Thursday, December 30, 2004

Not quite back yet

On the 23rd, my hard drive or nearly died. I ran out and bought a new one, but I had a lot of trouble getting the first one out. I've done this sort of thing with desktop machines, but never before with a laptop. Everything is so small that when I stripped one of the screws holding the HD in place, I was really stuck.

But, yesterday I finally was able to get into my local hardware store and get the small screwdriver I needed to get the HD out. So, now I have the new HD installed.

My only problem now is that I think I may have messed up the Windows2000 installation. Not sure yet. If yes, then I'll have to redo it and then redo all the downloading of patches, etc. that entails. Uggh. Takes hours. Probably should have gone to XP, but I didn't want to pay for it. I don't even know what it costs, but I'm sure hundreds. Plus, I'm also sure I'd lose something I have with Win2000 Professional.

I'm sorely tempted to learn how to run two OS on the one PC. I'd love to install Lynux and see what that's like.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas cards

One other thing about Christmas that always catches me out is Christmas cards. I never do them early enough. Yesterday I went to the post office to buy some Christmas stamps, but they were out. I was taken aback because I actually felt like I was on the ball this year. Cards written, ready to mail and still only the 21st of December. Not ready early enough according to the Post Office, apparently.

Oh well. The cards went out yesterday with the standard bird stamps.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


A friend of mine who recently bought himself a geochron, sent an e-mail yesterday sympathizing with me for the short days. Yes, these are very short days in Ireland. Today, of course, is the shortest. When it's cloudy or rainy it can be so dark that it seems as if the sun forgot to rise.

This morning, however, it's crystal clear outside. A great day to be at Newgrange.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Hillary on immigration

I hadn't realized that Hillary Clinton is now the right wing advocate for immigration reform:
I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants... Clearly we have to make some tough decisions as a country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry-and-exit system so that if we are going to let people in for... work...lets have system that keeps track of them... People have to stop employing illegal immigrants.

Just browsing

This caught my eye. Richard (who is young and in California) reports that a quarter of his hits come from Firefox users. I figured that people reading his blog would be much more likely to switch to something new like Firefox than would those who read mine. So I checked.

MS Internet Explorer still accounts for 55% of all browers coming to this site. Not as high as I had expected, but clearly the leader. Firefox accounts for 20% (Netscape 11%). I cannot believe the Firefox number is that high - more than double what I expected. Not really that different than Richard found with his site.

Maybe people reading blogs are more disposed to trying new software than other web users?

The Newshound audience is older than the average web site audience, so I decided to check the Newshound stats too.

MSIE accounts for 89% of all browsers loading up the Newshound. That's the kind of number I'd have expected. What's amazing (and somewhat worrying) is that 11.4% of those are using versions of IE that Microsoft no longer supports and which have serious security flaws.

Only 6% of Newshound users are using Firefox. Still, that's more than I would have anticipated and more than Netscape and Opera combined. {I'm surprised at how small Netscape's share is.}

Firefox is off to a flying start.

Tower Bridge

I was watching a really interesting documentary the other night about the Tower Bridge in London. The Tower Bridge was built towards the end of the 19th century, but it took years to get it built because of disagreement about what the bridge should look like.

Some people wanted a thoroughly modern bridge and others wanted a bridge that fit in with the Tower of London, which is nearby. The latter group were the winners, but I have to admit I thought at least one of the modern designs was very attractive.

In the end, they built a modern structure, but put a shell around it that gives it that medieval look. Makes a great tourist attraction, but I bet there were some people at the time who thought that was a great waste of public money.

French bridge

I saw this bridge on the news the other night. I thought it was spectacular. I kept wondering if there were any environmentalist protesters trying to stop its construction. If someone was trying to build such a bridge here it would be held up for 50 years thanks to all sorts of objections.

Here's a better picture of it than the one the NY Times has published.

I love bridges. I love looking down the East River from the Queens side and seeing all those bridges. One or two are pretty ugly (the Manhattan Bridge is my least favorite), but I never tire of looking at the Brooklyn Bridge.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Today's Newshound listing

I decided to create a new blog for days like today. The blog is

You'll get today's listing there. Unfortunately, none of the Irish News articles will work until the Newshound site itself is working.

Newshound woes

Now that I've confirmed that very few people could get to the Newshound during that earlier window, I'm going to try and post a version of today's listing here in a few minutes.

Also, mail is also not working.

Not the Olympics answer

The NY Times remains skeptical about baseball's willingness to tackle the drugs issue. I agree that I'm not conivinced that the owners or players really want to root this out.

The Times advocates using track & field as a model. I agree to an extent. I too want to see stringent enforcement and long-term bans for any player caught cheating. However, (as a friend reminded me) I have no interest in banning players for drinking coffee with their breakfast or taking a Sudafed.

Serious drugs (not just steroids) should be banned and their use should be punishable with serious sentences (minimum of one-year-no-pay suspensions). The testing should also be more rigorous than that which is used in track & field. Blood testing and DNA (or whatever) tests (for those genetic engineering solutions that are coming to a ball park near you) should also be included.

The NY Mets are about to sign Pedro Martinez for more than $50m. Before the deal is final, they are insisting that he have a medical. If they didn't insist on a drugs test too, then they're fools. No team should sign any free agent without making these tests a pre-condition.

Hosting solutions

This is sort of "off topic" for me, but this morning's events reminded me again of an article I read in the SB Post back in early October. Adrian Weckler was advocating that Irish companies go with US-based web hosting companies rather than their Irish counterparts.

I agree and I disagree with him.

I've had the Newshound hosted with a US-based hosting company for 3 or 4 years or so. I chose them originally because (a) the price was right and (b) there was no reasonable alternative in Ireland. I had been using an Irish company before that, but they charged a whole lot more for a whole lot less.

Looking back, I think I should have done more research before choosing my hosting company. I may have found a better fit, but at that time I couldn't have anticipated the technical developments that I've added since. Still, they did offer a much, much better deal than my Irish company.

Weckler emphasizes web space in his article. Space is important, especially if you have a photograph-dependent site. Anything less than 500MB will be totally inadequate. A 2GB limit sounds good.

But, possibly more important (certainly for me) is uptime. Some sites guarantee 99% uptime. Others guarantee 99.9% uptime. Others guarantee 99.99%.

There are 720 hours in a 30-day month. If your site is up 99% of the time, that means that every month your site could be down over 7 hours. You may not think that's a lot, but those 7 hours may not be while your customers are sleeping or golfing. It could be the busiest day of the month and the busiest hours of that day.

Even 99.9% is probably inadequate. Your site will be down three quarters of an hour every month. Sufficient for many, but not for any serious eBusiness.

I would recommend that any serious eBusiness should be looking for 99.99% uptime and at least 1GB of web space. Presuming you can use Linux tools, PHP scripting and MySQL are also MUSTS. There are other factors to consider too.

And, the last (& possibly MOST important) consideration is how difficult is a potential hosting company to contact when things do go wrong. I hate overpaying if I don't have to, but I'd be willing to pay a little extra for a company that I could actually get on the phone any hour of any day.

This is important no matter what guarantee you get because sometimes your site will go down due to factors that are outside the control of your web host. Your guarantee won't mean anything, but if you can at least find out what's gone wrong it will help somewhat. If all you have is an e-mail address, then when your site is down, it's almost a certainty that so is your web hosting company's. And, their mail servers are probably down too so e-mail contact is out.

This is where an Irish company going with an Irish hosting provider might (and I emphasize might) do better than with a hosting company in the US. I know I wouldn't sign-up with any Irish host that didn't provide me with real 24/7 contact information. If an Irish company's not willing to provide that to their Irish customers, then I agree with Weckler.

Are there any hosting companies out there who want to make me a reasonable offer?

Newshound down

The Newshound has been down since at least 3:30 if not earlier. I have no word as to when it will be back up.

UPDATE 12:10: The site came back around 10am. 6.5 hours down. Errr.

Further UPDATE 3pm: It seems I was not entirely right earlier. I was able to see the Newshound, but not everyone else was. I don't know how many could or couldn't see the site, but it's down for me too now. I finally got my web host company on the phone and found out they'd been hacked over night. I was sympathetic, but now more than an hour after I called and nearly 12 hours since the problem surfaced, my sympathy is waning. I downloaded the key databases while I could access the site earlier, just in case.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Shopping online

Funny thing is, I don't mind shopping online. I shop online quite a bit, but shopping online is not really that good in Ireland. Most of the time when I shop online I'm buying for someone in the US.

In Ireland, it's pretty bad. The choices are limited and often you end up in UK sites where shipping becomes grossly expensive. I don't know if it's a function of the small, off-shore market or Irish people's reluctance to take to the web, but online shopping's not that well developed yet.

Another oddity is that you have to pay Irish VAT (sales tax) of 21% no matter where in Europe you buy. I didn't know this until recently when I bought something from I thought I'd have to pay UK rates (which are 17%, I believe), but when it came time to check out they tacked on a few extra pounds for the Irish rate.

Shopping online should be ideal for Ireland seeing as shopping in stores is such a bad experience, but it hasn't really taken off here.

What's really frustrating is that I'm desperate to be rid of going shopping. It's a nightmare here. You have to remember to bring a bag with you because a lot of stores only have plastic bags, which you have to pay for.

And everywhere you go you have to pay to park. One trip to Tallaght a few weeks ago to a toy store (shopping for toys is not hell - I like that) really annoyed me because I had to pay - in advance - to park for 30 minutes. This is both aggravating and stupid because if I'm standing on line and my meter is about to run out, I'll just abandon my purchase rather than risk an excessive clamping fee.

Another year done.

Whooo. Thank God that's over. I know it's a cliche, but I H A T E shopping. I don't really mind going to the supermarket, but anything more adventurous is pure hell. I hate not knowing where to go to get, what? I don't know. And, I hate the crowds. And, of course, I hate parting with the money.

I go shopping for my wife's birthday and Christmas all in one go. A day of fear and frustration that always finishes with foolishness. I always end up buying willy nilly with little regards for whether I have anything she needs/wants/might like.

I am just thankful that I don't have to do that again for 12 months.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Cowboy Taoiseach

I didn't know John Bruton is a Texan. "Mr. Bruton also said he hopes Mr. Bush remembers him. When he was governor of Texas, Mr. Bush made the Irish leader an honorary Texan".

Friday, December 10, 2004

Free tips for living

Every so often I have an experience that for the greater good and to educate the masses I should probably share with the wider world. Last night was just such an occasion.

The time was around 11:30. I walked into the kitchen and noticed that the washing machine wasn't functioning properly. Over the previous 3-4 days it had been slowly dawning on me that the washing machine wasn't right, but I hadn't paid enough attention to really see what the problem was. Now, with 30 minutes left in the day, I had seen the light.

So, using my ingenuity, I turned off the machine and opened the drain at the bottom. Tip 1 - get a big bucket before you try this. I was using a small tray, which for all the good it did, I could have just cupped my hands.

After I cleaned up the gallons of water on the kitchen floor, I found a few items in the filter, took them out, thought to myself, "that wasn't so bad" and turned the machine on again.

30 minutes later I could see that I hadn't solved anything. So, this time, I got out the manual that came with my Whirlpool and looked for some advice. I decided to follow the manual to the letter. Tip 2 - think about what you're reading before following instructions too closely.

The manual called for the machine to be unplugged, then drained (got a big bucket this time). But, unplugging my washing machine isn't so easy. As in many Irish houses, our washing machine resides in the kitchen, under the counter. This means that in order to unplug it, you have to wriggle it out of its position.

The space the machine is in affords an extra half inch on each side, so the wriggling can take quite a while. Eventually, after almost breaking my back and nearly dropping the machine on my foot I had it out and unplugged. This is when I realized how much easier it would have been to have simply gone to the fuse box and turned off all the sockets in the kitchen. (NOTE to Whirlpool, you might want to offer this alternative to unplugging when you're selling these front-loading machines.)

I followed the rest of the steps in the manual, nearly broke my back again pushing the machine into position, turned it on and it still doesn't work.

Now it was past 1am and the machine still didn't work. So, Tip 3 - don't start these projects at 11:30pm. Start early in the day when you can think clearly and when you have time to keep trying until you get it right.

There you have three valuable pieces of advice all for free.

UPDATE 9:15pm: Twenty minutes at a reasonable hour and the washing machine was as good as new. Well, it's working anyway.

Amazing what things fall out of children's pockets. The offending piece of junk was a hair clip blocking the pump, but I also found 5 elasticky hair thingies, a toy credit card - shredded and US$0.11. Why any of my children would have a dime and penny from America is beyond me.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Lost in the supermarket

Okay, I wasn't really "lost", but I saw an opportunity to allude to one of my favorite songs and I took it.

A couple of items caught my eye today while I was shopping. One - "All our salmon is 100% Irish". What does that mean? Do fish have passports? I can understand the "Irish beef" label, but somehow it seems a bit presumptuous when it comes to fish. Maybe one or two of these salmon were spawned in Scotland? Or, maybe they renounced their citizenship when they took up residency outside Ireland's territorial waters? I don't know, but I'm betting Superquinn doesn't either.

Two - "Super Free Range" eggs. There are Barn Fresh eggs, Organic eggs (no response when I asked the kid doing the stocking if they had any "Inorganic eggs"), Free Range eggs and Super Free Range eggs. I understand the concept of "free range" eggs - the chickens are free to wander around the farm yard. So, what about Super Free Range? Do these chickens have the right to wander as they please over an entire county or something?

Daniel O'Donnell

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I would bet that there are very few fans of Daniel O'Donnell among the Irish bloggers. I'd love to be able to say I stand outside the crowd on this, except I'd probably be physically ill. I cannot stand Daniel O'Donnell.

When I first "experienced" O'Donnell through the television I couldn't believe anyone that syrupy could actually have a large fan base, but he did. Then I heard he had a fairly big following in Britain too. "At least nobody in America has heard of him", I thought.

Well . . . it seems I may not be right on that account either. There are some very unwell people in both western Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (and, I assume, elsewhere). Oh God.

The British Way

There has been so much talk in the British press about the "softly, softly" approach that the British military takes in Iraq compared with the US military. This was a big feature of the Black Watch's transfer to the Sunni Triangle before the assault on Fallujah.

According to Bruce Wallace of the Los Angeles Times, the "softly, softly" didn't work when the Black Watch got to the Sunni Triangle. And, even though this edge to relations between the US and British troops was probably more a media creation than reality, some British soldiers did apparently have to concede that the US has had it tougher in the Sunni Triangle than they have in the south.
"The threat here is at the other end of the spectrum from what we faced in Basra," said Black Watch Capt. Stuart MacAulay, sitting on the edge of a bunker at Camp Dogwood with a map of the area spread in front of him.

"After the suicide bombings against us, I went to an American soldier I know here and put my hands up. I said, 'I confess, I was one of those who sat around in Basra criticizing your approach.'

"And I'm embarrassed that I criticized American tactics without ever being here and without having met them."

He was hardly alone. The British self-perception of superiority to the Americans took hold in the first days of occupation, feeding on outrage over the handful of British deaths by U.S. friendly fire during the March 2003 invasion.

The feisty British media did the rest, turning modest differences in style into a clash of military cultures.
I actually think this rivalry is a good thing - or at least not a bad thing, and it was there 60 years ago.

I didn't pay too much attention, but I couldn't help noticing the way the British media had been all over the US Army & Marines before the Black Watch moved north. I haven't seen anything like this article in the British press yet, however.

"Feisty British media" is a great put down. Makes them sound like hyper-active children, which probably isn't far from the truth.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Not all that shocking, really

I can't stop thinking about Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and the other stars of baseball who have so discredited the game. What's bothering me is that I should have realized this has been going on for a long time.

When I was in high school I knew there were kids on the football team (and others who just wanted the body-builder look) who took steroids. I couldn't have provided any specific names, but I know it was part of the lunch-room conversation in the school 24 years ago.

At the time I can remember being unsure of any real benefits from taking drugs so I just dismissed it. But, looking back on it there were a lot of guys who were convinced that these things made you stronger (and I'm sure they were right).

So, am I shocked by baseball's revelations? No, I'm really not. What shocks me is that I was willing to go along with the charade when even a half-hearted attempt at real thought would have convinced me that the big numbers in the 90s were, essentially, thanks to Dr. Frankenstein's lab.

If 16 & 17 year-old boys were willing to pop some pills in order to be better at football, increase their popularity and, maybe, get a girl, what about when the potential windfall is millions of dollars, national, public adulation and groupies in every city? The motivation was there, the opportunity was everywhere and there was ZERO risk because Major League Baseball had no drugs policy.

DUH!! The only thing shocking would have been if baseball players weren't taking steroids.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


So, now Major League Baseball and the players union are beginning to take the steroids problem seriously. Seeing as this problem is only 20+ years in the making, I don't think anyone can accuse them of jumping the gun.

About damn time! Now, let's have a serious system: one violation gets a one year (unpaid) suspension. Second violation and you're outta here. Blood, urine, & DNA testing should all be part of it.

{I don't, however, see any role for legislation here. Senator McCain should stay out of it.)

Road safety

I forgot to comment on the recent decision by the National Roads Authority to improve the crash barriers on the major roads. On the 9th of November, I noted that a small patch of grass and a bush did not constitute a real barrier to out-of-control cars heading towards the on-coming lanes. Eight days later the NRA announced that "all future motorways and dual carriageways will be fitted with crash barriers irrespective of the width of the central median". Such is the power of this blog.

However, the NRA's explanation for having to fit crash barriers on existing roads, included this bizarre statement:
The central reservation area enables the vast majority of drivers to regain control of their vehicles without loss of life or injury to themselves or others, or indeed, damage to vehicles. However, irresponsible driver behaviour, including so called "joy riding" incidents has left the NRA with no alternative but to extend the retrofit programme to all motorways and dual carriageways regardless of the median width.
I'm sure that if it wasn't for "irresponsible driver behaviour" we'd have nearly zero crashes in Ireland.

I accept their point that installing these barriers will divert money from other road safety upgrades. That doesn't change the fact that at one time someone in their organization thought bushes would suffice. Why?

They're blaming irresponsible drivers for what is essentially a failure of forethought on their part.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Letter to the editor

Often the letters pages are a source of great amusement for me. Here's a snippet from a letter in yesterday's Sunday Independent responding to Eoghan Harris's Thanksgiving article about America:
I found Eoghan Harris's article horrific, full of half-truths and one-sidedness. Firstly, Mr Harris seems to believe America is the land of the free. A cursory glance at America today will show the huge infringes on civil rights. One can not even rent out a library book without being monitored by the secret service.
And, who penned this defense of civil liberties? Who is it that has such exacting standards in governmental transparency and honesty? Who is it that worries so about the state snooping on its own citizens? Why it's Jonathan Mahon, Kildare Branch, Communist Party of Ireland, that's who.

At first I thought he was kidding and that this was done tongue in cheek. However, after reading it again, I think he's being serious.

Hello Jonathan, are you there? Have you heard of Stalin, Ceausescu, the Stasi, etc.?

I still half suspect he's joking. He'd have to be, right?

Odd feeling

The Irish Voice has a short piece about the Newshound's fund-raising campaign in this week's paper. It's very positive and I'm thrilled with it, of course. Still, it's an odd feeling to see something about me in the paper when I had no idea it was coming.

I guess people who are in the spotlight get used to it. My wife says that one more article like this and I'll qualify for "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!".

I'm also thrilled to be called "young". I suppose, after all, I'm only 28 (in hexadecimal). Oh yeah, I'm not actually a "computer engineer", but I do know HTML!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

New Logo

I love my new logo, but I'm not sure I like the look of the rest of the site. Oh well. I'll live with it.

The new logo is thanks to Carrie. You didn't think I could do that, did you? Way beyond me.

Friday, December 03, 2004

What sort of tree am I?

Suzanne Breen says that "Christmas trees are like men. It's important to pick the right one". And, here's what she has to say about the tree outside Belfast City Hall
[i]t's 27 years old and was raised in Botanic Gardens, but it's certainly no looker - and it's dressed appallingly. It seems lop-sided. It has neither poise nor presence.
Poise? Presence? Aren't we talking about a tree here?

Now I'm worried. What does all this say about me that my wife mentioned the other day that "pretty soon that ragged, old artificial tree is going to have to go"?

I'd better get back on that exercise bike! And, maybe I should take up that health food thing that I've been mocking for years.

Drop out

The new head of homeland security did not start life with a silver spoon. Kerik started life
in rough-and-tumble neighborhoods in Newark, Paterson and in Ohio, where his mother abandoned the family when he was 2 years old. In his autobiography, The Lost Son," Mr. Kerik wrote that he learned only in researching the book in 2001 that his mother had been a prostitute and that she died from a severe blow to the head, possibly murdered by her pimp.

He also wrote that as he got older, he had a "flair for truancy" and dropped out of high school to join the Army, where he became a military policeman and martial arts specialist, and finished work on his general equivalency diploma.
Hard not to admire someone who overcomes so much and makes something of himself.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


If this were early June, Irish people would already be writing off the possibility of having a decent summer. Here we are in early December and we've hardly had a whiff of winter yet. A couple of sort of frosty mornings, but I haven't had my winter coat out yet. Still going with my light jacket.

At what stage do we decide that winter's just too late and we'll just do without it this year?

UPDATE Dec 4, 1pm: It seems I'm not the only one. "Meterological readings from Armagh Observatory also show that, with a mean monthly temperature of 8.6C, the temperature last month was two degrees higher than average". Last month was also the driest November in 15 years. Winter, schminter!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Senator Norm Coleman, writing in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, {Note: I couldn't get this article to load in Netscape} outlines the case against UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, but stops short of what seems obvious: an organization that depends on the goodwill of its members for accountability is incapable of being in charge of anything important.
As a former prosecutor, I believe in the presumption of innocence. Such revelations, however, cast a dark cloud over Mr. Annan's ability to address the U.N.'s quagmire. Mr. Annan has named the esteemed Paul Volcker to investigate Oil-for-Food-related allegations, but the latter's team is severely hamstrung in its efforts. His panel has no authority to compel the production of documents or testimony from anyone outside the U.N. Nor does it possess the power to punish those who fabricate information, alter evidence or omit material facts. It must rely entirely on the goodwill of the very people and entities it is investigating. We must also recognize that Mr. Volcker's effort is wholly funded by the U.N., at Mr. Annan's control. Moreover, Mr. Volcker must issue his final report directly to the secretary general, who will then decide what, if anything, is released to the public.

Therefore, while I have faith in Mr. Volcker's integrity and abilities, it is clear the U.N. simply cannot root out its own corruption while Mr. Annan is in charge: To get to the bottom of the murk, it's clear that there needs to be a change at the top. In addition, a scandal of this magnitude requires a truly independent examination to ensure complete transparency, and to restore the credibility of the U.N. To that end, I reiterate our request for access to internal U.N. documents, and for access to U.N. personnel who were involved in the Oil-for-Food program.
I think the UN's role should be redefined to one of humanitarian or aid relief chief coordinator, but nothing more. Even at that, it needs to be reformed to prevent the kind of wide scale corruption that undermined the oil for food program from undermining humanitarian relief programs.

The United States should never again fight a war under a UN flag. In 1991 the US fought to expel Iraq from Kuwait with the UN's blessing. The US then established bases in Saudi Arabia to ensure that the UN's sanctions regime was adhered to by Saddam. Over the next 12 years the US earned the enmity of the Arab world - troops in the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, blamed for the UN's sanctions regime and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - while the UN turned a blind eye to the undermining of the sanctions the US was supposed to be enforcing.

Saddam tightened the screws on his people, causing suffering and death for thousands and blamed America. The UN's complicity in this is a reflection of how undermining America was more important for some UN members (including some UN Security Council members) than undermining Saddam's regime.

Ireland, which understandably invests a lot in the UN, should be at the forefront in demanding an accounting from Mr. Annan. The UN allows Ireland to punch above its weight, but if corruption like this had taken place in any Irish state organization there would be loud calls for tribunals, etc.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Like seemingly every teenager in Ireland, my daughter has a mobile phone. Of course, she loves sending and receiving texts.

What she isn't as fond of is that her father loves sending texts too. I use the web to send her texts for free. What she really hates is that I have been using text messages to send her math problems. Math's not her favorite subject (it was always mine, which is why I majored in it in college) so we do a little extra work when we can. I send her the problems by text so that she can have them done before I see her later in the evenings.

Math problems by text - you never see that in any ads for mobile phones. If this became common practice, it would probably cause a collapse in the teen-dependent mobile phone market.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Ram Stew

For the 4th straight year, the mighty Manhattan Jaspers have won the Battle of the Bronx. Someday the Fordham Rams will be a real team again.

Canadian anti-Americanism

Sociologist Nora Jacobson, who lives in Toronto, has an op-ed piece in this morning's Washington Post in which she describes Canadian anti-Americanism. It seems that liberal Americans may find anti-Americanism tough to take when they "flee to Canada".

For much of this article you could replace "Canada" with "Ireland" (possibly "the EU") and it would be just as valid.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Urine-infested Liffey

This has to rate as a bad moment for Bord Fáilte. This headline, "Urine-infested river called threat to Dubliners' health" is just beneath this pleasant picture of the Liffey on the Toronto Globe and Mail's home page.

Of course, it's not a great moment for the Globe and Mail either. I don't think "urine-infested" is correct. "Rat-infested" — sure, but not urine-infested. Any wordsmith or grammarian out there who can speak with more certainty about this?

U2's new album - Last Word

G R E A T!

As I said a few days ago, I don't make quick judgments. Now I feel confident. I've listened to it often enough and taken in the lyrics sufficiently. This is one of U2's top three albums (Joshua Tree & Achtung Baby are the other 2). The last album was pretty darn good. This one is better.

If you want to read a much longer, grander review by someone who's in tune with my assessment, read Kevin Tanner.

Still a bit of a mystery as to why they left off Fast Cars from the US version, the track that contains the album title in the lyrics.

"Banned in Hohhot"

A Mongolian heavy metal band, Hurd, have been thwarted in their attempt to play in front of 2,000 fans in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia by the Chinese Authorities.

It may seem like a minor issue, but is a good illustration of the problems China has with ethnic minorities. The Chinese government simply doesn't trust its own people.

People with money in their pockets thanks to greater prosperity are unlikely to take this kind of thing forever. China will be lucky if it's still in one piece by 2050.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

"It isn't the turkey, but the idea that we care for". So said a soldier in the Army of the Shenandoah on Thanksgiving Day in 1864. He was responding to the generosity of the "Loyal North", from where turkeys and other Thanksgiving fixings were sent to the men serving in the Union Army. The Washington Post has a good editorial about Thanksgiving during war time, remembering Lincoln's Proclamation for Thanksgiving 140 years ago this week.

I'll try not to repeat myself this year. What I wrote last year applies pretty well again this year (although the NY Post link is now dead).

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, especially my fellow Americans here in Ireland (Carrie, William & Jon) AND those Irish bloggers with whom I regularly engage in debate: Mick, Frank, Chris, Dick, Peter & Gavin.

Irish Passport

Stephen McKinley has an article in this week's Irish Echo about whether carrying an Irish passport is a safer option when traveling in some of the world's troublespots.

I'm quoted in the article. As is always the case, the quotes give part of the story, but not all of it (and that's more my fault than Stephen McKinley's). I'm quoted as saying that I saw the Irish passport as an "optional extra".

I never really invested much emotion in any passport, no more than I did in my drivers license or other government papers. I just saw the Irish passport as another government document.

That doesn't mean I'm not proud of my Irish roots or happy living in Ireland today.

I suppose if I was being forced to give up one of the passports it might become an emotional issue. Probably because I was born with a right to both an American and Irish passport I didn't think much about having either one. As the article mentions, it was only since September 11, 2001 that I have started to consider what the passport says about me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Pony up time!

It's time again for the Newshound's fund-raising drive. Feel free to join in!

In many ways this is a tough proposition - convincing people to voluntarily pay for an on-line service. I have to admit I don't really find it "embarrassing" (thanks for the plug Mick), but it does actually require a lot of effort. However, there is a lot of satisfaction when people do subscribe and obviously, I have a great regard for subscribers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

U2 news

By the way, if you're interested in U2 you might like to visit the Newshound's News of the Irish pages, where news U2 news is currently flavor of the month. There is also an archive of U2 news links.

Be afeared

Another item that I nearly missed thanks to all the election hoopla last month. Tears for Fears is whole again. And, they're touring. I'm just head over heels thanks to that news.

Not in the picture

U2 gave a free concert in Brooklyn yesterday. I'm still trying to figure out what the band intended by choosing this location. The Brooklyn Bridge is definitely a nice back-drop, but the missing towers behind it make the background much more non-descript than it used to be. I don't believe this is unintentional.

I'm not trying to say anything negative, but I'm trying to guess at the symbolism of that exact shot, which was one of the most identifiable New York City scenes.

They were filming the video for All Because of You, which contains the lyric
Some people get squashed crossing the tracks

Some people got high rises on their backs

I’m not broke but you can see the cracks

You can make me perfect again

Phone call

The priest who I talked about last week called me last night in response to my letter.

We had a pleasant chat. It goes without saying that he and I will never agree about these things. It's also the nature of these things that it was only after we hung up that I thought of all sorts of excellent points that I could have made.

I explained that basically I was outraged that he compared the Marines behavior in Fallujah with what happened at Auschwitz. He indicated that he hadn't intended that, but that he simply wanted to make a point about man's inhumanity to man. I don't want to get into a 'he said, then I said', but I didn't buy that and said as much. There's no comparison between the Marines at Fallujah and the Nazis at Auschwitz. NONE.

He led the conversation in all sorts of directions - the shooting of the injured Iraqi last week, Dresden, Israel, the ridiculing of Chirac & Schroeder by Americans (he visits the US regularly), what Jesse Jackson recently said, etc., etc., etc. - basically it was a wild chase through all of America's "transgressions". Needless to say, I countered each of his statements and nearly choked when he mentioned the treatment of Schroeder and Chirac. (I pointed out that this was as nothing compared with the venom directed at George Bush by Europeans.)

In the end we basically agreed to disagree and I got off the phone feeling better for having written to him.

It's probably a measure of how bad the fall in Mass attendance is that he enthusiastically asked me to come again - twice. I explained that his is not my parish and he accepted that. I think he was more concerned that I was another occasional attendee at Mass who had been put off for life.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Price of the album

I can't understand why the U2 album is so much more expensive here than it is in the US. Cheapest I've seen it for here is €13.99. In the US it's RRP is $13.99 (€10.73). has it for $10.99 (€8.43) plus shipping, of course.

I'm pretty sure that someone in Ireland could buy the album and have it shipped here for less than it costs in the local stores.

UPDATE Nov 23, 7:20pm — I only just found out that anyone buying the record in the US will only get 11 songs, while British & Irish customers get 12. Not sure why that is, but it probably helps explain the extra cost here. The missing song is Fast Cars.


I hadn't realized that the new U2 album wasn't available in the US yet. Only found out just now at Do I ever feel "hip"!

I got the new record on Saturday (in the supermarket - not sure why anyone waited outside for 24 hours to buy it). I never make quick judgments when I buy a new album. I have to play it - a lot - before I decide. And, even then my opinion doesn't always jive with others. I actually like Pop (prefer it to Zooropa), but I know a lot of U2 fans do not.

Anyway, so far, my favorite songs are City of Blinding Lights, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own and Yahweh. When you listen to the last of those, you'll feel you should be looking skywards and throwing your arms up to the heavens.

All of this is subject to change at my whim.

I'm not sure I'll ever fully take to the lyrics of Love and Peace or Else, but I love the music.

One week later

Politics again at Mass yesterday. This time I was at my usual parish.

What a difference.

No, the priest didn't lead us in a version of God Bless America, but he spoke briefly about the difficulties that Catholics face when voting. He mentioned issues - help for the poor, abortion - and how candidates from rival parties may be strong in only one of these areas.

I was wondering if I was reading too much into what he said until on the way out I heard a woman walking near me say, "Did he just defend those who voted for Bush"? Nothing overt, but a very subtle "back off" to anyone in the congregation who might be quick to condemn Americans for reelecting President Bush. All in all, it was about as political as I like my homilies.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Criminals Yea — Catholics Nay

Rocco Buttiglione wasn't suitable for a post on the EU Commission, but apparently being a criminal or former Communist government apparatchik is all right.

Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party apparently let the cat out of the bag (RealAudio) when he stood up in Strasbourg yesterday and named Mr. Jacques Barrot as having been convicted in France in 2000 on embezzlement charges.
After receiving the conviction, however, Barrot, a close ally of France's President Jacques Chirac, benefited from a presidential amnesty which also made it illegal to make any public mention of the conviction under French law. The statement was part of a wide-ranging attack by Farage against several members of the new Commission, which he concluded by saying that “nobody would buy a used car from this Commission”. Political group leaders reacted vehemently to the attack by saying the European Parliament should not be used as a place for defamation and warned he could face criminal sanctions for slander.
So, technically Mr. Barrot is clean. In fact, because Mr. Farage made his statements in Strasbourg he may now be the subject of legal proceedings because it's illegal in France to discuss this publicly.

Before yesterday, none of the French MEP's knew about Mr. Barrot's convictions.

Transparency, how are you?

A fellow member of the "dumb"

Christopher Hitchens got some space in the Daily Mirror last week to take issue with the paper's front page from November 4.
I don't mind being shouted at, while having discussions around the dinner table or the studio set. After all, I have done some yelling on my own account.

What I do mind is the pitying glance, or the heavy sigh, that is deployed these days. I am not ready to be patronised, or condescended to, unless by someone of some eminence who has earned that right. And even then I regard it as a sign of weakness rather than strength.

To be frank about it, I don't know all that many geniuses in the anti-Bush camp. In Britain, I gather, conceited nonentities such as Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy (neither of whom could be elected as mayor of Hogwallow, Nebraska, in a bad year) are treated as serious party leaders, while George Galloway and Tariq Ali pose as leaders of an "anti-war" movement.
{Link found thanks to Slugger O'Toole.}

Is this why Kerry lost?

I almost forgot this. On Nov. 5, the Irish Examiner had a light piece about a man from Limerick who went to visit his daughter in Washington, DC. While he was in his daughter's apartment, the phone rang and he answered it.
Mr Lowe from Limerick got the surprise of his life when he picked up the phone when staying with his daughter in Washington DC last Monday.

The former US President [Bill Clinton] was on the other end of the line canvassing votes for Democratic candidate John Kerry.

“He asked me to give my support to the Democratic candidate John Kerry. He talked about his qualities and the experience he would bring to the White House if elected president.

“However, I had to tell him I didn’t have a vote and that I was over for my daughter’s wedding.

“When I told him I was from Limerick he was delighted and said he still remembers the great welcome he got in Limerick during his first presidential visit,” said Jim.
Now, it's a nice story, don't get me wrong. But, if you consider that Bill Clinton's time the day before the election was a valuable resource, why was he calling anyone in DC when he clearly should have been focused on Ohio (or Florida or any knife edge state)?

Is this indicative of how the Democrats used their resources? Did they waste valuable time calling people in states (and DC) where the outcome was not in doubt?

Indifference to drugs in sports

Dave Hannigan, writing in the Irish Echo this week, takes a good shot at Ireland's sporting bodies and their lackadaisical attitude to drugs in Irish sports.
That a proven drug cheat is gainfully employed by a club at all says something about the culture around doping in Ireland. Everybody laughed when Colonel Gaddafi's son retained disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson to train the Libyan national soccer team. What's the difference between that and Hendricken working in provincial rugby? None at all. Except that Johnson was probably being paid more lavishly for his efforts.
I can't help wondering if some of the young athletes who have died recently are somehow connected to this indifferent attitude to performance enhancing drugs in Irish sports.

Evangelicals in NYC

Interesting article from the New York Times last Sunday that I've been meaning to mention. The number of evangelical Christians in New York City is thought to be between 1 and 1.5 million. And, the number is rising fast.

The Times article says that it's still difficult to assess what political impact this will have, but it seems certain that it will move the political center to the right.

Maybe this article will be the start of the Times's effort to understand Christianity today. I'm far from an expert on the variations in Protestantism, but I'm aware that there is a difference between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists even if I'm not realy sure what those differences are.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Taiwan = Ireland

So says an editorial (also on today's Newshound) from the Taipei Times. Sun Yat-sen is Taiwan's Oliver Cromwell and the "Mainlanders" are the Protestant ascendency.
The colonial ascendency imposed its symbols, its history, even its language upon the people it colonized and this is the heritage that some among the pan-greens now seek to dismantle. Sun, for instance is no more than the father of Taiwan than Oliver Cromwell was of Ireland. He is a totemic figure of the colonial power. The 1911 revolution has as much relevance to Taiwan as does prime minister Winston Churchill's wartime leadership of Britain to the happy denizens of today's Dublin.
Of course, the Chinese do not like these attempts to portray Sun as an outsider or to portray Taiwan as a separate nation.

{Reference for some items mentioned in the editorial: Sun Yat-sen controversy, the ruling DPP is also known as the "greens" and they are more pro-independence than the opposition KMT, also known as the "blues", who are more pro-China.}

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Caring relationships

The Archbishop of Dublin believes that couples, including homosexual couples, living in relationships other than marriage should be granted some of the legal rights currently available only to married couples.

This seems fair enough to me. Seeing as this whole debate has been dominated by "rights" and not by what is best for society, then those rights should include all people who live in dependent relationships. I bet for every gay or lesbian couple living in Ireland there are five houses with two brothers or two sisters or a widowed parent living with a single child. This seems particularly common in Ireland.

However, all relationships are not equal in terms of the benefits that accrue to society from those relationships. Marriage of one man and one woman is the bedrock of our society. Marriage does include the pro-creation and raising of children. No, it's not exclusively about that, but without children or at least the possibility of children, marriage has no meaning.

We all depend on the future generations. We want tomorrow's children to be the honest cops, brave soldiers, wealth creators, willing tax-payers and carers of the elderly when we reach old age. That goes for the gay man as much as it does for the father of six.

Someday European (& American & Japanese & Chinese etc.) society will realize that undermining marriage was a big mistake and benefits exclusive to those for whom children are a possibility and/or a reality will be renewed. Until then we can just sit back and watch as our society commits gradual suicide.

Commemorative plaque

Lisa Allison was a 21 year old student in 1996 when she went home to Liberty, TX to visit her family. Lisa had earlier survived a battle with thyroid cancer and now she was preparing to work in the hotel industry once she had finished her studies at the University of Las Vegas.

It was 8:30pm on April 3 and Lisa had a date the following day, so she took her father's car to the local car wash to get it cleaned. Unfortunately for Lisa, an animal named Robert Brice Morrow was at the car wash when Lisa got there. Morrow kidnapped Lisa and murdered her. He beat her severely and slit her throat before he tossed her body in a near-by river.

Robert Brice Morrow. This is the man who some people in Cork want to commemorate. They want to scatter his ashes and erect a commemorative plaque to him in the graveyard in Kilmurray.

I've said before I'm not a death penalty supporter. I still don't see why opposition to the death penalty has to mean honoring, which is how this seems, those who are executed for heinous crimes such as Morrow's. Let him be buried in Texas.

I'm sure the people of Liberty are outraged. Why shouldn't they be? Wouldn't the people of Clare be outraged if someone in the US decided to commemorate Brendan O'Donnell in a similar fashion? I bet they would.

Sanctions didn't work

What other conclusion is possible when you read that Saddam and his cronies netted $21 B I L L I O N thanks to their subversion of the sanctions regime? It wasn't only the oil for food program. In fact, most of the $21bn was thanks to an oil smuggling operation that western governments ignored.

I wonder if George Galloway's name will (has?) come up in the Congressional Hearings? He said that the Daily Telegraph's report that he was one of those who benefited from Saddam's 'generosity' was a dagger through his "political heart".

Monday, November 15, 2004

It's not just RTE that hates America

At Mass yesterday (not my usual parish), the priest took time during his homily to tell us about his recent trip to Auschwitz. He talked about how nobody spoke inside the camp other than the guides and about the conditions that the Jews lived in while in the camp. He mentioned how cold it was during his visit and how tough life was for those who had minimal shelter and no heat. I thought it a little odd that he seemed to think of it as an under-equipped refugee camp, but I figured he was assuming that we already knew the more horrible aspects of Auschwitz.

He then changed tack and started talking about Fallujah. Outrageously, he compared the US military's decision to not allow the Red Crescent aid trucks into Fallujah with the Nazis behavior at Auschwitz. His last line was that "nothing had changed in 60 years". I was totally flummoxed. I didn't hear a word for the rest of Mass. I couldn't work out if he had said what I thought he said or did I mishear him. Yet, I know I didn't mishear. I was fuming.

Part of me was annoyed that I didn't shout at him there and then. It's just not my nature and not what I would consider appropriate behavior at Mass. Still, I felt impotent, which only made me angrier.

The worst thing is, he didn't give me the impression that he was a radical or given to extreme views. I really suspect that he believes this view to be mainstream.

This sort of thinking is all too prevalent in the Irish Church. I remember Bishop Kirby making some silly remarks before the war in Afghanistan started (Sep 11 made no impression on him), although nothing as ugly as this. Sometimes I think this is the priests' only way of being on the side of those who are "hip and happening", as if uttering the most grotesque anti-American lines will help them win friends among the liberal media.

All it accomplishes is annoying me.

The Truman Show

Mark Sullivan's Armistice Day tribute to Harry Truman is like a slap across the face for anyone who doesn't realize how far today's Democratic Party has drifted from Truman. Sullivan argues that today's Democratic Party is closer in spirit to the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace, who ran against Truman in 1948.


Now I'm looking forward to seeing The Incredibles, which I'm assuming my kids will want to see, when it comes to Ireland.
While The Incredibles' battle against conformity and mediocrity screams anti-oppression to some, it's obviously Randian to others. In that sense, the film is being touted as the latest proof that, on top of everything else, the right wing has even wit and creativity on its side these days: This is a world turned upside-down!
This article {NOTE: link will be valid only until Wednesday) is more than a film review. It's a funny take on the differences in superheroes that appeal to the right and the left. The right likes their heroes to simply be out there fighting evil. The left likes them to be "conflicted".

The authors of this column, Suzy Hansen and Sheelah Kolhatkar, finish up with a discussion of the real life superheroes of the left – celebrities.
But if all the celebrities disappeared, who would the Democrats have left? Who would their spokespersons be? In the past year, the left had the Dixie Chicks telling Brits they were embarrassed to be from Texas; P. Diddy’s bizarre "Vote or Die" campaign; Michael Moore decrying American stupidity; Bruce Springsteen singing on the campaign trail; Paul Newman slumming it, knocking on doors.

What kind of heroic, larger-than-life figure could occupy that Hollywood void? If Republican hero Curt Schilling, brave, bloody-ankled, faith-based athlete, challenged a liberal to fight, who could match him? A George Soros?

"I would be in favor of Empathy Man," said Mr. Rall. "The man who plants the seeds of empathy into the cold, stony heart of the average red-state American."
Empathy Man!!! That just about sums it up.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Does RTE HATE America?

I'm sure there are people in RTE who don't, of course, but listening to Tom McGurk and his guests summarizing the morning papers on today's "Sunday Show" led me to consider whether RTE does in fact HATE America. If radios had pores, my radio's pores would have been seeping hatred by noon.

Ireland's rugby squad wins tune-up

That should be the headline in today's sports sections after yesterday's game between Ireland and South Africa, which Ireland won 17-12. Instead, it's mostly "Ireland moves into big league" or "Ireland's heroes have the last word" or "O'Gara leads Bok-busters".

Well, next week Ireland has to contend with the USA! Go Eagles!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Dumb - now 60m Strong!

That's right. President Bush's total popular vote is now over 60 million.

{Thanks to NRO for this link.}

Thursday, November 11, 2004

What am I missing here?

Pat Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, goes before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and NO ONE even hints that he should step down NOW. The OCI receives a fair amount of public money. Is there any other government-funded body that would get away with sullying Ireland's international reputation, which Hickey admitted yesterday, as this one has? Shouldn't somebody's head roll?

I'm obviously not seeing the full picture here. Why isn't the OCI held accountable for the behavior of the athletes the taxpayers fund? When the FEI was notified that ABC Landliebe had failed a May drug test, didn't they inform the OCI? If not, why not? If yes, why didn't the OCI put O'Connor off the team? There's nothing in the Olympic rules which says you cannot suspend an athlete who fails a drugs test, is there?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


That's the word that the president of the Equestrian Federation of Ireland, Avril Doyle, used to describe Cian O'Connor's Athens gold (& Waterford Crystal's blue ribbon, which will surely have to be returned). Tarnished is putting it mildly. Fraudulent is more accurate.

O'Connor's caught. Ireland's had three gold medal winners since 1960. Two of those were cheats. Michelle Smith in 1996 and now O'Connor. Is Ireland the new East Germany? Obviously not, but I wouldn't be surprised if some people outside Ireland began to think so.

Pat Hickey has been at the helm of the Olympic Council of Ireland for both scandals. Will he now resign? Shouldn't he?

By the way, somebody might want to update the OCI's web site.

The 'new Irish' come home

The New York Times reports that the Irish neighborhoods in and around New York are being "de-greened" all over again. I witnessed the first re-greening in the mid-1980s. In the years I was in college in the North Bronx, the number of Irish accents heard in the local coffee shops, bars and pizzerias just seemed to explode.

I won't condone illegal immigration, but I do have sympathy for those who now feel that they have to leave due to the tighter restrictions on illegal immigration. The Ireland that most of them left is gone and the costs, particularly housing, are astronomical for those who missed the boom.
Mr. Finn, the emigrant advice officer in Dublin, agreed. "They are not returning," he said of the Irish from America. "They're remigrating to a different country."
I can't understand why Ireland and the US cannot agree on a certain number of visas that each country would make available to the citizens of the other. Rather than sending home those who would like to stay, the governments could facilitate a trade.

5,000 visas a year is a small number and I don't see why the US and Irish governments cannot make that many available annually. If 5,000 proves to be too many, then reduce the number and if it is too few increase it. As long as criminals and those who would be a charge on the state are screened out, I don't see what either country stands to lose.

UPDATE: Nov 11, 10:35am

A friend has reminded me of President Bush's "temporary worker" proposal for illegal immigrants already in the country. This plan outraged conservatives at the time, but it seems it will get the green light. Although the plan is targeted at the millions of illegal Mexicans in the US, it would presumably benefit some of the illegal Irish too. Maybe those who left for Ireland after last Tuesday's vote were too hasty?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Aer Lingus

Two recent articles about the National Airline in the US press. First, the Boston Globe on Aer Lingus's efforts to be the first low cost carrier on the Transatlantic route. The article offers some explanation of the gamble that is about to be undertaken by the airline we Irish taxpayers own.

The second article is from the Baltimore Sun. It seems that Baltimore/Washington is no longer part of the airline's plans. I wonder if this means that Aer Lingus will not return to the Washington area?

Arafat's in a "grave" condition

One of my clearest memories from elementary school was the homework assignment given to us by our 6th grade teacher. We were supposed to come in every morning with a snippet from that day's news. What I remember is the desperation among us to be the first called so that you could use "General Franco".

Time always moves slower for kids, but my memory is that for weeks on end the first kid called on each morning would report that "General Francisco Franco remains in a 'grave' condition". He just seemed to refuse to die. {Saturday Night Live got great mileage out of this after Franco's death. Each week Chevy Chase would report that "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead".}

Now, almost 20 years later it's déjà vu all over again with Yasser Arafat.

UPDATENov. 11 7:55pm: Arafat's now conditionally in a grave.

Kerry Campaign - the sequel?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Boston . . .

All I could think when I saw this headline "Kerry run in '08 called conceivable" in today's Boston Globe was "Hmmmm — then again, maybe not."

I'm going to go on the record now and predict that any Kerry run at the White House in 2008 will be a very brief run. I suspect this is more about the battles inside the Democratic Party between the "Clintons" and the "non-Clintons".

Crash barriers

I'm obviously not a road engineer, but I had no difficulty in recognizing that a small bush and a patch of grass were insufficient "barriers" to prevent a car, truck or bus from crossing the divide on a motorway. Every time I drive along the M11 I consider how flimsy that hedge is.

In the region of the US where I grew up (NY, NJ, MA - probably the same everywhere), no highway would be built with a small "grass and bush" divide. Most new roads (by new, I mean post World War II) have a much bigger gap and generally the central divide has a significant dip so that anyone leaving the road will not find their way into the on-coming lanes.

By the way, wasn't this issue settled in favor of crash barriers after the accident on the Chapelizod by-pass 7 or 8 years ago? That was the one where a bus full of school children had a very lucky escape. I guess the fact that no one died meant that there was no reason to do anything about it.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Semper Fi

The Marines are ready.
Now, their own ignorance and arrogance will be their undoing. They believe that they can hold Fallujah. In fact, they have come from all over to be part of its glorious defense. I cannot describe the atmosphere that exists in the Regiment right now. Of course the men are nervous but I think they are more nervous that we will not be allowed to clean the rats nest out and instead will be forced to continue operating as is.

Its as if a window of opportunity has opened and everyone just wants to get on with it before it closes. The Marines know the enemy has massed and has temporarily decided to stay and fight. For the first time, the men feel as though we may be allowed to do what needs to be done. If the enemy wants to sit in his citadel and try to defend it against the Marine Corps and some very hard Soldiers... then the men want to execute before the enemy sobers up and flees. . .

Every day, insurgents from inside Fallujah drive out and wait for Iraqis that work on our bases. Once the Iraqis leave they are stopped. The lucky ones are savagely beaten. The unfortunate ones are killed. A family that had fled Fallujah in order to get away from the fighting recently tried to return. When they got to their home, they found it taken over by terrorists (very common). When the patriarch showed the muj his deed in order to prove that the house was his, they took the old man out into the street and beat him senseless in front of his family.

Summary executions are common. Think about that. Summary executions inside Fallujah happen with sobering frequency. We have been witness to the scene on a number of occasions. Three men are taken from the trunk of a car and are made to walk to a ditch where they are shot. Bodies are found in the Euphrates without heads washed downstream from Fallujah. To date we have been allowed to do nothing. . .

Once again, we are being asked by citizens who have fled the city to go in and take the city back. They are willing for us to literally rubble the place in order to kill the terrorists within. Don't get me wrong, there are still many inside the town that support the terrorists and we cannot expect to be thanked publicly if we do take the city. There is a sense of de ja vu with the refugees telling us where their houses are and asking us to bomb them because the muj have taken them over. We heard the same thing in April only to end up letting the people down. Some no doubt have paid with their lives. The "good" people who may ultimately buy into a peaceful and prosperous Iraq are again asking us to do what we know must be done.
From a letter home written by a Major in the Marines. {Found thanks to Alaa's site}.


Alaa's got some tough words for everyone as the battle for Fallujah begins. He wants al Jazeera shut down or at least off the air. He wants martial law. (He has that now.)

Mostly he wants no more pussy-footing around:
Friends and allies: this is War and a very serious and dangerous one too. Do not underestimate the enemy. In Iraq you have at least 80% of the population on your side and desirous of change and success in creating the new society. Anybody who tells you otherwise is simply a liar. Wars are terrible and cruel but what must be done must be done. Remember what it took to defeat Nazism, Fascism and Japanese Militarism - the flattening of most of Europe and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, horrible as that may have been. Yet both Europe and Japan recovered and eventually enjoyed tremendous prosperity and peace, and the outcome of the horrors of war was entirely in the interest of all the “conquered” peoples. Why was that? Very simple! The right side won the war. The right side must win this war too, for the sake of our future generations and world peace.
We've all been so distracted by the election, but the future of Iraq will likely be decied over the coming days and weeks. I was glad yesterday when at Mass we were asked to pray for the people of Iraq. They need it now as much as they've needed at anytime over the past 18 months.

What they've had to endure is bad enough. It would be infinitely worse if it was all in vain.

Terry Prone

Could someone get Terry Prone a job with RTE teaching their reporters and analysts how to open their eyes so that they can tell us what they see and not what they want to see? Probably also a good idea if she did some work for the Irish Times.

I've been meaning to say this for a while, but I think Terry Prone might be the most sensible columnist in Ireland. I don't always agree with her, but I never feel like she's ever browbeating or insulting me. She observes, then she reports and then she offers her analysis. Would it be too much to ask that one or two others do the same?

There are so many good passages in today's short column, that I feel like reprinting the whole thing. Instead, I'll give you this:
Up to last week, we thought America was a big diverse society, but this week we learned they were really one big Bible belt hiding 51 million [obviously should she means 59m] religious fundamentalists from us. Gun totin' religious maniacs, all of them: anti-abortion, anti-stem-cell research. Beer drinkin', boot scootin', Bible-totin' unsophisticates, too thick to deserve democracy.

Or that's what liberal Ireland, Britain, Europe and east coast America would have us believe.

It boils my brains to be so embarrassed by people I normally agree with.
You might have to register to read this article, but it's worth it. She goes from the US election to the Buttiglione affair. Each sentence is a scoring punch.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Earth to Lawrence O'Donnell

Poor old Lawrence O'Donnell. He generally comes across as an intelligent analyst. He's obviously not taking Tuesday very well at all.

I was watching the McLaughlin Group yesterday and O'Donnell actually said that the blue states could secede in twenty years. This is all based on the findings that indicated that the red states spent more federal tax dollars than the blue states, which paid more in taxes. {I'm not so sure that this study was all that it was cracked up to be at the time, but maybe more on that later.}

What O'Donnell's not taking into account is that the country is not so neatly divided as he'd like to imagine. Remember the maps by county? Based on O'Donnell's analysis, the only whole states that could secede are Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. What happens when NY State tries to secede? Won't all the red counties then secede from NY State? Not a very likely scenario, is it?

Will someone please get a big glass of milk for O'Donnell? He obviously just needs to deal with his agita.

UDPATE: Nov 10, 4:45pm
O'Donnell's fellow McLaughlin Group participant Tony Blankley has more on O'Donnell's secession talk.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Seethe or smile?

For the most part, the past few days have been unbridled joy for me. Funny thing is, I wasn't that desperate to see Bush win. I went to bed on Tuesday night thinking that a Bush loss was more likely than a win. Yet, I knew that the Senate and House were going to be more Republican than they were before Election Day, so I figured that Kerry was pretty well boxed in. I assumed he'd govern cautiously for 4 years and be turned out in 2008.

Then the vitriol started pouring in. First it was on the radio. Didn't matter what station I tuned in. The anger was palpable. So was the bigotry. The terms used to describe those who voted for Bush would not be allowed if used about any other group of people. Those who are not part of the news teams were the worst. DJ's and other puff presenters excelled themselves in displaying their ignorance.

The following day, the newspapers weighed in. Simon Jenkins (in both the London Times and Irish Independent), Fintan O'Toole, the Daily Mirror, etc. are only the tip of the iceberg.

Most of the time I just laugh. You people and your high and mighty tone - I'm laughing in your face!

Every so often, however, it gets under my skin. I resent that I am compelled by law to pay in order to be reviled by RTE. I hope by the end of this weekend sanity will return to those who were clearly unhinged by Tuesday's results.

More from the Mirror

The paper that called me "dumb" has another intellectually challenging story on its front page today. An actor in a soap opera has been fired.

Well, I'm stumped. No way I can grasp all of the nuances of this one. If only I was as smart as the Mirror's readers.

It seems that after publishing that front page the Mirror has received some e-mails from Americans, both dumb and otherwise. Here's my favorite:
YOU send your convicts to one of the most beautiful places on Earth while you stay home in the fog and you call us dumb? - Russell Betts, Palm Springs, California

We don't like complexity

And, just in case you think that the Daily Mirror is the only purveyor of the notion that Bush supporters are dumb, here's Fintan O'Toole {sub. required} in Thursday's Irish Times:
a majority of American voters prefer to imagine a world divided between the Righteous and the Evil-doers than to deal with the complex problems of their vast nation.
You see? We couldn't possibly have recognized complex problems and rejected the solutions offered by Mr. Kerry as ineffectual. No, we're simpletons. We see the world in simple terms and want simple solutions.

Just because the Bush campaign was able to convey what it was about in straight-forward and consistent terms does not mean that those who voted for him consider him to be simple or that his policies will be simple.

On the other hand, Mr. Kerry offered mutiple solutions to the same problems. In other words he offered confusion because neither he nor the electorate was exactly sure what he was offering. And, it's as simple as that.

Extreme right, etc.

Can someone explain to RTE, the Irish Times, etc. that President Bush is no more governing from the "extreme right" than Bill Clinton governed from the "extreme left"? It's completely illogical to presume that more than 50% of the American population are at the extreme right. If President Bush were governing from the "extreme right" he'd have won an extremist's percentage of the vote.

President Bush is NOT Jean-Marie le Pen, who managed only 18% of the vote in the French Presidential election.

The centers in the mythical "left-right" divide are not the same in the US and Ireland, but that doesn't excuse the extremist Irish media from trotting out the label "extreme right" for President Bush.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Hey, what about me!

William of fame was at the US Embassy for an Election Night bash on Tuesday. Why didn't I get invited? I'm miffed (which I'm hoping is the opposite of giddy).

I would have thought that with all the free-loaders with e-mail addresses in the Newshound database that at least one of them might have thought that I might enjoy an Election Night get together.

Well, I never!

To all single American liberals:

You have options.

Our man in London!

Ambassador David Johnson has defended my honor and that of 59 million other Americans with a letter to the editor of the Daily Mirror. The Ambassador was responding to the front page in yesterday's edition of that paper.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

By county

Here's the map by county. It's not just red states and blue states. It's a red country with some blue spots. Not much change from 2000.

UPDATE: Here's a different map which shades each county according to the % of the vote for Bush or Kerry. This really puts paid to all the "nation divided" talk. We had a vote. Some voted for Bush and some for Kerry, but we're not as "polarized" by region as many would have it.

{Map found through NRO.}

Conspiracy theory

Yasser Arafat was supposedly not that ill when he arrived in France on Saturday. Now he's apparently in a coma and it sounds like the end may be near.

Here's the conspiracy theory: Chirac is having Arafat finished off as a sort of "make it up to Bush" gift?

Im so dum!

Yup. Dum. Thats me.

Didnt even no that til I red the headline on front page of todays Daily Mirror. At leest there are 59 million others just as dum as me.

This front page sums up so much about the arrogance and ignorance of so, so, so many people in both Britain and Ireland (and the US too, it has to be said). Still, I never thought I'd see it in a newspaper headline.

Interestingly, in the edition I saw on sale here, there is a quarter page size picture of the area between Serena Williams's legs as she sits in a short skirt, presumably minus underwear. The Mirror's sense of good taste compelled them to draw in a tennis ball over the crucial area so I can't be sure. These are the people who are lecturing me - printing pictures that are a complete invasion and pandering to, . . ., whom? Their oh, so intelligent readers?

Gimme a break!


Just wondering if the people of Boston are so down over the Kerry defeat that the Red Sox big win already seems a distant memory. I seriously doubt it, but listening to reports yesterday referring to "gloom" in Boston (BBC) seemed ironic. It was only last Saturday that more than 3 million people lined the streets of Boston (& the Charles River) to cheer the Champions. Does anyone seriously think that 3 million people would have lined the streets to cheer John Kerry?

Baseball is so much more important than politics!

Is it really FIVE months til Opening Day?!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The west

George Hook was "astounded" to learn that 60% of Americans go to church regularly. This is the level of ignorance about America that exists in the media here. America is the most religious country in the western world by a long, long way. The differences between the US and W. Europe in this regard are vast and go a long way towards explaining the chasm in worldviews.

The US is becoming more religious (Christian) and W. Europe is increasingly secular/Islamic. The whole concept of the "west" died when the Berlin Wall fell. Too many people still don't seem to recognize this. We still obviously have much in common, but gradually what we have in common is becoming less significant and what separates us is increasingly significant.

More resources

Listening to RTE and I can't shake the feeling that some Democrats are not learning anything. Republicans are bible-thumping morons. Rich, bible-thumping morons. That's the essence of what RTE's reporter, Robert Short, just said was the reaction of one Democrat he talked to in Boston.

Also heard NY Representative Joe Crowley playing the poor mouth on RTE claiming that Republicans always have more money to spend as if this is why they lost. This is not true.

If these are the lessons Democrats are taking out of this election, the Democrats are doomed to go on losing.

Deliberately misled?

Dick Morris suggests that the exit polls deliberately misled us yesterday. This "is a national scandal", according to Morris.

Time to concede

John Kerry's Campaign Manager, Mary Beth Cahill, said
The vote count in Ohio has not been completed. There are more than 250,000 remaining votes to be counted. We believe when they are, John Kerry will win Ohio.
That's 75,000 more than Ohio's Secretary of State estimated, but whatever. If we take her figure as accurate, that would mean that Kerry would need to win 194,000 of those to overturn Bush's current lead. That's 77%, which is 28% more than he's won in the first 5.5m votes counted. Sounds pretty unlikely. (Even more unlikely if the Sec. of State's estimate is right - Kerry would need 89% of the provisional votes).

I had high hopes that Kerry wouldn't pull "a Gore" and would want to end this gracefully. He may yet. I think he needs to do so, early today, for the good of the country and himself. I don't think his political career is over, but it will be if he disgraces himself now. He'll be Al Gore II, which cannot be an attractive prospect.

UPDATE 4:35pm: Kerry has conceded. It's the right thing to do.

Peggy takes it

Some consolation for the Democrats losing the national elections - the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives - comes in the race for Family Court Judge in Albany County. My old pal, Peggy (a.k.a. Margaret T.) Walsh won handily.