Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bush side-step

Gerard Baker has an interview with President Bush in today's (London) Times. Baker ranges over many topics, but the President avoided answering one very important question:
Not content with dispensing the presidential autograph, Mr Bush reaches into a cabinet full of memorabilia and produces lapel pins and, for my colleague, a baseball with the presidential seal.

The shift to sport is an opportunity to ask him the question burning in the minds of many British people — what does he think of the takeover of Manchester United by Malcolm Glazer, the US sports franchise owner? “I read about that on,” he says.

But he is non-committal, so I ask him if, as a former owner of a baseball team, he would have liked a piece of an English cricket club. “I never watched cricket. I did play rugby at Yale, though — at full back,” he volunteers.
So, Bush has nothing to add on Glazer's take-over of Manchester United. You'd imagine that with all the support Blair has afforded to Bush since September '01 that the least he could expect is that Bush would arrest Malcolm Glazer and the rest of his family. I know Blair's not a United fan, but imagine the kudos he'd get in Britain if he 'saved Manchester United'. All those who rioted yesterday would be Blairites for life – the kind who hang posters and prevent trouble whenever he's speaking.

More importantly, I never knew there were baseballs with the Presidential seal. I want one of them.

Also, how about the fact that Bush played Rugby. Is he really American at all?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Growing old

This is how to do it right.

Friedman on Ireland

NY Times columnist Tom Friedman addresses how Ireland came to be "the richest country in the European Union after Luxembourg".

Anyone who's been paying attention will find nothing new here. What's interesting is noting what he includes and doesn't include in his list of policies that fueled Ireland's dramatic economic improvement. For instance, he never mentioned European Union structural funds, which have been substantial.

He also mentioned free education – twice – despite the fact that he undermined his case for free secondary education by illustrating that Ireland's economy was still a basket case nearly twenty years after its introduction. I'm not sure what role free second level education may have played in the boom, but I'm even more doubtful about free college/university level education, which he also cites as a growth factor.

He dropped in a reference to National Health Care, something that many here would say we don't have. I don't think National Health Care, such as it is here, played any role whatsoever in the turnaround.

He says Ireland's advice is "simple".
Make high school and college education free; make your corporate taxes low, simple and transparent; actively seek out global companies; open your economy to competition; speak English; keep your fiscal house in order; and build a consensus around the whole package with labor and management - then hang in there, because there will be bumps in the road - and you, too, can become one of the richest countries in Europe.
I think this list should read:
  1. cut taxes – especially corporate taxes
  2. be open to trade
  3. join the EU, get loads of money from bigger, richer nations who hardly notice how much you've taken them for
  4. at the same time compete aggressively against those same EU members for foreign direct investment and (a real plus here) ensure that other EU members adopt anti-competitive tax policies, which help make you even more competitive.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


The M50 (ring road around Dublin) is finally nearing completion. It looks finished when I drive by it. Of course, it's only two lanes when it should be 3 at a minimum, probably 4, but I'm hoping it'll have a positive effect on traffic in this part of N. Wicklow.

I've been waiting for this road for the past 6 years, but my patience is as nothing when you realize that the road was first proposed 34 years ago!

The new (& last) section of the M50 will be open on Thursday. What's kind of cute is that the signs are already up. That means anyone who doesn't know better (say, a tourist from England coming off the Rosslare ferry) is being directed onto the new road, which of course is not yet open.

No matter how much Ireland changes, these little oddities are what make visiting here special. Being confused by road signs is part of the charm, or so people here would love to imagine. Otherwise, it's just infuriating incompetence.

Humane treatment in Guantanamo Bay

A bi-partisan committee of US Senators has praised the operation of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and recommended that the facility remain open. This is exactly the type of investigation I was hoping to see.

Or course I realize that this report will be dismissed by many people, especially outside the US, but Senator Wyden, in particular, is not in the Bush team's pocket. I also realize that no Senator will say anything without assessing its impact on his potential re-election. It was a casual first step of what I hope will be a more serious attempt at assessing the costs and benefits of 'Gitmo'.

Jury duty

Seems the Irish government is going to address the facts of economic life for self-employed people that I mentioned last September.
One of the issues expected to be examined is the potential remuneration of self-employed people who have to take leave of absence from their own companies to serve as a juror.

Under the current system, self-employed people are excused from jury duty because of the negative impact a leave of absence could have on their business.
Last September I wasn't aware that self-employed people are excused from jury duty under the current system. That wasn't clear from the jury summons I was looking at.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Tennis in Irish

As mentioned at SluggerO'Toole, TG4 (Ireland's Irish language TV station) is showing a lot of Wimbledon. I'm not a huge fan of tennis, but I've watched a bit of the TG4 coverage and I can see why it's doing so well. They're just showing tennis.

Over on the BBC you get loads of chatter whereas the people who are in charge of TG4's broadcast have - correctly - assumed that few people want indepth analysis of tennis in a language they only barely understand. And, because the game is simple so is the language. It's not hard to pick up a few words when you (a) know what word would be used in English and (b) hear the same few words over and over again.

One other good thing they've done is show matches that the BBC has decided not to show. Tonight was a good example. With the third set of the match between Federer and Ferrero winding down, the BBC left to show their scheduled programming. Suddenly I remembered that TG4 might have it on and they did, despite the fact that the schedule said that the tennis would end two and half hours earlier. So, I got to see the end of what was a pretty entertaining, if short, match.

I do watch programs on TG4, but usually only when they're subtitled or in English. Sporting events are different. I don't need subtitles and I can actually get a feel for the language. It's a great idea.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

News story of the day

In case you missed it, there have been two games in the Bronx over the past two days. Yesterday's was a rout, 10-3 in favor of the good guys. On Friday night, the Mets won 6-4. Another win tonight will turn the House that Ruth built into a House of Horrors for the forces of darkness.

UPDATE: Last night's game provided further proof that this year's Mets team is not quite ready for prime time. When you lead with 3 outs to go you HAVE TO close out the deal. Oh well. I suppose we'll have to be happy with 2 of 3 in the Bronx.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Live Aid - more harm than good?

David Rieff raises the question as to whether Live Aid did more harm than good in the mid 1980s in an article in today's Guardian. Rieff argues that Live Aid (along with many aid agencies and foreign governments) did help feed people during the Ethiopian famine 20 years ago, but it also helped the Ethiopian government implement a forced resettlement program during which as many as 100,000 people may have died. Rieff argues that the Ethiopian famine was as natural a disaster as the Ukrainian famine under Stalin.

Rieff presents a balanced picture of both the good and bad of aid money's use at the time. Médecins Sans Frontières's Claude Malhuret described the assistance the aid agencies (including Live Aid) provided for the resettlement program as "an exercise in deadly compassion", but MSF decided to pull out of Ethiopia and they may have felt the need to justify that decision.

Hard to know who's right, but I think it's good to question whether aid agencies can be too useful for repressive regimes.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Judge quotes Springsteen

A man who was convicted of manslaughter in Cape May, NJ was sentenced by Judge Raymond Batten, who quoted 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) from memory.
Down in town the circuit's full with switchblade lovers so fast so shiny so sharp, and the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark, and the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open like Latin lovers along the shore chasin' all them silly New York girls.
I bet being a judge can be a real buzz sometimes.

More on flies

Until today I was convinced that it was only in my imagination that there were more flies than usual this year. However, when I saw some of the garbage cans out, filled to overflowing, I started to wonder if the new pay as you use it garbage collection system might have led to an increase in the fly population.

Until this year, we paid an annual fee for 52 collections. Everyone put their garbage can out every week. This year, however, we pay so much for the collection service and then a variable amount depending on how often the can is put out. I know we've cut way back on our garbage to where we're only putting the can out once a month. The incentive to keep to that schedule is that a 13th pick-up this year will result in an additional €31 in costs.

I know a lot of people in this neighborhood have cut way back on their pick-up frequency. I would bet almost nobody is having their garbage collected more than twice a month. That means there's a lot more garbage just hanging around in this neighborhood than would have been the case in times past. And, with the sudden burst of warm weather I suspect flies are having a field day.

I knew it!

There's a very good reason I'm 30lbs over my "playing weight" and finding it more and more difficult to fit into pants that I would have previously considered 'tent-like'. Running is bad for you. At least, running in modern, high tech sneakers.

Of course, now I have no excuse. I just need to get out there barefoot and make sure I run on the front of my feet, not the heels.

But, maybe I'll just wait twenty years to see the results of the studies into this newest fad. Yeah, that's what I'll do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Somebody has to develop screens for windows here. I'm so sick of flies and moths, although I've noticed that my backhand (with rolled up newspaper) has greatly improved this past few days. I should probably head to Wimbledon right now.

Will we ever tire of this stuff?

Okay, so some guy has written a book about Hillary Clinton that contains a lot about Mrs. Clinton's sex life. I, for one, have little need of additional information about the former first lady's sex life.

I really, really, really wish this kind of stuff would fade away into the background where it resided for so long. Why does this stuff need to be discussed publicly?

Surely a day will come when we, as a society, will spurn – either out of disgust or boredom – this sort of tripe.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Europe's Jefferson Airplane

Mark Steyn is probably the most loved/hated columnist among bloggers. I usually find him amusing even though he frequently overreaches. Today he's right on the money describing the disdain that some of Europe's leaders have for "the people". Jean-Claude Juncker's 'the people of France and Holland didn't really vote NO to the constitutional treaty' is the low-hanging fruit for Eurosceptic columnists, but I prefer Steyn's description of d'Estaing, who described the work of the convention he led as comparable to the work of the founding fathers of the United states.
"It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text," declared Valery Giscard d'Estaing. "Europe's Jefferson" has apparently become Europe's Jefferson Airplane, boasting about the impenetrability of his hallucinogenic lyrics. The point is the French and Dutch shouldn't have read beyond the opening sentence: "We the people agree to leave it to you the people who know better than the people."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Like watching a car wreck

I don't even like Formula 1 racing. In fact, I don't like car racing at all. Yet, after I heard what a mess the United States Grand Prix was, I watched more than an hour of the rebroadcast of yesterday's race. Just couldn't take my eyes off this thing even though (or because) it was a complete farce.

This was just a complete joke of an event. Six cars, three teams competed. Only one team had cars with any chance of winning, so it was a battle of teammates. More than 100,000 angry fans for a sport that's been trying to crack America. I suspect it'll be a good while before that succeeds.

In case you haven't had enough of U2

For those of you who need more U2, Dave Fanning has a very long interview with Bono and The Edge in yesterday's Sunday Independent. Be warned, however, I couldn't follow chunks of it because the editing is so bad. At the end of the article is note about Fanning's upcoming radio shows with U2 in studio, available at

UnAmerica – dead

I really enjoyed Eamonn Fitzgerald's post on the Rise & Fall of UnAmerica. UnAmerica was born on February 15, 2003 in protest at the coming war with Iraq.
Politicians rushed in to declare the birth of a "European nation" based on "soft power", and the philosophers Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida rushed out a proclamation called "Europe's Renaissance", which pamphlets as diverse as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, La Repubblica, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, La Stampa, El País and the Süddeutsche Zeitung hurried into print.
However, after two short years, UnAmerica has been killed off.

"Chickens coming home to roost"

When Fr. Andrew Greeley writes about Church-related matters I feel he writes authoritatively, but when he wanders into matters political his arguments are alternately dated (c. 1950) or wacky. His latest column is more the latter.

He says that the war in Iraq is creating more terrorists, as evidence he cites the 90 suicide bombings in Iraq during May. He then claims that some of these suicide bombers will soon be detonating themselves in the US.
It is not unreasonable to expect that other young men will soon be destroying themselves in this country as they blow up Americans in shopping malls and restaurants and hospitals and churches. The chickens of the criminal war in Iraq will come home to roost. No matter that the majority of Americans disapprove of the war. It is too late for that now.
Maybe he's right and maybe he's not, but I'm 100% certain that it's easier for a potential suicide bomber from Saudi Arabia to enter Iraq via Syria than it is for him to get to the United States.

What's truly wacky, however, is that Fr. Greeley seems to be ignoring the somewhat inconvenient fact that there was a fairly serious terrorist incident in the United States before the war in Iraq. This terrorist attack was carried out during the Bush Administration, but it was planned mostly during the Clinton Administration despite "President Clinton's agonizing reluctance to engage in military action overseas".

Live 8

The cynical part of me thinks that Geldof & Bono are just being silly with their concerts. I had similar feelings 20 years ago about Live Aid.

I didn't see much of Live Aid back in 1985. A bunch of us were invited to a friend's house for an all day extravaganza of beer, Italian food and a big night at the hot spots of New Paltz on the day of Live Aid. I only caught little snippets of the action from London and Philadelphia in between badminton and horseshoes.

I've since seen most of the concert. It was a great day for music even if many of the acts were not to my liking. Queen, a band I never much liked, was simply great.

On Saturday night I watched a long documentary about Live Aid on the BBC. I couldn't help but admire Geldof for the manner in which he willed Live Aid to be a success, working hard, twisting arms and bluffing when he had to. I don't know how much genuine good Live Aid did, but I doubt it did any real harm. And, although I'm cynical about the coming concerts and their potential for changing things in Africa, I do hope they succeed.

One thing that does surprise me about the Live 8 concerts is that they're having only one in the US. I think a second concert with a country music theme in Nashville (or wherever) would have been a good idea.

Tweedledum & Tweedeldee

There is an interview with Bono, Geldof and screenwriter Richard Curtis in Time about Live-8. I like Geldof's description of himself and Bono:
Bono's in love with the world. He wants to embrace it. I want to punch its lights out. We're a psychotic Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
{Found throug The Corner.}

Saturday, June 18, 2005

American Gulag

Pavel Litvinov was a 'prisoner of conscience' in the USSR. His column in today's Washington Post makes the case that Amnesty International is risking its own authority and allowing the Bush administration to dismiss "justified" criticisms through the use of hyperbole, such "American Gulag" to describe Guantanamo Bay.
By any standard, Guantanamo and similar American-run prisons elsewhere do not resemble, in their conditions of detention or their scale, the concentration camp system that was at the core of a totalitarian communist system.

. . . The most effective way to criticize U.S. behavior is to frankly acknowledge that this country should be held to a higher standard based on its own Constitution, laws and traditions. We cannot fulfill our responsibilities as the world's only superpower without being perceived as a moral authority. Despite the risks posed by terrorism, the United States cannot indefinitely detain people considered dangerous without appropriate safeguards for their conditions of detention and periodic review of their status.
This argument strikes me as sound. I'm open to being convinced that Guantanamo Bay is counter-productive, but I switch off when people make stupid comparisons and exaggerations.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Being green

Is it just my imagination or have shampoo bottles become much harder to rinse and recycle ever since the recycling kick took off? Nowadays I need a screwdriver to get the tops off those puppies.

On a related note, my family rejected my proposal to really up our "green-ness". I wanted to cut back on washing - both ourselves and our clothes - in an effort to save on water and to cut back the amount of soap, etc. we were pouring down the drain. I thought 4 showers per month, per person would suffice. The proposal was soundly rejected.

Back of my neck feeling dirty and gritty

Summer in the City.

Okay, it's probably a bit of a stretch to call this a "hot town", but it's pretty warm today and pretty sticky too. It's around 75oF (24oC) here today. I'm doing a little outside blogging. First time.

It pains me to say this, but . . .

So, a mere 3 days after the Mets new stadium plans were unveiled, the Yankees' intentions regarding a new stadium were announced.

Leave aside for the moment the folly of any public money going into building sports stadiums and lets focus on Yankee Stadium as it exists today. (This is the part that pains me.) It's fantastic. Sure there are probably bits of it that need a little renovation, but the Stadium is baseball's cathedral. There is no reason that makes sense to me that it should be replaced.

And, I don't care that they're going to do their damndest to recreate the 1923 feel of Yankee Stadium in the new one across the street. You and I both know that what they'll really do is try to make it seem like the old one all the while the very heart of the stadium will go and we'll have a shopping mall and luxury boxes and all that other nonsense that provide the rationale for this decision. The new stadium will have everything other than authenticity or soul. It will not be "the house the Ruth built". {I know this is essentially a new building since the mid 70s, but still the monuments and field are where baseball was saved by Ruth after the '19 scandals, where the greats played, where baseball was high art.}

Major League Baseball needs to step in and ask George Steinbrenner to come to his senses. They should offer to move the Hall of Fame from where it is now in Cooperstown, NY (lovely town, but so out of the way) and move it to the location for the proposed new stadium.

You want razzmatazz? You want money? The whole area could be developed as a baseball themed amusement-park/visitor-center. With all the traveling people do today and with baseball's continued growth internationally I have no doubt that this would be a huge hit. Yankee Stadium doesn't need to be torn down to make George richer.

Bayeux Tragedy

Is nothing sacred these days? A Western Michigan University Professor claims that the Bayeux Tapestry was made in France and not in Canterbury, England by a collection of 11th century seamstresses as has been believed for the past 900 years or so. The only saving grace for the Anglo Saxons from the disaster of 1066 has now been taken from them.

If you've never heard of the Bayeux Tapestry, don't worry about it. I hadn't either until I spent two weeks in Reading a few years ago. Reading's town museum has a gallery dedicated to the Tapestry and a Victorian era replica is on display. {Actually, if you happen to be in Reading, it's worth a visit.}

The Bayeux Tapestry is 20 inches high 230ft long and tells (through images) the story of the Battle of Hastings of 1066, when Anglo Saxon King Harold was killed and his army defeated by William (the Conqueror) Duke of Normandy. The death of King Harold is the most famous scene from the Tapestry.

Well, I find this very difficult to accept and want to know who exactly is this George Beech. The people of Reading will be crushed. It's a tragic day for them.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I just got a phone call from a machine. The machine told me that I'd won an all expense paid cruise to the Caribbean. All I had to do was to press "9". I smelled a rat and hung up, but now I wish I'd done as asked just to see what I'd have to do to claim my prize. I had half understood that this sort of thing wasn't legal in Ireland.

Boys need a firmer hand

Article in the Irish Independent yesterday. Boys are not studying as diligently as girls. Girls will out-perform boys in Junior and Leaving Cert exams. Blah, blah, blah.

Look, I don't care what the "experts" say. If the experts only told us what our eyes and ears have been telling us for years they'd soon find their well paid research posts would be gone. Boys will NEVER – that's NOT EVER – do well in the type of "understanding", "caring" environment that too many of our schools/homes are today.

Sure there are exceptions. Some boys don't need the firm hand (I was probably one of those). Some girls do. But, overall, boys need a more structured, more disciplined school environment than girls do. And, boys need to be pestered more at home too, preferably by their father. This should start from the day they enter school.

You can talk to a 4 or 5 year old girl about why hitting another is bad and how that makes you "feel bad", but boys don't care about that. Unless they themselves suffer for their actions, they won't give a damn if you "feel bad". Okay, they may care, somewhat, but it will not change their behavior. Boys need rules AND they need to know they'll be punished if those rules are broken. Those rules should include performance measures on exams and in-school behavior. The rules may be adjusted over the dozen years of schooling, but they should probably remain until high school graduation.

One somewhat related problem is that more and more of the teachers that boys and girls see are women. There are virtually no men in primary education here, in Britain or in the US. I don't have any good ideas about how to address this problem, but I think that boys (& girls too) need to have men teach them at least some of the time.

Manchester Airport

Just wondering why flying Ryanair to Manchester incurs "taxes & charges" a third greater (€30 as opposed to €20) than flying to London's Stansted Airport? And, Stansted seems to be a little more expensive than the other UK airports that Ryanair flies to.

Why is flying in and out of Manchester Airport so expensive? I find it hard to believe the taxes are significantly different than at other airports in Britain. So, what charges does Ryanair incur at Manchester that they don't incur at other airports? Or is does Michael O'Leary just want to fleece Irish Manchester United fans?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Killing childhood

Year round school from 8am to 6pm. What a nightmare.

This is just plain wrong. Kids spend enough time in school already without making it into more than a full-time job. With these hours school children, if they do homework after school, will be violating the EU's working time directive (and, yes, I know the UK opts out - wisely - but still).

Kids need to be home. They need to play - outside with friends. They don't need to be cooped up in a school building or in a school yard where running is banned (does that happen in Britain too?)

And, here I was worried about forced labor camps in China when the UK is considering them its children.

Reagan in Budapest

President Reagan never went to Budapest during his 8 years in office. However, he's clearly something of a hero in Hungary. Budapest's mayor supports a proposal to erect a statue to Reagan in "City Park, a popular recreation site in the capital".

I'd love to ask all those people I met during my year as a student Trinity College what they think about that. They were so certain and so smug about "Ronnie Ray-gun". I know it's fashionable these days to try and imply that the sentiments regarding the US and President Bush are new in Ireland, but they are not. I've heard it all before. That generation of smug students are now the smug middle class Dubliners who deride Bush for his stupidity and who see the US as a uniquely malevolent force in the world.

Twins? again

First Dublin, now Belfast. I have to admit I'm surprised to read that Belfast has been twinned with Hefei in China.

Look, I understand the realistic approach to China. There's money to be made there. We're all a little greedy. Still, there should be some limits to how much kowtowing we'll do to eek out another buck from Chinese deals, no? Twinning our cities with Chinese cities should be unacceptable.

What do any of us know of Hefei? I know nothing, but a two minute google search led me to information about Hefei's labor camp. How is it Guantanamo Bay can raise so many voices in opposition here, but a city that has a labor camp where people of certain religious beliefs are detained, employed as slaves, even possibly brainwashed and/or killed is worthy of a twinning? And, nobody seems to protest.
Li Mei – tortured to death in 2000 in Hefei Labor Camp for practicing Falun Gong.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Haughey documentary

Fergus Finlay says "Haughey is already promising to be the most successful documentary series ever produced by RTE, with the potential to attract the same kind of audience as a major drama". I was watching it last night and I was enjoying it. It was interesting to see Haughey as a young man and to get some background on his life and Ireland. One remark that really struck me was when the narrator referred to Haughey's move from Minister for Justice to Minister for Agriculture as a "promotion". Times have changed.

So, I was watching and enjoying. Then came the first ad break and, like all men, I immediately began channel surfing. I happened upon Sky News where they were breathlessly awaiting the Jackson verdict and I forgot all about Haughey until now. That's life, I guess.

Ireland believes in Michael

I was watching Sky News around 10pm last night (before the verdict was read) and their camera was focusing on one guy standing in the crowd outside the courthouse with a green, white and orange sign that read, "Michael, Ireland believes in you". I felt so disloyal. I didn't really believe in Michael. Will I never really fit in here?

Jackson trial

Last night was the first time I paid any attention to the Michael Jackson trial. I knew nothing about it, but I still spent an hour watching the verdict and then listening to the jury's press conference. Somehow I found listening to the jury reassuring. They were just regular people rendering justice.

I have no idea what evidence was produced by the prosecution, but I got the idea from the jury that the accuser's mother was not credible at all. What reassured me, however, was the woman who asked something along the lines of, "What mother would allow their child to share a bed with Michael Jackson?". Michael Jackson is a freak, a creep and a weirdo, none of which is a criminal offense, but I wouldn't let my kids anywhere near him.

For me this is a complete contrast to the O.J. Simpson trial, which I was glued to. Andrew Sullivan says the relative lack of interest in the Jackson trial in America compared with other big media trials is because this case was about class and race – taboo subjects in America – and "the cold, heartless core of American celebrity".

I enjoy psycho-babble as much as anybody, but how can I take Sullivan seriously. This is ridiculous. The reason people didn't pay as much attention is because (a) the trial was not actually on t.v. – all that was available were reconstructions and (b) nobody was in any doubt that Jackson was a freak, a creep and a weirdo before these accusations became public – there was nothing shocking or titillating on show here.

Monday, June 13, 2005

It's been a while since I was in college (19 years since I graduated - GOOD GOD!) so my memory may be a little hazy, but I cannot remember having one course where the teacher didn't hand out questionnaires at the end of the term. These questionnaires were for our "feedback" on the course and the lecturer's performance.

Don't they do this in Ireland? I was surprised by this front page Irish Times story describing the pending launch of It sounds as if students are never asked for their "feedback". Perhaps if third level education wasn't 100% taxpayer funded the colleges would have to pay more attention to the quality of the product they offer students. And, just as with there are, apparently, some college lecturers who are worried about this development. At least there's Trinity's Sean Barrett, a voice of sanity:
If students want to do it, I certainly wouldn't stand in their way," he said. "Their views on the quality they get is of interest.
I imagine that the fact that questionnaires are always provided is one reason that the site for my college has so few posts. I would guess it's a similar story across the US. Irish colleges and universities should provide at least that minimal opportunity for students to offer their opinions on what they're getting from their college.

Mary Ellen Synon – back?

I've seen Mary Ellen Synon's by-line in the Sunday Business Post a couple of times in the past few months. I thought she had been banned for life from the Irish media after her remarks about the Paralympics in the Sunday Independent in 2000.

I winced when I read what she wrote about the Paralympics at the time. I thought she was wrong about the Paralympics, but not about the political correctness that led to them being on t.v. Anyone can organize whatever games they want and award medals to people as they choose. Whether the Paralympics should have been on t.v. is impossible to say as the only channels available that showed the Paralympics in Ireland were state-owned and taxpayer-funded (RTE & BBC). I'm skeptical that the market for the Paralympics was that great, but we don't have a free market in television.

I have to admit I was uncomfortable and uninterested whenever the Sydney Paralympics came on the t.v. I switched off every time. I know from asking around I wasn't the only one. So, I thought it was a little harsh the way she was hounded out of the media here for what was an ill-advised rant aimed, inaccurately, at political correctness.

Now that she's back, at least sort of, I'm glad to see that she hasn't lost her bite. She has been living and working in Brussels for the past year and didn't find the male Eurocrats much to her liking:
Here is another thing about the capital of Europe. The female fonctionnaires at the Commission are notably better looking than their male colleagues. I suspect it is because the kind of man who thinks a career in the Commission is a proper job for a man must lack testosterone. It makes for weak jaw-lines and narrow shoulders.
To a large extent, hubris was a big part of her downfall. If she can keep that in check without losing her edge as a journalist/columnist I'll be glad to see her back in print regularly.

No Olympics in NYC

Anyone who's been to Shea Stadium in Queens will know that the Olympics are not coming to NYC now despite Mayor Bloomberg's desperate ploy. That's good news for New York. The Olympics are for second tier cities, not cities like New York, London or Paris. They're also (generally) a waste of the taxpayer's money.

I've sat in Shea Stadium (admittedly, not often recently) when the winds and temperature are just right so that the fragrance of the Flushing River flows over the Stadium allowing day-dreaming fans to imagine that they've just landed in the middle of a fresh slurry pit. Of course, maybe cleaning the Flushing River is part of the $180m public money promised for infrastructure in the area, but I suspect it will cost more than that to make the river and its surrounds presentable for the IOC.

Portmarnock Golf Club

This morning Terry Prone, writing in the Irish Examiner, connects two situations that I've often wondered about. Why is there court action to compel Portmarnock to accept women as full members when there are women-only health clubs springing up all over the country?

To be honest, I don't know the legal ins and outs of the similarities and differences of the two situations, but if it's wrong to "exclude someone because of their gender" then it's wrong. Health club or golf club, it doesn't matter.

Personally, I don't think it's that wrong, but I'm certain it's not the business of the state to force these clubs to change their policies.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Abandoning the Euro

Brendan Keenan makes a good case for why Italy won't be getting the lira back anytime soon.
Despite much talk to the contrary, the departure of some countries from the euro would not necessarily be bad for the currency itself. By reducing the gap between member states, it might even make the euro more credible. But it would have dreadful consequences for the country which left if - as would almost certainly be the case - it was heavily indebted.

The debt is in euro. This would become foreign debt for a departing country, which would be crippling. Almost certainly, it would be converted into the new national currency at a lower exchange rate, thereby depriving the citizens of a goodly chunk of their savings. Future borrowing by government and business would be a lot more expensive.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Adam Smith

Biggest surprise to me in Edinburgh was the emphasis placed on Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson compared with the neglect of Adam Smith. I'm not saying that those two literary men don't deserve a mention, but Adam Smith surely deserves more than a throw away remark on a bus tour? I know it could be just me, but I really think Adam Smith would be more well known to the average American tourist (the target market for much of what's offered on those bus tours) than either Scott or Stevenson. Sure, Ivanhoe and Kidnapped are great books, but the Wealth of Nations, was more influential and has a much greater effect on the everyday life of Americans (and others, obviously) than anything written by Scott or Stevenson.

Edinburgh – sum up

When we (the whole family) visit a city we like to be sure to see the those places that others don't see. We get off the beaten path and get the "real" experience, meeting "real people" and experiencing life in the city as those who live there experience it.

Okay, all of the above is a load of hooey, but it's the kind of thing I read or hear all the time. In fact, I often get the feeling that there's a very well worn path on the way to "off the beaten path" these days.

No, when we go somewhere we tend to see those places that (to paraphrase Yogi Berra) nobody goes to nowadays because they're too crowded. Now, thanks to the range of ages and interests in our group, we try to find things that will appeal to everyone.

The highlights of our time in Edinburgh were:
  • Edinburgh Castle: Of course. This is simply fantastic. Fantastic history (with a small error in the presentation on John Paul Jones during which we were told that the American War of Independence began in 1776, but all Americans know the war began in 1775 even if Independence was only declared in '76.), a good show when the gun is fired at 1pm and sturdy enough to withstand the assault of the four old male. We spent hours there.
  • The old town: I just loved walking around. Maybe if I had done more traveling around Europe this sort of thing would impress me less, but anything more than 300 years old always impresses me.
  • The Museum of Childhood: This was really good, better than I expected, with something to appeal to every one of us.
  • Edinburgh bus tours: I'm sure I'm not supposed to admit this, but I love these. We got the ticket that allowed us to hop on and off any of the 4 main tours wherever we liked. These buses are a great way to get a quick potted history and also provide you with a good guide to what the locals consider important. In Edinburgh, 'pride' is too tame a word to describe what they feel about Scotch whiskey whisky.
  • The weather: Does it ever rain in Scotland? I have a sunburn after my two days there.
I don't get traveling often, so these little trips are a treat. Still, there are things I'd love to see and a return trip to Edinburgh (without children would be ideal) would give me a chance to see some of those things that I missed.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


My impression of Edinburgh is that it's a city that's not as well off as Dublin. Looks more frayed around the edges, but still it's a great town. I'd love to spend more time here, but not going to happen this time.

Only down side to this trip is that my hotel has internet access that's out of the dark ages. It would cost me around €10 ($12.50) for an hour's access at 56k. Fortunately, I found a WiFi enabled hotel (Best Western) down the street where I can drink coffee and do what I have to do.

Dublin airport WiFi

Thanks to Richard's tip, I was able to get some of the Newshound done in Dublin Airport this morning. Great that they provide free wireless access. And, thanks to all the lengthy security line stories I've heard, I was at the airport at 5 for my 6:40 flight, which meant I had plenty of time to surf. (Also good that I found a plug I could use because my battery's not that healthy nowadays.)

Tax & Insurance

On my way to the airport this morning at 4:15 I was stopped at a police checkpoint. They checked my tax and insurance. However, the fact that there were two armed, plain clothes policemen on the sidewalk staring in at me as the uniformed officer was asking the mundane questions makes me think that my tax & insurance were not the sole motivation. You don't see armed cops here that often, so it was a little odd.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Flags protest

Sounds like the Palestinian flag protest was a complete bust at the match the other night. Good sense prevailed, even if the result didn't suit the home team.


Today is a holiday in Ireland and I'll be away tomorrow and Wednesday. Therefore, posting will be light around here the next few days.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Der Euro macht uns Kaputt

Now that the EU Constitution has been shown to be a step too far too soon, the question as to whether the Euro was also a step too far too soon is being asked. In Ireland, the question is barely considered, but in Germany and Italy there is growing anti-Euro sentiment. This week Stern magazine published an article with the headline "Der Euro macht uns Kaputt", which roughly means 'the euro is making us broke'. The article revealed that a meeting attended by Germany's Finance Minister and the head of the Bundesbank considered the possibility that the euro would collapse.

That's still a remote possibility, but yesterday's intervention by Italian Government Minister Robert Maroni, who said his party is going to join the campaign for a referendum on pulling out of the euro, makes it a little less remote than it was two weeks ago.

Despite what the Wall Street Journal might wish, there's no doubt that what happened in the two referendums this week was more than a rebuke for the proposed Constitution. It was a rebuke for all that the EU has become. This includes the euro.

The euro may be a "liberalizing force in Europe" and a project admired by the Journal, but there are those who don't want the EU to be a "liberalizing force" and many of them voted 'No' this week.

Friday, June 03, 2005

So much to say, but . . .

I had so many gems to share today, but due to a combination of things I just never got back here until this late hour. And, most of what I had to say has gone out of my head. I know this is a terrible blow to you. I hope it'll all come back to me yet, but I'm not hopeful.

Selling strawberries

Seeing as we're supposed to be getting serious about road safety, what about putting an end to the practice of setting up shop along any stretch of road with the intent of selling strawberries. Shoulders on roads have a purpose other than as the location for make-shift fruit stands.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Palestinian flags at Saturday's match?

I heard some guy from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign on the Last Word last night. From what I gather, they're planning on handing out Palestinian flags to the Irish fans as they enter Lansdowne Road for Saturday's game. And, they want to get Irish people to do some pro-Palestinian chanting.

I really hope this is a total flop.

They have also organized an "alternative" international game with some Irish guys playing some Palestinians in Limerick. I can't figure out whether to be annoyed, embarrassed or amused. I think it's a combination of all three right now.

Who armed Saddam?

Great stuff from Carl at No Oil For Pacifists (found through Richard D.) on the source of Iraq's arms during the 70's and 80s'. These two charts tell the story (the details comes from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and cover the period 1973 to 1990). The US was responsible for approximately 1% of Iraq's weapons, about the same as Denmark's contribution. The USSR – 57%, France – 13%, China – 12%.

There is this unspoken assumption today that during the Cold War every dictator was somehow in the pay of the United States. Total nonsense, of course, but a lot misty-eyed Sovietphiles are just incapable of rational thought when it comes to the Cold War.

It's not dead, it's just resting

The EU Constitution is beginning to rival the Monty Python parrot.
"No, no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!"
Czech PM Jiri Paroubek wants the ratification process delayed. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso "called on member states to proceed with ratification and not preempt their summit meeting with 'unilateral decisions' before then".

What's with these people?
"The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Still Undead

Where is the silver bullet? This thing just refuses to lie down.
"Ratification should still continue", said Mr Juncker.
Actually, I fully expect that someone will have a word in Mr. Juncker's ear. Only the deluded and the desperate could hold out any hope for the EU Constitution now.

Where this leaves the Sami reindeer farmers, I just don't know.

Dutch vote 'No'

No surprise, but the turnout was a massive 62%. Way over what was expected.

Watergate revelations

Mark Felt? Have to admit I never heard the name (or it didn't stick if I had heard it) before yesterday. I never knew that much about Watergate. Too young, I guess.

Although there was a kid in my high school graduation class who was a Watergate nut. He used to write to the key people asking them for autographed pictures. He got lots back, even from guys who were doing or did time. I was in his house once and his bedroom wall was covered with autographed pictures of Watergate figures. Where other high school boys had posters of athletes, rock stars of members of Charlie's Angels, he had photographs of Mitchell, Haldeman, Dean and others. I think he had Woodward and Bernstein too. Today I wonder if he had Mark Felt's picture?

Scottish delicacy

I've never been to Scotland, but I've heard about this, one of their more famous dishes – deep fried Mars bars. Thanks to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, we can now make these at home. An essential part of any calorie-busting diet, I'm sure.

School girls

School girls do make me laugh. The lengths they'll go to for the "right" look. Today I was buying my ticket for the train and a girl whose school day was just finished arrived and went through the turnstile in front of me. She was about 14 and wearing the same uniform my daughter goes out in every morning.

I was standing near her on the platform, waiting for the train. While I'm standing, reading my paper, she's changing clothes. First on came the jeans and then off came the skirt. Then off came the sweater and the blouse revealing the tee shirt she strategically wore underneath (she was never "uncovered" in any way). A little jacket/sweatshirt came out of her school bag and the uniform was rammed in. All within three minutes.

When the train came, she got on, sat down and started doing her make-up. Ten minutes later she's at her stop and dressed for her day of action, whatever that might be.

I thought the whole thing was funny, but if it had been my daughter I'd have killed her.

Robert Rogers (contd.)

The unveiling ceremonies went ahead yesterday. I'm somewhat disappointed that the Times-Union's report doesn't even hint at the controversy regarding Robert Rogers.