Why Two Of My Friends Worked In Dublin For A Year Each

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I cannot believe it but Ireland is the richest country in the European Union behind Luxembourg. After the jump, read Thomas Friedman’s op-ed column from today’s paper which explains how it happened. I guess it isn’t so odd to me now that Eric and Erik both worked for Pfizer for a year in Dublin. Hurumph.

The End of the Rainbow

By Thomas L. Friedman


Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Ireland today is the richest country in the European Union after Luxembourg.

Yes, the country that for hundreds of years was best known for emigration, tragic poets, famines, civil wars and leprechauns today has a per capita G.D.P. higher than that of Germany, France and Britain. How Ireland went from the sick man of Europe to the rich man in less than a generation is an amazing story. It tells you a lot about Europe today: all the innovation is happening on the periphery by those countries embracing globalization in their own ways – Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe – while those following the French-German social model are suffering high unemployment and low growth.

Ireland’s turnaround began in the late 1960’s when the government made secondary education free, enabling a lot more working-class kids to get a high school or technical degree. As a result, when Ireland joined the E.U. in 1973, it was able to draw on a much more educated work force.

By the mid-1980’s, though, Ireland had reaped the initial benefits of E.U. membership – subsidies to build better infrastructure and a big market to sell into. But it still did not have enough competitive products to sell, because of years of protectionism and fiscal mismanagement. The country was going broke, and most college grads were emigrating.

“We went on a borrowing, spending and taxing spree, and that nearly drove us under,” said Deputy Prime Minister Mary Harney. “It was because we nearly went under that we got the courage to change.”

And change Ireland did. In a quite unusual development, the government, the main trade unions, farmers and industrialists came together and agreed on a program of fiscal austerity, slashing corporate taxes to 12.5 percent, far below the rest of Europe, moderating wages and prices, and aggressively courting foreign investment. In 1996, Ireland made college education basically free, creating an even more educated work force.

The results have been phenomenal. Today, 9 out of 10 of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies have operations here, as do 16 of the top 20 medical device companies and 7 out of the top 10 software designers. Last year, Ireland got more foreign direct investment from America than from China. And overall government tax receipts are way up.

We set up in Ireland in 1990,” Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computer, explained to me via e-mail. “What attracted us? [A] well-educated work force – and good universities close by. [Also,] Ireland has an industrial and tax policy which is consistently very supportive of businesses, independent of which political party is in power. I believe this is because there are enough people who remember the very bad times to de-politicize economic development. [Ireland also has] very good transportation and logistics and a good location – easy to move products to major markets in Europe quickly.”

Finally, added Mr. Dell, “they’re competitive, want to succeed, hungry and know how to win. … Our factory is in Limerick, but we also have several thousand sales and technical people outside of Dublin. The talent in Ireland has proven to be a wonderful resource for us. … Fun fact: We are Ireland’s largest exporter.”

Intel opened its first chip factory in Ireland in 1993. James Jarrett, an Intel vice president, said Intel was attracted by Ireland’s large pool of young educated men and women, low corporate taxes and other incentives that saved Intel roughly a billion dollars over 10 years. National health care didn’t hurt, either. “We have 4,700 employees there now in four factories, and we are even doing some high-end chip designing in Shannon with Irish engineers,” he said.

In 1990, Ireland’s total work force was 1.1 million. This year it will hit two million, with no unemployment and 200,000 foreign workers (including 50,000 Chinese). Others are taking notes. Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said: “I’ve met the premier of China five times in the last two years.”
Ireland’s advice is very simple: Make high school and college education free; make your corporate taxes low, simple and transparent; actively seek out global companies; open your economy to competition; speak English; keep your fiscal house in order; and build a consensus around the whole package with labor and management – then hang in there, because there will be bumps in the road – and you, too, can become one of the richest countries in Europe.

“It wasn’t a miracle, we didn’t find gold,” said Mary Harney. “It was the right domestic policies and embracing globalization.”


In Your Honor

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The Foo Fighters have a new double disc titled “In Your Honor” which I am absolutely enjoying – so far I’ve listened to it a few times over the past 36 hours. I haven’t been this pleased by a new disc by an “old” favorite of mine since maybe “Midnight Vultures” by Beck. I’m a huge Foos fan and this album, one disc rock (some metal, some pop, some hard rock) and one disc acoustic, is extremely satisfying.

I was very pleasantly surprised to read in the liner notes that John Paul Jones, 1 of 4 members of my all-time hands down favorite band Led Zeppelin played on 2 tracks. “Miracle” is okay but “Another Round” is very good. The Toronto Sun has an article about what it was like for Dave to play with John.

Some stand out songs me on these discs are “In Your Honor”, “Best of You”, “The Last Song”, “End Over End”, “DOA” (very poppy – will be a huge radio hit), “Cold Day In The Sun” (Dave is on drums in this one) “Another Round” (feat JPJ), “Razor” (which sounds very much like a Phish song) – hell, most of them are stand out songs. Buy the album or click on the Foo Player icon on there web site and tell me I’m wrong.


Sobering Stat of the Day

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According to the most recent data from the National Science Foundation, 1.2 million of the world’s 2.8 million university degrees in science and engineering in 2000 were earned by Asian students in Asian universities, with only 400,000 granted in the United States. That means the US of A supplies less than 15% of all degrees.

With China and India fast on the US’s heals, we’ve got to do a better job as a nation of not only educating our future innovators and leaders but making them want to learn these subjects. Math and science are a hard sell but we’ve got to be able to close the deal or else we risk a future where America no longer leads but follows.


Fun with FireFox

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I use FireFox as my web browser as much as I can help it – there are still some sites that are better viewed using IE but that number keeps falling – because its so wonderful. I love the tab based browsing and the bazillion of other neat features that FireFox offers. Today, I was checking out the various extensions offered after reading about a social networking plugin on Slashdot and found the following fun (to me) plugins:

  • The Litany Against Fear: adds the text of “The Litany Against Fear” from Frank Herbert’s Dune series to your brower. You go to the “tools” dropdown, select “I must not fear” and an alert box pops up with the full text. I memorized this quote in high school and it means a lot to me. I recite it before each and every athletic game I play. It is sort of responsible for a burn on my left hand. Now its in my browser. Sweet.
  • TorrentBar: BitTorrent File Search Toolbar for Firefox. Allows to search numerous sites in a matter of minutes for needed torrent files. Nuff said.
  • ForecastFox: adds Accuweather forecasts, which are so much better and more accurate than Weather.com forecasts, into your browser. Weather nuts will love this one.

Nolan Nails It

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I cannot begin to say enough good things about Batman Begins and its stellar director Christopher Nolan. This movie was everything that Revenge of the Sith should have been: a well written, cohesive and engaging story acted out by a superb cast that has been given stellar direction.

Simply put, Batman Begins in now my all-time favorite comic book movie. It has suplanted Batman (1989) in the top slot and pushed X-Men to third. I went to the 11:00 PM showing on Wednesday night with a bunch of co-workers (showing true geek dedication) and found it breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Walking out of the theatre, you ask, “What the hell am I doing with my life? I should be protecting the city from evil!”

The best part is that we saw it on the Loews Lincoln Center IMAX screen which made it flat-out intense. I highly suggest seeing this movie in this manner – it is totally worth it. I had seen Apollo-13 on this screen but it was not as good because it wasn’t specially formatted for the IMAX screen – it was too big in many ways to enjoy. Batman however was specially formatted – it was letterboxed – and it looked fantastic.

On the strength of 3 movies – Memento, Insomnia and Batman Begins – Christopher Nolan has now gained a place of esteem on my list of top directors, which basically means I will now go see any Christopher Nolan film in the future.

Go and see this movie ASAP. Bat-time? Whenever you want. Bat-channel? Your local theatre.


By George, A New Stadium

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The NY Yankees have announced they are building a new stadium in a deal worth around $800 million that is being almost totally privately funded. That means its coming out of George’s pocket, not yours or mine, for the most part which is a breath of fresh air. In a nice bit of creative financing, the stadium will be financed by 40-year tax-free bonds issued by a local development corporation created by the city and state. The Yankees will have to shell out about $50 million a year in interest payments but that cost has the nice benefit of allowing the yankees to pay significantly less in revenue sharing each year to the rest of Major League Baseball. Why fund other teams when you can fund the construction of your own stadium? Very smart and shrewd move guys, I applaud you.

I for one am thrilled by the idea. I love the current stadium and have loved (though not necessarily enjoyed – losing games suck) every second that I have spent in it. The fact is though that its old, it needs to be updated and it needs to generate more revenue that it currently does, especially if the Yankees are to remain the Yankees. So, a new stadium at some point to me was a definite. It just was a matter of when, where and how. So, when the stadium proposal was publicly unveiled, I was very happy to see that it contained lots of good details, like how the current stadium will be kept for the use of local amateur, high school and college leagues and how “not only will the new house retain the feel of the current ballpark with identical field dimensions and bullpen placements, but many planned features will actually recapture some of the original features eradicated by the extensive renovation that was done on the old stadium from 1973-75.”

When I was a kid, when Steinbrenner would rumble and threaten moving the team to NJ, I quaked in my little sneaks and prayed that moving day would never come. Over the years it was been a nagging fear and now I don’t believe it will happen. The Bronx Bombers stay in the Bronx. Period.
After the jump, check out pics of the new stadium.

Aerial view of Yankee Stadium from southwest
View from behind home plate
View of the front entrance
View of Monument Park and the Batter’s Eye Club

Lipso for MVP

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It seems that a .309 batting average with 30 runs scored, 1 homer and 9 runs batted in is good enough to be added as a choice to the “Who has been the Riversharks MVP to this point in the season?” poll on the Camden Riversharks web site. The poll is below the fold so you’ll need to scroll down to see it.

Do me and everyone who has “lipso” as part of their name (whether first or last) a favor and go vote for Lipso today. He’s currently tied for the lead with 33% of the votes. I believe my faithful readers can push him over the top.