This archive contains all issues prior to the current week and the three
preceding weeks, which are published in
the main Tallrite Blog (www.tallrite.com/blog.htm).
The first issue appeared on Sunday 14th July
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#10 - 29th September 2002 
Abiding Fear of Saddams Senior Lieutenants
There can be very few today that doubt that, within months if not
weeks, Iraq will be attacked and defeated by America, with or without the
support of allies or the UN. And fewer still on any side who do not
view the prospect with a degree of dread, whether or not they support such
How are people thinking within Iraq ? There are probably four
Saddam Hussein himself,
the senior functionaries that are loyal to him,
those members of the populace (and armed forces) who support him
the rest who in their hearts do not.
There must be real fear among the groupings C and D, who can hardly
relish being at the receiving end of US military technology and soldiery
once more. Grim accounts from the First Gulf War (for example,
troops buried alive in the trenches by American bulldozers) will still be
fresh in memories, propagated and embellished no doubt through
story-telling and myth-making. Yet they will know that the conflict will
come to an end, the situation will stabilise, and most of them will
believe that life could hardly get worse and with foreign investment could
well get a lot better. So the fear will be overlain with an element
With Saddam himself, there is probably no fear at all, nor doubt that
the outcome will be another humiliating defeat of America's imperialist
armed forces by the glorious Iraqi heroes. Saddam has been Iraq's
sole, brutal, unbridled dictator for more than 30 years. As
eloquently portrayed by pundit Dale
Franks, he has surrounded himself with sycophants who have been
telling him for so long what a wise, mighty and invincible ruler he is
that he has undoubtedly ended up believing it. Those who once dared
express contrary views, or bear unwelcome news, have long since been
dispatched. And going by Tony Blair's recent 55-page dossier
on Iraq, some departed this life in truly horrific ways (eyes gouged
out, limbs broken).
So when he asks his trusted lieutenants, such as
Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
or Foreign Minister Naji Sabri
"what is your opinion, will our army be able to defeat Bush ?",
the answer will come back, "certainly, Sir, without a shadow of doubt the
Americans will be routed". A violent death or a trial in
The Hague are so far from Saddam's detached reality that they hold no fear
That leaves group B - Saddam's closest advisers, military chiefs,
Ministers such as Tariq and Naji. These are the people who today are
eaten up with the deepest possible apprehension and dread. For they
close enough to the armed forces and indeed the Iraqi people to
understand the true, wretched state of Iraq's military defences and
close enough to the leader to understand his deranged state of mind,
worldly enough to realise that America is an enraged hyperpower that
Iraq cannot hope to resist for very long.
They must therefore be contemplating the two stark choices now facing
Either stay loyal to Saddam, in the certain knowledge
that they will be
killed in the conflict, or
put on trial in The Hague followed by a life sentence, or
spend the rest of their lives on-the-run, hiding in caves
like Al Qaeda.
Or try to save themselves by betraying Saddam, by,
say, defecting or providing covert intelligence to the enemy,
but risk a most terrible death for themselves and their families if Saddam
Think about this when you see these individuals talking defiantly on TV
- their faces are but facades that hide true terror. Each of them
knows his personal game is up.
in the UN General Assembly
The UN General Assembly is so adept at reaching agreement on important
issues that it cannot decide whether its meeting chamber should be smoking
The chamber displays big signs saying "Smoking
Discouraged", whatever that means.
the Seas with Oil ?
Everyone knows the answer to this one - it's the oil companies with
their offshore exploration and production activities, isn't it ?
Every year, they pour 39,000 tonnes of oil into the world's
er, actually no. According to a new report
the US National
Academy of Sciences by 14 respected US scientists, engineers and
researchers, this 39,000 tonnes amounts to only 3% of marine oil
pollution. Oil industry transportation (pipelines, oil tankers, etc)
accounts for a further 12%.
These figures compared with the total amount of oil pollution in the
sea, which is 1.3 million tonnes a year, the size of a small
oilfield. The US contributes about a fifth of this.
But the biggest human polluters are not the oil industry at all - they
are consumers, which include you and me. Consumers are responsible
Land-based runoff of fuels and lubes from city streets and all sorts
of machines into rivers and the sea,
discharges by (non oil industry) ships,
jettisoned aircraft fuel,
These all add up to 38%. The runoff is
particularly damaging due to the environmental sensitivity of the
receiving waterways, bays, and estuaries.
the biggest single polluter, contributing 47%, is however, nature herself
in the form of natural seepage from subterranean and sub-seafloor oil
the USA, the oil companies in total contribute just 4½% to marine pollution
compared with 15% worldwide.
findings of the report are summarised in a hard-to-read table,
but here is a an easy-to-read summary of the summary.
Marine Oil Pollution Caused By
the USA only
We should always be prepared to challenge received wisdom, in this case
about the oil industry's polluting performance.
This is especially so in anything concerning the environment where a
whole industry, for the sake of its own survival and growth, is dedicated
to convincing us that things are bad and getting worse, when the converse
is usually true.
Note : 1 kilotonne of oil = 308,000 US gallons =
Inkjet Printer Cartridge Rip-Off
Last week's Economist had a long (subscription-only) article
featuring and praising the inkjet printer. It is truly a marvellous
invention, printing out colour documents accurately, quietly,
speedily. And for the amount of technology it's not expensive - you
can buy an excellent one in Ireland for only 150-200; less in lower
But this of course is a ruse. The
business model followed by Hewlett Packard, Canon, Epson and the rest is
to sell the printer as a loss-leader and make their money on the
replacement ink cartridges. Because the black and the colour cartridges
for that 150 printer will cost you 35-45 each and you need two of
them. In other words, with two refills you have shelled out the
original purchase price.
However, the manufacturers are so
greedy they have spawned a new industry in refilled cartridges and
refilling kits. Sites like www.inkypinky.net
will charge half as much for refilled cartridges, including
delivery. If you use refill kits from sites like www.cartridgeco.co.uk
the cost is halved again (but it's a bit messy). From personal
experience, refilled cartridges work as well as new cartridges, and not
only are you saving money, but you are also minimising environmental
I have no personal interest in any of these companies - I
just want to share the information in case readers are getting ripped off
like I used to be.
are pulling a similar stunt with razors where a simple sensor blade now
cost over a uro. But I haven't heard of anyone selling
reconditioned blades cheap !
A family of seven foxes are reportedly
living in the Finnish Ambassador's garden in London, feeding on live ducks
from a nearby pond and invading the Russian Embassy next door to chew up
tennis balls. The Finns say their embassy is Finnish soil, that the
foxes are therefore Finnish, and huntsmen in Red Coats with packs of
hounds will not be admitted. For his part the Russian ambassador
graciously says he will desist from launching reprisal raids despite the
long history of border disputes between Russia and Finland.
The UN Security Council is breathing a sigh of relief.
Blondes Are Dyeing Out
According to the UK's Daily Express
(unfortunately no online version), the World Health Organization has
reported that the blonde gene is dying out and in 200 years natural blonds
and blondes will be extinct. This is due to two factors :
When a blond/e and a non-blond/e produce a child, the dark-hair gene
is usually dominant so the child turns out non-blond/e;
Men find non-blonde women who dye their hair blonde more attractive
than natural blondes, probably because the non-blonde blonde is
blonder (apart from the roots). This gives the bottle-blonde a
breeding advantage. It seems that if blondes have more fun,
bottle-blondes have even more fun ...
So if your spouse/partner is a natural blond/e, treasure him/her, and
cut off a lock of hair for posterity.
#9 - 22nd September 2002
: To Warmonger or Negotiate ?
The European media, and also some in the
US, teem with anti-war, anti-US, anti-Bush sentiment. Let's go with
the flow for the moment.
George W Bush proclaims that -
Iraq holds weapons of mass destruction (WMD),
it is trying to increase and diversify its arsenal to
include nuclear weapons and
it has Western targets in his sights.
But he has no definitive proof and plenty of people say
this is all exaggerated out of all proportion.
Nevertheless, Dubya wants and expects the
world to support him and help him attack Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, but only Tony Blair is
sufficient of a warmonger to make the offer. Everyone else believes
that disputes should be resolved peaceably, through UN negotiations, not
by blood-letting. Chancellor Gerhard Schöder of Germany has been staking
his re-election on it.
So, who are the good guys ? The
would-be negotiators or the would-be warriors ?
This raises at least four
interesting questions :
Blair's recent speech to his Trades Union Congress and Bush's
to the UN General Assembly the day after the September 11th
commemorations effectively dare the UN to
live up to its charter and give meaning to its numerous unrequited
resolutions on Iraq.
So, should Iraq be forced to honour its UN obligations,
which you may recall it agreed to as a condition for halting the march
on Baghdad during the first Gulf war 12 years ago ?
Until kicked out of Iraq four years ago,
the UN weapons inspectors found that Saddam did indeed have - and hide
- WMD (and it seems scarcely credible that he would have ceased his
WMD programme once the inspectors had been got rid of). His record in invading
gassing even his own citizens is well documented. Wouldn't it
therefore be more logical to place the onus on Iraq to
prove its claim that it has destroyed its WMD (easily done via unfettered weapons
inspection) rather than on the US to prove it hasn't ?
New Zealand's much-feared
All Blacks rugby team used to believe in "getting the retaliation in first".
This is not very sporting, but is it not more sensible to stop Saddam before
he makes yet another aggressive move, rather than wait until a suicide
bomber detonates a nuclear bomb in Paris, say ? The stakes will be played in thousands, perhaps millions
of human lives.
Suppose the Iraqi people were given a free choice
(not that they ever have been asked what they want) :
Either continue in poverty as your leaders squander your oil-for-food
money on further armaments and palaces, and remain under the
iron control of
Saddam's secret police and praetorian guard, where
none but his own
tight circle can hope to prosper;
Have Saddam removed, even with
the accidental loss of
some innocent civilian lives, and install a new
government elected by,
and fighting for the interests of, all Iraqis, under the rule of law.
Do you think the benighted Iraqis might just opt for
the second alternative ?
If you answered 'yes' to the four questions,
then, sorry, you are a war monger who believes the world should be made a
better and safer place for Iraq and all mankind. In my view, those
who answer 'no' favour - under a thin veneer of hypocritical "caring" - subjugation, corruption, and wanton murder and don't care if the world gets more
There are no pain-free answers, but
personally I am 100% with B&B.
Iraq's recent letter
to the UN Secretary General agreeing, under American-inspired pressure, to
re-admit weapons inspectors includes this statement :
"In targeting Iraq, the United States administration is acting
on behalf of Zionism, which has been killing the heroic people of
Palestine, destroying their property, murdering their children and seeking
to impose their domination on the whole world, not only militarily, but
also economically and politically."
In other words, America is nothing but a huge Jewish
plot. Pure 1930s anti-Semitic Hitler-speak.
Bin Laden Is Dead
Is Osama bin Laden dead, seriously injured or alive and well ?
In my opinion, bin Laden,
not having been verifiably heard from since the release of an hour-long videotape
way back last December, must surely be either dead or badly wounded.
Think of it from the viewpoint of bin
Laden himself and his supporters. They have not been beaten, but they have suffered
dire setbacks -
kicked out of Afghanistan in a war of dreadful
losses (reporting restrictions have prevented revelation of the true
harassed across the globe,
key leaders killed (eg Mohammed
Atef in November 2001) or captured (eg Ramzi
Binalshibh in September 02),
600 imprisoned colleagues having Al Qaeda secrets extracted from them for the past year in Guantanamo Bay,
bank accounts frozen across the globe,
telecommunications constantly monitored.
If you were bin Laden, you would surely want to reassure
your followers around the world that you were alive and well and that the
fight against the Great Satan is continuing and will ultimately be
successful. Likewise, if you are hiding or are a 'sleeper' in a distant
country, as thousands of Al Qaeda operatives apparently are, you would be desperate
to receive such reassurance in the face of all the depressing publicity
coming from the conventional media. But because of the widespread
nature of the Al Qaeda diaspora, coupled with the relentless monitoring of
telecommunications and suspects, this reassurance cannot convincingly be
transmitted by word of mouth, by clandestine bits of paper, by e-mails
etc. Leakage and traceability would be impossible to
Really, the only way to get such a message across is by using the media,
for instance a videotape again, as bin Laden
has so effectively done in the past. Another stirring and defiant
speech, perhaps holding up today's copy of a popular Arabic newspaper, is
all that would be required.
And not only would this help immeasurably the morale of
his supporters, but it would enrage President Bush and the West.
For example, shortly after Bill Clinton sent missiles in August 1998 to attack al Qaeda in
Sudan and Afghanistan following the bombings
of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, bin Laden's
defiant voice came crackling across in a radio transmission, "By the grace
of God, I am alive !". Just think how thrilling that must
have been for his thousands of supporters.
Why hasn't he done something like this
since last December ?
Because he's dead, that's why, or so badly
injured that sight of him would provide the opposite of the effect
There is no other explanation.
Khan as Islamic Ambassador
I see that the youthful and glamorous
former socialite Jemimah
daughter of late billionaire Sir James
close friend of Princess Diana,
wife of Pakistani cricket star turned
politician Imran Khan,
mother of two sons,
is contemplating becoming an ambassador
of Islam to the western world. Jewish by birth, raised as a
Christian, now converted to Islam, and an internationally recognized
and popular face, there can be few who rival her head-start in such a
Likewise there can be little doubt of the
need for Islam to explain itself better to Christians and Jews in the
Since the September 11th atrocity, Muslims
have been relentlessly portrayed by western media as extremist, intolerant
and implicitly - if not explicitly - supportive of terrorism against
Western targets. The media are undoubtedly partly to blame for
these distortions, but Muslims in general do little to help their
cause. Very few Muslim leaders have stood up publicly -
to loudly condemn acts of terrorism
such as suicide-bombings,
to say that such acts are contrary to
the teachings of Islam,
that the terrorists act for no-one but
that they disgrace Islam and all
It doesn't help that Islam has no clear
hierarchy in the way that Christianity, for example, does. There is
no-one like the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury who can speak
for Islam as a whole or even for individual Islamic sects.
Nevertheless, this does not excuse the
shameful silence of the vast majority of Muslim clerics to denounce dirty
deeds done using Islam as an excuse and a cover.
Let's hope Jemimah can do something to
redress Western perceptions of Islam.
Windmills Kill Birds
There has recently been some debate within Ireland about
the country's plans to install the world's
biggest windfarm, comprising 200 windmills (or wind turbines as they
prefer to be known) ten kilometres offshore the eastern coast of
Ireland. Much noise is being made about birds being killed by flying
into the rotor blades. In fact this is one of the principal
objections to this clean, renewable energy source. The others are
noise (but modern windmills hardly make any), and visual pollution (debatable,
but anyway when they're offshore they won't be so "in your
Windmills do indeed kill birds - in Denmark 30,000 per
year, in the USA 70,000, according to the published data.
These unfortunate casualties should, however, be seen in the perspective
of bird losses from other causes. In Denmark, so the literature
tells us, traffic alone kills over one million birds annually, in Holland
over 2m, and in the USA 57m. In the USA, another 97m birds a year
die just by colliding with plate glass, while Britain's 9m domestic cats
kill 55m birds (which is only one each every two months).
If the objective is to save birdlife, therefore, tilting at windmills
should be well down anyone's priority list.
Jack Welch -
GE's Charismatic CEO
A recent piece in the Economist, quoting academic
studies from the Academy of Management
(unfortunately both are subscription services), said that CEOs who were charismatic tended to do less well for
their company's share price than non-charismatic CEOs, but were paid
An exception is probably the charismatic Jack Welch
(or as he was sometimes known, Neutron Jack, for his reputation for firing
people while keeping the physical assets intact). From 1980 to 2001,
he was the famed and much admired CEO of General Electric, who raised its
market value by no less than $400 BILLION
! And he was certainly paid very well.
He is now retired but things are not good on the
home front as his wife Jane is divorcing him. Not only that but the
divorce proceedings have uncovered the retirement
perks that go with his $9m per year pension, and this has enraged a
lot of people, GE shareholders included. The perks, which are
"unconditional and irrevocable" include :
use of a palatial $15m Manhattan apartment owned
by GE, plus all the associated costs, such as wine, food, flowers,
laundry, toiletries, newspapers, restaurant bills
satellite TV at his four homes
security services in all four homes
chauffeured limousine service
use of GE's private aircraft (fixed wing and
security personnel during foreign travel
four country club fees,
floor-level seats to the New York Knicks
a skybox at Red Sox games
a box at Yankee games
a box at the Metropolitan Opera
courtside seats at the US Open
VIP seats at Wimbledon Centre Court
Nice to know he won't have to touch much of his
actual pension. Or his life savings of a mere $900m !
Late Note - I've just learnt from
that Jack Welch, under the burden of embarrassment, has agreed to forego
some of his unconditional and irrevocable retirement perks.
- How Not To Woo It
I visited Britain's
square mile Mediterranean
exclave, Gibraltar, in September whilst in Spain, driving
beautiful Costa del Sol from the East. You see the Rock from some 30
km away; it dominates the distant horizon behind the lesser hills that
intervene. The final 15 minutes are across a flat plain over which
the Rock towers malevolently, as a permanent, insulting reminder to the
Spanish that they signed it away in 1713 and have never got it back.
I can understand some of their anger and bitterness and why they believe
it is rightfully theirs.
itself is a pretty little place, worth a day's visit, though not
The little town is full of tiny, colourful and historic
patriotic bunting spans the streets;
you can buy tax-free English
beer and traditional fish & chips;
petrol is only 75
per litre (compared with 80 in Spain, 90 in Ireland and about 120 in the
With just 30,000
people, Gibraltar is so small it is not unusual to see the Chief Minister,
Peter Carauna, being driven in his modest limousine (registration number G1) or striding down the street to a cabinet meeting or
You can drive
- or, if hardy, hike - up the Rock, following a route that takes you past
military battlements, tunnels, castles. You can photograph the
apes, sitting on the hills and walls, placid, unafraid, unaggressive,
and reflect about the legend that so long as they remain, the outcrop will
remain British. Winston Churchill took this so seriously that when
began to dwindle due to the privations of the second world war, he directed
that a few more be shipped in from Morocco.
For most of
its British existence, Gib has been an invaluable strategic asset,
guarding the gateway to the Mediterranean, servicing the Royal Navy's
vessels, garrisoning reinforcements for troublesome imperial outposts in
Africa, keeping the Spanish wary.
But it has
lost its strategic importance for Britain in today's world where
geopolitics, military technology and communications are so different, and
where moreover Britain and Spain are close partners and allies within the EU,
NATO and the WTO to name but three. It now embarrasses the British
Government who would dearly love to hand it over to Spain as Hong Kong was
to China. And so it would, were it not for the pesky Gibraltarians
and their democratic tendencies, who resolutely refuse to countenance
anything short of continued total Britishness that has been their
patrimony for nearly 300 years. They currently plan a referendum to
reinforce this very point - which is enraging (democratic) Spain and which
(democratic) Britain says it will ignore.
think that if Spain wanted Gibraltar it would seek ways to woo the
inhabitants. But no, the converse. Trade is impeded, telephone
access restricted, even Spanish road signs to Gibraltar barely
exist. When I left Gibraltar I had to queue for over an hour because
two desultory Spanish customs officials (at this "open" EU
border) asked every car about cigarettes and whiskey and searched many,
all in blatant go-slow mode designed to deter repeat visits.
It will be a
very long time before the Gibraltarians willingly fall into the arms of
their Spanish suitors.
See also my
earlier piece contrasting
Gib with Spain's own exclaves in Morocco (which Spain always says are
totally different situations).
Want To Know How Big He Is ?
A most erudite website
applies a new mathematical formula to estimate the length of a man's, er,
most intimate possession, based on the size of his gloves, shoes and
nose. Apparently the formula has been applied successfully in
respect of British politicians Charles Kennedy (3½"), Tony Blair
(4½") and Ian Duncan Smith (a world-beating 5½"). Anyone know Bill
Clinton's shoe size ?
Those of a delicate or refined disposition should click elsewhere ...
#8 - 1st September 2002
Population Trend - Disaster or Boon ?
Johannesburg World Summit in full swing, were hearing a lot about the
world population explosion and how this is responsible for people starving
and how it will continue and get worse for ever.
professional environmentalists or NGOs will admit, this long term view of
the world is balderdash.
the population explosion. In
1750 the world had fewer than one billion people but by 1950 this
had risen to about 2½ bn. Since
then its been racing up at about 40 million per year, reaching
six billion this year and forecast to continue at this rate for
another four decades. This is an
explosion by anyones reckoning - click on the thumbnail
on the right to have a closer look.
however, you look at the forecast to 2200, you can see that from
2050 the worlds population growth starts slowing
and by 2150 has flattened out at ca 11 billion people.
This shows that the explosion is a temporary phenomenon that will
eventually stabilise albeit at almost double todays population.
Click on the second thumbnail
to see the complete graph. (The figures in the graphs are
reputable - they are published in a yearly
report by the United Nations Population Division, the same
source used by environmentalists and NGOs.)
happening ? We need to
understand the mechanism for population growth.
It is not that
people (as often alleged in respect of the developing world) are "breeding like rabbits".
It is because of a dramatic increase since 1750 in availability of
food, medicine, clean water, sanitation and other health promoting
knowledge and practices. In other words it is the result of life being prolonged; were
simply not "dying like flies", as we used to.
societies continue to migrate from agricultural to more prosperous urban
agricultural communities, children are cheap to raise because they
help work the fields, and they provide security for their parents in
old age, so therefore parents produce relatively more of them
currently an average of 3.1 per woman in the developing
families move to the cities, as they tend to because the economic
conditions there are better, things change.
Children become a net expense because they must be educated, dont
contribute to the family coffers and are more likely to leave it to
the State to support their parents in old age. Therefore,
logically, people produce fewer children, which explains the developed
worlds fertility rate of 2.1 children, which is roughly humankinds
required replacement level.
(The above fertility figures are again from the UN and may be found in this large
There is a lag
of course, and this explains the "explosion".
food, sanitation etc make their impact felt first in terms of fewer
birth rate is a longer process, depending as it does on each countrys
overall economic development.
everything balances out again, but at a much higher level 11 bn in
2150 compared with 1 bn in 1750.
(The effect of the tragic AIDS epidemic may cause stabilisation to
occur at a lower level.)
point to note is that this population increase is the result of human
success not human failure. Not
welcoming it is like saying that you would prefer to see less food, less
medical care, less water, less sanitation, all leading to earlier death
for your fellow human beings.
That is not to
say the world is without problems - 2m people still die every year due to
lack of clean water, which diverting funds from the worthless Kyoto
Protocol would solve in just two years, as I argued in an earlier piece.
But things are
getting better not worse - today only 20% of the developing world have no
easy access to clean drinking water compared with 70% in 1970 (according
to the World Bank's World Development Report, the
UN and others).
a future blog, I will explain the worlds success in providing food for
its population now and in the future, especially compared with the past.
Rose of Tralee
are the Miss World and Miss
Universe competitions and many suchlike trials of beauty.
But there is one international competition similar to but
strikingly different from any of them. It is Irelands annual
festival to find the Rose of Tralee, which takes place during
August to the strains of the ballad
of that name and in the small town of Tralee
in the south-west of Ireland.
it a beauty competition ?
kind of, but you dont have to be a beauty to win, in fact
liposuction, cosmetic surgery and botox seem unknown to the
anyone enter ?
single, childless woman from anywhere in the world who has a connection to
Ireland, however distant or tenuous.
Over the years, contestants, each known as the Rose of
(say, Texas), have come from different counties of Ireland
and from various parts of North America, the UK, Australasia, the
Middle East, the Far East, the EU, South Africa.
They typically range from 17 year old schoolgirls to 25
year old double-graduates in business management.
must a Rose do ?
glamorous in a stunning ballgown, never be seen in a bikini, be
upbeat in an interview and do a turn, in an event broadcast live
on Irish TV, and commanding the country's biggest audience of the
And then be judged by a panel.
a turn ?
thats what makes the Rose of Tralee different.
Each girl must carry out some kind of (innocent!)
performance on stage. Sing
a song, play the trumpet, recite a poem, dance an Irish jig, do a
magic trick. Quality
is not the magic ingredient being sought, but some kind of
innocent charisma. Therefore,
the girls get away with singing off-key, messing up their lines,
playing the wrong notes, blushing, weeping, forgetting the punch
line, and it's all taken in good fun.
(Though very few end up with recording contracts.)
out of it all, the judges - themselves selected on some inscrutable basis
- decide, based on mysterious criteria no-one
knows, which Rose will conferred as the new Rose of Tralee.
She wins a bit of Waterford crystal, just 5,000 uro,
a goldish-coloured tiara, a tiny logo-covered Smart car on a years loan
(not a gift!) and various other sponsors cheap give-aways.
Lavish is not the word for it.
winner in 2002, the 44th festival, was the Rose of Italy, the
Gervasoni, who takes the Rose of Tralee sash from last years
Manning, who was the Rose of Perth (Australia).
It is the first time that Italy have entered the competition, so
theyve made a good start. Tamara can look forward to a year of photo
shoots, interviews, balls, openings and celebrity appearances
in Ireland and Italy.
is a truly weird kind of event in today's world, but utterly
charming. Read the Boston Globe's take.
follow-up post in 2007
for Head of State
outfit called CyberBritain.com
conducted an online survey of 30,000 respondents in the UK to see who
people would most like to be their head of state, out of a list of
This is the result, no doubt to the Queens immense relief since
she tops it.
William (second in line to the throne)
Paxman (a rottweiler TV interviewer)
(hand-held childrens puppet)
Branson (billionaire businessman, head of Virgin Airlines)
Harris (Australian singing and painting TV entertainer)
Beckham (Manchester United footballer)
Macdonald (highly-polished, knighted TV presenter who is black)
Kennedy (Scottish leader of the Liberal Democratic party)
Young (gay winner of a TV Pop Idol competition)
Windsor (ageing but bubbly buxom comedy actress)
Charles (whos he ?)
Blair (prime minister, leader of Labour)
Duncan Smith (would-be prime minister, leader of the Tories)
Widdecombe (large, aggressive, articulate Tory politician)
Livingstone (formerly Red Ken, scourge of Margaret Thatcher, now
Lord Mayor of London)
that the puppet Sooty, at #4, is well ahead of the heir to the throne
(#12) or Tony Blair (#13). Some
respondents said that as a puppet he is more honest than politicians.
New Zealanders reportedly
like Sooty because, as rugby players, they respect a real man - or a real
guinea pig. Down there they have heard that Sooty is a real live rodent
who became famous for fathering 43 babies in one sweaty night.
According to his owner Carol Feehan, he last year received a large
volume of valentine cards postmarked New Zealand. "He has a big
following down there," she says. Had this information been available to the pollsters, Sooty
would probably have beaten Jeremy Paxman
regards Prince William coming 10 places ahead of his father Prince
Charles, it reinforces my own belief that the succession to the Queen will
probably be determined by a nationwide ballot between father and son. People
will not accept the straight hereditary principle.)
U B U
Unbelievable, Bizarre, Unprecedented
!" Charles Haughey, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of
Ireland uttered these memorable words, quickly shortened to GUBU,
in a press conference in 1982 after it emerged that a double-murderer,
Malcolm Macarthur, was found shacking up in the exclusive seaside home of
the Attorney General, Paddy Connolly, who only 12 hours later jumped on a
plane to New York.
his confusion, Mr Haughey was trying to explain
it was OK for Mr Connolly to fly away to America,
it was also OK to order him to return forthwith to face the music
everything was, well, GUBU.
has since entered the Irish Lexicon, with particular reference to Mr
Macarthur was an educated, well-dressed man-about-town who had never
done a day's work in his life thanks to his father's generous bequest of
£70,000 (worth $500,000 today). Life was a rosy round of pubs,
parties, friends, banter until he began to run out of money.
he decided to copy the IRA by robbing banks, and for this he needed a car
and a gun. According to reports,
he bludgeoned to death a young nurse, Bridie Gargan, for her car, and two
days later shot dead Donal Dunne, a farmer, with the shotgun the farmer
thought he was selling to him.
shaved off his beard and changed his clothes to hide his identity from
witnesses, he sought sanctuary with his friend of eight years, the
Attorney General, to whose apartment the police soon tracked him
interrogation, he pleaded guilty to murdering the nurse, was convicted and
sentence to life, but was never prosecuted for killing the
of the guilty plea, there was no trial and no details of either murder
were ever presented in court, no doubt to the immense relief of the two
hugely embarrassed politicians. Paddy Connolly resigned but Charles
Haughey managed to hang on. Murmurs of a stitch-up persist to this
fact, Mr Haughey remained in power, with one interruption, for some ten
more years, but sank ever deeper into a morass of corruption and dubious
behaviour vis-a-vis Northern Ireland. And as the Taoiseach became
more brazen, GUBU seemed in the mind of the public to fit its creator ever
GUBU to this day has become a kind of short hand description of Charles
Haughey as he lives out his retirement in disgrace while stories of his
behaviour reach the public via tribunals of enquiry into his alleged
Macarthur, after 20 years in jail, is being considered for parole, which
is why this GUBU story is rearing its weird head once more.
there is even a gay bar in Dublin called
And, since December, a blog called
Chief Executive in Action
I read in a paper that Ireland (along with other
European countries) is shortly to be graced with the exalted presence of
Microsoft's chief executive, Mr Steve Bulmer, who will be visiting key
customers and staff. Those who would like to see him in action in
his own inimitable style, at a recent big meeting of Microsoft employees,
can enjoy the experience by clicking here.
Don't miss it !
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to Tallrite Blog
Now, for a little [Light Relief]
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
Note: I wrote
my own reports on Macondo
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s
incredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics