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).

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.

Do not speak if you do not want to be silenced

In the era of #MeToo, a return to a literary classic—Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre—explores issues of revolt and recuperation. As Christine Blasey Ford found out, being heard is not the same as being listened to. In her heroic act of self-immolation—speaking out about a painful and life-changing experience only to have her story dismissed—Doctor Ford established that a rational woman is no contest for an hysterical and intemperate man. Do not speak if you do not want to be silenced.

Of flayed flesh and marble slabs. Jorge Luis Borges and language

Carol Ayres explores ‘a peculiar poem even for Borges and finds his remoteness of language at odds with the imagery, which references butchers and prostitutes (and witches)—the working class, that is, which is usually associated with plain speech not abstruse or rarefied language. This contrast—between form and content, as well as between the quotidian reality of the butchers and prostitutes and the language used to describe it—introduces one of the primary tensions of the poem.