Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Sub Judice Rule and Public Debate

Thirteen years ago, the late Charles J Haughey was sweating. It had been almost ten years since he had been in office, but his financial affairs were being carefully unpicked.  He found himself in the High Court, charged with obstructing the work of the McCracken tribunal.  Within twelve months, however he was off the hook.  Some pamphlets had been issued campaigning to 'jail the corrupt politicians', and then T├ínaiste Mary Harney had said effectively the same.  The High Court upheld the claim that the comments had created a 'prejudicial climate', and while there was a 'fade factor' that would allow the effect to dissipate over time, potentially allowing a retrial, Haughey never again went before the courts, and died without any judgement being passed on him in 2006.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Culture of NAMA Stinks

Today, Brendan McDonagh announced with great glee that the National Asset Management Agency had made a profit of €247m for 2011.  In his interview on RTE Radio at One O'Clock, the smug McDonagh, who commands an austerity adjusted salary of €370,000 (having taken a voluntary 15% pay cut earlier this year) propounded that the organisation had breezed passed the cynicism of two years ago, and circumnavigated low expectation to deliver what were astonishingly good results, notwithstanding a write-down of €1.27bn in the value of its assets.  It was as if NAMA was just another Irish success story, and the Celtic Tiger was back again, and McDonagh was the new breed of entrepreneur, leading the charge out of depression!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Golf and Banality

No fun
The British Open (or "The Open", as the Brits like to call it) is drawing to a conclusion, and there's some disappointment amongst the great and the good that the wind hasn't really blown, the rain hasn't fallen, and whatever wind has actually blown has not been of the prevailing disposition.  All in all, it's been a very ordinary golf course, although at least the bunkers have provided some variability.  And therein lies the crux of it.

American golf, driven by the sponsors, has become more and more dull and mechanical as sponsors and brands have increasingly driven out variability from the game.  Few significant competitions are played in difficult weather; bunkers are generally benign; and "the rough" is more like the fairway at my local club.  Technology in clubs and balls has accelerated to be more forgiving, sports psychologists minimise the yips, and the game becomes less of a lottery and more of a predictable "event".  And the more predictable it becomes, the easier it is for brands to invest.

The majors - at least the British and US Opens, along with the American PGA (but not the US Masters at Augusta) - are the exception, usually.  They command excitement because they introduce genuine variability, with courses the pros aren't used to playing, often in conditions they're not used to playing in either.  I played Lahinch once, probably the best course I ever played, and I think I learned that day what golf should be.  It's not just a statistics game, a yardage game, a technical project.  It's about feel, sensation, variety, and agility.  Not just strength, accuracy, and execution. It's about fun, and living, not just about work, and scoring.  That's why Tiger fell from grace - he's all work and scoring (no pun intended), and doesn't - still! - know how to live, and have fun.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Why the Capital Should be Moved to Cork (Seriously)

They are rabbiting on again on the Marian Finucane show on radio again this morning, this time about the conflict of interest story re: Terry Prone and Tom Savage, the PR Consultant and her husband, the Chairman of the RTE Authority.  Government representatives (to whom the RTE Authority reports) are sitting on the panel. in the RTE Studios (that Savage is, ostensibly, responsible for), presumably all being paid by RTE to be there (saving, one would hope, the politicians themselves).  Mike Soden, government sanctioned Central Bank Commissioner (and former CEO of Bank of Ireland); Pat Rabbitte Minister for Communications, from Mayo, now Dublin South West; Sam Smyth, long-in-the-tooth Dublin journalist, from the North, resident in Dublin for several decades now; and so on and so forth.  The Dublin elite, talking about Dublin conflicts of interest, feigning shock and amazement for the benefit of their advertisers.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

PS I LoveYou (Not)!!

The arguments in Brian Lucey's article today in the Cork Examiner in defence of Croke Park today are baseless, and reveal a core relativism and lack of substance in the Social Partners insistence on no job cuts.

In the first instance, if the state did not promise no job cuts, and insisted upon involuntary redundancies, even at a low scale, none of the social partners could have gone back to their members and say 'we got a deal'. The deal would not have been done - it was tight anyway - and we'd have been straight into bitter wrangling, strikes, and industrial unrest in the public service. That binary, blackmail view - give us what we want or we strike - is an emphatic rejection of the core social ethos of public service. It is now no more than a job, and we'll walk out if we think it's necessary (and then say it's about patient welfare, or preserving efficiencies, not about the size of the TV or the year on the reg plate). Even if we were to accept that striking in a time of economic crisis was a permissible option for the public service, which seems wholly deplorable, no such option exists for the substantially non-unionised private service. This situation exists largely due to government policy through years of dilution of labour laws and shifts in position to accommodate FDI.