What's wrong with a laneside mailbox?

I grew up along a county road in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At the end of our driveway stood our family mailbox. Once a day, the mailman drove by and dropped off any letters we had. He would also pick up letters we had placed in the postbox. We knew we had post in the box because he would raise the metal flag after placing our letters inside the postbox.

In Ireland, post comes to the door and into your mailslot. Sometimes this means the postman drives down a long laneway to deliver the items. This costs money.

When An Post, the Irish national postal service, announced it would like to convert to a laneside drop-off service, more than 750 people expressed their displeasure at losing an element of their rural lifestyle. Having lived a rural lifestyle with end-of-lane mail service, I can say that I didn't feel deprived. Having to subsidise rural residents during a time of burgeoning labour costs, I'm a little miffed that I must give my tax money to mail service when it could be better spent for hospital beds or support of the homeless.


Irish competitiveness

One major challenge facing Ireland is Irish competitiveness. Sometime during the past 20 years, Ireland moved out of the third world. At today's rates, Ireland is a rich western country. You cannot have third world wages in a rich western country. So you have to pay people a proper wage.

What matters most today is productivity and infrastructure. So far the management of the €40bn National Development Plan has been poor. Targets are being missed. Work isn't being done to standard.

I personally believe Ireland has become a Nanny Nation because its dependency culture extends from the individiaul to the corporate world, to major industries and into the government. All these people want the tax payers to bail them out when market conditions turn against them.

Companies that are considering Ireland as a place of operations needs to look at the costs that affect the bottom line--insurance, electricity and telecommunications all take a big chunk out of revenues.

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What happens when blogging intersects radio?

GARRINGREEN HOTSPOT -- Dave Winer ruminates about three hot topics and the first one is How to integrate blogging with radio.

"It is not about technology. There is no magic formula that will make the two worlds connect. Two different senses, one visual and cerebral, and the other auditory and soulful. A roundtable of intelligent bloggers, like Washington Week in Review, or The Capital Gang, but staffed by writers who work in blogspace, and done on the radio."
Winer wants to do this at BloggerCon, and every week.
Dave Winer: "Weblogs in Meatspace"
Back to Underway in Ireland
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Fifteenth inbound link to Esther Dyson

I found Esther Dyson's first blog entry during ETCON 2003.
"There's no time to start a blog like when you run into Ev Williams at a conference (thanks, Tim O'Reilly) and he offers to help personally to set you up with your very own blog.

As I was saying to the bloggerati this morning, a lot of what I do is stuff I simply can't write about: internal meetings with portfolio companies, corporate regime change, private briefings and such. This blog will be an experiment covering the things I *can* talk about. "

Count me among those who are interested in anything Esther has to say.
Esther Dyson: "Day One" of "Release 4"
    The links that came before:
  1. Evan Williams helped Esther set up her blog.
  2. Ross Mayfield has one of the biggest blog radar scopes around.
  3. Micah Alpern
  4. Stephen Dulaney
  5. Dan Shafer
  6. Ted Leung
  7. Sam Ruby
  8. thomas burg
  9. Robert Scoble
  10. Jim Bassett
  11. Cory Doctorow
  12. Doc Searls with picture.
  13. Corante
  14. Frank Paynter

Back to Underway in Ireland
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Who saved Private Jessica Lynch?

So who really did save Private Jessica? That's what Richard Lloyd Parry in al-Nasiriyah asked.
The rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, which inspired America during one of the most difficult periods of the war, was not the heroic Hollywood story told by the US military, but a staged operation that terrified patients and victimised the doctors who had struggled to save her life, according to Iraqi witnesses.

Doctors at al-Nasiriyah general hospital said that the airborne assault had met no resistance and was carried out a day after all the Iraqi forces and Baath leadership had fled the city.

Four doctors and two patients, one of whom was paralysed and on an intravenous drip, were bound and handcuffed as American soldiers rampaged through the wards, searching for departed members of the Saddam regime.

An ambulance driver who tried to carry Private Lynch to the American forces close to the city was shot at by US troops the day before their mission. Far from winning hearts and minds, the US operation has angered and hurt doctors who risked their lives treating both Private Lynch and Iraqi victims of the war. "What the Americans say is like the story of Sinbad the Sailor — it’s a myth," said Harith al-Houssona, who saved Private Lynch’s life after she was brought to the hospital by Iraqi military intelligence.

They said that there was no medical care in Iraq, and that there was a very strong defence of this hospital. But there was no one here apart from doctors and patients, and there was nobody to fire at them.”

Dr Harith was on duty when Private Lynch was brought to al-Nasiriyah general by Iraqi soldiers a few days after her capture on March 23. She was a member of a 15-member US Army maintenance company convoy that was ambushed after taking a wrong turn near the city.

At the time, she was suffering from a head injury, a broken leg and arm, a bullet wound to her leg, a pulmonary oedema and her breathing was failing. In a hospital inundated with war casualties with few drugs, her condition was stabilised and she regained consciousness.

“She was very frightened when she woke up,” Dr Harith, 24, a junior resident at the hospital, said. “She kept saying: ‘Please don’t hurt me, don’t touch me.’ I told her that she was safe, she was in a hospital and that I was a doctor, and I never hurt a patient.”

Private Lynch’s military guards would allow no other doctor to tend to her and Dr Harith formed a friendship with her. She talked to him about her family, including her arguments about money with her father, and about her boyfriend, a Hispanic soldier named Ruben.

Dr Harith went outside the hospital during the bombing to get supplies of Private Lynch’s favourite drink, orange juice, and struggled to persuade her to eat.

“I told her she needed to eat to recover, and I brought her crackers, but her stomach was upset. She said as a joke: ‘I want to be slim.’

“I see (many) patients, but she was special. She’s a very simple person, a soldier, not well-educated. But she was very, very nice, with a lovely face and blonde hair.”

The Iraqi intelligence officers told the hospital that Private Lynch would soon be transferred to Baghdad, a prospect that terrified her.

After her condition stabilised, they ordered Dr Harith to transfer Jessica to another hospital.

Instead he told the ambulance driver to deliver her to one of the American outposts that had already been established on the ouskirts of the city.

“But when he reached their checkpoint, the Americans fired at him,” he said.

On April 1 the local Baathists fled al-Nasiriyah for Baghdad and arrived at the hospital looking for their prize captive. Dr Harith moved her to another part of the hospital, and other doctors told the soldiers that he was away.

“They said that they thought Jessica had died, and they didn’t know where she was,” he said. In their haste and confusion the soldiers left, leaving behind only a few critically injured soldiers.

The American “rescue” operation came on the night of April 2. The hospital was bombarded and soldiers arrived in helicopters and, according to the hospital doctors, in tanks that pulled up outside the hospital.

Most of the doctors fled to the shelter of the radiology department on the first floor.

“We heard them firing and shouting: ‘Go! Go! Go! Go!’ ” Dr Harith said. One group of soldiers dug up the graves of dead US soldiers outside the hospital, while another interrogated doctors about Ali Hassan al-Majid, the senior Baath party figure known as Chemical Ali, who had never been seen there. A third group looked for Private Lynch.

US soldiers videotaped the rescue, but among the many scenes not shown to the press at US Central Command in Doha was one of four doctors who were handcuffed and interrogated, along with two civilian patients, one of whom was immobile and connected to a drip. “They were doctors, with stethoscopes round their necks,” Dr Harith said.

“Even in war, a doctor should not be treated like that.”

Unluckiest of all was Abdul Razaq, one of the hospital administrators, who took shelter from the bombardment in Private Lynch’s room, believing that he would be safe.

He was seized and taken with the US soldiers on their helicopter to their base, where he was held for three days in an open-air prison camp.

“When he left his skin was the colour of yours,” another doctor, Mahmud, said. “When he came back, he was black.”

Bizarrely, the rescuers cut open a special bed, designed for patients with bed sores, which had been provided for Private Lynch’s use.

“They took samples of sand out of it,” Dr Harith said. “It was the only bed like it that we have, the only one in the governorate.”

Today, the hospital struggles on without adequate supplies of drugs and without running water or mains electricity.

“There are two faces to Americans,” Dr Harith said. “One is freedom and democracy, and giving kids sweets. The other is killing and hating my people. So I am very confused. I feel sad because I will never see Jessica again, and I feel happy because she is happy and has gone back to her life. If I could speak to her I would say: ‘Congratulations!’”

Richard Lloyd Parry: "So who saved Private Lynch?" in The Times, London, April 16, 2003.
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The educated classes had better get breeding

KILKENNY, Ireland -- I stepped off the path (sidewalk) for a double-wide baby carriage again this morning with the voice of my grandmother ringing in my ears. "All the wrong people are having babies," she would say, as if everyone pushing an infant fell short of her standards.

Fast forward 30 years and fly across the Atlantic Ocean where you can hear Irish adults murmuring the same thing. In the States or in Ireland, the lower orders breed like rabbits while the middle class or well-educated don't seem to have the time.

In the EU, the women who have the most babies today are the least-educated. The Office of National Statistics in England showed that women with higher educational qualifications are 50% less likely to have children than those without them. Almost a quarter of all women with degrees remain childless.

At the other end of the social spectrum, women with fewer opportunities might as well have as many babies as they want because the welfare system takes care of their desires.

Writing about this social fact is inflammatory. Nonetheless, my old-fashioned ideas of deferred gratification and self-restraint are important foundation elements of a sensible society. A society ungrounded in the values of learning, art and community is doomed to incompetence, philistinism and anarchy.

Since government does so much to help along the teenaged mother, I believe the time has come for rock-solid legal protection of maternity leave, generous funding for child care, tax credits for teleworking and flexitime hours.

Left to itself, the middle class will look after its own affairs. But when pressurised, beleagured species stop breeding. Ireland's young middle class, formerly the free-spending twentysomethings of the nineties, feel overtaxed, overregulated and overwhelmed. They need the gentle hand of a caring government to lend a spark to their reproductive years.

Posted by Bernie Goldbach, Underway in Ireland

Our Western Mob

NATIONAL REVIEW -- While watching Donald Rumsfeld deal with the press pool, Victor David Hanson thought of the macabre aftermath to the battle of Arginusae in 406 B.C.

"After destroying a great part of the Peloponnesian fleet in the most dramatic Athenian naval victory of the war, the popular assembly abruptly voted to execute six of their eight successful generals (the other two wisely never came back to Athens) on charges that they had failed to rescue seamen who were clinging to the wreckage.

"The historian Xenophon records the feeding frenzy and shouting of the assembled throng. Forget that Sparta felt beaten and was ready for peace after such a catastrophic defeat; forget the brilliant seamanship and command of the Athenian triremes; forget that a ferocious storm had made retrieval of the dead and rescue of the missing sailors almost impossible; forget even that to try the generals collectively was contrary to Athenian law. Instead the people demanded perfection in addition to mere overwhelming success — and so in frustration devoured their own elected officials. The macabre incident was infamous in Greek history (the philosopher Socrates almost alone resisted the mob’s rule), a reminder how a society can go mad, turn on its benefactors, throw away a victory — and go on to lose the entire war.

"Something like that craziness often takes hold of our own elites and media in the midst of perhaps the most brilliantly executed plan in modern American military history. Rather than inquiring how an entire country was overrun in a little over three weeks at a cost of not more than a few hundred casualties, reporters instead wail at the televised scenes of a day of looting and lawlessness."

Victor David Hanson: "Our Western Mob"
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Remembering the Occupation

From Mizuko Ito:

"As I scan the news reports about the US occupation of Iraq, I find myself flashing back on scenes from the end of WWII. Not that I was alive at the time. But I have vivid memories of the occupation as experienced by my mother, my uncles, and grandmother: my grandfather dying of tuberculosis before the surrender, my disillusioned uncle leaving Japan for the US stunned by the depth of the Japanese wartime propaganda machine, the Occupation land reform stripping our family of our status as provincial landlord, our family katana being taken away by Occupation forces, and my mother savoring the taste of chocolate and chewing gum distributed by American GIs. From all the scenes, one image is indelibly clear. This is the story through the eyes of my mother, just a child at the time, peeking out from the gaps in the fusuma to our genkan in our home in Northern Japan.

"The Americans had arrived in our hometown. We had gotten word that they were going to use our home, the largest house in the area, as their local headquarters. Our household gathered, kneeling, at our genkan, steeled to face the occupiers. My great grandmother, nearly blind at the time, was the head of the household, and her daughter and two sons flanked her, the grandchildren shooed off to hidden rooms. As the soldiers entered our home, they started to step up from the genkan into the home. My great grandmother, a battle-scarred early feminist, hissed, "Get your filthy barbarian shoes off of my floor!" The interpreter refused to interpret. The soldier insisted. Upon hearing the translation from the red-faced interpreter, the soldier sat on the floor and removed his boots, instructing his men to do the same. He apologized to my great grandmother. Now it was her turn to be surprised.

I've always considered this moment to be a pivotal one in the chanponization of our family, the first glimmerings of mutual respect for a radically different society that was so recently the enemy. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if the GI that came to my home had been a different sort of man, pushing aside a frail matriarch in a rush to survey his most recent conquest. I don't think resentment of the occupation disappeared after that encounter, and acceptance of the barbarisms of the West was slow in coming. But by my mother's generation, the majority of my family had moved to the US, or at least spent significant amounts of time abroad. This transnational shift is what makes me remember this moment as more true and defining in our postwar family history than the grumblings about lost swords and lost land.

I find myself wondering, like so many of us in the US are, how Iraqis are viewing the occupying Anglo-American forces. At the same time, I realize that this understanding is necessarily beyond my grasp. Every encounter will be a site of conflict and ambivalence, and maybe even, at times, resolution. My personal hope lies with the integrity of the troops on the ground. I nurture a faith that they will proceed with a humility and respect towards difference that has been absent among much of their leadership."

Mizuko Ito: "Remembering the Occupation"
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Jeremy Clarkson on Sexism in the Media

Excerpts from comments Jeremy Clarkson made when driving the Ford Streetka.

"I've just had the most unusual invitation ever. Could I, it said, take part in a debate on whether sexism in the media is a thing of the past.

"I declined for two reasons. First, I'm servicing my lawn mower that night, and second, women in the media haven't just broken through the glass ceiling, they've smashed through it, furnished the upper floor with lots of cushions and painted the chimney pots pink.

"Top Gear, the television programme I present, is made by the general factual department of the BBC. That's run by a woman, as is the specialist factual department. Then you have the boss of all factual programmes, who's a woman. The head of entertainment, needless to say, has long blonde hair, big brown eyes and answers to the name of Jane.

"Recently, I've been asked to present a programme about inventors and machines that have changed the world. It will be a festival of steel and soot, a coal-powered extravaganza with explosions and thrust vectoring. Needless to say, the director is a woman.

"The controller of BBC1 is a woman. The controller of BBC2 is a woman. The director of television is a woman. Even the director-general is called Dyke.

"So what about newspapers? Well, I also write a column for The Sun Home of the page three breast and gentle feminine views of Richard Littlejohn. That's now edited by a flame-haired temptress called Rebekah. Who's a woman.

"So is sexism in the media dead? No. It's alive, well and jumping up and down on the hairy, vicious, warmongering genitals of anyone who happens to be a man. And this is good news because women are just as competent and just as insightful as men. But in addition, you can spend all day guessing what they're wearing under their skirts.

"When I'm dealing with a man I think, 'That's an interesting idea. Tell me more.' But when I'm working with a woman I think, 'That's an interesting idea. Tell me more. And I wonder if you're wearing stockings?' See. Who says men can't multitask?

"The sheer number of women is what makes the media so vibrant and interesting. I love it."

Jeremy Clarkson: "Strictly for the birds"
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