12.19.08

GUBU

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:11 pm by Sarah

Gosh, I should acknowledge the death of the man who coined the phrase. Put well here...

11.27.08

Busy

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:36 pm by Sarah

Oh dear, Pete’s comment stung….I decided during the summer to wind down the blog. It got kinda stressful managing it and to be honest, even right now I should be outside playing with my son.

In relation to the whole ST thing. I have said my piece, Frank said his and people can make their minds up on what we’ll call the substantive issue.

But a few comments

1. Loyalty is over-rated. Too many people stay quiet due to misplaced loyalty. When you want to know why scandals stay covered up for years its because too many people wouldn’t rat out of loyalty. There are more fundamental principles. Personally I think censorship, on a matter of grave national importance, by forces who have no interest in Ireland’s welfare is one such principle.

2. I thinks its most amusing that the people most outraged by my actions come from the nationalist/republican wing who on any other day, in any other matter, would be the first to shriek about the influence of the English media. But because they are against Lisbon, they have to vent their outrage at discovering they played into Murdoch’s hands, at me.

That’s my final word!!!

11.13.08

Abbey Theatre

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:26 pm by Sarah

Last night I took part in a panel discussion on Obama at the Abbey Theatre. I never knew, but they do a series of talks that are linked, or not, to whatever play is showing. Richard Delevan hosted, as always with style AND searching questions, and my co-panelists were Margaret E. Ward and Mary-Ann Valiulis. It was really enjoyable. People attend the talks before they go to the play. So great fun. I’m sorry I didn’t know this was happening – thoroughly recommend you check them out.

11.12.08

Eh, shouldn’t he have told us sooner?

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:16 am by Sarah

From the IT today

“THERE IS no requirement for broadcasters to ensure equal airtime for both sides of a referendum debate, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland has said.

Speaking at the Joint Committee on the Constitution, Michael O’Keeffe, chief executive of the commission, said there was no requirement in its guidelines to ensure equal time for both sides in a referendum, but that there was a requirement for fair and balanced coverage.”

11.09.08

Quoted in the Sunday Business Post

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:09 pm by Sarah

Quite funny. My mother calls to tell me I am quoted in the Sunday Business Post.

“Oh Fuckit, how many ways are there to say it, Fianna Fail are just useless”

Who knew people actually remembered old posts? :) I had the moment where I thought, “Did I say that?” I did! I re-read the old post. It’s quite prescient in some ways (and eh, not in others).

Here’ s the BP and old post .

*update – fixed the link. sorry. shoulda check it was working.

10.30.08

I can’t resist (2)

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:19 pm by Sarah

Unfortunate phrasing from the official Labour party spokesperson on Willie Penrose taking ill in the Dail today

“Mr Penrose was in the Dail chamber when he suddenly began feeling unwell. An ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital for a check-out.”

I do hope he wasn’t checking out! A check up surely? :)

Ross and Brand

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:16 pm by Sarah

ok ok I can’t resist it.

The BBC is a disgrace.

Forcing Brand out because The Daily Mail and The Sun complained, ONE WEEK AFTER the original broadcast. I listened to it. It’s stupid and crude but funny in places. Just like Brand and Ross.

Sach’s agent only complained AFTER the Mail on Sunday told her about the call.

When is the BBC going to get over David Kelly? The report was RIGHT. How ’bout some steel in your spine?? Being pushed around by Alistair Campbell is one thing. But the Mail????

Oh please.

10.24.08

Commentators

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:10 pm by Sarah

An upside of the crisis: the sheer entertainment value and joy of watching truly excellent commentators.

My Top 5

David McWilliams
Brendan Keenan
Shane Ross
George Lee
Colm McCarthy

Keenan is on top form today arguing against government investment in the recapitalisation of banks:

“The mess is one of too much debt. To fix that, credit will have to be curtailed. People will have to save more and consume less. That is bad for economic growth and unpleasant for individuals. It is, however, unavoidable. Governments or voters who think re-capitalising banks is a way of avoiding these harsh truths are seriously deluded. It is merely a way of averting something worse.

For at least these two reasons, I would like to think that the Irish guarantees can keep the system functioning until panic subsides, banks which need fresh capital can raise it themselves, and any that can’t sell themselves off or close themselves down.

It seems unlikely, though. In a way, one is surprised the guarantee trick has worked even this long. But, if we do eventually have to dig out all those billions, just don’t be fooled by the banks’ bleatings that it is all for the best, or Government blandishments that it will somehow take away the pain.

10.23.08

Many pensioners are vulnerable, but certainly not all

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:40 pm by Sarah

Link to the IT

JOE BEHAN’S resignation was a shock all right. A Fianna Fáil deputy resigning on a point of principle rather than a corruption charge should be a welcome development. What a pity Behan picked such a bad principle.

If only he’d resigned because the Budget was conceived on the back of an envelope by a trio of politicians who clearly can’t add. Instead, he and his rebellious colleagues have stirred themselves into political outrage so that millionaire pensioners can remain automatically entitled to medical cards. Some principle.

Despite the wailing in the past week, there is no grammatical mandate that the term “pensioner” be preceded by the emotive “vulnerable”. Many pensioners are vulnerable, but a significant minority are not. Does Mary O’Rourke, for instance, look vulnerable to you? About as vulnerable as my mother-in-law, a woman with high heels and a spine of steel who co-ordinates her accessories before I set her upon customer service agents who’ve wronged me.

Or my mother, setting off on a casual 20-mile cycle on a Sunday afternoon clutching a stick to fend off terriers. Try calling these women vulnerable, but only with the car window down while you accelerate past at high speed.

The banking bailout has the potential to bankrupt the entire State, and yet it went through with barely a whimper. Pulling the right to free doctor’s visits from the privately pensioned resulted in the angry hordes descending upon Leinster House. There’s a lesson for the Government – put Ireland Inc into hock if you want, but don’t mess with the individual.

Could we cast our minds back to the budget of 2000 when Charlie McCreevy pulled the automatic medical card for over-70s from his bag of pre-election tricks? Remember the loud cheers from the Fianna Fáil back benches and howls of outrage from every other quarter? The opposition was furious, and not just because McCreevy had secured the next election.

Medical cards are given to those on very low incomes; so low that politicians and doctors constantly plead with the Government to raise the threshold. It’s bad enough that those on low incomes worry about doctors’ fees, but chronic poverty means they are likely to suffer poor health. Their happily retired counterparts in the upper middle classes can afford to see a doctor, and thanks to a lifetime of good nutrition will need to see him less often. McCreevy’s stunt meant a poor but not poor enough 69-year-old couldn’t get the card while a wealthy 70-year-old could.

It was wrong then and it’s wrong today.

To make matters worse, the Government negotiated the “deal” with the Irish Medical Organisation in which doctors won a payment of €640 per non-means-tested over-70 patient, while they only got €160 for a means-tested pensioner. They got more money for the patient statistically likely to be healthy. What a pity no one saw fit to resign over that rape of the public finances.

Back in 2001, James Reilly, then head of the IMO and now Fine Gael’s health spokesman, criticised the move as “handing out free medical cards to people who can afford golf club fees”. As late as 2005, the Labour Party said that “the Government’s electoral ploy in extending medical cards to over-70s regardless of the consequences has been disastrous in cost and equality terms”.

I know oppositions are supposed to oppose, but a little consistency wouldn’t go astray.

The Government should be criticised for putting as little thought into removing the cards as they did into awarding them. In 2000 McCreevy failed to anticipate the full cost of the scheme and this time Harney initially set income levels so low that anyone on a State pension would fail the means-test.

If Fianna Fáil were half as cute as they’d like us to think they are, they should have announced a very high income limit in the Budget. That would have made the scheme simple to understand, impossible to oppose and yet set out exactly the principle at stake: that those who can afford it should pay for themselves. Their mistake was that this year’s Budget has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with panic.

The Opposition tried to argue that well-off pensioners had abandoned their Voluntary Health Insurance membership once they became entitled to the new card. Unfortunately the facts got in the way of this claim. The VHI confirmed that the numbers of over-70s with private insurance had actually increased since the cards were introduced. In 2001, the VHI had 88,989 customers over the age of 70, while today it has 121,776 customers. Considering the past 10 years have seen a massive transfer of wealth from younger to older generations through the property market, it’s hardly surprising they’re queuing up for private insurance.

Meanwhile, angry callers to radio shows argue that those people who saved for a private pension are now being “penalised” for their efforts. That’s not penalising anyone. That’s the welfare state working exactly as it should.

If you’re in the VHI, you aren’t being penalised: you’re reaping the rewards of your hard work and careful planning.

The only people being penalised are the ones who, through bad luck or poor management, are dependent on a public system of waiting lists and crowded out-patients departments. Does anyone resign when a patient dies on a waiting list? Of course not.

Dead men don’t vote.

10.19.08

Useless Housewives can save the economy

Posted in Domestic/Relationships, Irish Politics, Sunday Times Columns at 9:14 pm by Sarah

Announcement: My column in The Sunday Times is concluding this week! I start in The Irish Times this Wednesday (22nd). For the moment they are cool with me publishing the columns on the blog, so though I am posting very rarely I’ll still be checking in on at least a weekly basis. I am delighted to be joining the IT. I suppose this does mean I’m officially part of the establishment, but as soon as I start sounding like it, I hope you lot will slap me around the place. It also means that as part of a daily paper I’ll have more flexibility on column topics, so its exciting times ahead. The next phase begins……

Perhaps my inner masochist is revealing itself, but I rather enjoyed the budget speech. What about the call for patriotism at the end? I actually cheered. What a smashing way to end the lashing. Yes, Minister! That’s what we’ve been missing all these years. With a mediocre soccer team and a losing streak in the Eurovision, patriotism has been sadly lacking. If hard times are what we need to bind us together then so be it. We can take the pain! I don’t mind cutbacks. Just tell me how this humble housewife can do her part to save the country.

What can I say? I was reared in the 80’s and it left a lasting impression. I never quite managed to develop a sense of entitlement. I bought the clothes, the shoes and the facials. I ate out a lot and paid other people to look after my children. But always with the uneasy feeling that someone would phone up and say “ There’s been a mistake and we’ve just discovered you’ve been using the guest towels. Here – use this old sack instead”.

Now that I’ve finally been caught out, it’s all quite a relief and I rather relish the prospect of a Blitz Spirit. So Minister, I’m in.

The problem is that there appears to be some confusion as to how the housewives of Ireland should act best for the sake of the country. The government needs unity on this issue, so Brian Lenihan needs to have a quick chat with the Greens, especially Trevor Sargeant. A couple of weeks ago Sargeant said that we belong to a useless generation. Actually he said, “We probably are the most useless generation ever to have strode the face of the earth”. This is “because of many people’s inability to do practical tasks such as mending a broken tyre.”

I blushed reading it because the bicycle bought in a rush of environmental consciousness and enthusiasm for physical fitness is out in the shed with a flat tyre. I could mend a puncture easily when I was ten, but I’m not sure how to go about it now. Could it really involve a basin of water and old spoons? I dropped into our local garage and hopefully asked the mechanics if they’d have a crack it but they looked at me as if I was bonkers. I’m not mad; I’ve simply become accustomed to outsourcing certain tasks.

Sargeant says I must change my ways and he urged us “to adopt a World War two-lifestyle and approach to consumption in the current climate”. On the one hand, that approach appeals to me. I took up the hems on my son’s schools trousers myself. I’ve got a kitchen garden going and hens are my next purchase. I don’t mind having a crack at painting the kitchen myself. Didn’t I paint my own bedroom several times when I was a teenager? The problem is that if I DIM (Do It Myself) I may be responsible for bringing the economy crashing down.

When I discussed the issue with UCD Economist Moore McDowell on The Last Word recently, he warned of the grave threat posed to the economy if we all followed Sargeant’s advice. Capitalism appears to have outlasted communism by about twenty years. This relative success is due to the theory of comparative advantage and specialisation, first proposed by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. The theory and practice of Comparative Advantage is that people and countries should identify what they’re good at, what earns them most money and then stick to it. They should specialise in those products and buy from others what goods or services they decide to abandon. The idea is that everyone will make more money at the end of the proverbial day. When a country decides what product they’ll trade, they need to take into account issues like opportunity cost – the cost of choosing one thing over another.

If you’re a Senior Counsel with a kitchen that needs painting, you could take the day off work to do it. But you could have earned ten grand down at the Four Courts whereas you could pay a painter a couple of hundred euro to do the kitchen. Not only does it pay you to pay someone else to do the job, but you’re boosting the economy by spreading your money around. Now the painter can buy stuff and the money trickles down the line making us all richer.

The opportunity cost for women is particularly high. When I was sitting at home congratulating myself as I sewed – badly – the hem on my son’s trousers, I would literally have been better employed paying someone else to do that job, while I scribbled out a column.

The bottom line is that Trevor Sargeant is both perfectly right and fundamentally wrong. We are a useless generation. We outsource basic jobs so frequently that certain skills once common will become increasingly scarce.

However by doing so we are actually helping the economy. Consumption might be our spiritual downfall but also our economic salvation. This is why Lenihan needs to tell Sargeant to zip it and make sure that us citizens don’t get confused by his budget message. The government needs to make cutbacks, but it’s vital that households don’t. If the country is to have a chance, the outsourcing must go on. Cleaning, decorating, repairing and baking are all tasks that came naturally to the 1950’s housewife. But we were poor and miserable in the 1950’s. If we don’t want to be poor again, the bad housewife can be the country’s great hope.

This might seem counterintuitive and you’re probably still in a post-Budget anger phase visualising all the cutbacks you’ll make around the house this winter. Stop and look at it this way. The budget wasn’t so bad at all.

For the past ten years the government flung money indiscriminately at people who could do without it. SSIA interest, automatic under-6’s child benefit bonus, over-70’s medical cards and inequitable tax allowances for high earners were all handed over as populist election winners. The money was crudely distributed and is being more crudely recouped, but I can’t help feeling it’s a case of easy come; easy go. What Fianna Fail giveth, Fianna Fail taketh away.

The trick to our future is to get over the snatching back of what we never should have gotten in the first place. Some people are poor, but if you’re reading this paper, I’d bet that you’re not. However, if you start acting poor then we’re really done for. The Blitz Spirit is all very well, but ultimately streets were bombed into rubble. If we don’t want to see our economy reduced to rubble, then we need to keep spending. Useless citizens of Ireland unite. Your economy needs you.

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