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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Natural20's LiveJournal:

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    Friday, September 7th, 2012
    10:32 pm
    Sample Con Harassment Policy
    So, there's been, understandably, a lot of talk about con harassment policies lately, and in the run up to the 2012 Discworld Convention we suddenly realised that while we had one in the minds of the committee, we didn't have it written down, so really, like any unwritten policy, it didn't exist. Dónal, whose LJ I can't remember, wrote the first draft of this, I tweaked it quite a bit, then I asked the0lady and ailbhe to take a look at it and they tweaked it more. I'm quite happy with it now and so, 'cos I thought it might be useful and save others the bother, I wanted to put it online for people to steal in case it might be useful to them. I realise other cons have them and it's possible we could have avoided reinventing the wheel, but as we have, here it is. Use it, don't use, discuss it, etc. Here it is anyway:

    **********************

    ((insert con or organisation name here)) is dedicated to providing a safe and comfortable convention experience for everyone. Harassment of any kind, including unwelcome attention, verbal harassment, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical contact - let alone physical assault or battery - will not be tolerated.

    If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of the convention committee immediately ((possibly let people know how to identify said committee or go to Ops or something)).

    Your reports of harassment or similar activity will be recorded and the Chairman will be informed. The convention committee will discuss the situation internally, as well as with any relevant parties, and a decision will then be made on what, if any, action is to be taken.

    Convention participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the convention at the discretion of the convention committee.

    In addition to dealing with the harassment quickly and decisively ourselves, convention staff will be happy to help participants contact hotel security and/or the Police ((or the name of your local force)), provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the convention.

    **********************
    Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
    10:30 am
    All My Head With Discworld Filled
    A few years ago I wrote a piece on my LJ about Gaelcon (www.gaelcon.com) and how, in the run up to the con, it filled every available space in my life and head. At this point in time the Discworld Convention 2012 (http://www.dwcon.org) is doing pretty much the same thing. The con starts on Friday, but some of the committee will be in the hotel from today to start the on-site prep. With 950 or so people descending for the weekend there's a *lot* of prep to do, as you might imagine.

    I've been involved in the Discworld Convention in one form or another since it started in 1996. That year I was "just" a Gopher and I helped out with a couple of programme items. In 1998 I ended up as Operations Manager and in 2010 they took away all my power and made me Chairman, a role I'm reprising in 2012 (and then I won't be Chairman any more, someone else's turn).

    It's difficult to describe just how much this con and this community means to me. It's been such a part of my life for sixteen years and there have been so many highs & lows associated with it all. The highs, it should be pointed out, far outweigh the lows. I've made good and close friends, laughed my head off, fell in love at least once, in lust more than once and watched thousands of people have a great time. More than worth the financial, emotional and mental price of entry.

    And so, this weekend, me and my amazing committee (without whom I would be a nervous wreck and, more importantly, there would be no convention) will do it all again. It fills my brain and I love it. After four years I'll miss being the Chairman. After this there are other things to do and other mountains to climb, but for the next few days I'm just going to enjoy the view from the top of this one!
    Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
    10:21 am
    Labour in 2012
    During some conversation last night my feelings on Labour's current political actions finally crystalised. Since the election and through the budget I've had the sense that they were doing things because they had to and I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. However now that Seán Sherlock is proceeding with his completely unnecessary SI and Ruari Quinn is attacking the Internet that benefit of the doubt has evaporated. Add to that Róisín Shortall's minimum alcohol pricing and Joan Burton's extremely dubious welfare plans and I'm just about done with the party. These are things that they don't need to do, these bad decisions are entirely of their own creation.

    However the big thing really has been how Sherlock and the party have reacted to the tens of thousands of outraged voices at the copyright SI. They are repeatedly showing that they quite simply don't care. They are giving the impression that they will bow to those with money before they will listen to the will of the people. They will talk about the knowledge economy, then claim that those who use the tools of that economy to protest are not worth listening to. It saddens me greatly that Labour seem to be going this direction, but if my opinion doesn't matter to a party, then they do not get my vote.

    It's 2012 and the 21st Century is already passing Labour by. They have a few years before the next election, but they've an awful lot of work to do if they want to regain my trust.
    Friday, November 18th, 2011
    1:01 pm
    23% VAT, why, oh why?
    As the VAT increase lumbers closer I still can't wrap my head around why the government are doing it, or perhaps why the Troika are forcing the government to do it. I find myself presuming that it's just because they are very blinkered (yes, I'm being nice here) and choosing to forget there's a land border an hour up the road from Dublin, over which people can drive to buy cheaper goods.

    My opinion on doing this hasn't changed, but I understand why people do. And people will continue to. So money and jobs will flow out of the economy, causing further harm, for a few hundred million in revenue. I know we need to cut some costs and increase some taxes, but increasing taxes that will harm the economy and, more important, the poorest in that economy is morally and economically wrong.

    I'm not going to shout about being betrayed by the FG/Lab coalition and, right now, it seems like they're the only game in town, but we still lack a credible left-wing alternative who has a chance of getting into power. I still believe Labour can be that, but right now, they aren't and they're moving further and further away.
    Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
    12:09 pm
    Irish Presidential Preferences 2011
    Pick a preference, any preference? We're just over a week from the Irish Presidential Election 2011 and it's all still to play for. However I have no doubt you're all desperately wondering who I'm going to vote for and, if not, I'm going to tell you anyway.

    Right now, with a week still to go, my preferences look something like this:

    1) David Norris. While I no longer work for David's campaign I still believe he's the best person for the job. His campaign and his appearances have been shaky since the comeback (and obviously shortly before it) and he's not in the unassailable position he once held, but he hasn't yet lost the top spot. I think he's outspoken, passionate, liberal and believes in the rights of the people, which is a pretty good start for me.

    2) Michael D Higgins. I'm a big fan of Labour and left-wing politics in general. Add into that experience, a love for the arts and some real intelligence and you have a man I could easily see in the job. His age is a concern, to be very blunt, but he's come on a lot in my estimation during the campaign and he may still get my first preference.

    (There is now a big gap)

    3) Mary Davis. I don't like her, I don't want her to be President, but quango hoping aside she has more direct experience than the others and she would likely fulfil a bunch of the roles in a mediocre but not harmful fashion. She's... done good things in the past, but not enough and there's too much bad or boring.

    4) Gay Mitchell. What a boring, pointless, talentless, right wing, FGer is he. The old party, the old Ireland. No thanks.

    5) Martin McGuinness. If he told the truth about his past, I'd probably rate him higher, but he's consistently lied about it (or vast numbers of other people are lying) and I just can't get behind that. He came from a very dark place in Irish history and while I don't believe that should be a black mark against people forever, I think he's handled it wrong. The whole "I'm running as an independent" thing is nonsense. He's also shown, repeatedly, that he doesn't understand the modern Republic of Ireland, so why would I want him as my Head of State?

    6) Seán Gallagher. Yup, below McGuinness. He doesn't know what the job is about, he doesn't seem to know what he's doing in the campaign and he's desperately trying to peel the FF brand logo off his jacket. This man is the past, don't let his claims of being the future fool you.

    7) Dana. Not a chance in hell. She's a crazy woman who believes in the Church ahead of the State. Not on my watch.
    Friday, September 2nd, 2011
    4:40 pm
    On The Notion of Welcoming A Pilgrim Pope
    Or some bullshit like that...

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2011/0902/1224303347904.html

    Neither the current Pope nor John Waters know anything of modern Irish society. They seem to believe that if they keep on denying the corruption at the core of the Catholic Church and keep on claiming that the repeated (and ongoing) child abuse was not as is not know at the highest levels that people might forget. They seem to genuinely think that devotion to this group of misogynistic, bigoted, hateful men (in godawfully stupid dresses and hats) will somehow make everything better.

    Waters wants to go back to a time when nobody was allowed to question, nobody was allowed to think. When the parish priest was the ultimate authority and whatever the Catholic Church said, went. We are long past that time and I truly believe things will only get better in that regard.

    Of course, he has every right to express his opinion, as long as he accepts that, thankfully, most people will think his opinion is bullshit. Welcome a pilgrim pope? Inform him that the country his minions pillaged does not welcome him, not now, not ever.
    Thursday, August 4th, 2011
    3:01 pm
    Norris For President No More
    So, I'm not working on a presidential campaign any more...

    This gets long, I do hope it is also interesting.Collapse )
    Thursday, July 21st, 2011
    1:02 pm
    An End to Rome Rule?
    Yesterday, during a debate nobody was expecting much out of, Taoiseach Enda Kenny made a very suprising, and welcome, speech. The full text can be found here and watched here.

    This is ground breaking stuff as every commentator has been saying. It is, finally, an outright rejection of the lies and cover-ups that the Roman Catholic Church has been engaged in for years unnumbered and it is an Irish politician, a long standing one at that, stating that what has been said and done is not good enough. It is a very far cry from the clericalism and excuses that have been trotted out again and again in the Dáil chamber. It is a statement that the laws and needs of the Republic come before those of the Vatican and it is hopefully a position that no Irish politician (or at least one with power) will go back on. I applaud Enda Kenny for doing this and saying these words, in this way.

    But is that it? Not at all.

    The metaphorical bishop's ass may have been kicked, but Enda Kenny is still a practising Catholic. Both the Dáil and the Seanad opened today with prayers and the country has not broken off diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Nor is it likely that any of this will change. It is a start, finally, and a good one, but Fine Gael's Presidential candidate is, let's remember, a right-wing Catholic and I'm sure a few politicians will show up to events next year when Ireland hosts the Eucharistic Congress.

    So we're not there yet, but I think every day, with every revelation, more and more people believe this country would be better off as just a State, separated from any religion, free from the influence of those who put anything over the safety and well-being of the people, perhaps a place that may, one day, truly be called a Republic.

    Edit for Clarification: It has been said to me that this reads as if I'm suggesting members of the Catholic Church should not be able to hold office. This is not my intent. As long as people are excellent to each other and use evidence as a basis for decisions, I really don't mind what they believe in the privacy of their own head. There's more to that, of course, but for the purposes of this short clarification, it'll do.
    Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
    2:33 pm
    I Have Been Remiss
    But, well, the LJ tab was just never open when I was away, which might say a lot about the site, or rather my interactions with it, right now.

    However, it was an amazing holiday, with a fantastic con, great sightseeing, multiple delay-less flights, old friend, new friends and new family. Well, sorta. For those of you who haven't seen it elsewhere on the Internet that last bit is important.

    While away (surrounded by sculpture on the Mall in DC), I asked trixibell to marry me. She said yes. That's pretty much it, really. It's amazing and wonderful and I'm a very happy man.
    Sunday, July 3rd, 2011
    12:21 pm
    Extended Family
    And last, but not least, LJ.

    I am be-uncled! Max Nisbet was born at 08:30, 3.63kg - Ciara and Max doing really well (according to the frazzled new Daddy :) ). Pictures etc to come later (may be tomorrow before I get to see the little guy).
    Friday, May 20th, 2011
    10:56 am
    A State Visit
    In the words of the song, "The Queen she came to call on us..." and, considering what has happened in Dublin over the last few days, both in immediate disruption and social & political importance, the visit certainly did fall on us all.

    I welcome a state visit from the UK to the Republic of Ireland. Recent history has shown that far more can be achieved through dialogue and diplomacy than can be managed through conflict and death. I welcome a normalisation of relations between two very close trading partners with a vast amount of shared history while hoping that, one day, Ireland truly will take its place amongst the nations of the world. I also hope that's after those nations are expressions of culture, not political blocks or potential enemies, but that's for another post. In short, Queen Elizabeth II came to Dublin and that is, imo, to be welcomed.

    But there's a but. Of course there's a but...

    While the political and social elite of Ireland have been patting themselves on the back for a job well done and enthusing about just how grown up we all are now, they've shown, in a repugnant fashion, just how little they trust the populace and how we get treated like children when the posh visitors are in town. There is no question that security was required, in no small part due to the large number of threats that were received, but what has happened in the last week has been beyond overkill. It is rumoured that €30 million was spent on the security and I have no problem believing that number. Dublin has been closed, repeatedly, streets guarded by metal and Gardaí, citizens have been barred from crossing the river or even catching a glimpse of this elusive monarch and everything has been subordinated to make sure some very rich and powerful people can talk about how they can be rich and powerful together.

    Due to my routes and the times I've been travelling I managed to avoid any without cause bag searches or even too much disruption, but the Internet is full of stories of people who had hours added to their journey or simply had to wait for a bridge to reopen so they could get home or to work. The exclusion zones spread far, far away from wherever the event was on and the warm welcome of Ireland was a wall of steel and large amounts of local law enforcement.

    The last week has shown that this republic does not trust its citizens and that is a very sad thing indeed. We have been harried and hassled and hidden away, allowed to neither be seen nor be heard, all in the name of normalising relations. This last week has featured many highs, and a particular low with the death of Garret FitzGerald, but the security decisions made have cast a pall over this visit and I would urge people to let their representatives know how unhappy they are with what was done. However, as with many nations around the world, I worry those concerns will be given no time or credence as the hype of security theatre remains the hottest show in town.
    Monday, May 9th, 2011
    12:29 pm
    Irish Presidential Campaign 2011
    In the interests of full disclosure, I want to state here that I am involved in the Norris for President Campaign (on a volunteer basis of course) and I will be working to see Senator David Norris elected as President David Norris in the autumn. More information on the candidate and the campaign can be found http://www.norrisforpresident.ie/.

    David is an independent candidate and I do not feel that my involvement in the campaign will in any way limit my ability to comment on politics in general, but when I start talking about the Presidential candidates later in the year, there will be an unavoidable bias.

    My role in the campaign team will be relatively minor, I'm working on coordinating regions teams, but I am looking forward to getting actively involved and trying to get a good man elected to a great office.
    Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
    1:02 pm
    The Idiocy of Outsourcing - merrionstreet.ie
    So, Merrion Street.ie, the Irish Government official online news source announced today on Twitter if you wanted to interact with them, or comment on news stories, you should join their page on Facebook. It's difficult to express how much this saddens me. I'm ambivalent about the idea of an official Gov news site at all, but sure, we have it, grand, let's make it a decent one. If they feel they should let people interact more and comment on the news stories (which I happen to think is an awful option), then put a bit more money into the site and enable comments there. Don't outsource this to an offshore website with an horrendous privacy record that was originally designed to help college students hook up! I know FB has changed in so many ways over the years, and I'm not going to sit here and try to fight against what is currently popular, but moving your content to FB is a tragic idea for the official site of a national government.

    (And yes, I appear to have accidentally taken a six week post election break, that's over now, even if plans to move this blog away from the rapidly disintegrating (already disintegrated?) LJ infrastructure are still bubbling away.)
    Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
    9:27 am
    Scores On The Doors - General Election 2011
    And so it is finally over.

    Those of you from foreign climes may be wondering how an election that took place on Friday was still being decided on Wednesday, which is a fair question, but it isn't anything like as bad as it seems. The vast majority of the seats were decided by Saturday night with only a handful going over into Sunday and only two races, two very, very close races, pushing on into this week. Barring future legal challenge, we now have the full make up of the 31st Dáil.

    RTE have an excellent set of pages going into great detail on the whole thing here, but it breaks down like this:

    Fine Gael: 76
    Labour: 37
    Fianna Fail: 20
    Sinn Fein: 14
    Others: 19

    "Others" there covers a multitude, there's the Socialist Party, People Before Profit and others under the banner of the United Left Alliance, and there are a host of independents, more left than right, but more than there's been in a while. There's no reference to the Green Party due to their parliamentary wipe-out.

    So FG have failed to get a majority and are currently deep in negotiations with Labour to form the government everyone has been expecting for a year. There is much shouting to do before it's over, but I'd expect to see a Labour Táiniste along with maybe four other cabinet posts, leaving ten for FG, including, of course, the Taoiseach's chair for Enda.

    The results pouring in on Saturday were, even with the expectations we'd set, shocking. FG were picking up seats everywhere, FF nowhere, and with the urban constituencies the fastest to count, Labour had an early surge. The biggest thing, as the count wore on, were the FF losses. The big names just kept on falling; Coughlan, Hanafin, C Lenihan, O'Rourke, Roche etc. etc. Only four of the remaining cabinet ministers (after the botched reshuffle in January) are left. It was also wonderful to see Cyprian Brady go in Dublin Central, but not as wonderful as Seán Haughey losing out in Dublin North Central. For the first time in over fifty years there is no Haughey in the Dáil, let the bells ring out.

    Of course it isn't all good news. I obviously would have preferred a much larger number of Labour seats, but it's still a record and both of the candidates for whom my brother was working, Ruari Quinn & Kevin Humphreys were elected. But FG have a huge number of seats and they're a centre-right party, not my favourite sort. They have some really unpleasant people in there like Lucinda Creighton and I'm very, very worried that that change Enda went on about at length isn't, of course, any sort of change at all. But I'll give this proto-coalition a chance.

    The Greens, well, they reaped what they sowed but I really hope, as I've said before, they go back to grassroots and rebuild.

    The next few days will be just as interesting as the last few. Labour are having a special congress at the weekend to discuss going into coalition with FG. The 31st Dáil is due to meet for the first time this day week and by then everything needs to be in place.

    But let us pause, in this time of discussion, as we hope FG & Labour can hammer out a plan they can both sign up to and that will be, above all, good for the country, let us pause and consider the electoral beating that FF have just taken and the fact that there is no member of the Haughey family in the Dáil. That, at least, is worth a smile.
    Thursday, February 24th, 2011
    12:36 pm
    Polling Eve - General Election 2011
    And here we are, the eve of polling day, during probably the most important, most depressing and least exciting election campaigns in, certainly my lifetime, possibly longer. But none of this makes voting tomorrow any less crucial.

    We've had three weeks of of rumours, bargains and lies. Three weeks of posters in the wind, of soundbites and arguments. We've had mad independents and corrupt party candidates. We've had leaders debates with variable numbers of participants and different levels of chaos. We've had bigotry and honesty and we've even had some engagement.

    It was mentioned to me that I've been very negative during the campaign and I can't disagree. There have been, frankly, few signs of hope. Our "once in an epoch" election will exchange one Centre-Right party for another one. The Left seem to be divided between those who are a bit crazy and those who haven't reached far enough. In short, the options for Ireland's recovery are a bit grim.

    And, according to the polls, a large minority of people are going to vote Fine Gael, a vote, it would appear, for a conservative Ireland, a vote for a five point plan where point 4 is ???? and 5 is definitely profit. But it would appear the Irish people don't want change, or that they're deluded enough to believe a switch from FF to FG is change.

    After all of this, and despite my opinion that the Labour party have failed to really take a stand, to reach the heights they could have reached, I will still be voting for them. I'm not going to try and evangelise, but I still think they're the best option, both socially and economically, for the country. I hope that more people have that realisation tomorrow.

    So, a prediction, well, it still seems the most likely outcome is a FG/Labour coalition, with an outside possibility of a single-party FG government. Of the two, I would vastly prefer the former. However, polls are just polls, and it will be fascinating to see what picture emerges over the weekend (and with the number of candidates, possibly into next week).

    But most importantly, if you can vote, do vote. Or spoil that vote, but go to the polling station and express a preference.

    This is your chance to speak, take it, or be silent for years.
    Friday, February 18th, 2011
    3:27 pm
    Two down, one to go - General Election 2011
    So, it's Friday 18th, meaning there's only one week to go. In fact, in seven days, polling will be in full swing and hopefully a huge percentage of those eligible to vote (Irish & UK Citizens resident in the Republic) will have voted.

    The next few days will involve the most frantic electioneering, debating, lying, crawling, shouting and promising that the various candidates can come up with. Some of it may even be things they intend to do. FG certainly believe they're on track for a huge number of seats, perhaps even single party government. Labour are now trying to convince the country this would be a bad idea (I agree, for what it's worth) and the Greens seem to think this allows them another shot at power.

    FF might get twelve seats, so nobody really cares what they think, even while Martin is still desperately trying to persuade the world he wasn't really in the cabinet for the last fourteen years. Actually, that's just me being hopeful, people are still listening to them, people will still vote for them, but either way this will be a wipeout of FF without historical precedent.

    A note of levity was struck by an out going FF TD, Ned O'Keefe, saying that the state of decay of the country, which would be hastened by an FG government, might lead to a military coup. Then again, he also thinks that CJ Haughey and Ray McSharry were the finest politicians ever to grace the Dáil. I believe they were filthy scumbags who stole from every pocket in the land and should have been imprisoned for treason and paraded around the streets in chains at least once a month. Oh how we'd laugh.

    So yeah, not much to report really. You can read all the manifestos online, if you can find them on the generally awfully designed webpages. You can send badly coded Valentine's cards for FG, or send someone a personal message from Eamon Gilmore, or engage in any one of a number of awful things thought up by people with no notion of modern social media. Hopefully the laughter will come more quickly than the tears.

    One more week to go, of this second act, then we're into the voting and the counting. I can't wait.
    Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
    10:53 pm
    NokiaSoft
    I bought my first phone in the late 90s, it was, as it happens, a Motorola D160, but it seemed that the vast majority of other people buying phones around that time were buying Nokias, and in Ireland that trend continued. I spent a lot of time being a devoted fan of the Siemens range, but after the S65 I finally switched to the ubiquitous brand, because, well, Nokias were everywhere.

    In 2009 I decided that I wanted a phone that had 3G, Wifi and a touchscreen and on Vodafone in Ireland that didn't give me a huge amount of choice at the time. After some research I settled on the Nokia 5800 running Symbian S60 v5. And it seemed like the phone I wanted. How wrong was I. It wasn't a bad phone, it just wasn't a handset for 2009. Let's leave aside, for a moment, the fundamental flaw in the phone that caused it to crash, a lot, despite Vodafone denying the problem, and focus on the software. In 2009 the iPhone 3GS was out and the first Android handsets were being shown off by Google staff, and I suddenly realised just what a clunky OS Symbian was. It had seemed so shiny, until you really tried to use it for email and discovered the messaging client was the same for both email and sms, or you decided to buy something from the OVI store. There was still some great hardware out there (my experiences notwithstanding), but the software looked like carving stone tablets next to Android and iOS. Nokia was losing ground.

    There were ads and promises of the N8, how it would be just so amazing, but it was one handset, no real eco-system, and very mixed reviews, and those of us looking for smartphones (a group ranging from people who wanted devices that could do everything our Palm T|Xs could do, to those who just wanted to always be able to update Facebook) were attracted by the immense shininess of proper early 21st Century mobile OSes. And more and more people stopped buying Nokias, slowly at first, slowly enough to hide the bleed, but it became more and more obvious that having a market share isn't the same as growing one. Symbian, as autopope told me a couple of years ago, is an OS on the way out. It's ok for what I would now consider to be basic handsets and I'm sure people will still use it happily, but it isn't the future and it isn't shiny, and last week Nokia admitted it had lost.

    So, where am I going with all of this? Will I actually ever get to the point of what I think of the recent announcement? I'm moved to think Nokia has missed the boat to a catastrophic level . They've finally seen which was the world is going, with how accessible iOS & Android devices are and how their non-Symbian OSes are just not able to take a chunk of that world. So they've made a deal with another company that isn't really keeping up, presumably hoping that the combination of solid hardware (and I've yet to find a phone that matches most of my Nokias (5800 excepted) for reliability) with what is still the best known OS in the world. I think it's a horrible mistake. I love Win7 on a computer, I'm not convinced the mobile version will be a decent phone OS, and I'm far from convinced that Nokia should relegate themselves to the status of OEM hardware manufacturers. I think that Win7 is already behind the curve and I wonder about the danger of Microsoft deciding it would be easier to own the company making the phone hardware when they launch 8, an OS that will likely be far more optimised for tablets and phones.

    The mobile phone market is, very roughly, twenty years old, and I think that what we're witnessing now is the fall of the first great giant. Of course it's possible the combination of brands will draw people back, but it doesn't seem like the most likely of results. The other possibility is that Nokia will really shrink and reevaluate (again) what they're doing, going back to making great phones with a new OS that isn't Win7, but that presumably would require Elop not to be the man in charge.

    If you're slipping under the waves, don't grab ahold of the other drowning man.
    Monday, February 14th, 2011
    11:35 pm
    Midway Point - General Election 2011
    When the election was called I thought I might post a lot, but really, there's been precious little to post about. The parties are trotting out their talking points, and I won't lie that I like Labour's more than anyone else's. But what will the reality of those policies be if they get into power?

    And then we had the debate. Five middle aged men, an audience full of questions. Oh god. No, sorry, I can't go into it in detail, it was awful. To many people, bad moderating, lying, incompetence, pointless optimism, pandering and shite. Should I have expected anything else? Probably not, but I hope, I desperately hope. And, of course, my hope was dashed.

    So people will decide that Enda didn't screw up, so he and his party are still the best option for a conservative Ireland who think that civil war politics still matter. They'll vote for a party who thinks that political reform involves abolishing the Seanad and reducing the number of TDs by twenty, who will say that equality doesn't include civil marriage or a constitution free of religion, who will pander to the narrow, parochial minds of people all over the country. And it won't be change.

    But that's ok, 'cos FG are different to FF, aren't they?

    So here we are, at the halfway point, nothing really significant has been said, there've been no real surprises, nothing really to write about here. So I reckon this is a good time to put together a brief wishlist for each of the parties. I would love to see the following:

    - Labour to become properly socialist, to tell the self-interested unions where to go, to promote actual equality and to build a proper secular republic.

    - FG to acknowledge their narrow-mindedness, the pointlessness of their leader and to put in place iron clad guarantees that they won't descend right back into the trough with their business friends the moment the election is over. Oh, yeah, and to promote acutal equality and to build a proper secular republic.

    - SF to go back to school, to realise that their economic policies are nonsense and while they've quite a few interesting theories, they don't work in the real world.

    - The Greens to drop out of parliamentary politics, go back to their grassroots, rebuild and come back with a proper left wing Green agenda.

    - FF to disappear.

    Well, it's that or voting Cthulhu suddenly seems like a really good idea. Why pick the lesser of five evils?
    Friday, February 4th, 2011
    4:15 pm
    Twenty Five Days of this? - General Election 2011
    So, we come to the end of the first week of the campaign and, well, it's all been rather depressing and dull so far. There are points of note, of course, but overall there appears to be a feeling of... I'm not sure, of resignation, almost? No, that's not right. Hmm, with Cowen standing down, with FF in a mess, it might even be that there won't be the crushing of the Offaly man many were hoping for. That and the possibility that FG might, maybe, take FF up on the offer of supporting an FG minority government, along with sniping all over the place, has made the campaign launch really non-event-ish. So, what's there to note?

    - The polls so far suggest that FG will "win" the election, but that they won't get a majority in the Dáil. Labour are stumbling a bit, sadly. FF have bounced a little, spurred on by Martin lying to everyone. It really does seem that, yet again, too many people in Ireland want to be ruled by conservative forces that don't like them. But we shall see.

    - Martin is lying to everyone. He's doing it very well and fooling lots of people. He's trying to distance himself from every collective decision cabinets he was in made; he's claiming the election should be fought on the issues and then attacking other candidates; he's saying that FF have changed, really. He's lying. FF have shown one thing over their history, they want to be in power and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded or wants some of that power.

    - Labour just don't seem to be popping. My bias here is clear, I want Gilmore to be Taoiseach, but right now, they need to show why the extreme left are being loons and show why FG will be massively regressive, they aren't doing either.

    - Enda Kenny is being scared, of Vincent Browne. He's said he won't participate in any debate/event featuring VinB, which is possibly one of the stupidest things I've ever heard a candidate say. For reference, VinB's current affairs show is one of the most popular in Ireland and while the man is far from perfect, he's a highly respected journalist and broadcaster.

    So, we go into the first weekend of the campaign, as the wind tries to blow all the posters down, faced with a choice for leader of the country between a liar, a radical, a coward, the man who can't connect and a failed political force. All of them male, all of them over fifty and with three weeks to go to polling day.

    God, I hope something happens soon...
    Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
    11:10 am
    And They're Off - General Election 2011
    So, the crazy days aren't over here, but craziness is standard during an election campaign, so we'll mix up the post titles for a while.

    Yesterday, in his final speech as a politician, Brian Cowen announced he was going to ask the President to dissolve the Dáil and that the 31st Dáil would meet on the 9th of March 2011. This all but formalised an election date of 25th February and, indeed, this was the official date announced a little later on.

    So, it's on. The posters flew up and they were lining the Liffey as I headed into work this morning, although some had already been pulled down and covered in footprints. Anecdotally I think that there are even more 'this is our leader, he should be Taoiseach' posters from all of the parties than 2007, but I have zero data to prove that. And, of course, sadly, all of the party leaders are white guys over the age of fifty. There are senior female frontbench spokespeople in all of the parties, but Mary Harney is still the only woman in Irish politics to lead her party and both her and the PDs are now consigned to history.

    FG & Labour are the clear front runners right now, Kenny & Gilmore both bucking to lead the country, both in with a shout, but with FG ahead in the polls right now. FF are desperately trying to persuade the country they're still the big dog, but while Martin is popular individually, the party itself still seems to be on the road to ruin. SF, neck and neck with FF in the polls, is going to be the wildcard in this election, and it's also interesting to see the announcement that Gerry Adams will be taking part in any debates, rather than the SF leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Not surprising, but interesting. The Greens are claiming they're going to get 8 seats. Nobody believes them.

    So, it's on, and they're off, the next 3.5 weeks will be full of promises, rumours, bargains and lies. It's the first election (I think ever in this country) where the sitting Taoiseach is not standing for re-election (no mention of the Constitutional issue yet, it may well just not feature) and it is all to play for. We know the starting price, but three weeks is a very long time in politics and with cameras, microphones and the Internet everywhere, who knows what we'll all have seen and read by the 25th?

    General Election 2011 - Scream if you want to go faster!
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