The Kids Should Have Rights

Look at that. That’s the kind of crap I’m doing these days. That’s SQL – Structured Query Language. It’s what you use to handle the huge databases of information that all modern organisations run on. What’s more it’s SQL done the hardcore way – from an old-fashioned character terminal instead of your fancy modern graphical interface. It’s really just one step up from reams of paper with green lines on it. And as you can see, just to be extra masculine I’m doing it on Linux. What are the advantages of using Linux rather than Windows here? None at all. Linux actually makes it harder. But that’s how we like it.

“It’s hard to know which way to vote,” my mother said today. We’re having a constitutional referendum on whether children should have the right to be recognised as individuals rather than as the property of their (biological) parents – which, simplifying violently, is the situation as it stands.

Don’t worry, my mother’s not ideologically opposed to freedom for kids. Like many others she was just confused by all the argument. The law requires the state – and state media – to give an equal hearing to both sides of a constitutional referendum. So if we ever decided say to put a clause against genocide in the Constitution, the government would have to publish booklets that were 50% in favour of massacring whole ethnic groups. Which would be interesting.

And this referendum has found so little mainstream opposition that it’s already spotlight time for the loons. Sinn Féin are in favour, for God’s sake. Even the Catholic Church isn’t opposing it openly. So people with some really quite odd opinions have been dug out to appear on TV. “Who is this John Waters?” she asked. “A wanker,” I explained.

There are some opposing arguments that are not irrational, but the overwhelming majority of people who have to deal with issues around child protection seem to be for this change, so it’s them I think I’ll go with. But whichever way you feel, I hope you do vote – if only to take advantage of the chance to protest against the horrific economic punishments being forced on this country. I don’t mean spoil your vote – referendums are too important for that. Someone made a brilliant alternative suggestion:

You have to fold your ballot before you put it in the box. But there are no rules about how you fold it.

Fold it into a paper aeroplane, to symbolise the ultimate fate of the children for whom government professes to care. Imagine the impact it would have when they opened the boxes on national TV if we all did it.

Ó Cuív Looks Out For His Own Seat

Fianna Fail Party Logo
Yes it works quite well in the American sense of the term too (Photo credit: Slugger O’Toole)

The jokes write themselves. Or maybe jokes isn’t the term I’m looking for. Depressing ironies, that’s it. If his grandfather had been a little more flexible about treaties limiting sovereignty, there wouldn’t be a Fianna Fáil for him to not leave.

I have mixed feelings about this. My admiration for the man would have shot up enormously if he had kept campaigning against the Fiscal Compact, within FF or without. So I see this as a sad caving in to party machine politics, the antithesis of democracy.

But on the other hand, I think it’s good that Fianna Fáil are supporting the Fiscal Compact. Wait! I don’t mean that supporting the Compact is right. I mean that it was probably tempting for them to take a popular stand against it. (It would also have been unforgivably cynical of course, but they have done unforgivably cynical things in the past.) I’m glad they resisted that anyway.

Mainly though, it’s a good thing because it keeps all the bastards on the same side of the fence. I’d hate to find them on mine.

The Democratic Post-Mortem

The campaign car of Joseph McGuinness, who won...
It's taking a while, but it's happening

Having done nothing to repudiate the last administration’s nationalisation of private debts, what did the government expect? The only reason the judge’s pay referendum passed was that a lot of the public thought it would hurt lawyers, whom after the Tribunal bills they hate almost as much.

People have had it demonstrated to them quite clearly that one party cannot (or won’t) do anything to reverse the mistakes of another. It makes it look like government is powerless in the face of our financial dependence on the EU. Which, when it comes down to it, seems to really mean dependence on major continental banks – the very banks by and large who lent excessively to ours. It should be eye-opening that the candidate of Sinn Féin, the only major party that declares it would repudiate the banks debts, out-polled Fine Gael‘s two to one.

Democracy has been suborned by capitalism when it should have been circumscribing it, and now it begins to feel like an exercise in futility. What sort of turnout is 52% for the most fiercely-contested Presidential election in the history of the state plus two referendums? Half of the population don’t think there’s any point. And the worrying thing is, they may be the half that’s right.

Sinn Féin Out On The Final Count

Martin Mc Guinness.
My Goodness

It says a lot about the state of the parties in Ireland right now that the ‘government’ candidate and Sinn Féin’s were neck-and-neck all the way. In fact as I write they’ve just been eliminated together.

A quick explanation: In the Single Transferable Vote electoral system, you number candidates on the ballot paper in order of preference. Votes are initially distributed according to the first preference, after which the candidate with the fewest is eliminated and the votes that went to them are transferred to the one marked as second. This process continues until one candidate has a ‘quota’ of votes, which in a presidential election is simply 50% of the valid poll. (If someone had gotten over 50% of the first preference votes the contest would have been over then and there of course, but that rarely happens.)

This is good because it takes into account the fact that voters may not only prefer one candidate, but particularly despise another. For instance I gave Seán Gallagher my seventh preference – out of seven candidates.  (I could actually have not numbered him at all, but mathematically it would have made no difference.)  A simple majority system can actually help the most-despised get elected, if their opposition is split among the less objectionable candidates. A case in point is 1990, where it would have given us Brian Lenihan Snr as President.

Sinn Féin’s McGuinness and Fine Gael‘s Mitchell were eliminated simultaneously because distributing the next-preference votes of either could not have elected the other, a logically valid time-saver. It is now theoretically possible that their redistributed votes could push Seán Gallagher over the finish line ahead of Michael D. Higgins in the most astonishing electoral reversal since, well, since yesterday. But that won’t happen. Both Sinn Féin and Fine Gael voters are going to strongly prefer the official Labour candidate over the unofficial Fianna Fáil. In fact all other candidates have conceded, so the count is something of a formality at this stage.

But to get back to the original point, Michael D. was never really seen as representative of government – perhaps because he’s a socialist. Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell was taken by the electorate to be the official candidate of a government swept to power in February on a mandate for change – yet there is little between his vote and that for the man who is widely believed to have been leader of the IRA. I was surprised by this. I really thought Martin McGuinness would do better.

The Fianna Fáil Revival Starts Here

LOL (Laughing Out Loud) - Bertie Ahern
Image by infomatique via Flickr

I don’t know what Bertie Ahern‘s balls are made of, but perhaps we should be using it to generate nuclear energy. For they are massive. He told us today that not preventing the national economic collapse was the fault of the media, because they were too preoccupied with investigating his wrongdoing.

No that’s just awesome. Even Berlusconi must have gasped.

It’s utter nonsense of course. The media were full of voices shouting stop – certainly more so than government. Mr. Ahern is living out a self-justifying fantasy, and his words are as relevant now as, well, pretty much anything else said by a member of Fianna Fáil. With the obvious exception of course of Seán Gallagher. Yes, I think we can regard him as a member still. Though it appears he did resign both from his cumainn¹ and the party’s national executive, he hasn’t exactly distanced himself from the organisation, launching the campaigns of FF party candidates – presumably for a fee – as recently as six months ago.

It looks very likely therefore that his split with the party was not moral or ideological, but pragmatic. He wanted to be elected. To have any chance, he had to lose the stinking albatross-corpse of a Fianna Fáil ticket. And the ruse seems to have worked. People say they will vote for the honestly-really-not-Fianna-Fáil candidate. I don’t know what to say, you’re all mad. Mad, or masochists.

Rather like McGuinness², he’s building foundations for his party’s eventual rehabilitation. Unlike McGuinness though, he might actually win. And if he does, what are the odds of him returning to the party – in a greatly enhanced role – just as soon as his term is over? If not sooner.

  1. Local party branch.
  2. Sinn Fein’s presidential candidate.

Norris Is In

After an astonishing roller coaster ride of a campaign that saw him first bow out and then bow to pressure to return, David Norris will be on the Presidential ballot paper. And what a paper. Nominations are not yet closed, but the line-up is looking to be:

Now that is a Presidential race. Suck it, USA.

Sinn Féin Breakthrough

Gerry Adams, having resigned the seat he didn’t use in Westminster, will take one up in Leinster House. Indeed things are looking good for Sinn Féin across the Republic. It’s an outside chance, but there is real a possibility that they will actually overtake Fianna Fáil to become the Dáil’s fourth-largest party.

Which would be amusing.

I note that TV3 has switched from election coverage to a reality show about driving around the country pointlessly. (Or something.) Nice to know the 30% of the population who didn’t vote for who runs their country are catered for. I was complaining about RTÉ the other day, but it seems commercial television is determined to prove it can be worse.

I’m glad we don’t have compulsory voting like in Australia. The sort of person who will not come out to vote even at an election like this is not the sort I want having any influence over anything that in any way affects my life. TV3 is about what they deserve.