Tuesday, August 30, 2005 

We Love The Fourth Green Field

Most surreal moment of the week has to come from a motley enterprise involving Northern Loyalists, the Orange Order and Unionist front-group FAIR (presumably Lord Laird is on holidays somewhere nice).

I refer, of course, to the Love Ulster Campaign which is attracting quite a bit of attention at the moment in the North. (Nobody said that Loyalists' grasp of geography would be any better than their knowledge of history)

JoBlog (perhaps drawn there by misreading the title as Ulster Love?) has a few comments to make. And Deaglan over at Res Publica has gone deep undercover to trawl the murky depths of the LoveUlster forums. Resurfacing (thankfully in one piece), he presents a number of gems showing what "We Love Ulster" really means. He saves the money-quote for the end:
"Lord Carson's dream will finally be realised and Catholics will realise they have nothing to fear from Northern Ireland and the UK."
A sentiment unsurprisingly echoed by A Tangled Bigot Web contributor Andrew, who finishes a gushing post on Love Ulster with:
"The only advice I can give to the campaign itself is to broaden your appeal to non-nationalist Catholics and people who are members of the new ethnic communities in Northern Ireland.

Best wishes to all involved with 'Love Ulster'."
Quite. Though somehow I can't imagine that the ethnic minorities in question will exactly be rushing to don sashes and bowler hats any time soon.

(Vancie is so far holding fire on Love Ulster, strangely enough. Surely a first?)


Tiger on the loose

Well, I finally went ahead and did it this weekend gone. I installed Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger", and despite the inevitable horror stories you see on the net it didn't eat my hard drives nor go up in a bang and smoke. In fact, it went quite smoothly (I would still back up, though, just in case).

Initial reaction? Safari has gotten a lot faster. Spotlight is great, though a lot of its power has been hidden from casual view (more on this below). I'll need to find a useful widget in order to, er, find Dashboard useful. I cannot wait to get at Automator.

Back to Spotlight. It turns out that there's both a more advanced Spotlight window and under-documented Boolean operators in there. The 'hidden', enhanced Spotlight can be accessed by Command-F in the Finder. The Booleans available for Spotlight include handy little options for diacretical marks and a range of other goodies.

More on Spotlight's obscure depths at the following:

Apple - Spotlight Tips
Ipse dixit

(Anyone else out there care to chip in with word on how they're experiencing 10.4?)


Fact-checking Constantine

The John McGuirk Inaccuracy in Commentary Award this week goes to Constantine Gurdgiev, TCD lecturer and Open Republic Institute think-tank director/spokesman.

Appearing on Newstalk 106's Wide Angle, CG became more than a little flustered while trying to defend Pat Robertson's remarks advocating the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Presented with the unavoidable harsh reality that Chavez is in fact a freely-elected democratic leader, and that therefore the US killing him is somewhat of a terrorist action, our faithful bearer of the torch of freedom was reduced to claiming that:
"Adolf Hitler was elected overwhelmingly"

As a certain jaundiced US blog might remark, Sadly, No!.

The Nazis never won a majority mandate in a free election, unlike Chavez. The March 1933 election in Germany was rigged, with the Nazi's most implacable enemies banned by Hitler's coalition government from taking part (by excuse of the Reichstag fire).

The continuing right-wing wriggling over condemning Robertson's remarks outright stinks of hypocrisy. It seems that the Monroe Doctrine isn't dead or forgotten, after all.

Update: Before anyone emails me about it, yes, I now realise that the man's name in the Roman alphabet is more usually spelled Constantin Gurdgiev. My only defence for my faux pas is to note this.


If you go to see nothing else this week...

...go see Bollywood crossover epic The Rising.

Monday, August 29, 2005 

Blog administrative stuff

Well, as people have no doubt noticed I've been tweaking the blog design a bit to get it more to my own taste (can anyone figure out why Haloscan is appearing twice on solitary posts?). Feedback and suggestions are welcome in the comments, folks.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to mention the latest additions to my own daily reading, namely the excellent Planet Potato, The Green Ribbon and The Yorkshire Ranter. I highly recommend them all.


Quote of the Day

Who said it?
"Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

No Leftie, but rather a certain 'respectable' US think-tanker who was recently interviewed on RTÉ.

(Answer here)


Irish tech journo throws hissy fit

Dave's Rants has the details.

Sunday, August 28, 2005 

It must be that turn of the Wheel again...

Knife of Dreams (Robert Jordan's eleventh book in his NYT bestseller Wheel of Time series) is due out October 11th, complete with the Darrell K. Sweet artwork which we all know and love (see picture above, of what we can only guess to be Perrin, Gaul and Berelain. Seriously, this guy's been doing artwork for decades, and he still can't draw figures in a natural proportion or get perspective right?).

An excerpt from the beginning of the book is here. True to form, Jordan is once more wringing fans out for extra cash by selling an eBook of the entirety of the Prologue. I can only presume that people are already side-stepping this display of greed by typing Embers Falling On Dry Grass into their favourite P2P program (note that copyright piracy is illegal, folks). About the only bright spot in this now-predictable happening is that we're at least given dual-platform (Windows and Mac) DRM.

Chapter One is also available as a free eBook from Amazon.com if you pre-order your copy there. Don't bother, though - it's only 18 pages and we can safely assure you that nothing much happens. Support your local independent book-seller instead (and those people deserve the custom, believe us).

Good news - buzz is that Book Twelve is the last one. Hopefully we might finally find out who killed Asmodean, and where Moiraine is, and all the other plots that haven't moved forward since at least Book Seven or Eight (sadly, we're not exaggerating here). By this stage, I suspect that a lot of fans are rooting for the DO to kill off Rand, just for it to finally be over.

(OK, episode of geekiness over. Except to note that Stephen Donaldson has an ongoing interview here on his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series)



Free Stater notes the rise of a new Northern Star in the form of a regular at Slugger and A Tangled Bigot Web who now has her own blog.

Surely the most entertaining comments thread of the week (at least to us) can be found here.

Friday, August 26, 2005 

Bolton's first lovenote to the World

See Talking Points Memo for the details.

Those people who backed his appointment to the hilt will suddenly go mute now, we suspect. John who?

Thursday, August 25, 2005 

David Vance vs. the Polish nation

One of the more under-reported pieces of news at the moment is that the Guards are to drop the entry requirement for Gaelic. This has (we are reliably informed) today already produced the first inquiries on joining the force by Polish immigrants here. There've been big changes in the make-up of Irish society in the past decade, but this is going to be nothing to adjusting to the large Polish community growing here.

The decision to open the Gardaí is welcome as a necessary step to help absorb these newcomers. It has also sparked a good deal of comment - much of it, particularly from Norn Iron quarters and especially from 'Reform Movement' Unionists members, laughable - on Slugger.

Which brings us neatly on to the subject of Polish immigrants to the UK and to Free Stater's most reliable source of entertaining bigotry, namely David Vance over at A Tangled Bigot Web. Our favourite Little Englander writes:
"August 24, 2005


The Daily Telegraph reports that nearly a quarter of a million workers from the east European countries that joined the EU in 2004 have arrived to work in Britain over the past year - more than 15 times the Home Office estimate, official figures showed yesterday. Half the new workers are from Poland and are predominantly in their 20s. Can't say I'm surprised - everywhere one goes there are Poles. Even in my local rural village - there are Poles. There are more now more Poles in the UK than telegraph poles. It's a multicultural EU driven bonanza!

I'm with Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migrationwatch UK think-tank, who has said: ''The Home Office must reduce the number of work permits granted to people from outside the EU to compensate for this very large inflow.'' But they won't. The UK has abandoned any notion of control over its borders and thus the Eastern Europeans swarm into our wonderful Welfare State. And when they;ve been here long enough to acquire a vote - which party do you think they will lend their support? Vote Labour - it's the Party of Poland.

Posted by DV on August 24, 2005 at 11:02 AM "

Now, it's easy with Vancie to quickly develop a sense of outrage fatigue (let's face it: the guy's clearly a few pallets short of a Twelfth bonfire). And reminding Poles of the Soviet Bloc is a sure sign of a lack of any sense of good taste (we suggest he tests it out on Poles of -ahem- slighter build first. He might also beware of the Polish women, whose civil defence training back home has some rather martial components to it, or so we've heard).

But we cannot help feeling a sense of deja vu in DV's evident Churchillian resolve to fight them on the beaches, etc., when we recall how the Greater Majority of Ulster fretted in the post-WWII Stormont parliament over whether or not to ban fleeing Polish refugees from resettling in the province (see Fisk's In Time Of War). Balance of sectarian demographics and all that, y'see. Perhaps Davey could commemorate the occasion with a banner with something nostalgic written on it, such as "No Papists Wanted Here"?

Just a helpful suggestion.

We'll end with the legendary verdict of Newton Emerson on our Sassanach hero:
"I've got to admit I'm also appalled at David Vance's reaction to this, although it may be coloured by his particular animus against people who get published elsewhere but the letter's page.............I am genuinely surprised by this and frankly quite revolted. Who knew David Vance could hide almost as much hypocrisy behind that little moustache as Gerry Adams hides behind a whole beard?"

Who indeed?


An eco-friendly bridge to Hydrogen fuels?

DailyKos has the details.


The Freedom Institute's problem with breastfeeding

Details over at FI Fie Foe Fum.



Full Metal Jacket afficienados will get a kick out of this caption contest over at American blog Rox Populi.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005 

A long and time-honoured American tradition

Amazing the things you read about on the internets these days. The President of Venezuela, as we've noted before, likely sleeps with one eye open.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 

FI score latest US right-wing endorsement

This time from Irish-American Brian Maloney, contributor on noted racist wingnut pundit Michelle Malkin's blog (adding to their previous notch from Crazy Davey). To quote Maloney from early Tuesday:
"Wow- a well-designed conservative, pro-American, Italian blog! This one makes my day.

One from Ireland (preferably anti-EU) might be even better, if it existed."

Fear not! His plaintive appeal was soon answered by Malkin's loyal fanbase. A clearly overjoyed Maloney posted later (misspelled Gaelic left as is):
By Brian Maloney · August 23, 2005 02:54 PM
Yesterday's post about a pro-American Italian blog caused irritation when I asked about a lack of similar sites from Ireland.

For that, I say ta bron orm (sorry), because I quickly heard from a number of people about these:

--- Neocenturions, a well-written moderate site. Scroll down for timely remarks on the increasingly dangerous rhetoric of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Could Pat Robertson be right about Chavez?

--- The Freedom Institute, with a heavy focus on economics.

--- AtlanticBlog, from an American living in Ireland, also strong on economics and global politics.

--- And Mark Humphrys, with an extensive site covering politics and religious discussions. Note: posts arranged by topic, not date.[...]"

(In a measure of Maloney's wingnut status, readers should be aware that his "Chavez" remarks refer to this)

US expat William Sjostrom (Capo di Capi Re to the Freedom Institute) has previously come to our attention as an object of Malkin approval. Humphrys is, well, a nut of Horowitzian proportions, as his own writings make clear.

The 'Neocenturions' (who have only now come to notice) style themselves "Hired Goon", "ZoonPoliticon" and "wolf'n'steyn". (While not as unintentionally gay-sounding as 'Hindrocket', 'Big Trunk' and 'Deacon', we'll give them credit for capturing a genuine sense of that US right-wing je ne sais quoi).

I was reassured to note that these potential young Freedom Bloggers already enjoy the FI imprimateur:

"Keith Mallon said...
Hey folks.

Hadn't seen this blog before.
Good to see you're around.

Drop us a line and catch for a drink at some stage - yeah?

Register on the forum and send us a PM for email details."

Surely, three talented individuals to look out for in the future.


Congratulations to new Think-Tank

DICK (the Dublin Institute for Culture and Knowledge) would like to welcome a new fraternal institution to the fold; the Poor Man Institute for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony.

As the Editors remark:

"One thing you notice, if you pay much attention to the professional wingnut class, is that they all seem to have some fancy-sounding, quasi-academic positions at organizations that you’ve heard of, but have no idea what they do; or which you think you’ve heard of, but you’re actually thinking of some other organization that you also have no idea about what they do. Most of these organizations appear to be “think tanks”, a term which once meant something (RAND, Brookings), but now appears to have devolved into what we used to call “propaganda mills”, but without the icky working-class connotations. I don’t mean to denigrate all such institutions - some people express sincere admiration for the work of AEI, for example - but, as a class, they seem mostly to exist for the sake of existing, existing so they can gussy up some otherwise undistinguished CVs. Well, I’ve got as undistinguished a CV as any of these National Review guys, and I want in on the action."

Indeed. While they have somehow overlooked the bounty of the Atlas Foundation leaflet we at DICK swear by, they usefully provide their own six-point plan, which we would encourage readers to peruse.

In particular, Item 3 puts us in mind of someone dear to our own hearts.

UPDATE: We also extended our best wishes to the Poor Man Institute in the comments to their announcement.
"EWI Says:
August 24th, 2005 at 2:31 am
We at the Dublin Institute for Culture and Knowledge (DICK for short) are delighted to welcome our new brother think-tank to the fold.

Furthermore, we are delighted to offer the Richard Waghorne Memorial Scholarship for facillitating the important exchange of ideas and friendship across the Atlantic. Unlike our right-wing counterparts we can’t offer swanky champagne parties, but we do have ready access to Polish bootlegged booze."

(Details here)

Some varieties of Yanks are welcome on these green shores.


A Little Push-back

Wedding Photographers Northampton UK


The conspiracy to turn us all gay

No, not an Onion article, but rather the latest from torture-apologist and US right-wing academic Eugene Volokh (via Atrios). Jesse Taylor at fellow yanqui blog Pandagon has commentary.

(OK, I give in. The real, and non-work safe, Onion article is here)

Monday, August 22, 2005 

Avian 'flu - a clear and present danger

This is something we should be worried about at this particular moment in time. H5N1 (or the 'Asian Bird Flu') is in danger of arriving in Europe via migratory birds in the coming weeks and months. I've been following the coverage of this for a while, as scientists and health care professionals continue to try to raise the alarm with governments.

The Irish Government recently ordered 200,000 doses of vaccine, which is a welcome display of competence after the iodine tablets episode of a couple of years back. However, the situation at Dublin Airport is (as any traveller can tell you) laughable, as this Sunday Times article confirms:

"A British Midlands flight from London to Dublin was quarantined after eight passengers, who flew to London on a chartered flight from the Chinese capital, became ill.

Two of the passengers developed flu-like symptoms and began vomiting at London’s Heathrow airport, but later boarded a flight to Dublin. The pilot, who knew 40 of his 188 passengers and eight crew had travelled together from Beijing, quarantined the plane and called ahead for medical assistance. He suspected that they had contracted the deadly bird flu.

However, when the plane landed in Dublin no public health experts were available because of a strike. The passengers were allowed to leave after being diagnosed with food poisoning by an airport GP and were only checked by public health officials several days later, when they were given the all-clear.

Ireland has no 24-hour system to protect against outbreaks of disease such as Sars or a biological-terror attack, including anthrax.

The country’s infection control shortcomings are well known. Two years ago, at the height of global concerns about Sars, a Chinese woman suspected of carrying the virus roamed the streets for several hours after absconding from a hostel where she was supposedly being monitored by doctors."

Pretty shocking.

There is more information at the following links:

The World Health Organization
The National Disease Surveillance Centre
Foreign Affairs article: "The Next Pandemic?"
Harvard International Review: "Missed Opportunities - Governance of Global Infectious Diseases"
Wikipedia: "Avian Influenza"


Sliming Ivana Bacik

US ex-pat William Sjostrom (or the Freedom Institute Godfather, as we like to refer to him around these parts) over at AtlanticBlog has a disgraceful little item up on his blog about Ivana Bacik, the Reid Professor of Law at TCD and a prominent feminist campaigner.

Specifically, it seems that Sjostrom has a grievance with Bacik's involvement with a new campaign to bring abortion to Ireland. While I share Sjostrom's abhorrence of abortion-on-demand (an abomination of modern Western society), I don't particularly care for the ad hominem attack on Bacik's parentage by this UCC academic.

It's entirely too reminiscent of what the stateside GOP uses to destroy opponents, and unwelcome over here (no matter how much impressionable YFGers may emulate it). He goes:
"Another usual suspect
Ivana Bacik, a law professor at Trinity College, Dublin, is the spokesman for a campaign to bring legalized abortion to Ireland. Bacik was least seen getting indignant about removing Saddam from power. Dead Iraqis, dead babies. Who else is she keen to see get killed?

Bacik says her grandfather fought in the Czech resistance against the Nazis. It seems that sometimes the apple falls very far from the tree."

One of Sjostrom's fellow US Republican activists, 'James' (with - I kid you not - the pithy email address "gopireland@att.net") picks up Dear Leader's theme with gusto in the comments, adding:
"Yes, Bacik's grandfather fought against the Nazi's. But one must remember that one of the biggest resistance groups in Czechoslovakia was an off-shoot of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union, for all of you lefties who are trying to forget your ideological heritage). One can be almost certain that he was involved in one of them, since the ones backed by the British and Americans were granted status in the US and Britain - not Ireland.

Given Bacik's stance on just about every issue, I disagree that she fell far from the tree. Although intellectually, she is still very much in the shade....Kill babies, but not terrorists."

Perhaps if 'James' were someone other than yet another ignorant right-wing American ex-pat with a big mouth, he might know that Bacik's grandfather Karel (far from being a communist, as the smearer asserts) was in fact none other than the Czech businessman who founded Waterford Crystal (since run into the ground by 'Sir' Tony O'Reilly). Oops.

P.S. The "sliming" in the title is partially a reference to another charming little Sjostrom posting of recent times, leaping to the defence of none other than one Silvio Berlusconi, crook extraordinaire and (we would hazard a guess) an object of some admiration for Free Marketeers everywhere.

Oh, and before someone sues for libel, that's statutory rape, Bill.


de Menezes cover-up falling apart

Readers will no doubt be aware that the tissue of lies spun out by London police to cover for the killing of Brazilian man Jean Charles de Menezes continues to unravel. Of course, no-one who has followed the media shenanigans by the British security forces in the North over the years should be surprised by any of this.

The latest is that the police leaks claiming that the Tube CCTV system (the one which provided such good records of the original bombers) was completely inoperative on the day de Menezes died, unsurprisingly turn out to be far from the truth. Lenin's Tomb has details.

Unfortunately, a hopeless media has already accomplished the aims of the London coppers in defusing the initial fallout from the events of this murder, when public pressure might have produced resignations. The initial reporting (based on deceitful police sources) in the days when de Menezes' death was front page news has already implanted a false narrative in the public mind, and subsequent corrections inevitably get much less attention.

(People following the recent killings and other scandals by Gardaí here will note the similarities in this old routine).

The press system of reporting the spin of police 'sources' will likely continue untroubled, awaiting the next hapless person to die from security force action. Bloggers could make ourselves useful by calling out specific 'security correspondant' shills for the police. It's a small step, but the Dan Rathers episode in the US shows how it is now possible (through the non-existent barriers to publishing of the Internet) to nowadays in turn watch the Fourth Estate watchers.

The media system of uncredited sources is poison to democracy, where it is subject to such unpunished abuse by duplicitous parties. Perhaps a Media Matters for Ireland and the UK (considering the incestuous relationship between the media in both parts at present) could do a good deal of public service in consistently calling these hacks to account.

Sunday, August 21, 2005 

Magill to be Magone?

Listening to Newstalk 106's Media Matters on Sunday, I was struck (even a subsequent guest commented on it) by the weak excuses given by Magill publisher Ian Hyland on why he has so far declined to have ABC audits of circulation numbers of his magazine.

(Hyland also publishes Business & Finance, which itself ran into difficulties in 2002)

Readers with an interest in the media will be aware that advertisers require concrete, independently-audited circulation figures (warning: PDF) - or else they tend to pull the plug.

If this becomes the case, then it is difficult to see how anything short of the emergence of a rich (conservative) sugar-daddy will save this title from its third death. (Perhaps an opportunity for the Freedom Bloggers' Washington office to ride to the rescue?).

Hyland's continued reluctance to provide this information certainly suggests that the reanimated Magill may not have as much life in it as its native-born (and foreign ex-pat) New Right fanbase hoped. In a turn against type, will Frankenstein slay his monster?

Thursday, August 04, 2005 

It's not only Irish statues that move, apparently

Majikthise has the details.

(For those of you too young to know what I'm referring to, here's what happened in Ireland in the Eighties. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose older female relatives were true believers... More, here)


More on the proposed EFF Ireland

The question of whether we should set up a national version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is attracting a good deal of comment from different parties across the Irish corner of the Net today (see Damien Mulley, Dick O'Brien and Boards.ie). This is a sign of healthy interest in the issue, which is encouraging to see.

The blogger-protection angle in this is being covered pretty well over in the Back Seat Drivers thread. But I'd like to add a comment on the discussion over at Boards, which has been tackling the wider concerns which the EFF could be expected to cover (I'm not, alas, going to register at Boards). In particular, part of what Antoin posted:

"Second, civil liberties issues. The ICCL work hard at this, and have worked hard to gather resources to do it. I have met Aisling Reidy who runs the shop, and she seems very concerned about the issues. They have quite a wide, general agenda, and do get criticism, but at the end of the day, they have limited resources. Maybe we should concentrate on assisting their efforts, rather than supplanting them. As an example, I am sure that the ICCL would have gone into court on the ISPs/record companies log disclosure issue, but they just don't have the resources and it isn't the top priority for them."

(Ed. note - the "ICCL" is the Irish Council for Civil Liberties)

Mr. Mulley notes this too, in the same thread. A cursory look at the ICCL website confirms that there's nary a sign of any of the issues which would in theory be the remit of an EFF. The range of issues we're concerned with are quite important, but they suffer from being fairly incomprehensible to most politicians, members of the public and, it seems, the ICCL.

In fact (and as I've said before), the only person I can remember having an interest in these issues was Patricia McKenna, the former Green MEP.

As Antoin goes on:
"1. I think there should be a group, affiliated somehow to the ICCL to deal with civil liberties type issues, in particular, the national ID issue in a reasonable, measured way.

2. I think that Industry should get its act together to deal with the IPR issues.

3. Maybe there should be some sort of umbrella of these groups, if someone is prepared to fund it."

He's right (I'm a great believer in subsidiarity as well). The point of setting up an EFF here should be to cover the areas devoid of an independent voice at the moment (such as software patents), and to merely serve as support and co-ordinator to those which are already adequately represented.

As Danny O'Brien (hat-tip to Mr. Mulley again) said a while back, a good deal of the function of the hypothetical UK EFF (the rest being the organising, legal aid and fund-raising) would be to:

"act as a media conduit. Half our problem in the UK right now is that the press just don't have anyone in their address books that they can confidently call about on these issues. As Rufus said, most of the time they just run music industry press releases as news. The biggest lesson for me with NTK was that your best way to influence the agenda, and generate support, is to generate stories, and point people to the right experts. Just having someone at the end of a phone, handing out quotes and press releases, and pro-actively calling journalists to make sure they know what's going on, putting them in contact with all the other orgs in this area in the UK, is half the work."

I propose that we go forward with laying the foundations of this, right now.

Danny O'Brien (in the article quoted from above) proposed that a pledge be set up to get the startup funds for such an organisation in the UK. We could do the same here, if someone like the ICCL is willing (I'm sure they would be) to help. There must also be sympathetic academics in the third-level colleges, who would be invaluable.

And if someone (Irish Times journalists?) has a contact in the American EFF, we would need to get in touch with them too, and as soon as possible. Time's wasting, folks, and these issues aren't being addressed.

p.s. Antoin also mentions that there's a group in UCC working on the Creative Commons issue. Does anyone know who's doing it...?

UPDATE: a post over at the Irishblogs Yahoo! Group has more:

"fwiw, there *was* an Irish EFF back in the early 90's -- EFI. I was
involved as was Antoin and a few others. it's pretty much carked
it now though.

That could be revived -- but really, I'd suggest thinking out the list of
topics *first*, since, if it's all about protecting bloggers, that's not
strictly EFF material -- it really is more like a bloggers' union."

Well, that's interesting (and s/he correctly points out that an EFF would be more than just a "blogger's union"). There seems to be a reference to it on Boards here. Anyone from those days want to weigh in on what went wrong?

UPDATE: Antoin (in comments) has pointed to the UCC team, who can be found here. He also has an informative post on this subject over at his website.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 

The Case for an 'Irish' EFF

Damien Mulley today touches on a topic that he and Bernie Goldbach have both blogged about before, namely the creation of an Irish equivalent to the American EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). Now, some out there may ask just who the EFF are, so I'll let their own words speak for themselves:

"The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was created to defend our rights to think, speak, and share our ideas, thoughts, and needs using new technologies, such as the Internet and the World Wide Web. EFF is the first to identify threats to our basic rights online and to advocate on behalf of free expression in the digital age."

The EFF are an NGO who work to protect the established rights and liberties of the ordinary Joe Soap public in this age of computers. Their campaigns tend to cover such areas as patent law, copyright, DRM, file-sharing, the broadcasting flag and e-voting. A small staff (funded by donations) and a network of volunteer supporters form the backbone of the EFF, backed by pro-bono legal work from people like Eben Moglen. In an environment dominated by Big Business lobby groups, bought politicians and corporate media compromised by their reliance on advertisers, the importance of a credible counterweight like the EFF cannot be underestimated. And that, is where we come to the relevance of this to Ireland.

Quite simply, there is no body fulfilling this important role in Ireland. There are worthy solo efforts by individuals like Irish Times journalist Karlin Lillington (who has covered Data Retention and other topics) and TJ McIntyre (who could perhaps claim to be our Groklaw). And there's good work by a few single-issue groups like Ireland Offline. But there's no one organisation authoritative as the 'go-to' media contact to speak out against bad government IT policy, or even to push-back against lobbying from such bodies as the (Microsoft-run) ICT Ireland. (For bloggers too, we're in dire need of a source of good pro-bono legal advice - Gavin and Sarah Carey (follow the links) were only the first forebodings of what's going to arrive, sooner or later)

A case in point is the crisis over the recent attempt to ram through US-style software patents. In the UK and Europe there were various organisations who mobilised to educate their public representatives in the face of concerted FUD from the large US computer corporations (such as you-know-who). Whereas here in Ireland we had (drumrolls...) Karlin and her fellow columnists, making a valuable contribution in the Irish Times - good writers, who grasp the essentials firmly - but restricted to their Friday columns, tucked away in the business supplement. Online there were only bloggers like Karlin herself, Michael Turley, Babblogue, Antoin, Aehso and your own humble Editor trying to raise the profile of this issue.

There has to be a balancing voice to the corporate PR which largely passes as IT journalism here these days, in order to educate our office-holders and the general public on the real issues. There is also an urgent requirement for a body to offer pro-bono advice on IT law, as well as to vet Open Source and Creative Commons licences under Irish legislation and the Constitution (a likely point of attack for MS in Beaumont Hospital and elsewhere).

Call it what you like, we badly need an Irish organisation like the EFF.

UPDATE: Damien Mulley (continuing to blog up a storm) shows why. O'Reilly is the elephant in the room, in terms of the Irish media. Do people really think that most Irish political parties would dare cross him for the sake of a few bloggers...?

UPDATE: As noted in comments, Feargal from Sigla also covered the Software Patents issue at the time, in a post which is well worth the read.

(Also, there are posts both at BSD and Boards on this topic as of now)

"Libel"-Richard Waghorne
"Attack blog"-Damien Mulley

About me

  • An early-thirties male Irish technologist living and working in Dublin, I'm a former (recovering) member of both Fianna Fáil and the Roman Catholic Church.

    I'm not a member of any political party these days, but my opinions can be broadly categorised as 'lefty' and republican. I am also a former member of the Irish Defence Forces.

    Please feel free to check out the FI Fie Foe Fum group blog, where I was once a regular contributor, and the Cedar Lounge Revolution, where I can usually be found in the comments.

    (This blog and its contents reflect only my own personal opinions as a private citizen, and not those of any other person or organisation.)



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