
On 8th September 1999, the FBI
raided the home of Thomas and Janice Reedy in Fort Worth, Texas and
found that the couple were providing child pornography to some 35,000
subscribers in the US. On further investigation under the code name
Operation Avalanche, it emerged that they were in fact
operating a global
network of 5,700 sites
with an astonishing 250,000 subscribers
some $1.4m per month.
The FBI set about identifying the US and
foreign subscribers from their credit card details, which they then passed
to police forces in the subscribers' countries of residence. These
in the UK and some hundreds in Ireland.
In Ireland, over 100 homes were raided
simultaneously last May, including those of a barrister, a choirmaster, a
solicitor, a health authority official, a teacher, a circuit court judge
and a celebrity TV chef.
The first two trials were set for last week, and out of a
possible 100 defendants it is odd that two
high-profile individuals were selected, the judge and the chef.
The circuit court judge obtained a three month deferment on the grounds
of ill-health (though was later spotted drinking a pint in a pub).
The celebrity TV chef, Tim
Allen, is widely known throughout the country, as are his mother and
his wife both also celebrity TV chefs. He pleaded guilty to
possession of 92 child pornography images and was convicted.
However his non-custodial sentence of a 40,000
donation to charity and 240 hours of community service has provoked
outrage due to the leniency and the perceived ability of the wealthy to
buy themselves out of trouble.
But more pernicious is the precedent it
sets for the future prosecutions. Because when a man of lesser means
is threatened with jail, he is bound to plead that this is only due to his
lack of wealth and fame. Moreover, if a millionaire is fined
40,000, his own fine should be proportionately less.
The mismanagement of the Tim Allen case may thus, in
Ireland, devalue the severity of child pornography into a mere misdemeanour.
The Americans understand the gravity of this foulest of
better. Thomas Reedy is currently serving a prison sentence of 1,335 years.
Not days. Years.
African Financial Scams
In common, I imagine, with most of you, I receive on a weekly basis one
or more e-mails from a stranger saying he (or sometimes she) is a Nigerian
or Cameroonian or Ghanaian or Angolan or Congolese or from some other African
country. He is either a senior functionary in the Finance Ministry
or else the close relative of a departed despot (such as Sani Abacha or
Laurent Kabila). He has gained access to a huge sum of money (up to
$60m) and would I please provide a safe haven for it in return for
30%. All I have to do is provide my bank details.
This is known as the 419
Fraud, after the relevant section of the Nigerian Criminal
If you don't want your bank account plundered or Nigerian arrest
warrants issued or countless other interesting developments in your life,
the only response is to hit the Delete button -
Have a look at this excellent fraud
alert issued by London's Metropolitan Police Force, which provides
full details about the 419.
Such Is Youth
What did you do when you were 16 years old and for the next five
|Did you, for example, run away from home, then change bank-code
numbers so that people's bank-deposits went into your account instead
of theirs ? |
|Did you dress up as an airline pilot so as to fly free on the jump
seat, pull the chicks and stay free in hotels ? |
|Did you forge credentials so as to relieve people of money by posing
as a senior lawyer, a professor, a doctor ? |
|Did you cash counterfeit cheques across the US, France and Sweden
and become notorious in 26 countries ?|
|Did you in the process accumulate ill-gotten gains of $2.5m by the
time you were 21 ?|
No, nor did I. I was a pretty boring youth compared with
handsome, charismatic Frank Abagnale from New York.
Sadly, the law eventually caught up with him and he was sentenced to
twelve years in the slammer.
But after only five years he struck his cleverest deal
of all. The FBI, realising his expertise in embezzlement and
swindling, freed him in return for help to catch other con-men. And
he wrote his life-story, Catch
Me If You Can, suitably embellished (as you would expect) to make it
even more dashing and glamorous.
From there he went on to become a suave consultant
assisting major companies to thwart all kinds of fraud.
A pillar of society, Frank is now a 54-year-old family
man, and professes to be embarrassed that Hollywood have made a movie
of his life (though being played by that girlie Leonardo
di Caprio is enough to embarrass anyone).
A role model for all.
Support: Hello, Computer Tech Support here.|
Hello. My computer was making a strange hissing noise last
night and this morning when I turned it on there was a crackling noise
and some smoke then nothing. If I bring it in can you fix it ?|
a look at the pictures
..... you won't believe it.
ISSUE #23 - 12th January 2003
One Year On
new transitional Afghan government under the charismatic, English-speaking
President Karzai has been in power for scarcely a year.
It was inaugurated via a Loya Jirga, which is a traditional
Afghan consultative assembly in which all shades of opinion (bar the
ousted Talibans !) was heard. Short
of the pan-Afghanistan elections planned
for late 2003 the assembly represents the closest thing to
democracy the country has ever seen.
longer hitting every days headlines, the country has quietly been undergoing an
encouraging transformation and reconstruction, thanks to the financial and
other support of some sixty nations, with the US as the biggest single
donor. In a dramatic vote
of confidence in the future, over two million Afghan refugees have
returned to Afghanistan to remake their lives.
worth recounting some of the achievements.
month, Afghanistan and six
neighbouring countries signed the Kabul Declaration on Good Neighborly
Relations. This is a pledge to respect Afghanistans independence and
territorial integrity, to offer co-operation, non-interference and
goodwill vital pre-conditions for future domestic security.
there have been :
water projects completed
health clinics, birth centres and hospitals rebuilt,
mountain passes re-opened, including (for $5½m) the Salang Tunnel
which is vital for north-south commerce during the winter,
kilometers of road rebuilt,
142 schools, daycare centers and vocational schools rebuilt,
an 843,000-ton increase
(82%) in the harvest,
small-scale reconstruction projects completed, such as
girls school in Mazar-e-Sharif,
heating system for one of the ministries
hospital generators in Kandahar in one of the big
hospitals that had no heat and no electricity.
the 15 months since the 9/11 atrocity, the UNHCR has spent $848m
on on humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, including
$100m in food aid and $140m for resettling the 2m
This information comes from a
press release last month by Philip Reeker of the US State Department and a
press conference with Andrew Natsios of USAID.
Not only is all this
extremely encouraging in its own right, but it give the lie to those
who said war against the Taliban in Afghanistan would ravage the
country for decades. The reverse is true. It is the war
that has liberated the Afghan people and enabled reconstruction to
The same naysayers are
making the same claims in respect of the coming war to remove the
Saddam regime from the Iraq it has systematically tortured, devasted
and disgraced over the past 20 years. They
will similarly be proved wrong.
As will their underlying preference to
leave Saddam in place to do his worst rather than remove him.
Ireland - Europe's Refugee Haven
The Geneva Convention states that a refugee is someone with
a well-founded fear of persecution.
However, Ireland's asylum-seekers all arrive after departing from mainland Europe or
Britain, where there is no persecution. They are therefore not
refugees; they are illegal immigrants.
Further, Rudd Lubber, the United Nations High Commissioner for
refugee per 1,000 citizens for the host country, which he believes would eliminate Europe's refugee problem. In 2002 Ireland had
four asylum-seekers per 1,000 citizens, compared with only 1.2 in
Britain. Just two years ago, the figures were
0.7 and 2.9 respectively, demonstrating how popular Ireland has
Meanwhile, to support illegal immigrants who should not be there, Ireland is
million per annum. This is being paid not by society's wealthy, but by
those being deprived of its use - the homeless and thousands on housing
waiting lists. Ireland's homelessness problem would be solved with
just 40 million given to the charity groups established for that
purpose. That would still leave 260 million, enough to build
2,000 social houses per annum.
A significant indirect cost, among many, is the way rents have grown
due to the increased demand from illegal immigrants who are are competing
with the poorest in society for the available space.
Why do these illegal immigrants leave France, Germany, Holland,
Britain, etc, and come to a wet windswept island on the western fringe of
Europe, in unprecedented numbers ?
Simply, because it is by far the best deal in Europe.
Ireland contributes to the problem by having no coherent strategy for
managing legal immigration. What it badly needs is a joined-up
immigration policy, that
|recognizes the country's need for immigrants to fill particular
jobs, both at the high and the low ends of the scale, |
|assesses the desirability of admitting
particular individuals to fill these jobs (like, for example, Australia
and Canada do) and|
|implements a process for issuing work and residence permits (US
green card equivalents) which
welcome them to move here legally for pre-agreed periods. |
But meanwhile, at least there is no tunnel under the Irish Sea for them
to pour through.
As we all well remember, Republican
George W Bush became the US's 43rd president only after a nail-biting
election. The count was so close in the crucial swing state of
Florida, that it took six weeks before the US Supreme Court
forbade further recounts and declared W as the winner. The
favourite, Democrat Vice President Al Gore, had
|Bush 50.4m votes, 49.4%|
|Gore 51.0m votes, 50.4%|
Democrats were understandably outraged,
since Gore won more votes than W. To this day, many of them still
complain that Bush is an illegitimate leader. They are joined by
left-liberals in the US and abroad who abhor Bush's policy (and
success) in tackling world terrorism, some even saying that his
elevation to power is as undemocratic as Saddam's.
But this is to misunderstand the underlying
philosophy of the American presidential election system. It uses an
(EC) whereby each US State has a certain number
of electoral college votes depending on its geographical size, population,
history and other factors. For example,
Electoral College Votes
EC Votes per thousand
Whichever candidate wins a majority of popular votes within a
particular State is awarded all the electoral college votes
of that State. Whoever wins more than half the nation's 538 electoral college
votes becomes president.
To ensure that heavily
populated States like California do not submerge and make irrelevant the
preferences of tiny States like Hawaii or empty ones like Alaska, voters
in the latter two carry twice the weight of the average American (as the
above table shows).
The system is deliberately designed this way.
A key effect is that it makes it possible for the
presidential candidate with most popular votes to be be defeated if he
doesn't also have the most electoral college votes, as happened to Al
It not only makes this possible. The electoral
college system exists for no other purpose than to enable
such an outcome. If every US president were elected with a plurality
of the popular vote, the electoral college system would have
So those who say that Bush's election was undemocratic are really
saying that the views of the less populated states should be ridden over
roughshod. A valid view, perhaps, but the focus of attack should
then be not Bush but the electoral college system.
And for that
matter the Senate as well, since each State appoints the same number of
senators - two - regardless of size.
and the Virgin Mary
will recall my piece about the
anti-Christian pogrom in Nigeria by Muslims who were outraged
because a newspaper journalist had suggested that the Prophet Mohammed
might have liked to marry one of the Miss World contestants. 220
people were killed, over 20 churches burned down, the offices of the
newspaper destroyed, and the journalist had to flee to the USA.
days before the Christmas, BBC TV ran a programme about Mary,
the mother of Jesus Christ whose birth Christmas commemorates and
programme speculated, among other things, that contrary to the fervent belief
of Catholics (and many other Christians), Mary was not a
virgin. Moreover, that her pregnancy resulted not from divine
intervention but as a result of her having been raped by a Roman
This is pretty much about as offensive to Catholics as it is possible
to get, and I would think more insulting than the Miss World comment.
|no riots, |
| no burning down of the BBC's
headquarters in London, |
| no hounding of the
some genteel words of dismay from a number of church members.
that mean Catholics are civilised or spineless ?
Handling at Italian Airports
Pat Cox, the president of the
EU Parliament, visited the Pope over the New Year break and invited him to
address the EU Parliament.
But on arrival at Rome's
Fiumicino airport, his suitcase was missing from the carousel.
When it eventually caught up with him, a valuable pair of
diamond-studded cufflinks had been removed.
This seems to be an Italy
Only last August, the BBC reported
the arrest of 36 baggage-handlers at Milan's Malpensa international
airport following the discovery of 25,000 worth of stolen goods during
police raids on their homes.
Closed-circuit TV evidence
revealed that the men routinely broke into suitcases in the airport's
cargo area, stealing anything from jewellery to snowboards.
Furthermore, the TV footage
also showed the baggage-handlers getting together in their locker room for
an impromptu auction at the end of the day when they bartered the spoils
of their labours.
One enterprising handler,
named as Roberto C, had apparently been recorded breaking into and
stealing from up to 50 suitcases during his 5½-hour shift.
Happy New Year from the
ever-active cargo department.
#22 - 5th January 2003
and the EU
in Copenhagen, the EU agreed to admit, as from July 2004 ten new
was one of these, however since it was invaded by Turkey in 1974, it has
been divided and ethnically cleansed into a UN-unrecognized Turkish-Cyprus
in the north and a legitimate Greek-Cyprus in the south, with UN troops
monitoring the sealed border. Turkey-proper
maintains 35,000 soldiers in the north.
the north, comprising 37% of the landmass, is not recognized, foreign
investment has gone almost exclusively to the south which has prospered
= $16,000 per head) while the north has languished in relative poverty
$5,300 per head).
Nevertheless, by all accounts,
Turkish-Cypriots have been very happy to be part of a separate entity
where at least they are not a disparaged minority,
the Greek-Cypriots feel highly aggrieved, not least because they
have lost a lot of property in the north.
almost thirty years, despite huge efforts by the UN, the two sides have
signally failed to reach a settlement.
Indeed, thoughout this period, they have had virtually the same
leaders - Rauf Denktash (now 79 years old) for the Turkish half, Glafcos
Clerides (83) for the Greek half. This
have made their careers out of never-ending bad-tempered negotiations,
each bolstered in their intransigence by their respective sponsors, Turkey
and Greece have nurtured their own mutual ill-will for many years, dating
back to the days of the Ottoman Empire when Greece was effectively a
Turkish colony. Until relations softened after they each generously
helped each other out with dreadful earthquakes in 1999, they were hardly
on speaking terms, despite both being members of NATO.
UN recently proposed yet another peace/reunification plan for Cyprus,
which would involve creating a loose federation comprising two largely
autonomous cantons, linked by a weak central administration.
Denktash has once again dismissed this, no doubt to the delight of his
partner Mr Clerides, especially since the previous government of
Turkey-proper (with an eye on its own EU application) loosely endorsed it.
the prospect of Cyprus's EU membership has changed the whole equation,
since the Turkish half will be admitted only if there is a settlement. The
deadline for this is 28th February because the die will be
cast in March when the Greek Cypriots hold a referendum to accept the EUs
invitation to join.
the Greek-Cypriots join without their Turkish-Cypriot compatriots, they
will thereafter, as full members of the EU, be in a position to veto
Turkish-Cypriot membership and indeed that of Turkey proper for
ever. Or at least until they have secured a settlement that favours
the Greek-Cypriots much more than the current one on offer does.
for the first time ever, the Turkish Cypriot population is panicking,
holding demos and hunger strikes demanding that Mr Denktash and his
government accept the UN reunification plan.
across the water, Turkey's newly elected prime minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a major departure from Ankara's 30 year
old Cyprus policy, has twice called for the reunification of the island as
per the UN plan. He asserts that Mr Denktash will not be permitted
to block progress in negotiations with the Greek Cypriots.
eleventh-hour settlement therefore now looks very likely. If indeed
it comes to pass, it will be thanks to EU geopolitics and the lure of
future economic prosperity. A
vivid (and perhaps rare) demonstration of the EUs power to do good in
it is high time those two old dinosaurs, Messrs Denktash and Clerides,
were put out to pasture. They're in
the way. Their time has passed.
Reunification ? Forget It !
count has recently been made in Northern Ireland of those saying they are
Protestants (53%) or Catholic (43%).
The remaining 4% (a remarkably low figure) are atheists, refuseniks,
Muslims, Bhuddists, Hindus etc.
in 1921 Irish voters agreed in an all-Ireland referendum to be partitioned
(yes, they did !), only 30% of Northern Irish were Catholics.
in percentages since then reflects
Catholics higher birthrates resulting from being forbidden to
use contraception and |
greater rate of emigration and indeed death
Click on the
thumbnail to view the trend
the years much has been made of the demographic swing towards the
Catholics, with an expectation that before very long, perhaps in 2030, the
Catholics will finally outnumber the Protestants. Overnight, it is said,
Ireland will be reunited.
extrapolations however, and in particular the reunification conclusion
that some draw, are fatally flawed.
with the falling influence of the Catholic Church, Catholic birthrates
are now dropping down to similar levels to Protestants.
Likewise, the differences in death rates and emigration between
the two communities are disappearing.
while there are very few Protestants that will vote to join the
Republic, it by no means follows that Catholics will universally vote
for a united Ireland. Recent
studies, for example the so-called European
Values Study of 2000, have indicated that anywhere between 35%
and 50% of Catholics want to remain in the UK. This is
largely because of two factors :
huge subsidies paid by the English taxpayer to support the
penurious Northern Ireland economy, which amounts to a massive £2,500
per inhabitant per year. Leaving
the UK means risking goodbye to most or all of this.
significantly higher cost of living in the South compared to the
North (and Northern Catholics are particularly aware of this since
they travel south so often).
even if a referendum in the North did result in a majority favouring
reunification, there is no guarantee that voters in the Republic would
agree to accept the diseased carbuncle that is Northern Ireland.
With a population addicted to state subsidies for everything, teeming
with a resentful, unwilling and partly violent Protestant minority, it
is hardly an attractive package to take on.
If Ireland were to take over the English subsidies it would
cost £2,000 in extra taxes per person in the Republic; if it didnt,
social disruption would be inevitable.
all adds up to an unavoidable conclusion. Forget any notion of Irish
reunification in the foreseeable future. It will never
day soon, both communities in Northern Ireland need to come to this
realisation - and their leaders need the courage to say as much.
they all better get on with implementing the Good Friday Agreement, and
recognize it for what it is.
It is not a transitional arrangement, but
permanent way for them to live and work together in mutual respect.
cut-price airlines of Europe, notably
| Irelands Ryanair
(now in share capital terms even bigger than British Airways), |
Easyjet and |
| Hollands Buzz
have revolutionised travel within Europe.
With a streamlined, radical and superior business model, they have
drastically undercut the national carriers such as BA, Air France, KLM,
Iberia, TAP, Lufthansa, Aer Lingus - behemoths and minnows alike.
only have they lured away huge chunks of business from these largely
state-owned airlines, but |
low prices have greatly enlarged the overall European air travel
market, as well as |
whole new markets such as the purchase by Britons and Irish of now
cheaply-accessible holiday homes in the Continental sun. |
it sometimes feels as if their CEOs - particularly Michael
OLeary of Ryanair and Easyjets Stelios
Haji-Ioannou - are never off the air aggressively proclaiming
merits of their business model, |
belief in competition and open skies, |
derision of the plodding traditional carriers. |
flourishing airlines are handsomely rewarding their shareholders, yet they
also attract a great deal of bad publicity, particularly in relation
to how they deal with customer
appears they just dont care whether they annoy their passengers, which
seems strange for a highly successful, expanding consumer business
engaging in vigorous competition.
you look closer at what they really mean by competition.
in a supermarket can march out and buy their groceries at another
supermarkets take them seriously and deal with them courteously, as well
as keeping prices down.
if you want, for example, to fly from London to Málaga, its either
Easyjet or take one of the costly major carriers like Iberia or BA. Theres
no other cheap option for that route, and thats not just by
aggregate, Ryanair, Easyjet and Buzz fly to and from no fewer than 102
airports in fifteen European countries. But
only seventeen of these destinations are serviced by two of the airlines,
and only one Londons Stanstead by all three. See this
tabulation for the details.
not a single route is duplicated, much less triplicated.
other words, the three low-cost airlines, that trumpet so loudly the
virtues of free markets and competition, make utterly sure they never ever
compete against each other. Their
open market message is directed at the national carriers only, safe in the
knowledge that the changes required for them to operate on a shoestring
are so extreme as to be almost impossible to achieve.
BA tried, failed, then created GO as an independent low-cost
subsidiary, found it too difficult and sold it off at a loss to rival
would never allege that the three management teams collude to share out
Europe in the way that the Great Powers divided up the Middle East in the
19th century in what Rudyard Kipling called the Great
to carve up a business market on such a scale would breach a slew of
anti-monopoly laws and expose the senior managers to prison
might otherwise look like non-competing behaviour among Ryanair, Easyjet
and Buzz must in fact merely be the result of a series of
the day will come when one of them cracks and begins to compete with the
other two - or indeed a fourth upstart will muscle in on their
routes. That can result only in better service as well as even lower
fares for us their passengers.
Where Do African Elephants Die
Ivory was one of the abundant treasures that lured
Europeans to invade and colonise Africa. To this day, Côte d'Ivoire
(the scene of current revolutionary
turmoil) takes its name from this trade.
The Portuguese were among the earliest ivory seekers and they would buy
tusks from Africans who would hunt down the elephants. It is no mean
feat to pursue and kill an elephant when you're on foot and armed only with spears. The usual method was to chase the unfortunate beast into a hole they had previously dug.
But the Portuguese were intrigued why there was so little ivory
around. After all,
|elephants were plentiful, |
|they have no natural predators other than man and |
|tusks are very long lasting. |
Why were there no corpses lying around of elephants who had died just
of natural causes, so you could simply help yourself to the immensely
valuable ivory ? Where were their bodies, their skeletons ?
For many years it was the Africans' closely guarded secret. The
elephant is sacred, so is his death, and such mysteries are not to be
divulged, especially to the white man.
Even today, the
explanation is not widely known.
If man does not intervene,
death due to old age usually occurs at dusk, when the elephants come to
the water. They stand at the edge of a lake or river, reach out far with
their trunks, and drink.
But the day eventually comes when a tired old elephant
can no longer raise his trunk. So to drink clear water he has to
walk farther and farther out into the lake. His legs sink into the
muck, deeper and deeper. The lake pulls him into its cavernous interior.
He fights for a time, thrashing about, trying to extricate himself from
the bog and get back to the shore. But his own weight is so great,
and the pull of the lake's bottom so paralysing, that finally the animal
loses his balance, falls over, and vanishes under the water forever.
on the bottoms of African lakes and rivers, are the age-old elephant
fascinating anecdote comes from Ryszard
Shadow of the Sun, an
endearing, inciteful and very readable analysis of Africa.
Rael Return of the Tallrite
before the Christmas of 1973, Frenchman Claude
Vorilhon, a sportswriter and race car driver, was
motoring near an extinct volcano called
Puy de Lassolas,
which is near Clermont-Ferand in
the beautiful Auvergne
region of central France.
to his surprise, a bell-shaped a flying saucer 23 feet in diameter flew
into sight and came to a standstill hovering 30 feet above him.
of it, down a retractable stairway, emerged, exuding harmony and
humour, a four-foot-tall green alien, with long dark hair, a trim
little beard and almond-shaped eyes.
In perfect French, he explained that he was from the Elohim people
in a faraway planet and that this was not their first visit to Earth. For,
went on the little fellow, a mere 25,000 years ago they had used DNA
technology to create the first human being in an Elohim laboratory back
home, and then planted the new species on the earth, leaving it to grow
The rest, as they say, is history, and there are now more than 6.3
billion of us.
By the way, I am not making
this up !
strange chap further elucidated that, having created all life on earth
(not just us humans) and originated all religions, he would much
appreciate if an embassy could kindly be set up for future official
contact, preferably in Jerusalem, that sea of tranquility. On
the subject of religion, it was none other than the Elohim who chose and
educated Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed.
Claude was so taken aback by these startling revelations, that he did what
any of us would have done. He
immediately changed his name to Rael and set up a new sect called the Raelians (notice
how it rhymes with aliens)
to promote free love,
cloning and the return of aliens to Earth.
The Raelian organization now boasts 55,000 members in 84 countries.
Oh, and Claude kindly asks CNN and the rest of us to address him as
Buddha etc, the Elohim now seem to have trained today's Raelian scientists
in their DNA laboratory arts of 25,000 years ago. For, with
virtually no warning or fanfare and a minimal budget, they have trumped
the worlds scientists in the field of cloning.
A cloned human baby was born in the USA last month just 29 years
after that fateful Auvergne meeting, another in Holland in January, and we
are told several more are on the way. DNA analysis will apparently provide confirmation.
of course, paves the way for our own immortality.
I die, I will therefore leave instructions and funds in my will for my
immediate cloning, so that I re-appear as a bonnie infant a year or so later.
will resume the Tallrite Blog as soon as possible thereafter.
You have been warned.
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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