Thursday, August 31, 2006

The rest of the story

Both RTE (online) & the Irish Times are still ignoring the Richard Armitage angle Valerie Plame story.

Sack of Baltimore

I never heard of the Sack of Baltimore until I read Eoghan Harris's article on Sunday. The sacking of Baltimore, Co. Cork was carried out by Turks/Algerians (Muslims) in 1631. Two people were killed and 100 were carried away as slaves.

Harris provided this detail, which is also pretty interesting:
The Sack of Baltimore caused a sensation as big as 9/11, shocked Charles I and caused a major cover-up by the British authorities. And it contains all the complexities of our own time. The mastermind was not some bearded Muslim madman but Morat Rais, a sophisticated Dutch convert to Islam.
Thomas Davis wrote a poem about the event.

Mushy on Microsoft – for a day

On Tuesday I was thinking about how rarely I have any troubles with Windows crashes. I actually thought to myself, "things have improved". Windows XP is better than Windows 2000, which was better than Windows 95 (I skipped 98 - I know, I know), which was better than Win 3.1, etc. In fact, my mind drifted all the way back to the Windows-free Compaq I had in the late 80s (2MB RAM) and my misty memory of that machine never causing me a lick of trouble. So I said to myself, "Hey Microsoft, good job".

That lasted for a day (actually about 18 hours). Yesterday I installed the latest release of Internet Explorer Ver. 7. Why, oh why, did I do it? Okay, no major troubles, but still …

First, it takes so long to install it. I presume that's because Microsoft is still tying the browser tightly into Windows. (I thought that was going to end?) I have uninstalled and reinstalled Firefox a couple of times and you know what? Takes about 5 minutes to do all of that. Yesterday, it took what seemed like half an hour to finish all that was required to get IE7 running again.

The first thing I noticed is that my toolbar selections were gone. Why? Who knows? Not a biggie to fix, but regardless it left me wondering what else might not work. Then today I went through the usual steps to get my daily Mets fix, but Windows Media Player won't play. I still have no idea why and now I'm angry.

So, here I am, a mere 36 hours after I was thinking nice things about Microsoft and I'm fuming at them again. They just can't stand prosperity.

UPDATE—2pm: Solved my Windows Media Problem over lunch. Found an answer on the discussion boards at Microsoft. Whew! I have to hear those Met games. (Even though they're so far out in front now that the month of September should be nothing more than a tune-up for October.)

Twenty20 cricket

I don't really know what Twenty 20 cricket is even after reading this explanation. The game is quicker, that much I get. But, I like the references to baseball in this article from the Times (London):
The more interesting qualities that Twenty20 shares with its transatlantic cousin are subtle and rhythmic. Baseball is hugely watchable because the game changes after every pitch. When the ball leaves a pitcher's hand it is destined to be either a ball, a strike or a hit, and each has direct consequences.

Because Twenty20 has only 120 deliveries in an innings, (about the same number of pitches thrown in nine baseball innings), the import, and therefore the excitement, surrounding each is enhanced.

But the real similarity is La Russa's point. Baseball is a constantly snappy, aggressive, intense game. It does not meander. You play hard or you lose.
"Snappy" and "intense" are not two words that I've heard anyone on this side of the ocean use to describe baseball.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has admitted he was the 'source' for the Valerie Plame revelations. Unexciting news because Armitage was not part of any Bush Administration plot to 'out' Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. Still, I would have expected the Irish Times and RTE to mention this item given all the print/air time they devoted to this 'scandal' last summer. I couldn't find anything, at least online. Maybe tomorrow?

Monday, August 28, 2006


I was watching Manchester United on Saturday and was taken aback when I saw #16 on the back of someone who wasn't Roy Keane. If this were an American sport Keane's number would be retired at a future date where he'd be honored by the club. Maybe the American owners of Manchester United will start that tradition in English soccer.


First of all, let me say that I hate all these words that end in 'phobia'. According to Webster a phobia is "an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation". If people are 'afraid of Islam' that may not be entirely logical (arguable), but anyone who claims the fear is "inexplicable" is being far less logical than anyone who fears Islam.

Okay, now that I've got that out of the way …

The head of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism claims that "Islamophobia" is "being heightened by recent irresponsible media reports". What's bothering the NCCRI is the press that Sheikh Dr Shaheed Satardien got when he claimed Ireland was a "haven for fundamentalism".

Satardien was on radio shows and in the newspapers for a few days and I heard other Muslims disputing what Satardien had to say. Isn't that the way these things should work? I'm not sure what the NCCRI wants - that people like Satardien not be allowed to speak?

Even if his group is small, that doesn't mean what he had to say was unimportant. What's interesting to me is that when I heard Satardien on the radio I was reassured. I remember thinking that as long as the Muslim community in Ireland has people like Satardien we have less to fear. If anything, Satardien is generating increased 'Islamophilia'.

It's great that the NCCRI has such faith in the Gardai, but I'm skeptical that they have the cultural and linguistic skills to thwart any potential terrorist threat. Citizens like Satardien are a real plus.

Polish migration

Yesterday's Sunday Herald claimed that "[t]he current right-wing populist party running Poland is also a factor spurring immigration to western Europe". How does the Sunday Herald know this? Have they seen any data to indicate that there has been an increase in emigration since the Law and Justice party won the September '05 election? {I looked, but couldn't find anything.} Did Polish emigration not exist when the Alliance of the Democratic Left party was in control?

If they haven't seen any data, then why write such a sentence?

Apostrophe s

The head of the Apostrophe Protection Society in the UK criticized the grammar on a large billboard near Portlaoise for omitting a crucial apostrophe. The sign is advertising "Frans Crash Repairs". Oops.

I actually like grammar and wish I knew it better than I do. I just love rules. It was never emphasized when I was in school. I guess it was too archaic to teach kids how to use apostrophes, commas, semi-colons, quotation marks, etc. {When I got to college it was obvious that those kids who had gone to Catholic school had a much better foundation in grammar than did those of us who went to public school. Different philosophies…}

I keep trying to learn these things, but what really gets me now is that the rules are different on the opposite sides of the Atlantic. So now I'm not only battling my ignorance, but also the conflicts between my American education - such as it was - and the rules on this side of 'the pond'.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ryder Cup hype

The Ryder Cup was over-sold. There was a sense that the Ryder Cup was something like a weekend-long World Cup. The television audience would be "1 billion"; traders shouldn't "rip-off" the tourists who come for the golf; the Ryder Cup represents a great "opportunity to showcase the wider tourism product".

I never had the idea that the Ryder Cup was a big deal in the US. Big with golf fans? Probably, but not as big as the Masters or the US Open. I suspect that the situation is not much different with European golf fans. I've often wondered if the Ryder Cup was only really a big deal in Britain and Ireland and now we know.

Today's Sunday Business Post reports that the demand for hotel rooms is nowhere near what was expected. Rooms are apparently easy to come by.

I'm sure the organizers know - and have known for some time - that nearly all the tickets to the event were sold to people who live within a couple of hours drive from the K Club. The whole idea that there'd be a large number of people coming here for the event was false.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Baghdad or Philadelphia?

Today's Washington Post has an analysis of the Department of Defense's data on the risk exposure of troops serving in Iraq. One statistical comparison stood out.
The death rate for African American men ages 20 to 34 in Philadelphia was 4.37 per 1,000 in 2002, 11 percent higher than among troops in Iraq. Slightly more than half the Philadelphia deaths were homicides.
That just seems impossible. A young black guy in Philadelphia would actually be safer if he joined the army and served in Iraq than he is if he just stays home.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hezbollah's victory

In the aftermath of the war in Lebanon it seemed that all points of view were agreed that Hezbollah had achieved a great victory. Left, right, Arab, Israeli news sources seemed pretty much in agreement. I guess I went along with that, although the thought crossed my mind that surely Hezbollah couldn't afford too many victories like that.

Today, however, I see that Amir Taheri claims that Hezbollah didn't win.
The leaders of the March 14 movement, which has a majority in the Lebanese Parliament and government, have demanded an investigation into the circumstances that led to the war, a roundabout way of accusing Hezbollah of having provoked the tragedy. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has made it clear that he would not allow Hezbollah to continue as a state within the state. Even Michel Aoun, a maverick Christian leader and tactical ally of Hezbollah, has called for the Shiite militia to disband.
Taheri's optimism can wear me down, but it's nice to read something different for a change.

And, then there's this in the Lebanese Daily Star where Michael Young points out that Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah has a real dilemma now.
So now Nasrallah has a mounting debt owed the Iranians and little room to tell them that he cannot implement a request to heat Israel's northern border if the nuclear issue demands it. Worse, the Hizbullah leader knows that even a devotee like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will have to explain to his own poor electors why billions of dollars are being spent on building Shiite homes in Lebanon, while Iranians continue to face grinding poverty - poverty that might get worse if the UN Security Council manages to impose sanctions. How much can the Iranian regime bear financially when it comes to buoying up Nasrallah's base? Even Shiite businessmen, whether in the Gulf or Lebanon, may hesitate to offer substantial funding if they sense a new war is looming.
Maybe all that post-war gloom was a little premature.

We made you and we can break you

Count me among those who are not in favor of Pluto's delisting as a planet, but if we must change it's better to go back to 8 planets than to water down the definition to every over-sized bit of space ice. Still, I love the response of Alden Tombaugh, whose father discovered Pluto.
But the son of late U.S. astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who identified Pluto as the ninth planet in 1930, told CanWest News Service that the scientific method "guided my father all of his life," and that if reason now dictates Pluto's reclassification as a planetary 'dwarf' then "he would have been all for it" - provided politics didn't "bias" the outcome of the long-running controversy.

"This doesn't change my father's achievement," said Alden Tombaugh, a retired banker in New Mexico whose father's ashes are currently on a nine-year journey to Pluto aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. "Science is an evolving process, and he was a part of that process."
No whining or complaining. If that's what science says, so be it.

Freedom of religion

Cases such as Sarah Yule's do a disservice to the whole notion of anti-discrimination laws. Yule was asked by her employer - a Catholic hospital, as it happens - to remove her lip ring. Yule, was working as a receptionist in the ER, refused and sued. She claims religious discrimination because she's a member of the Church of Body Modification.

This is nonsense. Just because there are people who like to "suspend themselves by hooks dug into their skin" doesn't mean that when those people get together online they have formed a religion. A cult, maybe, but not a religion.

Bungling idiot?

I forgot about this one from the other day. 'Shoe bomber' Richard Reid's lawyer talked about his meeting with Reid.
"I am not crazy as they suggest, but I knew exactly what I was doing," he said. "Of course I would have been sad to have those people die, but I knew that my cause was just and righteous. It was the will of Allah that I did not succeed."

His motivation for turning to violence, he said, was the foreign policy of the US government, which, he said, had resulted in the murder of thousands of Muslims and oppressed people around the world from Vietnam to southern Africa to Afghanistan and Palestine.

… He also said that racism played a large part in the life he had experienced as a young person. For those wanting to understanding radicalisation, this is important. Reid's journey to violent jihad was not just fuelled by radical Islamist propaganda - he talked about the case of Stephen Lawrence and how that exposed discrimination in society.

… Some have claimed that Reid is educationally impaired, but he did not seem so in his talk with me. He was able to express himself and came across as someone who had passed through the state education system and then supplemented his knowledge with a large amount of self-teaching through reading books.
I know I had thought Reid was almost a figure of ridicule. I figured he was a dumb stooge. Not really true, it seems.

Aer Lingus threat

Wow! A bomb threat against an Aer Lingus plane. I hopoe (& presume) that this will be a false alarm, but still that's quite a shocker. Flight 112 from New York had just arrived at Shannon when the threat came through.

We'll have to wait to see if this is the work of one nut or a real attempt at intimidation.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Malaysia in the EU

Looking at my last two posts, I can't help wondering if there will ever be a day when there's a "Malaysia" in western Europe.

Converting from Islam in Malaysia

Lina Joy was a Muslim, but she converted to Christianity eight years ago. Shouldn't be a big deal, but it is. Joy lives in Malaysia, a country with a majority Muslim population. Malaysia's becoming increasingly Islamic and has to worry anyone (including me) who believes there should be no problem marrying Islam with freedom & democracy.
In rulings in her case, civil courts said Malays could not renounce Islam because the Constitution defined Malays to be Muslims.

They also ruled that a request to change her identity card from Muslim to Christian had to be decided by the Shariah courts. There she would be considered an apostate, and if she did not repent she surely would be sentenced to several years in an Islamic center for rehabilitation.
President Bush has often stated that democracy can take many forms. Well, a democracy that doesn't allow someone to change their religion without the possibility of being sent to some religious re-education camp is pretty far removed from a bastion of liberty.

If this is the best we can hope for with the 'democratize the world' push, then let's just stop bothering.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


This article about Belgium from yesterday's Wall Street Journal is chock full of interesting tidbits. Try this:
In Brussels, notes Joël Rubinfeld of the Atlantis Institute think tank, half of the Socialist Party's 26-member slate in the city's 75-seat parliament is Muslim. In the commune of Molenbeek, longstanding Socialist mayor Philippe Moureaux has made Halal meals standard in all schools; police officers are also barred from eating or drinking on the streets during Ramadan.
The police are barred from eating or drinking on the streets during Ramadan. That is amazing. I know nothing of that town, but just to think that there is a town in W. Europe where Islam is so prominent that during Ramadan the local constable is not allowed to gnaw on an apple as he makes his rounds is way beyond what I would have imagined. I wonder if the police are barred from publicly eating meat on a Friday during Lent? (Yeah, I know.)

And, what about the Halal meat in schools? Does that mean you can't get a ham sandwich in the town's local schools? Would you be allowed to bring one in? And, if a non-Muslim student did bring in a ham sandwich and passed it on to a Muslim, what would happen to the 'ham pusher'?

Then there's this:
Now take the Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest), the secessionist Flemish Party previously known as the Vlaams Blok until a court ruled it illegal in 2004. The Blok has longstanding links to Nazi collaborators. One of the party's founding members is Karel Dillen, who in 1951 translated into Flemish a French tract denying the Holocaust (possibly the only French text for which a Vlams Blok party member has ever shown sympathy.) For many years, the party's chief selling point was its call to forcibly deport immigrants who failed to assimilate. It also made plain its sympathies with other far-right wing European parties, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front in France.

But that's changing. Younger party leaders, realizing their anti-Semitic taint was poison, began making pro-Israel overtures. And the party's tough-on-crime, hostile-to-Muslims stance began to attract a considerable share of the Jewish vote, particularly among Orthodox Antwerp Jews who felt increasingly vulnerable in the face of the city's hostile Muslim community. Today, Vlaams Belang is the largest single party in the country.
Jews are voting for a party with "longstanding links to Nazi collaborators".

And, this:
Amid a pervasive and growing sense of lawlessness -- Belgium's per capita murder rate, at 9.1 per 100,000 is nearly twice that of the U.S. …
I think I'll see if I can verify that one. I don't know why, but I find it hard to imagine that this is true. What about the stereotype of the gun-happy American and all those well-publicized murders, etc.?

Interesting. I guess it's not all chocolates and beer.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Caveat Emptor

America is the home of capitalism, right? At least it's the world's biggest promoter of capitalism, true?

I'm just checking because in today's Irish Independent there's an article in which the US Ambassador to Ireland is warning against ripping off American tourists coming here for the Ryder Cup.

Mr. Kenny claims that if American Ryder Cup fans are ripped-off it "will cause long-term damage to the Irish tourism industry". You know what? I don't believe that for one minute. This is a specialist event attracting a specialist audience. I don't think there'll be any long term effects at all.

But, that's almost beside the point. The US State Department biography of James Kenny says
[b]efore his appointment, James C. Kenny was Executive Vice-President of Kenny Construction Company and President of Kenny Management Services. Kenny Construction Company, founded in 1927, is involved in building projects across the United States. Kenny Management Services is a new division that has overseen large, complex construction projects such as the Chicago Midway Airport expansion and the new stadium for the Chicago Bears football team.
So, I'm guessing that when Mr. Kenny was selling in a tight market he knew he could raise his prices, and when the market was slack he cut his prices to the bone. That's just a guess, of course, I have no way of knowing for sure. Seems reasonable, though.

So, if the demand for hotel rooms, restaurants, transportation or whatever is high during the Ryder Cup, isn't it natural to expect that those who are offering those services/products will up their prices? Let the buyer beware is all I say.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Vacation, all I never wanted

That B & B owner (see below) probably has little to worry about with American visitors because Americans are increasingly turning away from going away. According to a survey taken at the beginning of the summer,
40 percent of consumers had no plans to take a vacation over the next six months –— the lowest percentage recorded by the group in 28 years. A survey by the Gallup Organization in May based on telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,003 adults found that 43 percent of respondents had no summer vacation plans.
That old Protestant work ethic still alive and well, I guess.

B & B owner

This letter to the editor of the Irish Independent claims that a B & B in Donegal refused the custom of an American family because, supposedly, the owner of the B & B said he was "no longer taking booking from Americans" because "they often don't bother turning up". Could this even be vaguely true? Are Americans more likely to not turn up than other people? I'd be pretty skeptical about that.

Despite all the political tension over the past few years, I haven't heard any stories of this spilling over into the treatment that Americans receive here. I presume this, if true, is an isolated incident and not an indication that Americans may start receiving a frosty reception in Ireland.

Rich old folks

Old people in Ireland have more disposable income than ever before.
New research has revealed that almost 70pc of the country's over-60s have more disposable income than ever before, with 65pc of them saying Ireland is better now than it was 20 years ago.

Casting off the image of the sedate life of snoozing in the rocking chair by the fire, more than half the over 60s interviewed go on foreign holidays up to three times a year, and one in five owns homes other than their main residence.
If this is true, then why should they ride for free on trains & buses, never mind expanding that benefit?

France in Lebanon

The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times all have published editorials criticizing the French for not living up to the 'understanding' that France would lead the UN mission in Lebanon. There's no comment about Ireland's decision to not send any troops.

For different reasons, both France and Ireland exalt the UN. Well, it seems pretty clear that for all that exalting both nations have enough sense to recognize that the UN is really not much more than a talk shop & humanitarian outlet and that serious military missions are beyond it. This is a serious military mission with a real chance of losses and eventual failure.


Israel has said that it will reject troops serving under the UN banner from any nation with which it does not have diplomatic relations. So, what's with these headlines that accompany this story today?"Non-allied states"? Does diplomatic recognition assume some form of alliance? And, "Muslim troops"? Does that mean that Israel will be checking the religious affiliations of every soldier posted to the Lebanese border? The answer is 'No' on both counts.

I suppose this - Israel vetoes peacekeepers from countries that do not recognise it - from the London Times is just not sexy enough even if accurate. What makes this even slightly more interesting is that the Irish Independent's article is
a shortened version of the Times's article.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Policing the roads

Treacy Hogan drove from S. Kerry to Dublin and saw only one Garda checkpoint along the way – at the point where the speed limit on the M7/N7 goes from 120KPH to 100KPH despite the fact the road is wider and, to my eyes, safer at this point.

I have just finished two days of driving from Dublin-Limerick-Clare and back and during the whole trip I saw one checkpoint – on the wide open N18 from Ennis to Limerick on Tuesday evening. Traffic was light and some people were treating the road, which is indistinguishable from a motorway, as a motorway. I was obeying the limit, but did feel sorry for those who were nabbed. And, like Hogan, I saw no Gardai at all along some of the deadly roads in the area. I did, however, see my life flash before my eyes more than once when some young moron in a souped-up grandmother's car was heading right at me while he was overtaking a driver with the temerity to drive at or even slightly less than the limit on some narrow, windy road.

Supposedly this sort of thing is going to stop soon. The Gardai will be targeting the smaller, more dangerous roads. If I were a native I'd probably say, "Yeah, sure, pull the other one". But, seeing as I've only been living here for the past 15 years I'm more skeptical than cynical. My response is, "I'll believe it when I see it".

Health service

Although I'm sure someone will be able to justify it somehow, I refuse to believe - and, I don't care how reasonable your argument is it will NOT sway me - that there is any way to justify demanding that a patient come into the hospital on a Tuesday for a procedure on the following Monday because 'otherwise the bed will go to someone else'. {Yes, this does happen.} I could, possibly, be persuaded that Sunday evening might be necessary, but making someone spend 5 extra days in the hospital to suit some administration requirement is an almost immoral waste of resources as well as being inconvenient for the patient and, possibly, health-threatening given all the MRSA risk.

When things like this are no longer happening then I'll start to wonder if the public health service is under-funded. For now it's pretty clear that the system is so badly managed as to make all discussion of funding nonsensical.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Off again

I'm traveling today and tomorrow, which means there may be nothing here until Thursday.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Too young for al Qaeda

I was listening to one of the Sunday morning news programs yesterday and I heard Olivia Mitchell voice her doubts that those who were involved in the airplanes terror plot were allied with or part of al Qaeda. Her reason? They were too young. Most were only 'university age'.

I can understand why someone might be skeptical about an al Qaeda involvement, but that they were "too young"? Those who the Bank of England named last week ranged in age from 17 to 35. I sincerely doubt al Qaeda has a minimum age, but if they do I really doubt it's 25 or even 22.

A question

How did Pakistan manage to get such good information on the terror plot when they started the ball rolling with their arrest in Waziristan at the end of July?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Some basic good sense

This is the kind of passage that is far, far too often missing from op-ed's and editorials.
But even within the bleakest possible analysis of Mr Blair's foreign policy, it is still simply not true that the West is waging war on Islam. Just as it is not true that the CIA was really behind the 11 September attacks or any other arrant conspiratorial nonsense that enjoys widespread credence in the Middle East and beyond. It is also a logical and moral absurdity to imply, as some critics of British policy have done, that mass murder is somehow less atrocious when it is motivated by an elaborate narrative of political grievance.

If young British Muslims are alienated, that is sad and their anger should be addressed. But anyone whose alienation leads them to want to kill indiscriminately has crossed a line into psychopathic criminality. Policy cannot be dictated by the need to placate such people.
Policy cannot be dictated by the need to placate psychopathic criminals.

Read the full editorial

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Park & Ride at the Ryder Cup

I hadn't realized that there will be no parking at the Ryder Cup. Fans will have to park at either Palmerstown House Golf Club or at Weston Airport. Neither of those places is all that close to the K Club.

I don't really care to be honest. I'm not a golf fan, not going to the Ryder Cup and none too worried about those who are. However, it does remind me of the disastrous park & ride system employed at the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid. Lake Placid and the roads in and out were too small to handle all the Olympic traffic. The organizers decided that a park and ride 10 miles or so outside the town would be the best idea. Didn't work out, however. Too few buses, fans arriving at all sorts of times and cold weather - I mean seriously cold (below zero Fahrenheit) - added up to a near catastrophe. I presume the Ryder Cup folks won't have similar problems.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Business as usual

I think what amazes me most about the British terror scare is how blasé the British are about the threat. Here you have a couple dozen of their own citizens - middle class citizens - planning mass murder on a vast scale. Even if the planes had exploded over US cities, a large number of the dead would have been British. And, just what would it do to the British tourism industry if Americans are being targeted on their return flights?

At some point the fabric of British society will tear apart if plans like this start to come to fruition. Just how much death and destruction will the British people tolerate before they call for draconian measures specifically aimed at British Muslims? It's illogical to presume that this will never happen. All those anti-discrimination laws and multi-cultural aspirations will be jettisoned and be no protection to Muslims.

The only hope for avoiding this future is for British Muslims to come to the fore in calling for these people to be rooted out and voluntarily call for some tighter surveillance in their neighborhoods. It may be unfair, but this is not the time for British Muslims to just 'get on with their lives'. It is time for them to step up and confront, condemn and exclude from their neighborhoods those who would kill thousands of their fellow citizens.

Enjoying a drink

After writing yesterday's post about drinking I started wondering if I gave the impression that I'm a teetotaller or some form of puritan (I probably am, but not when it comes to alcohol). It's kind of like bad driving. I'm not 100% pure, but I'm nowhere near the worst offender. And, I can recognize there's a problem here.

I like beer, wine, etc. I really like a glass of wine (or two) with dinner and the occasional strawberry daiquiri during the summer. I don't go out much, but when I do I like a pint in a pub. Yesterday evening I was watching the Met game - a rare midweek noon start in NY - and I grabbed a beer during the 6th inning, but during an ad break I started thinking about what I had written.

To people here, Irish-Americans are just American. They hardly recognize the 'Irish' aspect to those called Murphy or O'Connor or whatever who are born and raised in the US. Well, I can tell you that if there's one aspect of Irishness that is very evident among Irish-Americans, it's the drinking. The primary difference is that Irish-Americans live among other ethnic groups and in a general culture where drinking is just not as tolerated.

It's subtle, but there is a definite difference in how easily people here accept drunkenness. Not just a gentle buzz, but falling-down drunkenness. You see more of it at weddings, parties and just out on the street - especially in daylight and not just winos - than you will in New York or Boston. There's no shame to it.

Identifying the problem is easy. Correcting it is not. Drunkenness should not be acceptable or 'cool'. It probably always will be among students, but people should grow out of that. Too many here do not. I don't think a temperance movement would work, but I don't have a clue what will. Maybe there's no cure, other than the disappearance of the disposable income that is so easily poured down the drain today.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Nothing on board

Wow. I hadn't realized just how tight the restrictions on hand luggage on flights out of the UK are today. No electrical goods of any kind on the flight, no eyeglass cases and no newspapers, magazines or books can be brought on board. Even car keys are banned.

I just had a thought - are watches banned?

My name is Ireland and I'm an alcoholic

There's too much drinking here, particularly binge drinking however that's defined. Although I think the proposal to get the drinks industry to voluntarily cut back on advertising is doomed, something has to be done (and, no, it doesn't have to be done by the government).

I don't think advertising actually leads to more drinking. Advertising for alcohol is, I believe, more about market share than market growth. Reducing the amount of alcohol-related advertising will have zero effect on the health of the nation.

It can be difficult to pin down, but drinking just permeates the culture here. Advertising is about selling specific products, but the market size is really built by the attitude to drinking in the society.

All family occasions – weddings, funerals, Christenings (you have to 'wet the baby's head') – demand alcohol. Social occasions are built around alcohol. "Are you going for a pint?"

These traditions are only a small part of the problem. The real problem is that these traditions have created a tolerance that, combined with all the new money, makes it almost impossible to imagine what can be done to convince people to drink less.

Walk through Dublin on a summer's evening – well before nightfall – and you'll have to pick your way through hordes of drinkers who've abandoned the pub for a smoke or some fresh air. All strata of society (young, old, rich, poor) are out on the street, frequently inebriated, unbothered about who might see them. I don't think it's legal, but do the Gardai make any effort to prevent this? Not that I've seen. There's just nothing 'unacceptable' about it.

That's only a small example. It's impossible to say how much is 'tolerable', but right now Ireland is drinking too much. The nation needs a friend to look us in the eye and say, "You've got a problem".

No hand luggage

I can't imagine flying with my family to America with no hand luggage. We generally bring a ton of stuff for entertainment purposes. Still, obviously, it's nothing compared with what might have been.

I know I wanted to say something else about another topic, but I can't remember what it is now. This story has knocked it right out of my head. Maybe it'll come back to me.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

'We'll notify you if we feel like it'

I only realized today that my NCT is due before the end of the month. It comes up every two years, sue me if I forget. I called to make an appointment and was told, "we'll send one out to you". Beautiful. No chance to pick my own time/date/etc.

While I was on the phone I remembered that in the past I had received a reminder about the NCT when my date was approaching. This is how it works with the car tax and the insurance. So, I asked the woman on the phone about the reminder. Her answer was a classic monopoly response, "We only send our reminders when we can".

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Democracy - uggh

One third of Americans believes that the government was part of the September 11 conspiracy. Good Lord. And, to think, I support a system that allows these people to help select who runs the country.

Angry at the government - fine by me. I just don't understand how so many people believe in these vast conspiracy theories. Remember, the federal government isn't really any different from the local parking regulations bureau. Systematic incompetence and buffoonery are the rule.

What a waste

I've been kind of struggling to come up with anything to say here lately. Writer's block or just general malaise, I don't know. Anyway, I feel the juices starting to get going again thanks to my favorite topic - waste disposal.

Apparently, my waste disposal company has been taken over. I knew that it was too good to last. Now my good deal is gone. My waste disposal bill just jumped by 33% PLUS I was told that I'll have to pay for the recycling collection too. We'll see how often I pay that one seeing as there's a FREE recycling center within ½ mile of my house.

Not interested? I'm sure, but maybe I can at least get my head going again. Have I mentioned lately that the Mets are still going well?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Speaking ill of the undead

Funny, but I never imagined that Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell was Cuban by heritage and Puerto Rican by birth. Obviously, the name put me off.
Lowell, 32, recounted the trauma the Castro regime has caused his family.

"My dad had to pack up his suitcase at 10 years old with his three brothers, who had nothing. And my mother was 11 years old and my grandfather, who'd been a dentist for 15 or 20 years, had to go back to school to be (politically) re-educated," Lowell said.

"My cousins were political prisoners. My father-in-law was a political prisoner for 15 years because, at 19, they asked him if he agreed with communism and he said, 'No,' so they sentenced him to death. That's not the way to live. I know it's terrible to say, but I think of all of that and I hope he (Castro) passes away.

"I don'’t care if he dies," Lowell said. "There are so many people who have died because of him and there's been so much wrongdoing and so many human rights violations that I hope he does die. That sounds bad, but it's the truth."
Lowell, like many (most?) Cuban-Americans is just waiting for Castro to die.