Monday, February 28, 2005

Not all bad news from Iraq

Katie Grant, writing in today's Scotsman, says that it's not all "bad news" from Iraq, despite the impression that the British media gives.
You would never guess that from some British media reports, which are about as cheerful as coverage of a funeral. There is no difficulty telling the difference between the BBC’s Caroline Hawley and a ray of sunshine.
Anyone who makes a habit of reading Arthur Chrenkoff knows this is true - there are a lot of positive developments in Iraq.

Of course, this makes an odd juxtaposition with today's new from Iraq, where a suicide bomber has "succeeded" in killing more than 100 people.
The blast happened outside a medical clinic in the town of Hilla, south of Baghdad, as crowds of people were lining up to receive medical certificates needed to get state jobs.
It's so sickeningly transparent that these psychopaths want anything for Iraq that doesn't involve security, civility, liberty.

I know some people have this notion that the "insurgents" are merely fighting the US occupation, a claim that is risible when they are targeting Iraqis waiting on line at a medical clinic. Others think they're trying to provoke a civil war.

However, I suspect that they're really only in it to cause mayhem and death. They simply want to go on killing. I would wager that those who organized today's attack have only a vague political agenda. I can't help thinking that any real political agenda is an after thought, a fig leaf for what is a love of death and murder.

I still believe that the Iraqi people will not be diverted from the free, secure Iraq they have in their sights now.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The school that saved the Olympics

It's twenty-five years since the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, as I mentioned (indirectly) below. They're celebrating the anniversary at Lake Placid until the 27th.

One aspect of those games that is sure to be overlooked is how the transportation to and from Lake Placid village was initially a complete disaster that had the potential to ruin the Games.

I couldn't find anything about this on-line, so I'm working completely from memory here. What I remember is that the Games opened on a Friday night (although the hockey had started the day before) and were scheduled to run for 10 days. By the end of the second or third day the organizers realized that their plan for bussing fans to and from Lake Placid was in tatters because they didn't have enough buses. They needed a lot of buses and fast.

In stepped Shenendehowa School District, which had the largest fleet of buses available. Fortunately for the Games' organizers, we had the Olympic week off for our mid-winter break. Shenendehowa's buses and drivers went 80 miles north to help get the fans into the village. {I know I could make some snarky comment about public schools and taxpayers money, but I won't because that's not the spirit of this post. Besides, I don't know what the arrangement was, but I'm sure the school and the drivers were well-compensated.)

For the rest of my days at Shenendehowa I used to get on buses with stickers inside that proclaimed "Olympic bus and driver". Our driver, who we called Buck because he bore a striking resemblance to Gil Gerard, was a really nice guy and today I just want to tip my hat to him and all the other drivers who saved the 1980 Winter Olympics.

I gotta drill holes?

Yesterday I had to buy new registration plates (license plates) for my car. Last time I took it to be tested I was told my plates were not regulation and I'd have to get new ones before the new test.

Okay, so now here I am 6 days from the test and I finally break down and go to buy the new plates. I pay my €18 (grumble, grumble) and as I'm leaving I realize that there are no holes for bolting on the plates. I look at the guy who's just sold me the plates and ask him how do I hook these on my car. He responds, "Oh, you just have to drill a few holes on each plate". You could have knocked me over with a feather. "I gotta drill holes? What?"

I left the store muttering to myself and I've been fuming ever since. This is reminiscent of the Ireland I moved to. 'Inconvenience the consumer, whenever possible' was a general rule of retail. I remember being similarly shocked when I first bought an electrical appliance and I had to cut off the plug and put on one that was actually appropriate for Ireland.

And, on top of all that, I've only now decided to read the regulations on registration plates in Ireland and I'm nearly certain that my somewhat slanted lettering is not forbidden. I've only had a cursory glance, but later I'll print this page off and digest it in full. If it says nothing specific about my style of lettering, I'll be bringing this with me on Thursday to argue my case, but I'll still be out the €18 (louder grumbling).

More on the 'Fat Dutch Kid'

It turns out the 'Fat Dutch Kid' is not actually Dutch. He's Gary Brolsma, who's 19 and from Saddle Brook, NJ.

The NY Times reports today that Brolsma is not all that thrilled with his internet fame. It seems he'd like to sue the guy who put that video clip on the internet, except he'd have to sue himself.

Some of his friends and family think he should embrace his moment in the sun. I agree. When I first started reading I thought I was going to feel guilty for helping expand this guy's misery, but when I watched the video again I decided that he's got nothing to be embarrassed about. This is not the same as the Star Wars Kid that the Times article refers to. That is embarrassing.

Brolsma's not embarrassing himself, he's having fun. It's clear that he's really enjoying himself and his great, expressive face is what makes the video so much fun to watch. We're not laughing at him; we're joining in his good time.

We've all done silly things in front of mirrors or whatever. I remember as a kid I used to practice my pitching wind-up in front of the mirror. I liked watching myself as the left-hander that I'd always wished I'd been (lefties have a big advantage in baseball). I knew lots of guys in college who used to sing into desk lamps while strumming their T Squares (those engineers!). Anyone who's ever done something ridiculous like that can understand what Brolsma's doing.

Brolsma needs to relax. In ten years, he'll be proud of this small accomplishment.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Thanks, but no thanks

Here's one blog where I'd rather not see my name mentioned.

Black Americans vs African-Americans

I was going to select parts of Stanley Crouch's article in today's NY Daily News, but it's short enough worth reading in full. Crouch is talking about black Americans, their views on who they are, race and how immigrants from Africa will change these views.

I think Crouch is really onto something here, based on my own personal experience from more than ten years ago. I remember I had a job in a place that seemed keen to promote Caribbean black people more quickly than black people from New York, Virginia or wherever. I didn't recognize this until it was pointed out to me by a guy from the Bronx. This guy resented it and recognized how policies intended to help people like him were now being used to help people who, he felt, didn't need the help.

Whether this black awakening to their American identity will foster the great leap in aspirations among black Americans that Crouch thinks it will is debatable, but I hope he's right.

Luas accidents

Do you remember when I wondered whether Dubliners would view the Luas negatively if it was involved in a lot of accidents or if it created all sorts of traffic jams? At the time I was figuring that Houstonians' negative views of their light rail system might be duplicated here.

Well, there do seem to be an awful lot of incidents with the Luas, but I don't think there's a large groundswell of negative opinion - yet. We might still get there.

Yesterday's Irish Independent reports that in the Luas's first 6 months there have been 22 accidents, most of them along the red line, which has only been open for three months. What the Indo fails to mention is that the green line runs along the road for a very short distance compared with the red line. Therefore, the first three months' numbers are not really valid and it's better to focus on the current rate of nearly 6+ incidents per month.

Tom Manning of the Rail Procurement Agency said "many of the incidents resulted from risk-taking drivers 'crashing lights'". I'm not sure what "crashing lights" means, but if this is a significant cause of accidents involving cars (or trucks) with the Luas, then surely it's also a problem for other cars and pedestrians. I presume Mr. Manning doesn't mean to imply that these cars are only "crashing lights" when the Luas is near-by.

The Luas was a bad idea from the word go and too many people are afraid to acknowledge that. It doesn't carry enough people to help relieve the traffic nightmare and it doesn't suit the more, shall we say, carefree attitude of so many drivers here. It's pretty and it's better to ride than a bus, but it was not a real solution to our public transport shortage and represents very bad value for money.

As a tip to the Luas's administrators, you might want to call Houston and ask them what they did. It seems that after making some changes, Houston experienced a reduction in incidents involving their light rail trains.

I was interested in this page (obviously I can't vouch for the stats here, but he sounds like he knows what he's talking about) that talks about the dangers of rail, particularly light rail.
All of these accidents point out the key flaw in rail transit: It is simply not safe to put vehicles weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds in the same streets as pedestrians that weigh 100 to 200 pounds and vehicles that typically weigh a few thousand pounds. Heavy rail (subways and elevateds) avoid this flaw by being completely separated from autos and pedestrians, but are still vulnerable to suicides. Light rail, which often operates in the same streets as autos, and commuter trains, which frequently cross streets, simply are not safe.

Aside from being lighter than railcars (and thus less likely to do harm when they hit you), buses have the advantage that they can stop quicker. Rubber on pavement has more friction than steel wheel on steel rail, and the typical bus has many more square inches of wheel on pavement than a railcar. No matter how good the brakes on the railcar, it is physically impossible for it to stop as fast as a bus, for if the brakes are too good the wheels will just slide.

This is why light rail kills, on average, about three times as many people for every billion passenger miles it carries as buses. Commuter rail kills about twice as many people as buses. Only heavy rail is safer than buses, and then only if you don't count suicides.
Now, I had never heard that rail was this dangerous, but I'm not willing to dismiss this too readily. The Luas always should have been put underground. If these safety statistics are accurate that only adds to the case against Luas. I'd like to know if the safety statistics for rail in Europe are similar to those this guy has posted about the US.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

More on the 'Miracle'

Found some newspaper articles:
  1. The NY Post reprinted its account of the game yesterday.
  2. A column from the Washington Post from February 23, 1980.
  3. An article from the UK's Observer marking the 22nd anniversary.
  4. The St. Paul Pioneer Press invited readers to send in their memories.

Do you believe in miracles?

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the 'Miracle on Ice'. USA 4 - USSR 3. Not the greatest hockey game ever, but definitely the most remarkable sporting event I ever witnessed.

Hard to imagine the scene now. There was a general feeling of gloom and defeat in the US. Economically the country was struggling, the Vietnam war was only a few years in the past, Americans were being held hostage in Iran and the USSR seemed to be eclipsing the US all over.

The USSR hockey team wasn't just good; they were the best team I'd ever seen. The American team was a collection of 20 over-achievers all hitting their peak at exactly the right time. They played well for 10 days, but on this one night they played beyond well. It was a classic sports story that would have been far-fetched if Hollywood had written the script. It was the only time I remember the whole country being entranced by a sporting event - and we were all rooting for the same team. That win really did lift the spirits of the nation.

This picture is one I'll never forget. I remember staring at it in the Schenectady Gazette the next morning. I remember there was a headline along the lines of "US slays Russian juggernaut" and I remember thinking that there was no need for a headline. That picture was all that was needed.

You can listen to Al Michaels call the final seconds here (thanks Richard). I'm still annoyed that ABC didn't show the game live. Unimaginable, isn't it?

I know I mentioned this game before when Herb Brooks died, but you can't say enough about it.

The 1980 US Olympic hockey team was the subject of a Disney Movie starring Kurt Russell, but the movie never made it over here (in cinemas or on t.v.) as far as I know. I'm sure I could get it on DVD, but I'd rather get the game itself if I'm going to buy anything.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Irish education

Stop me if you've heard me say this before. I honestly can't remember because I know I've meant to say it many times, but I think I've only written the essence of this post in my head.

The more I learn about Ireland's education system the less I like it. There are a lot of little things that annoy me, but one of the biggest is the way the subjective is often passed off as fact.

Today my daughter brought home an exam she took a couple of weeks ago. She tells me that every question was drawn from state-administered junior cert exams in geography.

One question shows a chart of "earnings of factory workers 1997-2002". The chart shows wages per hour for males and females for each year represented in a bar chart format. The students are then asked, "Which sentence best describes the information in the bar chart above"?

There are four sentences and three are quite clearly wrong. That leaves only one possible answer, which reads {ignore the grammar here, which I'm sure is a mess, but I'm never 100% certain as the rules of grammar in Ireland are different from those that apply in the US}: The hourly wage for women in Irish factories has increased slightly between 1997 & 2002, but is still not level with the hourly wages of men.

Well, maybe that's true and maybe it's not. How does one define "slightly"? I looked at the chart and it seems that the average woman's wage was approximately €6.60 in 1997 and had risen to approximately €8.20 by 2002. A rise of €1.60 or 24%. Is that a "slight" rise over a five year period? I think a case could be made that this represents a substantial rise, which would mean that there is no right answer to this question.

There is no need for the word "slightly" in this question. All it does is make the answer subjective and imprecise. Now, if this is just a question set by a teacher in the school, then it's a small concern, but if this is representative of the state's formal examinations it's a much bigger problem. How are Irish children supposed to learn to sift facts from opinions if the state's own examiners don't know the difference?

This is not a once off. I have seen a lot of this stuff in many text books and on exams. And, don't get me started on the anti-Americanism that's prevalent in the history books (I'm sure I've mentioned this before, right?).

One story

There really is only one story in Ireland these days. You won't find anything about it here, but there's more than you ever wanted to be found over at

The Killers

My daughter recently got The Killers' album, Hot Fuss. This is really a strange development. It seems like only yesterday that I winced every time I heard Westlife on her CD player.

What really makes this strange isn't that her tastes are changing, but that I really like this album too. I've only listened to it twice, but I think it's pretty good. While I admit it's odd that we like the same album, I suspect my daughter is freaked out by it. It was one thing when I mentioned that I liked Franz Ferdinand, which she dismissed as an aberration. Now it's beginning to look like either (a) I'm cool or (b) she's not. I don't think either possibility makes her happy.

One thing about the Killers - they sound A LOT like the Cure. I think I had heard 4 songs from the album when I pronounced that "these guys must be huge fans of the Cure". This morning I googled the Cure and the Killers to see if anyone agreed with that assessment and found that a blogger of (probably) similar vintage to me had the same impression. I'm sure many others have said the same.

Player agents

Frank can't understand why players (he's referring to English League soccer players) want agents. He agrees with Manchester United's Gary Neville that players should be able to negotiate their contracts without agents.

I was under the impression that agents did more than negotiate the contracts, but I could be wrong. I thought agents also arranged all the other pay-offs that players receive - sponsorship deals, appearance money, etc. I also think it's debatable whether the average player would negotiate as well as someone paid to represent him.

Having said all that, I've often had the impression that agents were nothing more than overpaid leeches.

Yet, maybe it depends on the agent. Take John Di Manno, for example. He's doing more than negotiating for his client, baseball player and Cuban defector Kendry Morales.
Wherever Morales went, Di Manno was by his side. They slept in the same apartment in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Di Manno hired the cabs for the 40-minute drive to the complex where Morales worked out every morning and sat in the cramped back seat. Along the way, the car climbed drive-shaft-scraping speed bumps and passed by roadside vendors selling mangoes, cigarettes and coconut water tapped with the swift slice of a machete. Morales, folded into the front passenger seat, sang along to the radio. When the car drove by an attractive woman, Morales reached over to honk the horn. Di Manno chuckled approvingly.

The way Di Manno followed Morales around, he could have been mistaken for a personal valet. At La Loma del Suenos, a collection of fields rented and operated by the New York Yankees, Di Manno carried the player's bat, spikes, hat and batting gloves. When Morales broke a sweat, Di Manno pulled a fresh shirt from an equipment bag. When Morales requested a cup of water, Di Manno trotted off to find a cooler and some waxy paper cups.

{Tip: Richard)
So, here's an agent who's basically a man-servant. And, of course, who could forget Jerry Maguire, who was basically the only trust-worthy person in his client's professional life.

All right, that was fiction, but there probably is some truth in the proposition that players can often feel pretty isolated as they are always competing with their co-workers (teammates) in a way that most employees are not. At least the player knows that the agent is on his side, even it's only because he's an overpaid leech.

Monday, February 21, 2005

'God's waiting room'

I had never really been to Florida before last week. I spent a few days at Disney World in early 2002, but that's not real Florida. That's not even real Earth.

I've always had a view of Florida as being full of old people who are simply waiting to die. How wrong I was.

Sure, Florida does have a lot of old people, but these old people are not waiting to die. In fact, it's the opposite. The old people who move to Florida are those who are keenest to go on living life to the full. They don't want to be cooped up for a few months of the year, so they relocate to Florida and enjoy life year round.

Many of the people I saw were only spending part of the winter in Florida and will return to the north when spring arrives. I don't blame them in the least.

I spent 8 days in St. Augustine, which is not hot at this time of the year (although the weather was comparable to mid-summer in Ireland). The warm weather, the ocean, pelicans gliding along just above the waves, palm trees - I thought the place was fantastic. I'm all ready to sign up when retirement comes my way.

Snow? Today?

As many of you know, I've often moaned about the lack of proper snow here. I've been living in Ireland since '91 and I've never seen proper snow. An inch here and an inch there doesn't count as a real winter.

Today it's snowing. I don't know how long it'll last, but it looks like real snow at the moment. I should be happy, right? Well, . . .

I only got home from my 8 days in north Florida yesterday afternoon. If there was ever a time when I didn't want to see snow in Ireland it's today. I'm freezing. I can't believe I was walking along the beach in my bathing suit only a couple of days ago.

Last night I heard that this week will be the coldest of the winter so far.

When is the next flight back?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Net woes

I'm in St. Augustine, FL with a frustratingly poor internet connection, which is why I haven't been able to update this.

I've been consoled by fantastic weather. Just watched the sun rise over the Atlantic for the third day running. Today I'll try to get a dip in the pool, which should ease my internet worries.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Parking at the airport

Great to see that a rival company has set up a parking lot near the airport. It's €5 per day, which is a good deal compared with €7.50 with Aer Rianta's long term lot. It takes practically no time at all to get to the airport.

I love competition.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Free to change his name

He was Jimmy White, but now he's James Brown. James Brown? I guess it's a good thing that White, err, Brown plays snooker and not bowls, otherwise he'd probably want to be known as the "Godfather of Bowl". Okay, that was sad.

Jimmy White has changed his name as part of a sponsorship deal with HP Brown Sauce, who are sponsoring the brown ball in an upcoming tournament. I don't know about this. The company is only sponsoring one tournament and this is enough for White to change his name? I know athletes change their names every so often for all sorts of reasons, but this just seems almost pathetic.

One of my favorite athlete name changes was when Lloyd Free legally changed his name to World B. Free because he wanted to help promote the cause of global peace.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Laser Floyd - still going

I saw Laser Floyd at the Hayden Planetarium twice in 1983 (it was an odd year). To be honest I enjoyed it both times, but I never imagined it was still going. I doubt it's as good without the Planetarium theatre with the huge round ceiling projection screen and those chairs that lean way back.

Last time I was at the Planetarium was about 4 years ago. I was totally turned off by the attempts at greater "coolness" and more adult approach. They got rid of the scales that allowed kids to check their weight on the Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter, which was more fun than that probably sounds. Most of the truly kid-centered aspects of the Planetarium had been banished, but hey, there was a jazz band playing in the main hall! Lecch.

My kids were bored and I doubt I'll ever go again. Give me Armagh any day.

Twenty per cent reduction

Why have so many journalists made the same mathematical error. Today the guilty party is the London Independent's David McKittrick, but I feel bad singling him out seeing as SO MANY Irish journalists have made the same basic error.

I can't remember if any article on the new speed limits actually got this right. According to McKittrick:
The most significant change is on rural regional and local roads, which the Irish often refer to as non-national roads, dropping from 60 mph to 80 km/h, the equivalent of 50 mph. This is a reduction of 20%.
There is no need for that last sentence. Anyone can understand what a 10MPH reduction means, but almost every paper has thrown in that last little item on the percentage reduction. If only they had calculated the percentage reduction correctly.

If you start with 60 and take away 10 that is a reduction of 1/6 or 16.7%, not 20%. A 20% reduction would make the new speed limit 48MPH. Why have so many made this same mistake? Are these journalists being ripped off every time they go to a sale offering 20 or 30% off?

{The real percentage should be 17.15% because 50MPH is actually slightly greater than 80KPH, but that's not the big issue.}

Monday, February 07, 2005

Fountains of Wayne

As I've said a few times, I don't listen to music with the same "intensity" (that probably is the right word, although it sounds funny) that I did 20 years ago. And, I rarely pay much attention to new music. Like most older fuddy-duddies, I tend to listen mostly to records that were released during "my youth".

Having said all that, I do have a few albums by "new" (post 1988) groups. I have an album by Interpol, one by Coldplay, and the Franz Ferdinand album. I like all of them, but none of them appeals as much as Welcome Interstate Managers by the Fountains of Wayne. I just love the whole album. The music really appeals as do the lyrics. The songs are local to where I spent a good part of my younger years (NYC & north Jersey) and the songs have a great sense of place and life in that area. And, quite a few of them are really funny.

I don't process new albums through the same pseudo knowledgeable/intellectual filters (yeah, BS) that I did when I was 19. As long as the lyrics and music appeal I'm happy . And Welcome Interstate Managers really appeals.

Iraq and what the Irish can contribute

I've heard and read some speculation that Iraq is heading towards an Iranian style regime. The early counts indicate that the Shi'ite list "favored" by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is doing well and the presumption seems to be that any state with so powerful a religious influence must automatically look like Iran does today.

I don't agree for two reasons:
  1. Sistani has said he doesn't favor such a regime (& I don't know whether Michael Ledeen is right or not, but he claims that Sistani believes Iran's ruling Mullahs are engaged in heresy by running the state)
  2. A constitution that is "informed" by Islamic tenets can also guarantee basic human rights for all the citizens and be a building block for a strong democracy.
Point two, obviously, is harder to prove, but I think Ireland is an excellent model for what is possible.

De Valera's 1937 Constitution may not be ideal from the point of view of modern European sentiment, but if Iraq emerges from Saddam with something along the lines of Ireland in the 1940s & 1950s, I say "Great!". In fact, I see a real opportunity for Irish historians and constitutional experts to offer real service to the Iraqis.

I can think of no other democratic state that was closer to a theocracy than Ireland. Tim Pat Coogan writes that the 1937 Constitution "visualized a state that while democratic in practice, would be theocratic in precept". Yet, the Irish people adopted new amendments and loosed the binds of church and state over time through the democratic process. I see no reason why the Iraqis cannot have a constitution that allows similar possibilities for change, if the Iraqi people should so choose.

Unlike a lot of so-called liberals, I have no objection to the Iraqi people choosing a religiously conservative government, so long as the constitution allows for them to change their minds through a democratic process. I don't think anyone in the west should try to prescribe what Iraq's new constitution or new government should look like, but the Irish experience (good & bad) provided unadorned with modern tut-tutting could be of real benefit to the Iraqis as they begin the process of drafting a new constitution.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Bush & Steroids

Former baseball star Jose Canseco names some big stars & former stars as steroid users in his soon to be released book, according to today's NY Daily News. Canseco not only names big name ball players as steroids users, but also claims that George W. Bush must have known that members of the Texas Rangers were using them during the time he was the team's owner.

The only comment the News has from the White House is that the "President's position on steroids has been clear for some time". Hardly a firm denial.

No, I don't think it's a great scandal, but it is a curiosity at least. I wonder if he did know, whether not disclosing this at the time of the sale of the team he would be technically in breach of any contractual arrangements.


I'm not going to pretend to be a knowledgeable soccer fan (I'll leave that to Frank and the guys at BackSeatDrivers), but I thought this article by Tom Humprhies on Roy Keane was excellent. Any sports fan will recognize the greatness of Keane from Humphries's description.

The wisest thing ever publicly said about the whole McCarthy vs Keane thing was by Gary Neville on an ITV panel during the World Cup: "You simply have to ask yourself, 'is your team better with Roy Keane or without him'. The answer is obvious. Keane makes any team better".

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Dr. Al-Rasheed

I don't know who Dr. Mohammed T. Al-Rasheed is, but I'd dearly love to believe that what he expresses in this article for Arab News is something that many people in the Arab world are now beginning to feel/think.

Writing about Iraq's elections last week Dr. Al-Rasheed says:
Everyone says that this is the first free elections in Iraq for fifty years. That is another lie. There has never been one single free election in the long history of the Arabs ever. This is the first one.

. . .

On Sunday America vindicated itself to all doubters, including me. They delivered on the promise of an election, so I am sure they will deliver on the promise of withdrawal.

Occupation boots are heavy and brutal no matter what their insignia or colors. Yet homegrown dictatorship is even harsher and more deranged.

. . .

If the endgame is propaganda, I don’t expect trashing America will end in our media. If, on the other hand, we write about what we feel is right and wrong, many should think again — at least on this issue.

Super forecast

Philadelphia 27
New England 20

Friday, February 04, 2005


When I read this morning that two Irish parliamentarians were urging US troops to claim asylum while in transit at Shannon Airport, I thought it was ridiculous and amusing. Now, 14 hours later, I'm not so amused.

I've been thinking about this on and off all day. I hope the US government bars these two from ever traveling to America at a minimum.

Still, I'm wondering if I should relax and trust my initial reaction that this is a joke.

Fat Dutch Kid

"Genius" conveys too much mediocrity for this piece.

{Note: Couldn't get it to work in Firefox, for some reason that I didn't investigate.}

"& the award for best Irish Think Tank goes to . . ."

Beyonce: "The envelope please".

. . .

Beyonce: "Uh, it's empty"
Me (entering stage): "Oh yeah. That's because I don't know any, other than the Freedom Institute, and I couldn't give it to those guys after they snubbed me in their 'Irish Blog Awards 2005'.
{Sobbing sounds are heard as I duck my head and turn my back. Beyonce then offers her condolences with hugs and kisses and I'm feeling a little better.}

Oh, sorry about that. Now, back to those sham/scam Irish blog awards. All right, who are the winners, anyway?
  1. Best Overall Blog: Mark Humphrys — Humphrys? I mean, who can read that blog. It's so narrow. And, it's not in the right order. I ask you, who else organizes his blog by topic and not with a simple reverse chronological ordering?

  2. Best Political Analysis: Blackline — Blackline? Blackline? He only writes occasionally and I'm sure he gets most of his analysis from this page, even when it's subtly hidden in obscure references to northern NY State or in a post about the need to buy a Russian rocket launcher.

  3. Best Economic Analysis: Atlantic Blog — Well that explains a lot. The judges must be cats and dogs. William loves those animals and loves writing about them. But, he doesn't even like sports, which should be a prerequisite for any blog award. No blog is worth anything if it doesn't devote a fair amount to what would be ridiculous nonsense if it wasn't so vitally important, a.k.a. SPORTS.

  4. Best Appearance Richard Delevan — The judges obviously never saw Richard without his make-up on. It's all chemicals and cosmetic surgery. Really. He doesn't have my natural beauty.

  5. Best Humour Richard Delevan — What, again? He's good looking and funny? I don't think so. I think they meant to give Richard one award for Most Humorous Appearance.

  6. Best International Blog Little Green Footballs — Little green men, more like.

What? This sounds like I'm bitter and lack grace? Okay, then, I suppose. Congratulations to the winners.

Ireland wins Six Nations Championship!

Yes, that's right. Ireland has won the 2005 Six Nations title. It was a great run. The excitement was fantastic.

What that's you say? The games haven't started yet? Oh, well, don't tell these people.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Dreaded visit

Matthew Scully, a former deputy director of speechwriting for President Bush, describes the challenges that the State of the Union address poses for the speechwriter.
The first great challenge of a State of the Union address is common to every annual presidential ritual - to freshen it up. Almost as dreaded as drafting a State of the Union, for example, are those yearly chores like writing remarks for the St. Patrick's Day visit by the prime minister of Ireland. How many different ways can you accept a bowl of shamrocks, or celebrate the sterling qualities of the noble Irish people?
Ahh, the "dreaded" annual visit of An Taoiseach.


I'm always ahead of the trends. First it was my hair. A while ago I noticed that many people on t.v. were sporting hair-dos that, frankly, looked like they just hadn't bothered to brush/comb their hair. I pointed this out to my daughter, who demurred at this suggestion. The next day I didn't bother combing my hair (which is usually in a very elegant left-to-right c. 1948 style) and was able to prove my point as my hair was in a nearly identical "style" to that worn by whatever clown was on t.v. the night before.

Now, Ed Power of the Irish Independent has once again proven that I am a trend setter. Staying in is IN. Well, I've been staying home pretty much 365 nights of the year for nigh on ten years now (when our second daughter was born). It's great to be ahead of the game.


I know there are a fair number of Americans in Ireland or Britain reading this, so I just thought I'd pass on something I only found out yesterday.

The Super Bowl is on ITV (regular, old-fashioned, free, over-the-air-waves t.v.) on Sunday. It's a late start (10:40pm) and I probably won't watch all of it (it's not baseball, after all), but I'll probably take in the first half.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Too free?

Nibras Kazimi explains that he didn't vote along tribal or sectarian lines. He didn't even vote for his mother.

That's an excess of freedom for which Kazimi will pay dearly for the rest of his life. Iraqis will learn that there are limits to personal freedom and snubbing your mother is definitely outside those limits.

Serious penance

Mark Brown, columnist with the Chicago Sun Times, is just a little fearful that President Bush may have been right all along.

Brown was opposed to the war and still believes it's too early to throw in the towel, but now he says it's time for him (and those who are in the same boat as him) to "face the possibility" that they were wrong.
But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?

It's hard to swallow, isn't it?

. . . if it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.
Interestingly, Brown says that he believes that if the US succeeds in establishing "a peaceable democratic government in Iraq" that this will also justify the loss of American lives in the effort. From a "left" perspective, I suppose this is true, but from a "right" (conservative, isolationist, whatever you want to call it) perspective, I don't think this holds. Only if the American security is enhanced will people from the right be willing to concede that the war was "worth it".

{Found through the Corner.}

Selling cars online

I have to admit that I am taken aback to learn that a car dealer in the state of Washington was ripped off by a buyer in Ireland who used 3 stolen credit cards to get a used SUV shipped to Ireland.
Members of the garda stolen cars unit and the national fraud squad have not heard of a car being ordered over the internet using stolen credit cards.

'“It would be unusual for goods of that nature to be successfully stolen via the internet',” said a source close to the Bureau of Fraud Investigation.
"Goods of that nature" - I love that. It's an SUV, for God's sake, and the steering wheel's on the wrong side to boot.

Not only can I not understand how the dealer didn't wait until the money was in his hands, but why didn't the Irish customs officers catch on? Weird.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

More on Q & A

It was almost too much fun to hear Fintan O'Toole declare Sunday a "bittersweet moment" . He's cared about that "long suffering country for a long time". Sunday was bittersweet because as much as he cared about Iraq, he never wanted to do anything about it. If Iraqis are no longer "long suffering" will he still be able to "care"?

I think Michéal Martin was indirectly claiming that Sunday also vindicated the policies of the Irish government when he said, "ending of Saddam Hussein's regime is a good thing".

"Vindicates Bush & Blair"

Last night I was watching Questions and Answers {req. RealPlayer} and a man in the audience asked the panel if the Iraqi vote "vindicated the Bush/Blair policy on Iraq". Obviously, I was with the panelist who answered unequivocally "yes", but then I started thinking about it.

I think this election, the new constitution for Iraq that this elected assembly will draft and the subsequent election for a new government later in the year should vindicate Bush & Blair in the eyes of Europeans (it won't, but it should). I fully expect that by this time next year the new Iraqi government will be exercising more sovereignty than Ireland has today. I believe the "occupation" will be nearing its burdensome end, although I also believe the US will negotiate for the right to keep some military bases in Iraq (much as they have in Germany, S. Korea & elsewhere today). That would be vindication.

However, it may or may not vindicate Bush & Blair in their own countries. Americans will applaud the new Iraq and take pride in their efforts to help the Iraqi people, but if there is any new terror attack on the US or if it seems that the terrorist threat has not been significantly reduced through the success in Iraq Americans may not feel that Bush has been vindicated. A thriving, free, democratic Iraq is a good side effect, but not the primary motive for the war that has now cost 1,500 American lives.

I believe the President is right and that this campaign is an important part of the war on terror, but if I had been skeptical about the security benefits of the Iraq war before the invasion, nothing that has happened so far, including Sunday's vote, would have changed my mind.