Saturday, 11 August 2012

Katie Taylor, Not up to Speed on the God Delusion

Katie Taylor is magic in front of the cameras, all steel willed brute & feminine icon, but no one has brought her up to speed on the God Delusion. Shamefully our Olympic Gold Medallist insists on displaying her wilful ignorance publicly.

The national broadcaster has a duty to counter Katie's God referencing with a disclaimer, or in the absence of such, at least bleep the God references out for a daytime audience. Children were listening. Katie Taylor may not have a sense of the responsibility she now carries but we could expect better from RTE than to have them put an attractive, hugely successful young woman talking of God into every living room in the country. The lead taken by The Irish Times in reporting Katie’s victories & interviews but with the shameful God references deleted shows just how a responsible media organisation can affect the public narrative.

Religion is a private matter. If it is to be indulged at all it should be behind closed doors where it will not offend or embarrass more progressive citizens. No one wants to stop those who suffer from religion worshipping on Sundays but that surely as far as our freedom & tolerance could possibly extend. Speaking publicly of God or faith is worse than embarrassing: it is a rejection of Science. The Science that gives us internet & cheap flights now explains everything making God pointless as buggy whips & flint knapping.  Only the stupid, the uneducated or those that deliberately want poverty for their own dark ends reject Science.

It maybe that the Taylor/God matter is already in hand: our Government contains a high level of men who advocated re-education & cultural realignment as a panacea for those that rejected scientific socialism when that faith was in vogue all over the world. Mr Rabbitte I've always believed especially persuasive, perhaps a quiet word from him or one of his colleagues might bring Katie to her senses. Such a fireside chat would be for her own sake as much as for the children of the nation. Sooner or later a bright intelligent young woman like Katie will realise she is wrong about the existence of God. Nobody wants Katie to view the footage of her win with in future the cringing embarrassment that must come from being wrong in public. 

She should count herself lucky given the evil for which Religion has been responsible that freedom of worship is permitted in Ireland but Katie Taylor needs to get with the programme, God is dead.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Infantults & Emotional Incontinence as Fashion

When did public crying for relatively minor inconveniences or disappointments become not just permissible but de-rigueur for adults?

Weeping was  once an expression of deepest emotion, not the sulks of some athlete beaten in a race or an event. This Olympic Games have provided us a the sorry sight of men & women crossing the finish line (or any other indicator of event completion) to hurl themselves on the ground with the abandon of an ill behaved two year old & weep  with all the emotion of someone who has learned their entire immediate family has been put cruelly to death by the government.  

This clichéd emotional incontinence is not just tolerated, it is encouraged as a necessary expression of "passion". 
"Marlene/Marlon is distraught" the commentator will cluck approvingly.
"Yes" will come the answer from the studio"She/he expected to do much better & you just know how passionate he/she is about this event"

Adults function in society by dealing with their feelings. Emotional storms are controlled, our inner turmoil recognised personally but not released in a spoiled child outburst. One of the great lies of the twentieth century, part of the mendocracy of Freudianism, that emotions must run free for health. The opposite is the truth: without emotional restraint, the mark of functioning adults, both society & people are ill. "Feelings" have become the touchstone for all, feeling is elevated above reason and dignity. Civilisation was built by rational restraint, feelings are a private matter, to be indulged in privacy not displayed & indulged publicly. If we do not control our feelings we cannot live in proximity to each other in a civilised manner.

The fact that it is the worlds neediest, least civilised nations such as Britain that put the most emphasis on winning Olympic medals neither excuses nor explains this childish display of sulks nor diminishes the bad example it provides. The infantilised adults, infantults, produced under this tolerance are self serving creeps without the grace of civilisation.

Anger, lust, disappointment, love are part of our interior lives, not the currency of public discourse.  Passion is not some guarantee of quality, merely a statement of the least useful mental process. At the start of the twentieth century Yeats knew this: "..while the worst. Are full of passionate intensity" That century's abandonment of rationality in favour of multiple murdering faiths & emotion conducting tyrants should have confirmed that knowledge. 

Outpourings of emotion at victory or defeat were once regarded as vulgar. They need to be seen both as bad sportsmanship & eroding the restraint necessary for civilised life. Losing is no disgrace, crying in public like a spoiled brat is.

Monday, 30 July 2012

In Praise of Losers

In sport either you win or you lose. The Olympic Games reminds us of that with the constant reiteration of the Gold medallist above the also rans of bronze & silver, the rest of the losers tidily out of the way.

Competition encourages & rewards excellence. Citius, altius, fortius takes effort & application. Achievement has a price: for top level athletes a life dedicated to excellence. That is a price worth paying for Usain Bolt, it may be a horrendous waste for many who will never be top tier.

Life is not sport. While there are no simple metrics to allow us see except in extremes, what might amount to gold medal success, there are multiple winners. Competition does not mean elimination but sharpening, a delivery of improved goods & services to all of us.

As the Olympics progresses there will be an orgy of publicity surrounding the winners. Chest thumping patriotic fervour will break out. Countries that have spent vast amount of wealth on elite athletics & sports programmes need to trumpet victory lest the ordinary people whose wealth was stolen might question the theft. Losers will go home to silence, just glad to have competed.

We should be glad they competed too. Also rans won't be shamed with revelations of cheating. They compete to thee best of their ability & get on with their lives. Too many gold medals are tarnished with syringes. The good sports that never stand on that podium, never hear an anthem play for them, won't have to dilute urine samples with whisky or tranquillise a horse brutalised by banned training methods either. 

It may be with that vast army of good sports that real victory lies.

A Rally for the Rotten

Last night several thousand people turned out in support of Sean Quinn & his family in Cavan. In the light of that support, an endorsement of Quinn family's efforts to put a billion euros beyond the reach of Anglo, it is worth remembering Justice Peter Kelly's excoriation those efforts.

Worse than any national and international fraud, sharp practice, chicanery and dishonesty” that he had seen in court, the Quinns “had deliberately created and operated a scheme of mesmeric complexity, reeking of dishonesty and sharp practice, for the two-fold objective of putting assets beyond the bank's reach and to feather this own nests” was how Peter Kelly described their actions. Any supporter of Quinn should be asked whether they think Justice Kelly dishonest or merely insane.

Nothing the Quinns say can excuse them this damming by an honest man.  Anglo/IBRC  is a bogie man but that status was earned by the Anglo Irish Bank that operated under Sean Fitzpatrick: efforts by Quinn & his family to portray themselves as martyrs are the typical bullies ploy of pretending to be the victim. 

Quinn claims to be a job creator : he now wants other job creators to pay back the money he so carelessly borrowed. The cost of allowing the Quinn family to put their property portfolio beyond the reach of Anglo/IBRC s must be borne by ordinary Irish people, their businesses & their jobs. This would be an unacceptable transfer of wealth from all of us to the Quinn family.

Quinn attempted to take over Anglo Irish Bank by the back door. I have asked questions elsewhere about the help, tacit & otherwise that Sean Quinn recieved in this effort (see here). He had picked the wrong bank, the wrong time & the wrong method. He lost a huge amount of money borrowed from Anglo.

Quinn's main money maker was Quinn Insurance which was run not as an insurance company but a cash cow for the Quinn empire. Instead of using premiums to build reserves for future cases, money was drained from the company to finance Quinn's own debt. The Government insisted drivers have insurance, Sean Quinn saw this as merely a reason for drivers to pay him money.

The looting of Quinn Insurance under the noses of a compliant regualtory authority is costing every driver in the form of a levy to make up the shortfall. Quinn & regulatory failure has made us all poorer. The same compliant regulatory authorities allowed and maybe even encouraged Anglo to illegally finance Quinn's purchase of Anglo shares to unwind his CDF bet.

Quinn has developed a nice line in straw men, continously defending himself against charges that no one has made. He is not accused of breaking Anglo or causing the property /credit bubble that broke the country. He is merely asked to return the securities pledged for loans he can never repay.  

Quinn has his supportors including the celebrity priest, the appalling Fr Brian Darcy, a humourless teller of fibs best known for his campaign to ban Monty Python's Life of Brian, and a group of criminal thugs that have intimidated & terrorised management in the seized enterprises. 

It is clear there is a tribalist, welfare, dependency mentality at work in Cavan aided by the thugs of which Quinn claims he has no knowledge. Every rally, every statement from Sean Quinn further reveals the lies he is prepared to tell & the L'Oreal-because-I'm-worth-it sense of entitlement he has developed. Nothing emphasises the Quinn's utter sneering disregard for the Irish people & laws as the the photograph of Sean Quinn with his fugitive nephew at a GAA match over the weekend. 

Irish people owe Quinn nothing.  He and his family owe us to stop costing us any more money than he already has. 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Maths for Rats & Dog Swaps: Why Only Free Markets Work

Rats cannot count. Intelligent as they are (repulsive but maybe that is because they are just that little bit too like us?) this means not alone can they not do maths, they don't know that maths exists. We may have other such unknown unknowables but we can count & as a result, calculate.

Dogs don't swap. Adam Smith pointed out "Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this - no dog exchanges bones with another". Social relations between dogs are based on power hierarchies & immediate kinship. Our subjective value judgements allow both parties in a trade to walk away better off. We swap & our social relations are governed, not by power but by trade. 

We evolved as modern man not when we choose to create art, that is merely the signifier of our modernity: it was the construction of social groups that allowed time for art to emerge that made us made us truly human. Those social groupings happened because we can calculate & trade. Art was valued so art could be made.

Long chains of trade, each link made up of single win-win subjective value swaps  put beads from the Bay of Biscay in ice age villages in Siberia show that we evolved & survived through trade. Trade cooperation between humans & human groups. was fundamental to the emergence of society. The emergence of commodity money allowed full scope for our calculation ability, prices were & are central to working out future advantage of current actions.

Price is a continual exploration of value: the market never rests, there is no equilibrium outside of economists fantasy examples. Entrepreneurs continually calculate, on the basis of an ever changing price structure, where reward can be extracted. That means goods are produced & traded to supply our needs by all the vast shimmering army of humanity.

Marx & his adherents saw us as stuck between the rat & the dog & their fundamental inability to realise that value is subjective & prices are a common calculation meant that they utterly missed the both the role of the entrepreneur & the role of profit. Profit is the reward of efficient service, not theft. Under capitalism money is earned for giving value, self appointed "fairness" operatives from politicians, motivated by votes to sound compassionate, to left-wing ideologues believe it is their job to steal that money & equalise the rewards between those who give value & those that do not.

Our abilities mean we do not live in a zero sum paradigm: humans, because of our abilities, increase our resources with population. Only in a free market can we use our human capabilities properly, every effort to move from the free market just turns us in to dogs & rats & leads to poverty.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Shovels, Spoons & Internet Banking

Larry Broderick of the Irish Bank Officials Union was on the Radio speaking on economics with the practised fluency of an atheist talking about transubstantiation.  Mr Broderick declared that there was a need to “maximise” the amount of people employed in AIB & because he was being interviewed by State owned radio this outrageous nonsense was not challenged.

The opposite is the case, not just for AIB but for every single business that exists. Employment must be minimised as far as possible, not just for the sake of the business but for the economy too.
There is a story, repeated to the point of cliché, about Milton Friedman (The story is most likely apocryphal & the original words belong to William Aberhart of Alberta). Friedman (the story goes) was in China in the 1960s & saw a large group of men digging a canal. When he asked why no earth moving machinery was being used, his hosts told him that this was a Job Creation Project. Friedman told them if they were really serious about Job Creation they would take the shovels & give the men spoons…..

No business can successfully work on spoons instead of JCBs. Every worker employed in a business is a cost, a bigger cost because we tax employment but a cost nonetheless. Every cost has to be charged to the consumers of the business’s products or services. Customers may pay but they may just also go elsewhere.

Competition enforces frugality & that frugality is good for all of us. Every resource is scarce, every input, every good, is not only scarce but has alternative uses. You want more turkeys? Then we have less chickens & hens or more grain consumed & poultry houses built. 

Labour, for all the best efforts of Trades Unions & Governments to obscure the truth, is no different. More people employed in banks mean less to work in other areas. Doing more business online does not just reduce AIB’s costs, it reduces costs & frees up resources for the rest of the economy. Internet banking, by reducing bank costs, benefits the entire economy.

Flint knappers went out of business but were employed by the tin smelters, once the only way to dig a canal was with picks & shovels & a lot of men. Each improvement, each displacement makes people available to satisfy our needs in other ways & our needs are insatiable.

Competition making us all better off can only happen in a free market. Broderick & his septic economics have no power but Broderick & a few politicians might have a disastrous effect on our economy: history is littered with examples of efforts to protect employment in some industry at the cost to the general good. Reagan famously cost America billions by protecting the six thousand jobs in the steel industry with tariffs, losing an estimated twenty six thousand jobs in industries forced to buy more expensive steel  (Thomas Sowell).

We need AIB back to profitability & off the governments hands quickly. Banks are not social services, they are companies in a capitalist economy. The less efficient the economy works, the poorer we all are. Poorer is fine for those that start out with plenty, deeper poverty for the already badly off is disastrous. 

Free trade & small Government make us all better off, it is important never to let go that in favour of old fashioned economic error dressed up as compassion & masquerading as a social concern.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Nun & The Letter from Nigeria

My Aunt Cathleen was too kind for her own good. She was a tiny woman, thin, a TB survivor & badly dressed because she gave away money instead of buying clothes. Oxfam was her boutique of choice, she liked the prices. We knew her both by her religious name of Sr (Mary) Aloysius and as Aunt Cate. 

That was a different Ireland, you had Aunts in convents & brothers and sisters in classes with your cousin's brothers & sisters: an Ireland not yet used to low child mortality or the cool of modernity. Despite having five aunts nuns, two bachelor uncles and one childless married aunt we had seventy one first cousins. All now dead but one, the nun-aunts, swept away, Salve Regina sung in old womens' fading, cracking voices by their Sisters, my father & his brothers crying. The Batchelor uncles too, gone. The price of a wonderful childhood is an adulthood burying those you loved.

Cate was a Mercy Sister and lived was the poverty-vowed life of a nun in a small Yorkshire convent. She elected by her sisters as Mother of the small community in brass-band Barnsley. Her clothes were so bad they were a shame to my parents. My mother tells the story that she & Dad decided to buy her a coat one year she arrived home without one, my mother suspecting she had given it away. Aloysius demurred, she could buy a coat much cheaper in England if she had a little money. Next year she return in what my mother described as " a black rag so old it had faded green that you wouldn't put under the dog". Clothes were not her priority.

With few or no novices coming from the developed world the Sisters of Mercy were not alone in advertising for them in the developing world. Did Sr Aloysius place the advertisements or was it the organised by the order? An ad that ended with "If you would like to be a Sister of Mercy, write to the Convent of Mercy, Barnsley" was published in a Missionary Magazine distributed in Nigeria.

That was before email, before email scams. A letter arrived, from a boy, desperate for an education but too poor to continue at school. My Aunt sent ten shillings. The correspondence continued between the boy and the tiny nun, encouragement to continue despite the hardships, and, when she could small sums of money. 

Aunt Cate kept her own council on the correspondence. In the last years of her life I think she suffered from the dementia that has haunted my father and his siblings but I do not think she would have spoken about her charity."When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."

The good is oft interred with their bones….

The boy, yes there was a boy, Boniface Ezaegu, is now the Barrister General of the Ebonyi State in Nigeria. In memory of the woman who helped him he is helping others: he financed and built the Sr Mary Aloysius High School in his home district.  There are Four hundred & fifty students and a staff of twenty. A red bus is proudly marked in my Aunt’s name. Her religious sisters are justifiably proud. So am I.

There may be morals to be drawn here but I don’t want them. Aunt Cate was kind; the memory of that kindness lives on far from home, in a country she never visited.  Somehow I get pepper behind my eyes when I read that the anniversary of the death this tiny quiet woman, January 19, is a school holiday and the students have mass in her memory. I picture them, bored, distracted as children often are, thinking of other things, at mass, in a small town in Nigeria, very far away.

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