Posted by Jason O on Jan 30, 2010 in Irish Politics
, Not quite serious.
Saw this, and thought this is how FG would really like to do it.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 29, 2010 in Irish Politics
The National Treatment Purchase Fund is one of Mary Harney’s successes as minister for health, and yet here is an example of a hospital refusing to work with it to reduce the suffering of patients.
Why? Many opponents of the NTPF are opposed to it on ideological grounds, believing that paying public money to private hospitals is wrong, even if it relieves suffering.
What is the difference between those bound by that ideological straitjacket, and those Thatcherite/Republican lunatics who are opposed to government spending on ideological grounds? Sod the ideology and the “It’s all very well in practice, but will it work in theory?” nonsense.
The NTPF works, using the free market to provide access to treatment regardless of income. Most people who are suffering want treatment, and don’t give a toss who provides it or owns the hospital. The purpose of a government is to reduce suffering, and that is exactly what the NTPF has done for 165,000 people. You can read some of their stories here.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 27, 2010 in Irish Politics
Interesting piece here from British Labour MP Tom Harris about why people don’t bother to vote. I have to admit that the last local and European elections were the first time I seriously considered not voting, because I just don’t see the point. Local government in Ireland is pretty much pointless and exists almost entirely for the benefit of politicians, and the European Parliament does not change as a result of elections, as the three main parties just carve stuff up between themselves. In the coming mayoral election in Dublin, if the mayor doesn’t actually have the power to do things (as oppose to consult and chair things) you would have to ask is it worth the hassle?
The funny thing is, people will vote for power. If every constituency had, for example, an elected official who had the power (and the funds) to actually fix things whether it was welfare entitlements, speed ramps, graffitti, etc, I suspect that people would actually turn out to vote for such a person.
The problem for me is that literally hundreds of elected Irish officials exist purely to “call” on other people (who have power) to do things, and then send us a bill, through our taxes, for having done so.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 27, 2010 in British Politics
From the British Civil Contingencies Act 2004. You can see it here. With the stroke of a pen, a British government can do the following. I particularly like the “other specified activities” whatever that means. Reading The Guardian?
“(b) provide for or enable the requisition or confiscation of property (with or without compensation);
(c) provide for or enable the destruction of property, animal life or plant life (with or without compensation);
(d) prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, movement to or from a specified place;
(e) require, or enable the requirement of, movement to or from a specified place;
(f) prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, assemblies of specified kinds, at specified places or at specified times;
(g) prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, travel at specified times;
(h) prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, other specified activities;
(i) create an offence of—
(i) failing to comply with a provision of the regulations;
(ii) failing to comply with a direction or order given or made under the regulations;
(iii) obstructing a person in the performance of a function under or by virtue of the regulations;”
Posted by Jason O on Jan 26, 2010 in US Politics
Republican Scott Brown: Senator for some of Massachusetts.
There has been a lot of analysis as to how the Democrats managed to lose what should be their lock seat in the Senate special election. But one fact seems to be missed by Europeans. See, we just don’t get it: How could anybody be against universal healthcare? Even people like me on the centre-right believe that affordable healthcare is a must. Yet on a turnout of 54%, which is respectable if not spectacular, 52% of Mass. voters voted for a candidate who is openly hostile to the president’s plan. Of course, there are mitigating factors: Mass. voters already have universal healthcare (Brought in by Mitt Romney when he was Mitt Romney.) and it seems that the Democratic campaign was a bit lacklustre, but the fact is, they lost what should have been a solid seat. Why?
Europeans talk about social solidarity, and it is, for the most part, bollocks, and usually a code for people in cushy state jobs to demand that actual wealth creaters pay more tax to keep them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. Having said that, it is hard to imagine crowds of Europeans taking to the streets to deny other Europeans healthcare rights. Yet, not in the states. Deep down, Americans don’t really have the same connection to each other. Just look at gun sales: Who are they buying guns to protect themselves from? Bin Laden? The French? Nope. From each other. During the LA riots and Hurricane Katrina, Americans took to their roofs and properties with guns to protect themselves from other Americans, and that’s why healthcare is not the slam-dunk it would be in a European country.
One other thing: If I hear another Republican talk about the need for bipartisan support and to bring this thing “Back to the drawing board” I’ll puke. The Republicans controlled Congress from 1994-2006, and the White House from 2001-2009, and did damn all to fix healthcare, so it’s a bit rich to suddenly start talking about the need to work together in this. The fact is, most Republicans regard poverty and hardship as self-inflicted, which explains why they don’t really give a damn. The sad thing is, they may well speak for the majority of Americans on the issue.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 23, 2010 in Irish Politics
It’s been 18 months since FG and Labour won the general election. Can anyone tell me what will be different? And please, no remarks about Fianna Fail. Actual differences in policy being implemented. I know I have a fair few FG readers, so let me know in the comments section. In fact, If you’d like to do a guest blog, you’ll be more than welcome.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 21, 2010 in Irish Politics
A glacier seen moving through an FF policy meeting yesterday.
I, like many others, have tended to give FF and FG an unfair press. To those of us not in those parties it has always been a puzzle. Why would anyone interested in politics, that is, the implementation of ideas, join either? Then it dawned on me. Doing nothing is a legitimate policy platform. If one benefits from the status quo, then it is entirely proper for one to join a party that believes in as little change as possible.
It’s at this point that FF and FG people leap up with their shopping lists of positive changes that FF and FG have brought, and it is a fair comment. FF and FG in government, like the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China, have brought in change when to not bring in change was to damage the status quo even more. Take the last 12 years of FF in government. Throwing money at stuff is not change. Cutting taxes was the PDs’ idea. But what did FF bring in that was radical and solely FF? The minimum wage? Possibly. The smoking ban? Would that not have been brought in by whoever was minister for Health? After twelve years, where were the big changes that happened only because FF made them happen?
I’m not being smart here. Maybe I’m wrong? All you FFers out there, let’s hear it.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 19, 2010 in Irish Politics
, Just stuff
May I see you PPS number please, citizen?
A short story penned over the Christmas. A multinational proposes a deal with a cash-strapped Irish government, to run Ireland with an supercomputer. You can read it here.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 19, 2010 in Irish Politics
There is a conventional wisdom going about the place that it is inevitable that FF will lose the next election. On balance, it makes sense. But what would FF have to do to get back into contention?
1. Get cash into small and medium sized business. The banks are not helping viable but cash-strapped businesses, and this will lead to an unnecessary spike in unemployment, a spike which is avoidable.
2. Someone needs to go to jail for Anglo Irish. If this doesn’t happen, it means that FF are, in the eyes of the electorate, either corrupt or incompetent.
3. Stop putting off decisions that effect high level political/civil service ranks (as happened with culling the junior ministers or cutting high level pay) which then make the decisions look as if they were not as much courageous as dragged kicking and screaming out of Government Buildings.
4. Elevate Labour to Taoiseach provider status, and demand that Eamonn Gilmore participate in one-on-one debates with both Enda Kenny and the leader of Fianna Fail. FF should also concede a willingness to serve under a Labour Taoiseach. Mischief making? Definitely. It’ll have Labour and FG at each other’s throats, which is always good for a laugh. But it will also force them to debate each other, and have Miriam O’Callaghan push them, in front of each other, to address their policy differences, which is in the voter interest.
5. Go on the attack over FG/Labour’s running of the county councils. Nearly all local services are now run by FG/ Labour. FF should set up a unit to assist its candidates in making this point locally, and attaching every unpopular local decision to FG/Labour candidates. FF is giving a free pass to the opposition and their policies (like Labour’s magical pain free cutbacks), and needs to highlight it. FF should create a spokesperson, media operation and media friendly website to track and disseminate every FG/Labour councillor and TD’s spending promises, and translate that into the extra taxes it will cost to fund it. Governments shouldn’t get free passes. Neither should alternative governments.
6. Hold out as long as possible. The economy will recover, and FF can claim the credit for it.
7. Propose running new, non-FF candidates. The public know that the most talented Irish people are not in politics. Why not? FF should run a slew of new faces who have achieved things outside of politics, and pledge, through the senate, to bring new people into government. There’s a committment in the programme for government to look at electoral reform: FF shouldn’t regard this as a pisstake (as they do now) but as something that could actually help them reinvent themselves as a party. There are a lot of talented people out there who could play a part in a new reinvigorated FF but don’t want to be a member of Leitrim County Council first.
7. The leadership issue needs to be addressed. I’m a Brian Cowan fan, but I, like many, am wondering the same thing: Where is the alien pod that they are holding the real Brian Cowan in, or is it that this is the real Brian Cowan and the impressive one in the past was an alien who’s been recaptured? They need to fix this (the leadership issue, not whether the Taoiseach is/was an extraterrestial. Although that would be worth knowing too.) and the ultimate sanction has to be on the table.
I write all this, by the way, not as an FF supporter, but someone who is so underwhelmed by the opposition as to be wondering whether FF might be the better choice. And seriously, if you knew me, that’s really saying something!
Posted by Jason O on Jan 16, 2010 in European Union
The voice of the people?
Imagine there was an organisation which managed to operate outside of media scrutiny. Imagine it made people as powerful as European Commissioners nervous, and at times was able to make them do things. Imagine this secret organisation had over 6000 people working for it, and a budget of over €1.5 billion. You know of whom I’m talking about.
On paper, the European Parliament makes complete sense. It is elected in free elections, and the parliament is no longer the talking shop it was in the past. The fact that so many lobbyists from private business choose to lobby it goes to underline that it matters.
Yet, there’s the problem. It does matter, but should it? The media don’t pay any attention to it because its consensual method of operating means that there are rarely winning and losing sides as there are in other parliaments. The European public aren’t interested for pretty much the same reason, they are not electing direct rulers, and so their vote does not really change much save for an incremental shift in political groupings. The people whom the parliament represent just don’t give a toss, and should we spend €1.5 billion for that privlege?
And yet, that’s not my worry. No, the real concern is how the parliament sees itself, as the voice of the people. But does election turnout, currently a pathethic 42% (19% in Slovakia) allow the parliament to even claim that? A former minister once told me that the European Parliament is only wanted by people who are MEPs or who might like to be MEPs, and I suspect that is true.
The real fear is that the parliament becomes an end in itself, answerable to itself and concerned with its own place and powers, and that elections to it are mere cypher elections where most don’t even vote, yet with considerable power to direct the policies of the union. Is that what Europeans want?
So what to do? Abolish it? If it gets less than 40% at the next European elections, that has got to be on the cards. But it has to be said, we do need something to keep an eye on the commission, which it occasionally does. How about a European Senate instead, elected not as a parliament to pass laws, but with two senators from each member state whose job is to oversee and question the commission. It could be well resourced (Altough, with 54 members, far cheaper than 732 MEPs), and the directly elected senators would be well known as they would be elected nationally. But, you say, how could that effect turnout? Ah. One more thing: Any country with a turnout of less than 50% loses its senators for that term. If the people don’t want representation, then don’t force them to have it. Will it cause a huge row? Possibly, but then, isn’t that want we want?