Friday, January 30, 2004


Frank mentions that the Progressive Demcrats, Ireland's supposed "right wing party" (don't make me laugh), are offering a trip to Cuba as a prize as part of their donations drive. While this doesn't shock me, it does bring to mind something I've wondered about for a long time. Why are so many Irish people dedicated to supporting the government of Fidel Castro?

When I lived in New Jersey, I lived in a Cuban neighborhood (Cubans are pretty numerous in North Jersey, second only to South Florida in terms of the number of Cubans). These were decent, hard-working, mostly working-class people. Many of them didn't speak a lot of English, so I couldn't communicate too well with them. But, I knew enough Spanish to know that these people HATED Castro. I don't doubt that any one of them would have given his right arm for a shot at Castro.

The few that I was able to speak to told me simply that Castro had ruined their country and enslaved their people - family, friends, whatever. These were not the exiled wealthy, but regular people.

Obviously, most Irish people were never exposed to a large numbers of Cubans. Nor are stories about the feats of incredible daring by people fleeing Cuba a regular feature on the news here.

There have been occasions when Cuban citizens have sought asylum while at Shannon Airport. These are generally on the main news here, so there can't be complete ignorance of what Cuba is like if Cubans are seeking asylum in Ireland. Yet, despite these asylum seekers, Ireland's most "right wing" party, the party that proclaims that it wants Ireland to be closer to Boston than Berlin, sees no problem with offering a trip to Cuba as a prize for donors.

This underlines the extent to which the Cuban government benefits financially from the ignorance of many and the active support of a minority of Irish people.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Kerry Group

Today's (Thursday) Irish News (sub. required) reports that some supporters of Senator Kerry are wearing Kerry GAA shirts.

No WMD in Iraq

I thought I'd say something about David Kay's views on the Iraqi WMD programs (or lack thereof), but Peter Feaver, writing in the Washington Post, has pretty much summed up all I could have wanted to have said.


There's just so much on Hutton in the British papers (Telegraph, Guardian, etc.) that it's impossible to digest it all. And, of course, the television and radio coverage was wall-to-wall last night.

Some of the Irish news bulletins yesterday were interesting, however, using language that gave you the impression that Tony Blair had pulled a bank job and gotten off on a technicality. As an example, RTE's Anne-Marie Smyth {requires Real Audio, quote is 2'30" into the report.} described Tony Blair as "acting as if he was a man who had been let off the hook". When I saw him, I thought he looked like a man who was delighted to have been vindicated.

Bran's back

Blog-Irish is back today. Lots of details on the Irish interests mentioned on the list of people/companies that allegedly were paid off by Saddam. I'm not sure how credible the list is (or the newspaper that published it - Al Mada, an Iraqi paper), but it makes for interesting reading.

{Note: the list is a translation from French and is slow to load.}

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Lansdowne Road

I don't agree with spending public money on sports stadiums (stadia?), but at least yesterday's Lansdowne Road decision seems much more economical than the "Bertie Bowl". {Chris has the low-down on how the Bertie Bowl was finally killed.}

I'd have been much happier if the government had told these two wealthy sporting bodies (Rugby & Soccer) to pay for their own stadium. I see no reason why I should support an organization that can afford to pay such exhorbitant wages to their employees. If the government is going to spend money on sports, let it be for sports in school to encourage kids to get out and play.

The government shouldn't have funded this development, and shouldn't be funding Croke Park's development either. And, governments in the US are nuts to be funding sports stadiums there.

Camera phones

Every so often Ireland goes nuts. Some incident (usually pretty minor) occurs, the media gets hold of it and the whole country is shocked and talking about it. It's very hard to explain, but these minor incidents/major news items seem to become almost a national obsession.

Right now, we're in the middle of a shocking scandal. A pornographic picture of a school girl has been circulating via mobile camera phones. From what I can gather, everybody who's believed to be involved in this is about the same age as the girl in question. There seems to be no question of coercion, etc.

So, what's the big deal? If this were the Ireland I first came to, I'd understand, but, pornography is in every corner shop now. In fact, Irish television regularly transmits programs that are nothing short of soft porn. So the content of the picture, which it has to be said very few people have seen, cannot be the problem.

Is it because there are school children involved? Maybe, but again I doubt it. There are regular dicussions on the radio about how Irish school kids are "all at it" {a perspective I categorically reject}, so I don't think the fact that children (presumably about 15 or 16 years old) are involved in something sexual could be that shocking to people.

Therefore, it has to be the technology. And, this is, I believe, the real source of the hysteria. Camera phones are currently being discussed as if they were the source of all evil. They're banned from gymnasiums, pools, etc. But, only camera phones. Nobody seems to mind any other photographic devices.

Cheap cameras have been around a long time. Digital cameras and scanners, too, have been around a good while. So, I can't see why the camera phone is such a focus of attention.

Of course, people with political power are far from immune. Indeed, many of them seem keen to be the first ones over the cliff of sanity.

The Leader of the oppostion, Fine Gael's Enda Kenny is calling for a specialist Garda Corps to tackle the rise of child pornography and pedophilia. I can't argue with someone who wants to stop the spread of child pornography or pedophilia, but why not address the over-sexualization of children in modern Irish society, call for greater adherence to codes of decency by broadcasters or advocate a "Just say No" campaign for Irish schools?

Junior Minister Noel Ahern (Bertie Ahern's brother) believes phone retailers should not sell such phones to under-18s, unless their parents are with them. What about digital cameras and scanners? What about all digital video equipment?

Of course, I'm sure that these politicians cannot be that dim, so all they're doing is making sure that the public knows "they're doing something". Why can't they just give us a break? And why does the media pander to them?

The politicians and the media surely know this is not the first time that an Irish school girl has been caught on camera in a compromising pose. And, surely they also know that camera phones are not the only possible digital photographic devices out there. I sincerely doubt that some Irish school kids haven't long ago figured out how to use a digital camera or a scanner. Demonizing camera phones may make you feel powerful, but it really makes you look stupid.

Coincidentally, there was a good article about digital imaging and the loss of privacy in last weekend's Sunday Times. {sub required outside UK & Ireland}

Oh Come On!!!

I cannot believe that work on the M50 has to be suspended — AGAIN. The people who built Carrickmines Castle are DEAD. They no longer need the wall to keep the locals at bay. WE LIVE HERE and we NEED this road. This is just crazy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Freeze? Puhleeeze!!!

I couldn't agree more with Jon. When it comes to a little cold weather here, Irish forecasters sure do go overboard. The worst part is how excited my kids get. I have to stop them watching the weather report lest they get the idea that half a foot of snow is about to descend on us.

I've been here a dozen years and I can only remember once when the snow covered the grass. At home, when the snow fails to cover the grass, we call that May. Today and tomorrow it's going to warm up enough to snow.

TDs' salaries

The minimum TD's salary (not including expenses) is now €80,500 ($100K); most TDs are now earning more than €100,000 ($125K) annually when expenses are included. Senators are making between €55 & €60 thousand (approx $70K) per annum. Senators! Surely that should be an unpaid body as the members are unelected and essentially powerless. MP's in the UK Parliament are only paid £55,000 (€80,000 / $100K) annually. And, each MP represents a far greater number (around 90,000) of people than does each TD (23,000).

This is ludicrous. I hear all the time about how hard they work, yadda yadda yadda. They determine how much work they have to do. Why not cut the salaries and the workload by moving much of the "work" to the local level where it belongs or, more importantly, by just keeping government out of peoples' lives?

Friday, January 23, 2004

West Wing

Despite the show's obvious slant (to the left, if you don't know), I've been a fan of the West Wing since it first appeared on RTE. However, I'm really feeling like the program has lost its way. Each of the past two series were disappointments compared with the first couple of years, but there seems to be a much more marked down-turn in the quality of the West Wing this series (note: we're a few months behind the US showing).

I can't stand the soap opera like Josh and Amy storyline. But, it's more than that. It just feels less credible. I also think the program makers are no longer trying to soft pedal their hatred of President Bush and the type of people that support him. It's much more "in your face", this series.


CD WOW! has agreed to raise the prices on the CD's they sell because they were selling them too cheaply! CD WOW! will now refrain from sourcing their products wherever they can get them cheapest. From now one they will only buy from within the European market.

This deal stinks. It smells of anti-competitiveness, but I don't blame CD WOW!.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Mars on the cheap

A week or so back, Frank was forced to admit that he couldn't support a trip to Mars because it was too big a waste of tax payer money. Today, Max Boot (Los Angeles times, reg. reqd) might have an answer for Frank. Make it a a contest, with the winner to get $20bn for the (successful? he doesn't specify) first manned mission to Mars and back. He even cites an 8 year old article advocating the use of commercial sponsorship for the "competitors". He mentions the Olympics, but it sounds more like a big yacht race to me.

Anyway, I say, why not give it a go? $20bn is a drop in the ocean compared with the $500bn – $1trillion that some people mentioned for a NASA run project.

What women want

That's part of the title of a new study into gender roles, housework, blah, blah, blah in Northern Ireland.

I don't think it's anyone's business how a couple chooses to divide the labor in the house. I consider these kind of studies an attempt at dictating to people how to live with one another. I reject their right to do so.

I also reject the extent to which this is passed off as science. There are some basic questions that I have never seen asked. I have my own speculation as to what the answers might be.

Try these:
  1. Who decides when the carpet needs to be vacuumed?
  2. Who decides when the children need a bath?
  3. Who decides when clothes must be washed?
  4. Etc.
I'll begin to take some of this stuff seriously when they've at least addressed those type of questions. It often seems to me that these studies are designed by women who have strong views that men are not doing their share of the housework. But, if women want men to do "equal amounts of housework", then they're also going to have to agree to share the decision-making process.

And, there are a lot of women I know that would much rather clean than wait for the man to accept that something is filthy.

{More details here, if you want them.}

Iowa Dems save the day

That's Tom Friedman's take on the outcome of the Iowa Caucuses. The Caucuses represent a big win for the "Blair Democrats". I hope he's right.

I think a shrewd move by any Democratic candidate would be to praise the President for his immediate response to Sep 11, and for his decisive action in Afghanistan and Iraq, but to argue that a different approach is now needed to create the alliances and conditions necessary to eliminate the threat of rampant Islamism.

I cannot understand why Edwards and Kerry don't stop apologizing for supporting the war in Iraq, noting it was the right idea, executed brilliantly, but with too little thought given to "what next?". Lieberman has tried that, but he's not really in contention right now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


If you're an American living abroad, don't forget that you are eligible to vote in the primaries as well as the General Election. Of course, in the 2000 general election two states (Florida & New Mexico) were decided by fewer than 1000 votes. Register today.

{By the way, for any US politics junkies, this is a fascinating site. Lots of great maps. My favorite is the breakdown by county. You can see how support for one candidate or the other is geographically spread and how state lines don't determine support, although obviously they do determine the winner.

And information on every election going back to George Washington's.}

Dunnes Stores

After last week's fun with the promotion of loose bananas, I had high hopes for Dunnes Stores' promotion this week. I was expecting something along the lines of "Eatin apples, 5 for 50p". Alas, no, all that's on offer this week are great savings on kitchen towels, etc.


Ever since I read this from last April, I've wondered what was going on with John Bruton. I had always thought of him as fairly steady, not one given to the use of hyperbole.

I'm sure he would argue that his criticisms of the war in Iraq were justified. However, his statement about America's social problems struck me as worthy of the most anti-American analyses.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Irish Institute of European Affairs Mr Bruton said the US' social problems would exacerbate the country’s decline: "They have an excellent elite but the middle rank is not well educated."
I wondered then and still wonder today - what does John Bruton know of education in America? And, how does it differ from what is currently being offered in Ireland?

Today, published on the front page of the Irish Times is my answer. He was playing up to Chris Patten, looking for an EU job. "Mr Chris Patten is proposing Mr Bruton as the best candidate to raise the EU's political profile in the United States".

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


As a news and politics junkie, I think the US elections are over too quickly. It would be a lot better if the primaries were spread out over 12 months and then the same for the general election. It would be like a Pop Idol Extreme.

However, I'm also fairly sure that not everyone would be that thrilled. I'm guessing that most of America is only barely able to tolerate the wall-to-wall coverage of the Iowa Caucuses. As for the British or Irish populations, the interest has to be even lower.

Of course, Mary McAseeds is from Iowa, so maybe I underestimate the interest?

UTV - Uh oh

Back in August, I was singing the praises of UTV's new DSL service. The price was right, the set-up was easy, all was right with the world.

Well, now for the 3rd time this month, the service is unavailable when I need it to do the Newshound. By the time I know what the problem is and make the changes I need to make to use my old 56k dial-up account, it's too late to do the Newshound.

I'll keep you posted, but I'm really unimpressed this morning. It might be time to start shopping again.

UPDATE 11:30am: DSL back in action and Newshound updated.

SECOND UPDATE 11:40am: Just got word from UTV that this morning's outage was apparently PLANNED downtime. Now I'm irate again. What, they couldn't do this between 4:30 & 5:30 in the morning? They couldn't at least tell their customers this was going to happen? It's like being on an airplane sitting on the ground, not moving and no announcements. You just wanna punch somebody.

THIRD UPDATE 3:30pm: Now, UTV is telling me that it was unplanned maintenance this morning, although last week's was planned. And, they also recommend that I check the support page on their web site so that I will be forewarned when there is planned maintenance. Hmmm. I feel somewhat like I did when I was called an "idiot" back in August. Why is it every company on Earth can send me an e-mail except for the companies that provide the technology that I need?

Monday, January 19, 2004

Solar Warming?

What if the Earth is not really getting warmer? What if increased levels of CO2 are actually beneficial for plants and animals?
We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of the CO2 increase. Our children will enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life as that with which we now are blessed. This is a wonderful and unexpected gift from the Industrial Revolution.
What if increased solar activity were the cause of recent warming trends? This report (published in 1998) is why I (and so many others) don't buy "global warming".

More than 17,000 scientists have signed this petition that basically states that "global warming is a lie with no scientific basis whatsoever". They're endorsing this report.

{Here's a shorter article by the same author with fewer confusing charts that contains the essence of the greenhouse gas effect.}


Frank asks if opposition to President Bush's proposed immigration reform extends beyond the hard right. I'm sure it does. For many people, the idea of granting amnesties to those who broke the law is repugnant. And, what sort of introduction to America is this if a potential new citizen's first interaction with the government is to be told that he broke the law, but it doesn't matter?

Unlike the nations of Europe, the US exists only as long as the constitution exists. France is France regardless of whether it's a dictatorship, monarchy or a liberal democracy. Same goes for the other nations of Europe. This is untrue of the US. If the laws of the Constitution disappeared tomorrow, so would the United States of America. The rest of the glue that makes the nations of Europe - culture, history, language - is simply not strong enough in the US. (The opposite is also true, acceptance of the Constitution makes an American, which is why Enoch Powell's River of Blood could never apply to the US.)

It is for this reason that it is imperative that immigrants to the US go through legal channels. It is also why newcomers are required to make an Oath of Allegiance when they become citizens. It is why school-children say the Pledge of Allegiance from the moment they enter kindergarten (around age 5).

Having said all that, let me hedge my bets. I have known a few illegal immigrants, some are even related to me. All of them have since been "legalized" through marriage. These people are law-abiding citizens and the US is lucky to have them.

The solution is to substantially increase the effort to prevent illegal immigration and, in exactly the same proportion, increase the numbers allowed to immigrate legally. The effort to reduce illegal immigration should be done on a country by country basis with bilateral agreements between the US and other countries. These agreements should ensure that the originating country is doing its best to reduce the flow of illegals, while the US is doing its best to take in as many as can be accommodated.

Most illegal immigrants are decent people who are desperate to come to the US and take advantage of the opportunities afforded there. But, they're illegal and thus, always living outside the law. That makes for a big pond for any would be terrorist to swim in if he wants. By forcing all these people to live as illegal immigrants and outside the law, the government is making it much easier for those who would attack America to find their way in and remain undetected.

Make it easier for people to immigrate legally and crack down on illegal immigration, which also enhances US security. If that's what the President is really after, then I'll swallow it.


Read this and be amazed:
For once George Bush has connected with a visceral, unquenchable urge in the human spirit, that element that drove Columbus and St Brendan to the New World, that conquered Everest simply because it was there, and that inspired scientists through the ages to say that no problem was or is beyond them. He has set a challenge worthy of mankind in the 21st Century - others will find the means and make the trip. For once he should be applauded.
That comes from this morning's Irish Times (sub. only access) editorial. Amazing simply because I never thought I'd see the day when George Bush was applauded by the Irish Times.

Unfortunately for us European-based space buffs hoping to get a free ride on an exciting (if virtual and vicarious) trip to Mars, the American public is none-too-keen to foot the bill.

Denial of local democracy?

That's the view of the Irish Examiner with regards to An Bord Plean├íla’s decision to allow the building of an incinerator at Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork. I'm not so sure.

First of all, I'm totally opposed to the very idea of An Bord Pleanála. I see no reason that I or anyone who doesn't live in the area should have any claim as to what can or cannot be done in Ringaskiddy. The people of the region should decide themselves if they want an incinerator or not. It's entirely possible that in the not-too-distant future, the pharmaceutical and chemical factories that provide much of the employment in the area will find that waste disposal without a local incinerator would not be cost-effective.

However, to call this a denial of local democracy assumes that there is a local democracy to begin with. But, there is not. Sure, we have local elections and county/city/town councils, but none of these bodies makes any real laws for the citizens who live within their boundaries. Who sets the tax rates? Who determines how much to spend on education/police/etc.?

While this decision is a diktat handed down from an unelected (and only barely accountable) central body, it was only a denial of a local opposition movement. Who knows if it was a denial of democracy? If the people of the area had local votes where they could choose between pro-Environment or pro-Business (or whatever) candidates, then we'd be able to find out which position the local people would support.

Imagine if there were a real chance that their jobs would be lost and the local economy would suffer, then there'd be a real decision to make. As it is, all people here can do is complain and hope that someone in the central authority is listening. What you get is occasional bursts where a local issue makes enough of a splash to generate interest at the central government level, but otherwise, it's generally a case of the "squeakiest wheel gets the oil". That's no way to run a democracy.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Economics articles

I know articles on macroeconomics are not everyone's favorite breakfast time fare. When served with Sunday breakfast they seem even less appetizing. Yet, I generally find David McWilliams's articles easy to read and understand and generally intelligently argued. I don't always agree with him, but that's the not the point. He makes it easier to consider your own views.

This morning's article on the differences between the US and EU response to the economic down-turn and its effect on Ireland is a good case in point. Interest rates, budget surpluses/deficits, immigration, property prices — they're all in here.

And, if McWilliams's article weren't gloomy enough, the Homeland Investment Bill will supposedly "cause billions of dollars earned by multinationals in Ireland to flow back to America".

Friday, January 16, 2004


I went to the post office today to buy stamps for letters to the US. Only found out that they had gone up last week by 20%! An Post & Eircom - inflation's best friends.

It now costs 68c and not the 57c it cost until Jan 4 to send a letter to the US. I hope those letters that I mailed last week will get there.

Townshend vs. Jackson

I would still trust Pete Townshend with my children more than I'd trust Michael Jackson. Yet, Townshend is the one who's been convicted for a child porn offense.

Taiwan and the 17th century

Another reason I feel that Irish people should have a unique perspective on Taiwan and China, it all seems to go back to the 17th century.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Global warming

Frank has a link to an article about the "global warming fraud".

Just try and talk to people in the Northeast US or eastern Canada today about Global Warming. High temperature where I grew up is forecasted to be 3 — that's Fahrenheit. The wind chill is going to be in the minus 40 region (that's the same if you're talking Fahrenheit or Celsius).

It may be wet here, but I'm not worried about my pipes freezing.

Front page news?

The Irish Times claims to be the paper of record on Irish affairs. Well, this front page story seems more like a tabloid feature than a real front page serious news story.

I don't care about O'Brien's politics or whatever. I'm dubious about his claim that he thought all his journalism writings qualified for the "artists' tax exemption". He's a former minister, a shrewd man and should have known better.

Still, there's something about seeing this on the front page that doesn't feel right. This is definitely news, I'm just not sure it belongs on the front page. My first instinct this morning when I saw the front page was that this was more about point-scoring on a political rival rather than a news-worthiness judgment.

I wish I could recall if other prominent figures who have had to settle back taxes were front page news.

Going bananas

Watching t.v. last night when a new ad for Dunnes Stores came on. They're offering 25% off on loose bananas this week!

Is this what some adman and Dunnes Stores believe will bring in the customers? They've gotta be kidding.

In some ways it was almost heart-warming. The ad sort of reminded me of the Ireland of the 1950s, when (maybe) shoppers would have rushed in for such major savings on loose bananas.

{If anyone can enlighten me as to what a "loose" banana is and how it differs from your general run-of-the-mill banana, I would be grateful.}

Arabs are "the Irish of the World"

That's John Derbyshire's view, anyway. Derbyshire's not everyone's cup of tea, but he's a fan of the Newshound, which is a big one with me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Bush CEO

Okay, this is the last time I'm going to mention the Paul O'Neill book (I think). There is a lot to criticize the President for with regards to Paul O'Neill, but I doubt any of it is in the book. At least not explicitly.

Most commentators seem hell-bent on taking the book's criticisms to the White House for answers. Fine, if that's what they want. But, the real question is how on Earth did President Bush appoint this man? He apparently didn't vet him for his views - on tax cuts, Iraq, Israel, etc. - before hiring him.

The President is, in many ways, the CEO of the government. He's responsible for all the big appointments and setting the tone, objectives, etc. for this organization. President Bush's MBA and business experience were emphasized during the 2000 election as an asset that he would bring to the position.

Treasury Secretary is a big job and from the word "go", it was pretty obvious that O'Neill wasn't fitting in with either the tone (think Bono trip) or the objectives (think tax cuts) that the President (supposedly) had set. It's one thing for an appointee to not work out, not deliver, but it's quite another to find that the appointee never agreed with the objectives to begin with.

This is clearly a big question mark over the President's capacity to manage this organization. I'm still waiting for one of the Democratic contenders to realize this.

Ireland's immigrants

Paul Dunne has referenced an article from the Baltimore Sun that appeared on the Newshound a couple of weeks ago. I meant to say something about this at the time, but I forgot.

What this article doesn't mention is that the gender of the third world immigrants is predominantly male, whereas the first world immigrants (EU, US, Canada, Australia) are predominantly female. I wonder if this trend will continue as the numbers increase and what possible ramifications it might have for Irish society.

Of those who were born in Ireland, the numbers of men and women are nearly equal (49.66% male, 50.34% female). Currently, according to the CSO, the breakdown of those who were born outside Ireland is nearly identical (49.74% male, 50.26% female). However, if third world emigration (54% male, 46% female) grows more quickly, and if the Irish birth rate falls off, it's possible that the current male/female balance will be upset.

{Unrelated Note: I had assumed that the number of people living here who had been born in the US was much higher than 29,000.}

Zeyad's cousin

Zeyad has more on the death of his cousin and the role that the US Army played in it. I don't know what to make of this. To me, the dead man's family sounds odd. I really hope this is concocted nonsense or that the cousin was up to no good, but that his family cannot accept this.

Still, I also acknowledge that everything written here was originally in a language I don't speak and I'm not familiar with the culture at all so my judgment of what's "odd" may be off.

Police brutality

Chris over at alt tag is concerned about recent reports of misbehavior by the Gardai. This kind of stuff runs to form in almost any democracy. There's a delicate balance between protecting citizens and over-stepping what is just.

Generally, when these sorts of complaints become public, there's a ritual denial from the police that this sort of thing is tolerated.

I'm a conservative and do generally support the police. However, I'm not a fool and I know damn well that there are members of any police force who are too "trigger happy" and love the power and authority that they get from their badge. I also know that police will almost always stick up for one another. It's this "bonding" that allows them to do their job well.

Policing is an ugly job. I'd hate it. I have sympathy for anyone who has to do it. Everyday the police see the worst elements of our society - crime, drugs, domestic violence, you name it. It has to take its toll on the psyche and soul of any police officer.

But, we citizens cannot just turn our backs on police misbehavior. In fact, the soul-destroying aspect of policing is the primary reason that we must hold the police accountable. We must be the ones to define acceptable and unacceptable.

Eircom - rip off

I can't argue with this headline from this morning's Irish Examiner, "Eircom phone charge hike a ‘rip-off’" It's hard to shake the feeling that Eircom is gouging the customers anyway they can. No longer in a monopoly position in the phone calls market, they are getting us to pay for their corporate fat via the only way left to them - the phone line rental. The sooner ComReg breaks Eircom's stranglehold on that market, the better.

The Examiner says Eircom's charge for phone line rental is already the highest in the EU. After this 7.5% increase, it will cost just under €20 (ex VAT) per month to have a phone line. This includes NO CALLS whatsoever! Why does it cost so much? {By way of comparison, Verizon in NY charges $35.95 per month, but that includes unlimited local calls.}

I heard some Eircom stooge, err, spokesman on the radio yesterday explaining that they had to recoup their costs - it is the law. Of course, the law doesn't stipulate that all your corporate fat be directed into the line rental costs, does it?

I was listening to Gerry Ryan this morning and he was discussing Eircom's rates. Apparently, Eircom is the only company that will not allow customers to bar calls to mobile phones. The discussion was about parents who are trying to rein in their phone bills when they have teens in the house. Generally, the discussion was about how these people were paying €100-200 every month in calls to mobiles alone. But, Eircom said they couldn't bar those calls. Apparently, ESAT and others can. Too much easy money for Eircom, methinks.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Florida's elections

Could it be deja vu all over again this November?


I was nominated for a "Bloggie" the other day. I have to be honest - I never heard of the Bloggies until I was nominated.

I'm not sure that this page is the "Best Irish or English Blog", but the fact that someone felt it was so is very satisfying. Getting a nomination from someone I've never met and whose own blog (more on that below) I'd never visited is both a source of pride, but also curiosity.

The vastness of the internet is as incomprehensible as the heavens. I'm sure Google would tell me that there are more web pages than stars in the sky. So, it's always interesting as to how people find my blog. Just how did this man find me? He says one of his "crack researchers" pointed it out to him. But, how did the researcher find it?

I went through this when I first started the Newshound in 1996. It's still exciting to discover that people are finding what I've built without me shoving it in their face with ads or other gimmicks.

My nominator's own site is called the Meatriarchy. This site's motto is one of the best I've seen on any blog, "If God didn't want me to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat"?

O'Neill & Iraq

Martin Kettle writes what is almost an interesting article about Paul O'Neill's revelations about the Bush Administration & Iraq.
It was clear, as early as 1998, that Clinton's hesitant Iraq policy was coming to embody everything that the now-famous foreign policy neo-cons despised about the Democratic president. By 2000, regime change in Iraq was the ultimate incarnation of the "not Clinton" approach. It should not surprise anyone that, in the early NSC meetings that O'Neill attended, ousting Saddam was indeed "topic A".
If this were "new & revealing", then it would be interesting.

But, it was clear during the campaign that Bush was planning on a more robust Iraq strategy than President Clinton had been pursuing.

From the 2000 Presidential Debate (Oct 11):
GOV. BUSH: Well, I think -- it's hard to tell. I think that -- you know, I would hope to be able to convince people I could handle the Iraqi situation better. I mean, we don't --

MR. LEHRER: With Saddam Hussein, you mean?

GOV. BUSH: Yes, and --

MR. LEHRER: You could get him out of there?

GOV. BUSH: I'd like to, of course, and I presume this administration would as well. But we don't know -- there's no inspectors now in Iraq. The coalition that was in place isn't as strong as it used to be. He is a danger; we don't want him fishing in troubled waters in the Middle East. And it's going to be hard to -- it's going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him.
What O'Neill reveals is not really new, it just sounds a little odd given what happened on September 11. But, I don't think it's all that shocking that Saddam was "Topic A" at National Security Council meetings in early 2001. This had been flagged during the campaign.

What's really revealing is that O'Neill took on a cabinet role in the Bush Administration, although it seems pretty clear that he didn't know what the President planned to do or just assumed that campaign promises (on Iraq or tax cuts) could be simply discarded.

In a related note, during the 2000 Vice Presidential debate, Joe Lieberman said the following:
The fact is that we will not enjoy real stability in the Middle East until Saddam Hussein is gone.
This is the reason that Bush was discussing ways to remove Saddam in early 2001. And, September 11 is the reason that helping others remove Saddam was transformed into an imperative to do the job ourselves.

Taiwan - status quo

Joe Lieberman's campaign is doomed anyway, but he had a go at the President, claiming he "turned his back on Taiwan". I don't think he turned his back on Taiwan, however I do find it hard to reconcile the push for Democracy in the Middle East and the apparent soft support for it in the Far East.

However, Joseph Wu, deputy secretary-general of the Taiwanese Presidential Office, states that there is "no longer any need to declare independence". The status quo is essentially independence, which is what President Bush is supporting.

Monday, January 12, 2004


I wonder if we'll have smoking speakeasies here when (if?) the smoking ban comes in?

Paul O'Neill & Iraq

Lots of press for Paul O'Neill, President Bush's former Treasury Secretary, who's peddling his new book. Good luck to him.

However, I think some of the news outlets are letting their passion get in the way of their judgment. First of all, O'Neill was fired, which can often leave someone disgruntled. James Arnold at the BBC seems to realize this.

Second, regime change was US policy after the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. At least one attempted coup against Saddam was supported by the US in the 1990s.

Given it was US policy that a new government was needed in Iraq, I don't find it surprising at all that the President talked about putting this policy into effect prior to September 11. Presidents are always asking for plans, etc. Why would President Bush NOT have asked his defense subordinates to have plans prepared? Having a plan ready is not the same thing as implementing the plan.

Arrogant, obnoxious, unnecessary

That's all I can say about the Embassy's decision to charge €1.90 (approx. $2.38) per minute to call for Visa information.

It is much cheaper to call the INS in the US at 00-1-800-375-5283. You'll have to wait on hold (undoubtedly) for a while, but if you call after 6pm Dublin time, it should still be a lot less than calling the Embassy here. Don't tell them you're calling from Ireland, tell them you're calling about a brother/sister/whatever who's in Ireland and wants to visit. They won't know the difference.

UPDATE 10:00am: Of course, whether it's cheaper to call the INS in the US depends on your phone service. I'm not sure what the Eircom rates are these days, but I'm paying 6 cents per minute to call the US using Vartec.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Dalkey restaurant

Can there be anything more appropriate than a new restaurant opening in Dalkey, Co. Dublin that celebrates (or treats as a joke) Benito Mussolini?

Dalkey is one of (if not THE) wealthiest towns in Ireland. Home to all sorts of celebrities, I'm sure it's also home to many who marched in February of last year.

Friday, January 09, 2004

"Bush lied about WMD"

How many times have you heard this? Well, I don't believe he lied. At worst, he and his administration became over-concerned (not a good thing either, but not a lie) about the prospect of Iraqi WMD after Sep 11. However, according to the Portuguese PM President Clinton was convinced that Saddam had WMD right up to the fall of Saddam's regime last April.

This can be read in two ways. One, President Clinton is acting Presidential and backing up the current holder of the office. Or, two, he is cutting the rug under Howard Dean by basically saying that it was not unreasonable for President Bush to believe Saddam had such weapons. This would help (a) Wesley Clark - thought to be the Clintons' choice and (b) Hillary, whose 2008 ambitions will presumably go up in smoke if Dean is elected this year.

{Link found through Instapundit.}

Grim reading

Yesterday, I wrote about how the US is not militaristic and that, yes, Americans were proud of those who serve in the military.

Regular readers will know I'm a fan of Zeyad's Healing Iraq web site. This story from Zeyad is very grim reading, but essential nonetheless. This is more of the "ugly truth" that Jason was talking about in November.

I hope this story is untrue, but I'm assuming it's not. I hope the military carries out a proper and thorough investigation. The military (the world over - not just in the US) can often try to cover-up such things and adopt a "we look after our own" approach. This is never a winning strategy in the long run.

I accept that these soldiers are under pressure, etc., but there's just no excusing this sort of behavior. Maybe there's more to this story than we see here? Maybe the soldiers were just stupid and thought they were being funny not realizing the risk of forcing these two young men into the river? I don't know. But, what I do know is that these soldiers are, at a minimum, not fit to represent the United States of America and, at worst, guilty of murder.

"The Final Frontier"

After the disappointment of the Beagle's non-response, the Spirit's pictures have been great. Really exciting stuff. You don't have to be an expert to know that getting a spacecraft to Mars and having everything work perfectly is a pretty complicated business.

Now, today, the NY Times is reporting that President Bush will propose establishing a base on the moon as a first step in a project that will eventually lead to sending a human to Mars.

Thursday, January 08, 2004


Dick thinks Mark Steyn "rarely produces work worth publishing". Like Frank, I can't agree with that. Steyn sometimes over-reaches and draws conclusions that are not really supportable, possibly due to the sheer volume of material he produces every week. There are other times when he's right on the money. However, he's generally very entertaining and I'm glad that he's writing for the Irish Times now.

US - militaristic?

This editorial appeared in The Guardian on Christmas Eve, which explains why I didn't talk about it at the time.

This sort of thing is mentioned so many times that sometimes I just let it roll off me. Other times I just want to explode. I'll try to stay calm, but I find it hard to relax when I read stuff like the following
Even before the costs of the Iraq war and occupation, which themselves exceed $100bn, the United States had a regular defence budget this year of $334bn. The sum is larger than the combined defence spending totals of the 10 next largest military powers on the planet. . . . To call the US a militaristic culture may be an exaggeration, but it is a pardonable one. This massive investment forms the bedrock of an intense national feeling in America about its armed forces. Pride in the military has become an essential theme in the national story, from George Washington to George Bush, represented in movies, monuments and an immense range of military literature.
Where do I start? What country is not proud of their military forces? The Irish are proud of their military. Does The Guardian really want to claim that the British are any less proud of their forces? Gimme a break.

It is because the US is NOT a militaristic society that we are so proud of our military. We know that the people in the Army, Navy & Air Force are almost entirely regular folks who would like nothing better than to be at home all the time, rather than at war. The US is NOT Sparta. We do not breed knights for war. And, it is this very truth that explains the proliferation of books & movies about wars. Mostly these are stories of remarkable feats of endurance or courage in extreme circumstances performed by your "average Joe".

Secondly, this spending business is a canard. China is definitely one of the US's rivals on the world stage. China spends 4.3% of its GDP on defense. China's not a democracy and is not required to publish the full budgetary facts. One expert believes that real spending by China could be 2-5 times the published amount.

Obviously, what the Chinese (or Russians or Indians or Pakistanis ) pay in salaries to their soldiers & sailors is not comparable with what a US soldier or sailor would be paid. And, assuming that "operations and maintenance" is mostly human activity (and not equipment) then 63-64% of the US defense budget goes to wages. Therefore, when talking about gross amounts spent and not percentages of GDP, the only legitimate comparisons that can be made are with other countries that pay similar wages. That means - the EU, Japan, Canada & Australia.

I've previously mentioned that US defense spending is at 3.5% of GDP (well down on the 80s), but the EU has continued to allow defense spending as a percentage of GDP to fall. Japan is essentially demilitarized and the EU & Canada are heading that direction.

It's not that the US is a militaristic culture (that's not even a "pardonable" exaggeration), but rather that much of the first world is heading off into pacifist fantasy land. {Australia spends 2.9% of its GDP on defense, which puts it ahead of all EU countries other than Greece.}

Fingerprints kept for 75 years

Yesterday, I noted Dick's concern regarding what the US plans to do with all these fingerprints being collected from visitors to the US. According to this morning's Irish Times, they will be kept for 75 years.

There are some other interesting tit-bits in this article.
  1. A similar scheme for non-nationals entering the EU is already in operation. Funny that Jon didn't mention this when he detailed what it's like for an American entering Ireland. I wonder if (a) Ireland is not involved in this process - not really possible unless (b) it doesn't apply to the US & Canada and other "first-world" nations (and, since Ireland has no direct flights from Africa, S. America or elsewhere, Ireland doesn't have to be involved in this process).
  2. The spokesman for the Data Protection Commission acknowledges that the EU body has no jurisdiction over what happens within the US. That doesn't stop him from declaring "If the fingerprints are for the purpose of confirming entry to the US and then again on departure, and that is the only reason, then they should be deleted". Again, I say, nobody is forcing anyone from the EU to go to the US. When you arrive as a visitor in America, YOU ARE A GUEST. YOU LIVE BY THE RULES OF YOUR HOST. Why is this concept so difficult for people to grasp? Besides, the purpose of the fingerprints is to enhance US security. It seems obvious to me that you would want to retain information if only to be able to check if (or when) someone you're suspicious of has previously entered the country. I'm not sure you'd need to retain such information for 75 years, 25 would probably do, but I'm not worried about it either.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Americans is pretty dum

That's the conclusion of this pompous ass, Mr. Neal Starkman. It's the only explanation for President Bush's popularity. {Thanks to HipperCritical for this one.}

Of course, not quite as dumb as the Irish, it seems.

UPDATE (1:30pm): If Americans are "stupid" and can't "understand the phenomenon of cause and effect" as claimed by Mr. Starkman, maybe it's because for the past 40 years all sorts of educational "experts" have ruined American education through the implementation of all sorts of garbage theories. For example:
Helping students achieve means doing all that is possible to enable them to move toward better learning and higher standards, grades, and test scores. But getting to those academic goals requires more than reading, writing and arithmetic; building positive relationships, serving others, using decision-making skills, being motivated to learn, and developing a positive identity all contribute to young people's success in learning. This is the premise of a new book from Search Institute called Great Places to Learn: How Asset-Building Schools Help Students Succeed.
Interestingly, this book is written by a Mr. Neal Starkman, who apparently lives in Seattle! Could they be one and the same?

More on fingerprinting & photographing of visitors

Dick is worried about what the US authorities will be doing with his fingerprints when he visits the US. My immediate reaction is to say, "if you're worried about it don't go". Inside the Irish passport is a short note from the Minister for Foreign Affairs requesting "all whom it may concern to allow the bearer, a citizen of Ireland, to pass freely and without hindrance and to afford the bearer all necessary assistance and protection". The Minister does not ask that the foreign governments admit the traveler as one of its own citizens.

The passport's sole function is as a protection for the country that is being visited. The fact that modern technology has made forgery of passports too easy is the reason why further measures (such as fingerprinting and photographing visitors) is necessary.

Dick also asks why he as a journalist has to go through this when regular holiday visitors do not. Well, one reason I can think of is that journalists often have access to areas that your average tourist does not.

Lastly, Dick surely does not think that increased security measures as implemented by the US are comparable with what is clearly pettiness on the part of Brazil. Brazil may seem an unlikely source for Al Qaeda, but as I've highlighted before they do have such a problem.

NASN - again

If you're an American, a sports fan, you live in Britain or Ireland and you DON'T have NASN yet, then WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

Sure, they don't have the NFL or NBA (you need Sky Sports for that), but the amount of hockey, college football and basketball and, most importantly, major league baseball that NASN provides is tremendous. Last night they had an advertisement that informed viewers that they will be showing 250 baseball games this season! That's 250 more than you're getting now.

Sure, I'd love to be able to get every single Met game as I would at home (along with the Yankees, Braves and, possibly, the Cubs or Red Sox), but that's not possible -- YET. Someday, it will be and I can't wait. But, in the meantime, NASN is just so much better than nothing.

Sky Marshals

Yesterday, I commented in favor of the new security arrangements for visitors to the US arriving by sea or air.

I'm not sure about the sky marshals proposals, however. First of all, from what I gather, not all flights will have marshals, only a select few, presumbably those that are considered most at risk. But, will I as a passenger know when a marshal is on my flight? And, if yes, will I have the option to not go on a flight (with a full refund) which the authorities have reason to suspect may be a terrorist target? What if I'm on a flight that does not have sky marshals because no one recommended them, yet the flight is subject to an on-board attack? Will I (or my family if I die) have the right to sue the US government for failing to protect me?

If I'm not going to be told that a marshal is on my flight, by what right do they withhold such information from me?

I would actually prefer if all licensed gun-owners were given the option of carrying one of the stun guns that sky marshals are supposed to be carrying. I think you could pretty well rule out all hijackings if potential hijackers were worried that there might be 50 or so passengers "packing heat".

I also think that the average airline passenger has already shown (with UA93 and the Richard Reid flight) that they will not meekly accept being hijacked any more. In the past, hijackers simply wanted to go to Cuba or whatever. But, September 11 has changed that. If I were on a plane that was hijacked I would assume I was already dead and would have nothing to lose going after my attackers. If 100 or more passengers think the same way, there's little hope of the hijackers accomplishing much more than bringing down a plane.

More Tug McGraw

A friend of mine reminded me of another great Tug quote. When asked whether he preferred grass or Astroturf, Tug replied, "I dunno. I never smoked any Astroturf".

Martin O'Neill

I was listening to part of a discussion on Martin O'Neill's OBE on Newstalk the other night with Martin Ferris and Eamonn McCann.

I won't comment on the politics of his decision to accept the award, but I haven't heard anyone (and I haven't followed this closely, it has to be said) mention that before O'Neill could leave Celtic he would have to at least partly alienate the fans. One sure-fire way to accomplish this would be to lose, but that would not help him get the big job he might want. Another way would be to say and do things that would really annoy the fans of Glasgow Celtic. This OBE may be a part of that.

Just a thought.

UPDATE (2:20 pm):Good discussion on this topic over at Slugger O'Toole.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

"Fortress America"

That's the headline on the Irish Independent article on the new measures to track visitors to the US. Fingerprinting (inkless) and photographing (painless) seem to me pretty minor inconveniences for visitors. Yet, the tone of this article is full of the hysterical civil liberties nonsense. To my mind, this is the minimum that should be done. I'll be happier when the Canadian border is secure (or Canada begins to take this issue seriously).

I really love this line, "Civil liberties groups accused the government of isolating people of Middle Eastern descent". That's despite the fact it applies to all but 30 countries. And, it definitely explains Brazil's response (which is simply silly - do what you need to do for security, but don't be so petty).

Here's a voice of sanity, from today's NY Times:
"Any measures America feels it has to take in order to prevent any future terrorist attacks are worth losing a few minutes over," said Gerardo Molina, 54, a lawyer arriving in Miami from Santiago, Chile. "Hopefully the rest of the world will catch on and do the same."

More on

Okay, I was a little wrong when I described as "well left of center". They're actually extremists and representative of very, very few Americans. Not living in the US I wasn't fully aware of this when I commented on C. McCann's piece from Saturday's Irish Independent.

These kinds of ads are not going to help defeat George Bush in November.

{Thanks to Patrick for alerting me to this.}

And, on a related note, this is why I don't think anger will actually win anyone an election this year. Americans are just too happy. I would love to see a similar poll of Europeans. For whatever reason, there are entire nations of people in Europe for whom happiness seems such a burden.

Congressional visits

More than a third of the US Congress has been to Iraq since the war ended. The administration is encouraging these visits, believing (and rightly so, it seems from this article) that those visits will encourage Representatives and Senators to support the Administration on Iraq.

Ya Gotta Believe!

One of my boyhood idols died yesterday. Tug McGraw, pitcher for the NY Mets when I was a kid, has died aged 59. "Ya gotta believe" was his battle cry when the 1973 season looked all but lost for the Mets. They came from way back to win the pennant and play in the World Series.

Tug was the kind of player that any kid would love. He always looked like a big kid when he played. That he wanted to win was obvious, but it was also obvious that he really loved playing baseball. Loads of us NY kids used to emulate Tug's trademark glove-bouncing-on-the-knee as he walked off the field.

{Irish readers may know Tug's country music star son, Tim McGraw.}

Tug was one of baseball's more quotable players. Here's one that I like:
90% I'll spend on good times, women and Irish Whiskey. The other 10% I'll probably waste.

David Brooks

David Brooks is someone I had only barely heard of before he became a regular columnist with the NY Times. He's quickly becoming one of my favorites because (a) he always strikes me as level-headed and sensible, not prone to shrill extremism and (b) he's conservative. When he supports a position I don't (as with gay marriage) he can often leave me questioning my views, which to my mind is the best thing that can be said about a columnist.

Today, he knocks down the "neocon cabal" nonsense, but he also tackles a bigger issue, which is the extent to which proliferation of media outlets is allowing people to "choose their own reality". That he can see the idiocy of this for both the left and the right is what I mean when I say he's level-headed.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Don't hang Saddam

The Spectator's opposed to the death penalty being applied to Saddam.

I've previously whispered (I never shout about this) that I'm against the death penalty. However, when I wrote that I was referring to your average run of the mill murderers. Not Saddam.

I do think he should be executed. First of all, there is no doubt that he's guilty. So, the application of the ultimate punishment cannot be in error (as in, the wrong man dying).

Second, if Saddam remains in prison for a long while he may become (a) a focal point for terror groups — "release Saddam or else" type demands or (b) a political figure to rally around for some sections of the Iraqi population as has happened with Milosevic. I think Iraq's stability will require Saddam's death, which will be a very small price to pay.

Third, I think Saddam's victims cry out for vengeance and I suspect that nothing less than his execution will satisfy his vitims' families. I would not want to deny them that.

The Irish Independent claims that Colum McCann is an "award winning Irish writer", which I'm sure he is. McCann is the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College in the City University of New York. I'm guessing his award was not for his political analysis.

I would not deny Mr. McCann's right or the Irish Independent's right to publish his opinion. That's their prerogative. However, there's also no denying that McCann's column in Saturday's Independent fits a well-establish pattern for the Irish media when they attempt to analyze American politics.

McCann is writing about, which McCann notes is "designed to bring ordinary people back into politics". The problem with this piece is that it fails to provide any indication of where fits in the American political spectrum (well left of center), how wide-spread its ideas or the "palpable anger" that is tapping into really are. That anger has so far propelled Howard Dean to the leadership position in the Democratic nomination process, but it will not a be a sufficient motivation for the American people to vote against President Bush in November.

The most recent poll I could find showed that President Bush had a 20 point lead over Howard Dean. McCann's failure to mention this or that is getting a significant chunk of change ($10m or so) from billionaire George Soros means that the Independent's readers are not fully informed.

If this were an isolated case or one of a number of columns presenting different views of the current state of US politics it would not be an issue. Unfortunately, this is the sort of coverage that will leave Irish voters wondering "how on Earth did George Bush get elected", something I often heard after the 2000 election.

Friday, January 02, 2004


Halliburton has not been making huge profits in Iraq, the New York Times has conceded.
The rebuilding of Iraq's oil industry has been characterized in the months since by increasing costs and scant public explanation. An examination of what has grown into a multibillion-dollar contract to restore Iraq's oil infrastructure shows no evidence of profiteering by Halliburton, the Houston-based oil services company, but it does demonstrate a struggle between price controls and the uncertainties of war, with price controls frequently losing.
I know this is one that Dick and Jon have been keeping an eye on.

Baghdad - safe city

I still occasionally read or hear of Baghdad's lawlessness, something I mentioned back in October when Lara Marlowe left me with the impression that the US had smashed its way into the Garden of Eden. However, those references are growing less frequent. Now we're reduced to complaining about the traffic.

The reason these reports are growing less frequent is that Baghdad is now safer than NY, the safest big city in the US.

Christmas break

Although things have been pretty quiet at the Irish Eagle over the past couple of weeks, I have been updating the Newshound regularly. It's generally pretty quiet around Christmas time and I can understand how many bloggers and other sites seem to go silent at this time.

But, I cannot believe that The Ulster News Letter's web site has had no updates since the 24th.


I mentioned Joe Strummer below and despite the fact I wasn't a fan of the politics, I loved the Clash. I wouldn't claim to have been their most devoted fan, but I did own all the albums, including the politically pretentious triple album, Sandanista. I still get a little shiver down my spine and an urge to turn up the volume whenever I hear the introduction to London Calling.

2003 reviews & 2004 predictions

I won't bore you or me with a review of 2003 or predictions for the coming year. I have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow, let alone a year from now. And, as for what's gone on the year before, I'd be hard pressed to remember.

It's odd that someone who spends so much time reading papers and watching/listening to news programs cannot recall what happened over the past 12 months. Other than the war in Iraq (& all the related hoopla) nothing stands out in my mind.

My children were talking to me about a t.v. show they saw about famous people who died in 2003. My first guess, Joe Strummer, died in 2002. Other than Bob Monkhouse, I couldn't think of anyone.

Chris over at alt tag watched RTE's review of the year and was not impressed. The only thing I can say is that it would be strange to call the War in Iraq one of the best things about 2003. Its outcome is fantastic, but war is never a good thing. It would have been better if Saddam and his cronies had just gone into exile, even if that meant that he'd never answer for what he's done to the Iraqi people.

{By the way, Chris, glad you're enjoying the Rising. Wait til you get the DVD - Live in Barcelona.

Libyan arms

I'm sure I wasn't much different from others who took the view that the world can wait over Christmas. I only half paid attention to the news, and everything seemed insignificant compared with the Iranian earthquake.

However, quickly scanning headlines left me with the impression that what the IAEA found when they got to Libya was that Libya didn't really pose much of a threat and that there was little cause for alarm. But, as I said, I wasn't paying much attention or even thinking critically about what I was reading.

Then yesterday the Washington Post reported that a seizure of components of nuclear weapons in September helped put the squeeze on Libya. But, it was this editorial from the Boston Globe that really opened my eyes. If the Globe is calling Mohammed El Baradei naive, even disingenuous, then I know I missed something.

The Globe states that the IAEA looks "incompetent if not simply irrelevant". They should have just gone with the "simply irrelevant". The UN's inability to distinguish between open, democratic societies and dictatorships is the primary reason that it should be ignored. The UN is a wonderful little talk shop, but nothing serious should be left up to it - particularly American and western security.