German Oversight

Reichstag building seen from the west, before ...
Head Office

Whatever the exact mechanism, it seems beyond dispute that the German parliament knew details of our budget before ours did. It may not have been the whole budget of course, but it still doesn’t look good.

Particularly in this context. What Merkel has proposed for the Eurozone is EU oversight of members’ budgets. Critics will say that that amounts to German oversight. So this is embarrassing even more for Germany than it is for Ireland.

Map Of The Future

i.doubt.it - some class of a blog

You may have noticed this blog has a new address: “I.doubt.it“. No W’s, no dot-com, just a short yet meaningful sentence in English. Not many websites can boast that. As you may know it’s actually an Italian domain name – you don’t have to be Italian to own one (just an EU citizen). I bought this a few years ago but never really got the best out of it, until now.

Naturally I.doubt.it will be the title of the blog as well as its address. As the newspaper column was Micro Cosmopolitan for over fifteen years I’ll use that name in parallel for a little while though. Until the t-shirts are ready at least.

Which could be something like a month. I’m working to a budget made up mostly of coupons here, and had to go for the super-slow delivery option. I don’t quite get this; without being any cheaper it’s actually slower than ordinary post. In order to offer this rate they had to set up a special concussed delivery service, staffed by people in long trailing coats they keep treading on.

Oh, they just don’t print the stuff till later. Right.

That’s the design up there, incidentally. I wanted to keep it simple and slightly mysterious. The strap line “some class of a blog” is a temporary one I think, something vague that won’t tie the blog down too much as it develops. Who knows where this baby is going to go? If the Irish expression is a bit opaque to the overseas contingent, it just means “a sort of blog”, and is faintly disparaging.

So I’ve a month of anticipation ahead. It really is exciting actually – I’ve never done something like this before. Getting t-shirts made feels like the most egotistical thing I’ve ever done. Even though it isn’t.

The Cookie Monster

Cookie CartoonLook at this, this is cool! The classic arcade game Defender, but miniaturised to the 16-pixel square of the page’s favicon (the little logo that appears in your browser’s address bar and bookmarks). You can actually play it.

Of course, you may fairly ask what is the point of playing an old video game in a space about one ninth the size of a postage stamp. But I don’t care, it’s a wonderfully clever bit of Web programming.

Speaking of which, do cookies worry you? The browser ones I mean. Perhaps they should. They were innocent things to start with, just a simple file that a website you visit is allowed to leave on your computer. Yet that can be extremely useful, allowing sites to recognise you when you visit again and log you in automatically.

But then, they can be abused… Suppose you visit a site that has an advert on it. The ad will normally be served from a whole other computer, belonging to the advertising service. And that computer gets to leave a cookie too.

Think what happens next – you go to a lot of sites, you see a lot of ads. But many of these will actually come from the same source, and when that computer reads the cookies it put on your computer earlier, it has a record of other places you’ve been.

A picture can then be built up of your movements across the web, and even used to serve adverts tailored to your particular interests. Or predilections. You might see that as a boon and a convenience, but others may find it uncomfortably intrusive. Especially if they share a computer with family or colleagues.

I’m in two minds about this. After all nothing you do on the Web is really private anyway, so making a fuss about cookies is like complaining that the gorilla on your chest has dandruff. And yet I don’t much care to look at adverts in the first place, so I like the idea of them watching me back even less. I routinely block all cookies, making exceptions only for the sites I visit regularly. This is easy enough with Firefox, using an add-on like Cookie Monster. Call me paranoid, but I’ll get upset if you do.

And it seems the European Commission agrees with me. An e-privacy directive will mandate that sites will only be able to track you with your explicit permission. Is it going to work though? Some argue it will make browsing irritating, with sites continuously popping up messages saying things like “Can I track you please? There are many benefits!” But in the competitive world of the Web, I doubt that users will put up with such nonsense.

So I think it will work. The real danger perhaps is that the ban will give people an illusion of privacy. It means no such thing. If you want real privacy on the Internet, use a proxy.

The 360° Revolution

360 CartoonIt is finally, officially, over. And no more damning political verdict has ever been rendered in the history of this or many another country. Even the pro-union vote in 1918 was larger. It’s shocking that they got seventeen percent, that thousands were still ready to put their party before their country. This kind of unthinking loyalty is like a set of shackles on Irish politics. But perhaps it is broken now.

So I am torn between expressing relief at having thrown off the worse government we have ever had, and lamenting the fact that we have given a mandate to a party whose ideology and economic approach are so similar that it takes at least an hour to explain to interested foreigners why they are separate parties at all. It is a hell of an anticlimax, and frankly I am a little depressed. (Though the fact that I got about one night’s worth of sleep during the whole count probably isn’t helping there.) Was all that anger just for this, all that upheaval to deliver no change? Have we had a 360 degree revolution?

There is only one real advantage. The new administration will not have been busy sharing the good times with the rich and the powerful – well, not for fourteen years anyway. This will make them somewhat more disinterested and honest. But it’s not as if they’re chosen from a whole other class of innocent outsiders. Their interests are not the interests of the average person, and certainly not the interests of the poorer person. For Christ’s sake, the chairman of Anglo Irish is a former leader of Fine Gael. Didn’t anybody think that might be a bit of a bad sign?

But Kenny must get his one hundred days or whatever is the suitably polite interval, his chance to come up with a brilliant solution to escape the chains the last government left us in. Can he?

No. Sure he’s going to renegotiate the bailout deal. But by that he means begging for a slightly lower interest rate. That is not a negotiating position. A slightly lower interest rate on a debt we will never be able to pay back anyway, that is going to crush our economy back to 1940s levels? That is not an improvement of the situation. It’s an avoidance of reality.

What would I say to a meeting of Eurozone heads of state? What would you say?

“We cannot afford to borrow money to pay debts unjustly created for us by a previous, corrupt government. Indeed we cannot afford to borrow enough money for even the minimum necessary level of public expenditure, at this or any interest rate. Therefore we will pay ourselves in our own currency. In other words, we’re leaving the euro. This will be painful for us, what with soaring import prices, but the euro will almost certainly collapse so it will be even more painful for you. Sorry, but it’s that or we sacrifice the health, future, lives of our people in order to reward the selfish and greedy actions of a ludicrously wealthy banking industry.”

That is a negotiating position.

Get Up and Vote

P45 CartoonWe should be having a revolution here. Instead, if polls are to be believed, we may be electing a government even further to the right, even more willing to elevate rich over poor, than the one we are throwing away.

Don’t believe the polls, it’s too easy for such prophecies to become self-fulfilling. There is everything to play for right to the end. Which is why I’m up at 3:00 writing this so you can read it before you leave in the morning. It isn’t too late to send a message to all the political parties, to their wealthy friends, to the other countries of the EU. We are in a hole that was not made by the ordinary people of Ireland, and certainly not by those who are going to suffer the most because of it. The message is that we will not put up with this shit.

Don’t vote for Fine Gael to punish Fianna Fáil. There are much better punishments. Vote for people who don’t mince words about repudiating the awful “bailout” arrangement. That’s there to save the Euro, not us. Remember we have a hostage.

This means voting for out-there parties like the United Left Alliance – or even Sinn Féin. Few things would give the establishment more pause than a substantial rise in the SF vote. It also means voting for Labour, even if I am disappointed on the stand they’ve taken. Or lack thereof. Essentially we need Labour in government if there is to be any hope of the next few years not turning into an orgy of punishment for the poor.

Please, get out there now and warn those who act like they own us. Remind them where power really comes from.

Meanwhile, back in Galway West

My own constituency is going to go to the wire. While there are some laudable independents running, I don’t personally think any of them have a chance – except the ones who are independent more in name than in outlook. These are Noel Grealish, the ‘last PD’, and Labour’s lost candidate Catherine Connolly. It seems very likely that the final seat will be between these two, and I hardly need to tell you which is the vastly preferable outcome.

Indeed I like Catherine Connolly better than Labour’s official candidate, Derek Nolan. I’ll be putting her ahead in my order, and I hope a lot of others do too. I believe Galway West can elect them both.

And there may be an extra trick that more daring voters can play, if Kernan Andrews in the Galway Advertiser is correct:

Senator Healy Eames needs to outpoll Deputy Grealish and stay ahead of him to ensure she takes the seat. If she does, she will knock Grealish out and this will free up the last two seats for the Galway Left – which means victories for Labour’s Derek Nolan and Independent Catherine Connolly.

So that’s my only FG vote – Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames. Remember that name. She may help us simultaneously finish off the last PD and elect, for the first time in the history of Galway West, a second TD on the left.

Which… would be nice.