Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Monday, May 29, 2006
Arrived safely in Washington yesterday evening, and had a good sleep to rid myself of most of the jet lag! Today I had a wander down Penn Avenue, took in the most obvious touristy sites of the White House and the Mall. However more interestingly, was the rolling thunder protest containing over 300,000 bikers from accross the country, asking people not to forget the POWs MIA. It was an amazing site to see so many bikes, they just kept coming and coming and coming! The shot to the left is of a large open space on the mall that was completely covered by bikes. To give some perspective on how large the parade was, they were the spectators!
Sunday, May 21, 2006
I'm off to America in less than a week, can't wait. I'm going to be in Washington for the first week, and then heading over to Yosemite Valley in California. Here are some of the pictures I took last time I was there, got lots of plans for pictures this time around, I'm going to be picking up a new wide angle lens while I'm there.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Sunday, May 14, 2006
1. Are taxes too high?
I don't think the overall burden of taxation is too high, but indirect taxes are distorting our perception of taxation, and by their nature are indiscriminate in how they work, so I'd rather see a lot of that burden tranferred towards income tax instead.
2. Should we worry about absolute poverty rather than relative poverty?
I don't agree with the presuposition of the question. I think we can worry about both relative, and absoloute poverty; Ireland is a well developed country, and absoloute poverty should always be the first thing to erradicate. However having come close to achieving that, I think we can rightly turn the focus to relative poverty, and trying to see to it that Irish Development does not leave people behind.
3. Do we need to scrap the state-run TV station?
No, for a few reasons. Mainly in terms of news, we can hold RTE to account in a way that we simply can't do in the private sector, there's a trust in them, and rightly so. Also, we are guaranetting the public service element in broadcasting that would not otherwise be provided by the private sector.
4. Was it a mistake to rule out nuclear power?
I'm right in the middle on this one, I've heard good arguments either side, and waste would remain one of my main concerns. I'm planning on doing some reading over the summer to try and decide properly either way.
5. Is the Irish military underfunded?
No, what do we really need them for. The fact that other neutral coutries such as Switzerland have strong armies doesn't lead me to conclude that we should follow.
6. Is gay marriage a bridge too far?
No, although I think there's a case for deminished tax rights, as they are designed to encourage a place for the rearing of children rather than to encourage loving union. However I don't see any reason why a gay marraige cannot be recognised in state terms, the church are free to keep up their position regardless.
7. Has the partnership model become a problem?
I think it's generally assuaged militant union activism, and created a stable and reliable enviroment into which foreign companies have invested. There are some problems with it , but not enough for me to feel there is a problem with the concept overall. It has massively contributed to Ireland's economic development in the past, and I think it's too easy to turn on it.
8. Are fees the solution to underfunding in universities?
Fees are effectively being reintroduced in much the same way as VRT, with the registration fee hitting around €1,000 so in some regards I think this is a slightly unrealistic question. I think some level of payment is ok, but only at arround current levels or slightly higher. Continuing initiatives to get industry to pay for University funding, given that they are the major benefitiaries makes sense.
9. Does neutrality prevent Ireland from acting responsibly internationally? I think it is used as an excuse, and can be seen to get in the way, but isn't by its nature an object to taking positions on international issues and being responsible.
10. Has the peace process failed to hold Sinn Fein to full democratic standards?
Definitely, it's effectively acted as an opt out clause for them.
11. Is religion and the Catholic Church in particular a force for good?
50/50; in the south, I think it certainly is, and brings about a sense of morality as well as bonding people into a community. However I think up North, secterianism cannot be discounted, and that religion in that case, in spite of being against the religious teachings, is still a cause of conflict.
12. Do we critise America too much?
People in Irealand have a propernsity to critcise America in ignorant or overly generalised ways. However I think there is certainly very valid criticism of specific American actions present. I guess the best way of putting that is that anti- Americanism in Ireland is bad, while specific policy crituqeus are perfectly acceptable and should be encouraged as democratic expression.
13. Are private health accounts with support for low earners the solution to the health system?
No, it should remain a governmental responsibility that individuals can supplement if they see fit, but treatment should in no way be compromised by a person's decision not to pay for VHI.
14. Would we be better off if the unions were less powerful?
I don't think unions in Ireland hold too much sway in the current climate, so no. They provide a vital role for workers in terms of representation.
15. Is Michael O'Leary an example of a good businessman?
Definitely, if you don't like them, don't fly with them. Lot's of people do, they don't want the frills, and that's their choice. He's hard working, pays his taxes and has helped show that through individual endevour one person can achieve enormously.
16. Should we be wary of supporting a more powerful EU?
No, definitely not. A strong EU is good for Ireland, and good for global relations. Diminished soverignty as a model is enormously helpfull in preventing international conflict. It's no coincidence that since its inception the major fights in Europe have been policy rather than army driven.
17. Should we trust the actions only, and not the words, of the IRA and Sinn Fein?
Actions, though I think the question is basically asking ''should you believe lies or what people actually do'', in which case there's really only one answer possible, which I don't think can really characterise one as Conservative, unless having some sense of logic is an inherently conservative trait.
18. Was the Aer Lingus partial privitization insufficient and overdue?
No, as the directors acting within the public sphere showed, it's entirely possible to run Aer Lingus within the public sphere as long as you give enough indipendence to the people who know what they're doing. Having a state airline for a small island country means that we are not beholden to anyone, and can guarantee an important service.
19. Do we need the death penalty for the worst crimes?
Absoloutely not, as a free nation you should positively define your morals rather than derive them from the negative. In this case we see killing as wrong, and I don't think a particular reactionary circumstance should ever be enough to bring about a change in that position. To be deprived of liberty for the rest of your life, certainly, to be deprived of life, certainly not.
20. Should the overall tax take fall by a third or more?
No, public services would have to suffer, and that's not something I'd find acceptable.
6/20 or 30%. Back to Sweden I go...