Thursday, April 29, 2004


Here's a good educated guess as to what's happening in Fallujah.

Iraq poll

A poll published in yesterday's USA Today is really interesting. At first glance, the negative attitudes leap off the screen. And, they do have to be taken very seriously. More respondents thought that the invasion had done more harm than good (Q3). This is particularly the case in Baghdad and among Sunnis.

However, read further and you see some strange, (apparently) contradictory responses. 61% of respondents thought that the hardships they have endured were "worth it" to get rid of Saddam (Q23).

Another curiosity is that more people claim that they and their families are better off (51% - Q5) than believe Iraq is better off (42% - Q4). Most Iraqis want the coalition to leave now (Q8), but would feel less safe if that happened (Q16).

Taken together, it seems to me that the objective remains valid, but that the implementation has been disappointing. The Iraqi people are happy Saddam is gone and do feel that they are better off without him. They've even experienced a rise in their incomes, for the most part (Q24).

However, they obviously do not feel secure and don't think the coalition will bring security, which explains why they think the country is doing worse than they are. Although they're personally doing better, they're afraid it's going to come crashing down on them. This is probably unsurprising given what's happening now, but is food for thought for everyone.

The war was "worth it", but the post-war experience has been bad. {I think a certain feeling of uncertainty was inevitable after the war, but it's pretty clear that what's been happening the past few weeks/months is seriously exacerbating this problem.}

I still believe that during the planning stages (in 2002) the Administration didn't seriously believe that they would not have UN backing for the post-war period and failed to plan accordingly. The invasion went ahead last spring because it had to, otherwise those 250,000 troops would have to have been taken out of the region. You can't keep an army at full readiness forever.

I think this whole enterprise could have been resoundingly successful for the US, the EU, Russia and UN had it been carried out with the support of all the big partners. Instead we have a half successful war and too much uncertainty in the present. How we got here doesn't really matter now, but the situation has to be transformed. More American troops, UN take over, whatever. Iraq must be pacified and put on the path to a (relatively) free society.

Other poll notables:
  • Sunnis are least happy with the invasion, coaltion, etc.; the Kurds are over the moon about it all
  • If President Bush loses in November, I'm sure he could get a job in Kurdish Iraq. His approval ratings there are 95%
  • Not much difference in how Iraqis perceive Tony Blair or Jacques Chirac
  • Only a third of people can get al Jazeera or al Arabiya

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Diplomats' letter

Last night on BBC's Newsnight, the lead item was a letter from former US diplomats to President Bush that was intended as a mirror to the one Tony Blair received yesterday from former British diplomats.

After allowing Washington correspondent Tom Carver make as big a deal out of this letter as he could, Mr. Paxman then played his taped interview with one of the letter's signers, Andrew Killgore. Mr. Killgore was Ambassador to Iraq in the 60s and to Qatar in the late 70's. He is the publisher of the Washington Report on Mideast Affairs.

The interview told me that (a) Mr. Killgore is against the Iraq war and (b) opposed to US policy with regards to Israel. Whoa!

After seeing this interview with Mr. Killgore, my response was, "Is that it?". So far I haven't been able to find any reference to this letter on any US news web site. Now, I haven't killed myself looking, but it's not a leading item anywhere and it doesn't even seem to have made it into the NY Times, the Washington Post or onto CNN.

I wonder if anyone in the Newsnight team is feeling a little sheepish about this big exposé 12(+) hours later?


{Although it's easy to say so now, more than a year after the war started, I could produce witnesses who could attest to the fact that in early 2003 I believed that no WMD would be found in Iraq (other than some R & D programs). I was in favor of the war, but for reasons that had nothing to do with any WMD.}

This report from Insight (a magazine I've never heard of before) indicates that Saddam's WMD are indeed being found and accounted for.

There are two ways to read this report. One is as a "Well, there they are, then. Why isn't this a bigger deal?" and the other is "Uh-huh. Now it turns out that all those finds that were dismissed back then were actually WMD finds. Hmmmm".

I don't know enough about chemcials or pesticides to know if the assumptions in this article are true or not, but it does seem a little odd that so many ammunition dumps had stockpiles of pesticide. It also seems reasonable that the chemicals that could be used in weapons would not make for very "exciting" pictures. I imagine a few rusty drums are not what any photographer had in mind when he was thinking about pictures of chemical weapons for the front page back home.

Another possibility is that the Administration has its own reasons to play down what it's finding in Iraq. One possibility is that the administration is getting good leads and doesn't want to tip anybody off before the army can secure the sites.

The willingness of the ISG to dispute the findings of American and other troops did cause me to raise my eyebrows when these reports were common last spring and summer. I know a lot of people would just assume that these army guys wouldn't be that skilled or whatever and wouldn't be sure of what they were finding, but some of the reports about blistering, etc. made me think that whatever these guys found it's not healthy. And, if they're finding this stuff in ammunition dumps (or in mortar shells) that's even more curious.

So, even if the army doesn't have the requisite skills to definitively state what they've found at these places, they do know when something is odd, and it's odd when they're finding pesticides among ammunition stores. It at least begs the question, "Why were they there"?

Theme park

I'm sure this is all over the blogosphere, but a friend of mine sent me this yesterday, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Europe is, apparently, merging into one giant theme park.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Micheal Martin

Andrew Stuttaford at National Review says Micheal Martin is
the typographically challenging busybody-in-chief, a bore, and a smug, self-righteous zealot. His one experience of a cigarette, as a foolish "teenager" naturally, was "disgusting." While he may have a drink now and then, he never, never gets "tipsy."
Andrew does not seem too enamored of the new anti-smoking laws nor the Minister for Health.

I'm important!!!

A Newshound reader has just e-mailed me to let me know that Mr. Desmond Swayne (Conservative from New Forest) mentioned the Newshound in Parliament at Westminster yesterday.
Those preoccupations of the police force have an echo in questions that have been tabled over the last year by Northern Ireland Members. Equally, they have an echo in the reports of the Northern Ireland press, which can be easily scrutinised on the internet through that wonderful vehicle, Newshound.

Obsession with religion

Amir Taheri likens Saudi society to a set of matrushka dolls - the biggest doll is Saudi society which "has become obsessed with religion in the past few decades".

Friday, April 23, 2004

NFL 'Great'

In 2002 Pat Tillman was about to earn more than $1m a year playing football (American style) when he decided that he'd rather join his brother in the Army's elite Rangers. The September 11 attacks got to him so much that he felt he had to "pay something back".

Today it was reported that Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan. A genuine sports hero.

Read Peggy Noonan's column on Tillman from 2002.


Pressure is increasing on both the French & German governments to have referenda on the proposed EU Constitution. Blair's move has certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons.
"This is the first time in my life I regret not being English", said Mr Philippe de Villiers, leader of a the small Eurosceptic Movement for France.

Hillary Clinton - defense hawk

According to a report in today's NY Times.

The three R's

It seems that the focus of primary education in Saudi Arabia is not quite the same as it is in Britain, Ireland or N. America.

According to Dr. Fawziah Al-Bakr
32 percent of the educational plan studied by primary students is allocated for Islamic studies, while Arabic studies [similar to our study of English – IE] take about 27 percent of student time. "The curriculum allocates six percent for science and 14 percent for mathematics," she said.
Now, I'm all for a religious education, but a third of total schooling? That does seem excessive. And, if students pass Islamic & Arabic studies they can move on regardless of how they do in mathematics. Not exactly preparing for a high tech world, are they?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

"The Americans did it"

According to Alaa, an al Arabiya reporter claimed that "most people are saying" that it was American (or British, not really clear from Alaa's post) Helicopters that caused the carnage yesterday in Basra.

Alaa's having none of it, and, I presume, neither is anyone else. This is what he has to say about the reporter and those who carried out those attacks:
You murder children and don’t even have some remnant of decency left to at least keep quiet, but have to blame it on others, to shelter the true criminals. But let me just tell you this: Every little drop of blood from a severed limb of a child going to school, every school bag with their books and pencils strewn on the scene of the crime, the little poor shoes soaked in blood with bloodied remains of little feet still inside them; these before anything else spell your eternal damnation. You have no God. I mean you may think that you have a God, but it is some terrible bloodthirsty figure of hate and rage, a figment of your insane imagination; most certainly not the Compassionate the Merciful Allah we believe in. Your filthy beards and turbans are covered with blood and excrement forever, rabid dogs, unbelievable monsters, misanthropes.


Wow! that Viagra's potent stuff. {From 2002, so some of you may have seen this already.}

Soccer woes

As a "blow-in" (12 years here) who knows "nothing" about "football" (soccer - and I've made a huge effort to learn & understand the game), I recognize the risk of making any pronouncement on the state of the sport. I would probably get all defensive if any recent arrival to America started mouthing off about what's wrong with baseball. However, that wouldn't mean his opinions weren't valid.

In soccer, more than in any other sport, a good rule of thumb is that the bigger the game, the more likely it is to be a big yawn. Last night's game between Porto and Deportivo la Coruna was a classic example of this. Okay, I accept that some 0-0 games can be exciting, but more often than not, they're incredibly dull. Yes, the second half was a little better than the first, but overall this was a terrible advertisement for the game. Last year's Champion's League Final was equally poor.

I don't know what the answer to this boredom problem is, but surely no sport can be immune from losing fans if its premier games are so dismal.

I've always thought that these two leg affairs are asking for boredom, although that doesn't explain last year's final. Last night, it was obvious from the opening minute that Deportivo were just as happy to play for a 0-0 result in the belief that they would win the home leg.

Maybe the governing authorities should consider abandoning the two leg affairs in favor of a one game, winner-take-all structure. Or a best of three, with the third game, if necessary, at a neutral site. I don't know. I just know that at the top level the best defenses seem more than capable of stifling the best offenses, particularly when there's so little incentive to take a chance and try to score. {For whatever reason, this problem seems more pronounced at the European level than it is in the English League.}

A less important, but still irritating problem is the injury faking that is so prevalent. Diving is one thing - no sport is immune from a little play-acting for the officials in order to get a favorable call. But, why do soccer players (and I've never seen this in any other sport) have to pretend to be seriously injured? They roll around the field, giving the impression that they've suffered a broken limb. Yet, the replays clearly show that while the player may have been fouled, it was hardly serious. This garbage is painful to watch, and to my American eyes, unmanly behavior for any sportsman. "Big girl's blouse" is an expression I've picked up here and it seems to apply to far too many professional soccer players.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

EU Constitutional referendum

I can't figure out why Tony Blair has decided to go ahead with a referendum on the proposed EU Constitution. It did occur to me that this decision will make his life harder. But, it will also make life difficult for the French & Germans too.

First, the government can influence the referendum vote for a yes as much as it deems it worthwhile. If the Germans & French make life hard for Blair, his government can sit back and stay "neutral" while the euro-sceptics make all the running. This would almost certainly see the referendum fail.

Second, the German and French governments are sure to come under a lot more pressure from their own electorate for a similar referendum. Neither of these governments, especially the Germans, would want this because the outcome is uncertain.

Could this "most humiliating about-turn of his career" actually be a slap at the German and French governments?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Final Battlefields?

Crown Prince Abdullah is today going to open a "Conference on Islam and Terrorism Today" being held in Riyadh. While this may sound innocuous, when this is set alongside Amir Taheri's column from yesterday's NY Post, you get the feeling that the authorities in Riyadh are really beginning to feel the heat.

The Saudi government is now finding that the blind eye it turned to Islamic terrorism is coming back to haunt them. Taheri quotes an al Qaeda ideologist's book that proclaimed Iraq & Saudi Arabia are the "final battlefields". Today's conference is clearly part of an attempt to promote a less militant version of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately for Abdullah some of his own government ministers (especially his half-brother, Nayef) are not in agreement with him.

Bush - unbeatable?

I am very surprised to see that Bush has managed to gain in the polls over the past month or so. I would have thought that the news from Iraq & the 9/11 Commission was bad enough to give Kerry a real boost. But, according to this morning's Washington Post, Bush has picked up 5% over the past 5 weeks. What would the polls look like if things were going well in Iraq?

I'm beginning to wonder if Bush is unbeatable or if it's simply that Kerry is unelectable.

UPDATE (11:30): Dick Morris has different polling numbers suggesting that the race has reached a stalemate. This is bad news for President Bush. Interesting numbers on men vs. women and the War on Terror. Bush is not so unbeatable at all, if Morris's numbers are accurate.

Monday, April 19, 2004

How old is Sadr

Almost all references I've seen to Moqtada al-Sadr claim he is 30 or 31. Yet, Omar, who's an Iraqi, says he only 23.

While it really doesn't make much difference, it does make me wonder about his support. I've seen reports that claim he's being supported by Iran or even an Iranian puppet. This seems much more likely to me if he's really only 23 if only because I would find it harder to imagine so many thousands of people throwing their support behind anyone so young unless they thought he had powerful friends.

I am Cleveland

Take the quiz: "Which American City Are You?"

You are blue collar and Rock n Roll. You Work hard and party harder.

I'm not sure anyone who knows me now (as opposed to 1985 or so) would say I party hard, but I take pride in "being Cleveland". I was born in NYC and lived there longer than in any other city. I love New York, but I was never much for either the high or alternative culture available there. A few beers and a game at Shea was always my dream night. Cleveland's scenic picture includes a sports stadium (I'm not sure if that's their football or baseball stadium).

Found through Chris at alt tag.

Zapatero & Kerry

If anyone in Europe thinks that a John Kerry Presidency will mean a "Zapatero-like" withdrawal from Iraq, they're just plain wrong. I don't know if Zapatero's troop withdrawal will make Spain more or less secure (I'm doubtful, but Spain can safely stay out of the way while the US cannot), but John Kerry understands that withdrawing American troops from Iraq will undermine US security.

I watched Kerry on Meet the Press yesterday (full transcript here) and was struck by how "hawkish" he sounds when compared with the Europeans (excepting Blair, of course). Kerry's position is that the "way the President" took the country to war was a mistake, not necessarily the war itself. He's campaigning on the promise to manage the war better than Bush not on a pledge to "bring our troops home" regardless of the situation.

On Israel, Kerry supports Bush's endorsement of the Sharon plan "completely". So, on those two issues, there is daylight between Bush & Kerry, but essentially none as far as the "European street" is concerned.

The biggest difference is in the definition of the war on terror. Kerry said that the war on terror is primarily "an intelligence gathering, law enforcement, public diplomacy effort". This is the biggest fundamental difference between Bush & Kerry (leaving out domestic concerns, which to my mind pale in significance).

The Bush administration has essentially said, through the National Security Strategy, that the war on terror is a transformative effort. Bush wants to transform the Middle East – have accountable, elected governments that provide hope for the populations of the region. Yes, the military is a big part of that, but it's not the primary focus despite Kerry's attempt to make it seem so.

This transformation project is an extremely risky, radical venture with no guarantee of success. It's one that many European nations are extremely wary of. I think it would have been much better if the Europeans and Americans had gone down this road together, but that didn't happen and I believe was never going to happen. No amount of diplomatic sweet talk would have convinced the French & Russians to go down this road with the US.

Kerry's emphasis on intelligence, law enforcement & diplomacy is 100% defensive – how can we prevent more attacks like September 11 or worse. I think without a complete shut down of immigration, much tighter controls on visitors, a greater emphasis on uni-culturalism (is that the opposite of multi-culturalism?), this approach is doomed. I can't see Kerry endorsing such a tightening at the ports and borders and he certainly will not be advocating a less multi-cultural vision of America.

Bush's approach follows the old maxim that the best defense is a good offense. Use the military to remove Saddam, whose regime was the biggest threat in the region. Then use pressure and soft power to encourage the rest of the region's governments to liberalize so that the people of the Middle East can use their own creative powers to better their lives. The thinking here is that once the people of the region feel they have power to do something for themselves, they will no longer be looking for scapegoats (the US/Israel/the west/whatever).

Bush's vision is almost obscenely optimistic, but I support it because to my mind the Kerry alternative is not a solution only a delaying mechanism. It doesn't deal with the fundamental problem that any diplomatic efforts are focussed on corrupt regimes. Those corrupt regimes have been deflecting their peoples' anger with their governments' incompetence onto Israel and the US. And, our dependency on the region's oil means the corrupt regimes hold a trump card in our dealings if we lean too heavily on them for their anti-American activities. Our position in Iraq is intended to lessen the impact of that trump card.

My biggest problem with Bush has been his failure to address the oil issue. If the war on terror is a "war" (and I believe it is) then why don't we take full action to wean ourselves off their oil by finding new sources, conserving (what about war time rationing?) and using/developing alternatives (and I'm not just talking about environmentally friendly alternatives - I'd be happy to hear coal was making a comeback). Kerry does talk about this, but he continually conflates this issue with woolly environmentalism, which also probably makes Europeans happy, but the reality will be so disappointing to them.

Friday, April 16, 2004

"How an Italian dies"

The NY Post celebrates the bravery of Fabrizio Quattrocchi, the hostage who was murdered in Iraq on Wednesday.

UPDATE (15:40): Changed the word executed to murdered at William's prompting (see comment). My use of the word execute was wrong. Execute denotes a certain legitimacy, which definitely does not apply in this case.


Guinness is closing their London brewery. Guinness for the British market will be brewed at St. James's Gate. So, those who work in the Dublin brewery get a big boost with more work on their way. And, the Guinness drinkers of Britain can finally get a decent pint.


Are Australians the only English-speaking people left who are not stricken by political correctness? I only know one Australian and he's certainly not bothered with political correctness. I seem to remember famous Australians passing remarks that are "out of bounds" with today's thought police.

Anyway, Pat Cash's comments on Rebecca Loos (the other woman in the Beckham thing) are too funny. He's "50 per cent certain" he dated Loos, but he can't be sure because "they all looked the same after a while".

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Mosque attack

I don't think the members of the Saudi Permanent Committee for Scientific Research and Ifta are reading blog-irish. They still think that the Fallujah mosque was "attacked" with "worshippers inside".

RESPECT - is all I'm after

As I implied at the beginning of my post on the sacraments and those who don't believe, there are many practical reasons why people who don't believe might go ahead with the sacraments. This is especially true with regards to children and First Holy Communion.

Jon, writing in the comments section, mentions the difficulties for kids who opt out of First Holy Communion in a class where preparation for the event is a primary focus. This is the situation in many Irish schools. The Catholic Church and local primary education are completely entwined; it's nearly impossible for a non-believer to find a school for their children in many Irish towns.

I don't consider appeasing the family, however, to be a good enough reason for having a church wedding. I think any Catholic (and I'm sure this would go for any religious person) would rather endure their children's non-religious wedding than partake in a sham event and a mockery of their faith.

But, I think I would be satisfied if those who don't believe would simply show respect. When I read Frank's post, I realized that was a big part of my problem. Frank may be an atheist, but he recognizes that the sacraments are important to those who believe and should be respected. I would dearly love to never hear again, "We went through with the hocus pocus, so junior could get the presents/because the pictures are great" or whatever.

Kidnapping in Iraq

Kidnapping is not a tradition in Iraq. Omar blames former members of the regime.

I know the situation looks really bleak in Iraq, but I haven't been able to shake the feeling that what's going on is a forced (by the US military) last stand by those who would oppose the transition to a normal, free society. I'm more than willing to accept that this may just be wishful thinking. We'll see.

I also liked this article, which argues that there are basically no appropriate historical analogies for the current situation.

Speed bumps/ramps/humps

The local council's favorite road fixture is too costly. In London, ambulance drivers say that these annoyances are actually costing people their lives. What are the odds on that being true here too?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

"deviant minority"

I have been as determined to blame Saudi Arabia for al Qaeda as anyone. But, if their police are battling them and Saudi official spokesmen are calling them "terrorists" and "members of a deviant minority", I suppose I can accept that the Saudis are now at least taking the problem seriously.

From reading this article it sounds like there's a serious war-like effort to rid Saudi Arabia of al Qaeda terrorists and supporters.

Roy's back

Great opportunity to revisit that whole fiasco. For the record, I was a "Roy supporter" and believed McCarthy should have been brought to heel by the FAI.

Keane was (is?) excellence personified. He was the ultimate team player, but he had no time for fools or a lack of effort. He made Ireland's mediocre players look good. He made Ireland's mediocre manager look good. He made the FAI loads of money. Without Keane, Ireland would never have qualified for the 2002 World Cup. Without McCarthy, Ireland would probably have done just as well in qualifying and better in the tournament.

One thing that sticks in my mind about that whole incident is how so many of the conservative political commentators were on McCarthy's side. I'm a conservative, but one who believes excellence should be rewarded, not reined in. McCarthy's lack of ambition, small mind and lack of real authority meant he was unsuitable as a manager of an international team. Keane wasn't looking for special treatment for himself. What he wanted was that the Ireland team - from players to the manager to the administrators - all share his ambition to win. For many in the team and the FAI, qualifying for the World Cup was enough.

I doubt you would have found a single American sports writer who would have faulted Keane for his ambition. What point is there in playing if you don't go to win?

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

No faith, no church

Although I'm sure there are a million practical arguments against, I still have to admit that I was heartened when I read in the Irish Independent that Bishop Murphy of Kerry had said that those who don't believe shouldn't take part in the sacraments. Sure, there are many people out there who struggle with their faith and how can we insist on 100% adherence at all times. That's ridiculous.

But, I'm aware, and I'm sure most Irish Catholics (and the problem seems more severe here than I have ever encountered in the US) are aware, of those who want to marry in a Church because it's a nice ceremony, the church makes nice photographs, whatever. I know one couple who only had their son make his First Holy Communion because they didn't want him to miss out on the fun day and the presents.

These people are making a mockery of what we believe and of the Church. Equally, there's a lack of respect and a failure to acknowledge that a church is not a government building and you do not have a right to use it. Those of us who keep the churches going have a right to expect that only those who share our faith and views or at least respect our faith and views should be allowed to take part in Church ceremonies.

Fingerprint me!

A little late, I know, but I'm too caught up in other things these days.

Anyway, the American government is going to start fingerprinting visitors from the EU and other countries starting in October. Good. I know, I know. Lots of people in Ireland and throughout the EU are going to moan about their rights (you are a visitor - you opt to visit so you have to live with the visitor's rules, no matter how 'odd' you find them). My problem with this plan is that it doesn't go far enough.

Visitors from Canada and Mexico are excluded and, of course, so are all US citizens - including those like me who live outside the US full-time. The Canada and Mexico issue is, I would guess, just a practical concern since the numbers of visitors are so great and the border so long (especially with regards to Canada).

But, why exclude US citizens who live abroad? We live in foreign countries, many of which are not all that friendly to the US. And, many of the US citizens abroad have never actually lived in the US or have only spent a few short years there as children. If I were al Qaeda, those would be my holy grail. Holders of US passports who have been raised in a culture of disaffection with the US. I'm sure they're out there.

So, come on, and fingerprint me and my fellow US citizens abroad. It's a very small inconvenience (and would probably make some visitors from friendly nations feel a little better) for greater security.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

News Letter - Duhh!

Just found out that the News Letter has relaunched its web site at a new URL. My not knowing this is directly attributable to my habit of bypassing homepages and going straight to the main news pages.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Cardinal Sin

50 years ago today, Jaime L. Sin from the Philippinies was ordained a priest. In 1974 he was promoted to the position in the Church that makes him the best-named member of the heirarchy.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Denmark vs. Canada

Will it be war? The future of Hans Island is at stake!!

News Letter

Has the Ulster News Letter abandoned its web site? There were some technical issues earlier in the week and now they have reverted to the site as it appeared last Friday. No updates since then.

Le Grande Orange

I'm old. Rusty Staub, one of my favorite ball-players, turned 60 yesterday.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

"Role models"

Ireland has experienced a huge drop-off in the number of male teachers at the primary level. {I don't have the statistics, but I would guess there has been a similar drop at the secondary level.}

Fine Gael says this is a problem because boys need male role models at school. They're right, but it's an even bigger problem than that. The role models angle is only aspect to it. Men just teach and handle classes differently. They're better at relating to boys, understanding what makes them tick, knowing how to keep them under control (vital!) and generally educating them.

I believe that a big part of the problem boys now experience in school is the excessive feminization of education.

I went to a mixed sex school and had only one male teacher before I entered junior high. He was my 6th grade teacher and my favorite from all my school years. And, based on what I heard at my 20th high school reunion, that opinion was shared by all the boys who were in that class with me. What made him so good was that after years of women teachers we had one who would talk to us about sports, who would play ball with us in the yard, who knew how to control us and how to separate a fight. He didn't have the same 'pets' nor did he put great emphasis on those things that boys simply cannot do - like use good penmanship. His examples in class, whether teaching math or history or English, were simply more 'male'.

All of that was important, crucial to some. One guy I talked to told me that if not for Mr. Sherman, he might have just kept drifting down because he was never able to stay out of trouble before 6th grade. Many women teachers simply don't know how to handle smart-mouthed boys. Some do, I think my wife is one of them, but even she says that sometimes the boys just need to be yelled at by a man.

Smoking ban

This ban and the means of policing it just give me the creeps. The "snitch line" is repulsive. I'm not certain, but as far as I know there is no similar facility for "snitching" on pubs that serve drinks after hours, which leads to a greater public nuisance than smoking indoors does.

The Minister of Health can claim this is about the health of the workers, but the law and its implementation is more akin to something that would have been dreamt up by officials in the ex-USSR. When I saw Micheal Martin on Questions & Answers {need RealAudio} the other night, I thought a picture of his face could be used in a dictionary to help define the word "smug". I'm sure Soviet bureaucrats looked equally smug whenever they introduced new legislation for "the good of the people".

He cites the NYC experience - again. That experience is mixed. How long before we have "smoke-easies" here?