The Stability Treaty: How are you voting?

Like all the other European treaties the Irish public is being threatened with doomsday scenarios by both sides of The Fiscal Stability Treaty. Reddit user cianomahony posted the photo above in response.

The Government says that the country won’t have access to any money if we vote no, but the Sunday Times asked the IMF and the Department of Finance if that was the case and they both said the country could apply to the IMF regardless of the outcome of the Treaty. It’s just the ESM we won’t have access to. Today’s Sunday Times goes on to say that Ireland will have to pay 1.27bn Euro into that fund if the Treaty is ratified. Where the hell does that money come from? We’ll get a loan ..

Campaigning has been going on for only a week so far, I haven’t listened to much of what the No side say but right now I want to vote No. I wonder if the Government will rerun the Referendum if we vote No the first time? Fianna Fail and the Greens did it twice, time for Fine Gael and Labour to do likewise?

Stop Ireland’s SOPA

Before the end of this month the Irish Government will introduce a very vague copyright protection law. It won’t be debated in the Dáil as it will be enacted by a ministerial order. Protection of copyright is a laudable endeavour but when so little is known about the amendment or how it’s implemented it’s impossible to figure out how it will affect us. Once IRMA get a whiff of any more power or influence you just know they’re going to abuse it! Remember the infamous “3 strikes” rule?

Before I go any further, here’s how you can help. Sign this petition or use this contact form or this list to contact your local TD to express your misgivings and anger at this law being pushed through so quickly.

From the stopsopireland.com website:

SOPA is the name of a piece of US legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act, recently proposed in the US. It caused an Internet-wide outcry due to its far-reaching implications; way beyond simply closing access to outlaw file sharing websites, it would have enabled law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing material posted on a single blog or webpage.

A similar proposal is about to become law in Ireland. And while 7 million Americans contacted their representatives to say No to SOPA in the US, Irish citizens will not get that chance because the new law in Ireland is not being voted on in the Oireachtas.

Instead, the law is being enacted by ministerial order. This new law will give music and movie companies the legal leverage to force Irish ISPs like UPC, Eircom and mobile networks to block access to sites suspected of having copyrighted material on them. It also means judges can order ISPs to block access to sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter where an individual user from anywhere in the world has shared infringing material.

As I mentioned in my Wikipedia post, this law might already be illegal:

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered a landmark case for protecting free speech in the fight against online piracy. In a decision issued today on the Scarlet Extended SA v SABAM case, the Court stated that web filtering systems used to prevent illegal downloading on peer-to-peer networks was incompatible with fundamental human rights.

Minister Sean Sherlock will be on drivetime (RTE Radio 1) after 6pm this evening to talk about this law. I hope he comes to his senses.

Oh, it is very easy to bypass any spying the music and movie industries force on Irish ISPs. All you need is an encrypted tunnel to a remote host outside the country. If Irish ISPs ban users from using tools like that then you can say goodbye to a huge number of IT jobs. I rely on these tools every single day of the week to do my work.

More links:

Next in the firing line of laws that will limit consumer freedoms is ACTA but let’s get one bad law stopped before we move on to the next one, ok?

The image above taken from No Shit, Sherlock website. Thanks Sean Sherlock.

Moriarty Tribunal in Text

The Moriarty Tribunal cost the Irish tax payer more than 100 million Euro and all we got was a 2,400 page protected PDF.

If you view the report’s PDF files you won’t be able to quote from it by selecting and copying text. You’ll have to manually type out anything you want to extract because the files are protected.

Value for money eh? Anyway, I ran the pdf files through the tool “pdftotext” and came up with m1.txt and m2.txt.
Use the original PDF files to read the report but for your convenience these text files will be much easier to quote from.

Please don’t link directly to them, mirror them on your own site if you write about them!

Here’s a Wordle tag cloud of the findings created by Jamie Lawrence.

Missing months of expenses

So, here I am working on my end of year accounts with the help of my wife and I read Gavin’s unbelievable report that the Dail, our national parliament, has lost 29 months worth (over 7 years) of expenses data for Irish politicians! You’d think that after almost 100 years in existence they might have got something as simple as storing expense sheets down to a fine art?

Why is this not so bad? Well the news aspect firstly. The Houses of the Oireachtas have so far been unable to locate expenses data for a combined period of 29 months. Eh? Not alone that, they want to charge me to find this information. Information that really should be in the public domain anyway. But we have to deal with the system we have…

Still feel guilty about losing that petrol receipt now?

The kicker is, it’ll cost €2,440 to pay civil servants to search for this information that should already be in the public domain. Gavin is looking for donations to pay for the FOI request but I think a national paper or media organisation should stump up the cash and help bring politicians down a peg or two when the sh*t hits the fan.

The Lisbon Laws

200px-VulcansHammer(1stEd) Around a year ago I was reading Vulcan’s Hammer when I came upon something that rattled me. At the time the (first) Lisbon Treaty was about to be voted on so everyone was talking about Lisbon this, Lisbon that, and what it all meant, and how nobody knew what it all meant, etc etc.

Well, in Vulcan’s Hammer, written by Philip K. Dick in 1960, the world has become a totalitarian society ruled by mysterious computers given absolute power in 1993 by legislation called “The Lisbon Laws”. It didn’t affect how I voted of course but the naming coincidence was starling!

Here’s an extract from the book. Anti Lisbon Treaty folk better get your tinfoil hats on!

Mrs. Parker made a note on her chart. “Correct.” She felt pride at the children’s alert response. “And now per­haps someone can tell me about the Lisbon Laws of 1993.”
The classroom was silent. A few pupils shuffled in their seats. Outside, warm June air beat against the windows. A fat robin hopped down from a branch and stood listening for worms. The trees rustled lazily.
“That’s when Vulcan 3 was made,” Hans Stein said.
Mrs. Parker smiled. “Vulcan 3 was made long before that; Vulcan 3 was made during the war. Vulcan 1 in 1970. Vulcan 2 in 1975. They had computers even before the war, in the middle of the century. The Vulcan series was developed by Otto Jordan, who worked with Nathan­iel Greenstreet for Westinghouse, during the early days of the war…”
….
For a moment there was no response. The rows of face were blank. Then, abruptly, incredibly: “The Lisbon Laws dethroned God,” a piping child’s voice, came from the back of the classroom. A girl’s voice, severe and pene­trating.
….
Mrs. Parker paced rapidly down the aisle, past the chil­dren’s desks. “The Lisbon Laws of 1993,” she said sharply, were the most important legislation of the past five hundred years.” She spoke nervously, in a high-pitched shrill voice; gradually the class turned toward her. Habit made them them pay attention to her-the training of years. “All seventy nations of the world sent representa­tives to Lisbon. The world-wide Unity organization for­mally agreed that the great computer machines developed by Britain and the Soviet Union and the United States, and hitherto used in a purely advisory capacity, would now be given absolute power over the national govern­ments in the determination of top-level policy-”
….
“Mr. Dill,” a girl’s voice came. “Can I ask you some­thing?”
“Certainly,” Dill said, halting briefly at the door. “What do you want to ask?” He glanced at his wrist watch, smil­ing rather fixedly.
“Director Dill is in a hurry,” Mrs. Parker managed to say. “He has so much to do, so many tasks. I think we had better let him go, don’t you?”
But the firm little child’s voice continued, as inflexible as steel. “Director Dill, don’t you feel ashamed of yourself when you let a machine tell you what to do?
….
“The Lisbon Laws, which you’re learning about. The year the combined nations of the world decided to throw in their lot together. To subordinate themselves in a realistic manner-not in the idealistic fashion of the UN days-to a common supranational authority, for the good of all man­kind.”
….
“There was one answer. For years we had been using computers, giant constructs put together by the labor and talent of hundreds of trained experts, built to exact stand­ards. Machines were free of the poisoning bias of self-interest and feeling that gnawed at man; they were capable of performing the objective calculations that for man would remain only an ideal, never a reality. If nations would be willing to give up their sovereignty, to subordi­nate their power to the objective, impartial directives of the-”

It’s a great story and well worth a read. It was part of a 3 story book called “Philip K Dick Three Early Novels” containing The man who japed, Dr. Futurity, and Vulcan’s Hammer. The first story almost put me off reading the other two as it had dated badly. Some of the character’s names and the technology are really old fashioned! Persevere, it’s worth it.

My Public Representatives

While I was away last week John Handelaar announced his new project, kildarestreet.com. It’s a site dedicated to reporting all the goings on in the Irish Parliament, from the horses mouth so to speak. It makes available to the general public everything that TDs (our members of parliament) say in session. This information is available on the official Government websites but it’s not easy to find.

I live in Blarney, in Cork North Central. I checked the list of TDs and found those that represent me, my family, my neighbours:

Interesting stats on each of their pages, and I really like the “most recent appearances”. I wonder if TDs will watch more closely what they say come the general election to avoid giving ammunition to their competitors or to avoid “putting their foot in it” in front of a suddenly more well informed electorate.