Tuesday, September 30, 2008

just me?

Or does the Republicans voting down the finance bill because Nanci Pelosi said they were reckless and irresponsible not smack of reckless irresponsibility?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama meets the West Wing

There's an amazing piece of dialogue in the NY Times for anyone who was a fan of the West Wing, here's my favourite part:

OBAMA The problem is we can’t appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?

BARTLET Well ... let me think. ...We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know ... I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

Great stuff!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A long way left to fall?

With the stock market withering like a plant in the desert sun, and commentators everywhere beginning to genuinely ponder the idea that the financial crisis could be as bad as the 1930's, it seems time to ask ''how bad is it going to get''?

I'm not an expert on stock markets by any means, but there is an interesting fact that could have relevance to today's crisis. The reason that people buy shares is, fairly evidently, for a share of the company's profits. In the long-term, shares need to give a higher return that the rate of interest in a bank. Otherwise, there'd be no reason to buy them in the first place. Historically, the rate of return on shares that the market has settled at means that people make their money back in 14.5 years, in other words an interest rate of 6.89%. That's a reasonable return, and enough more than putting your money in the bank to make the risk of buying shares worthwhile.

As the above graph shows, the prices at the moment are still well above that level. At the moment, the price of shares is around 25 times the annual earnings, or an interest rate of around 4%. Given that you can get a rate that's higher than that from a lot of banks' saving accounts, and the current market turmoil, there is every chance that share prices will continue to fall.

Notes: 1. I wrote this before the announced bailout, but think it is still relevant
2. The inspiration for this came from the Undercover Economist, a book I'd highly recommend

Saturday, September 20, 2008

a sunny day!

There was a lovely sunny day for once, and luckily I was out with my camera and managed to grab a couple of shots so I can remind myself that the weather really can be nice in the dreary months to come!

Aisling and Fergus


Stephen's Green Lake

Me, taken by Aisling

Stephen's green evening sunshine

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fresher's week '08

Brian after his shift at the grind

Ian and the (sadly non alcoholic) Kopperberg

Ciaran looking happy with Cranley's sticker...

Don't mess with the auditor during fresher's week!

Susan leaves her mark...

...and shows off her hemming skills!

James on security detail

Shane maintains that he was neither to fat, nor too ugly to model for Ralph Lauren, they just wouldn't pay him enough

Gregg being all busy and important.

Click to enlarge any of the images

Thursday, September 18, 2008

L&H porn debate

The L&H's annual porn debate was last night, so I brought my camera along. The lighting in the theatres is always really tricky, so these are a mix of flash and natural ones. Bouncing the flash off the ceiling normally gives a much nicer look than pointing it straight at people (because the light looks more natural instead of the overly bright/ shadowy look you get with a normal flash). The problem in those theatres is that the ceiling is brown, so if you try that you get very brown people (and not in the way that fake tan attempts to make them!

The Rabbi

The philosopher

The auditor

Conor and The crowd (the guy to his left doesn't count)

Dwarfed by history!

Mags takes the hecklers down

The pastor

Sheehy and Janine

Daithi in pauses for laughs

Ian getting his porn talk on

Aengus' debs

It was my brother's debs during the week, so I snapped a couple of photos before he headed off!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First debate of the year

The first L&H debate of the year was last night. I brought my camera along to record to occasion!

It's a large hadron collider!

Mags in one of her two (wonderful) speeches!

Jarlath, as seen on tv3

Mary before the debate

Aisling and me

Conor gets his verbosity on

Shane posing

Dec speaking

Sunday, September 07, 2008

''One Cigarette is the Price of Oral Sex in UCD''

It's news to me, but according to the Sunday Independent's front page banner headline, Irish students are ''Sex mad, booze mad and cocaine mad'', to the extent that they will exchange a cigarette for oral sex. As a story, it fits neatly with their editorial policy of publishing tawdry, sensationalistic, offensive and misleading stories. (Remember Liam Lawlor dying in a car with a prostitute that was, in fact, a translator?)

My favourite part reads as follows:
Derek Freedman, a leading specialist in STI treatment, said recently that he sees in his Dublin clinic a steady stream of UCD students, with many boasting they have had as many as 20 sexual partners, and often unprotected.
Aside from '', and often unprotected'' being the product of diuretic sub-editing, the content seems a little... unbelievable to say the least. It's notable that the ''boasts'' are not a quote from Dr. Freedman, and it doesn't sound like something a doctor would say, even if it were true. Moreover, can you really imagine somebody walking into a clinic and effectively declaring ''look at me, I had enough unprotected sex and got gonorrhea, I'm amazing!!!''. In the history of boasts about sexual bravado, that one doesn't rank so highly in the memorable quotes chapter. Never mind that the average lifetime sexual partners in Ireland is 10.6 making 15-20+ in your early twenties a very obvious exception to normal student (or adult) sexual activity. But ignore that, it doesn't fit with the story! Where's the sensation in that!

As for the ''One Cigarette is the Price of Oral Sex in UCD'' (the other part of the headline), it turns out that's something that happened, once, outside the ''notorious'' student bar in UCD. Those first year students who ran out and bought a pack of 20 for €5 thinking it represented pretty good value might find themselves a little disappointed.

Friday, September 05, 2008

McCain, a prisoner to the extremes of his own party?

George Packer at his New Yorker blog has an interesting view about McCain brought about by Palin's selection as the Veep candidate, and the Republican convention. He thinks that McCain has become a prisoner to his own party's hard right; a lone moderate lost in a sea of extremely conservative (white*) Republicans. I'm not sure I agree. After a 30 year career in the senate, you'd have to be dozing a lot more than the average elderly man not to pick up a few basic political rules. The most fundamental is that there is no way that you can get elected if your own supporters do not come out and vote for you. The second most important is that after you get elected, you can change your positions relatively rapidly and radically. Given that his own speech tacked away from the extremities, he's already laying the grout work for a relatively centrist presidency. In the unlikely event that McCain does win the election, I wouldn't be surprised to see Palin placed in a Walt Disney style cryogenic freezing, ready to be thawed out for the 2012 election.

*The Washington Post carried the shocking statistic that "Only 36 of the 2,380 delegates seated on the convention floor were black."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

attack dogs

Fred Thompson, a former actor and Republican Presidential contender was speaking at the Republican convention yesterday. In what was seen as the most aggressive speech of the night, he went for the usual line of ''the democrats want to raise your taxes''.

According to seveal reaports, when Obama was picking Joe Biden as his running-mate, one of his major considerations was to pick somebody to do the dirty work for him, and go on the attack during the closing months of the campaign. It seems to be a job that he's taking to with relish. There won't be any Kerry-esque critique's coming Biden's way if he keeps going after people with the relish that he did today:

“I heard my friend, and by the way he is my friend, I heard Red October up there hunting for votes,” Mr. Biden said, imitating Mr. Thompson’s gravelly voice and alluding to one of his acting roles. “Fred got up there and he said well, the Democrats are going to raise your taxes.”

Mr. Biden said that the Democrats’ tax plan would raise taxes only on some corporations and the wealthiest Americans, including successful actors.

“Fred, look at me. We’re going to make sure you don’t get another tax break because I’ve going to give a tax break to the people right here in this room.”

They might not be friends for much longer...!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bobby Kennedy

I've started an economics course before my masters, and we're studying GDP and GNP at the moment. I finished a wonderful book recently about Bobby Kennedy (about which more soon), but I couldn't help but share this quote, which I think reflects the inadequacy of using mere statistics to measure our quality of life. This was from the first speech of his presidential campaign, and makes for a rather gutsy opening I think.

Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How to sell ice cream

I was at Wicked last night, which was generally excellent. I'd highly recommend that any students out there wondering about taking it in get their tickets on the day. Got great seats in person at the box office, at about half the price they were on Ticketmaster online!... They did have one very sneaky money-making idea though. Turn off the air conditioning during the interval, let the theatre heat up for 15 minutes, and keep pedalling the ice cream throughout... rather devious that one.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Festival of World Cultures

Big congratulations to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Coucil for their organisation of the wonderful festival of world cultures. There was a great atmosphere and great music to be found on the coast today. It was also nice to see the sun make a guest appearance!

Sax on the coast

A very long Teddy's queue!

A well populated peoples' park

Lots of interesting instruments on display!

Please buy our CD!

There were topless drummers...

...and barefoot dancers

And even sand sculptures!


A couple of tennis pictures from one of the Fitzwilliam Open Semi Finals this week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

tea and scones anyone?

From a lovely little café in Chester. Was away last week, and will be next week, so the posts will be sparse for a little while!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nuke the Polish

Not content with decimating Georgia, and refusing the recognise their territorial integrity in any peace agreement, the Russians have now taken to sending rather threatening messages in the direction of the Polish. More than the regular variety of threat that is; according to the Guardian, they have "reserved the right" to launch a nuclear attack on Poland if they agree to host US rockets. Just an idle comment? Something twisted by a paper looking for a sensational angle? Sadly not. A senior general has (no doubt with political approval) been quoted as saying

"By deploying, Poland is exposing itself to a strike - 100%,"

And went on to add, as if that wasn't clear enough, that

Russia's security doctrine allowed it to use nuclear weapons against an active ally of a nuclear power such as America.

A little worrying that. Generally, invading your neighbours is considered to be slightly bad form, but blowing them up altogether really isn't looked upon kindly. Russia have been flexing their muscles like an Olympic greco-roman wrestler for some time now, resuming long-range bombing flights and making noises about, well, just about everything. That they have progressed to using their military instead of their press department is deeply worrying, and should not go unchecked by the international community.

I think the Economist are on to something when they talk about increasing the power of the G7 to the exclusion of the Russians and preventing their progress in attempting to join the WTO. While the Guardian are right to a certain extent that
"Western governments should think long and hard before enacting measures to exclude Russia from the international arena"
their assertion that
"NATO members.... should rebuild, extend and enforce Russia's international obligations. They should not be wilfully tearing them down."
seems to totally ignore the situation on the ground. Allowing Russia to join the in with the G8 and movements towards allowing them to join the WTO were both based on them acting responsibly and becoming more democratic and accountable. When they move in entirely the opposite direction, it seems rather silly to reward them for their behaviour. Their newfound buoyancy is based around a massive influx in oil and gas revenue. Their reliance on natural resources makes them vulnerable to trends in the global markets, and therefore more susceptible to international pressure.

That seems to be the line that America are taking, with Bush making a reference to the G7's role in a speech yesterday. There is a bizarre brand of Anti-Americanism which derides America no matter what they do, good or bad. It was in evidence on the Drive Time radio panel yesterday, with one of the panelists asking ''why do we allow America to say they're the world's policeman in these kinds of situations''. (The same woman moments later deriding Bush's trip to China and his failure to stand up for human rights) What the world should really be asking for is decent leadership and a way to help bring to an end, or at the very least minimise, Russia's aggression towards their neighbours. Unless there are consequences for their actions, that's highly highly unlikely to happen.