Friday, March 31, 2006

Pragmatic Condi

I enjoyed Anne Applebaum's profile of Condoleezza Rice in this week's Spectator. I don't actually think she has much chance of being elected President in 2008, but after reading this profile I mentally lowered the odds against her just a little.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

25 years ago today

Interesting article on Rudy Giuliani's memories of this day 25 years ago. I can remember March 30, 1981 very clearly. I came home from school and flipped on CNN as I did every afternoon (I was a newshound then) and saw that Ronald Reagan had been shot. I wasn't all emotional or anything, but fascinated. Why would anyone shoot President Reagan? Reagan had only just taken office (he was about 10 weeks in the job) and he could hardly have annoyed anyone that much already. I called a friend of mine to talk about what we were watching.

Six weeks later the Pope was shot. I remember asking the same friend if 1981 was the 'anti-68' (1968 was the year Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated) as both of the men who were victims in assassination attempts had survived. Then, in October Muslim fundamentalists succeeded in assassinating Anwar Sadat. So much for the anti-68.

Chip & Pin

How long have we had "chip and pin" on our credit/debit card purchases here? A year? Well, I'm sick of it. I would prefer to sign, thank you.

I seem to remember hearing how this method would be much safer than the traditional signature security system. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but I'm tired of having to enter my PIN number in stores where people are looking over my shoulder and where Johnny Texaco is taping it on his security system. I don't feel secure, that's for sure.

Before I only had to enter my PIN when I was withdrawing money from a bank ATM. And, I had to sign to use my card in a store. Now I have to expose my PIN in stores where people are crowding around me, where someone is pushing to the counter to pay for their newspaper and/or under the gaze of someone earning the minimum wage.

Do you think any of those store assistants could be bought by a criminal gang who would then make duplicate cards and to go along with the PIN the store clerk's just memorized? Most people take no care at all about protecting their PIN in such situations. I've been able to easily see other shoppers' PINs.

And, on top of it all, I don't think it's faster. People generally sign their names faster than they punch in a 4-6 digit number on a small keypad. I think I'll go back to using cash.

The attacks go on

I'm still getting notices from my router that IP address is trying to find its way into my network. Each attempt consists of five different DoS attacks (and, no, I don't really have a good grasp on this stuff). These attacks are fairly regular, usually coming after a 5 or 6 hour interval and always at the start of the hour.

I don't have a static IP address - my address has changed three times since these attacks started. I don't think I'm being singled out and I doubt these attacks have anything to do with the department of defense, but they are something between a curiosity and a concern.

I'm also getting single, less frequent probes from IP address, which is supposedly a Halliburton address.

Beer cures cow - are we next?

Tony and Lavender Baskett's cow Lottie had a stomach ailment. The vet suggested brewers yeast, but Tony figured a beer might be a better idea. And, what do you know? Lottie got better and has even given birth to a calf since.

Well, if beer can cure cows surely there's some hope that it might cure people with similar stomach ailments, no? I can just imagine the response when the first university to test this theory asks for volunteers from the student body.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Father Brian D'Arcy

I didn't think I'd ever see the day that a critical article about Father Brian D'Arcy would appear in an Irish newspaper, but today Today Ronan Mullen provides one. And, it's not too bad considering how dangerous it is to take issue with someone who (a) is loved by the media and (b) gives the impression of being more fragile than an egg shell.

I never had any real issue with Fr. D'Arcy, but he does irritate me at times with his hipper than thou attitude with regards to the Church. He strikes me as a decent man, but one who could only barely (and occasionally not) conceal his annoyance/anger/shame at the hierarchy and many of his fellow priests. He's rarely slow to put the boot in when the Church is taking a battering.

Here's Mullen:
How was it that he was never to be found on the unpopular side of a controversial argument, that he never defended his Church against unfair criticism, and that the only people he criticised over the years were erstwhile authority figures such as Cardinal Daly or the Vatican - people who were, by then, easy to criticise.
Mullen then adds that Father D'Arcy has also been critical of young priests, referring to them as "underdeveloped right-wing tyrants in the making". Such views are nothing more than the exasperated utterances of a man whose dream of a flower-power Church is fading before his eyes.

Father D'Arcy - yesterday's priest.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

5th plane?

Zacarias Moussaoui claimed yesterday that he was supposed to fly a fifth plane on September 11. If true, it's just another blow to the 9-11 Commission and their report. I don't even remember any hint in the report that the attack may have been intended to include more than four planes. If Moussaoui is telling the truth then what does it say about our intelligence that 4½ years after the attacks we didn't know there was supposed to be a fifth plane involved.

If there was supposed to be a fifth plane then what happened to the rest of the hijack team (other than Richard Reid, who Moussaoui named)? All this talk about Moussaoui being the "twentieth hijacker" was way off. He was (presumably) supposed to be one of 25 (at least). We're still missing one from Flight 93 and 3 from whatever flight Moussaoui was supposed to be on.

And, what flight was that supposed to be? Somewhere in America there are 40 or so people who were spared by luck/fate/whatever. If Moussaoui hadn't been arrested they'd all be dead today, whether his attack succeeded or not (like Flight 93).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Cut pensions for the childless

Whoa! I don't think I'd make that argument, but there are some people in Germany advocating just such a policy in response to Germany's low birth rate (found through NRO).
New statistics confirming the declining birth rate have sent Germany in to a state of panic, amid a growing consensus that pensions should be increased for people with children and reduced for those without.

"People without children should either receive a reduced pension or pay more into pension schemes," said Norbert Geis from the CSU.

Johann Eekhoff, director of the Cologne institute for Economic Policy said a reform of the pension system was long overdue.

"People without children should never have been admitted into pension schemes because these only work when they are financed by subsequent generations," he said in an interview with mass-circulation Bild newspaper. "Their pensions should be cut by 50 percent."

CDU politician Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker agreed, pointing out that working parents are financially disadvantaged compared to their childless peers. "In the long-term, we need to consider awarding people without children lower pensions," she said.
This is the problem throughout much of Europe. Unfunded, state-run pensions and a shrinking future workforce. Still, this does sound like a pretty extreme measure.

Dublin 2006 - Chicago 1930?

The other day I was all set to write a short post about the hyperbolic statement by the chairman of the Parole Board, Gordon Holmes. Mr. Holmes described Dublin today as "becoming like Chicago in the '20s and '30s". Then I read about the high-speed, highway chase and shoot-out early Sunday morning and I thought, well, maybe he's not that far off.

Still, in 1930 Chicago had a murder rate of 14.6 per 100,000 population (note how much worse it was in 1990 than 1930). If Dublin's rate was that bad, we'd have closer to 150 murders in Dublin each year. I don't know the murder rate for Dublin, but there were only 54 murders total in the whole state last year.

So, not quite Chicago 1930 yet, but we're working on it.

Mike Tyson – tourist

Why is Mike Tyson swanning around Ireland, speaking at events that charge €200 per head? Is there no restriction on convicted rapists coming into the country as tourists?

Just curious.

Friday, March 24, 2006

They're after me

I get a log from my broadband router providing me with all sorts of information regarding various suspicious contact that it stops from reaching my pc. Anyway, the past two days I've been getting a constant stream of this
UDP Packet - Source:,13364    Destination: (My IP, port #). So, I looked up to see who owned that IP. And, here's what I found:
OrgName: DoD Network Information Center
Address: 3990 E. Broad Street
City: Columbus
StateProv: OH
PostalCode: 43218
Country: US
NetRange: -
NetHandle: NET-7-0-0-0-1
NetType: Direct Allocation
Comment: Defense Information Systems Agency
Comment: DISA /D3
Comment: 11440 Isaac Newton Square
Comment: Reston, VA 22090-5087 US
RegDate: 1997-11-24
Updated: 1998-09-26

RTechName: Network DoD
RTechPhone: +1-800-365-3642
RTechEmail: **********

OrgTechName: Network DoD
OrgTechPhone: +1-800-365-3642
OrgTechEmail: **********
# ARIN WHOIS database, last updated 2006-03-23 19:10
I presume this is the work of a hacker who's "stolen" an IP address, but it's more exciting to think that the Department of Defense is tracking my online movements.

Guantanamo 'truth'

I thought this was an interesting article on the detention center at Guantanamo from the Guardian on Wednesday. Colleen Graffy has been to Guantanamo and her article was an attempt to counter the "spin" on Guantanamo. She takes on the media.
Why, then, are we continually fed pictures of Camp X-Ray when it was a makeshift facility that existed for only four months more than four years ago? Why is every single detainee pictured on the BBC's website (and frequently on TV) shown in an orange jumpsuit and depicted in a stressful position, when most don't wear them and many live communally? More than 900 journalists have been to Guantanamo, yet the photos remain the same. Is it that detainees don't engage in recreation, in call to prayer five times a day, or in interrogations done over chess; or is it that those images don't fit the narrative that all seem to want to believe?
I've been curious about some of the often-repeated Guantanamo images we see on the news. Are things exactly as they were in January of 2002?

Graffy's article had me thinking that maybe they aren't and we're being fed a line. Then I got to the bottom of the article and I read this: "Colleen Graffy is the United States' deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy". Now, maybe Graffy is being 100% honest here and everything she's written is the God's-honest-truth, but still the impact of all that she's written is virtually nil when you take into account she is, after all, an authorized spokeswoman for the organization responsible for Guatanamo.

She's at least raised the possibility that life in Guantanamo is being misrepresented, but I'm afraid that until I read similar things written by credible, non-government sources, I'll remain skeptical that what Graffy says is the truth.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Triple lock

The United Nations has a veto on any Irish military action thanks to the 'triple-lock' (must be approved by the government, the Dail and the UN). This is the UN that slyly associated a fellow EU member, Denmark, with racism in its anti-racism poster.

Obviously the government must approve any military action and the requirement that the Dail also approve is fine with me. But, why should any other power have the say-so? And, if there must be a 'grander' body that approves military action, shouldn't that be the EU?

Instant replay

By the way, I don't much comment on rugby, but I think they should scrap the whole instant replay thing. I've seen how it works in football (American style), hockey (on ice), now basketball (NCAA) and it gradually becomes more and more of a crutch that referees rely on. Watching that game on Saturday, I couldn't help but wonder why the line judge needed to go to the replay to determine whether that last score was a try or not. I mean, he was, what? 3 feet from the action and he had an unimpeded view. Make the call.


I only realized yesterday that if you go back to older posts and see zero comments that all the comments are still there. At least, that's the case in June & September 2005 both of which I checked last night.

Doom & gloom - an update

Just so that you don't get the idea that I'm getting too optimistic, here's a piece from today's Irish Independent with a nearly apocalyptic vision of our economic future. {The problem with this article is that half of it is dedicated to the ancient history of monetary unions, a niche interest I'd imagine.}

I know I've touched on this in the past and I haven't got a lot to add to what I've already said.
Where do you think all the money for flashy cars, expensive houses, new bathrooms, third holidays and the like comes from? It is borrowed by young Irish spenders from old German savers. This is how we are able to increase our borrowing by close to 30% per year. In effect, EMU has given us access to the pin number and ATM card of the Germans and, because there are over 80m of them and only 4m of us, they barely notice.

This is how we have arrived at a situation where private sector credit, which is how much we are all borrowing, stands at around €240bn. Our total GDP is approximately €135bn. This means that borrowings are now running at 180% of our income.

This is the highest level in the world and, as it will grow at about €55bn this year, it is also growing the fastest. That growth alone is 42% of our total national income.

There is no historical precedent for this type of borrowing anywhere in the world at any stage in economic history.

. . . How long can this last? As long as Germany remains weak and sickly. But what happens if Germany recovers vigorously? Then interest rates would rise strongly.

This could collapse the entire Irish property pyramid scheme. Faced with defaults, parts of the banking system - which is the lynch pin of the entire structure - could easily become insolvent.

Banking crises have been seen in every property/credit cycle in economic history. In such circumstances a country such as Ireland would need dramatically lower interest rates to refinance the economy.

This might demand thinking the unthinkable. The Government might, in search of lower interest rates, be faced with no other option but to pull out of EMU.

Playing catch up

In the end, I decided to half watch the final of the WBC on tape delay last night. It was more interesting than exciting seeing as I knew the result.

In the 9th inning, play-by-play announcer Jon Miller started talking about the Orioles' tour of Japan in the early 70s. At the time, the Japanese thought they were ready for such competition, but the Orioles were clearly better even though it was only exhibition competition for them. Miller then said that Japan had clearly "caught up with the United States" over the past three decades. While the fact that the Japanese players can now compete with the best the US has to offer is obvious, Miller implied that the change was mostly one of the improvement of Japanese players. I'm not so sure that's true.

I think the biggest change is the fall-off in talent in the US. American kids don't play baseball as they once did. Baseball used to be the dominant sport in the US, much like soccer is in most of Europe. It seems pretty obvious to me that football, basketball and soccer have attracted many of America's best athletes. Baseball in America is simply not as good as it once was.

So, Japan may have "caught up", but that may be mostly because the US has dropped back.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Last Thursday night I attended a dinner given by the people who publish Irish America. I was there because I was named as one of the Top 100 Irish-Americans. You may be relieved to know that the award had nothing to do with this blog and everything to do with the Newshound. Whether my efforts with the Newshound merited inclusion in such a list is hard for me to say, but I had a great night and was honored to be selected.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly is the "Irish American of the Year", was the keynote speaker at the event and is on the cover of this month's magazine. I got to meet him briefly and he seemed like a nice, down-to-Earth guy. I also met his son Tim Jim (I think), who, like his father, went to Manhattan College. He graduated two years after me from the same department (Math/Comp Sci), but neither of us had any recollection of the other (and I thought I was BMOC back then!).

Marching in March

Thanks to a last minute meeting/invitation, I got to march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade last Friday. I hadn't done that since I graduated from college.

I had met an alumnus from Manhattan College on Thursday night and he asked if I was going to march. At the time I didn't think I'd have time, but Friday morning things worked out and I was able to meet up with a group at Langan's before heading up 5th Avenue. Here's a picture of me mid-parade.

Janie Mac

I laughed when I heard little New York kids shouting "Janie Mac" last week. Apparently, it's a regularly used expression in Piggley Winks, a children's t.v. show. I don't know if it's an Irish production or not, but I saw it once and it's not too bad.


Today's NY Post has a classic tabloid front page announcing the birth of Donald Trump's son.


Japan won the World Baseball Classic last night. I wish I could have seen it live, but it didn't start until 2am and there was no way I could stay up for it.

I didn't get to see much of the final few games as I was traveling. It looked like the crowds in San Diego were pretty good, which I suppose will encourage baseball's authorities to do this again. Well, maybe that's a good thing although I'm still not sold. The tournament didn't seem to have captured the attention of baseball fans I met last week in New York, but it seems the Japanese were glued to it.

The failure of the US team was hardly unexpected. They weren't ready to play physically, but maybe more importantly, they didn't really seem to care as much as the players on the other teams. The Cubans, Japanese and Koreans all seemed to play with real fire, as if they had something to prove. (I think if I had my choice I'd have liked to have seen Korea win, but they lost to Japan in the semi-finals and that's the way sports goes.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Back, but . . .

Was in the New York last week and seem to have brought home a small unwelcome guest. I'll try to post a little more when this stomach bug is gone.

Monday, March 13, 2006

This week

Service here could be kind of patchy as I'm traveling until Saturday.


As I mentioned below, San Jose and Dublin are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the twinning. Over the weekend it was announced that Limerick is to be twinned with New York City. What? These two cities are to be twins?

I hope someone has booked Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito for the ceremonies. Let's have a look: Limerick population — 86,998 (including Suburbs or Environs) & New York City population — 8,085,742 (not including Suburbs or Environs). Is the whole of New York involved or maybe just one neighborhood, say Flushing? Flushing would make more sense.

Do you know the way . . .

The Taoiseach is visiting Dublin's twin today. He's heading off to San Jose to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the twinning. I'm sure back in 1986 there were few Irish people who imagined that the two cities would ever be real "twins", but today Dublin is at least as rich and high-tech as San Jose. Amazing, really.

Yesterday's San Jose Mercury had an article on the worst day in San Jose's history. It's nearly 100 years since the "Great San Francisco Earthquake" nearly destroyed more than just San Francisco. Might be good reading for the Taoiseach as the two anniversaries come so close together.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Blushes spared

The US baseball team avoided total ignominy yesterday when Canada lost to Mexico 9-1. If the American squad beats the semi-professionals of South Africa this evening they will make the second round.

Yellow ribbons

From yesterday's Daily Ireland:
Many progressives were shocked by the militaristic response of Americans to the attacks of September 11, 2001 -– but not feminists. They had already been tracking the militarisation of American daily life -– from Super Bowl bomber flyovers to yellow ribbons on family cars -– and its intimate connections to the cult of masculinity that has recently tightened its grip on American politics.
I know I wasn't living in America in September 2001, but I'm pretty sure the yellow ribbons on the cars phenomenon was not part of "American daily life" before September 11, 2001. They certainly weren't common in upstate New York.

Cynthia Enloe is worked up about the link between masculinity and militarization.
Take those flyovers. What's fun about sending an ominous V-winged vehicle of death and destruction over a Sunday afternoon football game?

It takes coordination between the NFL and the Pentagon to plan a flyover. Is sending a black bomber racing across the sky supposed to confirm players' and fans' manliness?

Is the pageant also designed to prove the patriotic bona fides of players, owners, fans and the networks? If so, then the NFL and the Pentagon are in collusion to militarise masculinity and to masculinise militarism.
These kind of people make me laugh. You want to know why the flyovers are fun? Because the planes are cool, loud, and exciting. If she wants to believe I'm just hoping to confirm my manliness by enjoying them, well, I can live with that.

Bl***y hell

I have to admit that I find it kind of amusing that the Australian Government's new advertising campaign has been banished from British television because it's too rude. The offense is in this sentence, "So where the bloody hell are you?"

I don't have a good feel for the word "bloody" as a curse, so maybe I can't really comment. However, I watch enough British television to know that there is a lot of sexual innuendo in their ads that I believe is too much for family viewing. Yet, no one seems too worried about that.

This also remind me of the time I cut my hand and bled all over my pants. After I had tended to my wound, I shouted out to my wife, "What should I do with these bloody pants?" My 5-year-old daughter looked at me in horror and said in her best firm voice, "Daddy, that's rude!" Of course, she then ran off to tell her mother of my offense. I got off on a technicality - "He's American".

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I'm not sure if William Buckley qualifies as a 'neo-con', but I'm sure George Will doesn't, despite what The Independent says on its front page today.

CORRECTION: No, Buckley's been a conservative his whole life. There's nothing 'neo' about his conservativism.

Rooting for 'your country'

Am I supposed to root for the US team in to beat S. Africa just because they wear 'USA' on their uniforms? Truth is, the US team has a lot of players I can't stand. And, S. Africa?
Still, there's not a squad happier to take the field here nor more delighted to be playing at the level they are this week. "It is an awesome experience for each and every one of us," says Sean Campbell, who can't seem to erase the broad smile from his face. The lead South African coach has 30 years of experience playing and coaching on South African teams. "It's the pinnacle of our careers for the coaches and players alike to come here and live life like big leaguers for three weeks."
Watching the Canadian team last night, it was clear how much playing in and winning that game meant to most of the players. I'm not saying that the American team isn't proud to wear the 'USA', but they all know that this is just exhibition stuff. The money games start in April and the real goal is October.

For most of the players on other teams this represents the highlight of their careers. That's especially true for South Africa.

Oh Canada

The US team was beaten by Canada yesterday in the WBC and could be eliminated today if Mexico beats Canada in a low scoring game. This would be a nightmare for those Major League Baseball head honchos who thought that a 'World Cup of Baseball' would be a good idea. TV ratings and interest in the tournament generally will certainly drop significantly if the US team's knocked out tonight.

While the US team losing to Canada was unexpected, it's hardly a shock. Most of the established Major League players - not just the Americans - look pretty rusty. Some of the minor league players I've seen look sharper, like they've played winter ball. The Cubans look like they're in mid-season form.

Hitting a baseball is all about timing and technique, which is never there in early March. The timing of this event was a mistake and there's a reason why baseball requires a long 162-game season to separate the wheat from the chaff: a flukey result is not unheard of in one-off games. I suspect that this will be the last World Baseball Classic.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It was all a hoax

For the past 5 years or so, Eamon Dunphy has pretended to provide a real news program, first on TodayFM and now on Newstalk. However, all pretense of being a real news program went out the window today.

This morning Dunphy led a 10 minute discussion of the July 1969 moon landing. As part of this discussion, Dunphy interviewed one of these "it was all a hoax" lunatics and treated his arguments as worthy of serious consideration. Fortunately, he also had on a real scientist who was able to debunk those ridiculous claims fairly easily, but I'm not sure Dunphy really believed the evidence when the hoax myth was so much more appealing.

I really think Dunphy needs better people around him. He can be fine at times, but someone needs to tell him 'no' when he wants to pursue this sort of wacky nonsense.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett died yesterday. He was 45. A great ball player who always seemed to play with real joy. I remember spending one long evening watching a twilight doubleheader from the bleachers of Yankee Stadium where I had a great view of Puckett. He didn't look like a ball player with his short, stocky frame, but he was one of the greats. One of those players that fans everywhere could enjoy.

I had heard that he'd hit hard times after his playing career was cut short due to a problem with his retina, but until I read this in today's NY Times I hadn't realized just how hard those times were. Mostly self-inflicted, of course. He seems to have had a problem with violence and women. I'd like to think that all of that is exaggerated, but . . .

Looking back from this distance in time I wonder if Puckett was a steroid user. Is that partially responsible for his over-achieving on the playing field, his off the field violence and his rapid descent and early death after his career ended?

Monday, March 06, 2006

30c a bag

I may be repeating myself, but I hate the plastic bag charge. Before that charge, I never once let a bag blow around and become part of the litter-strewn landscape. So, when I was forced by the state to change my ways in an effort to address this problem I was annoyed (slightly, I have to admit).

And, I have changed my ways. I often used to walk to the store to get the odd item or two, but now I never do. Whenever I need anything I drive to the store (take that, environmentalists). I hate walking along as my empty canvas bag swishes at my side. So I don't do it. And, if I need something and happen to be walking by the small local grocery store, I don't go in for it. I just add it to the list of things to be purchased at the local branch of the colossal supermarket chain (and, take that environmentalists). Besides, I refuse to pay 15c for a bag.

However, not everyone is quite so, emm, 'frugal'. More people are buying bags today than when the levy was first introduced and the government is considering raising the charge. I heard one environmental activist on the radio calling for the charge to be doubled.

And, he wants greater enforcement because he believes that many stores have started handing bags out for free to people who ask for them. He's probably right - I saw two in a row this morning - but so what? There are still no bags blowing around, and that was the goal, right?

It always makes me laugh how these environmentalists want undercover plastic bag levy police, but balk at anything that has to do with the security of the state.

Blame it on the baseball

Don't get me wrong, I liked this article. Stephen Moss reviews George Bush's cricketing skills, which he put on display in Pakistan last week. Moss also speculates that if Americans had never abandoned cricket for baseball there'd be no war on terror today. "No one who truly appreciates cricket's narrative complexities and its suspicion of 'closure' would wage anything so unwinnable as a war on terror". In other words, it's a game for people who prefer to play it safe. That is not an American trait.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Tony Blair is a Christian! Good God!!!

Tony Blair struggled with his conscience before making the decision to send the troops to Iraq. That's off-putting enough, but that he actually allows his Christian faith to help shape his conscience is shocking. And, that he presumes that ultimately he'll be judged by God and not by us is simply outrageous. It'll be a cold day in hell before we allow that to happen.

That's how it sounds to me. I watched Blair on Parkinson last night after reading/hearing all the upset about his comments on the Iraq war and his references to God. {This seems like a faithful representation of what I remember him saying.} There's nothing even vaguely surprising in what he said.

Note how the BBC reported this before the show aired last night.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has told how he prayed to God when deciding whether or not to send UK troops to Iraq. Mr Blair answered "yes" when asked on ITV1 chat show Parkinson - to be screened on Saturday - if he had sought holy intervention on the issue.
The BBC's report makes it sound like Blair asked God to decide the war, but that's now what I heard and I haven't been able to find any reference to such a direct appeal to God. Blair indicated that he prays for wisdom and for help making important decisions. Is this wrong?

The way these comments have been distorted and reported is more evidence of the secularist fundamentalism that prevails in large sections of the media. 'Believers need not apply' is how many in the media want all aspects of public life.

ESPN — not a believer

I knew I wouldn't resist for long. I watched the World Baseball Classic game between Korea & Japan this morning. It was a pretty good game between two big rivals. The crowd looked excited and loud. Yes, I said the crowd looked loud.

For some reason, ESPN didn't see fit to send their commentary team to Japan to cover the games there. Or at least, that's how it seemed. I'm pretty sure they were broadcasting the game from a studio. It must have been too expensive to send a couple of guys to Japan for 10 days. So, we got to hear every breath their two announcers took with a very muted background crowd noise. I half suspect it was one of those old records of crowd noise used when radio was a brand new phenomenon.

Clearly, ESPN doesn't believe in the World Baseball Classic. If they did, they wouldn't be giving it this minor sport, minor station treatment. Japan vs Korea is one of the games that should have been hyped by the network. Two pretty good teams, playing a good game in front of 40,000 excited people.

Korea won with a late homer, no doubt causing trouble for Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh, who said before the tournament that Japan would all its games in the first round. Regardless, both teams have advanced.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The EU – always good for a laugh

The whole family was in high spirits this morning after I recounted what I'd read in this article from today's Daily Telegraph. There's a new European Directive - number 2003/20/EC - which will be incorporated into British law later this year (and, I presume, into Irish law at some point). The Directive stipulates that a child must be in a booster seat until they're 11 years old.

I mentioned this over breakfast and everyone enjoyed it. You see, we have a 10 year old daughter who is at least 5'5" tall. The thought of her going back into a booster seat was a source of great merriment. My oldest daughter figured we'd need to buy a car with a sun roof just so that her sister's head wouldn't damage the roof of the car. Our five-year-old son insisted that his sister wasn't going to use his booster seat.

{I found out later than any child over 4'5" will not have to use a booster seat. It wasn't clear in the article. Too bad, would have been fun.}

Last man standing

Fraser Nelson has an article in The Spectator on European fertility rates. You know this is one of my favorite topics, but this article is chock full of little gems.
Women in the United States are today having babies at a rate not seen in Britain since the end of the second world war. The trend is by no means universal — pet dogs now outnumber children in San Francisco, and Washington DC has fertility rates almost as bad as Italy’s. But in Hispanic and Bible Belt areas, people are breeding as if the 1960s had never happened. This baby rate is the object of much envy in Brussels, which points out that the Americans have an unfair advantage because of the Hispanics, who average more than three kids per woman. But even the average white American female’s birth ratio of 1.9 is higher than the average Irishwoman — whose average lifetime tally of 1.85 is the highest in Europe.
I love that about the "unfair advantage" the US has thanks to its Hispanic population. Doesn't Europe have its own "Hispanic" population? (HINT: we tend to call them the Spanish.)

He briefly mentions how the state pensions and welfare have reduced the incentive to have children. He also takes population projections to their ultimate conclusion. The last European will die in 2960 and that person will be Irish!

It's like living in N. Florida

Last night was cold. The weather service tells us that it was the coldest in Ireland for a decade. Temperatures dropped as low as -8°C (17.6°F). I would guess that around here it dropped as low as -2°C (28.4°F). Now you know why I have a palm tree in my front yard. It rarely gets cold - really cold - here.

And, I have to say, it's beautiful here this morning. The hills look great with the crystal clear sky overhead. It's prettier than north Florida.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Agreeing with The Boss

George Steinbrenner's not happy about the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Steinbrenner fears that a player (or players) is going to get seriously injured during this early season tournament. What's frightening is that I agree with him. I can't remember the last time I thought well of anything Steinbrenner thought or did.

Pitchers are especially vulnerable as they need about 6-8 weeks before they're ready for real game action, but now some of the best arms in the game have to be ready after 2-3 weeks of loosening up. I'm just glad that the Mets have no pitchers in the tournament.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I had a revelation today. This business of going without food is easier when you're 40+ than it is when you're 20 or so. Today is Ash Wednesday and I've had my two 'light snacks'. And, it's nearly 4:30 and I'm not thinking about food. When I was 20 I needed 4 or 5 meals a day. I used to dread Ash Wednesday; I thought I'd never get to eat again. Now, I just don't need as much food.

I know, I know. I should probably reduce the amount I eat for my light snacks or do without them all together, but I tend to do the same thing year-in-year-out. I never thought about this until today. I guess now that I've thought about it I'll feel obliged to cut back my 'light snacks' from now on.

I don't have Der Tommisar's strength of character.

Copying Ireland

Is there any country/state/province that doesn't want to copy Ireland? Latest one is Kazakhstan. President Nazarbayev told his Parliament that Ireland's example for attracting foreign investment is a good model for Kazakhstan. It sounds like Kazakhstan is already doing pretty well.
According to the Investments Committee of the Kazakhstan Industry and Trade Ministry Kazakhstan stands first among CIS states in terms of direct foreign investments per capita. USD 23.8 bln out of the total volume of cross-border infusions up to USD 43.9 bln were channeled to Kazakhstan. It is noteworthy the five top of the most large investor states unites the US (29.8%), the Netherlands (11.6%), Great Britain (11%), Italy (6.2%) and Switzerland (5.1%).

To date above 7 000 enterprises with the participation of the foreign capital are functioning in Kazakhstan. More than 80% of direct investments forwarded to Central Asia were infused in Kazakhstan's national economy.

Kazakhstan's achievements in attracting investments drew attention of the world-known international rating agencies. Back to 2002 one of the most authoritative rating agencies Moody'’s conferred Kazakhstan the rating of the investment class, first among intra-CIS, in 2004 Standard & Poor and Fitch upgraded the same rating.

NCAA Tournament On-Line

This is really for those NCAA basketball fans in Britain & Ireland: you can get free on-line broadcasts of the first three rounds of the Tournament via Sign-up is here.

Italy's young Catholics

According to today's Christian Science Monitor, the Church is experiencing something of a revival in Italy. Cristina Pavone left Dublin, returned to Italy and joined a Franciscan order.
"I was far from God," she says quietly, wrapping her hands around a hot mug in the monastery's drafty dining hall. "I experimented with everything you can experiment with to find happiness. Now that I've left everything, I've found everything."

She isn't alone in her devotion. A small but burgeoning group of young Italians are turning to Catholicism with new fervor, suggesting a reversal of Catholicism's decades-long decline in Italy.
While there's some disagreement about how much of a turn-around this represents, Mass attendance is up and there are more women becoming nuns. Hard to say if this represents a new beginning or just a blip.