Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Luas's big day

Today is Luas's first day in operation. If the DART is anything to go by, I can't imagine it'll be great for long.

I don't know if privatizing the trains and buses would give us a better system. I'm not a private enterprise ideologue. Monopolies are more of a problem than whoever the owner is. But, some of the things I observed on the DART today had me wondering if privatization wouldn't make for some improvement.

Maintenance work
All the southside DART platforms are being lengthened so that the DART trains can be extended to 8 cars. I can't remember when this project started, but it seems a long, long time ago. And, no wonder. This afternoon I was standing on the platform waiting for the train (a mere 13 minute wait) watching the guys who were working on the platform extension. A couple of them were sitting on the wall and the others seemed to be working at a nice, leisurely pace. Compare the urgency of their work with any work crew on a new apartment building or a housing estate and you'll see a huge difference.

Why are the platforms so dirty? I was on the Connolly Station platform waiting (only 11 minutes) for my return train. There were a couple of fellows charged with emptying the garbage cans, but nobody seemed particularly concerned by the huge pile of vomit sitting near one of the benches. Vomit is not an uncommon sight on the DART platforms. I don't know who's to blame for this phenomenon, but it doesn't encourage me to think, "Hey, I'll leave the car and get the train".

I don't expect a luxury liner type experience when I board a commuter train, but I cannot stand how there is ZERO leg room on the DART trains. I'm not a big guy (about 5'10"), but my legs don't fit easily in front of me. {I have this problem on Dublin Bus as well. Does CIE only cater to short people?} Two men can't fit across from one another. This problem is especially bad on the newer DART trains that are Japanese built. Not only is there no leg room, but many, many of the seats are broken so that you are generally sliding down towards the floor.

I think I'll stick to driving most of the time. Sure the traffic is diabolical, but all the dirt in the car is my own and it is far more comfortable than the train.


So far, I haven't said anything about the new Iraqi government and the transfer of power. It's not that I haven't been thinking about this, but I haven't been able to think of anything to say that hasn't already been said.

Some Irish people, such as Ivana Bacik (needs RealPlayer), have questioned the extent to which Iraq can actually be described as sovereign. It's true that the new government's authority is limited, but this is temporary. I'm sure that by this time next year Iraq will exercise more sovereignty than Ireland does.

Iraq will assume more and more control over its own defense and economy, both areas where Ireland is less than in control having ceded defense to trust in the UK & US and control over its economy to the EU.

Whether this war was of benefit to the American people will be argued about for a good while yet. It is right that Americans debate when it is appropriate to send our soldiers and marines to die in war.

But, for the Iraqi people there is now hope where there was none. No matter what happens, this will always have been a positive development. Were many Iraqi people killed and wounded? Yes, but it was always going to be so. There was zero chance that Baathist rule was going to end with a velvet revolution. In fact, I believe that Iraq would have had to endure ten times more casualties to rid itself of Saddam. And, there would have been less hope that a tolerant regime would rise from those ashes.

This terrible war has brought hope where there was none. Everyone needs hope.

I like how Alaa put it on Monday:
Likewise, I am not going to say anything grandiose today, rather in the same style of today's ceremonies. All I can say is that almost everybody here has hope, great hope. Personally I am confident of the future because "That which has benefit for people will stay in the earth".
The place where civilization began is now home to the newest babe in the family of civilized nations. We should all hope and pray that it grows to full maturity.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Great game

I've been doing a lot of talking about soccer lately. Most of it negative, but some positive. But, on Sunday, I saw the last twenty minutes of what is likely to be the most exciting sporting event in Europe this year - the Munster Hurling Final. I only wish I could have seen all of it. Unfortunately, I was out with the family on Sunday afternoon and missed the first half and the beginning of the second half. What I saw was simply fantastic and what I missed was apparently equally great.
This was a game which sung, a match which was decorated with moments of art and lines of pure poetry. The day was haunted by wind and threatened by rain, and still they slung scores over with the insouciance of men tossing water out of buckets.Tom Humphries {sub. only}

I'm not a huge fan of Gaelic Football, although I do watch it when I can. Hurling is another story, however. A good hurling match is as good as any televised sporting spectacle. Being at the game is even better.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


When it's bad, it's very bad. I cannot imagine any major American sporting event being as mind-numbingly dull as the 90 minutes of Sweden vs. Holland that I've just watched. And, as a bonus, 30 more minutes await me. Both teams employing the rope-a-dope for the entire game.

UPDATE: On an excitement scale of 1-5, the first 90 minutes were a 1. Extra time was a 2, maybe 2.5.

Bush is coming --- lock up your farm animals!!!!

I was really wondering what sort of man did the Irish media think President Bush is when I saw this headline on the Irish Independent's web site, "Co Clare farmers advised to keep animals indoors during Bush visit". The last President may have caused a few Irish fathers to keep a close watch on their daughters, but this is surely an over-reaction. Just because a man's from Texas doesn't mean . . .

It turns out that hovering helicopters are the threat and not the President. Thank God for that!

Warm? Chilly? Cold? Well, it's wet anyway

I watched NBC's Nightly News last night and was amused when NBC's man in "County Clare, Ireland" described the welcome the President received as "warm". This morning's NY Times describes the welcome as "chilly". The Guardian says the Presient received a "cold" reception. The Irish Independent described the protest in Clare as a "damp squib".

So, which is it? I haven't got a clue. I wasn't in Clare or Dublin yesterday evening. Like most of Ireland, I was watching France lose to Greece in the European Championships. There were ten to twenty thousand people in Dublin last night at the protest, but that was way down on the 100+ thousand who marched in February 2003. {The Associated Press is referring to the protest as 10,000 "left-wing activists".}

At least last night's 10,000 had good weather. I don't know what the weather is like in Clare for this morning's protest march, but if a hurricane were to blow into Dublin this morning it would represent an improvement in the weather.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Saddam & Osama

A new document has surfaced that indicates that Iraq sought out Osama way back before anyone* knew who Osama was.

I suspect that these little tidbits will drip out over the next few years. I don't know if the two men were drinking buddies, but there's little doubt that Saddam had a lot of time for the terrorists operating in the Middle East. There also seems little doubt that bin Laden fits that description.

* I wanted to mention that although the NY Times says that at the time of this approach from Iraq, "Mr. bin Laden was little known beyond the world of national security experts", Tony Benn MP knew about bin Laden in 1978! Yes, that's right. 1978! {I think he meant 1979, but still that was early.}

I heard him on Newstalk a couple of weeks ago describing how he went to the Soviet Embassy in 1978 to protest about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (how righteous of him, but of course the invasion was in '79). It seems the Soviets explained to Benn that they were in Afghanistan to defeat terrorists, including one Osama bin Laden, whom they named.

You see, Tony Benn is still bitter about the fall of the USSR and he blames the US for it because they helped fund the Mujahedin, who helped precipitate the fall of the USSR. So, now Tony Benn figures that the US is only getting what it has coming to it with regards to bin Laden, etc. I guess he feels that he is now getting the "last laugh".

When Bush comes to love

Okay, silly title to this, but no sillier than the ridiculous "When Bush comes to shove" that I see on lamp posts all over Dublin. My wife didn't think it would be a good idea to head into Dublin this evening wearing my Bush Cheney '04 cap.

One thing I find amusing, is that people who know I will be voting for Bush in November seem to assume that I am 100% behind everything the man does as President, that I worship the ground he walks on. Well, that's far from true.

President Bush is one of two mainstream candidates for elected office in a nation of nearly 300m people. That means he heads one massive coalition of various political perspectives and interests. Some of the the policies and priorities that this coalition stands for are not what I'd like. However, overall, I prefer this coalition to the one headed by John Kerry. That's far short of worship.

So, I wasn't swooning with delight as I watched President Bush being interviewed on Prime Time. I find President Bush hard to watch. He often makes me uncomfortable. Last night was no exception, although I didn't think Carole Coleman was really up to the job either. I thought she was trying too hard to sound like a serious journalist and failed, ultimately, to ask any decent questions.

Overall, I'm glad President Bush is coming to Ireland today and I wish him well, but I won't be rushing down to Clare to welcome him.


It seems the city of Houston is less than enamored with their new light rail system. Only 7.5 miles of track is in operation, but already the city's drivers have been involved in a large number of accidents with the on-street trains. Houston's transit officials say the explanation for the high number of accidents is that Houstonians are bad drivers.

Well, I sincerely doubt that the drivers of Houston are any worse than Dublin's drivers, many of whom seem to believe that traffic regulations do not apply to them. Light rail in Dublin could be a match made in hell.

So far, most people seem pretty up beat about the LUAS, but that could change. Dubliners' views of the new LUAS system may soon be similar to Houstonians' if there are more accidents and/or if LUAS develops a reputation as a traffic jam generator.

{Questions: is it "the" LUAS or just LUAS? & Is it LUAS or Luas?}

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Mary O'Rourke

I always thought of Mary O'Rourke as a nice, pleasant woman who generally exhibited a lot of common sense when in power. I didn't always agree with her - I think she's got a fairly interventionist view of government - but I never had pictured her as taking part in any silly protests.

Well, I was wrong. The Seanad leader refused to attend a dinner at the US Embassy because she's opposed to the Iraq war. I wonder if she excused herself when Wen Jiabao was in visiting the Seanad?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Being an anti-war campaigner must be more lucrative than I had realized. I spotted an election poster for failed Dun Laoghaire County Council candidate Richard Boyd Barrett this afternoon. At a rate of up to €125 per day, that works out at a tidy €1,500 that Mr. Boyd Barrett may have to pay for his failure to remove the poster.

Of course, that's nothing compared with the 4 Justin Barrett posters I saw in Shankill, Co. Dublin. That's not even in his constituency as far as I know. There are also two Mairead McGuinness posters, but at least she won a seat in the European Parliament and could (presumably) afford the fines.

Professional 'man in the street'

Greg Packer has been quoted dozens of times by journalists who are seeking the views of the "man in the street". He seeks them out. It's just too bizarre.

There he was yesterday at the Clinton book signing on 5th Avenue in NY. He's quoted by the Toronto Star. Apparently Packer's obsession is an "art form".

Escape from Cuba

Even I - an avowed Yankee hater - can find it in me to cheer Yankee pitcher Jose Contreras and his family after his wife and children escaped from Cuba. The family was reunited yesterday.

Despite the insistence by many on the Irish left that Cuba is a fine place, surely they recognize that any country that people have to "escape from" cannot be all that great to live in.

Italian soccer

After last night's results and Italy's exit from the European Championships, the RTE panel had an interesting discussion on the problems facing Italy & other major European soccer powers. They talked about the increasing wealth of society and how that provided distractions other than soccer. They talked about the excessive focus on winning at the youth level and the effect that had on helping the smaller, talented players develop.

However, they left out one salient detail - population trends. I remember a few years ago I was in Italy on business and I got to talk to one Italian man who was so excited for me to be living in Ireland. "Ireland is so alive", he said. "Such life. Look at this place. Those beautiful buildings (we were in Florence), the fantastic works of art. Just beautiful. But, forget about that. You take a walk and see the schools, the playgrounds, the football pitches. They're all empty. There are virtually no children here now. Italy is dead. It's a museum."

I was thinking about that after last night's game. The panel were all agreed that Italy isn't producing the great players any longer. I couldn't help thinking that was probably because Italy's not producing enough children. These graphs show the current problem (I really wish they had a similar picture from 1970 or so). Note how the population bulge is moving through the late 30's to the early 40's by 2010. Look at the 2050 projections and see why Italy is doomed without some drastic changes. They will have nearly as many people in the 60+ age bracket as they will have in the 20-60 bracket.

UPDATE: Here's a similar population chart for Italy in 1950. Note how the number of children has halved in 50 years.

Bush in Ireland

In the NY Times this morning, Nuala O'Faolain does a good job of summing up all the reasons why Irish people will not be welcoming President Bush here this weekend. I don't agree with most of these positions, but that doesn't mean she hasn't captured the mood.

One thing that did strike me, however, was this sentence, "Our intelligentsia is pro-American". This is definitely not true. Irish intelligentsia is a mixture of smoked salmon Marxist and old world snobbery. The average Irish person is generally pro-American, but not the intellectual elite.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


I'm sure someone out there could cite other examples for me, but other than these big soccer tournaments, I cannot think of any other programming that RTE does better than the BBC (and, it goes without saying, ITV, which is nearly a joke it's so bad). The actual games themselves are, of course, fairly similar, but there is no comparison in the pre-game, half-time, post-game program on BBC with what's on RTE.

When I first came to Ireland I knew nothing about soccer (other than you weren't supposed to use your hands), but have learned tons from listening to Johnny Giles & Eamonn Dunphy. Those two and the other guys that RTE gets in for these major championships (Trevor Stevens, Dennis Irwin & Liam Brady) are fantastic at explaining what's happening and why.

Turn over to the BBC and you get some decent comment mixed in with a lot of excessive jargon or complete stupidity. My hat's off to RTE for its coverage of the European Championships.

EU Constitution

Sometimes a question that seems so complicated can be answered so simply. Why do so many people find the EU a turnoff? Well, try finding the draft constitution online and you may get your answer. I couldn't find anything calling itself the "draft constitution". I did find this, however:
The Intergovernmental Conference, meeting at the level of the Heads of State or Government, reached an agreement on the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe on the basis of the texts in documents CIG 81/04 and CIG 85/04. The final legal editing and harmonisation of the texts will be carried out with a view to the signing of the Treaty before the end of 2004.
If I'm reading this right, there is actually no draft Constitution to read. What we have is the draft constitution (I think this is it) from the convention which has been amended in various ways as summarized in that document I linked to above.


The Observer praised the draft Constitution on Sunday (I'm assuming they have assessed the draft from the Convention and all the amendments since - good for them), but did suggest the following:
The EU, too, must learn a new language. It must show the public that it can become a lean and efficient organisation, not one with accounts so shambolic the European Auditor has been unable to pass them. It must finally reform the Common Agricultural Policy which does so much to damage the economies of the developing world. It must end the expenses gravy train for MEPs and officials. It must replace the pomposity of style which alienates so many with a simplicity of approach which answers the public's legitimate question: 'What does the EU do for us?' Now the treaty is agreed, the EU must come out with some clear answers.
As a first step, how about publishing the draft constitution now. Why wait until the end of 2004? Is it agreed or not?

Funny thing is, in the end it's simply going to come down to a battle between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists. If you don't believe in a federal European state then you will vote 'No'. If you believe in a federal Europe, you'll vote yes. Jean-Luc Dehaene, vice Chairman of the Constitution Convention made that clear yesterday.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Teacher apologizes

My old school has decided that the teacher who refused to honor the minute of silence for President Reagan will not be fired. She has apologized.

That sounds all right to me, but it doesn't seem as if she has offered to observe a minute of silence for President Reagan yet. I think that should be part of any final agreement here. She should lead the class in question in a minute of silence before the school year ends.

I don't remember Dr. Shatz, so I can't offer any background to explain her behavior. She teaches art, which I didn't take in high school.

Redundant government?

While all of official Ireland is congratulating the government for sealing the EU Constitution deal, I have a question. If being the EU president is such a massive undertaking for a small state and getting that Constitution agreement was such a mamoth task at the end of this massive undertaking, what are all those government employees doing when Ireland is not at the helm of the EU?

Will there be significant lay-offs on July 1?

Help the environment - get in the car

Engineers at Lancaster University claim that their research shows that intercity trains are less fuel efficient than cars.
Assuming the continuing dominance of fossil fuel-based electricity, the study indicates that suitable French-style rolling-stock would require twice as much fuel per seat as a Volkswagen Passat, and more than a short-haul aircraft.
Can we start paving those rail lines now please?

Great game

I've had some negative things to say about soccer over the past few months, but Saturday night's game between Holland and the Czech Republic was one of the best I've ever seen. That game made watching dozens of awful games worthwhile.

In fact, there have been quite a few good games in this tournament. As of now, I'm hoping the Czechs win it all since they're the team playing with the least fear of losing.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Confront N. Korea

Amidst all the stupid arguments about the war to remove Saddam, it's just so refreshing to read an article that makes no inane links to American policies or condemns America for both acting and not acting.

Vaclav Havel calls on all the democracies to unite and confront N. Korea - NOW. Millions have died and still nothing is done. And, which great power is most deserving of condemnation? Well, in what will surely shock all the luvies who are planning their "When Bush Comes to Shove" protest concert, Havel singles out China for sending back thousands to languish and die in N. Korean concentration camps.

I'm not sure I'd favor all out war on N. Korea in the morning, but can we at least agree to stop appeasing the megalomaniac who leads the country?


Went to see the movie Troy yesterday. {And, no, it's not actually about the birthplace of Uncle Sam, Troy, NY, which is near where I grew up}. I like movies, but I don't go often. Yesterday was my first time at a movie since I saw Gangs of New York, which must have been at least 18 months ago. It was also the first time I saw Brad Pitt in the cinema, although I've seen a couple of his movies on t.v.

My verdict is that the acting is pretty stiff at times, but the battle scenes are pretty good. Pitt does a good job playing the hero Achilles - at least when he's fighting.

Overall I enjoyed the movie, which is all I'm asking for when I pay for my ticket (and at €8 per ticket - it had better be entertaining}. I'm not looking to be intellectually stimulated, just entertained. I can live with the fact that a 10 year timeline was condensed into two fun-filled weeks of mayhem. A belated thumbs up, is my verdict.

{One other thing - I had never heard of the actress Diane Kruger who played Helen before. She's pretty enough, but I'm not sure she measured up to "the face that launched a thousand ships".

Friday, June 18, 2004

Intifada victory?

Charles Krauthammer asserts that the Palestinian intifada is over and that the Palestinians have lost. Only yesterday I had thought to myself that a fairly lengthy period had elapsed since the last Palestinian attack, but I wasn't sure if I was right.

In today's Washington Post, Krauthammer says that there have been no attacks in the past three months. Krauthammer says more attacks will come, but the fence and the targeting of terrorist leaders has rendered terror as no longer a "reliable weapon".

I hope he's right and we can get that peaceful two state solution that I had assumed would never come.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

We're gonna party like it's 1999

The NY Times says that the current big news tech investments make it feel like it's 1999 again in Ireland.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Whatever your views on Ulysses, surely many (most) of those who regard the novel as a great work of art must cringe at the Bloomsday celebrations. Overblown, silly, smug, contrived - contrived is my favorite - are words that spring to mind when I see people celebrating on June 16.

The Irish press has been so over the top that I can't begin to link to all the references to today's "anniversary". But, because today is the 100th "anniversary", the NY Times, Washington Post, and others are all in on the act.

Of course, yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the General Slocum disaster in NYC, which was mentioned by Joyce in Ulysses. The burning of the General Slocum was the worst disaster to hit NYC before September 11, 2001.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Just heard on Newstalk that Bono apparently reads this blog. Yeah, he followed my advice and didn't vote last week. I haven't found this story online yet, but according to Newstalk, Bono was too busy wetting his vocal cords in a local hostelry to find time to cast his ballot.

Rumors are circulating that he was heard to slur the following:
That guy who writes the Irish Eagle's got it covered. Whatever he says, I agree with. He should get a lot more votes because he's voting for all of us who can't be bothered today.
{UPDATE: based on a couple of e-mails I've had, I think I should clarify that I'm the only one circulating these rumors - I don't know what Bono was slurring last Friday. And, I have no reason to suspect he reads this blog - I was just being silly. Sometimes I just can't convey that with the written text.

However, I'm not wrong about what I heard on Newstalk. Bono was, supposedly, in a hotel bar and forgot to vote. Someone from the press - Ireland on Sunday, I believe - asked him about it at 9:05pm. Bono then said he was going to go vote right then, but of course the polls were closed. I still haven't been able to find any reference to this story online. Maybe Newstalk was wrong? I wish I had a copy of Ireland on Sunday.}

CBS & Kevin Myers

Kevin Myers says he doesn't understand America {sub reqd.} at all after watching CBS's coverage of the D-Day ceremonies. Myers may be right, but not for the reasons he states.

Myers claims that CBS's
failure to report the vast contribution of other countries, most especially the UK, the only military ally of substance that the US now possesses in the entire world, must represent some unintentional but massively important cultural statement about the US: that Americans genuinely don't see other people if they share the picture with Americans.
Well, maybe Kevin's right, but maybe he's not right too.

CBS, along with the other major news networks (excepting FOX), is keen for John Kerry to win the election in November. Every news bulletin is influenced by this desire. If CBS were to heap praise on the British for their role in the D-Day landings, that would generate possible linkages in the minds of viewers with today's Iraq situation.

Everyone in America knows that Britain is the only other major ally in Iraq. What sort of conclusions might CBS's viewers draw if they realized that this massive operation and fundamentally good operation (D-Day) was basically the work of the US and Britain alone? The average Joe Schmo might just think something along the lines of, "Wow, even back then it was just America and Britain . . .".

CBS couldn't allow that to happen, so better to ignore that reality and just focus on the American contribution. I'm sure there was at least one picture of all the world leaders there. That one picture would be intended to convey to the viewing public that D-Day was a huge undertaking with many, many allies taking part and we're telling you about the American effort.

Kevin Myers needs to go back to that broadcast with his political lenses on and see if he can detect CBS's real intent.

Pledge & EU Constitution

The US Supreme Court threw out the challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance yesterday on a technicality. I'm disappointed as I was curious as to how the Supreme Court would rule on the issue of God and constitutionality. Given the current debate in the EU about God's role in the EU constitution I thought this ruling might provide some good food for thought.

The NY Daily News says that the "crusading godless" will be back. The next battlefront is in Europe and the Irish government has the responsibility finding a solution that will meet the requirements of a majority of citizens in every EU state.

Class warfare

I'm still digesting this article by David Brooks. Brooks argues that the battle within America's "aristocracy" is the source of much of the polarization in American politics.

Professionals vs Managers isn't exactly the Crips vs. the Bloods, but I do think Brooks has a point. I'm not sure that the Managers title can include the so-called "Christian right" that can often be found on one side of many of the polarizing debates.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Kathy Sinnott MEP

It looks like Kathy Sinnott is going to get elected. I've written before about my concerns with regards to Kathy Sinnott and the MMR vaccine.

Today I'm only curious as to whether Kathy Sinnott has to renounce her American citizenship in order to take up a role in the European Parliament. I brought this topic up when I was asking a similar question about Ciaran Cuffe.

{I'm not 100% sure Kathy Sinnott is an American citizen, but I believe she is. If anyone knows for definite, one way or the other, can you let me know? Thank you.}


Okay, I'm not really "gutted", but I love that word (when it's not describing the interior of a building destroyed in a fire). I've heard it just over four thousand times since 9:30 last night, when Zidane scored the second goal to beat England. Two goals in the last 2 minutes to win 2-1. What England fan would not be "gutted"?

I have to say that I'm neither "gutted" nor "delighted" by the result. I was just hoping the game would be good and it was. Much, much better than the earlier game between Croatia and Switzerland.

International sports - particularly when played by professionals - always leave me a little cold. Why do I have to root for people who the rest of the season I HATE just because they've changed jerseys for a few games. I reserve my partisanship for the league season.

One of the benefits of being a sports fan in America is that this never happened when I was a kid. There were no "internationals" in any American sports, other than the occasional series between a Canadian team and the Soviets in hockey, and there were no Soviet players in the NHL. Still, I used to be more interested in a good game than in who won. The Olympics were always different because the athletes there were not the guys in the professional leagues.

But, soccer has regular internationals, when guys who play for your favorite team may suddenly be among the "opposition" and the guys who play for the team you hate most are now on "your side". Take last night's game as an example. If I am an English Arsenal fan, am I supposed to be thrilled at the idea of Stephen Gerard leveling Thierry Henri? It's just too confusing. I just watch and hope the games are good.

I find the "playing for your country" mentality bizarre. You're not playing for your country, you're playing for a professonal sports organization that has adopted pseudo-nationalism in pursuit of profit.* "Fighting for your country" is one thing, but playing for the English football association (or whatever) seems to me completely different.

* For the record, I have no problem with that, but I do think it bears remembering when we're constantly assaulted by the patriotic siren call that these professional sports organizations use to generate interest.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Shen shame

Some teachers cannot resist disgracing themselves. One from my high school, Shenendehowa in Clifton Park, NY, refused to observe a minute of silence for Ronald Reagan. Instead, she chose that moment as the time to make disparaging remarks about President Reagan. {If I find out her name, I'll post it here - even though the school seems reluctant to have it publicised.}

Funny thing is, this is so unsurprising.

Many teachers are really arrogant and (pardon the pun) classless. There were teachers in my high school who were scornful of those of us who supported Ronald Reagan. I wore a Reagan button during the 1980 campaign just to annoy them. One man, who taught speech class, nearly jumped out of his chair at me when I made a pro-Reagan speech (we were given free rein to choose the topic) in the fall of 1980.

It has to be said, however, that there were others who, although they differed with my views, never made me feel that I was deserving of contempt. Mr. Delaney, in particular, comes to mind.

Although he claimed that I had "one of the finer minds of the 8th century", it was all in the spirit of fun. He didn't think less of me because of my opinions and he certainly didn't hold it against me when it came time to mark my papers.

I also want to say that I don't agree with those people who think teachers shouldn't express their views, particularly when teaching high school seniors. That's ridiculous. When teachers are clearly expressing their views, students know that these are statements that they can challenge. It's more annoying when something is presented as unchallengeable fact and not an opinion, which frequently happened when I was in school.

I don't care what that woman's views are, she should be allowed to air them, but she should have honored the minute of silence. I'm sure there were many Democrats across America who don't hold Ronald Reagan in high esteem, but who still observed the minute of silence.

{Amazing that Tony McCann is still running the teachers union at Shenendehowa. He's originally from County Cavan, I believe.}

Friday, June 11, 2004


My wife shook her head this morning when she saw I had put the Stars & Stripes in the window. She said that the neighbors will assume that I have mixed up the European Championships with the World Cup. The last time I had the flag in the window was for the US's quarterfinal game with Germany in the 2002 World Cup.

If you feel like sending condolences to Mrs. Reagan, you can do so at

Don't forget - NOT to vote

Every news broadcast today seems to feature some bleating about going to vote. Well, let me just say that you shouldn't bother. You see, I've already voted and if you don't vote it makes my vote all the more powerful.

The more power vested in me, the more I like it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Reagan & the Irish media

Due to my travels, I didn't see what the newspapers had to say about President Reagan until today. The Irish Times had a more generous editorial {sub. reqd.} than I anticipated.
Mr Bush's most important achievement - managing the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989-91 - dealt in good part with the consequences of Mr Reagan's own effective anti-communist approach.
Yet, the Irish Times seems unable to recognize the importance of the various elements that made up the "effective anti-communist approach".
It is one thing to acknowledge Mr Reagan's political and historical achievements, quite another to endorse all his policy positions. Alongside his firm opposition to Soviet power there was a dangerous ratcheting up of military tension in Europe, subversion of change in Central America . . . At home Mr Reagan rhetorically opposed the big spending state, but left a legacy of huge budget deficits from bloated military spending.
Those are the very tactics that made up the "effective" approach. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

The Irish News {sub. reqd.} had the strangest observation:
While the reputations of both former leaders [Thatcher & Reagan] have not prospered since their retirements, Mr Reagan will probably be best remembered for the courageous way he returned to his duties after suffering serious injuries in an assassination attempt in 1981.
No credit for ending of the Cold War or America's economic rejuvenation. And, whatever about the Irish News's views, it's pretty clear that Reagan's reputation is much higher now than it was in 1989 when he left office.

Road signs

Under no circumstances should election posters be allowed on road signs. I only realized this past weekend how distracting they are when you're trying to drive and follow the signs.

The posters make it harder to find and read the signs. Sure I'm only talking about split seconds, but that's all it takes for something to go wrong.


One odd sight near Dungarvan is an election poster for Dana. Not odd when you see hundreds of other posters in the area, but odd simply because Dungarvan is not in her constituency and not really near to it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Shhhh - don't tell anyone, but Waterford is beautiful

I'd never really been to County Waterford before this weekend. I'd driven through it a couple of times and been to Wateford City once for about an hour, but I had never taken a few days there.

Well, I will definitely go again. I left yesterday thinking that Waterford is downplayed by the Irish tourism authorities so that Irish people have somewhere to go that isn't overwhelmed with foreign tourists. The Comeragh Mountains, where we stayed, are tremendous. Forest walks, cyrstal clear rivers and lakes, attractive towns & villages - it was just fantastic. Lismore is simply beautiful.

We were close to Dungarvan, which is a nice little town on the sea. Great views all around. Tramore, about 25 miles east of Dungarvan, has a great beach and some, but not too much, of those tatty things that kids love.

Of course, it helped that the weather was perfect. Sunny & warm for our days there. We all got some color. Amazingly to me, the place we stayed at had a pool and we all got in. The kids had to be dragged away on the morning we left.

The only downside to the weekend was having to leave so soon AND, of course, the traffic out of Dublin on Friday.


It's almost impossible to recall it now, but when I was 14, 15, 16 I presumed that America's best days were behind it. The Vietnam war wasn't long over, the economy seemed to be in be in a state of perpetual doldrums and, as far as I was concerned, America was a nation in decline. It also seemed to me that the USSR was going from strength to strength.

And then Ronald Reagan came along. To many he was either an idiot or a war monger. But to me, and others of my generation, he was like a breath of fresh air. Although he was called the Gipper, he was more like George Gipp's head coach at Notre Dame, Knute Rockne. He was the team manager urging us on after a few bad moments in a game. Reagan convinced us that victory was still possible, that we weren't licked yet.

At that time most politicians, Democrat or Republican, seemed to be defeated and defeatist. Most of what they offered was the best way to manage crises. President Carter's response to the hostages in Iran is a perfect example of this mentality – hole up in the White House and wait for things to not get worse.

Many people have referred to President Reagan as an optimist. I have no idea whether that's true or not, but I know that he understood human nature better than most politicians. He knew that people performed better when the outlook was bright and he always made sure the team believed we could win.

Friday, June 04, 2004


I was watching an old episode of Kojak last night. At one point Kojak is "leaning on" a suspect telling him that he may find himself injured if he keeps carrying on as he has been. The suspect turns to his lawyer saying, "He's threatening me. You heard him". Kojak glares at him and says "Greeks don't make threats, they utter prophecies". I thought it was a great line and it had me laughing.

Later I was thinking about that line and about another Greek from Queens, George Tenet, whose uttered prophecies turned out to be a little less than prophetic.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Dungarvan for the weekend

I'm going to Dungarvan tomorrow for the long weekend. For the first time, I'm going somewhere where I won't be ale to get internet access. I haven't missed too many days with the Newshound since I started it, but this weekend looks like Saturday & Sunday will be missed.

There are no internet cafes in the area and the place I'm staying (rented cottage) will have no phone line.

If anyone has any ideas/suggestions, please let me know.

While no one was looking . . .

The Bush Administration has successfully allowed the transfer of power to a new Iraqi regime. We were all so focused on June 30 that the new Iraqi regime was able to assume its position with a minimum of fuss. Sure Bremer is still there, but only for a few more weeks and he's lamer than a one-legged duck with knee trouble.

Here's what David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen says about this development:
No one else will say this, so I will. The Bush administration has handled the transfer of power in Iraq more cleverly than anyone expected, including me. The summoning of the U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, looked like very bad news (a poisonous old Arab League chauvinist who brokered the sell-out of Lebanon to Syria in 1982). In grim moments, I believed the Bush people were cynically using him to wash their hands of Iraq, and as it were, dump the quagmire back in the swamp of the U.N. Instead, they froze the ground beneath Brahimi's feet, and skated rings around him, haggling behind his back with Iraq's new political heavyweights to leave him endorsing a fait accompli. If it were not vulgar, I would say the Bushies suckered the U.N. into signing on to the New Iraq through Brahimi.
Imagine that. A columnist with a major newspaper (and not an American or British one at that) crediting the Bush Administration with diplomatically outmaneuvering someone - anyone.

Ivana's posters

I have to be honest, this is one headline I would never have imagined writing or even seeing: Ivana’s appealing poster woos voters.

{For those of you outside of the Dublin area, this site has the pictures that are used on Ivana Bacik's posters.}


I don't know what to make of the Ahmed Chalabi situation, but I'm really surprised that John Kerry hasn't been all over this one. Chalabi is a perfect illustration of what to me is the single biggest failing of the Bush Administration - its inability to get various government departments to work together. I can understand how during the 90s, when things were fairly peaceful the CIA, State Department and Defense Departments were allowed to drift a little too far from one another, but the attacks on September 11 should have ensured that far less leeway was allowed for interdepartmental rivalry to undermine US efforts.

The President has spectacularly failed on that one. The CIA and State Department didn't trust Chalabi at all and the Defense Department thought he was a great guy. Now we're all wondering if Chalabi was an Iranian agent or if he's being hung out to dry by those governmental elements that never liked him in the first place.

Jon also notes that there may be other angles than the one that the NY Times went with yesterday.

The middle line

Is China looking for an excuse to attack Taiwan? This editorial from the Taipei Times suggests that it may be. There is no doubt that Taiwan has zero reason to provoke China by crossing the "middle line" in the Taiwan Straits. China's claims about Taiwanese planes trying to cross the "middle line" sound ominously like Hitler's claim that Poland had attacked Germany on August 31, 1939.

The American military is distracted and stretched right now. And, the American public is (possibly) war-weary. Would the US really defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression? I doubt it. Embargoes and other trade restrictions would be about the full extent of the American response I suspect.

Will the EU rush to Taiwan's defense? Sure it will. Okay, I'm back from that parallel universe. The EU will rush to the UN, where Taiwan is not a member and China can veto any UN response through its position on the Security Council. The EU's hands will be tied as China's war on Taiwan will be "strictly an internal matter". You know, like Rwanda or Saddam's attacks on the Kurds.

China wants to prevent any further moves by Taiwan towards independence. Taiwan's President wants a new constitution by 2008, which is why some Chinese are advocating taking a tough line with Taiwan now.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Saddam & Osama

I never doubted that Ba'athism and al Qaeda were linked, but the media decided long ago that there were no links.

The discussion of the links between the two is being rekindled, mostly due to the publication of a book by Stephen Hayes, columnist for the Weekly Standard. Today's Washington Times has an editorial on the topic.

To be honest, this all seems academic to me. I believed the links were there, it was one of the key reasons I supported the attack on Iraq and now that the Ba'athists are out of power, that support for al Qaeda (and others) is gone. I don't really understand how something that was accepted in the late 90s became a "falsehood" by 2003. I've seen nothing to change my mind about these links.

Does that mean Saddam took part in the plans for September 11? No, of course not. But, that doesn't matter. Saddam and his regime were our enemies. Al Qaeda is our enemy. We must defeat our enemies. All other considerations are irrelevant.

I suppose if I were managing George Bush's campaign, I'd try to force John Kerry to declare one way or the other what he believes about these links. President Clinton believed Saddam and al Qaeda were linked, so Kerry might find himself trapped if the question were put to him. But, I doubt too many people will change their minds about George Bush, the War on Terror or Iraq based on a book by a columnist for neo-conservative publication.

"Drop McDonald's"

Okay, this is getting ridiculous now. The Football Association has been asked to cancel the sponsorship deal it has with McDonald's by the chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, David Hinchliffe.

First the Irish government bans ads for food and drink that target children. Now a UK MP is calling on the FA to dump McDonald's because somehow their food is responsible for all the fat kids out there.

My first reaction is, why McDonald's? What about all the beer sponsors? Doesn't promoting beer to children have a negative effect?

But, I can't help thinking that too many people in government are so afraid of admitting the real causes of childhood obesity that they are lashing out at the easy targets. Try these childhood obesity promoters for example:
  • fear - all the scaremongering that the media has heaped upon us has convinced many parents that letting our children out to play is the equivalent to setting them lose in pedophilia-land. Also, parents are just much more protective of their children today and where are they safer than in the house?
  • working couples - when both parents work, the kids are not able to get home and get out. They are often looked after in daycare centers/creches or in houses outside their own neighborhood. Also, when both couples work, it's less likely that the kids are even walking to school and back.
  • small families - two big problems here: (1) when families were bigger there were always loads of kids around to "get out and play with". Also when families were bigger there was always someone around - even if everyone else was away; there was no excuse for staying in and (2) the family budget was more stretched so fast foods and snacks were less plentiful.
  • responsibility - a lot of parents are just abdicating, they can't say "NO". This is partly due to the smaller families and bigger incomes that parents have and partly due to the "don't discipline your children" mentality that is advocated today. Many parents just can't win when battling their children.