Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Election Update 15-02-2011 - Deep Concerns about the games being played with jobs

I listened to the debate last night and like most people came away with the feeling that what I heard was about point scoring rather than serious discussion.

Labour and the Retail Sector
Labour's focus on the retail sector for jobs is worrying me. Jobs in the retail sector have a wide level of access - many people are capable of doing these jobs (as compared to say programming, or science or nursing) and they are definitely a boon for lower skilled workers. My concern is the reason why stores hire staff. The common view seems to be that business rates and rents are too high and that's probably true, but how much is that reducing the numbers employed? Back in the boom the same rents and rates were in place, but we had higher employment in the retail trade - why?
We are now at the employment level of 2005-2006 for retail according to CSO statistics
Demand, confidence and credit in the economy are the answers:
  • More people working right across the economy in every sector
  • More disposable income per person
  • Easier access to credit via cards, loans, low(er) interest rates.
  • Greater confidence around getting and retaining jobs, wage growth, debt repayment
Thus people were spending, and that spending drove jobs in the retail sector.

I worked in Brown Thomas for a year and a half in their TV and HiFi department back in 2000. It was a great time because there was so much money in the economy, combined with shiny new technologies like, flat screens, wide screens, LCD's MP3 players and play station 2. During the week there were about 4 people on the floor plus a manager, but at the weekend that would go up to about 8 people. Often times the full time people would work a Saturday to make up for the slim pickings during the week. And this staffing experience is common to many retail operations - If there isn't demand you don't need people on the floor.

Right now there is over 200% more people unemployed in the economy (13.5% vs 4.5% for the same period in 2005). That's a lot less disposable income, fewer people willing to spend on their credit cards and most importantly, a tremendous lack of confidence in the short to medium term income prospects. If retailers don't see changes in peoples short term confidence then why would they hire in the first place? If I dont think my wages are going to rise in the near term (or worse still that I may lose my job) then I am not willing to make unnecessary large purchases taht require credit in case I can't pay them off. I understand Labours reason for targeting jobs in the retail sector, its an area where low skilled workers could re-enter the workforce quickly but creating the reason for retailers to hire in the first place is much more important.

Just as an addendum:
The current employment laws around working while on the social welfare would be a far better place to start.
People on social welfare can work up to 20 hours per week without endangering their entitlements, however it must be the same 20 hours every week. Most people who work in stores (or in other places like cinema's leisure centres, call centres etc) will tell you that most of the time their hours vary to match busy times, employee holidays and specific initiatives. There are very few of these jobs that can support this type of inflexibility in their employees. If you took away this outdated condition then you could get people back into part time work and  reduce the burden on the state. In addition you would make them feel like they are contributing and ensure that their skills are not eroded over time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Election Update 10th February 2011 - Lennys gambit

All the parties have been setting out their manifestos for the last week and a half.

The prime time debate went well, the quality of argument was high and both leaders acquitted themselves well.
Martin was much more ferocious on the attack, which makes sense since he cannot defend the record of the government. Gilmore came across well though in my opinion, "labours way not Frankfurts way" is childish rhetoric when Europe can simply say "No More Money". The other stage show was in Leitrim where Enda addressed probably the smallest meeting in the country and got heckled by what probably was a plant.

 The other news of note was Alan Dukes telling us that Anglo need another €15bn. Lenny has quite smartly turned around and said that he no longer has a mandate to inject capital into the banks so that the incoming government will need to do that. I think this is a brilliant tactic on his part for two reasons:
  • He actually doesn't have a mandate anymore
  • It puts it up to all of them as a practical situation - What are you going to do?
Any of them who say we'll stop paying the banks etc are now in a position to do so, those who are just spouting rhetoric will have to reveal their true position, or at least  give a nod that FF had no other choice.

Me and the LAK had quite a debate on this today. She thinks he is a scumbag for having us in this position in the firstplace (TRUE) and is now being sneaky about it - which I disagree with.
I promise that I wont vote FF this time but you have to have a grudging admiration for their tactics!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Election update 3rd February 2011

The president dissolved the Dail on Tuesday and the election date is set for February 25th.
This is more of a summary than anything else since my last post a few days ago.
Sources are "meet the leader" podcasts from NewsTalk


The Labour party has come out with a €500 million recommendation for jobs which sounds remarkably like FF's €500 million smart economy fund.

Croke Park
FG and Labour have also said that they won't renegotiate the Croke park agreement but expect productivity gains, redundancies and natural attrition. I assume FF won't want to renegotiate the Croke Park deal.

Income Tax
FG said they won't raise income tax
Labour - TBA

Labour - not against selling off bodies but hasn't listed any ones that it wants to
FF- Much the same, prefers to retain strategic interest

Residential property tax
Labour want to exempt the tax on the primary residence, elimination of reliefs (section 23)
FF -Favours site value tax

FG - Abolish the HSE, set up Dutch FairCare over 5 years
Labour - TBA
FF -  Would not chance HSE

FG - Free third level, 30% contribution over 10 years after graduation
Labour - NA
FF - need to cut costs, loan system (Australian system)

The Bailout
FG - Will renegotiate on interest rate, constitutional referendum on budget targets
Labour - Will renegotiate on interest and duration, say they never signed up in the first place
FF -  NA but I guess either renegotiate or hold.

Additional comments
Labour have a "digital Ireland" platform which is all about broadband roll out. I don't want to seem arrogant here but is this really an issue? I understand that in rural areas broadband it probably is but it seems to me that there is plenty of broadband packages available.

Fianna Fail have now announced their front bench with nobody particularly special included. FF want to abolish the Seanad and suggest being able to appoint non-Oireachtas members as ministers. Its funny to see Willie O'Dea back, Proves he's a wily operator, Get canned just early enough so that no one really remembers him too painfully. His banishment to the political backwaters has worked quite well.
Looking at Micheal Martin I think he is a clever guy, He is clean enough to get some votes in this election and reduce the available voting space for the rest - shrink the Governments majority. It wouldn't surprise me  if he  tried to promote independents to further erode majorities.

Electoral strategy
FG and Labour are simple, get as many seats as possible and either be the majority party in coalition or single party government. According to recent polls FG would be the majority partner, and rumor is that FG will give up an extra ministry to get their hands on the Finance portfolio.

FF are of course trying to get as many votes as possible, but their outcome is different. Every % that goes to them or independents/ Sinn Fein / Green party / Others is a reduction in the governments majority and puts more pressure on an FG / Labour Coalition Government. If FF can get between 16% and 20%, Sinn Fein and the Greens get 10% between them and the Independents get another 10% that only leaves 60% between FG and Labour. It puts them in opposition during a difficult time (which is the place to be) and gives them 4 years to rebuild the party, mostly with a "lower taxes, small Government platform" next time round.

Latest MRBI / Irish Times Poll
FG 33%
Labour 24%
Fianna Fail 15%
Sinn Fein 12%
Remainder - 16%

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Year in Food

Just to complement the year in beer I thought I'd post up the food photos as well,
So many happy memories!

Coffee at 3FE on their Birthday

 Breakfast waiting for the Car to be Serviced in the Diner in BallySimon Industrial estate, Limerick
 Bratwurst in the IFSC Christmas Market
 Gourmet Sausage Rolls and Coffee in Cafe Noir, Limerick
4 Seasons Pizza in the Dell canteen in Bratislava
 Dorty 3 in 1 in Charlies in Dublin
 Seafood Chowder in Dolans in Limerick - Say it Frenchie!!
 Salmon and goats cheese Bruschetta at Dolans in Limerick
 Nachos with Grilled chicken in Eddie Rockets
 My Plate at Thanksgiving Dinner in Cape Cod
 Roast Rib eye of Beef (cooked by me) at home in Killiney
 Mussles in white wine sauce in Rome (with the LAK!)
 Have No idea what it is or where, looks tasty though
 Spare Ribs in 1752, Bratislava
 Spare Ribs at the Stockyard in Boston (Not pictured - Extremely strong but tasty Manhattan)
 Small Sushi plate at Sushi Plus, Bratislava
 Large Sushi plate at Sushi Plus, Bratislava
 Terrifying Colour coded sushi Bar in Dundrum
 Turkey stuffing, Thanksgiving, Cape Cod
 Shot of the table, Thanksgiving, Cape Cod
 Desert, Thanksgiving, Cape Cod
Shot of the table, Thanksgiving, Cape Cod

A Year of Beer

I'm changing phones at the moment so I decided to get all the photos off the old and I discovered a huge treasure trove of Beer photos, mostly beers that I opened planning to review, then drank a second one and forgot. Which means that I have to do it all over again :)

Bacon Beer - actually tastes and smells like bacon!
No memory of this one!
Always find Anchor steam too bitter and hoppy - Doesn't mean I don't keep trying!
Aventinus - 8.2% and German, Nuff said!
Baltika 8 - Russian wheat beer
Selection of beers from early on in the year - Duvel, Ola Dubh and Headless Dog are still favourites!
Blue Moon - Fantastic replacement for Hoegaarden creamy texture with distinctive orange rind and coriander aromas - I nearly drank a bar dry of it in Kildare
No memory of this one!
Brooklyn Pennant Ale - I expected more of this
Don't remember much flavour wise but I do remember being quite impressed by it
Chimay - Peres Trappistes no memory at all
Another Nice selection, The ODell and Dogfish heads are well worth a look, Hollows Ginger Ale is beautiful
Wasn't for me
Dark microbrewed Slovakian Beer- reviewed elsewhere in the blog
Delirium Tremens - A Belgian classic, strong % with the smooth finish, very distinctive bottle
Dogfish Head 90 minute Imperial Ale - reviewed in the blog
Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre - reviewed in the blog
Duvel 8.5% - Another classic, lovely flavour, was €1.89 a bottle in Tesco Ballybrack
Erdinger Alkoholfrei - The best 0% I've tasted (yet)
The tastiest Gluten Free beer I've tasted, perfect for a house party, bit expensive though
Fullers 1845 - Special brew by Fullers of whom I am a huge fan
Fullers Honey Dew, beautiful honey flavoured beer, would be perfect for a summers day
Fullers Discovery - No clear memory ofthis one
Fullers ESB - Another tasty offering from Fullers
Gluten free beer in Boston - I didn't drink any of these
Goose Island - Another of my favourite breweries
Goose Island Matilda - almost like a wine, caramel flavours
Goose Island Pere Jacques - Closer to the belgian style
Goose Island Sofie - Reviewd in the blog
Pint of the black stuff- poured by me (I'll never be a bar man)
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 - beautiful scottish dark beer matured in highland park whiskey casks
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 16 - reviewed in the blog
Headless Dog in Bull and Castle - Fantastic Belfast Beer, tasty and light
Hollows Ginger Beer - Slightly lighter than Crabbies
Don't think I tasted this, was going email the picture to George Hook
Anchor Steam Humming Ale - Reviewed in the blog

JW Dundees Honey Brown - beautiful honey finish, quite light - started me on my beer tasting hobby last year
Kirin Japanese beer - Can't remember too well
Hitachino Nest White  Ale - Coriander and orange, creamy finish
Kwak server in the proper glass in Belgium

La Biere Du Demon - 12% and strong, may have triggered an attack of Vertigo in Rome
Lat Trappe Dubbel - Belgian Abbey beer - no memory
Leffe Blonde - Classic Belgian drinking beer
Leffe Bruin - a dark beer perfect with food
Maredsous - same brewery as Duvel, also strong
Moosehead Pale Ale - good drinking beer from Canada Eh
Odell Barrel Pale Ale - No memory of the flavour
Odell Isolation Ale - reviewd in the blog
Curim Gold - Irish Brewery
O'Hara's Irish Pale Ale - Don't think I liked this one
No memory of this one at all
View of the craft beers brewed by the Porterhouse
Quillmes - Argentinian beer pleasant but not outstanding
Sam Adams Boston Lager - quite bitter wasn't one of my favourites
Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale - Fantastic beer will write a proper review when i find a bottle in Ireland
Sam Adams Utopias - Didn't drink this 25% and about $600 a bottle
Tasting Glass at the Sam Adams brewery
Sam Adams range and awards
Sam Adams 6 pack range
Sam Adams bottled range
Santa's Butt- dont remember this clearly - strong, very much a winter beer
Beer selection
No idea what so ever! Think I bought it because it was from Cornwall
Shiner - lovely Black Lager from Texas, very like Ola Dubh
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - too bitter for me but quite popular
Speights - no memory
Crazy bottles of wine in a dodgy off licence in Rome
Crazy bottles of wine in a dodgy off licence in Rome
No idea but it looks like something from the Porterhouse
Westmalle Trappist Dubbel - No memory
1752 blond beer in bratislava, bitter but enjoyable, brewed by the pub itself
Yuengling Lager and Black & Tan, Hoppy American beer - Oldest continuously  operating brewery in the United states