Monday, July 28, 2008

The Goths

Another episode in the New Labour saga is rapidly unfolding under our eyes this season – the complex and unsightly drama of a ruling tribe in its death throes, wrought up in havoc, blazing scandal, and intestine discord.

For longer than a decade, its rowdy bands of mercenaries, chancers, quacks, bejewelled interlopers and freebooters have ravaged our lands, vandalising and turning everything to dust. Where they've passed, the grass no longer grows.

Now, cursing him for their sores, the scarcity of future plunder, the inauspicious weather and the accumulated discontent of their slaves, the bands have turned against their leader, plotting to sack him, take away his power, and burn his tent.
The plan is to replace him with a man more suited to their habits, with more lustre, but without valour.

Will their present chieftain find the necessary strength and ruthlessness to chop the heads of those who have raised against him, evangelise the rest, reverse the depredation and teach his men to cultivate the land instead?

Or will he follow the tragic fate of Gothic queen Amalasuntha? She also tried to curb corruption in her kingdom and put an end to the barbarians’ invasions. Sadly, she took the fatal step of sharing power with her cousin, a vengeful man who stirred up her people’s disaffection, usurped all her authority, and had her banished on the island of Martena.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Answers in a fishtail

In our previous posts (27 April, 05 May and 12 June), we have discussed the matter of the inner covers to the offal chute on the Gaul and provided photographic evidence from the wreck which showed that these covers had in fact been secured in the closed position prior to the loss of the vessel and that they could have been opened by the forces of the sea before sinking took place.

The 2004 RFI panel thought, however, that the offal chute inner covers – found open on the wreck – had been negligently left so by the crew. (The same explanation was employed in respect of the duff chute inner covers, which had also been found open.) (See also this POST)

It must be mentioned here that the regime on the Gaul was such that the operation of offal chute would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the factory manager and his team, while the operation of the duff chute was under the control of the deck crew.
This arrangement gave the RFI experts the opportunity to claim that the factory deck staff, as non-fishermen, had been ignorant about the importance of keeping the offal chute inner covers closed when not in use and, tragically, had failed to secure them at the end of a busy working day.

Unfortunately, the RFI also failed to draw any conclusions from the relevant information that was available to the inquiry. This information relates to the following facts:

1. The offal chute overboard discharge acted as a relief valve during the fish processing operations and, as such, it would only be used when the fish meal plant (rate = 25 tonnes/day) was operating at full capacity or when the fish meal hold was full (capacity = 120 tonnes)
It is also known that the Gaul skipper’s reports recorded that at the time of the loss, the vessel had only managed to accumulate about 20 tonnes of fish fillets onboard together with about 7 tonnes of fish-meal (i.e. a poor catch for the period she was fishing).
The logical conclusion that follows from these data is that there would have been no need for the factory crew to use the offal chute overboard discharge during the vessel’s last voyage.

2. Furthermore two witnesses (Messrs George Petty and Raymond Smith) testified at the hearings that the offal chute would not have been used during the last two voyages in the Gaul’s short life, simply because the fish meal hold was never filled.

More explanations, quotes and details on the subject have been published at this LINK and HERE (diagram).

Like the rest of the conclusions in the 2004 RFI report, the assumption of negligence by all parts of the crew, no matter how implausible, were forced into relevance and given the status of fact.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Grey Zone

The Grey Zone was defined by Primo Levi as the zone of the privileged prisoner - the area of “ethical uncertainty and collaboration with evil”.

Today, many of us complain about widespread corruption and the decay of democracy, laying the blame for these ills solely upon the political elite and their corporate handlers.
In fact, as recent events have clearly shown, through complicity or inaction, the rest of us are just as responsible for what’s going wrong. For it is always a combination of the perversity of the system and the feebleness of the human character that causes the problem.
Greed, selfishness, duplicity, defeatism and fear are useful human weaknesses, exploitable by any fraudulent regime, weaknesses from which repressive states have always drawn their power and even a certain degree of legitimacy.

It is of course understandable that, with increasing deprivation, collaboration with a corrupt authority can appear logical and unavoidable - after all, the state can hold the key to every little need and comfort in our lives. Most often, however, it is not necessity, but the self-centred human desire to be given a shortcut to undeserved privilege and power that buys our collaboration, turns us against one another, and, in the process, makes us all more vulnerable and easily subdued.

Although history should have taught us how to defend ourselves when confronted with similar trials, we have been drawn, once again, within the boundaries of the ‘Grey Zone’- that “murky space of moral ambiguity and compromise” – which, for as long as it prospers, gives us little chance of ridding ourselves of authoritarianism and corruption, and returning to normal.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Not to mention the truth is like hiding gold. (Proverb from Iraq)

Following on from our previous post, in which we published links to the message sent to Lord Goldsmith on the subject of the Gaul, we can now inform you that our noble Lord has not yet replied.

Although they had been asked to expect and check its arrival, his office did not acknowledge receipt of that message.
It was claimed, in fact, that the initial communication, as well as its subsequent four re-transmissions, sent from two different email accounts, had not been received.
Nor was Lord Goldsmith able, I gather, to read the content of the message published online.

There are many technical stumbling blocks, it seems, preventing Lord Goldsmith from reading that query and making his viewpoint known.

We now hope that the Royal Mail will not miss him as well.