Thursday, April 7, 2016

Update 8th April

Political Prologue
In the background, as I address writing these notes on Wednesday, the three o’clock news begins and with the first line the reader is able to tell the future; “The Dail is meeting right now but will not be able to elect a new Taoiseach…..”. They also met a month or so ago and they were not able to elect a Taoiseach then either. It was understandable then I suppose but forty days later the political games and posturing continue.  One just shakes the head and probably says to oneself; “What is going on ?” A little reflective question that crosses my mind is, if there was another pretty immediate election how would I vote then? Recognising the probability that there would be a big reduction in the voting public how would it change the composition of the present Dail? 
There is plenty of news and commentary coverage of the fact that we do not have a Government right now but we are well into overtime on the issue.

Donal Trump
I see from yesterday’s US Primary-in Wisconsin-  that Mister Trump has hit a speed bump. It was of his own construction like a number of them. This time it involved abortion and his crude views on that issue. Earlier it had been the building a wall along the Mexican border, (wall at Doonbeg golf course in Clare fronting the sea), then it was his attitude towards Moslems. Even Europe took a swipe. If it was thought necessary by Trump he suggested that he would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons on Europe in some strange universe of his mind. It seems as if the tide is turning. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently spoke of the embarrassment engendered by Trump being a candidate. Its more than embarrassing it is serious.   

Some US Government Structures
The United States, is of course a great country but is it a great democracy? Some will suggest that anyone can reach the highest position in the country and Barack Obama is an example of that .However the amount of money necessary for a presidential election is crazy. 
The basic principles of how the country is governed are laid down in the American Constitution which is the great touchstone of American democracy. This allows for three branches of Government, the Legislative Branch, The Executive and the Court System.     

Legislative Branch
The legislative branch enacts legislation, confirms or rejects presidential appointments, and has the authority to declare war.

This branch includes Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives) and several agencies that provide support services to Congress. American citizens have the right to vote for senators and representatives through free, confidential ballots.
•Senate - There are two elected senators per state, totalling 100 senators. A senate term is six years and there's no limit to the number of terms an individual can serve. Interestingly they have elections every three years for half the Senate numbers so that there is a constant half, at least, with three years’ experience.
•House of Representatives - There are 435 elected representatives, which are divided among the 50 states in proportion to their total population. I presume these are the people referred to a Congressman/Congresswoman as Senators are very definitely referred to as such?

While I have only a very basic knowledge of all this, a question here is possibly why there is a need for two house groups; a House of Representatives and a Senate? I suppose it is to continue the process of checks and balance. Which is more powerful/influential, a Senator od Congressman/woman? What are the differences in the roles of a Congressman and a Senator?  

The Executive Branch

The executive branch carries out and enforces laws. It includes the president, vice president, the Cabinet, executive departments and independent agencies. The President is head of state and leads the country. He/she is leader of the Federal Government, and commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces. The president serves a four-year term and can be elected no more than two times. US citizens abroad can also vote in this election something that might be introduced here. From time to time the President can enact some laws/legislation by ‘decree’ but this is resisted vigorously by Congress.

The process of Presidential election seems to be an ongoing one in the United States. (Maybe we are going to be entering a similar environment). There are two major parties in the US, The Republicans and the Democrats. The Republicans might be regarded as the more conservative perhaps akin to the British Tory party. The Democrats, who are generally supported by those of Irish background, might be regarded as of Social Democrat hue.   
The first part of this process is to try and get a nomination from one of the two dominant parties and this is what is in train as of now. Trump, Cruz and Kasich are the three remaining candidates seeking the Republican nominations from a field of seventeen at the beginning of the nomination campaign. Trump is not flavour of the month with the Republican hierarchy apparently and is seen as a maverick which of course is popular with some prospective voters. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are the two remaining candidates for the Democrats. The nomination race is the preliminary run before the actual Presidential contest. Like the leaders of many countries the results have been uneven in terms of quality of leadership. Since the thirties the presidents have been Franklin D.Roosevelt -who actually died during his third term- a great World War Two President, followed by Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Regan, Bush Snr. Clinton, Bush Jnr. and Barack Obama.

Judicial Branch

The judicial branch interprets the meaning of laws, applies laws to individual cases, and decides if laws violate the Constitution.

The judicial branch is comprised of the Supreme Court and other federal courts.
•Supreme Court - The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. The justices of the Supreme Court are nominated by the president and must be approved by the Senate (with at least 51 votes). Congress decides the number of justices. Currently, there are nine. There is no fixed term for justices. They serve until their death, retirement, or removal in exceptional circumstances. On nomination they are rigorously vetted by Congress.

Postscript: Of course the dilemma with checks and balances is that they can paralyse a section of the system. It is said that after President Obama drove home his ’Universal Health’ programme through Congress by the narrowest of votes this led to many of  his subsequent programmes being defeated by a Republican dominated Congress. Also it is well to remember the insidious influence of ‘Lobby Groups’ with their resources such as exemplified by the National Riflemen’s Association the N.R.A.

Then there is also a layer of state government under the umbrella of the Federal Government. So if you work, in say New York, you could end up paying three proportionate taxes; city, state and federal.  

(Recently there has  been a very good TV series treating of Obamas legislative efforts from inside the White House, covering health, gun control and discrimination. Indeed one of the critical themes of the fine film ‘Lincoln’ starring Daniel Day Lewis was the wheeling and dealing that Lincoln and his protégées engaged in to have an Anti-Slavery Bill passed in Congress ).

Roscommon v Dublin
It was a pretty dramatic if not traumatic week-end for Roscommon County GAA. On Saturday evening the U 21s’ went down to Mayo in the Connacht final in Sligo. Roscommon could have been really in the driving seat if a Henry Walsh effort had been goaled mid-way into the first half. The loss of two of Roscommon’s main players Mullolly and Compton one to a black card and the second to injury, was central to Mayo coming back in the second half and to just getting over the line and ending Roscommon three-in-a- row aspirations. Still there are a number of very good players on this team who will now boost the resources of the senior team. These would include Mullolly, Compton, a third Murtagh-Diarmuid- and a third Daly. Tadgh O’Rourke of Tulsk, grandson of Tom Callaghan was ‘Man of the Match’ on Saturday evening. So he too will be a contender.
The miracle of having Hyde Park available for the senior game on Sunday did not materialise and so we transferred to Pairc Sean in Carrick-on-Shannon. Playing conditions in Carrick were also a bit problematic. Still there was a good atmosphere and getting into the steep seating of the stand made it a satisfying experience. Things looked ominous at half time with the Dubs leading by nine points to three. Roscommon looked like they were paying too much respect to the Dubs and much of the ball going into the front line did not stick there. However the management must have had a real effect on the team at half time as they really charged into the All-Ireland champions in the second half and might have snatched  a draw at the end. While Seanie McDermott was pretty harshly dealt a ‘black card’ the introduction of U 21 player –from the evening before – Sean Mullolly showed that he is a another contender for a position. While the usual suspects like McDermott will form the basis of the championship it will take a while before the management will actually get close to knowing their best team. Niall McInerney seems to be another emerging star. There is now a big panel with a good few players on the same level. So every team selection for the foreseeable future is unpredictable. I suppose the panel for the first championship game in New York will tell us a god deal more.
So Sunday is another adventure with a trip to see Roscommon v Kerry in Croke Park at 2.
Panama Offshore Accounts
So another WikiLeaks has hit the headlines and it is certainly interesting. Apparently people squirreling away large amounts of finance was being organised by a legal firm called Mossack/Fonseca in Panama. The first victim was the Prime Minister  of Iceland.  While Ireland naturally have a number of actors involved FIFA too has a couple of names listed including the recently appointed President to replace Blatter i.e. Gianni Infantino. He who promised to ‘clean up’ FIFA from issues which were prevalent with the previous administration. Appropriately enough a member of their ethics committee has also been named! The coming week-end will probably offer up another tranche of squirrels.

Summer/Autumn of Discontent
In the U.K. a period of ‘78/’79  is referred to in terms of industrial relations as ‘The Winter of Discontent’. It looks as a follow on from the Luas rail strike in Dublin that a few months down the line could see the beginning of a ‘Summer/Autumn of Discontent’ with a lot of groups in transport/Gardaí/teachers/nurses and so on looking to claw back the cuts of the last number of years.

GAA Sports Centre at Abbotstown

The GAA Sports facility which was opened this week at Abbotstown looks very impressive. Hopefully some progress with Roscommon’s Medieval park will now be initiated.

Well done to Marc
A little belatedly I wish to commend Marc Egan on his performance on The Voice TV programme with his version of David Bowie’s song ‘Rebel Rebel’ . Any one of the three contenders in Marc’s group could have been chosen. I imagine we will be seeing/hearing a good deal of Marc into the future. So I wish him well.

Easter Sunday Game
I have had a valid complaint about the GAA fixtures dominating special days. The day named in this instance was Easter Sunday when Roscommon played Mayo and a big crowd attended. Obviously this may have diverted some of those GAA fans away from what might otherwise be a family day.

The Masters
One of the great annual sporting events is taking place this week-end i.e. The Master’s Golf Tournament. The problem is that the television rights for d good deal of it have been hijacked by SKY TV. Anyway as I scribble Offaly’s Shane Lowry has had a great start. Wouldn’t it a bit Leicester if Shane won. His first big win, the Irish Open was it (?) when an amateur, was something similar.

Circus in Boyle
How the Circus has survived is something of a mystery. The Corvinni Family Circus is in Boyle at the moment. Performances in the ‘Results Gym’ Car Park on Carrick Road
Friday 8th, 7pm : Saturday 9th, 5pm and Sunday 10th at 3pm. I might see you there!

Administrator Saddened
The death of Merle Haggard is referred to by Sean on the home page. I know that Merle Haggard has been a particular favourite of his for a long time and that he will feel very much the passing of this music legend.   
Political Epilogue… late Thursday:

So the Fine Gael/Fianna Fail marriage didn’t get to the church and seems to have crash landed with ‘irreconcilable differences’. Not much chance of a Tallaght strategy or benevolent support for a ‘minority government’ in the tones emanating especially from Fianna Fail. Perhaps they feel they have been led into an alley. More muted from the triumvirate of Fine Gael representatives on the plinth i.e. Frances Fitzgerald, Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar. Now, consider that trio and think of who are the contenders for when Enda Kenny is elbowed aside. Paddy Power has shortened the odds on another election. I imagine Enda could hardly be in place for that. ‘Cui Bono’ is a famous Latin phrase meaning ‘who benefits?’. Who benefits from a set of circumstances? So ‘Cui Bono’ from this afternoon’s rumble? It certainly does not appear to be Fianna Fail or the Irish public but the ‘play’s the thing’.   

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