Saturday, September 26, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
The United States is experiencing a major human tragedy. We have more people in jail than any other country on earth, including Communist China, an authoritarian country four times our size. The U.S. has less than five percent of the world's population, yet we incarcerate about a quarter of its prisoners -- some 2.2 million people.
There are many ways that we must go forward to address this tragedy. One of them is to end the existence of the private for-profit prison industry which now makes millions from the incarceration of Americans. These private prisons interfere with the administration of justice. And they're driving inmate populations skyward by corrupting the political process.
No one, in my view, should be allowed to profit from putting more people behind bars -- whether they're inmates in jail or immigrants held in detention centers. In fact, I believe that private prisons shouldn't be allowed to exist at all, which is why I've introduced legislation to eliminate them.
For-profit prisons harm minorities.
The prison crisis has disproportionately harmed minorities. If current trends persist, one in four black males born today can expect to be imprisoned during their lifetime. Tragically, 69 percent of African-American men who drop out of high school will end up in jail, according to the most recent statistics.
The Department of Justice found that black motorists were three times more likely than their white counterparts to be searched during a traffic stop. African Americans are twice as likely to be arrested, and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with police. Further, African Americans are imprisoned at six times the rate of whites.
For-profit prisons abuse prisoners.
The horror stories from for-profit prisons are plentiful. Here are a few examples:
Rat-infested food was served to inmates by a private vendor in Michigan, and other rotten or spoiled food items were served in that state and elsewhere. The same vendor reportedly underfed Michigan inmates.
Privately-run prisons in Mississippi reportedly have two to three times threat of violent assault as publicly run facilities. A private prison vendor has reportedly used juvenile offenders in Florida to subdue other young prisoners. "It's the Lord of the Flies," said Broward County's chief assistant public defender. "The children are used by staff members to inflict harm on other children."
Nurses at a private prison chain in California threatened to strike over the inadequate health care, which one described as "unsafe," and there have even been reported incidents of patient abuse.
For-profit prisons victimize immigrants.
Immigrants have also been victimized by corporate prison greed. As the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) notes in in an in-depth report, "The criminalization of immigration ... enriches the private prison industry" by segregating most of the resulting inmates into one of thirteen privately-run "Criminal Alien Requirement" (CAR) prisons. Another report, from grassroots leadership, found that 62 percent of all ICE beds are now privately owned.
For-profit prisons profit from abuse and mistreatment.
As the ACLU notes, the bidding process for private immigration centers provides "incentives that keep facilities overcrowded and place excessive numbers of prisoners in isolated confinement." It also reports inadequate medical care, abusive treatment, and "severely overcrowded and squalid living conditions." These are also true for prison populations.
Prison industry money is corrupting the political process.
The prison industry is highly profitable. The two biggest prison corporations in the country made $3.3 billion in 2012 -- profiting from government payments and prison laborers, who were forced to work for pennies on behalf of companies like Boeing and McDonald's.
With so much money at stake, it's not surprising that the for-profit prison industry is corrupting our political process. According to the National Institute on Money in politics just one such company, the GEO Group, has given more than $6 million to Republican, Democratic, and independent candidates over the past 13 years. Moreover, as the Washington Post reports, the two largest for-profit prison corporations and their associates "have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts."
For-profit prisons are influencing prison policy ...
It's been money well spent for the prison corporations. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of for-profit prisons in this country has increased by 1,600 percent. There are now 130 private prisons in this country, with a total of 157,000 beds.
Through organizations like ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), the prison industry has promoted state laws that increase incarceration rates for nonviolent offenses.
... and immigration policy.
A report from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs outlines some of the ways in which private prison corporations have tried to influence immigration policy and increase incarceration rates, apparently with great success.
Grassroots Leadership found that, "contrary to private prison corporation claims that they do not lobby on issues related to immigration policy, between 2008 and 2014, CCA spent $10,560,000 in quarters where they lobbied on issues related to immigrant detention and immigration reform."
For-profit companies exploit prison families.
Private prison corporations and their affiliates do everything they can to make a buck off people in prison -- and their families. According to The Nation's Liliana Segura, for example, a tech company called Global Tel*Link charges more than $1 per minute for families and friends to speak with their loved ones in prison. There is no free market, no competition to drive the price down.
If family or friends are unable to afford Global Tel*Link's prices, prisoners may run a higher risk of social isolation. It's a vicious circle, as studies show that social connections are key to a prisoner's rehabilitation process once he or she is released. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a leader on this issue, has also pointed out that 2.7 million children in the United States have an incarcerated parent. Many of them suffer immeasurably when such unaffordable rates rob them of parental contact.
Global Tel* Link makes more than $500 million per year from exploiting these vulnerable people.
Young people are being mistreated and exploited.
Worst of all, the for-profit system is having a terrible impact on our young people. A report entitled "Prisoners of Profit," paints a vivid picture of the widespread abuse and brutality -- including fatal medical neglect and sexual abuse. In the "Kids For Cash" scandal, business people actually paid judges to send young people to their often-brutal facilities, often for very minor infractions.
We must put an end to this shameful industry.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Mindfulness with an ethical twist is the Stoic way, explains philosopher Massimo Pigliucci
Massimo Pigliucci: “You want to pay attention to the here and now.”
Ever since Zeno of Citium founded Stoicism in ancient Greece, the philosophy has drifted in and out of fashion. Christianity adopted a good dose of Stoic thinking, and its core principles might be summarised in the “serenity prayer”: “God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Today there are signs of another mini-revival, fuelled by initiatives such as Stoic Week, an annual event that tries to show the practical benefits of this classical philosophy in modern life. But, according to Massimo Pigliucci, who wrote a blog that went viral on the New York Times on Stoicism earlier this year (which he is now developing into a book), there is also a danger also of reducing Stoic thinking to a comforting form of self-help, or using it to turn away from the world.
He cites two great misperceptions about the Stoics; “one was that they were unemotional and go through life with a stiff upper lip”, and the other was that “they were detached from society and involvement in politics”.
In fact, “the Stoics were very socially oriented. They wanted to change society for the better, and that’s why well-known Stoics were teachers, politicians, generals; they did try.”
Pigliucci, a New York-based academic and prolific author, paraphrases a Stoic principle to provide today’s idea: “We are social beings; we are supposed to be concerned about people.”
What attracted you to Stoicism? “I’ve been interested in it as part of the broader quest of developing a personal philosophy. I began with secular humanism but that never quite did it for me; then I gravitated towards ancient virtue ethics.
“So, for some time I studied Aristotle; then I moved on to Epicurius and exploring the different Greek schools, and that I thought was better, certainly than secular humanism. It had more interesting resources, more rich philosophy. But it still didn’t quite click and then some at point last year on my Twitter feed I saw this thing appear about Stoic Week and I said, ‘Oh, let’s take a look’.
“This immediately brought up memories because I grew up in Italy where you take philosophy in high school, and as part of that you study Stoicism.
“I started reading more and it really did click. The first thing I did was download a good translation of Epictetus’s works. I realised, ‘Right, these guys were on to something’, and from there it became an obsession.”
Does Stoicism offer tools for overcoming adversity, or is it a comprehensive philosophy in its own right? “I would say all of the above. Most people are interested in Stoicism because of the practical benefits. I find myself more grounded, less likely to get upset by things or frustrated, because one of the Stoic concepts is mindfulness, which is different from the Buddhist variety.
“For Stoics, you want to pay attention to the here and now, and especially to the ethical dimensions of what you’re doing. That to me immediately changed things. For instance, I was going out to my bank one day to cash a cheque and then I thought about it – I was being mindful – and I realised this was a multinational bank that has been involved in very questionable ethical practices, and I said, ‘Why I am giving money to these people?’
“So I researched alternatives and I moved all my money to a local bank. This costs me a little bit in inconvenience . . . It’s a trade-off that I think is worth it.”
But couldn’t another person’s mindfulness produce a very different ethical conclusion: for example, life is short so eat, drink and be merry? “Right, but that conclusion would not go along with Stoic philosophy. The Stoics had this idea that it’s important in life to develop a coherent, or as coherent as possible, philosophy, and they saw three different pillars to their system: ethics, physics – what we would call today a combination of natural science and metaphysics – and logic. Once you put these three things together you see an understanding of the natural world and human nature is going to be the guidance to how to live your life. So the Stoics famously said: ‘You want to live life according to nature.’
“When you say that phrase today what comes to mind is a kind of tree-hugging environmentalist outside of civilisation; that’s not what they meant.
“For the Stoics, we are rational beings; reason is our main tool; and secondly we are social beings – so we are supposed to be concerned about people.
“The Stoics were among the very first philosophers to explicitly use the word cosmopolitan; we are citizens of the world, we are not just Italian or Irish, or from New York or from Dublin. To go back to the question, if through mindfulness a person concludes, ‘Let me live in the moment and do whatever is pleasurable or easier for me to do’, that would definitely be a non-Stoic conclusion.”
Tell me more about learning philosophy in secondary school in Italy. “It was obligatory and three years – a history of philosophy course which started with pre-Socratics and ended up with existentialists in the early part of the 20th century. I personally found it one of the most formative courses of my entire school career because when you’re doing it you’re wondering ,‘Why should I care what Plato wrote 2,400 years ago?’ but it does give you a big picture of the big ideas of history, and it really does stick with you.
“It’s really a long-term investment from an educational perspective.”
ASK A SAGE
Question: If someone stops Like-ing you on Facebook should you stop liking them?
Epictetus replies: “The marks of the proficient person are that he censures no one, praises no one, blames no one, accuses no one, says nothing concerning himself as being anybody, or knowing anything and, if he is praised, he secretly laughs at the person who praises him; and, if he is censured, he makes no defence.”
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Members of the Collins Family & relatives of Angela Collins who spent 27 years in a Magdalene Laundry (L to R) Laura with her daughter Angel (3), Craig & there mother Mary all living in London protesting for the forgotten families of the victims of Institutional abuse in Magdalene laundries, Industrial Schools and Mother and Baby homes outside Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
A survivor of one of Ireland's industrial schools has claimed she was slapped, kicked, and "forced to sleep outside at night with pigs" if she snored too loudly.
Mary Collins also said her mother, Angela, was among those buried in a mass grave with 72 other women.
Her mother had been forced to spend 27 years in a Magdalene laundry.
Speaking outside the Dáil this morning, the 54-year-old claimed that at St Vincent’s home in Cork, her mother was forced to give up her youngest child for what was an illegal adoption.
She also alleged her mother was denied vital medical treatment - and this eventually led to her death.
Mary, who now lives in London, said was just two when Angela was taken away and she was placed in an industrial school.
She insisted records at the time stated Angela was "a good mother".
Yet both her daughters were taken away from her.
Mary joined a number of groups representing survivors of the Magdalene laundries, as well as industrial schools, who protested outside the Dáil today.
They delivered a letter to Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, calling for justice for the "forgotten families of the victims of institutional abuse."
They are demanding the government fast track the redress scheme for aging survivors.
They also want free legal aid for those taking a case to the Mother & Baby Homes Commission.
Speaking to independent.ie, Mary said her family is calling for the government, and the church, to support and fund those who wish to remove the remains of their loved ones from mass graves, so as to give them a proper burial.
She explained how she suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her horrific experiences in an industrial school.
"From a very young age, they used to tell me I was dirty and a vile human being,” she said.
"I had urine thrown over my head and I was slapped in the face.
“I snored as a child and for that reason a nun used put me outside to sleep with the pigs. I begged her to stop but she never listened.
“I was just seven years old.
"My life was miserable, and whenever a nun stared at me, it was with a look of pure evil.
"One nun bashed my face off the table which knocked out my front tooth.
"It was constant abuse, both mentally and physically. I was battered. It’s left many scars.”
A commission of investigation has been established to investigate 14 mother and baby homes nationwide and some county homes.
However, chairperson of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors, Paul Redmond, has now called on the Government to stop dragging its heels on the matter.
He also said it should include survivors of all institutions across the country.
“We demand this Government takes immediate action on several issues, such as including all survivors in the Mother and Baby home Inquiry, while recognising the ageing profile of the survivor community.”
He added: “We want an immediate acknowledgement, apology, and redress, while there is still time.
“We are particularly disturbed as a community, with the exclusion of the victims of illegal adoptions, and the exclusion of so many Protestant homes.”
Mark O Regan
People on higher incomes in Ireland pay more tax than their counterparts in Sweden, Spain, the UK and the US, according to the Irish Tax Institute.
Publishing a tax guide for the Budget today, it has been comparing the regime here with key competitor countries, and is warning about its potential impact on attracting talented workers from abroad.
Brian Keegan, director of taxation at Chartered Accountants Ireland, said that the situation has arisen as a result of decisions in recent years.
"Since the collapse, we've become more and more reliant on income tax and indeed value added tax," he said.
"And what we're seeing now is one of the consequences of the downturn - that we changed our taxation policy to be more heavily reliant on individuals, and particularly more heavily reliant on higher earning individuals.
"And that's one of the issues that's arising for Budget 2016."
Monday, September 21, 2015
Government refuses to release records from 1981-1984 due to sensitive information
File photograph of the Aga Khan with Shergar.
Secret embassy files about the stolen racehorse Shergar, information about US military aircraft landing at Irish airports and files about telephone tapping were among historic records the Government refused to release for public inspection.
A long list of files relating to the years 1981-1984, a period of turmoil in politics and in Anglo-Irish relations, remain under wraps, including files from Irish embassies in Brussels, Chicago, Madrid, New York, Vienna and London.
A file from the London embassy relating to Shergar, the Aga Khan-bred stallion believed stolen and killed by the IRA in 1983, were held back when the Department of Foreign Affairs released its files last December.
The reason given was that the information might cause distress or danger to living individuals or that it might lead to a defamation action.
For a similar reason, a file relating to Border security incidents involving incursions by “British or Northern Forces” was also held back.
A file for the period 1982-1984 held back by the Attorney General’s office is labelled “Interception of Telephone calls – Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983”.
It is unclear whether the file refers to the episode in which the phones of two journalists were tapped with the authorisation of the short-lived Fianna Fail government of 1982.
In what was one of the biggest political scandals in the history of the State, then minister for justice Michael Noonan revealed in the Dáil in 1983 that the telephones of Geraldine Kennedy and Bruce Arnold had been intercepted.
Ms Kennedy had been writing about challenges to then taoiseach Charles Haughey’s leadership, and then minister for justice Sean Doherty authorised official surveillance.
Other files from 1983-1984 held back relate to “Postal & Telecommunications Services Act 1983 – Continuance of Legal Proceedings”.
Two files relating to legal proceedings against the State and the Attorney General, and in one case also the minister for posts and telegraphs, are also withheld.
Kennedy and Arnold took successful legal action against the State and each was awarded £20,000 in damages in 1987.
When records were released to the National Archives in 2013, Ms Kennedy wrote in The Irish Times there was “nothing really new” in relation to the phone tapping.
She said the State papers were “interesting, if disappointing, in many different ways”.
By law, Government department files more than 30 years old must be transferred to the National Archives, unless they are deemed to be so sensitive they should not be released.
Ah, the mobile battery ─ a thing of myth, of legend... of frustration. So much sway does battery life hold over us that we buy specific phones that guarantee us a couple of days' usage. And all of this when other devices can eke out a week's worth of usage (think Amazon Kindle).
Users go to some strange measures to keep their batteries going and going and going. Yet much of what we hear about mobile batteries is simply not true. Let's examine some of these misconceptions about the batteries that power the devices we depend upon day in and day out.
1: Batteries have "memory"
Nope. Not at all. People used to think that you had to "train" your battery to make sure it would take the most charge. To do that, people would drain it regularly and charge it — and they'd never plug it in when it was over 50%. The thought was that over time, the battery would develop a memory and allow for just a percentage of the charge. This is not true. If your battery is at 80%, top that baby off. Frequent charges will do no damage to your battery.
2: Off-brand chargers will damage your battery
Although some off-brand chargers aren't optimal (and some even take longer to charge the battery), they will not harm it, as long as the charger is working properly. This means it's perfectly okay to run to Target and buy that cheap charger to replace the factory charger that came with your phone. The one exception to this is the charger that shipped with your Droid Turbo. Make sure, when looking for a replacement, you find one made specifically for that device; otherwise, you won't enjoy the 15-minute charge time that delivers eight hours of usage.
3: Charging your phone overnight will damage your battery
False. Most smartphones are now "smart" enough to know when a battery is at capacity and will stop charging. However, there is one thing you can do to extend the life of your battery. Instead of charging your phone all night, every night, try keeping it charged between 40% and 80% most of the time. This will ensure the longest possible life from that battery. If you can leave it unplugged overnight (every so often), do so.
4: Don't use your phone while it charges
People seem to think that using a phone while it charges will have a negative impact on the quality of charge the battery gets. But unless you're using a low-quality knock-off charger, this is not remotely true. Your battery will charge as expected whether or not you use the device. Think about it this way. With smartphones, chances are the only way there is no syncing of data (in one way or another) is if the phone is off. So even when you aren't literally using your phone, your phone is using your phone and data is being synced. So go ahead and use that phone while it charges.
5: Turning off your phone can damage your battery
Nah. There isn't even the slightest truth to this. Of course, if you leave your phone off for an extended period of time, the battery will drain (that's the nature of batteries). But it is perfectly fine to shut that device off every once in a while. You can even shut the device off and (if applicable) remove the battery if you like. No harm will come to the battery. In fact, for some devices, a simple reboot can help to restore battery functionality. So even though that Android device runs perfectly fine day in and day out, give it a break now and then.
6: You should always charge your phone to full before first using it
Many people think that the first thing they should do with a new smartphone is plug it in and charge it to 100%. This is simply a myth. Remember, smartphone batteries work best between 40% to 80%, and since most phones ship at half capacity, you should be good to go out of the box. As a side note: If you fire up your new smartphone for the first time and the battery is below 40%, you might want to consider taking it back because that battery could be very old.
7: Putting your battery in the freezer will extend its life
I remember that back in the 80s, we placed batteries in the freezer for a short period to try to get a bit more life out of them. It didn't work then and it won't work now. In fact, Li-Ion batteries are negatively affected by both heat and cold. Room temperature is always the best temperature for your smartphone battery. Remember, those devices already get hot, so there's no need to expose them to extra heat — and cold is an enemy of Li-Ion batteries.
Also, make sure you store your device somewhere with airflow. My wife used to place her phone in a sealed plastic baggie when she road her mountain bike. Yes, it's good to prevent moisture from getting into the device. But sealing all that heat in will affect both the phone and the battery. A word of caution: Heat is much more damaging to batteries than cold is.
8: Using the internet will run down the battery faster than anything else
Not true.* The single most draining thing you can do on your smartphone is gaming. The graphics engines are massive energy drainers. If you game a lot on your devices, dim the screen as much as you can while playing (if you want to extend your battery life). But if you can play that game while charging, go ahead and keep that screen at full brightness.
* This also depends upon what you are using the internet for. If you're viewing videos through YouTube, online gaming, or doing other graphics-intensive activities, it will drain your battery faster.
9: Turning off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS will prolong your battery
In and of itself, this is false. The only time these services actually drain your battery is if they are in use. So having Bluetooth turned on, when you're not using a Bluetooth device, isn't going to drain your battery any more than having Wi-Fi on when you're not accessing the network. Yes, they may pull an insignificant amount of energy from your battery, but they will not drain it over the course of a day. If you're really concerned about getting as much life as possible from your battery, dim your screen.
10: Task managers help prolong your battery life
As much as I hate to say it, third-party task managers do nothing for battery life that the built-in system can't handle. Yes, those task managers can whitelist/blacklist tasks. But in the end, they really don't help your battery any more than the built-in system. You might want to employ a task manager to better control your apps, but don't assume that third-party manager will extend the life of your battery any better than the default tool.
A better approach
Smartphone batteries and smartphone usage of those energy cells get better every year. But those old-school (and some "new school") misconceptions simply need to die off. With just the slightest consideration, your battery will last you a long time.
Do you know any mobile device users who might need to be enlightened about these battery issues? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.
Alan Ahearne: Ireland’s remarkable economic recovery tied to global events
‘The real risk for the global economy is that Beijing decides instead to rely on devaluing its currency to boost exports and curb imports’
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, at the presentation of the latest OECD Economic Survey of Ireland, at Government Buildings, Dublin
Ireland’s remarkable economic recovery continues to gather strength. A few years back economic forecasters were pencilling in growth rates of 2½ per cent for 2015. Some domestic commentators were much more pessimistic about our prospects. With the volume of GDP surging 7 per cent in the first half of this year, following growth of 5 per cent in 2014, these gloomy predictions have fallen very wide of the mark.
An interesting feature of the economy’s recent performance has been the rapid expansion of the value of incomes and spending. Overall income is on track to jump by €20 billion this year compared with 2014. Such fast growth in nominal income is helping to reduce the burden of debt in the country. Public debt, for example, is now expected to fall below 100 per cent of GDP this year.
Levels of household and business indebtedness are also declining relative to the capacity to service these debts.
Net exports, set to grow by €10 billion this year, are a big part of the growth story, though domestic spending is also expanding strongly. Many exporters appear to be pricing their goods and services in sterling and dollars so their revenues measured in euro have soared as these currencies have strengthened.
Ireland’s export sectors are highly competitive, so the prospects for continued robust growth are good so long as global trade continues to expand.
There are, of course, downside risks to this bright outlook. Some threats, such as Brexit, Grexit, an unexpectedly sharp rise in interest rates, and a reversal of recent movements in exchange rates, have been much discussed.
Over the past few weeks, however, developments in China have moved centre stage, and with good reason.
The Chinese economy has served as a key engine of growth for the world economy over the past decade, and developments there will have significant consequences for global growth, including in Ireland.
Most of the recent news stories about China have focused on the turmoil on the Chinese stock market. Having soared by an eye-popping 150 per cent during the 12 months to last June, prices on the Shanghai stock market have plunged nearly 40 per cent over recent weeks.
The boom and bust in the Chinese stock market was largely driven by policy actions by Chinese authorities. As part of a well-intentioned set of policies to encourage heavily-indebted Chinese companies to issue more equity finance, and thereby reduce their dependence on debt, the authorities eased various rules on investing in the stock market.
For example, restrictions on how much investors could borrow to buy stocks were relaxed. With the cost of borrowing at low levels, these policy moves inflated a massive speculative bubble which burst in the summer as the government introduced measures to try to cool the market.
Recent weeks have seen a raft of government interventions to try to halt the slide, including tax breaks to encourage investors to hold on to their shares for the longer term, but so far with only limited success.
The volatility in the Chinese stock market has been dramatic, but in and of itself matters little for economic activity in the world economy. Of far more importance for global economic prospects are developments in the real Chinese economy and the formidable challenge facing Beijing in rebalancing the economy and putting growth on a more sustainable path.
Having enjoyed three decades of rapid export-led growth, the Chinese authorities responded to the slowdown in exports resulting from the global financial crisis in 2008/2009 by introducing policy measures to boost investment spending, construction and credit growth.
The results were all too familiar to people in Ireland.
A massive construction boom fuelled by an unsustainable surge in borrowing pushed China’s overall indebtedness from 140 per cent of GDP in 2008 to 220 per cent in 2013. Non-bank lenders drove the boom, lending to property developers and state-owned firms in sectors which now suffer huge overcapacity.
Policymakers in Beijing rightly introduced measures to slow credit growth, but the associated hit to the construction sector has resulted in a significant slowdown in economic activity. China appears to have the financial fire-power to stave off a full-blown financial crisis, including roughly €3.5 trillion in foreign exchange reserves. The more difficult challenge will be to push ahead with pro-market reforms announced by President Xi Jinping in November 2013 aimed at putting China on a more balanced growth path.
The real risk for the global economy is Beijing relying on devaluing its currency to boost exports and curb imports. The reality is that the Chinese economy is now too large to depend on exports for growth. Domestic consumption needs to be the engine.
A large Chinese devaluation would spread China’s woes across the global economy. As a small open economy Ireland would not escape the shock waves.
All this serves as a reminder that, notwithstanding the impressive growth numbers our economy is posting, our fortunes are tied to external developments over which we have no control.
By Alan Ahearne is professor and head of economics at NUI Galway.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
The Dowager Countess has one of the quickest, driest wits on television, and we can’t wait to see what she comes out with now Downton Abbey is back for the autumn.
Here are just 15 of her finest one-liners, penned by the show’s creator and writer Julian Fellowes, and delivered with panache by Dame Maggie Smith.
1. “At my age, one must ration one’s excitement.” - withholding any glee about Edith’s upcoming wedding to Sir Anthony Strallan.
2. “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?” – it’s a telephone.
3. “When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for Nanny and have you put to bed with no supper.” - to her son Robert when he was upset about Matthew making Mary his sole heiress.
4. Sir Richard Carlisle: “I’m leaving in the morning Lady Grantham. I doubt we’ll meet again.”
Dowager Countess: “Do you promise?” - her ladyship was no fan of the newspaper mogul.
5. Dowager Countess: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Isobel Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”
DC: “I must’ve said it wrong.”
6. “Do you think I might have a drink? Oh, I’m so sorry – I thought you were a waiter.” - when she disapproves of her son Robert wearing black tie to dinner.
7. “I’m so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I’m with her, I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.” – to her American daughter-in-law, Cora.
8. “Don’t be defeatist, dear, it’s very middle class.” - scolding her granddaughter Edith when she despairs of ever being married.
9. “Last night! He looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house.” - on the death of Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk while visiting the Abbey.
10. “What is a weekend?” - expressing her confusion about the concept of the working week, when Matthew reveals he has a job.
11. Dr Clarkson: “Mrs Crawley tells me she has recommended nitrate of silver and tincture of steel.”
Dowager Countess: “Why, is she making a suit of armour?” – the Dowager Countess poking fun at Isobel’s medical credentials.
12. “If we can show the county that he can behave normally, they will soon lose interest in him. And I shall make sure he behaves normally because I shall hold his hand on the radiator until he does.” - Lady Violet’s plan for Branson, the Abbey’s socialist chauffeur and Sybil’s husband.
13. “I wonder your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara around the clock.” - to do-gooder Isobel.
14. “Principles are like prayers. Noble of course. But awkward at a party.” - shutting down a heated political argument.
15. Isobel Crawley: “How you hate to be wrong.”
Dowager Countess: “I wouldn’t know, I’m not familiar with the sensation.”