Monday, July 28, 2008

No outside interference

Goodness gracious we're precious when it comes to EU relations. Last week the 'No' (to Lisbon) folks were all upset by the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy's visit constituted 'outside interference'. Today we read that Micheal Martin - Minister for Foreign Affairs - is annoyed because an English group carried out a poll on our attitudes to the EU.
Mr Martin charged that the poll amounted to "outside interference in our vital national debate". He said: "I would like to know what prompted a British organisation with a strong ideological bias to commission a poll into Irish attitudes to Europe at this time."
French interference on the 'Yes' side and now British interference on the 'No' side. Yet, both France & Britain are INSIDE the EU.

Look, if either of these incidents represents "outside interference" then what about an unelected UN body quizzing our government officials and then pronouncing on what it perceives as failings in our judicial & educational systems?

I know very few people here bothered to pay much attention to this committee, but still. Why should the government even meet with these people? Why waste the time (on the taxpayer's coin)? I have total faith that the Irish people can address human rights concerns as they see fit without any unelected gaggle of "legal experts" to dictate to us how to organize our laws.

What I love is that this is a United Nations Human Rights Committee. If the UN has the resources and time to investigate Ireland's failings with regards to Human Rights then how much effort is it expending on the real violators across the globe? How much time are these "legal experts" spending in Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, ... (the list is almost endless) where the violations are far more severe than Ireland's lack of non-denominational schools.

This is a total nonsense and the government really should tell these people to get lost. Unfortunately, they don't do that. They meet with them and treat them seriously and even occasionally pay heed to what these people say. The government needs to stop this sort of interference long before it stops far more legitimate interference by individuals or organizations from our fellow EU members.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yes we can ... but should we?

I know I've said before that watching and listening to Obama must be a completely different experience than simply reading him because the words sound great, but I can't help feeling like it's part of a poetry lesson in school: you have to work hard to find the true meaning. You read the speech and it flows so beautifully, it's inspirational. You finish wanting to yell, "Yes we can", but there's a nagging question: "We can ... what"? What is it "we" are going to do?

For example:
Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.
If I were a German citizen at that speech that section, more than any other, would have me wondering. What aspects of our current trading system are 'unfair'? What change is he proposing? What effect will that have on my company, my job, me? He didn't say. And, as far as I can tell, he has never said.

I find him frustrating because I'm not really all that keen on John McCain. I really doubt I'd vote for Obama, but I'd like to have some idea what he plans to do. Yet every speech I've read all I get from it is that together we can move mountains. Well, which mountains and what direction? He never says.

Does Obama know how Ireland voted on the Lisbon Treaty?

I'm being facetious. I only finished reading his Berlin speech and came across this:
This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad.
Doesn't he know that Ireland has put paid to the notion of a strong European Union, particularly one committed to European security?

'This thing is bigger than you. It's bigger than me. It's bigger than all of us'.

Ever since some short-sighted dolt wrote, "It's all over for Obama. The Democrats would be nuts to nominate him", I've become more and more certain that he's just about got the Presidency locked up. The only doubt comes from the fact that despite everything going his way - economic news still poor, the surge is disappearing as a election issue, McCain & his campaign can't figure out how to lay a glove on Obama - Obama still isn't putting much distance between himself and McCain in the polls. As good as things look for Obama right now I suspect that most Americans aren't paying much attention.

Watching the news clips of that vast throng gathered to hear Obama in Berlin yesterday evening I was wondering if Americans were watching this spectacle and were any of them, like me, just a touch embarrassed by it all. Don't get me wrong, Obama puts on a great show. It's just that I felt like I was watching and listening to Bono, only without The Edge.

Today I read David Brooks's column and I just loved his review of Obama's Berlin gig.
But he has grown accustomed to putting on this sort of saccharine show for the rock concert masses, and in Berlin his act jumped the shark. His words drift far from reality, and not only when talking about the Senate Banking Committee. His Berlin Victory Column treacle would have made Niebuhr sick to his stomach.

Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.
{I love that jump the shark reference. I'm not sure it's true, but I like it anyway.}

This Berlin event has convinced me that there's nothing - NOTHING - John McCain can do to get elected. He has to wait, watch and hope that Obama sinks his own campaign. I thought the Jeremiah Wright connection would do him in and I still think that will find its way back into the campaign when the pace picks up. Mostly, however, McCain's hope rests on Obama's increasing arrogance.

For the most part the American people know John McCain. He doesn't really have to campaign. Besides how can you look at or listen to him and be won over. You can't. Not really. So, McCain can only win if Obama's hubris drives the voters away and that's not an impossibility.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The EU can take credit

Less than a month ago the BBC reported that Radovan Karadzic was too well protected to be captured. I guess his protection melted away during July's heat. Hmm.

So what really happened? How can people's lives be at risk for reporting on a Karadzic sighting one moment and next thing he's found by police living as a new age healer?

I think credit has to go to one institution above all others and it's not the International War Crimes Tribunal. No, it's the EU.

It's easy to complain about the EU - and I'm prone to it myself - but to those Europeans who live outside the EU it is the candy behind the glass in the candy store. They can see all the goodness, but they can't have any of it. The EU is a tantalizing treat that those outside want to enjoy.

Two months ago the pro-EU parties were the surprising winners in Serbia's election. The people of Serbia were willing to swallow a lot of pride (loss of Kosovo) in order to be offered membership in the EU. However, accepting the loss of Kosovo wasn't enough. The EU also insisted that every effort be made to capture Karadzic and General Mladic.

The new Serbian President, Boris Tadic replaced the head of the Serbian police. And, I think that's what happened to cause Karadzic's protection to melt away.

The EU deserves a lot of credit for Karadzic's capture.

What Airtricity forgot to mention

We have competition in the domestic electricity supply business now. Maybe other parts of the country have had it for a while, but yesterday was the first time I received an offer to switch my electricity supplier from the state behemoth, ESB (people who work there don't like to hear it referred to as 'the ESB'). My initial reaction was, as you might guess, "Competition! Wooohooo!".

So I was open to what Airtricity was offering. The offer was a bullet point listing the benefits of switching from ESB to Airtricity. I read it. I read it again. And I checked once more to be sure. The reasons for switching are, basically, you can reduce your carbon footprint and it's easy to switch. Oh yeah, I forgot, you can "manage your account online". (Why anyone would want to manage their electricity account online is something I haven't figured out yet.)

What's missing is important. How much will it cost me to get my electricity from Airtricity? Will I save money? I don't know. There's no mention of the price on their leaflet. On their web site it looks like I'd pay pay more per unit during the day and less at night. I can't find any definition as to what constitutes "Day" and "Night" nor how they track my usage divided between the two. I suspect I'd end up paying more than I do with ESB. I'll pass.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New York Yankees hate Irish people

Okay, maybe a little strong, but let's face it there are few people on the planet in greater need of sunblock than those who come from or whose blood lines originate in Ireland. And the Yankees have just banned sunblock. Well it's not quite a total ban. For $5 you can buy a 1oz. bottle from the Yankees. You just can't bring your own sunblock into the stadium.

So the Yankees have seen an opportunity to extort money from their fans of Irish (& obviously other) descent. That's all it is. Any fan afraid of a bad sunburn or possible skin cancer now MUST pay the Yankees $5 for what is NOT a cosmetic extra. It's a medical necessity for people who have skin like mine.

But, don't despair Yankee fans. You can take the hint and head across the Triboro where you can bring your own lunch, plastic bottles of water and sun block. No phony security excuses to stop you and your family having a good day. You can become Met fans.

UPDATE: Okay, the Yankees caved into the pressure and repealed the sunblock ban. Maybe some of their other stupid restrictions - cameras? I didn't know about that one - will also be lifted.

Bi-lateral Immigration deal

I know I've mentioned this before, but it's great to see that the Irish government might - finally - be seeing the light on how to get an immigration deal with the United States. Agree a bilateral swap where Americans can come to work here and, in exchange, Irish people can go work in the US.

For too long the Irish government allowed itself to be tied into the bigger issue of immigration reform in the US. That's fine for those who are part of the American political scene, but the Irish government should have always been looking at some form of mutual deal. Isn't that how governments deal with one another? I'll do this for you if you do this for me? Simply begging for forgiveness for Irish illegals was never the right approach.

Sarkozy in town

It was all over too quickly, but it was great to see President Sarkozy in Dublin yesterday. The fawning press coverage, the warm welcome, the "we have so much in common with the French" refrain.

Whoa! Okay, okay. I was actually happy enough to see Sarkozy in Dublin, although I only saw him via the television. I didn't make any effort to actually go see him. Still, was I alone?

Everyone seemed unhappy at the the French President decided to drop by for a working lunch. The pro-Lisbon people and the anti-Lisbon people were equally displeased that Sarkozy was here. I almost thought that George Bush would have been more welcome. (Okay, things probably aren't that bad for Sarkozy. Yet.)

I really don't see what all the fuss was about. Sarkozy is the President of France and, as such, should be promoting French interests. Currently he's also the President of the European Council and should be promoting EU interests. And, clearly, the Lisbon Treaty is in the EU's interest as he sees it. So why shouldn't he come here and make that case as strongly as he likes?

It was almost amusing how upset some of the pro-Lisbon crowd was by Sarkozy's visit. Sarkozy is the leader of a big EU nation. If you're in favor of the EU, why should you worry that a strong advocate of the EU wants to make his case? After all, Sarkozy wields a lot of influence over our daily lives (more if Lisbon passes). Why shouldn't he be welcome?

To a lot of people on the 'No' side Sarkozy is the embodiment of what they don't like about the ever closer union. Okay, I get that, but why get worked up about Sarkozy's visit? I voted 'No', but what possible impact from this visit should I fear or even concern myself with?

Truth is, I like Sarkozy. (It's people like EC President Barosso I don't like.) I was glad he came. I honestly can't see what harm his visit could do. If he goes back with a less federalist vision of the EU than he came with I'd be happy. I'd be thrilled if he could understand that what's good for the populous center is not necessarily good for the remote, relatively uninhabited island off the northwest corner of Europe. But, seeing as the Irish government doesn't seem to have realized this I don't know how I imagine Sarkozy will.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I could keep this to myself, but well I'm not that ashamed. When I first saw the cover of the New Yorker magazine that has the Obama campaign all upset I didn't realize that the woman depicted was Michelle Obama. I was sure it was Angela Davis. Now I know that they've made Mrs. Obama look like Angela Davis. Not quite the message I was getting from the cartoon when I first saw it.

Apparently Barack Obama doesn't find the cartoon funny. Who cares? He's running for President. Get over it.

I don't think the cartoon's all that offensive. Certainly it's no more offensive than all those Bush as Hitler depictions that you can find just about anywhere. Methinks Mr. Obama is a tad too easily offended - and this was from a magazine that he can safely assume is in his corner. Sheesh.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Most paranoid"

I was reading a summary of the recently concluded trial of "lyingeyes". This had completely passed me by until this weekend, but I caught up yesterday. I came across this from the Irish Times:
In Las Vegas, there was the FBI special agent who raided the home of Eid and Engle and, confronted with a possible find of ricin, the third deadliest poison, etc, in one of the world's most paranoid nations, she does not evacuate the area, have the coffee grinder analysed or advise the hapless Lisa Eid to get the hell out of there - she hands her camera to Lisa and asks her to take pictures for the Irish media.
Is the United States one of "most paranoid nations"? I'm not even sure how paranoia should be measured, but to be among the most paranoid I'd assume you'd have to be among the top twenty.

Are there really fewer than 20 more paranoid nations than America? I don't know, but as I peruse the list of UN members I think I see more than 20 nations that should be classified as more paranoid than America.

Reporters Sans Frontières provides an index of press freedom, which is at least some meausre of how paranoid a nation is. And, although I'm pretty skeptical of the rankings, the fact that the United States is listed 48th of the 169 in the list seems to indicate that there are quire a few more paranoid nations than the United States.

That there are 47 countries where the press is freer than America is doubtful to me, but that America is "one of the world's most paranoid nations" is a ridiculous statement. And, it might have been a throwaway line, but it's also indicative of how America is frequently portrayed here and, more importantly, how America is perceived by those in the media.

Yankees in the news

One of them - Alex Rodriguez - has been making the news over here. A-Rod has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons - and rumors of an extramarital affair with Madonna don't get much more wrong.

I don't usually pay much attention to the sort of news that A-Rod's been making lately, but this one's been impossible to avoid. And I did learn something when I read an article comparing A-Rod with J-Lo and K-Fed. I had to ask who K-Fed was.

It's mostly nonsense as far as I'm concerned, but I've heard a few people describe A-Rod as the "David Beckham of baseball". I don't think that's quite right. A-Rod's not likeable, unlike Beckham and A-Rod really is one of the best players in the world, unlike Beckham.

The other Yankee in the news is Bobby Murcer, who's actually in the news for worse reasons than A-Rod is. Murcer was a Yankee in the 60's and 70's and was the first Yankee I ever liked. He was a star for them when I went to my first game at Yankee Stadium in 1971. I loved watching him play when I was a little kid and I got to like him even more when he returned to the Yankees near the end of his career. There have been very few Yankees I've liked, but Murcer was one of them. Always had a soft spot for him.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bypassing the referendum

I can't remember where I first came across it, but I remember after the Lisbon vote reading the comments of some Fine Gaeler - Gay Mitchell? - blaming the government for holding a referendum in the first place. His argument was that there was no constitutional imperative to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. I figured that was just some post-game point-scoring by the opposition. I thought so little of what he said that I read it and moved on. Didn't really strike me as important.

Then on July 5 I read a comment by Sarkozy that had me wondering if a non-referendum solution was being seriously considered.
“If the perspective of a second vote in Ireland has been raised it is because it has happened before,” Sarkozy told journalists, referring to Ireland’s second referendum on the Nice treaty in 2002. “We need some kind of vote to get out of the situation – in parliament or in a referendum, I don’t know. But when democratic society says ‘no’, you need a democratic solution.”
Catch that "in parliament"? But, would they? Could they? If all the parties agreed not to make it a difficult issue in the Dáil?

It would be an almighty act of arrogance, but an act of desperation too. And, desperate people will try desperate measures.

I thought to myself this could only be attempted after a prolonged and fairly vigorous softening up campaign. I still think it's unlikely, but today Ruth Barrington, a member of The Irish Times Trust, takes up the theme that the referendum was unnecessary.
Although the conventional wisdom holds that a referendum is required to ratify all EU treaties in Ireland, this is not the case. The treaties enlarging the EU, with the exception of our own in 1972, have been ratified through the Oireachtas. It is ironic that radical treaties that have expanded democracy to formerly totalitarian states can be ratified by the Oireachtas but rules of procedure treaties, such as Nice and Lisbon, which update and regulate our relationships within the union, are ratified by referendum.
The beginning of the softening up?

More on Dillon's column

I don't feel like I did justice to all that John Dillon's column was (or is). The first half was about insulting Americans. The second half of the column was a dig at President Bush (ho hum).

Dillon mixes in poll numbers with some of the more extreme rumors that only those disconnected from reality (that is, working in academia) could believe.
There is a feeling that Bush might even face indictment for some of his more free-wheeling acts. Someone heard a rumour that the Bush family had been engaged in buying a large hacienda in Paraguay, but that the deal fell through when Paraguay signed an extradition treaty with the US. Looks like it may have to be Albania after all for Dubya! They love him there.
Okay, I've seen a version of this Paraguay rumor before. I'll wait until the NY Times or Washington Post treat it seriously before I even consider it. But, again, who cares? If Dillon wants to give credence to "rumors" only even half-believed by those in academia and among the pongy perma-protesters of the far left that's his business.

What annoyed me was how he figured it was all right to mock Albanians. Albanians are still getting used to the light of freedom after enduring decades of grotesque tyranny followed by nearly 15 years of unrest. So they've done their fare share of suffering.

Still, Dillon mocks them because they welcomed Bush warmly when he visited in 2007. From the Washington Post's report on Bush's visit to Albania in June 2007:
"People here understand what evil can do," said Alfred Pllumbi, 28, an airport manager who walked the streets celebrating the visit. "And President Bush has fought evil."

Throughout Bush's eight-hour stay here, he was treated like a star. Crowds stood in the baking heat to catch a glimpse of the president's motorcade. They cheered and chanted when he emerged from his vehicle. At one point, Bush, in shirt sleeves, greeted a throng of exuberant Albanians outside a cafe in Fushe Kruje, a village near Tirana. Bush shook hands and hugged his screaming admirers, one of whom managed to rub his head.
They're free and they're happy, but to Dillon they're simpletons.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stats & dogs

You just have to read John Dillon's column from Sunday's Sunday Independent. He once (apparently) lived in America, but that doesn't stop him from bashing Americans. He doesn't bash all Americans because he has friends there - "admittedly, of the liberal, academic persuasion, but good Americans all, and lovers of their country".

Those liberal academic types are the good Americans. The rest? Well …
It is a well-known statistic that much more money is expended on pets in the US than on aid to the Third World. Now I personally don't have much of a problem with that. After all, what has the Third World ever done for us? But it does perhaps point up an order of priorities that Americans may have to think about over the next few years.
I didn't know that. It's a "well-known" statistic, though. Or at least "well-known" presumably amongst Dillons friends in academia. It's also false.

In 2006 Americans spent $38bn on their pets whereas public and private sums given to overseas aid added up to $59bn. And how might this compare with Irish or European pet spending or overseas aid? I don't know. Nor does Dillon, I'd wager.

To be honest, I'm not a pet guy. I don't own a pet and I've often marveled at the amount of money some people spend on their pets. But, that's their choice. Other people's pets are hardly a concern of mine.

People choose to spend their money on all sorts of things. Americans seem to like owning pets. Irish people spend a lot of money on alcohol. An awful lot. Which is worse? I don't care, but a comparison in spending is interesting. Although I haven't found great numbers, it does look like Irish people spend a lot more per capita on alcohol than Americans do on cats & dogs or whatever. (In 2005 Americans spent $319 per household on pets whereas in 1999 the average Irish household spent €1,675 on alcohol¹.)

None of this matters even a little other than that Dillon misused of some of this information to smear Americans as a particularly self-absorbed, wasteful people. It's a falsehood born of the prejudice and anti-Americanism commonly found in Europe and in the halls of American academia, where John Dillon finds his American friends.

¹ In 1999 the average American household spent $318 on alcohol.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Solving problems without stress

First I was mad at Microsoft. I installed their recommended security patch and, after the requisite restart, couldn't access the internet. It wasn't Microsoft's fault, however, but the fault of my firewall - ZoneAlarm. Microsoft was fixing a problem that they'd been made aware of a while back, but somehow ZoneAlarm didn't (or couldn't) adapt their product in time for the patch's release. The patch caused ZoneAlarm to basically just shut down internet access.

It took me about 15 minutes to figure out what had happened and reverse what I'd done. That was it and I was back online.

I know that to you most of this is either uninteresting or gibberish or both. Still I'm shaking my head in wonder today. Wondering at how complex the "surfing the internet" still is; wondering at how many different pieces are necessary to be working together to provide security; wondering at how much less stressful I found this problem than I would have if it had happened 4 or 5 years ago (thanks to my greater knowledge and the improvements in Microsoft Windows, which make it much easier to 'undo' these sort of updates if necessary).

If this had happened in 2003 (or so) I'd have had hours of hair-pulling, nail-biting, stomach-churning aggravation before I would have somehow stumbled onto the solution and made all the necessary changes to get back online. Fifteen minutes. That's all it took today.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Blame it on the fees (or lack thereof)

If students had to pay to train to become doctors we probably wouldn't have the problem we have now. According to the Irish Times we're soon going to have too few doctors.
Ireland is facing a future shortage of family doctors involved in full-time clinical practice. The research, conducted by Prof Fergus O’Kelly and his TCD colleagues, surveyed all GP graduates between 1997 and 2003. It found that women GPs are half as likely as their male counterparts to work as full-time doctors at partnership level. Within the next eight years, an increasing number of family doctors will retire – some 40 per cent of GPs will stop working. And most leaving the profession will be men who have been involved in full-time medical practice. How, given the evidence of this survey, will they be replaced?
Forget the male-female thing because that's not the issue. The issue is that there is no cost to becoming a doctor because the state picks up the tab.

If students had to cover the true cost of becoming a doctor there would be far, far fewer giving up or taking time off after taking the taxpayer's dime to acquire an expensive degree. If medical students left college owing €100,000 (or whatever) very few would be able to afford that option.

The abolition of third-level fees has created a number of problems, but this may be the most glaring.

The world's biggest sponge

Sometimes I just marvel at how much water this small island can hold. Okay the sun is shining so far today, but the amount of rain we've had over the past 3 or 4 weeks would sink most larger land masses.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Doom & Gloom

Maybe I just need to read and pass on all of this in order to get it out of my system. Anyway, I thought David McWilliams was excellent in this comparison of the Japanese experience with what may (will?) befall us.
Will Irish house prices fall back to levels seen in 2000/2001 or even to levels seen last century? Will our house prices drop by 70pc before they stabilise? These numbers need to be considered because there are plenty of reasons to be fearful.

The similarities between both Ireland and Japan are striking; the main difference is that the Japanese controlled their own interest rates and thus were able to cut them to soften the blow. As EU inflation topped 4pc this week, it looks likely that we will be facing higher not lower rates for the foreseeable future. Not good.

One similarity is the capacity for self-delusion and failure to face up to the magnitude of our crisis.

… When I read the silly valuations in the 'Irish Times' property section, particularly the "Take 5 at €400,000" section, I am reminded of the Japanese Imperial Palace delusion. Clearly a two up, two down in Rialto is not worth the same as a seven-bedroomed house in the Dordogne. Now that prices are falling rapidly, the idea that pokey Irish houses are worth more than French chateaux will look increasingly daft.

The other problem for Ireland is the sheer extremity of the housing boom. Irish house prices have risen 380pc since 1996, compared with 260pc in the UK -- the next frothiest market. House prices fell in Germany and of course Japan in the same period. While in Switzerland -- Europe's technically most sophisticated economy -- house prices only rose by 5pc in the 12 years since 1996.

As a result of this binge, Ireland is the most indebted nation in Europe. Outstanding residential mortgage debt now amounts to 192pc of our total GNP! This is truly shocking and depressing when you consider that in Germany, outstanding mortgage debt only amounts to 3pc of GNP.

Even in the US -- where many disingenuous Irish commentators are suggesting this crisis originated -- outstanding mortgage debt only accounts for 44pc of GNP.
192% of GNP. How long before one of the banks falls?
This is why the personal debt comparisons with Germany are so instructive. The German has no property-related debt to speak of. This means that the average Gunter doesn't really mind if European interest rates rise, as it will make no difference at all to his budget at the end of the month.

In contrast, the average Paddy, who has seen his personal property indebtedness rise by over 500pc since the late 1990s, will be roasted by a rise in rates.
The Celtic Sabertooth Tiger is extinct.

ESRI Forecasts

The ESRI now says we're in recession. It was only last October that they forecast growth of 2.9% for this year. I remember back in the 90s they were consistently way low on their estimates of growth when the economy was taking off.

So, what to make of their forecast that we'll see growth returning weakly in 2009 and more strongly in 2010. According to Paul Tansey, not much.
Yet, the conventional wisdom now holds that, whatever the economy's current travails, it will rebound to reasonable health in the years from 2010 onwards.

The key text quoted in support of this consoling prognosis is the Economic and Social Research Institute's Medium-Term Review 2008-2015. The ESRI does indeed foresee annual average growth of 3.8 per cent in real Gross National Product between 2010 and 2015 in its central forecast.

… The ESRI notes that "the benchmark forecast assumes that domestic policies will accommodate the objective of maintaining competitiveness over the medium-term".

However, the central problem lies in the fact that it may not be within the capacity of domestic policies to revive Irish price competitiveness. Ireland's arsenal of policy instruments was depleted on entry to the euro. Monetary policy and exchange rate policy were surrendered to Europe.

Thereafter, the use of both policy instruments was dictated by the requirements of the core euro zone economies, not by the needs of the peripheral players such as Ireland.
Our economy is just too small and too far out of synch with the rest of the Eurozone to justify being part of the Euro.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Pet project"

I absolutely loved this headline from yesterday's Irish Independent: "Greens' pet project to survive cutbacks".

It's a headline from an article by Sam Smyth.
The Government will blow €400,000 on a Green Party pet project, at a time when they are preparing to cut €500m from spending on essential public services.

The cabinet quietly approved purchasing carbon credits for government travel last week. The move was part of deal reached with the Greens during coalition negotiations following last year's general election.
"Blow €400,000", "pet project" - I love it.

Look, I don't care how much you might think carbon emissions are the primary cause of global warming (or whatever) this is a stupid program. If John Gormley wants to plant trees every time he flies that's fine, but he shouldn't be using our money to salve his conscience. He can plant his own trees. Better he cancel one (or more) flight(s) a year and get his fellow ministers to do the same. That would save money and 'the planet'.

You think the government should plant trees in Ireland? Fine. Provide the case that this is a good use of taxpayer's money and do it. Drop the nonsense.

It's time to raise interest rates

That's what Angela Merkel thinks. Mr. Sarkozy doesn't agree nor does anyone in Ireland, but let's face it, the Euro is Germany's baby. Germany is the biggest economy and the Germans as a people have a much greater fear of inflation than do other Europeans. So, even though the ECB is independent, I think Merkel is more likely to be happy this week than is Sarkozy (or Berlusconi or Zapatero or Cowen).

I still wonder how bad things will have to get here before people start demanding that we leave the Euro. Now that would be a drastic move, unlike voting 'No' to the Lisbon Treaty.

Years from now when people look back and ask what led to the "Celtic Tiger" the answer will be obvious to all: cheap oil, cheap credit and an undervalued currency. There'll be no drivel like our "well-educated workforce".