Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dulce et decorum est

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The western powers are going to go to war in the Middle East once again. There are good diplomatic, political, moral arguments for and against but there is one overriding reason why civilised nations cannot let this atrocity go “unchecked”. I can’t say it any more eloquently than the renowned WWl poet Wilfred Owen already put it ..

Dulce et decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots,
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 – March, 1918

 

Somewhere in the house I still have a CBN (chemical, biological and nuclear) suit and gas mask. What I learned about the effects of VX, Sarin etc while being trained in how to use the kit horrified me. These are weapons of incomprehensible cruelty.

Their use anywhere in the world at anytime diminishes all of us. I know many people have said that it is wrong that only now after 100,000 deaths in Syria that the west should intervene. They have a point but they completely misunderstand the difference between conventional and chemical warfare.

To give the order to fire an artillery round containing nerve agents mixed with emulsifiers (to make them stick to surfaces longer) is an act of only the most cynical and the most depraved. I don’t believe in ideas like pure evil, but the person who caused this to happen is unsaveable. Knowing what we know about the kind of deaths they cause and the population wide terror they inflict there is only one moral response.

Having worked in The Balkans, Occupied Palestine, Iran and Iraq I would love to be able to agree with those who say that anybody who gives the order to kill another person lives outside the moral community. That is unfortunately a naive stance. The use of chemical weapons however is not. This has to remain fixed line to which we all respond swiftly and unanimously.

 

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What do the Irish know about economics?

Economic_survey_01

Did you think that the last five years should have made economics PhD’s of all of us.

It seems not.

Trinity College have conducted a survey which highlights significant holes in our economic knowledge. Information deficits which lead to political assumptions that are badly misinformed. Listen to a podcast of the Drivetime report here and then take the questionnaire yourself to see if you score better than the national average of 42%.

The answers are in a link at the end of the survey.

Q1 (i) What is your best guess at the current unemployment rate in Ireland?

 0 – 5%

 5 – 10%

 11 – 15%

 16 – 20%

 20 – 30%

 30 – 50%

Q1 (ii) Do you know the average current weekly unemployment benefit (social welfare) for a single adult, aged 25 and over?  * Excluding additional payments e.g. rent allowance, medical care etc.

 €50 – 100

 €100 – 150

 €150 – 200

 €200 – 250

Q2 (i) What is the current inflation rate in Ireland?

 0 – 2%

 3 – 5%

 6 – 10%

 11 – 15%

 16 – 20%

Q2 (ii) Which of the following indicators is most commonly used to measure inflation?

 Conservative Pricing Indicator

 Constant Price Index

 Consumer Price Index

 Property Values Index

 Social Welfare Rate

 Minimum Wage Rate

Q3. The European Central Bank’s responsibilities include acting as lender to banks and other financial institutions.

Do you know the current European Central Bank interest rate?

 0 – 2%

 3 – 5%

 6 – 10%

 11 – 15%

Q4. The following two questions relate to Ireland’s Gross Domestic Product. A country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of the value of all goods and services it produces over a time period (usually one year).

(i) What is the size of Ireland’s current GDP?

 Less than €1 bn

 €1 – 100 bn

 €100 – 250 bn

 €250 – 500 bn

 More than €500 bn

(ii) What is Ireland’s forecasted GDP growth rate for 2013?

 0 – 2%

 2 – 5%

 6 – 10%

 11 – 15%

 16 – 20%

Q5. The following questions relate to Ireland’s Balance of Trade.

A country’s Balance of Trade is the difference between the monetary value of its exports and imports (i.e. value of Exports – Imports) over a time period (usually one year). A Balance of Trade surplus means exports exceed imports.A Balance of Trade deficit means imports exceed exports.

Q5 (i) Do you imagine Ireland’s Balance of Trade to be in Surplus or Deficit?

 Surplus

 Deficit

Q5 (ii) What do you think is the approximate size of this Surplus/Deficit?

 Less than €1bn

 €1 – 20bn

 €20 – 40bn

 €40 – 60bn

 More than €60 bn

Q6. The following questions relate to Ireland’s national debt.

A country’s Budget Deficit is the amount by which its current expenditure exceeds income.

Q6 (i) What is your best guess at the forecasted size of the Irish government’s Current Budget Deficit for 2013?

 Less than €1 bn

 €1 – 20bn

 €20 – 40bn

 €40 – 60bn

 €60 – 100bn

 More than €100 bn

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) regularly publishes a breakdown of Ireland’s national debt (the total amount borrowed by the Irish government).

Q6 (ii) Which of the following figures do you imagine most accurately represents the value of Ireland’s national debt?

 Less than €10 bn

 €10 – 50 bn

 €50 – 100 bn

 €100 – 250 bn

 €250 – 500 bn

 More than €500 bn

Q7. Please give your best guess at the current value of the Euro (€) versus the following two currencies.

Q7 (i) What is the value of €1 when converted to US Dollars ($)?

 $0.50

 $0.80

 $1

 $1.30

 $1.50

Q7 (ii) What is the value of €1 when converted to Pound Sterling (£)?

 £0.50

 £0.80

 £1

 £1.30

 £1.50

Q8. Do you know the current minimum wage per hour for an adult in Ireland?

 €6 – 7

 €7 – 8

 €8 – 9

 €9 – 10

Q9. The following questions relate to the breakdown of the Irish workforce.

Note: the ‘Services/Tertiary’ sector includes public health, pharmaceuticals, financial services, banking,retail, education, legal services etc.

Q9 (i) Which sector do you think currently employs the greatest number of workers in Ireland?

 Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing

 Manufacturing & Construction

 Services/Tertiary

Q9 (ii) Which sector do you think currently employs the least number of workers in Ireland?

 Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing

 Manufacturing & Construction

 Services/Tertiary

Q10. The following questions relate to household debt and savings in Ireland.

Irish households have both money and deposit and loans outstanding with banks. What is your best guess at the total amount currently outstanding, of…

Q10 (i) Household mortgages?

 Less than €500m

 €500m – €1 bn

 €1 – 10 bn

 €10 – 50 bn

 €50 – 100 bn

 More than €100 bn

Q10 (ii) Non-mortgage lending (e.g. lending for investment and personal purposes)?

 Less than €500 m

 €500m – €1 bn

 €2 – 10 bn

 €10 – 50 bn

 €50 – 100 bn

 More than €100 bn

Q10 (iii) Total deposits?

 Less than €500m

 €500m – €1 bn

 €2 – 10 bn

 €11 – 50 bn

 €50 – 100 bn

 More than €100 bn

Q10 (iv) What percentage of household mortgages in Ireland would you guess are currently in arrears (behind due payments for a period greater than 90 days)?

 0 – 5%

 6 – 10%

 11 – 25%

 25 – 40%

 40 – 50%

Q11. The following questions relate to Irish Government revenue and expenditure.

(i) Which of the following do you imagine currently provides the greatest amount of revenue for the Government?

 Indirect Taxation (e.g. VAT)

 Direct Taxation (e.g. PAYE)

 Capital Gains Taxation

 Social Insurance (e.g. PRSI)

 Sale of Government Goods & Services

Q11 (b) (ii) Which of the following do you imagine would currently be the greatest item of expenditure for the Government?

 Social Welfare

 Interest on National Debt

 Purchase of Goods & Services

 Public Sector Wages & Pensions

 Subsidies to Private Enterprise

Q12 (i) Which region do you think Ireland exports the most goods to?

 United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland)

 United States

 Europe (excluding UK & Ireland)

 Rest of World

Q12 (ii) Which region do you imagine Ireland imports the most goods from?

 United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland)

 United States

 Europe (excluding UK & Ireland)

 Rest of World

Q12 (iii) Which of the following items do you think was Ireland’s primary export in 2012 (i.e. the export which had the greatest monetary value)?

 Food & beverages

 Chemicals & pharmaceuticals

 Machinery & transport equipment

 Oil & natural resources

 Other

Q12 (iv) Which of the following items do you think was Ireland’s primary import in 2012 (i.e. the import which had the greatest monetary value)?

 Food & beverages

 Chemicals & pharmaceuticals

 Machinery & transport equipment

 Oil & natural resources

 Other

Q13. Which of the following figures would you imagine best represents the current estimated size of the Irish bank bailout?

 Less than €1 bn

 €1 – 20 bn

 €20 – 50 bn

 €50 – 100 bn

 €100 – 200 bn

Q14. The ‘public sector’ refers to the part of the economy that provides public services such as health and education.

What is your best guess at the number employed in the public sector in Ireland?

 Less than 100,000

 100,000 – 250,000

 250,000 – 400,000

 400,000 – 600,000

 More than 600,000

Q15. Our final three questions relate to the difference between monetary policy and fiscal policy.

Q15 (i) Ireland’s monetary policy is controlled by…

 Investment banks

 Irish government

 U.K. government

 European Central Bank

 United Nations/ IMF

 Irish Central Bank

Q15 (ii) Ireland’s fiscal policy is controlled by…

 Investment banks

 Irish government

 U.K. government

 Irish Central Bank

 United Nations / IMF

 European Central Bank

Q15 (iii) Please fill in the blanks in the following sentence:

_________ is concerned with interest rates; _________ is concerned with taxes.

 Fiscal policy; monetary policy

 Monetary policy; fiscal policy

You can link to the answers and the results of the survey here.

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