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GP 21 March 2007: La Fhéile Pádraig: Corned Beef and Cabbage  

The Dreary Times.  We lighted on the Sunday Times with full expectation of a lighthearted story about Gotham’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  The watchers crowding the streets sometimes number 2,000,000, making it the largest St. Pat’s parade in the world, followed in the U.S, ironically enough, by the turnout in Savannah, Georgia.  Whatever transpired on March 17 was too joyful, however, for the neurotic band of editors at New York’s Grey Spinster who much prefer lethal genes, war, poisonings, race and death, pink slips, angry Republicans, and the other depressing dreck that made the front page that day.  The Irish were shunted aside, and they should take their trade elsewhere. 

The crew at the Times has never been any good at celebrations, the pinched nerves of the journalists there, born in the Presbyterian South and near the portals of CUNY, only producing quibbling human beings consumed with self importance who are better attuned to neurosis than Gaelic gaiety.  This has meant as well that the newspaper is rather disconnected from its home base in New York—an unhealthy tendency that threatens to undermine its future.  Already some vulture capitalists and flies at J.P Morgan are circling, hope to chew away at this wounded enterprise, since it’s among the newspapers that are losing readership but providing handsome cash flow. 

Hidden Celebrations.  To some degree, fun in 2007 has gone underground all around the nation.  For instance, one of our favored barkeeps and his buddies snuck off to Las Vegas last week, having spied on the Internet a package combining airfare and 4 cheap nights at the Riviera for $280.  Our man played in the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament at his casino, placing second and scoring $168.  Over all, he broke even on his gambling, although the slots and Black Jack put him behind the eight ball.  Four cheap nights and a breakeven at the tables is as good as it gets in the Bush economy, where the gas keeps rising and a furtive inflation (less product for the money) eats away at the assets of the middle classes. 

Corned Beef and Cabbage.  The public mood dour, we brought our revelry inside.  This meant several slices of exquisitely prepared corned beef which had been gaining flavor for several days before we cooked it.  Bok choy became our cabbage.  We washed this down with green beer (ale from upper New York State to which we added local color), green enough to so that our lips, thoughts, and jokes turned as emerald as the isle itself. 

In the background played the heroic and romantic Mo Ghile Mear (My Darling), which we guarantee will sweep you off your feet.  We like best to hear the Chieftains singing it, though on occasion we can be seduced by the Celtic Women who do a rather stagy, much less exalting version that is about as subtle as Riverdance.  But why not a little corny with our corned beef? 

Today we will complete the round of festivities by watching John Ford’s The Quiet Man (in which Catholic and Protestant are able to get along) and Waking Ned Devine.  They both remind us that if you have the devil in you, life can only get better as you grow older.  Since there is a lot of aging going in the developed countries of the world, this a lesson worth learning as we dance the light fantastic, working our way down through this vale of tears, not letting time press on us. 

The Irish Miracle.  We might, as well, celebrate the Irish miracle, even if it does not have religious origins.  Like Erhard’s postwar economic flowering of Germany in the ashes, the amazing Celtic Tiger has gone in a short space of time—essentially the decade of the 1990s—from being the poor man of Western Europe to number two, ranking only behind Luxembourg in GNP per individual.  Fueled by cash from the European Community and powered by a young, highly educated workforce, Ireland is now in the clover. 

So the Times, if it had more sophisticated business and editorial leadership, would have perceived yet another reason for making sure it covered St. Paddy on March the 17th throughout the United States.  Its welterweight columnist Tom Friedman had said as much back in 2005 in “The End of the Rainbow.”  “The results have been phenomenal.  Today, 9 out of 10 of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies have operations here, as do 16 of the top 20 medical device companies and 7 out of the top 10 software designers.  Last year, Ireland got more foreign direct investment from America than from China. And overall government tax receipts are way up.”  Several of the electronics leaders are there as well. 

As we have said frequently, once the Cold War ended, the important countries in the world became the unnoticed small countries at the margin.  The United States needs to use its copious immigrant populations as a bridge to the countries of the world to which our VIPs don’t pay enough attention.  Any growth company worth its salt should have operations today in Ireland, even if commerce there has outstripped the transportation infrastructure. 

The Irish Madness.  That’s not to forget that the Irish are a race apart, with zany genes that at best make the people soar, at worst put them at each other’s throat.  The tale is told of two Irishmen sitting in a pub during the depths of World War II.  Winston Churchill’s voice comes crackling over the radio, “The situation is serious. But not hopeless.”  Says one bloke to another, “That’s the difference between the British and us.  In Ireland, the situation is always hopeless, but never serious.” 

You can find a little about the Irish in a splash of letters in the Opinion pages of the Sunday Times, March 18, 2007—a poor substitute for the big story that should have appeared.  This pot pourri amounted to a dust up over the eternal hate and love relationship between the Irish and the English.  We liked best one comment: “The Irish, Scots and Welsh are suspicious that the pronouncement from the University of Oxford that they are genetically related to the English is a thinly veiled attempt at social climbing by the English.” 

Hapless research from some nitwit in academia.  Whatever the chromosomes show, we know the English and the Irish are a world apart, the Irish more passionate, bloody, poetic, artistic.  Just as the late Peter Drucker once called himself an onlooker in Adventures of a Bystander, the English are mere bystanders compared to the Irish—adventuresome, yet really spectators in life’s pageant, who don’t have the divine madness of the Irish coursing through their souls. 

Irish Mental Health Hotline.  Well, the Irish are even hapless at dealing with their insanity.  We refer you, in this regard, to their mental health answering machine, which shows you as well as anything how they usually skirt any problem that is too demanding. 

La Ballade Irland Nord.  The French ever revel in the trials of the Anglo-Saxon world—a universe in which they would include the Irish.  It is they who remind us, in a video made available on Daily Motion, that the Irish are a people, even today, who are at each other, supposedly for religious reasons, but mainly because their blood and jealousies boil over on occasion, turning them ever so bitter.  The troubles in Northern Ireland have done in a lot of lives. 

But then, so have the abundant handguns and worse sold so loosely in America, supposedly to safeguard our Constitutional rights.  Ideology can get in the way of common sense in any country on earth.  Ideology kills. 

P.S.  One of our partners elaborates on up-and-coming “Agile Countries” in the Harvard Business Review

P.P.S.  We recommend to your attention “Ireland, Bangladesh turn World Cup on its head,” China People’s Daily, March 19, 2007.  This story, too, probably will not make a stir in the Times, but the Chinese have a keener eye on world trends.  Ireland put down Pakistan, and Bangladesh devastated India, once again showing how the unexpected countries are running rings around the establishment.  “Everything went Irish at the World Cup on St. Patrick’s Day, to use the cricket colloquial term for a something that swings the opposite way to convention.”  By the way, the World Cricket Cup 2007 is taking place in the West Indies, once again showing how all the action is shifting out of the mainstream countries. 

P.P.P.S.  Feast your eyes on some full color New York Daily News pictures of the parade.  So, all is not lost.  Grand Marshall Ray Flynn (former Mayor of Boston), compere extraordinaire, and his fellow gallants most caught our attention.

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