Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dylan on baseball

I haven't heard Bob Dylan's radio show yet. This week's show is definitely one I wish I had heard. Dylan devoted this week's show to baseball.
"If diamonds are a girl's best friend, why do so many girls get mad when you want to go to the ballpark?" Dylan says during this week's show. "You tell me."
Again, wisdom from Bob.

Baseball in Donoughmore

Off to Co. Cork this Saturday with the youth team. I haven't been down in that part of the country in a long time. Staying in Blarney, which is a few miles down the road.

If anyone knows of any internet cafes in Blarney or any other possible solution to my 'must get the Newshound done' problem, could you please let me know. I hate traveling without a good idea how I'm going to do the Newshound. I'm only going for a night, so Sunday morning is the issue.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Brasilia, Co. Offaly

I was thinking about all the nonsense over the government's planned "decentralisation" and you know what should be done? Move the whole government - lock, stock and barrel - to a new greenfield site. A new Washington, Canberra or Brasilia. Pick an underpopulated, not overly touristy area and build a great new capital city there. An exhausted bog would be ideal.

Think of the benefits. Dublin's housing shortage will be over in a hurry (although, on second thought, the value of my property would plummet). Those civil servants who are afraid that leaving Dublin will put them too far away from where the real decisions are made won't have to worry. The Taoiseach and everyone on down will be in "New Brasilia", Co. Offaly.

And, such a move will create a healthy distance between the job-creating, money-making, creative work force and the dead hand of government. I think it would be better for the wealth-creating sector to see the government as a rival, which it is, of course. Moving it to a new city will help crystallize that.

England Expects

Entertaining article about the England World Cup squad from today's NY Times. One sentence from the Times article sums up all the ridiculousness that's part and parcel of England in the World Cup.
Will Melanie Slade, the 17-year-old girlfriend of the 17-year-old forward Theo Walcott, crumble under the pressure of having her figure and her fashion sense dissected daily by the tabloids?
This kind of thing always amazes me. I mean, does anyone really care about Theo Walcott's girlfriend? Yet, the Times isn't exaggerating. I've seen this kid's girlfriend in the papers and on t.v.

Then there's this about the manager.
A seemingly inoffensive, even dull, Swede, Eriksson is known as much for his vigorous love life – his curious relationship with Nancy Dell'Olio, his indeterminately aged, perma-tanned, tight-outfit-wearing girlfriend, as well as his affairs with various other women, all of whom have been happy to discuss them publicly – as he is for the serene blandness of his public remarks and for his managing skills, or lack thereof.
I don't know all that much about the state of English soccer as compared with the other 31 nations competing, but my instincts tell me that the team is not really good enough to expect to win. They can hope to win, of course, and good luck to them. I'll be rooting for the US (unless I carry through with my boycott threat).

Fight at the funeral

Is it inappropriate to find this story amusing? I hope not because it's got me chuckling.

A family feud broke out into a fully-fledged fight at a funeral near Kilkenny yesterday.
At one stage, a female mourner was standing on a pew screaming obscenities while holding a Yorkshire terrier dog in her hands.

. . . Three altar boys looked on in silence, afraid about what was going to happen next.
The altar boys were obviously not from the same family as the deceased.

Still, it wasn't a total surprise when fisticuffs broke out, although maybe nobody figured it would happen in the church during the ceremony.
On Sunday night at her removal, up to 40 members of the Travelling community were involved in a fight at the funeral home.

Gardai wearing riot gear entered the home and arrested five men. Two were taken to hospital.

Friday, May 26, 2006

INTO uses the children they teach

The other day my children came home from school with a flyer from the INTO. It's easy to overreact to these sorts of things, but it's not right for the teachers' union to use the children they teach as a means for airing their grievances. I think the school should have said 'no'.

Anyway, the teachers want smaller classes. The flyer is a form letter that we're supposed to forward to the Minister for Education. "We support the INTO campaign for smaller classes – we do not want ourchildrenn crowded out!" For what it's worth, my daughter doesn't want her class of 30 to be reduced. She likes her classmates.

Well-known, but not well-liked

The front page of today's Irish Times includes an article about the new schedule on RTE Radio 1. {Talk about your slow news day.} The headline says, "RTɉ cuts well-known shows in major revamp of schedules".

I don't know what the listenership figures are, but I'm guessing that these "well-known shows" were obviously not so well-liked by the public. I mean, if those shows were doing well RTE would hardly be cutting them, would they? No more Rattlebag? My life is over.

When can I get a show and be Ireland's answer to Rush Limbaugh?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I know more than my kids

Just stumbled onto a blurb about last night's American Idol final. I now know who won and they don't. They're just not with it. It won't be on t.v. here until this weekend. I think. I'm not really sure and I don't really care.

Sex & drugs in my old school

Shocking, just shocking. Supposedly 92% of seniors in my old high school claim that they can acquire marijuana easily. I would imagine that represents a slight fall-off from when I was in high school. Somedays the clouds & smell from those who were smoking in school seemed to be everywhere.

As for the sex, 60% of seniors indicated that they'd had sex. I can't comment on how this might compare to my day because, well, I knew nothing about it. In later life I found out some things about what happened during my years in high school, but the only conclusion I was able to draw was that I was really out of it in high school. I knew everything there was to know about Mookie Wilson, but when it came to girls I was utterly clueless.

I actually don't think these things should be treated lightly, but I also don't know that it's really newsworthy that such things go on. And, this was a survey conducted by a member of the student body, which probably means that the survey may not have been administered in an ideal fashion.

So disappointing

I really loved the idea of little people – a different species – living on an island in today's Indonesia up to as recently as 20,000 years ago. Now some American scientists say that it's more likely that they were actually Homo sapiens with microcephaly. Spoilsports.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Not leaving in droves

According to a recent study, American Catholics have not abandoned the Church after the sex abuse scandals. In fact, the only truly measurable change in behavior and attitude is that Catholics are less likely to respond to a diocesan appeal than they were three years ago. I have to say, I'm surprised by these results.

I wonder what a similar study would show here. It's obvious churches aren't as full today, but that process of falling attendance had started before the Bishop Casey and Brendan Smith scandals in the early 90s. Still, I can't imagine that the seemingly endless horrors stories and the inadequacy of the Bishops' response can't have had a big effect on church attendance.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

World Cup fever

Soccer's not that big in Australia and Kylie Ladd's husband is more of a cricket fan than soccer fan, but nonetheless she's seen it all before. She knows he'll be watching come June 9.
My husband is a cricket tragic, the sort that ogles Wisdens as other men ogle Penthouse; the type that was teary for days after we lost the Ashes.

Sports fans are fickle, though. I should have seen it coming after I left him alone for a few hours during the Commonwealth Games and came home to find him watching netball. He swore it was only because the girls had great legs, but then made the fatal mistake of knowing the score.

Caught out, he pleaded for my understanding. There was no cricket to be had anywhere. There was still a ball involved.
The whole column is good.

Right Nation

Sure takes me a long time to finish a book sometimes. I get sidetracked, mostly when the pile of newspapers tops 3' in height. Anyway, I thought Right Nation was excellent – thorough, well-structured and easy-to read. Essentially the book is a summary of the various elements of the American conservative movement and why it's been so successful.

A lot of what the book offered was familiar, but even that was fine due to the manner that it was presented by the two British journalists (John Micklethwait & Adrian Woolridge). Any "right"-thinking American living in Britain or Ireland would devour this book. And, it should be required reading for those who work in the media here – might help cut down on the amount of misrepresentation of American Republicans/conservatives that are such a regular feature of news reports.

I'm sure anyone with an interest in American politics would enjoy the book. (Or at least, find it interesting. I would imagine that if you think George W. Bush is the devil incarnate you might not enjoy reading about the movement that elected him twice.) And, conservatives in the US would find it useful too, particularly where the authors note the differences between American and British or European conservativism.

Read all about it - illegal aliens at Gaelic Park

Unbelievable front page story today in the Irish Times. Someone in the GAA has really blown it - BIG TIME. The Irish Times isn't the only place to learn that the New York hurling team had a big win over the weekend, but might have trouble playing if the next match is in Ireland. This story is in every paper. And why can't the New York team travel? Because the team is, apparently, partly made up of illegal aliens.

The Irish Times reports that the GAA is considering holding the next round match in New York so that New York's players don't have to leave the US.

Well, duhh, hello! If I was on that team and an illegal alien I'd probably give the big June 4th game a miss and more than likely not show up at Gaelic Park for a long time. All this coverage is hardly likely to escape INS officials, is it? And, at a time when the immigration issue in the US has never been hotter. Only a dolt would have shouted out that we have illegals on the team and can't travel.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Why people died in New Orleans

This is from today's New York Times.
The design and construction of the New Orleans hurricane protection system, a project spanning more than 40 years that remains incomplete, was inadequate to protect hundreds of thousands of people in an urban setting.

. . . "People didn't die because the storm was bigger than the system could handle, and people didn't die because the levees were overtopped," said Raymond B. Seed, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and the chief author of the report, in a weekend briefing for reporters here.

"People died because mistakes were made," he said, "and because safety was exchanged for efficiency and reduced cost."
This is not the final word on the subject. The Army Corps of Engineers has its own report coming out soon. Still, this is damning and chilling. 40 years of ineptitude.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I should have watched the Eurovision

I heard the children talking about the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday morning, but it hadn't occurred to me that there would be a conflict. However, just after 6pm when they heard me announce that the Mets were playing the despised cross-town rivals and it was on t.v., they knew. I felt a small pang of guilt as I uttered, "The game should be over around 9 or so", although I knew the song contest started at 8. Regardless, I settled in as they shuffled off.

Picture the scene. I'm in my big, comfortable chair. I have a beverage at my right hand and the remote at my left for enhancing the volume at key moments. I couldn't have been better positioned to enjoy a baseball game on a Saturday evening. And, as I sat there watching the start of the game I thought about how great it was to be able to see this here. I was blissful.

Ninety minutes or so later and I couldn't have been more relaxed. The Mets' superstar pitcher, Pedro Martinez, was displaying all his artistic skills dismissing Yankee after Yankee. By the time they had completed 8 of the required 9 innings I had probably never been more confident of a victory in such a game.

Well, there's a reason why Yogi said of baseball, "it ain't over til it's over". Twenty-five minutes later and I'm raging. I'm yelling at the t.v., at the Mets, at the manager and relief pitcher in particular and at my kids for acting like children. I'm pretty sure there were birds chirping outside my window at 8pm, but there was just an ugly silence by 9.

The Mets blew a 4 run lead in the last frame and lost it later in the 11th. When I eventually calmed down into a dull moan/anger I invited the family back in to watch the last 45 minutes of the song contest. The first thing I saw was the eventual winners, who looked like the 4 (well, 5 really) horsemen of the apocalypse. I knew then that this was a sign that I had been punished for not letting the children watch this blasted contest. It was all my fault.

UPDATE Mon 9:45: Some measure of redemption last night with a 4-3 win in the "rubber game". Still, I'm nothing if not greedy. The Mets should have had all three.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Twenty years ago today

I only just realized that it was exactly 20 years ago - May 18, 1986 - that I graduated from college. Can't be that long ago. I demand a recount. (And, no, those are not hanging chads. Shut up.)

Sanctuary! Sanctuary!

I've heard and read many references to the old right of sanctuary in a church with regards to the Afghan refugees. (You can see some of this in the comments below.)

I don't know too much about this, to be honest, other than what I learned from Quasimodo in the The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I'm certainly no expert on church law, etc.

I've tried to find something about sanctuary, but I haven't had much luck. I did find this, which was published by the Church in 1912.
The ecclesiastical right of sanctuary ceased in England at the Reformation, but was after that date allowed to certain non-ecclesiastical precincts, which afforded shelter chiefly to debtors. The houses of ambassadors were also sometimes quasi-sanctuaries. Whitefriars, London (also called Alsatia), was the last place of sanctuary used in England, but it was abolished by Act of Parliament in 1697. In other European countries the right of sanctuary ceased towards the end of the eighteenth century.
If this is accurate, then those refugees in St. Patrick's or those in Belgian churches are claiming a right that no longer exists. (I'm not sure they have claimed sanctuary in a church - it seems to be mostly their non-Muslim supporters who are referring to sanctuary.)

Skilled immigrants and assimilation

One more thing about Samuelson's article. He says that high-skilled immigrants assimilate more quickly than low-skilled immigrants. Is this true?

Samuelson refers to all sorts of economic data to make his case, but I don't think assimilation is necessarily related to earnings. It's more about your sense of who you are. In fact, I think a case could be made that low-skilled immigrants who are given a genuine opportunity to become full Americans will grab that chance more firmly than those who enter the country with high skills and/or college degrees.

I don't have any hard evidence either, but I'm not sold that it's as straight-forward as Samuelson claims. You only have to spend a short while on a European college campus to realize that most students who pass through will have been exposed to high levels of anti-Americanism. One can absorb an awful lot of that and still want to go to America to earn a high wage. I'm not sure, however, that they'd necessarily assimilate as willingly as someone who only wants a chance for his children to have a better life than he had.

Assimilation is the key

Robert J. Samuelson believes that the President missed the "true nature" of the immigration problem - that there are two "interconnected" issues.
On the one side will be older baby boomers demanding all their federal retirement benefits. On the other will be an expanding population of younger and poorer Hispanics -- immigrants, their children and grandchildren -- increasingly resentful of their rising taxes that subsidize often-wealthier and unrelated baby boomers.
My first reaction when I read that was, "Hey, I've seen something like that before. Oh yeah, I wrote it, but it was about France and its Muslim population".

Anyway, the problem for both the US & France boils down to assimilation. In what both Samuelson and I have written there is an assumption that the dominant immigrant group will not become full citizens and will not assimilate fully. If today's Hispanic immigrants produce a generation of American-born people who feel more Mexican (or Panamanian or Salvadoran or whatever) than American, then America has a big problem. This cannot be allowed to happen. All immigrants and their children must (a) choose to be American and (b) be allowed to be American. The same goes for France.

Right now, I think the United States is more likely to succeed in assimilating its immigrants than is France, but it's not an automatic 'yes' or 'no' in either case.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Delluva time

I'm up to my elbow in new hard drive grease. Would have been nice if Dell had included a quick "how to" list of things to do. I think I'm on the right path, but still I was taken aback for a few minutes trying to work out what had to be done. Sure, now it seems obvious that I should put in the disk marked Windows XP and not the one marked Dell Resource Disk, but for some reason my instincts are still pre Windows. I think of Windows as something you add later.

The physical/hardware job is no problem - anyone could do it on one of these modern PC's. I'm pretty sure I'll manage the software installation now that I've got it going, but I know people who would find some of the decisions a real problem (NTFS or NTFS quick? Partitioned or not?). A little help here wouldn't have gone amiss.

Here's the think about Dell. I'm still not too happy that the product they sold me was no good, but I can't really fault them for the service they provide. As I mentioned, the woman in India was good, if hard to hear at times and I've had three calls from Dell asking me if new hard drive had been delivered. Hard to fault that sort of follow-up (and one of those was after the item couldn't be delivered due to something I'd done).

And, the other day, in desperation about the loss of my data on the faulty hard drive I drove to Dell and walked in asking to speak to someone. I went in expecting a confrontation, but no. I was assured someone would be down in a minute. I half-expected an 18-year-old pimply-face half-wit, but I got a bright, pleasant (ridiculously so) man at least 10 years older than me. He took my faulty drive and tried to see if he could salvage anything, but unfortunately the data can only be salvaged with specialist equipment. The service - not available from Dell - would cost me about €1300 or more.

One last thing. Dell has called me twice asking if I've been satisfied with the service I've received. And, I've said I am because, well, I am. It's the junky product I was sold that has me exercised. I'd rather not have had the opportunity to experience Dell's excellent technical support service.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Afghans in St. Patrick's

Why did the Afghan "refugees" (illegal immigrants?) who are protesting in Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin choose to protest in a Christian church? I wonder if they have realized how successful their fellow Muslim immigrants have been by doing just that in Belgium. (To be honest, I'm not sure how reliable this site is.)

Over 160 Muslims squatting in Catholic Churches in Belgium are now on hunger strike - protesting their illegal status. Now we have 41 Afghans (Afghanis? Afghanistanis?) occupying St. Patrick's, which is actually Protestant, but maybe the Afghans didn't know this. And, they're on hunger strike too.

I don't really know why they they're so afraid to return to their homeland. Maybe they have legitimate fears. However, I don't believe it's just a coincidence that they chose a big Christian church in which to make their protest. Why? Why not the local mosque?

Not catering for the prude market

I don't buy the Sunday Independent, but each week I get a copy and I generally throw away the magazine as soon as I get my hands on it. This week's edition of the magazine featured a selection of naked women on the cover. Is this really necessary? I know a lot of people buy their Sunday paper before heading to Mass on Sunday. I'm sure there must have been some red faces around the country when that magazine slipped out of the paper - as it often does - onto the church floor.

I know people here generally refer to the Sunday Independent as a 'right wing' newspaper, but from where I'm coming it's nothing of the sort (& the Sunday Times is much the same). When it comes to the soft porn element, the Irish Times is probably the most conservative paper in Ireland. It's the main reason that I don't mind having the Irish Times around the house even though editorially it's pretty far from my perspective.

Extreme fringe?

Today's New York Times editorial says that the President's speech "was a victory for the fear-stricken fringe of the debate". In fact, I think it's the Times that is at the "fringe of the debate". Their support for an open borders, multicultural/multilingual America is far further from the mainstream of American views than that which the President mapped out last night. The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Arizona Republic and New York Daily News all more or less say the President has pitched it just right. The New York Times is so far removed from mainstream America that it doesn't recognize it's at the fringe.

Bush on immigration

I didn't see President Bush speaking on immigration, but I read the speech. Funny thing is, I think he's got it almost exactly right. The border needs to be defended and illegal immigrants must be treated with dignity and most of them given some chance to get on the right side of the law, BUT they must assimilate. There can be no coddling of any immigrant group, allowing them to set up a mini separate nation inside the borders.

I know many people on the right are appalled that these people will get rewarded for having broken the law. Well, let's face it - the law wasn't really being enforced AND many of them come from places where respect for the rule of law is not part of the culture. Learning to respect the rule of law is often part of the Americanization process. {Even in Ireland when I first came here in the mid-80s I'd say that respect for the law was much less than it was in the US. I think that's changed for the better over the past 20 years.}

Having said all that, I'm skeptical. I see nothing in the speech that says to me that those whose job it is to enforce immigration law are going to be any better at the job than they were when they allowed most of the September 11 hijackers to enter the country despite the fact they should have been denied entry.

Another fine speech, properly balanced. I'll give him some marks for style, but execution counts a lot more and this President and government generally fails in the execution too often.

Monday, May 15, 2006


I was in Dundrum on Sunday. I didn't go into the new shopping center, but I drove to it. I was acting as chauffeur for the family shoppers.

There's nothing redeeming about the place. The town is completely choked by traffic all heading towards the shopping center. Whose bright idea was it to put this place in the middle of a town and not out along the motorway?

The traffic was bad (I wonder if it's like that everyday), the people were worse. Those who I witnessed were in a foul, impatient mood. Unable to spend their money fast enough. From what I heard, inside was worse.

Affluence, arrogance and ignorance do not a pleasant person make. Dundrum is like a magnet for such people. I was relieved to hear that no one in the family wanted to go there ever again.

No kids — Pay up!

Portugal's Socialist government is reforming their state pension system. Portugal has a generous state pension system, which faces "financial collapse by 2015" if something drastic isn't done now. One of the drastic measures is to force people who have fewer than two children to pay more towards their pension.

The Azzurri are blue

The New York Times has a long article on one of Italy's bright spots heading into the World Cup. I can't say that I've ever heard of or seen Luca Toni play for before, but according to the Times the Italian star is someone like Kurt Warner, a late bloomer who could lead Italy to the promised land.

But, overall, Italy's soccer is in turmoil due to a match-fixing scandal. This sounds pretty bad and is another reason for Italians to worry heading into the Coppa del Mondo. According to the Times before the scandals broke the Italians were worried about the American team.
After the 2006 World Cup draw last December, the television network Sky Italia suggested the pairings were rigged by placing the United States with Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic to create a formidable Group of Death.

Italy worried about the United States soccer team? Times had surely changed. What was next? A great pasta nation threatened by Cup O'Noodles?

New PC

I bought a new PC from Dell at the end of January. Last Friday the hard drive in that new PC died. No warning, no chance for a back up or to save anything. Just . . . gone.

I have sent the hard drive to a specialist to see if there's any way to harvest anything useful from it, but it will never live again. Dell have promised to send me a new hard drive.

By the way, this is the second time this has happened to me with Dell. I bought a laptop from them in 2002 that had all sorts of trouble. Eventually they sent me a new laptop. At that time I spent a lot of time on the phone with their tech support people, all of whom were in S. County Dublin. This time I was on the phone for an hour with a woman in India. The quality of the phone line was pretty bad, which when combined with the woman's accent made my conversation with her more difficult. However, she was good-natured, which is probably hard to do when you're dealing with people who are angry, frustrated, despondent (or at least, that's how I was on Friday).

I'm definitely going to consider a non-Dell option for the next purchase (a new laptop). Anyone have a suggestion (not Apple) for a reliable product?

What about fining people for sneezing?

I can't believe this. A new law in Britain will make it an offense to smoke while driving. A motorist caught in the act of taking a drag will have to 'cough up' £60. Smoking is a "distraction". Well, so is talking to other passengers, disciplining children, looking at billboards and road signs, changing the radio station, turning on/off the heat or defroster, blowing your nose, scratching, coughing, sneezing and probably dozens of other things. This is ridiculous.

Better late than never

I found it kind of odd that the Sunday Business Post published a review of Reagan : A Life In Letters yesterday, seeing as the book was published in 2003. Still, I was probably more surprised by how positive the review was. The review was written by Andrew Lynch of Magill, which may explain the pro-Reagan tone. I can't imagine any of their editors or regular columnists - particularly Vincent Browne or Tom McGurk - writing a similar review.

I meant to get the book when I first read about it, but I forgot. The Business Post's review is a timely reminder.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Rude gesture?

I really don't know, so I'm just asking if anyone can help me out. Did Steven Gerrard make a rude gesture - shown in slow motion by the BBC - after he scored to make the score 2-2? If he were Italian, I'd be certain he had, but I'm not sure he intended what I think I saw.

Left hand drive

I don't know if there are statistics to prove or disprove this, but I've certainly developed the impression that a disproportionate number of deaths on our roads involve drivers from abroad in cars with the steering wheel on the "wrong (left) side". I also have the idea that most of these people and their cars are not simply here on vacation.

Now I know from talking to a few other people recently that I'm not the only one with this notion. There do seem to be an awful lot of cars from E. Europe on the roads here. If this is true, why isn't the government doing something about it?

One obvious step would be to make it uneconomical to move here with a left-hand-drive car. Slap a high tariff on such cars. Any car coming off a ferry should have a bar code sticker applied to it. Gardai could then be given scanners - as if they were supermarket employees - to scan these cars at will. If a car is here more than, say, 6 weeks - to allow for real holiday-makers - without being registered and taxed here it should be impounded.

I don't know if this entirely in keeping with the spirit of the common market, but something drastic has to be done. Stories like this one from Tuesday are way too common.

Friday, May 12, 2006

More on the World Cup buses

Here's a picture of what some of the team buses look like. Second from end is the Iranian bus - no security worries there. Here's a second picture that includes the US bus (second from left). Note how it also doesn't have USA where the other nations' names are.

I've told my family that I'm boycotting the World Cup if this decision isn't changed.

Write, call or fax the US Soccer Federation to complain.

U.S. Soccer Federation
1801 S. Prairie Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616
Phone: (312) 808-1300
Fax: (312) 808-1301

Or you can e-mail them using this page.

UPDATE: I sent a fax using service (be sure to use proper format in fax number – +1-312-808-1301.)

2008 – fun times ahead

A new film opening in New York today is, from the sound of it, a hatchet job on Rudy Giuliani. All the more reason to hope it's Hillary vs Giuliani in 2008. The fanatics and the nut-jobs from both sides will have a field day rehashing old conspiracy theories and half-cocked personality profiles. It would be fun, if nothing else.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Are they the same person?

Chris & Auds - both at the Springsteen concert last week - I opted out, stupidly - and now both in New York this week. If I wasn't sure they aren't the same person I'd be sure that they are.

Auds was at Yankee Stadium the other night to see the home side humiliated. She bought tickets to a game mostly due to all my ravings about baseball. She didn't get a a close, exciting game, but it was definitely one I wish I had been there to witness. Still, I wonder if she'll hold me responsible for having to endure the Yankee fans' blue language.

And, in case you haven't been paying attention, things are going swimmingly for the Mets thus far. Thus far.

The Apprentice

Okay, I watched the last 20 minutes of The Apprentice last night. I was glued to my set when "Sir Alan" selected Michelle to be his apprentice. Now, I have to admit to not paying much attention before this and I really don't know how it works, but I definitely saw one man wearing a poppy at the party in Tower Bridge.

So, was this show filmed in November and only aired last night? Or was the selection process delayed by 6 months, which sounds like it might have been the case based on what the Telegraph says. ("Both women have spent the past six months secretly working in his companies".) Either way this program is not what the BBC would have us believe.

And, don't feel bad for Ruth. She got something else out of the experience, even if she is "gutted" that she's not working for Alan Sugar. "Since the show began she has split from her husband and embarked on a lesbian relationship". Ain't life sweet.

Immigration hesitancy

I'm confused. On May 1 Bertie Ahern criticized other EU members for "failing to throw open their borders to workers from new member states". But, when it comes the potential new new states of Bulgaria and Romania it seems that Ireland will say 'not yet' to those who might want to work here. There are now over 200,000 immigrants from the new EU members here and I suspect that the Taoiseach is hearing some grumbling.

Who is Hillary?

The recent announcement that Rupert Murdoch is helping Hillary Clinton raise money seems to be confusing people in the media. Richard Cohen, writing in today's Washington Post, says
. . . who is this woman who wants to be the next President of the United States? Is she the wife of Bill Clinton, who we were once led to believe was more liberal than he was, or is she actually far more conservative? The answer, at the moment, is something I cannot provide.
I guess I'm not surprised at all. I think it's Murdoch and not Hillary who's confusing them.

Murdoch has been pretty strong in his support for Tony Blair and I see nothing in Hillary that's not Blair. If anything, I suspect Hillary Clinton is slightly to the right of Blair. And, this may not be how he's perceived in the US, but I've never thought of Murdoch as a social conservative. I would imagine that most Conservative Christians would be outraged by Murdoch's Times & Sunday Times, never mind the trashy Sun.

The (New York) Post & Mrs. Clinton – it could be a hit show soon.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bush & soccer

The Los Angeles Times's Grahame L. Jones takes President Bush to task because he told a German newspaper that basically for him soccer didn't really exist when he was growing up. Jones finds this almost unbelievable because
  1. Bush was born in New Haven (his family moved to Texas when he was two)
  2. Bush was 4 when the US team beat England in the World Cup
  3. Bush was at Yale in 1966 when England hosted the World Cup and
  4. Dallas had a professional soccer team from 1967-1981.
Uhh, Mr. Jones, the President was talking about when he was growing up in Midland Texas (when he was 12 or 13 – here's the transcript of the full interview), so I'm not sure what relevance there is to the fact that he was at Yale in 1966 or that Dallas got a professional team in 1967.

I don't find it surprising at all that Bush would claim that soccer didn't exist for him. I wonder how much soccer my father witnessed growing up in New York during the 40s and 50s. I know from talking to a couple of post-war immigrants who played soccer in New York that you could find games all right, but you had to know where to look.

And, I doubt that the big win over England made an impression on too many 4-year-old Americans. I was 5 when New York went bananas over the Mets win in the 1969 World Series and I don't remember any of it. I guarantee you that the US team's win was not as big in Midland as the Mets' win in New York in 1969.

Some people are just keen to criticize Bush for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they should just stick to the legitimate gripes and forget about damning him over this kind of nonsense.

(NOTE: if you read the full transcript I'm pretty sure that the translation has used "Bush" where it should say "President" or "the President".)

Black Americans & the immigration rallies

I've been kind of wondering how black Americans are reacting to the immigration reform marches. I hadn't read anything that indicated that there was any real opposition to the immigrants' campaign and I'd seen Jesse Jackson, a congressman or two and other black leaders speaking at some of the rallies. I had seen this article in the NY Times, but the Times's piece only talked about how some black academics and politicians felt "unease" about the campaign.

Yet, apparently there is a wide gulf between what people like Jesse Jackson are saying and what's being heard on Chicago's radio station WVON, "an interactive forum for the African-American community". According to the Sun-Times WVON talkshow hosts Roland Martin and Cliff Kelley "have been fielding angry calls on the topic for weeks on end". A recent national poll indicated that two thirds of black voters want the level of immigration reduced.

I actually find this unsurprising, but it sure hasn't been mentioned too frequently in the Times or Washington Post.

It lives

I told you it wasn't dead. If it was really dead Bertie Ahern wouldn't be singing its praises, but he is. Politicians will never back a lost cause. Therefore, the only conclusion is that there's life in the ol EU Constitution dog yet.

Mass on the radio

I can tell you that for people too unwell to go to the church, having their local parish's Mass on the radio is a tremendous service. Sure, they could get Mass once a week on RTE, but it's not the same. It's not their parish.

Unfortunately, the church transmissions are illegal and have been shut down. They interfere with aircraft communications. I hope some solution can be found soon.

Raise those prices

There are times, and this is one of them, when I'd love to hear business owner tell a government minister to clam up. Tourism Minister John O'Donoghue "warned" businesses against making a "quick buck" off Ryder Cup visitors.

I say they should charge whatever they like. These golf fans don't have to pay. They can shop around. And, if supply is short and demand is great then the prices must rise.

The Minister believes that this event is "an opportunity to showcase the wider tourism product", but it's entirely possible that hotel owners in north Kildare don't generally benefit from the "wider tourism product". This is their moment and they should take advantage.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Chip & Pin fraud

Not quite the paranoid shopper you might have imagined. I just heard that Shell has suspended all chip and pin transactions at their stations due to fraud. What was that I was saying about "Joe Texaco"? I suppose I should have referred to "Mike Shell".

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Life at Guantanamo

I thought this article about what's going on at Guantanamo Bay was interesting, if a little unsettling. However, I have no time for the "this place is evil" sentiments.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

It's an insult - short & simple

Thanks to EWI (comment below) for confirming for me what all this 'no flag on the team bus' business is all about. It's nothing other than an insult.

I don't believe that the security threat they're worried about is solely or even mainly one of Islamic extremists. Committed terrorists will know where the US team bus is regardless of what it looks like. No, this is about your average European anti-American protesters, etc.

If security for the US soccer team is that big an issue what does that say about Germany (& Europe generally) that the US flag is the only one that causes this problem. Iran, whose President wants to annihilate Israel? No problem. Saudi Arabia, source for much of the hateful preaching that has helped fuel extremism in Europe? No problem.

If the US players put up with this then they're compounding the insult. I hope at least some of them have the backbone to stand up and say that they won't travel in the bus unless the flag is on the outside. Why should they be treated any differently than any other team?

And, why would the US Embassy go along with this nonsense? That's probably the most nauseating aspect of all of this. I'm fit to be tied.

Integral part of the profit model

From the first day Newstalk came on the air they have featured text messages from the listeners. As Eamonn Dunphy likes to say, text messages are an "integral part of the program". Well, from today Newstalk is charging listeners 30 cents to text the program. Their text line is now a premium line.

Funny thing is, if I can imagine that texters who pay 30c to send a message will expect their messages to be read out on air. If they're not, they may want a refund.

Friday, May 05, 2006

32 teams, 31 flags

All the team buses at this summer's world cup will have the nation's flag painted on the back except one - the US team bus. This is because it wouldn't be safe to have Old Glory adorn the back of a bus.

If security of the team bus is that big a worry, then what about US fans, many of whom will travel with their flag? And, what about all US tourists to Germany, many of whom have "I am American" written all over them? Maybe Americans should just avoid Germany for the foreseeable future.

If ever there was any need of evidence that soccer ain't the game for America, this is it.

Immigration reforms

I've been meaning to say something about the immigration marches in the US for the past week or two, but it was only when I read Mahons's comment below that I was spurred into action. And, Mahons has pretty well summed up a lot of what I've been thinking about the issue.

I am sympathetic to those who want to find a new life in America. That's a big part of what America has always been about. However, when you enter the country illegally you have, in fact, broken the law, which is far from irrelevant.

I would have imagined that this fact would make an impact on anyone who was illegally in the US. After all, illegal aliens are, through the protest marches, etc, in the process of throwing themselves on the mercy of the court. Whenever I've seen this situation portrayed in a t.v. courtroom drama, the law-breaker is usually more pleading than demanding. If the marches had been one big PLEASE, I suspect that would have played a lot better with the 'court'.

If the immigration laws are going to be changed, the changes are going to suit American public opinion. As far as I'm concerned, the border must be defended. That is a given. I'd also like to see some resolution for the millions who just want to continue to live in the country, but there can be no hedging on the fact that all 50 states are - rightfully and completely - part of the United States. Any immigrant who can't accept that does not belong in the country.

IE 7

I downloaded the new (not yet finished) version of Internet Explorer. I hate change. Nothing looks the same, although I hardly ever used IE 6 anyway. I presume the new version will be more secure - Microsoft assures us that it is.

So far, I haven't come across anything that has caused me to yell, "That's it! I'm ditching Firefox", but I'll give it a chance. Maybe.

UPDATE: Whoa! That was close. I tried to connect to an online radio station and couldn't do so. Tried three others, same result. So, I figured that was a minor issue and tried Firefox. Same result. Now I'm concerned, so I try the all important to see if I'll still be able to listen to baseball games. No luck. Now I'm in panic mode and just hoping that backing out of IE 7 will retrieve the situation. But, first I try Microsoft's site for any help and I found the answer.

Heartbeat returning to normal.

Crackdown on illegal immigrants

I haven't seen any mention of this in the local media yet, but yesterday's Belfast Telegraph had a short item about a new cross border unit that the two governments are establishing to help deal with the problem of illegal immigrants. Funny, isn't it? On the one hand, the Irish government is lobbying the US government to adopt a generous approach to illegal immigrants in America, but at the same time preparing to crack down on those who are here illegally.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Integration problems - all America's fault

I suppose I was waiting for it, but still it's annoying when you actually hear it. On yesterday's Breakfast Show, Eamon Dunphy blamed America for the problems that Europe is having integrating immigrants.

I wish I could remember the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of, 'Americas wars in the Middle East have made it difficult for France to integrate its immigrants'. Am I wrong, or didn't France (and many other EU countries) object to the Iraq War? And does Dunphy blame the US for the war in Afghanistan?

Life choices

Hmmm. Professional athlete or priest. Which would I choose?

I'd be interested to learn how successful the English Catholic Church is in enticing young men to be priests with their new recruitment campaign. The campaign consists of posters featuring a young man deciding between the priesthood or a career in football (soccer). Good luck to them with that one.

Studying business

The Irish Independent recently reported that there fewer students are taking Business at Leaving Cert level. I think this is a good trend. There are better things to study at 16 & 17 than Business. Why should a teenager be able "Draw and label a suitable 'organisation structure' diagram for a manufacturing organisation" (2005 Leaving Cert Exam) etc. Business Studies is not science. And, most of what they're teaching is pretty much meaningless until you've actually worked.

Learn Math, English, History, a language, Science, etc. If you have an interest in business do an MBA when you're 28.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Radiation fears

Here's one I forgot about til now. The traditional dawn Easter Sunday Mass on Knockanore hill in Kerry was canceled this year because of "radiation fears". The radiation they're worried about comes from the telecommunication masts on the hill.

Good Lord, give me a break. "Fears". I bet their ancestors, who endured real fears to hear Mass during the penal times, would not have been too impressed with their lily-livered descendants.

Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact Mark II?

Poland's Defense Minister, Radek Sikorski, compared the German-Russian gas deal with the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939. Sure, it's exaggerated, but I enjoy these little history lessons. And, I'm sure the Poles are not wrong to be worried about Russia's power to bring Poland to its knees.

Six months on

It's been six months (actually more like 6 ½) and the name Julia Kushnir has disappeared from the press (& google - there's nothing more about her on google now than there was in November). Probably not unexpected except I figured we'd have heard something about her libel action by now. Just wondering.

Monday, May 01, 2006

State Department warnings

Yesterday's Sunday Tribune reported on the US Consular Sheet published by the State Department in February. What surprised me is this from the Tribune:
The US department of state has also warned black Americans that they risk attack by thugs who mistake them for west-African refugees or asylum-seekers because the US travellers may "appear to be members of racial minority groups".
I was surprised to see that the State Department was using such language. Well, it turns out they weren't.
Although Ireland has historically had a low rate of violent crime, it is increasing, and there have been a limited number of incidents in which foreigners and tourists have been victims of assault, including instances of violence toward those who appear to be members of racial minority groups.
I don't see that passage as a warning to black Americans or anything at all about confusion with African refugees.

There is nothing in the State Department document that is in any way as alarming as what the Tribune claims.

1/5/06 or 5/1/06

I do it myself sometimes. I generally write my dates the US style - mm/dd/yy - when it's only for me. When I'm writing for use by other people here I try to remember to reorder my date to the dd/mm/yy format used in Europe.

So, I have some sympathy for the Irish Examiner, which seems to have a date problem today. Every other article on their web site is dated January 5, 2006. I think all the articles are from today, however.

No babies, no maternity wards

There are so few children being born in Japan that maternity wards are closing, making life even more miserable for those few women who are having children. And, few young Japanese medical students are opting for obstetrics. Forty percent of Japan's obstetricians are 60 or older.