Watching as Greece falls apart

Athens has become a battlefield of late. The country has to save 28 billion Euro by 2015 or risk default. I’d ask how the hell that happened but then all you have to do is look at the mess Ireland is in. Sure, they’re very different situations but the end result is the same. Recession and austerity.

How did things get so bad in Greece? This post might go some way to explaining things.

You see, as precipitous as the rise in national debt has been over the last couple of years, it is still amateur stuff compared to the way we piled on the debt between 1981, the year of Αλλαγή, the Change, ushered in by a massive 48% majority, (Time coverage here) and 1993, when the Maastricht rules finally started to bite and we were forced to pull the handbreak on our burgeoning government budget.

Didn’t the Irish Government do something like that in the 70’s? Borrow and borrow and borrow again? Cue Charlie Haughey’s famous quote in 1980. Even though he was living the high life the rest of the country suffered through a bad recession in the 80’s, as it is now..

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Greece. The impression I’ve got from the media here is of a country of self employed people who mostly don’t pay taxes and where jobs go to family members (rather than on merit), of a massive civil service that people aspire to join rather than go into private business (due in no small part to the fact that family members get the best jobs). How depressing but as an outsider looking in I don’t know what’s fact and what’s fiction!

For more, follow some English speaking Greek people on Twitter:

Photos of the protests: 1, 2, 3, 4.

These days will pass, but I have a feeling the EU and the world at large will be a very different world.

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.

The EU Gravy Train

Irish MEP Kathy Sinnott and other MEPs filmed in Brussells at 7am on a Friday morning clocking in with bags packed. Oh dear.


Kathy Sinnott, fresh faced and angry after 7 hours work overnight.

Makes me wonder if I should have voted yes to Lisbon. Kathy Sinnott was looking for a No vote (no, she didn’t influence me) but perhaps the Lisbon Treaty would have stopped this sort of thing. Oh wait! Who am I kidding? Of course it’ll continue!

(via someone on #linux who mentioned the video)

Update Kathy Sinnott published a fair video response to the RTL report. She doesn’t defend her colleagues, but makes it fairly clear (unless those emails were doctored which is easy, but I digress..) that she was working through the night. She also adds that the “[expenses] regime is ending in the next term”.
Via Fred, who came from here according to my logs so I presume he’s spreading the word.

The Lisbon Treaty: Too long; didn't read

My vote has been cast. I voted no to the Lisbon Treaty half an hour ago in Blarney. Why? It wasn’t to be aligned with Sinn Fein or the Socialist Party who I’d never vote for. It wasn’t because I wanted to piss off Brian Cowen and the main parties. It was partly because I didn’t know who to believe.

Both sides of the Treaty made wild claims. There were the usual dire warnings that Ireland would suffer badly if we rejected the Treaty, there was the extreme claims of the No side. Abortion, the death penalty, armies marching to their deaths. Who’s half truths and exaggerations do you want to believe? What are their biases?
The first “debate” I heard about the Treaty was over a month ago. A TD and a representative from Libertas were on Today FM to fight for their corners. Boy did they fight! Within minutes there was a slagging match with mud and names flying. Accusations were made, and I didn’t learn a thing about this important treaty.

I was almost convinced to vote yes a few days ago. All the resources of the Government couldn’t convince me but The Spoofer’s Guide to the Treaty, written by Jason O’Mahony, a PD candidate, almost did. Even that was too long however, and I only read the first few pages before I had to leave the computer and attend to the baby. Like most people, I simply don’t have time to read and digest everything about the Treaty. Top that off with the with half truths and exaggerations I mentioned above and it became even more difficult.

I know it’s my own fault for not reading the 400 odd pages of the Treaty and being ignorant, but I won’t sign my name to a contract I haven’t read. The Spoofer’s Guide is probably the equivalent of the Readers Digest version of the Treaty but even that was too long. I blame life for getting in the way. tl; dr (thanks Matt!)

I wonder will the Irish Government rerun the referendum if the Irish Population vote no?

Some links I read, and some I commented on:

Images from Biffsniff.com. Lolmartin created by Frank based on an idea by Walter.