Monday, May 30, 2005

Irish obligations

Bertie Ahern has said that the Irish Government is committed to the EU Constitution and that all members states have an obligation to ratify the Constitution before next November.

Sorry Bertie but you have a bigger obligation to the Irish people. Your obligations to the Constitution are secondary! You are an elected representative of the Irish people. You have to put the Constitution to a referendum, accept the decision, and represent that decision abroad to the best of your abilities regardless of your personal opinions. If you cannot do that then you should have taken the job as EU President when you had the chance.

French say No

Yesterday the French people called a halt to the high speed train that was European integration. Personally I'm confused and conflicted about the whole idea and direction of Europe. However as each new treaty goes by I am gradually drifting into the Euro skeptic camp, so I think yesterdays result was a good one. Somehow we seem to have gotten into a situation where an economic trading block has suddenly turned into a new government that for the most part is unaccountable to the voters and seems to be proud of its unaccountable status.

France was the second referendum on the European constitution. Spain already voted and the result was "largely positive" (that's the phrase used in the press release but 77% in favor seems Very Positive to me). The rest of the nations that have ratified the constitution have done so at government level and not by putting the matter to the public vote. Therefore the EU press statement following the French result states that 49% of the population of the EU have ratified the constitution.

To me the French result actually devalues the Yes results in those countries. The French government was willing to ratify the treaty, it was the French people who were against it. How do we know the true opinions of the people in the countries that have ratified the treaty already if they haven't been allowed vote?

One commentator on TV last night (I believe it was Louis Michel one of the EU commissioners, but I may be mistaken there were so many commentators on last night) said that the treaty process could only be stopped by a unanimous vote. That is not how it is supposed to be. The treaty was supposed to be passed by a unanimous vote.

While I am basically in favor of the EU I am growing concerned at the way those in Brussels seem to have become disconnected from the people. They are pushing ahead with EU expansion and integration, with the best of intentions, but without fully understanding that people are not an enthused. People are still nationalistic, they like to protect what they have and they want to maintain their own individual identity. Pushing them now to accept a more integrated EU may actually end up undoing previous work and set the whole process back years.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Agony and ecstasy for Liverpool fans

The BBC have a great set of photos that pretty much sum up last night.

Unfortunately I watched the match at home. Damn I wish I'd gone to the pub, but I admit it, I didn't expect Liverpool to win. By the time things got interesting there was no way I would leave the TV for a run to the pub. Apparently last night Dublin city center was like a suburb of Liverpool. Groups of fans singing You'll Never Walk Alone, grown men crying and strangers hugging each other.


Last night was Roy of the Rovers, and Escape to Victory brought to life.

Liverpool were awful in the 1st half. It was embarrassing. 3 goals down to AC Milan and they were lucky that was all they let in.

2nd half a different Liverpool team ran out, scoring 3 goals in 15 minutes, while AC Milan looked shell-shocked.

Extra time, Dudek suddenly switches on and makes a double save.

Penalties, the double save obviously boosted Dudek as he saves two penalties to win the Champions League for Liverpool.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Come on you Mighty Reds

Come on you Mighty Reds!

Bus seatbelts after tragedy in Navan

Mondays bus tragedy in Navan was truly an accident waiting to happen. The school bus system in Ireland is terrible and the government has shown no real desire to improve the situation. Many children do not have the choice to take a school bus and those that do are given out dated busses that were not designed as school busses in the first place.

Now the National Parents Council is calling on parents to boycott the school bus service until seatbelts are fitted. This seems to be letting the government off lightly. They can now stall on the seatbelt issue with crash reports, safety reviews, tender processes, staggered roll out, with the knowledge that at any time they will be able to cancel a bus service and blame lack of interest.

The real shame of the situation is that while school children are packed onto unsafe busses the government ministers responsible for the sorry state of this service are driving around in cars renowned for their safety, Volvo and Mercedes

Here is the relevant passage from the dail debate
There are currently 50 State cars, including spares and presidential vehicles. It is necessary to maintain spares to cater for emergencies, such as accidents or breakdowns and servicing. The following makes and models, including spares, form part of the ministerial fleet: Mercedes E320; Mercedes E280; Mercedes E240; Saab 9-5 SE 2.0; Volvo S80 ; Volvo S70 T5; Opel Vectra 2.2 ; Lexus GS 300 Executive; and Rolls Royce Silver Wraith .

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

George Galloway and The Senate Update

As expected George Galloway went before the Senate committee and instead of being the apologetic, respectful, differential witness, he was an English politician. Senate committees appear to be unused to public debate and discussion, instead the senators concentrate on getting sound bites and those called to testify are in awe of the gravity of their surrounds. English politicians on the other hand engage in verbal debates and points scoring on a daily basis. It really was a bit of an unfair fight and Mr Galloway walked away as "the new Michael Moore" and with a lucrative lecture tour beckoning.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

As I mentioned in an earlier post I went to see Revenge of the Sith last night. It is alot better than the other 2 prequels. The special effects are amazing, there is actually a plot and a bit of emotion.

Firstly I'll get my complaint out of the way. The only problem with the movie is Hayden Christensen Anakin. Basically he is a still a spoiled sulky teenager who leaves you wondering why the Jedi Council gave him a lightsaber and a starfighter instead of packing him off to his little garage on Tatooine with "I am a Prat" engraved on his forehead by Mace Windus lightsaber. His scenes with Padme lack any chemistry and they seem to have to keep repeating "I love you. No I love you. But I love you more" in order to convince the audience that he would actually have had the chance to father Luke and Leia.

Now that aside the rest of the movie is brilliant. Yoda gets alot more screen time! Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine is truely evil while keeping an outward image of a really nice guy. His "Emperor" scenes could have been filmed 20 years ago straight after he finished Return of the Jedi . Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa is great, I wish he was a larger character in the first two. Natalie Portman is under used, spending most of her time struggling through the awkward love scenes or staring out windows.

The real star is Ewan McGregor. Obi Wan rocks. He has taken a young Obi Wan Kenobi and turned him into a young Alec Guinness while at the same time making the character his own. Several times the other Jedi make you wonder how they protected the Galaxy for 1000 years, but when Obi Wan appears in a room full of enemies, throws out a couple of one liners and then hacks everyone to bits you see exactly how it could be done.

Star Wars fans already know the general plot to this movie, the questions that need to be answered, and the things that need to be done before the prequels can link in with the original trilogy. But knowing what will happen doesnt weaken the movie, if anything those are some of the best scenes. George Lucas has been planning them for 30 years.

Something tells me the force is still strong with the Star Wars franchise.

Eddie Irvine to buy Jordan Forumla 1?

These days Formula 1 generates more rumours than it has television viewers, but the latest one is that Eddie Irvine is in talks to buy the Jordan team. Cool, if he gets the financial backing he could be great for the sport.

XBox 360 an Apple of a console?

Lesson for Microsoft 1# Never underestimate the publics ability to see the things you hoped they would not notice.

Lesson for Microsoft 2# Cameras are everywhere.

But to be honest I dont think it makes much of a difference, the console isnt due out til Christmas and even that may be an ambitious plan. So long as it does what they say it can people will buy it.

The best bit is the desk fan being used to cool the box. Billions of dollars in R&D and it still comes down to someone grabbing a $20 fan off their desk.

Eurovision Failure

Ireland failed to get through to the final of the Eurovision last night. This morning the airwaves were full of people saying the song was great, we were robbed, and it was all a voting block by the Balkan states. Strange. A couple of days ago the airwaves were full of people saying the song sucked and we didn't have a chance.

I didn't watch Eurovision last night, I went to Star Wars instead (more about that later today) and to be honest I wouldn't have watched it anyway, the only bit I ever watched was the voting and I haven't watched that for years. However I'm told Eurovision is now made up of 40 countries each of which allows their public to vote instead of using the old jury of experts system and that the four big countries (England, France, Germany and Spain) will always be allowed into the final no matter how badly they do.

I have two opinions on this.
Firstly, or course crap songs win Eurovision and EuroStar. Its not about the song anymore its about what appeals to 13 year olds with mobile phones. Our contestants looked like childrens TV presenters.

Secondly, and maybe this is just the Euro-skeptic in me coming more to the fore with each passing referendum, but to me Eurovision is the image of where I fear the European Union will end up. 40+ countries taking part with three teers of power. On top are England, France and Germany, always guaranteed a say. In the middle are the new member states, getting funds and resources from the EU and clubbing together to vote. At the bottom the older small members, now net contributors having had their victories in the past, but no longer able to influence decisions and instead forever locked out of the real competition.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Conor Lenihan

The hassle one off the cuff remark can cause is unbelievable. Conor Lenihan the Irish junior minister for overseas development is in a world of trouble for telling Joe Higgins the Soclialist Party leader to "stick with the kebabs". Granted it was a bad remark to make and he shouldn't have said it, but who in their life has never said anything without thinking. In fact if it hadn't been for the microphones in the Dail chamber the comment may never have been heard above all the other shouting going on at the time.

Conor has since apologised but that isn't good enough for the tabloid editors who, smelling blood, are baying for his resignation. Perhaps they have watched All the Presidents Men too many times and think that in order to be real journalists they have to get a politician to resign. They should be as quick to apply their sense of moral outrage to their own papers, but then they probably wouldn't have any stories left to print.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Generation Jedi

Got home late last night, and sat down to watch some TV for half an hour. While searching the channels I came across a documentary/comedy on BBC 3 called Generation Jedi. It was presented by Dermot O'Leary, who was describing his life growing up as a Star Wars fan facing such problems as his parents giving away his Star Wars figures, and girls not living up to the standard set by Princess Leia.

The funniest bit was when he compared the night New Labour first came into power in Britain and everyone dancing to the song Things can only get Better to the Ewok celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi, and then preceeded to track the last few years as Labour slides to the Dark Side of the Force. Very good :-)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek apology

The editor of Newsweek has retracted and issued an apology for a story published in the magazine saying US integerators in Guantanamo Bay had desecrated copies of the Qur'an by flushing pages down the toilet and stamping on it. This report was then reprinted in the Arab press leading to riots and at least 17 deaths. Part of his excuse is that "other major news organizations had aired charges of Qur'an desecration". Thats not really a good enough excuse. In todays world of 24 hour Breaking News, the fact that other news stations report a story should not be taken as proof of the stories validity. TV news stations are in a ratings war, they need sensational headlines and stories to grab the viewers away from their soap operas. The rush to be the first to broadcast a big story means that they cant help but get some details wrong from time to time. A respectiable printed news outlet like Newsweek should know better and tale the time to think more carefully about what the reaction to printing unconfirmed might be.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Chain Reactions - Political corruption

RTE showed the latest in their Chain Reactions series last night. This episode showed the chain of events leading from Ben Dunnes night in a hotel room in Florida, to his subsequent off the cuff comments about who he had given political donations to, the building of Michael Lowrys house, Ray Burkes trip to jail and then the accusations around Charlie Haughey. Fascinating stuff, a real 30 minute refresher course in that period in Irish politics. Though the last 5 minutes where they What If'd both Michael Lowry and Ray Burke into the Taoiseachs office and Charlie into the Presidency did stretch reality a little.

Humbler Tony Blair

The new kinder, humbler, simpler Tony Blair is beginning to puzzle me. Yesterdays press conference where he said he couldn't solve all the problems but something had to be done to make people respect each other actually seemed genuine. Maybe it was the lighting, or maybe, like a man facing up to his own mortality and trying to put things right before the end, Tony is facing up to his political mortality and wants to make a difference to society so that he will be remembered for more than the Iraq War.

Galloway Vs The Committee

I see George Galloway has agreed to testify before the United States Senate committee to answer accusations that he received bribes from Saddam Hussein. I wonder what he was thinking when he agreed to that.

Obviously he knows that he isnt going to walk out of the room with an apology from the committee and the adoration of the American political establishment. Leaving aside the issue of his guilt or innocence, politically the committee isnt about to accuse a man of being a friend of Saddam one week and apologise the next, it doesnt make for good sound bites. They are more likely to try to brand him as a suporter of an evil dictatorship who has betrayed western civilisation or something.

Now George is a bit of a firebrand, one only had to see his interview with Jeremy Paxman on the night of the British Election to realise that. After a couple of tough questions from the committee members Mr Galloway is likely to tell them exactly what he thinks of them, America, and the war in Iraq, and do so in rather undiplomatic language. One must conclude that this is exactly what Mr Galloway wants, international coverage of him telling the committee where they can stick their questions and their war. His target voters will love it.

Kingdom of Heaven and Hitchhikers

I went to see two movies over the weekend Kingdom of Heaven and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Kingdom was a movie I'd been looking forward to for ages, and while it was good I came out of it just a little dissapointed. Two reasons, firstly somehow the movie felt a little jerky and the characters were not as well developed as I would have liked. Surprise, surprise there is a directors cut of the movie that has another hour or so of footage, most of it character based. Now while I like the idea of a DVD that offers more than 2 deleted and unfinished scenes and a trailer for my 25 euros, I do worry that cinema releases are basically going to turn into 2 hour trailers for the upcoming 3 or 4 hour DVD. I paid to go to the cinema to see the movie, I should see the best version possible, not what ever was hacked together by a studio and director who decided the DVD release would be better.

Secondly why do studios insist on saving money by reusing music from other movies? When hundreds of millions are spent on a movie, why not do the music properly? Troy is a prime example of this where music from several other movies was used in scenes where it didnt suit, for example the beach landing scene using music from Enemy at the Gates, a movie about snipers in Stallingrad. In Kingdom at one of the pivitol scenes when Balian is giving an important speech (no spoiler there I hope) they use the music from The 13th Warrior. It suited the scene but just felt like penny pinching.

Still apart from those to small issues I enjoyed Kingdom and would recommend it, at least until the new Star Wars movie comes out.

As for Hitchhikers, well it was amusing. I've never been a fan or even read the book so I didnt know what to expect. The reaction of the people who were fans seems very positive, so I guess its a job well done.

What? No Boris

Following Michael Howards announcement that he will resign after the result of yesterdays election the BBC has published a list of the likely candidates for the worst job in British politics. But they missed out the best known Conservative MP, Boris Johnson. A search on the BBC website returns these video clips.

British General Election, best result?

In the aftermath of last weeks election in Britain, it is interesting to view the reactions of the leaders of the 3 main political parties. Despite winning the election the Labour party lost 47 seats and Tony Blair looks like a kid who got scolded by the Queen this morning when he went to be officially asked to form a government. Michael Howard dragged the Conservatives out of their political grave and gave helped them win 31 more seats, he's already resigned. Finally, Charles Kennedy while pointing out that winning 10 extra seats was a good result for the Liberal Democrats is already facing criticism of his higher taxation policies and concern that while winning seats from Labour they lost seats to their real rivals, the Conservatives. I’m reminded of the saying that if you reach a decision that upsets all sides its probably a fair decision.

My ramblings

I've decided to set up a blog. No real reason, just thought I'd give it a go for a while. My opinions arent any more important or insightful than anyone elses but hey everyone else is blogging. In fact this is my second blog, I initially started blogging on MSN Spaces, but decided to move after 3 posts for 2 reasons. Firstly posting on Spaces seems to only work properly with Internet Explorer, I'm a Firefox user. Secondly, I just didnt feel comfortable on Spaces. I dont know why, I just didnt.