Saturday, April 30, 2005

He's not from Brighton

When we read Andrew Sullivan on Friday grappling with a dialectic of agreement with and dislike of National Review writer John Derbyshire by saying "Maybe it's our common English roots (although I have a very hefty dose of Irish genes)" we realised that at some point we need to formally outline our Iron Law of Sully which is that he invokes his Irish ancestry when he's feeling alienated from his American conservative friends. We also planned on digging up an old link where we had made this observation but then the fine people at Sullywatch did it for us. So just a couple of things to add.

There's a corollary to the above law which is that his self-identification as an English Tory also ratchets up at these crises of faith -- not withstanding his sharp reaction when his American critics bring up his English background. Sometimes he's explicit about this as in his blitz of UK election posting, and sometimes subtle, such as an approving reference to Lord Palmerston that we noted a while back.

Now in fairness, he's correct that British conservatives do depart from their contemporary American namesakes on moral issues. But there's another important factor that he could have used the London Times article to which he linked as a hook to explore -- but didn't, so we'll do instead. The writer Matthew Parris (a pal of Sully's) joins a couple of Tory candidates on the campaign trail in Sussex: Nick Boles, the gay pal of Sully's running in Hove, and Nick Herbert, not known to be a pal of Sully's, running in Arundel & South Downs (Parris gets the two constituencies mixed up at the start of the article).

The latter Nick is only there because Tory leader Michael Howard canned the incumbent MP Howard Flight for telling an off-the-record meeting that the Tories had secret plans to slash government spending far more than they were saying on the campaign trail. Which gets to the core of what we think is Labour's biggest success over the last decade: their ability to convert any debate about the level of taxes into a debate about the level of public spending. This has reached the point where a tax-cut promise is almost a liability, because Labour have convinced enough people that any such cut must imply a reduction in public services.

The contrast with the US could not be starker -- Democratic candidates continually find themselves running against Republicans offering free tax cuts, with no day of reckoning on when public spending will have to adjust. One rhetorical crock after another -- Laffer curves, elimination of "waste, fraud, and abuse," "deficits don't matter," gets trotted out, and the moral values voters buy it. We don't know whether this reflects more rational voters, or less margin for massive public borrowing, but Howard Flight's sin was to air the downside of tax cuts within this constraint. Just too easy for Labour to exploit, hence the arrival of Nick #2.

So yes, the conservative voters on the Sussex doorsteps don't mind if one of the Nicks is gay. It would be Bush/DeLay style economics that they can't stand.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Enough about me. What do you think about me?

It's so unlike us to even read the Taste columns in the Wall Street Journal, but to read one and agree with it--that's crazy talk! Still, we can't help but give a nod to Michael Steinberger, who writes today of the media's absorption with Harvard University:
So why does Harvard continue to get so much more press than Chicago or any other American university? One possible explanation: Harvard graduates are disproportionately represented in the upper echelons of American journalism. Harvard far surpasses any other university when it comes to cultivating journalistic talent, and all those Harvard-trained reporters and editors do an excellent job of keeping their alma mater in the news.

Perhaps; there's certainly a strong Harvard mafia out there, and those kids do a darn good job of advertising themselves. But that doesn't explain why the many Princeton-run pubs (Time and the New Yorker, to name just two) aren't rife with P.U. stories. Or take Steinberger's own alma mater, Haverford College, which he shares with former and current Time, Inc. bigwigs Gerry Levin and Norm Pearlstine. Why, then, don't we read more about undergrad hijinx on Philadelphia's Main Line?

Clearly there's more at work here. We see the effects of that specific personality disorder which almost universally accompanies the Harvard degree. As described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV):
The essential feature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts. Individuals with this disorder have a grandiose sense of self-importance. They routinely overestimate their abilities and inflate their accomplishments, appearing boastful and pretentious.

Sound familiar? We thought so, too.
Straight Outta Houston

Today's Washington Post:

The U.S. military staged the interrogations of terrorism suspects for members of Congress and other officials visiting the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to make it appear the government was obtaining valuable intelligence, a former Army translator who worked there claims in a new book scheduled for release Monday.

Former Army Sgt. Erik Saar said the military chose detainees for the mock interrogations who previously had been cooperative and instructed them to repeat what they had told interrogators in earlier sessions, according to an interview with the CBS television program "60 Minutes," which is slated to air Sunday night.

"They would find a detainee that they knew to have been cooperative," Saar told CBS. "They would ask the interrogator to go back over the same information," he said, calling it "a fictitious world" created for the visitors.

Which is just an old Enron trick, (link via BBC):

Enron created a fake trading room in order to impress Wall Street analysts, a former top executive at the firm has admitted.

Four years ago [1998], the company built a command centre for its Enron Energy Services (EES) power supply arm, and ordered staff to pretend they were doing deals as analysts gathered in Houston for their annual meeting with the firm ...

Mr Phelan said that staff were brought in from other floors to the EES "war room", and telephone calls into the centre were scheduled in order to create a buzz. The whole operation was carefully choreographed in order to provide the most buoyant impression on analysts.
They misunderestimated the power of the dark side

Google's unofficial philosophy is "Don't be Evil." Hence our concern at seeing this item in Friday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd).

Google recruits Bush ex-aide Dan Senor to aid competition with Microsoft in China and elsewhere.

Yes, that Dan Senor.

UPDATE NOV 8 2005: This link-rich item from Sourcewatch says that the deal with Google quickly fell through, Senor's VRC connections being too hot to handle.
Euphemism of the evening

Dubya: activity and action

Meaning that even though the War on Terror has coincided with increased global terrorism, the victims are not American and therefore don't figure in his culture of life. Full quote:

Q Mr. President, your State Department has reported that terrorist attacks around the world are at an all-time high. If we're winning the war on terrorism, as you say, how do you explain that more people are dying in terrorist attacks on your watch than ever before?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we've made the decision to defeat the terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them here at home. And when you engage the terrorists abroad, it causes activity and action ...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

UK Election: 1

Our quick summary of where stands the controversy over the legality of the Iraq war as far as Britain was concerned: Blair's position is that the 2003 invasion was covered by the UN resolution authorising the eviction of Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.

Here is the legal advice of 17 March 2003 given to Blair. Note the card-trick shuffling of 3 different resolutions -- (i) the Kuwait resolution, (ii) the ceasefire resolution, and (iii) the WMD resolution. The advice says that (ii) caused the authority for force under (i) to lapse, unless (ii) was breached by Iraq, and that (iii) declared that (ii) was breached, therefore (i) was reactivated. Got it?

Note, by the way, the complete absence of any goal of bringing democracy to the Middle East in this rationale.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Plutonium-eating fission monkeys

It took a while, but Dubya has found something about France that he likes:

Unfortunately, America has not ordered a new nuclear power plant since the 1970s. France, by contrast, has built 58 plants in the same period. And today, France gets more than 78 percent of its electricity from safe, clean nuclear power.
Something much more important

When Tory leader Michael Howard says "... I'm sure we can do it," we're delighted to report that it's not evidence of electoral delusion, but in fact of one of his redeeming qualities, his support for Liverpool Football Club:

The capacity crowd [for Chelsea vs Liverpool] includes Conservative leader Michael Howard, a Liverpool fan, who told BBC News 24: "We're just two games away from the final and another game away from the Champions' League trophy and I'm sure we can do it."
France/EU: 1

We had hoped to soon bring our legion of French followers the exclusive BoBW voter guide to the EU Constitutional referendum there on 29 May. Tempting as it would be to get our keenly-awaited position out, we've realised that the underlying issues are, like, complicated, so holding forth now would make us too much like the many know-nothing right-wing bloggers out there.

As indicated a couple of days ago, we're leaning towards the No side in France, but we'd like to spend a few posts, beginning with this one, to think through our position. We also encourage you to visit other blogs that are taking the issue seriously, such as Fistful of Euros and Dan Drezner.

Anyway, here's observation #1, crystallised by an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal Europe (subs. req'd). In the company the Journal keeps, the referendum doesn't have many well-wishers, but the editorial confines itself to praising the French decision to ratify it with a popular referendum as opposed to ramming it through the Assembly -- which they say has prompted a more informed public debate:

... myths and misconceptions can be debunked, or at least called into question. Listen to Nicolas Sarkozy, the ambitious head of the ruling party, who last week told students at Paris Dauphine university: "Why am I pro-European? Because I think it is a powerful lever to force France to modernize and reform. If France has twice as much unemployment as other countries it is not because we are too liberal, it is because we have the 35-hour week, which is not a creation of Brussels." It's about time someone said that.

But Sarkozy's tough words seem to mean that the EU is good because it forces France to do things that domestically the populace wouldn't vote for. We'd like to think that the case for EU is more than, as the Americans say, something that makes you eat your spinach.
Wanted: An Irish Government

Because, when the current one is not lying and not improving our airports, it's not doing anything at all. In particular, they're not reading memos, and not showing up to the Dail (parliament) -- except maybe the bar:

[ news, subs. req'd] Former Health Minister Micheal Martin's special advisor admitted today that it was "exceptional" that he didn't read crucial briefing notes on the illegal nursing charges before a major department meeting in December 2003.

...[advisor] who has 30 years experience as a civil servant, said: "I personally didn't read it before the meeting. "It would have been emailed to me on the Monday evening but for whatever reason I didn't access it before I went to the meeting.

Committee member, Senator Mary Henry asked if it was "exceptional" not to read a briefing document before a meeting. Mr Mannion replied: "It was, yeah" and agreed that, with the benefit of hindsight, he should have read it.


[Irish Times, subs. req'd] Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last week reprimanded Government TDs over their low attendance in the Dáil when he is answering questions.

Despite this, the Government benches were sparsely populated yesterday afternoon as he answered questions.

Yesterday there were less than 20 Government TDs, less than half of whom were backbenchers, in the Dáil ... "Punchestown [horseracing] is on," said one TD as an explanation. "There are no votes in Dublin on a Tuesday afternoon," said another.

UPDATE 29 April: A story that embodies the Oirish Punchestown culture of Dail attendance: Jim McDaid is a TD and MD who got busted for drunk-driving on Tuesday -- driving the wrong way on a dual-carriageway. His narrative of the events:

Dr McDaid said yesterday that when in the Dáil on Tuesday a friend had phoned him inviting him to travel with him by helicopter from City West to Punchestown racecourse.

"I drove out to City West and then we travelled to the races together. My friend had a box there and I was offered a glass of white wine.

"In those corporate boxes they just keep topping up your glass."

2nd UPDATE 3 May: Fintan O'Toole in the Irish Times (subs. req'd) says it better than we can:

This confection of cynicism and incompetence is what we call government. Political strokes, administrative chaos and professional self-interest creates a system in which public money is thrown at anything except social justice. But don't worry - the good news is that no one is responsible.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Indeed, it must

New York Times, today, headline on page D2:

About the Oceans, He says Firmly, Attention Must Be Paid

New York Times, today, first paragraph of different story on page D3:

A peregrine falcon dive-bombing at several hundred miles an hour to knock a pigeon out of the sky would seem to be a study in single-mindedness. At those speeds, attention must be paid.
New to you, Andrew, new to you

On-again, off-again blogger Andrew Sullivan, trying to sound in the know about his outing to a strange American institution known as a "baseball game," gushes thusly:

Vile but irresistible hot dogs; a new foodstuff known as dippin' dots; occasional flashes of excitement interrupted by really hot guys with guts spitting into the grass; and, the piece de resistance, Karl Rove down front, chatting on his cell-phone.

Well, new in the sense that dippin' dots (those yummy little ice cream pellets) were invented in 1988 and are now available, like, everywhere...

Notice, too, that he doesn't group Karl Rove with the "really hot guys with guts." Can we assume that was some sort of typo?

He also missed a lot of Oktoberfests

Over at the National Review's Amen Corner, house theologian of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy Michael Novak chimes in with one of the weirdest hymns of praise of yet for Pope Benedict XVI.

There's the awkward matter of the necessary compromises of the young Joseph Ratzinger in Nazi Germany to which Novak cuts through by pointing out the extra sacrifice involved in Ratzinger's decision to enter the priesthood. Namely, that 1945 Germany was BABE CENTRAL because there were all these Bavarian frauleins whose husbands were dead, there for the taking for an eligible young man like him. And, No, as with most VRWC commentary these days, we're not making this up:

When the totally humiliating defeat of the Nazis arrived in 1945, Josef Ratzinger had barely reached his 18th birthday. His whole future lay open before him, free at last of Nazi tyranny. There were hundreds of thousands of young women of Germany whose boyfriends or young husbands had perished in distant places ...

He chose, as not so many did, philosophical and theological studies leading toward ordination as a Catholic priest. But one price of making that choice was to sacrifice his sexual life in a vow to seek a higher love, in the following of Christ, the Son of God.
9/11 still hurts

That's the only explanation for why this sentence from the Dubya-Crown Prince Abdullah love-in in Crawford bothers us so much:

Finally, the United States and Saudi Arabia agree that our future relations must rest on a foundation of broad cooperation. We must work to expand dialogue, understanding, and interactions between our citizens. This will include programs designed to (1) increase the number of young Saudi students to travel and study in the United States;

We're well aware the equation (Saudi students = 9/11) is unfair. We're just saying what we think.

Monday, April 25, 2005

An EU question

We know that our vast French readership eagerly awaits our official position on the European Constitution referendum there at the end of next month. As of now, we're a tad disillusioned with where the EU is headed and so the forthcoming BoBW position paper (available in English only) is likely to recommend a No vote.

One example of why we're leaning this way is the following. The continued imperative for eastward expansion of the EU is captured in today's ceremony in Luxembourg to mark the agreement that Bulgaria and Romania will enter the EU in less than two years. So: why is the EU planning to admit a country, Romania, from which the existing EU members are still having to deal with asylum seekers? Example: the Republic of Ireland:

A total of 1,250 applications have been received in the first three months of this year. Almost half these came from Nigeria with the remainder from Somalia, Romania, Afghanistan and Sudan.

To belabour the obvious, doesn't it seem that a country's ability to generate home-grown refugees might be seen as a bad sign of its fitness for membership?
None if by air

Showing once again that it is on the side of Good, the New York Times follows up Sunday's slam of the (Irish) Sunday Independent with an op-ed piece by Colm Tóibín in opposition to the proposed motorway next to the Hill of Tara in County Meath. While we modestly believe that our own incomparable tirades on this subject, most recently here, are at least as good as Colm's piece, we'll grant that a star writer with yet another award under his belt might rally a few more to the cause.

Of course you should read it all (2nd link here), not least for the fine side illustration of the entire island getting paved over, which for residents of County Meath is what things currently seem like (there are other motorways being built besides the proposed one next to Tara). Frankly we think Colm pulls a couple of punches, not least in words of quasi-praise for the maniacal road builders at the National Roads Authority:

The National Roads Authority in Ireland has built up significant expertise in doing these [archeological] rescue missions according to best possible practice.

We never see the point in praising an institution for doing something that they should be doing -- and careful digging and transportation to a warehouse in Dublin doesn't offset the visual destruction that the motorway will cause.

Let's use a different news item to take one more run at the insanity of the Republic's transportation policy. The government is emphasising tolled motorways for an island of about 5 million people with virtually no international transit traffic. And it's an island, so you'd think the points of transit in and out of the country would be getting some attention. But No.

Instead we have Dublin Airport, a developing country-style single terminal facility with now up to 90 minute wait at security after lapses a couple of weeks ago. This is on top of all the other aggravations to which passengers had already resigned themselves. So for the tens of millions people travelling to the airport from the west, there will be flashy motorways to speed them past all that pesky historical stuff. All the time gained will then be spent, plus some extra, in queues at the airport. Brilliant!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

A modern Irish wake

Sunday's New York Times has a long story on the sad case of Kay Cregan, a woman from Limerick who went, unknownst to her family, to New York City for plastic surgery. She died on St Patrick's Day from complications, and the surgeon, Dr. Michael Sachs, had been sailing close to edge of malpractice for years. The problem of keeping track of dodgy doctors is difficult enough even within a single country and of course multiplies greatly across international borders, something which worked to this doctor's advantage as he built up a market in Ireland.

One thing that the NYT story correctly brings out is the abject nature of media ethics in Ireland. We've noted before how the Irish media, with the general exception of the Irish Times, sticks to a fairly simple diet of boosterish stories of Irish success, celebrity trash, and hysterical but easily manipulated and attention-deficient coverage of political scandals. The lead practioner of this form of journalism is Independent newspapers, which needless to say features in the Cregan case.

She had seen a typical VIP/High-Living feature in the Sunday Independent on the miracles this doctor worked, a feature with not a single Google on his background. The NYT at least shames the Indo into a weaselish quote:

The result of [Sachs'] agreement with Mrs. Donaghy [previous Irish patient who got free surgery] was a cover article in the Independent's Sunday magazine. "People have been stopping me on the street to tell me how good I look," Mrs. Donaghy was quoted as saying. "I'm having the time of my life." The article gave contact information and a Web site for Dr. Sachs but omitted any mention of the problems he faced.

"If this guy is fit to practice medicine in the United States, who are we to say he's not fit to practice?" said Brendan O'Connor*, the editor of The Sunday Independent magazine. But Mr. O'Connor said last week he was unaware of the 33 lawsuits or the restrictions placed on Dr. Sachs by New York State health authorities.

The standard weekend filler in any of the papers will be a description of holidays, restaurants, or services "reviewed" by a writer, often without even the most basic disclaimer as to what was paid for and what background research was done (the answer usually being zero in both cases -- but why ruin a good freebie?). Of course every case is very different and Mrs Cregan's behaviour was the unexpected addition to what the Indo viewed as harmless filler.

A couple of final thoughts. One hopes that the Cregans don't run up against Dubya's War on "Frivolous" Lawsuits in any legal action they pursue in the USA. And that they manage to take the Indo to the cleaners in any action there or in Ireland.

*UPDATE: Kieran at Crooked Timber notes the descent into hackery of Mr O'Connor, someone he once knew. Also, RTE audio file on the case here.

UPDATE 29 April: It's a small world. RTE has found that then Minister for Finance and current European Union Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy lobbied then Minister for Health and current Minister for Enterprise & Employment Michael Martin in 2003 to allow Dr Sachs to do free plastic surgery for disfigured Irish children. Since the State already provided this service, the only interpretation is that Sachs wanted a PR stunt to make his name in the Irish market. But then he discovered he didn't need a charitable approach when he had the shills at the Sunday Independent at his disposal.

FINAL UPDATE 2 JAN 2006: The Cregan family is suing.
An Irish question

Can the Republic's soi-disant smart nationalist, Martin Mansergh, write a column about any issue without a favourable mention for Eamon De Valera? Saturday's Irish Times (subs. req'd):

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Pope Benedict XVI, and most have applauded the name, deserves the goodwill and good wishes of all Christians, in what is an immensely onerous task for a man of any age, writes Martin Mansergh ...

... In 1921 Pope Benedict XV, who tried to stop the first World War and wanted to save the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, sent a message to George V on the eve of the Treaty negotiations on October 19th, 1921 ... De Valera disputed several points in what he considered the tendentious Lloyd George-drafted reply.

Friday, April 22, 2005

We're not in Geneva anymore

As the Bush Administration and the extended Vast Rightwing Conspiracy gears up to preen and strut in vacuous condemnation of the videotaped Iraqi insurgent murder of an injured Bulgarian helicopter pilot, there's one thing they'll have to remember before they bravely man the keyboards: They can't argue the killing is a violation of the Geneva Conventions (which it is) -- because they themselves have argued that the Conventions do not apply in this context.

The insurgents are not "uniformed soldiers fighting for a conventional army," say the spinners. It'll be interesting to see which of them falls into the trap.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Benedict XVI can't be this bad

Adrian IV.
Born in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire ... His controversial reign as Pope lasted from 1154 to 1159 ... crowned Frederick I Holy Roman Emperor at St Peter’s in 1155, enraging Romans. That same year, he gave Ireland to Henry II.
Being Dubya's speechwriter

Means that each speech on Social Security abolition requires a line like this:

[to South Carolina legislature] See, telling younger workers they have to save money in a 1930s retirement system is like telling them that they have to use a cell phone with a rotary dial.

To insurance convention in Washington DC: Offering young workers a 1930's-era retirement system is like trying to persuade them that vinyl LPs are better than iPods.

UPDATE: The Washington Post also makes note of the trend.
Lies and the lying liars who tell them (Irish edition)

Just to help us (and anyone else who cares) keep track, the following is just the immediate set of statements located somewhere between glaring inconsistencies and flat-out lies springing from the Republic's cabinet:

Current Minister for Enterprise and former Minister for Health Michael Martin is probably lying when he says he wasn't told about illegal charges on nursing home residents.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is probably lying with a similar claim.

Former Minister for Enterprise and current Minister for Health Mary Harney is probably lying about her role in soliciting the Turkish version of Halliburton to enter the Irish public procurement market

Minister for Transport Martin Cullen, who has recently probably lied about how a "friend" got a no-bid PR contract from his previous department, is currently lying about what the government has decided to do with Aer Lingus and Dublin Airport
(for clarity, we note that since the Cabinet hasn't made any decision yet, he's either making a false claim that a decision has been made, or is trying to pre-empt such a decision).

(to be updated)
The necessary backdrop for the revolution to be televised

It's now clear that the new standard for any kind of mass movement to make it to our TV screens with approving coverage is that: the crowd must be good looking. We noted this phenomenon for Kiev and Beirut and in a funny Washington Post piece today, Tina Brown confirms that it was true for Rome as well:

"Italians look so good, too," one cable anchor told me. "No one's fat over there."
Vache folly

When we first heard the following last week, we thought it was a joke, but seeing it again today in the Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) confirms that it's true:

French farmers have exploited the [EU Constitution] debate to gain special concessions from the government: Paris recently agreed to subsidize one-week summer vacations for livestock farmers, a majority of who were planning to vote against the treaty, according to recent polls.

It's not yet clear whether this promise is like a famous (in Ireland) desperation-induced pre-election giveaway in Dublin in 1982: one that gets taken away if the government doesn't get the result it wants.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Google in amber

Since it seems that the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy as represented by the Amen Corner has settled on B16 as the shorthand for Pope Benedict XVI (as Roger Ailes, inter alia, also notices), we thought it be worth seeing what pops up in a Google search for B16 now, before it gets driven way down in the rankings by the frantic clickings of Novak, Goldberg, Lopez, and the other defenders of the faith.

So, one thing that B16 is also: a crystal lattice so complicated that only the Holy Spirit could really know what it means.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The neocons strike back

Did Richard Perle just become Pope Benedict XVI?
A Kildare man botches US pop culture

We wonder if the Wall Street Journal dug up an old Ireland-themed editorial today (see last post) in homage to opinion page contributor Charlie McCreevy, longtime Irish politician. Because he's there today (subs. req'd) in his new role as European Union internal market commissioner to plug his trip to New York this week to discuss financial regulation. It's laughable to see Charlie outline his basic principle for his EU-US talks -- "better regulation" -- since under his time as the Republic of Ireland's Minister for Finance, the basic principle was no regulation at all.

But let's leave such carping aside and comment merely on Charlie's preferred analogy for the EU-US relationship. In what may be a reflection of a search for an analogy that would click with the alleged tribe of South Park Republicans, he goes for the Simpsons:

Read through the papers on both sides of the Atlantic and you'd think the EU and U.S. had a Bart and Homer Simpson relationship -- one side (and I'm not saying which) annoying the other beyond endurance, the other throttling away in frustration.
But add up the sum of the parts and the relationship looks more like Marge and Homer Simpson: A partnership based on experience and understanding, albeit with plenty of bickering at the margins.

Er ... we're not sure that solves the problem with the Bart-Homer comparison, since it's not clear that either side would want to be either character, leaving us wondering if Charlie has ever actually watched the show. But at least he didn't try to fit the two powers into Mr Burns and Smithers.
Editorial Recycling

One of the reasons this blog is called Best of Both Worlds is that we like to bring our vast readership perspectives from two continents using the speed and simultaneity of the Internets. We thus feel superior today to the Wall Street Journal, in which the US edition just re-uses an editorial from the European edition a few weeks ago about the Irish Republic's law requiring Irish language placenames on signposts in Irish speaking areas. We blogged about it back then, but the WSJ doesn't even take advantage of the reusage to make the editorial free this time, so there really is nothing to new to add.

And it's not like the editors are using the time freed up by a cut and paste from a regional edition to do any actual, like, editing, because on the web opinion page blurb for this article, we see:

A U.S. pope is out of the quesiton--and that says something damning about America's Catholic Chruch.

Is the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy gearing up for a War on English?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Typo of the day

If you're writing a slam of the recently deceased Andrea Dworkin, as Andrew Sullivan does, with one of her themes being the costs to women of the commercialization of sex, you'd think you'd be careful about avoiding a typo like this:

the power of the state to censor and coerce sexual feedom

But then again, if you were being careful about that, you'd probably also just want to spell her name right:

Like Dowkin

[Previous entry in this series.

UPDATE 19 April: And yes, it's usually the good people at Sullywatch who are all over Sully's typos, it took us a while to figure out how to find a typical link in SW's archives, but here we go.]

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Enumerating old themes

It's not getting any easier to know what's going on with Andrew Sullivan. He finally got around to officially retracting his supposed retirement from blogging, but despite occasional signs that he is, as Sullywatch puts it, heading towards semi-reasonableness, there's a few warning signs of Old Sully in his Sunday Times column today:

That IO [Iraqi insurgent Information Operation] platform was amplified by an American election much of last year, where journalists couldn’t help but report Iraq through the lens of domestic politics. Now, that is less evident.

The remaining difficulties are still reported. But the American press, even in its most liberal redoubts, has essentially changed its tune since January 30.

Which sounds like his notorious "fifth column" accusation just dressed up in new jargon. But there's also the unintended self-mockery. Take this passage:

Under autocracies people are manipulated by paranoia and resentment. In democracies they force their leaders to give them better sewers and roads and schools and police

-- perhaps a subconscious but awkward homage to John Betjeman's sarcastic In Westminster Abbey:

Think of what our Nation stands for,
Books from Boots and country lanes,
Free speech, free passes, class distinction,
Democracy and proper drains.

Then again, Betjeman's wartime verses provide an apt summary of the reactionary right's home front contributions to the War on Terror:

I will labour for Thy Kingdom,
Help our lads to win the war,
Send white flowers to the cowards
Join the Women's Army Corps,
Then wash the Steps around Thy Throne
In the Eternal Safety Zone.

The one difference is that where his subject still prays to God, her modern day equivalents have substituted George W. Bush.
Globalisation beats the Irish

A funny side observation from a brief Irish Times (subs. req'd) preview of an impending restaurant in Dublin. The son of Patrick Guilbaud (Ireland's most consistent Michelin-rated chef) is planning the place, leading Patrick to reflect on how much Dublin has changed:

In the very early days [1984], he recalls, there was such demand for Piat d'Or that he was forced, reluctantly, to add it to the wine list.

Indeed, who amongst us doesn't recall the time when Blue Nun, Liebfraumilch, and Le Piat d'Or were the height of sophistamacation. Now of course we've moved on the point where we can talk about wine at dinner with the same ease as James Bond's witticisms about Dom Perignon -- and definitely not anything as gauche as asking for red Chianti with sole, as in From Russia With Love.

But who's had the last laugh? For shocking as it may seem, Le Piat d'Or is still around, along with a few humourous imitators, and it's in the brand portfolio of none other than Diageo, who also own Guinness. Via the miracle of corporate synergy, the plonk thus has the same status as our treasured national beverage, and probably doesn't look much different on the spreadsheets at Diageo HQ in London. Indeed, the corporation is now brilliantly placed to capitalise on the inevitable "ironic" return to drinking the wine that, the ads told us, the French adore.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A question about Dick Cheney's tax return

The Veep's total tax liability was $394,000 of which $103,000 was paid with the filing of the return today. Normally such a large final payment would incur a penalty. So is it included in that payment today -- and if so, is Dick steamed at his accountant? Or do Dick's many interests get him under "special rules for farmers and fishermen"?

UPDATE: Reader LR draws our attention to the Veep's 2003 tax return, where he had made about the same payments prior to filing as this year. This may bring him under one of the exceptions to the penalty rule. Also, check out Dick's ability to earn $627,000 in non-taxable interest income! And here's the 2004 return, without the additional pages to explain if there is a penalty. Any chance of seeing the attached statements?

FURTHER UPDATE APRIL 18: The Washington Post is also curious about the witholding:

I [Dan Froomkin] have one question: Apparently, the Cheneys under-withheld over the course of the year to the tune of $102,663. Isn't that against the rules? Tax experts, let me know: [e-mail in article] ... to which Cheney's accountant responds the same way as reader LR above].
Political epitaphs a la Piaf

"Je ne regrette rien," then UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont, following the pound currency crisis in 1992.

"Je ne le comprends pas," Jacques Chirac on the negative tone of questions in last night's Dubya-style discussion forum about the EU constitution.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The War on Le Corbusier

Dubya today, in a speech to newspaper editors:

The people of Afghanistan proved that theory right, as poor people were subjugated to incredible brutalism

[Note -- in fairness to Dubya, or at least to his ability to read, he did switch to brutality right afterwards]
It's like the Benny Hill show, only classier

Lucian Freud's new painting: The Painter Surprised by a Naked Admirer.

Identity of the new Jane Leeves discussed here, or, for the benefit of our vast French readership, here.
Birds of a feather

We had recently posted about one greasy till downside of the new prosperous Republic of Ireland -- the unfair treatment of overseas workers on big construction projects in Ireland, and the willing participation of Irish companies in dubious overseas transactions. Over the last fortnight, the local news has featured continuing revelations about the employment practices of Gama Construction, a Turkish firm that has done very well out of the government's tendering process for road and power projects.

What began as a fairly straightforward allegation of wage law violations became more complex when it was discovered that the company, for reasons still unclear, had been dumping a portion of the wages for their Turkish workers into bank accounts in the Netherlands -- without telling the workers. A likely possibility was that the firm was using the tactic to show full payment of wages to Dublin's somnolent regulators, yet would later reclaim the money on the grounds that it was either unclaimed or to cover unspecified "expenses."

Since we live in the age of Google, it's interesting to see what pops up in a search for the company's background -- although we wonder if this simple step was ever considered by the Irish government before embracing the company so completely. It's not hard to see a picture of a would-be Turkish Halliburton:

A 1996 announcement about a joint venture power plant in Turkey: An Enron Corp. affiliate holds a 50 percent interest in the Trakya Electrik power project. Affiliates of the following companies own the remaining percentages of the Trakya project: Midlands Electricity of the United Kingdom, 31 percent; GAMA Endustri of Turkey, 10 percent; and Wing International, Ltd. of the United States, 9 percent.

Enron Engineering and Construction affiliates and a GAMA affiliate have formed a consortium that is acting as the turnkey construction contractor. Another Enron affiliate is expected to be the plant’s operation and maintenance contractor.

The company is keen to do business in Iraq.

And, inevitably: a Houston-Halliburton-Iraq connection.

We suppose that the most charitable thing to say is that globalisation is a messy business.

UPDATE 15 April: Let's hope that the relevant minister during much of Gama's shenanigans, Mary Harney, has her story straight on how she never directly solicited the company to enter the Irish market. Because there are certainly some tempting trails to be found on the web about how she might have had the opportunity to do so.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

If it was an orange gun, we would have seen it

Many of our readers will have experienced the chaos of Dublin Airport. Not entirely surprisingly, it turns out the culture of official indifference at the airport extends to security as well:

RTÉ News has learned that an investigation is underway at Dublin Airport after reports of major breaches of security over the past few days.

The breaches were discovered during a security audit by the European Civil Aviation Council and the Department of Transport.

Inspectors managed to conceal knives in their shoes, a knife was hidden inside an item of women's underwear, a handgun was smuggled in down the back of one man's trousers and, most significantly, a replica bomb was concealed inside a bag for check-in.

Don't they know that Dublin airport security guards are most likely to pay attention when the offending item is a Glasgow Rangers jersey?
Does that mean Halliburton is the Invisible Hand?

[Dubya, today in Texas] The troops from Fort Hood have done their part. In Baghdad, soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division launched Operation Adam Smith, and the new generation of Iraqi entrepreneurs you helped nurture will create jobs and opportunities for millions of their fellow citizens.
Now we know where the snakes went

If you've been reading our posts over the last week, you'll know of our amazement at the lunacy of elite Irish-American Catholic reaction to the Pope's death compared with the relative sober assessments of Catholic Ireland. And if you've been following our links, you'll know that we've found the Daily Howler to be an excellent resource for documenting this gulf.

It's appropriate therefore that we can't do any better than reproduce a segment of today's Howler on the antics of CNN's Capital Gang last Saturday evening. A little context: the show also featured a bizarre video montage on the conversion of panelist Robert Novak to Catholicism, and a regular panelist is Kate O'Beirne, one of the resident loons at the National Review magazine. The show does a regular spot at the end called "outrage of the week." So:

And Kate O'Beirne was kookier still when she was asked for the week’s biggest outrage. O'Beirne, Novak’s plu-pious godmother [for his conversion], was simply outraged by Ireland's conduct. Try to believe this occurred:

[Al] HUNT (continuing directly): Kate.
O'BEIRNE: The Irish government refused to declare a national day of mourning to mark the death of Pope John Paul II. Reportedly, businesses in Ireland worried about the cost of shutting down for a day ...

[Howler resumes] Excuse us? Ireland didn’t shut down business to honor the pope—and that was the week's biggest outrage? Of course, we didn't shut business or close schools here [USA] either—but O'Beirne was outraged when Ireland stayed open!

Amen to that. Plenty of bad stuff had happened during that week, and our personal view was that for once, Bertie Ahern had been basically correct that the Papal funeral was a matter of personal choice on how it should be observed. But it's symptomatic of what the American reactionary right has been reduced to -- an endless quest for new enemies that now embraces the insufficiently pious along all the other categories over the last five years.

Note, by the way, that O'Beirne's outrage at the new pagan Ireland doesn't extend to her boycotting the National Review cruise there this summer.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Never one but two

America's many self-styled Defenders of the Faith will have a difficult time figuring out which of the following two events forms the bigger outrage:

[BBC] Six football supporters have been charged with sectarian hate crime following Sunday's Scottish Cup semi-final between Hearts and Celtic.
A section of fans disrupted a minute's silence in memory of Pope John Paul II at Hampden Park.


[Washington Post]Booed in Rome

Victor L. Simpson reports for the Associated Press: "When Bush's face appeared on giant screen TVs showing the ceremony, many in the crowds outside St. Peter's Square booed and whistled."
We're thankful this headline is not true

Times of London story about the personal life of England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson:

How Sven uses Chris De Burgh to woo women

Chris De Burgh is the amazingly durable warbler and long-time resident of Ireland, and is widely known either for the song "Lady in Red" or for possibly having rigged the Miss Ireland and Miss World 2003 contests in favour of his daughter.

But anyway, back to the matter at hand. It turns that we don't actually know whether Sven's dates would involving dimming the lights and playing "Lady in Red" -- he's just portrayed as doing so in a Swedish play based loosely on his life. So hopefully it's not true -- it's not possible for celebrities to be that cheesy, right?
Great craic for the insurers

A while ago we referred to the Irish Republic as "Bermuda with better food." Recent events provide the excuse the revive and reinforce this description. We refer in particular to news stories that have so far resided in the business sections of the paper -- therefore causing eyes to glaze over -- but which function as commentaries on some of the less savoury activities in the new Ireland.

Giant American insurer AIG headed by Maurice Greenberg is being investigated for dodgy deals with fellow giant insurer General Re headed by Warren Buffett. The deals were designed to make AIG's balance sheet look better than it really was. One deal was run out of General Re's Dublin office and was managed by an executive there who was a refugee from a huge insurance scandal in Australia.

When the Irish "miracle" is being discussed, analysts like to point to the Republic's supply side type policies, but the uncomfortable truth is that for some sectors, the prospect of lax regulation while being within the European Union umbrella is very attractive. Sure, you could set up your financial garbage disposal unit in the Caymans, but that causes raised eyebrows amongst global regulators these days. How much easier to put it in Dublin, get the tax breaks, and run rings around the Irish regulators who can't even supervise the local retail banks properly, let alone large corporations with basically limitless access to clever accountants and lawyers?

And so we have details like this from today's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd):

John Houldsworth [Australian exec.] retains his title of chief underwriter for General Re's finite insurance products in Dublin, although in the past couple of months he has been focused on helping the company research potentially troublesome transactions amid the continuing probe of the insurance industry, people close to the matter say.

This delicate phrasing has funny echoes of the Garda Siochana's preferred usage when they know who did it but haven't assembled all the evidence yet: "helping police with their inquiries."

And what would a scandal be without a corporate euphemism or two:

Meanwhile, Mr. Houldsworth continues to work in General Re's Alternative Solutions Group in Dublin. He helped work out the exact terms of the AIG transaction, according to a person close to the investigation.

.. a name which reminds us of that notorious South African Coups'R'Us outfit Executive Outcomes. What's missing so far is a corporate name or euphemism that manages to mingle Celtic mysticism with financial skullduggery, but we're confident that's out there somewhere.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Typo of the Day

White House transcript of Dubya's chat with reporters after the JP2 funeral:

Q Can I ask you about Tom Delay, the statement he made in the wake of the Shiva case.
The Irish export miracles

After a gentle jab at the Republic's Irish language road signs earlier in the week, Friday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) returns to a theme recently promoted in the same pages by Pat Cox -- the Irish economy as the ultimate vindication of low-tax supply side economics. The pitch this time is the usefulness of the lesson for Colombia:

[President] Uribe need look no further than Ireland, a Catholic nation once hopelessly mired in poverty, dominated by socialist thought and somewhat fatalistic toward what seemed a hopeless plight ...

Much of what Ireland first tried when it faced budget deficit problems will be familiar to Colombians, including tax hikes that managed to cut the primary deficit in half but also suffocated growth ...

What differentiates those two periods [late 90s vs early 90s] is the change in Ireland's tax regime. In 1996 the corporate tax rate was 40% but by 2000 it was down to 24%, making Ireland a magnet for capital ...

But what's missing in Colombia is an application to supply-side growth of the kind of unyielding commitment that Mr. Uribe applied to security. Should he change course, the Irish miracle would be the best blueprint.

Now a sleepy Friday is not the best time to get into the details of how this is a pretty questionable reading of Irish corporate tax policy (which had incentives for multinationals long before the particular cut in the headline rate referred to). So let's merely note that this recommendation provides a new cover story for Sinn Fein's Colombia Three, allegedly in the country to provide military training to the rebels, but perhaps ripe for repackaging as economic advisers to the Colombian government. Brilliant!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

More Irish than the Irish themselves

It's a sign of our exasperation with the mostly uncritical coverage of the Pope in the American media that we'll take this observation from Andrew Sullivan at face value:

This Pope lost even Ireland. Yes, Ireland. How much more damning an indictment can there be?

Indeed. It's inconceivable that a Papal visit to Ireland now (which was not out of the question -- JP2 was thinking about visiting Northern Ireland) would draw the national single-mindedness such as described by the blog GUBU's account of his 1979 visit. Church attendance and vocations have collapsed. You won't hear the reasons why amidst the construction of a new Holy Trinity of JP2, Reagan, and Dubya, but they're not hard to figure out: consider Fintan O'Toole's analysis of the institutional ossification of the Church, and Malachi O'Doherty's account of how the Irish church is drowning in the cynicism that it created.

And yet in contrast to the relatively even-handed assessments of the Pope in the Irish media, we've had nothing but an Amen corner of Irish-American papal punditry since last week. The Daily Howler bluntly calls attention to the prime source of this drivel -- the concentration of very wealthy, very influential Catholic Irish-Americans at the NBC network:

How Catholic is NBC News? Let’s run down the major players, as we’ve done in the past. Anchor of NBC Nightly News? Brian Williams, Irish Catholic. Head of Meet the Press? Tim Russert, Irish Catholic. Official hood ornament for MSNBC? Chris Matthews, Irish Catholic. Ubiquitous commentator on all programs MS? Pat Buchanan, Irish Catholic. And who’s the president of NBC? Bob Wright, Irish Catholic.

It's telling when you're being out-sycophanted (if that's a word) by Fox News, but that where's NBC is right now. Part of what's going on here is something we've mentioned before -- the shift to the reactionary right of the old Irish-American populist tradition. And just to be clear, the issue here is not the concentration of particular profiles in these jobs per se, but the degree to which it's affecting the content of the news that gets delivered. [Apr 27: More Howler on this here].

Finally, as we hinted a few days ago, the oddest thing about this televised piety of the rich and famous is the degree to which it has produced a Lutheran parody of Catholicism, with constellations of political saints obscuring the sight of Jesus. So when the aforementioned Andrew Sullivan proffers that:

[Catholic Church revival] will require amending some of the most anti-modern aspects of Church teaching on sexual ethics or the role of women and a refocus on the simple and powerful message of the Gospels.

we wonder whether it's time to start a countdown on his conversion to Anglicanism. Or, God forbid, ours!

UPDATE 13 April: that clock on Sully's conversion just moved ahead a bit: "Cardinal Law is now an esteemed part of the Roman establishment" -- a usage that is a tad Protestant, don't you think? And, [FURTHER UPDATE 19 APRIL] note for future reference that we made our prediction before Sullivan's apparent (and understandable) crisis of faith with Benedict XVI.
Lest we remember

Dubya and Condi are in Italy. The security precautions are intensive:

[CNN] To protect the dignitaries, Rome will close its airspace on Thursday and Friday for a 5-mile (8-km) radius. The nearby Ciampino airport will be closed and traffic at Fiumicino international airport will be reduced by nearly a third.

The air force said it will ready anti-aircraft missiles and deploy a NATO surveillance plane, drawing from past experience of high-profile state visits.

Italy took similar measures during the Group of Eight summit in Genoa in 2001.

A situation therefore that will surely jog strong memories for Condi and Dubya, because of course Dubya says that it was seeing the preparations for an air attack at Genoa that got him thinking about the possibility of air attacks back at home [in Summer 2001], and thus his decision to request the briefing entitled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US. He wasn't just clearing brush in Crawford or working out on the stairmaster with Condi -- he was thinking about potential terrorism threats. Or so he says. It's just as well that he won't be receiving communion at the funeral mass tomorrow, then.

[update 8 April: added a date for clarity, and a link]
Briefly Noted

The Wall Street Journal (European edition, subs. req'd) editorialises about the Irish Republic's new law requiring single Irish language placenames for towns in the Gaeltacht (designated Irish language areas). The Journal's take is basically the correct one -- that it's another piece of government tokenism towards a language the idea of which we all like in the abstract, but which few of us actually speak:

And although its study has been compulsory since independence in 1922, most Irish never learn more than a smattering of it, despite the huge sums the state spends every year supporting the language's use. Politicians honor its use more in the breach than the observance, conducting most parliamentary debates in English while preaching the virtues of Irish to the masses.

Their main focus is on potential confusion for drivers:

Requiring the use of Irish place-names, meanwhile, is being sold as a way of making life easier by unifying around one name. We'll try to remember that next time we're lost in County Kerry.

Of course, it's possible to get utterly lost on Irish roads even in areas where the cupla focail are not an issue.

UPDATE: The WSJ tale of sudden changes in what signposts say is not quite apposite, as this post explains; scroll down to comments.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Godfather, Part IV

Josh Marshall, amongst others, is wondering whether the sudden surge in well-sourced newspaper revelations about the corrupt House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is a sign that the White House is washing its hands of him. It's certainly convenient that Dubya is out of town while his nominal favourite Texan gets the shaft.

And it's hard not to think of the scenes from The Godfather where Michael Corleone is at the baptismal Mass while his goons dispatch his enemies. And where is Dubya headed during all this dirty work: to Mass at the Vatican! The Church may be in decline by some measures. But its imagery reigns supreme.
The USA is the new Monaco

From the London Times obituary for Prince Rainier:

Being Monaco's constitutional monarch was not a job to take lightly. The reigning prince is said to derive his power from God, and the country's constitution stipulates that "executive power derives from the high authority of the reigning prince" who not only represents Monaco in all its dealings with foreign powers but also signs and ratifies all treaties. Legal power belongs to the sovereign who delegates the full exercise of it to the courts and tribunals.
Gerry is the new Maggie

We wonder if, as Gerry Adams crafted his seemingly significant direct appeal to the IRA to give up violence, it gave him particular pleasure to organise the speech around the negation of Maggie Thatcher's famous catchphrase "There is no alternative":

In the past I have defended the right of the IRA to engage in armed struggle. I did so because there was no alternative for those who would not bend the knee, or turn a blind eye to oppression, or for those who wanted a national republic.

Now there is an alternative.
After the break: Monica Bellucci on what Mary Magdalen thinks about JP2

With still two full days to go before the Pope's funeral, we have, courtesy of New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley, a nominee for most preposterous moment of US coverage of the Pope's death:

... [CNN's] Larry King, who on Sunday asked Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ," to assess the pope's chances of making it to heaven. "Jim, you think he's with Jesus now?" Mr. King wondered. "We only have 30 seconds."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Who needs divisions when you've got missiles?

Last week we weren't blogging because we were travelling a lot. This week the problem is that the tide of drivel being said and written about the Pope has sucked the life out of other potential topics. At least Tuesday brought some signs of more sober assessments; check out this Thomas "how the Irish saved civilization" Cahill piece in the NYT, and the GUBU blog's excerpt from a critical Irish Times article. If we were to identify a single problem with the papal hagiography, it's in the presumption that he be assessed as a politician, which is what the attribution of the fall of Communism to him implies.

Of course it's historically valid to note his role in galvanizing the Polish opposition. But he's the Pope; of all Catholics, he's the one closest to God. So we have the same problem as with Dubya's line about God wanting everyone to be free: where was He before 1979? Where was He during World War II, with his then apostle Pius XII? If the standard for Popes is standing up to totalitarianism, then wasn't Pius XII a colossal failure?

Which brings us to an opinion piece by George Melloan in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd), who makes the astonishing factual claim (citing a Fox News interview as the source), that the Pope was in fact another player in the Cold War game:

[former US] Ambassador [to the Vatican, Jim] Nicholson, now U.S. secretary for Veterans Affairs, revealed on Fox News Sunday that John Paul worked closely with President Ronald Reagan in those dark days of the early 1980s, when the Soviets were threatening an invasion of Poland. The U.S. and the Vatican shared intelligence about Soviet troop movements and the pope supported the deployment of U.S. cruise missiles in Europe, controversial at the time, to counter the Soviet threat.

It seems to be par for the course now in the US media that one can simply assert facts like this unusual claim that the Pope supported cruise missiles and not be challenged. If true, it would explain JP2's effectiveness relative to Pius XII -- the latter had no military alliances to fall back on. But where's the evidence? The best we could do with Google (which is more than Melloan seems to have done) is track down this article from Vast Rightwing Conspiracy outlet The Washington Times, which to its credit is more careful about hedging its bets on a similar claim:

... the pope was shown satellite photos of Soviet SS20 missiles aimed at targets in Italy and other key European cities. This helped the pope understand the threat from Moscow's medium-range missiles, and as a result -- the sources claim -- the Vatican, normally a strong critic of weapons proliferation, did not add its voice to the chorus of European opposition to the deployment of U.S. medium-range Cruise and Pershing missiles.

So here it's correctly designated as a claim, not a fact, and the Pope's support for cruise missiles is more of a strategic silence. But now that he's dead, it seems, all the doubts disappear. While no JP2 article is complete without a reference to Stalin's aphorism "How many divisions does he have?," the Pope's new boosters don't see it as a rhetorical question. At the very least, he had the Knights Reagan and Bush.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Martin Luther says: I told you so

Or maybe he's just spinning in his grave this week. Because in the week-long blatherfest accompanying the Pope's death, how many times have you heard mentioned the name Jesus?
The only way was up

In the inevitable reflections on whether and how much interfaith relations improved during the tenure of the deceased Pope, it's worth a reminder of how bad things were before. In Saturday's Irish Times (subs. req'd), well-known Irish politician Ruari Quinn does a quick run through the 57 years or so of Irish-Israeli relations, the topic about which we have posted before.

One episode highlighted by Quinn is astonishing. In the early years of Israel's existence, the Vatican's stated position on recognition of the new state was linked to its concerns about access to and integrity of the Christian sites in Jerusalem. A Papal encyclical on these points was followed up by a letter from Archbishop John McQuaid of Dublin to the country's Chief Rabbi. Quinn doesn't provide a precise date for the letter, but it's clearly from the late 1940s, and thus after certain events about which one might expect McQuaid to show a little sensitivity.

It would indeed be a grievous pity if after having safely traversed a period of worldwide and unexampled crisis, innocent people in your community [Irish Jews] should now suffer hurt, by reason of the attitude and actions of irreligious members of Israel whose merely political and commercial aims would never be countenanced by peaceful members of your community in Dublin.

Which roughly translates as: OK, you got through the Holocaust by being in Dublin, but don't think that will save you from our local goons if your Shylocks in Jerusalem don't toe the Vatican line pretty quickly.

So yes, things have gotten better.
The Curse of Stuart

It's only taken 300 years, but the House of Stuart is truly on a roll after being shut out of the English royal succession. A little while ago we noted the news that the impending marriage of Prince Chazza to Camilla has proven to be a catalyst for legal reasoning that the portion of the 1701 Act of Settlement excluding royals who marry Catholics from the throne, has probably already lapsed. And there is new momentum to abolish the act its entirety.

That same wedding is subject to another inadvertent display of Roman power today -- scheduled for Friday, it is now being moved to Saturday so as not to clash with the Pope's funeral. As this BBC report makes clear, leaving aside the symbolism of the Windsors playing 2nd fiddle to the Papacy, there's the very practical matter of whether the Windsor registry office can accommodate Chazza and Camilla on the Saturday:

Speaking before Clarence House [Chazza's HQ] announced the postponement, Frances Foy, of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, said three weddings were due to take place on Saturday afternoon at Windsor's Guildhall.

But she said: "The morning is free, as is Sunday, so there are several possibilities."

Another council spokeswoman, Anne Dackombe, said the weddings scheduled for Saturday afternoon would not be moved. "The couples concerned have booked their weddings and that's when they want to have them, she said. "We wouldn't see that we could move those at all."

How can Private Eye's romance novel version of the story even keep up with all this material?

UPDATE 6 April: This Guardian writer also notes the historical symbolism of a royal wedding being postponed in deference to Rome.

2nd UPDATE 8 April: Another article using the historical angle on Chazza's postponed wedding, from the Wall Street Journal. Portrayed as the "revenge of the Vatican." We prefer our Stuart line.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Dissonance in the global village

We've been travelling for the last week, explaining our light posting. This took us to the East African highlands and northwestern Europe, but sadly, not the homeland. Anyway, we know that stories about the weird conjunctions created by globalisation are a dime a dozen, unless they're told by Tom Friedman, in which they're worth millions, but we can't decide which of the two following experiences along those lines is stranger:

(1) A hotel restaurant in East Africa; Terri Schiavo has just died and the many hotel TVs are showing CNN International in full Breaking News (sic) mode. The hotel band is doing Hakuna Matata, jollity all round.


(2) Watching Italian TV (RAI Uno) while the Pope is gravely ill but not yet dead. The somberness is interrupted for a video/photo montage of the Pope's life, the musical accompaniment being "What a wonderful world" by Louis Armstrong. Some photos of Louis are mixed in with those of JP2.

Item (2) is ultimately the stranger bit of media-induced conjunction we've seen so far, but we'll be relying on the blog GUBU to keep us up with Irish TV antics in the coverage, and we hope to blog about the US equivalent ourselves.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Inappropriate Poetry Corner

Lines written upon the death of Terri Schiavo, in the style of E.J. Thribb:

Farewell then
Terri Schiavo
Except that
You were
Already gone.