Monday, March 31, 2003

Note to Presidents: Always bring sensible shoes

On Friday we noted that Ireland's rugby team was going into action against England in Dublin on Sunday. At stake: the team's first clean sweep of the championship in nearly 60 years. The mood was very much along the lines of "You'll never beat the Irish" (BOBW, passim). The scoreline: Ireland 6 England 42. Wait till October (the rugby world cup). Actually the match was closer than the scoreline suggests but seeking distractions from discussing the outcome in too much detail, we were intrigued to read about a pre-match fiasco that forced the Irish president, Mary McAleese, to (gasp) walk off the red carpet and onto the grass to greet the Irish team in the greeting ceremony. The carpet is rolled out and the teams are supposed to stand each side, with the President walking down the middle to meet both teams. Except that the English team took Ireland's traditional side of the carpet (a superstition based preference). But perhaps emboldened by all those Irish republicans in town that weekend, the Irish team then refused to take the other side and instead lined up beyond the English players. Further out than the length of the carpet. As Le Monde said (our French is terrible so it's slightly less painful to read about our thrashing there):

C'était là la première leçon anglaise de l'après-midi : l'occupation du terrain

We're trying to imagine what a similar predicament for Dubya might look like; perhaps if he's attending any international ice hockey matches, he should bring his skates.

Friday, March 28, 2003

The Armalite, the ballot box, and the rugby ball

One of Dublin's stranger sociological conjunctions in some time will take place this weekend when Sinn Fein party activists gather at the Royal Dublin Society for their annual convention (Ard Fheis) in which the big question will be whether the party can decisively drop the first part of its famous two-track military/political strategy referred to in our title, while a short distance away, Irish and English rugby fans gather at Lansdowne Road stadium for the Six Nations Championship decider, with Ireland playing for its first perfect record in the tournament in nearly 60 years. There is a stereotype in Ireland for these groups that would lead you to believe that the typical Irish rugby fan has more in common with the typical English fan than he has with the typical Sinn Feiner. And there's a grain of truth to that. Rugby is perceived by hardline Irish nationalists as a "foreign game" and the Irish rugby fan base is heavily white collar in contrast to the blue collar areas that provide the bedrock of Sinn Fein's electoral support in the Republic. But as usual, there are ironies. First and foremost: Ireland has, and always had, a unified national rugby team for North and South. Not so for soccer. One might have read this as a positive example of how sport could transcend political boundaries, but for the Sinn Feiners, it was simple evidence that there was a big closet Unionist contingent amongst the rugby fraternity. So perhaps we shouldn't expect too much jollity between the crowds as they belly up to the local bars. But will the Irish nationalists really be able to resist of the prospect of an All-Ireland team taking on perfidious Albion on the field of play with a serious chance of winning? We think not.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

You won't need one of those world phones on your next trip to Baghdad

As anyone who has desired the convenience of being able to use the same cellphone in the US and Europe has realised, the two sides of the Atlantic have replicated their non-uniform TV standards with non-uniform cellphone standards. Europe (and indeed most of the world) uses GSM, while North America uses a mix of standards including CDMA. Hence you need a "world phone" that can handle both standards if you want to use the same phone in both places. But thanks to the people who brought you Freedom Fries, you might be able to take your standard US CDMA phone on your next trip to Iraq. Today's WSJ informs us of the following key paragraph from a letter to Rummy from a California Republican House Representative:

"We have learned that planners at the Department of Defense and USAID are currently envisioning using federal appropriations to deploy a European-based wireless technology known as GSM ('Groupe Speciale Mobile' -- this standard was developed by the French) for this new Iraqi cellphone system," Mr. Issa wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
. The "U.S. government will soon hand U.S. taxpayer dollars over to French, German, and other European cellphone equipment companies to build the new Iraqi cellphone system. This is not acceptable," he wrote. He plans to introduce legislation related to the matter on Thursday.


One consequence of his plan to force CDMA as the choice would be to make Iraq's new system incompatible with those of its neighbours. And that's before we start discussing which is intrinsically the best technology. Our understanding of this matter is that GSM is better, which is why P O'Neill gets his US cellphone service from T-Mobile i.e. the one with the Welsh bird in their ads (as Austin Powers would say). Anyway perhaps we can expand on this idea of forcing inferior standards on Iraq when the US rebuilds everything:let's make them use the NTSC TV standard, dump all current US TV's over there to be used by Iraqis, and subsidise an upgrade to digital TVs for everyone here from Iraqi oil money! And if you don't like that plan, you're objectively pro-Saddam.


Wednesday, March 26, 2003

No understatement please, we're British

The likely lads on the crimson end of the blogosphere have now declared the BBC to be unashamedly anti-war if not pro-Saddam. Part of the indictment seems to be that the Beeb reporters use phrases like "severe setback" and "worst possible news." But there is a classic fallacy at work here. The neocon lads are hearing the BBC all of a sudden on local PBS/NPR purely in the context of the war and assuming that the reporting style they are hearing is specific to this war. But dudes, they're like this for EVERYTHING! This is one of the great myths about Brits -- all that stuff about them being understated and reserved is total nonsense. It might be true with individual Brits whom you meet. But put them in front of a microphone or camera and look what happens. Have you SEEN Graham Norton? (OK, he's Irish). That whole reality TV glut on our airwaves: where did those shows come from? In another example with no political context, try tuning into a soccer match with British commentary. The histrionics just never end -- every twist of the game is vital, definitive, dramatic, momentous. They may have the accent, but it's just as over the top as Dick Vitale. There are great examples collected every fortnight in Private Eye, a mag we've already told you you should be reading on a regular basis; they put some especially preposterous (and fallacious) lines of sports commentary in the Colemanballs feature. Check out this typical example:

"Matches don’t come any bigger than FA Cup quarter-finals."
NEIL WARNOCK, BBC Radio 5 Live


And battles don't come any bigger than Umm Qasr, or Basra, or Najaf, or Kerbala, or Baghdad, or Tehran (sorry, that's the next war....)

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

I'm sorry Sir, you are on the list

In addition to the mockery directed towards some members of Colin Powell's list of 44 countries in the coalition of the willing, there's been some speculation about who's on the list of 15 countries that Colin says support the war effort but don't want to be named. Now it appears that one of those 15 is the Republic of Ireland. The Republic has had a long-standing policy of neutrality but the policy has never been more stretched than for Gulf War II, because Shannon airport (in the southwest) is being used is a refuelling stop for US military aircraft on the way to the Gulf. The Irish government claims that this does not violate neutrality because...well, they actually don't have much of a reason, other than a vague sense that Ireland should support the USA. Anyway, the Prime Minister today revealed in parliament that he believes that Ireland is one of the 15 anonymous countries, though he didn't seem too happy having to even discuss it and seems to think we shouldn't be on the list if it implies actual support for the war itself (drawing a distinction between that and the Shannon stopovers). Now we Irish can be a bit self-important sometimes. But I don't foresee the war effort crumbling with the list of quiet supporters down to 14.
Parental Advisory* on new Radiohead album

Their new album will be released on the 9th of June. It will be unsuitable for some parents (*especially those resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue). The title: Hail to the Thief. One of the songs will also consist of a detailed economic discourse on Dubya's fiscal policy. It's called 2 + 2 = 5.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Ah sure why would we need that here?

With our extensive experience of Ireland at BOBW, we've noticed more than once an attitude in the Irish Republic that there are lots of things that are viewed as perfectly sensible for other countries to have, but since everything is fine in the republic, why would we need that here? This attitude becomes glaring when the other country is our cousins across the border in Northern Ireland. The peace agreement called for all kinds of sensible reform of the system of government in Northern Ireland. But when proposals for similar reforms are floated in the Republic, the standard response is as in our title above. More oversight of the police? Well of course they need that up there but our lads would never get up to any of that stuff. Er, not exactly, as readers of the New York Times found out on Sunday. You can track the scandal described in the NYT article here. An amnesty for former terrorists? Very necessary for peace and reconciliation. But suppose the terrorist offence occurred in the Republic, involving the murder of a policeman? Well, that's different. On a lighter note, we read today that the Irish national airline Aer Lingus was forced to pull a section of songs from their inflight entertainment system on transatlantic flights. A Unionist politician objected -- correctly, in our view -- to songs from Derek Warfield, former member of the Wolfe Tones. Both as band member and solo artist he has been a tireless purveyor of what are politely called "nationalist" songs but are in fact thinly disguised odes to the current incarnation of the IRA. A quote from Roy Beggs, the politician in question, gets things just right:

Make no mistake about it, even a cursory listen to the lyrics of the aptly named Mr Warfield, shows a glorification of murder and terrorism under the guise of Irish republicanism.

To their credit, Aer Lingus quickly relented. But I think a week living in the Republic would drive Mr Beggs crazy.

Update: The Republic continues to exempt itself from the peace agreement. Amnesties are for suckers.

Friday, March 21, 2003

An Editor not used to editing....

Boris Johnson, who had an Op-ed piece in the NYT earlier this week, is now spilling the beans about the editing process, in an article for the (UK) Spectator. Since it's unflattering for the NYT, the article has already picked up some gleeful links from predictable sources and more are sure to follow. But there are some problems with this story. Boris is usually described as a Tory MP. But he's also the editor of the Spectator. So shouldn't he be used to editing? Well, it's in that capacity that he "edits" the risible Taki's column, who besides facing legal action over one recent column, is an expert at throwaway hints of prejudice, as in this sentence from this week's column:

It's apparently very patriotic nowadays in the Land of Free Speech for blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Orientals and Eskimos to call the French all sorts of epithets, the kindest of which is weasel, mother--er, yellow-bellied... you get my drift

Note the willfully archaic Charlie Chan era terminology, and anyway, has there been any specific ethnic component to the people engaged in bashing France? To what racial group do Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld belong? But all this stuff gets by Boris. Finally, is the Boris article even true? His entire conversation with the editor is reported as direct quotes. Was he taping? And does this exchange sound plausible:

[context is Rumsfeld's implication that Britain might not participate in the war]
So I began the piece with the words, "Gee, thanks, guys," and Tobin [the NYT editor] wanted those words removed. For the life of me, I couldn't see why....
"OK, Booris [sic], I'll tell you what the problem is. Our problem is that "Gee" is an abbreviation for Jesus. For a century this has been a Jewish-owned paper, and we have to be extremely sensitive about anything that might offend Christian sensibilities.

'We can say "God", "God" is fine, but we have to be very careful about anything that involves the name of the Lord and Saviour.'


Boris reports, you decide.
Economists: Where is your pride?

You are dissed in Friday's WSJ (which really is the day's best reading):

In one of the more remarkable comments to come from the Fed, its statement this week said it "does not believe it can usefully characterize the current balance of risks." This from the Fed's army of economists that rivals the 101st airborne in numbers, but clearly not in guts.

[from THE MACRO INVESTOR column by STEVE LIESMAN]

Gulf War II: Dept of Unintended Benefits to Weasels

Friday's WSJ:

1.
France and Germany may already be benefiting from a war in Iraq that both nations so fiercely oppose.

Until Thursday, the euro zone's two largest countries appeared on course to pay hefty fines for breaking strict rules that cap budget deficits. But just hours after U.S. bombs began falling on Baghdad, the European Union's budget policeman, European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes, said that the war is an "exceptional circumstance," a ruling that could partly unleash countries from a pact that prohibits deficits from exceeding 3% of gross domestic product.



2.
More than 51,000 Iraqis sought asylum last year, making them the largest single group to seek haven in industrialized countries.
[and of course with Saddam gone, those asylum claims lose their basis]




Thursday, March 20, 2003

Ireland's Woodstock

We read in Thursday's Irish Times that plans are afoot to resurrect a well-known music festival in the southwestern town of Lisdoonvarna. The festival was last held in 1983. The circumstances of its demise are concisely described:

...a group of bikers were part-paid in beer crates by the promoters to provide security after revellers breached the perimeter fence.

Think of it as Ireland's version of the 10-cent beer night fiasco. Despite the 20 year gap, the Lisdoonvarna festival is well remembered (or imagined) by many Irish people, because of the very funny song about it by Christy Moore. The lyrics are loaded with references, many of them specific to the early 80s, but some are timeless, as in

A 747 for Jackson Browne,
They had to build a special runway just to get him down.
Before the Chieftains could start to play,
Seven creamy pints came out on a tray.


The local farmers aren't happy about a revival given the history but if the government can overcome local opposition to allow nearby Shannon Airport to be used for a war, what chance do a few pesky farmers have?



Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Bash first, read later (or never)

On the western side of the Atlantic, we encounter the increasingly prevalent opinion that when Dubya outlined his axis of evil, he forgot to include the New York Times. And we have a few bloggers who thus never lose a chance, any chance, to criticize the paper and its recently married editor, Howell Raines. But sometimes the critics reach so much, they stretch the logic even more than Dubya stretched UN Resolution 1441. Take Mickey Kaus, who in the course of linking to a Washington Post article about the fine rapper 50 Cent, cites it as the kind of thing you'd never see in the NYT. But (perhaps unlike Mickey), we've actually read the Post article, and it's basically about how 50 showed up late for a concert, had a large retinue in SUVs, sang a few songs, and then was gone. The crowd loved it all. Which jogged our memories...hadn't we just read a similar article in the NYT? Indeed we had. [Feb 28 by Kelefa Sanneh in the paper edition]. The NYT piece is shorter and better. Mickey seemed to be looking for a white guy's guide to 50 Cent in the Post piece and we don't see that. So let's help him out a bit. Take the following couplet from In Da Club

We're going to party like it's your birthday
Sip Bacardi like it's your birthday


Note (besides my grammatical adjustments) the key elements: references to partying, clever multiple rhymes, and a shout-out to brand-name liquor. And in this text format, we can't communicate the brilliant beats. So Mickey, go watch the video. MTV is channel 27 on your cable (2 up from your favourite channel).

Monday, March 17, 2003

Can he kick field goals....can he get a visa?

As any watcher of American Football knows, quite a few big games have turned on fiascos involving the part of the game where the foot is actually applied to the ball i.e. the kicking game. We've always wondered why more kickers are not imported from parts of the world where people kick the ball more often. And there are a few converted soccer players, but why not more from the sport's ancestor, rugby? Now we read in March 16th's Sunday Independent (reg. req.) that Irish rugby player Ronan O'Gara has gotten a call from the Miami Dolphins about being the place kicker. Or maybe the punter, since the Dolphins have a pretty good place kicker right now (maybe the contract negotiations aren't going so well). In fact, having an Irishman do the punting would be an appropriate return to the punt's origins in rugby's up-and-under kick i.e. the Garryowen.
If only Osama had coughed in one of those recordings...

The Millionaire coughing scam trial continues. Chief witness for the prosecution: someone who did an audio forensic analysis of the 19 mysterious coughs and concluded that they all came from the same person. As the witness said, Forensic analysis of coughing is relatively uncharted territory but his testimony was damning enough that the defendant's lawyer David Aubrey, had "helpfully indicated" his client accepted "that some if not all" of the 19 "particular" coughs were his. There is a particular problem with a clearly audible "No!" during one cough on the 500,000 pounds question. Perhaps the defendant had that mysterious new flu without even knowing it. Or perhaps as an academic, he could claim that pathetically low salaries had driven him to such schemes.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Dublin 1 Manhattan 0

We read in Friday's New York Times that seeing movies in Manhattan is a nightmare of sold out shows, long lines to get decent seats, technical problems with the showing, and audience misbehavior. We have a completely impractical suggestion but one that nonetheless illustrates a key point: as Jean-Luc Picard says, There is an alternative. Our suggestion: see all movies at the very fine Ster Century Multiplex in Liffey Valley Mall in Lucan, County Dublin. Our actual movie going is sufficiently infrequent that we've been able to save our "event" movies (i.e. those in the Lord of the Rings series) for those occasional trips to the eastern side of the Atlantic. The key innovation is reservable stadium seating i.e. your ticket assigns a specific seat. You show up 5 minutes before the movie time and sit exactly where you planned. There is also an old-style theatre feel to one's arrival, with a flashlight equipped usher showing you to your seat. Make no mistake -- the Irish audience wants its popcorn and nachos as much as their American counterparts. But somewhow they manage to be quieter about it.

Update: we were unsurprised to read that Ireland tops the EU league in moviegoing per head. It's taken very seriously.

Friday, March 14, 2003

You'll Never Beat the Irish...except when you do

One can't have attended any sporting event with a large number of Irish people in attendance without hearing the chant "You'll never beat the Irish." But as Jerry said to George when he kept using that Susan expression "You can stuff your sorrys in a sack mister", I don't know what that means. For one thing, given Ireland's less than 100 percent success rate in sporting endeavours, it's demonstrably false. But that doesn't stop the shouters. I suspect I could find examples any week but since it's Cheltenham week (horse racing), that means the main practitioners are in western England, as evidenced by this account from the Irish Times:

The monarchy turned up for Day Two at Cheltenham, but nearly everything else went in favour of the Republic. The Tricolour and the chant "You'll Never Beat the Irish" were seen and heard at the festival after red-hot favourite Moscow Flyer flew to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. (March 13)

A similar confidence was present regarding the Irish contender, Beef or Salmon, in the Gold Cup but this time we got our falsification, with the London Times telling it like it is:
Once the inflated reputation of Beef Or Salmon, the Irish novice, was punctured by a heavy fall at the third fence, the race was a dream sequence for supporters of the 13-8 favourite.

Finally, the doctrine of Irish infallibility is in full swing for our rugby match with Wales on March 22, with everyone already looking forward to the following weekend's match against England. But even if we lose the match, I fear that we'll never lose the chant.


Our thoughts on St Patrick's Day

St Patrick's Day is on March 17th. But the political class observed it this year on the 13th because apparently Dubya has some other pressing engagements the week of the 17th -- what could that be? It's in the spirit of BOBW to enjoy the perspective of seeing how the festival is observed on the western side of the Atlantic but let us draw your attention to some things that, shall we say, cause an Irish person to look twice at it:

1. References to St Patty's Day. The dude's name is Pat, Patrick, or Paddy. But somehow Pat + Paddy became Patty. That's a girl's name.
2. Cheery references to a Black and Tan as in various alcoholic concoctions of that name. Get out your history books before using that one again. The Black and Tans were the armed force sent by Britain to deal with rebellion in Ireland 1919-21. It was right after World War I so the Crown was stretched both in terms of manpower and military logistics. So their troops consisted of a lot of young resentful lads in different coloured jackets and trousers (guess the colours), and you can imagine the consequences in terms of relations with the civilian population. Black and Tan is therefore a highly negative reference. But sadly this Oirish usage of the term has even spread to Ireland.
3. The corned beef and cabbage thing. This is so un-Irish that if memory serves me right, it was mocked in a Hollywood movie, The Devil's Own. Brad Pitt plays a mysterious northern Irish lad who arrives at a NYPD detective's (Harrison Ford) home to stay for a while. The New Yorkers decide to make him feel at home by serving the aforementioned meal -- drawing a bewildered look from Brad who explains that it's not an Irish meal. If Hollywood can figure this out, surely your average Oirish pub can too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

February Not a Gay Month?

Lost amid the excitement over the Howell Raines -- Krystyna Anna Stachowiak nuptials announcement in Sunday's Times (demurely enough, it did not appear in the coveted upper-lefthand corner of the first page, an honor that went instead to the other media wedding of the week, Jeff Rosen -- Christine Stolba) was a certain absence: "celebrations", as they are now called, or gay weddings. Back in September when the Times started printing announcements of gay weddings and commitment ceremonies, it seemed at once like a minor revolution and, well, beside the point. But close readers of the page are now wondering, where's the beefcake? You'd have to go back to the January 18 commitment ceremony of David Myron Culver, the son of Debra A. Culver of Rochester and David E. Culver of Bergen, N.Y., and Gregory Scott Wollaston, the son of Katherine and Daniel Wollaston of Fredonia, N.Y., to find anything remotely fabulous. Does this mean Times editors are having trouble finding gay and lesbian couples with Ivy League diplomas? Or are February weddings just too tacky for words?
Why do they hate us?

This Millionaire coughing scam trial just won't stop providing laughs -- including to the courtroom, at American expense. Today's London Times reports on the following exchange:
More humour followed as Adrian Redgrave, QC for Mrs Ingram, questioned the gameshow host about the speed at which contestants were taken through the questions at different stages of the show.

For example, at the beginning, he tended to "squeeze them through" the first few "low level" ones as quickly as possible. "Has anyone got the first question wrong?" the barrister inquired. "It happened in America," Mr Tarrant replied to general courtroom amusement.




The Bible According to Tony

One of the gaps in the web is that the very fine British satirical magazine Private Eye is mostly not available in that medium. Forcing those of us who live on the western side of the Atlantic to trudge to our local out-of-town magazine shop, the one located next to the..er..dance club.. and pay $3.70 for a copy. But they make little bits of it available online and we strongly recommend the recurring feature St Albion Parish News in which Tony Blair is portrayed as vicar of the (national) parish. They have him pegged perfectly. This section is especially funny:

Look, you remember the story of David and Goliath in the Bible story. One of the most moving accounts in Scripture of a man having the courage to do what he knows to be right against overwhelming odds.
I expect that there were a lot of silly people then saying “Give Goliath more time” or “How do we know Goliath has got a sword of mass-destruction when there’s no evidence that it exists?”
But David was a leader, not a follower. He was a fighter, not a quitter....So, in spite of the Doubting Thomases, David went out and launched a pre-emptive strike (with a “smart” slingshot!) at the head of his enemy and within a few seconds it was all over!
The result was that there was no collateral damage to any bystanders, democracy was restored to the Philistineans and the children of Israel were allowed to live in peace happily ever after.


George W appears via fortnightly messages from the Rev Dubya of the "Church of Latter Day Morons" and in this issue he complains about Saddam's "evilitude." It's brilliant stuff.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

People didn't like Joe Chamberlain...in a way that seems familiar

Earlier today we suggested that for those looking to compare George W to an English historical figure, Joe Chamberlain is the right answer. A new thread in the web-searches to support this thesis reveals this brilliantly polemic anti-Joe poem by the American poet Charles Erskine Scott Wood. We strongly recommend reading the whole thing for full effect, but these lines would work just as well after an Iraq fiasco as it does for Wood's target of Boer War atrocities.

Let him live on. The fleshless hand of Time
Shall taint upon his forehead, black as night,
Great letters telling his ignoble crime,
Then thrust him forward in historic light
Where all the world may read and none forget
These words: "He lied to hide his guilt, he swore
Most false. He plotted war. His hand was wet
With blood. The harlot's golden crown he wore.
Your Embarrassing English Ancestors

You may not know you had them, but now you can find out. The proceedings of London's famous criminal court, the Old Bailey, are now searchable online covering records from 1674 to 1834. The search feature is very flexible but I've found myself using the surname search most often. Some newspapers send reporters to Vienna to check up on people's ancestors (see our Feb 18 post), but if you think your ancestors might have been up to no good in London during this period, you can find out from the comfort of your home. I've already checked on any George Bushes -- no dice.

Our Two Pence on Bush Historical Comparisons

Some of the more enthusiastic denizens of the Anglosphere have been busy offering comparisons of George W. Bush to Winston Churchill, doubtless liking the side implication of comparing Bill Clinton to Neville Chamberlain. We'd like to stay within the preceeding family trees and propose instead that Bush bears more resemblance to Joseph Chamberlain, Neville's father. Now, the Irish nationalist in us has never been keen on the original Uncle Joe, as his stubborn Unionism sabotaged Gladstone's reasonable attempts to devolve power to Ireland --- and in the manner of all stubborn resistance, eventually damaged the cause it claimed to protect. But Joe's havoc didn't stop in Ireland, and as Colonial Secretary when the British Empire was at its zenith, he could do a lot of damage. This is a man who became progressively more Imperialist and even messianic as time wore on, to the point where upstart colonial settlers who happened to be not English, but did happen to be sitting vast natural resources, were perceived as a grave threat to the Empire, leading to the extremely messy Boer War. And then there's his proposal for "Imperial Preference" -- free trade within the Empire -- which has a logic similar to that of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. We also note other similarities -- both rich from a young age, both built a national political base from perceived successes at local level. Although Chamberlain made Birmingham such a delightful place to live that it produced Black Sabbath. Think about it -- a messy war driven by a flawed dogma, with a resource grab thrown in. Now if only there was more Chamberlain stuff on the web (perhaps it's kept low profile out of embarrassment).

Friday, March 07, 2003

Weekend Update

Keeping an eye on some stories we flagged in our posts: the Millionaire coughing scam trial has to start from scratch because one juror had to be excused for medical reasons; the Irish businessmen maybe looking to take over Man Utd could face competition for such a bid from Tampa Bay Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer and from the dude behind the company that brings you many of those awful reality TV shows, Endemol, and the Boston Globe along with assorted idiot political pundits is still fixated on the idea that people think you're Irish if you have the surname Kerry (scroll to near end to for this item).

Ireland's Royalty

Yes, the peasant republic has its kings and queens, and they are a pretty annoying lot. Our Sean Connery post yesterday included a link to a story about one JP McManus, someone who enjoys playing the role of wealthy Irish sporting gentleman, even though for tax purposes he lives in Switzerland and his actual occupation is somewhat vaguely described as something like "currency speculator." Sounds a bit like Marc Rich, doesn't it? Now we read that JP and his horse racing buddy John Magnier might launch a takeover bid for Manchester United. MU fans were relieved when a previous Rupert Murdoch bid fell through but they should be wary rather than relieved that the new suitors are not so high profile. McManus and Magnier spent years being way too close to corrupt former Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey, and their names have a habit of surfacing in Ireland's seemingly endless Tribunals of Inquiry into those kleptocratic years. Someone who carefully manages his time in his "home" country for tax reasons (and who bases his ownership stake in the club in the Virigin Islands) is hardly likely to display much sentimental attachment to a football club that he happens to own, so if the MU fans think that their potential Oirish* owners are more likely to heed their wishes, they should think again. A useful analogy for Americans in this case is the shock that Dallas Cowboys fans must have experienced finding their team owned by an Oklahoman, Jerry Jones, and coaching legend Tom Landry being shown the door soon after. But at least Jones built another winning team. After the fun of inviting more Irish yuppies to the executive boxes at the Theatre of Dreams wears off, this pair could lose interest pretty fast.

*PS: We used the word "Oirish" above. This is not a mis-spelling. Oirish is to Irish as Wanksta is to Gangsta i.e. the airs and appearance, but not the reality.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

3.7 Million a la banque

Sean Connery is touchy about criticism that he's a Scottish nationalist who avoids paying taxes. So today he reveals that he has been paying UK taxes even while living in the Bahamas: a total tax payment of 3.7 million pounds over the last 6 years. Now if only some of Ireland's prominent tax exiles (and Man Utd shareholders) would follow this fine example.
What Would Regis Do?

There is a funny case working its way through an English court now. No, not the Jones-Douglas wedding pics. The producers of the UK version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire allege that a contestant scooped the top prize by having a coded system of coughs with an accomplice. Specifically, the contestant would cycle out loud through each option and wait for a cough from the accomplice. The accomplice was also a contestant (waiting to get in the hot seat) and so was miked. The show's tapes clearly pick up the coughs although the show itself never aired. But check out the transcript -- the final two Q/As are particularly damning. The accomplice, a college lecturer, says he has a dust allergy.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Some Random Art For Your Perusal

Prompted perhaps by ads for the Manet-Velasquez show, we are reminded of the latter's brilliant portrait of Pope Innocent X and Irish painter Francis Bacon's parody of it. Is the figure in the Bacon picture a hybrid of Dick Cheney and Rummy?

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Read Headlines With Care

HUSSAIN QUITS*



*(as English cricket captain)