05/10/04 Stop Everything! [rant]
"The Irish Anti-War Movement is protesting outside the US embassy in Dublin this evening and will stage a rally in the city centre tomorrow in response to the re-election of Mr George W. Bush."
(via Eircom News)
George W. Bush may have won the election with more votes than any other American President in history, and the first in 20 years to get a clear majority - something not even Bill Clinton managed, but will he now resign because the bleedin' Irish Anti-War movement is protesting? No wonder these people do not rejoice when America topples tyrannies and fosters democracy across the world, look at the contempt they display for democracy? These people don't care about liberty, they don't care about freedom - if earlier generations had shared their values the world would long ago have fallen under the Nazi or Soviet jackboot. Peace without honour, peace without justice, peace without liberty - these are not worth the name, but that's what will result if you elevate peace above all other virtues.

30/10/04 Hell Hath No Fury [rant]
I can't take it anymore. For every pro-Bush or at least not-anti Bush article in Irish newspapers there's half a dozen virulent anti-Bush ones. It's as if Europeans are making up for their inability to vote on the matter through sheer weight of copy. This election can't be over quick enough. In today's Irish Independent, the TV Review was turned into a scathing attack on Bush and the US election system in general. If that's what the TV column is like, imagine the Opinion pieces. Do these people stop to think that if they applied the same standards of perfection they demand of American politicians and voting systems to their own, they might be in for a shock. Florida had its dimpled chads, but how many Irish constituencies have recounts to fill the last seat, with voting ballots being examined and argued over? Then there's the random nature of the distribution of surpluses which to me seems to be sufficent cause on its own for electronic voting or a different counting system. How rigid do you think our system is stopping people from voting twice? If any Americans are reading this, I'm not going to urge you to vote one way or another, I'm sure you've had as much of that as you can take. But I think I speak for everyone when I say let the result come quickly...

25/10/04 The Shape of Irish History [rave]
"If we are to understand anything of the human mind we must approach the people of the past
with humility rather than an overconfident superiority."
I've just finished a page for the brilliant "Shape of Irish History" by ATQ Stewart. This book is in part an attempt to explain the underlying forces and patterns in Irish history, and in part a discourse on the state of academic history. Professor Stewart outlines the interaction between 'horizontal' influences on Ireland from abroad, and the 'vertical', those constants that are particularly Irish. A must read.

16/10/04 Responsible Voting [rant]
"A citizen who cannot be bothered to find out the facts about the issues, not just media spin or party propaganda, is doing a disservice to this country by voting — especially when electing leaders making life-and-death decisions whose consequences will affect this generation and generations to come."
(Thomas Sowell)
Too many people say that by not voting you are being irresponsible, but as Thomas Sowell highlights wouldn't it be more irresponsible to vote regardless of whether or not you really understand the issues? You are risking compounding one error - not being politically aware - with another, voting for a bad candidate.

15/10/04 Battlestar Galactica [observation]
After a long delay (it aired in America last December) the Battlestar Galactica miniseries was finally shown by Britain's Sky One this week. Was it worth the wait? I have to say I was a little disappointed with it. The pace was painfully slow (ad breaks every 15 minutes don't help) and the plot was sometimes a bit clunky. There were one or two intelligent moments though, the concept of setting the series 40 years after the first Cylon War particularly so. Some of the chemistry between Apollo (played by Brit Jamie Bamber) and Starbuck (played by Katee Sackhoff - who was much cuter in "The Fearing Mind") was sparkling. Thankfully though, America's SciFi Channel went ahead and picked up Galactica for as a full series, so the miniseries should be seen as a pilot for that series, and scifi pilots are usually clunky - Babylon 5's and Star Trek: The Next Generation's especially so. For me, the space combat in Babylon 5 is far superior to Galactica's though, even though B5's budget was very limited. The series that the new Galactica most reminded of was the short-lived "Space: Above and Beyond", which had a similar grim militaristic feel to it.

09/10/04 A Brief History of Crime [rant]
"The wicked, the selfish, the loud, the oafish, the inconsiderate and the bully are freer to behave as they wish than at any time for a hundred and fifty years. Their actions often go unrecorded or are dismissed as petty by the authorities. Yet their effects on people's lives are deep and painful... England is rapidly becoming a place where the good are afraid of the bad and the bad are not afraid of anything."
So writes Peter Hitchens in his searing "A Brief History of Crime". This is a polemical work, one to make you angry enough to do something about the problem. I've created a page with select quotes from the book.

02/10/04 Run That By Me Again? [rant]
Did you know that Nivea is the official supplier of skin care products to the Irish football team? WTF!? You got that right. Once, sponsorship was of things that had even a faint sporting association - boots, kit, energy products. But skin care? I've read that the SAS use a particular Avon hand cream because one of its ingredients is an excellent mosquito repellant. This, though, is taking things too far.
Do you ever get the feeling that a soccer player from 2004 transported back to 1954 would last 10 minutes on the pitch? (Corollary: One from 1954 would last 10 minutes before being sent off).

26/09/04 A Bad Idea Reappears [rant]
(Originally posted in July 2003 when the idea was first mooted)
The Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, intends to introduce a levy on chewing gum, polystyrene fast-food wrappers and ATM receipts according to reports in todays Irish Independent (registration required). According to a source in the department, the step is justified because "Is it fair that those who don't use chewing gum pay for the cost of cleaning it up?" The obvious response to such an attitude is "Is it fair that those people who dispose of chewing gum correctly should be punished the same way as those who don't?"
Instead of actually doing something about Ireland's litter problem, and fining people who carelessly dispose of ATM receipts, or spit chewing gum on the pavement, the government proposes to treat guilty and innocent the same. Why bother disposing of rubbish correctly when you've already paid to clean it up? Why bother behaving politely in a society like this when you have no incentive to? What's the upside?
(Update: Denis Boyles takes an equally dim view in his EuroPress Review for National Review)

24/09/04 What I'm Reading [observation]
David Cordingly - Under The Black Flag (interesting book about the realities of piracy)
Tom Pocock - Horatio Nelson (excellent biography of the famous admiral)
Frank McLynn - 1759: The Year of Victories (disappointing book about British triumphs in 1759)
Peter Padfield - Maritime Supremacy (informative, if dry, book about naval warfare)
Obviously on a bit of a naval history buzz, so I've created a page for quotes about Life at Sea.

23/09/04 You Know It's Not Your Day [rant]
When your train is 5 minutes late and in those 5 minutes the heavens open and you are soaked through.

22/09/04 What I'm Watching [observation]
Spooks (season 1 repeats on Network 2)
Arrested Development (TV3 showing season 1)
Deadwood (Sky 1 show pilot tonight)
Gilmore Girls (season 2 repeats on Nickelodeon)

21/09/04 What I'm Listening To [observation]
Kate Rusby - Underneath The Stars (in preparation for her Dublin gig in October)
Mundy - 24 Star Hotel
Buc Runga - Beatiful Collisions (her gig in the Olympia was great, if brief)
Various (Female) Artists - Songbird

20/09/04 Err... [observation]
What with one thing and another, I haven't really been updated the blog. There.

22/08/04 What Might Have Been? [observation]
Can you imagine Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones? Tom Hanks as Jerry Maguire? How about Richard Gere as tough cop John McClane in Die Hard? Mark King takes a look at the mystery of casting for "The Guardian".

20/08/04 Take A Break [observation]
A "data sabbath" is a day-long technology detox. First conceived of by frazzled Silicon Valley tech-slaves, the data sabbath is a 24-hour repudiation of the modern. No phones, no computers, no TV. And definitely no e-mail. For an entire day. Yes, it sounds tough. Traumatic, perhaps. Because the ultimate irony of technology is that, while easy to hate, doing without is harder still. The purpose of a data sabbath, say aficionados, is to reconnect with the "real world".
(Ed Power, "The Irish Independent")
As someone who works in the IT industry, the idea of not using a computer (at least) for a day as a break is appealing, but I just don't think I could renounce all things digital for a day, unless I'm on a holiday away from home!

16/08/04 Capitalist Europe, Socialist America [observation]
It's a rather strange irony that if you look at how professional sports are operated on the two continents that it is Europe where one finds the most ruthless embrace of the principles of Capitalism. That's the intriguing premise of this article by Daniel Gross for MSN Slate. In European soccer, competition is vicious, clubs risk going out of business if they are relegated from their national league's top divisions - just look at Leeds United in England. Newcomers such as Fulham burst onto the scene with an influx of money to take their place. In American baseball and football leagues, the teams stay the same, they even give the bottom teams first pick of the best new players. Can you imagine Manchester United allowing Crystal Palace to take the next David Beckham like that? I think not.

16/08/04 Nature Is Mankind's Gravest Threat? [observation]
"In any one year the chances of one of these things happening is probably much less than 1%. But in the longer term it is 100%." (Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Grieg Hazard Research Centre)
Giant tsunamis, super volcanoes and earthquakes could pose a greater threat than terrorism, scientists claim. Global Geophysical Events, or "Gee Gees", as they are nick-named, are not being taken seriously enough, they say. Volcanoes and earthquakes are relatively common occurrences, but Gee Gees are on an altogether different scale. The last "super volcanic eruption" was back in April 1815, when Tambora in Indonesia exploded violently, in what was the largest eruption in historic time. The eruption column reached a height of about 44 km (28 miles), ash fell as far as 1,300 km (800 miles) from the volcano - and an estimated 92,000 people were killed. Rare though they are, events this catastrophic need to be taken very seriously. (from the BBC)

31/07/04 Watch Out For [observation]
Next week, Ireland's TV3 start showing the critically-acclaimed American comedy series "Arrested Development" on Thursday evenings. The show, starring Jason Bateman, Portia De Rossi (Nelle in "Ally McBeal") and Jeffrey Tambor ("Larry Sanders Show"), was barely renewed for a second season - the reviews are good but alas the ratings are not. Hopefully it will gain momentum ala "Cheers" or "Seinfeld" given a chance. Definetly worth checking out.

29/07/04 Gig Review - Mindy Smith [rave]
The Village, along with its neighbour, Whelans, are my favourite venues in Dublin. They are intimate, and the acoustics are excellent. That's why I always pay special attention to their gig guides - an artist like Heather Nova, for instance, is brilliant in Whelans, but only good in somewhere like The Ambassador.
This is one of the reasons why last night I went along to see American singer Mindy Smith play in The Village. Bizarrely, her music came to my attention via the TV program "Smallville" - her song "One Moment More" was played during this season's finale. Having only heard a few of her songs I was nervous going in, but thankfully my fears were unfounded. Smith has a wonderfully fragile voice, and brings emotion to everything she sings, even if sometimes this results in her otherwise attractive face becoming rather contorted! She came to attention in the US for her cover of "Jolene" on a Dolly Parton tribute album, and this is one of the highlights of the gig - along with "One Moment More" and "Falling". The best song of the night is "Fighting For It All", which is brilliant. If she can produce more songs like this to match her singing talent, many more people are going to be hearing of Mindy Smith.

28/07/04 There Are More Things... [observation]
Scientists have been finding increasingly bizarre life-forms living at the depths of our oceans, but I doubt there can be many more bizarre than this one - a species of marine worms which live on whalebones. The ocean-floor is one vast whale graveyard, for where else is there for the huge carcasses to go? But what's even more peculiar about this species is that the males live *inside* the females.
There is a line from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" > "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." It seems to me that there are more things in heaven and earth that we know about because of the philosophy of science.

24/07/04 Update: What To Watch? [observation]
Following the end of "24", Network 2 drop repeats of "Spooks\MI5" into slot, which is unexpectedly inspired scheduling for them. Network 2 also show old episodes of the delightfully nostalgic "Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" during weekday mornings - the schools are off, after all! On Friday nights, the same station are getting through "Inspector Morse". The quality of these episodes is superb. One episode has a guest cast of Richard Wilson, Sean Bean and Jim Broadbent. Bean and Broadbent are now more likely to be found acting in some Hollywood blockbuster. Last night's episode was set in the rave scene of early 1990s Britain, and was directed by Danny Boyle of "Trainspotting" fame. Next friday, the quirky film "Zero Effect", is on late night on RTE1. Starring Ben Stiller and Bill Pullman, the story is basically a rework of the Sherlock Holmes story into the modern era.

17/07/04 What To Watch? [observation]
The television schedule is a wasteland in summer. Apparently everyone is off on holidays, or outside enjoying what passes for summer in these islands. The US imports which burst onto our screens in January are a distant memory, even "The O.C." has finished on TG4, and that ironically started life as a summer show in America. Euro 2004 briefly capitivated, but now that is over, and the Champions League proper is a while away yet. Thankfully the latest season of "Coupling" has started on BBC2 on Monday nights, and is on top form. There's still no sign of season 3 of "Spooks\MI5" though. I was disappointed with ITV's "Island At War", which tells the story of the occupation of a (fictional) Channel Island during WW2. The pace of the first episode was painfully slow, half way through I was hoping the Nazis would invade just to inject some life into proceedings, but their arrival didn't help things much. Ad breaks every 15 minutes aren't doing the show any favours either. ITV's similar era show, "Foyle's War", is superior in every respect. At least ITV's "Making Waves", set aboard a modern Royal Navy warship, is livelier, with an engaging (mostly) young cast, although I'm not sure where they're going to get the plots to sustain a whole series from, whilst remaining grounded in reality.

14/07/04 The Second World War [rave]
"The legacy of the First World War was to persuade the victors, though not the vanquished, that the costs of war exceeded its rewards. The legacy of the Second World War, it may be argued, was to convince victors and vanquished alike of the same thing."
I have created a quotes page for "The Second World War" by probably the finest military historian in the English-speaking world, Sir John Keegan. This book doesn't try to tell the complete story of the war (Penguin's "Total War" does that), but focuses on specific campaigns to relate the strategic dilemmas of the main war leaders - Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, Roosevelt and Churchill. It is still a massive book though, 600 pages, and I blew a fuse somewhere around 1944... but managed to find the wherewithal to continue until the bitter end. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to have a bath followed by a lie down in a darkened room.

13/07/04 Good Riddance! [rant]
I was in Washington DC on vacation (I mean holiday) in May, and the place was overflown\overrun\infested with Cicadas, locust-like creatures who have a bizarre life-cycle, emerging every 17 years in a massive outbreak. Thankfully, that generation has died off, so DC is not technically Cicada free - but of course, not before passing on its genes to the generation that will emerge in 2021! Scientists speculate that they evolved this 17-year cycle to win an evolutionary arms race with a now extinct predator, who couldn't keep up; 17 is a prime number, which means it wouldn't help for the predator to be on an 8-year life-cycle.

12/07/04 Intelligence Failure [observation]
"A word about that wooden horse. The key intelligence failure was that the Trojans ignored a warning.
It came from Cassandra, the daughter of Troy's King Priam. Given the gift of prophecy, she had then angered the God Apollo, who ordained that her prophecies should never be believed. So the Trojans rejected what they said was her 'windy nonsense'. A myth perhaps, but there is a lesson to be learned."
In a surprisingly insightful article for BBC Online, Paul Reynolds looks at the long history of intelligence failures, looking at how Britain was caught off guard over the Falkland Islands invasion, and how Stalin ignored threats of a German invasion in 1941. The article gets a bonus point for bringing the Trojan War into play.

04/07/04 Independence Day [observation]
"The values America has, sometimes imperfectly, sought to embody, defend and extend deserve to be applauded. As a nation, the United States is more open, vital, creative, free, diverse and healthily democratic than any other on earth. European states may be more stable, earthed and charming. Australia may have much of America's openness with a healthier population, freer of conceit. Europe's smaller nations such as The Netherlands and Denmark may have succeeded in building greater social solidarity while still preserving personal freedom. But no nation has the sheer innovative energy, the democratic vitality, the openness to personal growth and the willingness to shoulder burdens bigger than itself that America has.
America's greatest victories are not won on battlefields, but in our homes, streets and imaginations. Those who deprecate the US's vulgarity and arrogance daily affirm America is best in the trainers and jeans they wear, the coffee and food they consume, the films that let their minds take flight and the books that give their contemporary lives context." ("The Times", 4 July 2002)

04/07/04 Are You What You Eat? [observation]
I'm sure you have all heard the phrase "You are what you eat" before, but what does it mean? Can it mean anything? In fact, according to AA Gill in today's Times, it is in fact a misquote of a more subtle aphorism, "Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are", which is from Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's "The Physiology of Taste", all the way back in 1825. As Gill puts it: "It’s not a physical observation, an argument for the Atkins diet or veganism - it’s a social one. It means you can tell which class people belong to by what they consume. And it’s still true: obesity and bad diet are class and wealth definitions." I think I like the 19th century version better.

03/07/04 What Went Wrong? [rant]
"Even if everything had worked – if Cambridgeshire had asked Humberside and Humberside had told Cambridgeshire, and the school had therefore declined to employ Huntley – it probably would have made no difference to the crime. Soham Village College, where Huntley worked, was not the school attended by Holly and Jessica. The reason Huntley had any contact with the girls is that his girlfriend, Maxine Carr, was a classroom assistant at their school, St Andrew's Church of England Primary School, Soham. So even if Huntley had had no job, he could still have been living with Maxine Carr, still have met the girls and still killed them."
In today's Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore dissects exactly what the various authorities did and did not do in the Soham murder case; he also shows the limits of what the authorities could have done, and how David Blunkett, Britain's Home Secretary is blatantly making a scapegoat out of David Westwood, the Chief Constable of Humberside police force.

30/06/04 The Thunderer [rant]
Yesterday's guest "Thunderer" columnist in "The Times" was the redoutable Bjorn Lomborg. This time the World Health Organization comes in for his withering attention. In a study published last week, the WHO claimed that there are 100,000 child deaths in Europe each year because of the environment. Lomborg takes apart the claim by looking at 2 keys words in the claim: environment and Europe.
"Can it really be so? Do 100,000 children die each year in Europe, victims of air pollution, environmental hazards and ecological degradation? The numbers sound far-fetched. Fortunately neither the headlines nor the report represent the truth."
First Lomborg explains that the WHO definition of environmental factors include road deaths, drownings, poisonings and other such tragic accidents. Then Lomborg looks at what countries are considered European by the WHO - and the list includes Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
"If we were to look at Western Europe and the richest Eastern European countries alone, we would find that environmental factors cause the deaths of 178 children a year. That is 178 too many, but a far cry from the WHO’s 100,000."
Lomborg concludes by warning of the dangers of such misleading reports:
"Does the WHO report matter? Misleading headlines such as 'Environment kills 100,000 youngsters' stick. The space that these messages occupy in the media detract from causes where we can make a difference. The WHO report ensures that we miss the real point — we should pay attention to the important environmental problems that do exist on Europe’s poor fringe, and direct our efforts there."

27/06/04 What Would We Do Without Football? [rave]
"This not just about football history, it is about real history and what went on 60 years ago."
(Ruud van Nistelrooy, before the Netherlands played Germany)
When the European Championships finish next week in Portugal, there wil be a vast chasm in the lives of many people, who have been uplifted to euphoric highs and plunged to the depths of despair by the footballing teams of the nations of Europe over the last two weeks. This is what Europe is supposed to be about, not page after page of regulations from the bureaucrats in Brussels. We know that the teams are not equal in skill, resources, or luck, but for 90 minutes, Latvia can be the equals of Germany, and Greece can stun France. I've assembled a page of quotes about the tournament - about that 2-2 draw, about England's inability to win at penalties and about Irish TV's ability to entertain us. Enjoy!
One consolation: It's less than two years until the kickoff of World Cup 2006...

20/06/04 Nanny State Gone Mad [rant]
Writing in today's Sunday Independent, Jerome Reilly outlines the myriad of ways in which the current Irish Government (a Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrat coalition) has infuriated the citizens of this country for little gain. Similar thoughts had occured to me, this government doesn't believe in taking necessary actions that will upset well organised unions - transport being a case in point. It's going to suffer death by a thousand paper cuts - maybe the straw that breaks the camel's back for you is the National Car Test, and for your neighbour it's the Penalty Point system. I have no confidence that the alternative government (a Fine Gael and Labour coalition) would be any better, in fact I think they would be far worse, but people are reaching a point where they want anything but this government.
"Alcohol abuse is perhaps the most pressing social problem in this country. But the Government response has been to ban youngsters from pubs in the evening, even if they are accompanied by their parents on their annual summer holidays in family-friendly resort hotels. The message being sent out by the Government is that mothers and fathers cannot be trusted. Again, it is a stifling and pointless new rule that has infuriated the electorate."
"The vast majority of drivers are getting points for driving at 32mph to 35mph in a 30mph zone, or 42mph to 45mph in a 40mph zone. If they challenge it in court, it could cost them FOUR points - as well as a bumped-up fine to exercise their constitutional right of appeal. That, voters believe, has nothing to do with road safety or saving lives. That is simply a revenue collection service. In the election, the voters pointed out that thugs in souped-up cars are having high-speed races on motorways with apparent impugnity."

19/06/04 The Future Of Islam [observation]
"The powerlessness that the Muslim world is experiencing today and the difficulty of finding solutions to our just causes have been the reason behind the rise of extremism. Fanatics have seen in this an opportunity to commit odious and reprehensible acts... which is why we must fight this extremism resolutely and determinedly at a time when we are working to correct the tainted image of Islam in the world."
Let us hope that the future of Islam lies in reformers like Abdelwahed Belkeziz, willing to criticise the faults of Muslim countries, rather than with the terrorists and murderers of Al-Qaeda. Mr Belkeziz is the outgoing Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and his views reminded me of the debate which has been happening within Islam for centuries as they saw their power fading, which Bernard Lewis has so expertly examined in "What Went Wrong?".

18/06/04 As Good As The Match Itself [rave]
Excerpt from Network 2's post match analysis of England v Switzerland:
O'Herily: "No dissertations from you about tattoos or whatever tonight, Eamon?"
Dunphy: "No, Bill, but I know where Beckham's tattoo came from."
O'Herlihy: "No libel on air, Eamon, please."
Eamon: "I'll tell you later then."
Why would you watch the analysis on any other station when Network 2 have Eamon Dunphy and John Giles? Dunphy contradicts himself from day to day, he writes off every team and every player, but boy, is he funny. Keep track of what the lads are up to at Danger Here.

17/06/04 In The Works [observation]
A film version of "Pride and Prejudice" is planned starring the beautiful Keira Knightley (as Lizzie Bennett) and Matthew MacFayden (of "Spooks", as D'Arcy). I just can't imagine either of them in the role. Knightley would make a perfect "Emma", but Lizzie? And I just can't warm to MacFayden, even though I enjoy "Spooks", but then again, D'Arcy is that kind of standoffish character.
Also, in a bizarre coincidence, both ITV and BBC are planning new once-off films based on the character of Sherlock Holmes. Rupert Everett and Stephen Fry (aren't they both gay?) will take the lead roles, supported by Ian Hart and Hugh Laurie. I think Richard E. Grant would make a perfect Holmes, but I don't think I'll get to see him in that role - I'll still probably watch both when they do make it onto out screens.

13/06/04 There Is More To Life [observation]
"Something has changed for ever in the relationship between Ireland and England. Something that we have cherished is no more. The fact of the matter is, that when England were playing Argentina at this World Cup, I felt different about it. I felt like I wanted England to ... how can I put this? ... to not lose, and maybe even to ... I think the technical term is "to win". Yes, that's it. I wanted England to win.
Not by much, necessarily, and not without a struggle. But as long as they won in some wretched shape or form, I decided I could live with it. And no, not in the usual twisted sense of keeping them alive for a more spectacular beating in the next round in order to make our pleasure more intense.
I just wanted them to win the football match, because basically, I know these people better than the Argies. So it stands to reason, dunnit? I mean, there's Michael Owen who has probably given me more pleasure over the years than any man alive, and suddenly he's my hated enemy?
I don't think so. I don't think I can live like that any more. Many of you will be angry by now. You will call me a traitor to Ireland. But I sense that your numbers are diminishing. I sense that this apparently inexhaustible source of joy is somehow drying up. I fear that we may have to find some other form of entertainment in order to give meaning to our lives. maybe there is more to life than sitting there for 90 minutes waiting for Sol Campbell to trip over himself, thus making our day."
So wrote Declan Lynch in Ireland's "Sunday Independent" before the last World Cup and he continues the theme in today's article. They are sentiments that I share, and I begin to wonder how many Irish people will hope for England to do well in Portugal? In today's "Sunday Times", there's a report that more and more Scottish people (not Alan Hansen!) will support England, in Scotland's absence from the tournament. In England, suppliers cannot keep up with the level of demand for English flags (not British Union Jacks). Slowly, but surely, in these islands of the North Atlantic, attitudes are evolving into something else - positive patriotism perhaps, rather than negative nationalism. In the past, English misadventures have brought me great pleasure - San Marino scoring after 7 seconds was one of the funniest things in football, ever - but now I look to English adventures.

12/06/04 Phew! [rave]
I, along with 80% of the rest of the Irish electorate, voted yes to the proposed Citizenship Referendum. In effect, it removes the definition of citizenship from the Constitution and makes it a matter for legislation. This means that the government can change the definition from one based on birth - which was leading to 'maternity tourism' as non-EU citizens flew into Dublin in late stages of pregnancy to have their child here - to one based on residency. I suspected that the polls underestimated the support for the yes vote, given all the allegations (groundless) of racism thrown at the yes side, but I thought that their indication of 55% in favour was out by 5-10%, not 25%. There were several reasonable arguments that the no camp could have made, but instead they went full-on calling it a racist proposal. What chance did they think they had of convincing people to change their minds if at the onset they say that the people are not merely in error, but in sin aswell? Had the no camp been less hostile, and less willing to play the race card at every turn, I doubt the yes vote would have been so high.

11/06/04 In Erin [observation]
"Presidents and prime ministers everywhere, I suspect, sometimes wonder how history will deal with them. Some even evince a touch of the insecurity of Thomas Darcy McGee, an Irish immigrant to Canada who became a father of our confederation. In one of his poems, McGee, thinking of his birthplace, wrote poignantly: 'Am I remembered in Erin? I charge you speak me true. Has my name a sound, a meaning in the scenes my boyhood knew?' Ronald Reagan will not have to worry about Erin because they remember him well and affectionately there. Indeed they do. From Erin to Estonia, from Maryland to Madagascar, from Montreal to Monterey, Ronald Reagan does not enter history tentatively. He does so with certainty and panache." (Euology by Brian Mulroney, former Canadian prime minister)
The answer from this little corner of Erin is a resounding 'Yes'.

11/06/04 Frank By Name And Nature [rave]
Finally, a guest on the RTE's current affairs program "Prime Time" had the intellectual confidence to answer one of the interviewer's questions with "Frankly, that's rubbish". The man was American Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy, and the discussion was about the legecy of President Reagan. Now, it must be said that I agreed with almost everything else that he said, but his frankness was what impressed me most. For some time now I've noticed that the show's presenters (Mark Little and Miriam O'Callaghan) ask questions which are not really intended to lead to discussion of the issues, but to provoke their guest with hostile and insulting questions, putting them onto the defensive. Playing devil's advocate from time to time can be worthwhile, but I think Prime Time have forgotten how to ask a reasonable, intelligent question.  I doubt that the presenters actually believe the positions they propose as part of the questions, hiding behind evasions like 'Some people say' and so on. I'm waiting for someone to refuse to answer, saying something along the lines of "Mark, you're an intelligent man, and that's a very stupid question. Do you even believe half of what you've just asked me?"

11/06/04 A Big Impression [rave]
"I hate them, and you know the worse thing? I'm going to have to spend every evening for the next three weeks pretending that I want England to win!"
Those are the words of Scottish football pundit Alan Hansen, or at least, how BBC's "Big Impression" imagines him as he prepares for Euro 2004. Their Euro 2004 special, which aired last night on BBC1 was hilarious. Alastair McGowan and Ronni Ancona have a great partnership going, and they put it to excellent use in their coupling of Sven Goran Erikkson and Nancy. Their idea is that Nancy is the footballing expert - Sven thinks Michael Owen is a goalkeeper, but she stays in the background because no one will take a female football manager seriously. This leads to all kinds of complications when Roman Abramovich tries to recruit Sven to take over at Chelsea. Not that's it's really needed, but it helped put me in the mood for the real Euro 2004, kicking off tomorrow. The first match to really catch my eye is the showdown on Sunday between England and France, which takes on elements of a derby match with so many French players based on England.

09/06/04 Measuring Greatness [observation]
"Washington, Madison, Lincoln, and FDR were the only presidents to steer America through crises in which national survival was genuinely in doubt. Accordingly, Reagan's accomplishments in foreign affairs cannot rank as high as these four. But he should rank immediately after them... Reagan clearly ranks as the greatest president of the last half-century. Although he did not shape America's national destiny as much as did Washington, Lincoln, or FDR, he has earned a place with Jefferson and Jackson in the second-highest rank of American presidents."
In "National Review", Dave Kopel gives a balanced judgment on the achievements of Ronald Reagan, on his failures, and on the size of the challenges that confronted him.

06/06/04 An American Colossus [rave]
AA Gill has written a brilliant review of historian Niall Ferguson for "The Sunday Times" which manages to be hilarious and perceptive - or rather, I should clarify, the review is supposed to be of Ferguson's latest TV documentary, "American Colossus", in which Ferguson argues that an American Empire should be a force for good in the world. Here it is:
"There’s some stuff you need to know about Ferguson to get the full benefit of his act. First, he’s a hard-right, monetarist, Glasgow-bred academic who likes to be liked by patrician right-wing grandees, so he beats a loud drum and carries a number of amusing chips that he takes out at parties and in the press. He also, in a very Scottish way, loves a row. He’s a cat-among-the-pigeons man who’d rather prove some whiny, woolly leftie-liberal wrong than necessarily be right himself. Television must be a frustrating medium for him because there’s nobody there to shout back. Finally, he recently got a job teaching in an American university. There will be more than a small element here of currying favour, that old Scottish insecurity, needing to be loved and desperate to be noticed.
So, bearing all that in mind, American Colossus is rather good. Definitely an improvement on the British version. It’s nicely shot and smartly edited, with well-chosen ironic music. The history is kept simple and is so self-servingly selective, it would make the old editor of Pravda blush. No matter: we don’t watch Ferguson for a balanced view but for his frothing demotic propaganda. The fact that America doesn’t have an empire, never has had and doesn’t want one barely holds him up for a minute. Ferguson says they’ve got an empire, so an empire they’ve got, and it’s a jolly good empire. Possibly the best thing that ever existed.
You can sense his barely concealed joy at the thought of the humming fury he’s engendering on the left. Just to stoke the fire a bit more, he blithely regrets the missed opportunity of using nuclear bombs to win the Korean war; and although he doesn’t quite manage to call Pearl Harbor an act of American aggression, he does conclude that the demise of the American empire will probably be due to their ridiculous habit of changing their mind every four years. If it wasn’t for pesky democracy, the American Reich could last a thousand years. All this should be quite enough to make him a popular pundit on the round of right-wing American chat and news shows. I suspect that if anyone asked Ferguson who the greatest threats to western civilisation were, he’d reply Mohammed and Simon Schama."

06/06/04 A Great Man Has Died [observation]
"With the 1980s, there came a great wind of change in the affairs of mankind which, gathering momentum throughout the decade and beyond into the 1990s, swept all before it and left the global landscape transformed beyond recognition. The 1980s formed one of the watersheds of modern history. The spirit of democracy recovered its self-confidence and spread. The rule of law was re-established in large parts of the globe and international predation was checked and punished... Ronald Reagan’s essential achievement was to restore the will and self-confidence of the American people, while at the same time breaking the will and undermining the self-confidence of the small group of men who ran what he insisted on calling the 'Evil Empire' of Communism." (Paul Johnson, "The Recovery of Freedom")
"Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired." Margaret Thatcher pays tribute to her great friend Ronald Reagan, who passed away yesterday. Ronald Reagan restored the strength and will of America, and by extension, the West. He was an indomitable 'Cold Warrior'. When he predicted that we were witnessing the end of the Soviet Union many commentators scoffed and today many of those same commentators deny him his reward as the man who completed the liberation of Europe - a process begun on 6th June 1944. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. The world is incalculably better off - in material prosperity and in political liberty - because of Ronald Reagan.

06/06/04 Day Of Days [observation]
"D-Day represents the greatest achievement of the American people and system in the 20th century. It was the pivot point of the 20th century. It was the day on which the decision was made as to who was going to rule in this world in the second half of the 20th century. Is it going to be Nazism, is it going to be communism, or are the democracies going to prevail?" (Historian Stephen E. Ambrose)
"Sixty years ago, most of the landmass of the Eurasian continent and its attendant islands was in thrall to totalitarian dictatorships. Freedom had retreated to the Anglophone societies of Britain, its Empire and Commonwealth, and its former colony the United States. In the history of the world, there has never been such a titanic contest to the death between two sets of values: the free, common-law societies of the English-speaking peoples against an entire continent of various dictatorships with their hundreds of millions of regimented slaves... The Normandy landings were the first day in a Eurasian war that was to last 45 years, and would ultimately peel back totalitarianism from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Initially the foe was Nazism; its kindred creed, Communism, soon followed, to be confronted by economic might and military deterrence, until victory was won in 1989. Both triumphs were achievable only by the colossal sacrifices in men and riches of the US." (Kevin Myers, "The Telegraph")


2004 -> 05 ~ 04 ~ 03 ~ 02 ~ 01
2003 -> Nov - Dec ~ Aug - Oct ~ July ~ June ~ May ~ Mar - Apr ~ Jan - Feb
2002 -> December ~ November

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