Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Hillary's "home state" is not New York

I was listening to "Morning Edition" on NPR this morning and during their discussion of the Democrats' battle they referred to NY as Hillary's home state, and that Sanders would have his work cut out for him as an outsider. I don't get any of that.

When I hear Sanders talk I hear NYC. He's so clearly from NY that I'm sure the people of Vermont never forget that he's not really one of them, although they clearly don't hold that against him. And Hillary? She was born and raised in Illinois and spent most of her adult years in Arkansas and Washington. Her attachment to NY is like that of a European knight to an estate granted to him by a grateful monarch. She is NOT from NY.

{None of that means that Sanders will win the NY primary, but the media should stop pretending that Hillary is a New Yorker.}

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Polish people should be thankful for the "miracle of Solidarity" & Lech Walesa

Lech Walesa is one of the great heroes of the 20th century. That some in Poland - including the current government, it seems - see fit to label him a Communist collaborator is shattering.

I don't equate Gobachev with Walesa because Gorbachev ended up ushering in the revolutions that brought down Communism in the eastern bloc by accident. He only intended to loosen Communism's tight grip; he never meant for what happened. His plan wasn't much different than what has happened in China.

But Walesa? He believed in freedom and risked everything for it. He wasn't the only one in Eastern Europe or even in Poland, but he was the most prominent. He was the head of the defiant labor union Solidarity, the man whom the Polish people chose to make president in their first post-war free election. As Ivan Krastev put it in the NY Times "the miracle of Solidarity would have been impossible without leaders like Mr. Walesa."

Walesa is a hero to all freedom-loving people and should be remembered that way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

UK would be wrong to test immigrants' progress in English

Demanding that immigrants learn English, testing them on their progress, is too much. No, you can't do that. Not everyone can learn a new language. The older you get the more difficult it is. Should a middle aged Englishman be barred from marrying a middle aged Russian woman who might well struggle to learn English? No, it's unnecessarily harsh.

Assist immigrants. Help them to learn English. That should be enough. And absolutely insist on English-only in school.

However, ensuring they are keen to assimilate is a different matter. Women who move to Britain - or any western country - must be full citizens, fully able to talk to, show their faces to anyone they meet, interact with.

Again, I don't think the veil should be outlawed, but if businesses don't want to serve women who cover their faces that should be their prerogative. We in the west need to see the face. It's part of how we communicate. If someone doesn't want to show me their face then I should be able to say, "You don't want to communicate with me then I don't trust you sufficiently to do business with you."

Banks and other businesses insist that motorcyclists remove their helmets. I see no problem in any business doing the same with the veil.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Keep an eye on Chris Christie"

George Will argues that Chris Christie is not finished by a long shot. His path to the nomination isn't as difficult as the Trump vs Cruz scenario that we're currently being fed would have us believe.

As chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2014, Christie campaigned frenetically, dispersing more than $100 million as 17 Republican governors were reelected and seven new ones were elected. So far, only four governors have endorsed candidates: Alabama’s Robert Bentley supports Kasich, Arkansas’s Asa Hutchinson supports Huckabee, Maryland’s Larry Hogan and Maine’s Paul LePage support Christie. So 24 Republican governors, many of them indebted to Christie and all of them disposed to admire executives, have political muscles to flex.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Irish said NO to extradition to the US, will the Spanish? #JihadJane

Back in May Ali Charaf Damache walked out of court a free man when an Irish judge refused an American extradition application. Damache is wanted in America on charges related to the Jihad Jane terror plot.

This afternoon Damache was arrested in Spain. Damache has, apparently, been in Spain for a while and the Spanish authorities acted on an arrest warrant from the FBI.

It'll be mighty interesting to see if Damache is extradited by the Spanish after the Irish refused.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Stop the fossil fuel subsidies! Let the poor freeze!

That's the logic of this little tidbit.

Friends of the Earth estimates that the fossil fuel industry here benefits from about €386 million annually in subsidies.

This figure is made up of the share of the public service obligation (PSO) levy allocated to subsidising peat and securing gas supply, totalling €169.2 million this year, combined with fuel allowance payments to low-income households of about €217 million annually.

First of all, we need to stop burning peat in an industrial fashion (I actually thought that was finished). I'm with the so-called "Friends" on that one. As for the rest of their alleged subsidies to the fossil fuels industry? Poppycock.

The fuel allowance to low income households is a government program to assist those on low or no wages. It is in no way a subsidy to the "fossil fuel industry" unless the Friends would rather see our poor freezing in their homes. We can debate the merits of the program and the manner in which its operated without resorting to lunacy. If the poor didn't receive that fuel allowance then, presumably, they'd have to give up some other essential items in order to avoid freezing in their homes. You want homes of the poor (everyone really, no?) better insulated? Sure, let's have that conversation, but stop talking nonsense.

As for the subsidy to secure gas supply, I'd like to see their numbers on that one. I doubt they're rooted in reality.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Was confusing visa waiver program with fiancé visa deliberate?

Tonight the President of the United States confused the visa waiver program – which tens of millions of Europeans & Japanese and Australians and others have used and still use to travel to America – with the fiancé visa.

I know most Americans would have no idea, but that would be the equivalent of a bank president confusing a $100 purchase on a credit card with a $100K loan to someone starting a new business. That's how much difference there is in oversight and vetting between the two methods of entry to the USA.

I can't help thinking that his error was deliberate to lead the American people to believe that that Tashfeen Malik was not subject to vetting and oversight before she entered America. That's simply not the case.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Only classy commercialization of the Easter Rising, if you please

Fianna Fáil's Malcolm Byrne says the state should stop (ban/outlaw?) '"inappropriate" commercialisation' of the Easter Rising anniversary. Apparently he's offended by the fact that someone is selling and people are buying "baseball caps, hoodies and even chocolate bars" with 1916 images on them. Oh the very idea!! {shudder thrice}

I'm assuming Byrne wants to see himself appointed/anointed as adjudicator of taste on all matters related to The Rising. Otherwise, he runs the risk that someone else might not be so offended by 1916 baseball caps, but might find that a state agency selling tours of Ireland built around the anniversary offensive.

Couldn't have that now, could we? Baseball caps are tawdry (and small change), but airplane tickets and hotel rooms and restaurant dinners and rental cars are classy and dignified (and big money).

I love when busy-body politicians hoping to get elected issue stupid press releases that the press dutifully publishes so that we can get a good glimpse of the morons we're knowingly electing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why do politicians act like civil servants don't know about the four seasons?

The SDLP's Mark H Durkan issued a statement letting all and sundry know that he has "contacted Transport NI asking them to make the necessary preparations now to avoid traffic chaos in the event of adverse weather."

I'm not sure I could have summed up my political philosophy so neatly as Durkan has summarized the opposite of my view here. If the offices of the state need to be told something as obvious as winter is coming and that sometimes that can mean bad weather, then I want those people to have as little influence over my life as possible.

But, if the people who work for the state are fully aware that winter is coming and with it bad weather and they don't need a reminder from an elected official then, it's worth wondering why anyone should pay so much money to a person who thinks that the governing officials need to be reminded that winter follows autumn.

I don't live in Durkan's constituency. Indeed, I don't pay taxes in that jurisdiction, but he's not alone. If he was the only one, I wouldn't care, but it seems endemic among the political class. On an almost daily basis they come up with new ways to insinuate government in our lives,  but then they turn around and tell us that those who draw a salary on the taxpayer's dime are too dim to know that night follows day. Maybe they're right that those people are that stupid or maybe the elected officials have so little do that that they think this is a justifiable use of our time (and our money).

I have to admit I can't imagine that Northern Ireland's transportation department is unaware that winter follows autumn in which case Mark H Durkan clearly has too much time on his hands. Either he should be given more to do or he should have his salary cut.

Regardless, it's damning of the political creed that demands that we cede more and more of our rights and responsibilities to government and officialdom.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

#MLB doesn't care about children or families or the future of the game

At first I was annoyed that the Mets playoff game on Friday doesn't start until 9:45, but then I thought about it: why should I be annoyed. The fact that MLB hates kids & families is not new.

The late start time for this week's Mets game is only annoying because it's been so long since the Mets were last in the Playoffs. They've played equally late games before. In fact, I think they played a game in Arizona back in 1999 that started around 11pm. That's not just hating kids; it's hating all employed East Coast fans. So we shouldn't act like this is anything new.

MLB hasn't cared about children for a long time. And you know what? It's starting to show. There's a correlation between indifference to young fans shown by MLB over the years and the lack of interest in baseball among those who were young children in the late 90s and are now in their 20s. Yup, the young adults simply don't care about baseball, as will be reflected in the pathetically low ratings baseball will garner this month, the most exciting month in the baseball calendar. The chickens have come home to roost.

These days baseball has doubled down in its indifference to children/families. The number of ads for ED products during baseball games is a scandal. I was talking to a father – and a big baseball fan – not long ago who told me that he simply stopped watching baseball with his kids. In fact, he hardly ever watches himself now because those ads have taken away his enjoyment - watching with his family.

Even though my kids are older, I know what he means. I was watching a game recently with my daughter when I finally snapped. I got so angry when another Cialis ad came on that I just shouted, "That's it. I can't watch this any more." I was uncomfortable because my daughter was watching too. And you know what? She was also uncomfortable too and, even though she loves sports, she told me she was glad I took it off.

But the people running MLB don't care. So long as they have their sexually frustrated, middle-aged male audience today, what do they care if they've alienated a generation (and a gender) who should be tomorrow's fans? The obviously couldn't care less.

As much as I love baseball, I long for the end of MLB.

Plastic bag chaos seems ... unlikely

I don't know anyone who was more opposed to the plastic bag charge when it was brought in. I complained about it on this blog a few times. It still annoys me.

So I'm a little surprised at the stories in the British press this morning about how all hell is about to break loose thanks to the 5p a bag charge introduced by the British government. I suspect that, just as in Ireland, within a very short time people will have adapted: carrying their reusable bags into the store with them.

I sincerely doubt tens of thousands of shopping baskets are going to go missing. I would guess that there'll be a few annoyed people today, tomorrow, but by the weekend everyone be used to it.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Questioning the morality of Hiroshima is one of the blessings of the Allies' victory

MacArthur watches the Japanese surrender.
Were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified? Eamonn McCann, the Irish Times editorial board and many others – say no. I find it hard to question the decisions of those who were living in those times.

It's easy to look back from 70 years, pick out those memos and notes that support the case that the bombs were unnecessary, that the Japanese were about to surrender, but do those memos present a clear picture or just a small fragment of the information that the Allies had at the time?

Many things are obvious in hindsight that are not so obvious at the time. Accepting the idea that the Japanese were about to surrender in August 1945 minus the atomic bombs requires ignoring a lot of information that the President had to sift through.

This is the best summary I've found of the myriad of factors that led to the decision to drop the two bombs in August 1945.

Yes, the Japanese were putting out peace feelers, but they were not prepared to accept the unconditional surrender demanded by the Allies.
Unfortunately for all concerned, Japan's leaders were divided over precisely what terms should be sought to end the war, with the Japanese military leaders still wishing to avoid anything that the Allies would have considered a clear "surrender". Surely Japan's leaders hold the lion's share of the responsibility for the fate that befell Japan.
You had a new president – one who was kept dangerously in the dark about the Manhattan Project prior to his assuming the office of the presidency – listening to a wide range of advisers offering him conflicting advice. Sure they eventually came to the conclusion that Japan could keep the Emperor, but they weren't sure the American population would accept that AND they had to be sure that they weren't just setting themselves up for another war a few years later as happened in 1918.

It was, like so many of the decisions made during the war, militarily and morally murky, even questionable. They were fighting to win. Win. That was the only goal. Everything else was secondary to that goal, even if that makes us - the grandchildren of the victors - uneasy.

I guess we should just be thankful that the side that won the war is the side that allows such discussions.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Minister Kelly serves up the laughs

I missed this bit of nonsense from Alan Kelly last week, but I almost laughed myself silly when I saw it in today's Irish Times:
Last week, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said that the €100 grant, which will be paid to households that have registered with Irish Water, could be used towards buying some of the devices available to conserve water, such as water butts, water displacement devices to reduce water flow in toilets or aerators to reduce water flow from taps.
"Water displacement devices"? Just fill a plastic bottle with water and put it in your cistern and - Voila - a "water displacement device" is born.

But Kelly's overall thrust it's what's really funny. People are going to get €100 from the Department of Social Welfare as a "thank you" gift from the government for actually bothering to register with Irish Water and Kelly suggests that people spend that €100 on things that can help conserve water.

That ranks up there with one of the stupidest, funniest things I've heard a politician say. People are going to get that €100 and spend it on food or clothes or pints of beer or bottles of wine or fuel for the car or on a night away or whatever. They're not going to designate that €100 as "water conservation" money. It'll be just money.

I'd love to have been looking at Kelly's face to see if he was saying this sheepishly, knowing he sounded like a moron, or with the confident arrogance of a politician who knows nothing or is indifferent to life in the real world. Either image of Minister Kelly is making me laugh. He should be redesignated Minister for Entertainment and drop the whole Environment thing.

Or maybe that comment is just an April Fool's & I missed it. Yeah that must be it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Cyclists need insurance?

Wait! Cyclists have to have insurance? I never knew that.
"Close to 200,000 bikes have been bought under the Bike-to-Work scheme since it was launched in 2009, but those who have not joined a recognised cycling club or become a member of Cycling Ireland are leaving themselves wide open to a financial hit in the event of being injured or causing an accident."
I'm not sure how there is a unique financial hit if you're injured riding a bike as opposed, say, to getting hurt while walking down the street. But, if you do need insurance to ride a bike then who exactly is picking up the bill if the "financial hit" is caused by or suffered by someone on one of the Dublin Bikes?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

If the seas are rising why are we building along the seafront?

Electric cars, massive windfarms, carbon taxes - the government has dedicated a lot of our resources to "doing our bit" in the fight against climate change. I happen to be fairly skeptical that any of that money is well spent, but if you're a believer in the destructive effects of climate change - and I presume all the main parties are because they keep spending our money on this stuff - then wouldn't it make sense NOT to spend our money on any project along the seafront? I mean, aren't the seas going to rise or are my carbon taxes going to prevent that?

Again, I'm skeptical that the latter could be true.

So let's assume the doomsayers are right and we're in for a fairly significant rise in sea levels. Soooo, why are we okaying the redevelopment of the Dun Laoghaire baths? Why not just leave them derelict and let the sea take over? Or tear them down and wait for the sea to roll in over the site?

To me there's a huge disconnect when a government spends so much of our money to fight climate change and rising sea levels, but gives a big "OK" stamp to a major development project right at sea level.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Facebook is clever ... and really creepy

There are times when Facebook gives me the creeps with the people it suggests I add as a friend. No reflection on the people themselves, what worries me is how Facebook knows to put them in front of my eyes.

For the last few days Facebook has been suggesting that I 'friend' a woman I know. She's a friend of my wife. Yet, how does Facebook know that I know her?

My wife doesn't have a Facebook account and none of my Facebook friends is friends with this woman. So how does Facebook know to connect me to her?

However they have managed to connect me with her is ingenious, but in that clever, stalker-ish way.

Every time I see her face on my screen I feel certain that Facebook has somehow acquired information about me that I have not given them permission to have and that really bothers me.