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Shelby County Courthouse, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
"So what's the surpri... Was that a click?"

This is worrying stuff.

You’d hardly notice, but we’re being asked to change the Constitution this Thursday. Twice. Yet nobody is acting like this is much of a deal. The amendments are being thrown in with the Presidential election like some sort of democratic side order, and getting about as much attention. This despite the fact that a Constitutional amendment actually, you know, changes something, while a ceremonial President – in spite of the impression they try to create in their election campaigns – can change about bugger all.

These are not trivial matters either. One would remove the bar on reductions to the pay of judges, something placed in the Constitution deliberately to prevent the sitting government pressuring the judiciary. The other would allow the houses of the Oireachtas¹ to conduct their own quasi-judicial investigations. That would seem to give them quite a lot of power. How much? Well according to part of the proposed amendment:

4º It shall be for the House or Houses concerned to determine, with due regard to the principles of fair procedures, the appropriate balance between the rights of persons and the public interest for the purposes of ensuring an effective inquiry into any matter to which subsection 2º applies.’

So only the Oireachtas can say how much power it can give itself. Though it is of course restricted by law. Which the Oireachtas also creates.

Yes parliaments often have powers of investigation, but this seems very broadly drawn, and likely to make power in this country even more unbalanced. Government in a democracy is generally divided into three main branches: The executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. There is meant to be a measure of conflict between these roles, in order to ensure that everyone is watching what everyone is up to.

We’re a parliamentary democracy though; that immediately reduces internal contention because it means there is no effective difference between the executive and the legislature. Unlike countries with an executive presidency such as France or the US, the legislature elects the executive – which then pretty much dictates everything else the legislature does.

Another safety mechanism is a bicameral legislature; two houses each with oversight of the other – House/Senate, Commons/Lords, etc. Our upper house though is effectively the creation of the executive, which appoints the majority of its members. So no balance there either; whatever party wins most seats in an election just sweeps the board of executive and both houses.

That only leaves the judiciary as an independent power, and we are being asked to pass two amendments to our constitution, one of which will take away its chief protection against undue government pressure, the other of which will usurp some of its functions. Still wonder why I’m worried?

 

  1. Parliament/Congress

The Truth About The Truth About Dana

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New...
Didn't really feel like putting up a picture of Dana. Here are some pretty rocks instead

Dana Rosemary Scallon, religious recording artist, Irish Presidential candidate and, er, American citizen, showed signs of distress in Wednesday’s TV debate and has said that “a vile and false allegation” about her family is “about to surface”.

W, as they say, TF?

Maybe it’s a fantastically complicated ruse to make herself look like a victim. It seems like the only chance she has now. A victim of what? Government, perhaps. The forces of secularism. But I’m guessing the media. She seems like the sort of person to blame the media for things. Which is fair enough I guess. It was the media after all that told everyone she has taken a vow of allegiance to the United States of America, something she seemed perfectly content not to tell us before becoming our President.

And as – in my own little way – the media, I’d like to point out to the US authorities that by running for the Presidency of another country, she is presumably breaking that oath. Last public figure to do that got assassinated with a drone, I mention in passing.

Speculation is rife of course. But I’m puzzled not so much about what the dark secret is, as by how there can be a false allegation known only to her and the… alleger? alligator? I mean, someone surely can’t be sending her anonymous mail to say “Do what I tell you, or I’m going to make up some shit about your mother.” A false allegation would be hurtful, yes, but a secret false allegation just doesn’t make any sense. Furthermore, it makes no sense to tell us about the existence of it.

The only conclusion I can draw is that, whatever it is, it’s probably true.

The Great Theft Of London

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson poses for a pho...
Seriously. Boris Johnson

Pent-up resentment, a growing social divide, mistrust of the police? At the start, certainly. Riots follow Tory governments like, well like effect follows cause. But now something else has happened. Something new.

Consider the circumstances. The Metropolitan Police, tasked with keeping order in London, are demoralised and ill-prepared. They’ve had a 20% funding cutback even though, as always in a recession, crime rates are soaring. They’ve just lost their Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner in the phone hacking scandal, under a pall of suspected corruption. And the man who is ultimately in charge is Boris Johnson.

I’ll just say that again so it can sink in. Boris Johnson.

What we are seeing is an extraordinary historic opportunity. Social media and fancy phones were not really necessary, it almost crystallised out of the air. A truly vast number of petty thieves, shoplifters, and many who until now have never been tempted by crime had one single thought. If they all did it at once, they could steal… they could steal… They could steal London.

The whole thing. It’ll be gone by Thursday.

Good Morning, Euro. Euro?

Project 365 #125: 050510 Take Note
Will you still be here when I wake?

Sometimes I miss the old lead-times of print publishing, where you’d submit copy to be published hours or even days later. You had to predict, think about the future. So I’m writing this last thing at night, but setting it to be published at 11 a.m. (GMT+1) – seven hours from now, and hopefully when I’ll be getting up.

What I’m wondering is whether, by the time you read this, there will still be a Euro.

How does a currency cease to be? We know of one mode of course. Hyperinflation – when its value evaporates until it’s worthless. However the Euro remains strong – ridiculously strong perhaps, when you consider the condition of the economies that use it. We may in fact be witnessing the previously-inconceivable opposite phenomenon: runaway hypoinflation.

Alas, this doesn’t mean that the Euro notes in your pocket are going to become infinitely valuable. It’s not that opposite. But it means money is getting too expensive. We can’t afford to borrow as much as we need. And that leads to economic collapse just as surely as it becoming valueless would. Unfortunately however, some countries can’t afford it much sooner than others can’t. So the Euro is dying by a process of killing the economies that use it, one by one.

How can we get out of this? We could print the extra Euro notes we need, but that’s illegal. We could drop out off the Eurozone system and print our own currency again, but that’s a drastic extreme that will lose us a lot of friends.

I can think of a simpler way.

Stop checking for forgeries. Don’t accept obvious fakes of course, but quietly turn off the UV lamps and other hi-tech testing devices. If it looks real, take it. There are a hell of a lot of good fake notes floating around the continent, and we could bring them all here, vastly increasing the money supply. At a stroke, we’d have all the cash in circulation we needed. And there’s not a darn thing they could do.

Independence Is Overrated Anyway

It would also be a unique opportunity to design the busiest flag in world history

Today the USA celebrates the anniversary of independence from Britain. Though I wonder would they have bothered if they’d known that, 235 years later, Britain would be pretty much dependent on them. It’s funny to watch that pair, singing together at the UN, fighting their wars hand-in-hand. You know I think those two should make up. They’re obviously right for each other.

Just one or two tricky details to sort out. The UK couldn’t just become the 51st state. It may be small in area, but at 62 million it would make up one sixth of the combined population. As the House of Representatives allocates seats proportionally it would inevitably form a huge voting bloc there, while at the same time being ludicrously under-represented in the Senate.

It would be far better for the constituent countries of the UK to join individually, with England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland becoming the 51st, 52nd, 53rd and 54th states of the USA respectively. This still leaves England as the largest state by far though – 52 million people as opposed to California’s 37 – so perhaps it could be further divided. North and South England maybe, like the Dakotas and Carolinas. Or separate it into Greater London, and Little England.

But then there’s another issue – the United States is a republic, whereas the United Kingdom is anything but. This is a rather fundamental constitutional difference; it’s not a Union unless the whole thing is governed by a single Head of State. Let’s begin though by ruling out the option of Americans voting to become a monarchy. Not because they wouldn’t consider it, but because I’m worried they might. For the UK to finally be converted into a full democracy, its royal family will need to be deposed. That doesn’t mean they have to be rounded up and executed of course. Though it does seem like the ideal opportunity.

Vote Yes You Idiots

OK United Kingdomites. You face a choice, and there is only one right answer. Your electoral system is a heap of horseshit. You can stick with being very poorly represented, or you can introduce a system which is better. Not a lot better, but better.

Look at what just happened to Canada. An unpopular Conservative government fell and the vote swung to the left – but the Conservatives got back in! The opposition was split between a centre and a left party, and though the left made huge gains, the centre one remained big enough to split the vote. That is your system, that’s what it does. It delivered a government that 3 in 5 Canadians despise.

Choose AV if you don’t want minority rule. Clear?

Keep The Profit, Share The Blame

We All PartiedSo the Nyberg report into our banking industry says that borrowers as well as lenders were to blame for the crisis. Fair enough I suppose. After all, it’s not like the banks lent money to people who didn’t ask for it.

Oh wait. They did.

A tramp living in a sherry bottle could borrow money in that market. Hell, they offered a ‘pre-approved’ loan to me. While many borrowed foolishly or even greedily, the greater part of the blame must surely fall on the professionals. Your bank was traditionally expected to advise you on your financial interests. It was not supposed to push debt on you, take your indebtedness and repackage it as an asset, use that to raise money, declare this a profit and pay themselves enormous bonuses. A basic trust was broken there. Not to mention a law of thermodynamics.

A proportion too has to belong to the institutions overseeing the industry – the regulators of course, but ultimately the Department of Finance. They were astonishingly lax while all this was going on, and we still aren’t being told why. (The role of government was beyond Nyberg’s remit, strangely.)

Do we really need to ask though, when politicians party with and parties are funded by people who were making enormous profits  from all this? The nod and the wink is the Morse code of Irish governance, messages flew back and forth across the wealth-to-power hotline. You’ll go a bit easy there on the regulation. Wouldn’t want to kill the golden goose, or look a gift horse in the mouth, or whatever stupid aphorism they used.

When you get a gift horse as mysteriously generous as this you shouldn’t look it in the mouth, no. You should shove a telescope right up its bum. Nobody rocked the boat because the boat was full of money.

Can We Arrest Property Speculators Now Please?

Quality and Cost of Services Concerns
Investors to sue Financial Regulator for recklessly letting them do whatever they wanted to do.

“An organisation representing property investors and developers is to take a class action in the High Court against the Government, the Financial Regulator and the banks over their roles in the collapse of the property market.” ~ The Times again.

I’d be all for suing the banks. If we weren’t all liable for their debts now, making it just a little self-defeating. But how do property investors get to sue them? These were the ones trying to make money out of house prices magically going up forever. The only people they should have a right to sue are their parents, for breeding them too stupid to breathe and tie their shoes at the same time.

Ah, because the banks lent recklessly. True – though this does overlook the fact that the people they were lending recklessly too were the property investors who were borrowing recklessly. It’s the alcoholic’s justification: they didn’t drink too much. They were over-served.

Having destroyed our economy with their bare-bollocked, dribble-soaked avarice, property speculators have decided that they were the real victims here. So once we’ve finished selling our hospitals to pay off foreign banks, they want whatever’s left.

At what point does it become legal to hunt these people down with dogs?