OH MY GOD, THEY KILKENNY: When I was in Italy last year, I was surprised to see that the flag of the European Union was usually flown at the same height as the Italian flag. I attributed this to Italy's long localist tradition: If your first loyalty is to a city or region, I reasoned, it wouldn't matter much if the greater authority beyond that was in Rome or Brussels.
Not a bad hypothesis, I suppose. But in Dublin, where nationalism has always been close to the core of the city's identity, the story wasn't all that different. The Euro flags outnumbered the Irish flags, and the two were invariably flown at equal height. In the countryside, on the other hand, it wasn't unusual to see the Irish banner up top.
I never was able to suss out a consensus on how the country that had to fight so long to get its freedom from England felt about being welded back to London again, this time via the continent. Indeed, English-Irish relations were a confusing and sometimes prickly topic all over. We had dinner at a pub in Killarney the night the English soccer team played Croatia, and the patrons there were clearly cheering for the Croats. Then we stopped in another bar not far away, and local sentiment strongly favored the Brits. I asked our innkeeper about the inconsistency. He replied that he didn't feel like talking politics.
(Note: Although my selections are numbered, they're actually listed alphabetically by artist, not in order of preference. So please don't write me asking how I could possibly prefer Beck to Ellington...)
Also: The July issue of Reason (print edition) has just been published. I have no substantial articles in it, but I did contribute two brief items to the front of the book: one on private military companies (somehow I avoided the word "mercenaries") and one on Bush's Medicare propaganda. They aren't online, so you'll have to track down the magazine if you want to read more.
BONZO GOES DUTCH WITH BITBURG: Over at Hit & Run, my boss is listing his favorite Reagan memories; at The Simpleton, another colleague is doing the same thing. I'm no Reaganite, but I've got a couple favorite moments as well. The first was when the president was joking around during a mike check and said, "My fellow Americans. I'm pleased to announce that I've signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes." Everyone seemed really upset about it at the time, but even as a teenage left-liberal I thought it was pretty funny. It seemed like the same sort of jackass prank I would pull if I were president.
The other moment, of course, was when Reagan looked James Stewart in the eye and said, "Jimmy, don't make me have to kill you." Most historians, I should add, believe this did not occur, on the grounds that it actually happened in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Well, tough: these are my memories, and I can put whatever I want into them.
My answer: I didn't say that he's a hero. I said -- or at least meant -- that it's nice to see him cutting loose, taking some risks, and acting like a human being. The day I see Gore as a hero is the day I need to get my head examined.
Beyond that: I enjoy Gore-baiting as much as the next guy, but the Republican reaction to his speech has been so ridiculous (and at times dishonest) that I just had to stand up for the guy. It goes to show how surreal life in Bushtime can be: I'm actually defending Al Gore.