»  National Review Online Diary

  July 2008

Hibernia Girl.     Six years ago in this space I wrote a piece titled "All Eyes to Ireland," putting forward the counterintuitive proposition that Ireland is the most interesting place in the world. After the obligatory Yeats quote I said that:

What has actually been born in Ireland during this past 20 years has been a modern, secular, hedonistic welfare state with a globalized economy, a Marxified Academy, a crime problem, a drug problem, an immigration problem and a terrorist problem. Is that terrible? Or beautiful? Your answer is probably a good indicator as to whether or not you are going to enjoy the first half of the 21st century.

Ireland is still worth our attention. On immigration, particularly, the Irish are going through the same debates, muffled and embittered by the same vapid, reality-denying Political Correctness, as we are.

Like the U.S.A., Ireland has an exceptionally large cohort of Love-the-World sentimentalists. Peer into any U.N. agency or worldwide do-good organization; you will find lots of Irish folk busy at work. This inclination is deeply ingrained in the national character. In fact it goes back to the Dark Ages:

"Merovingian society [i.e. mid-7th-century France] was in decay and ready for inspiration; the inspiration came almost entirely from the Irish and Anglo-Irish monks … Boniface of Devon became archbishop of Mainz and apostle of Germany. Many of the bishops and abbots whom he directed were Irish … An Irish Colman became the patron saint of Hungary; others preached in Poland; and Brandenburg in Prussia perhaps owes its name to an Irish Brendan [I think this has since been debunked — JD] … The Irish house at Kiev [! — JD] was destroyed by the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, but most of the monasteries in Germany remained Irish until the Reformation …"  — John Morris, The Age of Arthur

Back in the time of Éamon de Valera's corrupt, poverty-stricken, emigration-wracked little potato republic, in fact, we cold-hearted Brits used to scoff at the Irish for wanting to put right every country in the world except their own. Well, they finally put their own right. Ireland is now prosperous and dynamic, and has traded her emigration problem for an im-migration problem. An improvement, to be sure, but also an illustration of the large general truth that life's chess game never ends, and that solving one set of problems is sure to generate a new set.

One of the best current guides to it all is the blogger Hibernia Girl. She writes beautifully and very forthrightly — probably too forthrightly for her own good. Not only is there no First Amendment in Ireland, there is a dismal historical record of the state perceiving itself as the guardian of true morality (in today's context, that means Political Correctness), and a similarly dismal record of the state suspending traditional rights and liberties whenever it finds it convenient to do so. Hibernia Girl will likely end up in jail, as Kevin Myers looks set fair to, so enjoy her blog while you can.

State ….     Here in the Empire State the talk is all of a crisis in state finances. Wall Street is in the doldrums, we all know that — all of us with securities portfolios, anyway. (Grrr …) New York governors and legislators long ago drove most other kinds of business out of the state with insane policies of taxation, regulation, and harassment, so state finances pretty much depend on Wall Street and its satellite enterprises.

This is not, of course, the first time Wall Street has cratered. It happens every couple of decades. The state (and all this applies a fortiori to New York City) hunkers down, sheds a few employees, works out a few creative bond deals, and waits for Wall Street to come back, which it always does in a year or two.

This time may be different, though. The Manhattan Institute's brilliant and invaluable Nicole Gelinas gives the grisly details. If Nicole is right — and she always has been before — New York, state and city, are sailing into some very stormy waters.

Morals of the story:

 … and Nation.     As the state, so the nation. George W. Bush took office after three years of budget surpluses. He leaves office with a deficit close to half a trillion dollars. Not much mystery as to why. The whizz-kids up on Capitol Hill just love to spend, spend, spend our money, and this Republican president vetoed hardly a dime of it.

Not to worry. Here comes Barack Obama with a plan to … what? Oh, right: spend an amount equal to the current Pentagon budget — that's close to another half trillion dollars — on a new "civilian national security force."  O…K…: the deficit will then be nearly a trillion, ceteris paribus. Except that, of course, ceteris is not going to be paribus. Santabama has all sorts of other toys and goodies in his sack. National health care — ker-ching! College for everybody — ker-ching! "Investments in infrastructure, energy independence, education, and research and development" (I'm just pulling stuff off his website) — ker-ching!

Best comment here was Randall Parker's.

I say deport the illegal aliens as a way to cut back on costs of health care, welfare, education, and other social programs. Pull out of Iraq for a $150 billion or so a year savings. Raise retirement age eligibilities.

Works for me. What are the odds that our next president will do any of that? Oh, I'd say about one in half a trillion.

Chinese whining.     Boy, are the Chinese a nation of whiners! Here they go again, whining now that, quote, "anti-China forces in Congress are trying to ruin next month's Olympic Games in Beijing." Leaving aside the fact that anyone who could ruin any Olympic Games, anywhere, would be a benefactor of the human race, so far has the Olympic kitsch-o-rama departed from the original ideals of individual excellence and sportsmanship; what Congress is actually trying to do is to make the ChiComs live up to their promises to permit media freedom for the games, promises the commies are now breaking with shameless abandon, with — of course! — the full consent of the invertebrates on the International Olympic Committee.

In any case, the ChiComs are going about things all wrong. They obviously have no understanding of our constitutional system and democratic process. The way to get the congresscritters on your side is, just stuff their pockets with high-denomination bills. It works for everyone else. Why don't the ChiComs give it a try?

Hero of the hour.     Nah, I was too cynical there. There are decent, public-spirited people in Congress. There is, for example, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who is running a campaign to get the U.S. Senate to actually debate legislation and vote on it. What a concept! The outcome of this is pretty predictable: Senator Coburn will be crushed like a bug. In fact, Senate leaders are already starting up the steamroller. Still, Senator Coburn's stand goes to show that not all our national legislators are liars, crooks, and thieves. Not all.

Danny does Haiti.     Boswell tells us that the great Tory lover of liberty Samuel Johnson, dining with "some very grave men at Oxford," proposed the toast: "Here's to the next insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies."

That was in the 1770s. Well, some of those insurrections turned out better than others.

The one that turned out worst was Haiti's. The place got its independence from France in 1804 after some ferocious racial massacres, mainly of whites by blacks. Now, more than 200 years on, Haiti is the least developed nation in the Western hemisphere — one of the least developed in the world, in fact: ranked 146 out of 177 on the U.N.'s Human Development Index. The place is also sensationally corrupt: ranked 177 out of 180 on the Corruption Perceptions Index. That's only a tad less corrupt than Iraq!

But hey, at least the place is independent. The one person responsible for Haitian independence more than any other was François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, who seems to have been a pretty good egg, as things go in Haiti. Not surprising then that Danny Glover, having — like many another aging actor — been seized by the desire to direct his own film, settled on Toussaint Louverture as a subject. (What would have been surprising would be Glover choosing a non-black historical figure to make a movie about.)

To make a movie, you need financing. Danny Glover hailed a cab and went off looking for financiers. Guess what? He couldn't get one (financier, not cab). He claims that everyone he aksed refused because the movie lacks white heroes.

At last Venezuela's leftist, anti-white president Hugo Chavez came to the rescue with $18m from Venezuelan state funds. This didn't please Venezuelan film-makers, who grumbled that it is four times the budget allocated to their own national film board. Chavez gave them the finger, and ordered his country's rubber-stamp National Assembly to allocate another $9 million to Glover's little venture, which of course they did.

Here's my question. Since the whole idea of the movie is to celebrate a hero of Haiti's independence, why not go to Haiti for funding? Didn't Danny Glover think of this? Huh?

Math Corner.     Some old chestnuts, but evergreen. (Can a chestnut be evergreen? Discuss among yourselves.) Click here for my solutions.

[1] Calendar blocks.   Imagine you have to represent the numbers for a date (01 to 31) using 2 cubes that each have a digit on each face. You can place the cubes in any order. What numbers should be on the faces of each cube?

[2] Calendar blocks with leading-zero suppression.   Same question but with leading-zero suppression. That is, the sixth of the month is no longer represented by one face showing a 0 and the other showing a 6, but by one face showing a blank and the other a 6.

[These first two can be generalized indefinitely. Suppose you favor the three-digit day-within-year calendar (sometimes called "Julian" for reasons I don't understand, since there are already two perfectly good calendars called "Julian," one used by astronomers, the other by some of the Orthodox Churches). Now you need three blocks, with dates from 001 (or blank-blank-1) to 366 … etc.]

[3] Three dots.   You are traveling in a deep, dark forest when, suddenly, on a dark and stormy night, you are captured by the kind-but-not-so-bright forest people. They keep looking at you and saying to each other, "It be a smart person!" You are marched to their village and seated in the square. Before you are blindfolded, you notice two other lucky souls seated in chairs facing you. Then you are told that the forest people king is about to die. He previously sent messengers throughout the land seeking the 3 smartest people. You are one, and two others have also been found. He now gives you all a task to see which one is the smartest. He tells you, "I have seated you in an equilateral triangle so that each of you faces the other two. While you are blindfolded I will paint a dot on each of your foreheads. Each dot will be red or green so that there can be any combination of red and green dots, for example, 1 red and 2 greens, or all red, etc. When I remove the blindfolds each of you must raise your hand if you see any green dots, i.e. 1 or 2 dots. As soon as you have figured out what color your own dot is, tell me how you knew." Before any dots are painted, or blindfolds removed, the wisest person, (that's you!) says, "Your highness, you are going to paint a green dot on my forehead. The reason I know this is that …" Well, what is it?

[4] Broken stick.   A perfectly straight and very thin rod is marked at random at two points, then divided into three parts at those points. What is the probability that you can form a triangle from the three parts?

[That last one is actually heavy-duty pure math — it was a Cambridge Tripos question in 1854. The answer is a commonplace number, though, and you can find it by some simple experimental math. MS Excel has a random-number generator you can use, the rand( ) function.]