Friday, June 13, 2008

Where is Brian Cowen?

We've had Eamon, Enda, Patricia, Mary Lou everyone on the box but not a sign of Brian. Will he only appear once it is all over? Is he Royston Brady Mark II, won't come to see the voting if it is against him?

The PDs must be spitting

It is only a minor outcome of the referendum but the Progressive Democrats must be spitting that they didn't go with the No argument. There again the YES side might have won then.

Lisbon:Lisboa - the aftermath Part 1

It’s likely we're going to be picking over the consequences and causes of the treaty defeat for weeks perhaps even months. I’m going to have a quick start here but no doubt I’ll revisit it in more detail and with better grammar over the coming weeks. I voted YES in the end and not with any great enthusiasm. I suspect that now that while the remaining EU member states will continue with their own ratification processes that the reforms in Lisbon are dead. If the EU tries to press on without us then I think we should look to establish a new relationship with the Union I suspect other members states may in time wish to take this new Irish option.

I believe there are a number of questions to be asked from the outset.

Was the Lisbon Treaty lost from Day One? Or perhaps even before Day One?

Decisions on important matters such as voting for treaties, international agreements or sending out for food seem to happen in a particular order in the minds of most people. We have a need to answer certain questions in our heads before embarking on any process or journey and while we don’t have to commit to any one single answer before proceeding to the next question we do need something to build on.

Why are we doing this is the most basic question of all in my view. In the absence of a why we can’t proceed. Once we’ve a working idea of why we’re doing something we can move on to the more specific, almost mechanistic problems, of what and how are we going to do this, and then finally there are the more mundane matters of where and when are we going to be doing this.

Take getting married - you want to marry someone because you love them (there’s the why) and you have to ask them and convince them it’s a good idea (what and how) and the where and when of the marriage itself you should probably seek to work out together or just go along with their ideas for the sake of a quiet life.

Coming back to Lisbon, the government never explained ‘Why’ of we were inviting this treaty in for tea at all. They skipped that step and my belief is that the core lesson of Nice II was that if people were participating in the process they would support complex compromises involved but if they are presented with them as fait accompli then they will refuse to own them. To my mind, the seeds of the loss were sown even before the Treaty was signed. In the lead up to summit there was no significant advance trailing that. Sure the politically involved knew there was something afoot but the regular joe schmoe in the pub didn’t know about it and when the government came home with the legalistic version of Jack’s Magic Beans the public were suitably unimpressed. “You brought home wha now?”

I think the real seeds of defeat lie in the manner of the negotiation and signing of the treaty itself and these factors subsequently fostered the growth of the No argument more than the Yes side. In essence the Yes side lacked a convincing enough narrative as to why we had the treaty at all, not to mind being able to argue about or explain the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of the content the document. In some sense, there wasn't a good enough origin myth to the Lisbon Treaty.

I've used Jack and the beanstalk comparison already but it stands repeating. The government never outlined in advance the WHY before it signed up to Lisbon which thereafter made the WHAT and HOW that much more difficult to convince people of. The vast majority of people don't spent their time wrapped up in political matters, they have jobs to do, children to put to bed, shopping to get, cars to drive and so on. So from the moment the Treaty was signed they were wondering ‘why are we doing this?’ And in the vacuum that existed the No side were able to decide the ground on which the battle would be fought and because it took so long to get going the YES side turned up like a bedraggled and uncoordinated army to be picked off piece by piece by the various No factions.

As for the campaign itself did the Yes side lose it or did the No side win it?

Let's be honest here all the protocols in the world don't convince the voting public when we've got a government addicted to taking a mandate to do X and going off and doing Y instead. They stated quite baldly that we wouldn’t be joining the Battle groups arrangement without a referendum, whether you agree with the decision or not that seems like bad faith. And since the general election we’ve been repeated told that the result really being a referendum on believing Bertie’s account of his financial accounts. I’m 100% certain that option of believing him or not simply wasn’t on the ballot and the general the population are equally certain of that too. People are just plumb tired of voting for one thing and getting another. So all the promises in the world that article such and such will protect concern A or B didn't wash. Working from the premise that this was just another great thing brought to you by the people they couldn’t explain their finances and told you that the economy was just dandy stretched people's credibility.

The wrong tone overall- The fact is the government used tactics that were suitable if the mood music was inclined to dance with the Yes side when in fact they were wary to start with and instead of those concerns being treated as genuine (even if not necessarily always based on fact or reality) they decided to mark everyone inclined toward No as being crazy and hope that the sensible people would be scared off from associating with the No side. There is a thin enough line between persistence and harassment.

The wrong pitch on specific issues - The discussion on the commission was a classic of the type, the argument about why the commission needed to be reduced was taken as read by the body politic, and the win for Ireland and smaller states that all being treated equally wasn't highlighted from the start. Other alternatives proposals such as a permanent commissioner for the large states with rotation for the smaller ones were never teased out in public.

The absence of the personal touch - I wonder to what extent the campaigning on the ground (or the apparent lack of it in many areas) by various party representatives had an impact. And the extent to which all political parties have become dependent on the personal armies of the local representative of the political pyramid to do the footwork. And many reps may have decided there was nothing directly in it for them, and so they didn't have their feet on the gas to the same extent. They were happy to have few posters but they tested the temperature of the water and decided they didn’t want to leave themselves on the losing side. I'm aware of a strong local campaign in a few areas and I can see that swung the vote in what was not fantastically fertile territory. However in other areas there was no local campaign.

Parties do not talk only to their own supporters or just to their own members. If the defeat is 55/45 as seems likely and with a turnout around 50% then I can't see how FF can claim that their supporters voted YES but that it was all down to the fault of others.

I voiced my concerns a good while ago about the mood of the electorate, and the likelihood that many people wanted to give the government a slap. I was sadly proved right in that regard.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cutting RTE clips down to size.

Loads of people find the RTe means of putting their shows up on-line a bit tight in the crotch or perhaps somewhat restrictive is another more polite way of saying it. A wiser personage than I ,in the form of Jazz Biscuit, has advised and demonstrated how to get RTe clips into a blog and even created a helpful thingy. However as another sage mentioned you link to the RTe content and the people who are trying to watch end up spending most of their time trawling or even skipping and jumping over 30 or 50 minutes to get to the one good bit you wanted them to see. I think the technical term for this good bit is the shot where everything pretty much comes together. That said it is very reminiscent of some other viewing delights that I won't bother to detain you with just now, but I'm a single male and a man has to have some pleasures in life.*

Anyway, my guide below is based on FireFox but the same logic should apply in IE too without any real pain.

First up, RTe store the smil files for their Realplayer content at this default location


And what you really need to highlight the specific point you've decided is important for your viewing public is to find out the number assigned to your particular show. You do this by going to the show on the RTe site and once you're on the page where you could click on the links to open the slip in RealPlayer, you look up the page source from the browser. This is under the View Menu list as Page Source and it will open the generated source code for the webpage in a basic editor. You then need to search for "showplayer" and you will be taken to an area of the code like this
The number after the ? is what you're interested in here (you can also find the number by rolling over the clip link without clicking it. And when the location appears at the bottom of the browser, you could simply note the number with a pencil and paper (but I didn't tell you to bring those at the start so I'm working off you being in a complete machine environment))

You can then open the smil directly by replacing the XXXXX below with the number

and hence save it locally to your hard drive. Once saved, make a copy of the file and open the copy in some basic text editor, (for God's sake don't be opening it in Word or you have all sorts of formatting characters making their home in it)

You then search for the place in the code where the RealPlayer protocol rtsp is invoked. Do this by searching for "rtsp", some example code you may come across below


You can see above quite clearly where the clip-begin and clip-end settings are. Those are the time marks from the beginning of the entire clip and you can change those to be where in the actual clip you want your version of the clip to start and end. Save the file and run it to see if it starts and ends in just the right place and once you've got it nailed, save it. Then the more awkward bit you need to store the smil file itself somewhere on-line so that you can link to it. I put my few files on

* still if your team wins in the end what do you care if the preceding 90 minutes were turgid rubbish broken only by lightening and pitch invasions.

I did this myself back when I was electioning because I wanted to draw attention to some of the inconsistency of the views of a particular government junior minster. On the more general pint, I've finally got that TV card and S-Video cable on order so watch this space for much better video commentary in future. It probably won't be Jon Stewart but what is!

Most of the credit for the tech stuff should really go to Braz. He even had some suggested reading which I promptly ignored. All the same though I've included it here in case you're more sensible than I.

intro -
see plugin sample at

Monday, June 09, 2008

Lisbon:Lisboa - holding my nose and voting...

It's not a bad treaty, it's also not a very good treaty. I don't hate it, I don't much love it either. Yet I've got to have an opinion on it and I've got to vote. So what to do, well I suppose I should go over some of the basic arguments in my head.

It's long and complex: Yeah so what? Do you think a legal document should be written in baby speak? Or on the back of a cereal box?

You don't know anything about it: Then read it, Ok I read it. Perhaps I skimmed most of it. But I got the gist of it. (we're the good guys right?)

You don't understand it, then find someone you trust and listen to what they have to say on it and then think some more about it yourself.

So, where does that leave me? Blurry eyed and owing people pints.

There are specific things I don't like about it. The absence of a commissioner for 5 out of 15 years is one. I think my own proposals on a rotating commission with seniors and juniors would be more workable that the idea of reducing to 2/3 (after all we could be back up to mid twenties commissioners inside of 10/20 years). That said, there may be other better ideas, the problem is that we didn't hear about them in advance and make a judgement on what we liked or disliked.

I think the lack of engagement by the government of the day with the public prior to setting off to negotiate the treaty was a mistake, bringing this sheaf of paper home like it was Jack's Magic Beans is so 19th century.

Gov: "Look we signed a new treaty isn't it great!"
Voters: "I thought you were going out to get milk and sell the cow?"

We're getting a President of the EU sure but it is not a US style president who gets to declare war and do things on his own. Rather it is one who is there to provide continuity between the Presidencies of the circus that moves around from country to country every 6 months and who does what he is told by the heads of the member states. Less of a President and more of a butler with travel privileges.

And as for the foreign minister, we've had Javier Solano wandering the world the last few years and he's not exactly embarrassed us by setting off fire alarms in buildings or nuking Pakistan.

I think there is a basic contradiction in the no argument about democracy when they talk about QMV and how awful it is that larger countries with more voters get a bigger say than we do. Democracy is all about giving those with more votes, more influence.

And then it comes down to this. Last night's Q&A was useful in demonstrating that there is no Plan B for us, rejecting the treaty because we might get something better is not a sensible option. We could actually get something worse and the li(n)e from Mary Lou MacDonald that she believes the government capable of getting a better deal next time when she doesn't believe they were competent to get an even passably good deal in the first place. Doubling up might be the way she rolls but there is a time to cash in your chips and sometimes that is when you're way up, and sometimes it is just when you're marginally ahead. Also, with their excessive tales of woe the No side lost me last night because if they're seeing all these things that obviously aren't there then maybe the more plausible things aren't there either or simply aren't as solvable as they claim. That said, many serious and genuine issues have been highlighted during this campaign and I hope to God that we learn or relearn in some cases the lessons of Nice I which were that public engagement during the process is as important as the last 3/4 weeks of the campaign.

A key point for me was the impression from the No side that we would be just renegotiating with the EU as an entity, when in fact with Lisbon dead, it would be all 27 member states negotiating with each other and God knows where that will lead us. I don't much like this treaty but I can live with it. The idea that we should say No just so as to spin the wheel again in the hope that we might get something better is fine for members of gamblers anonymous but is irresponsible in grown political leaders.

See the point is this, there are aspect of the Treaty I don't like and there are aspects you probably don't like but the areas I would change you might leave the same and the things you would change I would be loath to touch. So we end up with some middle ground document that we all can live with and that is what this treaty is. It's not exactly what we wanted but when do you get that when you're an adult?

So I'm not crazy about this treaty but rejecting it because it ain't perfect doesn't make much sense. Do I think we could have done better? Yes! Do I think that by voting No we will on the balance of probability get a better deal afterwards? No! For that reason, I'm voting Yes.

Voting on Lisbon - update 3

So we've had two polls and a deal with the IFA and a "don't be chancing your arm" for SIPTU since the last post. I would rate things as YES - 53% NO 47% with a turnout in the range of 43 -46%.

Which doesn't seem a great shift since the last post I agree, but it seems to me that the positions are, as one would expect with less than one week to go, hardening. And the hardening of positions means that the possibilities for further advances are reduced. The first poll from TNS-MRBI will have spooked the horses a good bit not only in the body politic but in the main body of the electorate who were most likely thinking of staying home and doing a bit of work in the garden come Thursday. And the 2nd poll will have will have both increased that spookage but also reaffirmed that the cause was not lost for the Yes side. That voting can make a difference. The prospect of a close poll is usually like a rouge handkerchief to the voters. So I suspect polling could bob over the 45% mark and with that bring the Yes side home and dry. Yet only just, and it will be interesting to see the regional differences and to try and interpret what they may mean for future votes and the elections scheduled for next year.

I probably do a final one of these on voting day and if I'm honest a post mortem or two.