Friday, February 27, 2004

The Passion

Wow! When I first heard about Gibson's planned film I had assumed it would be a complete bust at the box office. I think it was about a year or two ago. How wrong I was.

I haven't seen the film and don't intend to at the moment. I'm not that keen on violent movies. I tend to watch them on t.v. rather than see them in the cinema. Maybe I'll change my mind.

The debate about the movie is very interesting, however. Is it anti-semitic or is it not? Obviously, I can't answer, but a couple of things have struck me. First, in the US, those who are most likely to go see the movie are those who tend to be the most pro-Israel. Sure, there are conservative Catholics like Pat Buchanan who are not pro-Israel, but the so-called "religious right", particularly fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants, tends to be fairly pro-Israel.

According to yesterday's Irish Times Ireland's Chief Rabbi has called on the Catholic Church to denounce the film. Chief Rabbi Yaakov Pearlman said the The Passion of the Christ
portrayed Jews "as bloodthirsty, evil, barbaric and as having betrayed and informed on Jesus". It undermined "the Vatican II initiative and I am afraid it will open up old wounds and influence or ignite the anti-Semitism which is growing across Europe today".
British Jewish leaders are apparently of a similar mind.

There have been many similar reactions among Jews in America, but there have also been some contrary opinions. Rabbi Daniel Lapin, writing in the Washington Times recently, feels that many of the American Jews protesting about The Passion lack "moral legitimacy" due to their reticence when faced with anti-Catholic or anti-Christian movies and art shows in the past.

The Passion has received glowing praise from those writers at National Review who have seen it. National Review is rarely connected with claims of anti-semitism.

The Jerusalem Post says The Passion "has inspired some curiosity, but little outrage, among Israelis". Jews in Israel have more important things to worry about than a movie. The editorial also notes, correctly, that "ultimately, it will be up to Christians to take what lesson they will from the film and to read their scriptures in a philo- or anti-Semitic light. Vatican II, after all, was not an idea hatched in Tel Aviv".

French decline

Enlargement of the EU is leading to a decline in the importance of French in the EU. Only 13% of potential EU officials from the new member states chose French for their recruiting tests. That's below German 18% and completely dwarfed by the 69% who chose to do the tests in English.

English is also in something of a decline, from its current position as the world's number 2 language.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Bush and the "Gay Marriage ban"

I'm opposed to gay marriage and I see no reason to go through all that again. But, I'll just comment on it as an issue rather than as a topic in itself.

Jon says that President Bush "the self-proclaimed 'uniter' [is] employing the Constitution - the very foundation of American cohesion - as an instrument of division". Why is Bush the "divider" when more than 50% of the American people are opposed to gay marriage. Aren't the proponents, who have the support of only a minority of the American people the dividers? (Barely half of the American public believe that homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal, never mind gay marriage.)

I never understand why it is that conservatives are always the "dividers" when they oppose a proposed change. This change is occurring despite the wishes of the voters. Is it any wonder that so many conservatives are annoyed? 4 of 7 judges in Massachussetts found a right in the Constitution that does not exist. Aren't they the ones using the Constitution as "an instrument of division"? The Mayor of San Francisco is breaking state law by issuing licenses to gay couples. Is he a uniter?

Still, I believe that the President is wrong to support this amendment, for now. I would have preferred if he had waited for courts higher than the Massachussetts Supreme Court to have ruled before he acted. Like most conservatives, I hate amending the Constitution. It's a huge deal. It still seems unreal to me that the Constitution has to be amended in order to define marriage. Conservatives' views on amending the Constitution are the reason support for this amendment is so light compared with the level of opposition to gay marriage.

The President has also blundered politically, I think. Rather than supporting the amendment, he should have used his opposition to judicial activism as a campaign issue. Overall, however, the economy and the war are the two key issues for this November. I doubt that the gay marriage issue will swing too many people.

Broadband in school

I know I'm swimming against the tide on this one, but I cannot see what benefit children derive from having the internet in school.

And, from what I've seen of my own children's education, computer classes are a complete waste of time. Learning how to type is about all that they learn. Classes in programming or other vocational uses (CAD, etc.) for 16-18 year-olds would probably not be a waste, but other than that, I can see no reason for having computers in school.

Population decline

Scotland's population decline "is posing a bigger threat to new business creation than the nation's traditional suspicion of success". Of course, they recommend encouraging migrants and immigrants to settle in Scotland, but that answer is insufficient when we are talking about a continent suffering from population decline.

Monday, February 23, 2004

"Tax is good for us"

I'm still not able to contribute as I'd like here, but I have to say something about Britain's Catholic Bishops' pronouncement on taxation. I don't have time to read their document myself (Taxation for the Common Good), but this article from the Times illustrates how desperate the Church is to be relevant.

The American Bishops published some ideas along these lines in the 1980s and that struck me as an equally desperate attempt to have something to say that might appeal to people other than the usual "Thou shall not" etc.

I can't help thinking that the Bishops have lost sight of how much the welfare state has drained away personal responsibility - something I would have thought they would want to reverse. By all means, let's help those who "need help", but let's define need first. Most of the money raised by taxes is spent helping those who don't "need" the help, but have become dependent on it.

Do middle class families "need" free college tuition for their children? Do middle class families "need" child benefit allowance? How many people living in subsidized government housing "need" the government's help?

I could go on. The Bishops "need" to focus on what they're supposed to be about. Encouraging a high tax, entrepreneurial-sapping society is not what we "need".

Friday, February 20, 2004


Have to take a few days off from blog due to family situation. See you soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Jews and the UN

Long article from Commentary magazine by Anne Bayefsky.
The nadir of the UN’s record in these matters was the conference on racism and xenophobia held under its auspices in Durban in 2001.
Two Irish sacred cows, the UN and Mary Robinson, and a less sacred cow, Brian Cowen, all brought low in one piece.

Anny Bayefsky is an adjunct professor at Columbia University Law School, Mary Robinson's new employer.

{Thanks Michael about the tip to Daimnation.}


Absolutely fantastic pictures from Hubble. I hope they don't let this thing die with all the Mars planning. Probably need a high speed connection to enjoy this properly.

Arabs backing Bush

The NY Times has an article this morning about wealthy Arab Americans who are contributing large sums to the Bush campaign. This is counter to Bush's loss of support among the Arab population in America generally, down from 83% in 2000 to 38% today.

Funny enough the first two donors mentioned in the article are Iranian. I had thought that Iranians were (mostly) non-Arab. I thought they spoke Farsi and not Arabic.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Feminized Church

Kieron Wood's article in yesterday's Sunday Business Post claims that the greater feminization of the Catholic Church may lead to its eventual end. Interesting statistics on fathers, mothers and children attending church.

I don't know what to make of Bishop Martin's comments about the role of women. I remember reading once that in "old Ireland" the Bishops never did anything that went against the grandmothers. The Bishops ran the Church, but they did the grandmothers' bidding. Were women powerless in that Church? No, but young people were.

The Irish Church is definitely in trouble and seems to have no idea where to go next. Pandering to feminists is, without doubt, a mistake. Whether you can avoid that without trying to reestablish the old failed Church is a conundrum.

A good place to start is with the priesthood. The Church needs priests - lots of them. I think the Church makes a very poor effort at selling the priesthood to young men. Is it for all men? Obviously not. But, there are young men out there for whom a "tough job" open to "tough young men" would appeal. An overtly masculine appeal would be the best way to sell the priesthood. There's way too much namby-pambyism about "doing good" (or whatever) inherent today's appeals.

I don't think there has to be any contradiction in a masculine priesthood. When I was growing up, the priests who gave me the feeling that they were real men were the ones I liked best.

One priest who worked in our parish was a Franciscan. He wore hooded vestments and sandals for God's sake. But, he was also an Air Force chaplain. He was tough as nails, fair, sometimes really funny. He believed altar boys should wear polished black shoes and keep their shoulders back. I really liked him and I thought he was a great ad for the priesthood, but by the time I was 17 or 18 most of the younger priests I met gave me the creeps (and, I don't think that's too strong a word). I considered it, but that was the biggest turn-off for me.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Baby shortage

As if on cue, an article in Today's Sunday Times (London — unfortunately, subscription required outside Britain & Ireland) about Europe's great baby shortage problem (America's problem is less acute).
Unless we in the West produce more children, we face a nightmarish scenario in which the elderly outnumber the young, placing an impossible burden on the workers who must support them. Productivity will plummet. Unemployment will soar. Education will become unaffordable. Optimism will leach from the national psyche and we will become constitutionally depressed. There will be no fresh ideas, save perhaps a new socioeconomic justification for euthanasia. To survive, the EU will have to suck in large numbers of predominantly Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.
And, I think we can safely add, those parents who have children will be increasingly unwilling to see them die in war, etc. So, our defense is also at risk.

Many people have assumed that bin Laden & co. are losers and that there's no way they can win. Yet, when you look at this problem you can see that their strategy makes perfect sense. First, ensure that Muslims avoid the western depopulation "illness" and avoid western contamination generally. Second, maintain the pressure at a level that ensures that Muslims who live in the west are not fully accepted or, therefore, westernized. And, third, never discourage migration of Muslims to the west.

They're waging a long campaign, and I think they may be winning.

The best counter strategy that we can adopt is
  1. address our population issues
  2. make a full effort to integrate Muslims who live in the west
  3. do all we can to westernize the Islamic world. Turkey and Iraq are the key battlegrounds in this strategy.
I see no reason to suspect that Muslims would not take to freedom as we have if they're given half a chance. But, we should not expect that the attempt to help liberalize the Islamic world will be met by universal acceptance. There are enemies of freedom and they're right now trying to prevent it from blossoming in Iraq.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Headline writers

This headline, "Most Americans now say Bush lied over weapons", from this morning's Irish Independent is actually wrong. The truth is that 21% of people who were polled believe that the Bush Administration lied. 21% is not quite the same as "most Americans".

The article itself says "a majority of Americans now believe that President George Bush lied or deliberately exaggerated evidence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the run up to war", which is true. It's equally true for me to say that 73% of Americans believe that the administration honestly believed that Iraq possessed WMDs, although that 73% includes 31% who believe the evidence was "intentionally exaggerated".

Baseball's drugs problem

The other day, Barry Bonds's personal trainer was indicted for drugs trafficking. I doubt there's a fan of the game who doesn't think "there's something rotten in the state of Denmark" with regards to one of baseball's biggest stars. And, I sincerely doubt any fan thinks that Bonds is the only one about whom questions should be asked.

I've written before about baseball's pathetic attempt to tackle this problem. The owners and union are pussy-footing around with this issue. The Daily News says that Major League Baseball is "in denial".

I suspect it's worse than that. I think they figure the fans don't care or that the fans are basically stupid.

I've often envied the English soccer fans' organizations and their power and influence. Baseball fans have no influence other than through ticket sales and t.v. money. I don't live close enough to wage an effective boycott, but even still when I'm home in the US this summer I'll be desperate to go to a game. I also know that when the season starts, I'll watch the games now that I can.

It's not that I don't care, but I can't help myself. But, I really hate this drugs thing. I hope the casual fan is turned off. I hope the stadiums are emptier and the television audiences are down. It's the only hope for the game.

Locked up in Cuba

First they're rounded up and imprisoned in Cuba. Now many are seriously ill and "are being held under inhumane conditions", according to the Washington Post. One man was held in a cell that had "no windows or running water and the lights were kept on 24 hours a day. He has lost 40 pounds, is unable to eat and has a fungal infection covering his legs".

I know they're enemy combatants, but they should receive better treatment than that.

Oh, wait. Oh, my apologies.

This description isn't of an enemy combatant. He's a 63 year-old economist suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and is one of 75 Cuban dissident journalists, economists and librarians arrested a year ago by Castro's government. I'll bet you that these people wish they were being held at Guantanamo Bay.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Gay Marriage

For all of you who are sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for me to return to this topic, I've exhausted all I have to say on Frank's site.

Back in the USSR

"You don't know how lucky you were", so says Mr. Putin.

I guess. At least back in those "good ole days", you didn't have to worry about former Soviet leaders making appearances in Las Vegas for new businesses.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Kerry - intern stuff

I hate this kind of thing. Let it go away. I am essentially a Republican, but I was totally opposed to the hounding of President Clinton over the Lewinsky thing. And, that was at a time of (relative) peace.

We're at war today. This nonsense has no role in this election.

Marriage - why it needs support

Just to reassure Frank, it's not so much that I'm trying to "post-rationalise a gut feeling", but rather I'm trying to figure out how to say what I'm thinking in less than 30,000 words. Also, I need to try and put a coherent structure on it.

I was trying to be concise, but then I felt that I wasn't explaining myself properly, although Frank summarized a lot of what I was trying to say when he wrote that my "principal argument is that marriage as an institution is crucial for the continuity of the type of liberal, civil society we currently enjoy and that this has been weakened by recent developments".

Recent developments are the key and when I say "recent" I'm basically talking about 1945-today. Dick says that "to say that a childless marriage is an incomplete marriage does a disservice to those who opt not to have children and implies that their marriage is in some way incomplete". (What I actually said was, "Couples that permanently and purposefully exclude the possibility of children are not living up to their end of the marriage contract" [with society].)

When I described the relationship between a married couple and society as a "contract" that was not quite right. It was a bad choice of word. Marriage is an institution - a social institution. Thus, society has expectations of married couples. Until the post-war period, married couples weren't "obliged" to have children, as Jon noted, but society's expectations included children.

From that point on (1960 or so), society began to lessen its expectations with regards to children and, also, to reduce the incentives that it had afforded to married couples. Marriage was denigrated and other "options" were promoted to an equal status. "Who's to say that a single parent household isn't as good as a married couple household", etc.

In 1960, 60% of married-couple households in the US* had at least one child under 18. By 2000, 45% of married-couple households had at least one child. {Some of this can be accounted for by aging, but not much if you note the household by age statistics.} In 1960, 75% of households in the US were married couples. By, 2000, that number was just over 50%.

Those statistics represent a double whammy for society. Fewer married-couples and more married-couples with no children. Dick believes that these numbers can be explained by a reduction in the number of "bad" marriages. But, children generally do better when the parents remain married even if the marriage is "bad". Only when violence or abuse is involved is it better for children for their parents to separate. Therefore, society has a vested interest in supporting even "bad" marriages.

All of this is the foundation for my view that marriage – one man, one woman – is special. So special that society has to provide incentives (thanks for the word Jon) to foster and support marriages. Those incentives can be monetary, social (esteem, etc.), whatever. If you extend those incentives to those on whom no expectation of children can be held, then you lessen the incentive (less money available for married couples, all family structures enjoying equal "esteem", etc. ), and therefore, support for marriage.

And, you open up the possibility of further challenges to the definition of marriage. Brothers & sisters, three people, who knows. Once the traditional understanding of marriage has been undermined then there is no accepted understanding of the term at all.

This is too long already and yet, I could easily go on. Enough for now.

{* I couldn't find similar statistics for Europe, but I'd be willing to wager that the fall-off is even greater.}

It's an ill wind . . .

The Daily Telegraph is reporting this morning that Palestinian legislators are investigating claims that the family of the Palestinian PM is supplying the Israelis with the concrete for The Wall.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


may not be as serious a problem in Ireland as I might have imagined, but this picture confirms that it is a nearly universal phenomenon.

Defending the status quo

From today's Taipei Times:
. . . the Beijing regime has never wanted to practice democracy. It merely wants to thoroughly annihilate a free and democratic Taiwanese social framework where the rule of law prevails -- a society built with the blood and tears of the Taiwanese people -- and replace it with a Communist authoritarian system.

In light of this, it should not be difficult to understand the motive behind the defensive referendum that Taiwan wants to hold. It is meant to call on Beijing to remove the ballistic missiles deployed against Taiwan and not seek to resolve the cross-strait dispute by means of military force. Such a referendum is clearly meant to ensure that Taiwan's status quo won't be changed by the Beijing regime. Creating a new constitution will serve to ensure that Taiwan will continue to deepen its democracy on the basis of the rule of law, and to prevent the emergence of a despotic politician or a military ruler.

Pro-US sentiment

A survey of 400 young Irish professionals indicates that 25% of such people have a "very favorable" impression of the US and a further 54% have a "mainly favorable" impression. Only a small portion of Irish young professionals has a "mainly unfavorable" (6%) or "very unfavorable" (2%) impression of the US.

This survey is counter to what I probably believed about this bloc of Irish public opinion.

The appendices have more information, including a similar question asked of 1200 randomly selected people in Ireland. The results are similar.

There was also some bad news for Irish europhiles. 73% of the survey group believes Ireland is closer (economically, socially, culturally) to Boston than Berlin. Only 16% expressed the opposite view (11% said neutral). This was much higher than the group's view of the UK (41% Boston - 33% Berlin).

The report deals mainly with Irish attitudes towards Britain and was featured in a few newspaper articles this morning. (see here and here for more). The surveys were conducted last August & September.

Joyce and Kevin Myers

As one who once tried to read Ulysses and gave up (it was for a class in college, I knew I had read enough to write the essay after the first 100 pages), I really enjoyed Kevin Myers today. {Irish Times, sub required). Here's a sample:
The vast majority of literate people cannot read Ulysses as they read Pride and Prejudice - that is, with simple pleasure. Yes, people can indeed plough their way from stately plump buck mulligan through to yes i said yes i will yes, but with the joyless concentration of an Eircom sub-editor proof-reading a telephone directory.
Jon refers to Myers as an "insecure conservative". I'm not sure about the insecure bit, but I'd hardly call Myers conservative. I think he's much closer to a libertarian.


Dick has responded to my post yesterday on gay marriage. What Dick & Jon write is worthwhile reading and I'd like to respond, but there's so much to digest here that I don't know if I'll have the time or energy to do so for a couple of days.

Also, some of the points that Dick has raised and Stephen's comment have convinced me that I'm obviously not explaining myself well enough. Stephen asks if I have confused marriage and family. I would say that marriage is the sapling and family the fully grown tree.

Windows problem

This looks bad. Get patch from Microsoft. Uggh!


Mexican fans chanted "Osama, Osama" at yesterday's Mexico vs. the US Olympic qualifier in Guadalajara. I guess they found that amusing. Maybe it loses something in the translation from the Spanish.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Jon asks

"How exactly will the extension to homosexuals of the right to civil marriage have any effect on the stability of child-producing heterosexual marriages on which society depends for its future?"

Jon mentions the "right to civil marriage" above, but of course, every right comes with a responsibility. In the marriage contract between a couple and society the couple assumes the responsibility to welcome children, raise them in a manner that will enable them to become full, contributing members of society. If we extend the benefit of marriage to those who do not share the responsibility for bringing in new contributing members of society then we cheapen the benefit.

In the case of monetary benefits, the pool available for those benefits is finite. If we increase the numbers who are eligible for those benefits, then everyone currently receiving those benefits must accept a decrease in that benefit. Each decrease in that benefit represents a step back by society from its obligations in the marriage contract.

Today, society has neglected these obligations so badly that the benefits that society affords to married couples are almost negligible. This has weakened the marriage bonds between married men and women (resulting in divorce) and between couples and society (resulting in cohabitation, etc.) with devastating effect. Rather than just conceding defeat, I believe now is the time to begin the process of increasing society's support for marriage.

More on gay marriage

Now I can't stop thinking about this issue. I'm planning to use the blog as a means to work out my thinking more clearly, if you can put up with me while this goes on, that would be great.

There are 2 big issues woven into this one that it may take time to straighten them out. Homosexuality is one, marriage and family is another.

I'll start with marriage.

Marriage, which as I said yesterday is about more than a couple living and loving together, is the cornerstone of the family, which is the foundation of our society. We all have a stake in strong marriages.

From marriage come the citizens, wealth creators, and defenders of our society of the future. We all want the next generation to be good citizens. We all depend on the next generation to create sufficient wealth to ensure that our pension and health care bills will be met when we are old. And, we all want young men (and women?) to be willing to die to defend us if necessary.

Therefore, society has a huge vested interest in doing all it can to support marriage. This has always been true and is why marriage has been so important going back to pre-Christian times and to non-Judaic cultures. In other words, today's religions don't own marriage, but have simply recognized its importance, its centrality in society.

That vested interest simply does not exist in any homosexual relationship. There may be some societal benefits to fostering stable homosexual relationships, but these benefits are minimal as compared with the benefits of fostering stable marriages between men and women.

All of us - homosexual, straight, married, single, men, women - have a vested interest in marriage. It's that vested interest that provides the rationale for affording benefits exclusively to married couples.

Marriage is more than living together. Marriage is a contract between a man and a woman and between the couple and society that they are willingly taking on the responsibilities of creating new citizens. Society has to fulfill its side of the bargain, which it does by supporting marriage through monetary and other (esteem, etc.) benefits.

This debate over gay marriage is taking place in a narrowly defined context of civil rights. Marriage is much more than a civil right. By denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples we are not saying you are second class, etc anymore than we are when we deny those benefits to single people. We are saying that marriage is a contract about our future. Society signs that contract and has obligations. We must live up to our end of the marriage contract.

Each couple must live up to theirs. Couples that permanently and purposefully exclude the possibility of children are not living up to their end of the marriage contract. {Many couples exclude the possibility of children for a time, but do intend to have them at some stage. This is not a breach of contract.}


Heard on Newstalk106 this morning: bananas make up 1% of all Irish supermarket sales. That's a lot more than I would ever have guessed. Makes me think that Dunnes knows more than I was willing to give them credit for.

Online suffers as tabloid gets going

Today marks the first day of the Irish Independent's tabloid version. Obviously, all considerations of the online version were ignored as the online version was not available as late as 7am this morning.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Gay Marriage

I've written before about my opposition to gay marriage. At the time, I hadn't thought about the issue in detail, but I knew I couldn't support it.

Dick and Frank have added their voices to Jon's as favoring gay marriage. Dick says marriage "was a religious function". However, it is about more than a "church's blessing to a couple, enabling them to go forth and multiply".

Marriage is the union of man and woman from which children may issue. This is the very essence of marriage. That society has allowed marriage to go to hell in a handbasket over the past few decades does not mean that we conservatives should just throw in the towel. It is more than a petty gripe to acknowledge that marriage has been undermined over a long period to a stage where it is considered an "option" for those who want to have families or those who already are married and have families.

Unmarried cohabitation, divorce, "sexual self-fulfilment", etc. have all served to weaken marriage. Any move to allow for gay marriage will complete the destruction of the purpose of marriage. It will no longer be about bearing and raising children as well as a loving relationship.

My opposition to allowing gay marriage does not mean I want to see gay couples excluded from some of the legal and other benefits of marriage, many of which probably have little to do with marriage. Dick's example of hospital visitations is one. Any patient should be allowed to nominate any other person as his/her prime visitor. There are other examples like this.

But, if marriage is simply a contract between those who want to live & love together, I'm not sure how polygamous and incestuous relationships can be excluded. Why should a man not be allowed to marry more than one woman (or vice versa)? Why should a brother not marry his sister (or brother, for that matter)?

Society needs to do all it can to support marriage and stop undermining it. Dick says, "You can't simultaneously argue that being gay is just fine, but marriage is out of the question". But, if I believe that the possibility of children is an essential part of marriage, then it is possible to argue just that.

We in the west have a huge population problem looming and to deny that the undermining of marriage is not at the root of this problem is to live in cloud cuckoo land. We need to encourage marriage and children and this may mean that other "lifestyle" choices will not - should not - receive the same support from society. Gay couples in the year 2040 will want to have their pensions funded and their societies defended by young people committed to our society. Strong support for marriage is the best way to guarantee this.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Everyone's after J. Jackson

Great article from yesterday's NY Post. The S & M shop that sold Janet Jackson that bodice are fit to be tied (up?) due to her remarks that gave the impression that the garment was not well made.

Friday, February 06, 2004

John Kerry - Boston Yankee

He comes from money, he married more money - twice - and he's running a populist campaign. He also has a reputation as one who leaves before the bill arrives. Howie Carr's take on the Democratic front-runner.

{Thanks to Irish Elk for this one.}

Timberlake - needs more schooling

Jason Timberlake obviously missed some important biology classes in high school. According to Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post,
. . . Timberlake, who had his sad face on, said that when he ripped Jackson's bodice during the halftime show, he was "shocked and appalled" to discover a breast underneath:

"All I could say was, 'Oh my God. Oh my God . . .' I was completely embarrassed and just walked off the stage as quickly as I could."

Dun Laoghaire Harbour

Frank and Dublin Gal don't care much for the designs for the proposed new Carlisle Pier in Dun Laoghaire. I'm no expert, but I agree. But, more than the designs, the proposed use of the Carlisle Pier annoys me more.

The 4 proposals are:
  1. A national maritime museum
  2. An Irish diaspora museum
  3. An interactive center for literature, art and music, an emigration history centre, a municipal art gallery
  4. A national aquarium
Number 2 and number 3 are OUT from the get go. Diaspora museum? You just know that's going to be sickening. Besides, Cobh is a more appropriate location for it than Dun Laoghaire. The cultural center is just mish mash and should be discarded out of hand.

An acquarium might make sense, but I'm not sure the atmosphere would be right. It will be a few yards from the busy Car Ferry pier. That leaves the Maritime Museum, which is not a bad suggestion, but it would make the current Maritime Museum up the street from the Harbour redundant. And, since that building is the old Mariners Church, I can't see how there'd be much use for that building once the Maritime Museum had left.

I'm not actually sold on why we need to rebuild the pier at all. Sure, the Carlisle Pier has been there a long time, but if we're going to tear it down, why not just leave it down? Or, why not allow some private development to rebuild it and make use of it?

If we must rebuild it, I'd like to suggest a museum devoted to engineering. Dun Laoghaire Harbour is, to me, one of the greatest engineering feats in Ireland. I'm sure there are other towns/cities across the world that possess similar works, but the full story of how the rock was quarried out of Dalkey Hill (which is now a great resource - quarrying may change, but it doesn't necessarily ruin a natural amenity), transported by a novel mini-rail system and assembled into the 2 great piers in the 1820s is remarkable. A national engineering museum (I'm sure a better name can be found) would be appropriately located within the shelter of Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Thursday, February 05, 2004


Kathy Sheridan defends McDonald's in today's Irish Times (sub. required).
For all the talk about the billions spent on advertising, there is a simple truth about McDonald's. A vast diversity of people feel comfortable there.
That's the whole point. I wish I could understand why so many people get so worked up about McDonald's. I don't like the food there anymore (one of the downsides of aging?), but I used to love it. My kids still do and I have no problem bringing them there on occasion.

War was necessary - inquiries should be concerned with the future

On April 11, CNN's Eason Jordan revealed that during the past 12 years he had made 13 trips to Baghdad during which he had seen and heard "awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff". John Burns of the NY Times put paid to the "endangered lives" excuse when he blew the lid on the corruption of the media (not just CNN) whenever they deal with totalitarian regimes, like Saddam's.

All of this is relevant to the current predicament with regards to WMD and why such a narrowly focussed inquiry is insufficient. The truth of Saddam's weapons programs was impossible to discern without actualy invading and taking full control of the country. While Saddam was in power, he was in control of virtually everything the west knew of what went on inside Iraq.

He had his paid agents in the Arab world and the west, an intimidated, docile western media in Iraq and an undercurrent of anti-American sentiments throughout much of the Middle East and Western Europe whose adherents would believe anything that countered the views put forward by the US and its allies.

All of these factors would have been in the mix with the confused, presumably often conflicting, intelligence that the governments were receiving. Combine all this, add a sprinkling of Saddam's character, a drop of faltering UN sanctions and a soupçon of September 11 and you have the ingredients for war. It was inevitable.

I would agree with anyone who would say that the Bush and Blair teams could have done a better job of communicating why this war was necessary. However, that would probably have required making public their suspicions about paid agents in the Middle East and the west, which might have caused more trouble than the WMD argument.

The justification for having an inquiry into intelligence failures is solely in order to be as well prepared as possible to meet future risks. There is no point in trying to score points against the Bush and Blair administrations because ultimately, the war was necessary and it was better to have waged it in 2003 than 2006 or 2007 well after the UN sanctions were removed.

Meanwhile, some hopeful signs are coming out of the Middle East as recently noted by Fawaz Gerges.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Papal issues

Three key issues are shaping up as crucial in the next papal election, according to George Weigel, author of Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II.

The key issues are:
  1. Collapsing Catholicism in Europe
  2. Radical Islam
  3. Biotechnology
I would wager that many Irish and American Catholics would have presumed that child sex abuse by priests and religious would be top of the list.

Sharon Bombshells

That's what the Arab News is calling Ariel Sharon's plan to dismantle all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and his statement that Israel was considering redrawing Israel's borders in a way that would see some of Israel's Arab population put under Palestinian control.
However, the idea threatened to arouse the deepest fears of Israel’s Arab minority and drew immediate criticism from an Israeli Arab leader. Many Israeli Arabs, while supporting the Palestinian cause, want to remain in Israel, both because of the higher standard of living and concerns that a future Palestinian state may not be democratic.
I can't help wondering how this perspective goes down in the Arab world and with the Cork Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The "Mother of All Inquiries"

That's what Amir Taheri is calling for. Basically, he wants to know everything there is to know about Saddam from the day he rose to power; it's insufficient to have an inquiry that focusses solely on WMD.

Halftime at the Super Bowl

"Trying to breathe life into a faded career" was, I think, how Gerry Ryan summed up the Janet Jackson episode at the Super Bowl during his Tuesday morning show. He didn't claim to have seen the incident, but he certainly nailed the rationale behind it. Apparently, she has a new album coming out and her new single was electronically delivered to radio stations across the US on Monday morning.

That much of the US is outraged is unsurprising. Americans, generally, are more conservative than Irish or British people. It's so easy to say, "get over it" or "what's the big deal". Yet, I would guess that there are a lot of Irish people who, while not shocked, would be disgusted and would like a return to less revealing television programming.

I was out on Friday night and a couple friends of mine and I were discussing what is shown on t.v. Both of them would describe themselves as liberals, yet they both felt that programs such as Sex and the City and Friends were too much for children. Sex and the City, which is only on a paid subscription channel in the US, is on regular t.v. sometimes as early as 9pm. That show is not appropriate for people under 17, yet any parent will tell you that children younger than that are up watching t.v. well past 9pm and even past 10pm.

Our public airwaves should be treated as public property. Nothing should be depicted on the public airwaves that is not allowed in a public park. Private distributions, whether through movie theaters or cable channels, are a different matter. But, the public airwaves should uphold a higher standard than they currently are.

Taiwan-China DMZ

Taiwan has proposed that the Taiwan Straits should be a demilitarized zone between Taiwan and China. Combine this with next month's referendum and you have a pretty deliberate ploy by Taiwan to bring the US back on side. The revised referendum asks if voters should spend more money on US-made weapons in response to China's missile build-up across the Straits. Now, this proposal to establish a DMZ is clearly intended to prove to the US that Taiwan's more interested in securing what it currently has than in going any further towards independence. As noted earlier Taiwan does have de facto independence already.

I can't see how the Bush Administration can stiff Taiwan after these moves, clearly made to appease the US after the upset over the original proposal to have an independence referendum. However, the split between the moral position - support for Democratic Taiwan - and the pragmatic position - not wanting to anger China - remains.

Last week's Chinese state visit to France has probably convinced Taiwan that the US remains its only real hope. France has condemned the revised Taiwanese referendum, Chirac called the referendum a "grave error", and would like to resume selling arms to China. Germany, too, is in favor of resuming arms sales to China.

Of course, the Taiwanese are not too pleased with this. Vice President Lu said President Chirac had "sold out the national character and spirit of France". I wonder what the rest of the EU will make of this and how this helps forge a common foreign policy.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Zeyad's cousin

Slate has a long article on Zeyad's cousin.

The Slate writer has come to a similar conclusion to my own on this incident. The soldiers pushed these guys into the river, stupidly, figuring that they would get wet, but also get out. I don't think they intended to murder Zeyad's cousin, but through stupidity they caused his death.

Jew list

Both Jon and Wiliam have referred to the "Jew list" on the Cork Palestine Solidarity Campaign's web site.

I clicked on the links they provided, but didn't see anything that looked like a Jew list and thought maybe it had been purged. But, no.

Actually, it's more frightening than I first thought. This site provides a database (essentially) of "good Jews", those who are basically anti-Israel, and "bad Jews", those who are pro-Israel. But, they helpfully break it down even more.

They provide a "Taxonomy of Author Categories". Amazingly, there was only one person listed under the category "Hardline Zionist Israeli American Jew" (Martin Kramer). There are two names listed under "Hardline American Jewish Zionist", but one of them is Martin Kramer again. We remove the "Israeli" distinction and we only turn up one extra name? I'm sure with a little effort the CPSC could find more. I mean, come on, that total only matches the total for "Zionist Belarussian Jewish immigrant to US".

{The word "hardline" is used in 68 categories - each one of them Jewish. The word is not used with any non-Jewish categories, or even the anti-Zionist Jewish}

All of this is great fun, but what's really annoying me is that I'm PAYING for this through taxes spent on education. The CSPC site is hosted by, a private company. But, the database actually resides on the University College Cork's web site. I don't know why this should be, but my gut instinct is that moving the database to was either too expensive or too time-consuming.

I believe in freedom of speech, even for bigots and lunatics. However, why should I pay to promote such a perspective? I would like to imagine that this database may contravene UCC's stated policies on computer and network usage. I don't know what (if any) hate speech type laws exist in Ireland, but some of this might qualify. UCC's rules make it clear that you are not permitted to:
  • use computer or network resources to access or distribute offensive, obscene, abusive, or threatening material;
  • use computer or network resources for any activities which contravene the laws of the State, or of the destination country in the case of data being transmitted abroad

Monday, February 02, 2004

President Match

I took the same President Match test that Jon & Dick took. However, there seems to be some flaw in the program because the first time my results indicated a 100% match with 5 candidates, including Bush & Sharpton. However, when I clicked to compare them and then back, the results looked more as I might have expected.

Bush — 100%
Lieberman — 52%
Clark — 36%
Edwards — 35%
Dean — 32%
Kerry — 30%
Sharpton — 26%
Kucinich — 11%

Funny enough, when I was looking a the "compare candidates" page, they listed Kerry as "somewhat opposes" the war in Iraq despite the fact he voted in favor of it in the fall of 2002. I also think that declaring the President "strongly favors" a constitutional gay marriage ban is overstating it. Andrew Sullivan would certainly not agree with that assessment.

Hutton fall out - journalism

Although I think the BBC was wrong in not obeying its own charter, I can't help thinking that the British government was way too keen to ensure that the BBC bent to its will. If the BBC was not a government owned operation, perhaps it would free the BBC and the government from what seems like excessive scrutiny of the BBC by their paymasters. After all, Andrew Gilligan's report was just after 6am. The government should have simply refuted the claim (if they felt such refutation was necessary) with a press release.

Investigative journalism is a must for a free and open society. I don't believe that the Hutton report represents "a serious threat to the future of investigative journalism" because the real flaws in the BBC's actions were in the reporting and not in the investigation. The BBC allowed the reporter's views to be confused with those of the expert whose views he was reporting on.

Still, I think the Blair government should show its support for investigative journalism by relaxing the laws of libel. Such a move, combined with a government divestment of the BBC would be the best outcome for British journalism.

Hutton fall out - BBC

It seems entirely appropriate to me that Greg Dyke has had to resign as Director General of the BBC. Whenever an organization goes against its own stated objectives, the head of the organization usually pays the price.

On its web site, the BBC states, "The BBC is explicitly forbidden from broadcasting its own opinions on current affairs or matters of public policy, except broadcasting issues". When Andrew Gilligan made his famous "sexed up" statement he was clearly adding his own opinion when he said that the government "probably knew" the intelligence was wrong. He allowed his own opinions to influence his reporting.

However, that broadcast was not Mr. Dyke's fault. If a proper control system were in place, Mr. Gilligan's controversial assertions would have been tested and confirmed or otherwise. It is that system - controls - that ultimately cost Mr. Dyke his job. A proper controls system would have seen the BBC retract or rephrase that statement in a manner that was closer to the truth.

I don't actually believe it is possible to be "impartial" nor is it desirable. The real lesson from this is that the media should not be so close to the government. The government controls the purse strings of the BBC (same with RTE and the Irish government) and the BBC is accountable to the government. This fiasco shows that there should be no government funded or provided radio or television service. It is unnecessary.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Snow no-show

Ahh, great. Someone is holding Met Eireann accountable for last week's snow-job. Met Eireann has admitted, "We over-predicted a bit. We over-estimated the amount of snow."

Of course, the Independent's Lara Bradley can't help herself in going over-the-top when she talks about last week's "bitter cold" and "blizzards". The meteorologist's definition of a blizzard is "A violent snowstorm with winds blowing at a minimum speed of 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour and visibility of less than one-quarter mile (400 meters) for three hours." If anywhere in Ireland (other than some remote hill-tops) had endured that last week, I'm pretty sure it would have been on the news.

Chris noted that there is nothing that Met Eireann will not do to convince us that it's "freezing" cold.