This archive, organized into months, contains all issues prior to the current week and the three
preceding weeks, which are published in
the main Tallrite Blog (www.tallrite.com/blog.htm).
The first issue appeared on Sunday 14th July
You can write to blog-at-tallrite-dot-com
#61 - 14th December 2003 [632+171=803]
Ladies and gentlemen,
we got him !
Pro-Consul in Iraq, on 14th December,
announcing the capture alive
of Saddam Hussein,
for 24 years
the merciless tyrant of Iraq
Religion of Environmentalism
attention was kindly drawn by Michael
Mac Guinness to a
recent speech by Michael
Crichton, doctor, movie director and prolific author.
In it, he distinguishes
reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda, problems from non-problems,
environmentalism as the new religion.
is convinced that the human psyche demands that we believe in something
which gives give meaning to our lives and makes sense of the world.
It may not be God, but such a belief is still religious in nature.
he suggests, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is
environmentalism, the religion of choice for urban atheists. He draws
begins with Eden, a paradise, a state of grace
begins with unity with nature
doomed to everlasting punishment for our lying, cheating, killing
unless we seek salvation
sinners, doomed to die from fossil fuels and global warming, unless
we seek sustainability
not necessary, this is faith
not necessary, this is faith
about religion, there was, however, never an environmental Eden. In times past, lifespans were 40, plagues swept the planet,
famines were endemic. Humans lived amongst filth, flies, disease,
killed animals with abandon to survive, they waged constant warfare
against each other, practiced infanticide, human sacrifice, cannibalism.
Parts of the world are not much different today. Yet people
today still hang on to the Eden myth in the face of overwhelming
contradictory evidence, dreaming of returning to that blissful
pre-pollution nature paradise that never existed.
you want evidence of how facts are not allowed to get in the way of
environmental faith, look at world population growth.
Population explosion has become a cliché, and indeed since 1750 it
has grown from one billion to six billion, and is still climbing at 40
million a year. Yet, as
elaborated in a previous post,
this is a mark not of failure but of extraordinary human success in
combating early death. Nevertheless, environmentalists for
most of the last century have been bewailing the disaster the explosion
foretells as the global population races towards 11 billion by 2050.
There will not be enough space and food to support the explosion,
they fear, and it heralds even deadlier pollution.
was still the theme only a year ago, at the Johannesburg World
recently, environmentalists have begun to notice what scientists have been
predicting for at least ten years that due to falling fertility the
population around 2050 will actually stop rising. It will flatten
off, at 11 billion, maybe less, and may even decline.
demands a continuing threat of doom, so now they confidently predict an
economic crisis caused by a population that is shrinking and ageing,
without a thought that theyve been proved wrong for the past 100 years.
Faith does not require facts.
theres a whole slew of wrong predictions
natural resources and space are running out.
In 1968, Paul
Ehrlich predicted that 60 million Americans would die of
starvation in the 1980s.
thousand species will become extinct every year.
all species on the planet will be extinct by 2000.
He goes on to
claim that, contrary to the unshakeable belief of the religion of
not a carcinogen, and that banning it caused the malarial deaths of
tens of millions of poor people, mostly children,
smoke is not a health hazard,
Sahara is shrinking,
ice is increasing, and
reduce greenhouse gas emissions is pointless.
as religious fanatics see no other path for humankind but their own, so
too do many environmentalists, and this is a dangerous path.
Religious extremism in its various forms has been responsible for
millions of deaths over the centuries indeed, the trend continues to
this day. So too has
environmentalism, the DDT ban being but one example.
(The wicked diversion of precious billions of dollars to meet the
requirements on CO2 emissions would be another.)
therefore need to get environmentalism out of the sphere of religion
altogether and start applying hard science instead.
need to be trying various methods of accomplishing things that appear to
threaten the environment, encourage a market in competing analyses and
solutions. We need to be humble and open-minded about assessing results of
our efforts, and to be flexible about balancing needs. Religions are good
at none of these things.
its time to abandon the religion of environmentalism, and return to the
science of environmentalism, and base public policy decisions firmly on
you have the time, you should read the whole 4,000-word speech.
Europe to Bid for Iraq Reconstruction Work
On 12 December, blogger Andrew Sullivan made a robust defence
of George Bushs exclusion of France, Germany and Russia from nearly
$19bn-worth of contracts being handed out in Iraq.
.. after doing everything they could to undermine the U.S. at the
U.N. and elsewhere in order to protect their own favored dictator, they
have absolutely no claim on the tax-payers of the United States. The
idea that we should reward them for their obstructionism out of our own
coffers on the same terms that we are rewarding countries that gave
money and lives to help the liberation is a preposterous one ... Let
France, Germany and Russia live with the consequences of their own moral
bankruptcy and strategic error.
Bushs own defence
was similar :
taxpayers understand why it makes sense for countries that risk lives to
participate in the contracts in Iraq. Its very simple. Our people
risk their lives. Coalition, friendly coalition folks risk their lives,
and, therefore, the contracting is going to reflect that.
These are great words that really give me a warm feeling of
schadenfreude at the expense of those perfidious Old
both men are wrong. For in their understandable rush to punish
non-Allies, they are falling into the tired trap of protecting
producers at the expense of consumers, rather than the other way
round. For this is always a zero-sum game - you can never
this case, the consumer is the Iraqi people. The war was
launched to liberate them (as well as to forestall proliferation of WMD),
and Congress has budgeted up $20
solely for reconstruction.
means getting the best value you can from every dollar spent, because only
in that way can you maximise the amount of reconstruction you can get done
for the money. In turn that means fostering open, global competition
for every contract. Only where there are genuine concerns about
security, should particular contractors or countries be excluded from
particular tenders. You might hesitate to invite a Syrian or
Sudanese company to bid for a contract to build a new armaments
bunker. But it is ridiculous to exclude, on security grounds, the
German company Siemens that already provides most of the passenger
screening equipment at US airports.
prevent companies from Old Europe from bidding will indeed punish them,
while at the same time rewarding those
economies that supported America in the war, put their troops in harms
way and suffered deaths. But it is not right that such a reward will
also be a punishment for Iraqis by reducing the amount of reconstruction
theyre going to get. And by the way, Americans will also be
punished, because its their hard-earned tax dollars that will be unnecessarily
distasteful as it feels, Mr Bush should, for the sake of the Iraqi people,
re-think his exclusion policy.
Communist Human Rights Week
Last week was designated Human Rights Week by Amnesty
International. Its Irish section chose the occasion to launch an
Yoko Ono has donated to Amnesty the rights to John Lennons tuneful song, Imagine,
which, as we
come up to Christmas, is being sung and recorded by children for
distribution on CD and video. No song, say
has the power to more eloquently capture the spirit of our
message of human rights and dignity for all than Imagine.
Really ? Have you seen the lyrics
The words invite us to imagine all the people
living for today, in peace, with no need for greed or hunger, nothing
to kill or die for. A brotherhood of man.
Truly an inspiring vision.
But to achieve this utopia, we are exhorted to
imagine away heaven, hell, religion, countries and possessions.
Arent we talking here of a rabid Communist ideology
? All mankinds problems will go away once we eliminate every
religion, national characteristics and private property ?
that cuddly Uncle Joe or Papa Mao would say, we may have to kill another
hundred million people who do not conform to Imagines society model we are building, where
no-one takes responsibility and everything is provided. But its all
for the best in the long run. Once we have imposed this new world
order, there will indeed be a brotherhood of man. Only we prefer the
Beautiful as the song sounds, Amnestys wilful
association of it with a campaign for human rights is a scandal. The very
ideology that the lyrics advocate was responsible for more deaths and misery in the
20th century than the total of all other man-made causes in history.
Only if you emphatically oppose human rights and
human dignity should you be singing this on the barricades.
And it is especially disgraceful to deceive children
into thinking its something warm, comfy and Christmassy. Its
The Economist Drops
Ive always been a believer in clarity of expression, especially in the
written word since unlike talking you dont get a chance to correct
yourself (although with blogging you do !).
I am irritated by sentences without verbs. (This
being a common example.). It grates to hear the use of feminine-sensitive
plural pronouns in a singular sense (Everyone is responsible for
their own destiny). Nevertheless, to very occasionally
split an infinitive is just about tolerable in some
For many years, the Economists Style
Guide has been my bible, and in fact based on it Ive written two
other style guides for companies Ive worked for. As the Style Guides sums
clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought.
Now Lynne Truss has come out with a cheerful little book entitled,
Shoots & Leaves - The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
which is turning out to be this Christmass bestseller. Naturally
Ive bought a copy, and its excellent. Tells you everything
you need to now about squiggles, lacking only a reference to Victor Borges seminal phonetic
was, therefore, with some interest that I read the (subscription-only)
approving and entertaining review of it,
The joy of
on 6th December.
I was even more amused to note that the Economist had itself in the same
edition committed an elementary punctuation error that changes the meaning of the sub-heading of
story, no less, there on the first page. The
dollars slide has further to go, but if handled carefully it could help not harm the world
What happened to the two missing commas either side of
not harm ?
Without them, the sentence means that the dollars slide could
help to not harm the world
economy. I think they mean
help instead of harm.
I wonder if theyll publish my letter to them (they
didnt). Pedants and
I cannot speak for others, but I am now receiving
15-20 spam e-mails for every proper one. Provided I remain in
Dublin, its no more than a minor irritant to hit the delete button 20
times, always checking Im not accidentally deleting a genuine
message. However, if I go away for, say, a week, several hundred
e-mails await my return. Longer, and it can exceed a thousand.
Outlook Express has a Block Sender facility which can help, however it
requires five strokes per message which is just too clumsy when youre
dealing with maybe 30 spams at a time. Moreover, spammers usually
use different sender addresses for each mailing.
Has anyone got any low/no-cost sure-fire ways for
deleting or diverting spam before it hits the inbox ?
Dont let yourself be
caught by this telephone scam that is earning a lot of money in the
UK. Similar scams are probably occurring in other
Upon answering the
telephone, you hear a recorded message congratulating you on winning an all-expenses trip to an exotic location.
You will then be asked to press 9 to hear further details.
If you press 9 you will be
connected to a premium rate line that costs approximately £20 per minute. Even if you disconnect immediately,
it will apparently remain connected for a minimum of 5 minutes, costing around £100.
The final part of the call
involves your being asked to key in your postcode
and house number (which has other serious consequences). After a
further two minutes, you will receive a message informing you that you are
not one of the lucky winners after all. Your total bill will be around £260.
Since the calls are
originating from outside the
UK, the telephone companies are relatively powerless to act.
The only safe solution is
to HANG UP before the message prompts you to press 9. Even safer is to HANG UP on any unsolicited
free offer call.
Theres no such thing as a free lunch.
The scam appears to be a
variation on a theme. A variation is a call, or text message, from
someone claiming to be a telephone engineer conducting a test on the line and asking
you to press buttons.
The rule should be never
to press 9 (or 9, 0# or 0, 9#) for anyone you dont know and trust.
Those canny New York
feminists are delighted to have found a fresh reason to be outraged at the
way women are oppressed by males at cinemas, auditoriums, stadiums, dance
halls, bars and other types of gathering hubs in the city.
The latest symbol of
brutal subjugation is that males are provided with more than their fair share
of rest-rooms in these establishments.
Therefore, the numbers of places where they can have
a slash is to be slashed until they are half the number of the womens
Councilwoman Yvette Clarke is trying to get
Restroom Equity Bill
enacted for all new construction and renovations. A key clause
explains that, the
absence of sufficient womens bathrooms in many places of public assembly,
and the resultant lines for womens bathrooms, is one of the most blatant,
demeaning, and visible forms of gender discrimination in our society.
Im not making this up.
Equity, you see, should
be measured not in
the number of male/female restrooms, but in the time
spent there by males/females. Women spend twice as long, therefore
they should have twice as many. Oh, and their restrooms should also be
bigger, because men just, er, zip in and out. Men dont need extra
space to struggle with pantyhose, nor to handle delicate grooming matters,
trade advice and admonitions, bond with their buddies, complain about the
women in their lives.
And if you
dont agree, youre a male chauvinist pig, obviously a wife-beater and probably a
Quote of the Week
- young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter
a 42-year-old German computer technician,
advertising on the internet,
for a victim willing to be slaughtered and eaten.
Bernd Juergen Brande,
another 42-year-old German,
lied about his age to apply for this opportunity,
and was successful.
He apparently tasted of pork
Have a look at Internet Commentators recent post on this
bizarre episode, strangely juxtaposed with FMG.
THE ARCHIVE and LINKS BARS AT TOP LEFT and RIGHT, FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE
#60 - 7th December 2003
Miss World 2003
Its not everyday a nearby neighbour becomes
Miss World, so forgive me for giving the top spot to the
Rosanna Davis from Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, a friend of my (very
lucky) nephew, and daughter of singer
Now known as Miss World 2003, she describes herself
humble person and hopefully a great ambassador for my country and for
women all around the world.
Missile Strike - The Inside Story
22nd November, at 10:15 am local time,
a Russian-built SAM-14 (shoulder-fired Surface to Air Missile) hit an Airbus A300 B4 freighter over Iraq. Despite the fire that
erupted in the port side wing on impact and the
in-flight emergency that was declared, the aircraft managed to land safely in
Baghdad with no casualties.
The aircraft, registration
OO-DLL, was leased to
and operated by European Air Transport (EAT), which is a Belgian company
owned by the courier company DHL, itself a German company owned by
Deutches Post World Net.
Media coverage of this attack has been scant.
What is presented here is an inside account from impeccable
sources, never before published.
Happened on Board the Aircraft
The aircraft had just departed Baghdad
International Airport (formerly Saddam International) bound for Bahrein, and was passing 8,000 feet when
the crew felt a shudder and heard a rumbling noise from the left hand side
of the aircraft. Immediately the crew were alerted by the Master
Warning system of problems on the hydraulic systems.
With three separate hydraulic systems blue,
green and yellow the A300 will fly and is controllable
with the loss of any two. But it is not controllable with
the loss of all three, as all the control surfaces rudder, ailerons,
elevators, horizontal stabilizer, flaps and slats are directly moved
by the hydraulics and have no manual reversion.
The flight engineer checked the hydraulic panel
and noted that the pressure and quantity for the green
systems were reading zero. The crew therefore started the Dual
Hydraulic Systems Failure checklist and whilst doing this, realised
that the blue system
readings had also reduced to zero.
Whilst discussing this and attempting to find out
what control if any was still available,
the aircraft banked to the left and the nose
the flight engineer noticed that the left wing
outboard fuel tank gauge was reading zero;
Air Traffic Control (the US Air Force) radioed
that the left engine was on fire, though there was no indication of an
engine fire on the flight deck.
In fact the fire was in the outboard end of the
wing in the area of the aileron and end of the flaps and was being fed by
both the hydraulic fluid and the fuel.
Left wing of the airplane is on fire
Due to the configuration of the aircraft with
its engines slung low beneath the wing and fairly well outboard of the
aircraft centreline, it was still possible to maintain some control.
Increasing the power pitched the aircraft up,
decreasing it pitched it down, while
using asymmetric thrust provided some left and
The landing gear was successfully extended and
locked down using a manual procedure. An attempt was made to land on
runway 33 right at Baghdad International, but due to the
circumstances the aircraft actually touched down fast and very heavily
on the parallel runway, 33 left.
The speed at touch down was approximately 210-220 knots with a sink
rate of 2,000 feet per minute, compared with normal figures
of 135-145 knots and 200-300 feet per minute. After landing, the only
retarding devices available were the engine reversers. No brakes or speed
brakes and no nose-wheel steering either, due to loss of hydraulics.
Whilst slowing down - unmanoeuvrably - the aircraft
left the runway and ran off into the sand, with the engines still in
reverse, until the aircraft finally came to halt (they would normally have
been deactivated at 60 knots). The engines were damaged after landing,
with the starboard one ingesting a rolled barbed-wire fence.
fact, the whole aircraft is a write off, but due to the flight
crews skill and presence of mind, no-one was hurt. Whether or not the
insurance will pay out for the hull loss is under debate.
Did It and How ?
The SAM-14, sometimes known as the
Strela 3, is built in Russia. Weighing 10kg, it is the successor to the
SAM 7. More accurate and reliable than the SAM 7, it has a larger
warhead - 3 kg, twice that of the SAM 7. Its maximum range is 4.5 kilometers
with an altitude of up to 9,900 feet.
SAM-14s had in fact been launched against the DHL aircraft,
but only one reached its target. It was the first strike on a civilian
aircraft since the war. Clearly, the attack was carried out by
people allied to Saddams defeated
Baathists and/or foreign insurgents.
extraordinary aspect, however, is that the attack was covered live by French
journalist Claudine Vernier Palliez and her photographer, working for Paris Match, who seemed to be - to use the familiar
with the perpetrators. They are the source of the photograph
below. With difficulty you can hunt down their story, in
French, on the magazines painfully clumsy website. Amongst
other things, the magazine proudly proclaims,
Exclusive, Our reporters were with the rebel commandos who hit the DHL
cargo plane. They fired missiles at the Airbus
But you can easily find
eight of their pictures here
dozen more photos here.
9:08 am, spaced 50 meters apart two men open fire. The first one reaches
his target. Here, one of them in a djellaba fires his SAM-7
In addition to the Paris Match scoop, a six-minute video showing a masked militant firing the missile
was delivered to Sara Daniel,
who is a journalist with the
French weekly, Le Nouvel Observateur.
The footage, which you can view,
shows ten militants, their faces covered by chequered keffiyeh headdresses or white
scarves, carrying out the attack.
The missile, launched from the shoulder, is seen shooting up into the sky
after being fired by one of the men. Leaving a vapour trail it makes a
sharp U-turn and homes in on the DHL plane.
The militants are then seen rushing away in a car. The eleventh militant - who
presumably shot the footage - films his own lap in his haste to get into
Later shots show the stricken aircraft
The militants clearly have great trust
in the integrity of French journalists.
to the DHL Operation
Since August of this year, EAT have been operating from Bahrein to Baghdad
on a daily basis for DHL Bahrein. For convenience,
DHL is used in this article to designate the employer of the crews
flying the aircraft.
Although George Bush declared that major
hostilities were over last May, Iraq remains, as we all know, a
hostile place, for both machines and people, whether military or civilian,
and of whatever nationality or religion.
The Hazards of Baghdad International
A vital document for flight crews in any country
is the Air
Information Publication, or AIP.
It contains all the data necessary to
operate safely and within the rules of the issuing State -
Information on procedures to be carried out in
certain emergencies such as loss of radio communications etc,
charts of all the airfields and airports in the
their approach and departure procedures, minimum
safe heights, minimum descent altitudes for the approach (the height
at which, if you cannot see the runway, a missed approach must be
go-around procedures and
lots, lots more.
No Air Information Publication has been
published for Iraq since 1990 and no such AIP is in force at the present
time. The French airline
Corsair has given this reason for refusing to fly British troops into
The operation into Baghdad is particularly
hazardous, without the absence of an AIP and the added risk of people
firing missiles at you.
As a result, the crews flying into Baghdad were
basically having to make it up as they went along, with a lot of input
from certain security people.
The approach favoured by the military and
ex-military crew members is to come overhead the field at 15,000 feet and
start a spiral descent keeping within a two-mile safe zone around the
airfield. The safe zone is maintained by US Army helicopter gunships.
This approach results in the aircraft turning
finals well above the normal approach speed.
And with more than 45° of bank, sometimes up to 60°, the only way
to lose the speed is to pull the aircrafts nose up with the power at
idle and rolling out of the turn at the same time.
This hazardous routine would definitely be a
fail if you did it in the simulator on your check ride.
Perhaps for this reason, it was never practiced in the simulator,
and not much thought seems to have gone into what to do if something went
wrong. A failure of the engine on the inboard side of the turn with more
than 45° of bank at less than 1,000 feet could be disastrous.
should be noted, moreover, that this evasive manoeuvre is possible only
when landing, not on take off. It was, therefore, not available to
the DHL aircraft that was shot during its departure from Baghdad.
? What insurance ?
With all this extra and unfamiliar risk, the DHL
flight crews were understandably concerned about insurance cover,
especially as those who had their own personal insurance policies, eg
mortgage protection or life insurance, were informed by their respective
companies or underwriters that the policies would not cover Iraq or any
other war zones.
Initially, DHL management told the crews that
the normal company insurance policy would continue to cover all crew
members operating in the Middle East with no reduction in cover for Iraq.
But no documentary evidence of this was ever shown to anybody.
Then, because of the disquiet, the Director of Operations wrote to
advise that DHL had set up its own fund for additional cover up to a
maximum of 400,000 per employee, but again no documents were presented.
The insurance status of the crews is still
when the company first told employees that there was the
possibility of operating into Iraq (and Afghanistan), with crews being
based in Bahrein for 15-day tours, the first question on
many peoples lips was How much danger money are you paying ?
None, came the reply.
This seemed a little strange as
the ground engineers and mechanics who were
contracted from a British company were receiving $500 per day above
their normal rate for going to Iraq or Afghanistan, and
DHL was making 200-300% above the normal air
cargo charter rate per flight.
Moreover, as the normal night stop allowance in
Scandinavian countries is 30 per night higher than anywhere else that
DHL goes to, most people thought that it was probably better to stay in
Europe and fly to Stockholm occasionally, than to spend 15 nights in
Bahrain with no extra allowances and without the added hassle of people
trying to shoot you down.
Though the company insisted that all crew
members were to be asked to go to the Middle East on a strictly voluntary
basis only, with no pressure applied, the reality was a bit different.
There were first-officers on the now defunct
Boeing 727 fleet looking for a future on the Airbus fleet, and others on
the A300 fleet who were eligible for promotion to Captain.
They knew that part of the selection process consisted of asking
the Crew Scheduling Department if the proposed aspirant had been
Refuseniks were not given a friendly response.
One was asked why hed never complained about flying to Belfast;
another was told that flying to Baghdad was safer than Vitoria in Spain
(not true, despite some high ground).
They were told again and again that the operation was safe.
So volunteers did indeed come forward, for a
project that was highly lucrative for DHL, and demanded extra and
unconventional skills because of the dearth of infrastructure information
and the tricky two-mile safe zone over Baghdad International.
Yet it carried high personal risk with dubious insurance cover and
no extra remuneration.
Indeed, the heroic captain on the flight that
was attacked had only held a command for six months and was one of the
more junior captains on the fleet.
The whole operation seems to many to be amateurish
and mercenary. Some also ask what
is a German-owned Belgian company doing in Iraq anyway.
The crew were extremely lucky, as well as
skilful. Had the missile
exploded in the fuel tank or hit the engine, the outcome could have been
very different. Just as lucky
are DHL and its associates who before long can resume earning earn large rewards by
flying into Iraq.
Late Note (11th December) :
Aviation Weekly has a good
article about the incident in its latest edition, which accords
closely with the above, though with less detail.
Zimbabwe - A
More Optimistic View
Despite differing viewpoints and perspectives, it is interesting that
Guest-Blogger Des below, many of the Commonwealth Heads of Government who met
last week in Nigeria and myself all seem to conclude that President Robert Mugabe
Late Note (8th December)
: The Heads of Government have now extended
Zimbabwes exclusion from the Commonwealth, and Mr Mugabe in a fit of
pique has decided to withdraw from the organization altogether - as he
had earlier promised. Dictators can
act as they please.
By Guest-Blogger Des
It was quite a coincidence that you had just written
about Zimbabwe in the Tallrite Blog Issue #58 as I was returning from spending a week there. I read
your piece with
interest. There is no doubt that most of what you wrote was
factually accurate - indeed, in a few instances the truth is even less
encouraging than you stated (eg, the Minister for Finance is now
projecting that inflation will reach 700% by the end of the year rather
than 455%, a loaf of bread now costs Z$5000 rather than Z$2900).
Despite the accuracy of your facts and statistics, I felt that the
impression created by your piece was materially different to that I formed
by visiting the place.
I believe that most Zimbabweans - most particularly
those who share your own views on the political situation there - would be
disappointed by the impression created. The country is in the grips
of a political and economic crisis, but it is not in ruins.
|The most productive
agriculture industry in Africa - if not in the world - has been reduced
to chaos by an ill-advised and disastrously-badly implemented land
redistribution programme. Most other forms of trade suffer because
of foreign exchange shortages caused by government-created economic
difficulties. Nonetheless, Zimbabwe possesses a cadre of well
educated and sophisticated business people who have not lost either
their optimism or their sense of balance. It is not at all too
late to put right what is now wrong. |
|The government continues
to attempt to muzzle the press and stifle opposition, but they have
not succeeded. The opposition press (or more accurately, the
objective press!) continues to publish, and I would have to
say that I experienced an absolutely free flow of ideas and opinions
throughout my visit. Your statement
Zimbabwes people exist in an information blackout so
effective that all they hear is government propaganda and official
denials from the state-owned media
is simply wrong. |
|While many dreadful things
have happened on farms, and while many political activists have
suffered for their opinions, I do not believe that the majority of
people live in fear of either police or army. One could add that
a person is likely to feel safer on the streets of Harare than in
many other places, including many parts of Dublin ! |
|From what I can gather, Zimbabwes major educational institutions retain the values and
standards that characterised their past. Certainly, those of
their alumni that I met represent an excellent advertisement for their
It suffers from an AIDS epidemic, but then so does
every country in the region - most notably, South Africa and Botswana, whose
political and economic achievements most of us admire. This is one
thing we probably cant blame Mugabe for.
You are right to refer to the
of the people of Zimbabwe. You could add that the majority are
gentle, cultured and well educated, and - much more than our own
society - guided by strong religious principles. Similarly, you
are right to suggest that they have, in many ways, been abandoned by the
world. I know youre not suggesting it, but I do not think that
sanctions or other forms of isolation will help Zimbabwe at all.
|The only good that came of Englands and New
Zealands politically-motivated failure to fulfill
their Cricket World Cup commitments in Zimbabwe was the
early elimination of NZ from the competition ! People in Zimbabwe
want more contact and involvement with the outside world, not less.|
Zimbabweans have achieved a lot in the years since
independence. I strongly agree that they could do with some
sympathetic attention from the rest of us. But, I believe they need
more engagement, not less. I would be optimistic that there is
potential for early resolution of the current crisis - I believe the quiet
diplomacy to which you refer has a decent chance of succeeding, and I
would be optimistic regarding the prospects for an early change of heart
(and personnel) at the top. I dont really see Osama bin Laden being
given the run of Harare ! There are plenty of models of peaceful
transition around, including the current case of Georgia. Similarly,
there are plenty of models for the early elimination of mega-inflation and
restoration of a stable economic environment - the former Yugoslavia comes
to mind as a relevant example.
Zimbabwe is located at the centre of of a zone whose
fortunes are improving rapidly following the ending of civil wars and
local conflicts. Zimbabweans have the skills and the status to take
a leadership position in the rapid expansion of economic activity in the
region. They have the advantage of speaking English as a first
As soon as there is change at the top, it is certain that
the USA, the UK, the EU, the IMF, etc, will see the advantage in helping
restore the Zimbabwe economy and bringing its government back into the
As I said, I am optimistic for their future.
Putin and Bush Do a Couple of Things Right
Two unconnected twists
in favour of common sense and prosperity emerged last week, perpetrated by
First, President Vladimir
Putins senior economic adviser Andrei Illarionov
announced, twice, that Russia had no intention of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol,
to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by
withdrawal will torpedo the implementation
of this pernicious deal - already sensibly disowned two years ago by
George Bush and 99 US Senators - a deal which
a centurys time will make a miniscule difference to |
global warming (delay it by six years)
at the cost between now and then of $100 billion |
per year, money that would otherwise be available
to better the welfare of todays impoverished people,
who cant wait a hundred years.
(Note : These are published figures that even groups
of the Earth agree with.)
Putin himself has also provoked environmental outrage by very reasonably
pointing out that a bit of global warming is just what Russia needs to
boost harvests and reduce heating costs, a comment that could be applied
to most of northern Europe, not to mention Canada, southern Chile and
Argentina, to name a few. Global warming - if it exists -
threatens only the poor in hot climates, the people whom Kyoto requires
to wait for a century.
Russias reluctance is,
however, rather curious, because
it will find the Protocol painless since its economy has crashed since Soviet
days. Thus, with no effort at all,
its CO2 emissions
are already 39% below the 1990 levels, which means it could make money
by selling CO2 credits to others.
It would be a shame
if its Kyoto reluctance is just a negotiating ploy to obtain other
favours, as anything to protect the worlds poor from continued hardship
caused by environmental zealots is to be applauded.
second piece of good news is President Bushs decision to rescind
the bizarre 30% tariff he imposed nearly two years ago on steel imports to
protect inefficient US producers and their 160,000 steel workers.
This was blithely to ignore the 12 million Americans who work in steel-consuming
tools, cars, oil, white goods etc.), not to mention the
293 million steel consumers. A
year showed that a tariff of only 20% would save 9,000 steel jobs but
throw 74,000 people out of work elsewhere - a ratio of one to eight.
is now congratulating
itself for forcing Mr Bush into a U-turn by threatening
counter-sanctions. He blinked first some
given this administrations disdain for Old Europe, I doubt whether European
histrionics had much to do with his action.
more likely that he recognized the damage the tariffs are causing to US
consumers and jobs, especially now that the economy is rebounding and an
election is beginning to loom.
And certainly, he also listened during his recent state visit to Britain to the
common sense of his poodle to whom he happened to owe a huge favour.
Tony Blair is, notably, neither gloating nor claiming.
of motivation, the U-turn has been rightly welcomed
by Europe and Asia.
a good weeks work by both presidents.
Afraid of European Anti-Semitism
Over the last couple of weeks, we have learnt that our
intrepid mandarins in Brussels are afraid of anti-Semitism. Not,
obviously, as afraid as Jews are in France, Germany, Holland, UK, Italy, Belgium,
Greece, Sweden and Denmark, where they are the direct recipients of anti-Jew
In a moment of weakness last year, a body called the European
Monitoring Centre (EUMC) on Racism and Xenophobia commissioned a study on
anti-Semitism from the Technical University of Berlin. Earlier this
year, the authors, Werner Bergmann and Juliane Wetzel, produced their
Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the European Union.
EUrocrats took one look and immediately suppressed
it. That was back in February, and it has been kept out of sight
ever since. Weve only just learnt, through a leak, of its
central finding of the report is that Israel is seen by many in
Europe as a capitalistic, imperialistic power, the
with the US as the evildoers in the Middle East conflict. Many do
not distinguish between supporting Palestine and opposing the Israeli
government on the one hand, and hostility towards the Jewish diaspora on
the other. In the
increasingly blatant anti-Semitic Arab and Muslim media, including
audiotapes and sermons, it says that the call is made to join the struggle
not only against Israel but also against Jews across the world.
The report reviews, country
by country, specific anti-Semitic behaviour within the EU during May/June
2002, finding that the countries listed above are the worst
offenders. Anti-Jew conduct includes -
physical attacks on Jews,
desecration/destruction of their synagogues,
cemeteries and memorials,
anti-Jew slogans and swastika graffiti,
threatening and insulting mail and phone
anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and in
It then makes the shocking finding that such acts are
committed above all ... by right-wing [and
left-wing] extremists, radical Islamists or young Muslims mostly of
Thats a surprise.
its been far too strong for those delicate EUrocratic stomachs these past
ten months. If this
ever gets out, they fear action may have to be taken to curb entrenched
anti-Semitism and this is likely to anger many Muslims, as well as the
political extremes. So lets simply keep everything under wraps and
hope it will just go away.
more comfortable to ignore the evidence and go along with noted
left-leaning intellectual Noam Chomsky, himself a Jew, who when recently asked,
Is anti-Semitism on the increase?
In the West, fortunately, it scarcely exists now, though
it did in the past.
Ireland, a country that gets off lightly in the EUMC report, tried to show
its anti-anti-Semitic credentials by proposing a UN resolution, to be
co-sponsored by the EU, that would specifically condemn
to a cacophony of Arab and Muslim objections, it took just two weeks for
Ireland to capitulate and withdraw the motion a few days ago. (This
also smacks of treachery, according to Atlantic Blogs post
of 8th December).
perhaps Naom Chomsky is right. There is no anti-Semitism in Europe
and so we dont need any high-falutin UN resolutions.
By the way, you can find the suppressed, confidential,
under-wraps, for-your-eyes-only, top-secret report in an 814kb pdf file
Thank God for the internet !
Late Note (8th December) :
After ten months of secrecy and subterfuge, it has taken less than three
weeks of sustained exposure, leaks, scorn and ridicule in the media and
cyberspace to persuade the EUMC finally to publish
the report, though it says it doesnt support it.
The media reported with glee that the Plain English
Campaign has awarded its 2003 Foot-in-Mouth
trophy to Donald Rumsfeld for remarking,
Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know.
display their ignorance.
For what he said in that press
conference at Nato HQ in Brussels back on 6th June last year, which is
truncated in the above extract, was in fact expressed in terminology that
was crystal-clear, and free of jargon, gobbledygook and other confusing
language. In other words, totally in keeping with plain English as defined
by the Plain English Campaign.
can listen for yourself here.
It is the
concept that he was explaining (unknown unknowns etc)
which is a little complex - yet very pertinent for the terror situation he
was describing. The bemused journalists, commentators and evidently
the Plain English Campaign simply failed to understand it. And
because of this, they like to pretend that Mr Rumsfeld expressed
himself in clumsy un-plain English, which he assuredly didnt.
a look at my earlier post
on this matter.
Phrase Books for
Oh, those inscrutable Japanese tourists. They have such fun
when they visit America and Britain, especially when theyve taken the
trouble to swot up on the language beforehand. But were not talking
plain English here. Or maybe the English is just too
A practical joker has stirred up trouble by
publishing 50,000 copies of a Japanese-to-English phrase book with
incorrect definitions for every phrase.
Now thousands of Japanese tourists whove painstakingly studied the
bogus dictionary are encountering blank stares, hysterical laughter and
even the odd beating as soon as they open their mouths abroad. For
think theyre saying
Can you direct me to the rest room ?
Excuse me, may I caress your buttocks ?
I am very pleased to meet you
My friend, your breath could knock over a water
May I please have film for my
Would you place your copious breasts in my mouth ?
We love you so much
Were here to take your head
am lost. Which way is uptown ?
know martial arts. May I kick your ass ?
guys are the best, keep it up
You have fat butts. Sit on my head
The book is already sold out and has become a collectors
It lends new meaning to the lament of Anglophone countries, coined by
Winston Churchill (or was it George Bernard Shaw),
Divided by a common language.
Quote of the Week
our sovereignty is what we have to lose to be readmitted into the
Commonwealth, well, we will say goodbye to the Commonwealth, and perhaps
time has now come to say so .... They tell me [Australian Prime Minister
John Howard] is one of those genetically-modified because of the criminal
ancestry he derives from - criminals were banished to Australia and New
Zealand by the British.
President Robert Mugabe,
reacting to Zimbabwes exclusion
from last weeks Commonwealth meeting in Nigeria
of Heads of Government,
as a result of violently rigging his presidential re-election in 2002
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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
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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