Saturday, February 28, 2004

Being able to travel to the USA: Priceless

For non USA citizens, visiting the USA has gotten more difficult since 9/11. And for some non-citizens, it can be impossible. But in the coverage of these unfortunate cases, there is a particular class of barred individuals whose plight has been shamefully ignored by the liberal media -- that of the rich tycoon who can't enter the USA because he'd be arrested or served with messy writs the moment he set foot in the place. And we're not talking about the exiled US citizens such as Marc Rich, forced to summer (and winter) in Zug, Switzerland, until his pardon by Bill Clinton.

Rather, we have in mind someone like Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers. Nicky can jet between Cape Town, London, and all points in between no problem, but his huge wealth is not enough to get him or any of the Oppenheimers or De Beers executives into the USA, because the government has two diamond price fixing cases pending against the family company. Nevertheless, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday (subs. req'd) that De Beers is looking to settle the cases, not least because the taint attached to diamonds from the legal concerns and their often dubious sourcing is hurting their ability to compete with other luxury goods. So one of these days, Nicky might get to visit his company's biggest market.

We bring this up because even as Nicky gets off the barred list, he could be replaced by none other than Conrad "Lord" Black. We haven't posted about Black in a while, but he suffered a major legal reversal this week when a Delaware court blocked one of his typically brazen stunts. Black was looking to do a back-door sale of his media empire at a knock-down price to a mysterious Channel Islands company, but the judge ruled that Black was trying to screw the other shareholders in his empire by doing so, and furthermore that he had almost certainly lied to the court in his explanation of how the deal was put together.

Thus poor Conrad has handed a gift to the blizzard of lawsuits against him and may even have perjured himself. Sounds like a good reason to hang out in London for a long time, safe from the reach of the American courts. While in London, he can host his pal Richard Perle, key promoter of the Iraq war, who should be flying in any day to sue the New Yorker for libel [this Slate story explains]. He can always send a shopping list for his favourite American goodies with Lady Black, who will doubtless want to take advantage of the cheap dollar to add to her shoe collection.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Soldier of Naivete

During his now extremely long tenure as leader of the Irish Republic's natural party of government, Fianna Fail, and as Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern has specialised in a studied naivete about the party's corrupt past and the ongoing tendency of its senior figures to get embroiled in extended investigations. But Bertie wants us to know that he's not completely naive, because he's gone on record today as saying that he always understood Gerry Adams to be a Provo:

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has said he has always assumed that the Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, had been a member of the IRA.

Mr Ahern said he was not concerned as to how close Mr Adams was to the IRA now.

Mr Ahern also said he did not know the present membership of the IRA army council, but that it was a question that was worth finding the answer to.

That's vintage Bertie in the last sentence -- it would be worth finding out who's on the Army Council now, but then again it would also be worth knowing the meaning of life and the latest sales figures for daughter Cecelia's chick-lit novel. Don't expect Bertie to put too much effort into that Army Council question with such other pressing issues on the table.

And Bertie's savviness about there being an Armalite on the Adams bedside table is in stark contrast to his oft-claimed ignorance about just why it was that senior Fianna Fail figures always seemed to be rolling in cash even with the economy, let alone the party's own treasury, in perpetually lean circumstances. Just this month, the Irish Times reported (subs. req'd) on a radio interview that Bertie had given the previous day:

Asked why he thought there had been such an extent of wrongdoing in the late 1980s, [Bertie] said: "The difficulty was that there were no rules. People just assumed that the highest of standards of probity and controls were in place and it got shoddy and people did wrong things."

He said he didn't suspect such activities were going on at the time. "In the ordinary run of things you get on with your work and you get on with things and you don't suspect that anyone is doing anything particularly wrong and you don't dwell on it...

Asked if he had ever suspected any of his colleagues of wrongdoing, he said: "Back in the 1980s the answer is No...I did not suspect there was anyone going around giving huge donations or involved in any kind of corruption. It's a pity any of these things happened.

So something about Gerry Adams (the Northern accent?) tipped off Bertie that there might be two sides to him, but Haughey's Dublin mansion, the private island, the trips to Paris; Liam Lawlor's delightfully Irish-named home (Somerton); the impeccably tailored Padraig Flynn, Ray Burke's trips to the Shelbourne with blank passports to meet visiting Saudis -- Bertie just had his head down, hard at work, serving the people of north Dublin and saw or heard nothing.

No wonder Dubya is visiting the Republic in June for a chat with Bertie, from whose ability to shut out the background noise and focus on what really matters he can truly learn something.
What if it was only Meath that wanted gay marriage?

Wednesday was a bad day for Dubya. Alan Greenspan spoke the truth about the tax-cuts (they'll be deducted from Americans' future social security cheques), and his proposal for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage has gone down like a lead balloon even within the home team. And it has contributed to one of the more pathetic spectacles in Blogistan -- prominent gay conservative, Andrew Sullivan, finally realising that he's as expendable as yesterday's fishwrap when it comes to his once beloved Dubya's electoral calculations. Sullywatch gets in a particularly cruel cut:

It would, come to think of it, be really, really hilarious if Sullivan went down as the Neville Chamberlain of gay history.

And Sullivan's blog has become basically an open thread of mostly negative ruminations on the perceived stab in the back. One of the reader e-mails is of Irish interest, noting accurately the counterproductive history of the attempt to play moral politics with the constitution in the Republic; the country had perfectly good (if you're anti-abortion) legislation left over from the days in the UK completely outlawing abortion, but pro-life groups wanted it "copper-fastened" with a constitutional amendment. As the reader explains, the final outcome is a legal grey area that may actually have created a limited right to get an abortion in the Republic (there is a de facto option to get one in Britain anyway).

Of course we Irish are always flattered when it seems that we have useful lessons for the rest of the world, so if Sullivan wants to use this lesson, fine. Now, there are differences between the cases. Most notably, the US always has its federal structure as a fallback option -- let the states decide how they want to handle such issues. As a unitary state, the Republic can't do that. There's not much of a "county rights" agenda in the Republic, although with the abysmal way the central government is being run these days, maybe there needs to be one. We'll spend a little while thinking about which county in such a world would the first to allow gay marriage.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Passion of the Dubya

A few months ago, President Bush was widely and justly ridiculed for a claim that each attack by insurgents in Iraq was proof that the occupation was making progress. It is likely that most people who don't think much of Dubya to begin with filed that incident under D, for delusional. But maybe it should have been under A, for apocalyptic. In a seemingly unrelated discussion reported by the New York Times by a group of clergy from different faiths of the Mel Gibson Jesus film, there is the following revealing and insightful opinion:

He [Greek Orthodox] and the other Christian clergy members agreed that the movie was based on a "theology of atonement" familiar to evangelicals, one that emphasizes Jesus' suffering and sacrifice over his resurrection.

They noted that the movie had opened with a passage from Isaiah: "With his stripes we are healed."

Mr. Blackwell, the Methodist pastor said: "If your theology is blood, and you're washed clean in the blood, then the more blood and suffering the better because the more salvation there is in it. If that's your theology, the more stripes, the more you are healed.

Not hard to see how that becomes a justification for war; the messier, the better.
Justice delayed is justice denied

A little while ago, in a post since eaten by our inability to get blogger to properly archive old posts, we had noted the extremely sloppy investigative techniques of the Irish Republic's police force in the 1970s, which had hindered a thorough investigation of bombings in Dublin and Monaghan that may have involved elements of the British security forces. We'll refer you to the Shamrockshire Eagle for more details on the latest twists in that investigation, but one lingering question for us was whether the investigation of a similar event today would be just as sloppy. We fear that it would.

Now this is not a directly comparable incident, but the way that the police are approaching the investigation of a tragic bus accident in Dublin gives us cause for concern. The accident details have filled the pages of the Irish papers since it happened on Saturday and the outline of what happened is simple and depressing: one city bus with no passengers ploughed into a line of people boarding the 66 bus to Maynooth, killing 5 and injuring 3 times as many. But from this Irish Times report, we learn that 3 days later, the police had yet to interview the driver of either bus.

Maybe we've watched too many Law and Order episodes, in which such a gap would be viewed as a disastrous error, giving the interviewees time to cook up a story. And this is presumably not a criminal investigation. But...
But 5 people are dead. Some severe individual or corporate negligence might be involved. The delay in the interviews is rationalised by the emotional state of the drivers --

Crash investigators attached to both the garda and Dublin Bus investigations are anxious to speak to the drivers. The bus company said yesterday the "level of distress and coherency are issues which are still being addressed by specialist counsellors".

But how about the emotional state of the victims? And given the inevitable feelings of guilt and responsibility, even with the best will in the world the mind can play tricks with memories of what happened as each day passes. The public have been assured that the best international experts will be brought in to figure out what happened. We suspect it will take those experts about two seconds -- someone had their foot on the accelerator when they thought they had it on the brake.

The experts would then move to secondary responsibility issues: are the pedals on the bus too close? was the bus-stop poorly designed in exposing boarding passengers to this risk (many preliminary indications say that it was). However, with the investigative delay, there is time for other explanations to emerge. Freak explanations of course, but ones that could still find a constituency. The people promulgating them might genuinely believe them (the bus just lurched forward, I never touched anything).

And the Republic being what it is, a good story is just one step removed from a media appearance, a pressure group, and a multi-year tribunal of inquiry. A contemporaneous interview with the principals would provide a baseline to judge any subsequent interpretations of the events. But now we don't have it. In this day and age, the job description of the Irish police should involve more than saying "what's going on, lads" to the local bowsies. The classic Law and Order interview strategy involves Mr Nasty and Mr Nice. There seems to be times when the Garda's Mr Nasty goes AWOL.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

His Day is Here

Yesterday we noted that, by the standards of the New Ireland, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern can be proud of his family -- one daughter married into a boyband, and the other with a high profile novel. But as Bertie looks around at his fellow prime ministers at the next summit, he might still feel like he's in the ha'penny place. Real PMs own football clubs. The prime example is Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, owner of reigning European club champions AC Milan. Now it seems like Asian PMs want in on the act. This BBC story claims that Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra wants to buy Liverpool football club and he certainly has the cash to do it.

Thaksin's entry into politics and his generally shameless self-promotion makes him very different from those reclusive Oirish businessmen who may or may not be buying Manchester United. Being Liverpool fans ourselves, our main hope would be that, if he does buy the club, he gets around to sacking manager Gerard Houllier as soon as possible, and (in the dream scenario we share with Tory leader Michael Howard) bring in Derryman Martin O'Neill from Celtic as the new manager.

But back to Bertie. What if he now views his Italian or Thai counterparts as a new role model? For one thing, the party name would have to change. Both have a preference for apolitical but populist names: for Berlusconi it's the football chant Forza Italia (Go Italy) and for Thaksin it's Thais Love Thais, a fine sentiment indeed. But Bertie is saddled with the name Fianna Fail, Soldiers of Destiny, which is a tad strident. There is however, a ready-made alternative. Look for the Republic's natural party of government to be renamed You'll Never Beat the Irish.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Anorak man spawns Blahnik Woman

The Republic of Ireland's VIP culture arrived with a thud in the USA over the weekend -- specifically the thud of the Sunday New York Times on its readers' doorsteps. Contained within the paper's Sunday Styles section was a full page ad for Cecelia Ahern's novel, P.S. I Love You. And while the NYT's readers were sold on Ms. Ahern's novel via a blurb from fellow novelist Marian Keyes, us Irish readers are more inclined to think of her as...Bertie's other daughter, not the one married to the dude from Westlife.

If all of these references are producing a series of "Who?s" from our vast American readership, we can't blame them for not being sufficiently immersed in the goings-on of the Republic's quasi-royalty. So just to get everyone caught up, Bertie is our Taoiseach (i.e. Prime Minister), Westlife is a home-grown boyband one of whom married a daughter of Bertie's last year, and now Cecelia has arrived with what is being pitched as a major Irish entry in the chick-lit sweepstakes, a genre of literature which we are poorly qualified to evaluate. But since a visit to just about any bookstore will feature a wall of chick-lit books, we are frankly sceptical that there's really a new angle or style in this one lifting it above all the others, and this Guardian article summarises the negativity.

Which quickly leads to the unsurprising implication that being the Taoiseach's daughter has opened a few doors for Cecelia. Then again, if Cecelia is thus taking advantage, it's not like she's out of step with the USA experience -- governed by George, son of George, a Federal Communications Commission headed by Michael Powell, son of Colin, and all sorts of eye-catching surnames scattered throughout the government.

So let us just conclude in the manner of the above Guardian article, and indulge in some begrudgery -- it'a far from all this she was reared. Bertie has prided himself on the image of being just the regular man in the anorak on his way to a football match on Sunday, and being down in the local in Drumcondra for a few pints with the lads. From this to Cecelia's full page NYT ad, in various shades of pink, and doubtless placed in the section most likely to have Sex and the City fans as readers, and therefore judged to be the most likely market for the book. And no need for her to flee to Paris or Zurich to achieve this level of success. Truly a tribute to the success of the Irish Republic.

Friday, February 20, 2004

A pint of Joyce and a packet of Doyle, please

Friday's New York Times returns for a 2nd bite at the cherry on the Joyce-Doyle imbroglio. As we posted about last week, the NYT had rather gullibly picked up a story from the British media in which some lighthearted and out-of-context remarks by Roddy Doyle were taken as a slam of James Joyce, creating the literary frisson equivalent of going to Kilburn to watch Irish construction workers throw each other out the windows of the local pubs. Today's article by John Rockwell (not to be confused with Felicity Shagwell) sets the record straight, noting Colum McCann's Irish Times account of what Doyle really said. The article then expands into a more general rumination about the literary theme park industry, in which Ireland clearly has a huge comparative advantage. We're not sure what the final message of the article is, although Mr Rockwell is clearly a big fan of Roddy Doyle. With whom he seems to share some legitimate scepticism about how Dublin is planning to mark the Bloomsday centenary:

For the anniversary, 10,000 people are expected on O'Connell Street for a meal of fried offal and mutton kidneys, all washed down with Guinness. "They'll be serving Joyce Happy Meals next," Mr. Doyle joked at N.Y.U. "ReJoyce 2004," as the centenary festival calls itself, also promises a music-and-light spectacular along the River Liffey.

Now that Dublin has its own Left Bank, the Temple Bar, the Bloomsday throng can continue the drinking there amidst the English stag parties and contemplate that if Dublin had been this sophisticated and cosmopolitan 100 years ago, the likes of Joyce and Beckett wouldn't have had to leave at all. And of course, that Guinness that everyone will be downing is now brewed by the fine multinational corporation Diageo. If this festival gets much more Oirish, they'll be changing the name of O'Connell street back to Sackville Street any day now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Get your Brits out for the lads

Here's a truly pathetic reach by the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. The Kerry intern affair rumours have completely flamed out due to not being true. But of course the time honoured principle of scandal-mongering is to look for the cover-up, and so Andrew Sullivan does his best today: with some research by Matt Drudge, he reports devastating inconsistencies in Kerry's story, that surely call for someone like, say, Ken Starr, to be appointed as an independent prosecutor to investigate:

the father [of the Kerry Monica] said: "I know my wife will not be voting for Mr Kerry, let's put it that way...Whatever audience he is talking to, he will tell them what they want to hear." The father also referred to Kerry as a "sleazeball." Now it's all sweetness and light: "We appreciate the way Senator Kerry has handled the situation and intend on voting for him for President of the United States." The father says he was previously misquoted. If he was, that is in itself a story. That's a hell of a quote to have fabricated...But the extreme reversal of opinion still strikes me as strange - and possibly dangerous for Kerry.

So this new Lewinsky affair rests on what the father of the woman who didn't have an affair with Kerry is alleged to have said about his voting intentions over the course of a weekend? But it gets worse. As Sullywatch always advises when reading Sullivan, follow the link. And his link to the source of these quotes: that would be The Sun, Britain's tabloid trash paper par excellence. Now we're not saying that you shouldn't read the Sun -- in its trashy way, it's pretty funny. For instance, today, the paper that will bring down President Kerry also invites you to check out the assets of Krystle from Manchester on Page 3, has some good pictures and quotes from The Darkness at last night's Brit awards, and in a weird echo of the Clarence Thomas affair, explains why an Arsenal player has the nickname "Le Long." Woodward and Bernstein, eat your hearts out!

UPDATE: The Sun's reputation as a source might be undermined by Page 3 and the laddish reporting, but it's not like the "upmarket" Daily Telegraph is any better. Day after day, the VRWC uses it as a source, gets the story into circulation, with the occasional pointless admission once that purpose has been served that, yes, the original story was not in fact correct. Here's Wednesday's Wall Street Journal online page:

It seems Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is not planning to tear a roof off California's state capitol to make way for a "smoking plaza," as the Daily Telegraph had reported (and we repeated yesterday).
Coming soon: the Jameson Whiskey Driver of the Year award

Today's Irish Times:

The princess [Anne] was scheduled to present the Cork Dry Gin Sailor of the Year Awards at the Old Jameson Distillery, Smithfield at 12.30 p.m.
Homage to Catalonia

Looking at the news today made us realise that we haven't been paying enough attention to Spanish politics. Spain is apparently convulsed by a statement from the violent Basque separatist group ETA that it is ceasing all terrorist activities in Catalonia. And if you're thinking...wait a minute, I didn't think the Basque country and Catalonia were the same'd be right. It's perhaps misleading but nonetheless tempting for us to try and map this situation into the familiar Irish context, and thus the hypothetical analogy would be if the IRA issued a statement announcing that they are ceasing terrorist activities in Scotland. This would arguably be read as (a) an admission that it was behind some previously unacknowledged attacks in Scotland, and (b) as an implicit threat to continue attacks in other parts of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Just to complicate things further in this hypothetical scenario, the IRA statement would conclude with greetings and salutations to the Scottish National Party.

And so it is in Spain. ETA's statement made common cause with Catalonian separatists, characterised the region as under the oppression of Spain and France, and seems to have landed one of the Catalonian governing coalition parties in the soup by bringing into the open secret meetings ETA had with them. The more excitable Madrid centrists read the ETA announcement as a stunt designed to promote a new Northern Alliance in which masked gunmen would drop their books about Miro and Picasso and jump on the next Talgo to Madrid and be done with the war of independence by dinner time. Consequently, the chief immediate beneficiary of the stunt seems to be PM Jose Maria Aznar's party, headed into a general election (albeit one that they were likely to win anyway). In short, other than getting themselves in the news, it's not clear what ETA has achieved. More research required.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Three green fields and one dump

If the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are to be successfully unified at some point in the future, it might be in the interests of the Republic to ensure that Northern Ireland is not a toxic dump by the time that happens. And it appears that one trend in the Republic is pushing towards that scenario, namely the country's schizophrenia about its rapid growth. With the economic boom has come by-the-book consumerist problems and specifically what to do with all the waste and by-products of the boom, and all the stuff that is not wanted anymore (e.g. whatever consumer durables were purchased this time last year). Pick up any provincial newspaper in the Republic and you won't have to search far for the story of the pressure group blocking any expansion of the local dump. The consequence has been that the Republic is now an exporter of waste.

Now, "exporter" was understood to imply that the waste was heading across a body of water, but now it emerges that quite a bit of it was going, illegally, to Northern Ireland. It's tempting to make the hypocrisy accusation at this point -- the strength of identification that might otherwise be claimed with those Irish across the border suddenly disappears under a mountain of rubbish. To be fair, the average Irish householder whose rubbish winds up in, say, in Dungannon, has little or no idea where the trash is going -- but he does know that he doesn't want to think about it once he puts it outside the door. But in any event, the time-honoured skills of smuggling are now being applied to trash, as this BBC story explains:

It is believed there are dozens of illegal dump sites containing tens of thousands of tons of rotting rubbish from household bins and industry across Ireland.

The waste is bring brought into Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland and has made some of the criminals behind the practice into millionaires. ..

Steve Aston, head of Waste Management at the DoE said: "We are talking about the discovery of one to two new illegal landfills on a weekly basis."

But the DoE say the problem is set to get worse.

There is a crisis in the waste industry in the Republic.

Major councils have closed their landfill sites because they are full. They have no alternatives and admit to "exporting" their waste.

Look for the Republic's waste disposal millionaires to legitimise their wealth with investments in British soccer teams.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Of Irish Interest

1. New York Times editorial page tribute to John Hume, upon his imminent retirement. Warning: article describes David Trimble as "enlightened."

2. BBC website article about Dublin's Temple Bar, the city's answer to the Left Bank (in which case, we don't know what the question was). Summarised by the headline "Ibiza with coats." Somewhere there's a message in the need to describe Temple Bar in Continental terms.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Banishing the snakes from Ireland

We haven't wanted to test the patience of our non football-fan readers with excessive Man Utd postings but it's getting hard to resist. Incidentally, there must be some kind of message in having both the club and its sponsor be the centre of huge takeover speculation at the same time -- though in the latter case, Vodaphone would be the predator whereas the club itself looks like prey. In any event, let's indulge in amateur Marxism for a second and speculate that the most interesting thing about the battle for control of Man Utd is how it made visible the dialectic between the Republic of Ireland's crony capitalists and their carefully cultivated populist image. JP McManus and John Magnier have always enjoyed a certain esteem amongst hoi polloi, or at least amongst hoi polloi who follow horse racing (which granted, does restrict things a bit).

McManus was the average punter who just applied the same skills to...well, actually we're not sure what he applied his skills to, but he has a house in Geneva to show for it. And Magnier participates in the sport of kings from his lair in County Tipperary. Sure shouldn't we all be proud of them, and of their pal Dermot Desmond too, the biggest shareholder in Glasgow Celtic FC?

This logic was always rather dubious, but something about the country's small size and indifferent economic fortunes perhaps made us prone to a VIP culture. So full credit to manager Alex Ferguson for being instrumental in helping the man on the Drumcondra omnibus see that in at least one instance, he has divergent interests from the home-grown tycoons. As we posted about earlier, Magnier and Fergie are feuding over the breeding rights to a horse, and McManus and Magnier are using their now 30% stake in the club to force through financial management reforms, seemingly aimed at Fergie's traditional modus operandi. Pro-Fergie fans have already mounted peaceful protests at one meeting where the Oirish pair had horses running, and they want to do a similar protest at next month's Cheltenham race meeting on the St Patrick's Day holiday weekend.

Amongst the embarrassed onlookers will be the bulk of the Republic's Cabinet who in the past would never have passed up a chance to schmooze with the equine plutocrats. Schmooze, and discuss any pressing tax affairs the two might have, such as the continuing tax exemption of breeding income and the technicalities of maintaining tax exile status. It was always such a nice synergy for Fianna Fail at these race meetings -- get in the social pages and do the lobbying at the same time. With one eye on the Republic's enraged Man Utd fans, it won't be quite so easy any more. Doubtless the Fianna Fail solution will be to have the meetings behind closed doors. It's pretty difficult to find out much about McManus's Geneva operations, so look for a sudden surge in pressing Irish government business in Switzerland over the next few months.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Literary Fighting Irish

On more than one occasion, we've noted the risk involved when American news outlets pick up a story from British outlets, forgetting the very slack accuracy standards that often prevail at the latter. Of course, for the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, this is precisely the advantage, a way of getting dubious stories into domestic circulation [look for rumours of a John Kerry affair to be attrbuted to "London's Daily Something" over the next couple of days].

But here's an example where the New York Times is among the outlets that should have been more careful. The NYT's Arts Briefing on Tuesday carried this item, which had been on the BBC website the previous day:

James Joyce's birthday present from the Irish writer Roddy Doyle was a figurative slap in the face. " `Ulysses' could have done with a good editor," Mr. Doyle told a gathering in New York to commemorate the birthday of Joyce (1882-1941), the BBC reported. "People are always putting `Ulysses' in the Top 10 books, but I doubt any of those people were really moved by it." As for "Finnegans Wake," Joyce's successor to "Ulysses," Mr. Doyle called it "a complete waste of time," though he said he had read only three pages.

We had thought the story seemed a bit odd, and surely would have generated more publicity in Ireland had it been true. In today's Irish Times, writer Colum McCann, who was at the gathering, explains what really went on:

Doyle had an enormous amount of praise and respect for Joyce and his work, and he mentioned this several times. He talked about Ulysses being one of the finest books of the century. He said he had read it twice and he cited Leopold Bloom as one of the most fascinating characters in world literature...It doesn't make much news that Doyle had all sorts of praise for Joyce, that much of what he said was in banter, that often his comments were presented with a wry grin, that he was operating with a small audience in mind, and that other topics he confronted were presented with sparkling intelligence...

I find it shameful that Doyle is left to the behest of tabloid journalism, the seekers of soundbites. That the comments were further filtered down by the British media which latched on to them with a sow-eating-her-own-farrow mentality is really no surprise. Their reports were a lens filtered through a lens filtered through yet another lens - and the only intention was to cause flame.

You could almost hear the rattle at the news desk: Let's go watch the sport. It's an Irishman - a famous one - stabbing another - a really famous one - in the back.

Perhaps the original story will be defended as a Joyce criticism-related program activity.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

So THAT's what should have been sexed-up

Here's a story that illustrates how much the US arm of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy misinterpreted the reaction in the UK to the Hutton Report. While the US neocons gloated at the BBC's expense, British conservatives were far more reserved, for reasons of both oppositional tactics and true reflection of public opinion. Today's London Times picks up a Guardian story on the new career of the supposedly disgraced BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan:

Gilligan, the BBC journalist at the centre of the Kelly affair, has reportedly been hired to write for the Spectator magazine.

That would be the Spectator magazine, owned (for now) by Conrad Black and edited by Tory MP Boris Johnson. By the way, the invaluable Sullywatch had already noted the apparent divergence between Boris's view of the Kelly affair and that of his alleged chum, the US-based gloater-in-chief Andrew Sullivan. In fact, a follow-up remark of Boris's about Gilligan makes us wonder what Sullivan might have privately told him really underlies his tirades about the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation:

Mr Johnson added: "I think the reason there is all this beastliness towards Gilligan is because he is not particularly good looking."

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The West defeated Communism by invading some rocks

With the sun setting on the reign of the current or former Canadian neocons at the Daily Telegraph, there is a lot of revisionist history to squeeze in. Mark Steyn keeps busy today, blaming John Kerry for everything bad about the 1970s and then telling us:

It took Mrs Thatcher's Falklands war and Reagan's liberation of Grenada to reverse the demoralisation of the West that Kerry did so much to advance.

With Dubya and Tony under such pressure from pesky demoralising critics, look for them to follow Maggie and Ron with an invasion of Rockall.

Monday, February 09, 2004

What everyone in Ireland is doing tonight

The land of saints of scholars is as transfixed as its larger neighbour by the British reality TV show I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Thankfully, the tendency to feel a national obligation to cheer for even the most tenuous connection to Ireland seems not to be present in this case -- people know trash when they see it. In any event, the Irish connection would have been a choice between son of Irish immigrants John Lydon and wife of boyband star Kerry McFadden. There is already quite enough prattle about the sociological significance of the appeal of this show, so let's just move to the more troubling question for Ireland: if all the Irish media do is talk about the latest goings-on on the show, why do we need a specifically Irish media at all?

UPDATE: the wife of the Irish boyband member wins. Thus, a great victory for Ireland.