Wednesday, March 31, 2004

New motto

I decided to change the motto. "Life without baseball" seemed inappropriate now that a new season is here and I'm going to be able to watch 250 games this season! I can't tell you how much my family is looking forward to that.

So, I went back to one of my favorite quotes. Originally, the quote referred to the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, who was sent to London by President Washington to negotiate a deal with Britain in 1794 (summary here at bottom}. In the mid-1790's there was still a lot of aggro between the new USA and Britain. Jay got a deal that got British forts off American soil and ended British harassment of American shipping.

However, the Jeffersonians were outraged because other grievances (British incitement of indians, searches for deserters on American ships & compensation for slaves taken by the British during the Revolution) weren't dealt with.

The full slogan was "Damn John Jay! Damn every that won't damn John Jay!! Damn every one that won't put lights in his windows and sit up all night damning John Jay!!!" — grafitti on a Boston wall.

Irish-American Votes & the Bush visit

To Patricia McKenna, MEP, Green Party:

{I am paraphrasing here, so please overlook my poor grammar.}
There's no Irish-American votes to be had in Ireland, either.
And, that goes for all you other politicians, protestors, journalists, bloggers, etc.

I want you all to buck up because what I'm going to say next will probably upset you greatly:
The number of Irish-Americans whose vote will be swung by Bush's welcome or otherwise in Ireland is so small that it is statistically ZERO!
Yes, you have that right. Pretty pictures of the west of Ireland or wherever are not going to get Bush reelected.

That doesn't mean his trip here has no political implications, but those implications have more to do with the perception of the Bush administration's relations with EU leaders, not Ireland. If the meeting took place in Brussels or in the Azores, it would have the same implications.

Baseball in Afghanistan

I mentioned yesterday that baseball had gone global, but I hadn't realized the "Field of Dreams" had been transplanted to eastern Afghanistan.

{Thanks to Frinklin for this link.}

Richard Clarke & politics

Dick is still trying to come to grips with Richard Clarke and his testimony to the 9/11 Committee. Dick, a few things to bear in mind.
  1. Clarke was a "big man" in the Clinton admin and was effectively demoted when Bush came in. Human nature being what it is, he's bound to bear a grudge.
  2. This report from September 2000 does not paint a picture of the "well-oiled" anti-terrorism machine that Clarke would like us to believe the Clinton administration was.
  3. Clarke's rather self-serving portrait of all that went right with regards to the planned attack on Los Angeles does beg the question as to what happened when the embassies were attacked in Africa or when the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen.
  4. And, from this report by the Montreal Gazette, it seems to me that stopping the Los Angeles Airport attack was more down to dumb luck (the attacker's nerves) than anything that R. Clarke did. {Note how the customs officials behaved as if they'd scored a drug smuggler. By the way, this report is one from a long series on Ahmed Ressam, the LAX bomber, who lived in Montreal.}
Whether Bush is doing harm to himself or not is debatable. I think the more he keeps September 11 in the public's mind, the more he wins. That's why I believe that the Bush team will hesitantly respond to the 9/11 Committee. They want this thing to drag out as much as possible. Dick Morris has the numbers in today's NY Post.

And, Dick, one more thing. Don't worry yourself with rumors about rumors.

Casey at the bat

Two towns battle it out to be known as the Mudville, where the Mighty Casey did strike out.

{Note the traditional Irish road sign pointing at Casey.}

Taiwan vs. Hong Kong

The Washington Times argues that the election mess in Taiwan illustrates how healthy democracy is there. And, when compared with with recent developments in Hong Kong, how much better off Taiwan is "outside" China's umbrella arrangement of "One Country/Two Systems".

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Second hand spittle

I mentioned back in August that I was against the smoking ban. I'm no more in favor of it now that it has come to pass than I was then.

However, other than hearing that the ban had come into effect, I hadn't paid too much attention to the details of the law. According to Kieron Wood, the following are also banned (indoors, in a public space):
  1. having an unlit cigarette in your mouth
  2. sniffing a cigar
  3. chewing or sucking on any tobacco product
I guess the Minister was protecting workers from that second hand sniff or spittle, huh?

Wind farms - noise polluters

This is from more than a month ago (okay, I get behind sometimes), but it seems that wind farms put out some serious noise. I had heard something about this before, but this quote really struck me
One of the myths put out by the industry is that a wind farm sounds like a stream from 50 yards. We've got a stream running through our garden and if you stand by it, you can hear the whooshing of the turbines above the water. I've lived the same distance from the M3 and that didn't bother me anything like as much as the wind farm.
Of course, environmentalists don't care because you shouldn't be living in the countryside anyway.

Olympic security

The Times (of London) had an article this morning indicating that American athletes were worried about security at the summer games in Athens. Nothing surprising about that, I suppose.

What I did find interesting is that those athletes who do not HAVE to participate in the Olympics were the ones who seemed most worried. Basketball and tennis stars are concerned and considering whether to go or not, while track and swimming athletes are trying to "limit the distractions". For the Williams sisters or members of the "Dream Team" (that name should be retired - there was only one Dream Team and they played in Barcelona; every US Olympic basketball team since then has merely been the best the NBA could offer. They couldn't hold a candle to that first team.) the Olympics are not much more than a marketing opportunity, an optional extra. That's why they're so sanguine about not going. I don't think it will really bother them much if they can't make it.

Al Qaeda & "the Irish"

Seaghán Ó Murchú writing in The Blanket about Irishman Sean Ó Cealleagh, who is threatened by deportation from America, made use of assumptions that are long-standing (maybe stereotypes is more accurate?), but may no longer be valid.
Refusing to let Ó Cealleagh remain in his new homeland, in the name of a supposed heightened “security,” saves nobody. If terrorists lurk to overthrow the U.S., I doubt that they will be found among Irish émigrés.
I know that Irish-Americans would agree with that assumption without a second thought.

BUT, what if that isn't true? Front page of the Sunday Business Post this week had the following headline, "Madrid bombing suspect was educated in Ireland". Now, when I read this article something about it made me feel that this guy probably isn't involved in the Madrid bombing, but he could be. The article doesn't mention whether the suspect carries an Irish passport, but he did do his inter and leaving certs here. That means he spent a good few years here as a teenager.

Further down in the article, this passage was even more alarming:
In 2002, it emerged that a man with an Irish passport had attended a secret meeting in Spain with Mohammed Atta six months before the attacks on the World Trade Center.
As much as I'd like to believe that no Irish emigrant could pose a serious risk to the US, I can't accept that unquestionably. Holders of UK, French and other EU countries' passports all represent a threat to the US. Why not Ireland? If not today, then tomorrow. It's a certainty.

Not every Irish émigré is going to be a "freckly-faced Catholic". The old assumptions are no longer valid.

Global baseball

I know most Irish people believe that baseball is a peculiarly American sport and to a large extent it is. However, yesterday I was watching the Hanshin Tigers beat the NY Yankees in an exhibition game ("friendly") from Tokyo and it was striking how global baseball is now.

Half the Yankees seem to be from Latin America. Of course, the most popular Yankee in Japan is Hideki Matsui. The Tigers had an Australian pitcher.

But, it was when the broadcasters mentioned this summer's Olympics that I was struck by the international spread of baseball. They reminded me that the US didn't qualify for this year's Olympics. Talk about shame!

Monday, March 29, 2004

O'Hanlon & R. Clarke

Michael O'Hanlon is a regular on RTE and not a "Bush cronie". Here's what he has to say about Richard Clarke's charges
I'm not aware of anything specific that Clark recommended we do before September 11 that really could have stopped this. If one had been a lot more vigilant, there are things we could have done but it's easy to say that in retrospect.
As for Bush's determination that Clarke go back and recheck Iraq's possible involvement in September 11:
I can't fault Bush on that one," Mr. O'Hanlon says. "I don't think there was such a link, but who could be against a rigorous attempt to make sure?
I wonder if RTE will be interviewing O'Hanlon on Clarke's charges?

"The stakes are too high"

Those are the words of Representative Peter King and explain why he will not apologize for referring to Muslim leaders in the US as "extremists" who constitute "an enemy living amongst us." The Daily News agrees with King.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


Some interesting history and a complete "in your face" on Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna by Ryle Dwyer in today's Irish Examiner.

Clarke on pre-emption

An editorial in today's Toronto Globe & Mail brings a good helping of common sense and reason to the Richard Clarke & September 11 debate. To those who are now praising Mr. Clarke, they point out the inconvenient little fact that the strategy that Mr. Clarke is championing is "pre-emption".

The editorial also tackles Clarke's criticism of the decision to attack Iraq. Clarke believes this was a mistake, but the Globe & Mail illustrates the other inconvenient fact that
surely the lesson of Sept. 11 is that you can't wait. The Clinton administration failed to act forcefully against al-Qaeda because it had no solid proof of an impending attack. The proof came in a burst of flame over Lower Manhattan. The Bush administration decided it could not risk another event like that. It had to take the fight to the enemy. Some of his advisers said he should go after Mr. Hussein right away, but Mr. Bush went to Afghanistan first and waited till March of 2003, a year and a half after Sept. 11, to take on Iraq.

Even if Mr. Clarke disagreed with that decision, in a sense Mr. Bush was only doing what he advised: acting pre-emptively against a gathering threat.
This is why I have such a problem with these public hearings. As much as I sympathize with the families of those who died on September 11, these hearings are not about discovering who didn't do what so that the families have someone they can blame (when really, only Osama bin Laden and his underlings can be truly blamed).

The whole point of these hearings is to learn, so that we can be better prepared next time. We need to know what offensive and defensive strategies we can employ that will lessen the likelihood that we'll have another attack of similar scale or worse.

All this politicking is just garbage. It's unseemly, unhelpful and un-patriotic.

Neither administration did all it could to prevent September 11, but they did do all that they considered reasonable given what intelligence, etc. they had. Could the attacks have been prevented? Yes. Could the hijackers have been prevented from entering the country? Yes. Could airport and airline security have been better? Yes. Could the military have invaded Afghanistan & dismantled the terrorist training camps before September 11? Yes.

These things didn't happen for many reasons. We were caught off guard. It should not have happened, but more importantly, it cannot be allowed to happen again.

Friday, March 26, 2004

And, while I'm at it . . .

What I'm really trying to accomplish (see directly below) is to get all my old work files off the old PC by establishing a network with the new PC and (a) install Linux on a partition just to see if I can and (b) turn the machine over to my children so that they can play their 5+year old computer games. The games don't really work either, I think because the PC is not really able to interpret the simple graphics that these games use. So, if anyone knows where I might get the graphics update I need (is that a graphics card?) to run games designed to run on Win95 that would be a great help.

Techie wannabee

That's probably how I should describe myself. Ideally I want to be a knowledgeable PC-tinkerer who has no fear and doesn't mind getting his "hands dirty" inside the box. I want to be able to resolve all resolvable problems at minimal expense.

I am probably a short way down that road, but I don't know anywhere near enough to really do the things I want.

A while ago I bought an ethernet card and I am now trying to make that work in my Windows95 machine. Does anyone know if this is even possible? So far, I have the card physically installed, but it's not being recognized when I start the machine. The paltry supporting documents, etc. that came with the card seem to indicate that it will work in a Win95 machine, but I'm unconvinced.

Anyway, the documentation is telling me to check the BIOS for duplicate entries in the interrupts. Well, as a techie wannabee I know how to get into the BIOS and have made some minor changes in the past, but I have no idea where to look to check these interrupts. And, I really don't know what to look for.

Still, I'd rather play this game any day rather than change the oil in my car.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Clarke vs Clarke

When Time turns against a Bush-basher, you know it's not going to get any better for him.
The accounts of high-level conversations and meetings given by Clarke in various television appearances, beginning with the 60 Minutes interview, differ in significant respects from the recollections of a former top counterterrorism official who participated in the same conversations and meetings: Richard Clarke. In several cases, the version of events provided by Clarke this week include details and embellishments that do not appear in his new book, Against All Enemies. While the discrepancies do not, on their own, discredit Clarke's larger arguments, they do raise questions about whether Clarke's eagerness to publicize his story and rip the Bush Administration have clouded his memory of the facts.


I'll be 40 on my next birthday. Anyone interested in getting me a present, well . . . this would certainly be welcome! I imagine the postage to Ireland might be on the steep side, however.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Richard Clarke — whistleblower or hornblower?

Mr. Clarke is making big news, which can only help his book's sales. However, it's only 3 days since his appearance on 60 Minutes and already he's beginning to look pretty foolish.

Bloggers are checking every word he has written and spoken to see if they can find any inconsistencies or worse. John Cole seems to have found Clarke telling an "untruth" during 60 Minutes the other night. Maybe this "untruth" is only small beer, but now it seems that Clarke is telling a completely different story to the one he told in 2002.
. . . the Bush administration decided then, you know, mid-January [2001], to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we've now made public to some extent.

And the point is, while this big review was going on, there were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda.

The sixth point, the newly-appointed deputies — and you had to remember, the deputies didn't get into office until late March, early April. The deputies then tasked the development of the implementation details, uh, of these new decisions that they were endorsing, and sending out to the principals.

Over the course of the summer — last point — they developed implementation details, the principals met at the end of the summer, approved them in their first meeting, changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance assistance.
So the Bush team, pursued the existing policy vigorously, looked at untried possible options left over from the Clinton term, increased CIA resources 5 fold, and drafted a whole new strategy to deal with al Qaeda by early Sep. 2001. This is what he refers to when he claims that Bush failed to act against al Qaeda despite repeated warnings from intelligence officials about a looming terrorist attack?

Do you think the Boston Globe ("Clarke's disclosures are a healthy antidote to the malady of an imperial presidency) or the Irish Times ("Mr Clarke carries undoubted authority as a counter-intelligence officer for more than 30 years who served under four successive presidents in the White House as policy co-ordinator on the subject") will want to reassess? And, there are many other examples. Oh well. Looks like GW Bush will slip out of this one pretty easily.

John Podhertz's summation on Clarke — a self-regarding buffoon — seems pretty accurate.

Rwanda & France

During my "time away" from blogging, I read a little about France's role in the Rwanda massacre. Thanks to Glen for reminding me about this.

Bush landslide?

Dick Morris believes it's only a matter of time before we're wondering why we ever thought this election would be close.

"Walled off from 'the world'"

That's how Dick refers to the land on which the Palestinian Authority will someday (presumably) try to forge a nation. However, my understanding of the wall is that it will separate the PA from Israel, but will not wall off the PA's borders with Egypt or Jordan. So, to say that the PA will be "walled off from the world" is an overstatement.

When I first heard about the wall I thought it was a great idea, if it could be made practical. I don't know enough about traffic between the PA and Israel, but I suspect that the wall can be made to work. Whether the wall is following the right line or not is really something I feel is up to Israel. Obviously, if they wall off more territory than the Palestinians would ever accept, there would never be a negotiated settlement. But, if they get the wall right, it offers a real hope that something along the lines of peace (or at least an absence of violence) can take root. That period of non-violence might lead to a changed Palestinian leadership and attitude. I really believe that life for the Palestinian people will be better if this wall succeeds.

Breathing space and time to relax - that's what's needed in the Middle East. A negotiated settlement can follow from that. If the wall fails, I'll revert to my previous view that Israel is doomed.

Busy bees

The Irish government will be busy between now and the summer. First, they hope to finalize the EU Constitution in time for the June summit meeting of the EU leaders. And, they have a deadline of June for a breakthrough in the N. Ireland talks. And, of course, there are the local & European elections in June.

Florida & September 11

I can't help wondering if the dispute over Florida's vote in the 2000 election indirectly aided al Qaeda. While the Bush & Gore teams battled it out in the courts, the Clinton administration's days were winding down. More than a month of transition time was lost. That was time when the Bush team should have been getting up to speed on the threats, etc. posed by al Qaeda (& others).

Then the hostility over the election spilled over into the nomination-approval system for Bush's cabinet and other team members. All of this must have delayed the task of getting the Bush team's anti-terrorism strategy together.
Commissioners asked why, after the Clinton administration warned the Bush national security team that al Qaeda was such a threat, the Bush national security team took so long to put together its plan.
Florida? Of course, even if Florida was a big part of the problem, neither party has any vested interest in promoting this possibility.

"War mongers"

That's the impression often given of American administrations in Europe. Well, yesterday's hearings into the failures that led to the September 11 attacks paint a completely different picture — both Bush & Clinton administrations "focused too heavily on diplomacy that did not work and were reluctant to consider aggressive military action".

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

McGurk & al Qaeda

I've read this article by Tom McGurk a few times and each time I'm confused. I think the headline is part of the problem because it gives the impression that McGurk has actually provided us with what he thinks should be Europe's response to al Qaeda. If he has, I don't recognize it here or what he's suggesting is so outrageously irresponsible that I can't accept what I'm seeing.

First he asserts that the al Qaeda threat is a "unique" terrorist threat. I agree with McGurk on this. There is no political agenda other than global Talibanization. And, the terror masters have no moral constraints. The more civilian casualties they can cause the happier they are.

After laying out his case that al Qaeda is a unique threat thriving on "a Muslim world that finds itself among the poorest, least educated and most politically impoverished international communities in the 21st century" McGurk then says that democratic societies may not be able to respond "if they are to insist on maintaining their values of individual human and civil rights". And, this is where he loses me.

First he states that a "Fortress Europe" might arise, which would take liberties with the rights of the individual. Surely, democracies have had to do just that during past major conflicts? Why would it necessarily be permanent?

Yes, Europe has a larger and seemingly more disenchanted Muslim population than the US, but I can't see why the loyalty of those Muslims living inside Europe cannot be assumed even while pursuing a significantly stricter border control & immigration policy.

Then McGurk claims George Bush's visit to Ireland is an "opportunity for al-Qaeda to send another message to the European electorate about our relations with this particular presidency [Bush]". WHAT?! First he says that al Qaeda is a unique terrorist threat with no real political agenda then he indirectly states that maybe we should send political signals indicating that we are no friends of President Bush.

This is complete lunacy and shows that McGurk is having trouble squaring his own views with regards to al Qaeda, the War on Terror and the Bush Administration.

I suspect that what McGurk really fears is that Bush might be right after all. Since he believes the "Fortress Europe" solution won't work, the only other real answer to al Qaeda is to transform the Middle East, a process in which the Iraq war was the first step. Instead, McGurk seems to lament Saddam's passing as he was a "bulwark against fundamentalism".

What he's missing is that Saddam was also a great recruiting tool for fundamentalists, as are the other corrupt regimes in the region. The fundamentalists were the only ones willing to risk death and torture to confront these regimes. Now, the US has stepped in to help those who would advocate liberty and democracy as an alternative.

What McGurk implies is the right answer is to ignore the problem, avoid the US and hope al Qaeda keeps America firmly in its sights. I hope I'm misreading this, but that seems to be what he suggests Europe should do.

Taiwan's vote

Interesting times in Taiwan. Democracy hangs by a thread; the President shot, but some claim he arranged it himself; the Presidential election ends in a near dead heat with only .2% more votes for the incumbent; a referendum that was seriously annoying to Taiwan's pre-superpower neighbor fails despite 92% of the people voting 'yes'.

In a really good article, John Tkacik Jr. explains why he is disillusioned with the whole spectacle. He blames the Nationalist Party (KMT) for this mess.

Meanwhile, Kathleen McLaughlin in the SF Chronicle, sees the lost referendum as another small step on the road to complete independence, despite the "defeat" (the referendum needed more than 50% of the electorate to vote for it to pass).

Weigh your waste

The government wants to introduce a pay as you use scheme for household waste. {I've talked about this proposal before over here. Comments too.}

I really don't see why the central government has to intervene so directly in this. By mandating the method by which household waste is to be reduced, the government has eliminated the possibility that different regions might find different ways to tackle this problem.

There is also something to Eamon Gilmore's point about people without cars not being able to recycle glass. Walking with bags of bottles and jars is not a feasible option for many people, particularly the old. No, I'm not turning into a socialist, but in this case you have environmentalists winning battles that ultimately will be at the expense of working class families.

Here's a suggestion - waive the costs of waste removal for people who are willing to live near landfills or incinerators. That might make it easier to get approval for such projects. At the moment there is no incentive for anyone to favor such a development.

Monday, March 22, 2004

"Hail ball"?

Drove home through a heavy hail storm and found kids from our neighborhood out throwing -- what? Not snow balls, but balls of hail. What do I call such things? I've never seen accumulations of hail before and never imagined balling it up and throwing it.

The Irish weather - amazing, infuriating, and occasionally pleasant.


Fascinates me how a government so worried about its nation's health that it will ban cigarette smoke from public spaces displays so little concern for its citizens when it comes to road maintenance and regulation.

I've been writing about the M11 over at my local blog, but after a weekend spent driving to and from a wedding in the middle of the country, I realize that the haphazard concern for safety is more than a local issue.

I get the distinct impression that cost savings are the reason for safety being overlooked. Again, if this government were pursuing a "hands off" policy, some of this might make sense or at least be consistent. But, given this government's obsession with protecting us from ourselves, I can't understand why they ignore the following:
  1. Bushes are not going to prevent a car, bus or truck from crossing the divide and causing a head-on collision in the on-coming lanes.
  2. Traffic cones are insufficient markers for significant dangers at a work site - particularly at night. They're practically invisible on a dark night or in a heavy shower. Flashing yellow lights should be employed as well.
  3. Slapping up a new speed limit sign when construction starts is a danger if (a) that limit is not enforced and (b) the sign is not covered when there is no work on-going. Locals soon learn to ignore such signs, but those who are unfamiliar with the road will try to obey - creating huge disparities in the speed among cars sharing a road.
  4. Someone going 75MPH on the M4 is far less a danger than someone going 60 (the limit) on the road between Athboy and Oldcastle (this can be substituted by any of thousands of roads in Ireland).
  5. Speed as a concept is a problem, but exceeding the speed limit may not be it. Passing someone on a blind bend of a narrow, twisty road is a much greater danger than doing 65 on the M50 near Marley Park.
  6. And, a corollary to the one above — tailgating seems to me to be a far bigger problem than simply exceeding the speed limit. I don't think too many Irish people know about the two second rule.
  7. UPDATE: I should also have added that motorway entrance/exit ramps are too short and drainage is poor.

Regulate this!

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland is finally stepping in to protect our children. No, they're not worried about the excessive sexualization of television & radio broadcasting, they're worried about snack foods! I'm not kidding.

The BCI wants to, among other things, prevent celebrities, sports stars or children's heroes from promoting food or drink. What? These same people have no problem with Sex & the City on at 9pm, but have a big problem with Roy Keane advertising snack food?

The fact that such a ban will only have an impact on smaller Irish manufacturers and Irish broadcasters isn't even the worst thing about it. The worst thing about this ban is it's an unnecessary restriction on freedom of speech. Why should a celebrity be unable to earn money promoting products?

Also, how will they determine which ads are aimed at children? Do these people think that Roy Keane's face doesn't sell junk food to 18 year olds? What about ads for mobile phones that use David Beckham? And, what if the celebrity doesn't make the ad, but they use a look-alike?

The whole thing is crazy. Parents need to learn how to say 'NO' and the government needs to learn stay out.

Normal service?

I've had a hectic few weeks on the domestic front and had to curtail my blogging. I'm hoping that I can get back into it again this week.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

"Irish" baseball

There was a time when the Irish (Americans) dominated baseball. There's a new book out about one of the game's greats - Ed Delahanty, who died in a drunken fall into the Niagara River while he was a member of the Washington Senators. First time baseball has made the Newshound in any form (from what I can remember).

Only a few more weeks until I can see Opening Day for the first time since 1991. Have I mentioned that I LOVE NASN? And, today, I can see my alma mater play in the NCAA tournament against the Florida Gators.

Spanish election

Due to a family situation, I've been unable to read or post as much as I'd like recently. So, my thoughts on the Spanish election are based entirely on my own gut instinct.

I presume that the swing from the PP to the Socialists was more due to the government's untruthfulness rather than the bombings themselves. If the government had hedged its bets more, I think the voters may have been more willing to vote as they had intended according to the polls before the bombing. But, the government, particularly the Minister for the Interior, was so adamant that it was ETA that when that turned out to be false, the people reacted accordingly. I, too, was revolted by this and may have voted for the Socialists in anger if I were Spanish.

The attempt at misleading the public by the Spanish government was far more serious than the inaccuracies of the Bush & Blair governments in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Planning "dictatorship"

Seems my local TD, Dick Roche, agrees largely with my assessment of An Taisce. He referred to them as a dictatorship.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Guantanamo "detainees"

Doesn't the fact that these guys are being paid big sums for their story somewhat discredit what they will say? They're going to have to "sex it up" really, aren't they?

Todos somos españoles ahora

The Arizona Republic's take on yesterday's events in Spain. "We are all Spaniards now".

Thursday, March 11, 2004


That's the Spanish equivalent to 9/11 and I heard that's how Spanish people are already referring to today. Worst attack in W. Europe since WWII. Sick and enraged - again.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Property & local government

Jon asks if we can
all at least admit that the real problem isn't the destruction of a rural idyll, but rather the difficulty of providing infrastructure and services in a country where settlement is widely dispersed. Let's remember that the builders of one-off houses also want electricity, phones, roads, transport, hospitals, schools and jobs.
When I started this thread, my problem was with (a) the national planning board's intervention and (b) and the national planning board's reliance on An Taisce.

I'm not against all planning regulations, but when the locally elected body has approved an application for a new house, I can see no reason for a central body to be involved in the process. It should be the local government's responsibility to judge what the infrastructural needs are. And, those who have applied for such permissions could easily be charged for telephone & electricity installations. The more remote the site, the greater these costs will be.

Jon also objects to my use of the word "fascist" with regards to An Taisce. In fact, I said An Taisce is "just short of being environmental fascists". The right to private property is a fundamental right. An Taisce is attempting to use the power of the central government in opposition to the local authorities and the rights of property owners.
The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.
— John Adams
{UPDATE 10:16 — just noticed that Frank had pretty much covered this one already.}

Best laid plans

A friend from New York and his Irish bride-to-be are to be married in Ireland on March 20. This wedding has been in the planning stages since just after Hannibal crossed the Alps - or at least it seems that way.

I'm sure like most brides, my friend's fiancée has planned everything meticulously. I know quite a few people are coming from the US for the wedding, which adds exponentially to the planning workload (helping family/friends with their travel arrangements and just answering questions about Ireland).

Unfortunately, it now seems she overlooked one vital part of the planning process - she failed to notify the unions that she could ill afford a transport strike on the 18th of March. If the airports are closed on the 18th that will undoubtedly mean massive disruption to transatlantic flights, with some cancellations possible. And, I'm guessing that many of the guests were planning to arrive on Thursday and Friday of next week. Uggh.

$Peace$ activists

Nobel Peace Prize winner & Peace People founder Betty Williams is in trouble in Taiwan for possible violations of Taiwanese election laws.

But, here's the part that really interested me. "The TFD paid about US$40,000 for Williams' trip". WHAT??!! I never realized just how lucrative it is to be a "peace activist". $40K for a trip to Taiwan? Who gets all that money? Even if Ms. Williams traveled first class, that would leave a fair amount for souvenirs & duty free. Or does that money cover her full entourage?

You're a Star

To be honest, I don't know much about this topic. But, for what it's worth, my kids have been claiming for a few weeks that RTE wanted Chris to win. They weren't that keen on James, but when they became convinced that he was getting the short end of the stick from RTE they started rooting for him.

I just thought it was amusing to see that James obviously agrees with my children.

Is it another case of RTE's biased "impartiality"? It's a little known fact that James is a second cousin of Donald Rumsfeld's! Okay, I made that up, but I'd love to think that was true.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

An Taisce

Dick has described my post on the "dreaded bungalow blitz" as "poorly informed". He cites statistics that show that An Taisce "blocks" fewer than 10% of the planning applications it reviews.

However, Dick's statistics are not relevant to the topic I raised – one-off housing – as they do not relate solely to one-off housing applications.

In the Examiner's editorial I referenced, it indicates that 85% of one-off housing applications are granted by the local authorities, but "appeals are regularly lodged against these permissions, mainly by An Taisce". I don't know how many of the successful one-off housing applications are appealed, but the Examiner does tell us that "a whopping 76% of those appeals were upheld by An Bord Pleanála".

But, my problem is not with An Taisce, but with An Bord Pleanála and the regard they seem to have for An Taisce. I agree with Frank, who says about An Taisce, "my argument is not that they shouldn't exist, just that they shouldn't be taken seriously".

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Folk Mass

I loved David Quinn's description of the "dreaded folk Mass". He describes the priest who embraces the folk Mass as "resembling one of those teachers whose musical tastes go back 20 years and thinks that what he likes, his class of 15-year-olds will like as well. Instead, he accentuates just how out of touch he is".

I avoid folk Masses like the plague, but it isn't just folk Masses where the music is "secular instead of sacred". I've been to Mass on many occasions where I've been subjected to music written by (or originally performed by) Whitney Houston, REM, Eric Clapton, etc.

{As for the Taizé Mass in Dalkey – it's definitely not for me. Have had to endure that too many times. I always thought Taizé was a fancy word for folk – I couldn't tell the difference, other than there were no lights on.}

The Passion - too Catholic?

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland has called on evangelicals to reject the movie because
the source of the film's script is not simply John's Gospel ... much of its content comes from a book called 'The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ' by an 18th century German nun, Anne Emmerich, who claimed to have had a vision of the passion of which her book purports to be an account.
In America, it seems that evangelicals are mostly willing to overlook these issues because they believe the movie provides them with a chance to spread the faith.
William Imes, president of the Bangor Theological Seminary, explained that the movie may appeal to evangelicals because its message of redemption crosses barriers between Catholics and Protestants.

"Historically, evangelicals and Catholics have been very wary of each other," Imes said. "The wariness is particularly strong on the evangelical side . . . Here's a chance to lift up the basic message - that Jesus died for your sins."

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Taliban "summer camp"

From today's Guardian:
The food in the camp was delicious, the teaching was excellent, and his warders were kind. "Americans are good people, they were always friendly, I don't have anything against them," he said. "If my father didn't need me, I would want to live in America."
That quote comes from one of the boys who has recently returned to Afghanistan from Guantanamo Bay.

Here's his comrade:
Americans are great people, better than anyone else," he said, when found at his elder brother's tiny fruit and nut shop in a muddy backstreet of Kabul. "Americans are polite and friendly when you speak to them. They are not rude like Afghans. If I could be anywhere, I would be in America. I would like to be a doctor, an engineer or an American soldier.
They got some schooling, did some snorkeling, played some basketball, soccer, volleyball. How many kids living in New York (or any big US city) would like to have such a camp to go to?

I agree with the NY Times?

I don't know when this last happened, but today's editorial is calling for a tougher anti-drugs program in baseball. They want an Olympics style program (unannounced tests, stiffer sentences). Of course, even the Olympics testing program doesn't actually work. I think it's time for one sport to step up and announce that all its athletes will be blood-tested once, twice, three or 4 times a season – whatever it takes. Italian soccer is close; I'd love to imagine baseball jumping on this bandwagon.

I wonder what the Times thinks about drug testing employees in any other line of work?

Friday, March 05, 2004

Fay vs Fay

This week's Irish Echo has an article about gay marriage and Irish America. Brendan Fay is no relation.

More on The Passion

Charles Krauthammer says that Gibson's movie is "a singular act of interreligious aggression. He [Gibson] openly rejects the Vatican II teaching and, using every possible technique of cinematic exaggeration, gives us the pre-Vatican II story of the villainous Jews".

Krauthammer's position is that "Gibson deviates from the Gospels -- glorying in his artistic vision -- time and again. He bends, he stretches, he makes stuff up. And these deviations point overwhelmingly in a single direction -- to the villainy and culpability of the Jews."

Eamonn McCann, writing in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, doesn't feel Gibson needs to deviate from the Gospels to produce an anti-semitic work. "The New Testament is, among other things, an anti-Semitic tract. It is the source of the anti-Semitism which has characterised Christianity for two millennia."

In The Spectator {I can't figure out how to link to this article}, Bruce Anderson goes some way along McCann's road, although he has high praise for Gibson's movie describing it as "a work of great power; so great a power that it is almost worthy of its subject matter".

Anderson feels that the charge of anti-semitism cannot be laid at Gibson's door.
Nor should he be accused of anti-Semitism. The anti-Semitism is in the Gospels, especially Matthew. 'Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be upon us and on our children.' If anything, Mr Gibson could be charged with political correctness. Although his Jewish mob shouts the words in Aramaic, they are not translated in the subtitles. In this film, the Roman soldiers beat and abuse Christ all along the route to Golgotha. That is not in the Gospels. One Roman soldier also sneers 'Jew' at Simon of Cyrene: another invention of Mr Gibson's. It is as if he wishes to retreat from the message of the Gospels and spread the blame more evenly between the Jews and Romans.
Or, it could be that Gibson is trying to emphasize the fact that Simon of Cyrene was a Jew, so was Jesus, Mary, the Apostles, etc.

This seems to me to be the crux of the controversey surrounding this movie. Is it about two distinct groupings, US & THEM, and how THEY crucified Jesus? Or is it about US and how WE crucified Jesus because we are all sinners. Again, I'm not a theologian, but my own lay post Vatican II interpretation is that the latter is the correct view. This is what I believe most Christians (Catholic or otherwise) are seeing when they watch The Passion, regardless of what Gibson intended.

"Bungalow blitz"

An editorial in this morning's Irish Examiner provides alarming statistics on the futility of trying to build a house on land in a rural area under the current regime.
On average, 85% of one-off housing applications are granted planning permission by local authorities. But appeals are regularly lodged against these permissions, mainly by An Taisce.

Two years ago, according to the most up-to-date figures, a whopping 76% of those appeals were upheld by An Bord Pleanála on foot of objections.
Why do we have a national planning board deciding on whether someone can build a house on their land? Why do they entertain objections to such proposals from a body that is just short of being environmental fascists?

I still don't see what business it is of mine (or, by extension, the government) if people want to build 'South Fork' style houses on their land. We'd all like it if our eyes never had to settle on anything less than beautiful, but give me a break. Denying people the right to build a house on their own land because you don't like the style of the house they want to build is arrogance in the extreme.

Besides, I always thought beauty was in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Chinese food

When I was in college the local Chinese joint was next door to the animal hospital (previously known as the "vet's"). I hope this wasn't what I was eating.

One off housing

The government is going to allow people with a connection to a locale to build "one-off" houses. I guess we should celebrate this victory for freedom and common sense, but it just seems so wrong that such a situation could ever have existed (or even been proposed) in the first place.

The Irish Independent's Treacy Hogan's report on this breakthrough is revealing. The first sentence says, "The Government will today unveil radical new planning regulations to allow thousands of one-off houses to be built in the countryside in defiance of An Taisce". Well, I never! And, just who do these government ministers think they are, governing "in defiance" of An Taisce.

If people want to live in rural areas, I say let them. Any where you go in rural Ireland you can find abandoned settlements, even villages. Where there were 50 families, there are now one or two. I'm sure all of this depopulation is good for the scenery that An Taisce's relatively wealthy, urban-dwelling members want to see when they venture down the country, but it's totally contrary to the concepts of freedom and private property to prevent people from living in the country to preserve the scenery.

Super Tuesday

Chris asks:
Does that happen often that two or three candidates might be running neck and neck going into the 10-state vote? Or is it mostly the case that someone emerges as the frontrunner early on in these campaigns?
My memory is that the primary campaigns used to last longer in terms of the number of primaries that were held before a winner emerged (I could be wrong about that), but the campaigns are definitely shorter in terms of days, weeks, months.

Dick Morris says that "the front-loading of the nominating process proved too drastic to permit second thoughts" and blames DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe for this. Morris claims that McAuliffe's "impatience has led to a miscalculation in which the party has put forward a weaker nominee than it might have, had the primaries lasted for more than a few weeks."

"Manchester United outstrips the Yankees"

That's the headline from this article in today's Financial Times. Apparently, Manchester United generated £173m in turnover while the Yankees generated $280m (£152m).

Of course, turnover can have little to do with profits, which to my mind would be a better measure for deciding which is the "world's richest sports franchise". My gut instinct tells me that Manchester United is easily more profitable. I suspect that United's wage bill is much lower than the Yankees', which is more than $150m. And, the Yankees minor league teams are probably more expensive than United's youth and reserve teams.

More steroids

Reading this piece by the NY Post's Mike Vaccaro is interesting on two levels. One is the main one about the damage to Barry Bonds's reputation that this BALCO scandal has caused.

But, I also like the way he dismisses any interest in Marion Jones or Tim Montgomery. Track & field stars simply make no impact in the US. As much as this will damage baseball, this scandal may deliver a fatal blow to the Olympic movement. Now that the US press has realized that American stars are cheaters too, I suspect we'll be getting a steady diet of this kind of thing during the Olympics. And, if that happens, Americans just won't bother watching. Olympic sports are not part of the culture and they will not be missed.

So, New York, London and others - bid for the 2012 games at your own risk. American audiences (and money) may be much smaller by then.

{And, if you want the conspiracy angle —
President Bush talked about performance-enhancing drugs in his State of the Union. Next we have articles in the press outing big name stars, undermining baseball greats, but also (possibly) killing American interest in the Olympics. This summer's games may just scrape by, but the next games may really suffer. And, where are they being held? Beijing, whose big payday is in serious doubt now.}

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

More on baseball's drugs problem

This is from Dave Anderson at the NY Times. He wrote this last week before this week's revelations (which were, apparently, not all that revealing - more affirming). I cannot believe how lax baseball is and that they've known that this was a potential problem for a LONG time.

The media, too, took its eye off the ball.
For years, the American sports media was so adept at ridiculing Olympic cheats, the fancy runners and Bulgarian weight lifters, while worshipping at the altar of the sport stitched into its psyche. When the Associated Press columnist Steve Wilstein produced a comprehensive work on Mark McGwire's use of the steroid-acting supplement androstenedione, he was assailed not only by most of baseball but also by many in the sports media. Didn't this muckraker know that drugs don't help you hit a curveball?

Feeling duped for years, an angry sports media mob now smells blood, although there remains a segment that believes this story is largely about political correctness, an exercise in futility because many fans, perhaps even a majority, haven't seemed to care, as long as the ball has been soaring 450 feet.
Maybe we've all been in denial, but the time for REAL action is now. No more nonsense about treatment centers. We need blood tests and real punishments.


I've added this trackback feature (explanation, curious?) to the site, but I'm not really sold on it. It seems like a lot more effort to make it work than the average blogger is willing to put in. But, I was curious as to (a) how it worked and (b) whether it's of any value. I'll leave it there for a while.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Bonds, Giambi, Sheffield et al

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting today that Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and others received steroids supplied by Balco. Also, Bonds received human growth hormone.

{In the article, The Chronicle says that
The information shared with The Chronicle did not explicitly state that the athletes had used the drugs they were said to have obtained
So, they "obtained" these drugs but may not have taken them? Come again?}

For people on this side of the Atlantic, that would be the equivalent to finding out that Roy Keane, Dennis Bergkamp, and Thierry Henri had been found to have received similar substances. Baseball is in dire straits. I don't follow football, so I'm not sure how big a name Bill Romanowski is.

Everything those players have done now lacks credibility. If these players did in fact take these substances, they should be banned for 2 years (which would probably be the end for Bonds & Giambi).

Monday, March 01, 2004

The Passion — "pro-Israel"

So, says Zev Chafets, in yesterday's NY Daily News. About those Jews who are infuriated by The Passion he says:
these Jews need to relax. Gibson is telling a 2,000-year-old story. Most Christians are smart enough and reasonable enough to understand the distinction between Caiaphas and Jerry Seinfeld.
And, of course, he's right. Anyone who has a pathological hatred of the Jews is still going to hate after seeing this film. But, for most Christians, seeing this film will have absolutely no bearing on how they perceive modern Jews or the state of Israel.