Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why Ireland Needs Drones

Drones come in all shapes and sizes, not just Predators
with sidewinders attached.
Drones have got something of a bad press recently, what with all of the extra-judicial killings and what not, and Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, and all sort of other folks getting concerned about the automation of lethal force.  Much of the focus is on the US, but it should be noted that there are dozens of countries deploying their own drones now, and not just for pre-emptive strikes on irksome alleged terrorists outside state borders.

Monday, January 20, 2014

More Unbelievable Truths from the CRC?

Ham Goulding's attempt to clear the air in a series of interviews at the weekend, in an attempt to pour water on the raging fire of the Central Remedial Clinc scandal, appears to have failed.  The Public Accounts Committee still wants them all in, and Mr McGuinness will have his show.  Goulding claimed that the settlement was an attempt to save money, because keeping Kiely on as Chief Executive would have cost €2.1m over six years.

Let's do the math.  First, the settlement of €740k means that the net saving would have only been €1.36m over the six years, which Goulding acknowledges.  However, they then immediately agreed to appoint Brian Conlon on a salary of €125k (later reduced under pressure from the HSE).  That's a total of at least €750,000 over six years, which leaves the benefit at €610,000 at most.  Therefore, adopting Goulding's logic, they paid €740k in order to save €610k.  This is despite the fact that one board member went so far as to have it noted in the minutes her reluctance to agree to the departure of Mr Kiely - being such a fine Chief Executive - but for it appeared that he was resolved to leave.  Go figure.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

NAMA: Rebadging Failure as Success

Photo Credit: Google Images
Fintan O'Toole calls out the economic failure in Ireland in today's Irish Times (and, incidentally, in The New York Times also) and in particular those politicians who hold the country up as an example to others. The debt has soared, public services have been slashed, and quality of life has deteriorated for all but those who have emigrated in the last five years. Things are admittedly pretty awful, and made worse by rich men in expensive suits praising the country for its prudence and fortitude.

NAMA was actually designed to do this.  Its model works thus: you have a property worth $50m, for which a developer has a loan of $100m, you pay the bank $20 for the loan, re-capitalise the bank for the $80m shortfall (i.e. repay the German inter-bank lender) through off-books sovereign debt, then sell the property for $30m, making (ahem) a $10m 'profit'. So NAMA then is a success, because it drove a profit from its loan book. The State, meanwhile, is crippled.

Anyone can be successful if they are allowed to define the rules for success themselves.  Small minds are destroying this place.

A No-Vision Rest Home for No-Vision Politicians: The Conservative Reform Alliance

Didn't get the memo then?
In Susan Neiman's 2008 Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists, there is at least some part of the answer to why we are all so cynical these days.  Neiman talks of things like reason and hope - not incompatible, it seems - and says of aspiration that so long as it is limited by the actual, no other idea has a chance.  Good bedtime reading for Lucinda Creighton, one suspects.

Her fall from high office has been well documented, losing the whip on the abortion bill, and subsequently forming the Reform Alliance, an entity not quite a political party, but registered for fundraising and populated by politicians.  Today, it emerged that several high profile independent TDs would not be supporting the breakaway movement, dealing a significant blow to the Alliance, and seriously undermining any ambitions it may have had to real power. Which is a shame.