Archive for February, 2006

In Boston

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

I be in Boston now, more soon.

Treasure Trove?

Friday, February 10th, 2006

My trawl through government departments has been an interesting one thus far.

For example, you might be interested in reading:

The handbook for Government Ministers in Cabinet.(PDF)

Or here is a request for tenders for Servers for the Department of the Taoiseach in 2002. (PDF).

Or a recent Treaty between the US and Ireland. (PDF)

Or these statistics on wells.

A list of Teagasc Organic advisers, with emails and phone numbers.

A list of people who work at the Department of the Marine/Natural Resources, in the Exploration and Mining Division.

Some kind of list of licences for something related to fishing.

Various annexes from the Budget, like this one. Or this one. (I think these are freely available anyway)

Some Benchmarking stats for Civil Servants from the Department of Finance

All the liason officers for decentralisation.

It gets juicier.

Here is a letter from TCD Professor Werner Blau to Minister Noel Dempsey (CC’d to Enda Kenny), in which he disagrees with comments Dempsey made in the Dail with regard to the Corrib Gas Line. It also includes a detailed analysis from May last year about the reviews carried out on the Pipeline project.

Here is a PPP table of costs related to projects in the State.

Here is the minutes of a meeting concerning the Corrib Gas Pipeline.

Here is a draft letter from the Government to the now defunct Media Lab Europe from 2004, you can see the edits in red.(.DOC)

Here is a letter written by Catherine McDonald of Com Reg to Irish Times journalist Jamie Smyth concerning an FOI request in 2004.(.DOC)

Here are the Licensing Terms (generous to the extreme, I believe written when Ray Burke was Minister) for Offshore and Oil an Gas, Exploration and Development, 1992.

Here is a 2002 proposal by Digiweb to the Department of Communications for the Louth WLAN project. (.PDF)

Here is a letter written by Dermot O’Kane of Airtricity to Bob Hanna, Chief Technical Advisor, at the Department of Communications, in May 2005. (.PDF)

Finally, here is a confidential memorandum written by Andersen Management International experience as the lead consultant in the GSM2 tender in Ireland 1995, written in 2002 to the Moriarty Tribunal.

I have found dozens more documents, and may update shortly.

The government Robots.txt file

Friday, February 10th, 2006

Does anyone notice anything strange about the Robots.txt file on irlgov.ie?

Does the 13th of May 1999 ring a bell? The Public Accounts Committee of that date appears to be disallowed.

Might be nothing. Just wondered.

Update:
Thanks to the commenters below for their efforts in relation to the PAC documents. I have been looking at the Foreign Affairs website to see why certain Press Releases appear to have been disallowed. There appears to be no logical order (besides chronologically upwards from 1 or thereabouts) to the archive of the press releases on the current Foreign Affairs website, especially in the early years. I found this one, numerically one above one of those blocked. It relates to the period Ray Burke was Minister for Foreign Affairs.

If you go here http://foreignaffairs.gov.ie/Press_Releases/19970718/318.htm, it seems to follow the logical order that the ASP referral to 317 precedes this release. There are a slew of press releases missing from that period, at least in as far as the archive system seems to be constructed.

At one point it appears the website was moved from one system to another, converting ASP pages into HTML, though my expertise in that is sorely lacking.

Any technical help would be appreciated.

Update 2
: I found this quite funny. Apparently Dermot Ahern was not only alive in 1899, he was also the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

# robots.txt for www.irlgov.ie
# mail webmaster@irlgov.ie for comments

User-agent: *
Disallow: /webguide
Disallow: /webkit
Disallow: /scripts
Disallow: /topic
Disallow: /entemp
Disallow: /statelab
Disallow: /ngi
Disallow: /nli
Disallow: /valtrib
Disallow: /valoff
Disallow: /environ
Disallow: /FOREIG~1
Disallow: /_private
Disallow: /_cgi-bin/
Disallow: /aras/_private
Disallow: /aras/_vti_bin/shtml.dll/
Disallow: /committees-99/c-publicaccounts/990513/debatebot.htm
Disallow: /garda/_vti_bin
Disallow: /iveagh/mediacentre/display.asp?ID=271
Disallow: /iveagh/mediacentre/display.asp?ID=277
Disallow: /iveagh/mediacentre/display.asp?ID=316
Disallow: /iveagh/mediacentre/display.asp?ID=317
Disallow: /tec/_private
Disallow: /tec/_vti_bin/shtml.dll/

Itchy and Scratchy had better watch out

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

untitled

Taken from CNN.

Gah

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Blog fatigue strikes.

A significant amount of people coming in looking for Danish cartoons made the server fall over yesterday, some interesting comments there. The samples I posted on Flickr have been viewed 2,500 times in two days.

Bolton Watch

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

Steve Clemons has launched Bolton Watch over at TPM Cafe. It should be good. Steve talks about a story that gives you some indication of the style of Bolton over on his own blog:

When he arrived at the UN, one of the first meetings he had with other Security Council principals had him stepping in and saying:

I’m John Bolton, and I’m here to pursue the interests of the United States.

Those who are here to pursue the interests of the world, please yourself.

Podcast numero deaux

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Richard has posted the most recent podcast – it did suffer some teething problems, but hopefully they will get ironed out with time. It featured Richard, myself, Killian Forde and Constantin Gurdgiev. You can download it here.

Images and pictures of Mohammed, historical

Sunday, February 5th, 2006

Michelle Malkin linked to images of Mohammed, the notion that any images of Mohammed are forbidden in Islam seems odd to me, but then I’m not religious myself.

What I had not realised is that this story has been brewing since October. That this is the case lends more weight to an argument that the controversy is less reactionary than people might think.

South Park also showed Mohammed, one would imagine in a more satirical light:

sp_mohammed

Priceless MacGyver

Sunday, February 5th, 2006

Yes it’s good marketing, and yes it’s a funny advert.

Vote in Irish Blog Awards

Sunday, February 5th, 2006

The voting begins, go there now and vote!

Question

Sunday, February 5th, 2006

I wondered if directly showing the cartoons on here, for the purposes of debate, and in order to see what all the fuss is about, would be a directly offensive exercise to Islamic people?

Or does one wait a few months until the furore has died down? I am getting a spike in visitor activity today too – since many media organisations are not showing the cartoons, it appears that the Internet is the place to go.

Another question, in circumstances like this where it involves a foreign language newspaper essentially only available in that country, what would have been done before the Internet was invented? Is the decreasing ‘size’ of the world partly to blame?

Would the cartoon have even caused an outcry? If it did, how would it be reported in the news, and how would people get their eyes on the offending cartoons?

Leo Strauss and the origins of Neo-Conservatism

Sunday, February 5th, 2006

I have been looking into the philosophy of Leo Strauss in more depth recently, and found the first episode of the BBC series, ‘The Power of Nightmares’ (60mins) quite helpful. It is worth a look. Some interesting stuff in there about the early days of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

This is related to a recent article by Robert Kagan in the Weekly Standard, denying that he is a Straussian.

Soso Dzhugashvili

Sunday, February 5th, 2006

Amongst people that I have met from the former Soviet Union, most especially those from Georgia, Stalin is a figure that is applauded in Soviet history. I have had very interesting conversations with Georgians about the legacy of Stalin, and most say that what Russia needs now is another ‘man of steel’, to bring the country back into line. They tend not to beat around the bush when it comes to some of Stalin’s exploits. Of the 1944 deportation of almost the entire Chechen population to Siberia Georgians seem to have little sympathy, an Orthodox country surrounded by Islamic ones lends little support for Islamic populations. And of all the other people exterminated by Stalin, Geogians usually seem to say that they deserved it as they were ‘criminals’.

It all makes this article in Foreign Affairs more interesting. I have puzzled over the lack of resentment for Stalin among all of the former Soviet Union, Sarah Mendelson and Theordore Gerber write about polls carried out in the former Soviet Union over the last few years, it makes for startling reading, especially among younger people:

The rule, therefore, seems to be thorough ambivalence about Stalin among Russia’s youth. Although some people might take comfort in the finding that hard-core Stalinism is not widespread, such ambivalence is itself disturbing. It suggests that Russia badly needs a systematic de-Stalinization campaign — a need that is growing increasingly urgent. Our survey data suggest that young people’s attitudes toward Stalin are, if anything, becoming more positive: in 2005, nearly 19 percent of respondents said they would definitely or probably vote for him, up from 13 percent in 2003 and 2004.

The article suggests solutions, education being the main one, but in Putin’s Russia this appears to be a problem:

Western cheerleaders of Russian President Vladimir Putin are likely to dismiss positive Russian attitudes toward Stalin as a minor growing pain or a speed bump on the country’s road to democracy — just as they downplay the carnage in Chechnya; the festering, potentially explosive conflict throughout the North Caucasus; the Kremlin’s blatant suppression of independent television outlets and nongovernmental organizations that dare to challenge its official line; the sorry state of Russia’s disintegrating military; the predatory and ineffective police; and the massive corruption at all levels of Russian government.

Such willful blindness is dangerous. But so is the opposite perspective of some pessimistic Russia-watchers, who take Russians’ ambivalence toward Stalin as evidence of an authoritarian gene embedded somewhere in the Russian character. In fact, the Russian public’s attitude toward Stalin is neither innocuous (and thus not worth changing) nor inherent (and thus immutable). Our surveys suggest that Russian attitudes toward Stalin owe not to any instinctive authoritarianism, but to the fact that no concerted, effective de-Stalinization campaign has ever been conducted in the country. On the contrary, myths and illusions about Russia’s great dictator have been allowed to survive, and even thrive, often with tacit (if not explicit) encouragement from the government.

Will Stalin be rememberd by his people as a great and wise leader, or as a murderous tyrant?

The Perils of Primacy

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

Benjamin Shwarz has a thoughtful piece on how America must deal with it’s primacy. He argues that since the end of the Cold War, the United States has not fully dealt with its new position, and must seriously consider it’s position, and soon. He notes:

Defense analysts have grown increasingly nervous about the convergence of several strategic developments. In “The End of Mutual Assured Destruction?,” a brilliant and sobering study of military analysis that is being prepared for publication in an academic journal, Keir A. Lieber, a scholar at Notre Dame, and Daryl G. Press, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a consultant to the Defense Department and to RAND, have trenchantly surveyed the trends that are troubling the experts. The first is the precipitous erosion of Russian nuclear capabilities. Compared with its forces in 1990, Moscow has 55 percent fewer intercontinental ballistic missiles, 39 percent fewer strategic bombers, and 80 percent fewer ballistic-missile submarines, or SSBNs (the component of a nuclear arsenal most likely to survive a first strike). Moscow itself has stated that its nuclear forces will decline by an additional 35 percent in the coming years, but many experts believe the total Russian arsenal could shrink even more, from about 3,800 strategic warheads today to as few as 500 (the United States currently has more than 5,200). More important than this quantitative reduction, though, has been the even steeper qualitative decline. Owing to financial constraints, Russia can’t ensure unbroken monitoring of American ICBM fields, and can’t plug the holes in its missile-warning networks that render it blind to attacks from U.S. submarines in launch areas in the Pacific. Maintenance, supply, and training deficiencies afflict Russia’s nuclear forces generally and its submarines most crucially. A viable Russian deterrent demands that a number of SSBNs be at sea at any given time and that they successfully evade the U.S. attack submarines that stalk them. But in fact most Russian SSBNs must now remain pierside—the Russians weren’t able to conduct any patrols in 2002 and could carry out only two in 2004. This makes the SSBNs highly vulnerable to a U.S. first strike, and it means that the skills Russian SSBN crews need in order to elude U.S. subs have been greatly vitiated (most Russian crews haven’t been on patrol in years). Largely for these reasons former commanders of Russia’s ballistic-missile fleet warned as long ago as 1998 that their supposedly invulnerable submarines would be detected and destroyed in a conflict with the United States.

And he concludes, crucially:

Confronted with the growing nuclear imbalance, Russia and China will be forced to try to redress it; but given America’s advantages, that effort, as Lieber and Press note, could take well over a decade. Until a nuclear stalemate is restored—if it ever is—Moscow and Beijing will surely buy deterrence by spreading out their nuclear forces, decentralizing their command-and-control systems, and implementing “launch on warning” policies. If more than half a century of analyzing nuclear dangers and “crisis stability” has taught us anything, it is that all these steps can cause crises to escalate uncontrollably. They could trigger the unauthorized or accidental use of nuclear weapons; this could lead to inadvertent nuclear war.

American military preponderance now embraces the entire “spectrum of conflict,” as Pentagon planners put it. That is to say, we’re miles ahead of everyone in every type of warfare. But if that preponderance is leading to a world in which Russian and Chinese launch commanders are fingering nuclear hair triggers, the game may not be worth the candle. Without any public scrutiny or debate the United States has emerged as the nuclear hegemon, in possession of a destabilizing first-strike capability. It does not matter whether this has come about by accident or design, or whether America’s motives are worthy or malign; the condition itself is the problem. The ramifications of this state of affairs are of the gravest significance to America’s security—and the world’s. It’s time for scrutiny and debate to begin.

Peace spreads?

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

Following on from my post last month about the apparent spread of peace, the Atlantic have a helpful graph that summarises the Human Security Report.

violence

The number of ongoing armed conflicts is 40 percent lower now than in 1992, and the number of deadly conflicts—defined as wars leading to 1,000 or more combat deaths—is 80 percent lower. The number of military coups and attempted coups was 60 percent lower in 2004 than in 1963. And the annual number of victims of genocides and mass killings fell by 80 percent from 1989 to 2001, even taking such places as Bosnia and Rwanda into account. 
The exception to this generally positive trend, of course, is terrorism.