Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Iranian building codes

I was thinking about my previous post all day yesterday. I was worried that I sounded too much like I was keen to make a political point and not sufficiently concerned about the Iranian people. It's just that as I watched the news over the weekend I was getting angrier and angrier. I couldn't help thinking that this is what you get when the government doesn't care about its own people.

Frank's comments mirrored what I had been considering late yesterday. But, this morning I found out that Iran has had two devastating earthquakes in the past 25 years. In 1978, 25,000 people were killed in the Tabbas earthquake and in 1990, 40-50,000 were killed in the Gilan earthquake.

This morning, David Aaronovitch writing in The Guardian notes that the Iranian leaders "don't appear to give a toss".
So why, despite the loss of 40,000 lives in the Gilan earthquake of 1990, had nothing been done? The same question was being asked back in the queue outside the clinic. Fariba Hemati told the Guardian what she thought of official efforts, "Our government is only preoccupied with slogans: 'Death to America', 'Death to Israel', 'Death to this and that'. We have had three major earthquakes in the past three decades. Thousands of people have died but nothing has been done. Why?"
It seems that 'Death to the Iranians' is the government's unspoken slogan.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Iran earthquake

The death toll from Friday's earthquake in Iran is incredible. 6.5 on the Richter scale. That's the same magnitude as the quake that struck California the week before. I'm not exactly sure what the Richter scale measurements mean, but I'm pretty sure that if Iran had adopted California's building codes, and enforced them, Friday's death toll would have been much, much lower. Accountable, responsible government has a lot of plusses and this is one.

Too many resources wasted ensuring that the people don't deviate from the political/religious dogma and not enough to creatively solving the nation's problems.

If you want to help the Earthquake victims, Stella Marie has the addresses.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Smoking ban

John Walsh refers to Minister Martin as one of nature's killjoys and says his use of the word "tipsy" is "redolent of the maiden aunt, covering her glass with a trembling hand and refusing a top-up of Baileys". As I said earlier, I'm not a smoker, but I don't like this ban.

Lots of arguments about the economics of the ban. 9 months into New York City's ban, the economic results are unclear. I still believe there's a fundamental difference between pubs and restaurants and that the Irish restaurant trade won't suffer too much, but pubs will be a different story.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

No Christmas

I agree with this editorial from the Limerick Leader. Banning "Christmas" in order to be 'inclusive' is only a short few years away.

Political correctness is an illness and must be combatted as such The time to begin fighting this battle is now.

Mad Cow in the US

I cannot believe that the US farming industry has been so slow to put in place the safeguards we have here. Now American agriculture is suffering because they have had their first case of mad cow and can't properly track the infected cow. But, as the expression goes, it's an ill wind that blows no good. At least some in Ireland stand to get rich on the back of American farmers' misfortune.

Friday, December 26, 2003


"Is this do-able?" he said. "You'd better believe it." That's from an article in Wednesday's NY Times. The speaker is the UK's General Lamb, who is leaving Iraq and he was referring to the whole Iraqi project. Since Christmas is an optimistic time of the year, I'm willing to believe him.

I always read John Burns's articles when I find them. He always gives me the feeling that he's reporting rather than editorializing.

Christmas Message

Until I read this post by The Mesopotamian I never knew that Jesus had an important place in Islam.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

by Clement Moore. Moore wasn't just from New York, but from Jackson Heights, where I was born. Of course, nowadays, there are some nay-sayers who are trying to claim Moore didn't write the poem at all.


Gail Walker says that in any other sport Rio Ferdinand "would have been kicked out for two years". Well, that's not quite true. In baseball, Rio would have been sent to a 'treatment program'.

I actually think an 8 month ban is sufficient for Ferdinand. He'll miss most of a season and he'll miss out on the European Championships next summer.

I think the punishment is right, but I think the wrong body has administered it. It should be administered by the FA Premiership. If I were an English (or any other country) soccer club, I'd get rid of the FA's and FIFA's hold over the product I offer. Why do these big businesses put up with such interference in their business?

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Ireland and Libya

What sort of message does this picture from 2000 send to the Libyan people?

Libya vs Iraq

Dick has a long post on Libya's WMD programs and compares US actions with regards to Libya and Iraq.

He states that:
in the absence of a threatening WMD programme, the justification is now that Saddam was an evil man who tortured and killed his own people. But Gaddafi has tortured and killed his own people? You'd be forgiven for being confused.
However, that's not quite right. As stated in the State of the Union speech, the justification for the war before the war was Saddam's (not in any particular order)
  • failure to comply with UN resolutions
  • links to terrorist organizations
  • abuse of the Iraqi people
  • threat to his neighbors
On Friday, when commenting on the Libya's announcement, President Bush said:
We obtained an additional United Nations Security Council Resolution requiring Saddam Hussein to prove that he had disarmed, and when that resolution was defied, we led a coalition to enforce it. All of these actions by the United States and our allies have sent an unmistakable message to regimes that seek or possess weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons do not bring influence or prestige. They bring isolation and otherwise unwelcome consequences.
There is no indication that the President has changed the terms of the justification at all.

Dick also says, "You'd be forgiven for being confused" and asks if "it's okay to be a dictator who tortures and kills as long as you make nice to the West"? I think the answer is that you can be forgiven if you take steps to change your ways. Saddam was given that opportunity. He could have done what Gaddaffi has done. He was given many chances to do just that, but he chose (stupidly, if he in fact had no WMD) to toy with the inspectors. Just because there's the beginning of a thaw does not mean that the US approves of every action the Libyan government takes.

After reading Dick's comments, I couldn't help wonder what he wanted the US to do? Ignore the offer and declare that Gaddaffi will be toppled by US forces in 2004?

Gaddaffi's clearly had links to terrorists in the past and he had a WMD program (maybe not complete, but he did use those chemical weapons in the war with Chad in 1987). Those days are (apparently) now behind him and the US is responding. There will be more pressure to reform internally, but the threat of military action against Libya is certainly gone.

The Bush Doctrine still calls for democratization, and I've seen nothing to convince me that this has been abandoned. We'll have to see. Along with Amir Taheri, I am skeptical that Gaddaffi has really changed, but I can see the reasoning for giving him the benefit of the doubt. That picture of Saddam's rat hole may have been a "there, but for the grace of God" moment for Gaddaffi.

Monday, December 22, 2003

"Person of the Year"

Time Magazine has named "The American Soldier" as their person of the year. Jason is one soldier who's not impressed. He rightly thinks it should have been President Bush.

{For those who don't know, the Person of the Year is not given to whomever the editors admire most, but to the person who had the greatest impact on the year's news.}

Guerrilla War

Interesting analysis of the Ba'athists guerrilla campaign from a company that sells this sort of analysis. The writer says it took a while for the Americans to identify their enemy's weak spot - money.
The guerrillas did have one major vulnerability: money. The Baathist regime long ago lost its ideological -- and idealistic -- foundations. It was an institution of self-interest in which the leadership systematically enriched itself.
The Americans are able to outspend the Ba'athists and can afford to pay people to betray the guerrillas.

Thomas Cahill

Many Irish people will be aware of Thomas Cahill. He wrote How the Irish Saved Civilization, which was a huge seller in the US.

Mr. Cahill apparently finds it hard to understand how someone can be both a Christian and a Republican. He claims that the Republican party is "racist" and an enemy of the poor. Both claims are laughable. Neither of the two parties is either racist or an enemy of the poor. Both offer different ideas as to how to address the problems of American society.

There are many Christians who always vote Republican. Often they are not wealthy people. Yet, they give generously to their church (sometimes as much as 10% of all their household income). In return, their church provides education for their children, assistance for members of their community, some health care and support for the elderly. That is a Christian life. That these people feel free to reject the statist view of how such problems should be addressed by voting for a smaller government as promoted (although currently not being implemented) by the Republican Party is completely consistent.

The Democratic Party believes that government involvement solves problems. I don't. The Democratic Party believes that the central government should be involved in a whole range of everyday life issues. I don't. Am I less Christian for holding such views? I don't think so.

I read How the Irish Saved Civilization and thought it was well written and it sounded plausible to me. However, someone I know who's much more familiar with the events of that period told me the book was full of holes and wasn't worth much. Having read these few sentences on Mr. Cahill's web page, I well believe it.

{Link found through Andrew Sullivan.}

Col. Hickey

Thanks to Chris (welcome to the world of blogging) for this link. It's a radio interview (from Dec 16) with Col. Hickey (the "man who caught Saddam"). {I did laugh when the interviewer (Rachel English?) asked him if he knew that Saddam was the target of the raid. Hello! This IS the man in charge of the operation.}

Unfortunately, Col. Hickey has caused his father no end of embarrassment by declaring his roots are in Limerick. Well, his father's actually from Clare. There'll be hell to pay when he gets home!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Libyan WMD & Newstalk 106

According to this article from the Sunday Herald (definitely not in the pro-war camp), the "end of the threat posed to world peace and secure oil supplies by the 'axis of evil' is emerging this weekend as the real prize that Tony Blair and George Bush have secured for Christmas". Heady stuff.

Libya was apparently the base for key developments for both Iran and N. Korea.

Yesterday, I was listening to Newstalk and during their headline news they mentioned this development. They obviously decided they needed some political reaction so they asked Richard Boyd Barrett. Why? In the last election he got 876 votes in the Dun Laoghaire constituency. He's not a political player (the pro-death penalty candidate in Wicklow got about the same). Why couldn't Newstalk have asked the Department of Foreign Affairs or someone from Fine Gael, Labour or even Sinn Féin for some reaction on Libya's announcements?

Anyway, Boyd Barrett's reaction was something along the lines of "Libya was never a threat anyway"! I guess he forgot about, among other things, Pan Am 103 (December 21, 1988).

Bush Doctrine

Dana Milbank, not a Bush "cheerleader" by any stretch, describes this week as a week of "sweet vindication" for supporters of the Bush Doctrine.

New World Trade Center

Frank has weighed in on the proposed World Trade Center as I asked (thanks, Frank). I wanted an architect's perspective. He also links to the BBC's description of the proposed development that has told me that the viewing platform will be at the 73rd floor. That definitely disappoints me. I thought it would be higher. {I haven't read a whole lot on the new design - I've just seen a few pictures and read a bit in the Daily News.}

Frank says he's not a fan of Liebeskind's work. I can't comment on Liebeskind's work because I don't know anything else he's ever done. I do know that his site plan was my second favorite after the Foster plan.

Frank's preference was for the Twin Towers to be rebuilt exactly as they were. Initially that was my gut reaction too, and some people are still promoting it.

But, I also remember when I was a kid and the Twin Towers were being built, most New Yorkers hated them. They were "ugly" and (worse) "uninteresting". New Yorkers didn't just want their skyline to be tall, they want it to be distinct. The Twin Towers eventually grew on people in the same way that an ugly sweater can become the most comfortable, but that's not an argument for rebuilding them as they were.

Frank makes reference to Warsaw's rebuilt historic center as an example for rebuilding exactly as things were. I was in Warsaw and Krakow in 1987. I remember at that time I was struck by how genuine Krakow seemed compared with the rebuilt Warsaw. And, I had the feeling that the local people felt the same way. Warsaw seemed like a show-piece whereas Krakow's historic center had a great atmosphere.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Seamus - can't escape transport news

Yesterday saw the opening of the new Kennedy Airport light rail service. This new system cost $2bn for 8 miles of track. Sounds pretty pricey to me, but Seamus Brennan liked it.
"I'm very impressed," said Ireland's minister of transportation, Seamus Brennan, who, coincidentally, traveled to New York yesterday and became the first foreign dignitary to ride the AirTrain.

"Connecting the airport to downtown is the right thing to do. Cities need to get people out of their cars."
I wonder how "coincidental" it was that Seamus Brennan was there for the opening of New York's new airport train service.


I'm 100% behind the proposed redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. There'll be a proper memorial, but the World Trade Center was about commerce and the life of the city. The design of this development is exciting (unlike the original Trade Center) - lots of commerce, great height (for which NYC is famous) and even windmills to generate energy for the building (simultaneously an interesting and silly idea, but so what?).

I'm not an architect (any views Frank?) nor even a little arty, but I do like the look of what's proposed here.

Most importantly, lower Manhattan will live again and not remain a permanent grave site and memorial.


Very interesting interview with Canadian judge, Peter Cory, on the Last Word yesterday evening. They don't archive their programs, but it will probably be aired again on the The Very Last Word this morning at 10am.


I didn't know anything about the European mission to Mars until yesterday. Funny enough, my first instinct was sort of a weird "doesn't NASA do all space missions" reaction, but the more I learned and thought about this the happier I was. I love space missions. I'm hoping we get some great pictures and learn exciting new things about Mars. And, (in an Al Kennedy moment - see below), I'm hoping that this mission will reestablish faith in science among Europeans. With the increasing strength of the Green Party, science is beginning to be seen as man's enemy. "The only good science is a dead science" is the Greens' motto.


If Saddam had embraced as complete a transformation as Gaddafi apparently has, he would still be in power in Iraq today. Gaddafi's (why can't we have one spelling for his name?) decision does seem to me to be related to the Bush-Blair policy with regards to Iraq. Once they showed that the UN would not hold them back, he must have realized he was playing with fire by having a secretive nuclear as well as crude chemical weapons programs.

The knock-on effects of war are always unpredictable. This seems to be a positive one and makes the war more defensible from the American perspective (as I've said, I always thought it was justified from the perspective of the average Iraqi).

In one of those "why today" moments, Al Kennedy's silly article looks even sillier today after the Libyan announcement. This article is a neat & tidy summary of anti-Americanism.

Saddam's capture

Major Stan Murphy seems as if he may be another Irish hero in the operation to capture Saddam.

This article from the NY Times indicates that Saddam was more involved in the so-called resistance than the Irish media presumes. The fact that he was captured hiding in a hole does not mean he was living there full-time. It was merely a temporary hide-out. Any leader of an underground movement would similarly take refuge if his pursuers were near-by.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Channel 4 report

Anyone who saw last night's Channel 4 news could not have been anything other than disturbed by the long report on the US Army's operations in the 'Sunni Triangle'.

If you take the report at face value, then one incident in particular was upsetting to watch. The treatment of the man in brown who "was found loitering near what was believed to be the mortar launch site". It's never pleasant to watch someone getting beaten or humiliated. It's even worse when that person is not guilty of anything, which was definitely implied by the reporter (Martin Sadler is his name, I think).

The words and manner of Captain Pfuetze also bothered me. He came across as arrogant, unconcerned about the Iraqi people and determined to seem macho.

But, there was something else about his manner that got under my skin. It was the fact that I couldn't shake the feeling that he was hamming it up for the camera. It was as if he knew the media were not on his side and he was determined to give them the caricature he figured they wanted.

After the report, Jon Snow was speaking with British Major General Cordingly. Snow pointed out that the soldiers knew that a camera was running and that they were willing to be filmed behaving like this. Yet, Snow didn't seem to consider that the camera might change the way soldiers behave? Do they want to be filmed and seen as 'tough guys'?

Obviously, the editing is also open to questioning. The reporter said he spent 10 days in the company of Charlie Company. Yet, we've only seen a 12 minute clip of those 10 days (the video report is available). Was what we saw representative of the Army's mission during those 10 days? We saw a lot of terrified people in homes the Army was raiding, but we never found out if the subjects of the raids were terrifying the local population.

So I ended up feeling disturbed by the image of the US Army and disturbed by the questions I had that the report didn't answer.

On a related note, General Cordingly did offer the view that the US soldiers were not trained to do peace-keeping, something that I referred to here. Again, I don't know how true or not this is, but it does worry me.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A trial for Saddam

In the comments below, Nigel expresses a view, which essentially I've heard a lot on the radio since Saddam's capture.
There is always need for a trial - a lynch mob is no more morally acceptable than the tyrant they lynch.
The Iraqi people could execute Saddam after holding a tribunal that is in no way a trial. I don't see the need for Saddam to be allowed to confront his accusers. I KNOW he's guilty and so do the Iraqi people. Any forum (trial or whatever) that allows Saddam to cross-examine witnesses would be unnecessarily stressful for victims or their families. Why should they suffer for what is nothing more than a sop to our western sensitivies?

Saddam is a lawyer (studied in Cairo, law Degree from University of Baghdad), so he could represent himself at any trial. Testifying at a trial against the perpetrator of the crimes against you or your family is hard enough when it's necessary, in this case it's not necessary so why put victims through it? Who should we worry about in this instance?

Environmentalism as religion

Really interesting speech by Michael Crichton on environmentalism. Here's a flavor of it:
Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.
I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn't give a damn.
I don't know too much about Crichton. I know he's written some books that have sold well and does some stuff for television, etc. I don't know how he knows these things about DDT (and the rest of his revelations), but if he's right then environmentalists have a lot to think about. Their actions are not risk free (which I think many of them assume).

{Found through The Corner.}

Steyn & Dean

This description of Howard Dean is pretty amusing:
On Osama bin Laden, he's Mister Insouciant. But he gets mad about bike paths. Destroy the World Trade Center and he's languid and laconic and blasé. Obstruct plans to convert the ravaged site into a memorial bike path and he'll hunt you down wherever you are.


A naturalized citizen of Ireland, originally from Lebanon, is challenging the state's refusal to allow his first of two wives to come to Ireland. (The second wife has already been allowed to enter.)

This is stunning. How could the Department of Foreign Affairs not have realized that this might be a problem someday when they first allowed him to come here in 1998. And, who on Earth allowed the second wife to enter the country? I cannot believe they didn't see this as a potential problem.

If he were really fleeing persecution, then surely he could have come here temporarily while he sorted out a place to live in which he would not have trouble obeying the law. He knew when he first came here that he couldn't abide by the marriage laws of this state. And, if he didn't, surely the Department of Foreign Affairs knew?

But, worst of all, he was granted citizenship by the Department of Justice in 2002. To become a citizen of the US, the applicant must (among other things) have an "attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution" — that is, they must be willing to obey US law. Duh! What's required of an applicant for Irish citizenship?

I read this page and it's not quite clear that a willingness to obey the law is required. I guess that would fit under "good character"? I suppose I can understand not recognizing Lebanese marriages, but surely the Consular Officer or Justice Department officials could have asked the man if he considered both of these women to be his wives? If he had answered yes, then he was already outside Irish law, no?


Saddam and the European rethink

Tom Friedman believes that the capture of Saddam was the inspiration for France's change of heart with regards to Iraqi debts —
. . . the picture of Saddam looking like some crazed werewolf may have shocked even Chirac and his foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin: Yes, boys, this is the creep you were protecting. History will also record that while the United States and Britain chose to be Saddam's prosecutors, France chose to be his defense lawyers.
The New York Post is less touchy-feely. It's editorial suggests that the French (& Germans) changed their attitude as they realized that they would be shut out of all commercial opportunity in the new Iraq. But, the Post also states that the capture of Saddam had a telling effect:
Partly because the arrest of the cunning old survivor has shaken the French and German leaders' confidence that the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq would end in retreat, disaster and humiliation for the English-speaking powers and their Coalition friends.

But mainly because both French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are worried about the beans Saddam might spill about their countries' role in sanctions-busting, supplying Iraq with military equipment and obstructing U.N. efforts to investigate weapons of mass destruction.
There's a lot of talk about what might come out that will embarrass the Americans (Rumsfeld's handshake, etc.), but I would guess that most of what might emerge is already in the public domain. It seems more likely to me that many other countries, including France & Germany, but also possibly Britain, might find some of what could be revealed troubling.

And what about Ireland for that matter? Is it possible that some details might surface that would shame Garrett Fitzgerald, Dick Spring, Bertie Ahern, Albert Reynolds or others? {I'm assuming that little could come out about dealings with Iraq that would distress Charlie Haughey or Ray Burke.}

Something to ponder

Witnesses to Rwanada's genocide are being intimidated and killed to keep them from testifying. With all this concern for Saddam and his need for a fair trial, is the international community going to be able to prevent this from happening in Iraq?

Unless there's some doubt - any doubt - that Saddam was a Dictator and law unto himself and unless there's some doubt that those mass graves are victims of the state or that Halabja was gassed by Saddam's troops or that his sons operated with his knowledge then there is no real need for a "fair trial". What's really needed is an opportunity for the Iraqi people to confront Saddam with his crimes and force him to face up to what he has done.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Holy See and Saddam

I cannot believe what Cardinal Martino had to say about Saddam.
I felt pity to see this man destroyed, [the military] looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures ... Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him.
And, I can hardly bring myself to accept that the Pope could honestly believe this after seeing those mass graves unearthed in Iraq.
Peace and international law are closely linked to each other: law favours peace.
To my mind, what has been clearly exposed over the past 15 months is that international law favors the status quo — even when that status quo includes putting people into meat grinders, etc.

Yes, war is terrible. And, yes, perhaps the it could be argued that the US should not have gone to war. But, an Iraqi uprising with US support would have been equally illegal, no? And, doesn't the fact that most of the Iraqi army chose not to fight constitute an uprising of sorts? What about a people who rise, die in their hundreds of thousands and no one comes to their aid (Iraq '91/92)? Is that moral? No, but I'm sure it was legal. International law — give me a break.

This is more like it. I hope it's true that some of his superiors consider Cardinal Martino an embarrassment. He is.


I love Google's logo today (tribute to the Wright Brothers flight, December 17, 1903).

Ireland & Iraq

Stella Marie believes that the US is "probably a bit more saavy than given credit for, recognizes Ireland's fence sitting and leaves them out of the approved contract list for rebuilding Iraq". I'm sure she's deliberately understating that. To many people in Ireland the "Bush is a moron" idea of the US administration is not a subject of debate.

However, I suspect that what really happened is that the US was willing to do whatever the Irish government wanted on this issue. There are probably no Irish companies of sufficient size to bid on this work (or would want to), but by being left off the list it allows Ahern to be on the good side of France/Germany. In fact, having allowed the US to do what it wanted at Shannon and now by being on the good side of F & G Ireland is well placed to play that "bridge" role that Brian Cowen talked about for the EU Presidency.

Et tu Mom?

You know things are going bad for you when your own mother requests that the judge throw the book at you.

From the Albany Times Union:
At the sentencing hearing Friday, Kilkenny's sister from New Jersey asked District Judge David N. Hurd to impose a harsh sentence. A representative of the Rensselaer County sheriff's union testified his organization was taken for $25,000.

Hurd said he received letters from Kilkenny's mother and mother-in-law asking for excessive punishment. The judge told victims in the courtroom their letters played a role in his decision.


I was listening to the news on Dublin's Country Music station (no web address, fax: 353-1-216 0401) this morning and the man giving the news referred to Saddam's "alleged" crimes. I'm pretty sure that the station gets its news feed from Independent Network News. (no web, fax: 353-1-6629556).

Alleged?!!! They've gotta be kidding. But, there was no sense of irony in the tone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Dinner anyone?

Message to bin Laden, Al Jazeera and more

"May God blind your eyes more and more.
May you follow your Godfather through his glorious path to hell.
May you live long enough to face the same destiny.
Take heart, the moment of joining your hero is near."

"Irishman" who caught Saddam

From today's Boston Globe:
"This is a true American story -- we were blessed to come here, we worked hard to educate our kids, and now Jim is giving something back to this country we adopted," said Anne Marie Hickey, who spoke to her son on the telephone Sunday.
From today's Chicago Sun Times:
His mother, Anne Marie, got wind something big was happening at about 4:45 a.m. Sunday when her son Ken phoned. She immediately thought the worst -- that someone had died.

"You know the Irish,'' said Anne Marie, a native of Aclare, County Sligo.

USS Ronald Reagan

Whenever I think Ireland is being over-run by anti-Americanism and pacifism, there's a small town story like this that convinces me that the national media and Dublin generally do not reflect the attitudes of the average Irish man or woman. I half expected to read that the people of Tipperary were up in arms over the links between Ballyporeen and the new US Aircraft Carrier.

America's safest big city

All those great television police dramas - Kojak to NYPD Blue - based on New York's "mean streets" may be a thing of the past if this miserable trend continues. For the second year in a row, NY is the safest big city in the US.

The graph showing the drop in murders since 1990 shows the remarkable impact that the Giuliani administration and zero tolerance had on NYC. No way that demographics can explain this, despite what I heard recently on an Irish radio program.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Irish Times & Casualty figures

Today's Irish Times editorial (sub required) claims that "November was the worst month so far for coalition forces in Iraq, when the rate of deaths and casualties suffered by US troops became greater than during the Vietnam war".

I don't know about that. During November, the US suffered 109 military fatalities and 344 wounded (thanks to Jason for that tip). In Viet Nam, the average monthly loss was 526 killed in action (that does not include other deaths) and 1,700 wounded.

Saddam & the Irish reaction

The reaction of the Irish media to Saddam's capture yesterday has been a mixture of the real and the surreal. Morning Ireland illustrated this perfectly. Just after 8am they had on Professor William Shabbas, who was talking about Saddam's rights, etc. Professor Shabbas is concerned that Saddam will be subjected to a show trial like Ceausescu received. I don't remember being at all concerned about how Ceausescu was treated by the Romanian people. I'll be equally unconcerned about Saddam if the Iraqis try him themselves.

Professor Shabbas also said that Saddam's best game plan now would be to demand that he is treated as laid out by the European Convention on Human Rights. Professor Shabbas believes that the British presence in Iraq entitles Saddam to the protection of the Convention.

I kept waiting to hear David Hanly burst out laughing at the nonsense this guy was spouting.

Immediately after Professor Shabbas, Ayab Nouri, an Iraqi journalist was interviewed. He said - sensibly - that most Iraqis do not believe that Saddam requires a normal trial because there is no doubt of his guilt. He wants a trial in Iraq and then an execution. This does not worry me in the least.

Later I listened to Gerry Ryan for a few minutes, who also was saying some bizarre things. He kept referring to the fact that Saddam was captured in the British area of Iraq. Yet, Tikrit is in the north of the country, which is controlled by the US. The British are in control in the south around Basra.

The best of all, however, was finding out that it was an "Irishman" who led the military operation to capture Saddam. Now all Irish people can feel good about themselves when they see the Iraqis celebrating. No need for anyone to second-guess that decision to march in February!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Saddam caught

Not much I can say really. I heard early today, but wasn't able to get up here to post anything. Now, after a day of good news, I find there's not much I can add. This is good enough for me. This too.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Bray issues

I've decided to start a separate blog to deal with issues that are really just local. Fay in Bray is up and running.


The Irish population is booming. Who knew? I just thought we were all taking up more room. This story has been in a lot of papers and today it's in the Financial Times. What amazes me is that everybody seems to be aware that the population of Dublin is exploding, yet you still hear all these environmentalists talking about how well transport systems work "on the continent" or wherever. I can't say with certainty, but I would be surprised if any city in W. Europe has experienced anything like the growth that Dublin has. And, growth is the arch enemy of "planning". It's easy to plan when you have a stable population, but when things are changing as fast as they are here, then more often than not the planners will get it wrong.

The LUAS was a great idea for a city the size that Dublin was when I first saw it in 1985. Unfortunately, that city is gone and has been replaced by a massive metropolis.

Do I have all the answers? No. But, doing nothing while we try to figure out what's going to happen next is as big a gamble as doing the wrong thing. My instincts tell me that the city is not done growing yet and we need a proper undergoround rail system. It'll be an excessively expensive whopper of a government project, but we have to just bite the bullet and get it done. {I assume that private contractors will do most of the work and that there may even be some private funding. The more private involvement, the better.}

Vincent Browne radio show

I agree with this first paragraph from a column in today's Irish Independent (author not given).
Anyone who did not hear Vincent Browne's programme on Radio One on Wednesday last, the night Judge Barron's report was issued, should beg, borrow or steal a tape of it. This was public service broadcasting at its best - immediate, probing, concerned, critical, compassionate.
It was a great program, and I don't generally like V. Browne. Too much pontificating. But, on this night, his tone, his deference to the victims and their families was just right. Perhaps because he himself was so close to what happened that day.

{I'm not sure what is meant by "public service broadcasting". If the writer meant to imply that only a license-fee funded station could rise to this level, that's nonsense. There's no reason to believe that a commercial radio station couldn't have produced/broadcast this show.}

David Brooks on Bush & diplomacy

The first sentence of this article was enough to hook me:
I think we are all disgusted by the way George W. Bush's administration has allowed honesty and candor to seep into the genteel world of international affairs.

Irish cottage in upstate NY

I was only in E. Durham once or twice and that was before it began to see Irish culture as something more than a booze fest. I know a lot of Irish people will find this kind of development odd (or worse), but I can't see how it's anything other than a good thing. A lot of Irish-Americans will never make it to Ireland for all sorts of reasons, but that doesn't mean they're not interested in Irish history, etc.

Israel's Sammy Davis?

That's what Glenn hopes Firas Khoury, an Arab who recently won an Israeli reality show, will be. The prize for winning was a one year job as presenter of an Israeli TV show. Firas will be Israel's first Arab TV presenter.

Friday, December 12, 2003


This is a great blue-print for how to get yourself OFF America's regime-to-be-changed list. {Los Angeles Times - requires registration}


From yesterday's Rocky Mountain News:
"I would rather drive without brakes than without my horn," Atheed says in all seriousness as we careen along the Karada, a long, bustling shopping boulevard on the east side of the city.
Sounds like driving in New York. In fact, a lot of the descriptions of Baghdad sound like NYC circa 1983.

Howard Dean & foreign policy

Today's Montreal Gazette has an editorial recalling Dean's support for the Quebec separtists in the 1995 referendum. Dean was undermining the Clinton administration's policy on the issue.

Iraqi reconstruction contracts

Pat Brosnan, writing in today's Irish Examiner, believes as I do that Irish companies should be able to bid on the Iraq reconstruction contracts. Before the war when Colin Powell talked about the "coalition of the willing", it was assumed here that Ireland was one of the 15 countries who were supportive, but not publicly so.

If Ireland is not eligible (as Dick informs me), then I would guess that has more to do with Ireland's reluctance to get involved in post-war Iraq than anything to do with what happened (or didn't happen) before the war.

It seems pretty obvious to me that this contracts issue is being used as a bargaining chip with those who are still hoping to be repaid Iraq's Saddamist debts. President Bush said as much
"If these countries want to participate in helping the world become more secure by enabling Iraq to emerge as a free and peaceful country, one way to contribute is through debt restructuring," he said.
The Washington Post and New York Times are not impressed with the administration's announcement, but the NY Post was happy to be able to relive its favorite pre-war front page with reference to the "Axis of Weasel"

David Horgan was on Morning Ireland again this morning (RTE loves this man - does any other Irish MD get such a free publicity ride? Even Michael O'Leary is sometimes subjected to serious questioning of his views.). Mr. Horgan, according to Mr. Horgan, is a brave man who travels in lawless regions of Iraq with nothing other than an Ireland rugby jersey to protect him. Of course, RTE's Richard Downes accepted unquestioningly that Ba'athist insurgents are fully up to speed on the nuances of Irish neutrality.

Mr. Horgan did make the point that the US policy deals only with primary contractors and does not affect sub-contracting. Whether any Irish company could have been a primary contractor anyway is doubtful. According to an article in today's USA Today, only a handful of British or American companies could meet the Pentagon's tight bidding deadline.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Iraqi reconstruction contracts

I find it hard to disagree with this Newsday editorial on the decision to exclude French, German or Russian companies from Iraq reconstruction contracts. They knew this was coming.

I'm assuming that Irish companies can join the bidding. I just hope no contracts go to Petrel Resources. Their MD, David Horgan, was all over the media before and during the war denouncing the US in no uncertain terms. I'd love to think that someone in Ballsbridge has marked his card and filed that with the Pentagon.

I suspect this is the reason that Mr. Horgan was so desperate to see Saddam's regime remain in power.

I love this headline on the same topic because it sums up all that I think about the EU - it's a club of France & Germany and others can join if they want. Italy, Spain, Poland, the UK, Ireland (again, presumably) and many other EU members will not "miss out" on the chance to bid on Iraqi reconstruction contracts.

Anti-terrorism protest

Sounds like the protests were a success.

Newshound up - after 3 hours

I hope the Newshound is up for the day now. I won't be around at all, so if anything goes wrong there isn't much I can do about it.

Newshound down

I've woken to find that the Newshound has been unavailable for at least the past 2 hours. I don't have any idea when it will be back.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Iraqi Bishop

I wonder what kind of reaction this Bishop would get if he came to Ireland. (Found via AndrewSullivan.com)

Lieberman on Gore's endorsement

Joe Lieberman was on the Today Show yesterday and was asked about Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean. The whole transcript is worth reading, but this is my favorite bit:
Lauer: Just a week ago this is what you had to say about Al Gore, "As president I would turn to him not only for advice but see if he would be interested in holding some high office in my administration. He's an immensely capable, principled, effective person." Has that changed now?

Lieberman: I'd say that's less likely this morning. [Laughter]
What really comes across in this interview is just how much distance Al Gore has put between himself and Al Gore (circa 1996).

Down-size the government

Dick says I sound depressed (I think resigned is a better word) on decentralization. Then with regards to my comment on down sizing government he asks, "when was the last time you ever heard anyone say we don't need a Department of Justice"? Well, never. However, I did question why we need a Department of Education.

I never intended to advocate zero government. There are certain functions which must be done by government and some of those functions are best done by the central government (like Defense and Foreign Policy). However, I honestly do not believe we need a Department of Education, a Department of Health, a Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism, a Department of Social and Family Affairs, a Department of Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, or a Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

I'm sure there are other unnecessary Departments.

Dick also says that moving public jobs to India would not find favor with the Irish electorate. He may be right. However, if the government announced that all unskilled, repetitive tasks were being sent to India and this would provide sufficient savings to cut income tax or provide more hospital beds or build a national stadium or whatever, maybe some of the electorate wouldn't object?

I do think that there are certain aspects of national life that should not be exported and the personal details that the government keeps on its citizens is one of them. That does not rule out massive automation, however.

Frank provides good concrete examples as to why real decentralization is needed.

Free enterprise

You gotta love the cut and thrust of capitalism. On Saturday, New York got hit with 15 inches of snow. Yesterday, the NY Daily News found one man selling snow balls for $1.

The US & Taiwan

The New York Times claims that Taiwan has made a strategic blunder in pursuing the referendum on China's missiles. The US is happy enough to maintain the status quo, although this does run counter to all the fine speeches about democracy and freedom that the President has been making lately, as the Washington Post noted today.

I'm not sure I accept the Post's assertion that the President decided to side with the Chinese because "above all" he wanted "to avoid one more foreign policy crisis during an election year". Yes, the election will be a factor in all decisions, but the relationship with China is crucial with regards to trade and North Korea. These are two areas of prime importance for the United States, more important than Taiwan's status.

It's hard to disagree with this passage, however.
It's bad enough that the world's largest dictatorship might consider a nonbinding referendum opposing the use of force to be a provocation justifying war. But for the United States to accept such totalitarian logic is inexcusable.

The Arab News & Taiwan

An editorial in yesterday's Arab News sees the parallel that I've been expecting to see in the Irish meda:
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said that China will never allow Taiwan to use democracy to achieve independence. He was speaking at the start of a four-day visit to the US. His words will come across as reactionary and repugnant. Imagine if Tony Blair said that the UK would never allow Northern Ireland to use democracy to decide its future, or the Israelis that they would never accept Palestinians voting for their freedom. There would be fury across the world at such tyranny, and the Chinese would join the chorus.
This editorial is a great summation of the entire issue. The Chinese threats are repugnant and President Chen is trying to pull a political stunt to get reelected. That's why I say that the Chinese don't even understand democracy. If they did, they would laugh off President Chen's referendum and watch the Taiwanese people oust him of their own free accord.

The UN & Taiwan

The editorial in today's Taipei Times sums up the UN's position with regards to Taiwan:
Beijing has never implemented democratic politics but instead has repeatedly trampled on human rights. Now one of its leaders is at the UN, which passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948, and is vociferously attacking the democratic reforms being carried out by the people of Taiwan in accordance with the basic spirit of that declaration. Such a scene flies in the face of the UN's raison d'etre and is a blow to its dignity.
The President of Taiwan cannot address the UN as China will not allow it. The best that Taiwan can do is "slip a cabinet minister" into a UN sponsored meeting.

The Irish Times & Taiwan

Dick has taken the time to repond to my postings on Taiwan with a defense of the Irish Times. He cites 8 different articles on China-Taiwan relations published by the paper since 1996.

Dick then goes on to say that "I think the world's media will be far more interested if China actually followed through with its threats". Well, I can't say anthing about the "world's media", but there has been a marked gap in interest between the British and Irish media on the recent threats by China against Taiwan. And, of course, China doesn't have to follow "through with its threats" in order to achieve what it wants. A gangster doesn't have to actually blow your head off to convince you that he means business. As soon as you know he's serious you have only two choices: comply or die. That is the stark choice facing the Taiwanese.

Taiwan has undergone a revolution over the past decade. The Chiang Kai Shek regime has been dismantled, democracy and freedom have taken root and feelings of Taiwanese nationalism have begun to surface.

Whether Taiwan is a nation or not is a difficult question. It's entirely possible that a referendum on the issue would show that most Taiwanese consider themselves Chinese. But, of course, if that referendum were held under these conditions, the Taiwanese people would go to the polls with a gun to their heads.

Dick also says that "this has been going on an awful long time" implying that not much changes and minimal attention is really required. Yet, this is completely at odds with the attention to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, which has been going on exactly the same length of time and with even fewer changes than in the China-Taiwan situation over the past decade.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Once more on anti-semitism

What really fascinated me about this article is that the writer comes across as almost rational. She describes how conspiracy theories and paranoia have such a hold on the Arabs.

Yet, she mangles enough facts, dismisses truths and glosses over real idiocy to such an extent that I can't take her seriously.
  1. President Bush never referred to the war on Iraq as a "crusade". He used the word - once - just after September 11 when describing American's pursuit of terrorists. He hasn't used the word again.
  2. There are real differences between what Mahathir Muhammad said about Jews and what General Boykin said about Islam. Essentially, General Boykin was claiming his religion, Christianity, superior to Islam. Am I supposed to believe that no leading Muslims believe that Islam is superior to Christianity? What Mahathir Muhammad said ". . . today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them" is simply loony. Ms. Karmi claims that his words were taken out of context (follow the link above for the whole speech). Perhaps they were. Perhaps he doesn't hate Jews. But, that doesn't change the fact that his views with regards to Jews are completely nuts. Why doesn't she say as much?
  3. Her reference to "ruthless Israeli/US hegemony" is reckless for a political analyst and research fellow. US hegemony — okay. But, Israel? Using Israel in that context is a reflection of her own paranoia - as if Israel really determines US policy. It doesn't. The interests of the United States determine US policy, nothing else.
  4. Her casual reference to "the accusation of Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism" implies that this is not true. If that is so, then more Islamic/Arab leaders need to be heard. I had no trouble finding Americans willing to denounce General Boykin, but couldn't find a single article/news item where a leading Muslim had condemned Mahathir Muhammad. I can't say that none did, but I just couldn't find them through Google.

Anti-semitism in Iraq

Whatever about anti-semitism in Ireland, it's nothing (apparently) compared with what can be found in Iraq.

Anti-semitism motion at the UN

I can't understand why the Irish government thought they'd ever get the backing from the Arab or Muslim states for this motion. If they weren't willing to proceed in the face of such opposition, why bother trying in the first place?

Gore & Dean

Al Gore is backing Howard Dean for the Democratic nomination, according to the NY Times. The Times article talks about what a blow this is to Joe Lieberman, but according to Newsmax.com and Dick Morris it's really all about Gore's anger at the Clintons.

Meanwhile, George Will says Dean is "no thinker". Will's description combined with Dean's gaffes already in the campaign may mean (assuming he's going to get the nomination) that we may be spared a lot of the intellectual snootiness that we were subjected to during the Gore vs. Bush campaign.

Taiwan and the Irish media

Today's Irish Independent mentions Taiwan for the first time that I've seen in months. There has been nothing on the threats against Taiwan by China, but today the Independent has a short article on the supposed shift (there isn't one — a breaking of silence is the most you could call it) by the White House on Taiwanese independence.

I can understand why the US or Ireland or any state might tread warily when dealing with the China-Taiwan issue. However, I can't understand why the Irish media is so reticent in talking about the Chinese threats.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Bush as radical

Tom Friedman compares Bush with Lincoln and Wilson (a better comparison than Roosevelt).

Civil Service & decentralization

Anyone wanting an explanation as to why government should be SMALL need only listen to the radio or read the papers to hear what civil servants are saying about the proposed "decentralization". Even this proposed voluntary relocation effort has people up in arms.

"My husband is a specialist and he will not be able to remain in Dublin if his department relocates". "Many civil servants are from outside Dublin, but when they indicate they'd like to relocate 'down the country' they mean to the place they've come from, rarely where the Department wants them to go". Blah, blah, blah.

Dick notes that Civil Service pay levels are not great and that performance measurement is difficult. I'm sure that's true to an extent. But, that's partly due to the fact that the civil service is not run like a business. Civil servants cannot be laid off or made redundant. Nobody is threatening to shift the work to India (which, I'm certain could be done), nobody is trying to automate 50% of the processes so that we can halve the workforce.

Whenever anyone talks about "performance measurement" in a civil service context, we're talking about small changes. But, often large companies divest entire divisions or even go bankrupt as the market changes. When was the last time the civil service unions demanded that a branch of government be down-sized?

Tinkering is the best you can hope for when dealing with the civil service. And, even that will cause unrest.


Interesting (& long) article on Pakistan in yesterday's NY Times Magazine. A bit of everything in the article — politics, religion, religion, economics, education. Sense and nonsense.
This oil spill was nearly as big as the Exxon Valdez incident in 1989 off the coast of Alaska. But with no terrorism angle, the event was mostly ignored by the foreign news media. As the oil washed onto Karachi's best-known beach, it sullied the marvelous vista of an affluent neighborhood's high-rise apartments. Three months later, when I stood on the shore, the hapless ship was still marooned, its bow at an odd angle like a broken bone. A top layer of oily sand had been scooped from the beach itself, but some of the spill had seeped a full 20 inches down. Waves were dumping more dirty water on the dirty beach.

Patches of foamy brown stained the sand where the sea rolled in. ''Is that oil?'' I asked Brian Dicks, a British expert, who was standing beside a backhoe.

''Oh, no,'' he answered, ''That's raw sewage. Comes in streams from the big apartment buildings. Some people take care of their waste, some don't.''

In this case, the sea's use as a latrine was actually an advantage, he explained. Nitrogen and phosphates from the sewage were helping break down the oil.
But, it's only at the end of the article that Barry Bearak gets to the main issue. How will the Bush administration square its high ideals and lofty language with Pakistan. Changing regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan or leaning on Egypt and Saudi Arabia to provide more freedom and opportunity for their people is easy compared with making a working Democracy out of Pakistan.

Growing up

I suppose all parents have a moment when they realize that their child is growing up. I had that moment on Saturday. My 12-year-old daughter insisted on watching the "song of the year" contest, won by Westlife, and Miss World, won by Rosanna Davison.

At the conclusion of these two "great" Irish victories, my daughter turned to us and said, "Sure was a great night for the Irish, wasn't it"? The look on her face told us that she knew exactly what she was saying and that she knew just how awful the previous two hours had been. She recognized how utterly ridiculous the two contests were.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Jewish vote

A few weeks ago I criticized Conor Cruise O'Brien for his interpretation of US politics and the "Jewish vote". Today's Washington Post has a good summary of the effect of the War on Terror and the Jewish Vote (and the Arab vote).

Friday, December 05, 2003

"Best performing" schools

The opening line of this article from the Sunday Times is untrue or at least unproven. "A QUARTER of Ireland's 30 best-performing secondary schools are Irish-speaking, a study by the Sunday Times has found".

Their study has found no such thing. This study merely found what percentage of students from 400 schools go on to third level education.

I have no problem with league tables or using some other method to evaluate schools' performances. In fact, I think such instruments should be developed, used and the results published. How else can parents assess how their child's school is doing?

But, the Sunday Times measurement does not take into account the standard of the children who have entered each school. There is no attempt to standardize the input, so how can we compare the output?

If a survey shows that Tropicana orange juice is better than Avonmore orange juice, does that prove that Tropicana's factories "perform better" than Avonmore's? No, of course not. It's entirely possible that Tropicana has better oranges going into their juice-making factories.

The same goes for schools.

By all means, let's have school league tables. In fact, let's have schools evaluated and compared on a whole range of factors. Test all kids at 12 and again at 15 and 18. Compare the results. Compare the results for children of different social and economic backgrounds. Perhaps some schools are better at educating middle class children and others better at educating working class children. Some schools may have very few leaving cert students, but they may be outstanding in helping the severely challenged in acquiring the language and mathematics skills needed to get by in life.

But, first, let's stop abusing statistics, mathematics and the English language in the manner that this article does.

More on Samarra

Eamonn McCann compares Samarra with Bloody Sunday in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph.

I don't think the comparison is apt, primarily because there is no civil authority in Iraq. Secondly, from McCann's perspective, the Bloody Sunday protest was organized and peaceful. Samarra was not an organized peaceful protest, but rather an attack on US troops by Ba'athists using Iraqi civilians as cover. (I haven't seen anything that disputes this.)

Even if the troops reacted badly, it is not a comparable situation to Bloody Sunday. And, as it now seems, the numbers killed were not as high as first reported. I do think the army would do well to consider the audience (both Iraqis and American and other civilians around the world) before issuing these reports. The media will keep digging, so it's better to err on the side of caution. If you don't know, don't be afraid to say "I don't know". The army prevented the Ba'athists from interfering with the cash delivery that was the focus of that mission on the day. Therefore, mission accomplished - enough said.

Here's another post from a blog about the problems with "body count math". {Thanks to Mike.}

Right wing/left wing

Jon describes George Bush as a "radical" in his response to my questions about the use of left or right wing. And, he's right, particularly with regards to foreign and defense policies. The Bush administration's foreign policy is radically liberal.

The administration is following a policy of freedom from state and religious tyranny for all. This policy is believed to be best for securing peace in the world and security for America. This is the rationale for the project to transform the Middle East. It's one massive gamble and is anything but conservative.

I'm still not convinced that the Nazis were "right wing" reactionaries. Hitler was a radical nationalist. He was not looking to maintain the existing order or even reestablish a lapsed order. He was pursuing a radical transformation of Europe under German rule. Left or right? I'm not sure.


The world wants Taiwan to keep quiet and not rock the boat, according to Marcus Gee.

But the world can't expect Taiwan to stay mum forever. Someone once said that a nation is a group of people who have achieved great things together in the past and hope to achieve great things in the future. Taiwan clearly fits the bill. Its people have achieved miracles over the past 20 years, transforming a small island into an economic dynamo and trading a grim authoritarian regime for a thriving democracy.
An island half the size of Ireland with a population of 22 million people.

The Patriot Act

I'm not sure I've ever seen one article/column in an Irish paper defending the Patriot Act. Mostly I see smug references condeming it, but I can't recall one supportive mention. I'm actually in favor of it.

In today's NY Post two New York politicians, Peter King (Rep) and Ed Koch (Dem), defend the Act. One passage is a good summary of how the Act has been used to date.
Before addressing these specifics, let's put Gore's case in its proper perspective by citing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who recently said she hadn't found a "single abuse of the Patriot Act" - and when she asked the ACLU for any instance of abuse, was told, "they had none." Similarly, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said criticism of the Patriot Act "is both misinformed and overblown" and the Justice Department has "done a pretty good job in terms of implementing" the law.
But, the details are interesting too. Read the whole article.

Althought it's an unimportant detail, the Zodiac killer has never been caught.


Frank and I are pretty much of one mind on the government's decentralization proposal.

What passes for "decentralization" with the Irish government is much more about relocation than any real decentralizing of power. Shfting an entire government department outside Dublin does not constitute real decentralization. I'd be a lot happier if the government were disbanding some government departments and allowing local authorities to make the decisions (on policy, civil servants' pay, etc.) themselves. For example, why do we need a Department of Education?

However, there is one upside to this plan. It will be a boon to Dublin's business climate. Obviously, the sudden glut of office space will be a plus to any potential entrepreneur or small business squeezed by high rents. But, more importantly, I think this move will have a positive effect on the culture of the city for the good of the whole country.

I think one of the worst things about Dublin is the effect that the civil service culture has on the atmosphere of the city. It's difficult to quantify, but I have no doubt that many people working in the private sector are envious of the life styles of those who do not know what it is to fear unemployment.

I would favor moving the capital of the country out of Dublin to Cork (or anywhere else). A healthy tension between the capital, with its government culture, and the biggest city, with its enterprise culture, is good for all.

UPDATE 11:20am: Jon, too, is unimpressed by the government's decentralization scheme.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

"Right wing"

At the end of Marian Finucane's interview with Gerry Adams today, she referred to Saddam Hussein as "right wing". Why is Saddam "right wing"? I often hear people refer to Hitler as "right wing". What makes Hitler "right wing"?

Right wing is conservative or even reactionary. Left wing is liberal or even radical.

I'm not sure Saddam and Hitler were either right or left wing. You could call them both fascists (believers in a system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism), but definitely not right wing. If anything, their attempts at reengineering society were "left wing".

"We have bred monsters"

I've often heard people in Ireland claim that the US must address the "root causes" of terrorism. Well, here's one Arab who believes that the root causes of terrorism are nothing to do with America.
We have bred monsters. We alone are responsible for it. I have written as much before my personal tragedy and will continue to do so for as long as it takes. We are the problem and not America or the penguins of the North Pole or those who live in caves in Afghanistan. We are it... and those who cannot see this are the ones to blame.

US Diplomacy

American diplomacy is bringing peace to the Sudan, where civil war has claimed more than 2 million lives. That's American diplomacy, not French, German or anybody else. But, again, the US is a "threat to world peace".
From the Lebanese Daily Star:
By demonstrating its willingness to invest the necessary political capital, the Bush administration served notice to both sides that it would not look kindly on the sort of foot-dragging that has jeopardized peace talks from Sri Lanka to Northern Ireland. Both sides got the message and decided that conducting good-faith negotiations was eminently more desirable than waiting for a predictably wrathful American president to impose his own formula on the equation.

Scrutinizing Muslims

Stanley Crouch, writing in the NY Daily News, takes John Ashcroft to task for abandoning the scrutinizing of Muslims in America. He says that this is very different from the "attention" that black men have received at the hands of New Jersey State Troopers.

"Abyss of war"

Chinese military officials have warned Taiwan again that they are heading towards war. "Taiwan independence means war".

To say that this story is not getting much attention from the Irish media is an understatement. I've seen one mention of the threat against Taiwan in the Irish Times (Sat., Nov 29) (from Reuters). If the US or Israel's not involved, the Irish media doesn't seem to care. Is it any wonder that Irish people believe Israel is a greater threat to world peace? 62% of Irish people believe Israel presents a threat to world peace (60% believe the US presents such a threat), but only 37% see China as a threat to the peace of the world.

Parris Chang writes that China doesn't even understand democracy. They're using threats to try to coerce the Taiwanese people to vote a particular way. The Chinese do not want the current President returned and they don't want a new constitution for Taiwan.

A small island with a free society and democratic government is threatened with war if it dares to declare itself independent. Even thinking about independence seems to be enough to get the Chinese up in arms. Why does no one in Ireland care? Why is the media not even paying attention?

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


The great thing about blogs is that they offer insights into particular aspects of a story. Not the full picture, but they don't claim to.

The other day there were reports in all the papers about the army's firefight that left 46 (or 54?) guerillas dead. When I first read this, I thought the number killed was pretty high as it would have to have been a very large force for a guerilla attack. Over the past few days there have been a lot of reports claiming that the number of guerillas killed was much lower.

Reading Jason's blog on this topic sheds light on how these counts can be so wrong and why they're not a good idea to begin with.

Jim Hoagland writing in today's Washington Post goes away from the death count argument to look at the motivation of the attack and the greed and sense of entitlement among the Ba'athist guerillas.

Budget day

As a confirmed news junkie, I have to say that I always find "budget day" to be the least satisfying day of the year. I always think the coverage is completely overdone. Acres of news print in anticipation, live television coverage and then analysis and then more acres of newsprint. Uggh.

A bullet point synopsis on Sunday would do me.

Rumsfeld's English

Yesterday, Dick highlighted Donald Rumsfeld's recent 'Foot in Mouth' award from the Plain English campaign. Well, today the Guardian leaps to Rumsfeld's defense.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Medical care in Iraq

This post from Omar claims that Saddam was raking it in every time a patient presented at an Iraqi hospital. But, of course, the sanctions were the real cause of all of Iraq's hospital and medical care troubles.

"Playing the man"

When I first moved to Ireland, I was struck by how often I'd hear the expression "playing the man" when watching a sporting event. It took me a while to understand what this meant as "playing the man" is not only legal, but recommended in hockey (that's the variety played on ice, for you field hockey fans).
If it's a one on one, (the puck carrier against you) you play the man, don't even look at the puck, just play the man by staying in front of him and prevent him from getting around you or getting to the net for a shot. If you create a loose puck your backcheckers or you can go for it.
But, now after a dozen (plus) years here, I think I've finally grasped the meaning of the phrase as it's used in Ireland. In soccer (and other sports over here), "playing the man" is forbidden.

The phrase is often used in a non-sporting context to indicate the use of a personal attack when debating. Unless I'm misreading him, I think Paul has "played the man" in his piece on the famine when he writes of Frank:
Why do we have so many of these wretches in Ireland? The answer to that question is simple. The key to succesful conquest was expressed long ago by Julius Caesar: divide et impera, divide and rule. It is essential for a foreign conquerer to enlist the help of collaborators. The land of France provides instances of this from the days of de Bello Gallico right up to the German occupation in World War II. Likewise, in Ireland, the strangers who would rule over us, exploit our land and labour, and determine our future, enlist collaborators to do the dirty work. The Anglo-Saxons, like the Romans, are past masters at exploiting divisions in a subject land to further their own interests, and there has never been any shortage among the subjected peoples of miserable wretches willing to betray their nation -- usually for a "consideration": not so much loyal to the crown as loyal to the half-crown, as people used to say.

It's pointless simply bemoaning this situation. These cancerous cells within the body politic are a danger to the life and health of the nation, and, just as a man riddled with cancer must destroy the alien cells or be destroyed himself, so we must rid ourselves of the enemy within if we wish to restore our national well-being. In that sense, the West British are unwittingly right in their belittling of the struggle against England: the enemy is also at home, and dealing with them may well now be the more important fight.
It sounds to me as if Paul is saying that Frank must be destroyed, which, if accurate, is outside the normal etiquette of the blogosphere. I hope we can remain within the boundaries of civil discourse.

Famine, holocaust, Irishness

Frank and Paul have been having a long, drawn out battle on the famine, the holocaust & irishness. The sheer scale of the debate is almost too much for two lone bloggers to enage in. I fear they may each exhaust themselves trying to outpoint each other in this rock-em sock-em bout.

I don't really want to get drawn into this one, but I'd like to make a few points:
  1. The famine was a calamity and the response of the British government was insufficient. I don't believe the government set out to kill a million people, but they didn't make much of an effort to prevent it from happening either. I don't think that is the equivalent of the Endloesung.
    In addition, considerable effort was expended over the course of the Holocaust to find increasingly efficient means of killing more people, for example, by switching from carbon monoxide poisoning to the use of zyklon B in the Reinhard death camps of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, as well as Maidanek, and Auschwitz--gas vans using carbon monoxide for mass killings were used in the Chelmno death camp. In addition to mass killings, Nazis conducted many experiments with prisoners, children inclusive. Dr. Josef Mengele, one of the most widely known Nazis, was known as the "Angel of Death" by the inmates of Auschwitz, for his experiments.
  2. Both Frank and Paul denigrate Irish-Americans in their respective pieces. If any group today "owns" the famine, it's Irish-Americans. Most of them are descended from famine immigrants. After those who died during the famine, the people who had to leave were the next biggest losers from the famine. This collective "memory" is the last one most Irish-American families have of Ireland. Although time may have distorted it somewhat, there is still plenty of essential truth in that collective memory. That is, the people were driven out by hunger and the British government of the day under Lord John Russell was ultimately responsible for this.
  3. The Famine was a primary motivation for the independence movements in Ireland that arose from the 1850's just as the Holocaust was the primary motivation for the eventual modern state of Israel. The parallels are often ignored in modern Ireland.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Tax exempt artists

I've never understood why a musician, writer or artist should pay less in tax than a bus driver, nurse or computer programmer. If someone is struggling to make a living as an artist, then their income will be so low that they will owe very little in tax anyway. But, if we're talking about a member of a world famous rock band, successful movie director or best-selling author, I cannot grasp why they should pay less in taxes than the rest of us.

Angelique Chrisafis, writing in this morning's Guardian, claims that film-makers are up in arms because the Minister for Finance plans to eliminate this exemption for the film industry in Wednesday's budget. Apparently the film-makers are "up in arms" at the thought of having to pay taxes.

Well, I'm "up in arms" that this exemption exists and I demand that Charlie McCreevy remove this exemption for all these people, not just the film industry.