Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Stills sings the anthem

I didn't see it on YouTube today and no wonder. Good Lord, but listening to Stephen Stills sing the Star Spangled Banner before last night's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was PAINFUL. Time for Stills to retire and rest on his laurels.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Oh yeah, the results

I can't say I'm unhappy with the outcome of Thursday's vote (it would be easier to be sure if I knew the make-up of the next government). For the most part those who I wanted to see lose lost and those who I wanted to see win won.

I was a little disappointed that Michael McDowell lost. He's unlikable and, I think, more talk than action, but still I thought he was kind of useful. Lest you think I was downhearted after McDowell's defeat, you should have heard my gleeful singing when I learned that Liz O'Donnell had lost. PD's lose two and it's a result I was happy to accept. (O'Donnell and, to a lesser extent, Fiona O'Malley are the primary reason I didn't vote for the PD's.)

Overall, here's my take on the election: decent result for the economic conservative in me, a very good result for the social conservative in me and (possibly the least important, but still satisfying) an excellent result for the American in me. If only John Gormley had lost ...

I should add that despite the fact that his politics are the complete opposite of mine, I sort of wish that Joe Higgins hadn't lost. I'd much prefer to have Higgins in the Dail than John Gormley. At least Higgins is amusing.

I hope we never get electronic voting

Irish elections - what's not to like? I've never been less enthusiastic heading to the voting booth than I was last Thursday. I was all of a muddle. Ideally I wanted the government returned, but I wasn't sure that was likely. I liked the idea of a Fine Gael & Labour coalition a lot more than a Fianna Fail & Labour coalition. My reasoning is probably just confused, but to my thinking FF-Labour was more likely to "throw it all away" than was FG-Labour-Green, the latter having more to prove regarding safe management, etc.

Despite that I was very enthusiastic following the returns. The best argument against electronic voting is that it would eliminate the two days of fun that the counting provides. I tuned in on Friday around 6pm (had listened to the radio some before that) and didn't turn it off until 2am. Far more entertainment than the Late Late Show could ever hope to provide.

I think the benefits of Proportional Representation are way overstated, but there's no doubt that the complex vote-count process is the main reason why the counts are such great entertainment. First we have exit polls, but PR makes them less reliable. Then we have the first indications from the tallymen. I'm not entirely sure what a tallyman is, but they all seem to have a fantastic ability to look at the ballots and process what they see as each ballot flashes past them and translate that into rough estimates of the counts.

Then the results slowly trickle in and dozens of various analysts pronounce judgment on what we're seeing as the first returns come in and what's likely to unfold as each of the round of counting produces surpluses, exclusions and transfers. There are party-line transfers and geographical transfers. Eventually speculation gives way to hard evidence as the votes are finally all counted and we have the final result.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sinead Cusack

I was talking to someone last night who told me that Sinead Cusack had been out campaigning with Richard Boyd Barrett in Dun Laoghaire. Today the Irish Independent says that Cusack had her first public meeting with Boyd Barrett since she gave birth to him. Good for both of them.

I don't think this makes any difference regarding the Sunday Independent's decision to publish the fact that Boyd Barrett was Cusack's son without her say so.

I've also heard that Boyd Barrett may very well win a seat in Dun Laoghaire. It must be great to be an independently wealthy socialist who doesn't need to work so that you can be forever out protesting/campaigning. (The tip came from people who are not political people, just voters in the constituency. I'm curious to see if they're right.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Grounded

The Irish Independent reports this morning that some Irish fans of Liverpool FC will not be able to get to Athens tomorrow for the big game "thanks to bungling Greek airport authorities".
"The bottom line is the airline was unable to secure landing and parking slots due to congestion," the travel agent's chairman, Con Horgan, said.

It was mainly the flights organised for day trips that were affected due to the number of aircraft seeking to land at the airport at the same time.

The Greek aviation authorities failed to realise the numbers that would be travelling to the match in the 63,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in Athens, he said. "They had one year's notice so this should have been anticipated," Mr Horgan said.
Only a few flights are affected, but still. There are a few hundred fans who are nearly €2000 better off, but who are still hopping mad today.

I didn't see any mention of this in the British press this morning. Maybe flights from Britain aren't affected?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Germany attacks Ireland

No, not really, but that was the first half of the headline of an article in Saturday's Irish Examiner. The full headline was "Germany attacks Ireland’s low corporation tax".

So, no U-boats in Dublin port or Stukas overhead, but still an attempt by the German government to kill the Celtic Tiger once and for all. This boggles me each time it's raised by one of the big "Old Europe" countries.

They haven't got the authority to impose harmonized tax rates throughout the EU, but they keep firing away at Ireland and others who have the audacity to cut corporate tax rates. They seem to believe that bullying the Irish and other small economies is the answer rather than simply adopting similar policies if, as they clearly believe, they're so effective.

This is a veto issue for Ireland. I'm not 100% certain of this, but I'm pretty sure I heard Joan Burton state on Newstalk over the weekend that Labour would support the use of the veto to prevent any moves to force tax harmonization by the big countries. That means there's no chance a change in government would soften the Irish government's position on this issue.

Irish Independent's new site

The Irish Independent has a new web site. I think it's an improvement over the previous look that was designed for the Independent as part of their Unison.ie offering. What's really interesting is that they've made it so all the old links still work. I've never seen that before in all my years of saving newspaper links for the Newshound.

For example, the Times (London) recently revamped its web site and all the links from before 2007 were instantly rendered defunct. I can't think of a single newspaper web site that has made the effort to ensure that all the old links still work with a new publishing system, format, etc.

So, I tip my hat to the Irish Independent for not (a) getting rid of the annoying registration system and (b) showing some respect to all the old links in the Newshound archive and on blogs throughout the universe. (And, yes, I'm sure this helps them internally too, but so what?)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Debate

I know I should have watched the debate last night. I really should have. It was an obligation, my duty, right? I intended to, sort of, but then I forgot all about it.

I was listening to the Mets on the radio yesterday. (Have I mentioned recently what a great investment mlb.com's radio service is? $15 for all games, all teams.) Anyway, I stuck with the game even though it was not a great game from the Met fan's point-of-view. Then they caught lightning in a bottle and scored 5 runs in their final turn at bat to win 6-5. Incredible game and I forgot all about the debate. Oh well.

Did Ryanair blunder?

Today's Guardian says that this latest promotion by Ryanair may come back to haunt them. According to the Guardian, Ryanair's web site crashed in the first few hours that their deals were on offer. {I had no trouble whatsoever}.

More importantly, the Guardian believes that Ryanair might have misjudged how customers would react to the promotion. The airline says, "There is no point in flying planes empty", but people may have bought many seats that they don't intend to use. One Guardian employee booked 48 flights with the intention of using only a few of those tickets.

I thought about this too. I half thought that I could buy a bunch of different trips and choose the one(s) I wanted to use. In the end I didn't bother.

It has also occurred to me that Ryanair may very well cancel all sorts of flights due to "technical difficulties" if their planes are mostly full of people who've only paid pennies for their flights. Maybe they could recoup their 'losses' by canceling some flights and forcing those who are flying cheaply to buy new, high-priced tickets.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

London for a dime!

I vaguely heard something about cheap (cheaper than usual) flights from Ryanair. I was only half paying attention, but for some reason yesterday I decided to have a look at their site. And, well, there is a sale on.

I've always had the impression that Ryanair's sales prices are not much different than the regular prices, but I was able to get tickets for the family to fly to London for 2 cents each. That's it. That was the total charge. A nice day trip during the summer to look forward to.

{Maybe I should vote for the Greens as penance for this act of wanton environmental destruction? Emm, nah.}

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Election leaflets in the mail

I don't want leaflets in my mail. They're a total waste, especially when you consider that they're telling me essentially the same things as I learned from the leaflets that the various election canvassers have dropped in my letterbox.

In particular, why is the Green Party generating all this extra waste (leaflets)? Seems hypocritical when you consider what they have to say about junk mail, waste, etc. Deirdre de Búrca's leaflet came in the mail yesterday and went directly into the recycling bin last night.

Maybe the Green Party doesn't know that Reduce is the first of the three R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Maybe the Party's northern cousins will fill them in on junk mail.

Ignore women at the bus stop

I had to read this twice to figure out if I was missing the punchline. But, doesn't seem like it. Police in Scotland have advised men against talking to or even looking at a woman waiting for a bus alone at night.

Look, I'm not a fool, I know women can feel uneasy in such situations. That doesn't change the fact that this is just ridiculous. Those who adhere to this advice are no threat to any woman any way and those who are a threat are hardly likely to pay any attention.

Sometimes you just have to be afraid, unfortunately.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Richard Boyd Barrett's mother

Just in case my suspicions are right I don't like linking to this article, but maybe I'm wrong. I'd love someone to help me out on this one. Maybe this was more widely known or reported than what I understand.

An article in yesterday's Sunday Independent says that Richard Boyd Barrett "confirmed that he is the biological son of well-known actress Sinead Cusack".

It was when I got to this line in the article that I was shocked: "Despite several attempts to contact Ms Cusack this weekend, she was not available". That makes me think that Sinead Cusack didn't actually want this information published. Is that how I should interpret that line? Was Sinead Cusack's privacy grossly violated by the Sunday Independent for absolutely NO GOOD reason?

Today's Irish Independent has a column applauding Sinead Cusack for her "valour and discretion". I don't disagree with that, but I do wonder why the Independent couldn't have shown some discretion before it published Cusack's private business.

UPDATE May 15: Sorry about that. I only realized this morning that I had messed up the links to the two articles. I've fixed them now.

Rock Paper Scissors

Matti Leshem is commissioner of the US Rock Paper Scissors league. (Incredible, isn't it?) Okay, no big deal, but Mr. Leshem wants RPS to be an Olympic Sport. I have critiqued some of the Olympic sports in the past, but if RPS were to become an Olympic sport that would take things to whole new level. While we're at it, poker's not a sport either and should not be on the North American Sports Network.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Case closed

TG4's been running an ad for Cold Case where two of the characters interrogate a suspect in Irish. (You can see the ad on YouTube, of course.)

I've been wondering about that ad - how it was made and whatever - when tonight I happened to find a small article about it from the March 18 edition of the Sunday Business Post. Turns out that actor John Finn speaks some Irish. He takes Irish language classes in Los Angeles.

Oh, those election leaflets

A couple of older gentlemen called to the door the other night. I'm here long enough to recognize Fianna Fail people on sight. I knew they were coming to seek my vote for Dick Roche.

They handed me a leaflet and I browsed through it right away and the assertion that he'd done a wonderful job ensuring our water quality is among the best in Europe caught my eye. "Hmmm", I said, "is our water better than in other EU countries? Bit of trouble in Galway, no"? ( - mentioned in the Buffalo News this week.) A staunch, if somewhat flabby defense of our beloved Minister followed.

Then the 'he gets things done for us' effort. "It's important to have a Minister from our area." After hearing that I asked if he was guaranteed a cabinet post in the next government. Of course not. Then I dumbfounded them when I speculated that there was little chance that the opposition would ignore Liz McManus if they won the election. "She'll surely get a cabinet post, no?" That elicited a sheepish, "I suppose" as they slinked away.

I'm getting into the election now. Bring on the Greens! And, while you're at it, send those Fine Gael people back to me.

Boom time for farm owners

The things you stumble onto when you're idly 'surfing' the night away. According to this article in the Farmer's Guardian (no, I never heard of it either) Irish farmers are so wealthy these days they're driving up the price of land in Scotland.
Agricultural land values in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have gradually soared with prices of £15,000 per acre not unheard of. European investment and attractive tax regulations for businesses has greatly increased the economy in the Republic, while a more settled political environment in Northern Ireland has led to strong investment from external sources.

… The number of Irish farmers looking to buy in Scotland has increased threefold in the past six months and with prices for development land in Ireland showing no signs of slowing, along with a lack of supply of farms for sale on the Scottish market, buyers will continue to outnumber sellers by 20:1, with Irish buyers to the fore.
We're not in Cavan anymore, Toto.

I can't wait to hear the head of the IFA on the radio complaining about the cost of air fares making it difficult for poor Irish farmers to manage their Scottish holdings.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

'Concerned about civil society in Russia'

Russia's been really getting excited by Estonia's decision to remove a Soviet war memorial from the center of Tallinn. And, now Poland plans to follow suit.

I wonder how far the new EU states can go pushing Russia before some of the other member states start to get nervous? And, even if it's unlikely, what would the other NATO members do if Russia attacked Estonia or Poland?

I would imagine that the Poles and Estonians will be heartened by the remarks from Germany's Europe minister G√ľnter Gloser.
In an uncharacteristic tone for a member of the German socialist party - which is traditionally Russia-friendly - Mr Gloser also said "We are concerned about freedom of the media and civil society. The way demonstrators were recently dealt with in Moscow, St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod has not gone down well."
I still don't think our eastern brothers should be too sure that the EU or NATO will rescue them if things get hot.

Blair goes

Everyone and his brother will be weighing in on Tony Blair's legacy now that he's announced that he's resigning. I believe he'll be positively received by history, but it might take a while to get there. Funny enough, I think over time Iraq, which looks like a big negative right now, will seem less significant in Blair's career.

When he was first elected I didn't like him, but now I do. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe I'm just a sucker for charm; I don't know. If I am a sucker for charm I don't think there's much fear I'll fall for Gordon Brown, if he becomes Prime Minister.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A divider, not a uniter

I'm just a little curious about this, but I was surprised to see that the (London) Independent referred to Nicolas Sarkozy as a "divisive force". I thought it was only American politicians of the right who are 'dividers, not uniters', but obviously not. Are there any left wing politicians who the media refer to as 'dividers, not uniters'? Really, I'm just curious.

Aren't all politicians "divisive"? I mean other than those like Saddam who get 100% of the vote.

I've been amusing my children for the past few days with my efforts to pronounce Sarkozy's name as I heard it on TV5. It's not Sar-kosey, but Sar-ko-zee, with the emphasis on the "zee". At least, that's how it sounded to my ears.

Stop promising change

Speaking of the election, thus far I'm totally uninterested. I wish I could say why. I usually really enjoy elections. Maybe I'm too satisfied? Maybe what I need is a swift kick in the pants - that is, a result I really hate - to get me interested?

The closest I've come to any interest was the other night when a couple of Fine Gael campaigners came to my door. They excitedly told me that they believed the "time is right for change". So I asked, "Change what?" I looked right at the man aged about 60 and asked him point blank if at any time when he was young could he have imagined things being as good as they are in Ireland today. He muttered something about the health system, etc. and I said that maybe we need a few tweaks here and there, but essentially things are going well.

This is my problem. I'm not a fan of government by monopoly, but I have this sneaking suspicion that the opposition is so desperate to make its mark that they'll totally mess things up. They make it sound like they're promising a revolution.

I'd be happier if the opposition parties campaigned on a slogan of "A bit of tweaking, a bit of pruning, but really we can do this too. No radical changes." They'd probably get my vote.

Blown away

I think the good economy and good weather have made the campaign workers soft. I can't think of any other explanation for the inordinate number of political posters that are blowing around today. We've had two breezy days and what looks like a quarter of all the posters are hanging loosely or blowing freely along the roads. I don't remember this in previous elections, so I can only conclude that those doing the hanging are not as dedicated to the task as yesteryear's poster-hangers were.

Friday, May 04, 2007

No need for laptops in school

Liverpool High (Liverpool, NY) is dropping its one-to-one-computing program (a laptop for every student).
“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”

…[S]chool officials here and in several other places said laptops had been abused by students, did not fit into lesson plans, and showed little, if any, measurable effect on grades and test scores at a time of increased pressure to meet state standards.
Maybe Enda Kenny would like to reconsider his support for such a program here?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rooting for Liverpool

I don't understand how soccer's governing authorities allowed this to happen, but a team in the final of the most prestigious annual soccer tournament - the Champions League - is a team that only barely qualified for the tournament. AC Milan were convicted for fixing matches in 2006. They only qualified when their penalty was reduced on appeal, thus enabling them to participate in the Champions League.

To me this just stinks and I really hope this club doesn't end up winning in the final. I was rooting for Manchester United last night and I'll be rooting for Liverpool on May 23.

Hockey capital of the World

The Swedish city of Ornskoldsvik, population 30,000, seems to mass produce NHL stars. Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, the Sedin twins and others all come from there. And, there are more future stars on the way. Maybe I'll have to bring my son over for some of the magic found in Mammamia's pizzas.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Save Paul Wolfowitz

I would have thought this was almost heretical according to the New York Times, but yesterday they published a plea to save Wolfowitz from Nigerian Nuhu Ribadu, chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Ribadu credits the World Bank and Wolfowitz's leadership for helping him and his commission root out corruption in Nigeria and other African states.
Over the last three years, Nigeria, once the emblem of outlandish corruption, has become a leading reformer, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which I head, has been at the cutting edge of these efforts. The enormous challenges we face would have proved almost insurmountable without external help, especially from the World Bank under Mr. Wolfowitz.

When disgruntled lawmakers here tried to cut off our financing and shut down critical aspects of our operation, a World Bank grant of $5 million allowed us to bring to closure important cases of political corruption involving key members of Nigeria’s ruling elite, including members of the executive branch and Parliament.

… On my recent visit to the World Bank in Washington, I was greatly impressed with the remarkable changes in policy and direction that Mr. Wolfowitz had undertaken, as well as by the diversity of talents he had convened to execute his vision of a fairer world. The bank’s secretary and two vice presidents are Africans — one was my colleague in the Nigerian cabinet. Another vice president is Salvadoran.
I think I read yesterday that it's not a matter of "if", but "when" Wolfowitz goes. It hardly matters to me, but maybe it will matter to Africans?

June 1982

Only vaguely interesting, even to me, but I was surprised to find that someone had taken video of our high school graduation ceremony. Now 15 minutes of that video is on YouTube, of course, in three separate clips. {Warning - if you do happen to click, these videos are not G Rated - a few profanities are audible.)

I think I spotted myself in the second video, but it's a fleeting, unclear shot. Truth is I didn't know most of the people who feature in these clips. A few familiar faces, but no one I was really friendly with in high school. That's life in a school with thousands of students.

The first video was the most interesting simply because you could see the cars, hear some of the music and see the clothes, etc. I was surprised how windy it was that day because my only memory is that it was pretty darn hot. Graduation was at SPAC, which is a big open air arena in Saratoga State Park.