Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cut off

Yesterday, I actually heard myself say (angrily say), "We've now been over 5 hours without the broadband. Can't you give me any idea what's happening and when it might return?" Yup, no broadband yesterday. I called my service provider 6 times. In the end it was down for over 9 hours, which is a long time, but it's only just over three years ago that I was grateful to get an always on 56k connection.

I'll be away for a few days so I would expect that there will be a light service here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Troops out of Shannon

Come November the US military will no longer be using Shannon Airport for the large numbers of troop transfers that have been helping make Shannon a viable economic entity. In last week's editorial about the prisoner transfer bungle he Limerick Leader says that the Irish government has gone too far appeasing the "anti-American brigade" and not combated the anti-war propaganda with any conviction.

It would be nice to find out if this 'appeasement' played any part in the decision to shift the military traffic to Leipzig. I doubt the decision to shift the operation to Leipzig is in any way related to the anti-war protestors' actions, but it is possible that the Irish government's 'appeasement' of the anti-war camp may well have played a part.

Posturing activist

If this story featured in the US press I'm sure some Americans would say something like, "Wow those Irish (or Europeans) sure don't like us". The gist of the story is that 'peace activist' Conor Cregan made a citizen's arrest of six American soldiers last Thursday.
"I placed the soldiers under citizen's arrest because these soldiers are not supposed to be walking freely on the streets of Ireland in uniform. It is a breach of the Irish Constitution and Irish neutrality,"he said.
I have no idea if wearing a soldier's fatigues is really illegal or not, but I know for certain that this jerk's behavior is nowhere near representative of how the average Irish person would view these guys walking around Shannon, Co. Clare. How can I be so sure? Well, the Gardai's response is telling.
"I immediately called for the six to stop and said to them 'I am placing you all under citizen's arrest. Do not move'."

The men remained on the footpath as Mr Cregan contacted emergency services. "I was put through to Ennis garda station, but the garda on duty made light of the matter," Mr Cregan said.
I can just imagine how the Guard on the other end of the phone reacted after hanging up. "What a jackass" or something along those lines. Only the Green Party would see this as "an important gesture".

Monday, June 26, 2006

Separate but equal

Venus Williams claims that Wimbledon treats "women as second class" because women are not paid the same prize money as the men. To be honest, I couldn't care less what women and/or men are paid at Wimbledon, but it strikes me as odd to demand equality, but to want to maintain a separate men's and women's competition. Surely equality would require that men and women all compete for the one prize?

Having said that, I can't understand why Wimbledon insists on holding out on this one. Do those who run the tournament fear that the leading men will stop coming to play if the women get an equal share of the loot? It's not like the old days when women's tennis was so dull that you'd rather watch a repeat of the test pattern.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Spirit of '98

Okay, so this World Cup performance wasn't as bad as the 1998 showing, but it wasn't far off it either. I didn't see the game, but from what I've read this morning the US deserved to lose. And, if there's on saving grace from this defeat (actually, I think there are many), it is that I won't have to see or hear or read about Bruce Arena again.
Arena stalked off the field after the match Thursday and later suggested that if the United States had drawn into a different group, it might have advanced.
Maybe, but I doubt it. I think Australia would have beaten the US and that was the softest second spot available. The US team scored ONE goal during the three games (Italy scored one for the US on Saturday).

And, it's about time the American press gave up on those FIFA rankings. That 5th in the world was a joke - even FIFA never believed it. If they did, then the US would have been one of the top 8 seeds.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

IBEC's worried about education

You know, if there's one group whose view on education I could not care less about, it's IBEC (Irish Business and Employer's Confederation). IBEC's worried about the fall-off in the number of students who are taking foreign languages for the Leaving Cert.

I can understand why they're so upset about it. They're worried that fewer Irish people will be able to communicate with our fellow Europeans, understand European cultures, and more generally, develop the linguistic skills that can provide greater confidence when traveling abroad.

Actually, no, they don't give a damn about any of that. All they want is not to have to provide any training themselves. They want the state to provide fully trained personnel to meet their human resources needs. Sometimes they want specifically trained technicians and sometimes they want people who can sell or handle customer calls in Spanish, French, German, whatever.

Sure it's right that students be encouraged to learn a second (third, including Irish) language, but not because IBEC says so.

Bush the multilateralist

I heard John Bruton on the radio this morning claim that, ever since his reelection President Bush has worked more closely with the EU than any of his predecessors had. I don't necessarily think this is a good thing and, maybe, it's somewhat self-serving – 'look what a good job I'm doing as EU Ambassador to the US' – but still it was pretty shocking to hear that on the radio. I had thought Bill Clinton was the great multilateralist.

The LA Times recommends that President Bush should visit the World Cup to boost his imgage in Europe. Somehow I doubt that will have a big effect.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Grateful the Dutch wear underpants

I can't get over this. One thousand Dutch fans were forced to remove their trousers before being allowed to enter the stadium for the Holland vs Ivory Coast match last week. FIFA didn't like the fact that their trousers had a logo from a Dutch beer company, Bavarian, and not the tournament's primary brewery sponsor, Budweiser. I wonder what FIFA would have done if all those fans had worn similar logo-bearing underwear?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A picture is worth . . .

This picture on the back page of the NY Post (& Daily News and I'm sure many others) is invaluable to US Soccer.

The post match analysis

I'll be interested to see what the papers have to say about the US soccer team's performance yesterday. Johnny Giles and Liam Brady were not happy with the way the Americans played. Too rough. Over on ITV, Sam Allardyce and Ally McCoist had nothing but praise for their 'courage' in playing Italy to a 1-1 tie.

I have always thought Johnny Giles was heads above anyone else in his on air analysis. I'm not going to now get all offended because Giles made some negative remarks about the manner the Americans went about their business last night. Same goes for Brady, except he unnecessarily veered off towards the political when Bill brought up some of the pre-match comments from a few of the US players.

Bill O'Herlihy brought up some of the comments about "playing for the troops in Iraq" (something that was said by the Italians about their troops first) and about the game being a "war" (in fact, it was that the tournament was like a war). Brady said that this was like the language used by the President, but in reality the language was like what you'd normally hear about a football game/season. Football American-style is often discussed in those sort of rah-rah military terms.

So, it's just another example of someone talking about something to do with the US that he really doesn't know/understand. Brady should stick to football (soccer).

Wrong again

I never imagine the US team would show such fight. Good for them. I thought they'd just meekly play out the rest of the games. And, when the Italians scored first I was sure the US team would cave.

That was the kind of performance that will keep them from being a laughing stock in the US. A humiliating wash-out from this tournament would have been a huge blow to the fortunes of soccer in America. The methods used last night mattered a lot less than the effort and, of course, the result. I still doubt they'll beat Ghana on Thursday, but I hope they at least go down swinging.

Friday, June 16, 2006


The Airbus A380 (you know, that absolutely huge plane) is not really taking off, if you can pardon the pun. It seems that production problems have delayed the roll-out, ticking off customers and, now, causing real financial worries for EADS, parent company of Airbus.

It looks like they can make it and it can fly, but will it be a profitable undertaking? Looks dubious right now.

(Found through View from 103)

Up close and personal

One thing I nearly forgot to mention was the camera work during last night's England vs Trinidad & Tobago game. Dwight Yorke got hit in the unmentionable area. We've all been there and can sympathize. So, I'm not sure we needed the close-up shots from the t.v. folks as Yorke reached in to check that everything was still there, intact and in the right place. I'd have been sheepish about doing that in a game of street hockey with no one but my friends around me, but Yorke was able to mentally dismiss an audience of hundreds of millions in order to do what he felt he had to do.

Charlie Haughey

The death of Charlie Haughey is certainly a huge news item here. I heard a little of the funeral Mass at lunchtime, but otherwise I feel completely detached from Haughey's death. I don't feel any need to pronounce him a great leader or a miserable fraud. The only part of the story that really captured my attention was Lara Marlowe's article in the Irish Times (sub. required) about the friendship between Haughey and François Mitterand.
Mr Mitterrand admired "the Irish people and their different causes, their personal struggle," Mr Dumas said. "This natural sympathy found expression in this man [ Haughey], who absolutely radiated conviction and goodness. Politics joined up with a purely human friendship."
He may have 'radiated' goodness, but whether he was 'good' or not seems to be the question of the hour.

Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post credits Haughey as the father of the Celtic Tiger, which I suppose he was, and not just for the IFSC. He certainly made the first move to fixing Ireland's unemployment/debt mess.

Changing the Mass

I love tradition in my religion. So, I'm happy that the Vatican is encouraging bishops from English-language countries (Ireland is conspicuous by its absence in this article) to adopt a translation of the Mass that is more faithful to the original Latin, right? Well, maybe.

I don't mind that some of the prayers and blessings will sound odd when compared with the English we speak every day, but I didn't think the version we've had for as long as I can remember was all that bad. I guess I never gave it a thought before, but I'm probably somewhat attached to that which I already know. And, I don't like change.

VW Rocket Beetle

Who wouldn't want to drive this car? "It's a little windy inside but not unbearable". Actually, Jet Beetle is more accurate, but so what? He should have called it a Rocket Beetle.

I guess this guy knows what he's doing, unlike the poor Darwin Award winner who left behind only the "the vaporized remains of an automobile".

Great television

RTE's post-game analysis following the England vs Trinidad & Tobago match last night was one of the funniest half-hours of television I've seen in a long time. Their unscripted discussion of the play on the field and the post-game interviews given by David Beckham and Sven-Göran Eriksson was hilarious. I suspect it would have appealed to Scotland's First Minister, who has complained about the coverage on the BBC and ITV.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Talk about damaging the US image

The disarray in the US soccer team's camp seems almost complete. Now the players are fighting back against the coach, claiming that some of them didn't know what their roles were supposed to be in the game against the Czechs. All the talk of new formations, etc. is just cover for the panic. Humiliation awaits.

Global image of the US

The PEW Research Center has published its annual Global Attitudes Survey. The NY Times reports that the poll indicates that the global image of the US is worsening. That does seem to be the case based on the numbers the Times notes, but the picture is far more complicated. I'm not saying the Times is wrong, but there are a lot of aspects to this poll to take into consideration.
  1. Samples: In Great Britain, France, Germany & Spain the Muslim population in each of those countries was 'oversampled'. Nearly half of those surveyed were Muslim despite the fact that the Muslim population as a percentage of the whole in each of those countries would be a single digit figure. PEW doesn't seem to have done this in 2005. PEW does claim that the data from these countries is "weighted to be representative of the general population". Well, maybe, but still it seems a strange thing to do.

  2. 2005 results: Undoubtedly the trend since 2000 is down, but when the Times reports that "[a]s the war in Iraq continues for a fourth year, the global image of America has slipped further", you have to bear in mind that there had been a general rise in this rating in the 2005 poll. So, the Iraq war has continued, yes, but I doubt it's necessarily responsible for the fall in America's favorable ratings after the 2005 rise. Other than Katrina, I can think of no other event that could have caused the 2006 fall-off.

  3. Many of the falls are actually within the margin of error, so there may be less to this story than meets the eye.
The most interesting numbers in this poll are those from Nigeria. The only thing the Muslims (92%) and Christians (95%) seem to agree on is that they're dissatisfied with the state of their country. They are seriously divided in their views on the US and the War on Terror (Christians favor both, Muslims oppose both).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fighting 69th grandfather

When I was over in NY for the Irish American of the Year ceremonies I mentioned my Irish-born grandfather to Irish America magazine editor Patricia Harty. That conversation led to this short piece published in the lastest edition of Irish America. The picture that accompanies the article can be better seen here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


It's one thing for a team to play badly (okay, really badly; abysmally), but it's another altogether when the coach starts ripping individuals. This rarely a winning gambit - especially in such a short competition.

Bruce Arena had a go at three of his players - players he selected for this tournament - after the game.
Landon (Donovan) showed no aggressiveness tonight," Arena says. "We got nothing out of (DaMarcus) Beasley on the night. Kasey (Keller), for whatever reason, puts (the ball) upfield when we have nobody.
Arena's passing the buck. That's not how winners do it. He's a loser.

Maybe everything that Europeans believe about American soccer is true. Maybe they're not good enough. Okay. Or maybe the coach didn't have them properly prepared. From what I saw of the highlights the team looked simply lifeless. Regardless, the coach has to accept he's responsible. He has to deal with it like a man.

FIFA's own goal

All the major US sports allow the Armed Forces Network to broadcast their games at no charge. Not so soccer. FIFA demanded payment, something AFRTS is not in a position to do. Just further evidence that soccer and America just don't mix.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Somebody get me a Bud

Okay, I take it all back. A 3-0 defeat. Ugggghhh.

In the end, I only saw the last 6 minutes. I guess I missed very little.

Still, near the end I had hoped that they might get within field goal range, which would have tied it up.

"You do the football, we'll do the beer"

Funny ads from Budweiser on RTE all throughout the World Cup. Basically, the ads are a send-up – Americans know nothing about (a) soccer and (b) the rest of the world (like how to pronounce Paraguay). Well, thanks to Jon Ihle, I'm expecting that starting today the US team will convince Irish people that Americans can "do the football" just fine. And, I'd be a lot happier having a Guinness than a Bud any day. So, "you do the beer", okay?

US vs Czech Republic

The US team plays its first game today. I'll miss at least the first half due to other commitments, but I have the flag in the window. The ideal outcome for me would be for the US to win the World Cup, but for no one in the US to notice. I know that's not really possible, but it would be great to see the reaction in Europe to the World Cup heading to the US to complete indifference.

I didn't see any games on Friday or Saturday, but saw a good part of each of yesterday's games. Not much to excite the neutral viewer.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Kushnir sues

I never thought it would happen. Julia Kushnir has begun libel proceedings against six newspapers.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Rendition report

I only had to read a few sentences of the Council of Europe's report (pdf) on "Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states" to know that the people who wrote this are full of themselves. This is not a serious attempt to understand the terrorist threat and how we should deal with it and whether policies such as rendition have any role to play.

The first two paragraphs tell us that September 11 was a "tragedy" and, essentially, America's first taste of terrorism. The "Old World" has known terrorism for a long time and always retained its commitment to justice, but the US reacted to this first taste of terrorism with wild disregard for human rights and the precepts of justice. (I haven't had such an urge to issue a stream of expletives in a long time.)

Well, there have been very few terrorist attacks in Europe that match the scale of carnage that Oklahoma City experienced in 1995. And, the first World Trade Center bombing, like Sep 11, was an attempt to kill tens of thousands. That the attack failed was more good fortune than anything else. And, there have been dozens of terrorist attacks on American targets abroad. As a kid I lived near La Guardia Airport in NY. It was the scene of a terrorist attack - by Croatian nationalists - in 1975. Eleven people were killed.

So, cut the high and mighty, "we know best" crap. It's one thing when Europeans pull this stuff when the topic is art or film, it's another entirely when we're talking about terrorism and the proper response of the state.

All democratic states make compromises in their commitment to justice and human rights when the threat is great enough. I'd love to know how these committee members would react if they had just lost a big chunk of one of their cities and thousands of their fellow citizens had been killed.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Rendition is about interdiction, not justice. I don't for one minute believe that they don't understand this. You want to discuss the merits and demerits of various approaches - fine. But, stuff your lectures.

US National Team

Filip Bondy in the New York Daily News discusses something I've explained many times here - Americans don't really care about "international sports". The national team concept is pretty much alien to Americans.
It is all a bit of a mystery. Americans probably fly more flags and speak of patriotism more than any other nation in the world. Yet they are indifferent to their national sports teams, which have become very bad, in part, because of that apathy.

. . .Americans don't seem to care very much, for now. Sometimes, the whole concept of a national team seems as foreign to them as nationalized health care, or guaranteed college tuition.
And, of course, soccer is still a very minor sport when it comes to television coverage. How minor? The television rights for the World Cup are pretty inexpensive, as these things go.
Eventually, ESPN agreed to pay $100 million, and Univision successfully bid $325 million to retain the Spanish-language rights. The combined $333 million offer by NBC Universal and Telemundo –— initially accepted by FIFA, then put into suspended animation to field more offers –— was geared largely to benefit Telemundo; because of soccer's popularity in Spanish-speaking communities, Univision's ratings have dwarfed ABC's and ESPN's.
Yup, the Spanish language television station's ratings have "dwarfed" those of ESPN and ABC. Something to think about there.

ABC paid only $100m for the rights to the World Cup. By way of a comparison, NBC paid $1.1bn for the rights to the 2012 summer Olympics, which goes some way to explaining why FIFA does all it can to grow the game in the US.

Not losing focus

Yes the World Cup is on and I'll be rooting for the US team. However, I won't let this minor sporting occasion distract me from the Mets, who are still playing well. They're in first place with more than a third of the season behind them.

No boycott

Okay, maybe I'm just spineless, but I'm going to watch the World Cup. I can't help myself. I love major sporting events. Besides, I saw a report on RTE the other night talking about the German obsession with the Munich Olympics and their preparations for this World Cup. Maybe they really do have security concerns, even if their decision to ban the flag on the bus seems bizarre and completely ineffective.

There's been a lot of talk on the radio here about who Ireland should support. I've devoted some space on the Newshound to the discussion regarding England, so I'll leave that out. However, it seems that the number of Poles who've made Ireland their home has convinced some members of the press that the Polish team deserves support.

Fair enough, but I half suspected that all those happy flag-wavers who support the Irish team in major championships would adopt the Ivory Coast. At least they could fly the flag, even if it has to be backwards.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Davitt's disappointment

Michael D. Higgins believes that Michael Davitt would be none too pleased with the Celtic Tiger.
"If he were alive today, Davitt would have been thundering in his condemnations of the grasping people who are making massive profits in the property market, while thousands of young people cannot afford to buy a modest home," he said.
I'm sure he's right. Davitt was a committed socialist and, from what I can remember, not a believer in private property.

I read a biography of Davitt years ago. I can't recall who wrote it, but it was very good. I finished the book really admiring Davitt, although I wouldn't agree with his faith in the possibilities of the utopian socialist society he advocated. He was born dirt poor, left Ireland when his family was evicted, lost an arm in a workplace accident as a boy, took up arms against England, founded the land league and later agitated for greater social justice and even became something of an associate of Henry George.

Higgins is on pretty safe ground when he says that Davitt would be disappointed (disgusted) by modern Ireland. That doesn't mean that Davitt would be right, however. The socialist utopia proved very hard to achieve during the 20th century. It's entirely possible that if Davitt was alive today he'd be more disappointed in the failure of socialism than in Ireland's wealth.

It ain't rock and roll

U2 is promoting ESPN's coverage of the World Cup. Obviously, this is hardly a big issue. Still, it's not quite as innocent as Paul McGuinness makes out.
"There's something wonderfully democratic about soccer," Paul McGuinness, U2's manager, said yesterday from his home in London. "It's the cheapest game in the world. All you need is a ball, and boys and girls can play it. Not that we're zealots, but we feel that soccer is a good thing, so our association with it is a good one."
You want to advocate that boys and girls should play soccer, fine, but don't pretend that this about soccer when it's really about ESPN (subsidiary of ABC) and FIFA, a massive, controlling money-making machine. And, it's not like U2 donated the money from these ads to buy soccer balls for poor African kids or anything.

If you want to see the ads, they're here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Backing up

Nearly half of all computer users don't back up their data.
While 76 percent of survey respondents haven't lost data in the past six months, 24 percent have. Reasons for data loss include system crash (11 percent); accidental deleting (9 percent); virus (9 percent); lack of organization (3 percent); and other (2 percent).
As someone who's been recently burned by two of these disasters - system crash and accidental deleting - I can tell you it's a real pain when it happens. Of course, I actually thought I had backed up more than I had, which only compounds the frustration. So, now I'm preaching back-up to anyone who'll listen.

And, don't just back up the "vital" files. I didn't lose too much stuff that I couldn't afford to lose, but I lost things I didn't value properly, such as photographs, etc. Those things are important too. Thankfully, because the pc was nearly brand new I only lost a few pictures and a couple of other files.

If I can make a recommendation, get Syncback. It's simply an amazing program and it's free.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Great weekend

Even the death of my laptop cannot take the glow off the weekend in Donoughmore, Co. Cork. It was a great time. Loads of youth baseball built around a game between the Irish National team and a 'selection' of other available players. There were some good players in the 'selection', but there were some weaker players too. I have to admit I was desperate to get in there and give it a go despite the fact that I'm 25 pounds over my playing weight and 25 years past my sell-by date.

As for our team, well, we won all our games and the kids all got gold medals. Thrilled doesn't half cover their reaction. We had a lot of stars, but our big pitcher was a boy from New Jersey, who is in Ireland for just six months or so. He was practically unhittable.

It wasn't just the baseball that was good. In truth, the baseball paled in comparison with the hospitality of our hosts. And, of course, the weather couldn't have been better. If anything it was too hot. I've come home looking like a human candy cane.

Ah, ******* it

Just barely getting used to the new PC when the hard drive dies. Then after a couple of weeks that seems like endless recovery and adaptation, my laptop dies. The motherboard is (apparently) fried. Just went black and stopped working yesterday. No life at all now. More hassle ahead.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Such luck

The forecast for the next two days couldn't be better. Unimaginable good luck. You just never expect good weather here. As Ernie Banks would say, "Let's play two". In fact, we'll be playing four games today and three more tomorrow.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ireland's welcome for immigrants

Poor 'ol Fr. Greely. When he sticks to the workings of the Church he's on firm ground. He speaks as one with long experience in the Church and as one who has obviously thought long and hard on the issues and problems the Church faces.

Unfortunately, when he ventures into other areas, he often makes a fool of himself. Take this offering from early May. Fr. Greely visited Ireland and concluded Irish people were more welcoming of immigrants than were Americans.
Undoubtedly, some Irish will resent foreigners. However, unlike the despicable immigrant haters in the United States, most Irish know that they need those foreigners.

. . . The Irish are good haters – none are better, in fact – when they think that hate might be appropriate, which it never is, of course. However, they are not prepared to cut off their noses to spite their faces, as American nativists are prepared to do. Newcomers to Ireland's prosperity know what's required to continue it. Hating immigrants is something that Ireland can't afford.
Well, these things can be hard to quantify, but the most recent poll I was able to find - dated April 30 - indicates that 80% of Irish people want tighter restrictions on the number of "foreigners allowed to live here". Given those findings, I imagine that there are a fair number of Irish people whose views wouldn't be that far removed from those held by "the despicable immigrant haters in the United States".

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Guilty - no defense

I can accept the argument that there should be some defense available when someone is accused of a crime and the 1935 law allowed none. If a boy of 16 or 17 has sex with a girl under 15, he's guilty. That's it. Doesn't matter what he thought she was or even what she told him. Guilty. Too harsh.

However, it is interesting to read how the 1935 law came about. A report in the early 1930's found that
"there was an alarming amount of sexual crime increasing yearly, a feature of which was the large number of cases of criminal interference with girls and children from 16 years downwards, including many cases of children under 10 years".

The prevailing outlook was to treat children as accomplices to the sexual crime. The Corrigan Report proposed abolishing the then existing grounds for acquittal of the accused based on "reasonable cause to believe" that the girl was above the age of consent.
So, at the time they allowed a defense based on the circumstances, but that was scrapped because it was deemed too lax given the rising incidences of sexual abuse. I wonder if we'll end up back there someday.

One other interesting aspect of that report from the '30s is that the De Valera government took the decision not to publish it because the findings were "too horrendous".


I know some legal eagle could talk rings around me on this, but to my layman's way of thinking it seems pretty odd that a law passed in 1935 was found unconstitutional last week. I guess what seems so strange to me is that the Irish Constitution was first enacted on July 1, 1937. I haven't seen anything that says that a later amendment changed the Constitution to where it made that law unconstitutional.

The government in power in 1935 was the same government in power in 1937 when the Constitution was written and ratified by referendum. So, the Constitution that was promoted in '37 made unconstitutional a law passed two years earlier by the same government? I don't know, just seems odd to me.