Sunday, October 30, 2005


The whole time I was growing up there was only one Scooter. That was Phil Rizzuto, former Yankee shortstop and member of the Yankees' broadcast team for 5 or 6 decades (or so it seemed). And, although I thought it was bizarre that everyone referred to a 60+ year old man as Scooter, I accepted it as just part of baseball. You weren't meant to take him too seriously.

Now there's a new Scooter on my television screen. Only this man's not in baseball, but working in the White House (or, should I say, worked in the White House?). This is just too much. And, hearing the President talk, in all seriousness, about a man known as Scooter is beyond the pale. Come on. Call the man Irving or Lewis, if he prefers, but not Scooter.

Ferns Report

To be honest, I've paid almost no attention to the Ferns Report. Part of me just hated the whole story and I guess I felt like I had already absorbed enough of the details to get the gist of it. Yet, there's this nagging feeling that I should really learn more about what went wrong in the Church.

Today at Mass the priest started his homily saying that now he "has some idea how the German people must have felt at the end of the second world war". He said he felt he was "guilty by association" for abominable acts against society's most defenseless people. While most people who make NAZI analogies are pointing the finger at others this man was pointing the finger at himself and his church, to which he has dedicated his life. His distress was obvious.

Now I feel I should make a better effort to learn what the report says. I have a stack of newspapers to read and I also found a copy of the report online (not easy) and I downloaded it. It's over 200 pages, which is a lot of reading, but I'd like to imagine I'll eventually read it.

Prince of Wales

According to this morning's Sunday Telegraph, Prince Charles
will try to persuade George W Bush and Americans of the merits of Islam this week because he thinks the United States has been too intolerant of the religion since September 11.

. . . It is understood that Prince Charles did not - and does not - believe that the actions of 19 hijackers should tarnish the reputation of hundreds of millions of law-abiding Muslims around the world.
I think before he goes to the US, it might be a good idea for Prince Charles to get hold of some of the speeches the President has been making rather than making his assessment of US policy based on what the Independent says.

Over and over again, even in the immediate aftermath of September 11, the President has stressed that the terrorists do not represent the truth about Islam. Perhaps Prince Charles could start here. {I haven't reviewed this site in any detail, but a quick skim of what's here looks reasonable and there are links to the White House's web page for more details.}

In fact, it seems to me that European politicians are much more likely to bad mouth Islam, particularly what to Europeans are its 'regressive' views, then are American politicians.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Bush's worst week

Almost anywhere you look today, you can find references to "Bush's worst week", etc. The Libby indictment, the Miers fiasco and the fact that the 2000th military fatality was recorded in Iraq this week do add up to a pretty bad week, but I don't think this was the President's worst week by a long shot. That was the week following Hurricane Katrina.

Almost nobody in America knows who Scooter Libby is and if he remains as the sole indictee, then the political damage to the White House will be minimal. The Miers nomination was a "mistake" because it undermined Bush's support with his base, many of whom have spent 3 decades working for this one moment: Republican President and Republican majority in the Senate. However, a Machiavellian reading of the Miers nomination was that she volunteered to be publicly skewered (nominated and, predictably, investigated and attacked) so that Bush could "give in" to his base at exactly the moment that Fitzgerald was about to deliver his report. And, although 2000 is something of a milestone, I'm not sure it's politically much more significant than 1950 or 1900 or 2050 or 2100. If you believe in the war, then each death is tragic, but hardly politically earth-shattering. And, if you don't believe in the war, then each death is one too many.

No, in fact, I think Bush's worst moment was that week after Katrina and this week actually provides some solid footing for Bush to begin rebuilding the momentum.

The Plame Truth by Oliver Stone?

I never imagined I'd see the day when Republicans are muttering about a CIA dirty tricks campaign to undermine the administration and Democrats are talking about the agency's operatives' selfless devotion to the country. A friend of mine who comes from what is roughly the Sandinista wing of American politics sees no malevolence in anything done by anyone in the CIA in this whole affair while those (like me) who reside on the 'God and country' end of the political spectrum believe something about the CIA's part in this just stinks.

I keep hoping to read that Oliver Stone is going to make a movie about the CIA plot to undermine the elected government in 2003. At least that would offer some reassurance that the whole world hasn't been turned upside down.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Franchise ownership

Today's Boston Herald has a column on a "smear" campaign being conducted by the Boston Red Sox against their own GM, the 'Boy Wonder' Theo Esptein.

It's probably only interesting to Red Sox fans other than this little note in the column:
In the interest of disclosure, let us rewind for a moment. In the last few days, most recently in the Globe (which has more invested in the Red Sox than anyone but John Henry), it has been reported that Epstein rejected the Sox' latest contract offer, though the sides continue to talk and are expected to have some resolution in the next day or so. The latest proposal was for three years at $1.2 million per, which is the kind of information that comes out when real negotiations have given way to mud-slinging and damage control.
The city's other newspaper, the Boston Globe, owns a big chunk of the Red Sox. When the Sox want to do down a member of their own organization they have a pretty reliable 'friend' in the Globe to parrot the company line. And, they can use broadcast rights to keep the t.v. and radio stations in line too. I always thought of print as the location for truth about my sports teams.

I don't even know if this is a common situation in professional sports. It wouldn't work in New York, where there are just too many newspapers. However, in smaller cities and towns (like Boston! - just kidding) this is an effective media strategy. Get the most powerful newspaper on your side through ownership and then tie up the t.v. and radio stations by dangling the broadcast rights before them.

Conspiracy theories

I haven't seen much online as far as Liam Lawlor conspiracy theories go. Frank touches on this topic in a post about how Lawlor made a "cadaver eccellente" for some people here. That's true; he does.

However, here's my own conspiracy theory (and, no, I don't put much stock in this and this is my own piece of fiction).

Lawlor is up to his neck in crooked property deals, helping major criminals launder their money. The state leans on Lawlor to name names, but he knows he'd be in a very bad spot if he did that. So he refuses. The state wants to offer him a witness protection option, but giving Lawlor immunity in a witness protection program is politically infeasible. The Irish public would not accept this.

So, the state offers to arrange his death so that the Irish people are convinced that Lawlor is dead. The state arranges this in Moscow, a place where the media presence is very light and where getting cooperation is easy (read affordable). Now everyone 'knows' Lawlor is dead and he can go with his new identity and start a new life somewhere. And, the state gets his books and other records and can start bringing down some of the major crime gangs that seem to be untouchable at the moment.

The vanishing of Julia Kushnir

Someone told me that there was a photograph of Julia Kushnir in yesterday's Star. If there was, then I missed it.

Julia Kushnir is slowly disappearing from our radar screen. I can only find her name in one article in today's papers. I half suspect she's just as happy about that. She got some apologies and she'll probably get more this weekend. I sincerely doubt there will be any libel proceedings. I also doubt we'll even get that statement we are supposed to get next week, but if the Sunday papers do provide sufficiently contrite (that is, front page) apologies this weekend, then I would assume Ms. Kushnir's statement to be something along the lines of 'I was wronged, but I accept the apologies'. And that will be it for the media here. And, I guess, for me too.

However, I still would like to believe the Planning Tribunal will ask her over to answer a few questions. Maybe the Gardai too.

And, if I was Nick Paton Walsh of the Guardian, I'd stay on this until I was SURE that everything we NOW know is true because if not, then Mr. Walsh would, I believe, have good grounds for pursuing libel actions himself.

"a lazy Walloon, a slave and an inferior creature"

Is the above a "racist" description? A Belgian woman, I should say, a Flemish woman was arrested on charges of racism yesterday. "The 48-year-old husband filed a complaint for racism against his spouse for scratching him and calling him "a lazy Walloon, a slave and an inferior creature", De Standaard daily said".

First of all, this Walloon husband is a loser. Second, I don't see how that's "racist" at all, but it probably does rate as insensitive. Third, do the Belgians have so little to worry about?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A hundred and eighty!

My obsession with Liam Lawlor nearly caused me to miss this, far more important, story. ESPN is going to start televising Darts in 2006. Well it's about time, isn't it?

I can still remember the first time I saw Darts on the BBC. Stunned amazement probably best sums up how I reacted. I was both horrified and enthralled all at once. Frightening, beer-swilling men throwing Darts in a beer hall atmosphere conveyed by crowd shots revealing tables full of half-drunk pints of lager. It was riveting. And, I have to admit, I was stunned that these guys could down so many drinks and still hit that triple twenty 3 straight times (180! is the excited PA man's response) when the money was on the line.

I mean, what other athlete competes at the highest level in a state of inebriation? I've had trouble hitting a softball after a few sociable drinks and that was always in a minimal pressure situation.

Not everyone is excited for the American viewing public, however. Lionel Shriver derides the athletes who grace the professional Darts scene and thinks this is more evidence of the decline of American culture.
Abundantly overweight, Andy "the Viking" Fordham is 29 stone [ehm, that's 406lbs, if anyone's counting -- IE] and fond of the odd sip of lager. Even on television, the game is played in a tavern and its fans are no more abstemious, and no more given to an excess of press-ups, than its icons. In all, darts is as cheerfully lowest-common-denominator as you can get, and the direction in which American popular culture seems to be diving is right under the horizontal line of the simple fraction.

Lawlor obsession

Every new day I think I'm over the Lawlor thing, but it's eating away at me. And, what's really confusing me is that I didn't really care much about his scandals when he was alive. The Irish media has (rightly) moved on to the Ferns report, but I can't seem to let go of this thing.
  • Lawlor's funeral attracted hundreds of people.
  • The Guardian today apologized for its error in their October 24 article on Lawlor's death.
  • Julia Kushnir's lawyers say their client may pursue a libel action "against several newspapers who falsely branded her a prostitute". And, she won't now be issuing a statement until next week.
The last point first. Can Ms. Kushnir really have been libeled when she wasn't named in the original reports and the description was so far wrong (teenager, no passport, etc.)? This is just a question. I have no idea.

Next, am I the only person who's curious about the fact that nobody in the media seems to have been able to meet or even speak to this woman yet? I don't think there's been a photograph of her. And, isn't it also a bit strange that a woman who provides legal and translation services for clients from abroad doesn't have any form of web presence? At least there was none I could find. I searched google and all the listings for her name are thanks to the current newspaper articles and two references in New York State, unrelated to anything to do with this Julia Kushnir.

And, still no photograph of the car that Lawlor died in. What about an update from the Moscow police on their investigation. Anything? Do I just have to accept that I'm never going to know everything about this?

Cold Turkey

Happens every year. The season ends and that's it. It's just ... over. No more baseball until March, when the World Baseball Classic will be played (for the first time despite the "classic").

You wait 85+ years for the Sox to win a World Series and then two come along in consecutive years. First it was the Red Sox and now the White Sox, the second city's generally unloved second team. They're celebrating their first championship since 1917.

UPDATE - 12:50pm: I presume this Irish fan was happy about Chicago's big win (& tired if he stayed up for all of Game 3, which ended around 7:40am here).

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Catching Galloway

Either Senator Norm Coleman now has George Galloway dead to rights or he just loves being slapped around.
"The additional evidence gathered by the Subcommittee links George Galloway to the Iraqi regime'’s scheme to manipulate the U.N. Oil-for-Food program," said Coleman. "Records obtained indicate that Dr. Abu-Zayyad, the wife of George Galloway, received a $150,000 payment and Mariam Appeal, the political campaign led by George Galloway, received at least $446,000."
Galloway seemed as defiant as ever last night on the news, although I really enjoyed the way he was putting clear blue water between himself and his soon-to-be-ex-wife. "I am not responsible for my wife". How gallant.

Whatever happened to, "I admit I didn't show my wife the respect she deserves," which he said last May when she first filed for divorce?

A little more baseball

Last night on Newstalk I heard the most anti-Castro commentary I've ever heard on an Irish radio/television show. During their sports program they had an interview with Enrique Espinoza, who they described as a Cuban sports historian. They were talking to him about the fact that the Cuban government has blacked out coverage of this year's World Series because two of Chicago's players - Jose Contreras & Orlando Hernandez - are Cuban defectors.

In the few minutes he was on, Espinoza was able to get across that the Cuban people were able to follow their beloved baseball stars despite the ban and that Cuban sportsmen are denied basic human rights. Essentially, Espinoza let us know that the Cuban government is both stupid and cruel.

Baseball on the God Channel

I haven't had a chance to watch last night's Game 3 of the World Series yet, so I don't know what happened (and I'd like to remain ignorant until this evening so I can watch it then as if it was live). However, I did get to see quite a few Astros and one member of the White Sox last night on the God Channel.

I was just scrolling through endless channels of nothing last night, as I usually do just before I turn it off for the night, when I recognized Houston's Chris Burke, who was being interviewed. None of the questions were about his hitting or fielding, however, but about his relationship with Jesus. Then we saw Andy Pettite, Dustin Hermanson (Chicago), Lance Berkman, one or two others and we ended with Adam Everett, who said that Jesus loved him unconditionally.

From what I saw of the uniforms, the interviews all took place before Game 2. I just found it so surprising that these guys made time during the pre-game preparations to discuss their faith. They all emphasized that God doesn't care who wins, but they thanked Him for having blessed them with their talents.

I actually found it pleasant, even though it's not my way. {I suspect that had it been the Mets in the Astros' shoes - down 2 games to none - a few unworthy thoughts might well have entered my head as I stared in at these ballplayers giving off an aura of peace and love.}

I was just so surprised. It's not the kind of thing you see often over here and, even if I was in the US, I think I'd have been surprised that it was right in the middle of the World Series.

Julia Kushnir

Today's Irish Times claims that Julia Kushnir will be making a statement today. The paper says she's still traumatized, which is understandable. The Examiner said she'd be making a statement yesterday, so we'll have to wait and see.

I wonder if she'll be a feature in the Irish news for some time to come. Now that we know her name and the fact that she has worked as Lawlor's legal assistant and interpreter in Prague on and off for years maybe she can shed some light on Lawlor's Prague dealings, which
were the subject of extensive investigation by the Mahon Tribunal.

In more recent years, as it became clear he could do little or no business in Ireland, Prague became a second home. He was involved, it seems, in property development, though as with much of his business dealings, it'’s not clear exactly what he did or who he was involved with.
The Examiner also tells us
[i]t is known Ms Kushnir acted as a translator and adviser to Mr Lawlor for some years. She was known to the family and met the former politician's wife, Hazel, on a number of occasions.
She's obviously familiar with Ireland. I heard on the radio that she had other business contacts in Ireland. The Planning Tribunal will definitely want to talk to her.

Lawlor questions

There are a few questions about Liam Lawlor's death that still have me wondering. Such as:
  • What year and model was the Mercedes he was traveling in when he died? Was he wearing a seat belt? Did the car have air bags and, if yes, did they deploy?

  • Why was he in the front seat sitting next to someone he'd presumably just met and couldn't speak to while his interpreter rode in the back? I've traveled on business before, with men and women, and I can't ever remember traveling in the front while my colleague was in the back or vice versa. It's not a biggie, but still it's curious. Usually when you arrive at the airport and get in a taxi or car service you'll engage in some small talk about the day's events or the next day's schedule.

  • Leaving aside the Observer's claim about the teenage prostitute, what about the other claims - that Lawlor visited brothels and sex clubs when in Prague or the far more damning "Lawlor was suspected of recycling cash for criminals into property across western Dublin and latterly into eastern Europe". The Observer has admitted it "erred", according to today's Irish Times. Is this related only to the bit about the woman in the car with Lawlor or the whole article?

  • How did the Guardian's Moscow correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, get it so wrong? He's been there for years. Surely he speaks the language and knows the geography, so it can't be simple confusion.

  • Does the timeline make sense? The Irish Times says he died shortly after 1am not long after arriving in Moscow. There is only one direct flight from Prague that Lawlor could have been on and that's Aeroflot's SU0144 scheduled to arrive at 1:05am local time. Is it possible for the plane to land at 1:05 and Lawlor to die where he did "shortly after 1am"? The road on which the crash occurred is the road from the airport to the city center. Without any real knowledge of the geography, this sounds possible since we can assume that at 1am he was able to get off the plane and out of the airport quickly.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Blow in

How much sympathy do I need to feel for the Lawlor family? How badly has the press mistreated them since Liam Lawlor's death? There are times when I really feel like I'll never belong here.

I cannot get over just HOW BIG A DEAL the radio stations (I haven't seen any t.v. reports) are making of the reports in some Sunday newspapers that Liam Lawlor died while accompanied by a prostitute. I already mentioned yesterday's luncthime program on Newstalk (& more today), but then yesterday evening on Today FM (Matt Cooper) and last night on RTE (Vincent Browne) it was more of the same (although, I have to say Cooper was less keen to do Independent newspapers down). Browne in particular used words like "disgraceful" when describing the reports over the weekend, although Browne is, perhaps, the most sanctimonious of Irish commentators. One of Cooper's guests said that the press reports were worse than anything Lawlor had done.

Am I missing something? Sure I feel sympathy for the Lawlors in so far as they have to deal with the death of their husband/father/brother, but that's about it. My sympathies don't extend to their having had to deal with the press's inaccurate reports about who was with Liam Lawlor at his death.

I have not paid a lot of attention to the planning tribunal, but I've picked up the general run of things and I don't think my sense that Liam Lawlor was up to his neck in corruption (a crime) is that far from the general view. So, why are so many people who believe Lawlor was corrupt so outraged about reports that he may have been with a prostitute?

If I die when I'm in my 60s and have to die amidst a scandal, I'd much rather it be that I was accompanied by a prostitute at my death rather than I had spent years accumulating vast wealth by corrupt means and left my family in the "morally confused" position of enjoying my ill-gotten money after I was gone. One sin can be excused as a temporary weakness or act of madness while the other is cold, calculated, devious, long-running and has the effect of corrupting the whole family.

Levee update

I haven't worked out who this damages politically, but the Army Corps of Engineers certainly seems to have a few questions to answer. The Washington Post claims that what should have been a "routine hurricane" became "the costliest storm in U.S. history" thanks to design flaws in the floodwalls.
Investigators in recent days have assembled evidence implicating design flaws in the failures of two floodwalls near Lake Pontchartrain that collapsed when weakened soils beneath them became saturated and began to slide. They also have confirmed that a little-used navigation canal helped amplify and intensify Katrina's initial surge, contributing to a third floodwall collapse on the east side of town. The walls and navigation canal were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for defending the city against hurricane-related flooding.
The Corps is not ready to accept these preliminary findings, which indicate that the problem started many decades ago.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Fresh start in Belfast

One of the NHL's great players is now playing for the Belfast Giants. Theo Fleury is 37 and has been fighting alcohol and drug habits for a long time. These demons cost him his place on an NHL roster. Now he is "here in Belfast with my fiancée Jennifer determined to make a fresh start, doing something unique in my life that I can look back at with pride". I hope he makes it.

Not a prostitute

I tuned into Newstalk for a few minutes at lunchtime and heard an incredible amount of damning criticism of the Sunday Independent for reporting that Lawlor was with a prostitute when he died (couldn't find the article that was particularly cited). Independent newspapers has apologized to the Lawlor family. Fair enough, I guess. {It seems a little odd that we're worried that his family may be scandalized by the story that Lawlor died while with a prostitute, but not by endless stories about his almost legendary corruption.}

Still, I didn't find the prostitute reference in the Sunday Independent, but in the Observer. Will the Observer apologize too? And, what of this remark in yesterday's Observer?
It is known that, while on regular trips to Prague, Lawlor, the first Irish politician to be jailed for corruption, visited brothels and sex clubs in the Czech capital.
Well, how is it known? Is it any less scandalous to have claimed that he died in a car crash while traveling with a prostitute than to claim that he frequented brothels? And, if he frequented brothels, what's the big deal? But, if he didn't, where is this stuff coming from?

The person who should be getting the apologies is Julia Kushnir, the woman in the car with Lawlor. The Irish Times describes her as "a 32-year-old mother of two who worked as an assistant to the partner in the legal firm that Mr Lawlor used in Prague". I doubt she checks in here regularly, but I'll say I'm sorry. I was too quick to accept what I read in yesterday's Observer.

Who was Liam Lawlor?

If you want a summary of his career and why he's big news in Ireland, you could do worse than David McKittrick's summary in today's Independent.

McKittrick writes that Lawlor did not have
the political sense even to try to conceal the obvious corruption. He did not trouble to observe the common decencies of corruption.

Businessmen would sit in the public gallery of Dublin County Council during meetings watching as Lawlor guided their applications through. Afterwards some of them and some councillors would repair to a nearby pub. There, it is presumed, cash-stuffed brown envelopes would surreptitiously change hands.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Liam Lawlor

Odd to read that Liam Lawlor was killed in a car accident today. Odd because the accident was in Russia. I guess I had imagined that Liam Lawlor wouldn't have been free to leave the country. Although, I don't think he was actually ever convicted of anything, was he?

UPDATE 8:00am Sunday: Henry McDonald says Lawlor may have been with a 'young prostitute' when he died. Even in death, there's scandal.

UPDATE 8:00am Monday: The family and the Irish Examiner's "very reliable diplomatic sources in Moscow" dispute the claim that the young woman in the car was a prostitute:
sources told the Irish Examiner that the woman was a Ukrainian national, aged 25 or 26, who worked for a legal firm in Prague and had flown into Moscow with Mr Lawlor shortly before the crash. Mr Lawlor had extensive business interests in the Czech capital.

The woman, who is understood to speak perfect English, is said to have been working in the role of legal assistant and interpreter for Mr Lawlor.
Clawing back some dignity, however, the more serious allegation was that "Lawlor was suspected of recycling cash for criminals into property across western Dublin and latterly into eastern Europe" (from McDonald's article).


And, by the way, if any country stands to lose in this tug of war over the internet and "cultural diversity", it's Ireland. Ireland does very well out of trade between the US & EU and many Irish citizens make good livings on their ability to create cultural products that appeal to both Americans and Europeans.

Protecting "cultural diversity" is simply protectionism (and, also an attempt at controlling freedom of expression) under another name. This is the sort of thing that can escalate quickly and Ireland could be the biggest loser of all. It's certainly in Ireland's interest to try and defuse this situation now before it gets any worse.

Controlling the internet

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, wants control over a key piece of the internet to be taken away from California-based ICANN and given to some multinational body, presumably under UN auspices. Reding argues if the control remains entirely within the US then "countries like Russia, China and some Arab states may start to operate their own versions of the internet". She also states that
While ICANN has been working very efficiently, the EU questions that a monopolistic oversight over the internet by a single government is in the long term a good solution for this global resource, which is of key economic importance but also a network that is pivotal for the freedom of thought and ideas.

"Monopolies are never a good idea if you believe in democracy and in the freedom of the media. The EU therefore believes that ICANN should in future not be overseen by a single government, but should co-operate with all stakeholders around the globe.
What ever happened to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"? This move by the EU has nothing to do with anything Reding has said and all to do with the EU (& others) wanting to control the internet. They want to tax and regulate the internet. If you want to know what sort of regulation to expect from the EU (& others) check out UNESCO's decision this week on "culture".

Not everyone thinks the proposed change is a good idea.
It would be profoundly dangerous to now set up an international mechanism, controlled by governments, to take over the running of the Internet. Not only would this play into the hands of regimes bent on limiting the freedom that the Internet can bring, it also risks stifling innovation and ultimately endangering the security of the system.
No, that's not me speaking, but Carl Bildt, former PM of Sweden, in a recent column. I wish I shared Bildt's optimistic view that some EU leaders are not aware of what is being done in their name. The UNESCO decision shows that the EU is determined to refuse freedom for its citizens in the name of "cultural diversity".

Friday, October 21, 2005

Rory Carroll released

First of all, I want to say that I am relieved that Rory Carroll was released unharmed. However, an awful lot of the coverage gives me the feeling that if Carroll had been an American (or Briton) working for the Wall Street Journal (or Daily Telegraph or whatever) then that would have been all right. This is not only immoral, but also undermines the coverage provided in the Guardian, Irish Times, whatever.

How are we supposed to believe what we read in the Irish Times or Guardian or Independent if we first have to acknowledge that their reporters have been passed as 'acceptable' by those who are opposed to the
Iraqi government and the presence of the MNF? This is almost a mirror image of how the press functioned in Iraq before April 2003. If you're perceived to be against the US, then you can continue to write and file reports freely from Iraq, but if not we'll make sure you stop filing those reports.

Burn, baby, burn

Wicklow people want an incinerator. I haven't seen any national survey along these lines, but according to this week's Wicklow Times (survey results reproduced here) 45% of Wicklow residents were in favor of locating an incinerator in the county and a further 35% would consider such a proposal. Only 20% of respondents said 'No'.

And, many who are currently 'Would consider' become solid 'Yes' if they're promised a reduction in their waste collection charges. Has there been any national survey along these lines?

Of course, the survey doesn't offer any insight as to where exactly such an incinerator would be located, which is the $64,000 question really.

The local authorities should tackle this one right now. Put out a tender to build and operate the incinerator and build into the tender guarantees that those who live nearest get the most financial benefit with benefits reduced as the radius expands.

Internet troubles

I'm having a lot of trouble today. The Newshound is inaccessible through the usual URL, but there are many other sites that I can't seem to reach. I contacted the host company I use for the Newshound and I got this response:
The problem is with Level3, one of the biggest bandwidth provider in USA. Their network is down and many locations are not accessible now.

Our own netwok is fine and there is nothing we can do on our end to fix the problem.
The Level3's techs are working on the problem and we expect it to be fixed soon.

You can track the status of the problem here.
The Newshound can be accessed through this link, but I can't say whether everything will work for you or not.

UPDATE 12:13: All the problems seemed to be resolved around 9:30 (4:30 EDT).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

World Series on TV

I've been able to watch live baseball for the past three seasons on NASN. However, NASN never got the rights to the World Series, which is annoying. They generally show the games the following day when the results are known. The rights to show the games live are held by Channel 5, which is not available in Ireland.

Well, now we have some progress. Setanta Sports (free to all NTL subscribers) is showing the World Series live. That means all baseball fans in Ireland with NTL can watch the World Series, not just those who subscribe to NASN. The games don't start until 1am, but you can set the video if taped coverage is good enough for you.


The first sentence from Sidney Blumenthal's column today tells you that he's not really analyzing the policies of the Bush Administration, but just spouting. "President Bush is the most conservative president in modern times". This is true if you believe modern times began in 1990, but for anyone who believes modern times preceded Gulf War I, this statement is false. Ronald Reagan was a much more conservative President. Truman was more conservative.

President Bush is not a conservative. He's more of a radical than a conservative. His foreign policy is Wilsonian and his spending habits are Johnsonian (that's Lyndon, not Andrew). He has made little effort to decentralize power from Washington. He has demonstrated zero interest in rolling back the federal government's role in the economy and social life of the country. Other than the tax cut, what has Bush done - done, not just talked about or hinted at - that is in line with conservatives' ambitions?

Blumenthal says that "Bush has followed the religious right's line on stem-cell research, abortion and creationism". Again, Bush has talked the talk that social conservatives want to hear, but so far he has not really walked the walk. Not consistently and not with any conviction. Blumenthal says that conservatives have turned on Bush because he "stumbled upon a dirty little secret of conservatism: the public supports conservative presidents so long as they leave alone the liberal programmes that benefit them". Now he's crossed the line into pure fantasy.

Anyone interested in serious political analysis can see that this is not true, but that doesn't matter to Blumenthal. I'm convinced he works for free because no editor worth his salt would publish such fluff except when he has those desperately empty column inches as the deadline approaches. Blumenthal serves up five-year old campaign jargon as if it bears a relationship to today's reality and still manages to get published.

In case you missed this

The original typescript of the deciphered Zimmerman Note (or Telegram) has been found.

When I was in High School and first heard about the Zimmerman Note I was pretty skeptical. I remember asking the teacher if it was a forgery and he said he didn't think so, but he wasn't sure. So, I was assigned the task of finding out if anyone had settled that question. And, someone had - Zimmerman himself. He stupidly owned up to it a few days after it became public. It was stupid because there were a lot of people in the US at the time who assumed it was a British forgery (today's phrase would be dirty trick, I assume).

Republican - bad, Democrat - . . .

Last week the Guardian ran this headline "U2 sing out against Republican's plans to bolster fighting fund at stadium gig" on an article about two politicians who have used U2 concerts as part of their fund-raising strategies. One was Republican Rick Santorum, not exactly a house-hold name in Britain and the other was Hillary Clinton. That same day the NY Times had the same story with this headline, "U2 Moves to Distance Itself From Concert Fund-Raising".

Why would the Guardian run a headline about the unnamed Republican when their readers would ALL know Hillary Clinton's name? This is just an example of the subtle (or not-so-subtle really) biases that are just about everywhere in the British & Irish press. As far as I'm concerned this is a very minor story, but still they feel the need to once again shout out that the Republicans are wrong and bury the bit about the well-known Democrat.

Drug companies' profits

Anyone who's battling breast cancer or known someone who battled breast cancer will have their spirits lifted by today's news that Herceptin seems to be a significant breakthrough in our war against this scourge.

Herceptin isn't cheap. In the UK an annual course of treatment costs more than £20,000. And, as sure as day follows night, today's news will be followed by people complaining about drug companies 'gouging' the sick and the dying.

I can understand the emotion that leads to such arguments, but if drug companies didn't make money there'd be practically no research on new drugs. It may be unpalatable to some, but the investors who make these new drugs possible, like those who own shares in Genetech, makers of Herceptin, want a financial return. It doesn't bother me at all.


For anyone wondering why the United States has not signed up to the International Criminal Court, here's a good, quick, example of why.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Truthfully, I don't much care who ends up at the head of the Conservative Party. I don't even know much about the contenders. I don't know where they stand on the various issues.

I did manage to watch about 15 minutes from the recent party conference and all of that 15 minutes was during David Cameron's speech. He's the darling of the media, and, probably, the Conservative Party. I can't put my finger on it, but there's just something about the man's speaking style that really annoyed me.

It was only after I'd watched that speech that I learned that he was a contender for the leadership because at the time I remember thinking to myself that he'd never make it as a minister. I never even imagined that he had his eye on the premiership.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Saddam's trial

I was watching CNN this morning (after having watched one helluva baseball game) and saw a report on Saddam's trial, which starts tomorrow. It was impossible not to be moved by the family members of victims who now seek justice.

It wasn't my primary motivation for supporting the war in 2003, but still I felt proud as I watched the report. Although the anti-war people often like to claim the high moral ground, even an armada of Rainbow Warriors would never have been able to get justice for these people. Nor would there have been any peace for those who lived under Saddam.

Sure war is ugly and often bad things happen or, even, are done by those who are on your side. This doesn't change the fact that there was no peace for anyone in the region or justice for those who suffered thanks to Saddam as long as he was in power.

Just dropping by

Thanks to visiting family members, I find I don't have the time I need to keep up with my blogging lately. My visitors just don't seem to grasp that there are those out there who rely on me.

Monday, October 17, 2005

What if Kofi's last name was Haughey?

There still seems to be little outrage in Ireland regarding the oil-for-food scandal at the UN. This is despite the fact that Ireland places a very high value on the UN. In fact, the UN has de facto veto power over Irish defense policy thanks to the "triple lock".

So, where's the indignation? Why is there so little comment about the fact that, among others, Kofi Annan's son, his close personal adviser and his chosen director for the oil-for-food program have all been implicated in the scandal?

Until Annan has been proven to have links with Fianna Fáil the Irish media will have no interest in this story.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Both sides were right!

In the run-up to the Iraq War there were reasonable arguments made for and against the war. However, for a lot of people the reasonable arguments were of no interest. There was simply a lack of trust: in Bush and Blair on one side in the United Nations on the other.

The fact that the US and Britain found no WMD in Iraq served to confirm what those on the 'No' side had believed all along - that Bush and Blair were lying and couldn't be trusted. And, there's not much those on the 'Yes' side can say to them about that.

However, for those (like me) who didn't trust the United Nations the evidence is accumulating that we, too, were right. The United Nations is corrupt and its charge over the Oil-for-Food program and its veto power over restarting hostilities with Iraq were incompatible.

The arrest by French authorities of France's former Ambassador to the UN is another sign that the Oil-for-Food scandal is for real and that many of the UN's top officials were bought and paid for with Saddam's ill-gotten money. They had a vested interest in the continuation of Saddam's regime.

Booker Prize

I have to admit that I don't pay much attention to the Booker Prize. I don't read many novels and I am just not that interested in prizes for literature. There are some names on the list of winners that I don't even recognize and only four whose books I've read (and I've only read one of the actual winning books).

A few years ago I read The Untouchable by John Banville. I thought it was really good. I liked it a lot more than I liked the True History of the Kelly Gang (winner 2001).

When I heard the other day that John Banville won the 2005 Booker Prize I wasn't surprised because I'd read one of his books and thought it was good. However, I was shocked to discover that so few people bought his books. I can't understand that at all. I'm not really an artsy kind of guy or anything like a literary critic, but the book I read was not hard to read and was really enjoyable. I can't help thinking that he must have had very bad marketing.

George Washington

Tim Reid, writing in the (London) Times, says "most Americans agree on three things about George Washington, their first President: he was a great man, but a stiff-jawed dullard with revolting wooden false teeth". He may be right about the great man and the wooden teeth, but I'm not so sure most Americans consider Washington a "dullard" because I doubt that most Americans know enough about him to have an opinion at all.

From the transcript of this 2002 PBS discussion on Washington:
It’s shocking how little information is in history textbooks about George Washington. And what we’re noticing is that there are parents who are in their twenties who know so little about Washington that they cannot tell anything to their children who are in third grade or fourth grade or fifth grade. It used to be that any child who would come to Mount Vernon, I could at least mention the cherry tree fable to, and I’d get some kind of reaction. Now many of them will look at me like, ’What is this guy talking about?’ They don’t even know the myths anymore.
To me, he's just the Indispensable Man.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Value for money

There's a big scandal in Ireland right now that revolves around a computer system for the Heatlh Service that cost €150m over the past number of years, but it still doesn't work.

Well, if you think that's bad, imagine how you'd feel if you'd spent close to $1bn on ballplayers who don't win anything. Thank God George Steinbrenner's not in charge of Ireland's Department of Health.

Break in the action

Blogging has been light around here due to family commitments. Normal service should resume shortly.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Protestant vs Catholic

Ah, the good ol days of . . . the National Hockey League. Got you there, didn't I? I didn't know this either, but Dave Perkins says it was always just below the surface when Toronto played Montreal back then (in the 60s). Unfortunately, there's just no heat to the rivalry anymore. Sad times for Canadian hockey, but at least the NHL is back.

It's never over . . . til it's over

I tuned in yesterday evening (around 6:15) to watch Atlanta vs Houston. Everything was fine, cruising along to what looked like an Atlanta victory. Then something strange happened.

Houston came back from 6-1 down to tie it up on what could (should, really) have been the last batter of the game. So, they played on. And on. And on.

There's no clock in baseball; the game goes on until one team or the other has a lead at the end of the inning. Although Americans understand this fact from a young age, this is not the way any major sport in Europe is played. What should have been a 2'30" or 2'45" affair just got longer and longer. At one point the announcer remarked that it was 2 and a half hours since the home run that had tied the game. "Good God", I thought to myself. Around the fifteenth inning I thought that they should "break for tea", just like they do in cricket.

Finally, another Houston home run in the 18th inning ended the game. It was just around midnight. Three hours of "time added on" if you like. And, all I could think about was that I was really disappointed that NASN wasn't showing the next game (NY vs Anaheim) at 12:30.

Irish government backs illegal immigrants

This is kind of odd, no? I mean, isn't immigration control one the big issues here? Yet, a unanimous vote in the Dáil last week passed a motion supporting a bill before the US Congress that would "help the thousands of illegal Irish".

I have a lot of sympathy for the illegal Irish immigrants. I have family members who have only recently moved out of that status. Yet, I also think it's important for a government to control its borders.

I don't think this is a major issue, but it just seems odd that the Irish government would involve itself in the immigration policies of another country when it is such an issue here.

Reading newspapers on air

I was on Newstalk 106 again yesterday. The first time was a curiosity and I was glad to get a second chance to see if I was (a) more relaxed and (b) better. I'm sure I was more relaxed, but I'm not so sure I was any better. I sure respect anyone who can think quickly and answer clearly when on the radio. It's not as easy as doing it at the kitchen table or over a few pints.

Yesterday I took part in Newstalk's one hour review of the Sunday papers. The panel shows up at 9, goes through the papers for an hour and then we all discuss/debate some of the articles and the wider issues. One panel member didn't show up (is naming her unethical?) so it was me, a comedian whose first name was Eddie, but whose last name I can't remember and a Newstalk106 producer who pinch hit for the missing guest and whose first and last names escape me.

There were 4 main topics for discussion: paid maternity leave, the "scandal" of the Health Department's payroll system, "American politics" - mostly Condoleezza Rice's future and an Oncologist who's suing the hospital at which he works.

My last trip in to Newstalk was easier in some ways because I knew the topic and was able to gather a few thoughts in advance. This time the topics just landed on my lap and I just had to react. I don't remember saying anything outrageously stupid, which is a victory.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bush's speech

Rupert Cornwell's article also directed me to the speech that President Bush made yesterday. I listened to much of it while eating my sandwich and read the rest of it (to speed things up).

I have to say I thought this was an excellent speech. The President has neatly described the nature of the war as a war on radical Islam, Islamo-fascism or militant jihadism whatever you want to call it. And, although there isn't a lot that's new here I think it was a good time to sum up what we're doing because there's been too much drift lately (and the President's responsible for that).

This passage is a great answer to the "Let's talk to bin Laden" chorus or those who just want to leave Iraq and hole-up at home.
Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence -- the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of the killers -- and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.
The New York Times dismissed the speech as "that same old formula: the wrong questions, the wrong answers and no new direction".

To an extent they have a point. Some of the tactics used in the war have been of questionable merit and others down-right embarrassingly wrong. But, the Times never gives me the impression that they even accept that the War on Terror is necessary, so I find it hard to take their tactical criticisms seriously. In a second editorial they reveal their lack of seriousness.
Four years ago, we hung on every word when Mr. Bush denounced Al Qaeda and made the emotional - but, as it turned out, empty - vow to track down Osama bin Laden.
Bush's talk about bin Laden in September 2001 was emotional and, in hindsight, unimportant. That the Times sees fit to chide the President because bin Laden is still (apparently) breathing is an indication that they do not perceive the War on Terror to be a war at all. They want some form arrest and trial as if this whole matter was just a law and order issue.

Bin Laden's capture and/or death will not change a whole lot. Al Qaeda and their allies are ideologically driven. This is not some form of bin Laden cult and he is but one player among many. No one will be happier than me when bin Laden is plant food, but I don't think that should be the focus for the White House. If some CIA operative happens to devise a means for putting bin Laden out of business, great, but it doesn't have to rise any higher than that as a priority.

I hope this speech is the first move by the President to reenergize the war effort and rethinking some of those tactics that don't appear to be working (such as continuing to ignore the fact that our military is overstretched). The eyes are now back on the prize.

"Definitive account"

Something else that's annoying me from that article in this morning's Independent is Cornwell's description of Plan of Attack as the "definitive account" of "the administration's road to war in Iraq". Well, if Woodward's book is the "definitive account" why doesn't he have any references to Bush's claims that God told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq? Seems to me that would be a pretty significant detail to leave out of the "definitive account".

"God told me to"

This is all over the British press this morning. The Guardian and the Independent are my favorites. I like the Guardian simply for the photograph they use to accompany their article. The Independent's article is the best, however, for the naked religious bigotry on display.

The gist of the story is that in an upcoming BBC documentary former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath claims that during a 2003 meeting that he and Mahmoud Abbas had with President Bush that the President said he was told by God to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. First of all, neither the Guardian nor the Independent entertains the possibility that either (a) Mr. Shaath is misremembering or (b) Mr. Shaath misunderstood what President Bush had said. No, as far as these two papers are concerned this is exactly what happened.

The Independent goes so far to say that "the BBC account is anything but implausible, given how throughout his presidency Mr Bush, a born-again Christian, has never hidden the importance of his faith". Oh well, that's it then. Yet, just after that the Independent article refers to Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, " the definitive account of the administration's road to war in Iraq", in which Woodward writes:
after giving the order to invade in March 2003, he walked in the White House garden, praying "that our troops be safe, be protected by the Almighty". As he went into this critical period, he told Mr Woodward, "I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will.

"I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case, I pray that I will be as good a messenger of His will as possible. And then of course, I pray for forgiveness."
I always get a little nervous when I stray into matters theological because I'm just not that sure of myself. Yet, to my untrained eye there is a Grand Canyon sized gap between "God told me to" and "I pray that I will be as good a messenger of His will as possible".

I'm willing to accept that Mr. Shaath may have misremembered a word or two or that perhaps his English is not sufficient to pick up the different nuances of what can be massive differences when it comes to matters of theology. I don't really fault Mr. Shaath here, but there's no way that President Bush would not have understood how politically loaded such a statement would be and it seems "implausible" to me that he would make such a politically loaded remark to two people from the Palestinian government.

Above I used the word 'bigotry' and it's clear that the Rupert Cornwell, who wrote this story, and the editor, who decided that this - THIS - is the top story for today, believe that President Bush's faith and his beliefs are so outrageous, so bizarre that he is not fit to be President. That's bigotry.

{And, shame on the Irish Independent for running with Cornwell's story too, although not as the top story today.}

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Adam Smith abandoned

Students at Adam Smith college in Fife, Scotland have decided that they will not use the name 'Adam Smith' for their association or in any of their correspondence. You see, Smith is the embodiment of all that is 'evil' in the world today - "exploitation, greed, Thatcherism and Reaganite economics". The students feel that Smith doesn't represent "the values a students' association should stand for".

Look, students do dumb things. It's a well established truth. I was once an arrogant student myself. But I think I can safely say that I never engaged in an act of such grotesque stupidity as this.

Only a few months ago I was wondering why the local people don't make more of Smith, that Smith should be a big part of the tourist package. Well, I suppose it's just as well or the delicate students, the spoiled sons and daughters of Scotland, rich beyond the imagination of their great grandparents thanks in no small part to the ideas and philosophy of Adam Smith, would probably set up one of their smelly protests near every tour bus stop.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Hey, if anyone out there knows someone in the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles who might be willing to help me out can you let me know? Send me an e-mail and I'll send you the details.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

You forgot 'Muslim'

I'm in favor of Turkey joining the EU. What's to fear? I'm in the minority in the EU, however. Most people in the EU are opposed.

Today's Irish Independent describes the popular mood as "nervousness about admitting a large and poor nation which borders the most unstable region in the world". Well, negotiations with Romania & Bulgaria didn't cause this type of problem. Neither Romania nor Bulgaria is much richer than Turkey – Romania's GDP per capita is $7,700, Bulgaria's GDP per capita is $8,200 and Turkey's is $7,400 – and both Romania & Bulgaria border the Balkans, which could hardly be described as "stable". No, there's more to it than poor. The Irish Independent left out "Muslim" in that sentence and that is a big part of the reason for the 'nervousness'

As I said, I'm in favor of Turkey joining, but at the same time I think the EU is taking a massive gamble if it begins to move towards granting membership to Turkey prior to a sea change in public opinion. This could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

The very existence of the EU is at stake here and the issues of Islam and immigration are going to have to be faced or the popular 'nervousness' reflected in polls and the votes in Holland and France in the spring will give way to animosity. It won't take much for a political movement to capitalize on that animosity and bring the whole European project down.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The NY Times discovers chavs

Thanks to Eddie, who e-mailed this to me. I had missed it.

When I was in the east of England in August I mentioned that I was learning about the "chav" phenomenon. Now that I'm an 'expert' it was great to read about them in the NY Times.
Chavs, whether rich or poor, tend to favor gaudy jewelry and expensive-but-tacky clothes with big logos and to behave in a way that others find coarse or obnoxious.

Male chavs wear tracksuits and baseball caps; female chavs pull their hair tightly back in buns or ponytails, a style known as a "council house facelift," from the term for public housing.

. . . Chav behavior - outrageous spending sprees, drunken brawls, inappropriate public displays of affection, screaming matches with loved ones in bars, destruction of property, late-night stumbling and/or vomiting - provide celebrity magazines here with much of their material.
How can you not love the NY Times? "Inappropriate public displays of affection".

(Note the picture accompanying this article; that is not a Mets cap)

Buy one get one free

If you're looking for a pick-up truck, Vic Lala of New Orleans has one you might be interested in.
Another post-Katrina survivalist, Vic Lala, 79, has turned his front yard on Pirate Drive in Chalmette into a used-car lot.

White paint on the windows of a flooded 1969 Chevrolet C-10 pickup discloses that the vehicle "needs work," a monumental understatement that isn't fully appreciated until Lala pops the hood to reveal the rusted-out engine. But he's quick to point out that he slashed his prehurricane asking price in half to $1,000. Plus, he'll throw in a 1982 Ford F-150 pickup that the storm deposited on a low brick wall surrounding a flowerbed near the sidewalk.

Poles in Ireland

Last week Newsweek's European edition ran an article on Polish immigrants in Ireland. I haven't been able to find the article online, but I've read and heard reaction to it. First of all, I was stunned when I heard a representative from the Polish Embassy here telling Newstalk last week that there are somewhere between 80 and 120 thousand Poles in Ireland. Wow!. If that's true that means that around 2.5% of Ireland's population today comes from Poland.

Apparently the Newsweek article made it sound like Ireland was hell on Earth for the Poles who come here. From Radio Polonia's web site:
Often, when their expectations are confronted upon arrival with harsh realities, many young Poles fall into depression or alcoholism. They start steeling, ultimately, even attempt suicide. They are left on their own, with only sporadic and limited assistance from local Polish organizations, religious centers or consular authorities.

The migrant Poles are usually in the 21 to 35 age bracket, quite often with university diplomas. Still, they accept even the most underpaid job offers to stay afloat. When they lose employment, everything starts crumbling, but they stay in Ireland. Nobody likes to forfeit their dreams. When Lukasz, a historian, lost his job his girlfriend left, friends abandoned him and he found himself with no place to live in. Lukasz suffered a nervous breakdown. A Polish priest tried to convince him the sacrifice is not worth the dubious money he could earn and that Lukasz should return to Poland. But then, what kind of life is there back home without money, either?
According to Izabela Chudzicka it's not as bad as the Newsweek article made out, but maybe being the new host of a t.v. show aimed at Polish immigrants makes it more bearable being here. I'm sure the experiences of Polish immigrants range from the good to the bad to the ugly. It's always the way. One thing I can say is that from what I've seen there are church-goers in this country who are happy to see new blood coming on a weekly basis. I've seen it with Eastern Europeans and with a lot of Filipinos in my area.

Lake George tragedy

Almost impossible to fathom what happened at Lake George, NY yesterday. I've been there so many times. I've watched the tour boats go out and come in again. So routine. So peaceful. So dull. It seems incredible that 21 people could have died on a warm, sunny autumn afternoon. Nothing I've read makes sense yet. Many tour boats operate on the lake, but they always appear to be crawling along. I just don't understand how two could have been so close that one boat's wake capsized the other.

Cheers Mike

Mike Piazza, one of the two greatest Mets ever played his last game for the Mets yesterday. So many highlights. Of course, the one that most fans seem to remember is when Piazza's cool and class kept the 2000 World Series against the Yankees from sliding into an ugly brawl after Yankee pitcher (& goon) Roger Clemens picked up and threw the shattered remains of Piazza's bat at him. Clemens wasn't ejected, much to baseball's shame.

My only regret is that I didn't get to see enough of Piazza's Met career. I followed it through print and online radio broadcasts, but watching him hit during his prime was a true treat.