Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Garda cars fitted with magic device

A short personal story.

Driving between Tralee and Castleisland on Monday at approximately 13.45 I noticed there was a Garda car behind me flashing lights. Scared, I pulled over. Two gardai got out of the car - a woman driver and a man in the passenger seat.

I blurted and asked was I speeding. They said no. It was a regular check. I doubted that because of how they stopped me.

The woman garda said that on her records my car was not insured but she did add that the car may well be insured.

I assured them the car was insured and that in fact I had the new policy in the car. It was due to come into operation on December 1.

I was then asked for my driving licence, which I showed.

The woman garda was at all times polite. Her colleague was less so and while in conversation with me was applying some sort of ointment stick to his lips. I was not impressed.

Since it happened I have been wondering why my car was chosen. Many people gave me different reasons - an old car, my criminal looks, maybe I was on the telephone.

No. Many garda cars are now equipped with ANPR - Automatic Number Plate Recognition. The ANPR system automatically identifies cars that are not insured.

My car was and is insured. There was some blip on the radar on the part of the insurance company, which identified my car as not being insured.

Garda cars with a slim black box on the boot lid are fitted with the device. The cars also have a camera in the front windscreen.

A another world from the friendly copper on a bicycle.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Newspaper article paints horrific picture

This article appears on the Daily Telegraph website.

British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expats through the collapse of the single currency, amid new fears for Italy and Spain.

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.

Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.

The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.

A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time.

“It’s in our interests that they keep playing for time because that gives us more time to prepare,” the minister told the Daily Telegraph.

Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructions to embassies and consulates request contingency planning for extreme scenarios including rioting and social unrest.

Greece has seen several outbreaks of civil disorder as its government struggles with its huge debts. British officials think similar scenes cannot be ruled out in other nations if the euro collapses.

Diplomats have also been told to prepare to help tens of thousands of British citizens in eurozone countries with the consequences of a financial collapse that would leave them unable to access bank accounts or even withdraw cash.

Fuelling the fears of financial markets for the euro, reports in Madrid yesterday suggested that the new Popular Party government could seek a bail-out from either the European Union rescue fund or the International Monetary Fund.

There are also growing fears for Italy, whose new government was forced to pay record interest rates on new bonds issued yesterday.

The yield on new six-month loans was 6.5 per cent, nearly double last month’s rate. And the yield on outstanding two-year loans was 7.8 per cent, well above the level considered unsustainable.

Italy’s new government will have to sell more than EURO 30 billion of new bonds by the end of January to refinance its debts. Analysts say there is no guarantee that investors will buy all of those bonds, which could force Italy to default.

The Italian government yesterday said that in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister Mario Monti had agreed that an Italian collapse “would inevitably be the end of the euro.”

The EU treaties that created the euro and set its membership rules contain no provision for members to leave, meaning any break-up would be disorderly and potentially chaotic.

If eurozone governments defaulted on their debts, the European banks that hold many of their bonds would risk collapse.

Some analysts say the shock waves of such an event would risk the collapse of the entire financial system, leaving banks unable to return money to retail depositors and destroying companies dependent on bank credit.

The Financial Services Authority this week issued a public warning to British banks to bolster their contingency plans for the break-up of the single currency.

Some economists believe that at worst, the outright collapse of the euro could reduce GDP in its member-states by up to half and trigger mass unemployment.

Analysts at UBS, an investment bank earlier this year warned that the most extreme consequences of a break-up include risks to basic property rights and the threat of civil disorder.

“When the unemployment consequences are factored in, it is virtually impossible to consider a break-up scenario without some serious social consequences,” UBS said.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nationalism is scary, dangerous too

The column below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
About four or five months ago I discovered a shop, which sells tasty oranges and cheaper too than in any of the big stores.

There was nothing Irish about the shop, neither language nor what was on the shelves. I presumed it was eastern European.

After about two or three visits I got talking to the young woman behind the counter.

She told me she was from Lithuania but of Russian background. I got the message. She was part of the Russian community who lived in Lithuania and was proud of her Russian ancestry. Her grandparents were moved there during the Stalin regime.

With an interest in the battle of Stalingrad, I asked her if her father had fought on the Volga. Of course a stupid question. She was in her early 20s. Not only was her father too young to have been at Stalingrad, so too was her grandfather. But she did have some idea her great-grandfather might have fought at Stalingrad.

Tempus fugit.

So over the months we have become friendly with one another. Always a smile and a topical comment.

The evening of the Ireland Estonia game she was chatting outside the shop with a young man in her own age group. They were both having a smoke.

Curious as I am, I asked him where he was from. And his story was the same. He was living in Lithuania but fiercely proud of his Russian origins.

He stressed that he was shouting for Ireland.

This young man of Russian ancestry was no friend of the Baltic states. Not only that, but I sensed he was almost aggressive towards the people of Lithuania.

And just as I walked away I was thinking a mile a minute. I went back to him and said that far too often people and nations are in rivalry with one another for no reason at all. I went on to point out we are all human beings, with all the traits of human beings, whether we are born on the Volga, on the Liffey or on the Neman.

I added that maybe it is the trick of the capitalist class to have us fighting with one another while they run away with the loot.

This young man, who had expressed his strong links to Mother Russia, maybe even his disgust for the Baltic states, looked at me. A great smile appeared on his face and then he simply said, "You know, you're right".

Of course nothing is as simple as that but the more I think of all forms of nationalism the more scared I get.

Any dogma that says it knows best scares me.

Just last week the world saw the nasty and sinister behaviour of a neo-Nazi group in Germany that has killed at least 10 people in the country over the last 11 years.

The German authorities were blaming the mafia, criminal elements, everyone but a hard core dangerous right wing cell. What is most worrying about the development is that experts are saying that the group must have support in the community to be able to carry out such atrocities and not be apprehended.

It's terrible to think how easily we can all be sucked into a crazy nationalism.

Instead of being loyal to my country I'd much prefer to be loyal and helpful to people - irrespective of their colour, gender, nationality.

Have two horrific world wars not been lesson enough for us? There is something scary about the times in which we live; a mix of crazy right wing thinking with nationalistic tendency would lead us down a terrible road.

While different people and cultures have different characteristics and traits, far too often we shout nonsenses that imply ‘we’re better than the other crowd’.

As Christians we easily say that all of us are made in the image and likeness of God.

It's a question of living that out in our lives.

Collected letters of Maxi Wander

Maxi Wander was born in Vienna in 1933. She and her husband moved to the former GDR in 1958. It was an unusual move, to say the least.

In summer 1976 she was admitted to the Charite in Berlin to undergo an operation for cancer. She died in 1977.

Maxi Wander worked as a secretary, photographer, author and journalist.
Among her best known books is ‘Diaries and Letters’ – ‘Tagebuecher und Briefe’ The short book is edited by her husband, Fred Wander.

It begins with a quote from Eric Fromm, which reads:
Birth is not a once off event, rather a lasting experience. The purpose of life is to be fully born and the tragedy is that most of us die before we are completely born. To live means, to be born every minute. Death begins when birth ends.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kenny meets Merkel on official visit to Berlin

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is on an official visit to Berlin today. He will be received in the Chancellery Office with military honours later in the morning where he will have a meeting with Angela Merkel..

Piece below is from AFP.

Der irische Premierminister Enda Kenny besucht heute Berlin. Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) empfängt den Regierungschef am späten Vormittag mit militärischen Ehren im Kanzleramt. Themen des Treffens sind die Beziehungen beider Länder sowie europa-, wirtschafts - und finanzpolitische Fragen. Irland hatte im vergangenen Jahr Hilfen von Europäischer Union und Internationalem Währungsfonds (IWF) in Höhe von 85 Milliarden Euro in Anspruch nehmen müssen, um seine Banken zu retten.

Nach einem Absturz 2009 und einem Minus im vergangenen Jahr ist Irlands Wirtschaft in diesem Jahr das zweite Quartal in Folge wieder gewachsen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oezil scores for Germany; what say absurd NSU

It might be interesting to know what the twisted minds of the National Socialist Underground NSU thought this evening when Oezil scored in the German 3- 0 victory against Holland in Hamburg.

Interesting to note that German television this evening when referring to the Ireland Estonia game called it Lansdowne Road. Good for them.

And Ireland celebrates its two newly famous septuagenarians.

O'Brien's attack might start a great debate

Denis O'Brien writes an opinion piece in today's 'Irish Times' where he argues that the depiction of him as an enemy of journalism is undeserved.

He has harsh words to say about Eamon Dunphy.

He argues that Dunphy on one occasion wrote a piece in praise of Tony O'Reilly, which Denis O'Brien claims, was at the behest of Sir Anthony O'Reilly.

Mr O'Brien suggests that Eamon Dunphy can do anything he is asked provided he is offered a six-figure sum.

The piece is also a strong attack at the O'Reilly family who are rival shareholders of INM with O'Brien.

Mr O'Brien owns Today FM, Newstalk and the Spin stations. He also owns 21.6 per cent of INM.

It is at least an interesting debate and will certainly be discussed for many years in journalism courses.

Do newspaper proprietors influence editorial?

One billion people are starving

The piece below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
This year Ireland, is giving €669 million in Overseas Development Aid. Hopefully, the upcoming budget will not see the Government renege on its word by slashing vital Development funds.

Recently, a commentator took to radio and television arguing that we spend too much on overseas aid. On the one hand, he argues that money for emergency aid is necessary, on the other, that the development budget needs to be cut. Drastically.

The inter-relatedness of the two issues exposes a glaring inconsistency in his argument. Countries with a sound, adequate infrastructure are always able to manage natural disasters better than those lacking even the most basic services.

I work in the press office of Concern Worldwide. Therefore, I’m not an objective bystander. But from my work with Concern I’ve seen how Aid not just transforms the lives of our planet’s poorest of the poor, but frequently saves them.

One billion people in our world are starving. Today, one in seven of us, won’t have enough to eat. 2.5bn of us exist on less than two dollars a day. Meanwhile in Ireland, every household wastes €2,000 worth of food every year.

Horrific as they are, those images of starving, bloated children with flies colonising their faces, can leave people a bit fatigued. It’s easy to relax into clichés of the suffering of the destitute of the world. Our world. Still, we cannot, should not, succumb.

Not even because of altruism. The hardest head and heart will see that our being bored or apathetic will come back to haunt us as the starving, unlucky seventh of our population migrates in search of food and more importantly, and politically, water.

Part of my job at Concern is to liaise with the media on the work we do: the difference our people make in 25 countries across the globe.

But what of the difference the experience overseas makes to our workers’ lives?
Take Naoise. Not their real name.

Naoise was recently on a working visit to one of the Concern programmes in Africa.
While there became ill. Terribly ill ending up in a hospital in a remote part of the country.

“It was really terrible, the worst that I could possibly imagine. And because I was working for Concern I was given ‘VIP’ treatment,” Naoise says.

“They didn’t have the proper equipment to secure the catheter, so they had to wrap it around a rubber glove to hold it in place.

“One evening, I noticed a cat in the ward. I thought good - no rats. Until I looked again and realised it was, in fact, a gigantic rat patrolling the ward.”

But the rats are the least of it. What must it be like for the millions of us who give birth, are born, are seriously ill or die in these circumstances? For mothers watching their sick or dying children? Those people are not ‘them’. They’re ‘us’. So in terms of aid, then, the responsibility is to ourselves.

Ireland is a light in the developing world. Let’s make sure that despite the difficulties here, that light never goes out. The heart that our new President spoke about so eloquently will always be a giving one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Politicians learn their trade young

Watching Mary Hanafin on the RTE programme 'Crisis: Inside The Cowen Government' I am reminded of my student days. Ms Hanafin and I were in the same H.Dip class in 1979/1980.

Back then my comment on the young Fianna Fáil member was that she reminded me of the Italian politician who, observing a demonstration, read the situation and went out the front door to be at the front.

The following day, observing another demonstration and reading how it was going, opted to go out the back door and again, was at the front of the parade.

We seem to keep our basic instincts.

News changes as it travels - what's new

Interesting how the media works.

The CDU conference in Leipzig is one of the main items on Irish news this evening. It is the third item on the main evening German news.

The German news says that Angela Merkel has the full support of her party on EU policy. The Irish news tells it differently.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Neo Nazi scare in Germany

A scandal breaking in Germany.

It has been discovered that over a period of 13 years at least eight people of Turkish origin have been killed by Neo Nazis.

It is being argued by a number of people that had these murders been perpetrated by a left wing group there would have been a far greater effort made to apprehend those who committed the crimes.

It is believed that three people killed all eight people. Two of the perpetrators took their own lives in Zwickau and a third suspect has been arrested by the police.

The three people were under suspicion for a number of years and managed to avoid arrest. The police were aware that the same gun - a Cezska - was used in all eight murders.

The group gives themselves the name, NSU - Nationalist Socialist Underground.

A Green politician on Guenther Jauch argued this evening that the Neo Nazis believe that what they are doing is what many people in soeicty are thinking but have not got the 'courage' to do it.

The advance of the right wing in state and church is scary.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A GDR intellectual and daughter of a pastor

A wise informed piece on Germany and Angela Merkel in today's Irish Times.

Our greed causes catastrophic damage

Below is the Thinking Anew column in today's Irish Times.
The anti-capitalist protestors camped outside the Central Bank in Dublin’s Dame Street, those who have caused the resignation of the Dean of St Paul’s in London and the demonstrators at the New York Stock Exchange might find it difficult to understand tomorrow’s Gospel. They are not alone.
St Matthew recalls how a master before travelling abroad gives talents to his servants. A talent was then a unit of currency. The servant to whom he gives just one talent buries it in the ground and when the master returns he gives him back his talent. The other two invested their wealth and made a profit with it. The master was annoyed with the man who played safe and made no profit on the original capital.
Every time I read this parable I feel sorry for the man who is castigated by his master for not making a profit. Is it not the case that people who are poorer and less sure of themselves   when it comes to investing money go for the safe option? Indeed, in these times of such economic uncertainty, anecdotal stories of large numbers of elderly people keeping their money under the mattress abound.
So, surely it’s understandable why the man who got just one talent buried it and had it safe and sound for the rainy day.
The story of tomorrow’s parable forces us to stop for a moment and to think how we squander our talents. It’s an opportunity for us to ask pertinent questions about how so much talent -  in the wider sense  - remains unfulfilled.
Of course there are the exceptions and people who come from the most deprived backgrounds compose great music, write exhilarating literature and build magnificent bridges. But they are the great exceptions, and the majority of people who are born in poverty and destitution have little chance of breaking the cycle and achieving their God-given potential.
Last week the world celebrated the birth of the seven billionth inhabitant. Of the seven billion people on the planet one billion are starving and another 2.8 billion are living on less than two dollars a day.
It would be difficult to believe how any of these people will ever realise their potential. Indeed, it will take the greatest brains and the best good will of the developed world to put a stop to the cancer of death and starvation.
And parallel with those horrifying statistics is the fact that we in the western world waste so much. A recent study shows that every household in Ireland wastes €1,000 annually on food.
Tomorrow’s Gospel gives us a great opportunity to think about all the talent that is lost in the world because of greed and our bad management of resources.
Come to think about it, the anti-capitalist demonstrators might well find tomorrow’s Gospel a type of manifesto that is not too far removed from what they are saying.
How can any of us sleep easily in our beds in the knowledge that there is such poverty and waste running side by side?
Is it not strange to think that the world markets can experience “bull run” and slumps on what might actually be a rumour or trend? And those same markets seem oblivious to the knowledge that one in seven on our planet has not enough to eat.
In tomorrow’s Gospel the master is annoyed with the servant who buried his talents. What would he think of a world in which a billion people never get close to even one talent?
A parable sets us thinking; it forces us to ask questions, especially questions that don’t sit easy with the status quo. Jesus, the man of the parables, keeps on assuring us that each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. Surely, if we take the Gospels anyway seriously it has to be clear to us that there are no elites, there are no privileges in the kingdom of God – we are all special – no exceptions. And in order for us to reach our fulfilment, we all have to play our part in helping make God’s face shine in the world.
For all seven billion of us.
Michael Commane OP

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nadolny credits church for first demos

Writer and actor Petra Nadolny from the former GDR in an interview this evening on rbb television gives special mention to the church.

She points out that in the mid 1980s the only place to protest against the GDR state was within the church.

Nadolny is of the opinion that the GDR state allowed the study of theology so as to show to the world that it was tolerant to people of belief. She also explains how everything in the GDR was image - all was for appearance and everything was a 'game'.

At 18 she joined the SED, hoping to change things

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Recalling a world that collapsed 22 years ago

Yesterday 22 years ago the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. And because of the occasion German television stations are showing programmes on aspects of life in the former GDR.

Yesterday ARD showed a film on what life was like in the notorious women's prison in Hoheneck near Chemnitz.

This evening Berlin Television screened a documentary on what life was like for homosexuals in the GDR.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An important date in German history

Twenty-two years ago today the wall in Berlin came down. It was the end of the SED dictatorship.

Today in Speyer a new synagogue opened its doors. The German President Christian Wulf spoke at the official opening. It was on November 9, 1938 the Nazis burned the former synagogue in Speyer.

Instant communication but slower getting there

As reported on this blog Dublin Bus now has an app for smart phones, which informs passengers the time the bus will arrive at the bus stop. It works.

This morning I travelled by bus on the same route I travelled on a daily basis between 1962and 1967, when not on a bicycle.

This morning the app meant I had to wait less then three minutes at the bus stop. And then on the bus I was able to use my smart phone made easy with the help of a keyboard.

The driver was in constant communication with control and the bus was fitted with GPS.

Modern technology.

It took the bus significantly longer to travel from Orwell Bridge to Kelly's Corner this morning than it did 49 years ago,

Progress? Indeed, a funny old world.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An extraordinary drinking statistic

A study released today shows 57 per cent of Irish adults drink alcohol in a harmful way.

New Dominican bishop in Switzerland

On the Feast of St Martin de Porres, the Holy See announced the appointment of Fr Charles Morerod, OP as the new bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. Bishop-elect Morerod is currently the rector of the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome.

Fr Morerod is expected to be ordained a bishop on December 11 at St Nicholas in Fribourg, with the ordaining prelate being fellow Swiss Dominican, Georges Cardinal Cottier, the theologian emeritus of the papal household.

Fewer and fewer students study German

In 1997 11,385 second level students sat German in the Leaving Certificate Examination. Last June 6,955 students sat the exam in the Leaving Cert.

We sure aer a funny little nation.

Probably no-one in the Cabinet speaks German.

Imagine the impression that would and could be made if our representatives could converse in Berlin or Frankfurt-am-Main in German.

And so little ever said about the curent state of German teaching in our schools.

We seem to be unable to learn from our mistakes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Priesthood - an insider's view

Probably in the early 1990s Kevin Hegarty was removed as editor of Intercom. Since then his name crops up occasionally in the media.

Last month he addressed the agm of the Association of Catholic Priests.

At the time his talk was acclaimed as the highlight of the meeting.

The talk appears in the November issue of The Furrow.

It has to be one of the most succinct pieces of writing on priesthood from an insider's view.

It is a fabulous read. And behind the reality of the gloom and sadness of a dysfunctional church there is a mood of great hope.

Highly recommended, a fantastic read.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More to the headline than meets the eye

In the current issue of the monthly free newspaper 'Alive' there is a side bar on a piece on atheists. If you give it a quick glance you see the words, 'atheists are losers'.

What sort of mentality can write such words? It is painful and sad that there is any link between this newspaper and the Dominican Order.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ireland says ciao to world's top intelligence service

The closing of the Irish embassy to the Holy See in Rome is a significant break for the State.

It is generally recognised by the CIA, MI5, BND, Mossad and many more intelligence services that the top experts in the field are the Holy See.

Is it a good idea that the State closes its eyes and ears to such a service?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Does it matter who done it!

In English what is the standard as to word pronunciation?

On RTE's Morning Ireland today an old-hand said 'advertisement', placing the stress on the 'ise'. It sounds horrible. But why?

It's not that long ago that 'sophisticated' people would laugh at such 'mis-pronunciations'.

Before the presidential election one of the candidates said, 'I learned him', another candidate kept confusing the perfect and imperfect tenses.

Does grammar or pronunciation matter?

It seems people are selective when it comes to passing judgement. Oops, is there an 'e' in that word?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dublin Bus app that tells the truth

People who use Dublin Bus and are owners of a smart phone can download an app which tells them the time the bus will be at the bus stop.

It's magic. Imagine after decades of waiting for the bus that never comes you can now, with the press of a button, know what time the bus will be at the stop.

And ESB has an app which informs you how much it costs to run an appliance for a two-month billing period.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

High winds and heavy rain on Djouce on Saturday

One of the highlights of my time living in the Dominican studium in Tallaght between 1969 and 1974 was the introduction to the Wicklow Hills. Most Thursdays there were walks, some short, some long. On one occasion we cycled to Donard and from there began our climb of Lugnaquilla. All the way to the top and then cycle back to Tallaght. All that in one day.

It must be over 40 years since I climbed Djouce Mountain on one of those adventures from Tallaght, so on Saturday from the top of the mountain there was a great feeling of exhilaration.

It was close to impossible to stand on the top because of the driving wind and rain. The bridge across the river had been swept away in the recent storm. Is it the River Dargle?

It's a relative easy climb, gradual, with the exception of two short pieces. The top is at 725 metres, over 200 metres lower than Brandon.

The exhilaration of walking/climbing mountains is simply amazing.

Forty years ago it's doubtful there was a car park in the vicinity. On Saturday at 11.45 we managed to get the last remaining car space. Wherever the people were they were not all on the mountain and we had the top all to ourselves.

It wouldn't be right to call the top of a 725 mountain a peak! Or would it?

And 40 years ago it was called 'Deuce' but now it seems to be called 'Jouse' No doubt a visit to Google will give the etymology of the name.

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The editorial in the current issue of Kerry's Eye.