Archive for October, 2005

Stopping blogging

Monday, October 17th, 2005

I have to sympathise with the views expressed by Xanadb in his final post.

To my mind the bloggersphere has reached a saturation point. I just can’t be bothered following them anymore. A case in point was the recent announcement of apple’s Video iPod, and the whole hype around web2.0. I don’t really need to read about these things across 2 dozen blogs , each one adding little information or worthwhile opinion. Why do bloggers feel so compelled to echo each other ? Why do they feel the need to write “I’m turning off comments” posts ? (or “I’m taking a break from blogging” posts ?). Who gives a fuck about your comment spam problem ? Being part of this whole blogosphere thing makes me feel distinctly icky so I’m bowing out. Tags, pagerank, trackbacks, pings – the whole thing is tired (or maybe I just don’t “get it”).

All of which is a long winded way of saying that this blogging thing is heavily weighted towards a small handful of influential A-Listers and frankly I’d rather not be part of the rat-race (that’s what it feels like blogging has become – what with ‘how to blog successfully’ books and sites sprouting like weeds). I think it’s time for a restart.

CTRL+ALT+DEL.

I have often had similar thoughts, usually about my own blog’s relevance on the internet. But I still plug away, and I do go through asking myself why the hell I do it, but I seem to always come back. I must be addicted. Best of luck to Xanadb!

Space weapons

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Simon over at Dossing believes that weapons in space is ‘utter balloney’ and will never happen. I disagree, the motivation is there and the goal is too big a prize not to achieve. There are lots of possibilities besides the lasers or missiles Simon suggests. I did like Michael Goldfarb’s piece in the Weekly Standard in August where he outlines a number of possibilities for weaponising space.

Among the weapons the Air Force might deploy are space-based lasers, a space plane capable of delivering a half-ton payload anywhere in the world in 45 minutes, and the “rods from god.” The rods are currently just a concept–and have been since the early 1980s–but, if the myriad technical and political hurdles to deployment could be overcome, the system could represent a tremendous leap forward in the military’s ability to destroy underground, hardened facilities of the type that have allowed Iran and other rogue states to violate the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty with impunity.

Rods from God is a rather interesting phrase isn’t it? Can the technical problems associated with this type of technology not be overcome Simon?

And it should be noted that the Bush administration has started work on this area. See this CDI piece, and this Air Force PDF on ‘Counter space’ operations.

Chinese spacecraft back to Earth

Monday, October 17th, 2005

It looks like a success for China, their prowess in space technology continues to grow.

Solicitor corruption

Monday, October 17th, 2005

I just can’t understand the muted response in the media. Sunday morning radio shows barely mentioned it, Gerry Ryan mentioned in passing this morning. Indeed the Sunday papers I had a chance to look at yesterday barely figured it as part of their news or analysis agendas. The only person to have realised what has actually happened appears to be Pat ‘The Plank’ Kenny.

What are the reasons for the lack of anger and gusto on the part of the media? Are they scared of the solicitors? Afraid of libel allegations? Are people just not interested in solicitors stealing hundreds of thousands of euro from their clients?

Someone please explain.

Irish solicitors

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Words can’t desribe. I should really go into a rant about the goings on with Irish solicitors and their clients, but I am so angry I can’t articulate my position right now. I can’t understand why this is not figuring more prominently on Irish blogs or in the media. Outright fraud, theft, whatever you want to call it, but it’s definately not ‘overcharging’. ‘Overcharging’ implies a mistake or an oversight – this was planned, pre-meditated theft of vulnerable people.

And the response?

One firm on Henry Street has put their proverbial hands up in the air – “Sorry we ‘overcharged’ and will refund our clients.”

As one caller to Liveline noted – if he went into his solicitors office in the morning and took €10,000 from the premises would the Gardai be called and him arrested, or, upon being caught, would he simply say, sorry about that here’s your money back, and walk out the door.

The crux of this issue seems to be that people believe this to be an isolated incident. It almost certainly is not, I have no doubt that this behaviour is endemic in the legal profession.

More later.

Irish solicitors up to no good?

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

I will have more on this over at Irishcorruption.com, but the allegations made on yesterday’s liveline were pretty damn serious. It gets coverage in today’s IT:

The Law Society is also establishing a complaints helpline and placing advertisements in the media urging people who were unfairly charged solicitors’ fees to come forward.

The move follows revelations that some solicitors had deducted substantial costs from Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) awards. Some clients claimed they had been charged up to €10,000 in costs, while others said their solicitors had withheld up to 10 per cent of awards.

This was despite the fact that the redress board had promised to cover their legal costs.

Director general of the Law Society Ken Murphy said: “There is revulsion in the solicitors’ profession over this and a determination to root it out.” However, until this week the society had received just one complaint about the matter.

Avian flu spread

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

More news on the avian flu front. It appears that the cases in Turkey have been confirmed as H5N1, meanwhile

The EU has banned all bird and poultry products from Romania after tests confirmed the presence of a strain of bird flu there. Duck samples tested positive for the H5 virus, contradicting earlier findings. But there is no evidence yet that the strain is the serious H5N1 variety, which has killed 60 people in Asia. Further tests will be carried out.

iPod Video, good for the prOn industry?

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

I tend to agree with Damien Mulley, you might find people watching rather, ahem, interesting videos.

Job prospects

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Dan Drezner, one of my favourite bloggers, has been denied tenure at the University of Chicago. He is understandably disappointed. It may have something to do with him having a blog:

[Speaking of regrets, let’s go back to the blog.... er… any regrets?--ed.] The very first words I wrote on this blog were: “I shouldn’t be doing this. I’ll be going up for tenure soon.” This is a theme that I’ve touched on several times since then. The point is, I can’t say I didn’t go into this with my eyes open.

That said, if one assumes that the opportunity cost of blogging (e.g., better or more scholarship) was the difference between tenure and no tenure – an unclear assertion at best – then it’s a tough call. From a strict cost-benefit analysis, one could argue that the doors that blogging opened could have been deferred for a few years in return for the annuity of a tenured position at Chicago. That said, if I did things only for the money, I never would have entered the academy in the first place. And I’ve enjoyed the psychic rewards of blogging way too much to regret my choice.

Makes me wonder about my own job prospects as this blog continues to grow.

Damien Mulley posted about this earlier, and linked to this article in the New York Sun.

‘Several dead’ in Caucasus clash

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Trouble in the Caucasus, Kabardino-Balkaria is one of the may enclaves in the region, as this Economist graphic shows.

Caucasus

Indeed the Economist piece back in February discussed the instability of the region.

IN ANY other European country, the carnage would have caused horror. But ten years of war in Chechnya have inured most Russians to the fates of desperadoes such as the obscure Islamist group that two weeks ago holed up in an apartment in Nalchik, the capital of the north Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. A three-day siege ended bloodily: the apartment was gutted, and its seven occupants, alleged perpetrators of a murderous attack on a government agency in December, were all killed.

Still, the location of this particular last stand was troubling. Kabardino-Balkaria had until recently been a patch of relative calm in Russia’s poorest, angriest and most complex region. So too, until last October, had seemed Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria’s western neighbour. Then seven businessmen were killed, and their bodies thrown down a mine. The son-in-law of the republic’s president was implicated in the murders, and a mob stormed the presidential headquarters in Cherkessk, the capital.

And indeed it warned back then:

In Ingushetia and North Ossetia, people whisper about unknown bearded men turning up at mosques. Mass unemployment helps to make militancy seem like a good career option. But while the threat may be growing, only a small minority dream of a north Caucasian caliphate. Many of the region’s problems have nothing to do with either religion or ethnicity.

The big risk is simply that more and more of the north Caucasus may slip into lawlessness and drift out of Moscow’s orbit. After his meddling in Ukraine, pundits talked of Mr Putin’s plans to reconstitute the Russian empire. But, in a sense, Russia is already its own empire. The possibility that it may one day crumble as the Soviet Union did is Mr Putin’s central fear. The neglect of the north Caucasus may eventually lead to that fear’s realisation.

We will have to wait and see who is behind the latest attacks.

El Blogroll

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

I haven’t gone near my blogroll in ages, so it is badly in need of renovation. Some blogs that are no longer being updated have been deleted. And I have put in some new additions that I should have added ages ago. Here are the additions: (in no particular order I might add):

Progressive Ireland
TCAL
Piaras Kelly
RunningwithBulls
Aine Livia
Res Publica
In Fact, ah
Hurler on the Ditch
Michele Neylon
Funferal
Dossing Times
Damien Mulley
Disillusioned Lefty (How did I miss Kevin?)
Dave’s Rants
Donal

Hacked

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Has Sliabh been hacked?

Fact checking Willie O’Dea

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Well the question was bound to come up on Questions and Answers, and it took a good bit of waffle before we could down to the meat of the question.

Enter random audience person with very specific question (18th minute):

…last week the Taioseach, when he was accused of rip off and mismanagement, stated and I quote, that the accusations were erroneous, not true, unfair and incorrect. If they guy at the top doesn’t think there’s a problem, what’s the story there?

Those words were used by the Taoiseach on October 4th during Leaders questions. To quote him:

…I will just touch on some of the issues. The PPARS system started off first in the mid 1990s when the health boards decided they needed a better payroll system because they did not even know how many people were working for them at the time. They looked at setting up a payroll system for a number of the health boards at the time and the estimated cost was €9 million or €10 million. Early estimates changed over the three-year period from 1998 to 2000 to €17 million. The highly respected Hay organisation undertook a full appraisal and review of the level of investment that would be required to finish the project properly, during its transition from a payroll system to a whole human resource management system that would be unlike what was envisaged or presented at the outset. The initial payroll system became a system dealing with personal information, pension payments, recruitment, time management and rostering. It became an entirely different system. The Deputy’s suggestion that the projected cost of the system increased from €10 million to €150 million is erroneous and unfair and should not be entertained.

[Emphasis added]

Now enter Willie O’Dea, master political tactician, but only recent recipient of cabinet level post.

O’Dea: I think, I think in fairness now, I have to refute that last comment. He wasn’t talking about a waste of public money. He was, he was, he was talking about some of the arguments advanced in the Dail, some of the other examples used. I mean he wasn’t referring directly to this. The Taoiseach came into the Dail, the Taoiseach came into the Dail and admitted, quite freely, quite freely, that there was a, quite freely, that this was just quite frankly unacceptable.

That is contrary to the facts. Go look. The answer given by the Taoiseach was in direct reply to a question specifically dealing with PPARS, and nothing else. And after looking through leaders questions from last week I have yet to find anywhere the Taoiseach ‘quite freely’ admitted it was unacceptable, if anything the tone of the Taoiseach was denial.

I guess one could say that Willie O’Dea lied. But that language might be too strong, might it not?

[Posted to Irish Corruption]

The Mater Hospital and cancer drugs

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Twenty Major highlighted something I have been meaning to write about. That is the rather odd (crazy?) decision of the Mater Hospital. I will try and tell the story in brief for those of you who have not read about it.

Brian Conlan, Chief Executive of the Mater hospital, along with the clinical trials advisory group, decided that it was against the hospital’s Catholic ethos to allow a clinical trial of Tarceva, a drug which is said to prolong life in patients with lung cancer. This was because women in the trial would be required to use contraceptives, as the drug could have catastrophic effects on an unborn baby. The trial was therefore deferred.

The Irish Times recently reported:

In June Mr Conlan wrote to the hospital board saying his group was receiving clinical trial applications which contravened the hospital’s ethos.

The Mater said the advisory group deferred its decision on the Tarceva trial because it knew another committee in the hospital, with three members, was drafting the wording of an extra information leaflet which would be given to trial participants and would reflect the hospital’s ethos.

Fr Kevin Doran, Mater chairman John Morgan, and a nurse tutor, Sr Eugene Nolan, are on this group which will report on its leaflet to a full meeting of the hospital board on October 18th.

A hospital spokesman said that if the board adopted the wording at that stage, the advisory group could give the trial the go-ahead.

I side with Twenty on this one:

The irony of a nun and a priest making a decision about contraception is hardly worth noting but this is the kind of shite we had to put up with for years in Ireland. We had a government but the church ran everything really. I really did think their influence had waned to a point where they were as insignificant as they deserved to be but there’s still a bit of life left in the rancid old dragon yet.

China countdown to space launch

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Events like this might not seem all that important right now. But the next big area up for grabs is space, and whoever dominates space will dominate the planet. Hence the rising American interest in both protecting it’s existing assets in orbit, and it’s plans to stop anyone else from having as much dominance as they do. It’s what any hegemon in it’s right mind would do.

It might seem in the realms of science fiction now, but it really is inevitable that space-based weapons will become a reality, treaties will be ignored. And think about it, whoever controls an orbital array can strike anywhere in the world at any time, with a non-nuclear weapon that can and would be used. It’s a ticket to global dominance that would be quite difficult to overcome, and Russia and China would not be up to it combatting it alone.

New Scientist has more here.