Thursday, September 27, 2007

Way to go, Bono

U2's vocalist-cum-activist Bono in my neck of the woods tonight to pick up his Liberty Medal, which is a prestigious award administered by National Constitution Center and given to those who advance the cause of liberty around the world.

In this instance, Bono earned his for his work in lobbying for debt relief for African countries. As always, Bono has his critics for sticking out his neck and urging us American and European fat cats to have a conscience. I liked his saying to the effect that if we all treated Africans as our equals, he wouldn't need to do this sort of thing.

Way to go, Bono.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Excuse me! Don't we we live in a democracy?

I am amused by the outcry against Iran's Ahmadinejad speaking today at Columbia University after his speech at the United Nations.

No one sane agrees with this man's views, in relation to his idiotic denial of the Holocaust, to his call to wipe Israel of the map, to his appalling record on human rights and development of nuclear weapons.

However, we live in a democracy and the principle of democracy is that all people have a right to be heard and a right to be grilled and heckled and castigated by others about their positions. And people not wanting him to speak have a right to protest, but they do not have the right to veto what others can hear. That is what happens in a vibrant democracy.

I have the right to hear Ahmadinejad discuss his positions and to hear others question him about them. Ahmadinejad has the right to be heard in America. Columbia University has the right to invite him to speak and I applaud their decision to do so. Their doing so shows free speech and academic freedom are alive and vibrant in the United States.

Are we so afraid of Ahmadinejad that we cannot give him a forum to express his views no matter how odious they may be? (He certainly is charismatic, witty and smart, but is this a reason to fear him to the extent of denying him the right to speak in public?) Are we so beholden to interest groups and their lobbies who're offended by his views in a matter of interest to them that we must accede to their demands and refuse him that forum?

I think not. America is comprised of many cultures and creeds and no one culture or creed can hijack our right to hear another voice. 60 Minutes gave him a forum last night and there was NO protesting that. Why pick on Columbia University?

Monday, September 17, 2007

I want my money....NOW!

I've been fascinated watching the meltdown of Northern Rock, Britain's fifth largest mortgage lender that's found itself in a credit squeeze that's related to the weak US housing market and financial woes of the US sub-prime market. I never in my life imagined I'd see what is essentially a depression-era run on a bank, with thousands of average Joe's and Mary's lining up at the bank's branches to withdraw their savings. And this despite assurances from the Bank of England (who've stepped in to loan Northern Rock money to meet its obligations due to their unduly risky and greedy business strategies) and politicians who're urging calm.

I've always thought there's too many dodgy and unscrupulous people working in finance especially in Wall Street and that the government, even here in the US, are not regulating the stock, commodities, investment banks etc. sufficiently. There's far too many risky investments calculated to churn huge fees cooked up by these institutions with no real meaningful regulation, especially given the wildly pro-business government currently in the US.

America sneezed during the summer and now Europe and other world markets are catching a cold. Let's hope this Northern Rock fiasco is contained and real panic doesn't set in and there's a run on some other weak institutions in the UK and it then triggers a run on banks over here. Then we'd really be in the shit. It'd be 'back to the land' for everybody--maybe not a bad thing. And let's hope the next administration regulates Wall Street so we get rid of dodgy investments that are nothing but gambling rackets at the end of the day and the besuited cowboys are made to leave town.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ireland's newest types

It's remarkable how in the space of a couple of years the Northern Ireland economy is booming and people are becoming wealthy. Everywhere I turned there were new businesses opening and houses being built, though I'm also happy to report that the government has put a moratorium on building in the countryside and developed a strict set of guidelines to ensure that proposed dwellings fit in with the topography, etc. Many developers and people wanting to sell their land are grumbling, just like they do over here. Yes, people should have the right to develop their land and people need housing, but there's no need for monstruous McMansions sitting on quarter or half acre lots--no need even on two acre lots--just to satisfy the egos of Ireland's nouveau riche. Developers must work in conjunction with the locals to develop responsible housing projects and the character of the countryside must be preserved.

The nouveau riche are found among both religions and they're abundant (not an exaggeration) and it's humorous to hear the kind of stuff they get up to so neighbors will talk--flying to work or fun in private aircraft(screw the environment and carbon footprints because it's our turn to show off now, and anyway China's doing it, so there), others driving huge American SUVs, yet more throwing over-the-top engagements and weddings. Sixteen birthday bashes, never before celebrated in Ireland, are now practically de rigueur.

Yet some of these same people fiddle things so that the government pays for their children's university education while teachers and government employees and others have to stump out the full amount to educate their children. I'm not joking. At least that sort of scam doesn't exist here in the US.

It's a bit like the Wild West over there, or as if excessive Hollywood uprooted and moved across the pond. I've no doubt some of them will start buying minor English aristocratic titles soon.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Food for thought

I watched an interesting segment on telly last night where a chap sets up situations to see how the general public will react. One of the scenarios involved a trip to the Bronx where he began to spray-paint graffiti on a wall to see if some of the neighborhood residents would get angry and stop him or call the police. No one did. Some chaps even offered to help.

More disturbing was his visit to two bars, one at NJ shore and the other in Manhattan. At the NJ pub, he chats to a couple of thirtyish chaps, points out an attractive woman in the crowd (his accomplice), tells them he wants to have sex with her and is going to 'roofie' her. They laugh energetically. He behaves as if he's adding something to her drink in their presence, hands her the drink and fifteen minutes later leaves with her. On his return half-an-hour later, the guys crowd around him and he tells her he's had his way with her and left her to sleep under a pier. Three of them laugh and congratulate him and one tells him he's going to go and get her as he doesn't mind 'sloppy seconds'. A few minutes later, the camera watches him looking under the piers for the sleeping girl, allegedly under the pretext he wants to check if she was okay. Hmmmm!.

He finds no upright men in NYC either. There, a herd of twenty-something chaps laugh, slap him on the back when he tels them he's had sex with his victim and they admit they've always wanted to 'roofie' a girl.

"Whatever it takes," one of them says as he slaps the 'assailant's' back. "Whatever it takes."

They also admit they'd do it if they knew how to get the pills, to which he offers to supply them and they eagerly give him their cell numbers so he can contact them. Two gave him false numbers, but one--a reptilian looking chap--gave him his legit number.

Have young men become so predatory, so hard-assed, so criminal of mentality? Have they got no respect for women, regard them merely as meat to satiate their thrusting penises? Or did the chap making the documentary ask lots of chaps in the bar and some walked away. The fellow making the documentary didn't say if any men walked away and I feel sure he would have had it occurred, which makes me conclude he met far more men willing to be complicit in rape. If so, God help society, young women in particular.