Thursday, October 16, 2014

Post-2016: A Dáil in Chaos?

Was it for this etc.?
Much recent commentary on the rise of independents has begun to extrapolate current trends into and beyond the next general election.  Pat Rabbitte said he feared for the very future of politics.  It does indeed seem as if we are in for a period of political turbulence.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Rural Ireland Deserves Better

Rural Ireland: Not bad if you're a sheep.  Because sheep
don't need broadband, roads, services, healthcare...
The Irish Times are hosting a commendable section dedicated to rural Ireland and its concerns, and solicited comments from Labour's Ann Phelan, Minister for Rural Affairs.  We'll stop this donut effect, she said, making sure large supermarkets don't locate outside town centers. Other than that, she's not promising anything because she says "I probably have a maximum of 18-21 months to do something.”  Her main focus she says is on job creation; there is no budget (save that from other departments) with which to directly fund projects.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stephen Donnelly: Ireland's Ralph Nader

Nader was vilified and heavily criticised
at first, but his book transformed the car
industry in America.
The first Chevy Corvair launched in 1960 was a roaring success. Jack Kennedy was President, Elvis Presley was on the radio, and America was fighting the Communists in the dark corners of Eastern European cities. It was a sleek designed power grunt of a machine, with swing-axle suspension. That meant that it needed a significant tyre-pressure differential between rear and front tyres, which resulted in a dangerous amount of over-steer. In lay mans terms, that means that when you turn the car left, the wheels turn much more left than you had intended. There was a significant danger of 'tuck-under', where the left front wheel in a left turn could essentially flip under the car, causing an accident.  Many people died as a result, though the car industry was unperturbed - driver error, was the response. If you drive at a safe speed, you're fine.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Next Anglo-Scale Crisis Will be in Data Protection

Billy Hawkes has his work cut out for him
I've argued for some time that the problem in Ireland is not one of light-touch regulation, but of culture. The failure that led to such catastrophic circumstances was not down to Lehman Brothers, or the Global Meltdown, or Anglo, or the Financial Regulator, but culture. A culture that said 'go on sure you'll be grand,' a culture that basically said take what you can get away with, so long as you don't get caught, a culture that told politicians - jovially - that the only thing, the *only* thing they had to protect was their seat.  That caused an abdication of leadership and responsibility, an absence of ownership, and a complete abandonment of the principles of the nation. So we are - as they in Leinster House so wearily put it - where we are. The implication of that phrase, of course, is that we do not learn from our mistakes, we forget about the past, and we fix the problem we are faced with rather than contemplating the uncontemplable - that we are fundamentally wrong about all sorts of important stuff that's really hard to fix.

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Liberal Left and the New Religion

Narcissists? We've been heading
in that direction for some time.
In an over-used and most likely incorrectly attributed quotation, when asked what the influence of the French Revolution had been on Western Democracy, the Chinese Foreign Minister replied that is was too soon to tell.  Given the apocryphal nature of the story, and the layers of invention that the Internet places on such stories, we don’t know if Zhou Enlai smiled as he said it.  The most significant shift that happened with the French Revolution – and the Enlightenment generally – was the shift from peoples and tribes to individuals and rights.  The Cartesian fundamental coigito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) had made its way through the corridors of time and consequence from arcane academic existential consideration to politics, and war, and statecraft.  If Millenials are accused of being all about me, me and me on the cover of Time Magazine, it’s only because we've been heading that way for several hundred years.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why Ireland Needs Drones

Drones come in all shapes and sizes, not just Predators
with sidewinders attached.
Drones have got something of a bad press recently, what with all of the extra-judicial killings and what not, and Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, and all sort of other folks getting concerned about the automation of lethal force.  Much of the focus is on the US, but it should be noted that there are dozens of countries deploying their own drones now, and not just for pre-emptive strikes on irksome alleged terrorists outside state borders.

Monday, January 20, 2014

More Unbelievable Truths from the CRC?

Ham Goulding's attempt to clear the air in a series of interviews at the weekend, in an attempt to pour water on the raging fire of the Central Remedial Clinc scandal, appears to have failed.  The Public Accounts Committee still wants them all in, and Mr McGuinness will have his show.  Goulding claimed that the settlement was an attempt to save money, because keeping Kiely on as Chief Executive would have cost €2.1m over six years.

Let's do the math.  First, the settlement of €740k means that the net saving would have only been €1.36m over the six years, which Goulding acknowledges.  However, they then immediately agreed to appoint Brian Conlon on a salary of €125k (later reduced under pressure from the HSE).  That's a total of at least €750,000 over six years, which leaves the benefit at €610,000 at most.  Therefore, adopting Goulding's logic, they paid €740k in order to save €610k.  This is despite the fact that one board member went so far as to have it noted in the minutes her reluctance to agree to the departure of Mr Kiely - being such a fine Chief Executive - but for it appeared that he was resolved to leave.  Go figure.