Google+ Followers

Saturday, January 24, 2015

It's time to be straight about gays

I FIRST met a Protestant when I was 12. My family had moved that year to a town where there were a number of them. There were rumoured to be a few in my hometown, as well, down in the “deep south”, but nobody my age.
                                                                           Leo Varadkar

I still remember the name of that first Protestant. He was handy at football; he moved with a certain grace that was beyond me.

There was nothing extraordinary about him — he wasn’t that good — but his name and appearance have stuck with me into middle age. The first few times I was in his company, I couldn’t help staring at him. Would he betray his rogue origins? Would he, at some point, burst into tears, because he was beyond redemption, doomed outside the one, true Church? What would it be like for him, out there in the ether, while I was lying up in the hereafter?

Pretty soon, my curiosity morphed into sympathy, and pretty soon after that I forgot that he was different. We weren’t friends and I didn’t encounter him beyond the point where children disperse into their own groups.
But anytime I saw him around the town, or played football with him, I couldn’t help remembering that he had been my first Protestant.

I met my first gay person when I was 19. It was in New York, in a house in Queens, full of Paddies and soaked in booze. Ireland on tour in the 1980s.
Charlie was from Meath, a little camp guy with spiky hair. He was very funny, except when he was drunk, and then he often descended into sadness. One night, when I came home from work, he was drinking in the kitchen and told me that he had an awful time growing up. I felt sorry for Charlie, but found it difficult to take him seriously.

I had no idea what he had been talking about, because I didn’t know anybody who was really gay. Sure, there were one or two fellas in school who were described as “poofters”, because they displayed feminine traits, but nobody believed that they got off with other boys. And then there were the girls who had no interest in making themselves attractive. Dykes.

That’s the kind of country in which I grew up. It was intolerant of diversity, not as enthralled to the Church as previous generations, but enough to contaminate the minds of the children. Minds filled with muck about how those outside the one true Church were to be pitied rather than hated, and how those of a minority sexual orientation had been corrupted, were now deviants, and, consequently, were doomed. But, thankfully, like the snakes, they have largely been banished from the sacred isle.

Society as a whole, or at least most of it, bought into that warped narrative. In his book, Occasions of Sin, Sex and Society in Modern Ireland, Diarmuid Ferriter referenced the reporting of Nell McCafferty on a district court case, in September 1975, in which two men were brought to trial after a sexual encounter in a public toilet.

“What was illuminating was the manner in which the men were ‘pathologised, represented as immature, recommended for medical treatment and publicly humiliated’,” Ferriter wrote. “A priest referred one of the defendants to a psychiatrist; the other was deemed to be suffering from depression. They were bound to keep the peace for a year, the judge commenting, ‘it’s a completely unnatural performance’.”
When that’s the start you get, it takes a while for the spell to wear off. But, to the credit of this country and its citizens, the spell has lifted at an accelerating rate in recent decades. Intolerance of diversity has been driven underground.

Religious bigotry has, to a major extent in the Republic, disappeared. The Catholic Church has, to some extent, moved with the times. I don’t think that children today have the same hang-ups that most of my generation had, even though the Church still maintains its grip on primary-school education.
The influx of immigrants over the last 15 years has opened up the country in a way that never would have been dreamed possible a generation ago. Some things do persist, though.

Last Sunday, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who is regarded as extremely able, told a radio audience that he is not an equal citizen in his own country. This is not somebody from an ostensibly marginalised community. He is one of the main lawmakers in the State. Yet, he does not enjoy the right to cement a loving union in marriage, simply because he is gay.

On Wednesday, the Government published the wording for the forthcoming referendum on same-sex marriage, and got cracking on another bill, on adoption rights. As with other referendums, the Government is playing catch-up already, and the dangers of it failing are very real.
Some people in the country disagree with the proposal, and that’s their prerogative. However, the basis on which the main plank of the no campaign is being run harks back to a time when the Catholic Church controlled the State. Most of those in the no campaign ride shotgun for the Church. I believe their objection is based on their religious beliefs.

Politically, they know that the Church, as a brand in social affairs, is pretty tarnished, despite the genuine contribution to social justice of some within the institution.

To run a campaign based on foisting religious beliefs onto a sceptical population would be as doomed as the Protestants of my youth. So, instead, they have resorted to fear and to concern for children. Their campaign is now largely built around scaremongering that a yes vote will have a negative impact on adopted children, denying them the right to a mother and to a father. This, despite the fact that one in four children in this State is currently raised outside the traditional nuclear family.

Such a campaign also fails to acknowledge that adoption dictates that the child not be raised by his or her biological parents.

All of the available evidence suggests that other matters, such as the quality of the relationship between parents, mental health, addiction, and socio-economics determine a child’s upbringing.
But, then, generating fear of the unknown, rather than producing evidence, is a well-worn tactic of those determined to resist the force of change. Back in the day, they wouldn’t have had that problem. The Church would have merely issued an edict and the population would have complied, in both letter and spirit.
Now, it is necessary to go down a different route, one that is laced with cynicism. If the changes of recent decades are to be properly acknowledged, the very least that the country deserves is an honest debate, based on genuinely held beliefs, rather than a dishonest tactic designed to spread fear, instead of persuade through argument.

Don’t hold your breath.
The no campaign is largely built around scaremongering.

The no campaign is scaremongering that a yes vote will impact adopted children

Michael Clifford

Photo Minute: London between 1951 and 1953

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Practice Of Being Happy Is the Best Workout; An open letter to a friend I know (part 5)

Of course the cure came with the sobering pill of over borrowed, over stretched and out of time. But life went on despite the hopelessness of the situation. In fact in relative to recent history, like seventy five years or less, these are still the best years of our lives despite this latest recession. 

A world perspective: Most people today were too young to have been drafted or even born to go to war in 1939, the daddy of all wars where over 60 million people died in trying to kill each other, which does not include the appendages of the children left without fathers or the young women without their partners. Mortgages were not seen to be that important as life itself did not seem to be a good bet that you would be around to have one. Still the world turned. 

To put into another perspective, the twin towers atrocity would have been a quiet day on the western front during that war. In fact the practise of being happy is all about perspective, and it is that view that will make or break you. 

Take common sense. It would be great if it was that common but it is not. What should be obvious if not simplicity itself rarely is unless we are ready to accept it. It is the barriers long practised that refuses to let us see the bigger picture for people are pre-occupied looking out rather than looking inwardly to see why the optics they are looking through are so blurred. 

For example, take your voice. Rarely does it sound as good to you when you listen to a recording of it as it may sound to another. When we talk naturally without guard, when that is played back in the same way, the instinct is to change the pitch and tone if not the very words itself because ‘that was not when you really meant to say’ even though that is what you said. 

Visual this scene: Two men are standing on the outermost edge of the cliffs of Moher in County Clare. One man looks down at the crashing waves and jagged rocks hundreds of feet below him and casually munches on a bar of chocolate, while the other man finds his heart rate has just gone up a notch or two and stands back wrenching and reeling while admonishing himself for being so stupid for standing at the edge of the cliff in the first place. Thats perspective at work. It is correcting the optics of that perspective a little and adjusting and tweaking the angles a bit more is when it can become more clearer. When we are ready to begin this workout is when we become our own best students which shows, if nothing else, that the student can only really learn when indeed they are ready.

Another scene: In the movie Unforgiven, one of the last scenes in it is where the character Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) has his shotgun trained on the morally skewed and already badly wounded sheriff, Little Bill Dagget (Gene Hackman). 
For Bill to be shot at all was more than a surprise for life seemed destined and promised to him, at least in his mind, which made his dying declaration to Munny this: “ I don’t deserve this… die like this…. I was building a house.” Munny replied: “Deserve has got nothing do with it.” 

Dagger then said bravely: “I’ll see you in hell William Munny”.  To which Munny dryly replied “Yeah” then cocked the shot gun and fired point blank at what was left of Dagger. This was again perspective at work: Dagget’s self belief of what was reality against Munny’s belief of what really is. Who was closer to the truth of what that means?

Barry Clifford

To be continued……….

Photo Minute: One second Of Time In The World Of 1913 In Original Colour (Press on photo for best results)


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Photo Minute: The Claddagh Galway in 1932

Since Antiquity, Money Men Have Been The Target Of Vitriol

                                             Quintus Antonius Balbus coin (c. 82-83 BC)

Today’s bankers are widely reviled. Bonus season – usually in February – gives rise to headlines such as: Fat cats getting fatter? Banker's bonus culture lives on as millionaires' club tops 2700 and It's a New Year for Goldman fat cats! The financial crisis has only increased the opprobrium.
It was ever thus: since antiquity moneymen have been the target of vitriol. Cato the Elder, writing in the second century BC, likened the act of lending money to that of murder and many literary works of the period portrayed the argentarii (bankers) as immoral. 
Yet the argentarii were a vital part of the Roman economy – just as they are today. Recent research reveals that the failure of Rome’s leaders to support the bankers had a devastating effect upon the economy just as it was experiencing a period of unprecedented growth.
Dr Philip Kay of Wolfson College Oxford has produced the most detailed analysis of Rome’s economic development in the late Republic period and this week speaks at the Legatum Institute about his work. Following the Second Punic War (218 – 201 BC) Rome experienced a period of exceptional economic growth. Military success saw the Romans collect indemnities from the Syrians, Macedonians, Carthaginians and Seleucids amongst others. In the 50 years after the war 1,050 tonnes of silver arrived in the city. The result was an expansion of the money supply; partly in the form of an increase of Denarii in circulation, from 68 million in 150 BC to 240 million in 50 BC, but also in the form of bank deposits, as banks and wealthy individuals extended credit to those who wanted it. This fuelled investment in urban infrastructure and agriculture, increasing demand and stimulating Mediterranean trade, which is estimated to have increased by over 500% between 249 and 50 BC.

Dr Kay estimates that the result was real GDP per capita growth of around 0.54% per annum between 150 and 50 BC, meaning that real GDP per capita grew by 72% taking the century as a whole. Such gains, like with today’s economic growth, were unevenly spread. The wealth of the elite grew by around 500%, while non-elite wealth grew by only 77%. However in 88 BC Mithradates VI invaded Asia Minor and seized many Roman investments in the region, causing shockwaves to ripple through the Roman economy.

The result is reminiscent of the global economy in the period between 2001 and 2007, where a period of sustained economic growth was followed by a credit crunch and recession. Kay himself draws this parallel. In recounting a passage of Cicero’s that outlines how the Roman ‘credit and this system of monies… is linked with, those Asian monies; the loss of one inevitably undermines the other and causes its collapse’ Kay suggests substituting ‘US sub-prime’ for ‘the Asian monies’ and ‘UK banking system’ for ‘the system of monies’.

Yet there is one important difference between the two episodes. Unlike their ancient counterparts policy-makers in 2008 (by and large) responded effectively to the crisis. Central banks cut interest rates, governments enacted fiscal stimuli and organisations such as the WTO and IMF helped ensure that international trade continued. As Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University puts it in his recent book: The System Worked. The support of banks and the financial system was vital in this. While the profits of the financial sector took a hit, and pay and employment decreased, many top executives continued to be paid six figure bonuses. The alternative, as Rome’s experience will show, could have been much worse.

In the same year that the crisis began the consuls Sulla and Pompeius Rufus passed a law that allowed partial repayment of debts and capped interest rates. Later Sulla confiscated the properties of prominent Roman citizens, an act which drove down property values, further undermining the balance sheets of the battered banks. There were similar actions taken in response to later crises which meant that credit remained tight for the remainder of the first century. Politically, the populist response of the Republican elite, in further damaging the Roman economy, hastened the demise of the Republic. Today’s leaders would be wise to heed the dangers of pandering to populist sentiment.

In AD 33 Tiberius took one of the few prudent steps to address an economic crisis when he stimulated lending through interest free loans, something that Kay describes as ‘functionally the same as what we would call quantitative easing’. Ironically today’s quantitative easing is held responsible for inflating asset values and generating wealth for financiers and the rich alike.

The Roman Republic holds a salutary lesson: during a crisis, support for the financial system is often necessary to stave off a full-blown depression. It is likely that during the next crisis we’ll find ourselves supporting the modern-day argentarii again. 

By Stephen Clarke (a Research Analyst at the Legatum Institute, London.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dover Police DashCam Confessional (Shake it Off) Funny, funny !!

The Practice Of Being Happy Is The Best Workout (Part 4) An open letter to a friend

Humour displays an honesty about you, and people will know the difference. Having it and you can get a way with a lot. Self deprecating humour is a great way to lower barriers. For a start it shows that you do not take yourself serious and people by their nature worry about things like that. If you practise this type of humour, mean it. Listen rather than talking and people will actually remember what a great conversationist you were  as well even though you hardly said anything at all. Put it another way, people are more interested in what they are saying rather than what you said, and will remember strongly long afterwards on how you made them feel too. There is a lot of work to be done here but with all things, the more you practise….well you know the rest.

There is an old, and I mean old, Chinese saying for living life to the full: ‘Having something to do, having someone to love and having something to look forward to.’ If you have all three then you are away in a hat. But if you have just one of these things going on in your life this is a good thing, and by that benchmark too there is a good chance that the other one or two goals will come in time. In fewer word, get busy !!

Humour or laughter has shown conclusively that it builds the immune system against illness and disease. It has medicinal power of the best out there whether it is of the conventional or non-conventional kind, and is a legal high (and free) and better than any hash or whatever else you fancy.

Dammit, humour is the best medicine. So aside from all the other social taboos and no go areas that you are currently wrestling with it that is stopping humour running wild in your head, let us look at some of those in other people. You may be surprised how they apply to you. You are not that different and most of this ‘important’ stuff is really just garden variety bacon and cabbage dinners anyway. Lets set about setting you ‘free’ or at least trying.

In a study recently it was asked of men and women what bothered them the most beyond making a living. The answer that came back at number one place in that study was what other people thought of them. Of course all life being local in one way or another, this applied to family, extended relations and friends. Keeping up with the ‘Joneses’ it seemed was more than a state of mind. 

When the Celtic tiger rolled into Ireland, (and it could have been anywhere else too!!) on borrowed money and time for little over a decade, and left afterwards with a wimper and its tale between its legs, the ‘what will people think of me’ psychosis  (WWPTOM for short) practically had become a national disease with no known cure, at least then. 

Wife's bought brand new range rover jeeps just to pop down to the local shop, well, really to be seen, setting themselves back around 40,000 euros just for that kick of, ‘I’ve got one over on you feeling.’

Developers and solicitors, and other lesser known species bought ever bigger jeeps and considered it a privilege for you that they would even take time out just to take your phone call. Come to think of it, we considered it one too if they did, and if you got paid for all the work that you did for them, that would have been considered a blessing on top as well.

WWPTOM back then created all sorts of heightened secondary mental illnesses as well like arrogance, narcissism and plain downright bullying in tandem with so much corruption that to be truthful or straight was considered a mental decease in itself.

To be continued…… 

Barry Clifford

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Photo Minute: Cold but beautiful England (click on photo for best results)

The Practice Of Happiness Is The Best Workout ( an open letter to a friend) (Part 3)

All the usual cliches apply that laughter is the best medicine. It is the most physical manifestation of feeling and being happy. A high that is as good as sex, well, nearly, and it shows. When Norman Cousins, a man who seemed to have it all, was diagnosed with a form of cancer and told he had but months to live, he took that message lying down and set to work to be able to stand up again. He used every trick in the book of laughter to laugh his way back to health: funny videos, movies, and happy people. Only six months later his cancer was in remission and he was back even more happy than he was before. 

In a controlled experiment over many years, doctors took a sample of two types of people and circumstance and watched what happened. One type were in bad relationships, caring for someone that had a debilitating illness alone, and who had a curmudgeon personality. Single mothers and single middle aged men were in there too, along with other negative type personalities- so on and so forth. 

The other type of course were the opposite. Under the microscope doctors found the negative situation, and people associated with it, produced increased cancer cells, while the positive type person produced less or none at all with increased anti bodies to fight any that might manifest itself. That's the science. There is more....

Laughter produces endorphins, a natural high better than any pint of Guinness in a thatched pub with an open fire and Van Morrison playing in the background. Happy people make others happy and want to be around each other. The exact opposite is also true for Mr Sad and Mrs negative. You will have more friends and a better chance of getting the girl as well. All of this increases in a social setting than an isolated one, so get out and about whether you want the girl or not. 

When you are depressed, the body, as already said, shows it in how you look, walk and talk. But by simply walking with more confidence, shoulders back, smiling more and speaking strongly and clearly, the body reverses the message to the mind. A sort of trick that enables you to get back in the groove. Keep the negative body too long and it may well stay that way. There is more good news........

Barry Clifford

To be continued.........

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Practice Of Being Happy Is The Best Workout (An open letter to a friend I know) (Part 2)

.....but before we concentrate on the physical first it is perhaps better to lighten or enlighten up the mind a bit with an inconvenient truth: Let's look at the scientific maths of what makes you and me. Not a whole lot there I'm afraid. 80% water, 20% blood, bone and gristle and the rest is opinion. It is that opinion that can be the death of you or the life blood of what it means to have fun and especially poking some of that at yourself while you are at it.

If you are still taking yourself serious at this point, let's look at a few more facts: We are, give or take a percentage or two, an ape. Of course I'm not calling you a monkey, no, it is me who is the monkey.....and all in good time perhaps that these things become self evident. 

This of course may be just one more of those vexing opinions that us humans have, and for me it is just hard to refute Charles Darwin and all the scientists that came after him that said he did not go far enough in believing that we descended from the ape. Fransde Waal, a primate scientist, said all this on National Geographic in 2005 and unless I get opposite proof, I'm sticking with him, for since then the evidence has only gotten a lot stronger. There's more........

There's also the amazing and rarified odds that you got here at all, ape or not.

A man passes on average 250,000,000 cells to his partner ever time they copulate for want of a better word. Now, if things get out of hand, pardon the pun, or whatever passes for lovemaking these days, then the chances of you being born at all would have got a whole slimmer on that night you were conceived. This does not even include the forces that your ancestors faced, and we all want them to be Vikings anyway descended from one of their Norse Gods, and not the drunk that copulated with a rough house Madam that no one else wanted ( hence the reason she became a Madam in the first place) three hundred plus years ago. 

Think of the fighting that went on, and your ancestral daddy and mammy came through it all. There is also this: That night again or day you were conceived you went up against those 250,000,000 hopefuls and won, and their chance, which was and always only going to be one, will never come again. You see, you are tougher than you think and if nothing else is a reason to be cheerful. If you still are serious about you or life there is more again........

To be continued………

Barry Clifford

The Practice Of Being Happy Is the Best Workout; An open letter to a friend I know (Part 1)

We are not all born happy and many have to work at it for a variety of reasons throughout our lifetime. Whatever the cause of our unhappiness it can only be reversed by practicing happiness, and like any workout it takes effort until it becomes as natural as breathing. It starts off by getting rid of the clutter in our lives. 

Clutter is normally the people who make you feel negative about life and yourself. Make a list and make sure you give them the exit door and don't look back. The next step is to ask why you ever took yourself so serious before, why you worried so much what other people thought of you. The reality is, aside from a precious few friends that you think you have, and Facebook does not count, nobody cares about you. Sad but true and when that reality sets in, it can and will become liberating when you accept it. That's when the real workout begins.

It starts off being selective in what you read and what you view and who you hang out with. No more re- run documentaries of the Holocaust for you, no more books about serial killers either! There are better visual and audio aids for self development than this, and anyway, this stuff went on long before you arrived and be still be going on long after you leave this mortal coil. 

If you haven't being physically exercising lately start today. At least a walk and work you way up. If it gets a bit boring put on the music and no sad songs here either. Buy more than a few happy and positive books about anything and everything. Get busy by socialising more or help in a soup kitchen if you can for those less unfortunate, and they are many of them. It just feels good to give too. 

The mind is where it is all at, and what ails you in the moment will pass. A push or two from you will make it pass quicker as well rather than it be an all day affair. If you are not in charge of what and how you think, then you are influenced by things that ultimately do not matter!! 

The mind also shows itself in the physical as well, betraying to others what you are feeling. That is if it could be called a betrayal at all because, for the most part, no one is thinking about these things except 'victimised' you. I know that part hurts but no worse than you have felt before, whether something bad happened to you where you had no choice, or where it did when you had a choice. The latter position will always prove more powerful moving forward in future workouts. But you can bet also that being depressed - that you look it too. This can be turned into a positive as well.

Barry Clifford

( to be continued....)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Smokin’ Joe KO’d by sucker punch reply from heavyweight Honohan

                                                                 Patrick Honohan

There was one light moment at the Oireachtas banking inquiry in an otherwise depressing trawl through Ireland in the dark months of autumn 2008.
When it came to Irish Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins’ turn to question a witness — Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan — Joe pulled out his standard anti-capitalist address.
Wasn’t it the case that the ideology of the government, the banks, the speculators, most of the media, was at the heart of the problem that led to the collapse of the economy?
Wasn’t it all about an ideology involving the greedy pursuit of “super profits” by the banks? Didn’t that result in a regulatory system where the “prevailing spirit is don’t separate the lion from his prey, but let them at it”.
Then the reply that shook everybody awake. “That’s right,” said the governor. Even Joe was stopped in his tracks.
A laugh erupted. “You agree?” Joe asked, incredulously.
“Well, that’s a dramatic way of putting it,” Honohan said. But, by and large, he had no problem with Joe’s analysis of how the profit-crazed banks led the whole country into perdition.
On the third day of the inquiry it was difficult to escape the conclusion that Higgins had been right all along back in those days when he was, as he pointed out himself yesterday, a lonely voice in the Dáil, railing against the “speculators” who were driving up the cost of housing.
Honohan was a lively witness, careful to apply nuance to his utterances, but devoid of the kind of hyperactive caution that financial heads display when they are brought out in public.
He thinks the bank guarantee of September 2008 was a mistake, but an understandable one.
However, he doesn’t buy the peddled wisdom that the guarantee was to blame for the subsequent years of austerity.
“The cost of the austerity measures is much, much bigger than the cost of the guarantee.”
He also debunked the myth that the Troika which took control of the country in November 2010 were to blame for much of the austerity.
“The bailout reduced austerity measures,” he said, although that statement could have done with a little elaboration.
As for the cost of the guarantee, he puts it at around €40 billion and change, with the scope for a little more to be “whittled down” from the original cost of €64 billion.
He is of the opinion that it should have been obvious at the time of the guarantee that Anglo was a busted flush.
The management running the bank should have been removed.
“That would have been more clear had they known what the size of the problem was.
“But all the investment banks that looked at it saw that Anglo’s model was not credible in the market,” he said.
However, had the government moved to shut the thing down, they would have had to withstand a severe going over from our European partners, Honohan added.
How much that option had been explored is something that Brian Cowen, in particular, will be expected to answer when he comes in to give evidence.
The governor was quite open to speculating on the mindset of the bankers who had acted in such a reckless fashion.
These, after all, were supposed to be very brainy boys, who knew their sums.
Honohan confirmed the suspicion of many when he set out his theory.
“The conjecture I’m left with is – in the banks - they might have said ‘gosh this could all go wrong, but if it does there will be a rescue, the State will step in, or Europe will step in’,” said Honohan.
So it went, among those who were regarded as the poster boys for capitalism.

In that regard, smokin’ Joe Higgins can claim that he could see it while many had their heads in the clouds
Michael Clifford