Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Where's the coal man?

While I'm moaning about the price of things, the natural gas bill came in the other day. Whoa! The bill for Dec-Jan is 31% higher than last winter's bill. Our usage was up by 6.5% so most of the increase is due to higher gas prices.

Almost time to start burning books.

Cheaper to call

I can't get over how much the cost of sending letters to Britain has risen recently. I'm doubting myself, but I seem to remember that a few years ago it was the same cost to send a letter to Liverpool or London as it was to send a letter to Galway or Cork. Now it's 48c for a letter within Ireland, but 75c to send a letter to Britain (same as anywhere else on Earth).

It seems to me that the Post Office expects us to send e-mails and/or text messages rather than sending a letter.

Curling explosion

The New York Times reported yesterday that curling is experiencing a massive interest thanks to the t.v. coverage of the games in Turin. I'm sure a lot of that is just flash-in-the-pan type interest, but I can see the appeal too.

When I was learning to drive, I turned in at our local curling club to make a U-Turn. I was in a hurry to get right out of there because I had no idea what went on in that building and was afraid someone I know would see me coming out. I can't remember what I imagined, but ice, stones and brooms wasn't it.

I don't think there's anywhere to curl in Ireland, but it seems there is an Irish Curling Association.

Severing ties with China

I like to think of myself as a friend of Taiwan. Still, I think President Chen of Taiwan is N-U-T-S if he thinks that the US is going to leap to Taiwan's defense if things get hot between them and China. I hope he knows what he's doing by cutting what are, after all, only symbolic ties.

Fiction and/or non-fiction

To my layman's perspective it seems odd that someone who wrote a book that is "non-fiction" would get all that upset to see that their radical rewriting of history was being adopted and adapted into a best-selling novel and, potentially, a hit movie. Yet, that's the basis of the lawsuit against Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown by Holy Blood/Holy Grail authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh.

I've read both books and there seems little doubt that Brown borrowed heavily from Baigent & Leigh's book. (Interesting that the third member of their team, Henry Lincoln, doesn't seem to be involved in the law suit.) Still, weren't they just setting the record straight? I suspect that they're just raging with envy because Brown had the good sense to take their work of 'history' and turn it into a big money maker as fiction.

Gardaí's intelligence

I don't comment on things that are featuring on the Newshound, but I don't think I'm really violating that principle too much by saying that if the Gardaí have gaps in their intelligence with regards to who organized Saturday's disturbances, it doesn't fill me with confidence when I consider the Gardaí's efforts against al Qaeda.

Saturday in Dublin

I was in Dublin on Saturday, but I had left and gone home before anything started. It was pretty quiet when I was there. I didn't see anything other than a number of Welsh Rugby fans looking for that first pint before breakfast.

If you want the details and the political reactions/implications of what happened on Saturday, go to the Newshound. If you're looking for blog coverage, go to Slugger O'Toole. Dick from Back Seat Drivers was there and he posted some pictures. I haven't had time to go through the blogs in any detail, but I'm sure that Saturday's 'events' are well covered.

The Emerald Diamond

I have no idea if The Emerald Diamond, the movie about the Irish National Baseball team, is any good, but I admire filmmaker John Fitzgerald's PR skills. More on the movie's premier from the NY Post (thanks Eddie) and the Westchester Journal News.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Baseball in the UK

I only just found this article from the London Times, January 5. Although baseball has been vetoed for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, there's a possibility that there will be a regular season Major League game at the Oval cricket ground in 2008. The game is supposedly going to feature the Yankees and Red Sox (somehow I doubt that, really) and be played around July 4.

Great idea, but shouldn't the game be played at the Baseball Ground?

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Okay, I'm willing to concede that figure skating is a sport - barely - but what sport has a "gala" after the competition. The gala features basically the same entertainment, but without any medals. So, no pressure. I just can't picture the World Series finalists playing a an exhibition game after the championship is decided. And, this goes for pretty much any 'real' sport.

Iraqi civil war

One aspect of the possible Iraqi civil war that rarely gets mentioned is that there's no good reason to assume it will involve only Iraq. There are Sunni and Shia Muslims spread throughout the region. Would either one of those groups be willing to sit back and see how things play out in Iraq? During her recent tour of the Middle East Condoleezza Rice was told that sectarian violence could spread throughout the region (& beyond? - what about Pakistan?).

I've heard a few people compare Iraq with Lebanon. However, what rarely gets mentioned is that Lebanon was a Christian vs Muslim battle - the Lebanese Christians didn't have a large sympathetic population in neighboring states.

I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel on the Iraqis yet. I still believe a national unity government is possible and that common sense will keep the bulk of Iraqis working towards a peaceful and prosperous future. But, that scenario sure doesn't look inevitable this week.

Friday, February 24, 2006


The US won its first ever curling medal today. They beat Great Britain to take the Bronze.

By far, these guys (men's and women's teams) were America's classiest competitors at the Games. You can keep your sulky speed skaters, fussy figure skaters, snarky skiers, silly snow-boarders and haughty hockey players. The curlers - all the teams - are a throwback to what I remember about the Olympics from when I was a kid.


I guess the News Letter doesn't take its web publication too seriously. Their web site was not updated on Feb. 22 or Feb. 23 and they've just decided to plow on with Feb. 24. I guess I'll never know what they had to say on those two days.

Irish reaction to the cartoons

I forgot to mention this. You might remember that I was skeptical that the Irish public "abhorred" the publication of the Danish cartoons, although President McAleese said we did. Well, she was right.

According to the Sunday Independent's poll 65% of people polled answered "Yes" to this question.
President McAleese told the Saudis that Irish people 'abhorred' the cartoons. Does that represent your opinion?
And, no matter how hard the Sunday Independent tries to say otherwise, the Irish people abhorred the cartoons and felt the President was right to say so in Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

More on the ports

I found this article by Mansoor Ijaz fairly convincing.
Dubai was the first Middle East government to accept the U.S. Container Security Initiative as policy to screen all containers for security hazards before heading to America. In May 2005, Dubai signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to prevent nuclear materials from passing through its ports. It also installed radiation-detecting equipment — evidence of a commitment to invest in technology. In October 2005, the UAE Central Bank directed banks and financial institutions in the country to tighten their internal systems and controls in their fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

These are not the actions of a terror-sponsoring state.
I think the biggest difficulty for all of us who are NOT in the know is to assess the UAE's efforts to provide assistance in the War on Terror. However, Ijaz's description of the UAE does sound an awful lot like the ideal we'd like to see achieved in Iraq, no?
It seems patently hypocritical that America wants democracy in the Middle East, champions capitalism and global integration, pushes for reform, transparency, and anti-corruption practices in business, and then turns around and tells those who are practicing what America preaches, Sorry, we think you folks are a bunch of terrorists, so we don't want you on our shores and don't trust you running our ports.

Half mast maple leafs

The Americans are having a bad Olympics. Most of the big names (in these minor sports) seem to be letting them down. The British have one medal, but they are now out of both curling competitions so this can't be a good Olympics for them either. The Japanese have ZERO medals, which is pretty poor for a nation that hosted the winter games only 8 years ago when they won 5 golds and 10 medals in total.

Until yesterday Canada was having a pretty good games. They're fifth in the medals table. But, yesterday the Canadian hockey team was knocked out of the tournament in the quarterfinals. No Canadian medal in hockey, a sport that is pretty close to their national religion. I don't even think the US losing in baseball would come close.

Now, hopefully, the National Hockey League will realize the folly of letting its players take part in the Olympics. Let the Olympics be for amateur players or those from minor leagues.

The only people having a worse Olympics than the Canadian hockey team are the Canadian and American television companies that are broadcasting the games.

Port storm

I know next to nothing about what managing ports entails. But, I think I'm in pretty good company because I'm pretty sure that many of those who are outraged (bordering on hysterical) about the sale of American ports (by a British company) to a Dubai-based company are nearly as clueless as I am.

President Bush is getting it from those on the right and those on the left because he won't stop the sale. Mayor O'Malley of Baltimore has essentially said, "Give me British ports or give me death" while speaking about the port where the Star Spangled Banner was written.

First of all, I think it would probably be easier for al Qaeda to infiltrate a British company and gather useful intelligence than it will be to do so with an Arab company in charge. That company still wants to make money and they will be aware that everyone's going to be watching them closely. Second, the US Coast Guard & Customs authorities are still responsible for security at the ports.

Now there are people who just don't trust Arabs/Muslims and they're not happy about this deal. I can understand their reasoning. What I can't understand is how someone can be in favor our big nation-building project in Iraq, but at the same time think that your A-Rabs are just not trustworthy.

I also can't understand how those who get all riled up about racial profiling aren't just a little squeamish about their fear-mongering regarding Arab business owners, who will more than likely be thousands of miles away from the US on an everyday basis. If Arabs can't own a business formerly owned by a British company, how can they be trusted as members of the armed forces, police, etc.?

Exam question II

Just beneath the question I've mentioned below there's another True or False question: "Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese airforce in World War II".

Why would anyone use the word 'airforce' in that question? I don't understand that. Is there some political motivation?

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (no 'u'), but was it the Japanese airforce? I don't know. What if a kid knows enough to know that the attack was by the Japanese Navy and believes the air force is a separate entity from the navy. That's pretty much the language used today. Some kids might easily answer FALSE and I think you could make a good argument that they are correct.

Exam question

I was looking through the 2005 Environment & Social Studies Junior Cert exam and came across this True or False question: "Russia was an ally of Germany during World War II".

Now I could get all nit-picky and say the answer must be FALSE because Russia was not an independent state at the time, but a part of the USSR. Okay, this is a test for 14 & 15 year-old kids so I'll let that go. Let's assume they mean the USSR where they say Russia. Is it true or false?

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 essentially made the Soviets and Germans allies. Ask the Finns. Ask the Poles, who were allies of the British and French when the Soviets jointly occupied Poland with Germany. So, I think TRUE could be considered right.

But, of course, after June 22, 1941 the Soviets and Germans were definitely not allies so FALSE is also right.

I wonder what would have happened if a kid had answered BOTH. I'm sure whoever set the exam was expecting a 'FALSE', but I'd also like to bet that few of our Polish immigrants would accept that as correct. Their children might just argue with the exam board.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Why you should be a curling fan

Alex Massie spells it out:
After all, curling's advantages are many and great. It is a sport for normal people, not freaks of nature. Physical fitness is not of paramount importance —— nerve, poise, and judgment count for much more. There's no recourse to performance-enhancing drugs, unless you count a pre-match shot of whisky. And I'd like to think maturity helps.

On that note, curling is a sport in which character counts. Yes, you need courage and skill, but it's considered poor form not to buy drinks for your vanquished opponents. Showboating is frowned upon. There's no trash-talking.

Close Guantanamo NOW

There I did it. I took that brave stance. And, while I'm on it, I'd like to also call on the American government to cease all rendition flights through Shannon Airport. Wow is my heart beating fast now.

It's not easy being so courageous. I'll be checking under my car and looking over my shoulder for a while. I'm sure my neighbors will look at me suspiciously, such is the support for Guantanamo around here. And, don't talk to me about rendition flights. One or two people in this area go around with laser pens marking out those who they deem to be ready for the CIA to scoop up and ship off to Diego Garcia or wherever.

What do you mean that it's hardly brave to parrot what just about every talking head on the radio or t.v. has been saying for months/years? Only this week I heard someone compliment David Norris on the bravery of his call for an end to CIA torture flights through Shannon. Surely my call is no less "brave".

Shopping in the US

The Irish Independent has a 'big scoop' this morning. It seems the customs authorities are basically turning a blind eye to all the shopping that Irish people are doing in the US, not enforcing the €175 limit for gifts and other purchases. I don't see this as a big deal.

I've probably exceeded this limit a couple of times, although I'm not sure how it really works. If I buy clothes that cost €200 in the US, but then wear them before I pack them up and fly back, they couldn't be valued at €200. I mean, used clothes are barely worth anything, right?

Also, it seems to me that it would be very hard for the customs authorities to be sure that the iPod or digital video camera you're bringing into the country hadn't left with you a few days earlier. I carry a laptop computer with me when I travel. How are the customs authorities supposed to know if I bought it here or in the US? (For the record, I bought it here)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Justice for David Irving

To be honest, I'm not even a little worked up about David Irving's fate. He strikes me as an incredibly arrogant and stupid man. But, if the Austrians execute him, I'll endeavor to be the first to deny that it ever happened.


I never had a digital camera until recently. Now I've got loads - too many, probably - of pictures of all sorts of things. I still have to figure out this flickr thing.


By the way, the term 'non-nationals' is interesting. I never heard this until recently, possibly the past 12 months.

I was thinking about this the other day. Why is non-nationals the term of choice rather than the more traditional 'immigrants'. Does 'immigrant' have negative connotations?

Or does this have something to do with the fact that many immigrants are nationals? I figure I'm an immigrant - I moved here from another country to take up permanent residence - yet I am not a non-national as I was born a citizen of Ireland thanks to the fact my mother is Irish. Maybe the north plays a part in this too? I really don't know.

Anyway, I've heard a few people use the term with disdain. A non-national, an immigrant, a blow-in – a rose by any other name . . .

Road deaths & 'non-nationals'

From what I've heard on the radio, it seems a consensus is building that 'non-nationals', particularly eastern Europeans, are a big problem on the roads, that they are responsible for a disproportionate number of road deaths. Maybe they are and maybe they aren't. I haven't seen a whole lot of data.

Yesterday's Irish Examiner provided some numbers regarding the number of road accdents and deaths involving non-nationals. 800 serious accidents last year involved non-nationals and 15 of the 63 deaths this year have been non-nationals. Of course, 5 of those were thanks to that one horrific crash over the weekend.

Had the Examiner told us how many "serious accidents" there were in total for all of 2005 it would have been possible to evaluate whether non-nationals were involved in a greater number of serious accidents than their numbers would lead us to expect.

Given the age profile and numbers of non-nationals here, I'm not sure that there is a statistically significant figure here.

The glare of the Olympics

Just because Ice Dancing's not a sport doesn't mean I don't enjoy some of it. My favorite moment in the competition is recalled in this article from today's NY Times. Just as the Italian couple was finishing their routine on Sunday night Maurizio Margaglio fell over and dropped his partner Barbara Fusar Poli. When they finished Fusar Poli fixed a stare on him that scared the daylights out of me and I was a thousand miles away.

The picture shown here by the Times doesn't really capture it. This one is better. I'm sure he was just glad she couldn't possibly have concealed any weapons in her skimpy costume.

No sign of the CCCP

It's amazing how many Russian ahletes I've seen making the sign of the cross during these winter games.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Irish baseball

The Sunday Times has more about the soon to open movie about Ireland's national baseball team. If only I were 20 years younger . . .

Our youth season gets going on March 4 with the first practice session.


Curling is a sport. It's a slow one, yes, but it doesn't require anyone to evaluate the artistic merit of the performance in order to determine who wins and who loses. Watching curling is kind of like watching golf.

Anyway, I saw some curling over the weekend. You know you're dealing with a minor sport when both US teams come from the same small town, Bemidji, Minnesota (population 11,917). They're all members of the same Curling Club.

One of the best things about curling is that the teams wear mikes so we can hear them strategizing and communicating during the action. I love listening to the British curlers, particularly the men. I can't understand most of what they're saying, yet I know they're speaking English. The Scottish accents are nearly impenetrable, for me at any rate. I think I understood more of what the Finns were saying to one another during yesterday's game.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ice dancing

Here's an original statement: ice dancing is not a sport. I can just about handle figure skating, but when I hear commentators discussing choreography it's a million miles from a curveball, a jump shot, a down-and-out, a slapshot, a free kick, whatever. And, the female competitors wear less clothing than the beach volleyball participants.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Alive - thanks to the A-bomb

RAF man Michael McInerney believes he's alive today thanks to the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. McInerney didn't have much hope of surviving the expected long war to subdue the Japanese.
I have never had any moral compunctions in my life about the launching of the nuclear age. I attribute my own presence here today to the atomic bomb.
Whenever the topic of those bombs is raised in any discussion here, there's rarely any dissent from the "using those bombs was immoral" perspective. McInerney's story is not atypical of allied servicemen in the Pacific in the summer of '45. Thousands, perhaps millions of their lives and those of Japanese soldiers and civilians were probably saved by the decision to use the atomic bomb.

Lickin the spoon

Today's kids are missing out on the joy of licking the spoon, according to an article in today's Daily Telegraph. Mothers are too busy to bake. Fortunately my wife bakes, but unfortunately for my children, they're not fast enough to beat me to the spoon so they're "missing out" too. They'll probably need counseling when they're in their forties.

Mussolini, Franco & the Jews

I meant to bring this up a few days ago. Jonah Goldberg of National Review said the following recently:
There's just a lot of mythology out there about how various countries behaved during the war. People forget that Fascist Italy and Franco's Spain were arguably the best Jewish safe-havens in Europe (in Italy, that is, until 1943 when the Nazis took over).
I've never heard anything like this before.

And, while I'm on the Olympics

What sort of an athlete hoping to win a top level competition blames his failure on the fact that he missed the bus to the competition and therefore he "didn't feel my inner peace today. I didn't feel my aura was white. My biorhythms were out, and I was all black inside". What sort of an idiot is Johnny Weir?

Swifter, higher, stronger

Any sports fan who saw Lyndsey Jacobellis grab her board unnecessarily and fall during what should have been a simple coast to gold on Friday knows what Jacobellis is: LOSER. Today's NY Times editorial tries to defend Jacobellis because "she was having fun". Well, you know what? If that's what snowboarding is about then it doesn't belong in the Olympics. There's nothing about "having fun" in citius, altius, fortius.

Either snowboarding is a real sport that deserves the attention of sports fans or it's professional wrestling - fun pretending to be a sport. Jacobellis may have been having fun, but she was not being an Olympian. I'm glad she lost.

The lunatics on the air

I was listening to the Very Last Word this morning while driving. First thing I heard was some nut case Irish Muslim convert trying to explain why Saudi society is better than our own (Irish, the west generally). I can't remember his name, but it doesn't much matter. He kept referring to his hopes that Mary McAleese will adopt Islam, "inshallah". I couldn't take him seriously and I'm not sure why anyone should.

When Matt Cooper was finished with him, I said to myself well that's my quota for listening to the insane today. Then, I went over my quota.

A few minutes later, Cooper was talking to some woman who went on and on about how some ferrets were psychologically traumatized during a t.v. show on RTE earlier in the week. They weren't injured or anything, but they did have to race against one another. This is what psychologically traumatized them. They "aren't used to studio lights, crowds", etc. They aren't trained to perform. ETC. A stupid show, without doubt, but listening to this woman I had the feeling she wanted the show's producer's prosecuted. After about 5 minutes of her whining, I started wishing the Irish Muslim convert would come back on.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Time off

Night after night there are pictures of large midday protests from Pakistan about the cartoons that were published in Denmark. Do those people all work nights?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Tech problem update

Last summer I mentioned a problem I was having with my laptop keeping time. I was assured by Dell that it was a software, not a hardware problem. And, you know what? They were right.

I solved the problem and it's got something to do with Microsoft's automatic update feature, which they changed last summer. So long as I don't allow Microsoft to automatically update my PC, but rather go to update.microsoft.com and get Microsoft to scan my system for necessary updates, I don't get that clock problem. Weird, huh?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Saddam's trial

I'm yet to be convinced that anyone, other than Saddam, is better off with the proceedings in Iraq. I think the Romanian model is looking better by the day.

More Boston than Berlin

Mary Harney once insisted that Ireland is closer to Boston than Berlin. This is being proven with the Dublin Port Tunnel. According to today's Irish Independent, the soon-to-open (?) tunnel is "leaking heavily". Big Dig anyone?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Decline & Fall of Europe

Fareed Zakaira, writing in today's Washington Post, says that although there's a lot of talk about the rise of Asia to challenge the US, the real story of the next decade will be the decline of Europe. "If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German".

Zakaira talks about one of my favorite topics - demographics - and drops in a common solution, which is to let old people work longer. However, Zakaira notes that unemployment among old people is already low and that any attempt at changing the retirement age leads to protests.

All of which is true, but even if a large number of people worked past today's retirement dates and stayed in employment until 70 or more, it would not change the fact that old people are more conservative and less dynamic than young people. Young people are more likely to take risks, start new businesses, challenge the established order.

Immigration is the only solution, but the problem with that is that it will be mostly Muslims who come to fill the void. And, it's looking increasingly likely that rather than a gradual change in society as Muslims alter the political balance, the 'native' Europeans will hold rigidly to what they have until there's some form of revolution.

Monday, February 13, 2006

We were "abhorred"

Definition of abhor: to regard with extreme repugnance : LOATHE

Abhor. That's the word President McAleese used yesterday in Saudi Arabia in her remarks on the cartoon controversy.
We abhor the publication of those provocative cartoons. They were designed to provoke, they were designed to be rude and they were designed to enflame. They did all of those things," she said.

"But equally I would say that our Muslim community share with the Irish community generally an abhorrance of the use of violence in the expression of anger and hurt," Ms McAleese said.
I'm sure she's right the use of violence, but I'm not sure that most Irish people do abhor the publication of those cartoons. I'd like to see a poll on that one.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Saving €'s

Any of you who've been coming here regularly know I love to moan about my waste collection service & fees. Well, for some reason, two new competitors entered our local market during January. And, one of them has a deal that will allow me to cut my waste bill by approximately €190 per year (down to around €90 from €280). You bet I jumped all over that one.

When will I be too old?

My daughter got the Arctic Monkeys album the other day. I really like it - a lot more than she does, I think. I was kind of skeptical after I read this in the NY Times, but after a couple of listens I'm hooked.

These guys are half my age. Shouldn't I be looking for the Tony Bennett albums now?

Worse than 'New' Coke

Almost impossible to believe, but Diageo is launching a 'low-alcohol' version of Guinness. Okay, sacrilege is too strong a word, but yeccch comes to mind. It was bad enough when some pubs starting serving that 'extra cold' nonsense.

I heard some guy on the radio yesterday insisting that it tasted the same. That's beside the point. You just don't do this. Brewed first in 1759. They got it right then.

Winter Games

To celebrate the beginning of the Winter Olympics, which begin tonight, the Irish Echo has a story explaining the links between hockey (ice variety) and hurling. I guess this is the Echo's way of making some link between Ireland and winter sports. Ireland has 4 athletes competing, but medals are out of the question. There isn't even an Irish bob sled team this year.

I don't really like all these professional athletes at the games, but just the same I know I'll be glued to the hockey when it's on. At least there'll be plenty of Rangers this year, including 4 on the Czech team.

Baseball in Ireland - the movie

Today's New York Times has a long article on baseball in Ireland and a small budget movie about the game's leading missionaries here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The land of opportunity

Another article about Polish immigrants in Ireland. Only this one from the Chicago Tribune is very upbeat. I see no reason why Poles can't integrate successfully in Ireland.

From one conspiracy to the next

I finished the Da Vinci Code over the weekend. I was wrong about that book. It's far worse than I had thought. It's no where near as good as anything (that I've read) by Le Carre. I've read a few of Robert Harris's novels and they're better too. I could get over the poor use of language in the early parts when I thought the book was fun, but as it headed down the stupid slope – at one point an old man who needs crutches to walk executes the kind of maneuver that would have stretched Batman – I just got fed up. I had to force myself to finish it. My advice – read Holy Blood, Holy Grail if you really want this story.

I'm now reading another novel, The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy. Why do people keep giving me these conspiracy theory novels (this one's about the Kennedy assassination). Opus Dei did it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


A survey of sorts is circulating among Irish bloggers. I'm not sure what value these things have, but Auds asked me to participate so here goes.

Gender:  Male

Age: (1-18; 19-30; 31-45; 46-60; 60+)  31-45

Nationality:  American & Irish – dual

Country of residence:  Ireland

How would you describe your political philosophy?  Government: keep it local, keep it small

Level of education (primary; post-primary; third-level; graduate; professional)  Graduate

If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (Ireland)?  Fianna Fail/PD's, maybe. Every time I've voted here I've gone for independents.

If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (UK)?  UKIP

If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (USA)?  Republican, although the Republicans have shown themselves to be just as fond of BIG government as the Democrats. And, the party I'd choose at the Federal level might not be the party I'd go for at the local level. The two big American political parties are less rigidly controlled than are British or Irish political parties.

Where do you stand on the EU?  I'm not really opposed to the EU in principle, but I think the current model of top down integration and excessive centralization is doomed.

Did you support the invasion of Afghanistan?  Yes.

Did you support the invasion of Iraq?  Yes, but I was opposed to the first Gulf War. I saw the 2003 invasion as finishing the bad job that was done in 1991, whch was then left to fester for over a decade.

Do you continue to support either or both of those conflicts?  Both, but I'm losing patience with this whole nation-building thing.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Irish politics?  Hard to say. Everything seems peachy right now.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing European politics?  Demographics. Not enough babies being born, excessive dependence on the future generations to provide for the elderly through state pensions, which means dependence on large numbers of (mostly Muslim) immigrants. I still believe Muslims can be good citizens in a democracy, but possibly not the kind of democracy we're used to in Europe.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing international politics?  Nuclear terrorism

Are you, have you ever been, and do you ever wish to be involved in politics in a party political manner?  I've never really been involved. I've thought about it, but never did anything about it.

Who would you have voted for in the past US Presidential Election?  I voted for Bush by postal vote.

Pass me another cream cake

Good news. It seems that low fat diets aren't much use for you after all.
The $415 million federal study involved nearly 49,000 women ages 50 to 79 who were followed for eight years. In the end, those assigned to a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks and strokes as those who ate whatever they pleased, researchers are reporting today.
I know I've seen something along these lines before, but this sounds like a pretty comprehensive study.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Oh yeah, one more thing . . .

How many times have I heard people say, "They're only cartoons"? Well, former Boston Globe editor H.D.S. Greenway says that cartoons generate the biggest upset.
It was always the political cartoon that got me into the most trouble. One could thunder away in the editorials, but the power of the political cartoon invariably overshadowed whatever the paper's position might be. Often, the cartoon got more reaction from irony-challenged readers who would be outraged about whatever, or whomever, we had poked political fun at that day. I used to envy my counterpart at The New York Times because that newspaper doesn't run political cartoons.

Freedom of speech

At this stage, the Mohammed cartoons and the reactions to them have been analyzed to death. Still, there are a few things about a lot of the coverage and analysis that's really getting on my nerves.
  1. I can't tell you how many times I heard or read that freedom of speech is a cherished right in Europe. If this is true, why wasn't there a greater outcry when the Swedish Pentecostal Minister was convicted and sentenced to a month in jail for a sermon he gave, which was later published, on homosexuality? He was eventually acquitted when the Swedish Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Sweden isn't the only country with such hate speech statutes. There are legal limits to freedom of speech in Europe and I think Muslims can justly ask why bigotry towards Islam is allowed, but not towards homosexuality.

  2. On the other hand, I heard a few references to Muslims living "under siege" in Europe, particularly following September 11 and the attacks in Madrid & London. Under siege? I don't think so. Muslims are still moving to the EU from other, mostly Muslim, states. What people freely choose to live "under siege"? It seems to me that for the most part Europeans have been extremely tolerant.

  3. Cartoons published in the Middle East can be vile (found through Jon). The anti-semitism is repugnant. Any Muslim being interviewed about the Danish cartoons should be forced to confront these and denounce them. I heard this raised a couple of times with Muslim commentators, but the issue was dropped too easily. And, each time I heard it raised the Muslim guest changed tack to talk about Jesus. How could any interviewer let that go?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Super surprise

I hadn't realized that I'd be able to watch the Super Bowl tonight. I thought it was on a subscription channel only, but found it on a channel I get. Not sure I'll last til the end, but it's great to be able to watch for a while. Not looking good for the Seahawks just after half-time.

Swimming lessons

Bizarre. That's the word that comes to mind when I think about my morning. I spent over three hours standing outside, in the cold, waiting in line for a place for my son in swimming lessons classes (too late to type sensibly).

I arrived at 6:45. That's quarter to seven on a Sunday morning. And, I was eighth.

That tells you how few pools there are in the area. Fortunately, I got one of the 15 places on offer.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Same old, same old?

I think not. Tourism Ireland believes that tourists are being turned off by the fact that Irish cities "are becoming indistinguishable from other European cities".

The problem is, clearly, that Tourism Ireland has failed to properly promote our unique dedication to the art of lap dancing. Centuries of Catholic oppression sought to purge Ireland of this ancient Celtic art form. Now that we've broken free of our priestly chains we can reclaim our druidic past. Lap dancing is that past.

We're so grown up now

That's essentially the message that's been coming from Newstalk all week, now that Peter Stringfellow has opened a lap dancing club in Dublin. His club is 'classy'. Those local residents who've been objecting are nothing more than 'prudes'.

From my perspective, there are so many of these places here now - Do they outnumber pubs yet? - that another one hardly seems like a big deal. Yet, I am totally on the side of the residents. I'd be driven spare if a lap dancing club opened a few yards from my family home. No matter how 'classy' such an operation is, it's still sleazy.

Maybe the local residents should try emulating actor Stephen Baldwin, who vowed to 'destroy the lives' of the patrons of a sex shop that's due to open near his home in Nyack, NY.
Once the smut shop opens in a few months, the 39-year-old star of "The Usual Suspects" plans to photograph patrons' license plates and run their names in the local newspaper to shame them from ever returning.

"We're going to notch it up and notch it up until we run this guy out of business," Baldwin told The Post last night.
Of course, the residents near Stringfellow's will probably not have the same opportunity to photograph license plates, but I would think that photographing those who are coming and going should be possible.

I'm all blushes

Frank gives me credit for the quote of the day (from my post on the Danish flags).

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Cut-rate colonoscopies

I love this cartoon in this morning's Boston Globe. I particularly like the look on the husband's face. He doesn't seem to share his wife's excitement over her hew found bargain.

Yet, why shouldn't people seek out 'deals' in their medical treatment?

I'll admit to not shopping around much myself, although I did once call a number of different doctors and ask what they charge for check-ups. Obviously price is not the only criteria, but why shouldn't patients inquire about cost if they've identified two or more doctors/dentists/hospitals/whatever whose competence is essentially equal as far as the patient can determine?

Perhaps someday when I need a colonoscopy (probably not a lunch time link) I'll call a few doctors and ask them what's their best cash price.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Danish flags

Watching last night's news report of the protests against Denmark in some Middle Eastern country, I couldn't help wondering where they got the Danish flags? Do these countries have large warehouses full of flags for just such an emergency? Or maybe they have teams of seamstresses whose primary function is to produce flags of offending countries when necessary?

I mean, okay they can get American, Israeli and even British flags easily enough. I'm sure there are some French flags to hand. But, Danish flags? I can tell you that if I was given responsibility for organizing a flag burning of the Danish flag, it would take me some time to locate one.

What if the Slovenians were the offenders? Would they be able to get a Slovenian flag as quickly? What if someone official in Saint Pierre and Miquelon gave offense? Surely that flag would take a few days to reproduce.