Sunday, November 30, 2003


Testing the emissions of cars in Denver has done nothing about the air pollution problem. I wonder if our NCT suffers from the same problems.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

I didn't know

Although I've seen the movie Men of Honor I never knew that four hydrogen bombs really did fall on Spain (one into the Mediterranean).

"Al Jazeera Hits on an Ugly Truth"

That's the heading on a post by Jason, who's serving in Iraq. Just as I think it's important for those who protest and campaign against the war to read the Iraqi blogs and question whether they might be wrong, I also think it's important for those of us who did support the war to read items such as this. And, don't be squeamish or annoyed and not read the Al Jazeera article that he links to. He says it's an "ugly truth", which means it must be faced.

I still believe that the war was just. In fact, the justice of the war was the easiest thing for me to accept. Saddam was so brutal and vicious that almost anything done in an effort to remove him would have been just.

Whether it was wise or not was a much tougher question. I hemmed and hawed over the decision, but I understood that the status quo as it was in December 2002 (or August 2001) was unacceptable. The situation in the Middle East had to be transformed and no transformation was possible as long as Saddam was in power.

Having accepted that the war was just and wise does not exempt me from questioning the administration's decisions with regards to how they've chosen to prosecute the war and handle the post-war situation. Again and again it has struck me that the war planners never really believed that they'd be in a post-war situation without the UN to handle the mopping up phase. Now American soldiers are doing a job that they may not be properly trained to do. I really don't know, but it's something that concerns me.

Friday, November 28, 2003

British Airways pilot kept the secret

From the NY Times:
On the flight over, Air Force One had come within sight of a British Airways plane, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, told reporters on the trip, according to the transcript.

The British Airways pilot radioed over and asked, Mr. Bartlett said, "Did I just see Air Force One?" There was silence from the Air Force One pilot, who then replied, "Gulfstream 5."

There was a longer silence from the British Airways pilot, Mr. Bartlett said, who, seeming to get that he was in on a secret, then said, "Oh."

Women's lives in Iraq

From another Iraqi blogger:
Actually, if we follow up the opinions of Iraqi women from April till now we can divide them into 3 stages:
First stage: they were very happy as they got rid from Saddam
Second stage: they were happy with the improvement for their economic status, but worried, as there were many robberies and hearing bad news about the crimes daily. And that made to compare between the current life and the ex-regime, here there was a doubt about the future.
NOW: about all of them emphasize on the prosperous life waiting for them as the crimes decreased obviously and people can stay for late hours at night.
So, there isn’t even one point to be compared with life under Saddam.
We are very thankful to the countries who have liberated us BY THE WILL OF USA.
I can assert that Iraq will be a great exemplar in the area.
Obviously, I have no idea how representative this passage is, but the fact that even one Iraqi thinks this way should at least cause those who are most vehemently anti-Bush to consider whether he was right after all. If you're skeptical of Bush, the Americans and their motives, then campaign on behalf of the Iraqi people not against the war or Bush. Demand he fulfil his promises (I believe he will).

Remember, December 10 is the date of the anti-terrorism demonstrations in Iraq.

Bush in Baghdad

Not much coverage in the Irish papers due to the Northern Elections, but I thought his visit was simply magnificent. He told the troops exactly what I was thinking. I was glued to CNN for over an hour last night when I first heard.

Gerry Ryan

The Gerry Ryan Show came from Washington today. First guest was Carol Coleman, who gave her usual sloppy report. She pronounced that the country is split down the middle on support for the war. I suppose that's true if 56-42 is "split down the middle".

UPDATE 12:27: I didn't find the show as interesting as I had hoped. Sometimes Gerry Ryan is the right guy for a job and sometimes he's not. Today he was not. Today, too often, Ryan was trying to be funny, and, frankly, I don't find him funny. There are times when his show is amusing, but it's rarely because he himself is funny. There was also too much same old, same old with the guests (John Farrell -- UGGHH -- far worse than usual today), although I can imagine that the Ben Bradlee interview (which I only heard part of), was interesting to someone who hasn't heard Bradlee being interviewed before.

Ireland and Israel

Don't be put off by the introduction to this radio clip from October 29. Very interesting discussion (50 minutes in length) on Ireland and Israel from Israel's National Radio Station. Will be strange, even uncomfortable, listening for many Irish people. It's a perspective I've never heard on the radio here.

I'm not sure who Sean Gannon is, but he describes the Fianna Fail government as "very anti-Israel". When I first heard this, it had me wondering. I don't generally think of Brian Cowen as being "very anti-Israel" when compared with some of his fellow Dail members, but compared with members of either party in the US, he would be.

I have to admit that I'm really not sure Ireland is as anti-semitic as Sean Gannon has portrayed it. I really wish the host, Tovia Singer, had asked Alan Shatter or other prominent Irish Jews to offer their views.

Mr. Singer also proposes trying to pressure Intel, Pfizer and other big companies based here to pressure the government to shift its views towards a more Israel-friendly line.

Thanks to Michael Kelemen for this link.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day. So, I'll give the rants a rest today.

George Will has an excellent history of the day in today's New York Post.

The Irish Independent has an article about Americans and Thanksgiving in Ireland.

It's always an odd day to be in Ireland. Thanskgiving Day is probably the biggest holiday in America. It's a day with virtually no commercial overtones (although a trip home for Thanksgiving last year showed me that even that is changing somehwat), other than in the sale of turkeys. It is not a day of chest thumping patriotism, like the 4th of July, but rather simple gratitude for our good fortune to live (or have been reared) in a land of such opportunity. There are no Thanksgiving presents or cards to get, no Thanksgiving blow-out parties, just one big meal with the family and football on t.v.

Of course, it's not a holiday in Ireland so there's no real chance to celebrate Thanksgiving properly here until Saturday, which is what my family will do. We'll have the big meal and the football too, thanks to NASN.

Lots of things to be thankful for this year, including my life in Ireland. Although I do love to moan and complain, I am grateful that this country provides me with a free and safe environment in which to raise my family and live my life. All the moaning and complaining is really about insignificant matters.

Finally, I'd like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to Stella Marie, Frank & Conor, Mick, William, Dick & Jon, Karlin, Paul, Tony, the guys at Blog Irish, and, of course, all of you.

"Traffic calming"

You know it's getting near the end of the year when the local councils are all rushing to waste, err, sorry about that, "invest" your taxes and mine in useless, silly projects because they don't want to get stuck with any left-over money from this year's budget. For example, in the past few weeks roadworks have torn up the road in Killiney Village in order to add "traffic calming" installations. If there is a place in Ireland that doesn't need "traffic calming" it's Killiney Village.

By the time you get to Killiney Village, you're lucky to be moving at all, let alone speeding. Steep inclines and twisty roads are not conducive to excessive speeds. And, from my observation, these traffic calming measures have actually made the road much more dangerous. I won't be surprised when at least some of them are removed in the new year.

Another one of my favorites are the red brick speed ramps (bumps) and paths (sidewalks). Nothing but the best for the people of Bray, I suppose.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Dr. Lane

Dr. Fintan Lane is heading to prison this afternoon for refusing to pay his €750 fine for trespassing at Shannon Airport in October 2002. I have little sympathy for the man, but it does seem odd to me that he is going to prison.

At a time when our prisons are already overflowing and some offenders are being released due to a lack of prison space, I'm not sure it's such a wise decision to imprison this man for refusing to pay his fine. Equally, I think it's vital that some form of punishment is found that enables society to see that justice has been done and the trespasser has been duly punished.

William extols the virtues of the chain gang to "encourage" people to pay their fines and I'm sure it would have some success. However, that's just not going to happen.

No matter what other non-custodial sentence the judge may have handed down, Dr. Lane could still have chosen not to comply until prison, again, was the only sanction left. This is unsatisfactory. There has to be a way for the state to guarantee compliance without necessarily threatening jail. Perhaps the state could put a lien on his wages until the fine is paid? State services could be withdrawn, licenses and passport revoked? I really don't know, but there has to be a better way.

This applies to the anti-war protestors, who are planning a "mass blockade aimed at disrupting normal business at Shannon airport" for December 6, bin tax protestors and any other people prosecuted for civil disobedience related incidents.

Trains running again

For the first time since September 11, the PATH trains from New Jersey are running to the World Trade Center again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Deep in the heart of Sandycove

Everytime I drive along the sea-front from Sandycove to Dun Laoghaire or back, I admire the Texas state flag that flies defiantly outside a large yellow house in Sandycove. Although I'm from New York and would have enjoyed more than a few jokes at the expense of Texans in my time, I love the message that the flag sends out about the people who live there and to the city they live in. That house, to me, is the Alamo.

UPDATE Nov 27: Des has gently informed me that what I'm seeing is actually the Chilean flag and not the Texas state flag. This building is the Chilean embassy, apparently. In my defense, I've never actually seen the flag unfurled and the two flags do look very much alike. Chile and Texas.

Eoghan Harris's column

I haven't had a chance to read my print version of the Sunday Independent yet, but as Frank, Jon & Dick are all getting in on this one, I'll comment on Eoghan Harris's column from Sunday.

I think Harris is right on the money when he describes the reaction of the Irish media (and the sanctimonious set from Ireland's middle class) to George Bush & Tony Blair. Robert Fisk and Lara Marlowe are the two primary Middle East reporters/analysts for the Irish media and neither of them could be called "pro-American". The term "Trot" that Dick doesn't like is easy enough to understand if you read Harris's columns regularly. These people pretty much own RTE and the Irish Times.

Of course, I think it's important that Harris continues his assault on the "Trots", but I'm not sure what he wrote this Sunday is significantly different than what he wrote in September of last year, however. Harris understands better than anyone the importance of "staying on message". He keeps returning to the same theme because, clearly, so many in RTE and the Irish Times are doing the same with their "Texan Terrorist" messages.

I think Harris's possibly faulty analysis of Lincoln and Roosevelt are besides the point because he's essentially correct about Bush. The National Security Strategy, issued in September of last year, was an extremely interventionist document. And, although Harris uses the term "pacifist" - I think isolationist is more accurate - he's right about the difficulty Bush would have had selling the Iraq war as the start of a Middle East transformation.

This argument surfaced occasionally in the run-up to the war, but it didn't get the airplay that the WMD did. I'm not sure why that is, but I presume it's because there's no way the UN Security Council would have sanctioned anything as radical as a democratic transformation of the Islamic world. And, there's no way the American people would have accepted the need to be so involved in the Middle East.

More of "old Iraq"

This is the Iraq that the protestors, French, & Germans didn't want transformed. (not for the squeamish)

Do you really believe it's going to be worse now?


I still have not seen a single reference to China's threat to the Taiwanese people in any of the Irish media.

This is a good example of how the media influences people's opinions. If anything at all happens in Iraq or the West Bank/Gaza, it gets coverage in the Irish print and broadcast media. However, when one of the world's great powers threatens to invade a small, island democracy if they vote for independence, there is no coverage whatsoever.


Lest you think I feel that all criticism of the administration with regards to Iraq is out of bounds, Senator Biden has outlined a strategy for Iraq that takes into account many of the criticisms of the manner in which the administration has handled the post-war situation.

I don't know if everything he advocates here would be good for the Iraqi people or the coalition's troops, but it's definitely a reasonable perspective. I think involving NATO would be a great idea, but I'm not so sure about the UN. I have a suspicion that the Iraqi people may not care for the UN having so direct an influence in their lives - especially if that means a lot of input from their Arab neighbors.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The old Iraq

". . . but believe me death is nothing compared to having your wife or sister raped in front of your eyes, in seeing your children brought in and tortured in your presence".

This is the Iraq that the anti-war demonstrators wanted to preserve. This is the Iraq that the French and Germans didn't want transformed. This is the Iraq that would still be there today if not for the recent war. And, this is the Iraq that the "Iraqi resistance" wants to reinstate.

I can accept that people in the US may not feel that ridding Iraq of Saddam was worth the cost in American lives (and money, of course). Same goes for the British and all the other nations that contributed to change Iraq. However, I cannot for the life of me understand what any Irish person can object to.

Is Iraq a mess? Seemingly so. Is it likely to get better in the near future? Probably not. Are the prospects for the Iraqi people better now than they were in January? Absolutely. Are they afraid? Undoubtedly. However, as I wrote last January (and I still believe) most Irish people would have traded the certainty of a slave's life for the uncertainty that is an Iraqi's life today.

Dec. 10 Protest

Anti-terrorist demonstrations are planned for Iraq on December 10. That's real courage. I hope they are able to have them as planned.

Demonstrating against those who would think nothing of killing you or against a government that is corrupt and undemocratic in a part of the world where using force to break-up a demonstration is not beyond question must be equally frightening and exhilarating. I doubt the protesters in London last week felt either frightened or exhilarated. Smugly self-satisfied is probably the height of it.


I like John Waters. I read his Jiving at the Crossroads at a time when I didn't know Ireland that well, but thought it was entertaining and that his perception of the Irish media seemed to be roughly accurate. I remember telling someone back in the early 90s that John Waters used small words to illustrate big ideas whereas his colleague Fintan O'Toole used big words to illustrate his small ideas.

Then he went through his Sinead O'Connor phase and he sort of lost me. However, his writings on Irish politics over the past few years - particularly as they relate to the US, especially after September 11 - have been excellent. I'm sorry to read that the Irish Times has fired him.

Still, I cannot see how he could have kept his job after criticizing the management of the company and stating that the editor was "compromised". It doesn't matter if he was right about the payments to the directors and former editor, he had to go. If he wasn't fired, there's no way the editor could have kept her job. The Irish Times is a business and I can think of no business that would have tolerated an employee publicly condemning the Board of Directors and questioning the ethics of his manager.

I presume he'll find a position elsewhere - the Sunday Times could use him, but I'm not sure Waters would enjoy working for a Murdoch publication.

UPDATE (5:25pm): Waters has been reinstated. What do I know?

Sunday, November 23, 2003

The French won't like this

George Galloway has compared the "Iraqi resistance" with the French resistance. I hadn't realized the French resistance was a collection of ex-mass-murdering, tyrannical, megalomaniac-worshipping fanatics. I'll have to reevaluate my understanding of World War II France.

Anti-semitism in Europe

An EU backed study of anti-semitism has been shelved because the findings were "too controversial".

US foreign policy

From Jim Hoagland:
American presidents do not habitually condemn foreign policies of the last nine administrations as a whole, especially when one of the preceding presidents is the incumbent's father and another (Ronald Reagan) his political idol. But Bush has done so three times in the last three weeks, starting with his ringing censure on Nov. 6 of "60 years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East."
Are the Europeans listening to Bush?

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Great One

One last chance to see the Great One.

Cruise O'Brien

I presume that the writer of this piece is Conor Cruise O'Brien. Everytime he writes about American electoral politics he gets it "way wrong". I wish he'd avoid the topic because I do generally enjoy reading his columns.

Here he's talking about the reactions in Europe to the Istanbul bombings:
Mr Bush, however, is less likely to be interested in the various reactions in Europe than in reactions in the US, where he is now entering his campaign for re-election. The election is due almost exactly a year from now. There the recent news from Europe seems almost certain to be beneficial to Bush's campaign. This is principally because of the Jewish vote. In four States - New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco - the Jewish vote is so large that if the president holds that vote he is virtually certain to be re-elected.
Leaving aside the obvious blunder that he's actually talking about cities here, even if we look at the three states he's referring to we can see the weakness of his argument. First, Los Angeles and San Francisco are both in California, the biggest state in the country and a big prize in electoral votes. New York is another big state. However, if Bush has a chance of winning either of those states next November then the election is already won. If the Democratic candidate cannot win those two states comfortably - both of which have huge Democrat majorities - then there's no hope for the Democrat to win the key swing states.

As to his reference to the Jewish vote, there is only one swing state where that vote is large enough to make a difference and where Bush's pro-Israel stance may help him - Florida. There is currently no reason to assume that this coming election will be any different than the previous one and Florida may well be the key. Bush's support for Israel and his support for governement funded prescriptions for retired people may well ensure his success in Florida.

Cruise O'Brien's knowledge of US politics seems to be based on the demographics and policies of the two parties circa 1970. I don't think he understands how much America has changed in the past 30+ years.


If I were in the habit of using the word "codswallop", then that would be the one word I would use to describe Matthew Parris's article in today's Times.

He starts off claiming that the War on Terror is a "bad cause". He then wastes a lot of "ink" basically saying that the bombings in Istanbul reinforce the views of George Bush and Tony Blair.

He then says
it is bad taste, but true, to say that if the only way of protecting ourselves worldwide is through enhanced security and the violent pursuit of those who threaten us, then all is lost. If the al-Qaeda network is as our leaders describe it, then what force on earth can surround every Briton and British interest abroad with armour, proof against a suicide bomber? We must resign ourselves to decades of exposure to random explosions all over the globe, directed against ourselves and against those who do business with us. Alongside the Americans, our two nations will pay the price alone.
He claims that Britain could have avoided this by allowing the US to battle Al Qaeda "alone". Here he is clearly wrong. Al Qaeda is being battled by the French, Germans, Saudis, Kuwaitis, Turks, Spanish, Morrocans, Australians and many, many other countries, including Ireland.

I guess he has forgotten the Bali bombing, the recent bombings in Saudi Arabia, the bombings in Casablanca, etc. Amazingly, he seems to have forgotten the bombs in Instanbul last weekend. No, the price is being paid globally. And, he has also ignored President Bush's calls - two in recent weeks - for greater freedom and opportunity in the Middle East. So, it is not only through "enhanced security and violient pursuit" that we are protecting ourselves.

We are also working to provide freedom and opportunity so that young men have better options than suicide bombing. The US has rejoined UNESCO and paid past dues in a bid to ensure that the poor Islamic children get a better education that what they've been getting from the Madrassas.

The end of the article is the best, however. He says "attack is not the answer", but then he doesn't tell us what is. But, he does tell us where to find it - "in that complex, fragmentary, doubt-provoking knowledge we call truth".

Friday, November 21, 2003

Aided and abetted

Dick doesn't see how yesterday's march "aided and abetted" Saddam. Here's how.

Saddam is currently at the head of the group(s) attacking the troops, aid agencies and "collaborationists" in Iraq. Saddam knows as well as anyone that he cannot win this fight militarily. His only hope is that a demoralized citizenry in the countries whose troops are engaged in Iraq will demand their recall before peace and stability are established. If that were to happen, Saddam could, theoretically, return to power — probably only after winning a brutal civil war.

Given that this is Saddam's ONLY hope, how can yesterday's march be anything other than a propaganda coup for his ambitions, even if that was not the intention of most of those who marched? The purpose of the march was to undermine the justfication for the war and the current policies with regards to Iraq. Therefore, the march aided and abetted Saddam.

Frank adds more to the debate with a good analysis of the ante and post war positons of those who marched yesterday.

China's threats

I still have not been able to find any mention in the Irish media of China's threat to the Taiwanese people that they'd best not vote for independence.

Yesterday's demonstration

Bit of an argument (or should that be "blogument"?) about yesterday's march in London. William claims yesterday's demonstration in London was "pro-Saddam". Dick disagrees, but his logic escapes me. Frank is backing William up.

I think the march was essentially anti-Bush, not pro-Saddam, but it definitely aided and abetted Saddam and the Ba'athist cause. I don't think you can call the march pro-Saddam.

There were many motivations for those who marched, but what united them yesterday was their hatred of George Bush and what he stands for. There were
  • pacifists - those who believe life as a slave is better than risking death
  • anti-Americans - those who believe all the world's ills are due to Hollywood, Coca cola and the CIA
  • environmentalists - those who would rather live as 7th century African bushmen rather than as we do now
  • Islamists - those who would prefer we live as 7th century Arabs rather than as we do now
  • other assorted malcontents
I don't think there were too many Ba'athists, although I suspect that some of the organizers were funded, even if indirectly, from Saddam's coffers.

Most of these people are not pro-Saddam — they are not really that interested in the people of Iraq. All that matters is that they assert their distaste for George Bush. I presume that most of the 70,000 would like to see Dominique de Villepin take control of Iraq and remould the country in France's image.

Bush's Whitehall speech

More stirring words. He is certainly making the interventionist case.

"The peace and security of free nations now rests on three pillars":
  1. Multilateral organizations - the UN and NATO
  2. The willingness to act against aggression & evil by force
  3. The global expansion of democracy.
Perhaps the most helpful change we can make is to change in our own thinking. In the West, there's been a certain skepticism about the capacity or even the desire of Middle Eastern peoples for self-government. We're told that Islam is somehow inconsistent with a democratic culture. Yet more than half of the world's Muslims are today contributing citizens in democratic societies. It is suggested that the poor, in their daily struggles, care little for self-government. Yet the poor, especially, need the power of democracy to defend themselves against corrupt elites.
Many people in Ireland express skepticism when they hear these words because they believe that the US was all too willing to work with tyrants in the past.

Of course, all nations rationalize some actions as realpolitik (how else to explain Ireland's unwillingness to even invite Taiwan's President on a visit?). During the Cold War much rationalizing was done with regards to working with dictators. Whether all of it or any of it was the right thing to do is an open question that history can answer.

However, the Cold War is over and we are in a new situation. I really don't understand why so many people here continually hark back to what was done in the 50's through the 80's. It's irrelevant now. What was done then - whether rightly or wrongly - in no way changes what must be done now.

Bush again:
We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.
Clearly, the President is saying that the policies of the past that have created the current situation will not work in the future.

On a slightly related note, this passage from the President's speech could have been aimed at those who participated in the Marian Finucane Show's discussion this morning {see below}. "It's been said that those who live near a police station find it hard to believe in the triumph of violence, in the same way free peoples might be tempted to take for granted the orderly societies we have come to know".

Words from an Iraqi to the demonstrators in London yesterday

"But I see there were not as many of you as before. Yes, at that time, we all had our misgivings and fears about the surgery. Yes indeed, it was scary. But the surgeon had no doubt and he knew that he had to operate, and he did and it worked. So now what do you want? That he leaves the patient still in critical convalescence, to the mercy of the germs and microbes and goes home to watch TV and sleep in comfortable bed."

Die for Ireland

This morning Marian Finucane promised a disussion as to whether people would be prepared to "die for Ireland". She had lined up a panel of guests: Nell McCafferty, Hector Ó hEochagáin (does travel documentaries in Irish on TG4) , Eamonn Sweeney, Mary Banotti, and Kevin Myers of the Irish Times.

I thought this could be good radio, but rather than a serious discussion about fighting and dying for your country, it rapidly descended into a juvenile discusson. I turned it off in the middle, so maybe I missed the best parts, but once Kevin Myers huffily hung up because Nell McCafferty essentially told him to shut up, I knew it was not going to be good.

Overall, my sense is that none of the studio guests (McCafferty, Banotti or Ó hEochagáin) really took the notion of dying for their country seriously. The tone was such that you realized that although that's what they were there to discuss, none of them could conceive of any circumstances that might make them want to fight and, possibly, die for their country. Hector kept going on about "living passionately" for his country. Defending it never struck him as a possibility.

I was waiting for one of the guests to quote George Patton regarding dying for your country
No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.

Thursday, November 20, 2003


China has warned the Taiwanese people that if they vote for independence, China is prepared to use force. I'm expecting uproar in the Dail, articles and editorials by the score in the Irish newspapers and lots of general condemnation of China on the radio call-in shows. Surely the people of Ireland will be demanding that a fellow island democracy not be threatened in this manner by a great power.

Okay, I'll keep taking the meds. In fact, I expect the silence to be deafening.

I'll post everything that I can find from the Irish media on this threat. I couldn't find anything in the Irish Independent, Irish Times, Irish Examiner or RTE's Morning Ireland today. If you find something, please send it to me.

Al Qaeda & Iraq

More detail on the "meeting" between Mohammed Atta and Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani in Prague in April 2001.

Soccer in the US

Manchester United is planning another tour of the US next summer. Obviously, it's all about the money. Whereas the average Major League Soccer game can attract on average just 14,000 fans, Manchester United were able to average 67,848 during their tour there this summer. Americans just won't settle for second best, obviously. They don't want to watch inferior clubs. With all the other sports played in the US, the professional leagues there are the best in the world. The Soccer league is, however, clearly inferior to any major European league.

This article aslo has a lot of details about up and coming American stars who have signed with Premiership clubs. And, interestingly, a quote taken from a Washington Post article by Manchester United's youth director who believes the US will win the World Cup England does. Maybe it will happen when Freddy Adu leads the US team out onto the pitch.

Homosexual marriage

Jon is less than impressed with President Bush for his statement released the other day in response to the Massachusetts Supreme Court's judgment.

This is a difficult issue to say much about. Opposing same sex marriage can leave one open to the charge of bigotry – maybe rightfully so. But too many of the proponents of gay marriage vilify those who oppose this development and ridicule their beliefs. All too often, wild assertions are made about those who would uphold tradition in the face of "progress".

I am opposed to homosexual marriage, although I can't say I've given it a great deal of thought. My instinctive opposition stems from my conservative views and belief that long established tradition should not be shunted aside quickly or haphazardly.

I also don't see the logic in maintaining the other restrictions on marriage if it's no longer one man and one woman. Why cannot three or more people be married? Why are polygamists not due the same "equal rights"? Why can a man not marry his sister/daughter/mother or even father/son/brother? Or why can a woman not marry her brother/father/son or even mother/daughter/sister?

Jon claims that George Bush has "ducked for cover" by declaring that "marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a women". Jon then says, "Perhaps in your church, Mr. President, but not in your country".

From what I can see there are very few "churches" that do not hold that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. Some, including Islam, allow for polygamy, but none that I could find allow for two people of the same sex to be married. It seems that it's not just George Bush's church, but all churches that oppose gay marriage.

Marriage may not be "sacred" in the "country", but there's little doubt that marriage, even in the most secular of circumstances, has referred to one man and one woman throughout the history of the United States. In the 1880s, Congress declared polygamy illegal and its renunciation by the Mormons was a prerequisite for Utah's statehood. Throughout thousands of years of Judeo-Christian history marriage has referred to one man and one woman.

The state certainly doesn't consider marriage sacred as evidenced by its consistent campaign to undermine marriage over the past 50 years. Exploding divorce rates, treating co-habiting couples as married and other changes have undermined marriage as an institution. But, never did marriage mean anything other than the union of a man and a woman.

As for Jon's legal argument that the other 49 states will have to recognize Massachusetts marriages, that seems pretty uncertain at the moment. The Defense of Marriage Act was passed in 1996 to avoid just such a situation. Some states may choose to recognize Massachusetts 's same sex marriages and some may not.

Whether Tuesday's judgment will lead to gay marriages or not is still an open question. Massachusettes lawmakers are looking at a "civil union" type arrangement that will stop short of gay marriage.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Baghdad graffiti

{via Instapundit} "There are the occasional anti-American slogans, some in misspelled English - like "Dawn USA" - but mostly President George W. Bush is hailed as a liberator, especially in the neighborhoods of the Shia majority historically brutalized by Hussein".

Just found this!

" is the only website dedicated solely to Northern Ireland politics, covering every angle of every issue – direct from the party’s mouths."

The ONLY WEBSITE dedicated solely to N. Ireland politics? Well, I don't know. I know of a site that's been pretty much doing that for the past 7 years.


"A special resolution condemning anti-Semitism is to be presented to the UN by Ireland Tuesday night. This is the first resolution of its kind in the history of the organization, and it is to be presented by a country not usually sympathetic to Israel".

Privacy Officer

Nuala O'Connor Kelly, originally from N. Ireland, of the Homeland Security Department is the "first statutorily appointed privacy officer" for any federal department. Her swearing-in remarks are totally at odds with the consensus view on the "attack on civil liberties" that the Patriot Act and other changes to American law since September 11 are supposed to represent.

UN and the internet

China, Brazil, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and others want the UN to control the internet. Some of the justifications for this demand are probably fair enough, but putting control of the internet in the hands of the UN will only insure that those who live in the countries where the internet is most useful (those countries where information is tightly controlled by the government) will not be able to use it as a soure for information and/or free expression.

However, other countries' concerns are mostly monetary. The costs of getting access to the internet are prohibitive in many poor countries. John O'Shea wants Ireland to offer {sub required} "technical ability as foreign aid to developing countries". I think his idea has merit and could also be a model for how a GM foods technology transfer to the third world can take place.

UPDATE: I should have added that I don't really have much faith in "foreign aid" if that term specifically refers to government money. All these Irish bureaucrats dispensing money to (often) corrupt bureaucrats in the third world with the type of accountability that spawns entrepreneurial ventures dedicated to helping others secure aid money is simply wasted money and effort. However, if what John O'Shea has in mind is soliciting volunteers and hardware from the tech industries to go out to the third world with GOAL to provide some infrastructural improvements, then I'm all for it.

UN and GM foods

The "the United Nations has been sacrificing science, technology and sound public policy to its own bureaucratic self-interest, thereby obstructing technological innovation that could help the poorest of the poor".

To us in Europe or N. America, this argument is vaguely about health (like the smoking ban) and consumer choice. But, to people in the third world it's really about life and death. GM foods could be a tremendous boon for those people. The big problem for people of the third world is that the technology is too expensive.

Monsanto has a near monopoly on the technology, which of course doesn't help reduce the costs. However, Ross Clark argues that the protestors are driving away the competition as well as Monsanto.

As I previously wrote, I don't see why African universities and African companies cannot be at the forefront of GM technologies. That would be a better project for the UN rather than trying to prevent development in order to satisfy some fringe environmental activists (few of whom, I would bet, live in the third world).

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Denver & Belfast

Mayor Hickenlooper says the new partnership between Denver and Belfast is "perfect". I can well imagine that there will be a few smiles on "this side" whenever the Mayor's name is said aloud. I would really like to hear one of the BBC's newsreaders pronounce his name.

France, Russia, Germany and the anti-war marchers' debt?

"You all owe the Iraqi people an apology".

American in the UK?

The BBC is asking for your views on anti-Americanism.

Baseball's anti-doping program

Baseball, uniquely, is a game with a tradition based in numbers. How many home runs in a season/career? How many stolen bases, wins, saves, etc. A trip to Cooperstown is a journey into the exploits of the greats of the past, most of which are explained with numerical records. There's an entire room dedicated to records.

Bryan Burwell believes baseball has such a credibility problem right now that every [recent] record should have a "giant asterisk placed next to it until someone shows us a list of names of the folks who failed baseball's tests for performance-enhancing drugs".

Osama & Saddam

Many people argue that Saddam and bin Laden wouldn't work together because they hate each other. Maybe that's true and maybe it's not. But, many of those same people have frequently argued that "America worked with bin Laden in Afghanistan". Again, I'm not sure how true that is. But, that claim indicates that bin Laden will work with anyone – even those he hates – to achieve a tactical victory in his long campaign.

Feith memo

Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has a long article in the current issue on the links between Osama and Saddam as outlined in a leaked memo from Douglas Feith. The CIA is asking for another "leak investigation".

Obviously, I'm in no position to pass judgment on this memo as I haven't seen it. However, I'm sure it will confirm what should be obvious to all who are so keen to criticize the use of intelligence by the administration – it's always murky. It was unclear before September 11 when the government didn't "do enough to prevent the attacks" and it was unclear before the Iraq war when the administration "attacked Iraq without any proof that Iraq had WMD or links with Al Qaeda or presented an imminent threat or . . .".

Some intelligence says Iraq's a threat and some says it's not. Some intelligence says that Al Qaeda and the Iraqi government are linked and some says they're not. I've often heard about the "fog of war", well it seems pretty clear to me that the fog of covert war is even thicker and more difficult to penetrate.

It also seems pretty clear to me that inaction is as fraught with danger as action.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

American cricket

I remember when I was in college in the Bronx, that Van Cortlandt Park in the North Bronx seemed to be entirely given over to cricket at the weekend. Hundreds of Caribbean immigrants playing games on all open patches of ground.

Now, it seems, cricket is really taking off and the International Cricket Council hopes to have a professional league in the US before 2007.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Bush's visit to Britain

The Guardian's editorial today asserts that the motivation for Bush's visit is to assist in his reelection. Could be true, but not, I suspect, for the reasons the Guardian believes. Jonah Goldberg thinks the news pictures of protesters are what the Bush campaign wants.

I don't know if there's a whole lot of political capital to be gained from this visit. One thing I do know, is that as an American living abroad, I would never protest against a visiting American President. Regardless of your motives, you are most definitely feeding the anti-American monster.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Keith Richards

Perhaps to more "die-hard" fans of the Rolling Stones, this is not news, but I was really stunned to read that Richards is "chummy with John Major". This is a great, short summary of Richards, who is seemingly the complete opposite of what a casual observer might expect.


The kind that's played on ice, not "field hockey". Saw a picture of two members of Ireland's hockey team in yesterday's Irish Independent. I hope they do well, but the fact that there's no rink to play on must surely be a bit of a drawback.

I remember reading a few years ago that Owen Nolan – best Irish-born hockey player – told the Taoiseach that anytime Ireland wanted to win a medal at the Olympic Games that he could put together a medal winner full of Irish-Americans and Irish-Canadians. For whatever reason, hockey is the most "Irish" sport in N. America.

Performance-enhancing drugs

Baseball, like most American sports, does not take this problem seriously.
The biggest change in the new testing will be that players who test positive more than once will be publicly identified and disciplined. The first positive test will result in a player entering a treatment program, the second with a 15-day suspension or fine up to $10,000. Five positives would cost a player a one-year suspension or fine up to $100,000.
Five positives will get a one year ban? If they were serious three positives would result in a life-time ban. Italian soccer players can be banned for up to TWO YEARS for one offense. Momar Gaddafi's son is facing that prospect now. And, although 4-6 months is the average suspension that is still far stricter than "treatment".

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Rush for foreign passports

There has been a "dramatic rise" in the numbers of European Israelis applying for passports of the countries their parents and grandparents left.

This may not be a sign of pending emigration, however. The writer speculates that it has more to do with the ease of foreign travel. But, there is a hint of the gloom I felt in October.

For What? For Whom?

Those questions, referring to the deaths of 18 Italians in yesterday's bombing in Nasiriyah, were put to Prime Minister Berlusconi by Oliviero Diliberto, of the Italian Communist Party. Well, "whom" – the people of Iraq and "what" – to assist them as they attempt to gain stability, order, peace and JUSTICE in a new Iraq.

Whether these answers are sufficient justification for the sacrifice of their troops is a legitimate question and not just for Italians, but for all those nations who have troops serving in Iraq. Regardless of whether you were for the war or opposed, it is obvious that those who are bombing soldiers, aid agencies, the UN and Iraqi civilians do not have the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

House levies

Frank takes issue with my support for the house levies scheme (see 4 posts below). He notes (correctly) that this proposed scheme will punish some people disproportionately. I was thinking more generally & long term on this and just saw it as a further advance in the march towards local government, local accountability and local taxation.

I don't want to prescribe how this should be done, but perhaps VAT could be eliminated and every county/town be empowered to levy what they feel is an appropriate tax on goods for sale. Properly valued and locally based property taxes are another possibility? We might even find some counties choose one method (income tax levy) and others will choose another method. All sorts of possibilities open up when we break the stranglehold of the central government.

Frank is more in tune with the specifics of this proposal and who will suffer as he is in the process of moving to a new house, still to be built.

Me too

I fully agree with everything Jon's written here about archaeologists and the need to complete the motorway around Dublin, now scheduled for completion in September 2005. That will work out at just over 1 mile of motorway completed per year of construction.

Hard right administration - NOT

Despite what the Irish & British media frequently tells us, President Bush is NOT a conservative. Unfortunately, he's as wedded to big government as any liberal Democrat. "Bush has demanded that spending that is subject to Congress's annual discretion be capped at 4 percent". However, " federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5%" in the fiscal year just ended. A lof of that increase was due to increases in the military budget, but even the non-military spencing increased by 8.7%. Congress votes for the spending and Bush signs it into law.

Bush's speech

Not so much a call for applause as a pause - for considering the implications of Bush's speech last week - from the Executive Editor of the Daily Star of Lebanon, Rami G. Khouri.

He (I'm assuming Rami is a man) doesn't trust the salesman, but is 100% behind the idea. People deserve freedom.

I don't think that anyone in the Middle East has to trust the "salesman", whether we're talking about President Bush or the US. What's important is that the people of the region take the initiative to demand freedom. Freedom's not going to be "imposed" as the Guardian implied yesterday. Rather, the US will support those who claim their right to be free. It seems pretty clear to me that the administration has concluded that none of the other regimes in the area will withstand a serious push for freedom by their own people. Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt will all move to free societies through internal pressure allied with America (& Europe?).

Iraq was different. There was no way Saddam would have yielded to internal pressure as his willingness to kill hundreds of thousands of his own people demonstrated.

However, despite Rami Khouri's claim that last week's proposals "whimsically popped out of a box", these same concepts were inherent in the National Security Strategy document published in September of last year.

I still believe it's a shaky foundation for US security. Mark Mowazer identifies some of the possible pitfalls in an essentially negative piece. But, if Egypt and Saudi Arabia need a model, there are many countries that are free today that were ruled by dictators (Taiwan, S. Korea, many South & Central American countries) supported by the US during the Cold War. Many of those populations are not that favorable to the US, but as far as I know, none of them is actually waging war on America either. If we can get to that situation in the Middle East it will be a win for both the people of the region and the US.

New house levies

The Irish Independent reports this morning that some county councils are so short of funds that they will impose levies of "up to €28,000" on all new houses. If this is the beginning of real local government with local fiscal authority, then I'm in favor of this. The money is supposed to be for infrastructural improvements in the counties.

However, benchmarking is one of the key causes of this problem as these mandatory pay increases have vacuumed up all the county councils' funds. Benchmarking has been a disaster, and the fact that every county council is obliged to pay these increases regardless of their ability to pay or whether rates of pay for teachers, civil servants, etc. in every county should be the same is ludicrous. Regional and local variations in standards of living are ignored.

Like the "bin charges", these issues should be handled locally. If the county council feels that taxes on property (which is what these levies are) are justified, then fine. But, we have to be able to vote for or against the members of that council on a regular basis. And, there can be no unelected officials – such as county managers – making these decisions.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

More on Bush's speech

The Times of India is not impressed. This editorial rehashes all the complaints of yesterday, some of which,no doubt, are valid historical points, but are hardly relevant today. Bush himself commented that "sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe".

Whether he intended to include Pakistan in that list or not is unclear, but he mentioned Egypt and undoubtedly was including Saudi Arabia along with Iran & Syria. "Allies" and "enemies" alike.

Triple frontier

I for one, never think of S. America as a source of funds for Islamic and/or Arab terrorist groups, but apparently one region bordering Paraguay, Brazil & Argentina is just such a place.

Saudi bombing

There seems to be a consensus in the press that Saturday's bombing was what is known here as an "own goal" for Al Qaeda.
The bombing last weekend of a residential compound housing an almost entirely Arab and Muslim population has appalled Saudis far more than other terrorist attacks, evaporating expressions of support for Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network that were either vaguely whispered or occasionally even shouted over the last two years.
This editorial from the Arab News seems to back this up.
This was not the work of Mossad. This was not the work of the CIA. The time has come for all of us to pour scorn on anyone who takes that all-too-easy way out. This attack was carried out by Saudis, and rather than remain in denial about the fact, we must face up to it — and everything it implies.

General Clark

Looks like General Clark's campaign is heading nowhere. "A face, a rank and a former uniform are not enough to make up a presidential candidate", says Dick Morris. Morris notes that there is "precious little" standing between Howard Dean and the nomination.

"Imposing freedom"

The Guardian notes that the Bush administration is in no position to talk about freedom in the Middle East, based on the example of Iraq.
Imposing Mr Bush's freedom by superior might of arms not only does not work, but fuels the cause of those using violence to impose their own agenda.
Whether "imposing freedom" works or not is still an open question, but there were very few moves towards freedom and democracy in the region before serious pressure really began to mount on Iraq last year. It's also possible that rather than ridiculing the US, some Saudis are revising their views of the war just as Fawaz Turki has.

Monday, November 10, 2003

More on the Iraqi resistance

Zeyad at Healing Iraq has more to say about the so-called Iraqi resistance.

The Americans need a lesson in propaganda

That's the message from the Mesopotamian. He loves Bush's speech and wishes that the CPA and Governing Council would do more to get that message out to the Iraqi people. He jokingly suggests that they declare a two week truce with Saddam so that he can come out of hiding to teach them how to do it.

That Mr. Bremer & Co. are failing in this is incomprehensible to me.

The "Messopotamian"

has apparently realized he was misspelling the word Mesopotamian. I had thought he had misspelled the word intentionally to emphasize the "mess" Iraq is in now. I can only say that my spelling of words in Arabic should be so poor.

Safire & Bush's speech

William Safire sees Bush's speech more as I do than Conor O'Clery does.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Bush's speech

I think what really bothered me about Conor O'Clery's report (see post below) was that he didn't seem to pick up on the optimism and idealism (almost utopianism) that was the essence of it. That speech was incredibly optimistic. In foreign policy terms that speech was much more old style Democrat (Kennedy at the Berlin Wall or Wilson's 14 points) than old style Republican. I know Bush referenced Reagan, but even Reagan was an old style Democrat.

For someone like me, a natural pessimist, and with a fairly isolationist view on foreign policy this transformation of Bush from the pre-election Conservative to interventionist and idealist is alarming. If Europe was criticizing the administration for naiveté and excessive idealism, that would be fine. It's the "war mongering" claims that are so ridiculous.

The Messopotamian has a better grasp of what's going on.
if the U.S. tommorrow announces that anybody willing to come to its land would be given the "Green Card" immediately with no further question, how many people do you think would stand in line? Answer this question if you dare ? Why if Western values are so bad and so terrible would you find Muslim, Hindu, Buddist, and every colour and every breed standing in that hypothetical line, in their billions ?

But America cannot take in the entire humanity, so america decides to go to them instead.

The Irish Times & Bush's speech

I had read the full text of Bush's speech before I read Conor O'Clery's report on the speech in yesterday's Irish Times. O'Clery says that Bush "pitched his argument largely in terms of America's national security interests". That's not how I read it at all.

I saw it as a much wider scope than that. Yes, American and western security featured, but really it was about the cause of liberty, the right to it, and the belief it has to be defended. Spreading freedom to others is the best way to secure our freedom. And, the people who live in the Middle East are as entitled to it as anyone else.

What struck me about this report was that O'Clery took my favorite quote, edited it and gave it a different meaning. O'Clery wrote
In a sweeping foreign policy speech the US President focused largely on the lack of democracy in the Middle East, saying that "60 years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom" there had done nothing to make America safe.
Yet, this is exactly what Bush said
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe
The difference is the "us" vs. O'Clery's "America". I obviously cannot get inside the President's head to decode what he intended, but I read that "us" as meaning the "Western nations", not simply America. Bush was talking to all of us in the west and not just Americans. None of us is safe and we all have a stake in helping the people of the Middle East gain freedom.

Friday, November 07, 2003

smoking ban

The smoking ban is starting to unravel. I was listening to a discussion on the radio at lunchtime and it seems that the government's definition of a "workplace" and its attempt to exempt "dwellings" will leave them open to all sorts of legal challenges. I'm working from memory here, but a few points that seem to cause trouble are:
  • the government doesn't want to ban smoking from prisons despite the fact that smoking is banned in NY prisons. This government believes that "second hand smoke" is a "carcinogen", and that workers should not be subjected to it. Unless, that is, you happen to be a prison guard. Apparently, the government is more concerned about prisoners' rights than prison guards' lives. Hmmm.
  • Many Irish pubs are attached to the family home. However, according to the law, the entire structure is part of the licensed area. That should mean that publicans are banned from smoking in their bedrooms, kitchens, wherever.
  • Now the government wants to exempt hotel rooms too. BUT, not B & B or GuestHouse rooms. This would obviously have competition implications.
Obviously, this is a poorly thought out mess. I suggest that the smoking ban be sidelined until the "vital infrastructure" projets are complete — that is, after we have the DART repaired, LUAS is running, the Port Tunnel is opened, the M50 finished, etc. You get the picture — NEVER.

More on GM foods

Thanks to Glenn for alerting me to this column on the field scale trials in the UK.

US "allies"

In the war on terror, the United States believes in pre-emption; Canada, like many other "allies", believes in pre-emptive surrender. These two strategies are incompatible.

Pete Stark

I never heard of Congressman Pete Stark before today. But, I just heard him on CNBC discussing the economy and politics. The language he used to describe the President was the kind of thing I would expect at a Paris anti-war rally.

Really made him seem like a fool and I stopped listening to whatever argument he was making.

Revisionist view of the war

"One need offer no apology for saying that the supreme virtue of this war is that Saddam Hussein was gotten rid of."

Those words come from Fawaz Turki, who was "vehemently opposed" to the war in Iraq, but is now wondering if it's "too early to adopt a revisionist view" of the war.

Found this link through Andrew Sullivan.

Bush's speech

I can't help thinking that President Bush's speech yesterday shames Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schroeder. This is (finally) the real reason for the Iraq war. The Middle East has to be transformed. It's a cesspit of injustice, backwardness and economic stagnation. And, these conditions are the source of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism.

As long as there was a homicidal maniac ruling a key country in the middle of the region, real change was impossible. Iranians, Syrians, Saudis and others all would have feared being enslaved by Saddam. Now that he's gone, all of them can hope, can dream. This strategy of Iraq serving as a model towards which the rest of the Middle East should aspire is extremely noble and idealistic.

I never understood why so many Europeans were opposed to this vision. If life under tyranny is actually preferable to war, why did so many Europeans fight and die in the 1940s? And, it doesn't matter how the Middle East ended up as it is. All that matters is that the millions who live there must have transformed societies. They must have hope.

It's also irrelevant that Bush didn't over-emphasise this vision before the war. If he had, he would have scared off the more isolationist Americans (and I'm one) - those who tend towards pessimism and would admire the ideal, but presume that failure was the only possibility. But, I can't understand why Blair didn't make this his prime justification. I can't understand why the leaders of "old Europe" couldn't share in the dream and the vision of a transformed Middle East.

I'm sure the nitpickers will find what they don't like and tear into this speech {I'm not sure the Taliban destroyed "a proud and working society"}. But, the essential theme is impossible to oppose without wishing ill on the people of the Middle East.

Here's my favorite quote:
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.
I'd love to be able to be as optimistic as the President. News like this morning's feed my pessimistic instincts, but as long as I can read something positive from Healing Iraq, The Messopotamian and others I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

"Iraqi resistance"

Another new Iraqi blogger puts paid to the notion that those who are fighting the Americans are an "Iraqi Resistance". Here's the "resistance" for you:
My son could not go to school for three days this past week because of threats to bomb school children. Can you immagine that? I ask this question above all to our arab "brothers" who glorify the "valiant resistance", from such T.V. channels as AlJazeera, as some well known character, talking from his comfortable and safe London office often entertain us to that effect.
Again, Tom Friedman's description of the Iraqi Khmer Rouge seems so appropriate.

Global warming

If today is a result of global warming, then I say "let's have some more, please". Temperatures in the mid 60s and not a cloud in the sky. Tremendous.

I cannot understand why more Irish people are not complaining about our government's support for the Kyoto Treaty. Of course, the Kyoto Treaty was based on flawed data, so I suppose that means that I cannot complain about the government's support for a treaty that's attempting to condemn Ireland to miserable weather in perpetuity. If the Earth is warming up due to increased solar activity, then there's nothing to stop us getting the Mediterranean climate we want.

The weather is so good that not even Paul Durkan's juvenile analysis of US politics on the Pat Kenny radio show this morning could dampen my spirits.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Boston Irish & Puritans

I was going to leave the blog for today and not mention baseball for a few months (What?! I didn't tell you that the New York Yankees were beaten in the World Series? How neglectful of me.), but this article from CNN is too good to pass up or even delay posting. There are just so many good quotes here:
  • To be a Red Sox fan is to understand what it must be like to be the abused partner in a bad relationship.
  • While this year's Red Sox were conspicuous for the camaraderie and closeness of the teammates, the Yankees, too, are like family. The Macbeths, the Borgias and the Mansons.
There are others. It's worth reading in its entirety.

{Thanks to the Irish Elk for this. And, there's an Irish history angle too for those who are not really baseball fans.}

Death penalty

George Will is opposed to the death penalty. Will is one of the conservative writers I most trust. I had always assumed he was in favor. I'm also opposed to capital punishment, but I don't brag about it.

Unlike Will, I do believe that the death penalty provides some element of deterrence. And, it can occasionally directly save lives. If NY State had a death penalty in the 1970s and 80s, Prison Guard Donna Payant would more than likely have not been murdered as her killer would almost certainly have been put to death before she came in contact with him.

Still, I am against the death penalty. Probably, because I'm a squeamish, middle-class wimp. Believe me, agreeing with the Irish sanctimonious set doesn't make me happy.

{If you want the full story on Lemuel Smith and Donna Payant, read this. It's not pleasant.}

Occupation troubles

From today's Boston Globe.

GM Foods

Back in August I asked for some real science to be brought to bear on the GM foods debate. When I wrote that, I didn't know that a 4 year farm scale study into some GM foods was nearing its end. The results were published in mid-October, but are not available online (at least not that I could find).

The first I saw about this was on RTE's web site on Oct. 16. I saw this and felt that perhaps GM foods are not all they're cracked up to be:
campaigners against the growing of genetically modified crops have welcomed the results of field trials carried out in Britain over the past three years. They say they show the alleged benefits of GM do not exist. The field trials found that some GM crops were worse for wildlife than conventional crops.
However, I never trust RTE, so today I decided to go back and see what I could find.

The Guardian's report from Oct. 17 provides a fuller picture. Apparently, the primary problem is that genetically modified beet and rape allow farmers to more effectively control weeds. This increased weed control leads to a reduction in the food supply for some birds and insects. However (and this is a big however), the opposite is the case with GM maize (corn to us Americans).

So, science does indicate that growing certain GM crops can have a negative effect on wildlife in the area where these crops are grown. Does this mean we should ban the growing of these crops? That depends. How badly do we want to improve our farmers' yields? How much of a decline in the populations of insects and birds should we expect if we allowed these crops to be grown? Could farmers grow GM foods in a way that would minimize this effect on birds and insects? And, is it possible that improvements in the herbicides used with conventional crops could have the same effect anyway?

Trevor Sargent claims that "contamination of conventional and organic crops can occur within a 16 mile radius of a GM trial site" according to the "latest UK scientific research". However, these field studies involved growing conventional crops side-by-side (fields were divided in half) with the GM crops and I would have imagined that if contamination was going to occur, it would have occurred in these fields. The Guardian doesn't mention anything along these lines, so presumably, Mr. Sargent's information is from some other report.

This investigation deals entirely with the impact that growing GM foods can have. Science still claims that eating GM foods is in no way harmful to people. This Royal Society report from 2002 indicates that
the risks to human health associated with the use of specific viral DNA sequences in GM plants are negligible. Given the very long history of DNA consumption from a wide variety of sources, it is likely that such consumption poses no significant risk to human health, and that additional ingestion of GM DNA has no effect.
This report also discusses some of the risks associated with conventional plant breeding as a comparison with genetically modified.

Two key questions arise with regards to genetically modified food:
  1. Is it safe to grow?
  2. Is it safe to eat?
The answer to the second question seems an emphatic YES, while the first is (currently) yes/no depending on the crops to be grown and the extent to which we want to allow them to be grown.

Iraq - where are we now

Christopher Hitchens restates the case for war based on what we know now and knew before.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Ireland as a model for Iraq

Before Shi'ite clerics move to make Iraq an Islamic state (a "Shi'ite state for a Shi'ite people"?), John Cullinan says that the Iraqi people could learn something from Ireland's experience.

Americans are too lenient

Another post from "Healing Iraq" — a blog I'm checking daily now. Life in the real world.
The Americans are more interested in being nice and all about human rights and free speech and stuff. We have our own Law and court systems which we can use but the CPA won't allow us to. They are being too lenient and forgiving on our expence. If you think that is what is required to build a successful democracy then you're too deluded. You don't know the first thing about the Iraqi society.
I hope that Mr. Bremer and company are working to allow the Iraqis to make these decisions themselves. Iraqis need to decide how justice should work in Iraq.

It could easily be "ugly" according to our models of democratic societies. Internment, repression and summary executions are more than likely going to be part of the scene in Iraq as old scores are settled and the unreconstructable are put out of business.

What the US (and the rest of the west) needs to do is not so much turn a blind eye as try to encourage greater openness and transparency in Iraqi justice as society settles down. It's almost a cliche now, but rather than looking at today's US and western Europe as models, it would be better to look at those western European and east Asian countries that today are thriving, just societies, but in the aftermath of World War II were just beginning the struggle to make that happen.

Criminal justice system

There's a lot of outrage about the collapse of the Limerick murder trial in Dublin the other day. The Irish Times has a poll running on whether "you favour the use of the non-jury Special Criminal Court for gangland cases"? Nearly three quarters of respondents have said yes. I wonder how many of those are opposed to the US's use of Guantanamo Bay as a holding center for Al Qaeda operatives?

Poppies in Canada

Members of the Royal Canadian Legion are removing their custom from branches of the National Bank of Canada after these branches banned the sale of Poppies.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Middle East & Conspiracy Theories

It's difficult to assess the credibility of blogs. So, every word I read on a blog - particularly one apparently originating in Iraq - is treated as at least somewhat suspect.

Having provided that health warning, I found this translation effort reassuring and hopeful after a horrendous weekend.

One of the chief "war mongers"

Very interesting article on Paul Wolfowitz in Sunday's Washington Post

Euro-Barometer on War & Peace

The full report is now available. A lot of comment in the past week, first on EU attitudes towards the war (most believe it was not justified) and then on countries that pose a threat to world peace.

This poll (Question 2) presumes that all that needs to be rebuilt in Iraq is that which was damaged during the war. I'm still unsure if that's the case or is the US now attempting to help Iraq rebuild infrastructure suffering from neglect.

I don't find it surprising that a majority of Europeans do not feel that the war was justified. Nothing has really come out of post-war Iraq to change anyone's mind.

It's also not surprising to me that a majority of Europeans believe Israel is the biggest threat to world peace. I'm not sure I can agree with Prime Minister Berlusconi, who claimed that the question was "misleading".
For each of the following countries, tell me if in your opinion, it presents or not a threat to peace in the world?
A selection of countries are then listed (apparently in random order):

  • Afghanistan
  • Iraq
  • North Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • Syria
  • Iran
  • Pakistan
  • India
  • Libya
  • United States
  • China
  • Russia
  • Israel
  • European Union

It's not misleading if your first language is English (from what I can see, the poll was conducted in French & English only). I suppose it's possible that people whose first language is neither English nor French may have misinterpreted the question, but the results from the two English speaking countries (UK & Ireland) are consistent with the rest of the EU.

But, just because I didn't find it surprising that EU citizens feel this way, does not mean that it's not outrageous that so many Europeans should feel this way. Why Israel? Estimates of civilian casualties from Russia's 8 year war in Chechnya are between 40,000-100,000. Some even say it's closer to 200,000. North Korea starves its own people in order to pursue nuclear weapons despite a determined attempt to coax them away from this development. Saudi Arabia exports the most extreme version of Islam, which clearly represents a global threat.

I wish I could explain these views. It would be easy to blame anti-Semitism, but even if true, that's insufficient. I don't think Europeans really fear Jews today - at least not as they did in the 1930s. I actually think it has more to do with the EU's past 50 years during which Europeans never had to defend themselves. Living as a cosseted protectorate of the US, Europeans have allowed themselves to develop completely unserious views as to how democracies defend themselves. I'm not sure that's really right either, but these attitudes, although unsurprising, are difficult to explain.

{I did find it surprising that Romano Prodi condemned the results of the poll.}

Monday, November 03, 2003


It's always amazing to watch a monopoly service in action. Greenstar's monopoly hold on refuse collection in my area is a great case in point. {And, it seems to me that the publicly owned monopolies are not as bad as those that are privately held. A tough admission for me, a committed capitalist.}

This week we received a notice from Greenstar regarding the coming year. The first sentence of the letter says "We are writing to remind you that your 2004 subscription for domestic waste management services is due for renewal by Friday, December 12, 2004". Of course, this is no reminder. This is the first any of us in this area has heard about the due date. In all previous years, we paid for our refuse collection by January 31.

So, right away they're annoying me, the customer (who's supposed to be "always right" - don't make me laugh).

Then they explain that "excellent customer service" is one of the company's "key objectives". Puhleease.

Next, they explain that they are "introducing a dry recyclables service" to their Wicklow customers. Is this the service we have now (weekly refuse collections and an additional monthly recyclables collection) or the serivce they attempted to ram down our throats back in early October. Well, that remains to be seen. The letter explains that further details will be available as the "service reaches your area". But, what about those for whom the service has already been introduced?

A quick call to Greenstar solicited the answer: we are going to lose one refuse collection per month. For this privilege we are only being asked to cough up an additional €42 for a total annual charge of €372!

But, before I complain, I should know that "people in Kilkenny are paying upwards of €400 per year". Well, that's a pity for them, but I also know from listening to the radio in recent weeks that we are paying way above the average, particularly when compared with our neighbors in Dublin.