Houses Of The Holy

[ Posted Thursday, March 26th, 2015 – 19:01 PDT ]

[Program Note: This is a continuation of yesterday's column. Because I wrote the whole thing as a single column, the transition is a bit abrupt. So if you want the full flavor of the travelogue as it was written, I strongly encourage you to read "part 1" right before diving into this one. Just a friendly warning, that's all. And once again, I also have to warn people that this column has nothing to do with (American) politics, and that the fresh political columns here will resume on the first of April. OK, that's enough of an introduction, let's just get on with it, shall we?]


Wind-swept but safe, back on the bus, we trundled off to lunch at the Bushmills distillery. Yes, in one trip I managed to see both major Irish distilleries: Bushmills and Jameson. And I don't even drink much whiskey (except maybe a snort or two on Paddy's Day each year)! And a note to grammarians: it's only "whisky" in Scotland -- in both America and Ireland, it's "whiskey." I have no idea why, but there it is. File it under the same heading (I suppose) as why the word "Scotch" only applies to whisky and broth, and everything else is "Scottish."

But back to Ireland. Whiskey -- like parades, colors, religion, and everything else on the island (carrots included) -- is political in nature here. For instance: I've never seen Bushmills served in the Republic of Ireland. Never. And I've personally been in many a pub, throughout the years. If you order whiskey at the bar in the Republic, it had better be Jameson. I assume the same is true in Northern Ireland, for Bushmills, as well. Yes, even after a long day when you retire to the pub, politics is never all that far away from Irish life. In other words: keep in mind which side of the border you're on when you order that shot at the bar!

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Northern Ireland, Where Even The Carrots Are Orange

[ Posted Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 – 20:45 PDT ]

OK, here we go with part two of my travels in Ireland. When I first sat down to write this, my thought was to do one more travel column, and then essentially just pack it in until I got back home. However, when I had finished writing, I found the gift of the gab which had descended upon me many years ago at Blarney Castle (meself upside-down, kissing the Blarney Stone, at the time) had not failed me, and that indeed I had created enough for two solid columns. So, today, the first of these; then tomorrow, the conclusion of the trip. From that point on, I cannot promise new columns, at least until the first of next month. But I can, at the very least, promise a new column tomorrow, so there's that.

As always, a disclaimer that this column is going to have nothing to do with politics. American politics, at any rate. So if "this is what I did on my vacation" columns bore you silly, then read no further!

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It's A Long, Long Way To Tipperary

[ Posted Monday, March 23rd, 2015 – 18:39 PDT ]

Greetings from Ireland!

Sure and it's a long, long way to Tipperary, as they say. How long? I really have no idea, since it's not on our itinerary this trip. Finding the answer might be something worthwhile to do on my next trip, I suppose.

Wry attempts at humor aside, here's a quick rundown of our trip so far. Oh, and before I begin: this, it should be obvious, is not going to be the usual sort of column here at, since it's not going to have anything to do with American politics at all. Well, OK, there is one Biden gaffe to mention, but aside from that.... Anyway, you have all been warned -- skip this article altogether, if travelogues aren't your cup of tea.

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Guest Author -- Ten Tax Cuts And Who They Benefit

[ Posted Friday, March 20th, 2015 – 16:20 PDT ]

Since I'm currently on vacation, it was impossible for me to even attempt to put together a Friday Talking Points column this week. However, instead we are happy to be able to bring you a new original column from David Akadjian (who is, incidentally, one of our favorite commenters).

The subject is a timely one, as we get close to April 15 and everyone's attention turns to taxes. This article is an excellent breakdown of what a variety of past tax cuts meant to the average taxpaying Joe and Jane, as opposed to how they affected businesses and the top earners.

In any case, I highly recommend the following article, and I also should mention that I brought David's new book with me on my travels and am currently about halfway through it (click on the links at the very bottom of the article for more information).

Friday Talking Points will return in two weeks, but for now please enjoy the following.

-- Chris Weigant


Ten Tax Cuts And Who They Benefit

It's tax season once again and I'd like to address a question that I rarely see addressed: Who do tax cuts benefit?

To start, let's make a list of the major tax categories:

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Happy Paddy's Week -- Blarney, Blarney, Blarney!

[ Posted Thursday, March 19th, 2015 – 12:00 PDT ]

[Program Note: Finally, our last Irish-themed column, to wrap up an almost-week-long celebration. This one is (I think) the earliest St. Patrick's Day column I ever wrote, but it's only tangentially related to the holiday. Mostly, it's a rundown of what was going on politically roughly two months after Barack Obama took office. Those were dismal days, of course, as Obama and Congress struggled to figure out a way to dig out from the financial avalanche that was the Great Recession. So while not centered around St. Patrick, it's still an interesting reminder of how far the country's come since Obama took office. The things we're fighting about now seem smaller, in comparison, to what we were fighting about politically back then. In any case, enjoy, and please check back tomorrow for an original column by a special guest columnist. And here's hoping everyone had a good Paddy's Week!]


Originally published March 17, 2009

First off, Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

For our non-Gaelic-speaking readers, Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

For the record -- and no surprise to anyone who has made it to the end of one of my 10,000-word columns -- yes, I have kissed the Blarney Stone. It's at the top of Blarney Castle, which is lots of fun to wander around, and to kiss it you have to lean backwards over a death-defying drop of something like ten stories. An old Irishman will hold your legs for you, so you don't fall to certain death, and you better believe I tipped him well for the service! Then, while leaning backwards, you kiss the magic stone (and try not to think about the rumors you've heard of mischievous Irish lads sneaking up there and urinating on it at night).

But kiss the stone I have, and have hence been rewarded with "the gift of gab." So if you're looking for someone (or something) to blame, while endlessly scrolling through my usual blarney, blame the stone. As the Irish say: That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

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Happy Paddy's Week -- A Son Of Erin

[ Posted Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 – 12:00 PDT ]

[Program Note: Today we offer up a speech from that well-known Son of Erin, Barack O'Bama. Heh. While I'm sure I won't be getting the same reception that President Obama got, I will indeed be interested to hear what the Irish think of how Obama's been doing on my trip. One thing Americans (for the most part) don't realize is how closely the rest of the world follows our politics. Most Americans think: "We don't follow foreign countries' political situations, so why should they follow ours?" This is not correct, though, because American politics affects the rest of the world much more than, say, who is currently running any particular country in Europe. They pretty much have to pay attention, since it affects their own situation so greatly. In any case, here's Obama's speech from 2011, as we all nurse our post-Paddy's Day hangovers.]


Originally published May 24, 2011

Barack Hussein Obama is not exactly the first name that springs to mind when the average person thinks of American politicians with Irish roots, to say the least. But Obama does indeed have Irish ancestry, and he certainly played this up in his recent visit to the Emerald Isle. Today, we are going to print the full text of Obama's address to an ecstatic Dublin crowd.

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Happy Paddy's Week -- Saint Patrick And The Snakes

[ Posted Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 – 12:00 PDT ]

[Program Note: Here's hoping everyone has a very green day today! This was the most fun Paddy's Day column I ever wrote, I have to admit. Hey, it even got me cited in Wikipedia, under "Patrick and the snakes." Impress all your drunken friends tonight with this tale -- who knows, maybe they'll buy you a round to slake the powerful thirst you'll raise by telling it! In any case, have a great one, and I'll be lifting a pint of the customary to all my fans today... in fact, due to the time zone differences, I've probably already done so! As they say in Ireland: "May the road rise to meet you, may the wind always be at your back. And may your soul be in Heaven a half-hour before the Devil knows you're dead."]


Originally published March 17, 2010

First off, Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

For our non-Gaelic-speaking readers, Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, lived in the fifth century A.D., and he came to Ireland as a proselytizer for Christianity. That is about the sum total of the known, verifiable facts about Patrick. The rest is myth. Since such mythologizing began only a few hundred years after his death (which happened on March 17, by the way), these myths of Patrick are much more widely known than the thin shreds of his real history (which are limited to two surviving letters written by Patrick in Latin). Besides, it's much more fun to sit around telling these tales over a pint of Guinness than to dig up actual facts. Even if the tales are pure blarney.

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Happy Paddy's Week -- Don't Call It A Black-And-Tan

[ Posted Monday, March 16th, 2015 – 12:00 PDT ]

[Program Note: We're kicking off a week of Irish-themed columns for this week, as I will be away in Ireland (see previous Program Note posting for details), enjoying St. Patrick's Day in Dublin. This column ran a few years back, so I have to warn you that the Irish Times links may be behind a paywall now. But even without the links, enjoy the story, which I'm publishing first so everyone will know what to say at the pub tomorrow night!]


Originally published March 15, 2012

I realize I'm a wee bit early for a Saint Patrick's Day column, but tomorrow is our regularly-scheduled Friday Talking Points, and Saturday I will be hoisting a pint of Sir Arthur Guinness' fine product, so we'll just have to make do with today.

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Program Note

[ Posted Sunday, March 15th, 2015 – 14:22 PDT ]

I will be away until the end of March. I am taking a vacation to visit Ireland, to see how the Irish celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. I will be watching the parade in Dublin with interest, and perhaps may have some time to report back. But I make no promises -- I don't know exactly when (1) I will have access to the internet, (2) I will have time to write, or (3) I will feel like working during a vacation.

The next week at this site will (hopefully) be a rather special run of Paddy's Day columns (I'm prefacing them all with "Happy Paddy's Week," since that accurately describes how I'll be celebrating it) from Monday until Thursday. Then on Friday, instead of our usual Friday Talking Points, we're going to have a very special guest columnist, from within our own commenting ranks (thanks to David Akadjian). So check back Friday for that one, even if you ignore all the re-runs until then. These columns will all post earlier in the day than normal, I should note.

The following week, I don't have any real idea what I'll be doing. As I said, perhaps I'll have some original columns, perhaps I'll just have re-runs. The best I can commit to at this point is to swear that (at the very least) there will be a new column on the first of April (can't resist that day, can I?).

In any case, I apologize for the serious gap in new columns, but everyone deserves a few weeks off now and again, right? I'll be lifting a pint in all your names this Tuesday, that'll have to do for now.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Friday Talking Points [339] -- Best Pi Day Of The Century!

[ Posted Friday, March 13th, 2015 – 16:56 PDT ]

Before we get on with all the politics, we have two unrelated announcements. The first is tomorrow's quirk in the calendar. Actually, today is quirky as well, if you're a friggatriskaidekaphobe, since it's Friday the 13th. But tomorrow is much more momentous, because the convergence only comes once a century. Tomorrow morning will mark an extraordinary moment in time for geeks everywhere, in fact. Know a mathematician? Call him or her up tomorrow morning and wish her or him the happiest of Pi Days!

For the uninformed, Pi Day is a yearly celebration of a date on the calendar, for its numerical significance. It ranks up there among geeky holidays with the fourth of May ("Star Wars Day," since you can go around wishing everyone "May the Fourth be with you!"). The significance is it will be "3/14" (at least in the United States, as Europeans write their dates differently). These are the first three digits in the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, or "pi."

But this year's Pi Day will be the best one for the next 100 years, because a whole bunch of digits will come into play. Pi's value is, to 10 digits: 3.141592653. This year's Pi Day will be 3/14/15. Taking it a step further, just before 9:30 AM tomorrow morning, the date and time will read: 3/14/15 -- 9:26:53. Woo hoo! Best Pi Day of the century!

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