Friday, November 26, 2010

Elm Park was always going to be a failure

Back in June 2008 I wondered if the Elm Park development would someday be seen as "a symbol of everything that went wrong as the economy went into its inevitable property price crash."

That it isn't seen that way today has nothing to do with Elm Park's success, but rather those symbols are too numerous for Elm Park to be singled out for any special acknowledgement. Regardless, the Elm Park development - part of Bernard McNamara's decaying world of properties - will shortly have a receiver. I can't claim any great prescience in our misfortunes, but I knew as soon as I saw what was happening at Elm Park that it would end in tears.

Monday, November 22, 2010

To stay in euro we need to learn how to tax and SAVE

I've been looking for a robust defense of the euro, or more specifically, our membership in the euro following our financial/economic meltdown. I've found two recent columns (here and here).

They're both reasonable if the following assumption is valid: governments can tax and save. I have serious doubts about that, especially Irish governments. Money just seems to burn a hole in the pockets of people in government, partly because the electorate expects that hole to be burned.

I'd like to believe that our Central Bank could have insisted that the banks take a bigger chunk of their profits and put it towards a "rainy day" fund as is/was (apparently) done in Spain. That's the same instinct, though. The shareholders might not have accepted investing in a bank that was compelled to keep the capital ratios above the accepted 12% norm.

Even had the Central Bank done that would that only have opened the door wider to let foreign competition in to undermine the banks? This doesn't excuse the behavior of Anglo-Irish or our regulators or the government, but we should at least acknowledge that everyone was in a new situation - a currency union with countries that were not cyclically in synch with ours.

To be honest, of the three main players the one I blame the most is the regulators. They should have been more forceful with both government and the banks. They should have realized that the old capital ratio rules were at least somewhat in doubt in once we joined the euro.

We need a broader, more robust set of measures by which we assess the strength of the banks. And we need to learn how to tax and save as opposed to tax and spend, at which we've proven ourselves exemplary.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Better the euro dies than we leave it

Okay, call me nuts and I don't really believe that our government or Department of Finance folks have this sort of courage, but what if our government has suddenly realized that the euro doesn't suit our economy? Would it be better to leave the euro with our tail between our legs or to hope for the complete collapse of the currency?

The more I think about it the more I think we have nothing to lose. There's no reason for us to simply quit the euro like bad children being asked to leave the playground (although we should never have joined and never have been allowed to join).

Either the Germans (& others) stop pussy-footing around and pledge a genuine solidarity with us, one that includes sharing the pain of the bailout (which was made in large measure by their banks and our forbearance of the cost of German reunification on exchange & interest rates when euro was born) OR we refuse to play ball and trigger a complete collapse of the euro.

If the euro collapsed there would be economic upheaval throughout the EU, particularly in eurozone countries. However, I'm not sure it would be much worse here than what we're facing anyway.

I would never have had such thoughts if not for the noises from Herman von Rompuy today. He sounds like the guy running through a burning building screaming 'Don't panic' while he tries to find the emergency exit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One WWI story among tens of thousands - my wife's great grandfather

I read Lucinda O'Sullivan's post on her uncle who died during WWI I wanted to read my July 2009 post on our search for my wife's great-grandfather's grave. Only it's no longer on the system at Irish Central, so I reposted it here.

Cpl. Patrick Conway, d. 28-APR-16
One of the great things about studying family history is that you find that members of your family did things that make you wonder what they were thinking, what drove them. Often they did things that don't fit the general historic themes you learn about in school and through books.

For my wife and I this process started with regards to Patrick Conway back at the end of May when we first found her great grandparents' census form on the 1911 Census web site. Patrick was "head of family", a "bricklayer's labourer", had been married for nine years and had four children. The oldest child, my wife's grandmother, was nearly 7.

It wasn't even that anything we found was all that surprising, but my wife had never really thought about Patrick Conway other than as the man who was her father's grandfather and that he died in the First World War. The census somehow brought him to life.

We have few hard facts, but we believe Patrick served with the British Army in the Boer War in South Africa around 1900. We also believe he was a member of the Citizen's Army - a worker's militia born out of the Lockout of 1913.

Now that's interesting because in Irish history the Citizen's Army and the British Army ended up on opposite sides during the 1916 Rising, but that was all in the future when Patrick Conway enlisted in January 1915.

So, he was in the British Army, left, married, had a family, worked as a bricklayer, joined the Citizen's Army and joined the British Army again. As my wife thought about all these things and the fact that he was around 38 years old when he (re)enlisted in the Army, the main question was: why? Why did Patrick Conway, a 38-year-old husband and father of four decide to go to war?

And really there was only one answer. He must have been out of work. As a friend of mine said to me recently when I told him this story, "What employer would hire a 38-year-old militant trade unionist bricklayer's laborer?" So simple and straight-forward that it has to be true.

They were harsh times and he probably realized that the army at least offered a wage and, even in death, a pension. Something for his family to live on.

That man was the father of my wife's grandmother, somebody she knew well, but who had never talked about these things. This is why my wife had to go to Bethune, France to visit his grave. We were going to be too near to let the chance slip by.

Bethune is only about an hour over the border from Ypres so we changed our plans to include a visit there. Unlike all the other British military cemeteries that I saw, Bethune is a local cemetery, with a war graves section. It is mostly local French people who are buried there. The war graves aren't exclusively British either. Most of them are British, but there are French and German soldiers buried there as well.

The Commonwealth War Graves in Bethune Cemetery
We found Patrick Conway's grave and found that he was buried near four other members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who all died within a day or two of each other. We guessed that they were all injured in the same engagement, but we have no way of knowing. More research.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Moneyball in the English Premier League?

John Henry is going to try to employ Moneyball tactics at Liverpool, according to today's Irish Independent. Henry is a hedge fund manager so he's clearly comfortable with numbers and his GM at Boston, Theo Epstein, is of the Moneyball generation.

Moneyball was all about Oakland's Billy Beane and the 'genius' he was, but truthfully I always thought more of Epstein than Beane. Beane's teams were competitive, but always seemed to lack the winner's instinct, whereas Esptein built winners. Beane's teams seemed a bit 'soft' in crunch time. And, yes, I know their budgets were vastly different, but still big budget doesn't guarantee much (see NY Mets for all the proof you need). Epstein built good & tough teams - and the Red Sox had to be tough to overcome the curse, the failure of 2003 and the deficit they faced in the 2004 playoffs against the Yankees.

I know nothing of Damien Comolli, who the Independent says is expert at spotting young talent AND "close to Beane." That closeness means Comolli believes in statistics. I guess we're going to learn whether a similar appliance of science can be made in soccer. {I heard the guys on Off the Ball discussing this very subject on Monday, but didn't hear the name of the MLS man they were speaking to about the application of stats in American soccer.}

One thing I admired about Epstein is that, unlike a certain General Manager who used to work in Queens, he recognized that the introduction of drugs testing in baseball would turn a lot of older star players into has beens almost overnight. His team got young quickly, which resulted in their championship in 2008.

Today Liverpool and the Mets are a lot alike. Spending lots of money for little in return. Henry's goal is to make them more like the Red Sox than the Mets. It's an experiment, but I suspect Henry will get Liverpool winning titles again.

{And we Met fans can hope that our new GM will mean a rapid rise back to success.}

Court should have stayed out of Donegal by-election issue

Other than Fianna Fail TD's - and probably not all of them - I think I'm the only person who is unhappy (or at least uneasy) with yesterday's ruling on the Donegal by-election.

Yes, the constituency should have 3 TD's and 16 months is an inordinately long time to wait for the by-election, but it's not like the people of Donegal SW are totally unrepresented - they still have local councillors, 2 TD's and 3 MEPs. The court should have left it up to the Dáil as to when the by-election takes place.

Don't get me wrong, I think we should have an election immediately. In fact, we should have had one in October 2008, but the Fianna Fail and Green TD's thought that an extra year or two for them in the Dáil was more important than the fate of the nation. They'll pay a price when the inevitable election comes. I just don't think this is the court's business.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Take That tix — "Inc booking fee" does not mean what it seems

MCD says tickets to Take That are €70.70 including booking fee. What does that mean?

One their web site MCD says the tickets are available at that price through the following outlets:
  • From 100 Ticketmaster Outlets Nationwide
  • By Telephone (24 Hour):
  • ROI - 0818 719 300, Northern Ireland - 0844 277 44 55
  • Book On Line:

Well, to me that means when you buy two tickets – regardless of how – you should pay €141.40. Yet someone I know was charged €154.10 for tickets bought through

Shouldn't part of their radio ads include this?
"When we say 'including booking fee' that does NOT mean that the tickets will actually cost what we claim. Additional charges may still apply."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Irish Times: Obama's unpopular — blame the American people

I can understand a little how Lara Marlowe feels, but I'm too filled with hope to be worried that she's unhappy. Her idol has feet of clay, but she's having trouble accepting this.

She blames "Republican obstructionism in Congress" for President Obama's problems, but this ignores the fact that Obama had (a) large Democratic majorities in both houses and (b) a strong wind behind him when he took office. His problems have NOTHING to do with "Republican obstructionism in Congress" and everything to do with his failure to properly understand what it was that got him elected: (a) anger at the banks and (b) anger at government for failing to regulate.

Obama thought his election was a 1932 moment, a chance to greatly expand the size of government. However, that's not what the voters thought. They thought they were voting for better management, control over those things that were let run wild during the the Bush years. His stimulus plan was a failure and his health care bill was unpopular before it passed and has only become more unpopular since then.

Next Tuesday the Republicans will probably have control of the House and a larger minority in the Senate. If the President wants to get re-elected, he'll have to learn how to actually be bi-partisan rather than merely talking about it.

More than that, he'll have to show a willingness to accept that he has almost no gut-feel for what makes Americans tick. This is what President Clinton had and it served him well. Obama doesn't have it, which means he has to find someone who does and start listening.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mets fans will go on suffering

Two days ago all seemed perfect with the world. On the morning of the 20th Met fans woke up to the possibility that the baseball gods had finally stopped punishing us after 4 long years. We've endured great suffering for what? We still don't know.

It all started on October 19, 2006 when Yadier ******* Molina hit that home run to turn our dream season into a nightmare. That long winter was followed by two heart-breaking years where our hopes were dashed on the last day of the long season and then last year, which was a disaster from start to finish. The Mets were just plain awful and to top it off, we had to watch the hated Yankees beat the hated Phillies in the World Series.

This year was hardly looking much better until Tuesday night. By the end of the action on Tuesday the Yankees were on the brink of elimination and the Phillies were looking very beatable in their series with San Francisco.

That was only two days ago. Now we look to the future with dread. Both the Yankees and Phillies avoided elimination and, well, let's face it they'll probably go on to win the two in a row they each need. The baseball gods were only playing with us. We are doomed to suffer forever {or at least until April when the new season begins}.

CIT lecturer assumes a lot in wealth tax argument

Cork Institute of Technology lecturer Tom O'Connor says that the "wealthy" have €121bn, which should be taxed. He seems unperturbed by the fact that these people have presumably paid taxes on all of their income while they accumulated this wealth and figures taxing them twice is no big deal.

I think that would be immoral, but I don't want to argue the wealth tax. No, I'm really bothered by the assumptions O'Connor used to arrive at this €121bn figure.

He uses a 2006 Bank of Ireland Private Banking report as the basis for his figures. He then updates the figures in that report using these assumptions.
  1. BoI breaks down the wealthy into three cohorts: those whose net worth is greater than €30m, those whose net worth is between €5m and €30m, and those who fall between €1m and €5m. O'Connor assumes that each group will have an average wealth near the midpoint in the range. {I believe that it would skew strongly towards the low end each time.}

  2. O'Connor assumes that the property holdings of the wealthy have fallen in value in line with the national average. {I suspect that quite a few of those wealthy people held land that - or owned shares in companies that held the land - that was valued on its development potential and that they didn't own large tracts of built up neighborhoods or farm land.}

  3. The wealthy had perfectly diversified share portfolios across the FTSE 100. {He may be right about this, but it's also possible that Ireland's wealthy in 2006 held a disproportionate number of shares in Ireland's banks and property companies, whose prices have since collapsed.}

  4. The bonds in their portfolio were all European government bonds. {I really don't understand this one. Are we really supposed to believe those were the only bonds these people bought? But, regardless, I could probably live with this one.}

  5. Bank of Ireland Private Banking made this information public out of the goodness of their hearts and didn't produce a report that would emphasize the importance of their function to the bank. 
O'Connor wants a 1% wealth tax, which is fine. I don't agree with him, but he says some EU states already have one and others are planning to introduce it. However, if we're going to debate the issue we need a better starting place for what such a tax might bring in.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ireland's Greatest — joke night

I'm giving serious consideration to watching Ireland's Greatest tonight to see if David McWilliams can make any sort of case that Mary Robinson even belongs in this list. I'm more than dubious.

That Daniel O'Connell didn't make the list is a travesty.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good thing we have loads of money for wasteful road spending

One of the worst aspects of the sort of boom times we're living in is the obvious waste of money among some public bodies. For example, a (completely unnecessary) virtually brand new roundabout in Dalkey, Co. Dublin (Dun Laoghaire County Council area) has been torn up and replaced. The original roundabout was comprised of red bricks, but for some reason that was replaced with a black tar-macadam roundabout this week. Good thing money's plentiful.

Along the same stretch of road the same authority (I assume) installed new red brick speed ramps about 20 feet in front of a new stop sign. Maybe the junction merited a stop sign, I can't say, but what's the point of putting in speed ramps just in front of a stop sign. You have to slow down anyway.

I suppose the only saving grace is that money's plentiful and there's no reason to worry too much about how it's spent.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guinness targeting US market

Guinness is about to undertake a big push for the American market, according to the Wall St Journal. Guinness Black is part of this push. Maybe some people like that, but not me. The four bottles I bought and drank will be the only four bottles of Guinness Black I'll ever buy (will drink it if I get it free!).

The Journal also says that Guinness is gong to start offering its "Extra Stout" product, which "hasn't been sold in the U.S. since before Prohibition." Hmm. Maybe, but I have a clear memory of seeing Guinness Extra Stout in the delis in the north Bronx when I was in college there in the 1980s. And, no, it wasn't only available to those who knew the secret knock that opened the door to the illicit beers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

INBS going after the mortgage market with gusto

Jon Ihle in Sunday Tribune says Irish Nationwide Building Society is going all out to increase its share of the mortgage market for 2011. In 2010 INBS wrote €20m in mortgages, but hopes to get that figure up to €160m in 2011 and €325m in 2012.

That's the best news I've seen in weeks. That's the kind of cheery, optimistic news we've all been looking for. We don't have enough financial institutions willing to do whatever it takes to write new mortgage business. Maybe those 100% mortgages will seem so fuddy-duddy conservative, so 'yesterday' when INBS starts offering 140% mortgages next year. With any luck they'll get that up to 175% by 2012.

This is insanity. Rather than running wild with their bailout money, INBS should be wound up. It's bust, bankrupt, kaput. Time to shut say to goodnight to INBS.

Non-stop sports this weekend

I'm pretty sure no one in the family is talking to me. They were on Friday, I know that for sure because we all watched the Ireland match together, but I haven't had much contact with anyone since then. I doubt anyone's angry, probably just forgot I was here.

Yup, since the soccer game ended on Friday I've watched or listened to 5 full baseball games - that's at least 15 hours of baseball in just over two days. I'm now on my 6th game - San Francisco at Atlanta.

I also spliced in healthy doses of Notre Dame's game with Pitt last night (on Eurosport 2, with worst ever in-studio, rather than at-game, commentary for any sporting event anywhere). What a weekend for sports watching. I had to squeeze in a couple of meals and cutting the grass, but it's been great. I love this time of year.

Friday, October 08, 2010

James Ellroy's book told me all I needed to know about him

I was pleased yesterday to learn that my impression of the author of The Cold Six Thousand was right on the money. I heard some of the Matt Cooper's interview with James Ellroy yesterday and the guy is as big a jerk as I would have expected.

I had never heard of Ellroy when I was given this book, but I thought it was awful. I have no idea if Ellroy is considered good or bad, but I thought this is a book by a guy who has spent his life trying to be cool. Everything about the book - the language, tone, even his sentence structure (or lack of it) - shouted to me, "You gotta live on the edge, man."

Yesterday, he walked out on Cooper when Cooper started asking questions about things Ellroy had written in his autobiography. Ellroy got annoyed when Cooper asked him about some of the racier, edgier details in the book. Then he got all high and mighty and walked out. Totally full of himself, his greatness, his relevance and an ignoramus too. Just as I'd imagined.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Is Ganley planning on more than this one cup of 'tea'?

Declan Ganley back from the dead? He's been silent for the year or so since Lisbon passed on its second attempt. However, he's been making noise on Twitter the past few days and today he has a column at

His political party went down in flames during the European elections and, well, Lisbon passed pretty easily at the second asking. So Ganley's pretty much a done deal, right?

I dunno.

I read his column and it's full of good ideas - if this were Sep 2008. It's pretty light on where to from here, but if this is just a first salvo then it's a good one. It puts him back on the scene, but not overly committed.

From the column I get the feeling Ganley would like to be the face of an Irish version of the Tea Party movement, but I don't know that he has the appeal to really get people to rally to him. I also don't think Irish people have that 'get government out of the way' attitude that drives the Tea Party.

I also suspect that even if he achieved some success he would find it nearly impossible to renege on all those government commitments to the Anglo bondholders. It's a scary, but popular idea, one that the Irish people would love to see, but one that we've been told would be disastrous.

Ganley probably has the credibility to get the people to believe we could burn the bondholders, that the price of doing so will be less than not doing so and that the EU & ECB will not overreact to such a move. Is he right? There are quite a few economists on his side, but the powers ranged against him are strong. Stronger.

Any effort at building a mass movement against bailing out the banks' bondholders and against higher taxes and more regulations will require tremendous leadership, charismatic leadership. Does Ganley have such ambitions? We'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Matthew Elderfield says don't burn senior bondholders (Anglo) because of "current difficult funding position for both the Irish government and the banking system." Well, okay, but if we burned them entirely we would undoubtedly have trouble raising money in the bond market, but at the same time we'd owe a helluva lot less. No?

Unmarried fathers would be better off wed

"European family law expert Geoffrey Shannon" says we need new legislation because a court ruling yesterday means "unmarried fathers, even where heavily involved with their children, have to go to court to claim their rights of custody." Shannon was commenting a case decided by the European Court of Justice where an unmarried father was deemed to have no right to demand that his children be returned from England, where their mother had taken them. From the Irish Times report it sounds like the mother left for England before court proceedings here could progress.

I feel bad for the father, Mr McB, but I'm at a loss as to what legislation Mr. Shannon wants. The state already provides for two people to declare that they are committed to one another and that they will share the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. It's called marriage.

Mr. McB would have been better off if had married the mother, Ms E. That's obvious now, but it should have been obvious from day 1 of their relationship. That so many unmarried fathers find themselves in such situations would, you would imagine, eventually convince unmarried fathers and, preferably, unmarried men in serious relationships, to MARRY.

This is what marriage is for. Everything else that our Bridezillas and Weddings By Franc society has promoted is unnecessary. Even religion does not have to feature if the couple would prefer. A simply state ceremony will put the relationship on a solid legal foundation. I'm at a loss to understand why so many people have opted out of marriage and why we as a society deem this situation to be of little consequence.

Friday, October 01, 2010

What is "light touch regulation?"

"Light touch regulation" is an expression I've heard a lot lately with regards to the banks disaster. My problem is that I can't quite make out if someone using this expression refers to the regulations being insufficient or whether they were simply lightly enforced.

Any enlightenment welcome.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Radio Nova — here to stay?

I'm almost ridiculously happy with Radio Nova. I've been listening to it quite a bit since it came on air and I just can't get over the fact that after nearly 20 years after I moved here someone has finally started a Classic Rock station.

Will it last? I have no idea, but I was convinced on Sunday that TodayFM's changed its play-list to try and combat Radio Nova. Until I had that thought, I just assumed that Radio Nova would crash and burn, but that thought has made me think it might just succeed.

Why did I think Radio Nova would crash and burn? I guess because I figured a station that is playing music that seems almost perfectly tailored to 40+-year-old teenager would find that too many of those teens prefer political talk shows now.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why hating the Green Party is so easy

So, what are you supposed to do if you break one the new Gormley-special light bulbs? I spent a few minutes this morning looking for advice on the Department of the Environment's web site, but there's nothing obvious there. Wouldn't have mattered because I had already dealt with the broken CFL bulb long before I thought I'd have a look.

I'd warned everyone in the house that these bulbs could be dangerous and to be careful not to break one. However, in real life these things happen and when they do you don't have time to think or worry about what is the "right" thing to do. I just went into my daughter's bedroom, picked up the big pieces of glass and the base, threw them in the garbage and vacuumed up the rest. Oh, part of the bulb landed on her duvet so I took the cover off and threw it in the washing machine.

I was aware that there is mercury in these stupid bulbs, but my daughter needed to get ready for school. What are we supposed to do, stop living when we break a light bulb? I opened the windows because I knew that was a good idea, but if it had been raining I'd have had to forgo that bit of safety advice too.

Let me tell you, I was incandescent as I raged about our Minister [NOTE: I edited out some less than parliamentary language] for the Environment. These stupid CFL bulbs are just inappropriate for normal family living. If I had his home phone number I would have called him right there and then to give him a piece of my mind.

I found a 100W bulb in the attic and put it into the fixture in my daughter's room. She'll be good for a year or so with that.

It's bad enough that we're all going blind trying to read by the poor light these CFL bulbs generate, but we're also being poisoned by them. Oh, and one broken bulb more than wipes out the savings the government is touting in its stupid ad campaign.

I'm going to check around to see if the UK has the same stupid ban. If not I'll be heading north to stock up on traditional 100W bulbs.

New Look

I've finally gotten around to getting this blog fixed. I expect to blog more, but you will see many more Twitter length posts.

Oh, and commenting will resume. I have all the old comments saved. If I can figure out to to populate the comments fields with the XML files all the old comments will return.

I have some work to do on the look. I kind of like font and colors, but I need my Eagle in the heading.

UPDATE 1:30PM — Eagle issue resolved.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

OECD report on Education not worth 1 column in Irish Times

Sometimes it's almost impossible to contain the frustration. Pointless reports, reported on by clueless journalists and used by shameless promoters/lobbyists to push home a point they want. What am I talking about? Well, the OECD report on education, Education at a Glance, 2010.

Why is it pointless? Because the study stops at 2007! Maybe the OECD hasn't noticed, but there may have been one or two economic changes that might have had an impact on some of the report's favored stats such as GDP, etc. So, this report is a fine as a history text, but offers nothing for the times in which we now live.

The clueless journalist? Charlie Taylor of the Irish Times, who claims that the figures show "that spending on education in Ireland has fallen back significantly since 1995 when the country invested 5.2 per cent of GDP on education." It's a fall in percentages, not actual spending, which has risen tremendously, but, really, who cares? We're bankrupt.

Shameless is how I'd describe all those teacher unions who think using a report based on 3-year-old GDP data is worth anything. Well, it isn't. Given that we've had a fall in GDP that is 3 or 4 times greater than the fall in spending on the Education (those are my rough estimates gleaned from here, here, here and here) will probably push us up and over that 'magical' OECD average.

To Charlie Taylor and teachers unions I pose this question: Was it better to have 4.4% of a big and growing pie or 5.4% of a small and shrinking pie?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

If this were a war we'd have objectives and strategies to evaluate

If the problems in our economy were a war the public would want to know: (a) What's at stake?; (b) What will it take for victory?; and (c) What will victory look like? From those answers would follow the tactics we'll be employing to win the war and a forecast as to how those tactics will play out.

I think this is one of the great problems of the current crisis and our political system. We have a government that's pursuing a policy that makes no sense to people because they're too scared to come on television and spell out what happens if we fail to save the banks; what it will cost collectively and individually; and what we'll have when we've won. {And, truthfully, this government is too discredited to undertake this now.}

I know there have been a few instances where the government, Brian Lenihan in particular, has given glimpses of what exactly is at stake and what it will take to fix the economy, but still everything's too vague. A year ago, more probably, Lenihan should have boldly stated that the debts the banks have incurred are enormous and we have to repay those because of a, b and c.

Then he would have explained that to repay those debts will require 10, 20, 30 years, whatever it will be and in the meantime this will mean more taxes, lower wages for government employees, reduced benefits for those on the dole and pensioners, lower cost health and education systems, etc. The government should have point blank said we'll be experiencing a significant reduction in our standard of living.

Never happened and never would because these people are too worried about their own jobs. So, we have hints at the darkness that's before us, but no explicit explanation as to what might happen. We have cuts to benefits for young people matched with an official indifference to the potential loss of thousands of young people to emigration. We have a government that caved at the first sign that older voters were objecting to small cost-saving changes (medical cards for over 70s). We have lots of little instances of people blowing on burning embers - trying to encourage banks to defer foreclosures, etc. - while the main fire (Anglo and even the other banks) is laying waste to our collective future.

The worst part of this is that our opposition is content to pick away at the government's tactics, but they're equally unwilling to make the big pitch. We don't need to hear how they'd tinker differently, we need a new strategy or at least new leadership willing to spell out exactly what is happening and what is going to happen.

The enemy's closing in and our leaders are hiding in their dugout.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Govt/EU funds hard to find for laid off Waterford Crystal workers

This comes as no surprise: the EU's much heralded relief for Waterford in the wake of the crystal factory closing down has not worked out the way the workers thought it would. The workers say that "nonsensical rules and regulations" have meant that the advertised €4m relief fund has not materialized.

Those who are best at playing political games and making their lives and work fit specific government guidelines will get money, but most regular people aren't like that. This red tape allows the costs of such golden promises to be kept way below the headline figures that appear at the time of an economic calamity, such as in Waterford or Limerick when Dell closed.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Anglo's building a Celtic Zombie economy

Until I read Ian Kehoe's report in yesterday's Sunday Business Post I was unaware of the great nationalization project that we're currently undertaking.

Thanks to the actions of everyone's favorite state-owned bank, Anglo-Irish, we are in the process of nationalizing all sorts of businesses. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that a nationalized bank would think nothing of nationalizing other businesses, but somehow I'm shocked that this has been allowed.

Many of Anglo's corporate customers are unable to make their loan repayments so Anglo has been doing debt for equity swaps, which means that they're willing to write off loans in order to become owners in these businesses. They've already taken ownership of Arnotts, a number of hotels, golf clubs, service stations, etc. And, of course, there's the Quinn Group, which is the (sort of) sister black hole to Anglo.

Kehoe says that Anglo is well down the road with other businesses, which means that you & I will soon become full or part owners of the following: Calyx (ICT services), Champion Sports (footballs, Manchester United shirts, etc.) and more hotels and, I think, a chain of pharmacies.

All of this is really disturbing because it means that all these companies' employees are now only a small remove from civil service. Sure, they don't have permanent contracts, but you can bet your life that there are opposition TD's or prospective TD's only waiting to denounce any move to close these state-owned "assets" because of all the jobs at stake and what have you. All the political pressure will be to keep these dead businesses alive via artificial life support.

But, of course, keeping those companies alive artificially only threatens other competing businesses that might well survive the current calamity if the competition is thinned out. So, while we're bailing out Champion Sports maybe we're damaging Elvery's (or whomever).

It's one thing to keep Anglo alive - and I don't agree with that - but we must insist that Anglo stop using our money to breathe life into other dead or dying businesses. Or, as Brian Lucey puts it, "You have a zombie bank propping up zombie companies. This creates a zombie economy."

Zombie economy or (I'm sure it's soon to be known as) the "Celtic Zombie."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

NRA shows they know salt's not the only answer to snowy/icy roads

I should have waited to see more details. From what I read in today's Irish Independent, the NRA is actually thinking more about clearing snow and ice than yesterday's Evening Herald report implied.

The Independent says that businesses will be compelled to clear the sidewalks in front of their buildings and local groups will be encouraged to clear roads and footpaths themselves, with assistance regarding supplies etc.

Sounds pretty good.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We need a plan as well as salt for winter freeze

"Lesson learned" is the message from the National Roads Authority and they are buying 80,000 tonnes of salt for the coming winter. They want to be ready for the once every 40 years event.

I don't know. To me if that's the only lesson they learned then they've learned little. Salt is not the be all and end of all of winter road maintenance.

First of all, salt ruins the road surface. If all the authorities here are planning to do is dump tons of salt on snow-covered and/or icy roads we'll be left with little segments of roadway to connect our potholes come spring time. Salt really ruins the roads.

Sometimes you have to actually move the snow/ice off the road. And the sooner you do that after a snowfall the better. If the NRA and county councils had reacted quickly when the snow first fell, organized work crews to shovel the little bit of snow off the roads at key intersections and off hilly sections of the roads that would have gone a long way towards keeping these issues to a minimum in January.

They didn't do that, however, and simply relied on salt or "grit" (still not entirely sure what that is). Salt melts snow and ice, but it won't work through a fall of several inches of snow. All that will happen in that case is that salt will melt the snow to slush, which will refreeze at night as the traffic dies down and the temperature falls.

You have to move snow. You can melt the ice, but you have to move snow. And, notice above I said they should organize work crews. I'm not talking about full time employees of the county council, but why not ask for volunteers to clear the key roads in a neighborhood and employ temporary work crews to clear more important routes?

We don't have dozens of snow plows and we shouldn't. There would be no point in buying and housing such machines for a once every 40 years event. But, our planners authorities could have hundreds of snow shovels stored for such events. Our planners could have local civic groups prepared to organize the crews - voluntary and paid - to use those shovels to clear the roads.

There is much that should be done to prepare for that rare snow emergency here and we don't have to spend a fortune. Call on the people to contribute. Why is everyone so wary of invoking civic pride and voluntarism for rare events.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How can Democrats sell health care if BP not to blame for al Megrahi prison release?

Of course the Democrats are going to try to blame BP for the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi from prison. If BP's not to blame then the only other possible scapegoat is Britain's NHS. After all, under NHS care al Megrahi had only 3 months to live, but as soon as he was able to avail of Libyan health care his life expectancy expanded by 10 years (or more).

Now how does this help the Democrats sell federalized health care to Americans?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mortgage bail-out recipients should be publicly named

Just listened to a discussion on Newstalk about a possible plan to bail-out people in difficulties with their mortgages. I'm of two minds on this one: I have a lot of sympathy for those who bought their first homes in the period 2006-2008 and who now can't pay, but I'm loathe to help those who lived (& still live) better than my family & I do in our modest home.

I also have sympathy for those who find themselves out of work and can't afford their mortgage, but again I would like any help that we taxpayers are to provide to be at a flat rate: that is mortgage subsidies should be a set amount for all. I don't want to see taxpayers' money used to pay mortgages for those who live in substantial dwellings that even in a depressed would sell for a fair amount.

I can kind of see how something may have to be done to help people, but I can just as easily see how this could end up being nothing more than a government-mandated attempt to force the prudent to pay to sustain the lifestyles of the imprudent.

One other feature of any bail-out that I'd like to see is that all such payments should be public. That is, all of us should know who among our neighbors is getting money to help them pay their mortgage. We'll be able to assess the size of their home, the quality of their car(s) and the frequency of their vacations, etc. Why not?

I know this runs counter to the way things are generally done here, but too little transparency runs the risk of all sorts of abuse. Publicly naming those who are in receipt of government mortgage assistance might ensure that only those who are really in need avail of such aid.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Capello should encourage wives to join the players

Today's Sun (I know) says that England's manager F. Capello allowed the team to have a few beers on Monday night. The paper says he did this to let the team relax.

This goes right to the heart of something that I can't understand when it comes to the World Cup. Why are the so-called "wags" banned from the England camp? The English players - & I don't know if other nations' do the same - play the full season in a pretty intense league, many also play in the Champions League. High level competition.

Yet, after every game the players head home to their wives or girlfriends or head out on the town with their pals. Why should they behave differently just because it's the World Cup? Why would any manager mess with the formula that they've proven is successful?

If I was managing the English team I'd encourage them to bring their families with them, to as close as possible set up home away from home. I don't know, maybe that would bring all sorts of problems too, but it should be up to the players themselves whether their families join them at the World Cup or not.

A happy side effect is that the wives and girlfriends could give the voracious English press something to write about other than the minutiae of what's going on with the players. Might take some of the pressure off them.

And a side note: I don't equate "wives" with "girlfriends", those are two completely different roles and relationships. Yet, the players' wives definitely, and their girlfriends too, are mistreated and equated with something akin to concubines in the manner they're treated by Capello and written about in the media. That's just plain wrong.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What does bad journalism cost the state?

Today the Irish Times tells us that tax relief on health insurance costs the state around €400m per year. They arrive at that figure by simply producing the total of all tax credits due to taxpayers' health insurance policies.

Okay, that's the amount of relief taxpayers avail of, but is that the total cost? Surely if that relief were eliminated a certain percentage of those taxpayers would find the cost of health insurance prohibitive or simply not worth it. That would mean they would become 100% public patients, which would add to the state's costs.

I can accept that it would be nearly impossible to make a reasonable attempt at quantifying that figure, but to not even mention it is the difference between journalism and activism.

The state again makes the case for its removal from education

Another Leaving Cert blunder. The state makes the best case for getting it out of the education process. Local testing, local standards. This overly centralized system provides too few benefits despite the rigidity and pompous declarations about "fairness."

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Peace activist's statement on Palestinian "genocide" is wrong

I don't doubt Nobel Prize winner Mairead Corrigan cared deeply about the Palestinian people. Very deeply. She's emotionally invested in their plight.

However, her emotional investment doesn't change the fact that she should - as a Nobel Prize winner - avoid factually suspect, but highly emotive statements on the situation in the Middle East and/or Gaza.

The other day Corrigan said the Palestinian people were experiencing a "slow genocide." Genocide is pretty clear cut - an ethnic or religious group is being exterminated. Now if the Palestinians were indeed being slowly exterminated we would see evidence of that. At a minimum the Palestinian population would be in decline.

However, on the West Bank the population is increasing at a 2.13% rate. That's a fairly healthy growth rate. More than Ireland at 1.10% and America at 0.97%. That's just the West Bank.

In Gaza the population growth rate is 3.29%, which is the 6th highest population growth rate in the world. Israel's own population growth rate is about 1.6%, which is less than the West Bank/Gaza combined rate (roughly 2.6%). That's not genocide.

I won't dispute that life in Gaza is extremely unpleasant and unfair on the vast majority of people living there, but genocide it is not.

I'd love to see that remedied and for peace to break out suddenly in the region, but we're not going to get there if Nobel Peace Prize winners feel free to toss linguistic gasoline on the fire.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

When did lesbians take over softball?

It's been nearly 20 years since I lived in America. Lots of things have changed. Still, I find it hard to accept that these days only lesbian women play softball because it wasn't the case in the 1980s.

This all goes back to that Wall Street Journal picture of Elena Kagan. Apparently anyone looking at that picture would have known that Kagan is a lesbian. Why? Because she's playing softball, that's why. I just don't know.

I didn't see the picture before I heard about the controversy, but I would not have associated a woman playing softball with lesbianism. Softball is not a tough game; you do not have to be 'butch' to play. I played quite a bit in the late 80s/early 90s in the mixed-sex company league when I was working for Citibank. I don't think any of the women I played with were lesbians.

When I look at the picture of Kagan all I see is a woman playing in a game at an office picnic or something like that. No uniform shirt or proper footware. Why read anything more than that into the picture?

Of course, the Irish media has picked up on all this nonsense and regurgitated what they're reading in the American press. As far as I can tell not a single Irish journalist has bothered to contact Softball Ireland, despite the fact that there are dozens of teams playing the game here, almost all in mixed-sex leagues. They might have been able to help the Irish Times by explaining that the women who play softball don't fit that or any stereotype.

Maybe there's a grain of truth to this whole 'women who play softball' thing, but all I can imagine is that this will make it that bit tougher to convince women in the office to turn out for the summer softball league.

Friday, May 21, 2010

No shortage of public money in Bray

Aren't we in a severe budget crisis? Aren't government bodies cutting back everywhere? I only ask because I've been wondering for the past few weeks where the money came from to re-landscape the roundabouts in south Bray? They used to be grassy areas, but now they're like half desert and half prairie with a small woodlands area.

Truth is, I don't know which public body paid for these 'upgrades', but it hardly matters. Money's supposedly tight and one of our local authorities - Bray Town Council, Wicklow County Council - thought this a wise investment. I liked the old style roundabouts better. And how long had it been since the last upgrade?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Leaving cert students should have option to take 2 math exams

The Tainaiste has suggested that universities accept students who fail the Honours Leaving Cert in Mathematics. That doesn't seem quite right to me, although I understand where she's coming from - too many students are bailing out of the honours paper and settling for the pass paper.

A simple and equitable solution would be to do the following: let all students take both the pass and honours paper (with an option to skip either). That's not feasible at the moment because the two exams are held simultaneously, but they could be held on different days.

That way any student who was afraid of losing out on a college place all together for failing honours math could take the pass paper as a fall back. There'd be no extra studying required as anyone who has put the work into an honours level course should have no difficulty passing the pass level paper.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We should follow Minister's logic and scrap TV license

The Minister for Comms says the TV license won't exist in 2020. Well, why don't we follow the Minister's logic on the electric cars - be first in Europe to force pace of change - why don't we scrap license as of 2012. That would have the effect of focusing minds at RTE and open up television production & distribution to all sorts of creative people here.

There's absolutely no reason Irish cultural products can't compete in a free market in our wired world. Irish authors, playwrights, songwriters, actors, etc. all manage well, why not those who create digital media? Oh yeah, we also have some excellent games and other software producers.

Scrap the license and free the market now - we'll be ahead of the curve as other countries are forced to do likewise.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Euro's crisis is thanks to hubris of European elites

I missed most of the 9:00 news tonight and so didn't see how (or if) RTE reported on today's news on the euro, but it's gotten a lot more serious. Greek debt is now junk, the euro fell by more than 2¢ against the dollar (a currency with its own concerns) and today a member of the FDP - junior coalition partner in the German Government - said Greece might have to "leave the euro zone for a time."

The German and Greek peoples are pulling in opposite directions. The Germans don't want to bail out the Greeks (or any other errant euro members) and the Greeks don't want to endure the pain required to get their government spending under control to German satisfaction.

Are we approaching the moment of truth for the euro (& the EU)? I've said before that I'm not anti-EU, but I've never understood why the European elite kept plowing on with their political project when the people were so far behind. The European project was too important to allow it be forced on people, but never sufficiently explained.

Now you see the results. First real difficult moment arrives and the various peoples of Europe are pulling apart. The Greek & German governments are like rubber bands stretching, stretching trying to keep holding hands with each other while their respective voters pull them back from any sense of European solidarity.

How do you think this image from Athens on Die Zeit's web site plays with the German people?

The stupid things is, if the euro disintegrates, the European Union will follow. It should never have come to this. The hubris of the Europhiles was as great, maybe greater, than that of the bankers who are public enemy number one today.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maol Muire Tynan - still can't pronounce it

Maol Muire Tynan is a name I used to see regularly in the Irish Times. It also stuck in my head because I always used to wonder how you pronounced the name. I could probably have a stab at it now having lived her for 20 years, but from the day I moved here the name was just a mystery to me. In fact, for a while I didn't even know if the name belonged to a man or woman (woman, if you don't know).

I only mention her name because I just stumbled across it. She's now the Public Affairs Manager at ESB. Good for her. I'm sure it's a better paying job than journalist at the Irish Times. Probably less pressure too - at least until we start having rolling strikes and electricity cuts that I keep hearing about.

Friday, March 19, 2010

If Fianna Fáil used "deem and pass" ...

Just imagine the reaction of Fintan O'Toole and Vincent Browne if Fianna Fáil ever tried a stunt like deem and pass? Just imagine the tut-tutting of Pat Kenny and George Hook. Just imagine.

I hadn't been paying much attention to America's health care debate and I still don't have a firm grasp what exactly it is Congress may pass, but using this "deem and pass" method is outrageous.

First, what is "deem and pass"?
... the health-care bill would be voted on INDIRECTLY, tucked into what's known as "the rule." The rule essentially outlines the rules for an upcoming vote -- in this case, it would be the vote on the package of reconciliation fixes.

By passing "the rule," the House also would "deem" the Senate bill passed (with a "hereby" statement. "We hereby deem..."). The House would then vote on the package of reconciliation fixes. But the Senate health-care bill would be considered passed even if they never vote on the reconciliation fixes.
Get that? No, well basically it's a trick where the health care package is passed, but nobody has to be tarred as having voted for it.

I like how David Brooks sums up what this means.
Deem and pass? Are you kidding me? Is this what the Revolutionary War was fought for? Is this what the boys on Normandy beach were trying to defend? Is this where we thought we would end up when Obama was speaking so beautifully in Iowa or promising to put away childish things?

... This is the largest piece of legislation in a generation and Pelosi wants to pass it without a vote. It’s unbelievable that people even talk about this with a straight face.
And he voted for Obama.

This will be Barak Obama's legacy.

Night in Dublin's new theater will cost you

Dublin's new Grand Canal Theatre opened last night. I presume it's as spectacular inside as outside (eh, no, I don't know what's going on with those red things).

It sure will be a pricey experience to go to the new theater. My wife and daughters were looking at tickets for Hairspray later this year. The cost of the tickets - including booking charge - was a lot more than they paid last summer for flight to London, train journey into the city and tickets to the show there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

American troops don't "stop off" in tax havens

President Obama thanked Brian Cowen for allowing American troops use Shannon as a transit stop on the way to Iraq and Afghanistan. That's the insurance policy against being tagged as a tax haven. Avoiding tax haven designation is one of the keys to economic recovery.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The cost of November strike day

Remember last November when just about all teachers and civil servants and others went on strike for a day? That was before the budget when all the pay cuts were implemented. Remember?

Well, I know of one state body that has only now gotten around to deducting the pay for that day - at the 2010 salary scale. That means the strike day was 5% (if that was the pay cut) less expensive to each of that body's employees than they had a right to expect AND 5% more expensive for the state than it should have been.

I'd love to know if this is the case throughout the public sector.

Housekeeping issues

Still working on comments. Sorry about the big delay. I'm regularly posting on Twitter. My goal is to get this blog to be more like a series of short twitter posts, but with comments. Haloscan pulled the rug out from under me and I haven't had enough time to get Disqus comments working. I also probably need a new blog template, but haven't found one I like yet.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Should we adopt an education credits system?

Youth unemployment is a huge issue here, so I'm not really opposed to the state offering training for young people. The fact that the state is looking for "private organisations" to do the training and "reskilling" is a plus as far as I'm concerned. Again, FÁS should be closed down.

I'm just wondering, however, if the fact that so many under 35s need "reskilling" is not an indictment of the way we organize our education? I mean if a person's education is dated before he's 35 how does it make sense that each individual and we as as a nation invest so much in university courses?

I'm more thinking out loud than definitely in favor of massive change, but maybe it would be better if there were some way that people could use education credits at any time in their lives to "reskill" rather than the current system, which assumes you really need nothing more once you're 21.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bush admin's response to tsunami better comparison for current efforts

After listening to the last few minutes of Pat Kenny's show today I'm ready to explode. Okay, his panel was stuffed with Obamaphiles, but I'm just so sick of people comparing President Obama's handling of Haiti with President Bush's handling of Katrina.

President Bush made one big blunder in New Orleans and two less crucial blunders. The biggest error Bush made was not treating the New Orleans government, especially the mayor, like an ineffectual, tin-head, tin-pot third world leader that he actually imagined himself to be. Bush and the governor at the time should have jointly ousted him because he was a nincompoop.

I know the relief effort was bogged down and troubled, but I don't believe anyone died due to it. People were discommoded and upset, but what upset those the people whose homes and cities had been ruined were issues on a different scale from what the people of Haiti are putting up with now.

Bush's biggest political blunder, although only a small error really, was not decamping from Washington to set up a temporary White House in the region. It wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference to anyone's life, but the media would have been satisfied that at least he was 'doing something.'

Of course Pat Kenny and seemingly everyone else in RTE hasn't grasped that the media performed worse than did the Bush administration. And that was Bush's second minor error - not calling the media out on the lies they peddled at the time.

And, Dan Boyle - who I actually have a sneaking regard for - I'm sorry if you don't like that the United States has to defend itself, but you could have at least acknowledged the massive effort by the American navy and other forces to get supplies to the people of Indonesia. I hate that sort of 'knowing', 'little-smile-on-the-lips', 'amusing-to-all-euro-hipsters', snide anti-Americanism that Boyle displayed today when he said, "It's the best use of the American military I've seen in at least two decades." (I may not have it verbatim, but that's pretty close.) I thought he was better than that.

A better comparison with today's relief effort was the United States' response to the 2004 tsunami, which the Bush administration handled well.Not perfectly, of course, just as I'm sure today's relief effort is not going perfectly. Nothing goes perfectly.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mass. election proves America's still not Europe

I posted this on Twitter earlier:
One year anniversary of Obama's election. He can still right ship, but Brown's win ends European dream of what Obama would mean.
I thought I'd expand on that a bit.

A lot of Europeans believed - more than hoped - that the election of Barak Obama meant that America had finally woken up to all that was wrong with their country (ie - all the ways it wasn't European). Although I imagine most Europeans aren't aware of it yet, last night's election result from Massachusetts has put paid to that idea.

That doesn't mean President Obama's Presidency is doomed. There's plenty of time left for him to fix the obvious problems and go on in the job for 7 more years.

Much the same applies to the Democratic Party. They too can adjust their ambitions and look for American solutions to America's problems and avert their wistful gazes from the European social and economic models. And, of course, the Republican Party is still a mess so clearly nothing is decided other than that the American people don't want to be Europeans.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brown vs Coakley in Mass and vs health care in US

RTE & the Irish Times have been trumpeting President Obama's success in getting his health care proposals through the various stages in both houses of Congress. In fact, sometimes the headlines are so excited that I'm sure the average Irish Times reader or RTE viewer who's paid any attention at all figures that Americans already have their government health care.

However, both RTE & the Irish Times have gone quiet on that front the past week, understandably, with Haiti dominating the news. Still, just in case you're vaguely interested, tomorrow's election in Massachusetts could be the end of America's national health care dalliance.

If Republican Scott Brown manages to defeat Democrat Martha Coakley for what was Senator Kennedy's US Senate seat, the President's health care plan is probably dead in the water. Not only will the Republicans have that crucial 41st vote to enable them to filibuster the Senate, but every Democrat from a state less Democrat-blue than Massachusetts (pretty much all of them) is going to be wondering about his own political health if he/she votes for the President's plan. Something much less watered down is probably all that could be hoped for if Brown wins.

As of right now the polls show him up slightly and Intrade says the good money's on a Brown victory.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Haloscan comments have vanished

I don't know what happened to the comments. Something seems to have changed with I can't access my account. I hope all's not lost there.

In the meantime I decided to reinstate the Twitter box, which was interfering with the comments. Maybe I'll add another Twitter box for my posts as American in Ireland.

The overly centralized mind

On Friday the Minister for Education, panicked by complaints from teachers and parents and the press, announced all schools were closed until Thursday of this week. Every school throughout the state.

No doubt he made that decision based almost entirely on the forecast provided by Met Eireann, who assured us that the 'bitter cold' and 'arctic conditions' would continue throughout this week. They were wrong about that, but these things happen. If there's one thing anyone in Ireland knows - even the government should know this - it is that you cannot rely on the weather.

The minister is the commissar in our soviet-style, centralized system. All of us little peasants look to him to be in charge, to 'do something' about everything. On Friday all the clamoring was for the government or the Minister to 'do something' about the schools deciding whether they should be open or closed. So, he did something, but it was the wrong thing.

Today the minister looks like an idiot. There's no reason why the schools in and around Dublin cannot be open today, let alone tomorrow and Wednesday. I'm sure the story's similar in other parts of the country too.

Yes, there probably are areas where this rain is snow, but why can't schools coordinate their response with the Gardaí and take such decisions locally? Why does the minister have to be involved?

Of course he didn't have to step in. He shouldn't have, but still the media and the peasants wanted to see the commissar act and he did. And now, starting today, we'll all start complaining again about the schools being unnecessarily closed and demand that the minister 'do something.'

Friday, January 08, 2010

Will week off eliminate strike threat?

At a minimum pretty much every kid in the state is going to miss a week of school due to the weather. So are the teachers.

I wonder if the Minister is hoping that these missed days will head off any strike action later in the school year? If not, how many days can kids miss before vacation days have to be sacrificed? As far as I'm concerned it's not a biggie for the primary school kids. The secondary school year is a lot shorter, however and a full week off now combined with any length of strike could mean a lot of missed material.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Now that the Lisbon Treaty is secure out pop the tax harmonizers

We're a long way from out of our economic disaster, but the EU is ready to bash our hopes of recovery again. Yesterday's Sunday Business Post said the EU is set to push again for a common "tax base" for business taxes.

Of course our government will oppose such an effort, but any serious attempt at forcing this through will prove the utter cynicism of those in charge of the EU project. We were assured time and again over the past two years - before Lisbon I & II - that such a move was not possible. Now, in our severely weakened state, we may have to burn a lot of political capital to prevent from happening that which was supposedly not possible.

Yet, it must be done. Without the business tax advantage, Ireland is too small, too isolated and too remote to be a viable economy inside the EU.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Lone Parents Allowance encourages dependecy

Brenda Power says that the pajamas in daytime phenomenon is connected to the culture fostered by the Lone Parents Allowance. The LPA is a disincentive to education, training and work (and marriage), but instead encourages young girls to have babies on their own.

Power says the LPA was well-intentioned back in the 1970s when it was introduced, but the fact that the number of lone parents has grown from 3,000 to 90,000 over the 30+ years since it was introduced is evidence that the scheme has had an unanticipated affect: that is, the LPA now provides girls with an "income and a status in their community that they wouldn’t otherwise enjoy, without the need to seek work, training or education."

Power says it's well past time that this scheme was wound up as being a lone parent is not a disability and only serves to encourage dependency on the state.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A 'real' New Year's Day for President Obama

From today's NY Times:
  1. Christmas Day terror attempt may stop Guantanamo closing
  2. Man appointed by Pres Obama to lead investigation into what went wrong in case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had to be granted an ethics waiver.
  3. Federal judge dismisses charges against 5 Blackwater security guards
More reality for the President.