Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I’ve been trying to avoid commenting on politics here. It’s been very difficult for me because I find global politics and economics fascinating. I’m actually contemplating starting another blog for these interests. However, In the meantime, I just can’t not comment on those Danish cartoons that have caused such an uproar in the Islamic community.

I find it very ironic that many of the very people that argue against Islam as being a violent religion are the ones with placards reading “Death to Denmark” or “Behead the Infidels”…etc...etc. How many times have we seen Muslims on TV preaching with impassioned plea’s that not all Muslims are terrorists, Islam is a peaceful religion that condems violence and suicide bombers. I’ve been watching the BBC and CNN, hoping to see Muslims coming out in droves against these people, but they have thus-far been largely silent. I’ve seen only a few mostly familiar faces on TV. I want to believe that Islam is a peaceful religion that promotes tolerance. I want to believe that Martyrdom and suicide bombers are not celebrated in their mosques and hometowns. But, and I hate to say it, based on the global reaction to these cartoons all signs point to the opposite.

“Islam is being defamed through such cartoons. It is a terrorist act,” said provincial chief minister Akram Durrani, who led the rally. “Those responsible for publishing such cartoons must be punished under international law.”

Defamation of character can be a punishable act, although it’s hard to prove. But defamation of religion? I’m not aware of any law, international or other that attempts to control peoples thoughts on other religions. It isn't even that clear to me whether Islam truly forbids images of Mohammed.

The west has largely separated church and state. The US constitution prohibits establishment of a national religion and is one of our most celebrated freedoms. Religious freedom and tolerance is almost non-existent within most Arab countries. Unfortunately, freedom of speech is apparently a western idea as well……

"Two Jordanian newspaper editors who published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad have been arrested."--BBC Web site, Feb. 4

I do want to applaud the Danish PM for supporting his countries freedom of speech and press in the face of this global backlash. Our leaders have been much less clear in their support.

Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “What we can do is to speak out very clearly in support of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and urge understanding and tolerance — not violence.”

Are you serious? Grow a pair buddy.

Then here comes France...

Wow. I am pleasantly surprised that the French haven't laid over on this one.

On the bright side, I think that issues like this can often polarize and divide people in a good way. Yes I said it, division can be good. True colors can really shine through, good or bad, when something like this happens and that’s when a dialogue can really start. But it requires strong leaders who are willing to speak open and honestly, not simply speak to the cameras and react to the polls. If there’s one thing I hate it’s people who refuse to take a position. Have an opinion, take a side, argue a point. But be open to new ideas and change your opinion if warranted.

I can’t help but think that we are at or very near the beginning of some sort of religious war, Islamic world vs the non-Islamic world This is not a conventional war, because the borders are not easily defined, nor are the soldiers. If you consider the policies and actions surrounding the Arab nations over the last 100 years, it’s not hard to see why there is such turmoil today. Britians’ occupation of Iraq, the US’s first and second wars in Iraq, the US support of Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, Russia’s war in Afghanistan, France’s colonial occupation in Algeria, the Turk’s genocide of Armenians and of course there is Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian land. How many times has the “peace process” been put “back on track”? There is no innocent party here.

There is no easy solution either, and there is certainly no easy win-win solution. Any path will require serious compromise by all sides as well as recognition of past indiscretions. If we had politicians that were worried about doing their jobs rather than polls and re-election campaigns, we might actually get somewhere too.

Monday, February 06, 2006

My Visit to Mecca

That’s right folks, I went to Mecca this past weekend. Not some old temple in the desert, no I went to Ireland, specifically, to the Guiness brewery.

Ireland seems to really be in vogue lately. It seems that all over the world (the states specifically) there are Irish bars popping up, Irish music, big St Patty’s day parties….the list goes on. It’s cool to be Irish. I even heard that Hair of the Dog (the Albany area Irish band) is going to Ireland to tour.

Although I have a very Irish name (Kevin Patrick Corrigan), I’m truly only a portion Irish, less than 50% I think. I’m actually more German than Irish. But between my name, my skin color and my hair, I can blend in with the best of those whiskey drinkin, rugby playin, pasty skinned Irish.

So I journeyed to Dublin last weekend to meet up with my cousin Krissy and spend a few days touring the little island next to that other little island. High on my list was touring the Guiness brewery. I was never much of a Guiness fan in the past, but over the last 6 months or so, it’s really grown on me. Depending on who I ask, my tastes are either evolving (according to most Americans) or devolving (according to most Germans). But I don’t care, I really like the stuff. The more I drink it, the more I like it. The more I like it, the more I drink it. It’s a viscous cycle.
Krissy, AKA K-dog, spent 2 semesters in Dublin and her knowledge of the city was to come in very useful. Starting out, we didn't really have much of a plan for the weekend. The only constraints were my arrival on Thursday (Krissy arrived the previous Friday) and our departures on Sunday. Based on Krissy's advice we decided to hang out in Dublin all day Thursday and Thursday night, take the train to Galway Friday morning and stay in Galway Friday night, then train on back Saturday afternoon for one last night in Dublin. Whats that saying..the best laid plans of mice and men....I can't remember the rest...too much Guiness.

So on Thursday we headed to the American University residence hall where Krissy swung getting us a couple of cheap rooms. It was a great price, so it's hard now to complain about its shortcomings. So i wont. After dropping our things off at the “hotel”, there was really only one thing to do. Goto a pub. So we did.

We headed to the temple bar area which is pub central in Dublin. An hour later with our stomachs full of Guiness and roast beef we did the second logical thing to do in Dublin...visit the Guiness Brewery at St James. The tour was a bit lacking, they explained the process of brewing Guiness but never actually showed that lovely black liquid itself. Regardless of that, the displays, the buildings, the old was all still very interesting. Among the mostly useless facts i learned, i can now confirm that Guiness in Ireland is indeed different than Guiness in the rest of the world for the simple reason that shipping globally requires pastorization added to the process. My computer totally bugged out on the spell check for that word....

Another interesting fact is that the Brewery is the biggest in the world and is under a 9000 yr lease. I'd love to see the terms of that 100+ yr old lease. Thanks to the foresight of our Irish brethren, we can rest assured that Guiness will be around for a long, long time. Naturally, at the end of the tour every patron gets a free pint at the sky bar on top of the building. From the sky bar i could see the beautiful fog that seems to blanket Dublin year round.

Here are a few more facts for the kids to learn. I didn't learn these at the brewery, but rather in talking with local bar patrons.

1. Guiness is healthy.
That’s right, 9/10 doctors recommend a Guiness with at least 2 meals per day. If consumed in place of your normal breakfast, Guiness provides 500% of your daily recommended allowance for Vitamins A, B, C, D, E….the whole alphabet actually. If consumed during lunch, Guiness will give you that extra energy boost you need to get through the rest of the day and perform all tasks at your peak. Even if operating heavy equipment. If consumed with dinner, it will take the edge off of even the most annoying of wives or children.

2. Guiness makes you super strong
Much like popeye and spinach, Guiness can make you super strong, super fast and super smart. Your increase in in strength speed and intelligence is actually not linearly related to the amt. of Guiness you drink, it is exponentially related.

3. Guiness can be used as coolant in an engine
Can it really get any better? Not only is Guiness good for your body and your brain, but if your radiator craps out, you could use Guiness as a replacement coolant. Some might argue that this is a waste, however consider that Guiness mixed with that sweet Ethylene Glycol is a high class drink in some countries. I’m just saying, if viewed properly...the glass could be half full.

4. Guiness will appreciate over time
Global investment icons from Warren Buffet to John Dorfman have all endorsed a diversified portfolio including stocks, bonds, real estate and kegs of Guiness as a safe way to meet or beat the market year in and year out.

Oddly enough, everyone who brought these up were consuming vast quantities of Guiness at the time. Coincidence? You be the judge.

After the tour we did the third logical thing to do in Dublin, got some dinner, another pint, and saw some Irish dancers at the Arlington Hotel pub. My only exposure to Irish dancing, previous to this, was seeing clips of the lord of the dance people. I can tell you that it's much cooler to see it in person. Those crazy feet move at lightning speed while they're jumping around...i was amazed that the little stage didn't collapse.

After dinner, drinking and watching some dancing we did the fourth logical thing to do in Dublin. Went to another bar. I thought about switching it up and ordering a black and tan...but i wasn't sure if that would be a political issue here.

It's a bit hazy from fast forward to Friday Morning.
The train from Galway was a nice 3hr break from drinking. In Galway, the first order of business was to find a cheap hotel to crash in that night. Much to our delight we find a really nice hotel for a great price about a half of a kilometer from the train station. Also, by complete coincidence....i swear....there was a Rally going on in Galway that weekend! So of course...i had to pencil in a little time to check out the cars the next morning.

Find a Hotel...check. So the next logical thing? guessed it, get a pint. So off to Shop street to find a pub. At this point, the trip progressed with allot more of the same...drinking, eating, drinking, walking, drinking, bathroom, stumble, drink, bathroom, eating, sleeping, “spirit away” a few pint glasses...etc.

However, the big highlight worth mentioning was seeing the Cliffs of Moher on Saturday. A few pics are below. They are quite a sight to see, and pics don't do them justice. Between the size, wind, sound of the's a great sight to visit. I highly recommend it. On the bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher, the driver made the comment that the weather was great and should hold up for the rest of the day. I looked outside and i guess great in Ireland means high clouds and no sun. Bad must mean foggy and rainy.

Krissy, if you read this, thanks for playing tour guide! I had a great time hanging around with my cousin form America and meeting your friends, drinking some beers etc. Head on over to my little flat and I'll show your around here some time. Also, i added to my links on the left for you. Check it out.

On a side note, It's amazing how many Americans i ran into. Whether sitting in a bar, riding a tour bus or buying a sandwich, it seems like we're everywhere. They must all be the Americans that promised to leave when Gore lost the election.

Where it all began.

Hops...doesn't look like hops to me...but i'll take their word for it.

The waterfall in the brewery.

Just one of the many pubs we visited.

One of the old ads in the Guiness advertising gallery. Not sure about your...but I'm sold



An old harp...

Lovely Dublin from the Guiness skybar.

A rally car in Galway.

the finished product....

The Cliffs of Moher

The Irish beautiful as it is barren.

A stream in the countryside.

and me...

You can get really close...if you dare.

Krissy at the cliffs.

Don't get too close!

From the caves under the cliffs. It was very difficult to take pics down there.

An old castle...i can't remember the name, there were too many.