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 sceptical 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 sceptical 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.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The #ASTI & #TUI - on strike to defend the meaningless Junior Cert

Philip Irwin of the ASTI attempts to justify his union's ridiculous strike action today with a column in the Irish Examiner. He makes a number of assertions that are total horse manure.

This is the crucial one:
Despite assertions from commentators that the Junior Certificate is low status, the fact is that it is valued by students, parents, and teachers. It encourages students to develop goal-setting skills, it motivates students at the mid-point of their second-level education, and it offers students an important objective guide as they enter the senior cycle.
Irwin says the exam is valued by parents. I don't think so. It's seen as inevitable, rarely questioned, but not valued. How do I know? Try asking a parent - any parent of a second level student - if they'd be happy if their child left school after getting a good Junior Cert. Yeah? Didn't think so.

So what's the value in it? Well, Irwin tries to deflect us from the fact that the certificate itself has no value with his drivel about goal-setting and motivating students.

The goal-setting and motivation is almost entirely driven by the teachers. If they can inspire that sort of effort for a meaningless state exam, why can't they do it for a school exam? Why do we need an expensive state run system to motivate?

The only potential value in the Junior Cert is the one that the ASTI and the TUI would resist manfully: to expose those teachers who are doing a terrible job; to ensure that those teachers don't teach at the higher, meaningful Leaving Cert level.
 
So seeing as that isn't part of the package then what on Earth is so important about the Junior Cert? It's valueless to employers; it's a source of unnecessary stress for students (& their parents) and expensive to the state.

The lesson to be learned is this: the Junior Cert is a relic from another era.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Autoflush toilets are crap

Okay, I know this subject that is not quite suitable for civilized discourse, but this has to be said: the absolute worst new technology development is the autoflush toilet. Seriously, there has to be a better way to accomplish this goal than having an electric eye try to determine when my ... backside has left the seat.

And, as if having an electric eye watching you go to the bathroom wasn't bad enough, my experience is that the damn things almost never work properly, which of course leads to a lot of wasted water.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What else can the state do to "protect" children from their parents?

The Seanad passed a bill today to outlaw smoking in cars carrying children. It will, apparently, sail through the Dáil and become law. Thank God! It's about time!

But let's not be content with that. There's more we can do to ensure bad parents behave. So much more.

First, let's face it your kid only spends a short time in the car. What about the hours at home? We must ban smoking in the house so that no kid is subjected to all that second hand smoke where they live.

Next, now that they're breathing all right, what about getting them to eat right? We should outlaw, oh I don't know ... ice cream? Sweets? Cakes? Fast foods? Soda? What about ... all of it? Yeah, let's outlaw all of it. At least for children. Let's fine parents – and if they don't pay the fine, jail them – for giving goodies to their children.

Don't forget exercise. Let's fine parents who fail to get their kids moving. Parents should HAVE to send their kids out to run or bike (with a helmet of course – another potential fine).

Oh, and television. Any parent(s) who allows their children to watch more than 20 minutes of television a day should be fined, with stiffer penalties for repeat offenders. The state should ensure there are retina scanners in all video display devices so that the forces of goodness can monitor the parents, who are often too bad to monitor their children's television viewing /video game playing.

And, [related to the previous item] what about reading? Yes, let's fine parents who don't read to their younger children or who fail to get their kids to read when they're old enough. Reading is good for them, so let's force them to do it. Kids always enjoy reading once they get started (& once they have no alternative).

Oh, but let's be careful. We can't have them reading just anything. No, no, no. So much of what's out there is soooo unacceptable. Wrong ideas, etc. I mean, you have to get them reading, but don't let them read anything published before, oh, say, 2005. You just never know what dangerous ideas their young minds might absorb from some of that which for so long was passed off as literature. So, fines for any parents whose children are reading the wrong books.

I'm sure there are other measures we can take to protect our children from malignant parents. Let's get going. The State knows best!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why use "US" when you mean "American"?

This headline from the Daily Telegraph annoys me: British teenager dies after shooting of US police officer. And, yes, I realize that the underlying story is so grave that this complaint may be too trivial, but regardless, I'm going to carry on.

What annoys me is that the man was not a US police officer. He was an American police officer, a member of the Windermere Police Department from Windermere, FL. If he was a German police officer, from a local German force, would the headline refer to him as a FRG police officer? Obviously not. Well, using US where you should use American is the same thing.

The headline is from the Daily Telegraph, but I saw nearly identical headlines from the Guardian and a couple of others this morning. And this sort of thing comes up all the time. For some reason news organizations in Britain and in Ireland are reluctant to use the word "American." I can't for the life of me understand why. And it can't be just because they are saving space in the headlines because the same construct is used in the actual article. Something else is going on here.

The only people in America who (might) fit the bill as US police officers are federal Marshals and the FBI. The rest of them do not work for the "United States," aka the federal government.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Someone at the Belfast Telegraph needs to proof-read their blog posts

It's possible Dr Timofey Agarin is not a native English speaker. If that's the case, then someone at the Belfast Telegraph should have edited his blog post on Ukraine before it went live on their site. If he is a native English speaker – and a PhD – then God help us. His grammar is atrocious.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

@PhilHoganTD Charge by volume, not weight, if you want to encourage recycling

Maybe it's my jaundiced eye, but I can't help thinking that this is a "bad thing" in the mind of the journalist who wrote it, "Currently, private waste collectors can offer customers any price and any charging structure they choose."

Well, Olivia Kelly, I happen to think competition is a good thing. Ever since competition came into my neighborhood's refuse market, it has helped lower my waste bill significantly. Long may it last.

But what of the bigger issue? What of the government's desire to incentivize "better" behavior? That is, what of the government's view that we need to dump less and recycle more and, thus, need a pay-by-weight system?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if the goal is to reduce the amount going to the landfills then charge by volume, not weight. The problem is that landfills are filling up, not that they're getting too heavy. So where's the logic in charging by weight?

If we are forced to pay by weight rather than volume – as we can now, paying so much per lift – I will recycle less, not more. A lot less. Why? Because most of my recycling is empty plastic containers. Those things don't weigh much and they're a pain to store because ... they take up a lot of room.

Can you see where this is going?

So if it isn't going to cost me a whole lot (more) to dump all that plastic I'm going to. Therefore, charging by weight will actually reduce the incentive I have now to recycle as much as I can.

Got that Phil Hogan?





Saturday, January 25, 2014

An "oleaginous" name change propsal in Limerick

I love this one sentence.

I know nothing about the move to rename a bridge in Limerick after JFK. I don't know the Shannon Bridge in Limerick or anything at all about it. All I like is a sentence from the Limerick Leader report on the proposal.

The motion to change the name has "the unanimous support of councillors," but has apparently "polarised public opinion."
Many callers and readers of the Limerick Leader, in writing letters to the editor, have expressed bemusement at the name change, which they fear will add to the taxpayer’s already depleted public purse.
Instead, some members of the public have called for the bridge to be named after Frank McCourt, Richard Harris, Willie O’Dea, or Des O’Malley.
Others called the JFK name change “lazy and oleaginous”.
You see that? "Others" said the name change was "lazy and oleaginous." Others, meaning more than one.  Oleaginous – what a wonderful word. I had seen it before, but I had to look it up. I love the idea that the people of Limerick have that word at their fingertips. I just kind of doubt it, but if I'm wrong I hope someone will let me know.

I absolutely love the idea that Limerick people are casually tossing out the word "oleaginous" to describe the proposal to change the name of the Shannon Bridge to the JFK bridge. If they are, you know what? They're right.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dear Minister Quinn: digital does not = iPad

Clare Daly asked Ruairí Quinn about a secondary school in Lusk, Co Dublin looking for parents to buy €700 "iPad systems" (her words, not mine) rather than the traditional books and his response is amazing in its (feigned?) ignorance:
 it’s about more than merely getting information. It is about getting used to the format in which much information will remain in situ for the rest of their lives, even though they will be highly engaged in digital learning as well. 
Now maybe something was omitted by the Irish Times, but what the heck is the Minister for Education talking about?

Of course information is digital and (maybe) there's some value in schoolchildren "getting used to the format in which much information will remain in situ for the rest of their lives." None of that means parents should have to buy an iPad for their child.

Someone needs to inform the Minister that there are many far cheaper options than iPads if the concern is that children need to learn get used to information in a digital format. It doesn't have to be an all-too-fun, all-too-expensive iPad. You can get a Kindle Fire for under €200. Tesco and others have tablets for even less.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lidl is here to stay

Tesco, Dunnes & Superquinn are losing out to the "the lower price stores." In fact, five times as many people are shopping in the "discounters" than "before the recession."

'Will this trend continue?' Checkout magazine's editor asks.

My sense: Yes. Why? Because the savings are signficant and the products on offer at Aldi & (especially) Lidl are good. The German supermarkets are not 'Yellow pack' stores. They have limited product lines, but the jar of jam that costs €0.99 at Lidl is as good as one at Tesco or Dunnes for €2. Lidl's fresh bakery goods are far better than Tesco's or Superquinn's.

For me Lidl is not a "discounter," but simply has "even more better value" than Dunnes. Or Tesco.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christie's problem: it's not the underhandedness. It's the nitwittedness.


Look I don't believe there are any angels in politics, especially American politics. That my side is as capable of turning to dirty tricks as the other side is a truism that too many people forget.

So I'm not all that bothered by this ploy to get at the Mayor of Fort Lee as I am worried by the stupidity.

First—the plan.

The Christie-ites devised a plot that they hoped would 'get' Fort Lee's mayor, but what they came up with was something that would inconvenience tens of thousands of people, voters of both parties. That's just so stupid. Did they really expect to get away with it?

Anyone who has lived or worked in or around Fort Lee understands how an incident on the George Washington Bridge can create havoc on the streets of Fort Lee. People get angry enough when the cause is legitimate – even fatal accidents get little sympathy – so this politically inspired fake traffic study to clog the roads of Fort Lee was bound to infuriate people even before they knew it was all political jiggery pokery and not real. Just so stupid.

Next—the communications.

The geniuses used e-mail and texts to communicate with one another about what they were going to do and then how it was working out. Everyone – everyone, right? – knows that you can't use these forms of communication if you want to leave no trail. Right? I mean every schoolchild is getting pounded with this message. Heck, it's the reason Snapchat exists.

So what were these people thinking? Did they really think no one would be annoyed enough to investigate what was going on with the abysmal traffic around the GWB?

Just so, so stupid.

That's the real measure of this scandal. Just how dumb are the people that Christie chooses to surround himself with?

I can't see him winning in 2016 if he doesn't know how to get the right people around him.