What’s the Irish for boondoggle?

by Maria on June 24, 2004

What’s the Irish for boondoggle?

It’s not every day that Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats and Sinn Fein agree on something. But they all say Irish should be an official language of the EU, and complain that the government (which the PDs are part of) hasn’t done enough to make this happen during the Irish presidency. Our presidency of the EU is at best a partial success because we haven’t managed to force the EU to spend an extra 50 million euro a year to translate speeches and documents into a language that no one actually needs them in. It’s the principle, you see.

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Down to Gehenna

by John Q on June 24, 2004

I can remember discovering, with something of a shock, that Armageddon was a real place (modern Megiddo). So, I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find out today that Gehenna is the name of a valley near Jerusalem, bearing no obvious marks of being on the road to eternal damnation. I also got to see Golgotha and Mount Zion – I don’t think my reading of Biblical allusions will be quite the same after this.

Top “British” Public Intellectuals

by Chris Bertram on June 24, 2004

Prospect Magazine are running a poll to find the top 5 “British” public intellectuals. You can see “the whole list here”:http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/HtmlPages/intellectuals.asp and can vote by email to intellectuals@prospect-magazine.co.uk . I say “British” rather than British because the blurb reads: “Candidates do not need to live here or be British citizens, but they should make their most significant impact here.” So Seamus Heaney, Amartya Sen and Michael Ignatieff end up being “British”. There are some pretty dodgy characters on the list, various low rent talking heads, a Daily Mail columnist, and several people whose public ravings are at the outer limits of sanity (these aren’t meant to be exclusive categories). I’ll avoid mentioning names for fear of a libel suit. I thought about voting for Quentin Skinner as the only person on the list ever to have left a comment on Crooked Timber, and Richard Dawkins irritates me too often. In the end, my choice from their top 100, in no particular order is:

bq. Onora O’Neill (I had to pick a philosopher and the other philosophical options are _terrible_ and she’s done some good stuff over the years. Her Reith lectures are one of the most forthright recent attempts to drive back the “audit culture” that is wrecking Britain’s public services.)

bq. Amartya Sen (his work on democracy and famines alone should get him near the top of any such list.)

bq. Seamus Heaney (the only poet on the list.)

bq. V.S. Naipaul (the only _great_ novelist in their selection.)

bq. W.G. Runciman (manages to be a shipping magnate and a social theorist at the same time.)

Sen and Runciman were also, aeons ago, co-authors of a paper on Rousseau, the general will and the prisoner’s dilemma, all topics close to my heart.