We Need A Fiscal Compact

One size is not going to fit all

Sure we do. Just not this one.

It is good to have a clear plan for getting out of debt, and it is eminently reasonable to have a budgeting agreement between countries sharing a currency. We should all be playing by the same rules if we’re sharing the risks and benefits.

Just not these rules.

Let’s leave aside the pros and cons of the ESM if we can. Even if we never need it – and I don’t think we will – we should join it anyway; to support other vulnerable Euro members and discourage market speculation against the currency. We shouldn’t be looking at this mechanism as if we’re desperate to join. It’s a mutual benefit scheme that we should contribute to – if we can.

But if the price of joining the ESM is this Fiscal Compact, then the price is too high. And I don’t mean too high for what we get in return. I mean too high as in we can’t afford it, full stop.

Even if the ESM were a free rainbows and ponies club, even if membership entitled us to have cash sprayed over us from a hosepipe, we cannot join if we don’t have the price of admission. And we simply don’t.

We have a vast budgetary shortfall, imposed on us by the appalling financial mismanagement of the last government. Since then however we’ve been top of the class, attacking spending with a chainsaw, losing that deficit as fast as humanly possible. We’re suffering for it. We’ve seen employment, health services, education and welfare devastated. We gave away our pension reserve to save other people’s pension funds. But we have made exemplary progress.

The Fiscal Compact – which we join if this referendum is passed – requires us to redouble that cutting.

Look at the state of our public systems now. Imagine if we made cutbacks at nearly twice the current rate. I mean that, imagine it. What would it be like? What would you do, in a country like that?

Get out, mainly. Anyone who can will. We’re going to haemorrhage young, basically. The rest of us… Well, we’re pretty much buggered. We’re going to see an already shrinking economy fold like a ruptured Zeppelin, as further destruction of the tax base turns a nascent recovery into a plughole pirouette.

We’ll be another Greece.

Deficit spending can often be the wrong thing to do, a too-easy option in difficult times. But sometimes it is exactly the right thing, and it has paid off in the past. The Fiscal Compact however means that we can never do it again. No matter what the people vote for, no matter who is in government, even if we can borrow from other sources. It’s an economic straitjacket, one that no country could put on and still call itself free.

What’s more we have to force ourselves into that straitjacket, in far less time than is reasonable, humane, or indeed possible. If we pass this referendum we will be making a commitment that we simply cannot keep. We will be fined for being broke.

This Fiscal Compact was not designed for Ireland’s circumstances, but to stop major Euro economies like Germany and France from doing again what they did wrong before. It will punish us not for our sins but for theirs, prescribe diarrhoea medicine when we’re constipated, bring a wrecking ball when we need scaffolding.

Reject a treaty that will be our worst mistake since the bank guarantee.

Reasons To Vote Yes

Moody, Standard and Poor

There are good and bad arguments in favour of the fiscal compact. Well, better and worse anyway. But one stands out as being truly, shockingly, jaw-droppingly appalling: We should vote Yes because it will improve our credit rating. As if Standard and Poor and Moody and Mean don’t have enough influence.

It’s probably quite true of course; being a nice obedient populace is something they give bonus points for, no doubt. But it makes me think, why stop at voting? There’s loads more we could do to make ourselves look better credit-wise.

  • Stop holding those nasty unpredictable votes altogether. A country run by committee – especially a committee of appointed, imported technocrats – will be far more predictable than any democracy. Markets like that.
  • Execute the old. Seriously, think what that would save. And others who are a burden on the public finances too, like the mentally and the physically disabled. Or to use the more acceptable modern term, the economically disabled.
  • As is universally acknowledged, lenders only want to lend to you when you don’t actually need the money. Therefore we should repudiate all our debts. Including of course debts the government owes to citizens, such as pension and welfare commitments.

I only scratch the surface here I’m sure. There’s no end to what we could borrow, as long as we forget why.

Robin Hood Reversal

Trail of Robin Hood

So today Ireland gives away another €2.5 billion to the creditors of our failed banks.

But I shouldn’t say “give away”, as if it wasn’t earned. This money is a reward! It’s what we give to investors for making decisions that destroyed our economy. They bet that a property market can keep rising until every building is worth an infinite amount of money. The banks they invested in, quite naturally, went bust. We own these banks now, and we’ll all be working extra-hard for the rest of our lives to pay for those decisions. Though on the bright side we will be able to afford less health care, so our lives will be shorter.

All just to make sure that no matter how mindlessly, droolingly, shit-flingingly stupid the decisions they make, the richest people stay that way.

Let’s face it, we’re slaves.

Android Finds: Keep That Screen On

One thing that bugs me about Android is its eagerness to turn the screen off. Yes of course it’s a good idea for battery saving. But it’s less good for, say, reading. You can set the screen timeout delay for a maximum ten minutes, but sometimes even that’s not enough.

Especially when driving. Not that I read a lot while driving, you understand, but I do like to use the Maps app. Sure, that will keep the screen on when you use the navigation function, but to do that you need to enter a destination. What about when you don’t have a destination?

All right, not everyone is as weird as me. But sometimes I like to just drive around in places I don’t know. For example, today I decided to find how far south I could drive along the shores of Lough Corrib before impassable bog forced me back onto the main road¹. I’ve been wondering for years, but it’s the sort of thing you never find time to do in your adult life – until you get a day so hot that spending it driving around with all your windows open actually seems like the sensible thing to do. So I wanted a moving map, to make sure I was sticking to the shores and/or heading south, and I wanted to be able to read it at a glance, not be always unlocking the screen. But I had no destination to enter.

So I pulled over, searched Google Play, and found Screen On, a simple app from Greek company PinApps that lists all the other ones installed and offers the option of keeping the screen on while any of them is running. Lovely. And it has a couple of other cute features too – it can also keep the screen on while you’re taking a call. That sounds like a good idea, I’m frequently annoyed by the delay between ending a conversation and being able to hang up. I’ve yet to decide how well it works in practice though.

Better still, there’s an option to keep the screen going while charging. This was an available behaviour I opted into on my Nokia N900, because it kept the screen on whenever I was using the phone in bed or in the car. Some caveats though: Screens have finite lives, and I believe this is particularly true of OLEDs. Also, one as big as that of the Galaxy Note draws a formidable amount of power. If you leave it burning overnight, particularly if you have other stuff running too or if you’re not using a charger capable of the recommended 1Amp, you may find it hasn’t finished charging by morning! For these reasons, you should remember to manually switch the screen off by touching the power button.

But a great little app that does exactly what I wanted. The only way I would improve it is by having some contextual logic. I’d like it to keep the screen on, when I’m using a certain app, if the phone is on charge. That way there’d be a lot less risk of my flattening the battery through negligence.

Oh the trip? It was a lovely adventure, exploring a maze of boreens that had a nonchalant attitude towards the task of going somewhere. I saw nearby bits of country that I had no idea existed. At one point I drove a quarter of a mile down a narrow lane that just petered out, and so had to reverse all the way back. How often do you get to do that? But the answer to the actual question is that you can hardly get any further south along this shore of the Corrib than I am right here at home. As is fairly obvious from any map.

Afterwards I went to town – by the main road – and bought a big floppy ladies’ straw sun hat I found in a charity shop for a euro. It was quite clear that too much of the sun has been getting through to my brain.

 

  1. The curraghline. Built directly across a spongy bog and therefore liable to constant subsidence and crinkling, it has been described as “Ireland’s straightest and most uneven stretch of road”.

Sunstruck

Cat is sure that Tree didn’t use to be that colour

Good grief.

I’m being blinded by the light reflecting off my own skin. Thanks to last year’s wholly ineffective summer, I haven’t been struck by the cancer-particle for an age. What melanin I ever possessed is long gone, chopped up for firewood or something. I am now little more than a collection of human organs in a see-through bag.

But le soleil tapait dur, as they say in French lessons. I received more dangerous photons to my surfaces yesterday than I have in the last two years, and I include X-rays in that. So while some areas of me are transparent, others are luminous. First I was at a funeral, and so got basted in sunspit before I was even ready to contemplate the idea. Very few people pause at the graveside to apply sunscreen. Then driving home I had the windows down. Only a 100kph wind was sufficient to refresh me, and it was amazingly relaxing to be basking and buffeted at the same time. A thrillingly sensual experience, like bathing in a hot air jacuzzi. I arrived home scorched.

And now I lie on a lawn, hoping to make my other parts match. I am supposed to be composing my blog here but, though I try to write in a personal way, nearly everything that has happened in the last few days has been so intensely personal, either for me or for someone close to me, that there is little on my mind that I can fairly write about. I am emotionally drained and of little use today. And so I make myself useful.

Inside, ladies of the superior generation are discussing whatever it is they discuss when I’m not there. My mother and one of her sisters, visiting another sister at the house of a cousin who… You know I’m not even sure where I am. I just drive. I am the ferry of aunts. And happily so. In the sun, the world is made of simple things.

Sunshine Gothic

OK, barefaced misnomer. This is Romanesque architecture, older and more primitive than Gothic. In fact it is barely Romanesque, more Roman-ish; really just basic vernacular masonry with a little bit of decoration around the edges to classy it up. But it is a graveyard in the ruins of a monastery – Annaghdown Abbey, right next to the cathedral I spoke of – so the label is pretty inescapable.

There is something quiet primitive too about taking pictures. Like hunting or harvesting, if photograph weather comes along then you must take those photographs where you can. It’s just fortunate I was in a place like this on the first truly hot day of summer. Bagged me some nice wild images. A good photographer can make good images out of awful weather of course, but I’m not a photographer of any kind – I know because I tried to be once. I just want to take easy, pretty pictures.

All the ones in the last few months were taken on the Galaxy Note‘s 8 Mpx shooter. It’s very capable if not outstanding; I was more struck by the qualities of the images I got with the 5 Mpx one on my Nokia N900 – once you replaced its very basic default software with the custom FCamera drivers. But I think it’s made me take better pictures simply by virtue of its huge screen.

I always found composing through a viewfinder kind of awkward. I think I wasn’t able to take in the image as a whole when squinting at it one-eyed like that. I tried instead to fit points of interest into a frame. The big screen of the Note though, it’s… well it’s like it’s already a picture. I can just sort of wave it around until it’s a good picture. More than one nice shot I got was something I just noticed in my hand when I wasn’t aiming at anything. I guess it makes my composition less self-conscious – which in artistic terms translates almost directly to less crap.