Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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The Heroes of Apollo 11.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 21, 2009 in Just stuff

What humanity can be.

What humanity can be.

Being one of life’s natural cowards, I’ve always had great admiration for people of exceptional courage, and there’s a special place reserved for Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins. Yes, plenty of men, and one woman, went before them into space, and the crew of Apollo 11 benefitted from their experience (Including the tragic deaths of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, and whose mission patch was left on the surface of the moon in 1969.) but as a symbol of what greatness humanity can achieve, you’d be hard pressed to find a better symbol. Yet the showiness of the Apollo landing sometimes detracts from extraordinary human achievements that aren’t lauded the same way. Consider the 8th May, 1980. What happened then? The World Health Organisation announced, after a massive vaccination and containment programme across the planet, that smallpox had been effectively eradicated. This was a disease which at one stage killed 400,000 Europeans every year.

An extraordinary step in reducing human suffering.

Eradicating Smallpox: An extraordinary step in reducing human suffering.

What is our generation going to do as its contribution to human greatness? Would it really be that hard, for example, for the United States and the European Union to commit to the goal of providing every person on Earth with clean drinking water by 2029?

Having said that, the Apollo programme was an extraordinary achievement, so as the anniversary of the moon landing comes upon us, don’t forget to raise a glass in the honour of those thousands of astronauts and scientists and engineers and ordinary working joes who showed just how magnificent we can, as a people, be.     

 
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One reason why the No to Lisbon crowd should be ignored.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 20, 2009 in Lisbon Treaty

The Wreckers want a NO vote.

The Wreckers want a NO vote.

They are wreckers, not builders. They demand an alternative, and yet cannot point to an alternative that would garner more popular support amongst Europeans than Lisbon. Lisbon has united the centre right, centre, and centre left. When are Joe Higgins, Mary Lou, Richard Boyd Barrett and Youth Defence in their current guise sitting down with David Cameron to agree their alternative document?

Have a look here at Open Europe, a British Eurosceptic website, and look at what they are saying about the EU and workers rights. Does Joe Higgins agree with them? Almost certainly not. But it goes to show that the No side is not capable of building a credible alternative because, quite simply, if we put them in a room together there’d be snots flying.

Lisbon is the outcome 27 countries working together. The Irish No side could not even agree amongst themselves. Could Joe Higgins agree with Coir on abortion rights? Yet they claim they could unite European opinion with an alternative to Lisbon? In the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Round Objects.”   

 
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John McGuinness: A Fianna Failer with balls?

Posted by Jason O on Jul 17, 2009 in Irish Politics

McGuinness: Refreshingly blunt.
McGuinness: Refreshingly blunt.

Was watching maverick FF TD John McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny) on Prime Time last night, and was very impressed with his un-Fianna Fail straight talking about the need for public sector reform. Those of us who work in the private sector, and make up 81% of the workforce, as well as generate the wealth to fund the other 19%, aren’t actually anti-public sector. But we want someone to tell a few home truths, as McGuinness did.

 Yet another reason for having a National Constituency so that we can elect a few TDs who actually speak in the national interest.   

 
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Interesting DVDs you should see: CSA

Posted by Jason O on Jul 17, 2009 in Movies/TV/DVDs

Supposing the South won?

Supposing the South won?

“CSA: The Confederate States of America“, produced by Spike Lee, is a mockumentary based on the premise that the South won the American Civil War. It is portrayed as a British television series of the alternate timeline, and straddles both the ridiculousness and the frightening aspects of that possible historical outcome.

What is particularly interesting is that the film is peppered with advertisement breaks for shockingly offensive products, many of which actually were on sale in the US right up until the 1960s.

An interesting distraction, especially for alternate history buffs. Keep an eye out for the scene where a defeated Abraham Lincoln attempts to flee to Canada in blackface!

  

 

 

 
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William Hague being very funny about President Blair.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 16, 2009 in Lisbon Treaty

Probably the best speaker in current British politics.

Probably the best speaker in current British politics.

William Hague paints out a nightmare scenario for Gordon Brown about EU President Blair here.  Very funny. Having seen Hague speak in person, I think he’s a remarkable example of a guy finding his niche in life, and that reaching the top is not necessarily the Be-All-And-End-All.

Funnily enough, for those of us who support a united Europe, he makes a very good case for Blair!

 
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Here come the pleaders!

Posted by Jason O on Jul 16, 2009 in Irish Politics

The Axeman Cometh.

The Axeman Cometh.

With the Bord Snip Nua report imminent (And with parts of it leaked already.) we should be gearing up for the usual low fact/high emotion rigmarole that passes for informed debate in this country. What is very Irish is the fact that we don’t like fact (Such as the idea that we have no money.) to collide with our emotion (It isn’t fair!). On top of that we naturally assume that the people carrying out such policy always have some sort of hidden agenda, as if Mary Harney and Mary Hanafin meet in secret, rubbing their hands in glee at how many people they have hurt today.

The reaction to An Bord Snip Nua will be the same. We’ll be inundated with the usual “Of course there must be cutbacks. But surely an exception must be made for one-legged Irish-speaking Camelherds!”

I don’t know why the government doesn’t manage this better. Instead of letting the pleaders demand special treatment in a vacuum, where they sound so reasonable, why not put ALL the special pleadings together so that the public can see how much money they will have to pay in extra taxes to protect all the special cases. 

Who knows? Maybe the public will be willing to pay extra taxes to protect the pleaders?

 
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The myth of ideological voters electing ideological TDs.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 15, 2009 in Irish Politics

Imagine there were votes in it!

Imagine there were votes in it!

The voters of small, more idealistic parties often feel hard done by. They vote Labour or Green or Progressive Democrat and wonder why that party doesn’t just do what it says it would do, but instead stabs them in the back. In the 1970s and 1980s Labour Party members used to pull their hair out wondering why the parliamentary party just wouldn’t even sound more left wing.

The common claim was that the TDs, once elected, had either sold out or become corrupted by the system.

The answer is actually far simpler. The longer the TDs stayed in the Dail, the more they met the people who voted for them, and discovered something almost unique to Irish politics. That many of their voters voted for them without agreeing with them.

It didn’t apply to FF or FG TDs, because they didn’t really believe in anything specific. But the small party TDs, meeting their constituents, discovered that only a small portion of their voters actually were Labour or Green voters, motivated to vote for them by the party’s ideology. The rest transferred to them for reasons of personal loyalty or constituency work, which meant that the TDs worried more about their fickle non-party voters than the party loyalists, and so became less ideological in the Dail.

If our voting system actually allowed party voters to elect party TDs straight, on a proportional basis, we would probably have less disappointment. Parties would actually have an incentive to remain pure, so as to not lose their pure voters.

But imagine trying to put a coalition together in that climate.  

 
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Good books you should read: A Planet for the President.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 14, 2009 in Books

Funny and disturbing.

Funny and disturbing.

A novel written by Scottish satirist Alastair Beaton, who also wrote the entertaining television play The Trial of Tony Blair which starred Robert Lindsay as Blair, A Planet for the President tells the story of an ultra conservative US President who suddenly has to accept and then deal with the reality of climate change, and hatches a shockingly evil plan to ensure the United States survives the global calamity.

The book is both funny and thought provoking.

 
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Tony Blair and New Labour did a lot of good. Fact.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 13, 2009 in Just stuff

Blair: Flawed but not without achievement.

Blair: Flawed but not without achievement.

It has become very fashionable of late to completely dismiss Tony Blair and New Labour as having made no positive contributions to modern British society whatsoever. This is a load of balls. From devolution, to economic management (Including Bank of England independence), to gay rights, to Kosovo, to Sierra Leone, to the Good Friday Agreement and to the Human Rights Act, Tony Blair did a lot of good. People forget what the alternative was. John Major was, by all accounts, a decent man, but his party was dominated by the hard right who have since taken over the party, if not its leadership. Tony Blair provided instead a reforming, modernising, and essentially liberal government.

That is not to dismiss the mistakes, and he will no doubt go to his grave with “Iraq” stamped on his soul. But surely the greatest irony of Tony Blair and New Labour is that they were eventually done in by the very thing that got them elected in the first place, that is, the obsession with perception management. In 1997 New Labour won by ruthlessly surpressing those left wing elements in the party which cost them votes, yet by the time of the  London Mayoral election in 2000, the offical Labour candidate. Frank Dobson, was beaten into third place with 13% of the vote by Ken Livingstone who had been denied the nomination by Blair because he thought Livingstone would not win for Labour! 

If anything did in New Labour, it was the control freakery that had made them successful in the first place. The fact that Blair and others just could not understand why both progressive and traditional conservative voters were so incensed with things such as the restrictions in civil liberties and the ID card scheme showed that, ironically, it was no longer the left who were out of touch with the mainstream, but the New Labour people who had supposedly made mainstream values their touchstone.      

Despite all that, one must always ask of an elected official after he or she has left office: Did they do more good than harm? Iraq has made that a difficult one to call in Tony Blair’s case, but I would suggest that it’s still 50:50, and that maybe history may eventually look to Tony Blair as a Harry S. Truman type figure, who was despised leaving office but eventually was recognised for having made a broadly positive contribution. The scary thing is, you could probably say the same about Richard Nixon, a comparison I suspect Tony Blair would frown upon.

 
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Great DVDs you should see: Path to War.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 10, 2009 in Movies/TV/DVDs

How the best and the brightest failed.

How the best and the brightest failed.

The recent passing of Robert S. McNamara reminded me of an excellent HBO drama on the subject of American policy in Vietnam. “Path to War” starrred Alec Baldwin in a surprisingly touching role as JFK and LBJ’s defence secretary, and Michael Gambon as LBJ. Based on Robert Dallek’s award winning biography of Johnson, the film focuses on the period from LBJ’s landslide reelection in 1964 up to his decision not to run again in 1968.

What’s fascinating about the story is its explanation of how the calm, rational escalation in Vietnam came about, and how both men became tortured by their decisions. It also depicts LBJ’s battle for civil rights, including a wonderful scene when Johnson faces down racist Alabama governor George Wallace.

The movie also stars Donald Sutherland as McNamara’s sucessor, Clark Clifford, and is well worth viewing purely as a intriguing example of how essentially decent, intelligent people just screw up.

Copyright © 2018 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.