Thursday, December 31, 2009

'Neutral' cannot include training of combatant's forces

Surely training Egypt's air force pilots in '79 was as much a breach of neutrality as allowing 12,000 American troops to land at Shannon for a re-fueling stop in the same year.

In 1979 only a few years had passed since Egypt was last at war with Israel and another war was not unimaginable, but the Irish government took the decision to allow Aer Lingus – 100% state-owned at the time – to train Egyptian air force pilots. The same year, the United States – with clumsy diplomacy, it seems – landed 12,000 troops at Shannon for refueling after a NATO exercise.

Maybe the two articles aren't telling the full story, but only in the case of the American soldiers did the government appear to worry about Ireland's neutrality.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

You can't neglect the 4th R

All boys instinctively know that if you spend too much time on the 3 R's - reading, riting & rithmetic - you won't fully develop the 4th R - riding a bike. Only a boy would go with no hands on icy ground. Great picture on the front of today's Irish Times.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chair of Irish Nationwide comes to his senses

Great to see that the Chairman of Irish Nationwide has joined the rest of us: he no longer expects Michael Fingleton to repay the €1m bonus they paid him on his departure. It took me about 5 seconds to work out that the man in charge of the building society for the past quarter century or so knew full well what state the finances were in when he took the €1m and knew how to ensure that no one was going to get that €1m back after he got it. Why would anyone ever have expected him to repay?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The root cause of Al Qaeda

Another rich terrorist, yet I'm sure I'll find people writing and talking about poverty & the root cause of terrorism. The only poverty these people experience is a poverty of the mind and the soul, a void where compassion and human feeling should be, a political world-view that is nothing more than a shared psychosis.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Group-think, not conservatism is to blame

Elaine Byrne says that much of the wrong-doing in Irish public life was uncovered by outsiders who were not influenced by "Irish conservatism." Conservatism is not the problem; it's more of a national group-think. It's very difficult to stand against the tide.

If conservatism is blamed then we are destined to repeat this process again and again. We have to recognize the extent to which group-think dominates Irish politics and social structures and even conversations with friends.

It may be that such a small country will always be prone to these problems. Madison believed a big republic was preferable to a small one. The best argument for Ireland being part of the EU.
The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The $600 Man

The article about the falling price of hard drive data recovery has me pondering how much would it cost to create The Six Million Dollar Man today? You could probably "rebuild him" for $600 given the fall in the price of technology since the mid 70s.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Would you bet that WWF would publish data admitting it was wrong?

The Guardian's environment blog says Paddy Power is taking bets on the world-wide population of polar bears. The key point is that the bet is on the World Wildlife Fund's estimate of polar bears.

So the bet could be rephrased as, "Will a leading global lobby group provide evidence that one of their campaigns is based on inaccurate information?", which may explain why Paddy Power hasn't taken a "take a single bet on the polar bear population increasing."

Now the WWF may be right, but to bet that they will publish data that contradicts their own views is to give them way more credit than I'd be willing to give them. Only a sucker would take that bet.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Blinded by the fright

Nick Cohen's column in today's Observer can't be taken seriously. First, he asserts that the New York Times is reluctant to call the five Americans arrested in Pakistan terrorists because they're American. What? If the five were part of some extremist group operating out of Idaho the Times would not shy away from calling them terrorists.

Next, hes says the FBI's failure to take seriously the threat posed by Major Hasan was because they were "blinded by the belief that an American could not be a jihadist and thought Hasan was simply conducting research." Not a chance.

They're blind because they're afraid. Afraid of putting a foot wrong and slipping on a politically correct banana skin. Afraid of conceding that those on the political right might have a point.

The funny thing is, I can tell from reading Cohen's column that he really knows why the Times and the FBI did what they did, but he's decided to look elsewhere for an explanation.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Totally unlike Texas abandoning the dollar

Brian Lenihan says talk of Ireland leaving the euro "is akin to stating that Texas will leave the dollar." You're wrong Minister. Texas' economy is much more tightly integrated to the other dollar states than is Ireland's tied to the other euro states.

Our biggest trading partner is outside the euro and overall we have by far the lowest percentage of inter-euroland trade of all the euro countries. In fact, we have less inter-euroland trade than many non-euro states: Denmark, Sweden, Poland, ...

We may not leave the euro, but such talk is in no way analogous to Texas and the dollar.

Carbon tax will make us poorer

The carbon tax will put our exporters at a disadvantage and make imports more attractive to Irish consumers, according to the Irish Dairy Industries Association. This is so obvious that I can't believe how little conversation the carbon tax has generated.

Now the current low level carbon tax will have an effect, but not a drastic one. However, it also will have essentially zero impact on our emissions so if the logic is to reduce emissions then we must face up to the fact that our carbon tax will have to be a lot more punishing, which will mean that our small, underpopulated island will be able to export fewer and fewer physical goods.

They haven't even started working on airplane costs. Once those are brought into the 'carbon tax' net we'll be in deep trouble. Even manufacturing drugs here might be economically untenable. At the very least, each addition to the carbon tax will require an equal reduction in some other cost, probably wages.

We either find a lot more U2s and Iona Softwares or we're going to get a lot poorer.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

De Burca not on board EU gravy train yet

Deirdre de Burca says she hasn't been offered any EU job. I guess the Wicklow Times was a bit 'premature'. The WT said that de Burca "did not deny claims she would not be continuing her role as Senator in the New Year." She then told them, "I am under pressure for time. Goodbye."

Maybe she could have spent a minute longer clarifying her non-denial?

Slowing down the trains

Is Iarnrod Eireann advising New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority?

Two months ago the NY Times reported that those who run New York's subway system had hired the London Underground authority as consultants. Today I'm wondering if they haven't also hired the folks in charge of the DART. Why?

Try this. A new phenomenon is delaying subway trains - fallen leaves. Now where have I heard that one before?

Praise for Going Rogue where I least expected it

Words I never thought I'd read anywhere at Sarah Palin's autobiography is "compelling and very well done." Stanley Fish also wrote that Palin's voice is "undeniably authentic," and that "perseverance, the ability to absorb defeat without falling into defeatism, is the key to Palin’s character."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sharing the pain must include pension cut

If the budget includes no cut to the state pension then all talk of Lenihan being "brave" is proven to be nonsense. All the talk of everyone having to "share the pain" will be shown to be nothing but waffle.

There is no argument for not cutting the state pension if those in their 20s & 30s, who are probably enduring the pain of the current downturn more than any other group, are going to suffer cuts to child benefit, carbon taxes to make their drive to work more expensive and long term negative equity. That's not even counting all those young people who've lost their jobs.

De Burca abandoning Wicklow

Maybe I missed it in the national press, but the Wicklow Times says our former local councillor Deirdre de Burca is abandoning politics here for a nice, safe, well-paid (€120K pa) job in Brussels. The WT says de Burca will be working "alongside" Maire Geoghean Quinn.

And still there are people who think the Greens were mad to go into coalition with Fianna Fáil.

Friday, December 04, 2009

From the Phoenix Park to the Governor's Mansion

Oh, in case you were wondering, my phone never rang. I never received the call. You know, the call. From Ambassador Rooney. Inviting me over for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Seems he picked up one very bad habit from his predecessor.

While I'm talking about ambassadors here, let me say 'Good luck' to that aforementioned predecessor, Tom Foley, who announced yesterday that he's running for Governor of Connecticut. I'm sure he won't mind me dropping in when he's ensconced in the governor's mansion in Hartford.

New model

I'm working on a new model for this blog, which explains the silence. It will be less essay-like and more twitter-like. Good thing, bad thing - I don't know.