Lord Butler's 200-page review of WMD intelligence failures leading up
to the Iraq war zooms in on Tony Blair's dossier
of September 2002 entitled, Iraqs
Weapons of Mass Destruction - The Assessment of the British Government
(pdf, 427 kb).
This was, of course, the (in)famous dodgy
dossier which claims, no fewer than four times, that some Iraqi WMD
were deployable within 45 minutes.
with repetition, Lord Butler's report asserts that
dossier was an exposé of Iraqi threats but was not intended to make
the case for war;
it was technically correct, it was misleading in the way it implied
greater certainty about its findings than was warranted;
some human intelligence about Iraq's WMD was seriously
or worst case estimates, shorn of their caveats,
tended to become the prevailing wisdom;
the most egregious example was the 45-minute claim, because although
only to forward-deployed munitions, not to all WMD and not to
ballistic weapons, the dossier failed to make this distinction
there was no
evidence of deliberate distortion or of culpable negligence
or of political distortion.
for the report rest solely with the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC)
and in particular its Chairman Sir John Scarlett, whom Mr Blair has since
nominated to be the new head of MI6, ie the Secret Intelligence
Service. (Interestingly, the weapons expert Dr David Kelly, who
killed himself a year ago and who allegedly wrote 60% of the dossier,
gets not a mention.)
Butler then concludes that making public that the JIC had authorship of the dossier was a mistaken
judgement ...[which] had the result that more weight was
placed on the intelligence than it could bear.
This is a non sequitur. Why does revealing authorship do
this ? Surely the mistakes reside in the content ?
Revealing authorship makes the content neither more nor less flawed.
It just shows that the fault lies with the authors rather than somewhere
Butler's underlying assumption seems to be that the JIC
is incompetent to write up its own intelligence. This incompetence
relates to over egging the pudding and leaving out caveats that it would
have included had it been for
internal consumption. In other words, the authors of the dossier deliberately
misled their public readership.
Let's be quite clear about the situation.
Lord Butler tells us that the intelligence produced by the JIC under Scarlett was flawed.
Mr Blair accepted this intelligence and used it as
a basis to go to war.
If Mr Blair knew the intelligence was flawed, he is accountable and should
go. Yet Lord Butler indicates that he acted in good faith, ie he didn't know it was
Therefore the person responsible for the producing flawed intelligence
should go. According to Lord Butler, that was Mr Scarlett.
Yet the review says he shouldn't be sacked, for the simple reason that
Lord Butler and his team have
a high regard for his abilities and his record.
Not only that, but they endorse the proposed promotion to head of MI6. A man who has shown he cannot even be trusted to string
together a reliable 55-page report for public consumption ! He'll be
a laughing stock in and outside of MI6. No wonder many people
believe that Military
is an oxymoron.
Some say that Mr Scarlett was leaned on to produce a suitable
dossier. This, even if true (which Lord Butler says isn't), is no excuse. He was Chairman of the JIC.
He should not have buckled. If he couldn't stand the pressure, he
should have resigned, preferably publicly. Big-shot
bosses don't have the excuses of minions.
Guys like John Scarlett are happy to accept the top jobs, take the big
pay and perks, bask in the glory of seniority and respect. And who can blame
them ? But the flip side is that they are personally responsible for serious
flaws in their organisations, whether or not they personally participated
(as Mr Scarlett did) in those flaws. Thus,
The UK's Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington honourably resigned after General
Galtieri, Argentina's dictator, invaded the Falklands/Malvinas Islands
More recently, the BBC ejected its Chairman Gavin Davies, Director
General Greg Dyke and reporter Andrew Gilligan for falsely claiming on
the Government had sexed up Mr Blair's September 2002 dossier.
(As we now
know, it was Mr Scarlett who did this).
Enron executives are looking at lengthy jail sentences in America;
some will not emerge alive.
Shell fired its supremo Phil Watts and number two
Walter van der Vijver when major mistakes in reserves bookings came to
Piers Morgan was frogmarched out of his job as Editor of the Daily
Mirror after it published fake photographs of British soldiers abusing
George Tenet, the CIA's boss of eight years, resigned just before a congressional
committee uncovered major deficiencies in the CIA's intelligence over
What's so hard to understand ? You're the boss, your organization screws up, you're
history. You take the gain, you take the pain. It's not a question of
did my best, but that
your best wasn't good enough and so you're no longer to be trusted.
John Scarlett should resign or be sacked. Good
I've been opposed to the EU's new Constitutional Treaty for some time,
ever since I learnt that it was a device not merely for tidying up
existing treaties - an excellent idea - but for smuggling in countless other
provisions that wouldn't stand on their own legs. For example,
the 2½-year appointed president, the new foreign minister, the charter of
human rights, the redistribution of voting rights, the elimination of many
national vetos. This and more are all designed to inch the EU
towards becoming a federal superstate, with existing countries relegated
to the status of local parishes (subliminal plot - to poke a stick in
Of course, the EU only recently engaged in a huge piece of successful
skulduggery. Without considerable sleight of hand, Germany's
Helmut Kohl and France's François Mitterand would never have been able
to trick their peoples into accepting the uro. What German
would have agreed to swap his mighty Deutschmark, saviour and backbone
of his economy since WW2, for a currency to be shared with (in their
view) the flaky Italians, Greeks and Portuguese ? So it was all
done quietly, behind closed doors with no debate at all. The new
currency was smuggled in, and the electorate were eventually informed of
the fait accompli as some kind of afterthought.
And as it happens,
it is now the Germans and French who are economically flaky, unable/unwilling
to stick to the Growth and Stability Pact, and the Mediterranean
countries who are robust.
Although the 25 prime ministers surprisingly agreed the Constitutional
Treaty last month, the ratification process will involve referenda in at
least ten countries, including Eurosceptic Britain, Poland, the
post-Fortuyn Netherlands and even France. So,
happily, ratification is more than likely going to fail.
There are some who say a country which fails to ratify should leave the
EU because it is excluding itself from the new rules of the
club. Indeed, some say that the referendum campaigns should be
conducted on this basis, ie ratify or get out.
This approach doesn't make sense to me. The club will be deciding
whether to adopt new rules, and under its existing rules 100% of member
state must ratify the change. Therefore, if the result is no, then
the old rules simply stay in place. The club is still the
Of course, if 24 vote yes and only one member state votes no, its prime
minister is going to be pretty unpopular. But the others can't make
him leave and why should they ? Moreover, he is paid handsomely to
look after the interests and wishes of his own country's electorate, not to be Mr
Popularity at EU summits and photo-opportunities.
But he'll certainly need a thick neck !
However my bet is that nearly all the ten referendum states will vote no.
That will thankfully kill the Constitutional Treaty stone dead, and result in an EU
that its 350 million people can continue to feel reasonably happy
Then, perhaps after a year for over-eager EU politicians
to lick their wounds, a more modest treaty whose sole
purpose is to tidy up existing treaties and agreements, will emerge and be quickly ratified.
After that, further changes will have to be negotiated
above-board and on their own merits.
Last February, I wrote about John Kerry's accidental
in Vietnam, whence he emerged after active service
in command of a Swift (Shallow
Water Inshore Fast Tactical)
boat. He had earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and for being battle-wounded three
times three Purple Hearts. The third injury qualified him for early
repatriation, which he grasped, after just four months combat
service. My point was that since he didn't seek combat, so much as end up facing
astute efforts to avoid it, he was an accidental hero.
I had a niggling feeling about the three wounds. If they were
serious enough to merit purple hearts and an early discharge, why don't we
know more about them ? He's always telling everyone about his
military prowess - it's a cornerstone of his campaign - so why isn't be
bragging about his wounds ? John McCain certainly did.
According to columnist Jack
Kelly, all three wounds were just minor cuts from shrapnel, which caused him to miss just two days of
duty in all. He is
also scathing about the Silver Star because it was awarded, based only on Kerry's own
uncorroborated action-report, for having killed a wounded Viet Cong who was running
away. That doesn't sound very brave (but I'm not a military man
so I wouldn't know).
The bronze star came from rescuing a man
overboard whilst under fire - though some
say it was Kerry's bad driving that caused him to fall off the Swift
boat in the first place.
doctor who treated the first of his injuries says he simply removed a metal
fragment 1cm x 3mm embedded 4mm in Kerry's arm, and then stuck on a
band-aid. The fragment didn't look like a bullet. Moreover, Kerry's shipmates
said it was caused not by enemy fire but a ricochet when Kerry mortared some
His other two wounds, one to the leg and another to the arm, seem to
have been similarly superficial, and there is no record of any follow-up
You can expect Kerry's enemies to denigrate his heroism in this kind of
way, just as you
can expect his supporters to defend it.
However, it adds a certain credibility when those who are denigrating
him loudest seem to be drawn from his own wartime colleagues and
shipmates, his so-called band
You would think they would be delighted that one of their own might end up
as President. Instead they question his fitness to become
commander-in-chief, based not only on his anti-war activities, which
amounted to cheering for the enemy, but also on his brief period of active
A new website, Swift
Boat Veterans for Truth, tells us that only two of his nineteen fellow
Swift officers support his presidential bid. As well as questioning
his heroics, the site says that his early discharge was prompted not, as
claimed, at his own request, but by the desire of Tom
Wright, his senior officer, to get rid of him because he had
a lot of trouble getting him to follow orders.
But their main objections are to his anti-war stance once he got back
stateside. Not only did he oppose the war, which in itself was
not dishonourable, but in 1971 he accused
his fellow soldiers or systematic war crimes backed up by no evidence
other than that of stooges engaged for the purpose. It is
significant that no-one was ever prosecuted for these so-called war crimes.
anti-war antics and consistent support of North Vietnamese negotiation
positions certainly, in retrospect, came close to siding with the enemy in
And indeed that's how the North Vietnamese Communists viewed it, which
is why to this day Kerry is honoured with a photograph in the War Remnants
Museum in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), which shows him meeting the General Secretary
of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
So it would seem that John Kerry, despite his determination not to
release his complete military records, should be very cautious about how
he parades his war hero status.
Surely it is only a matter of time before he is going to have to
publicly confront what the veterans who knew him are saying about
He will have to defend his fitness to become
Commander-in-Chief. His erstwhile comrades believe he is not
Late Note (7th August) : Lots more on this
issue has emerged in the couple of weeks since this post was
published. John Kerry objects strongly to the unflattering versions
of events put about by, among others, his erstwhile colleagues at
Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, whom I linked to above. But his
objections are amply refuted here.
The last two paragraphs of my post are coming
Speaking as someone bombarded daily with
irresistible offers, I think Motley Fool's recent
advice is worth repeating :
Fraudsters must be having an absolute ball thinking up
the next email scam. Mass-mailings that get sent out to millions of
people at a time will invariably find their way to Inboxes belonging to
the greedy, the naive or the desperate. Such people make for easy
pickings - just make sure you're not one of them.
Here are the top five scams currently doing the
This is probably the most well-known of all the email
scams and invariably comes from someone related to a dead Nigerian
dictator who desperately needs your help in smuggling the family's
millions out of the country. They'll need some financial help from you
up front and will need access to your bank account to receive the money
but, as a reward, you'll get a percentage of the lot.
An email purporting to be from your bank asks you to
click on a link to confirm your bank and password details - usually as
part of an alleged security update. You'll be directed to a very
realistic looking website which looks exactly like that of your bank.
You innocently key in your personal details and the conman goes on a
spending spree with your money.
Lucky you. An email tells informs you that you have
won a foreign Lottery via the random selection of your email address. In
order to claim your prize you'll have to pay some money up front to
cover supposed handling charges, tax exemptions, anti-money laundering
Hot Penny Shares
Company XYZ - a small but real company - is about
to announce a major breakthrough (in pharmaceuticals/life sciences/genomics/whatever)
and the share price will go through the roof. Buy now and you'll
make an absolute mint. These emails will be from someone who already has
shares in the company and is hoping that enough gullible people will
rush to buy some themselves pushing the share price will go up.
They'll cash in before you realise the company's a dud.
A super-dooper online store is selling expensive
software at bargain prices. You have a lovely time buying all those
computer games you've been hankering for and hand over your credit card
details at the checkout. The store doesn't exist - the website is simply
a front for getting hold of your personal bank details.
You may have encountered some or all of the above scams already. If
not, you can be sure they'll be coming your way soon. Press the delete
Sinclair, inveterate inventor of strange if intriguing devices that lose
money, has just come out with
another one, the world's smallest, lightest, weirdest foldable
His new A-Bike
weighs just 12lb and folds away into a package that can be stored under a desk or in a bag. Singapore was chosen for the launch because
it's affluent but also because, like the bike, it's small and compact. Retailing
at around £170, it will go on sale there shortly, followed next year by the UK, the
US and Japan.
It takes only twenty seconds to unfold or to fold away into a package of just 1.1 cubic
feet This makes it only slightly more cumbersome to carry than an umbrella or a laptop.
It's made mainly of plastic and lightweight aluminium, used in aerospace technology.
Can't wait to buy mine for wobbling home from the pub on a Saturday
It's April 2007, almost four years after I wrote this post.
And I've just bought my A-Bike.
Lots of fun - up to a point.
But riders are not supposed to exceed 1.85m (6 ft) and 85 kg (185 lb).
I'm 1.97m and 110 kg so am well over the limit.
I fell off on my backside the first time I used it.
It's also hard work going up hills because there are no gears.
But it folds up small and light in a very ingenious fashion.
I have given it to a nephew, who better fits the physical design, for his
I don't understand why Britain and the United States are
systematically increasing pressure against us and not operating through
the United Nations. This pressure closely resembles the increased
pressure that was put on Iraq [before the war] ... We don't need any
[UN] resolutions. Any resolutions from the Security Council will
Sudanese Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman
objecting because foreign meddlers want to put a stop to
the racist massacre of more-black Sudanese Muslims
by less-black Sudanese Muslims who are backed by his Government.
The Minister should pay heed to the effect of this
on Saddam and his erstwhile ministers,
most of whom are now in custody or dead
: There are magnificent things that exist in the US as
well as some fairly horrific things. I hate their arrogance, I hate their
Commission President-designate José Manuel Barroso
begins to go native in an address to
the socialist MEPs in Brussels.
He seems to have forgotten that as Portuguese prime minister
he personally hosted the pre-war summit in the
George Bush, Tony Blair and Spain's José Maria Aznar,
and that Portugal was all along part of the multilateral Coalition of the Willing.
he thinks this is US unilateralism,
his fluency in English is not all it's cracked up to be.
if he means that the US should not take military action
without French permission, he should say so unambiguously.
[Ireland's current finance minister and newly appointed EU
Commissioner Charlie] McCreevy is one of the most right-wing finance
ministers in Europe ... he gives incentives to the rich and he has
incentivised the poor by giving them a kick in the arse. You [MEPs]
should not allow Charlie McCreevy to get behind the economic levers of the
Ireland's Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa
compliments Mr McCreevy's politics, but
panics at the thought that right wing economic policies
might put a brake on the EU gravy train
so beloved of his fellow wealth-destroying socialists
I've sometimes asked myself where my feelings truly lie in the
I'm pretty much pro-Israel because I
believe it, like all other countries, has a right to exist and prosper in
peace within secure boundaries. Moreover it's a vigorous democracy,
governed by the rule of (independent) law, which periodically changes its government as its people change their
views on how to deal with problems.
But I am also pro the
Palestinian people; I believe they also have rights to peaceful existence
and the the pursuit of prosperity, and that they are entitled to a second
Palestinian state (the first being Jordan).
What I am strongly
opposed to is the Palestinian leadership under the thug Yasser
Arafat. It is
committed to the
of Israel and
has absolutely no interest in the day-to-day or long-term
welfare of Palestinians.
Above all it is illegitimate; it has no mandate from the Palestinian
people whom it claims to represent. Arafat claims to have been
elected to his current position as President of the Palestinian Authority
in January 1996 (he's been PLO Chairman since 1969). But he has
never been fairly elected the leader of anything, let alone
the Palestinian people. The elections of 1996 for PA president and
the 88-seat Palestinian National Council, were a sham
where, under threat
of violence (often delivered),
only candidates approved by Arafat could stand and
only the pro-Arafat candidates were covered by the media.
himself was opposed only by a token 72-year-old woman. Yet, despite
remaining virtually invisible throughout the campaign, she still garnered 9%
of the vote, which tells you something.
There has been no further voting by Palestinians in the past eight years and there are
no plans for any. So what the leadership says and does cannot
in any meaningful sense be said to represent what the Palestinian people
want. (It would be very depressing if it did).
Contrast this with Israel, where through free elections over the same
period, governments have shifted
leftward (Peres), rightward (Netanyahu), leftward (Barak) and rightward
(Sharon). Love them or hate them, the Israeli leadership
is undoubtedly representative of the majority of Israelis.
Last February I wrote
in some despair of the Palestinian's lack of a true leader, meaning
sort of democratic legitimacy,
genuine desire for a solution and
ability to think, perhaps like the short-lived previous prime minister
When Mr Arafat (reluctantly) appointed Abu Mazen as Prime Minister in
March 2003, I viewed
him as a great new hope for Palestinians. Not only had he earned a
great deal of credibility by a long and honourable association with the
Palestinian cause as well as by having Mr Arafat's ear (ugh), but he
utterly rejected the use of military force to advance the Palestinian
cause. This was for purely pragmatic reasons -
the use of arms was/is going nowhere,
it plays to Israel's strength, and
the Palestinians can never overcome by military means a country that
can defeat the entire Arab nation at once if it so chooses (as it did
must be statesmen in order to obtain achievements diplomatically that we
cannot obtain militarily
he had lectured Fatah officials and commanders. They didn't like it
but they listened.
to other states he said, Many Arab and Islamic countries want to
fight Israel through us, or, as they say, they want to fight Israel to the
last Palestinian, and through us achieve what their armies could not.
had never had a leader of remotely his calibre. Yet after only 129
days he resigned. Why ? He was sick of Messrs Bush, Sharon and
Arafat, reckoning they'd all betrayed him by their unfulfilled
there was another, more sinister, more brutal reason for departing.
Mr Arafat, jealous of Mr Mazen's influence and wary of his desire to act
without Mr Arafat's interference, wanted to kill him. Newsweek
him (hat-tip, Not
Newsweek : Some might say that a
national leader must be able to withstand criticism and incitement. Mazen : That's true. But when they try to kill I felt that someone was going
N : To kill you ? M : Yeah. Or to cause bloodshed within Fatah itself.
N : How many of these
things were instigated by Chairman Arafat ? M : I wouldn't want to mention anyone by name. But I'll give you something
to understand: I don't have any relationship with the chairman from the
resignation to this day.
N : When you're in Ramallah, you don't meet with him ? M : I live in Ramallah and he's 100 meters away. I don't go to him, I don't
meet with him, I don't have any relations with him.
N : In what circumstances
would you be willing to return to this position [ie prime minister] ? M : No circumstances whatsoever. I will
not go back.
So once more, the Palestinian people were left captainless and
rudderless, as they are to this day. Their self-appointed leadership
junta has over the years turned down offers of a state three times - in
1948, 1967 and 2000.
So in the absence of anyone to talk business with, Israel just ploughs
ahead and makes its own decisions for the future.
It will withdraw from Gaza,
consolidate in the West Bank, and
is building a 600 km security fence/wall as and where it
Whatever's inside the wall/fence, including disputed territory, will
become de-facto part of Israel, right or wrong.
Whatever's left outside will be a de-facto state for Palestinians to
make what they will of.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague may scream
all it likes about the illegality of Israel's construction. But as
long it - still only 30% complete - is already reducing
successful suicide attacks by
75% and the Palestinian side shows no interest in serious negotiation,
the project will continue regardless, following a route that
suits Israel, constrained
only by its own supreme court. And who can blame
Moreover there is even an upside
for the Palestinians. The fewer successful terrorist attacks in
Israel, the less the need for Israeli retaliatory and defensive
operations. Lower Israeli casualties will translate into lower Palestinian
casualties. Not that the Arafatish leadership cares.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that an injustice is being perpetrated
on the Palestinian people. It's just that the prime perpetrators are
not the Israelis but the Palestinian thugocracy that rules and oppresses and
This is the very regime that most pro-Palestinian groups and charities
in the West support, which is why they deserve nothing but
Personally, I support the Palestinian people as well as
the people and and democratic
government of Israel, and these are not incompatible views.
But Palestinian regime change is the only long-term hope for the
Palestinian populace, and the sooner the better. For the sake of the
Palestinian people, Mr Arafat's demise is to be fervently desired. As Mark
Humphries has often remarked, all dictatorships should be ended, to be
replaced by democracy.
beginning, let us hope, to set an example.
A year ago, I wrote
about the curious project of Bruce Simpson, a model aircraft enthusiast in
New Zealand. He had started to build his own cruise missile capable of
delivering a 10 kg warhead for just $5,000, using information, materials,
electronics, and components freely available in the public domain.
Among his early purchases were a GPS system, flight attitude control
system and radio control flight pack that he simply bought on e-bay
and had mailed out to him.
He calls it his Low Cost Cruise Missile, or LCCM. He wanted to
demonstrate that if he could build such a weapon in his garage at such low
cost, then so could terrorists also. So the West better be aware of the
What added spice to the project was that he vowed to keep an online
project diary where he would explain what he was doing, why and how,
complete with photographs, drawings, video clips, etc. More detailed
plans would be available to subscribers.
Last week, I thought it was time to check progress.
Technically, the project has certainly
advanced. Mr Simpson has built 1½ missiles, but of his fifteen
project phases, he has unfortunately documented only four,
albeit with astonishing clarity. The completed LCCM has not however
been test-flown yet, and in fact has been put into hiding for the time
For he has meanwhile run into an entirely non-technical problem that
has almost ruined him personally. The publicity his project
brought it to the attention of the New Zealand and US governments.
Though the project has broken no laws, they found it embarrassing and
apparently the US has persuaded NZ to close it down.
The NZ government first managed to spike
a licensing agreement between Mr Simpson and a US manufacturer of
his personally-designed jet engine.
It then bankrupted
him by abrogating a previous deal with the tax authorities that
allowed him to pay overdue taxes according to an agreed schedule of installments, of which none had
been missed and only nine months remained.
As a result, he's had to sell his six-bedroom luxury house and move his family
to run-down rented accommodation.
Though he is continuing with the project as best he can, he is also putting
himself on the market to anyone outside NZ, other than a terrorist,
who wants a personal missile (or UAV or RPV) designed, built and
Unless he can soon find a foreign sponsor or employer, it looks like
the sad end of a fascinating project and a creative man.
But if nothing else, he has demonstrated that, if free and private
enterprise is allowed full rein, you don't necessarily need to spend the
billions on aerial systems that the Pentagon's defense contractors have
become accustomed to over the past sixty years.
Another illustration of this is that just two weeks ago in California, the first-ever non-government
manned space flight
took place for something over $20 million - mere small change as far as NASA is
concerned. A private investor put up the money (Microsoft's
co-founder Paul Allen), civilian engineers
built the craft and a 59- year-old civilian pilot flew it.
These two examples may portend a major change in the way aerospace development
is conducted in the future. A privately run, Ryanair-style
no-frills, fit-for-purpose approach could have the same galvanising effect
on the traditional, bloated aerospace contracting industry as the low-cost
airlines have had on the traditional state-owned behemoths of the air. This
will drive costs down and quality up.
The aerospace establishment must be feeling a little
Legislators in Britain and Northern Ireland, inspired by the
Republic of Ireland,
are getting worked up about possibly introducing a ban on smoking
in public places. The subliminal object is to eliminate
cigarettes from pubs. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland has decided to ban
ciggies in all government offices as from 2005 and close all smoking
But these efforts won't succeed and won't capture the public
imagination because their approach is wrong-footed in one vital
respect. Their stated purpose is to protect people from the
potential ill-health/death caused by environmental tobacco smoke, ETS.
However admirable the intent, however, governments have no business
regulating people's personal, voluntary, if dangerous behaviour.
This applies equally to riding motorbikes, climbing mountains, eating
MacDonalds, smoking cigarettes or walking into smoky atmospheres.
And it's not as if smoking costs money. It doesn't. Tobacco
taxes and early deaths well
exceed the cost of extra medical care for sufferers.
The Irish approach has been much cannier. Its smoking ban
applies not to public places (ie pubs) but to work
places (which happen to include pubs). The vital distinction
is that the protection is focused on the humble workers who have no choice
but to be
where they are and no control over their workplace environment. Unlike
customers, who sit in a pub, smoky or otherwise, entirely
voluntarily. The fact that the ban also protects customers from ETS is a
bonus but not the target.
Last week a Galway pub, with the delightful name Fibber Magees, defied
the ban by reintroducing ashtrays to boost trade. Ronan Lawless, the
owner, got very little
sympathy from the general public and within days backed
down when a judge said she would otherwise immediately withdraw
his late-night liquor licences in another of the five other pubs he owns . His
defence, that he was trying to give customers the freedom to smoke, was
trumped by the ETS he was forcing his bar staff to inhale.
The UK should take a similar approach if they are serious about
tackling ETS. Protect the workers not the public.
In Ireland, Portmarnock Golf Club has been in trouble because it does
not allow women to become full members. It reckons that a private
club can choose whoever it wants to be a member or not a member. Such
a right is, the club believes, protected by the freedom
of association provision in the Irish constitution.
But a (female) judge has ruled that the club's stance breaches an anti-discrimination
law and has threatened
to suspend its liquor licence, which would be the kiss of death. For
who would play eighteen holes if there were no nineteenth ? The club
has appealed and the case rumbles on to the autumn. (Note how
withdrawal of a liquor licence is the ultimate sanction in Irish society.)
Elsewhere, the Southern Trace Country Club, a golf club in Shreveport,
Louisiana is also in trouble over women members, but for a slightly
Of its three restaurants, the Men's
Grill is reserved for men only. Not only that, but the
dress code for the boys, casual but appropriate attire,
is often interpreted as, er, nil. That's right, they like nothing
better than sitting down together for Sunday Lunch stark
naked. So rather than offend the ladies by letting them observe
this proliferation of manhood and whatever frolics go on under the lunch
table, they ban them. The guys just don't want their privacy
judge doesn't agree. He thinks it's archaic to stop women from enjoying the
sights and sounds of a locker room environment and so
the club better let the girls in or else.
the club has said it will comply. And as the new arrivals walk in
the door, dutifully observing the dress code, no doubt the gallant male
members will, ahem, rise. Let us hope that everyone then enters into the full spirit of
Last week Manolis Andropoulos, a Greek tourist, wrote
effusively to the Irish Times of his recent visit to Ireland when, after
his country had defeated the Czechs 1-0 in the Euro 2004 semifinal, he found
the road from Youghal to New Ross gloriously
festooned with the blue and white colours of Greece.
It brought tears to his eyes. He had no idea the Irish were so
enthusiastic about his homeland.
next day, Martin Ryan brought him cruelly to earth in the same
pages. Mr Andropoulis had been driving in County Waterford, whose
hurlers have been electrifying the annual all-Ireland championship.
Their county colours ? Blue and white of course. And to add
insult to injury, he suggests that many of the teams in Portugal could have done with
the aerial prowess and ruthless finishing of Waterford's star player, big
not, of course, the eventual victors Greece. Or will it be
: Had Mr Andropoulos been driving through counties Derry, Louth, Tyrone
and Cork, he would have been alarmed to note that the bunting was
fluttering in the Czechs' red and white, colours beloved also of these
proud hurling areas, who nickname them blood and
then, had he kept zig-zagging across the nation, the other
blue-and-white counties of Monaghan, Cavan and Laois would have cheered
him up again.
CIA must not be risk
I can think of nothing that would be more effective in generating aversion
to risk than to hold an individual personally accountable for a mistake
that might have been made by hundreds of people around the world.
CIA Deputy Director John E McLaughlin,
when asked if anyone at the agency would be fired over
the CIA's appalling intelligence failure on Iraq,
demonstrates that he has no idea what the word risk
Particularly the risk of
a well-paid high-status boss such as himself
being forced to take responsibility for the consequences
of his subordinates' poor performance.
We're here to build a strong military and lead strong
alliances, so that our military is never overextended and young Americans
are never put in harm's way because we decided to go it alone
US president John
making clear he will not embark
upon American military action
without the permission of Old Europe.
He seems to have forgotten that American did not go it alone
into Iraq - it was joined by Britain, Italy, Spain, Poland ...
Quote : We
cannot depend on the security system of Saddam Hussein. In the name of law
[the security forces] performed criminal actions. Before, security meant
the security of the dictator, now, it means the security of the people. We
must have another concept, another definition of security, a new system.
We have to start from zero. We have to start with a small number [of
soldiers]. We need people of quality not quantity
Dr Ibrahim Jaafari, one of Iraq's two new vice presidents,
talking about building security in the new Iraq
We swear to Allah that we have started preparing ... to
capture [Zarqawi] and his allies or kill them and present them as gift to
our people... This is the last warning. If you don't stop, ... we will do to
you what the coalition forces have failed to do.
shadowy vigilante group making clear
that it wants democracy to succeed in Iraq,
and is prepared to fight the
IslamoNazi resisters to achieve it
Detroit, Los Angeles and Chicago are enacting
legislation that requires companies seeking municipal contracts to
disclose any profits they received from slavery as a pre-requisite for
being awarded municipal contracts.
purpose of this ordinance is to set the groundwork for [slavery]
reparations. First, you have to get the information and show the companies
that benefited from the slave trade.
So said Detroit City Councilwoman Barbara-Rose Collins, a black lawyer and
former Democratic congresswoman from Michigan.
The concept of reparations for the undoubted evils of American slavery raises
some interesting points, but with no clear answers, at least none that
point towards the case for reparations.
Firstly, there are the firms, who either themselves
profited from slavery, or whose antecedents did. It is one thing to uncover a link that shows
that a company engaged in slavery 200 years ago, such as uncovering a
receipt for the purchase of slaves. It is quite another to
objectively determine a figure that reasonably represents the extra profit
earned by the company as a result of slavery. Indeed, it is probably
as easy and arbitrary to calculate that a company
lost money due to its inefficient slave labour,
as that it
gained money due to its cheap slave labour.
Establishing that a company has benefited from slavery, and then quantifying
by how much, are almost
impossible tasks, no matter how just
it may feel to make them pay reparations.
Secondly, there is the undoubted pain, distress and
hardship suffered by the slaves during their (usually all too short)
lives. They deserve untold compensation; no amount would suffice to
right the wrong. However, this is not straightforward
If someone close to you undergoes suffering, you and his/her other
loved ones also suffer, if only in empathy at what you see. And
though all the original suffering comes to an end with death, the
empathetic suffering continues in some form until all the loved ones have
The last American slaves were freed back in 1865 with the Thirteenth
slavery nor involuntary servitude ... shall exist within the United States
Thus they are all long dead; but so are their friends, children,
grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There is no-one left alive
who has suffered in any degree the anguish of slavery. Therefore,
there is no-one who deserves compensation. Brutal but
Thirdly, there are the material damages. Slaves
lived out their miserable existence working for food and shelter, of
whatever rudimentary sort, and no payment whatsoever.
You can make a rough calculation of the wages that were wickedly
denied them. In the 1860s, city workmen received around $2
for a ten-hour day; women 30-50% of this. On this basis, it
is reasonable to guess that the going rate for a disadvantaged, black,
rural cotton-picker would have been around 10¢ per hour. Thus
lifetime wages foregone by a slave would have been something like
10¢/hr x 12 hr/day x 365 day/yr x 25 years = $11,000 in 1865
this to 2004 money and it becomes $121,000. Add a bit of real-terms
interest and you could get to $½m or more.
So is this what the descendants of slaves should be able to claim
Not necessarily. Because the true loss suffered by the slave
descendants is not what those foregone wages might buy today had they
been handed down the generations, but the
difference between the actual wealth of the descendants and what it
would have been had their forebears not been captured and
enslaved. For that you have to look to West Africa, say Nigeria,
where GDP per head is $800
per person, compared to $37,800
in America. Looked at this way, the dislocation and suffering of
slaves paved the way for the accumulation of huge wealth for their
descendants, almost fifty times greater than had they remained in
And had the cotton field owners had to pay the going rate of 10¢/hr,
why would they have bothered to look so far afield as Africa for their
Fourthly, even if reparation money is to be paid over, to
whom is it to be paid ? Some people may be able to trace their
ancestry back to slaves, but one of the many indignities of slavery was
the poor or absent record-keeping of slaves' births, marriages and
deaths. Most Blacks in America simply cannot prove they are
descended from slaves, and indeed many are not. So the choice would
be to give money to those few lucky enough to have the right documentary
evidence of ancestry, or to every black (how black is black ? does it
include Tiger Woods, Colin Powell, Halle Berry ?), or to black-centred
organizations and charities, or some combination. There is no easy,
or fair, answer.
So whichever way you look at it, the case for reparations seems to me
to be hollow, and the actions of Detroit, Los Angeles and Chicago no more
You can't demonstrate that companies profited from slavery;
no-one alive today suffered from it;
you can't say that descendents are worse off (more likely the
you can't calculate how much to pay and
you don't know whom to give reparations to anyway.
Of course, none of the above addresses the ethical and emotional
issue. As I said, It feels
right to make companies who have used slaves in the past pay something to
their descendants. But there just isn't the business
people have speculated that the Saudi oil industry is vulnerable to
significant disruption due to a terrorist attack, with consequential
effects on world oil supply and prices.In my view this speculation
is founded on ignorance,
disconnected with reality and
exaggerates the risk to a fantastic degree.
Put more simply in basic engineer-speak, they haven't a clue what
they're talking about. However if it becomes the accepted conventional
wisdom, then even a minor incident could could have a wildly
disproportionate impact on the oil market.
evaluate of the vulnerability of the Saudi oil industry to terrorist
attack you have to appreciate the size and extent of the industry.Its mainly spread in an arc from Khafji just south of
Kuwait to Abqaiq/Udhaliah/Hofuf south of Dammam/Al-Khobar.
Follow the little green oil rigs on this map.
The arc covers
tens of thousands of square kilometres,
oil and gas wells,
many thousands of kilometres of pipelines,
separation plants, pumpstations, refineries, distribution depots, offshore
investment in the Saudi oil infrastructure over the past 30 years is
$100-150 billion, and includes a lot of spare capacity and built-in
redundancy. In addition, as you can infer from the map, there is a major downstream petrochemical
industry. Responsibility for protecting this vast infrastructure is shared
by Saudi Aramco security and several Saudi Government paramilitary forces.
the geographic extent of the industry and the fact that 100% security
everywhere every time, 24/7/365, is simply not possible, the realistic
expectation is that sooner or later the terrorists will succeed. The
question therefore is
not whether or not the terrorists can successfully
but whether such an attack could reasonably be expected to have a
significant effect on oil operations and production.
the product is intrinsically hazardous and processed at high temperatures
and pressures, the design and layout of oil facilities pay a great deal of
attention to safety and fire protection and emergency shutdown systems.As a result, catastrophic incidents that destroy all or a
substantial portion of an oil facility are very rare. (The
only total losses I recall in the past twenty years or so are Unocal in
Illinois in 1984 and a refinery in India in 1996/97.)
destroy a facility would require multiple bombs placed at specific key
points throughout it.A
terrorist attack could not cause the total destruction of a facility
without the services of
an experienced process engineer with detailed
knowledge of the facility,
an explosives expert with highly specific and
advanced demolition training and
plenty of time to plant the charges.
This combination of talent and opportunity is very unlikely.
even if they get lucky and manage to destroy a facility, any given
facility represents a tiny proportion of the overall infrastructure.There is so much redundancy built into the system that even a total
loss of any one facility would have little effect on production.
Liken it to the internet, where the loss of a server or line is seamlessly
compensated by use of other servers/lines.
worked in several oil facilities that have been attacked by terrorists.On each occasion, though the big flames and huge clouds of black
smoke were spectacular, the damage was relatively minor and the resulting
fire quickly either extinguished or allowed to burn out as appropriate.The worst attacks each started a fire in a single storage
tank. Other attacks did little more than scorch pipes.Readers may recall the accidental
explosion at an oil pier in Staten Island, New York in February 2003.Very spectacular for a while, but it was quickly controlled, had
more significant effect
than to put that single facility out of service
until repairs could be made.
Similarly, a fire
at Dublin Port on 27 June (right) created a large cloud of black smoke but the
damage was confined.
limited damage caused by most such incidents is borne out by reports
conducted by the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation. In my
experience, the typical maximum impact of a terrorist attack on an oil
facility is equivalent to that of a serious industrial incident.
It is not catastrophic.
probability of an attack on a Saudi oil facility is
probability of such an attack having a significant
effect on oil supplies is very small.
such, the Saudi oil industry is pretty much immune to terrorist
the impact of such an attack on the markets
is anyone's guess. Hysteria is often a more powerful driver in the short term
than logic, so I would
expect a brief spike followed by a return to normal as reason sets in.
It was interesting to see Saddam last week at his arraignment in a Baghdad
court. He was neat, trim, disciplined, articulate and angry,
pounding his fist, pointing his finger. Just like the good old
Saddam of yesteryear. He's also lost quite a bit of weight which makes him seem
even more self-possessed.
The last time we saw him, he had just been dragged from his spider hole, looking like a dirty
dishevelled tramp or ageing hippy, and was meekly submitting to a
humiliating American medical check for lice in his hair, poison
capsules in his teeth, and having a DNA swab taken from his mouth.
All in front of the cameras. The Iraqis cheered.
Remember the story of his arrest last December ? He was told to
surrender immediately, otherwise a hand grenade would be lobbed into his
spider hole. So out he abjectly crawled to give himself up. To the disgust of
many of his citizens, he had not preserved his honour by shooting himself; at least his two
boys had died
fighting. He was, it seemed, a broken man.
Yet within days, Donald Rumsfeld was complaining that Saddam was not
co-operating; he was sullen and sarcastic. The old Saddam seemed
to have returned
Why was he so docile at his arrest ? At the time, we thought maybe his months
on the run, squalid diet, abandonment by friends and family, and the death of his
sons might have deranged him. Yet from his arraignment, we can see he
is now in
full control of his faculties.
The most likely explanation is that the US Special Forces did indeed
lob a hand grenade into the spider hole. But instead of explosives
it contained drugged gas. Saddam turned into putty, and in his
spaced-out condition he happily submitted to any humiliation the Americans
Compare these three photographs. Tell me the guy in the centre is not away on a trip.
There has been a minor kerfuffle in the last couple of weeks about two
TV interviews with American presidents by cheeky Europeans.
First, there was the BBC's David Dimbleby, a national
icon, who interviewed Bill Clinton to help publicise his
rages against Dimbleby in Panorama confrontation over Lewinsky
raged the venerable Daily
Telegraph, a few days in advance. The president is seen
to lose his temper publicly when questioned about Monika
the interview was broadcast on 22nd June, it failed to live up to the
Telegraph's hyperbole. Mr Clinton took a couple of questions about
Lewinsky and answered them cleverly. But after a further question,
he asked Mr Dimbleby why he was using valuable time concentrating on this
issue, which merely feeds the right wing agenda, at the expense of more important matters such as ex-Yugoslavia,
Northern Ireland etc. Mr Dimbleby, like a good poodle, immediately did as
he was told and dropped the Lewinsky line of questioning in favour of
Bosnia and Kosovo.
And that's all there was. I had stayed up late for
Then, just a few days later, it was the turn of Carole
Coleman, Washington correspondent of the Irish state broadcaster RTÉ,
who interviewed George Bush just before he flew off to Ireland.
Broadcast on 24th June, it was the first time RTÉ had interviewed an
American president in twenty years, so was quite a scoop.
But Ms Coleman caused a furore because she was apparently too
aggressive and rude, and rattled the president by interrupting him all
the time. The White House was said
to have lodged a complaint and the Irish Government to have
apologised. The Irish newspapers and talk-shows were full of the
story, with most people saying they though Mr Bush got what he deserved
from a plucky Ms Coleman.
Again it's all rubbish.
You can watch the eleven-minute interview on this Real Player link
(thanks to Gavin's
Blog). You'll see there's absolutely nothing to get worked up
about. Coleman and Bush were both courteous to each other
throughout. Coleman's interruptions were decidedly not rude
(especially compared to someone like the BBC's Jeremy
Paxman), and she desisted
whenever Bush politely asked her to. He was able to complete all
his answers, parts of which were more impressive than others
It was not, in any sense, an aggressive interview, but it was quite
an interesting one.
It seems to me that some people (journalists ?) are always just itching for a juicy
conflict story, and if they can't find one, they'll simply make it up.
Then everyone else climbs on the bandwagon.
Element of Surprise Cited As Bush
Romps to Victory
Inspired by the early handover of sovereignty in
Iraq,President George W Bush
employed the element of surprise once more,holding the US presidential election four months early.
which only top Bush administration officials were notified,went exceedingly well for the president,who carried all fifty states and garnered approximately
100% of the vote.
Mr Bush's victory speech,which he had originally scheduled for 11 pm last night,was at the last minute rescheduled to 9 pm, once again capitalizing
on the element of surprise.
In his speech,Mr
Bush admitted that he might have had a more difficult time getting
re-elected if the American people had actually been notified about the time
and date of the voting,but
win's a win,right ?
Mr Bush's second inauguration is slated to take place on 20th
administration officials acknowledged that it could happen at
all I know it has already happened,
one aide said.
While the stealth presidential election seems to have
cemented the Bush administration's reputation for secrecy and
effectiveness,one aide said that some secrets were harder to keep than
example,everyone knows how
Paul Wolfowitz gets his hair to look so great.
White House officials praised the performance of the
controversial new Diebold electronic voting machines,which successfully tabulated final results from Florida before a
single vote was cast. The unpopular Irish Government, which recently
had to shelve its own plans for electronic voting, has dispatched a
“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.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible 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