Thursday, March 23, 2006 

Blogging off

And that's it until 25th April, and our return.


An Easter Message

This Easter, as people are no doubt aware, marks the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising which occurred in Dublin, Galway and other scattered parts throughout Ireland and involved members of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBán and various smaller groups (such as the Hibernian Rifles) and myriad individuals who joined in the fight. 1916 in a real sense was the act of defiance that sparked off the struggle for complete seperation and independence in the early part of the twentieth century, and many future Irish political leaders such as Eamon de Valera (pictured above, under British guard after the surrender), WT Cosgrave, Michael Collins, Séan Lemass and others took part in the fighting, news of which was censored from the Irish public that week by a fearful British government. Arguments about the "legitimacy" of the Rising are anachronistic and miss the point that those have freedom only who are prepared to fight (and if necessary die) for it. This is no less true in today's world than it was ninety years ago, and we owe due respect both to our great-grandparent's generation and to those who came before them, who fought a long fight for Irish freedom - sometimes by arms, sometimes by politics, sometimes though their Faith. The failings of those who inherited the newly-independent twenty-six county State, won from the British through making Ireland ungovernable both politically and militarily, are not theirs to blame for.

As remarked on through this blog previously, we consider the most serious failing of the Irish State to have been the effective abandonment (post-Collins) of the plight of the large part of the population trapped by Partition in a Unionist regime built on gerrymandering from top to bottom. The birth of the Provisional IRA in the wake of the crackdown on the Civil Rights movement in the North (and the Catholic population in general) owes a great deal to the policy of the Lynch government to attempt to seal the issue off at the Border. And, it can be suspected, to a rather more widespread government understanding about causing a split within the IRA and arming the splinter group as stand-in proxy (in which they were merely following standard British practice in the long retreat from Empire) than is officially admitted to.

The other plank of this policy of containment found expression in the large-scale official effort to sterilise the Republic of all vestiges of the republican and nationalist traditions which had provided the backbone for resistance to British rule from the late eighteenth century onwards. This took the form of a corrosive policy of official censorship and in revisionist re-writing of the course of Irish history to remove the Irish nationalist viewpoint (it may be remarked that there is frequently difficulty in distinguishing revisionism from classical pro-British propaganda), with a final element in Irish political parties divesting themselves of their respective honourable heritages in the fight for independence.[1]

The irony is in Provisional Sinn Féin (and fringe groups such as RSF) more than happily then stealing those same clothes, to what can be guessed to be considerable advantage in appealing to patriotism.

Which leads us neatly to this Easter's military parade, part of the Fianna Fáil contribution to the sudden interest of the respectable Dublin political establishment in 1916-21. (An interest, one may surmise, prompted by the alarming electoral successes of the Provos and the 100-year anniversaries rapidly approaching within the next decade or so.) Fine Gael have re-discovered Michael Collins, and amusingly also renewed their claim to the unpleasantly anti-Semitic (and dual-monarchist) Arthur Griffith. Even Michael McDowell has rediscovered his Republican roots, and no doubt is already burnishing his grandfather Eoin MacNeill's 1916 medal War of Independence medal has recently announced that the GPO is to be turned into a monument to 1916. Will this outbreak of new-found patriotism be enough to reclaim the Provos' grip on the fight for independence, or are Bertie & co. merely shooting themselves in the foot (and doing the memory of these people and events a grave disservice) by indulging in such theatrics, which are more than transparent to the bemused public? Time will tell, though it may today prove difficult to keep Gerry Adams off the reviewing stand and outside the limelight.

So what of how the other side now view 1916? The British Government are sending the Ambassador to Ireland, Stewart Eldon, in what is to be welcomed as a sign of the modern-day partnership between our two nations in peace and friendship (if the French and Germans can do it...) . Ulster Unionism, well, that's a different story. Our UUP and DUP friends in the North have reacted in apoplexy to word of the official British delegation, and it appears that within the Unionist community at large there regrettably exists the sentiment that the rebels of 1916 were (quote) "terrorists" [2]. This is a remarkably disappointing reaction in this day and age of the Good Friday Agreement, both in terms of the historical realities of the time (the IV merely following the example of the Ulster Volunteer Force in all things) and in the grievously unjust label applied (one would not hear of the ancestors of the Ulster Unionist population being referred to as ethnic cleansers, after all). This was a golden opportunity for Unionism to return some of the considerable reaching-out by the nationalist Irish side in recent years as regards Poppy Day, the Somme, the Boyne and other British cultural values; some reciprocal respect would be greatly appreciated by us, your fellow Irishmen and women.

[1] The author was present to witness the reaction of a Fianna Fáil Comhairle Ceantar during the Nineties where a redesigned logo - minus FF's English-language title of The Republican Party - was put on display. Suffice it to say that at least in FF there still existed some vestige of resistance to tampering with the party's heritage, as HQ was told exactly what to do with the election literature in question... Contrast this with the Irish Times-reading, Stickie-led Labour Party of modern times (sometime roost for Conor Cruise O'Brien while out of fringe Unionist parties), one of whose apparatchiks declared party founder James Connolly 'irrelevant' recently.

[2] Arch-gombeenman and ardent British imperialist, Irish Party leader of the time John Redmond has also recently been resurrected and rehabilitated, and in much the same unfortunate political vein, by certain southern unionists.


Dev's party returning North?

Via Slugger comes word that the perennial rumbling within Fianna Fáil about organising in Northern Ireland is coming to the fore again, this time with rumour that FF will try to start a society at Queen's. One wonders how such news will go down in the parts of the press that fawned over Trinity's Young Unionist Society a few years ago (a project brought to us by the same coterie of crypto-Unionists that run the ridiculous Reform Movement, whose publicly-admitted patrons we seem to recall number Ruth Dudley Edwards, Bruce Arnold and John Bruton amongst them).

FF organising again up North is a subject that arouses controversy similar to that with the UK Tories and Labour Party doing same - namely stepping on the toes of (and dividing the vote for) the respective local political allies such as the SDLP or UUP. While enrolling as an individual member of the Soldiers of Destiny in the North is now permitted, establishing cumainn and running candidates is still a long way off - presuming that the SDLP can meantime manage to survive the Provo electoral challenge, that is. But the establishment of a Fianna Fáil cumann within QUB is the first real step along such a path.

(As an aside, we recall Wexford Fianna Fáiler Malcolm Byrne - the subject of some attention recently - as being one of the loudest voices within the party to organise immediately in the six counties.)

p.s. Explaining the title. De Valera was a Stormont MP for South Down (abstentionist, of course) from 1921-29 and 1933-37, and was once arrested by the Unionist regime for straying north of the border. More on this little-known tidbit here.


Weekly sex blog

Via Feministing comes ten reasons that liberal/leftie men are better in bed (a topic that we've dwelt on before, funnily enough). No word yet on whether or not liberal women are better in bed, a natural source of curiosity here at Free Stater HQ...

(We welcome contributions on this from all quarters, straight or queer!)


Holding the line

Crooked Timber's Henry Farrell posted a critique yesterday on an essay concerning the formation of a left-wing message machine to counter the GOP's dominance of the American news and political agenda (creating and nurturing the myth of the "Liberal Media" has been a crucial victory in the advance of US wingnuttery, one they are attempting to emulate in going on to crush dissent in American academia).

Farrell's contribution to this internal Democratic debate is a typically well-considered, thoughtful piece which has relevance to those on the centre-left and left of the political spectrum here; especially considering the degree to which the new right in Ireland (and in the the rest of the Anglosphere, too) is a direct child of the post-Goldwater radical US right. A key piece:
"The reason that the right has been so successful in shaping politics over the last twenty years is in part because it successfully constructed an alternative intellectual apparatus of think-tanks, research institutes, journals etc, pushing out endless policy papers and talking points, and, over time, shifting the center of political debate substantially over to the right. This is something that the netroots can’t do if they see an interest in policy questions and ideology as markers that you belong to the corrupt establishment. Ideas and policy are vitally important to politics – they’re a fundamental force structuring the conventional wisdom that Bowers is interested in. It sometimes seems to me that there are two left wing blogospheres – the netroots centered around Kos, MyDD etc, and the wonkosphere centered around Brad DeLong, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias and others, with only a few connecting threads between them (Duncan Black serves inter alia as a sometimes grumpy intermediary). One talks mostly about the winning and losing of elections, the other mostly about policy and ideas. This strikes me as a very serious weakness indeed; there’s a lot that these people should be talking about together if they want to construct something real and lasting, but they’re not."
As happened in the US, the political debate within the early Irish blogger population has been dominated by rightwingers feeding off the voluminous propaganda pumped out by the well-funded right-wing wonk apparatus in the US (the ORI is small fry in comprison, and the FI insignificant). The same relative dearth of intellectuals doing the grunt-work of producing research and policy talking-points will inevitably retard the emergence of a response here to the growing rightwing Young Turks within Fine Gael, the PDs and to a lesser extent Fianna Fáil. (Other 'innovations' that have contributed to the GOP success in recent years - such as developing a rapport with militant rightwing Christianity - will inevitably follow as well)

A debate to watch closely and to learn from on this side of the Atlantic.

Monday, March 20, 2006 

The sociological blog meme (finally)

(Apologies to Sinéad Gleeson and to Cian - who both tagged me - for putting this off for so long. Sorry, guys! And thanks to Fiona de Londras, who started this)

Gender: Male

Age: 19-30

Nationality: Irish.

Country of residence: Ireland.

Sexual Orientation: Straight.

Do you have a disability? No, but I have an old knee injury that hurts when I can't move it for long periods, such as on journeys.

How would you describe your political philosophy? Republican and small 'n' Irish nationalist, religiously agnostic.

Level of education Graduate.

If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (Ireland)? In a PR electoral system, this makes for a complicated answer. I'd vote candidates. If it were to be a hypothetical ballot where I knew no-one, then FF-Lab-FG-Green.

If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (UK)? Anyone other than "New Labour", who are completely abhorrent and much, much worse than Thatcherism ever dared to be.

If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (USA)? Democrat. The GOP are completely in thrall to militant Christian religious fundies, the corporate lobby and a coterie of intellectuals with barking-mad schemes (the neo-cons).

Where do you stand on the EU? Deeply suspicious of how in thrall the EU is to the corporate lobby. Brussels is reputedly as bad as Capitol Hill for corruption and backroom dealing. The lack of proper accountability to the EU citizenry is appalling - especially in how Directives periodically appear as if out of thin air, presenting us with pretty much a fait accompli.

Did you support the invasion of Afghanistan? Yes, though not with enthusiasm. Invading Afghanistan was about working-out the American desire for revenge, and nothing else - Bush was himself in person more than happy to cavort with the Taliban before OBL struck on 9/11.

Did you support the invasion of Iraq? No - but not from resistance to the notion of Saddam as anything other than the thug he was. Iraq was always about the cynical use of 9/11 to achieve strategic American objectives under PNAC. Those who believed the clear nonsense that was the (post-no-WMD) humanitarian justification offered are fooling themselves.

Do you continue to support either or both of those conflicts? No. Iraq speaks for itself. Afghanistan has been abandoned - the Afghani President is pretty much mayor of Kabul and nothing else. It's not tenable to support something which has no relation to reality.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Irish politics?The North. Always has been, and will be for decades (if not centuries) to come. Efforts to seal the problem away led to the rise of the Provos, and only chance of neutering them now is inside a United Ireland. The "revisionist project" has (inevitably) failed, and all we have to show for it is that Provisional Sinn Féin have seized possession of the legacy of the sacrifices made by previous generations to free Ireland from a tyrannical foreign rule.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing European politics? Making the EU accountable, and establishing a proper Constitution (the attempt to label the other thing as one is reprehensible sleight-of-hand).

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing international politics? Hard to decide... Global warming. The continued wretched state of so much of the world, which allows the West to keep prosperous as we leech cheap labour and resources from them with the assistance of puppet regimes. The continuing decline of the US position as the 'hyperpower', and the question of how they'll deal with this (so far, not so well). Reform of the UN to both neuter the vampires in the Security Council and to treat tyrannies with the appropriate odium.

Are you, have you ever been, and do you ever wish to be involved in politics in a party political manner? Yes, I was born into staunch rural Fianna Fáil on both sides, and grew up with politics (I am a veteran political worker by this stage!). I cut my ties to FF due to the rehabilitation of the corrupt Haughey faction with Ahern's leadership (and, latterly, professional reasons).

Who would you have voted for in the past US Presidential Election? Kerry. No matter what the Democratic candidate's faults may have been, casting a vote for Bush is an unconscionable act morally.


Apple brings video-making into Irish primary schooling

Via Macenstein comes word that Apple appears to be the main supplier of hardware and software for FÍS, a Department of Education program to integrate video-making into the primary education system. From Apple Education:
"Apple technology is at the centre of this unique education project. “The three watch words for FÍS are simplicity, connectivity and creativity”, says Creative Director Ciarán McCormack. “Apple gets ticks in all three boxes. The hardware and the software are so intuitive that teachers and children can just get on with what the project is all about — making and using films to learn”.


A pilot scheme was so successful in 31 Dublin and Cork schools that six years later, well over 100 primary schools are using film to enrich their studies. FÍS plans to support the use of film in all of Ireland’s 3,500 primary schools by the end of 2006.

Important to the project’s success has been the broad support base inspired by national Government leadership. The Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) at Dún Laoghaire — home to Ireland’s National Film School — provides project management and advice to teachers on filmmaking theory and how to integrate it into the curriculum. Ireland’s regional Education Centres train teachers to use cameras, sound recording and editing equipment at specially-run summer programmes and training days.


Technology support for FÍS comes from a combination of IADT and Education Centres’ ICT advisers. FÍS, based at IADT, has a range of Macs, including Power Mac G5s, PowerBooks and iBooks. Education Centres with local schools involved in the project each have an iMac, five iBooks and a Canon camera, all available for booking. The schools themselves are equipped with video cameras, tripods and microphones, and share digital editing suites.

No Pre–cooked Content
FÍS schools are using film in many different ways. One is making a series of documentaries about its local history, based on interviews with the school caretaker. Another has adapted a Graham Greene short story for film, with children writing the screenplay, and acting and filming their own production.

Other schools are studying the science of film technology, or exploring dance and music through film soundtracks. Many use the opportunity film presents to hone reading and writing skills.

Schools that cater for children with physical and learning disabilities have found film particularly helpful in establishing a sense of individual achievement. One special school produced a short film showing how it makes its annual Christmas card. The still shots of the children who contributed to the film were as important to its motivational impact as the film itself. Filmmaking is particularly flexible for mixed abilities. There is always a role for everyone — storyboard, continuity, camera, sound, even holding the microphone."
There is also an official FÍS website.

It's amazing to compare the use of computer technology in education now at all levels. We're of an age that green-screen monochrome machines were our primary school "computer" experience (no Macs, unluckily!), and even in third-level computers were used only for office applications, technical programs and the new-fangled WWW.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple have been blazing the trail on bringing video into mainstream computing for a decade or more now (just as they did in the Eighties with desktop publishing) and have brought such revolutions as Quicktime video, the Firewire interface and latterly the amazing Final Cut Pro professional editing suite. The tight integration of hardware and software by the same company creates a computing platform for affordable multimedia production which rivals can only play catch-up to.

It's a testament to the quality of their vision that Apple are such a serious player in film-making at all levels, and pretty much own film-making in education. To all the Apple-haters out there - we'll continue to make ours a Mac.


Spring-cleaning the old blog

As people may today notice, we've taken to the whole fashion recently and renovated the place. Expect more changes to come soon as well. (For those curious to know, the font used in the banner is Ceanannas™ by Michael Everson, whose services to the whole subject of Irish typography we cannot praise highly enough.)

Please, suggestions/criticism on the new look in the comments to this post.

Update: Before anyone mentions it, yes, the line spacing is too wide for comfort. And the banner graphic is going to acquire a little more eye-candy.

Sunday, March 19, 2006 

DCU sets up the Institute for Ethics. CPI Mark II or not?

corrib_report_reads_2006.jpg, originally uploaded by Free Stater.

Via Runningwithbulls last week, we discovered that Dublin City University is to establish a new Chair (and associated Institute) for Ethics:

The main task of the new Chair in Ethics is to conduct research in ethics, promote the teaching and debate of ethics in DCU and to lead the Institute. But the new Professor will also be expected to engage in debate on ethics issues nationally and internationally with the media, government institutions in Ireland, the European Union and other relevant bodies and organisations around the world.
As the above blogger notes, immediately thought turns to American billionaire Chuck Feeney and the short-lived Centre for Public Inquiry which his Atlantic Philanthropies foundation funded for a time. (While Mr. Feeney does indeed have an association with DCU, there is no sign of any announcement on the AP website as to whether or not he is funding this venture).

The question is to who watches the watchers, and it's a relevant one given the manner in which the CPI was destroyed by its enemies in political life and the press. Alleged links between Executive Director Frank Connolly and Provisional Republican activities in Colombia (especially concerning the alleged use of a forged passport) were widely aired in public; the resulting scandal forced Feeney to withdraw his money and the Centre has apparently folded. As of today the last notice on the Centre's website is a statement in support of Connolly by CPI chairman Mr. Justice Feargus Flood, which is dated from December 16th 2005.

As regards who exactly will be funding the Chair and Institute, DCU is so far hewing to the Freedom Institute line as elucidated recently by Dickie Waghorne (in a reply to Tom Cosgrave):
On funding, we don't discuss individual donors as a rule for their confidentiality and ours, but it's no big deal mentioning that the large majority of funding sources are private individuals.
While the desire for confidentiality of donors is understandable (as Feeney showed, they can be vulnerable to political pressure) the need to have transparency in these operations is essential in order to build trust and consequently legitimacy.

One only needs to consider the worst-case scenario of a magazine or think-tank operating here with lavish funding from a source with less than altruistic motives (or a university department being financed by a large corporation in the academics' own area of research and teaching). The US experience of the past forty years provides a sharp lesson on the harmful, distorting effect of such corporate shills on the public debate necessary to a healthy democracy.

(The original DCU announcement is here, with an RTÉ interview on Morning Ireland here in RealPlayer format. Bernie Goldbach and Potatriotique also have more.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006 

ICANN in deepening trouble

A recurring topic of interest here at Free Stater HQ has been the shenanigans involved with 'ownership' of the Internet. Simply put, there's too much financial and political interest involved for control to be allowed to pass out of US hands.

International disquiet with the existing scheme of things (especially under the confrontational Bush administration) has, however, been steadily building to a head; and in the first sign of reaching crisis-point the (U.S.-based) ICANN registry body has just suffered the withdrawal of the Canadian Internet registry authority, CIRA.

It'll be interesting to see what spin US wingnut bloggers (and their toadies here) will put on this clear blow against "Freedom". Time for the dusting-off of old posts calling for the invasion of Moose Country?

(Via the excellent ICANNWatch)

Thursday, March 16, 2006 

Wonder how this one will be explained away

Pew (via Atrios):
"Currently, 48% use a negative word to describe Bush compared with just 28% who use a positive term, and 10% who use neutral language.

The changing impressions of the president can best be viewed by tracking over time how often words come up in these top-of-the-mind associations. Until now, the most frequently offered word to describe the president was "honest," but this comes up far less often today than in the past. Other positive traits such as "integrity" are also cited less, and virtually no respondent used superlatives such as "excellent" or "great" ­ terms that came up fairly often in previous surveys.

The single word most frequently associated with George W. Bush today is "incompetent,"and close behind are two other increasingly mentioned descriptors: "idiot" and "liar." All three are mentioned far more often today than a year ago."
Certain Irish bloggers have described Bush in glowing terms, even recently, and delighted in casting aspersions on those who didn't share this touching show of blind faith. Perhaps they might enlighten us all on how it is "anti-American" to share the actual views of the American public on this embarrassing failure of a man.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 

Andrew Sullivan

The cartoon (via Atrios).


Shove over Bloscars

Here come the Mingers!

Monday, March 13, 2006 

Blog Awards Aftermath

Raging to not have been going. By all accounts[1] a great time was had by all on Saturday night, and Damien Mulley deserves praise for a great job. Well done Damo!

The Awards were (and there's general agreement that they were all well-deserved):

  • Best Blog: Twenty Major -
  • Best Blog Post: Twenty Major - - "New York Diary"
  • Best Fiction: Thinking Out Loud - - "47 Hours"
  • Best Comment: Kevin Breathnach -
  • Best Technology Blog: Tom Raftery -
  • Best Use of Irish Language: An tImeall -
  • Best Political Blog: Slugger O'Toole -
  • Most Humorous: Twenty Major -
  • Best arts and culture: Sinéad Gleeson -
  • Best group blog: The Community At Large -
  • Best photo blog: In Photos -
  • Best personal blog: Thinking Out Loud -
  • Best contribution to the Irish blogosphere: -
Back Seat Driver Jon Ihle has a piece up in tomorrow's today's Irish Times, which can also be found online here. We won't take the bread from the mouths of Mr. Ihle's children (if he has any) by reproducing the article here; but we'll just say, priceless.

[1] and the photos! A more distinguished and sophisticated bunch of people we've not seen outside of a Camille O'Sullivan gig; though can someone please introduce the guy on the right to a pair of scissors?

[2] 'Team Fústar' went along too.

Thursday, March 09, 2006 


See this post over on Gavin Sheridan's blog.


IRA plot to blow up Westminster uncovered

"V for Vendetta", a film we're very much looking forward to, is opening March 17th... St. Patrick's Day. Do we really need further proof?

Quick, someone run tell Jim Cusack.


Question to the floor

Neo-conservatives as the self-appointed, real-world Hari Seldons. Discuss with relation to the teachings of Leo Strauss.


On 'Good News' reports from Iraq

Christopher Allbritton has something to say about some of the so-called reporters in Iraq who feed the likes of Dickie Waghorne & Co. with US military propaganda.


AWOL for the coming weekend

Off hill-walking in the Mourne mountains, staying in Newcastle for two nights... anyone know what the good pubs are, there? Therefore we won't be going to the Blog Awards, much as we look forward to Twenty's acceptance speech.

On a happier note, among the group going up for the hiking will be two newlyweds, who tied the knot here in Dublin a few weeks ago.


An antidote to right-wing dishonesty on science

Computer scientist Tim Lambert's Deltoid blog, now over on Scienceblogs (where Free Stater favourite, US biologist PZ Myers also roosts these days).

Whereas Myers' specialisation is in Intelligent Design nuttery, Lambert is a man of many talents, and also an old friend of wingnut 'experts' (and TCS contributors) the AEI's John Lott and Michael Fumento.

Well worth keeping on your blogroll.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006 

Another piece in the Edelman saga

A recent piece (since disappeared off the SBP website) in the Sunday Business Post's Computers in Business section stirred up some controversy in the Boggersphere recently. In a nutshell, the SBP published an article on blogging which primarily quotes/promotes a PR outfit named Edelman based here in Dublin.

The problem is - as happens so often - that the article is basically a commercial puff-piece of a type familiar to readers of the Irish IT press, with not one local blogger mentioned. The suspicion is hard to escape that the story relies heavily on Edelman-supplied material, if indeed it didn't originate there (did anyone note if Edelman advertised that week?).

Lo and behold, the name 'Edelman' has shown up again on bloggers' radar this week, this time in a New York Times story on how Wal-Mart has been seeding spin material to sympathetic right-wing bloggers in the US. Who did Wal-Mart hire to run this astro-turf effort? You guessed it.

As Atrios notes, it's quite amusing to note mainstream media outlets holding bloggers to much higher standards of disclosure than they hold themselves to. Jeff Jarvis is (for once) spot-on as well, in an important issue which should cross partisan political lines as being of concern.

Update: unsurprisingly (we suppose) some seem to welcome this 'opportunity' for bloggers.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006 

The Beast at the Blog Awards

First off, kudos to Damien Mulley for his organising of the Irish Blog Awards. From Mulley's blog, we see that there are even Irish Blog Awards t-shirts for sale. We'd love to go along and see some of the faces at what's going to be a terrific evening, but unfortunately a prior commitment calls.

However, no Free Stater post would be complete without a bunch of snark. From Damien again, we see that:
I got an invoice this morning for rental of the function room in the Alexander. You best sit down: It’s €2000. Microsoft has stepped in and offered to cover costs for it. I’m totally blown away by this offer and there were no conditions about it. We don’t now have to be called The Microsoft Irish Blog Awards or The Vista Irish Microsoft MSN Blog Awards or anything else [...] So remember to say thank you to the Microsoft people who turn up on the night and buy them a drink or two at the very least [...] Again thanks to the folks in Microsoft. There shouldn’t be a problem with space now. Someone from Microsoft is going to come along (at my request) and talk and answer questions about IE7 and RSS
Now we've known Damien for a while and he's on the up-and-up and a very trustworthy guy. Nonetheless, we confess to misgivings when we saw that The Beast of Redmond has extended its clutches out to this event. As an example of what we're talking about, we spotted the following on the (MSDN, inevitably) blog of one Robert Burke, who appears to be the very same Microsoft employee in question:
Irish Blogging Awards
Damien Mulley, organizer of the Irish Blogging Awards, kindly offered me the opportunity to take part in the judging. But bear in mind that, in true blogging style, almost two thousand people have contributed electronically to the voting!


"How many of you have blogs?" asked celebrity blogger Robert Scoble in Cork a few months back, and less than 5% of the hands went up.

Microsoft has a great opportunity to help make it easier both to consume blog content, and also easy for everyone to contribute to the conversation. In the coming months, the next version of Windows, called Windows Vista, and also Internet Explorer 7, will add new features which will make blogging, and RSS, more intuitive and really take blogging mainstream.

For a technical perspective and more info, check out the Microsoft Team RSS blog. Don't forget you can also sign up for your own blog at MSN Spaces, or, or, or,...
...or even that obscure other one, run by giving-Ballmer-nightmares wunderkind Google. (Bogger? Bloggy? Someone help us out here.)

One constant source of amusement here at Free Stater HQ is the PR value-for-money of Scoble to Microsoft. All those years of enduring public resentment over their ruthless business practices, shoddy products and ceaseless attempts to torpedo open standards; when all they had to do was hire a geek agony aunt to nod along sympathetically to the hacker population's concerns and offer reassurances that Uncle Bill cares (Agent Smith must be kicking himself right about now).

We have a suspicion also as to just how exactly the Beast intends to "help make it easier both to consume blog content, and also easy for everyone to contribute to the conversation.". We feel confident that that part has a great deal to do with the "new [Vista] features which will make blogging, and RSS, more intuitive and really take blogging mainstream", which in Microsoft-speak typically means this.

Update 14/03/06 - via ENN:
"A mention of Microsoft drew booing from the crowd which quickly died out when it was announced the software giant had stepped in at the last moment to sponsor the ceremony."

Monday, March 06, 2006 

Keeping up with security issues

Jane's is the standard by which other references on this topic are measured, and for good reason. (As an example, Jane's is the best publicly-available source on the Irish Defence Forces, especially in providing an accurate inventory of equipment.)

Even though the online subscription services are prohibitively expensive, the email list of weekly summaries is worth signing up for. Jane's relies for its bread on providing accurate information and analysis: though inevitably written from a Western (read US) viewpoint, wingnuttery has no place here.

Some tidbits from recent alerts:
Trouble in Bahrain: symptoms of a wider malaise
Record-breaking demonstrations and spontaneous outbreaks of violence in conservative Bahrain provide an illustrative example of wider tensions in the Middle East * The tensions being voiced, from religious conservatives and liberal reformers, are mutually exclusive and leave little room for a middle ground to be found * As newly reinvigorated authoritarian regimes in the Middle East battle it out with Washington over democratic reform, it looks as though the only progress being made is by the Islamists
[Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst - first posted to - 30 January 2006]

Iran's conventional forces remain key to deterring potential threats
Key Points * Iran's Western-influenced defence doctrine is focused on conventional forces and incorporates lessons learned from a range of post-Cold War conflicts. * Layered aerial and coastal defences make Iran a potentially prickly opponent and would require the US or Israel to invest considerable resources in offensive options. * The overstretched and exhausted US military will require a period of strategic reset if it is to undertake effective operations against Iran.
[Jane's Intelligence Review - first posted to - 19 January 2006]
One recent article that may be of considerable interest to observers is the impending demise of the Sea Harrier in UK service - the end of an era for the veteran Falklands War-era fighter jet, a victim of the new British CVF conventional carrier-building program.



Will be watching tonight, just to see the legendary Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) in action as the compére for the evening...


Christ Church lectures on 1916-1923 figures

From the weekend's Sunday Business Post, we see that Christ Church Cathedral is hosting a series of free Tuesday lunchtime lectures on Church of Ireland figures involved in the struggle for independence.

The details are:

Séan O'Casey - talk by Professor Christopher Murray at 1.15pm this Tuesday in the Christ Church crypt
Erskine Childers - Senator Martin Mansergh on March 14th
Francesca Trench - Dr. Hilary Pyle on March 21st
Harry Nicholls - Dr. Martin Maguire on March 28th

Thursday, March 02, 2006 

David Norris on the radio

Greatly enjoying his stint filling in for Séan Montcrieff's slot on NewsTalk 106. He really seems to be in his element with a mic. Start the "Keep the Senators!" campaign now (the excellent Martin Mansergh as well).

David is a fine example of that most splendidly flamboyant of characters, the Anglo-Irish gay man; and we've been having great difficulty not giving ourselves away by guffawing out loud while listening to some of his utterances.


Twofer Post

This one will be of interest both to the Sheridan boys and to Digital Rights Ireland, as it neatly encapsulates the gombeen-man aura around many of our national politicians and also the 'lobbying' efforts of the recording and technology industries.

The latest edition of The Phoenix magazine (Vol. 24 No. 4.) covers the current planning tribunal woes of Fianna Fáil TD and Government Chief Whip Tom Kitt. This is a familiar scenario for many FF, FG and Labour politicians these days and relatively unremarkable. An addendum to the piece, however, caught our eye:
"Kitt has a charmed life and he escaped public opprobrium before when it emerged that in 2000 he had given a demo tape of his son, singer David Kitt, to Dennis Woods, head of Warner Studios and chairman of Phonographic Performance Ireland. This would have been an exchange hardly worth mentioning were it not for the fact that Kitt was then piloting the Copyright and Related rights Bill 2000 through the Dáil; that this legislation benefited PPI members and that the PPI, one of the organisations most affected beneficially by the act, lobbied the Government strongly."
Other examples of politicians interacting with lobbyists in an untoward manner will no doubt occur to people reading this post (and Irish Corruption provides further coverage on this topic). This little anecdote provides a neat illustration of the odds that Digital Rights Ireland finds itself up against in terms of lobbying. As we mentioned earlier, please consider donating to DRi what you can.


Support your own civil rights

Give to Digital Rights Ireland, who need donations to really take on the assorted business and government interests looking to curtail our freedoms. And via, we see that there's some video and audio up of recent DRi talks.

"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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