This archive, organized into months, contains all issues prior to the current week and the three
which are published in
the main Tallrite Blog (www.tallrite.com/blog.htm).
The first issue appeared on Sunday 14th July
You can write to blog-at-tallrite-dot-com
#57 - 26th October 2003 
Rule the World by Proxy
So said the Malaysian Premier of 22 years, Dr Mahathir Mohammed, when
he opened the tenth session of the Islamic Summit Conference in Kuala
Lumpur earlier this month. He went on to say
They get others to fight and die for them.
They invented and
successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy
so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy
equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of
the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become
a world power.
Islamic world welcomed the remarks, but many leaders in the US, the EU and
Australia reacted with outrage at the blatantly anti-Semitic
Meanwhile, Dr Mohammed retorted
reaction of the world shows that they [Jews] do control the world.
All this fuss about 60-odd words out of a speech of 4,000 words.
Yes, the words are anti-Jew and reflect the speaker's undoubted animosity
if not hatred.
Yet the bulk of the speech is a thoughtful and soaring indictment of
how badly Muslims have run their affairs for the past fourteen centuries,
no less. The references to Judaism are in the context of how
skilfully the Jews have managed their affairs by comparison, despite their
history of discrimination and pogroms throughout Europe.
Compared with a few million Jews, there are 1.6 billion Muslims, they
control 50 of the world's 180 countries, have enough votes
to make or break international organisations, sit on the world's
biggest oil reserves, understand the workings
of the worlds economy and finances.
have only the last item on this list, yet, in Dr Mohammed's view, they
rule the world.
why are Muslims so utterly unsuccessful in getting what they want, such as
economic development, technological progress, homegrown defence, control
over Israeli expansionism ?
explains that Jews think, Muslims don't.
He recalls that, when Europe was still stuck in the Mediaeval dark ages,
Muslims once led the world in science, mathematics, astronomy, medicine,
trade, wealth. Just think of the glories of Granada in Spain, which
the Muslims were driven out of only in 1492. He blames the
subsequent decline of Muslims squarely on Islamic theologians who
re-interpreted the Islamic injunction to
acquire knowledge to mean religion only. Not only
did this cessation of thinking trigger a process of intellectual regression, but it fostered the emergence of
a thousand competing variations of Islam that produced disunity and inter-necine
fighting, prevalent to this day. Meanwhile, Europeans began to
blossom under the Enlightenment and pulled far ahead in the Industrial
modern times, Dr Mohammed points out that Western countries can do what
they like to Muslim countries - raid them, kill the people, destroy the
villages and towns, dictate how they should be governed - to which the
only reaction is blind anger leading to fruitless attacks. Is
there no other way, he asks plaintively, than
to ask our young people to blow themselves up and kill people and invite
the massacre of more of our own people ?
way of proof, he offers, For
well over half a century we have fought over Palestine. What have we
achieved ? Nothing. We are worse off than before
point of his diatribe is that Muslims should copy Jews. They should
their brains to figure out what course of action is most likely to
achieve their objectives,
prepared to negotiate,
the modern world and raise their economic and intellectual
leaders should wield their power
judiciously, prudently, concertedly, for the sake of their people and
short, don't expect Allah to help you if you are not prepared to help
Dr Mohammed's fellow-Muslims heed his words, it will lead to an Islam that is
much more rational in its behaviour, though no less demanding. An
Islam, nevertheless, that non-Muslims can do sensible business with to the
betterment of all humanity.
recommend reading the entire
speech. The slur on Jews is in fact a compliment to
Note (2nd December) : I was gratified to note that the
Steyn published a letter
from me on the compliment that Mahathir paid to Jews in his
The Pope Should Retire - Now
Pope John Paul II has just passed
three milestones in short order.
He turned 83,
he celebrated his Silver Jubilee as Pope,
he elevated 31 more prelates as Cardinals.
Cardinals are second only to the Pope in the Roman Catholic hierarchy,
and those under 80 will elect the next Pope. There are now 194
cardinals in all, of whom 135 are under 80, of whom 130 were
promoted by the current Pope. These
comprise 66 Europeans, 14 North Americans, 24 Latin American, 13 Asians, 13 Africans and five from
Pope John Paul is seen as a man of extraordinary
achievement, probably best remembered for the central part he played
in the destruction of the vile Soviet Empire, and he has indefatigably
promoted Catholicism through his countless speeches and sermons, his
encyclicals (fifty of them), his foreign visits (over a hundred),
his recognition of holiness (eg a record 464
But there are many who deplore his conservative stances on issues such
as contraception, abortion, homosexuality and priestly
His health is very poor. Physically he's been through a lot -
been shot, had a tumour cut out, broken his hip. He is now in an
advanced state of Parkinson's disease, and while those close to him affirm
that his mind is as sharp as ever, his public performances give cause for
doubt. In any case, the physical and mental demands of the papacy are now
undoubtedly beyond him.
Though no pope has resigned since Celestine
V in 1294, it is now time for John Paul to. Not only because of
the deterioration of his body, but because only by doing so can he assure
the continuation of his conservative legacy.
For if he waits till he dies, he can only hope that the 130 cardinals
who owe their position to him will vote in a suitably conservative
successor. But how conservative will they remain once he's gone
For example, the most recent batch of 31 included Scotland's Keith
OBrien. A month ago he said
in relation to homosexuality,
What I would ask for in the Church at every level,
including the cardinals and the Pope, is to be able to have full and open
discussion about these issues and where we stand,
which in Catholic terms is very liberal. But two weeks later, as a
pre-condition of his cardinalship, he declared,
I accept and promise to defend the ecclesiastical teaching about
the immorality of the homosexual act ... I would hope that Catholics
everywhere would join with me in respecting the decisions of the Pope and
demonstrate their own loyalty by not questioning them.
reliably conservative will cardinals like this be once the Pope is not
around to lean on them ?
the other hand, if the Pope resigns now, while his brain is still working,
his influence on the voting process will be enormous. I don't think
any cardinal will dare defy him by electing someone insufficiently
if his intellectual horsepower does indeed remain as powerful as his aides
maintain, he will use it to throw in the towel without further delay, in
order to interfere as much as possible with the succession
Cutting Prices, Breaking Laws
Ireland's Director of Consumer Affairs, the intrepid Ms
Carmel Foley, recently announced an investigation into claims that Dunnes
and Tesco, two major store chains, have been breaking the law. She
suspects they have been selling goods, such as baby food, at (gasp !) below cost.
Yes, a bar on such promotions is another of the Celtic Tiger's curious
protectionist laws. (Though the success of the Irish economy is
a testament to the low number, relative to competitors, of such ridiculous
restrictions, there are still far too many.)
Ms Foley also primly disapproves of in-store promotions, believing that keener
across-the-board pricing offers better overall value to shoppers. Maybe
so, but that's no reason to decry in-store promotions.
It is hard to understand who, other than non-price-cutting rivals and a handful of bureaucrats and politicians (a small number), can
honestly object to Dunnes, Tesco or anyone, selling goods at below cost to its
customers (a large number).
The independent-grocers' lobby warns that aggressive discounting could spark a
damaging price war between the major multiples.
That, surely, is to be welcomed, as it means lower prices for shoppers.
In similar vein, the small-retailers' lobby says that
consumers win through competitive activity in the
marketplace, permitting Dunnes to drop its prices so drastically
could push many smaller stores to the brink of ruin, costing hundreds of
jobs. But it fails to explain why those hundreds are more important than the hundreds of thousands of
people who will benefit from the lower prices. For if they can't compete,
shouldn't they be doing something else ?
No one seems to want to simply ask shoppers,
Do you want lower prices,
taking your chances as to whether that means higher prices in the future,
or - indeed - even lower prices ? Or do you prefer to trust industrialists,
bureaucrats and politicians when they say paying more today is good for
Surely the interests of the many consumers should always take precedence
over those of the few producers and retailers.
One of the things that has always puzzled me is the lack of a Consumers
Party in any major Western democracy. Without exception, every
political party strives to protect particular industries in some shape or
must stem this loss of jobs).
is impossible to do this without punishing consumers through higher
prices (let's keep out the cheap imports).
vastly outnumber the members of any given industry.
surely it makes more electoral sense to pander to consumers at the
expense of workers, rather than the other way round.
And we should remember that
it is always the poorest in society who benefit most from lower prices. Why
should they subsidise protected producers and retailers?
In response to Ms Foley's investigation, the (subscription-only) Irish
Times published a letter
from me along the above lines on 21st October.
A few days later, a Dr Michael Ganly replied
in apparent support, but ended with the curious advice that my letter
should have started with the sentence, There
is no possibility that I will not be able to drive a car at any time in
I don't understand what he means either.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's Winning Smile
By Guest-Blogger, Walter
Did anyone notice the facial difference between the
old Arnie Schwarzenegger
and the new Arnie ?
there are two Old Arnies. Old Arnie the muscle man, who reigned from
to 1980, and Old Arnie the movie
and DNA gave Old Arnie the muscle man a set of teeth not to be proud of -
crooked, gappie, misaligned. In fact they were so higgeldy-piggledly
that he usually tried to hide them by posing for the cameras with a
was during his Hollywood period that he first had them (partially)
fixed. But it must have been a cut-price job, for as you can see from
the second picture taken in late 2002, Old Arnie, the movie star,
continued to sport an attractive space between
his two upper front teeth.
In many civilisations going back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, this
dental anomaly was and is viewed as not only attractive and sexy, but also
remember a wartime member of the Womens Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) with
such an anomaly. At the request of her parents she had her photograph
taken in uniform at a nearby photographers. The photographic technician
thought that the apparent space between her middle front teeth
was attributable to his faulty technique. So he painted in a new
tooth in the midline space. Many might have failed to notice the
change, but this poor girl happened to be a Dental Surgery Assistant and she was
humiliated by the chortles of her dental colleagues. I
know, because I
was her boss (and one of the secret chortlers).
back to Arnie. As this victory snap from the Sunday Times shows, now that he's a neo-politician, an extra midline
tooth is no longer for him, nor a photographic touch-up.
will do but a full jaw makeover with
new white porcelain crowns and bridges. And for good measure the upper
back teeth have also been realigned.
this has all been done since the second half of 2002, which suggests that
that is when he decided to run for Governator, not - as he pretends - just
before the Jay Leno Show a few weeks ago. Moreover,
if you see a photograph of him with the gap, you'll know it's older than
2003, even if the accompanying article is not !
as with the reworking of the dentition (extractions and immediate
dentures) of Margaret Thatcher in her hey-day, who but a dentist like me -
or else someone alerted by a dentist - would
can make up your own mind as to whether or not our erstwhile film star has
surrendered good luck with the bridging of his gap teeth.
The author is my Dad
Here in Europe, judicial proceedings can be excruciatingly dull compared with
what we see televised in America. Whether it's OJ Simpson,
Judge Judy, British nanny Louise Woodward, it never fails to entertain. Whether
justice is actually administered is another matter.
But Judge Deborah Servitto has exceeded all previous contenders for
Earlier this month she presided over a defamation lawsuit in Michigan brought by DeAngelo
Bailey who was claiming that the lyrics of an Eminem song defamed him by
depicting him as a bully in a rap called
Way before my baby daughter Hailey,
I was harassed daily
By this fat kid named D'Angelo Bailey,
An eighth grader who acted obnoxious,
Cause his father boxes,
So everyday he'd shove me in the lockers.
One day he came in the bathroom while I was peein',
And had me in the position to beat me into submission.
He banged my head against the urinal till he broke my nose,
Soaked my clothes in blood,
grabbed me and choked my throat.
Deciding that the attack probably did take place in 1982, she dismissed
the case. But to show how hip she is, at the end of her 13-page
ruling she added a ten-verse rhyming
rap of her own. Here are the punch lines ...
Mr. Bailey complains that his rep is trash
So he's seeking compensation in the form of cash
Bailey thinks he's entitled to some monetary gain
Because Eminem used his name in vain
The lyrics are stories no one should take as fact
They're an exaggeration of a childish act
Any reasonable person could clearly see
That the lyrics can only be hyperbole
It is therefore this Court's ultimate position
That Eminem is entitled to summary disposition
Quote of the Week
: I'd better stop now because I've got to go to lunch with the Pope at one
Newly-elevated Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Antrim-born Archbishop of Edinburgh -
cutting short an impromptu press
in St Peter's Square
THE ARCHIVE and LINKS BARS AT TOP LEFT and RIGHT, FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE
#56 - 19th October 2003
Cult of Islamofascist Suicide Bombing
suicide-bombing has two grim dimensions to it.
On the one hand, from
a technological point of view, it is an extremely efficient guidance
and presentation method. It detonates the bomb exactly where and when
desired, whether delivered by foot, by car or, as the Japanese
Kamikaze pilots first demonstrated in WW2, by aircraft.
This is because the bomber's human brain is far superior to any
remote-control, GPS-driven, webcam-enhanced, computerised weapons
delivery-system that the most sophisticated of US arms manufacturers
can ever come up with.
On the other hand, the
application of suicide-bombing is, to Western eyes, utterly futile and
incomprehensible. Most weapons
are deployed with the objective of gaining an advantage over and
eventually defeating an enemy; in other words the weapon is but a means to
an end. For the Islamofascist bombers, by contrast, the
means is the end. Killing people is all they want;
they have no political agenda whatsoever.
They do not expect, nor even particularly desire, to eject the
Americans from Iraq, to drive the Israeli Jews into the sea, to destroy
the West's global economic dominance, to convert Christians and Jews
to Islam. They simply use the incredibly
effective technology of suicide-bombing to kill people they don't
approve of. That's all.
To mention just a couple
of recent examples (apart from the constant stream of attacks on Israeli
suicide-bombed the UN in Iraq,
showing that it isn't just
Americans they hate.
They hate every non-Islamofascist, including
those engaged in purely humanitarian activities for the benefit
of Muslim Arabs, and whose remit is clearly
non-military and who actively oppose the Americans in Iraq.
Islamic terrorists bombed American civilians in
Gaza, who were arranging
US Fulbright scholarships
for Palestinian students - demonstrating that it isn't just Israelis they
They hate every non-Islamofascist including those engaged in
purely humanitarian activities for the benefit of Muslim Arabs, whose remit is clearly non-military,
knowing well that it is only America who can put pressure on Israel to make concessions
to the Palestinians.
This is what makes
Islamofascist bombing and suicide-bombing so hard to deal with - there is no logic or
order behind it. Thus, no negotiation in the conventional sense is
possible because those whom they wish to bomb can offer nothing that the
bomber wants, other than their lives.
Insofar as the
Islamofascists pretend to adhere to the precepts of Islam, perhaps the bombers might
at some stage become amenable to negotiation by mullahs opposed to suicide-bombing, who are
prepared to use the Koran to demonstrate that it is unIslamic. (For
example, the Koran states in 2:195,
Act for the sake
of Allah, and do not throw yourselves to destruction with your own hands.)
But such mullahs seem to be in very short supply, though occasionally a
brave anti-suicidist Arab speaks
out. And Mahathir Mohammed, Malaysia's visionary yet
oppressive ruler of 20 years, recently asked
the 10th Islamic Summit Conference, Is
there no other way than to ask our young people to blow themselves up and
kill people and invite the massacre of more of our own people ?
But it remains to be seen whether his deeply sceptical fellow Muslim
leaders take up his challenge.
The West is, moreover, dealing
with a phenomenon that appears to be deeply ingrained into people from
a young age.
Suicide-bombers are glorified
in many countries of the Middle East, with their pictures
posted up in schools and mosques.
religious academies preach the honour of
jihad and suicide-bombing.
Friends, brothers, sisters, even
parents seem to encourage youngsters to contemplate it.
Paeans to suicide
bombing and jihad are preached from many mosques on
Arabic-language media broadcast relentless praise of the bombers.
Saddam used to pay
$25,000 to the family of each Palestinian suicide-bomber; who knows
whether other shadowy characters are still doing something
So what options does
all this leave for the West ?
In short, violence.
Retaliatory violence and pre-emptive violence. Coupled with a
relentless long-term, youth-focused propaganda war against the evils and futility of
Such violence, of course,
runs entirely counter to the precepts of modern liberal democracy, and is
contradictory - doing violence while preaching non-violence.
alternatives are there ? Do nothing or negotiate fruitlessly ?
That is why America is
to relentlessly pursue Al Qaeda, the spiritual home of
to lock up their adherents indefinitely in Guantanamo
Bay on that quasi-judicial pretext, or
to kill them like
vermin if they can't capture
That's why Israel is right
to assassinate the managers
Fatah, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, DFLP, al-Aksa Brigade etc, who dispatch the
to destroy the bombers' family
to build that wall
round the West Bank designed to keep them out.
But the West should do
much more to counter the cult of suicidism that pervades much of the Arab
world, because the ultimate solution is surely to foster a mind set where
reason determines people's actions, not blindness.
be a long haul, until those youngsters currently being brainwashed have
either managed to break free intellectually, or have killed themselves or
have grown past the age of suicide.
By the way, where do you
think the children of those suicide-advocating mullahs, sheikhs and senior leaders
are ? Not anywhere near the cauldron of the Middle East. All
are abroad, permanently on business or studying.
Well, it seems UN
diplomacy is not dead after all. The organization has managed to
pull off a remarkable coup. It's persuaded itself - well, its
15-member Security Council - to unanimously back a pragmatic resolution, 1511,
which has a reasonable likelihood of improving the lot of the
Coalition Provisional Authority with the US as leader,
defines the role of
the US-appointed Governing Council of 25,
mandates the Council
to furnish by December a plan for UN approval for a new constitution
provides an advisory
and humanitarian role for the UN,
multinational force under US command.
The backing of old Europe,
in the form of France, Germany and Russia, is to be thoroughly welcomed,
despite their begrudging refusal to contribute money or soldiers and
complaint that the resolution should have gone further. Once they
get over this, I suspect they will thoroughly enjoy taking part in the
reconstruction effort and will contribute positively.
This is the first sign
that a sense of reality and unity may be returning to Europe after all the
posturing and Saddam-worship over the past year.
It reminds me of the
classic five stages involved with unwelcome news :
that something bad has happened
not wanting to believe it is true
wanting to blame someone or something for what has happened
- finally understanding and realizing nothing can be done
- embracing the change and making the most of it.
Old Europe, having gone
noisily through the first three stages in respect of the Iraq war, are now
into the fourth and will shortly arrive at number five.
At the end of the day,
what counts is the result. And this is an unequivocal 15-0 victory
for Iraq, as well as for the UN, the US and Britain. And there are
no losers other than those who wish ill on the Iraqi people.
For most of this year, a
debate has been raging in Ireland about Environmental Tobacco Smoke, or
ETS. A committee of respected scientists conducted a review of available research
and concluded that ETS does indeed, on balance, increase the incidence of
tobacco-related afflictions such as lung cancer and heart disease.
Moreover ventilation is ineffective in removing all smoke and therefore
the only way to avoid ETS and its associated diseases is to prevent smoking.
As a result, the Irish Ministers
of Health and of Labour announced In January 2003 that, in order to protect the workers,
smoking would be banned from all workplaces as from 1st January
All workplaces includes offices, but more
controversially, hospitality enterprises such as hotels (every bedroom),
B&Bs, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, bookies, not to mention prisons
and psychiatric hospitals.
provoked a predictable uproar.
from the publicans who are afraid their smoking guests
will do their drinking at home; they have forecast 60,000 job losses
(though without credible data).
in the cigarette business, including vending machine operators, also
protest at the expected drop in sales.
object that the ban will be unenforceable, for example what do you do
if the man on the seat next to you lights up - phone the police for a
squad car ?
object to the State's interference in private behaviour, and would
advocate smoking and non-smoking pubs from which drinkers and workers could
everyone is convinced that ventilation cannot work, for example there
doesn't seem to be much data comparing death rates without ventilation
against death rates where ventilation removes, say, 50% or 90% or 99%
of the ETS.
one quality the objectors seem to share, however, is the poor and
incoherent quality of their objections. Pretty weak and pretty pathetic
in the words
of a senior trade union leader. By comparison, the proponents have set
out their case very clearly and articulately.
aspect that strikes me most, however, is the absence of incontrovertible
scientific evidence that it is ETS that is causing the damage. This is because you
simply cannot conduct an epidemiological test where all other extraneous
factors are excluded from two large control groups, one subjected to ETS over a long period
time, the other not. Therefore you are limited to working with
percentages, probabilities and inferences
using whatever data you can lay your hands on.
But last week Rosemary
Ellis of Prevention magazine published a very convincing piece of hard
She relates that in June
2002, a smoking ban in restaurants, bars and casinos was introduced in
Helena, Montana. This is a city of 66,000 with only one cardiac-care
hospital within a 60-mile radius, which therefore receives all the
heart-attack victims. This makes the city's heart attacks easy to
count. ETS causes platelets in the bloodstream to become stickier,
which can apparently lead to heart attacks.
And in just six months,
the attacks in Helena dropped by 58%, whereas there was no change amongst people
living outside the city and thus beyond the reach of the ban.
Then, remarkably, the ban
was lifted, only to find the city's heart-attack rate bounced right back up as
fast as it had dropped.
It's hard to deny the
damage of ETS against evidence like this added to the strong epidemiological
My sister chaired the scientific committee
More on this subject in a
Perusing a December 1982
copy of the Scientific
American, which (unlike the Lancet) has unfortunately not yet put all its archives
on line, I came across these statistics in an article by Arthur
The following activities
increase the risk of death by one-in-a-million chance. In
other words, if a million people do one of them, one person will die early
as a result.
Travelling 400 miles
by air (note - about one hour)
Travelling 60 miles by
car (also around one hour)
Spending two months at
an altitude of one mile
Living for two months
in a stone building
Working for three
hours in a coal mine
Working in a typical
(1980s) British factory for 1½ weeks
Rock-climbing for 1½
Smoking ¾ of a
Living two months with
a cigarette smoker
Spending 20 minutes as
a man aged 60
I'm not sure what to make
of all this; perhaps it's all rubbish as well as being 20 years out of
But the smoking figure
means that if I smoke 20 cigarettes a day for 100 years my chance of dying
goes up from one-in-a-million to a million-in-a-million. In other
words, by the time I'm a hundred, I am, to my surprise, dead. On the
other hand, if you merely breathe my smoke, you will live to be 90,000
years old (unless you're in Helena, Montana) ! Doesn't that sound a
lot safer than spending 20 minutes aged 60, though it isn't really.
The main point is, of
course, that nothing is
safe. Everything carries its own risk , and
preventive measures should be taken based on
the relative odds of a
mishap, combined with
the relative ease/cost
of the action.
A smoking ban in
workplaces, for example, is beneficial, easy and cheap, so why not do
Late Note (21 Oct)
The last sentence has provoked further debate
Communicator and Back
stumbled across this great device a short while ago. Costing just
$89, it's a waterproof watch with a built-in, password-protected data-memory of 128 Mb (a hundred floppies), together with a USB connection to plug into any computer. It
can be used to store data, documents, spreadsheets, graphics etc for that
all important overseas meeting.
I can hardly think of a
more secure, less likely-to-lose method of carrying such data with you on
trips. On the aircraft, having a swim, in a restaurant, on the
tennis court, taking a
shower, fast asleep, the data is always on your person. Magic !
In 1997 in Hong Kong, on
the eve of the colony's so-called
I had the good fortune to watch Fiji
carry off the Rugby Sevens World Cup trophy. They were big,
strong, fast and rugged as rocks, black as night with great white teeth and eyes
that glistened as they thundered down the pitch ball in hand at their
terrified opposition. They came as close as it was possible to come
to eating their opponents, including the mighty New Zealand All Blacks,
without actually eating them.
Because they were already
going soft, you
see, and have since gone softer; witness their 61-18 defeat by France in the
current (15s) World Cup.
It gets worse.
Fijians were were tougher
back in July 1867 when the Reverend Thomas Baker, a Methodist of the
London Missionary Society, visited the remote mountain village of
Navatusila on the Fiji island of Suva. While there, he committed the
capital crime of touching the head of the village chief, in an attempt to
reclaim a comb he had lent him. So the locals rightly cooked him in
a pot and gobbled him up until only his boots remained.
At another dinner a couple
of weeks later, a Fijian turned to his buddy and said,
You know, I really hate my mother-in-law.
His friend replied,
Hey, no big deal, just eat the vegetables.
However bad luck has
befallen the village ever since the missionary was devoured, and it still has no electricity or
roads. The locals are convinced that this is due not to the
incompetence of the government (perish the thought), but to the ghost of
the disgruntled Rev Baker.
They are therefore
inviting the vicar's English descendents to Navatusila next month to
receive a formal
apology to add to several previous apologies they have made. They have
already donated to the Methodist
Church his overcooked and slightly chewed boots, which now sit in splendour in the Fijian
Museum on Suva.
Apologise ? Just for
eating a clergyman ? I told you the Fijians are going soft.
Quote of the Week
: It is unfortunate that something happened
in Palestine. It's not good for our reputation.
This action doesn't push our interests ahead, its a backward step.
middle-aged shopkeeper in Jala'a Street in Gaza City,
reacting to the bomb which killed
three American humanitarian workers
on their way to arrange Fulbright scholarships in the US
for Palestinian students
THE ARCHIVE and LINKS BARS AT TOP LEFT and RIGHT, FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE
#55 - 12th October 2003
A Tale of Three Leaders
Now that Britain's three main parties have concluded their
annual conferences in traditional seaside resorts, a curious thought
struck me as I listened to and read the three party leaders' speeches.
Though the ineffectual and perpetually sleepwalking Liberal Democrats seem happy enough
to have Charles Kennedy lead them nowhere, Tony Blair and Ian Duncan Smith by
contrast have considerable problems getting accepted as the leaders of
Why is this ?
Because they're all leading the wrong parties.
Tony Blair is an unrequited Tory in all but name,
following in the revered steps of his heroine Margaret Thatcher.
Why, he even possesses a few principles from which he will not be
budged (such as freedom, democracy etc). He
believes in balanced budgets, personal responsibility, the power of the
market, and security. He wants to confront murderous tyrants like
Milosovic and Saddam, to smuggle in privatisation of public services
through foundation hospitals, school vouchers etc, to reform the
How un-Labour can you get. (Or, if you prefer,
how New Labour can you get. Or how Tory can you get.)
Of course Tony has to pander to some of his Labour
colleagues, especially that ghastly Gordon Brown whom he has to
keep sweet because of that unfortunate pact to hand over power some time
around now. Hence he's had to go along with a stream of stealth
tax increases and egregious, uncontrolled spending increases in the
public sector that, according to this chart from the Economist and Price Waterhouse Cooper, is turning a
surplus of £15 billion into a deficit of £40 billion. But his
heart is clearly not in it.
on the other hand, is an old-fashioned, unrepentant, tax-and-spend
Labourite, fully at ease with soulmates such as Gordon Brown and John
Prescott. Overtly (and insincerely) compassionate and luvvie-duvvie,
and driven by a desire to protect
producers at the expense of consumers. Very unhappy about Iraq, like
the rest of Labour. He hates Tony Blair's target-setting for
schools, hospitals etc because it rewards good performers and puts
non-performers on the spot (which is of course their purpose).
You're supposed to love the workers not lean on them. Pretty
ambitious personally, but of course he has no hope of becoming Prime
Minister whilst he remains with the LibDems and whilst there is no
Smith, with his vague ways, uncertain and
ever-changing policies, over-weening desire to be liked, falls neatly into
every caricature of the traditional beard-and-sandals Liberal
Democrats. He says he wants to cut taxes - traditional Tory
territory. Yet immediately Michael Howard his shadow Chancellor
says he only means not increasing taxes as fast as Labour.
Classic LibDem muddle. He supported the Iraq war
enthusiastically (pure Tory) but is now attacking Blair for it (LibDem
U-Turn). Tries to talk big (the
quiet man is turning up the volume)
but as a self-effacing LibDem his embarrassment is palpable.
Meanwhile, the Tory party is desperate to find a more
effective leader. Their choice is abysmal - old discredited
warhorses like Michael Howard or Kenneth Clarke, petulant foot-stampers
like Michael Portillo, other sleep-walkers like Theresa May. Oliver Letwin appears to be the only
credible contender but many view him as not yet ready to take the
While, over at Labour, Gordon Brown can hardly
disguise his eagerness to depose Tony and drag New Labour back to Old
Labour. He is cheered on by the bulk of the party and the Trade Union masses that he has already pumped up
with massive infusions of no-strings-attached largesse towards the public
services. He'll be a dangerously loose cannon should he ever
get hold of the reins.
And the Liberal Democrats continue to muddle on without a hope of ever
coming to power under the UK's first-past-the-post voting system because their voters
are spread so evenly across the UK with no centres of strength.
Doomed to perennial moaning on the sidelines, they provide no home for a
successful politician with ambition such as Mr Kennedy.
So, here's my three-point proposal.
Tony Blair takes over the Tories and leads them to victory
at the next election.
This gives the country the opportunity to haul its
public finances and
international competitiveness back into good health through ferocious
cost-cutting and tax-cutting.
Charles Kennedy takes over Labour (shoving Gordon
Brown aside) and makes sure the
Tories don't have an easy ride, as they did when they were last in power.
Then, once the Tories have made the finances
OK again, the voters
Labour the chance under his leadership to wreck them once
more in the
time-honoured Labour fashion.
Ian Duncan Smith takes over the Liberal Democrats and he
and they just meander around in circles forever, like they always have.
Isn't this more fun than the Rugby
World Cup ?
Another Left-Wing Political
The latest charity to incur my wrath is Afri,
which stands for
Aid from Ireland. Its patrons are Archbishop
Desmond Tutu and his wife.
Co-ordinator, recently wrote
to the (subscription-only) Irish Times decrying the US, the invasion of
Iraq, the current occupation.
response to American attempts to get more countries (than the current 30) to
participate in the occupation, he trots out this laughable
the occupation would not help the Iraqi people. It would, rather, buttress
and lend a veneer of legitimacy to an illegal invasion.
couple of days later the paper kindly printed my
So, Mr Murray, please tell us what would help the Iraqi people.
internationalising the occupation and leaving it to the Americans,
British, Poles, etc ?
An immediate handover to Iraqis ? Which Iraqis, and on
what basis ?
How about immediate withdrawal ? Would you advocate leaving the mutually
antagonistic Shi'ites, Sunnis, Ba'athists, Saddamists, Kurds, Assyrians,
Turkomen and others to arrange their affairs according to the Iraqi
traditions of guns, bombs and warlords ?
week has passed and I am still waiting for his reply.
I find extraordinary the amount of newspaper column-inches devoted to moans and hand-wringing about Iraq,
such as Afri's, which make not a single realistic alternative proposal
intended to help the
unfortunate Iraqis rebuild their country and not make their current
difficulties worse. The motivation is clearly hatred of America/Bush, not
concern for Iraq. A successful, peaceful, democratic Iraq is many
people's idea of a nightmare, for it would make Bush look
As for the fact that the Iraq war delivered the
serious consequences that the UN Security Council, to universal rejoicing,
promised unanimously in Resolution 1441, there is never a word.
In fairness to Afri, however, it says it changed its focus to the
issue of the arms trade as a major cause of famine, food insecurity
and human rights violations throughout the world.
So it's not quite as hypocritical
as Ireland's largest two charities, Trócaire
and Concern, who purport to be do-good charities while peddling left-wing
pro-tyrant twaddle and vitriolic anti-Americanism in exchange for taxpayer
They all share some of the ethos of the Muslim madrassa
schools, many of which also
purport to be charities,
receive large quantities of government
yet simply preach hatred.
Crime of Protected Pharmacists in Ireland
Pharmaceutical retail in Ireland is
one of many areas where domestic protectionism supersedes the would-be
openness of the EU's common market, to the benefit of pharmacists and the
malefit of their customers.
The difference in medical drug
prices between continental European countries such as Spain, Italy and
France on the one hand and Ireland on the other is scandalous. It is
the direct result of a legislative regime that shields Irish pharmacies
from competition, and saves them the bother of either shopping around for
the cheapest supplier or worrying what other pharmacies may be up
to. This is in contravention to the EU's founding principle of free trade
and open borders, the principle that has brought undreamt-of prosperity
throughout the EU.
The Irish protectionism
manifests itself in two other ways.
You cannot open a pharmacy
within a certain distance of an existing pharmacy unless,
extraordinarily, you can demonstrate that there is a need for
You cannot practice as a
pharmacist unless you have the appropriate Irish pharmacological
qualification; no other EU (or US) diploma is recognised.
My wife and I recently returned from Spain,
where we have learned the wisdom of stocking up on medical
of Medical Drugs Within the EU
Prices in Italy are very similar to Spain's; France's are
about 20% more.
the above list happen to be preventive drugs. For example Xalacom eye drops
delay or prevent glaucoma. Moreover, all but the multivite
require a prescription in Ireland which means a 40 trip to the doctor,
where none is needed in Spain.
It makes me wonder how many people
don't take preventive drugs because they can't afford the exorbitant
prices, and as a result unnecessarily suffer blindness or other afflictions in later
Trade protectionism is by no means a
Late Note (13 October 2003)
In a piece entitled Drug
Cartels?, Internet Communicator takes issue with the above an
provokes a lively debate in his Comments page. He
contends that as majority buyer of drugs (many people get them free),
the Irish Government effectively sets the prices. This does not
explain why Irish drugs are two-to-three times the price of those in Spain,
Italy and France. Nor why, for example, supermarkets are not
permitted to sell (cut price) pharmaceuticals.
Much Later Note (12 November 2007):
At last, I've spotted a pharmacist who confirms that the problem is
indeed one of Irish protectionism for Irish pharmacies. In a
letter to the (subscription only) Irish Times on 12 November 2007,
Brian O'Reilly, a member of the
Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland writes, from Naas in Co Kildare,
The crisis in community pharmacy continues. I
should not be surprised that when there is any disturbance in the
sector the debate returns to the medicines price differential
between Spain and Ireland.
If I were to sell stock that had been bought from
a Spanish supplier the consequences would be drastic. I could expect
enforcement inspectors from
Irish Medicines Board,
Health Service Executive, and
Department of Health.
new pharmacy regulator, the Pharmaceutical Society
would also send its inspector.
could also expect at least a letter from the Department
Enterprise, Trade and Employment, seeking
Customs and Excise would certainly have to put their oar
- and the Revenue would be delighted to shortlist me
for a full tax audit.
You see, Madam, the
pharmaceutical sector in this country is a protected market.
We depend on the industry as it contributes significantly to our
export figures. (It matters not that much of the profit is returned
to the US.)
What I am surprised at is that Minister for Health
Mary Harney professes ignorance of this protectionism and she
herself thinks that the local pharmacy is
“ripping off the
I wrote a
letter to the Irish Times on the subject in May 2007, but it went
Princess Diana Airbrushed out of St Pauls
On a recent trip to London, I had the pleasure of visiting
the magnificent St Paul's Cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1710
after 35 years of construction, the fourth Church to be erected on that site
since 604 AD.
I wheezed up the 530 steps to the Golden Gallery 100
metres high, just beneath the cross atop the Dome, and drank in the
breathtaking 360º views of the city. It is a most majestic building
and it is humbling to think that it was constructed by human hands without
machinery or computers, every brick hauled into place by manpower
alone. It also made me wonder how many people fell to their deaths
in the process.
most people over about 25 what event they most associate with St Paul's,
and you're likely to hear the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady
Diana in 1981, in a spectacular televised ceremony watched by 750 million people
around the world. Then ask who stood out, and it will always be
As she continued to stand out amongst the royals for the next
sixteen years until she was killed in Paris in 1997.
Strange, then, that as you wander
around the memorials to the great people and great events of the last
three centuries, which are peppered throughout
both the 160 metre long Cathedral Floor and the vast crypt below, you can scarcely find any
reference to Diana at all.
I eventually located
a small corner of the crypt devoted to royal jubilees, birthdays and
weddings, with lots of stuff about kings and queens through the ages, as
well as Charles, his sons and siblings. And
there in the corner was this one photograph of the 1981 wedding, with the
delectable Diana shown only from the back and as a mere white blob in the
distance. She is nowhere else to be found in the
For Diana is a constant
embarrassment to the British royal family and the Church of England
clergy. She committed the cardinal sin of being liked - adored, even
- by the people of Britain, the Commonwealth, the world. Being
adored, of course, has always been the preserve, the prerogative, the
God-given right of the royals and clergy, and the current mediocre
incumbents simply cannot understand why this commodity is utterly lacking
No wonder they seethe with envy and
resentment at Diana's enduring popularity, and wish her memory would just
disappear as her life did.
from St Paul's Cathedral its most eminent contemporary star is but a step
in that direction.
Free Speech in the USA
first amendment to the US Constitution states that Congress
shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech.
gives some thirty interesting examples of how the First Amendment has been
interpreted by the courts, which I must say usually fall more in the
category of simple common sense than literal interpretation.
To summarise some examples ...
Instructed by their teacher to write about issues such as gang
violence, pupils used various rude words in keeping with the subject, which
the teacher in the interests of creative expression supported despite
the school's ban on profanity. She was fired.
Not Free Speech, the court ruled, since schools should
promote generally acceptable social standards.
DO YOU NEED A LAWYER?
A big insurance company contacted accident victims to encourage them
to settle claims without hiring a lawyer, pointing out that a direct
settlement would be faster and not have to be shared with a
lawyer. It also advised that if a lawyer were hired, his
contingency fee should be based only on what he secured over above what
the insurance company was prepared to offer anyway.
Not Free Speech, said several states, though for
different reasons, such as unauthorised legal practice, illegal
discouragement against retention of a lawyer, unfair trade
practice. Feeling threatened, trial lawyers in several states
simply pressured the insurance company into desisting.
NEO-NAZIS ON PARADE
The Mississippi-based Nationalist Movement, which campaigns
against the "Mexicanization, Africanization and
homosexualization" of America, was refused a permit to march down
the route of Boston's annual St Patrick's Day parade and other marches,
citing traffic congestion and public safety.
Free speech, declared a federal judge. He
concluded that Boston officials had denied the permit solely because
they happened to disagree with the National Movement's message; the Civil
Rights movement long ago established that this was no basis.
San Francisco's mayor fired a member of the city's Human Rights
Commission for persistently saying that according to the Bible the
lifestyle of homosexuals is an abomination against God and that they
should be stoned to death.
Not Free Speech, ruled both a federal court and the US
Supreme Court. It's OK to express views, but not to preach
homophobia when you're the ambassador for human rights.
See my own
to the violence, such as stoning, that is advocated in the Old
CHEERING SEPTEMBER 11TH
Five men near Times Square yelled
It's good that the World
Trade Center was bombed. More cops and firemen should have died !
More bombs should have been dropped and more people should have been
Not Free Speech, ruled a Manhattan judge because it was
plainly intended to incite
Tattooing other than by doctors is not free speech in
South Carolina and Oklahoma, a judge ruled. Calling a painting
free speech applies only to non-human canvases, he
Underestimate Your Goldfish
Goldfish, which originally hail from China, seem to have been in the news recently.
First there was a story that their memory is much longer than the three minutes commonly believed.
Research has shown
they can remember things (such as how to push a lever to release food) for up to three months or
they can also tell the time within to fifteen minutes.
Other research indicates that if you feed them alcohol,
they become, well, drunk.
Meanwhile, according to the UK's Environment Agency,
goldfish if given half the chance are rampaging devils. When
pet goldfish escape from ornamental ponds or are released from people's aquaria,
they race around harassing
the crucian carp, which is Britain's only indigenous goldfish.
compete aggressively with the native species for the
same food (plants, insects),
dominate the shared habitat,
spread diseases for which the crucian carp have no
breed with the locals to produce hybrids.
In other words, they behave pretty much like the early
white men did when they discovered
the Americas and Australia, though with less homicide. For the
crucian carp the
result is much the same as it was for the aboriginals. It is
being wiped out, and for this reason it is illegal to release pet goldfish
into the wild without permission.
Perhaps someone should have made it illegal to release
whiteys into the wild.
Quotes of the Week
: It's the most difficult [decision] I've made in my entire life,
except the one I made in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax.
Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger
announcing his gubernatorial candidacy
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno
(Arnie's dental makeover here)
: I came here with absolutely nothing and California has given me
absolutely everything. And today California has given me the greatest gift
of all. You've given me your trust by voting for me.
Schwarzenegger thanking voters after his election
I wouldn't describe the IRA as terrorists ... The IRA
would argue [that its] killing of civilians [was] by accident.
Adams, President of Sinn Fein,
interviewed in the Guardian
THE ARCHIVE and LINKS BARS AT TOP LEFT and RIGHT, FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE
to Top of Page
to Tallrite Blog
Now, for a little [Light Relief]
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
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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