Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Clarke on Iraq

That's Wesley, not Ken! It seems that Wesley Clarke is a guest blogger over on TPM Café this week (hat-tip Lindsay). There's some interesting stuff there, not least that Clarke writes like a presidential candidate in waiting. I scrolled a bit down through his thoughts on Iraq, and he reads very much like a man on a campaign (though that's not to say that he's uninteresting: there are a few thoughts hidden away there!). Worth taking a peek at.

Wrong History

In a post not entirely unrelated to the previous one, NIMagyar's Paul talks about the manner in which the history of resistance to Soviet rule is taking on the status of myth, or indeed, lie. Drawing from an article in the Economist, Paul decides that a plague should land on all Hungary's political houses. An 'upbeat version' of history, involving '"triumph of people power" is the one peddled by the same politicians and the media-figures who gained most from the switchover,' while in reality nothing much changed for the ordinary folk.

This is hardly unique to Hungary. I've often been told of the disappointment of my grandparents' generation in the south who, having rid themselves of British rule, discovered, as the saying goes, that the only change was the postboxes being painted green. Allied with that was the observation that a hundred men had walked into the GPO and ten thousand had marched out (an complaint that itself elides the presence of women in the building!).

Nationalism is, as Renan pointed out, getting your history wrong. But Paul need not worry: at some stage all these people will be exposed. Just as happened in Ireland, in the Netherlands and in France, what Hungary needs is a spot of revisionism.

Solidarity 25th Anniversary

The BBC reports here on the 25th anniversary of the foundation of Solidarity. Along with the Dunnes Stores workers' strike over the handling of South African oranges in (I think) 1987, the rise of Solidarity came at the point when I was becoming more aware of the big bad political world out there.

Also, Anne Applebaum has an interesting piece on Gdansk and today's memories of the Union's foundation in the Washington Post.

Update: Timothy Garton Ash has a piece on the anniversary in today's Guardian.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Midas Touchtone

According to the FT, it seems like Eircom is about to flog €423m worth of shares in order to raise funds for the purchase of the Meteor mobile phone network (this was already mentioned over on Planet Potato). Given Eircom's reputation for shoddy service (again, see half the posts on Planet Potato. this one is my favourite!), I'm sure Meteor customers will be overjoyed!

One interesting point that the FT notes is that 'Although the offer is in line with prices paid for other recent mobile assets in terms of price per subscriber, Meteor predominantly has a pre-pay customer base of people who spend much less than contract customers.' I didn't know that pay as you go customers paid less than people on contracts. Moreover, I thought people tended to shift to contracts. Would they be just better off on PAYG, or is it the case that PAYG users simply use their mobiles less than contract users do? Also, I wonder why Meteor customers are out of line with the industry standard on this? And finally, what's possessing Eircom to pay over the odds for Meteor?

Seen but not Flickrd

There's an interesting piece over on the Guardian's Newsblog on responses to Flickr's recent, um, merger with Yahoo.

Iraq and Buffy

Richard Develan makes a welcome return to the blogging fray by pointing up (also here) strategies for winning in Iraq, courtesy of Andrew Krepinevich in Foreign Affairs and David Brooks in the New York Times. Sort of like a targeted Marshall Plan.

One thing though. Richard is mistaken in thinking that everyone who has concerns about the war recommends rapid withdrawal. Personally, I'm with Colin Powell: you break it you buy it. Which is not meant to be glib: the point is that the fact that the US has screwed up in Iraq doesn't mean that withdrawal would fix things.

The long term economic and political engagement that Krepinvich recommends seems pretty sensible but, in the light of Bush's economic policies (you know, run up a deficit on military spending and tax cuts), it's questionable whether this administration would start forking out for Iraq.

And if all this is just too mundane for you, switch over to Crescat Sententia, where Will Baude discusses the public policy implications of Buffy's guardianship over Sunnydale...

Monday, August 29, 2005

McCain on Science

Senator John McCain and Peter Likins have a piece in the current Chronicle of Higher Education, arguing against the politicisation of science. They write in the wake of Congressional harrassment of various scientists for publishing work confirming climate change. McCain and Likins write
As we confront the reality of climate change, public-policy makers, including members of Congress, must have access to reliable data, data untrammeled by political or commercial interference or censorship. They must have guidance from experts who understand the complexities of the problem and all of its plausible solutions. Only on the foundation of sound science can they make sound public policy on global warming.

That principle goes far beyond the issue of climate change. The government relies on scientists for help in developing policies to improve the health and welfare of our citizens and to promote the economic development of our nation. Scientists -- and the universities where many of them work -- rely on governmental agencies like the National Science Foundation to establish valid and transparent mechanisms to evaluate research proposals and to give financial support to the most deserving. All Americans benefit from that relationship; we must insist that it continue undamaged.
Well said.

Via (again!) Crooked Timber, this time Henry Farrell.


For those of us who prefer to reach for the mouse as rarely as possible, here's a handy extension for Firefox: you do your Google (or other) search and the pages come up numbered, so all you have to do is hit the requisite number on your keyboard. Via Eszter on Lifehacker (um, via in turn, Eszter on Crooked Timber!).

Seven Bloody Things

I usually steer clear of lists, largely because of indolence but also because I just don't find myself that interesting (well I do, but not in an entirely self-reflective way!). I've already reneged on list requests from Peter Levine (still thinking about that one) and David (it was too hard: strictly speaking I'm still thinking about that one too...). Anyway, I've been asked to do this particular list by UI and Colm Bracken. So here goes:

Seven things I plan to do before I die
  1. Complete and publish that bloody book on Ireland.
  2. Decide to stop procrastinating.
  3. Learn to speak another language well.
  4. Learn to drive (probably very shortly before I die).
  5. Have kids and raise them such that they don't blame me for their lives.
  6. Take a big long list of others with me whilst rehearsing an evil laugh.
  7. Fall to the ground unconscious without lending any thought as to what's happening.

Seven things I can do
  1. Cook, but especially bake.
  2. Run relatively long distances.
  3. Write ponderous articles that other academics seem to want to read.
  4. Distract myself from work with great ease.
  5. Talk in public without feeling like I might die (a relatively recent phenomenon!)
  6. Get excited by new things.
  7. Take a deep breath and calm down.

Seven things I can not do
  1. Make omelettes like my Grandmother used to make them.
  2. Run relatively long distances at any great speed.
  3. Swim well enough to prevent drowning if it ever came to it.
  4. Drive.
  5. Calculus.
  6. Sleep on long-haul flights.
  7. Drink great volumes.

Seven things that I find really attractive about the opposite sex

This blog is not supposed to be that personal!

Seven things I say the most
  1. Marvellous!
  2. Total bollocks!
  3. Stunning
  4. Stuff
  5. ...I mean...
  6. What?
  7. require (a real political philosophy word!)

Seven books I love

Well, these have to be broken down into books I love using in teaching...

  1. Thomas Hobbes Leviathan
  2. Plato's Republic
  3. John Rawls's Political Liberalism, for some reason, since it's not his best book.

    ...then two books I return to every few years - surely the best indication of what my favourites are...

  4. Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, strangely enough.
  5. David Thomson's stunning Woodbrook (there's an extract here).

    ...and finally...

  6. E.H. Gombrich's Story of Art, a beautiful, sumptuous book. And you learn stuff too!
  7. I have a strange thing for Atlases: can't get enough of them.

Seven people I would like to see take this quiz.
Och, I think I'll leave this bit out. I don't know anyone who hasn't filled it out and has this much willingness to faff!


I'm not sure where I came across this, but CiteULike is a bit of a revelation. As they say themselves, CiteULike
is a free service to help academics to share, store, and organise the academic papers they are reading. When you see a paper on the web that interests you, you can click one button and have it added to your personal library. CiteULike automatically extracts the citation details, so there's no need to type them in yourself. It all works from within your web browser. There's no need to install any special software.
Moreover, 'because your library is stored on the server, you can access it from any computer,' which is good news for me who was just thinking last week about trying to coordinate Endnote files between several computers. Though this wouldn't help in terms of old citations: I can't upload my current Endnote database to CiteULike since I'd have to convert it into a BibTex database before uploading (and I can't get that right).

Moreover, since all the citations are open access, CiteULike acts a little bit like Flickr's tagging system, so you can theoretically see what everyone else is reading too.

For the moment I'm not sure that I'll use the facility as my main database, but it's a handy way of collecting things together on a web-trawl and keeping them their in lieu of exporting to Endnote.

Friday, August 26, 2005


More blue-sky photography from Dublin. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts. Anyway, I'm a big fan of the Spire. I didn't think I would be (it's religious undertones don't sit well with my secular sensibilities), but I simply like the way it plays off the light. I'm looking forward to it being cleaned.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Conference on Suicide

Via RTÉ and the BBC, I see that there's a major conference taking place today in Belfast on suicide prevention. Let's hope this is the beginning of a NI strategy on the issue.

American Enlightenment Scheduled for 2007

I was chatting with Mel on Skype1 just now and he pointed me towards this item that had passed me by: apparently, as part of this month's huge US energy bill (that's a law by the way, not a final demand from Exxon or the Saudis or something. That bill has already arrived), the US has decided to extend daylight savings time by one month each side of the Winter. The rationale (for evaluations see here and here) is that this would save enormously on energy use, although there would be transitional costs. Also, the Canadians are somewhat pissed at the decision.

Still, it does present interesting questions for us Europeans, who would end up four/five and six/seven hours ahead of the US East Coast for a month each year, with attendant implications for transatlantic business transactions. I'm guessing that some groups, for example in financial services, will start pushing for the change across Europe too. I wonder what the national sovereignty crowd will say to that: might this be a case of the Imperium tail wagging the old European dog?

1 Being dead hip, we tried Google's new chat thingy, but Skype is just better!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Most Eclectic Roundup!

From languages and policing to bread to secession to seannós! Here goes...

First, John Ihle on Back Seat Drivers notes that IMeasc, the organisation for Irish-speaking immigrants, has objected to the Gardaí dropping the Irish language requirement from their entry criteria. There's a letter from this group here, which all reminds me of Daniel O'Hara's excellent, nuanced Yu Ming is Ainm Dom (also featured in Film Ireland), one of the best short films I've seen in ages.

Next, Megnut writes a paean to Elizabeth David, also one my favourite cookery writers (I know, I know...). Meg likes Is There a Nutmeg in the House, but my particular favourite is the amazing, detailed English Bread and Yeast Cookery. EBYC is not one of those culinary porn books, awash with glossy pictures and lacking in, well, expectations that you can use the book for cooking. Instead, about half of it provides a detailed history of bread and all its ingredients and the second half contains some simple, no-nonsense recipes. Precisely what a recipe book should be.

Third, starting from the 1998 ruling on Quebec's right to secede from Canada, Will Baude on Crescat Sententia discusses the rights of US states to secede from the Union. Specifically, he's interested in the question of who has the right of decision over the legality of such a move: the federal supreme court or the state supreme court (or neither). This is also relevant to questions of supremacy of EU law, as was brought out in the German Constitional Court's 1993 Brunner judgement, which ruled on whether the Maastricht Treaty was compatible with the German Constitution. The question centered on the Kompetenz Kompetenz issue, on whether the ECJ was legally competent to decide upon its own competence vis-à-vis member states.

And finally, I've been listening to Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola's seannós CD, An Raicin Álainn over the last few days. I generally haven't regarded myself as a major fan of seannós so my expectations weren't massive. But how wrong I was. This is an excellent album and Ní Conaola's voice is spectacular, veering from the classical towards the jazzy. Well worth buying.

Water Returns

The UN has been working tirelessly to restore the marshlands in southern Iraq to their former state, and according to this story from the BBC, huge progress is being made. It may seem trivial in the general scheme of things, but it will make a huge difference to many people's lives.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I've just been trawling through RTÉ Radio 1's site, looking for another programme, when I noticed that they're running a series called Reputations, based on the TCD history department's Contesting History course. Each programme deals, in turn, with Patrick Pearse, Charles Stewart Parnell, Daniel O'Connell, Wolfe Tone, Hugh O'Neill and Diarmuid MacMurrough. Two historians act as 'prosecution' and 'defence' for each personality. In the first episode Ruth Dudley Edwards and Martin Mansergh discuss Pearse. This really is interesting stuff.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bush v Bono

According to Langerland, Bush is going after regime change in U2. Oh the humanity!

What next?

Ted Barlow, over on Crooked Timber, has written a long, very interesting piece, following from Orin Kerr's suggestion of a framework for possible scenarios in Iraq:
1) The U.S. beats back the insurgency and democracy flowers in Iraq (call this the “optimistic stay” scenario),
2) The U.S. digs in its heels, spends years fighting the insurgency, loses lots of troops, and years later withdraws, leading to a bloody and disastrous civil war (the “pessimistic stay” scenario);
3) The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out relatively soon, and things in Iraq are about as best as you could hope for, perhaps leading to a decent amount of democracy (optimistic leave), and
4) The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out soon, and plunges Iraq into a bloody and disastrous civil war with the bad guys assuming control eventually (pessimistic leave).
Well worth taking the time to read both Kerr's original piece and Barlow's response.

Meanwhile, Kieran Healy reminds us of a post he wrote fully two years ago.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

And Drink a Health

Stephen bids farewell to Cookstown's resident drunk.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

UI's Top Ten Republicans

I see that United Irelander has come up with a list of top ten Republicans. I'm especially intrigued by his placing Wolfe Tone at number one and Padraig Pearse at number two.

I've actually been thinking about Wolfe Tone and Padraig Pearse today and whether the problem with Irish nationalism has always been the illusion that Tone's enlightenment republicanism and Pearse's romantic nationalism were reconcileable. I don't think they are: once you head down the cultural, ethnic and religious nationalism of Pearse you've abandoned the enlightenment ideals of Tone.

Which is one reason why SF etc are ultimately rather incoherent in their aspirations for the island: they think they can swallow chalk because they've eaten cheese.

What's Beano Written?

I was just pottering through my statcounter when I clicked on a link to Everything Ulster that simply said NINS was the most recent referer to the blog. Not particularly interesting. That is until you look at how people are getting to Beano through Google and MSN: just scroll down the page!

Thursday, August 11, 2005


There's a great thread over on Slugger regarding Channel 4's 'Best and Worst Places to Live in the UK', specifically on Strabane's being apparently the third worst place to live in the country. I especially like Rob's comment that 'Lifford is even more depressing. I don't think it's twinned with Strabane but they seem to have have a suicide pact.' Very funny!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I've taken to messing around with shutter speed on my camera. The results are not entirely perfect yet, but I am beginning to pick up flowing water: an essential skill on this damp rock!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Young Irelander has bid the blogosphere adieu. A terrible pity since he's been one of the most consistently provocative bloggers (in a good way) but, since we're all obviously in the time-wasting business, I hope he's gone on to more fruitful pursuits! Best of luck YI!

Update: Aaahh!!!

Monday, August 08, 2005

More Supremes

A week or so ago, I mentioned an article in the New Yorker predicting the central role the Solomon Amendment is likely to play in the newly populated US Supreme Court. Well, there was more on the issues in Saturday's Financial Times, where Patti Waldmeir examines the fallout to the Lawrence v. Texas case and the gay marriage issue. Some interesting stuff.

By the way, the link to Lawrence v. Texas is hosted at the marvellous, the Humvee of US Supreme Court onlinitude!

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Frank has a fascinating post (and comments thread) over on the consistently excellent Internet Commentator. Following an article by Paul Krugman in the NYT, he suggests (well, he quotes Division of Labour suggesting) that higher French productivity levels can be put down to the spinoffs of higher French unemployment - that the least productive are removed from the measure. I find all this sort of stuff fascinating and intensely challenging.

The whole thread is doubly interesting because Abiola Lapite adds a normative dimension along the mix, arguing that 'unemployment is always easier to tolerate when someone else has to carry the burden - especially when that "someone else" is voiceless, foreign-looking, and banished to the fringes like France's banlieu-dwelling Beurs.' In other words, an economic policy that prices the less productive out of the market is simply immoral.

No economic system can take the moral high ground when it comes to social and economic exclusion. Indeed, the Anglo-American system, though obviously more dynamic, is also the one that produces the most extreme inequalities (though I wouldn't care to bet as to which OECD country has the poorest lower quintile). But some serious general questions remain. What measures can be used to identify the degree to which an economy is serving society when things like productivity measures produce such patently perverse results? And, of course, to what degree can a system that is necessarily supposed to be free from control be regulated in the name of the society that it should serve?

Saudi Link?

South Africa's Mail and Guardian hasn't got the most amazing of reputations down there, but if this article has anything to it, there might be a little bit of uproar over the next few days. It suggests that
Saudi Arabia officially warned Britain of an imminent terrorist attack on London just weeks ahead of the 7 July bombings after calls from one of al-Qaeda's most wanted operatives were traced to an active cell in the United Kingdom.

Senior Saudi security sources have confirmed they are investigating whether calls from Kareem al-Majati, last year named as one of al-Qaeda's chiefs in the Gulf kingdom, were made directly to the British ringleader of the 7 July bomb plotters.
If there's something to this then there will need to be some sort of investigation as to whether anything got lost in the system.

Which is not to say that the British Intelligence services would necessarily have been able to do more: the one thing we've all learned in the last few years is that intelligence gathering is a very very difficult game.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Two marvellous headlines in the current edition of The Onion: one proclaims that the The White House Denies the Existence of Karl Rove. "The White House denied rumors of wrongdoing by anyone named Karl Rove Monday, saying the alleged deputy chief of staff does not exist," according to their leader article.

This is only surpassed by the following sidebar headline: "Bicycle-Riding Circus Bear Pedals Back To Natural Habitat."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Phonecam Ethics

Some interesting ethical problems raised over on the BBC. How should media organisations deal with people who've taken important images but had done so in favour of actually helping the people that they were photographing?

Update: More on this in the Guardian.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Major Ego Boost

Twenty Major, when not fending off bluebottles, seems to have entered a state of mutual admiration with the BBC. But only because RTÉ doesn't compare.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Comic-al Qaeda!

Check this out!
What if today's anti-war Liberals were in charge of the American government and had been since 9/11? What would that society look like in the year 2021? What would be the results of fighting “a more sensitive war on terror” and looking to the corrupt United Nations to solve all of America 's problems?

It is 2021, tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of 9/11 It is up to an underground group of bio-mechanically enhanced conservatives led by Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North to thwart Ambassador Usama Bin Laden's plans to nuke New York City...And wake the world from an Orwellian nightmare of United Nations dominated ultra-liberalism.
I never knew us liberals had it in us! Hat-tip Crooked Timber.

Monday, August 01, 2005

UI Poll

I suppose that most people who come here also read United Irelander, but in case you don't, he's running an informal poll on attitudes towards, well, a United Ireland (or rather, on whether his readership wants a UI, not on whether they think it'll happen). Get over there and vote!