Paul Ryan, The Bean Counter, and the Truth
By Bill O'Donnell, August 31, 2012
Where to start with Willard Romney’s partner in duplicity. He is trying to shrink the budget, but, as with many of his ideological compatriots, he can’t stay away from the big money earmark giveaways for his hometown. He used to believe in Ayn Rand and her brand of selfishness, but that doesn’t play well with his fellow Catholics, so he left her and joyously re-embraced his childhood faith. Paul Ryan’s budget plan was endorsed by Romney, but on the trail the Belmont weathervane, without a budget himself, reminds people that he’s the boss and Ryan’s plan is not his, at least not quite. The Romney-Ryan duo sermonize about fiscal sanity but propose tax cuts for their uber-wealthy friends that would add trillions to the deficit in coming decades. They love to talk about fair play and honest treatment for the middle class and seniors but will gut Medicare as we know it and leave Medicaid for the poorest of the poor to the caprices of Mississippi, Alabama, and their sorry ilk.
It is clear to me that Ryan was added to the GOP the ticket, among other reasons, to appease Catholics who have been moving rightward in recent years. Catholic voters were the difference in Ohio and the election in 2004, and Joseph Ratzinger’s church would rather look away from Catholic social justice issues and join in common cause with evangelicals and born-again Protestants because of shared beliefs and mutual intolerances.
While Paul Ryan would prefer to campaign as an Irish Catholic who loves the old country and orthodoxy, his well-known penchant for savaging the less prosperous in favor of his big contributor class has, like his ticket mate, clearly alienated many. Among the disaffected are a wagon-load of Jesuits at Georgetown University who have succinctly delineated the differences between what Ryan says and what he actually promotes as a Wisconsin congressman and budget committee chairman.
The Jesuits, no fools, challenged Ryan on his “continued misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few...” There is much more in the Jesuits’ stark appraisal of Ryan’s public life, but by November the differences with a distinction should be apparent to America’s voters.
A Fresh Look at Ireland’s Marine Wealth—The Irish have been famous for initiating plan after plan to “revolutionize” some industry or area of potential prosperity that has attracted a government minister’s fancy for the moment. More often than not, despite good intentions, these plans end up forgotten in an office drawer. The big, new idea—one with legs and rare credibility—envisions Ireland’s abundant ocean wealth becoming the centerpiece of a 20-year plan that would boost the neglected marine sector on a par with food, financial services, pharmaceuticals, etc., as a high priority national concern.
The mid-term outlook is to view freshly Ireland’s ocean wealth as a huge, valuable natural asset, taking advantage of the country’s marine territory, which spans more than 220 million acres, ten times the size of the island of Ireland itself.
Anchored by the Marine Institute at Oranmore, Galway, the plan over the next 8-18 years is to develop an internal plan that prioritizes Ireland’s marine opportunities in such areas as fishing, aqua-culture, energy, sport, research, academia, shipping, tourism, and the cruise ship business. The result, it is hoped, would be an increase in marine- related gross domestic product from 1.6 percent to 3 percent, and, eventually, a doubling of the value derived from the ocean. Hope it works.
Shades of O.J. Simpson—Following the debacle of a Los Angeles-style trial in 1995, former footballer and TV pitch man O.J. Simpson said he was starting a search for his wife’s murderer. The world cringed, then laughed. Much more recently Louth TD and Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams made a personal public plea asking for anyone with information on the deaths of the remaining “disappeared” IRA victims of the Troubles to come forward. Nobody laughed.
The fact that the IRA has admitted responsibility for the 17 victims on the disappeared list, with nine recovered bodies and seven still missing, has not dampened the hubris of Mr. Adams. Of course, this is the same man who denies that he was ever a member, let alone leader, of the Irish Republican Army. Former colleagues of Adams have fingered the Sinn Fein leader as a key participant in the deaths. Some 30 years later, the fiction fashioned in war and nurtured in peace by Adams goes on while the families of the IRA victims cry out for closure.
Some Barriers Falling for GAA Games—The numbers are in and they are showing growing support among Protestants, especially the young people, for Gaelic Athletic Association sports. A recent poll reflects that upswing in favor of GAA sports like hurling and football, which is up to 44 per cent among Protestant with just 23 per cent opposed.
A partial explanation of the softening of unionist and Protestant antipathy towards the GAA is likely the lifting of the ban against crown forces participating in association games. The ban reversal has been paralleled by increased participation in rugby by Catholic schools in the North. A very recent development involves the bid for Ireland to stage the Rugby World Cup in 2013, which has received a significant vote of confidence from the GAA, which is reported to be ready to offer Dublin’s Croke Park and similar venues for use if the big rugby event actually comes to Ireland.
Swift Boaters Return to Target President—For weeks now, the newest incarnation of the Swift Boat veterans of the 2004 campaign who turned US Sen. John Kerry from a medal-winning gunboat captain in Vietnam into a something unrecognizable, have been flying below the radar. They have put together a 22-minute video that, replete with lies and misrepresentations, attempts to discredit President Obama’s strong leadership in the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, while also blaming him for security leaks. The Guardian newspaper in Britain and MSNBC-TV have finally zeroed in on the group, a move long overdue.
The latest Republican effort to reframe reality and de-legitimatize Obama’s actions in accomplishing something his predecessor failed to do, is yet another Texas oil tycoon-financed sortie by GOP wealth to elect one of their own. These are the same operatives, with a few new additions, that John McCain called “dishonest and dishonorable” in the 2004 campaign. Yet here they are once again hoping to defeat a Democrat who is the latest obstacle to their greed and exploitation.
The Swift-Boaters working this election with former special operations soldiers to discredit Obama include a former GOP congressional candidate, a former Bush intel spokesman, and former CIA official Paul Vallely, an avowed “birther” who has made a mini-career of questioning the authenticity of the president’s birth certificate. Bankrolling this bottom-feeding propaganda apparatus is oil baron T. Boone Pickens and his Texas allies.
I expect that the Obama political operation is already mounting a fierce rebuttal, especially in the crucial battleground states with a response more timely and tenacious than Senator Kerry reacted with in 2004.
Could Irish Banks and An Post Get Together? – It would be a perfect answer to an increasingly problematic situation that faces Irish banks and the postal system of Ireland. Irish banks, not unlike their American counterparts, are not making money as they once did, forcing them to extract large fees for mundane banking services from reluctant customers. The Irish post office, An Post, meanwhile, has announced its desire to close thousands of branches, many that serve as neighborhood fixtures, in an effort to cut growing budget deficits. The suggestion, spinning off from working models in Germany, Italy, and Belgium, according to the Irish Independent newspaper, is to combine profit-poor Irish banks with many of An Post’s offices that may be closed in the not-too-distant future. The model has worked amazingly well in Britain where Bank of Ireland, in a joint venture with Royal Mail, has proved to be a stunning money-maker.
It is estimated that nearly two million customers access an Irish post office every week. Add to the current existing operations new services and products and Irish post offices can become financially healthy by serving two markets. At Irish post offices today, customers can pay bills, deposit checks, sign up for pensions, buy a cell phone, or pay for a gun license.
The situation in the US in not all that wildly different. Although there are not yet relationships in place between US banks and the US Postal Service, the needs for both seem compelling. Banks here, in watching their money, have been slow to lend in a low-interest market and desperate to find fees and service costs that benefit their bottom line. The story on the USPS is well known: The independent agency receives no federal funding and is presently running a deficit approaching $5 billion a quarter and looking to close several thousand offices while curtailing Saturday deliveries.
Could we be looking to Ireland and the UK for a possible win-win solution to the struggling economies of two of America’s oldest institutions, our banks and our postal system?
Solid reasons for Bertie Ahern as ‘Irish Pariah’—He served eleven years at the top, many of them during the halcyon days of the Celtic Tiger, and should have left to cascading applause. However, flawed character, an obsession with putting distance between his earlier life and his regal ways, and a darkening meanness of spirit that accompanies him to this day combined to prevent that. Bertie Ahern, who Charlie Haughey whispered was the slickest of them all, has added an ugly exclamation point to his twilight career by publicly savaging one of the most decent human beings ever to hold high office in Ireland: The recently deceased former taoiseach, Garret Fitzgerald.
In an academic research interview, the former taoiseach and Fianna fail leader was not satisfied to assert that he and Tony Blair were the “right leaders” to negotiate with unionists and republicans. “Imagine if it had been Thatcher and Fitzgerald at the table. It just wouldn’t have worked. [Fitzgerald] would have been horrified by all these mad, bad people. He could never hack them anyway. He tried, God love him, but he was useless.”
In the same interview, Ahern was also critical of someone he described as a friend, Brian Cowen, once his closest cabinet minister and later his successor. Ahern belittled Cowen’s leadership style and his “failure to keep colleagues informed” of what was happening, according to noted businessman and interviewer Anthony Byrne.
Who’s next on the list? Yes Bertie, who’s next?
North is Going ‘Wild West’—North of the rapidly disappearing border there is something amiss, something maybe in the water that is turning corners of the six counties into something distinctly redolent of the Wild West. There has been in recent days a return to the sheep rustling in North Antrim that saw in the latest incident the disappearance of 100 sheep, many mature lambs. This is no penny ante theft. The sheep, recently rustled, are worth over $15,000. Earlier in July, sheep valued at $30,000 were taken. There are few leads although police say that the thieves would have needed a sheep dog, a large livestock lorry, and careful planning.
During the same period in Lisburn, Co. Antrim, the Northern Ireland Health Minister Edward Poots sent off two strangers outside his home with a shouted warning and a couple of rounds from his peacekeeper. The family, including Poots, his wife and children, was home when the two intruders appeared below. Poots, obviously a man of action, took his shotgun and hearing no reply to his warning, fired off a double barrel in the visitors’ direction. The varmints left without stating their business. Lisburn lies quiet tonight.
The North, along the border near Fermanagh and Tyrone and along the divide close by Armagh and Down, has recently been festooned with “Welcome to Northern Ireland” signs. Fair enough, you say. We do much the same here between states; some even do it in a variety of languages. In any event, the signs have been disappearing like sweets from an unattended candy store and they’re not cheap. Costs begin at $300 each, and are mounting.
Officials in the North are suggesting that some nationalist or republican types who do not want to deal with the province as part of the United Kingdom may have taken them. Sinn Fein said they can forget replacing the signs; it’s okay with them.
The price of petrol in Ireland last month reached an all-time high with prices (if I got my imperial gallons right) in dollars of something a bit north of $8 a gallon. … Fitzpatrick Hotels in New York, the Grand Central, and the Manhattan, are doing fine, up one-third over last year. … The so called Dissidents in the North, killer-scum, have co-opted the IRA name, which is evil and confusing for all. … How would you like to be the sports columnist that suggested on the eve of the PGA golf championship that Rory McIlroy (who won by 8 shots) could be a “flash in the pan.” … Cruise ships are beginning to make regular stops in Dublin Port, adding up to $60 million with 90 cruise liners visiting yearly. … Peter King, Long Island Republican often called the “worst congressman,” is on Che Guevara’s case and is an ally we don’t need. … JFK Airport could use some added security around the edges after a man swam ashore and walked onto the tarmac. … A top tax consultant, Eamonn Donaghy, is warning that the North’s corporate tax must be lowered or NI is in deep trouble and with no Plan B. … Ireland won an Olympic Gold Medal (Katie Taylor/boxing) and a couple of bronze, but the real Irish winner was a 3.5 minute video of a boat race that is out there somewhere. Hilarious. … If nobody steps in to stop the rampaging GOP governors from keeping poor folk and people of color away from the presidential election polling places, the battleground states could be lost to the Democrats. … The Whitey Man, accused multiple murderer Jim Bulger, wants to testify that he had a “legal” agreement to continue his business from the FBI. Even that sloppy Fed outfit is not dumb enough to sign on to that. … The three top-earning US authors this past year: James Patterson ($94 million), Stephen King ($39 million), and John Grisham ($23 million). … It’s good news for SDLP Leader Alasdair McDonnell that the lads in Westminster will not gerrymander his seat in Commons. A good man, and a man of peace; may his tribe increase! … You can’t make this stuff up: An American faith healer claims to cure people by kicking them in the face. He’s due in Co. Armagh on Sept. 3. Stay home.
Liberty Mutual Insurance’s chairman, Ted Kelly, has taken a lot of flak from the Globe’s Brian McGrory in recent months, but he still loves his Ireland. His company is seriously thinking of acquiring the naming rights to Dublin’s huge RDS exhibition facilities. Ryanair, still salivating in trying to buy a piece of Aer Lingus, claims the government is ignoring his plan to bring five million tourists to Ireland. And I am not picking up my $3 million check from the lottery. Sure! … Good news for Trina Vargo and the Mitchell Scholars Program. The State Department found the short money to fund this worthwhile program. … Dick Cheney attacking Sarah Palin as not qualified? Not my favorite candidate but how many kids did Palin help get killed? And while I’m at it: Why is Cheney, a real live war criminal who cooked the books to get us into Iraq, still free? …Fat Chance Dept.: One of the Irish ministers urged no price gouging during the recent Galway races. … Irish investors with top tier London properties (and there are many) are selling, maybe due to concerns about the Euro zone stability. … Facebook has some problems but a big one aside from their stock price is the 83 million accounts that are fake. … Michael Collins has finally made it with a special central bank coin collection to mark the 90th anniversary of his death. … The names are similar: Banker David Drumm of Allied Irish Bank and developer Sean Dunne. Both are hiding out in the US and both have had homes transferred to their wives so they could try to shield the proceeds from the courts. Why don’t we export (or is it deport?) chaps like that home? Are they felons or H-1 candidates?