Monday, January 31, 2005

Eye opener

How long has this been going on?" Awada asked. "I did well in school with history and all that, but I never picked up on this part of the world. -- Minnesotan George Awanda, now playing with the Belfast Giants asking about the Troubles.
I get the feeling that Awada hasn't found his way to the Newshound yet.


I still can't believe what Henry McDonald said in yesterday's Observer.

McDonald reports that Dublin City Council is planning on twinning Dublin with Beijing. McDonald also says that "[i]ncredibly , no one in Ireland has so far raised any protest about the proposed twinning of Dublin with Beijing". Well, I didn't know anything about it and I doubt most people did.

I'd like to imagine some of Dublin's other twins would object to this possibility. Liverpool, Barcelona, San Jose - any chance that any of you will rescind the twinning with Dublin if China's government is rewarded like this?

Apparently, this has been suggested before and wisely rejected. Let's hope sanity prevails again.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

One man's vote

I just read this and it's great. Read it all.
This was my way to stand against those who humiliated me, my family and my friends. It was my way of saying," You're history and you don't scare me anymore". It was my way to scream in the face of all tyrants, not just Saddam and his Ba'athists and tell them, "I don't want to be your, or anyone's slave. You have kept me in your jail all my life but you never owned my soul". It was my way of finally facing my fears and finding my courage and my humanity again.
It's so easy to be cynical when you're in the west. It's so easy to be pro or anti-war when you live in the west. It's so easy to underestimate or forget what it means to be able to vote when you live in the west.

In a way, I envy Ali and his heroism (and the heroism of all those who are voting today).
I entered the school and the supervisors showed me the way to where I should vote. They and the ING guys were so polite and gentle. I cast my vote and got out, not in a rush at all. This is my Eid and I felt like a king walking in his own kingdom. I saw the same look of confidence and satisfaction in the eyes of all people I met. As I left one of the guards said to me as he handed me back my cellular phone, "God bless you and your beloved ones. We don't know how to thank you. Please excuse any inconvenience on our part. We wish we didn't have to search you or limit your freedom. You are heroes". I was struck with surprise and felt ashamed. This man was risking his life all these hours in what has become the utmost target for all terrorists in Iraq and yet he's apologizing and calling us heroes. I thanked him back and told him that he and his comrades are the true heroes and that we can never be grateful enough for their services.
I doubt I'll ever experience anything like that.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Hillary '08

Gerard Baker gazes into his crystal ball to see how Hillary Clinton will generate the momentum she needs to gain the White House in 2008.
September 15, 2005: Mrs Clinton has recently been reaching out beyond the Democratic Party'’s core supporters on religious values. At a news conference after the baptismal ceremony, Mrs Clinton announced that she is to begin hosting a television show next month on Mr Robertson'’s Christian Broadcasting Network. Cookies for Christ will feature her favourite housewife recipes for spiritually appropriate confectionery, including Rock Cakes of Ages and Apocalypse Apple Fritters.

September 16, 2006: Senator Clinton yesterday urged a chastened Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, to stop “pussyfooting around” and get on with the long-deferred invasion of Iran.

Shroud of mystery

The Shroud of Turin is, apparently, not as young as science had recently told us. In fact, it seems that it may be 2000 years old, just as the faithful always believed.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Belly-flopping for Iraq

I've never written the word "belly-flopping" before in my life.

Iraqi Faisel Ghazi Faisel is training for the skeleton in Lake Placid. His goal is to be Iraq's first competitor at the Winter Olympics in 2006.

Of course, Irish people remember the skeleton because it was in the 2002 skeleton that Clifton Wrottesley just missed winning Ireland's first ever Winter Olympics medal when he finished 4th.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

For the boy who has everything . . .

Now available on eBay - one Zil 135 Frog (Russian short range missile launcher). Right now it's going for a "song" at just under £19,000 (approx. $35,500). Who doesn't need one?

Better hurry! The auction closes at around 6am (EST) or 11 (GMT) tomorrow.


I've just re-read my last two postings and I'm wondering if I'm a walking contradiction. Am I wrong to disparage President Bush for his idealism when at the same time I want to ensure that lessons of Auschwitz are not forgotten? Should I be willing to have American troops sent to places to liberate those who are being slaughtered simply because of their race, religion or ethnicity? If yes, what are the minimum criteria for intervening? 100 killed? 10,000? 100,000? 1 million?

To be honest, I don't know. I'll have to think about it. It's easy to say "yes", unless those troops who are going to do the fighting and dying are from your country, your town, your family.


The worst place I have ever been is Majdanek, a concentration camp just outside Lublin in eastern Poland. I'll never forget the long shed, top to bottom full of baby shoes from those babies who died there.

The news has had a lot on the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Yet, I don't think the coverage - especially on the t.v. news - has been graphic enough. Just as RTE & the BBC last year replayed those 20 year old images from Ethiopia in order to bring the horror of starvation back into our living rooms, so should they be using 60 year old film clips from the concentration camps to bring the horror of industrial killing into our living rooms.

It's hard to face and, as Adam Levy writes in today's Albany Times-Union, for many impossible to comprehend, but people cannot "never forget" what was not learned in the first place.

"Ending tyranny in our world"

I didn't see any of the Inauguration Day ceremonies and only got around to reading President Bush's speech last night. I've already read a lot about it, so I wasn't that surprised by it.

I don't want to go too much into the history of Presidential speech-making, primarily because I don't know enough to do so, but as I was reading the speech two previous Presidents' speeches came to mind: Woodrow Wilson's speech to Congress seeking a Declaration of War on Germany in 1917 and Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

When I finished reading Bush's speech I had the feeling that he had just declared the slaves freed world-wide.
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
"Ending tyranny in our world"? Here's Wilson:
We are accepting this challenge of hostile purpose because we know that in such a government [he's referring to the German government under the Kaiser - IE], following such methods, we can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what purpose, there can be no assured security for the democratic governments of the world. We are now about to accept gage of battle with this natural foe to liberty and shall, if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to check and nullify its pretensions and its power. We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretense about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience.

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.
I've always been of the impression that Wilson was something of an idealistic do-do. Now Bush is reminding me of him and that scares me.

I love the noble gesture, but if "ending tyranny in our world" is now American policy we'd best prepare for a long century of war that will drain the US of resources and leave the country a weakened shell of what it is today (and, thus, less able to defend liberty).

The absolute worst thing President Bush could do is lead the country on a freedom crusade. Sure it would be great if it happened, but let's be a little realistic. Trying to bring some semblance of freedom (and sanity) to the Middle East will occupy us for at least the next decade or two. Those noble, lofty ambitions are more than enough for me.

{Richard (& countless others) has a more up-beat take on the speech.}

Ah memories

Thanks to Mark Sullivan for leading me to this picture from Boston that reminds me of winter in upstate NY. Irish people have little to complain about when it comes to their winter weather. If you don't believe me, read this from Sunday's Washington Post.

What is torture?

Last May I suggested that I might be willing to tolerate state-sponsored torture in some circumstances.

What I didn't do, however, is really address how "torture" is defined. The definition of torture is the subject of a great post and discussion (in the comments) at the Belgravia Dispatch.

Don't skip the comments. There are some aspects to the discussion that I hadn't given any thought to. Here's one excerpt:
Fundamentally, this is a military and intelligence system that until three years and four months ago dealt with prisoners of any kind only occasionally, was then asked to extract intelligence from terror suspects picked up in Afghanistan, and later was tasked with managing vast numbers of detainees in Iraq.
I think it's a valid point that you have to go back 30 years to find a situation where the US was capturing and interrogating prisoners in large numbers. That things haven't gone smoothly or that mistakes have been made is hardly a surprise.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Is this a trend?

Second day in a row that the NY Times has a positive story out of Iraq as the main story on the home page.

The Times report indicates that leading Sunnis will join the political process after the election at the end of the month. Again, it doesn't mean the violence will vanish overnight, but it's definitely a sign that some people who are opposed to this process now see it as unstoppable.
Those saying they want to become involved in the process are not leaders of the Sunni-dominated insurgency, and there is no indication that the violence will abate after the vote. But some of these Sunni leaders, who include powerful clerics, have considerable influence with the guerrillas and could act as a bridge between the new government - expected to be dominated by the majority Shiites - and the insurgency.

Monday, January 24, 2005

What if Iraq came good?

Headline at the top of today: Shiites in Iraq Say Government Will Be Secular.
The secular tilt comes as Shiite leaders prepare for what they regard as a historic moment: after decades of official repression, the country's largest group now seems likely to take the helm of the Iraqi state. Mindful of that opportunity, and of previous opportunities missed, the Shiite leaders running for office say they are determined to exercise power in a moderate way, which would include bringing Sunnis into the government and ignoring some powerful voices in their own ranks that advocate a stronger role for Islam in the new constitution.
This site contains a lot of details about how the campaigning is going in various cities/regions of Iraq. {Found through Iraq the Model.}

Yes, there are still lots of potential problems, but it seems to me that the Iraqi people are determined to make this work. Will the violence continue? Yes, but I suspect only for a while. Gradually more and more people will realize that the game is up. Only the most hard-line Islamists and ex-Ba'athists will want to refuse to accept the new reality as their nihilistic and/or fascistic ambitions become ever more transparent. I doubt there's any talking them around and eventually the new Iraqi government will kill (or capture) these hard-liners in order to finally restore order.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


This post from Ali was just what the doctor ordered. I was listening to a basketball game and my team lost. So, feeling blue I clicked on Ali's blog and he cheered me right up.

Writing about an Iraqi whose life was saved by Israeli doctors, Ali says:
How dare he seek the help of the Zionists to save his life! I'm sure the terrorists (err, the freedom fighters) will deal with him when he returns, and when he get killed I hope the Israeli doctors feel proud for jeopardizing this young man's life. The strangest thing is that he's grateful! I'm confused as what are his motives and why he's so thrilled about this! Hmmm, I don't want to judge him but he seems to have an agenda of his own, otherwise why did he chose Israel to be treated in among all his enormous options?! He could've waited for an offer from France for example! It isn't like his case was that urgent!

I mean this young man's story is very similar to to the story of all Iraq. We were all dying before the Americans came and saved us from the chronic lethal disease that Saddam was. Now that we have a new real life we are faced with serious dangers everyday by those who refuse to see us enjoy such a life. Should we be grateful to the 'doctors' or not? I guess the young man has the answer.


Now that's a snow storm.


And, what makes this really odd is it's cooooold. Current temperature is 0.9F (-18.3 C) with a windchill of -16 F (-27 C). Brrr.

Light posting

I can't say for certain, but I suspect that I'll have little time for posting here over the next few days (maybe a week). I'm moving the Newshound from one web host company to another and I'm anticipating lots of effort to get the site working right on the new host's servers.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Not everybody hates Bush

"Don't they realize that the whole world hates Bush"? I've heard that so many times. It's the accepted wisdom.

I don't doubt that President Bush probably has more detractors than supporters world-wide. Yet, when I read that 65% of people in India are happy about Bush's reelection, that says something. India's population is more than double that of the recently expanded EU. In fact, there are more than 700m people over the age of 15 in India. That means that there are an estimated 455m people (assuming young children don't really care) in India alone who are happy about President Bush's second term.

That's almost exactly the same as the total population (pdf file) of the entire EU, including young children.

Just a thought.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Irish Fest

My old high school (didn't know the indian mascot was gone, but not surprised either) now has an annual Irish Fest. We didn't have anything like that when I was there.

My only real concern with this is, were the students told to read the Irish Eagle & Newshound?

And, is Pat Neiswender mentioned in this article the same woman who taught me English in 8th grade? I remember liking her, although I seem to remember that she was a Red Sox fan. On October 2, 1978 I left her class early so that I could watch "that game".

{Note the mention of the "Little Theatre", which implies there's more than one theater in the school now. How many theaters does a high school need? My college only had one.}

Page One News

Find a bad, sad story and make it HUGE. That's what the Irish Times has done today with their lead story.

This is a terrible story. What's known is that American soldiers killed a mother and father in a car at checkpoint at a town near Mosul, in Iraq. I'm not arguing that this isn't newsworthy, but it's on the top of page one. It's not a particularly revealing story and is unattributed other than "Agencies".

What really has me wondering about this is that this happened on Tuesday. Dozens of other people were killed in 5 bombings yesterday, but that's not the lead story for the Irish Times.

On the 18th, New York Newsday published a series of pictures related to this incident. It's horrible, but we don't know all the facts yet. I know that those soldiers didn't set out to turn 5 children into orphans on Tuesday. I know that they too wish it hadn't happened, unlike those who were probably celebrating their 'success' with their 5 truck and car bombs.

So, what's the Irish Times doing here? Obviously, I don't know, but it's probably no coincidence that they wanted to play this story as big as they could given that President Bush's inauguration is today.


The Independent (and its Irish sister) both have an article by Rupert Cornwell on the Inauguration today. Nothing much to say on this, other than Cornwell wrongly states that William Henry Harrison's inauguration was in 1845. Doesn't anybody do fact checking these days? I don't really blame Cornwell, but what about the editors of these two papers? Using Google it took me 7 seconds to confirm my memory that it was 1841.

Poor ole William Henry Harrison. He gave a long, long speech in a cold rain and ended up getting pneumonia and died a month after he took office. He campaigned with John Tyler under the famous slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler too".

Happy Metrification Day

Today is the day that the speed limits move from MPH to KPH. I said before that I didn't think this was too big a deal, really, but the press has tried its best to make it a big deal.

In order to unnecessarily conform with this unnecessarily conformist change, Met Éireann will now report wind speeds in KPH rather than MPH.

The Toronto Globe and Mail, New York Times, CNN and others all have reports on the big day. The CNN report deals with driving in Ireland generally and has more than a soupçon of "the Irish are nuts" to it. Try this:
The government says about 250,000 people -- or 17 percent of drivers -- have either failed to pass a driving test or are still waiting to take one. Yet under Ireland's unusual licensing laws, people who fail a test are issued with a "provisional" license anyway.

It's little wonder then that encountering jaw-droppingly bad drivers in Ireland is an everyday occurrence.

"Ireland remains Europe's Wild West in terms of enforcement. Nowhere in the western world is it safer to speed or drink-drive," said David Maher, director of a bicycling rights pressure group called the Irish Cycling Campaign.
{Note, also that the CNN report has a picture of an American speed limit sign. Tell me those aren't clearer and easier to see than the little red discs we have here.}

Krusty Krabs

The New York Times reports this morning that some conservative Christians are none too keen on SpongeBob SquarePants.

Well, I consider myself both a Christian and a conservative and I have to admit I really like SpongeBob, although from what I gather it's not the regular broadcast cartoons that these people are opposed to.

Apparently, SpongeBob's creators made a video that was intended "to teach children about multiculturalism". I have to admit I'm not that keen on these sorts of projects. There always seems to be a strong element of brain-washing involved in these programs. This one sounds innocent enough, but until I've seen it I can't say whether I'd find it objectionable or not.

The article also hints that SpongeBob's popularity with adult gay men is part of the problem for conservative Christians. I would bet that SpongeBob is equally popular with most straight men. It's just a really well done cartoon with humor that is both intellectually sophisticated and child-like.

I don't think the show should be held accountable for its fans. I seem to remember a similar campaign with regards to the Teletubbies. I thought the campaigners were wrong about that one too, but I wasn't worried about it because I couldn't stand that show.

At the risk of forfeiting my conservative and Christian credentials, I'll keep watching SpongeBob (only with my children, of course).

Lucky chicken

The headline alone was enough for me. 'Lucky' chicken eaten by fox. How could I resist clicking on that link?

It seems a farmer whose chicken picked the winning lottery ticket numbers was later eaten by a fox when the same farmer left the chicken coup open.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I shared a flat with this guy?

Just after I finished my undergraduate degree, I came to Ireland to do a course at Trinity College. My flat-mate was a really funny guy from upstate NY (near Kingston). We got along well, played softball and on the TCD basketball team together (that is not a testament to the strength of that team). Over time we kind of lost touch, but a few years ago we exchanged e-mail addresses. Even with that, I've probably received (and sent) two or three e-mails over the past 4-5 years.

Just before Christmas I got one from him that had been sent to quite a few people. It wished me a happy holiday and had a link to a web page where I could find out more about him and his family and what they're up to. I only got around to that today and was I surprised. He and his wife and two children have moved to Kazakhstan! I say it again - Kazakhstan! Who moves there? Especially with a family?

Then I see why he's moved there. He's got a Fulbright Scholarship to teach at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. Well, I guess that's a good enough reason. Not so strange, I suppose. Then I read this:
His main passion is any and all things having to do with weapons of mass destruction. The biggest adventure for him in 2004 was a trip to North Korea. He started to prepare for the adventure before Quinn was born and after 2 years of pestering officials in Pyongyang, he finally got a visa.
Come again. Weapons of mass destruction? North Korea? I thought he was studying to be a nutritionist.

'86 Orioles

The 1986 Orioles were a model for what all the players in Major League Baseball (& all other sports) should aspire to. They voluntarily started a drugs testing procedure.
Players like Mike Boddicker, Scott McGregor and [Cal] Ripken point to numerous reasons for having elected to participate: embarrassment at baseball's string of drug scandals in the 80's; commitment to a close relationship with Baltimore fans; demonstration of the code of a collection of relatively moral young men; desire to set a good example for minor leaguers; and concern over the prevalence of amphetamines.

From the dugout to the on-deck circle

Major League Baseball has stiffened its anti-drugs measures. No longer will drugs offenders be anonymously sent to counseling. Now a first time offender will be outed and suspended for 10 days. A second offense will get a 30-day suspension. A third offense will get a 60-day suspension and a fourth offense will mean a one year ban. A fifth offense is at the Commissioner's discretion.

It's a step in the right direction. I think 30 days should be a minimum suspension for a first positive test and a one year ban should follow a second offense. Any offense after that should mean a life-time ban.

Another improvement is that baseball will now have random testing throughout the season and off-season. Something they didn't have before now. This is a positive development, but the testing should be more rigorous than simple urine tests. Blood tests should be included now and the players and owners should agree that any trustworthy tests that are developed in the coming years should be incorporated into the testing regime.

The owners and the players both have an interest in ridding the game of the doubt that many fans now have. When they make the penalties a bit more painful and have shown a keen desire to employ all methods to ensure that no player is cheating, then they will be ready to step confidently into the batters box to face whatever the chemists can hurl at them.

Whom do you trust?

Interesting results of two surveys, one in the US and the other in the EU. Europeans trust the media much more than Americans do, but otherwise people in both the US and EU do not differ a great deal in how much trust they place in big institutions. Despite the differences in the American and European political systems, there is, largely, agreement between Americans and Europeans on how much to trust government, big businesses and trade unions.

What I find almost stunning is that people on both sides of the Atlantic appear to trust the UN more than their own governments. This just boggles my mind. Regardless of which side of the Atlantic you're on, your government is elected by you and your fellow citizens. There are checks and balances on what the governments can do and in every case a fair amount of transparency and freedom of speech that should ensure that elected representatives can be held accountable.

Where does any of that exist with the UN? The UN is a body of representatives, many (the majority?) who were appointed by governments who are neither elected nor accountable to their own people. Who holds the UN and its staff accountable?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


I had forgotten all about Zhao. Funny how people drift out of your mind. He's lived under house arrest for 15 years, yet for a few days in 1988 he was in the middle of THE news story.


The Washington Post headline says that the death of Zhao Ziyang has put the Chinese government in a "quandary". Last night I was watching the BBC news report about Zhao and I saw all the Irish flags around Tiananmen Square. The Taoiseach is leading a trade mission to China. What an odd situation and not a word about the quandary of poor Bertie Ahern in the Washington Post.

What torture for the pragmatic politician to be put in such an awkward situation. All he wants to do is secure a big financial return from China. Now he finds himself in China at a time when a message of support for democracy & human rights activists is called for and he's the EU's man on the spot.

If Ahern speaks out, he risks the success of the trade mission (as well as probably incurring the wrath of the French and, possibly, other EU members). If he fails to speak out, what does that say about Ireland's commitment to those who struggle for freedom and dignity. What to do?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Maybe not quite doomed

In October 2003 I wrote that Israel is doomed. One of the reasons I gave was that the Palestinians have a much higher birth rate. Now it seems, that the Palestinians birth rate may not be quite as high as they led us to believe.

Foreign licenses

The Irish Examiner reports today that foreign drivers and holders of non-Irish licenses are "costing the state €2m in unpaid fines". I guess this works both ways. I know I once benefited when I was pulled over for speeding (yes, me, who never stops going on about speeding) on the Taconic Parkway. I was doing 67 in a 55MPH zone {it was near the top of the road and there wasn't another soul on the road).

I was driving a rental and when I showed the cop my Irish drivers license, he just handed it back to me and said, "Please slow down", which I duly did.

In America

This sort of thing comes up all the time. A journalist or television/radio show presenter/guest will say something that begins with "In America they . . . " or "The Americans do . . . ". When I first moved here I used to think/say "That's not true. I never saw anything like that". However, over time I came to realize that America's a big place. I haven't been to large chunks of it and don't know how life is lived in those places.

Still, when I read this comment by T. Ryle Dwyer in the Irish Examiner on Saturday, it struck me as untrue.
In America ambulances are privately run, often by funeral homes. Different ambulances will race to the scene of an accident. It may be disconcerting for patients to wonder whether getting to the hospital on time is in the interest of the funeral home.
So, I did a quick search to see if I could find any reference to ambulances being run by funeral homes.

Here's what I found: that this was a fairly common practice years ago - say before 1960. Maybe it still persists in places, but not in any major city that's for sure. I remember as a kid that ambulances were essentially just station wagons like this one. The ones I remember had big fins, but these are essentially the same and I'm sure this model car could have doubled as a hearse too, which actually makes sense when you think about how ambulance services might have evolved.

So, I doubt that ambulance services are run by funeral homes today. Most cities and big towns have EMS personnel with modern ambulances. I suspect Mr. Dwyer is harking back to his youth rather than checking on the modern situation.

If anyone knows of any place in the US where this practice still exists, please e-mail me.
For examples of what I found on ambulances and funeral homes, read

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Robert Holohan

The ultimate nightmare. Parents worry all the time. Kids get sick and hurt all the time. Sometimes their illnesses and/or injuries are so severe that they die. The thought of anything like that happening to any of your children (and I don't care if you have one or 21) is God awful. But, a deliberate, selective murder is worse.

For the past week, like everyone else here, I hoped that somehow 11 year old Robert Holohan was all right. I kept hoping that there were things they weren't telling us. You know, like a deranged but essentially harmless relative had taken him to England or whatever.

Yesterday they found his body and it appears he was murdered. I don't know how the Holohans can go on. Of course they must, for the sake of their two other children, but I honestly don't know how they'll do it.

We're all feeling a little more jittery today. Every time I picture that little guy on his new bike . . .

There's nothing we can do. Nothing to help the Holohans. Nothing to take away that fear that it could be us. Nothing but pray.

You're Fired!

How can any person of sense think that they can blog about their place of employment and not get fired? Sometimes the fact that common sense does not exist for so many people just bewilders me.

It seems obvious to me that you just should not blog about your employer. As an employee you know things that no member of the public would know. What average customer or even a journalist is going to know about the attitudes and behaviors of your boss and co-workers? Even if you only choose to blog about public announcements, you'll end up adding your two cents worth about how you know that this "isn't true"/"won't happen"/and so on.

If you blog about products/services that your company offers then you clearly have more information than the average consumer. The consumer may like to know what you think, but he'd really like to have such information from your company and all their competitors so that he'd have perfect information. As the consumer's unlikely to get the competitors' inside tips, all you're doing is undermining your employer.

Obviously, the best option is to blog away about anything you like other than your place of employment, but some people just love to show how "clever" they are.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Attack Lebanon

Wow! Ali's recommending an attack on Lebanon as the next step in the War on Terror. He also claims that this will help settle Iraq as well because interfering neighbors - Syria & Iran - would be too occupied in Lebanon.

This is something else. I'll have to think about this one for a while. He certainly has me reconsidering my "the Iraqi people are the key" thoughts from earlier in the week.

I found it easier to handle his brother's assertion over at Iraq the Model that civil war is unlikely.

More on public funding

Not quite as ridiculous as public funding for "emerging talent" in the rock/pop business, but still it's nice to see that elected representatives in the town I grew up in are debating whether it's right to use public money for tsunami relief. All those "government is everything" types will just see this as stinginess, but I think these sorts of expenditures should be debated.

I just cannot imagine such a debate in Ireland, where spending public money in such a cause is not even a matter for debate. Only the amount is debated.


In case you've notcied, I changed the font of the site. I find it easier to read, but some of you may not. Please let me know.

Also, I have stopped triggering a new window with all my links. The reason for this is that I've grown to really like Firefox's tabbed browsing and new windows are an annoyance. Seeing as a quarter of the visitors to this site are using either Firefox or Netscape, I figure others must feel the same. Again, let me know.

Public funding

I find it incredible that any public money is funding rock/pop bands. Magnus Linklater is claiming credit for diverting some money from the Scottish Arts Council to support "emerging talent".

Now, I have to admit I like Franz Ferdinand. I listen to their new album quite a bit. (I really love "Take Me Out", which reminds me of a big 60s, I think, anthem type song, but I can't put my finger on it. Any help out there? Zeppelin, maybe?)

That doesn't mean I don't think it's wrong for the government to be funding "emerging talent". If any of the "emerging talent" was a good investment the record industry would already be funding it. Or, the "emerging talent" would redouble their efforts to be good enough. Government money, please!

{Any coincidence, I wonder, that a band that can remind me of a 60s anthems producer should find favor with a man who has "skipped the past decade or two in pop and rock".}

"Supported by the Arts Council" is worse than "sponsored by Apple" or even Wal-Mart.

Desperate Housewives

I haven't seen any of this yet and I'm unlikely to. I never saw one episode of Sex and the City and I figure I can match that record with Desperate Housewives.

Despite the fact I don't anticipate ever watching the show, I enjoyed Declan Lynch's review of the first episode of Desperate Housewives in the Sunday Independent.

Lynch refers to the program as "TV chiklit". He also notes that although men and women may both be watching, their motivations for watching are vastly different.
Apparently it clashes with the football on American TV, and a dip has been noted in the football figures. Industry insiders reckon that the guys are checking out that Fifties fantasy of sex-starved suburban housewives grabbing any guy who comes to the door.

So we have a situation of men regarding this as a cheap porno production, while women connect with it as mainstream entertainment, recognising many of the attitudes and feelings, enjoying the humour, and yes, the occasional romp with a tradesman.

Here is a show which brings men and women together, only to find that they're not seeing the same things at all.
The same newspaper has an article by Victoria Mary Clark in which she pretty much confirms Lynch's observation about how women will view this show. I have no doubt he's right about the male perspective.

Women would have watched this program no matter what these women who play the main roles looked like. The fact that each of them is fairly attractive ("Yeah, I've seen the ads") is how the television producers make this into "entertainment for everyone". Well, almost everyone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


A few people have asked me to take pictures and post them here. I don't have a digital camera, which makes the whole pictures on the web thing more difficult.

The other day I got hold of one for a couple of hours and took some pictures. This is what I can see from my roof. Click on the links to see the pictures in full size:
Looking east 
Looking southeast 
Looking southwest 
This last one is of a nice hill that seems closer than this picture makes it appear. 

I don't think I have a real knack for photography, but I would like to get a digital camera and try some more. I don't think I've done justice to the scenery on the hills around here.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that outside my window at the moment.

Just arrived

If you want to know what it would be like to have been suddenly transplanted onto Earth with a mission to understand the Earthlings' popular music, you should read Chris's postings on the music most of us grew to know over a period of many years. Chris is on a crash course.

It seems like many will try, but none will succeed in supplanting her first love.

Carlos I

He's thirteen years younger than me, he's got a winning smile and he comes from Puerto Rico. Other than that I don't know too much about him. I've never met him, but I've seen him on t.v. occasionally and I've read a lot about him. Still, I've been over the moon for the past two days, ever since I heard that starting in April he will be working in Queens.

Welcome Carlos, the new King of Queens.


Dick Morris writes today that Hillary Clinton is unlikely to emerge unscathed after her 2000 campaign-finance director was indicted for violating federal campaign-finance rules.

Robbing Peter . . .

This had occurred to me the other day when I was at Mass. A priest in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo was robbed and the special tsunami victims collection was taken. More than €10,000. I'm sure that's a huge amount from what seems like a fairly small parish.

Yankee fans

They're everywhere. Only today I found out that Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair is one.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Special collection

How many times have I said I cannot stand Trocaire? I know what you're thinking, "Too many".

Yesterday at Mass there was a special collection for the victims of the tsunami. I was intent that our family would put nothing in the basket as it passed us. The collection was going to Trocaire and I figured any money I wanted to give I could give to a different organization.

Then the priest explained that the collection was actually going to Caritas International. I knew the name of course, but not enough about the organization to judge whether I'd like them or not. My wife looked at me and I knew I had lost the argument. She opened her bag and pulled something out of her wallet. I nodded meekly.

I walked into the church in defiant mood and that one sentence had deflated me. No protest at Trocaire's arrogance this day.

Based on my cursory glance in the basket as it passed us, I would estimate that they collected nearly €5,000 at that one Mass (one of six in our parish on Sat/Sun). There was a lot of money in the basket - most I've ever seen in a church collection. Despite Trocaire's involvement, I was upbeat about the response.

Lost cause?

There's a lot of talk lately that the war in Iraq has been lost. Maybe it has and maybe it hasn't. However, I think too much of this talk is focused on what the US (read, the Bush Administration) did or didn't do. I never really believed that the US was going to win or lose this war. The key to victory (and defeat) was always the Iraqi people.

The only way the US could "win" was to overwhelm the civilian population as was done in Japan and Germany. We'd have had to do to the Iraqis what we did to the Germans and Japanese - turn their cities to rubble, let them wallow in their own mess for a while and then pull them out before they drowned.

Of course, mistakes were made and some things could have been done differently. Still, I think it was always going to come down to whether the Iraqi people had the wherewithal to get their state in order and find a way to deal with the unreconstructed Ba'athists or whether a power struggle among the various factions and civil war were always inevitable.

I don't think the war is lost yet because I still have faith that the Iraqi people will not let this opportunity elude them. Trouble ahead? Of course, but I don't think civil war is inevitable.

I don't much care whether Iraq is a staunch ally of the US as long as it provides opportunities for its people and it becomes a positive model for what can be accomplished in Arab countries. If that happens, then it's a victory. The US doesn't need Iraq as an ally, it just needs Iraq to not be an enemy.

An Arab, Islamic-flavored Democracy will probably not look much like any of today's secular European states, but it might easily look like Ireland in the 1950s. Hardly a catastrophe if that's what the Iraqi people want.

Mosque & state

Interesting post by Ali on whether Islam is compatible with Democracy. His verdict: of course not, no religion is, but the key is to separate the Mosque from the state. He's fairly confident that this can be accomplished in Iraq.


First of all, I think the upcoming switch from MPH to KPH is a minor one. I don't think drivers should have any real trouble with the conversion. The first two cars I owned here had only KPH on the speedometer. Took about 2 minutes to figure it out.

I can't, however, understand why some speeds were ignored. I had hoped that when we moved to metric some of the speed limits would be raised slightly. There are a lot of roads in S. Dublin with a 40 MPH limit. The N11 Stillorgan Road is one example. I had figured that when the metric limits were introduced, the limit would go to 70 KPH (about 43 MPH). But, it seems that 70 KPH limits will not exist. Nor will 90 KPH. Why?

All roads that currently have a 40 MPH limit will be slowed down to 60 KPH (around 37 MPH). Similarly, there are some roads for which 80 KPH will be too slow and 100 too fast. Why not 90?

Somewhat related is the whole issue of signs. I can't understand why we don't use HUGE signs with the speed limits in both KPH (big numbering) and MPH (small numbering) displayed. I've always thought that the little red circle signs that are used to let motorists know that they've entered a new speed limit zone were inadequate. Speed limits should be in every driver's face. It's too easy to miss those small signs.

But, most of all, I've been wondering, why are we bothering? What benefit do we get by switching? Why is the state going to this expense? Will it mean that new cars here will cost more because we'll be out of whack with the UK? I see no good reason for this change.

Violence and aid

Reading reports about violence in Sumatra and possible violence in Sri Lanka is completely disheartening. I guess it was too much to hope that what seemed like a shattering experience would alter the mind-sets of those who live in these places.

News that an American helicopter crashed and wasn't shot down is a relief. But, what happens when the first helicopter is shot down or when some US service personnel are killed by Islamist forces? Will the American public tolerate using the US military to bring aid to people who haven't figured out that along with 100,000 of their fellow citizens they have to bury the hatchet?

Friday, January 07, 2005

First world

All I can say, is that there are times when I'm really glad Ireland is not a third world country. The weather the past 24 hours has been atrocious. Winds up to 80MPH, torrential rain with more to come and my biggest worry is whether our plywood fence will suffer the loss of a panel.

We have electricity for light and heat. We have gas to cook with. Sometimes I just marvel at how comfortable we are.

"I'm speaking for the entire world . . ."

So says Richard Gere in his television commercials being aired in the West Bank & Gaza urging Palestinians to vote. It takes a big man to take on such a big responsibility. Speaking for the entire world is about as big a responsibility as I can imagine. Whew. I'm glad it's him and not me.

{I imagine that this Gere story is or will be on millions of blogs by day's end.}

250 years ago . . .

a minor war was fought on the N. American continent. It was an off-shoot of the bigger Seven Years War in Europe. Still, the upshot of England's victory over France was the foundation for all that has become of N. America since.

Today's United States and Canada are two siblings born of that war. England's victory is why most people in N. America speak English today. It also begat the War of Independence that started twenty years later.

I don't know if we got more in school about the "French & Indian War" than kids in other parts of America, but there was always a lot of emphasis on the war. That might have been because most of the fighting took place in the area I grew up in. Last of the Mohicans is set in the area from Albany to Lake George {although the Daniel Day Lewis movie was filmed in N. Carolina, I believe}.

Today, Lake George is a great vacation place. Fort William Henry's big gun booms out over the lake regularly. And, in a recent tip of the hat to the French role in local history, the biggest cruise ship on the lake is now called the Lac du Saint Sacrement.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Joe D.

Just before Christmas I finished reading the biography of Joe DiMaggio that I started just after Easter. Or it seemed that long ago anyway. Takes me way too long to finish a book, but I just don't get much time for reading books.

Anyway, I'm glad I read the book, but I wasn't thrilled with it. I don't know anything about Richard Ben Cramer, but I don't like his style or "attitude". Throughout the book, but particularly in the early chapters, he throws in a lot of Italin words and phrases in a way that, to me, sounds like he's saying "I love these simple folks".

DiMaggio was not a likeable man, but he was a GREAT baseball player. He was vain and wanted to be known as the best player in the game, but he played hurt, he played hard and he played to win - always.

DiMaggio was much more well known than any American athlete today. I would guess that only Babe Ruth and Muhammed Ali would come close in recognition. And, of course, he married (& divorced – that scene from The Seven Year Itch was the straw that broke the camel's back) Marilyn Monroe. Posh & Becks are no where compared with that.

Favorite little snapshots:
  • DiMaggio was asked why he played so hard in a late season game against the lowly Washington Senators after the Yankees had clinched the Pennant and were simply waiting for the World Series: ". . . because someone might be here who has never seen me play before".
  • Marilyn Monroe, talking about their first date at a restaurant near Hollywood and how all these men came to their table, but none paid any attention to her: "No woman had ever put me in the shade like that before. These men didn't see me because of DiMaggio".
  • Yankee manager Casey Stengel couldn't stand DiMaggio and the fact that he did things his own way. Casey's wife understood handling great players better than Casey did (or Mick McCarthy). When Casey asked his wife what was he supposed to do with DiMaggio, Mrs. Stengel replied, "Whatever Mr. DiMaggio wants, dear".


The new hard drive has afforded me an opportunity to experiment. I'm using Firefox almost exclusively (someday my bank will realize that Internet Explorer is not the only browser).

I have to admit I'm really happy with Firefox. I especially like that men of the cloth feel that they should recommend it. "A minister in Kentucky is even exhorting his flock to switch to Firefox because it blocks those pesky Viagra ads".

I'm also trying to use Thunderbird as my mail package. I'm not as impressed with Thunderbird as I am with Firefox. Part of the problem is that I had an extensive hierarchy of folders when I was using Outlook Express and rebuilding this in Thunderbird will take a big effort. As for the other differences in how the application works, I can't say whether it's a matter of getting used to it or it's not as good. It may be that in a week or so, I'll think Thunderbird is much, much better.

I have also installed OpenOffice, SUN Microsystem's free rival to Microsoft Office. I haven't used it much yet and I'm a little concerned that I might find that I won't be able to work on other people's Office documents and spreadsheets or that they won't be able to work with mine. From what I've read this shouldn't be the case, but still it worries me. I'll probably go very slowly with this. One good thing I noticed right away was that creating PDF files didn't require any other downloads (as Office does).


Last week I met Peter and Tony. It was nice to be able to actually speak with a couple of the guys whose blogs I read regularly. Sorry to miss a chance to meet Frank on Monday.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Still quiet

I'm slowly getting my PC back up to speed. I've been gradually reinstalling the applications I'm missing and adding all the files and folders from the back up copies.

The PC troubles are not the only reason I've been quiet lately. I don't know what it is, but somehow I think the tsunami has just shut me up for a while. Here's a brief synopsis of what's been running through my head:
  • Give a little, give a lot, still feels too easy to do, but there's nothing more I can do
  • I've heard a lot of about how poor Sri Lanka and Aceh are yet I can't help thinking that if the people who live in those areas could bury the hatchet with their neighbors maybe they wouldn't be so poor. None of that changes the fact that thousands of people have been killed and millions need help.
  • Is it really the role of the Irish or US or any western government to 'give aid'? Yet, I can't imagine how the aid could be distributed without the logistical support of the military. As a Christian, I want to do all I can - I feel an obligation. I don't really feel that same obligation as a citizen of either Ireland or the US.
  • I've given money in one or two chunks, but also in small change when passing people shaking buckets. Still, I won't give one penny to Trocaire all because the man in charge there couldn't keep his anti-American bile to himself after the September 11 attacks.
  • Anthony McIntyre has a critique of the response by the "forces of capitalism". Capitalism is often unseemly, particularly at times of massive disasters and images of horror. Yet, capitalism is also the primary reason that we in the west have the resources for tsunami warning systems and why eartquakes of 7.5 on the Richter scale don't cause wide scale death and destruction. Capitalism operates according to its own rules, but the people who work in these organizations are more than employees. There's nothing stopping an inusurance company employee from doing what he has to do for his business, but then turning around and contributing to or organizing relief aid. He can also lobby his government to do more, if he so chooses. He can even present the case to his company that doing something to help in the aid effort is good for business. No person is bound by the rules of capitalism in all aspects of his life.