Friday, February 29, 2008

Catholic education

Today's Irish Examiner reports on a speech given by Archbishop Martin yesterday on secondary education. The Archbishop is worried that Catholic schools are becoming elite options for parents who want to "opt out of diversity".

The article in the Examiner also contains this:
[t]he archbishop criticised parents who deliberately opt out of diversification by sending their children to select schools and putting their education above the "common good".
I was alarmed when I read that so I decided to look up the speech for myself to see what exactly the Archbishop had said.

You know what? He did say that. Uggh.

I can understand the noble idea that parents should think about the "common good", but honestly, does the Archbishop really believe that other than a few zealots that parents will (possibly) sacrifice their child's education for the "common good"?

If he wants to argue that the benefits of the fee-based secondary system are more apparent than real, I'd agree with him. If he wants to argue that elite, fee-based schools can actually harm your children, I might agree with him again. But to talk about the "common good" as a factor when deciding where to send your children to school is pie-in-the-sky nonsense. Parents do what they think is best for their children. End of story.

To be honest there was a lot in the speech that I agreed with. 'The state should do more to provide secondary schools for people who want a different ethos'. Hear hear. 'Education is about more than "imparting techniques and information"'. Hear hear. And, 'education requires excellent, devoted teachers'. Hear hear again.

The Archbishop also challenged his audience - National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals - to ensure that Catholic schools remain Catholic.
The real heart of a Catholic school is and must be that coherent, integrated vision of the meaning of life, based on belief in a God who is love, which the finds an echo in a community of believers who reflect that vision of life in their lives.

Lots of good stuff. The Archbishop then touched on the view that Catholic schools are seen as schools for the rich.
I would be unhappy if Catholic secondary schools were to become mainly elitist. I would be very unhappy to find that Catholic schools were being less open to diversity than others.
Okay, fine. Here's a suggestion that will help overcome this perception in one fell swoop. Eliminate all fees in Catholic secondary schools. All schools, starting with the next academic year. At the same time, demand that all Catholic schools make Catholicism central and bring back prayer and the catechism.

Those two moves will do more to eliminate the 'elitist' perception and the secularist trend than anything any of us parents can do. The Archbishop and the heads of the various religious orders can make this happen.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Note to Irish media - Bill Buckley was important

I can't get over how little coverage the life and death of Bill Buckley has received in the Irish media. He was a colossus.

I have no doubt that had Noam Chomsky died we'd be reading/hearing much about him. Yet, Chomsky's influence is no where near as great as Buckley's was. It's probably no exaggeration to say that without Buckley there would probably have been no Ronald Reagan, no conservative movement as we know it.

Port Tunnel is not unique

Tonight I heard George Hook talking about the problems in the Dublin Port Tunnel. I can't remember his exact words, but essentially he was saying that the Port Tunnel's troubles were unique that (among other cities' tunnels) Boston's Big Dig didn't have such difficulties.

Oh George, George, George. If only you'd check with me before you make such rash statements. The Big Dig was a nightmare construction project in Boston that has been plagued with problems since it opened.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bill Buckley

I just found out that Bill Buckley has died. I remember when I first starting reading his columns while I was in my senior year in high school. I had trouble understanding all of what he wrote, but I knew he was right. I always found it easier to read what he wrote than listen to him. His voice always put me off, but he was always courteous on the air. He loved ideas and his enthusiasm was catching.

The Times has an obituary up on their site.

Minister still hasn't rowed back on bulb ban

Just because I haven't complained lately doesn't mean I'm any happier about the ban on incandescent bulbs coming at the end of this year. I haven't heard that the Minister has seen sense on this, so I assume it's all go for CFL lighting.

Over the weekend I came across a remark that these bulbs can cause problems for people with autism. I didn't find a whole lot online about this (other than this), so I don't know how big an issue this is.

I also came across the troubles Brandy Bridges of Maine experienced when a CFL bulb broke in her home.
Aware that CFLs contain potentially hazardous substances, Bridges called her local Home Depot for advice. The store told her that the CFL contained mercury and that she should call the Poison Control hotline, which in turn directed her to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP sent a specialist to Bridges' house to test for mercury contamination. The specialist found mercury levels in the bedroom in excess of six times the state's "safe" level for mercury contamination of 300 billionths of a gram per cubic meter. The DEP specialist recommended that Bridges call an environmental cleanup firm, which reportedly gave her a "low-ball" estimate of US$2,000 to clean up the room. The room then was sealed off with plastic and Bridges began "gathering finances" to pay for the US$2,000 cleaning.
Okay, let's get this straight right off - if a bulb breaks in my house I WILL NOT be contacting the Department of the Environment.

Eventually, the Maine government changed its call and recommended that people follow the Federal guidelines for handling broken fluorescent bulbs.

As I read these guidelines all I could think about is "Why do I want this in my house? Sure bulbs don't break that often, but they do break - especially if you have children who do, on occasion, throw socks, pillows, soft toys, whatever around the house. Again, why would I want this danger in my house or this hassle in my life?

I have a few CFL bulbs in use where I think they're safe and the opportunity for hassle is minimal, but I'm very, very reluctant to have them in carpeted rooms.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The case for Mahon

Enda Kenny inadvertently made a good argument in favor of letting the Mahon Tribunal continue it's 'work'. Kenny says that the Tribunal's revelations have caused paralysis in the government.

If that means that they're not able to do anything, I'm in favor of that. Carry on with the Tribunal!

Siblings' birth dates

It is an unusual occurrence, but I'm not sure it's the 130,000 to one shot that the Times says it is.
Two siblings being born on the same day in different years was unlikely enough. But when Kim MacKriell had a third child delivered on the same day, she beat odds of more than 130,000 to 1.
Okay, if we ignore this particular couple and just talk about odds the only way this is a 130,000 to 1 shot is if all the dates in the calendar are equally likely as birth dates for the siblings. I'm not going any further than to say that it's possible that is not actually the case.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dublin Bus on tour

Okay, the government has decided that it will not open up Dublin's bus routes to the competitive market place. Dublin Bus's monopoly is safe.

I like competition and would probably think that competition would be good for Dublin's bus customers, but I'd be willing to listen to an argument against privatization and competition on city buses. So we're sticking with the status quo for another while at least.

Still, if Dublin Bus has a monopolistic position on the city's routes, does this mean it can use this tremendous power to try and drive competitors out of business in some of those areas where there is competition? Independent tour bus operators are having trouble competing with Dublin Bus, which is using its best new buses on the tour routes rather than putting them into use as 46A's or whatever. This is wrong and really the government should impose restrictions on Dublin Bus that prevent it from operating in those markets where there is competition for bus services.

McCain, the Times, the follow-up

Clark Hoyt, the NY Times's Public Editor, chastised his own paper's staff yesterday. Hoyt notes that despite the efforts of four "highly respected reporters in the Washington bureau", the Times couldn't find any real evidence that John McCain had had an affair with Vickie Iseman. Hoyt says that without that independent evidence the Times should not have suggested that McCain had "an extramarital affair with an attractive lobbyist 31 years his junior". No kidding.

Hoyt also says that "without the sex, The Times was on to a good story". He may be right. I know when I read this article in Saturday's Washington Post I thought, maybe there's something here. Maybe. I don't pay that much attention to the goings on in Washington to know whether (a) McCain's behavior is all that notable and (b) whether this is 'news'. Hoyt, however, helps out again saying "[m]uch of that story has been reported over the years".

So, maybe it was newsworthy, sort of, as a 'reminder' or background piece for voters, but is it front page material? And, if it's that significant, why did the Times endorse McCain for the Republican nomination on January 24? Hoyt doesn't address either of those questions. Despite Hoyt's efforts, the Times still stinks.

Proud as punch in Bray

What a big weekend! First Dustin wins the Irish national song contest and then fellow Wicklow denizen Daniel Day Lewis wins an Academy Award. Who could sleep with all the partying around here.

Okay, maybe not that exciting, but I think Dustin's from Bray. He did once sing his version of "Born In The USA" as "Born In Little Bray", so we can claim him if we want. And, so what if Daniel Day Lewis is from England, he's lived in Wicklow longer than I have, so he's a genuine Wicklower (Wicklovite? Wicklovian? What is the right term anyway?) as far as I'm concerned.

I couldn't care less about Eurovision and I figured that a Dustin entry would be at least entertaining. I was wrong. Unlike some of Dustin's offerings from the past, this song is G A R B A G E. Uggh. It's not amusing. It's not music. It's unfunny, obnoxious noise.

I haven't seen "There Will Be Blood", so I can't say whether Day Lewis's Oscar is merited, but I'll assume it is.

I haven't seen Once either, but I get the feeling Glen Hansard's Oscar is merited too. Good for him. I never much cared for the Frames' music, but I doubt he's suffered greatly due to my inattention. Anyway, after hearing him being interviewed on RTE this morning I thought to myself 'good for you'. I don't know much about him, but he sounds like a decent guy. Here's the winning song.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Party like it's 1979

Usually the protesters just light the American flag on fire. Burning the embassy is a more refined art. I don't remember the last time an American embassy was burned down, but I seem to remember a few of them back in the late 70s.

I guess we can at least rest easy that the little respite in America-hating is over and things are reverting to normal.

To be honest, I'm not sure why the Bush Administration felt such a need to recognize Kosovo. A little time wouldn't have been inappropriate.

St. Patrick's Day in Georgia

Unlike Dublin and New York, Savannah moved their St. Patrick's Day Parade to March 14 to suit the change in the Church calendar this year.

Linguistic tyranny

A few years back I wrote "Quebec is like the Gaeltacht, only more successful at preserving the language". I knew there were laws regarding the use of French, but I hadn't realized the extent to which Quebec's government resorted to tyranny to ensure that French is the predominant language.

I know there are some laws on the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht areas, but I don't think they're as draconian as this. Quebec's Office québécois de la langue française objects to an Irish pub's excessive use of English.
It objects specifically to vintage ads that say such things as "Guinness Dublin 1759," "Ireland Trademark," "Cudthromach Aire," "Eat Palethorpes pork pies fresh today" and "Guinness Extra Stout, Draught & Bottled St. James Gate, Dublin" and "Caffrey's Cream."

Many of the signs - some hand-carved, some painted on tin - were acquired in Ireland by the owners of McKibbin's to give the bar an authentic Irish atmosphere.

In a letter to co-owner Rick Fon this month, the OQLF says that too much English is spoken by the bar's staff, that a customer has complained about not being served in French and that the English signs on the walls are an affront to Quebec's language laws.

"We advise you that the law requires the French language to be predominant in public signs and commercial advertising; if another language is used at the same time, French must be given overall priority and the visual impact of the French text has to be much more important," the letter says.

McKibbin's was given 30 days to remove the signs or face fines as high as $1,500 for each infraction.
I love that bit about a customer complaining. I can just picture the sort of guy whose visit to a pub is ruined because he wasn't served in French. It's people like that who felt comfortable turning in their neighbors to the authorities in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.

This is journalism?

Today's New York Times has a long, top of the front page article on John McCain. The article is full of rehashed information on McCain's past and his brush with scandal in the 1980s. If the New York Times was a history magazine, I could see how this story should be prominent, but the Times is supposed to print "All the News That's Fit to Print".

There's no "news" here at all, but there is one juicy tidbit that is the only reason the Times ran this story:
Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship.
The Times's sources are two former associates who have "become disillusioned" with McCain and John Weaver, who McCain fired last summer.

Gee, I wonder if it's possible these people have an ax to grind? There may be more substance to this story than appears in today's paper, but the Times better hurry it to print or we'll be left with nothing more than gutter journalism from the 'left wing press' for F. Finlay).

This has no place in the New York Times. Maybe it will damage McCain, but I actually doubt it. However, it could be very damaging for Vickie Iseman, who I hope is not married and does not have a family. This is garbage, pure and simple.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Not ready

When you read the Washington Post article I linked to below and this one you realize that Hillary Clinton is not ready to be President. How can she claim to be management material when she can't organize her own campaign?

For all the talk about how bad Rudy Giuliani's campaign was (and it was bad) Hillary Clinton's has been worse. Rudy had a strategy - a bad one - and followed it to defeat.

Clinton, however, has had a few strategies. Okay, she banked on having it wrapped up by February 5, but when it became clear that this wasn't going to happen she floundered until she came up with a new strategy - focus on Texas & Ohio. {She might have had a chance in Wisconsin if she'd paid any attention there, but it looks like she'll lose again.}

So she has her new strategy, only nobody in her team seems to have read the rules about how the Texas primary works. That's gross mismanagement. Meanwhile, Obama is in another class when it comes to managing his campaign.
"While they were busy 'discovering' the rules, however, the Obama campaign had people on the ground in Texas explaining the system, organizing precincts, and making Powerpoints.

… "In this respect, Texas is simply a microcosm of the larger campaign dynamics. In fact, if the Clinton campaign were a corporation, the shareholders would have pretty good grounds for a derivative suit for Texas alone."

Primary education

It probably still won't come to this, but it's good to learn about how the primary/convention process in the Democratic Party works on the off chance that it's not decided when the primaries are done.

The Clinton campaign is targeting delegates to convince them to vote for her at the convention even though they are 'pledged' to Obama. This is separate to the superdelegates issue. 'Pledged' delegates are apparently free to change their minds and vote for whomever they choose regardless of who the voters wanted them to support.

Then there's Texas, which has some bizarre rules for its primary, and they don't favor Clinton.
Several top Clinton strategists and fundraisers became alarmed after learning of the state's unusual provisions during a closed-door strategy meeting this month, according to one person who attended.

What Clinton aides discovered is that in certain targeted districts, such as Democratic state Sen. Juan Hinojosa's heavily Hispanic Senate district in the Rio Grande Valley, Clinton could win an overwhelming majority of votes but gain only a small edge in delegates. At the same time, a win in the more urban districts in Dallas and Houston – where Sen. Barack Obama expects to receive significant support – could yield three or four times as many delegates.

"What it means is, she could win the popular vote and still lose the race for delegates," Hinojosa said yesterday. "This system does not necessarily represent the opinions of the population, and that is a serious problem."
If nothing else, this campaign has been a great education.

Monday, February 18, 2008

It's not the 90s now, Kosovo

Having mentioned the American flags in Kosovo, I should point out that if the Serbs really want Kosovo back and Russia wants to help them the Kosovars shouldn't expect American help. The Americans are overstretched in the Middle East and the Russians are much stronger, wealthier now than they were in the late 90s. The balance of power is not the same as it was in 1998.

Loving the Americans

Oh what a weekend. It's been a long time since we Americans abroad have had a weekend like this one. What, with American flags being waved happily (without the almost requisite burning) in Kosovo and the billboards thanking President Bush on display in Tanzania, it's almost like everyone doesn't HATE us. Almost.


Fukayama's book was a much denser affair than Cockburn's. I actually stopped reading early on so that I could start again only this time taking notes. I have 4 pages of notes that I took while reading the book.

The truth is I really enjoyed the book, although I'd never read such a theoretical political book before. I actually would have enjoyed arguing with an enthusiast because I didn't agree with a lot of what Fukuyama had to say.

The gist of the book is that America needs to adopt proper neoconservativism, not the bastardized version that we've had under President Bush. Realistic Wilsonianism, he calls it. More idealistic guff is how it seems to me. Fukuyama is an interventionist and idealist. He argues that taking a hands off approach to how states are run would be bad for America, but no matter how often he made this point I found myself asking: "How does this approach hurt China"?

The Chinese don't seem too worried about how any other state is run, but all over the world they're making deals that benefit the Chinese. Every day you can find new stories about how China is beating America with deals in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The Chinese don't seem too concerned with what goes on inside each state. They apparently take no interest in the affairs of other sovereign states.

Throughout the second half of this book I kept wondering how such an approach would be bad for America. Maybe it would be disastrous, but Fukuyama doesn't make that case.

Cockburn's The Occupation

I've recently completed two books that I borrowed from a friend: The Occupation by Patrick Cockburn & After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads by Francis Fukuyama.

Cockburn's book was about Iraq and, needless to say, doesn't make for happy reading. This book doesn't do anything to change the perception that Iraq was very badly managed from the point of the Saddam regime collapse. If you've read the newspapers faithfully for the past 5 years then it's possible that this book will bore you to tears. I didn't find much that was new here, but it's a good, well written summary of how things went so wrong after April 2003.

I was wary when I picked up the book because who likes to read something that's like a big "I told you so". In fact, I didn't get that from this book. I don't know what he thought of the war in 2002, but I had the sense reading this book that he was at least hoping that life might be better for the Iraqi people.

The book was published before the surge, so at least we can hope that things are better now than they were when Cockburn finished writing The Occupation. I'd like to believe that his next book will be more hopeful and more upbeat.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Starr, err, Mahon Tribunal

I can't remember if I've said this before so I'll say it now. I don't pay much attention to the Mahon Tribunal. I sort of glaze over when I hear the news headlines leading with the day's big revelations. That's just a bit of background for what I'm about to say.

It's time to wrap up the Mahon Tribunal. It's costing a lot of money and it's never going to resolve anything. Anyone who cares has made up their mind already. Personally, I think Bertie should have gone a long while ago, but he's still there and will be until he wants to go.

The Mahon Tribunal is really starting to resemble Ken Starr's investigation. Those who are up to their necks in it can't see that it's pointless to go on. Starr & the Republicans never did realize that they went too far and ended up impeaching the President for reasons that were never solidly impeachable as far as the average voter was concerned.

To me the Mahon Tribunal is heading that same direction and unless someone sees sense it's going to go on and on without resolution just dripping tidbits of corruption evidence & hearsay to the public so that the only loser will be the political system.

Okay so Bertie and others are less than pure. I doubt you'd get much of an argument from many Fianna Failers on that score right now, but from what I sense most people don't want him hounded from office for these financial irregularities. So, let it go. Work to make sure that the future is better than the past, but let the past be.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rapping Roger

God knows I can't stand Roger Clemens. I really, really can't stand him. Aaaaaaaahhhhh. He makes my blood boil!

And, I hate what steroids have done to baseball.

So, on Wednesday I wanted to be thrilled when he was being hounded by Congress. I was ready to be excited listening to this ignoramus being brought low. It was going to be great.

In the end, I didn't catch the testimony, but I've read quite a bit the past two days and have listened to a fair amount of coverage on sports talk radio too.

And how did I feel reading all those articles, listening to all that discussion? Well, flat actually. The more I read/listened one question kept popping up in my head: Hasn't Congress got anything - anything at all - more important to do?

I'm convinced Clemens cheated. Was convinced without the hearing. I don't need Congress to tell me so. I'm convinced that many, many others in baseball cheated. Cheated us, the fans, and cheated all those who didn't get to make it in the big leagues because they wouldn't cheat. But, did they cheat the United States of America? Not really.

The steroids users broke the law, but you know what? There are many, many drug users in American society and I doubt Congress is about to hold hearings about them. I know Congress justifies this nonsense because baseball enjoys some protections from anti-trust laws, but why not investigate all the drug-taking by those who appear on the national airwaves? Do you think there might be any drug use among those who appear regularly on the federally regulated television networks?

Baseball needs to clean up the sport because I want it to. Me and my fellow fans, the market, the customers. Congress has no business here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The dirty operatives

Fergus Finlay wants Hillary Clinton to be the next President. No real surprise there. He gives three reasons to want her to win: her expertise, "she's a woman", and "the right-wing press hate her so much". Whatever. In truth, nothing he says about Hillary or the "right-wing press" is all that new or interesting.

There was this:
[i]n the past few days one television commentator was suspended from his network because he suggested on air that Hillary was “pimping” her daughter Chelsea — apparently because Chelsea is working on the campaign.
That comment was by David Shuster on MSNBC. I don't know much about Shuster at all, whether he qualifies as a member of the "right-wing press" or not, but MSNBC definitely does not.

Regardless, it was this passage that interested me most.
The question is, will she get a shot? Right now, the likely republican opponent, John McCain, looks a lot easier to beat than her rival for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama.

And by the way, the dirtier operatives on the Republican side are already lining up to have a real go at him. It's not just his colour they will be focusing on in the sleazier corners of that campaign. They have latched on to the fact that his middle name is "Hussein" and they intend to use that name, and all sorts of invented links to the Muslim world, to terrify the more easily-duped voters if Obama wins the nomination.
So, the Republicans will play the race card? Well Bill and the campaign team have beaten them to the punch on that one. And, the Republicans will imply that Obama's a Muslim? Well, again, Hillary's folks have already been there, bought that tee shirt.

The Republicans will have to come up with something new or anything they'd say about Obama might violate the Hillary team's copyright.

The Mosquito

I never heard about this until the other day, but it is possibly the greatest invention ever. I can't wait to install one in my own living room.

The Mosquito "emits a high-pitched whine only under-25s can hear". Apparently these are being bought by business owners in an effort to prevent teenagers from congregating outside their buildings. Imagine what effect such a device will have on the lolling teenager sprawled out on the couch?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wrong on Hillary's wins

Last week I thought Obama would win 7 out of the 9 February primaries & caucuses that were still to come. I was wrong. He's going to win them all. I hadn't read closely enough to realize that Maine & Nenbraska were holding caucuses rather than primaries. The caucus format favors Obama because they're slanted toward the party activists and zealots.

So, Obama will win 9 straight contests after the Super Tuesday draw. The media has begun to provide those "back-to-the-wall" stories about the Clinton campaign. The New York Times says the March 4 primaries in Texas & Ohio are "must wins" for Clinton or she's done. The Democratic Party will not tolerate any attempt to drag this on once it becomes clear that Obama is probably going to win.

Side effect of the bag tax?

I like how this writer connects a possible plastic bag tax (in America) with a probable "increase in abandoned curbside detritus" (dog waste). I'd love to be able to say that the plastic bag tax is the reason Dublin's streets are so filthy, but Dublin's citizens have long had to wade through piles of "abandoned curbside detritus".

Monday, February 11, 2008

If you're happy and you know it vote Republican

Republicans are happier than Democrats. Have been every year since the General Social Survey was first conducted in 1972. And, it has nothing to do with money or the fact that Republicans have been in power more than Democrats over that span.
You can practically hear the researchers at Pew scratching their liberal heads. They put the findings through a rigorous process called multiple-regression analysis in an attempt to isolate the relevant variables. But try as they might, they could not wash that Republican happiness out of their hair.

Basically, Republicans have in spades all the things that combine to make us happy. Church attendance is particularly crucial. People who attend religious services regularly are more likely to report being "very happy" than those who don't – 43 percent vs. 26 percent (a happiness boost, by the way, that cuts across all the major religious denominations). In addition, Republicans are more likely to be married than Democrats, and married people are happier than singles.
That's interesting. This is almost gratuitous, but still I like it.
If this isn't depressing enough for liberals, it turns out that some of their own pet policies are to blame for their unhappiness. Once in power, Democrats tend to focus on issues that, according to the science of happiness, have little effect on our contentment – income equality, for instance, and racial diversity. Neither is linked to greater happiness. Countries with large disparities between rich and poor are no less happy than more egalitarian ones, studies have found. And the happiest countries in the world tend to be homogeneous ones, such as Denmark and Iceland, not the ethnic melting pots that liberals celebrate.
I wonder what political party in Ireland attracts the happy people?

Friday, February 08, 2008

It's Obama

Energized by my accurate prediction on the Republican outcome (shhhh - some people may not remember), I now feel it's time to let you know what will happen on the Democrat side. Obama's going to win.

I was looking at the schedule and figured that Obama will win 7 of the 9 primaries left in February. And, when that happens Hillary will be fighting to convince the media - this is a media campaign - that she's not yet finished. She won't succeed.

Left to right

Fianna Fail Senator Donie Cassidy wants us to switch to driving on the right to help tourists and immigrants. He also wants immigrants and tourists to have a speed limit of 80 km/h because they're unfamiliar with the roads. Great ideas.

I just have a few minor issues to raise with Senator Cassidy:
  1. Will we have to have special change-over lanes when we cross the border to facilitate the switch from right to left side of the road when?
  2. Will the immigrants ever get to drive at the same limit as Irish drivers or will they be forever marked as "can't drive as well as us".
  3. What about immigrants who learn to drive here?
  4. Will tourists/visitors from the north and/or Britain also have to follow the tourists' speed limit?
  5. What about people like me who are technically not immigrants (Irish citizens/residents by virtue of parents/grandparents), but who learned to drive on the right?
  6. If we're going to switch from left to right, shouldn't it be the natives - rather than visitors/immigrants - who have to obey the lower limit as they won't be used to driving on the right while most visitors/immigrants are?
Maybe the Senator's proposal makes more sense in full than the article allows, but really, ..., the things Senators have to say/do to get attention.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

On the contrary, Mary

Mary Dejevsky says that McCain's nomination "marks the end" of the "religious right" as a political force in American politics. That's the complete opposite of the lesson I'm taking out of the Republican primaries.
The significance of this reversion in changing the complexion of US politics cannot be overestimated. It would effectively mark the end of the religious right as a serious political force in Washington. Even if McCain chose the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, as his running mate – an option which, at this early stage, has a certain logic – we would still be seeing at very least the beginning of the end of Christian fundamentalism incorporated into national politics.
Romney's failure - complete and utter failure - in the south can be attributed to the Evangelicals' views on Mormonism more than to any other factor. No, the lesson here is that for many in the 'Republican base' a candidate's faith is more important than his policies. Rightly or wrongly Mormonism is beyond the pale.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Is it the Mormonism?

Mahons had warned me that Romney's Mormonism would be a big problem with people who might otherwise support his candidacy. I was skeptical, but after last night's results I can't deny it any longer. Each of the states colored in for Huckabee should have gone to Romney, would have gone to Romney if he'd been a Baptist or Methodist or etc or yes, a Catholic. You can probably throw in Missouri and Oklahoma too.

There's still a part of me that figures that Romney's phoniness was the main problem, but I'm pretty much convinced that it was really the Mormonism that finished Romney. I read/heard many comments from regular voters about not wanting to promote a 'cult', which is what they believe they would have been doing if they voted for Romney.

It seems clear to me that for Catholic conservatives the Mormonism was much less of a problem, but down south and across the midwest the anti-Mormon perspective is the key to Romney's failure (not that he was that good a candidate, but still none of them is).

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

If Romney wins in California ...

This is a really interesting poll from SurveyUSA. Of those Californian Republicans likely to vote today, the number one issue is the economy according to 31% of the respondents. The next most important issue is immigration at 29%. Iraq & terrorism - treated as separate issues - only add up to 23% combined.

And, among those who say immigration is the most important issue, Romney leads McCain by by 52% to 29%. That tells me that if Romney wins in California today it will be down to his stance on immigration as compared with McCain's. That surprises me. I hadn't considered the immigration issue to be that important.

I'm a social outcast?

Saturday's New York Times says that in Ireland
[p]lastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one's dog.
What a load of nonsense. It is completely, 100% socially acceptable to use a plastic bag still. Most people simply don't like paying for them, but there's no shame attached to the use of plastic bags.

I generally use plastic bags. I never pay for them - not once - but I use plastic bags that I got in America and Britain. I hate the cloth bag because I have to carry it to the store. If I'm only getting a few things, I can squish a plastic bag down into my coat pocket.

{And as I wrote before I won't go to into the store if I don't have a bag with me and I also find that I drive to the store more often because I hate carrying the empty bags with me.}

In truth there's a lot of nonsense in the article, not just that line about social acceptability.

Super Tuesday - Democrats

Bob Novak's column yesterday explained why today's Democratic primaries will resolve nothing.

There's a greater chance that the Republicans will have their nominee by the end of the day, but it's still up in the air and I suspect Romney will still be in the race tomorrow morning.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Couldn't sleep through that

I was wrong. I really enjoyed last night's game. I had no trouble staying awake for that one. I was sure I'd drop off during half-time at the latest, but even half-time with Tom Petty kept me awake.

I enjoyed the first three quarters, but that fourth quarter was simply fantastic. Almost enough to make me a fan of football again. Right result with one almost miraculous play to save the day for the Giants.

Two Clintons, two policies?

Last week the New York Times provided another good reason to oppose Hillary Clinton's candidacy for the White House. The Times reported on Bill Clinton's recent trip to Kazakhstan.

While in Kazakhstan, Clinton
expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader's bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton's public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan's poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton's wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Right there in the last few words is the nightmare of Bill Clinton as 'First Husband' (Maybe 'First Gentleman' is more appropriate?). How will Bill Clinton be perceived in places like Kazakhstan if he happens to turn up there? Will he be seen as Bill Clinton, former President, or will some of these countries presume he is back in power? Will his views be perceived to be the policies of the American administration?

Bill Clinton is not going to be Denis Thatcher or Joachim Sauer (Angela Merkel's husband). He is not going to go quietly about his business. He's going to sow confusion and uncertainty abroad and, I have no doubt, be the source for a lot of strain in the administration.

{And, yes, I'm ignoring the sleazier tainted money aspects of that story because, well, that's just another reason to not want to see Hillary Clinton as President.}

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Rooting against Super cheats

Well, it's Super Bowl Sunday again. Thanks to the fact that I have a vague idea that the New England Patriots cheated earlier in the season against the Jets and that they supposedly cheated a few years back during the Super Bowl, I'm rooting for the Giants.

The Patriots have not been beaten this season. Only one team has ever finished the season undefeated. I don't want these Patriots to match those Dolphins.

The game's on TV3 starting at around 11:20pm. I'm sure I'll be asleep before half-time.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hope is hurting us

John Agresto's wrote a book about his experiences in Iraq. Argesto was "supportive of our going into Iraq, yet critical of our conduct once there and pessimistic about the future".

I like he how sums up the reaction he's had to his book from people on both the right and the left.
In the end, those perhaps most closed to the book were the hopeful ones. The hopeful on the right who think if we can just get democracy straight in the Middle East all will yet be well, and the hopeful on the left who put their money on "negotiation," greater communication, and mutual understanding.

Until we realize the depth of malevolence our enemies have for us, until we understand the hatred that religious fanaticism breeds, until we understand how difficult it is to make a decent democracy out of warring factions — until then, the politics of hope on both sides will continue to damage us.
I'd like to read this book.