Saturday, October 28, 2017

Irish Examiner is in irrational, full-on panic mode over Brexit

Sometimes I try to imagine what Ireland would be like if it was in Europe or even on planet Earth. It's a little mind game that the editors at the Irish Examiner should try someday. What am I talking about? Their editorial this morning on Brexit finishes with this:
What a terrible Pandora’s box has been opened and for what? Apart from climate change it is hard to think of a greater challenge faced by this island since the Great Famine of 1845. It is hard to be optimistic but we must remain determinedly so.
Huh? I don't deny that the post-Brexit economic environment will be very challenging, BUT there were other events between the Great Famine and Brexit that were bigger challenges than the UK's departure from the European Union.

First, WWI. Tens of thousand of Irishmen died in that war. Somewhere in the range of 30,000 - 40,000 seems to be accepted among historians these days. 30,000+ Irishmen dead in a war. I would imagine that was challenging.

Then there was the War of Independence, the Irish Civil War and all the work that went into rebuilding Ireland afterwards. I'd guess that was fairly challenging.

Then there was WWII. Again, thousands of Irishmen died in the conflict and for a while the future of Europe hung by a fingernail. I would bet those were challenging times and worrying, right? I mean, the Nazis could have won, which would have been an issue if Ireland was in Europe. If.

There were some significantly challenging times post-War too, some that were probably about as challenging as life post-Brexit will be. And there was that whole Cold War thing when life on Earth itself seemed to be at risk.

No, life post-Brexit will not be the greatest "challenge faced by this island since the Great Famine." Not even close.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Last straw? Will unpaid bar bills finally end the Dáil Bar?

The Dáil Bar is still open, still a disgrace, still as clear an indication as any that the people we elect to represent us enjoy a sense of entitlement that is simply breath-taking.

The latest revelation is that some of those who make laws that govern how we live have failed to pay their bar tabs. Actually, that's loose wording because they are restaurant/bar tabs that haven't been paid. More than €5,000 worth.

I doubt I'm the only tax-paying citizen who thinks that those we elect – and pay well! – should pay for their drinks and meals as and when they get them. I see no reason for credit to be extended to any TD or Senator. If they can't afford to pay for the meals and drinks they consume on the salaries we pay them then they are clearly so profligate that they should be disqualified from serving. Or is it simply that they don't bother carrying cash or cards, that paying for things that way is only for the little people, beneath the status of a high & mighty legislator.

This follows the scandal of 'lapgate' and the scandal of TD's drinking in the bar before big votes. This is – I hope – the last straw. If they want a meal or a drink let them go out and find a restaurant, pub or hotel. There are many within short walking distance of Leinster House.

It's time they stopped disgracing themselves and stopped treating us with contempt.

Monday, March 27, 2017

License fees on iPads & laptops is chock full of stupid

So the Irish government is going to redefine what a "television" is which will allow them to say that anyone who has a laptop or an iPad will have to buy a €160 license in order to own such a device. All of this is because RTE wants (needs?) more money.

The obvious answer (scrap the license fee) is unpalatable to the statists who control the government so they have to redefine words and go to great lengths to try to plug a small budget hole in our bloated, mostly unnecessary public television/radio service. This opens up so many potential issues that they will have to deal with in legislature that it will require one huge pretzel of a law to make this work.

First, who will who will have to pay this license fee? Will every tourist touting an iPad have to pony up €160? What about every business traveler with a MacBook? Surely not. So, there's exception 1. What about people who are visiting for a month? 3 months? What about those who come for a 6-week course in Donegal in July? What about American students over for their semester abroad?

The intent of the law is to bring into the license fee catchment all of those people who don't have a television, who do their viewing on their tablet or laptop. How is the government going to track those people? Will everyone who buys an iPad or laptop have to register their purchase with the state? Will shopkeepers demand ID from anyone who wants to buy a laptop. If yes, that will make shopping across the border a whole lot more appealing even when the exchange rate is unfavourable.

Maybe that won't be necessary, but rather the thought police will demand the download records from every internet provider operating in the state. UPC, Eir, Vodafone, etc. will be compelled by the state to hand over all the names of those who they supply, but of course the state says mobile phones will not be included so anyone who is paying  for broadband can say it's for their phone. Very few people would have an iPad or laptop but no smartphone.

So this change to the license law will be even less enforceable than the current TV license. Some lily-livered law-abiding people (as I am) will pay, but I doubt they'll get anywhere near the €5m per annum they expect.

But I already buy my TV license so it won't affect me, right? Wrong!

I'm self-employed and now the government is about to make my TV license a legitimate business expense. I've never written it off before, but I will now as should everyone in the state who needs their laptop or iPad at home for work. Soooo, the question is, will this be a revenue positive or revenue negative change for the government? My guess is negative.

This idea is just so stupid, but it's what governments do.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Water regulator sees the light on water metering

Simply unreal. The water regulator (aka the Commission for Energy Regulation) says metering should stop so that there is money to repair the water infrastructure. {What is the non-crude equivalent for "No Sh*t Sherlock!"?}

All of this could have been avoided, but our elected officials insisted we needed water metering. We never did. It was forced upon us by our masters in Brussels because everyone else in the EU has metered water. So what, they don't live in an arctic rain(denuded)forest.

Newsflash to the Irish government & our Euro-overloards: Ireland gets a lot of rain. So much that virtually nobody waters their lawn. I guess some people wash their cars, but that's about it in terms of non-normal use. And, lest we forget, summers are fairly cool. Very, very few have swimming pools.

People use water to wash and drink. Not much else. We didn't need to meter anyone. The costs of water are not about supply & demand, but about infrastructure. Charge to connect to the mains, but don't waste all that money on meters, bills, billing, bill-collecting, etc, etc, etc. {I'm not in favor of this either because only the suckers (like me) will pay.}

How much money was wasted on meters, on installing them? If we had any elected officials with guts they'd send the bill to Brussels.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Children should not be allowed to vote

James Doorley of the National Youth Council says that 16 & 17 year-olds should be allowed to vote. That's utter nonsense. They're children.

Still, I presume Doorley believes otherwise. He must consider 16 & 17 year-olds capable of reasoning as adults, which should be the minimum presumption for anyone allowed to vote. I wonder if he also believes that that criminals of that age should be tried as adults. If they can reason as adults they can tried as adults.

Also, if they're old enough to vote that should mean that that they don't need the support of the National Youth Council, in which case that organization's budget can be cut accordingly.

Friday, August 05, 2016

No gain for Hillary digging into the Trumps of the 90s

In the past few days I've seen articles about pictures Melania Trump posed for back in the 1990s - before she was married - and stories about her visa situation from the same time. Now, I'm sure the motivation for these stories is to somehow damage Donald Trump, but I can't help thinking that anything that harkens back to the 90s will not be good for Hillary Clinton either.

Let's see: Mrs Trump was in her mid 20s and posed for what could be considered titillating photographs. I doubt the existence of such pictures will actually damage Donald Trump's campaign at all, but if we're re-examining the candidates' spouses' sexual behaviour in the 1990s I don't think Melania will come off worse than Hillary Clinton's spouse.

All the Trump campaign has to do is keep pounding away with pictures of Bill & Monica Lewinsky and talk about that blue dress. That one escapade alone assures Bill of the title of "Sleaziest behaviour by a candidate's spouse."

And the visa issue?

Again, maybe Mrs Trump's on dodgy ground and maybe she's not, but whatever about the legal murkiness of her having walked a runway while on a visitor's visa, let's face it - Bill's legal troubles from the same time are far more politically damaging.

Even if you take his word for it that he wasn't sexually harassing anyone or taking advantage of a young intern, that everything was consensual and above board, that still means that at best he comes across as a dirty old man and Hillary was his enabler.

I know for people my age and for the seriously involved political junkies what the Clintons did in the 90s is old history, but there are quite a few younger people who actually only have the slightest understanding of what he (they) got up to at the time. I can't see what benefit Hillary gets from people opening up the 90s can of worms or spouses' behavior. Her best bet is to keep the focus on her vs Trump and not on Bill vs Melania and on the here and now and not the past.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cameron bows out a failure, but with honor

© Daily Express
I don't get the logic that says the Brexit referendum has left the UK divided. Well, maybe it has, but wasn't it already divided? I mean, minus the Brexit referendum you'd have had a disaffected MAJORITY, powerless, unable to express its wish that the country leave the EU. How is that preferable to a divided nation where you have a disaffected MINORITY?

I know I'm just about the only person out there who feels this way, but I have great respect for David Cameron as he bows out. During the election campaign he promised to hold a referendum on EU membership, something that seems to have been an unfulfilled pledge for nearly 20 years now. So then he does the unthinkable and FOLLOWS THROUGH on his promise! I mean, how dare he do what he said he'd do during the campaign?

He called for the referendum then did his best to secure a REMAIN vote, but it wasn't enough. He didn't find the right formula, which I actually believe he might have, and the UK voted itself out of the EU. And now Cameron, having failed, has fallen on his sword. He's gone not because of negligence of duty or corruption or abuse of power, but simply because he followed through on his promise and failed to secure the REMAIN vote he believed in.

So he's gone, a failure. I guess. But to my mind, Cameron is leaving the political stage with more honor than any national political leader I can think of (especially from a parliamentary system like they have in the UK & Ireland).

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Hillary's "home state" is not New York

I was listening to "Morning Edition" on NPR this morning and during their discussion of the Democrats' battle they referred to NY as Hillary's home state, and that Sanders would have his work cut out for him as an outsider. I don't get any of that.

When I hear Sanders talk I hear NYC. He's so clearly from NY that I'm sure the people of Vermont never forget that he's not really one of them, although they clearly don't hold that against him. And Hillary? She was born and raised in Illinois and spent most of her adult years in Arkansas and Washington. Her attachment to NY is like that of a European knight to an estate granted to him by a grateful monarch. She is NOT from NY.

{None of that means that Sanders will win the NY primary, but the media should stop pretending that Hillary is a New Yorker.}

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Polish people should be thankful for the "miracle of Solidarity" & Lech Walesa

Lech Walesa is one of the great heroes of the 20th century. That some in Poland - including the current government, it seems - see fit to label him a Communist collaborator is shattering.

I don't equate Gobachev with Walesa because Gorbachev ended up ushering in the revolutions that brought down Communism in the eastern bloc by accident. He only intended to loosen Communism's tight grip; he never meant for what happened. His plan wasn't much different than what has happened in China.

But Walesa? He believed in freedom and risked everything for it. He wasn't the only one in Eastern Europe or even in Poland, but he was the most prominent. He was the head of the defiant labor union Solidarity, the man whom the Polish people chose to make president in their first post-war free election. As Ivan Krastev put it in the NY Times "the miracle of Solidarity would have been impossible without leaders like Mr. Walesa."

Walesa is a hero to all freedom-loving people and should be remembered that way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

UK would be wrong to test immigrants' progress in English

Demanding that immigrants learn English, testing them on their progress, is too much. No, you can't do that. Not everyone can learn a new language. The older you get the more difficult it is. Should a middle aged Englishman be barred from marrying a middle aged Russian woman who might well struggle to learn English? No, it's unnecessarily harsh.

Assist immigrants. Help them to learn English. That should be enough. And absolutely insist on English-only in school.

However, ensuring they are keen to assimilate is a different matter. Women who move to Britain - or any western country - must be full citizens, fully able to talk to, show their faces to anyone they meet, interact with.

Again, I don't think the veil should be outlawed, but if businesses don't want to serve women who cover their faces that should be their prerogative. We in the west need to see the face. It's part of how we communicate. If someone doesn't want to show me their face then I should be able to say, "You don't want to communicate with me then I don't trust you sufficiently to do business with you."

Banks and other businesses insist that motorcyclists remove their helmets. I see no problem in any business doing the same with the veil.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Keep an eye on Chris Christie"

George Will argues that Chris Christie is not finished by a long shot. His path to the nomination isn't as difficult as the Trump vs Cruz scenario that we're currently being fed would have us believe.

As chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2014, Christie campaigned frenetically, dispersing more than $100 million as 17 Republican governors were reelected and seven new ones were elected. So far, only four governors have endorsed candidates: Alabama’s Robert Bentley supports Kasich, Arkansas’s Asa Hutchinson supports Huckabee, Maryland’s Larry Hogan and Maine’s Paul LePage support Christie. So 24 Republican governors, many of them indebted to Christie and all of them disposed to admire executives, have political muscles to flex.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Irish said NO to extradition to the US, will the Spanish? #JihadJane

Back in May Ali Charaf Damache walked out of court a free man when an Irish judge refused an American extradition application. Damache is wanted in America on charges related to the Jihad Jane terror plot.

This afternoon Damache was arrested in Spain. Damache has, apparently, been in Spain for a while and the Spanish authorities acted on an arrest warrant from the FBI.

It'll be mighty interesting to see if Damache is extradited by the Spanish after the Irish refused.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Stop the fossil fuel subsidies! Let the poor freeze!

That's the logic of this little tidbit.

Friends of the Earth estimates that the fossil fuel industry here benefits from about €386 million annually in subsidies.

This figure is made up of the share of the public service obligation (PSO) levy allocated to subsidising peat and securing gas supply, totalling €169.2 million this year, combined with fuel allowance payments to low-income households of about €217 million annually.

First of all, we need to stop burning peat in an industrial fashion (I actually thought that was finished). I'm with the so-called "Friends" on that one. As for the rest of their alleged subsidies to the fossil fuels industry? Poppycock.

The fuel allowance to low income households is a government program to assist those on low or no wages. It is in no way a subsidy to the "fossil fuel industry" unless the Friends would rather see our poor freezing in their homes. We can debate the merits of the program and the manner in which its operated without resorting to lunacy. If the poor didn't receive that fuel allowance then, presumably, they'd have to give up some other essential items in order to avoid freezing in their homes. You want homes of the poor (everyone really, no?) better insulated? Sure, let's have that conversation, but stop talking nonsense.

As for the subsidy to secure gas supply, I'd like to see their numbers on that one. I doubt they're rooted in reality.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Was confusing visa waiver program with fiancé visa deliberate?

Tonight the President of the United States confused the visa waiver program – which tens of millions of Europeans & Japanese and Australians and others have used and still use to travel to America – with the fiancé visa.

I know most Americans would have no idea, but that would be the equivalent of a bank president confusing a $100 purchase on a credit card with a $100K loan to someone starting a new business. That's how much difference there is in oversight and vetting between the two methods of entry to the USA.

I can't help thinking that his error was deliberate to lead the American people to believe that that Tashfeen Malik was not subject to vetting and oversight before she entered America. That's simply not the case.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Only classy commercialization of the Easter Rising, if you please

Fianna Fáil's Malcolm Byrne says the state should stop (ban/outlaw?) '"inappropriate" commercialisation' of the Easter Rising anniversary. Apparently he's offended by the fact that someone is selling and people are buying "baseball caps, hoodies and even chocolate bars" with 1916 images on them. Oh the very idea!! {shudder thrice}

I'm assuming Byrne wants to see himself appointed/anointed as adjudicator of taste on all matters related to The Rising. Otherwise, he runs the risk that someone else might not be so offended by 1916 baseball caps, but might find that a state agency selling tours of Ireland built around the anniversary offensive.

Couldn't have that now, could we? Baseball caps are tawdry (and small change), but airplane tickets and hotel rooms and restaurant dinners and rental cars are classy and dignified (and big money).

I love when busy-body politicians hoping to get elected issue stupid press releases that the press dutifully publishes so that we can get a good glimpse of the morons we're knowingly electing.