Archive for June, 2008

On Procrastination

I read a lot on some blogs and in books about writer’s block and procrastination. Try this for an approach to it:

Imagine for a moment that you can know the date of your death.
Now, imagine that date is about two months from now.
Finally, ask yourself this one question: could I leave the world knowing this book will never be published?

If the answer is no, then write like blazes!
If the answer is yes, then why are you writing the book at all?

1 comment June 27th, 2008

A Screenwriter to Watch

One of the my greatest influences is J. Michael Straczynski. I’d always admired the stories he wrote, even before I knew it was he writing them. When I saw what he did with Babylon 5, and the effect that storyline had on me, I just had to start writing again.

It’s great to see a screenwriter I admire doing so well these days. He has hit Hollywood big time. The film he wrote called ‘Changeling’, starring Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie, was shown at Cannes this year. Variety magazine has an entry for him in 10 Screenwriters to Watch.

It was while reading that article that I came across this little gem:

After cracking the complex story structure of “Changeling” in his head, he wrote a draft in 11 days, the same version that Eastwood shot.

A draft in 11 days! Man! Where can I get a work ethic like that?

Add comment June 25th, 2008

Pardon? It’s like Deja Vu, all over again!

Well, we were expecting it.

Cowen gets year to sell ‘Lisbon II’ in new vote

It’s the same story as the Nice Treaty – go back and vote again, but do it correctly this time. Yet again, the reactions of our EU overlords are to become the compelling ‘Yes’ campaign for Treaty ratification – a ‘Yes’ campaign that our government could not muster nor sell to us.

Despite all the lofty notions of my previous post, reality resounds yet again with the truth that the Federalists have control in Europe and that we are committed to a Union of unequals. Only at times like this does that become plain.

As they say in France: Qu’elle Surprise?

Mon dieu!

Meanwhile, in my own personal world of fiction, I’m currently the eavesdropper in a U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing … I like fiction.

1 comment June 20th, 2008

Ireland rejects the Lisbon Treaty; a whisper from an Irish Citizen.

This is a bit of divergence from my usual type of blog post, but I feel very strongly about this.

I am a citizen of Ireland, and a citizen of Europe. Yesterday my country rejected the EU Lisbon Treaty. We were the only country given an opportunity for a public vote on this – all other EU member states have or are due to ratify it through a parliamentary vote. The heads of all member states have already signed it, in acceptance. The contents of the Lisbon Treaty are largely taken from the EU Constitution that was previously rejected by France and the Netherlands through public referenda. Ireland never got to vote on that occasion, because the Constitution was scrapped soon after. The French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkell subsequently set about repackaging many of the items in the EU Constitution as a treaty document. Such a document would, presumably, require less public referenda in order to pass it – parliaments and heads of states could do it. It was plan B, and we have thrown Europe into confusion again.

That is the history. Now for the sentiment.

We are told that the Commission is angry at Ireland – years of work by the Commission have been undone.
We are told that we are ungrateful – Ireland has received lots of money from the EU since we joined.

I do not like the implication of either of these.

It is almost as if the exercise of our democratic right is now seen as an inconvenience to the Commission, to the administration of the EU. People are answerable to the administration, not vice-versa? Sarkozy’s re-draft of the Constitution and his insistence that his people should not have a vote on it this time was a slap in the face to the democratic wishes of his own people, in preference to the machinations of the EU administration. I use the term administration deliberately – the EU commission and parliament is not our government. Each state has sovereign governance. More on this later.

We are immediately told we are net recipients of EU funds. So were those funds given as a means to buy some gauranteed democratic outcome at a future date? I don’t believe so, but if this were known to be the future implication of the funds, would Ireland have subscribed to the EU project? They claim our economic prosperity comes from the EU funds, but this is debatable – the largest contribution to our wealth as a nation was as a result of the multinationals that set up here, largely attracted by our low Corporation Tax rates – a tax regime system that Sarkozy would supposedly seek to abolish with the assistance of the new mechanisms provided for in the Lisbon Treaty. The prosperity caused by the U.S. multinationals we attracted had knock on effects for europe – we created thousands of jobs and attracted immigrants from other member states, which we openly welcomed. The larger states were less welcoming in there immigration policy. So they can’t say we haven’t done our bit for Europe. One of our legimate concerns with the Lisbon Treaty is how it would curtail our ability to play such an economic role in future. The larger nations have seen how we developed our economy with their assistance and want to claw it back unto themselves. Smaller nations, in the long run, may benefit from our stance on Lisbon at this time, or else they might find their own economic future in Europe less prosperous than they hope. Our history in the EU is the model of what all the accession states hope for. Right now, some of them are simply angry (and rightly so) that this Lisbon outcome is delaying their accession to the EU.

There are other voices coming from Europe, on the people’s channels of the blogosphere and youtube. These are the voices of citizens across Europe who wanted desperately to vote on this Treaty, but were denied. Many begged Ireland to reject the treaty in their name too, and most of the individual voices coming from ordinary EU citizens are of congratulations. People didn’t really expect Ireland to do this. It wasn’t in the script. Isn’t democracy a wonderful thing? That same democracy that the EU insitutions seek to erode with every subsequent treaty. They didn’t want to put this to a Europe-wide public vote, because they are afraid of it – they *knew* the sentiment out there, that it wouldn’t pass.

Irish citizens voted yes for may reasons – past gratitude for EU support, or the belief that the proportional representation arrangements and other provisions of this Treaty would make for a smoother and more efficient EU institution, or the fear of being marginalised in Europe if we didn’t vote yes, or because nearly all of our political parties said we should vote yes.
As far as I could see, these were the only major items presented as reasons to vote yes.

Irish citizens voted no for many reasons – the diminution of some of our voting rights in the new EU structures, concerns over increasing militarization, concerns over future loss of control of our tax system, concerns over the introduction of a death penalty (the Irish constitution expressly forbids it), and in addition to these very real concerns, some more nebulous fears. Many voted no simply because they did not understand what was in the treaty and it was never presented properly. Many of our own politicians — those promoting a yes vote — said they hadn’t even read it! I have read it. It is a remarkable document – phrased as a set of amendments to other treaties. It is a masterpiece of administrative jargon designed to obfuscate the real meaning of the content from the ordinary person.

The EU has become a battle between an administrative (un-elected) organization and the democratic sovereign voice of the constituent nations’ people (not necessarily their governments however). If Ireland had ratified the Lisbon Treaty, there were provisions in the Treaty that would allow the administration to circumvent the need for Ireland to have a referendum on any EU decision in future. This was the last opportunity of the people to exercise a democratic right in an increasingly non-democratic system. Our sovereign constitution would be effectively bypassed, giving supremacy of Irish Constitutional matters over to the EU, couched in administrative jargon, but legally binding. Make no mistake, this is where Lisbon would take us – it is death by a thousand cuts of democratic national sovereignty. I know – I’ve read it.

Many of the EU elite say it is a ridiculous situation that 1% of the population of Europe can halt the progress of the Treaty that was years in the making. It is called democracy. They fail to highlight that it was the only 1% of the population that was asked to ratify it or not. They can make a statement like this because we will never know what the other 99% think. Two countries, however, have already rejected the treaty’s failed predecessor.

For my part, I believe the EU has been on the wrong track for a very long time now. It is an administration – that was what it was set up to do – foster enhanced cooperation between member states. It is an administration that is fast seeking to govern, without first seeking an approved mandate from the populous to do so. It is afraid to seek it, because it knows it would not get it. People can see what it is.

In all the congratulations on the net, there was one voice of descent that really scared me. The poster stated that this ‘administrative’ document should never have gone before the people, and further went on to say: “a referendum is a perversion of democracy.” This shocked me. Has the EU blinded us so much that we are in danger of forgetting what democracy actually is? Remember democracy was conceived in Greece – in ancient Europe. The failed EU Constitution even made mention of the founding Greek tradition on which the EU was based. In Greece, any member of the public with an interest could come to a public rally, hear the debate on items of administration and governance, and participate in the vote on an item-by-item basis. It was simple, and it was successful. Europe has not scaled this system up successfully. In a world where we have the Internet, a scaled cyberspace equivalent of the ancient Greek public forum should not be that difficult a thing to achieve, and something Europe could take pride in. It would get my vote. It is but one partial solution. But those in power do not want radical solutions. Instead, Lisbon would give us a system where a handful of politicians (what percentage of the European populous is that exactly?) representing only 6 of the larger nations out of 27 member nations carries 50% of the voting weight in the new EU parliament. Those 6 nations use the size of their relative populations to justify this voting weight, and yet they will not put the items they vote for to the vote of their populations. They do not want to relinquish that power, or they simply want to use the mechanisms of the EU to achieve dominance for their sovereign states over other member states. Enhanced cooperation indeed.

The Lisbon Treaty also made provision for an EU President and Foreign Minister. We have seen what untrammelled and unchecked projection of commericially-lobbied Federated Presidential power can do to the world and the populous from recent events in the U.S.A. Does Europe, the inventor of democracy, really want to take that route now that we have seen where it leads? Will future generations thank us?

Ireland did not pervert democracy yesterday. It exercised it. Ireland did not express contempt at Europe. Europe expressed contempt at democracy. Ireland is not ‘euroskeptic’. Ireland opened the last opportunity ever to Europe to fundamentally reconsider and revise its direction, out of concern for a Europe that we have been a member of since the earliest days, and loved from the beginning. Like any love affair, sometimes-hard things need to be said out of a greater concern for the development of the loved one. We still hold the developing EU project in such high regard that possibly our last popular democratic act in the Union has been used to express our fears at what it will mean for the future of the EU if we all continue to follow the current path.

I am not a patriotic person. Ireland has many flaws of which I am personally aware, and I have in the past been guilty of cynicism about Ireland’s behaviour too. But I am proud of Ireland for what it did yesterday. Strange, that my only feeling of national pride, should spring from hope for the Europe Union project.

1% has whispered in the dark. Donít quench the voice. Donít quench the vote.

Add comment June 14th, 2008

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