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Archive for September, 2005

The IRA Disarms

Posted by erweinstein on September 26, 2005

I have to admit that I was skeptical when the Irish Republican Army announced on July 28 that its leaders had “formally ordered an end to the armed campaign” and instructed its military units to “dump arms”. While the Northern Ireland peace process sounded like it was on the right track, this declaration was hard to take at face value given that only seven months earlier, the IRA was implicated in a massive bank robbery. However, as the BBC reports, the independent committee overseeing the disarmament announced today that the IRA has completed its weapons decommissioning..

This important step cannot even begin to redress the tragic history of violence, repression, and recrimination in Northern Ireland. Protestant voters in Northern Ireland have made it clear that they will not simply trust the IRA to be on its best behavior. The rise of the Reverend Ian Paisley as the Unionist leader demonstrates that the Protestants are unwilling to continue to cooperate with the IRA and its political wing Sinn Fein without receiving something substantial in return. Unionists are right to be concerned that the IRA has not eliminated all of its military capabilities (the IRA destroyed the arms that it has stockpiled over the years, much of it purchased from the Libyan government, but IRA members can still construct improvised explosives or purchase new weapons). However, the IRA and Sinn Fein should be commended for taking a large step in the direction of peace. With luck, the disarmament of the (comparatively smaller) Unionist military outfits will follow later this autumn. Regardless of one’s sympathies regarding this contentious issue, everyone should be striving for a day when the question of Northern Ireland’s status can be resolved without the use of paramilitary groups. As British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in response to the disarmament report,

Today may be the day that peace replaced war, that politics replaced terror, on the island of Ireland. It is what we have striven for and worked for throughout the eight years since the Good Friday Agreement. It creates the circumstances in which the institutions can be revived.

Perhaps Blair is a little overly optimistic, but hopefully, he is not too far off the mark.

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The Quills Awards

Posted by erweinstein on September 12, 2005

As I was reminded by Stephen Dubner at the Freakonomics Blog, online voting is almost over for this year’s Quills Awards. A concise and impartial explanation of the awards from the Boston Globe can be found here. Voting ends at 11:59 PM EST on September 15. Vote here.

For some reason, the overall “popular” literary crop seems somewhat lackluster this year. However, “popular” books that fascinated me (and that earned my vote in their respective categories) include 1776, The Plot Against America, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Freakonomics. Whether you agree with me or think I’m crazy, there’s still time to let the folks at the Quills Literary Society and NBC Universal know what you think.

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Conservatives for Daley

Posted by erweinstein on September 12, 2005

I have great respect for Richard M. Daley, the Mayor of Chicago, unless and until he is directly linked to criminal activity. In contrast, I don’t like Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL, and House Minority Whip). His voting record is extremely partisan, even for a party leader. Durbin’s predecessor, the late Senator Paul Simon (not to be confused with the musician Paul Simon), had pronounced libertarian leanings and immense political courage to back up the often-strident leftist positions he took. While Durbin never misses an opportunity to oppose “Republican” ideas such as tax reform, Simon made an effort to learn about and even intelligently debate flat taxes and value-added taxes. Durbin just takes the party line and shoots down ideas like these; unlike Simon, it’s actually his job to intimidate Democratic senators who are willing to cross party lines for the benefit of the American people. I won’t discuss Durbin’s comments on the Senate floor comparing US soldiers to some of the Twentieth Century’s most heinous mass-murderers, and his subsequent apology, except to raise two small points: 1) As my friend Max brought to my attention, Daley had a large role in persuading Durbin to apologize. 2) No one knows better than Daley that Illinois is scandal-ridden enough and doesn’t need to be the center of nationally rancorous issues such as Durbin’s comments.

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Hurricane “Price Gouging”

Posted by erweinstein on September 4, 2005

I have heard references on both CNN and Fox News to the “price gouging” that occurred before and after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. The Office of the Attorney General of Florida has issued notices reminding citizens that price gouging is illegal and that suspicions of price gouging should be reported via the state hotline.

However prevalent it may be, the common understanding of “price gouging” is inaccurate because it ignores the principles of economics. “Price gouging”, is an emotionally charged term for a process that, unless it involves fraud, is essential to the national well-being. Two articles written in response to last years devastating Florida hurricanes, one by journalist David M. Brown and the other by world-renowned economist Thomas Sowell, explain the popular misconception.

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