Friday, May 29, 2009

Moving the blog! Welcome to

Personalizando WordPress 1.5Image by juanpol via Flickr

So after a good old while here (3/4 years I think) and a year and a half since I got the domain I have finally got around to installing Wordpress and moved over the old content. And all just in time to miss the local/euro/by elections which you might have expected I would be blogging loads on but it wasn't to be. Real life intervenes when you least expect it.

Nanyway, you can get more up to date content over here, once I start to post again with some frequency. Which should be some time over the summer.

If you had been so good as to link to me then if you can update to the new address I'd very much appreciate it.

Otherwise I'd like to say a big thank you to blogspot. It has served me well down the years and like I say chose the tool that does the job in front of you when starting out. Latah!
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Compelling audience contribution from Michael O'Brein on Questions and Answers re: the Ryan Commission Report on Child Abuse

We had a pretty compelling and some might say damning contribution from abuse victim and former FF councillor Michael O'Brien on Questions and Answers last night.

Q&A May 25th

I had wanted to write something more to go with this last night but the hour was late and the spirit weak. This clip was television at its worst and best.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Can't let a whole month go by without a post, or can I?

Songbird is throwing a lot of Steely Dan at me today. Portents or mere coincidence? Feeling like a I should relieve HMV of some of their cheap music in the next while. Other than that not much to say, other more productive writing to do!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Watching Watchmen

I've seen Watchmen and am left with mixed decidedly feelings about it. The best way to sum it up would be that it's a successful adaptation of the novel but not an equally successful movie. Like many others I've probably been seeing a movie of Watchmen in my mind for the bones of twenty years (having borrowed it from a mate in '89 and going through a couple of copies of my own in my travels)

In many ways the cause of the main flaw was mine as I watched each scene with a mind's eye fo "oh look it's the but with X and wow that's so fateful!" But that mindset I feel harmed the overall movie watching experience. One other problem with the length of the novel is that elements inevitability had to be dropped and most of those dropped elements involved minor characters. Yet though they were minor they were for the most part real people, not super heroes and their fates as the plans enfolded through the course of the novel were very much part of what made you invest in the outcome. The newspaper man, and the comic reading kid (that was me for so many years, on the lower shelf in the local newsagents reading Cheeky) the trucker and her estranged lover. I expect they will be restored in the DVD but I felt their absence hurt the movie.

I will watching it again just not sure if I'd do it in the movies and I'll be there with my cash in my grubby mitts to get the DVD if only for the Black Freighter.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Ideas Campaign - grassroots or astroturf

I must have missed the original Prime Time appearance of Aileen O'Toole, so the launch last night on Prime Time caught me by surprise. I listened to the piece with some degree of scepticism (well I am a Kerryman reared, even if my Sarf London optimistic nature occasionally bounds in, ahwight!)

I don't have a problem with a genuinely open forum for the debate of and the testing of ideas and all ideas, let's have the crazies in too. Sure who know who is crazy now. Yet there are considerable questions hanging over this initiative.

One is that those behind it seem to have strong links to semi-state organisations and hence to government. And also the seeking after rights to commercialise ideas that people are going to volunteer seems completely unnecessary to me. It seems to me to be primarily if not exclusively PR people who the key movers here. PR people are not my biggest inspiration and I'd have to wonder what role PR needs to play in this.

History is replete with inventors and original thinkers who have never received the reward for their ideas. Far more often business people have become rich off the ideas of others than have the originators. So I have profound difficulty with the terms and conditions of participation in this effort.

"By submitting the idea you are thereby granting The Ideas Campaign the perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right to use, reproduce, copy, modify, edit, translate, publish, display, post, transmit, distribute or part company with your submitted idea without any compensation to you, anonymously or in the aggregate, for internal or external purposes, alone or as part of other works in any form, media or technology."

See people with ideas start with questions about where we are now, and then they go looking for solutions for well delineated problems. They are awkward to answer by definition but awkward isn't whinging though it might look it to some of the outside. Fact is I don't think there should be any parsing of the ideas (except for profanity or crudity). The ideas should be made available for all to see so that the public can then rate them, not be funnelled through a small number of people who may not necessarily have the expertise to assess their feasibility.

I also have to say that I would question the nature of the categories. For example the retail sector for which I submitted an idea reads more like the ideas should be about helping business in that area make money while I thought a real grassroots effort would be as interested or even more interested perhaps in ideas that would promote competition in the sector and give a better deal for consumer and the average Joe Citizen rather than boosting the profits of retailers. If those managers in Dunnes or Tesco can't come up with ideas to boost their businesses then someone else should be given their jobs, not looking to crowd source solutions to bail them out.

To be as clear as I can I think the basic premise is a good one and is worth doing but the execution for the moment is poor, looking for ideas from others that you could sell on and reap the benefit of it is exploitation. And the motives of those involved are opaque given their linkages to the semi-state and big Irish sector (the banks, Eircom, Aer Lingus, yeah they are really the go-getters that we should be emulating).

Update: this is covered rather well over at Value Ireland. And they note that the reference to selling on of the ideas has been removed. Curious that it has been removed without noting its removal on a blog post or press release while they did find the time to issue a press release about some minor overlap in keywords in Google Adwords.

Maire Hoctor - Not ready for Prime Time

Regular readers will know that I've a certain view of Maire Hoctor TD based on my continuing astonishment that she is a minister for state. Following on from her contribution to the Oireachtas, her performance on Prime Time should be compulsory viewing for all media trainers. Here it is for those that missed it.

It is hard to understand how bad the rest of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party must be that she is a minister for state.

P.S. I do apologise for the slight movement in the clip, though it's not on the level of Cloverfield or the Blair Witch. And I did add some very minor commentary of my own.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Playing a long game

The FF Ard Fheis with the strong television presence of various young candidates got me thinking about FF’s future; they do have one you know just as FG had one in 2002. It is just all too tempting for most of us (myself included) in writing commentary to simply write them off.

It occurred to me that with all the talk of the impeding collapse of the government that FF might have decided to stay their course and simply ride it out. The Greens appear not to be for moving no matter what the circumstances, I believe that to be a mistake but having made that decision for their own reasons they are determined to see it through. I would still hold that the real weak link come the next budget is the FF backbenchers, however I would have to blind to the reality to ignore the alternative which is that FF are simply playing for time at the moment.

In seeking to ride out the negative reaction to the current economic climate they could decide, much as they did partially in 2004, to throw the local and European elections. This would let the voting public get their venting out of their system and while not damaging the electoral prospects of the party at national level. In doing so it would suit them to get as much bad news and the taste of the awful medicine out of the way ASAP. Hell after all if they are going to lose the locals anyway then all the better reason to lose big at this stage while giving themselves 3 whole years to turn things around. As for the Europeans only in Dublin is the loss of a seat a serious prospect and even there it would require a strange set of circumstances for it to happen. I personally believe that a longer period than the current Dail allows for will be needed to return the country to sound finances. That said there is the small matter of a provision for the Dail term to be extended to up to seven years in emergencies, I wonder if FF might be tempted to go in that direction at some point. It was jokingly referred to back at the time of the FG/Lab coalition in the 80s.

Yet it is not impossible that were things to be looking a good degree more stable 3 years then FF support could be up. And up substantially from their current levels in the low 20s which to be fair are pretty much disastrous. Yet a scenario whereby FF and FG are tussling it out on 30% odd while Labour are floating in the high teens to low twenties would be just fine for FF. That situation would leave SF, the Greens and the Independents to fight over the remaining 20/25% of public support. Might the greens and SF be in a position to do a deal is that were the lie of the land. While not optimum for current TDs, it is considerably better than the prospects for the party at the moment.

Coupled with this is that fact FF’s candidate strategy which has offended so many local activists could also be marking a shift to a UK style central office directed candidate selection process for Dail candidates. Sure all the parties who stand for election want to win seats but FF want to be able to govern too and that translates that some minimum number of TDs has to be capable of being more than glorified councillors. Some of them have to be able to run ministries.

Of course, I can’t say for sure that this is the case but I wouldn’t put it past some element of the FF hierarchy or PtB to have sat down and done the maths and decided to take the long view on the prospects of that party. And part of that long view is that a retreat in support, if it is only temporary, could well suit the party in the long term.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Frank Fahey, Ivor Callely and our moral bankruptcy

Like many the home owner wondering if that leather corner piece was such a good idea, I am as curious as I am admiring of the bravery of Oireachtas members who have built up such extensive property empires in these difficult times. There are two in particular who must be hoping like hell that it doesn't occur to anyone renting from them to suddenly up sticks to pastures new in the middle of the night or even for such tenant types to try push hard for a rent reduction. So Frank Fahey and Ivor Callely the laurels are to you this year for being the most confident and committed of all public reps in placing such faith in the world of property.

Now I'm sure that two such men of the world have taken all necessary measures to limit their overall exposure to the downturn. Both strike me as the type to have followed keenly the works of Lord Archer with his interest in political twists and turns. Now I've been doing some rough calculations (who do you think I am the department of finance, rough is the best I can do) and my guess is that both Frank and Ivor are probably going to err on the side of prudence and cut back on the old expenses in the near future. They might even succumb to temptation and break out the old student favourite of beans on toast as an entrée.

Still as the bank ads say so long as they can keep up the repayments everything should be fine, right? It's not like property ever loses value, is it? Anyway if you happen to find yourself at the FF Ard Fheis this weekend be sure and not to embarrass Frank or Ivor should you see them by buying them a drink, let them save face by buying you one instead. And all with the government and let's face it much of the nation suffering from a degree of moral bankruptcy when it comes to the origins of this financial mess it wouldn't do for anyone else to be letting the side down.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Minister in well reasoned and logical decision shocker

So minister for defence Willie O'Dea says we're not raising the Asgard II and on the balance of the evidence presented it seems like the right decision. The cost is not certain but would be a minimum of €2 million, nor is the outcome certain as it might not be successful and the ship might not be repairable. The alternartive of a new ship should be more seaworthy and in addition more accessible for those people with disablities who might wish to partake. I'd personally like the notion of a wooden ship but i'd like to live in a castle too but I'm not so foolish as to run out and buy one for the sake of it. It is regretable that the ship is lost to us but it was lost when it sank not when this decision was made.

This decision is based on numbers and facts put in the public domain by the minister and likely outcomes and benefits and so on. It's just a pity we can't do the same for big ticket items like the Metro.

Leave that man alone!

Jaysus that post has grown all kinds of legs, and appears to be scuttling across the world and dragging all kinds of folks here from far and wide. So for the record I want to say this I believe in Frank Fahey. I've seen him on the television and people I've spoken with at length have overheard people in conversation, that they know well enough to invite to the afters of their weddings, saying that they have met him and he is 100% real. Yes indeed a real live person. Frank is real.

And I would go further and say I'd be shocked, shocked I tell you if it turned out that someone like Frank Fahey could be in anyway involved with the digout for Anglo Irish or that he would have been himself a member, facilitator, convenor or chief butler to this purported maple ten crowd. I would be absolutely astounded if he were to have so much as helped in the pouring of a cup of tea for such people. Sure anyway Frank is much too busy a man, and much too interested in helping his constituents to be able to do any of that sort of thing. Now I hope I've put that notion to bed.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Desperate Housewives in Space

Ok so this weeks's Battlestar wasn't great in terms of advancing the story and it didn't quite have enough of those Gaius being Gaius moments that we all so love, but I think the description given to me that it is Desperate Housewives in Space is a little harsh. Harsh but with that element of truth that is all too genuinely scary.

Still Lost made up for it in our televisual watching "we're not going to Guam are we?" No Frank we're not.

Are the Irish blog awards fixed?

There is something rotten in the state of DamienMark and the Irish blog awards. I had simply thought it was a harmless bit of nonsense which had some weird quirks and oddities. But that someone could not post during almost the entirely of the period that was stated as a minimum requirement for nomination and yet still win an award is more than odd. That two would do so goes beyond passing strange.

The fact is that no one can independently vouch for the judges because no one outside the inner circle knows who the judges are. The rules or even mere guidelines are lacking to the point of being vapour but even the most lax of rules wouldn't have had two nominees making the short-list for what is meant to be a year's work when they didn't post for most of the year in question. The bald fact is that one of those winners only started to post less than 2 weeks before the deadline, while another took a sabbatical for 8 months only returning to resume posting less than 2 weeks before the deadline.

With this kind of arbitrary inclusion and exclusion it is hard not to see the awards as being more about currying favour and jumping on bandwagons than any sort of real assessment of quality over the course of a year. It's pretty like crowning the league champions on the basis of a few good matches at the end of the season. Having the accolade of being the best for a particular year should mean that you were the best over the course of that period not that you had flashes of excellence here and there. It must be galling for those who lost out that their entire years work wasn't judged to be as good as a few weeks or a couple of months output by someone else.

Then going beyond that we have the peculiar notion that the winner for best newcomer (a nice young lad by all accounts) was heavily promoted by the organiser and his friends.

Then the winner for best blog from a journalist appears to have provided the goodie bags.

That the winner for best current affairs and ultimately the Grand Prix prize for best blog is also a close friend of the organiser shouldn't in the normal run of events be a matter of any concern but with everything else that is going on one can't not mention it. I don't doubt that it is amongst the best in its category but the absolute best?

In the normal run of events, one or or two of the above you could gloss over but all of them? Then you have the all organisational strangeness. Why have no confirmation for registration that people made in December until just 48 hours beforehand? Especially, when you consider that many people had to travel to attend and stay overnight? Why is no confirmation mail sent to those who nominate of their nomination choices so that they have some proof that they did nominate and who they nominated? Why was it that registration for attendance opened weeks in advance of opening the nominations, meaning people who were nominated couldn't register to sit at a event that they should have been the focus of? Why is it that we have no publicly available criteria of what is used for the judging? Why is there no confirmation for people that they applied to be judges? Why is it no one can know who the judges are? I applied to be a judge in 2007 but heard nothing back then, other people I know applied last year but heard nothing back. Yet we're repeatedly told that judging is open to all but that is not true, you can offer to be a judge but the selection of judges is not open. I noticed in my own case some touching on my blog from the judging area of the site -I was longlisted for political blog - a few hours before the short-list was posted. Only one of which actually looked at the archive for the previous year. I wouldn't have had me remotely near the short list but it would be good to know you didn't make it having actually been really reviewed not just glanced at at the last minute. I wonder how much assessment was really made of other the categories, was it as superficial as that?

Again, none of these things on their own is proof of misdeeds, indeed taken together they might still be a matter of mere coincidence but the absence of any transparency about proceedings must naturally lead to questions. The notion of Ceasar's wife being above reproach comes to mind. When the process is secret all efforts should be made to ensure that there can be no inference of wrong doing. It might sound dull but the process matters, it takes from the winners that such a cloud should exist over the process and for no good reason either I can understand.

When it comes to our electoral process we don't have people vote then take the votes into a locked room to be countred by only a few people who appointed by the government and who we never get to see and then at the end a government representative would come out and tell us the result. Everyone would look at that and shout fix. Yet the process for the blog awards is little different. Judges are appointed in secret, they judge in secret, their votes are weighed up in secret.

Sure it's a fun night out for those concerned but so too apparently are 12th July parades and lynchings in the deep south on the 1930s were very good at bringing the community (some of it at least) together. Of course, this is nowhere on that scale but the mentality that will be used to defend it is much the same. A group who enjoy one another company refusing to answer any questions about the process involved because it is just a bit of craic. A bit of craic which leads to business being generated for some of those concerned? That sound like a straightforward business promotion to me.

Needless to say none of the actual nominees are in a position can say anything because the temperamental nature of the host is well established at this stage and the potential consequences of making any kind of critique is there for all to see. Since my card is marked anyway I'm saying it, I've nothing to lose by asking merely questions. The wonder is will we see any answers, or will it be a case of simply attack the man and not deal with the questions.

In answering my own question I would say that "no the awards aren't fixed" but they sure as hell seem broken.

Curtain Twitching and Twitter

In combination with Emerald Discount we've come up a new twitter terminology for tweets that are from those who are the curtain twitchers of rural and small town areas. So if you're twitching back your curtain to be all nosy about what your neighbours are doing and then you twitter about it: that's a sign that you are a twitcher and your tweet is a twitch!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Did he ask or did they tell?

The Taoiseach Brian Cowen has stated that no government minister is involved in the €300 million loan for share purchase in Anglo-Irish bank. How does he know this, did he ask them or did they tell him, or has he seen the list of the ten? It's a pretty straight forward situation, one of the three must be the case and we're entitled as the owners of the bank and the ones stuck for the bill to know which it was. But will he tell us?

Frank Fahey TD should invest in a bank.

Frank Fahey TD has so many houses he should think about investing in a bank. When thinking back to the register of TD's interests from last year, I can't help remembering all the property Frank Fahey had and the global reach of his interests. There were apartments here and houses there, he had a hairdressing business in Russia at one point if memory serves.

And I wonder to myself that he hasn't thought about getting himself into a bank instead of being in hock to them for so much all the time. I mean we all have to deal with the banks to finance our business but no one likes the idea of going cap in hand to them for another million or two when you've come across the sweetest little deal in some far off land. I hear Anglo-Irish is going cheap, I'm sure the government would let him have it for half nothing at this stage. He could even borrow the money to fund the purchase if necessary. I'm sure someone in the global financial environment that a mover and shaker like Frank moves in would be up for it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best blog posts of 2008 - bad dates

Last year I got myself into some hassle because I pointed out that the best post category for the Irish Blog Awards tends to suffer from that old Oscar problem of forgetting about anything decent that came out before the summer block busters blinded us. I'm not sure why people decide to take comments about a matter of process so personally but what the hey, I think process is important to warrant the occasional post.

So how does this year's line up compare? Well not nearly as bad though there is still a marked tendency to nominate material from the very end of the year. And as I noted last year unlike the Oscars people aren't deliberately saving their best work for the year end so this means good stuff is missing out. January is still a weird month for nominations, people really don't know which year they should nominate for. Nothing from 2008 makes it into the '08 list but one from 2009 does. Some clarity around dates wouldn't go amiss.

On the topic of dates, the return of the Swearing Lady was long over due to my mind and she was much missed by all but the rules for nomination were that people had to be actively blogging between July 15th and December 15th 2008*. But Sweary only returned to us the first week of December, and had five posts before Dec 15th so I'm not sure how stands up as active blogging Then we've the curious case of the new Irish Economy Blog which on the short list for specialist Blog and which is a work of real quality and something I hope will long be with us but it didn't start until Dec 23rd.

Update: as pointed out by Philip from Irish Economy the first post was Dec 2nd. Which is still less than 2 weeks before the Dec 15th date.

I'm not saying it's all being made up as it goes along but it sure seems like it to even the most causal observer. It is entirely possible that some people didn't nominate a particular blog because they thought they had to follow the rules. Or maybe the truth is only the little people have to follow the rules.

The numbers month by month for 2008 and then 2007 are

December 15/17
November 11/12
October 5/8
September 7/4
August 5/6
July 6/5
June 5/2
May 5/3
April 6/3
March 5/4
February 6/0
January 0/0

Jan of 2008 had 7 nominations compared to this year's 1.

Sadly, I would say based on this that there is a more than fair chance that many of the posts nominated are not even the best posts the individual bloggers have done this year not to mind the best posts of the whole year overall. The idea of the best post of the month has helped, but it still leaves us with a problem at the tail end.

If I was to consider what should happen here, it would not be feasible at this stage to remove either of the blogs involved from the running for their categories. Instead what should happen is the proposed rules for next year should be posted within the next 4 weeks and people given a chance to provide feedback on them. I would also suggest if no questions were asked about the eligibility by any of the judges for those sections that they shouldn't be judges again. I mean how superficial were the criteria and assessment that no one noticed that the blogs hadn't been blogging?

*A reminder of the rules:

A Blog can be nominated in any category by anyone, but the Blog owner can only accept nominations in one category (with the exception of Best Blog Post) to move the blog forward into the judging rounds. To be nominated the Blog has to have been actively blogging between July 15th and December 15th 2008. Winners of each category will be sent forward into the Grand Prix category where they will compete for the title of “Best Blog 2009″

Monday, February 16, 2009

For fans of Half-life - Escape from city 17 the movie!

Please someone give these folks a series!

It looks great given it was made for a fiver or $500 Canadian.

Not the final cylon - or I don't think I am at least.

I go away for a few days and traffic jumps massively. Why? all because of a few posts about Battlestar I did way back and the mere coincidence of a name. It's all rather odd and yet so obvious we knew there was an 8, why did we presume that the final five were part of the 12 in some sequential order?

One interesting connection between Baltar and Daniel is Baltazar who is in the book of Daniel. The smart money at this stage appears to be on Kara Thrace's father being Daniel though this makes her the first hybrid and apparently they have heavily focused on the primacy of Hera as the hybrid, the opera house and so on. I wonder if someone has parse what was said about Baltar not being a cylon or was it just not a member of the final five.

Given the stretch for Ellen I wonder if Daniel could be someone more minor rather than a major character. Anyhoo, I'm personally not the 7even, though there are those who think me a smidgen otherworldy or a tad alien at times.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Time for Labour/FG to talk to John Gormley directly and cut a deal

By now most people have seen the results of the opinion poll from the MRBI published in the Irish Times. Moving beyond the mere numbers, it is clear that the government does not have the support of the public to act. It is time for someone from FG and Labour to approach John Gormley and if necessary cut a deal that would allow them to go softly, softly on the majority of the existing Green seats.

The problem for the Greens in the next election whenever it comes will not be whether they get 4% or 7% nationally but whether or not they get transfers. And if there are any Green candidates out there reading this who are thinking that FF transfers will see them home, either in the general election or more immediately in the upcoming local elections, then they need to wake up and smell the stale coffee of the FF core vote. It simply won't come to their rescue. If they really value their policy agenda, their seats and the long term viablity of their party then they should withdraw now from a goverment that no one explicitly voted for and which now utterly lacks the mandate to act as a government need to given the difficulties we are faced with.

If you did happen to miss them then these are the adjusted figures for party support, compared with the last Irish Times poll in November are: Fianna Fáil, 22 per cent (down 5 points); Fine Gael, 32 per cent (down 2 points); Labour, 24 per cent (up 10 point); Sinn Féin, 8 per cent (up 1 point); Green Party, 4 per cent (no change); and Independents/others, 9 per cent (down 4 points).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cowen's speech

Listening to the reaction to and commentary on Cowen's set piece speech on Thursday night one would be forgiven for wondering if the standard of public discourse in Ireland has fallen so low that the fact of an elected politician being able to string a few sentences together is viewed as a cross between the sermon on the mount and the Gettysburg address.

In all truthfulness, we have a history of generally weak public oratory in Ireland. For the last decade we've had a Taoiseach who couldn't get through a paragraph with causing us to wonder if it might all be so much better if only we could lip read. For all his considerable wit and the logic he presents his points with, I'm not gone on listening to Eamon Gilmore myself . His voice doesn't carry us with him. We're all bold children to him and he's chastising and telling us off. I think that Enda Kenny tries too hard to make a speech instead of just talking to the public, he gave a speech in 2003 in Galway that I think was one of the best in the last ten years. A pity hardly anyone saw it. After that he's been too stiff, almost too focused on not making mistakes instead of relaxing into it. Gerry Adams comes across as just too damn pleased with himself and reminds me a lot of the time of a priest back from the missions with a worthy, worth message.

For sure the Taoiseach said some things that are true and needed saying. Yet they've needed saying for quite some time. So why the delay? The problem as I see it about the Taoiseach's analysis is that there is no element of mea culpa, no admission that the country was unprepared, like a parent who lets their child run about in the nip but then shrugs their shoulders that sure it could happen to anyone when their kid gets pneumonia while other children have the sniffles. We have gotten pneumonia while other countries are down with the flu.

The mantra from the government is everything would have been fine if that blasted turn in the road hadn't come along (the same logic is used by speeding boy racers a lot too). We can debate about when the turn was going to come, but we should all be in agreement that a turn was going to come at sometime. And let's face it this was no 90% corner that came out of the blue. It could be seen easily that we were out of control, and whether it was a deer running out into the road, or a corner or an oncoming car our government simply didn't have their concentration on the road. And that is the fault of the driver.

Taking for example the so-called highlights as selected by the Irish Independent


"The one thing that characterises their success is their self belief.

If we decide to wallow in a sea of doubt, do not be surprised if we end [up] in the turbulent waters that we are in today."

Ok so young people are confident, jeez who knew? Haven't we been told this for years, in fact we've been told that young people are overconfident on the roads.


"Unless we're prepared to say that we as a country are prepared to step back a few places now and take a drop in our standard of living -- yes, of 10 or 12pc over the next couple of years -- in the perspective of a country that has increased its wealth so much over the last few years, by 70, 80pc; yes it's a step back, but we are in a far better position than previous generations had to contend with."

Ah but did the country really increase its wealth by 70/80%? That is the question? Are we better placed than previous generations yes? Undoubtedly, but that is our own doing mind not the sole doing of the state. We did the overtime and saved our few quid, or some of us did. There again some of the commentariat are overreaching when it comes to which generations to compare us against. Eoghan Harris was comparing us to the Irish at the time of the Vikings and Cromwell. Is this how it is done elsewhere? Do the French console themselves that at least it's not the great Terror, or the Portuguese that it's not the Lisbon earthquake of 1555?

Cowen "If we lose the belief in our own capacity to confront this issue and to do whatever is necessary to avoid putting at risk that which we have achieved so well, and of which we are rightly proud of in recent times, then perhaps we didn't deserve it in the first place."


"Jobs, jobs, jobs has to be the priority in the coming years."

The sentiment is ok but the line is awful, 'the coming years' and what would be so wrong with some alliteration. How about this instead?

"Jobs, jobs, jobs are my focus, I know they're your focus, and they must be and will be the focus for all of us for the future. So have they been before and so they should be again." It's not something Jon Favearu would write for President Obama but it trips off the tongue better than Cowen's version.

I found Harris's claim on the late that Cowen had to speak to a few hundred people because he's just not comfortable in front of the Dail or on television a bit like the great footballer who can only do his magic on a small pitch in front of a small crowd on a balmy summer's day, not much use is he? And does this completely invalidate the argument used by FF and others against Enda Kenny that because he's not good in the Dail or on tv that he's just not Taoiseach material. Or is it ok for a FF leader to be hopeless in the Dail and on the box so long as he's ok speaking to the right crowd?

I suspect that Cowen was in part attempting to do an Arnie Vinick last week with all the media appearances. Meet the press in so many guises that they tire of him and move on.

I'm reminded of the words of Aaron Sorkin spoken in the The American President.
Lewis Rothschild: " the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.

President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we've had presidents who were beloved, who couldn't find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference. "

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Whither the knowledge economy.

Over the last few years you could barely get from your front door to the local bookies without bumping into some reference to the knowledge economy, it was on the tip of the tongue of every government spokesperson and half the political class - at least those members that were awake. The knowledge economy was the oft-declared destination that was to be reached by means of our extensive up-skilling and personal mental re-tooling.

Yet in the last couple of weeks it is hard to avoid noticing it's replacement with a new phrase, the 'smart economy'. So sudden is the dropping of the idea of the knowledge economy that I'm genuinely concerned that someone in the government might have broken the 'knowledge economy' by accident, and its replacement with the smart economy is simply designed to avoid the awkward questions that are bound to crop up such as to who was last seen carrying the knowledge economy and if they were impaired at the time in some way by drink or carrying the addresses of too many prospective task force members.

Did former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in fact crack the knowledge economy while descending his stairs in Drumcondra and did he simply fail to mention it when leaving it in the care of the new Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Then one lovely crisp winter morning as Brian was exercising his vocal chords did he hit a note that resonated with the knowledge economy and the crack widened to shatter the entire edifice? Does anyone remember when they last saw or heard of the knowledge economy? Did Martin Cullen bring it to China with him and was it replaced there with a cheap knock off?

Perhaps this was because knowledge required bukkes and they cost money and in this straitened times we can't afford them But what do they mean by a 'smart economy' is it a cheeky economy that gives you back lip,or talks out of turn?

And who in the wider world is likely to give much credence to any further ideas we have when we were so quick to pick up, run with and then drop the knowledge economy for no good reason. Cowen's speech to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce was peppered with the phrase, but does he actually mean by it? Is it smart to spend when you have it and then to cut back drastically when you don't without bothering to saving for a rainy day in between? Is it smart to judge your construction industry purely by how many houses they build and not where they are built? Or is it that smart in this instance is just short for smartarse?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Doorstep challenge '09

A good while back I wrote here about trying to invert the common political process as we know it in Ireland whereby the candidate comes to your home and seeks to impress upon you what it is they are really, really interested in. My idea was along the lines of the public challenging the candidate on the issues that actually concerned the voter, (in particular I was hoping that people might challenge them with some outlandish topics, 'tis the fecking geese have the country ruined minister') and to record and upload them so we 'a merry band of polly anoraks' could get some jollies out of them. It didn't pan out as planned (I do say planned but that is more than a little overstating it, it was an idea that stayed overly on the vaporware) so we've not any content to look back on but the idea itself still has merit.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Monday, February 02, 2009

The coming of dapper Dan

I'm not known for my sartorial elegance, or elegance period. I'm a bloke, I regard clothes in almost all forms as coverings and were they skins or pelts of some sort then I'd be fine with that too. I want the coverings to be warm, roomy, practical, and come with a weapon of some kind.

However, since we're just about still in the new year predictions aura I think there is one general point I could make about personal clothing choices. It was fine for all and sundry to wear tracksuits and hoodies when it wasn't a sign that you couldn't afford to wear anything else. Now that not having a job is a real prospect for many more people, being able to mark yourself out as not being unemployed is going to matter more. So expect a new dapper style of dress especially for men, New Edwardian dandies even, though if Charles succeeds to the throne across the water I would expect it be the Neo-Georgian. So over the next 2 years I expect us men to brush up our appearance and for make a real effort. A pity if it were all to become about presentation and that is not a scenario that would suit me personally (I don't carry the suit look off well) but still I suspect it will happen.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Phases of the 'net

It would be my view that the history of the 'net can be described by breaking it into a number of phases. These phases aren't cleanly distinguished from one another - you can't say that one ends here and thus the other starts - nor are they intended to suggest that the last few decades can't be broken up into other differentlt flavoured segments. Not alone is there more than one way to skin a cat but you can use a dog or bonobo if you prefer, and instead of skinning it you could just stroke it. This is all just a means to take a semi-logical speculative look at the future.

The first phase of the net was primarily focused with connecting things, and people and places. This manifested in the development of URLs, Mosaic and so on. Following on from this, the 2nd phase, once people were able to link to one another, this phase was when people concentrated on the creation of vast amounts of user generated content, much of it rubbish or duplicates of what already existed admittedly. But for all that still very necessary. People were made to get to places, now they needed places to go and reasons to go there.

The 3rd phase which is the one we've seen over the last decade or so was next addressed to the problem of finding that content, or sorting the wheat from the chaff- in essence search. Finding what you wanted to find. You're no longer doing Lewis and Clark cross country discovery journey across the country but are focused on going from downtown Boston to the Drake hotel in San Fran. How do you do that?

Still for all the indexing and vast trawling and spidering that has gone on we are still left with a problem. That is that Google or whatever search engine you use might well find what you're looking for, but will you actually recognise it when it is shown to you? It's why something like Searchme or CoolIris is a sexier prospect than Cuil for the common or gardener user because it mirrors more closely how we as people already flick through artefacts when searching for things that we don't know about. That Cuil might find what you're looking for is less important if you can't recognise that they've found it.

In my opinion, there are two broad types of search. There is the looking for your keys type - you know what it is you are looking for but not quite where it is - and then there is the looking for a present for your nephew if you're an aunt - you know sort of what might suit but don't have a solid idea in your mind.

This is why I reckon that the phase we're heading into now or are already in is mostly about presentation. Showing us what is there. Of course, this is all conjecture on my part, and I'm sure that others are or have already written about it in more depth or greater insight. It is odd how the desktop is still just a mess of a thing, though the likes of BumpTop are seeking to do something around that. We have had connecting, making, finding and now showing. Where after that? I think deciding comes next. How do we choose...

The personal aspect for me in this idea is that I think I've found a way to marry my concerns about the expression and fostering of opinion via blogs and also how to present divergent views in such a manner as to allow a genuine exchange of views to take place, and for those who are reading those views to be able indicate support or dissent for all or merely part of the content. Rather than a Parliament, might we one day talk perhaps of a visualment or scribblement, or just pure divilment! Anyway, the idea would be that there will be more come from The Afterword at some point. Just not quite yet.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Maintaining demand in the ecomony

A representative of the CPSU was on the 6.1 News two weeks ago saying that we should have no pay cuts in the public service because above all we must "maintain demand in the economy!". Not a bad idea but is paying public servants the best way to do that? I mean following his logic we could get out of this if we were to pay them all 20% sure that would help us no end by increasing demand by 20% or at least that's what he seems to think.

Only 1/6 of the workforce are in the public service which is roughly 17%, so a 10% cut in those salaries would only amount to a 1.6% reduction in demand while saving 2 Billion for the budget. This potential 1.6% drop in demand is as nothing compared to the actual drop due to people losing their jobs in the private sector. But hey let's all focus on making sure that we don't have that killer 1.6% drop.

In contrast to the above I tend to agree that lying off loads of low paid public servants wouldn't save that much money when you consider that we take back about 1/3 of their pay in taxes and PRSI and it would lead to greater reductions in services. Yet would cutting pay by the same amount have the same effect? If one in ten jobs went it is reasonable to think that even with the remaining 90% taking up some slack that there would be less people around to do the same work so that same work wouldn't happen. However, if you cut salaries by 10% across the board would the people affected really work 10% less? Would members of An Garda Siochana guard us 10% less, would teachers teach 10% less well? There is no requirement that a 10% pay cut should lead to any substantive cut in services while a cut in numbers employed almost automatically means a reduction in services. And haven't many of of those providing public services been telling us that their jobs are vocations? like teachers and doctors and nurses?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gender proofing legislation - a one way street?

I'm coming to this late but it is interesting to consider that the mother in the Roscommon abuse and neglect case could only be sentenced to seven years for her crimes because the legislation as it pertains to women is over a century old. This despite legislation for the same crimes having been updated in the last ten years but only it appears it was only updated as it applies to male perpetrators.

I had understood, perhaps incorrectly, that when new legislation was being proposed that the relevant department engaged in what is termed 'gender proofing'. Such gender proofing is supposed to work so as to ensure that any new laws don't unduly affect one gender over the other. Yet it would appear from this example at least this works primarily in one direction when it comes to the criminal justice system, new legislation must not impact negatively on women but it can do so on men. In fact when revising the law it doesn't occur to anyone to check that it applies equally to men and women.

It does make one wonder if the state (or those working for the state) realises that both genders are capable of committing crimes. Even if the incidences of particular crimes may be more prevalent in one gender than the other, both are still able to commit them. There again looking at the response to the C case should we really be all that surprised at the distinction?

As Brendan Howlin noted at the time "That is above and beyond the bizarre and absurd position that girls will be criminally liable for foreplay but not for sex. To put it bluntly, the incoherence behind the present proposals is demonstrated by pointing to three conflicting propositions, each of which the Government is seeking to advance in this Bill. Each of them relate to consensual acts between two 16½ year olds.

· If they engage in sexual intercourse, the boy is guilty of a serious offence but the girl is not.
· If the girl performs oral sex on the boy, they are both guilty of a serious offence.
· But if the boy performs oral sex on the girl, then neither of them is guilty of anything.
Most bizarrely of all, where a boy attempts sexual intercourse with a girl but fails, she is guilty as well as him. But if he succeeds in sexual intercourse with her, she is innocent of any offence.

The Minister is, for reasons that defy logic, on rewarding a girl who insists, in order to protect her legal innocence, on proceeding to full penetrative sexual intercourse." And we're coming up on the third anniversary of that piece of sexist legislation.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Political blogs - guess who is not coming to dinner

I’m only going to talk about the political blogs that are nominated as they are the ones I'm most familiar with. A good representation from our friends in the north. And a decent number from local election candidates too. Nice to see the political journalists joining the fun. And the entries from the journalists new and not so new are very strong too, quality writing, consistent posting and a key aspect for me - good engagement and discussion with their readers. I would take the personal view that it is very hard for the solo blog efforts to compete with the group efforts, and let's face it the likes of Slugger and CedarLounge are simply fantastic reads and resources. Still that which does not destroy us makes us strong, eh!

Yet looking at the list I can’t help feeling there are a good few missing that you would really expect to have seen at least one or two of: the likes of Damien Blake, Dominic Hannigan, Ciaran Cuffe and Richard Delevan spring to mind. Does this mean they will now be banned from the top table for blog events in future? Have they been shunned by the politiarati who long only for the delights of the new and shiny, or did people just reckon they would be nominated anyway and people instead sought out those who might not be so popular. That would be a real pity if they were lost for good from the scene but if the awards are genuinely meant to be a reflection of the current state of play for blogging then the logic of doing exactly that would appear hard to avoid. Of course, by saying "banned from the top table" I am being more than a little facetious.

I've said it already but if there was a live nomination process so you could see who was already nominated then this sort of situation would be avoided. After all, this is just the nomination stage and it would be good for the categories to be as inclusive as possible. There again they could have been lost or mislaid, my own nominations for example don’t appear to have made it through even though I did get a confirmation mail. But adding those mentioned above in now would have all the appearance of favouritism so I guess they'll be missing for this year.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Green Party email spam, EU email good!

It would seem that a number of people continue to be outraged by getting an unsolicited email from the Greens. But was it really the method that outraged them or was it the messenger? Now I'm pretty self evidently not the Greens biggest fan (keep it under your hat but I'm a member of Fine Gael off and on since the early 80s) but I suspect that the outrage was a little overdone in some cases given their response on a prior occasion to receiving exactly the same form of contact from another political organisation.

So was it the method of communication or was it in fact the messenger that got the noses of some out of joint? I think the latter and here's why. The EU had a get together of bloggers back in October of last year, and quite a nice day it was too. I was alerted to it by an unsolicited email, as it would seem were the others who posted about it. This mail was not personally addressed, it went to multiple recipients and from their posts on the topic the great and the good had no problem with this method of initiating contact when it came to them from the offices of the EU. So no outrage at all when they are favourable towards the endeavour - indeed they straight out encouraged people to attend - but all sorts of moral indignation when it was the Green Party who contacted them. At least in Michele's case, there is no evidence that he hasn't been consistent.

If we're going to grow the use of the net as a means to increase political participation and involvement it would make sense to have some degree of consistency from the bloggers when it comes to complaining about the method used to contact them. Being all flirty with the EU but getting all huffy with the Greens when contacted in exactly the same manner shows that there is an agenda at work here.

Below is the mail from the eu about their get together.

To: undisclosed-recipients, :
Subject: Advanced Invitation: Organise, Activate, Influence: Social Activism Online in Ireland
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 17:53:49 +0200


    You are cordially invited to the 1 day conference Organise, Activate, Influence, Social Activism Online in Ireland on the 4 October 2008.This is a conference put together by bloggers for bloggers. The European Commission Representation and European Parliament Office in Ireland are acting as facilitators for this event.

    Please click on the bellow link for the days program and how to register.

    Spaces unfortunately are limited and offered on a first come basis.

    We look forward to seeing you on the day


      Philippe Carr
      Press Officer
      European Commission Representation
      European Union House
      18 Dawson Street
      Dublin 2
      tel: 00 353 1 634xxxx
      fax: 00 353 1 634xxxx

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Why Obama couldn’t happen here

Many commentators and the public generally have been wondering in recent weeks given the disastrous absence of anything resembling leadership from the government why is that we do not have our own Obama on the horizon. I find it surprising that people like Vincent Browne forget so easily that we have a cabinet system of government that sits on top of a parliamentary system. For me the question is really an answer in search of an appropriate question. They start with Barack Obama as the answer and try to work back from there. It is a bit like wondering why you can’t have somebody with the foot skills of Pele playing in the front row of a rugby team.

The plain fact is that different sports favour different types of players. Different political systems favour different types of politicians, The US constitution provides for a strong executive presidency that has to work in tandem with equally strong legislature and justice systems. All of this exists on top a system of governors, Mayors and down to the local sheriff who are accompanied by state senates, city councils and so on. In other words their system is designed to have a strong executive which has the lead in setting the direction but which then has to work with a larger legislative body to work out the details.

In the US the primary system, this works by means of selecting the candidate with plurality of the votes, aids in the ready adoption of new ideas and different candidates. Choosing the candidate who has the most support rather the majority of support means that an idea can move up through the system more quickly. It is true it can also favour fads and even facilitates a movement towards the extremes of the ideological spectrum. Yet this too favours a wider range of choices being on offer to the electorate or at least that portion of the electorate that is inclined to get involved at the primary stage.

It is much later on when it comes to the general election that the candidate needs majority or close to majority support. In the general election, you as a voter are faced with a choice of either/or and you vote for the candidate you like most or dislike least, but is a straightforward piece of comparison shopping. The time to have picked and worked for your particular flavour of left or right wing candidate is the primary stage. When it comes to the general election, you put your differences with the winning candidate from your party aside to ensure that the party platform is in a position to be put into effect.

In our system the stage when such majority support is required in the candidate selection stage of the process but then the candidate does not require majority support in the election itself. In an election with multiple parties and multiple candidate the people when faced with a choice between candidate A from say a left wing perspective or candidate B who is proposes solutions from a right wing perspective, the voters more often than not simply chooses candidate C. Candidate C who doesn’t give any concrete proposals but does the best impression of just wanting to help.

This process which we must remember is driven by the voter leads to the denuding indeed complete absence of policy from candidates resumes, instead replaced by their captaincy of the local football or camogie team and their winning rosette for best in show. Avoiding policy distinctions during the election campaign naturally lead to a clustering around the centre ground by all the candidates. It is then doubly hard for the parties to forge strong ideological positions if their TDs have spent their political existence expressing in the strongest possible terms their support for happiness, goodness and that people should have jobs in a spirit of equality and fairness.

So you as a voter can pick candidate C safe in the knowledge that you didn’t have to commit or subscribe to any particular viewpoint of how anything is to be done. You were after all simply endorsing a general set of goals or aspirations. Yet politics in a participative democracy is meant to be about the people making fully realised choices not just in personnel who will man the ship of state but also as to the specifics of the direction; how do we get there, at what cost, what do we place a lower priority on and why do we make this choice. Instead in our system we (the electorate) tend to vote for someone who has articulated best that they share the same vague general goal as us and then we can tune out when it comes to talk about the details. So we have candidates who want to help, to achieve equality and fairness, to give a voice to local people and so on.

Furthermore this tendency, evidenced in both elected and prospective members of the Oireachtas, to sit around the middle ground suffocates and impedes the movement in the placement of that centre ground. We forget sometimes that the middle ground doesn’t stay in the same place nor is it meant to. The one time centre ground of Irish politics is no longer so popular.

In stark contrast to the US, our entire political and electoral system in Ireland appears designed for us to have candidates who are not the least bit radical or all that often concerned about the maddening detail of ‘How’ a goal is to be achieved. It is as if politics was merely about stating a goal aloud. After which all would simply be magicked into place. Even those few radical candidates who do struggle through the system have had to be the best local exponent of clientism possible. You think that Joe Higgins wasn’t getting medical cards or helping folks out through their travails with the planning process while he was working on his latest witty put down of evil capitalists and their ilk?

So in querying why we don’t have an Obama we should perhaps spare some time to be wondering about the system we have that has given us the people we do have rather than simply bemoaning the failure of the people in the system to behave like those in other systems. Fact is in Ireland (Republic 1948 edition) Obama wouldn’t have been elected to the local council not to mind the state senate or US senate because he wasn’t from the area! Not to mind how with all that education he’s just not in touch with the common man and he doesn’t come from a big enough family to go out canvassing for him, and all the internet stuff is great but he never called to the door and asked about our auntie Mae who has terrible trouble with her bunions.

(Also posted over on Slugger)

Battlestar speculation

I think that a resurrection hub or hyper/sub space connection to a particular type of resurrection hub close to Kobol or the colonies or even on one of the Colonial worlds is in orbit around the earth or maybe even located on Mars or the Moon, or Alpha Centuri . This type of resurrection facility can resurrect anyone who is of Cylon heritage which includes all the Colonials. (Surprise!)

If we remember back Kobol was actually quite inhabitable, a bit of a fixer upper but the Colonials have time on their hands and no fear of hard work. Just look at what they managed to do with New Capricia and that was a hole of a place. The big reason at the time to run Kobol was that the Colonials were being chased about the galaxy by the Cylons and were following the belief that Earth would be a safe haven from those awful toasters. That is no longer case if the Colonials have win out against the remaining Cylons in the civil war.

So now they could return all to Kobol and start anew. Cylons and humans alike. However, we would also be in the know that the process would really just be starting all over again. We know that in time Earth would (remember the plant that Roslin picked up), as will the Colonial worlds, be inhabitable again, and so the cycle can begin anew. They seem to be all about the cycles in Battlestar. Remember even the series itself is a re-imagining of something we've already seen. So in my view the remainder of the series will see them win out against the bad Cylons and settle down with the good Cylons on Kobol.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

So it seems the Final Cylon is

someone who falls broadly under my initial prediction though it would appear I was wrong as the specific instance. Or at least that is what we're lead to believe. Avoid clicking the link above if you don't wish to be in any way spoiled.

That said I think they may play around with us a bit more, indeed I was half expecting to get some straight up visual clue that undermines that this is really Earth. To their credit they're being much more subtle than that.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Judging the Irish Blog Awards

I thought the Irish Blog Awards were based on of what people had done in the previous year. Especially this year when they supposedly limited or focused on activity between July 15th and December 15th 2008. You can be a Johnny come lately but don't do your good work in the early part of the year and then think you can coast through the rest of the year. Yet it would appear there are those who think the judges can be easily influenced by increased activity in January 2009?

Really? Could it be true that the judges are so superficial and lax that if asked to judge a Blog for awards being given in 2009 for activity in 2008 that they will simply work back from the most recent posts in January. Aren't people really being judged on their entire year's output? Personally I'd be more inclined to think that the increased activity has more to do with new year's resolutions and a revitalised desire to give their blogs a renewed effort. There again, I'm not quite so privy to how the judge(s) do their job for the Irish Blog Awards. So I could well be wrong.

The Government Trio

Does anyone else think that the Trio at the top of government are like teenagers left in charge of the house while their parents are abroad? They know that mundane daily tasks like the washing has to be done and they've even seen their parents use that square looking white machine with the nice porthole thing that lives in the utility room but they don't really know what buttons to push or where the magic dust that you feed it lives. So they look at all the rubbish and associated problems as they pile up, shrug their shoulders and tell each other that 'it's so unfair!.'

Even stranger is the fact that they remind me a bit of another Trio. These Trio were by far and away the weakest Big Bad ever that the Slayer had to deal with. Still there is a resemblance, Andrew the whiny one is Mary Coughlan, Jonathon as Brian Lenihan the little one that loads of people thought was going to turn out to be on the side of the angels, while Warren is Brian Cowen.

Above Mary Couglan is on the left, Brian Lenihan in the middle and Brian Cowen on the right.

Bumbling, incompetent, ineffective. Three really ain't the magic number.

As Tony the Hotdog Vendor in Highlander might ask, "What does incompetent mean?"

Obama's Inauguration

The fact is that, unless President-Elect Obama gives a speech that causes all who hear it to experience a moment of transcendence that place them, if only temporarily, in harmony with the universe, before breaking into song that moves them to tears while performing a dance that sends all present to levels of sexual climax unheard of in all human history before finally taking to the air and flying the entire dais filled with the assembled dignitaries back to the White House under his own steam, people are going to be disappointed.

These have to be the conditions for the biggest case of performance anxiety ever. Still, I'm going to be watching in case he can pull it off.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

From Hell's heart, I stab at thee

To many people he was best known as the damper dressed chap in Fantasy Island, but for some of us he will always be Khan!

spam, SPAM, spAM, and Damien

There has been considerable talk about spam in the last week on foot of a mail from the Green Party about a competition they are running or trying to run. What is surprising is the rather superior attitude of some of those commenting, especially Damien Mulley when you consider that he did the same thing himself when it suited him. While much of the comment was quite considered, though some was perhaps a little less so, the commentary of Mr Tubbs stands out as it verges on the hysterical, swerves into the lunatic before careening back up the road into plain rudeness. Indeed such is the virtual rending of hair, that one almost expects talk of personal violation. Below is a self admitted bulk mail I got from Damien. It reads

As you may or may not know I'm organising a training day in UCC
next Saturday (March 24th). The training will cover the basics for an
IT company or IT person that's just setting out in business. Details
are available here:

If you are interested in coming along, please do come along or if you
think someone you know in the Cork/Munster area would benefit from the
training, send the details on to them. All training is provided free.
After Cork it is hoped there'll be on in Dublin around April 28th.
Yes. this has been a mass email but I'm sure you'll forgive me.

-- blog:
Mobile: +353 86 xxx xxxx
LinkedIn: "

At the time (a bit under 2 years back) the only contact I'd had with Damien was via the blog awards for which I had been nominated shortly before receiving the above mail. So harvesting email addresses from the blog awards and then bulk emailing people to advise them of a training event he was running was par for the course for Damien back in the day. Since it would seem that training courses are now a significant earner for Damien it would be reasonable to think of this now as an email was for an event that provided him with a grounding in what is a commercial activity. I can't really say I was especially put out by getting it but it would seem if I was to follow the lead that Damien sets for those who send mai lto him, I should have contacted the Data Protection Commissioner and scweamed and scweamed the blogophere blue with how someone had contacted me about something I wasn't interested in using an address they had garnered purportedly for other purposes.

The rather dull fact is that there is spam and there is SPAM, and if you can't tell the difference then I'm not sure what I can say to help you see it. To top all this for all the talk of the need for the personal there is the notion put forward that you can bulk email people but if you make sure to use the bcc field so that it appears to be just to them as individuals and then use some automated process to include their first name at the top then that's all fine and dandy. That this might signify to anyone with half a brain that the intent was somehow significantly less impersonal than doing the same but without their name shows that for at least some of the offended it's all about the perception not the reality. It's still a bulk email, but you put their name on it - oh - that's so much better. On a scale of one to SPAM this was probably a two.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Job Losses, Pay cuts, or reduction in services

We need to reduce the amount of money that is spent by the state. If the choice in reducing public spending is to be either one of job cuts, a reduction in services or pay cuts across the board then the latter seems the more equitable choice.

What if we were to ensure no cutbacks in pay for those under 30K, but a 3% cut for those between 30 and 50K and 7% for those between 50K and 80K and 10% cut for those over 80K. This would be an across the board pay cut. Overnight everyone in the public service would be taking home less money. See the same thing may well happen but it will involve job losses and as a consequence as loss of services.

People will argue that this will suppress demand, but so too would job cuts. Which is worse for the economy: fewer people working for the same money who are in fear of losing their jobs and so afraid to spend or more people working for less money but who are confident that they will have jobs next year and so can spend on the domestic economy? Not all aspects of living have gone up in the last while, the cost of servicing mortgages has dropped in the last 12 months, so people won't have quite. True there will be those in negative equity but the value of your house doesn't matter in the short term if you don't have to sell and you would be more likely to be selling because you lost your job not because your take home pay went down by 3%.

In combination with this, the state should actually step in to reduce the costs borne by the public by actually delivering the services it is suppose to instead of the public having to source those services privately or even having to contribute cash to themselves. Imagine an education system where parents didn't have to organise money to pay for the upkeep of the school, ho

And we should push hard for reforms in those areas of services where bottlenecks exists and in which costs spiralled out of control over the last decade. Solicitors for example, and isn't it odd that the auctioneering business allows the same person to act for the buyer and the seller? I mean whose interest is the priority there I wonder?

If some of the burden was lifted from the working public then we could all live on a few quid less.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Duffy vs. Carmel

With all the attention Duffy has gotten over the last twelve months, it is worth remember those who have travelled the same ground but without the same level of coolness. Not that she doesn't deserve it but there can be a tendency by the more youthful to believe such voices came out of the blue. About two decades back we had Carmel who sadly in my view was overly tagged as simple easy listening.

Carmel - Sally

Carmel - Bad Day

So Duffy isn't the first nasally twanged chanteuse we've had to delight us.

Click below for Duffy's: Rain on your Parade (Polydor have disabled embedding from YouTube) for comparison.

Imagine if Carmel had had a Mark Ronson type around at the time to produce her stuff.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Why Barry Andrews is wrong on Cloynes

Last night in Vincent Browne, minster with responsibility for children, Barry Andrews said that the state could stand over the schools that the Bishop of Cloyne is patron of. I'm sure this is news to Eileen O'Keeffe who found when she sued because she was abused while attending primary school that the state doesn't in fact want to stand over the safety of children in our national schools. Schools that others such as bishops are patrons of and which many parish priests are the chairs of boards of management. Where is the standing over that the minister talks about?

What needs to happen is that the state should thank the religious for their work over the decades and then take all national schools into state ownership. This would have almost no day to day impact other than that of the state being the body properly charged with ensuring the safety of children.

I am not on a DHS watch list!

I got a mail and I thought I'd try out the new authorisation system for entry for the US. It has the largest (and let it be said one the most poorly laid out) warning messages I've ever seen. I've worked on a considerable number of software projects and you should have seen how some of the warning messages looked, especially once they'd been localised to confirm to the legal lie of the land where they were being sold but this one beats them all hands down.

Seriously, are paragraphs illegal at the department of Homeland Security? Is there a tariff on excess spacing? There again my brief engagement with the IRS taught me that the US government likes its text to be dense and filled with foreboding.

Still the thing hops along at a decent pace once you've got all the details typed in, and it came back rather quickly (perhaps too quickly) saying I'm authorised to travel to the US. Not necessarily that I will get in mind this isn't the visa application process but at least I can get on the plane.

While I can understand the mindset behind this I still think it is the wrong approach, seriously minded terrorists are just going to nick someone's passport. It's a bit like the question on the form that asks if you are or were a member of the Nazi government of Germany or one of her clients states.

I also think that we in Europe should have done what the Brazilians did and instigate reciprocal arrangements with the US, oif they want our credit card details then we should ask for theirs. Also, what is this about the 'DHS may conduct monitoring activities with further notice', are they going to access my PC on the quiet? Given that I'm in a country surely that is illegal?

Ten Irish political predictions for 2009

Taking my key from Cllr Forde, my ten predictions at random are

1. Fianna Fail to fail to overtake FG in European Parliamentary representation. They could even lose in Dublin though it is unlikely, fact is I think Labour are more vulnerable.
2. Obama's first foreign policy military crisis will involve an attack on US territory but not the continental US. Guam or somewhere like that.
3. Greece continues to suffer from serious civil unrest. A national government or even a military coup could be in prospect
4. Ireland fail to qualify for the Soccer World Cup.
5. Lisbon Treaty is passed in November by 55% to 45%
6. Irish Unemployment for 2009 peaks at 11%. but then stabilises at that level rather than significantly falling back.
7. Teachers and ESB workers strike.
8. The waning of immigration
9. Anglo Irish ceases to exist as it is taking into state control. BOI and AIB bob along. Eventually I expect RBOS or Santander or even a sovereign investment fund, someone foreign at least, to hoover up a lot of the smaller banks including Anglo. Oddly enough this leads to the emergence of a genuine 3rd player in Irish banking
10. FG to do the double in Dublin South and Central! Those elections to be held the same day as the European and local elections.

A modest possible solution to the middle East.

I've always thought that the only way forward would be one that required both states that would emerge post a settlement to actively guarantee the integrity and security of the other and to defend it. In the light of current events I believe we should move rapidly to entrench this idea.

It's probably the Philip K .Dick influence in my thinking and it even sounds a teeny bit nuts to me but one idea that has potential could be for both states to randomly select some of its own people (and let's not stop with just adults, include everyone. After all no one is being that selective at the moment) by lottery. Then say if a suicide bomber from the Palestinian side kills X number of Israelis then the Palestinian authority would execute the same number of Palestinians. Naturally, this would also operate in the opposite direction of course. For every Palestinian killed in the course of this particular security operation such as Operation Rolling Blunder or whatever they are calling the current then Israeli should be prepared to execute the same number of Israelis, after all isn't Israel's long term security worth a few hundred lives? and who better to pay for it then other Israelis.

Think of it, it would be like Instant Karma! Let's beat the recession by cutting out the middlemen of mayhem. There would be no more terrorism if the state was killing its own people.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Beverly Cooper Flynn - because she's not worth it.

A bit of storm (composed of unsavoury farmyard material) has blown up over the weekend concerning the revelation that Deputy Flynn (FF) will receive an allowance of almost 50K per year because she was elected as an independent deputy in 2007. What appears not to have been so deeply probed so far is the validity of her standing as an independent.

I seem to recall that she made much of her FF involvement and her long history with the Micheal O'Morain Cumann during the course of the campaign. "Asked if in the event of a hung Dail, where Fine Gael-Labour was one vote short of forming a government, would she vote for her fellow Mayoman, Enda Kenny, as Taoiseach, she said her sole concern was to get herself elected. "If I found myself in that situation, I would do what is in the best interest," she added, reminding me of her Fianna Fail background."

Also, as you can read here it was reported prior to the 2007 election that FF HQ were threatening party members with expulsion if they supported her, note if they were threatening them with expulsion then that means they were still members of the party. So how was she an independent if nominated by members of political party?

I think this is worth giving the Western People and the county offices a call tomorrow looking for a copy of the nomination form for deputy Flynn for 2007. Then I'm going to go looking for FF to provide membership lists for Mayo for the last decade and I'm going to compare the two. If she was nominated by people who were in fact members of FF. FF did disband branches in Castlebar after her departure but it is not 100% clear if they actually voided the membership of those people). If the people who nominated her were still de facto members of FF then her entitlement to this allowance is in question.

Greyfield sites required

People have been commenting on the predictions, trends, pointers towards the future whatever you want to call it article by Karlin Lillington in the IT last Friday. Some of comment seems to me at least a tad overly sensitive but that could be more for other reasons than the mere content of this particular piece.

My own few cents is that I reckon two of the likely trends in the probable upcoming consolidations and the need for better support for new enterprises are very much related. Consolidation typically leads to lay-offs and hence people with redundancy cheques. It's not a fun time for anyone yet for those who are still young enough and willing to live on ramen for a while (perhaps less encumbered with dependents might be a better way of saying it) this might represent a chance to make a break for it.

The fixed costs associated with going out on your own should (and I admit that is a 'should' not a 'will') be lower now than 4/5 years ago in terms of office space and some other costs. We've loads of empty buildings lying around which the banks should be forcing developers to open up to start ups for short term leases at least. And it would give the banks some cash from those currently dead developments, and provide us with a local version of the brownfield sites in other countries. Let's call them greyfield sites (just think of all that bare concrete!), we have loads of them but there is no pressure on the developers to put them to use. There again maybe only some people in the blogosphere are allowed to call for the risk takers to sieze the opportunities that are still out there.