Archive for the 'Irish Politics' Category
August 6th, 2008 -- Posted in Irish Politics |
Most people my age often associate Ireland with alcohol and the Irish as having livers of Iron. I can attest to the latter as being quite true thinking back to a Christmas party at work where my fellow co-workers had consumed double the amount of beer I had and were feeling no effects at all. Through my work and following the news, I have discovered recently that there is a mini crisis brewing all around Ireland. This crisis refers to the mass closure of pubs around the country and even in Dublin because it is cheaper to purchase your alcohol in a store rather than at a pub.
For example, the cost of a pint these in Ireland today will set you back on average €4 which is $6 using the current exchange rate. You can buy a pint of beer in Lidl ( Kind of like Wal-mart) for €1:
So when you can get alcohol cheaply in a Wal-Mart like store, what is the point of driving to a pub? There is no point hence some people feel that Ireland is losing some of its charm because of these recent closures. At the same time there are others who welcome this trend because it is far safer to drink at home then drive a distance to a pub then probably drive back home drunk. Drinking is still a major social problem in Ireland with the population drinking on average 13.5 liters in 2003 compared to the USA’s 8.4. These figures are 5 years old but I have little reason to believe they have significantly deviated in 2008.
The government has tried to fix the alcohol problem with a range of public service messages while taxing alcohol higher than any other country in Europe in 2007. In 2007, the government also collected 2.2 billion euro from alcohol taxes yet this money had not been used productively to raise awareness of alcohol and its associated problems in Ireland. This lack of awareness has to led to a relatively steady increase of alcohol related hospital discharges:
Between 1995 and 2004 there were 139,962 alcohol-related hospital discharges. Males accounted for 75% (105,184) and women for 25% (34,778) of discharges. The number of discharges increased by 92% between 1995 and 2002. The number of alcohol-related discharges peaked in 2002, and had decreased slightly (by 2%) by 2004…
The Irish Government recently passed the Intoxicating Liquor Act of 2008 which was intended to prevent the misuse of alcohol in society however if you examine the various clauses in the bill, you will find them lacking any realistic means to accomplish this task. For example the closure of off-licenses (Grocery stores that can sell alcohol) at 10pm is very unlikely to affect alcohol consumption because most people would have purchased their alcohol for the evening much earlier or or will now do so under the new law. This new bill is another waste of time by the Irish Government and does little to address an age old issue in Ireland that needs to be fixed.
July 11th, 2008 -- Posted in American Politics, Irish Politics |
I was doing my usual blog browsing today when I stumbled upon a post at CrooksAndLiars.com showcasing an interview with President Bush by RTÉ (Radio Telefís Éireann). This was an old interview done in 2004 when President Bush came to Ireland to meet the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern before heading to meet with the EU. It was a contentious interview with some people feeling that the interviewer(Carole Coleman) went too far and did not show enough respect to the President of the United States:
THE White House has strongly criticized the RTE interview with President Bush, claiming that journalist Carole Coleman constantly interrupted him, preventing him from getting his point of view across.
Other critics were quite happy with the interview as those kinds of questions never get asked by journalists in the United States. This goes back to my post yesterday about the defeat of liberal point of view in the American media. Arianna Huffington often pointed this out in her book as did Eric Alterman, that not enough hard questions have been asked of the current administration. If you visit the original video at YouTube, the presenter suggests that this was banned in the United States however the interview was mentioned in the media:
Meanwhile, the interview was raised on the Larry King show on CNN, CBS, the New York Times where it was described as “contentious”, and in other media.
I was unable to find anything through Google where Larry King might have mentioned the interview but the New York Times piece on the interview was appallingly short with just three paragraphs. A bastion of liberal journalism somehow managed to let go of an opportunity to criticize the President and his Iraq war policies… I wonder why? Maybe because as suggested by research done by the Center for American Progress that even in the NYT, conservatives have managed to gain some kind of control.
On January 22, 2005 CNN had a discussion with Ms. Coleman about President Bush’ second term inauguration. The essence of the discussion concerned the increasing need for the media to discover what is really going on in Iraq. The problem is that 3 years later we still do not have an accurate understanding of the Iraqi situation, and no news organization with the exception of Al-Jazeera is able to provide an detailed account of what is going on.
My point is that the media needs to be asking the hard-hitting questions to both presidential candidates because letting any candidate slide because of his “war hero” status or his “charisma” is simply not acceptable. The next American President is going to have an aircraft carrier’s worth of problems to deal with and if the American people are to vote for the right person, the media needs to step up to the plate and get back to old-fashioned hard-hitting journalism.
July 5th, 2008 -- Posted in Irish Politics |
Many politicians, pundits and critics could not have predicted the fallout from the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty on June 12th . After the results were announced, there were literally moments of silence where the entire of Europe sat still in confusion about what to do next. The next EU President Nicolas Sarkozy is forced to pick up the pieces however who is to blame is the silent question on many people’s minds.
I personally blame the Irish Government for the lack of money put into an effort to inform the citizenry about the crux of the treaty and what it meant for all the people of Ireland, just not the people in Dublin. I wrote about the scene before the proposed referendum on June 11th and true to my prediction, the people of Ireland voted no. If the Government and the EU had poured enough money into informing every single person in Ireland, I would safely take the bet that the majority of the people would have voted yes.
Part of the problem was the state-funded media channel RTE was ambiguous as ever about explaining what the Lisbon Treaty meant for Ireland. We have the folks over at the Wise Up Journal contending that RTE was trying to sell the treaty to the people of Ireland:
For an organisation that promotes itself as fair, balanced and owned by the Irish People, a question we must ask is, are RTE really fair and balanced, or is that just a marketing campaign designed to hide the fact that most of the coverage is distorted and one sided?
Then we have the Fine Gael MEP Mr. Mitchell stating that the RTE coverage was unfair and even called for an investigation into the role of the State broadcaster in its coverage of the Lisbon Treaty. I believe RTE fell into the typical media role of trying to provide both sides of the story but in doing so, it confused a lot of the people that were trying to figure out what the treaty was about. RTE should not be blamed for this but having watched RTE on a few occasions, I believe they lack transparency in terms of which side of the political divide they lean towards.
I still support the Lisbon Treaty but I feel a little sorry for President Sarkozy who is going to have a very hard time at the helm of the EU and France in trying to figure out what to do next, certainly blaming Ireland isn’t going to work but hopefully he won’t stress out too much…
June 18th, 2008 -- Posted in American Politics, Irish Politics |
The Bush Administration will continue to push for a lifting on the ban of offshore drilling today which will likely only sate the American appetite for oil for 2.5 years at the most. The problem is that the President has only proposed a short-term measure with no thoughts about what is going to happen after we exhaust those oil supplies? I am not against lifting the ban however it should be lifted with intention to keep the price of oil stable while the Government invests greater resources into alternative energy sources. For the moment I would like to draw your attention to two sites that I found during my research on gas prices. The first is gasbuddy.com where you can put in your relevant location data and they will tell you where the cheapest price of gas is in your local area. The second site is pumps.ie which operates similarly to gasbuddy.com with the exception that Ireland is not that big hence there are relatively few choices to choose from:
June 14th, 2008 -- Posted in American Politics, Irish Politics |
The Renewable Energy and Job Creation act of 2008 was recently rejected in the Senate this week with 50 yeas and 44 nays. The vote embodies the typical democrat and republican divide with republicans wanting to preserve the benefits of business while democrats want to redistribute those benefits to the people through the form of taxation. The nays were exclusively Republican while there were 3 Republican Senators who voted yes. What are the Republicans fighting for? Do companies provide tangible benefits through the tax breaks and incentives they receive? The U.S does not have the lowest tax rate in the world yet 5 of the world’s biggest 10 companies are based here.
The very word ‘incentive’ implies that it is optional; a company is not required to execute an operation upon the receipt of the incentive therefore the logical conclusion leads me to believe that the Republican segment of the Senate is out of touch with the average citizen. This is where “change” arrives; politics has always run as described in the first paragraph but how about introducing legislation that taxes positively? Why can the Republicans not realize that giving company’s free reign is not good while Democrats realize that redistributing income is just going to make companies move to the Moon.
People assume that the reason a company chooses a location is because of the lowest tax rate however that may be a large factor, there are also smaller factors like the labor pool, environment, education system, political system etc… A low tax rate does not guarantee economic success as demonstrated by Ireland whose GDP dropped by 2.9% from 2007 to 2008. There is also the problem of many American companies moving production off shore yet unsurprisingly, the Republicans are going to wait for the Democrats to create incentives for companies to keep jobs in America:
At issue is the U.S. tax code’s treatment of profits earned by foreign subsidiaries of American corporations. Profits earned in the United States are subject to the 35% corporate tax. But multinational corporations can defer paying U.S. taxes on their overseas profits until they return them to the USA - transfers that often don’t happen for years. General Electric, for example, has $62 billion in “undistributed earnings” parked offshore, according to recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Drug giant Pfizer boasts $60 billion. ExxonMobil has $56 billion.
The U.S currently taxes companies on profits earned in-country and overseas which provides significant income for the treasury. My suggestion (slightly different to the bill) is that we should raise the tax rates at home for companies with over $1 Billion dollars in assets located overseas encouraging companies to shift these assets to the United States to keep their tax liability low. Taxation can be a positive aspect in any economy as long as it is utilized as a gentle push rather than a shove. The Republican Senate prefers we not push at all which has only increased the number of corporate scandals in the last 8 years while big companies continue to expand their operations overseas at the expense of the American market.
I recently found this video on YouTube when I was searching for stories related to Corporate Tax Breaks, I found the presenter quite entertaining given the seriousness of this issue: