The Biggest Loser

Donald Trump ran his 2016 election campaign on the braggadocious premise that, as the most successful businessman of his generation (by his own reckoning) and a master negotiator (again, by his own reckoning) he would make America great again by running it the way he ran his businesses. Last week in The New York Times, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, using data from legally-held transcripts of Trump’s tax returns for the years 1985 to 1994, showed what happened to businesses Trump actually ran. It’s not a pretty story

The Biggest Loser Part 2

As the Supreme Court has recognized, ‘[a] legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information . . . recourse must be had to others who do possess it.’ Given its Constitutional function the congressional power to investigate is quite broad, ‘indeed co-extensive with the power to legislate.’

Biggest Loser Part 3

Those highly classified transcripts have become the Schrodinger’s cat of American jurisprudence. The government ‘represents’ that there are no ‘other recordings that are part of the sentencing record’, even though Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about precisely those telephone conversations with Kislyak, formerly Russia’s top diplomat in the United States. This would seem to establish their existence and simultaneous non-existence as stated by the government. And even if they did exist, though they don’t, the government is not relying on them to make their case—though it’s hard to conceive of anything more relevant than those transcripts ‘for purposes of . . . determining [Flynn’s] sentence’.

When is a guarantee a statement of intent?

After the humiliation of her historic defeat last week, May’s spectacular inability to understand the art of negotiation came to the fore; in an alleged attempt to reach cross-party consensus, she offered to talk with opposing parliamentarians about the fall of Plan A and the rise of Plan B but refused to budge on any of her red lines. In effect, she appeared to believe that she could bully her opposition into compliance with the threat of a no deal exit, once again totally misreading the situation. In this, she mirrors her on-again-off-again friend in Trump, who once hired a man to write his autobiographical fairy tale in The Art of the Deal but forgot to ask him how it was done.

Everything new is old again

The historic defeat of Theresa May’s proposed Brexit withdrawal deal sounds decisive, but the only other thing that 432 Westminster MPs agree on is that everyone else has it wrong. From the hard Brexiteers gearing up to jump joyfully off the cliff, through the various shades of an undefined ‘softer’ Brexit, to the Remainers who refuse to agree among themselves, consensus is what the ‘others’ refuse to come to.

In the broad view of history, that is, 2018 is an ellipsis stretching from Theresa May’s ‘Brexit means Brexit’ (without defining either term) to Arlene Foster’s ‘Ulster says NO. Now, what’s the question?’

The case for a reformed Senate

What is the Senate good for? Ideally, in a bicameral legislature, each house acts as a check and/or balance to the other. In our case, however, there is no check, given that the balance is well and truly tipped in favour of the Government of the day. The Taoiseach gets to nominate eleven Senators, which is a nice head start, but it’s hardly necessary: even though all Dáil bills need the approval of both houses, if the Senate rejects them, the government can ‘deem’ them to have passed anyway (after a maximum 180-day waiting period).

The fact-free candidate

Peter Casey, uninformed, dishevelled, fact-free, and uniquely unqualified candidate for the presidency emerged from his decisive thirty-three-point defeat in full triumphalist mode. Riding high on his underwhelming pulling power, he announced his intention of joining Fianna Fáil, taking over the leadership, and, in short order, becoming Taoiseach. Fianna Fáil spent no time and little energy in dismissing his offer as ‘laughable’, but Renua, holding fairly steady at zero per cent in the polls, made a tentative move in his direction. Apparently, someone somewhere in the single-issue (a refusal of the right-to-life of a pregnant woman in a crisis pregnancy) party thought a second issue, racism, sounded like a good idea.

Cock-up, cover-up, or fit-up?

Whether the failures within Tusla were a result of a cockup, an attempt to cover up that cockup, or collusion with the gardai, it’s hard to deny that at least two senior garda officers knowingly sent the false accusation of rape against Maurice McCabe further up the line without attaching the clear and unequivocal correction in their possession. In doing so they allowed false rumours of a very serious nature to circulate about  the ‘rat’, Maurice McCabe. Delays or refusals to include a clear correction when the file was sent up the line meant that a false accusation was forwarded all the way to the Commissioner’s office and was left on Sergeant McCabe’s file until the start of the tribunal. This is deeply disturbing.

Disclosures Tribunal—update

In the third interim report of the Disclosures Tribunal, Justice Peter Charleton correctly goes to justifiable lengths to clear Maurice McCabe of any wrongdoing, describing him as a ‘genuine person who at all times has had the interests of the people of Ireland uppermost in his mind’. He gave McCabe a glowing character reference. The vast majority of people in Ireland would agree.