Posted by Jason O on Oct 31, 2010 in Books
I recently listened to “Killing Pablo”by Mark Bowden (Author of Black Hawk Down) on audiobook off iTunes, and enjoyed it greatly. The book gives a short potted bio of Pablo Escobar, and then concentrates on a detailed account of both the US and occasionally Columbian government’s attempts to capture and then (unofficially) kill the notorious druglord.
Whilst the story of the hunt is interesting (at one stage, the US had to fly an airborne air traffic control aircraft over Medellin, as they had 17 surveillance planes in the air) and the book also details the secret involvement of US Special Forces (Delta Force, who may have actually killed him in the end), what is particularly interesting is the effect Escobar had on politics, not only corrupting it to an obscene degree (He employed the guards in the purpose-built prison he was supposedly incarcerated in, and ended up an alternate member of congress) but the casual assassination of political candidates opposed to him reached a ridiculous degree. At one stage, he was actually carrying out a terrorist campaign to force the government to allow him to surrender, as he felt he could run his criminal empire better that way!
The other fascinating aspect was the creation, with tacit US support, of a terrorist organisation dedicated to avenging his victims by attacking members of his family and organisation.
A very interesting insight into how a democracy can be brought to the edge.
Posted by Jason O on Oct 30, 2010 in Irish Politics
The Greens: Nick Clegg's real Irish partners?
In the last week, I’ve met three people who did not vote Green in the last election, but will this time. They have a variety of reasons, but all hinge on the same thing. The Greens are actually doing things. One quoted forestry. Another mentioned the planning act. A third mentioned the civil partnership act, and it got me thinking. Are the Greens that bad a choice?
There’s no question the Green vote is down, and many Green voters feel betrayed because they Greens did not form a majority government and implement all their policies without dilution. The bastards. Well, let’s be honest: The Greens did u-turn on stuff like Shannon and Tara and the Lisbon treaty, but here’s the thing: They u-turned on all the things I thought were dumb anyway. I was livid with their stance on the blasphemy thing, but I’ve since chalked that up to inexperience on their part, and a belief that they had to be loyal to FF. But since then they’ve been moderate on the economy, good on environmental stuff and planning, and reforming on elected mayors and gay rights. They’ve become good on Europe, and it’s fair to say that they’re probably less likely to take a bribe than almost anyone else, ‘cept maybe Brussels Joe. They subtly showed Willie O’Dea the door. True, they still cling to the neutrality and anti-nuclear crap, but so does everyone else.
Here’s the scary thing: They’re actually becoming the party I hoped the PDs would become, a kind of Irish version of the Lib Dems, except, unlike the PDs, they are actually getting liberal stuff through. Jaysus.
The big challenge for them, as it was for the Labour party and PDs before them as small parties with a relatively small first preference vote, is the problem of transfers. Between half and a third of the votes needed to elect a Green TD have been from non-Green first preference voters, which the party received when it was seen as novel and transfer friendly. Yet, like the PDs and Labour in government before them, they now face a lower first preference vote coupled with a much more hostile transfer environment.
Perhaps now the Greens will recognise that having small numbers of seats in individual constituencies doesn’t help small parties that much as it leads to relatively high quotas ranging from 15%-25%. Ironically, FF might be more willing to listen to arguments for larger constituencies now, given their current poll ratings. Could the Greens keep a seat in a new Dublin South County nine-seater made up of Dublin South and Dun Laoghaire, for example? It’s possible, or at least, there’d be a count worth getting the popcorn in for.
Posted by Jason O on Oct 29, 2010 in Irish Politics
The Guards are saying that a decision will be made soon on possible Anglo Irish prosecutions. Anyone considered a flutter on the almost guaranteed collapse of the trial on the basis that such is the demonisation of the bank that its employees can not get a fair trial?
Of course, if the trial were moved to the Special Criminal Court… after all, isn’t that where we normally try people who attempt to bring down the state?
Posted by Jason O on Oct 29, 2010 in Books
- Dark Romance?
Was in Waterstone’s yesterday, and came across this section, which I’ve never seen before. I know, it seems impossible to publish a book at the moment that doesn’t involve teenage vampires, but I’d no idea that it had actually become its own genre.
What’s fascinating about it is that whereas it has been common for bookshops to have romance sections, which are sometimes divided into historical fiction, etc, I find the sheer specialisation of this to be mind boggling. Who would have thought there were so many people out there with a fetish about shagging vampires?
Posted by Jason O on Oct 29, 2010 in US Politics
Maybe I’m wrong, but I get the impression that the level of hatred and suspicion directed at President Obama is an issue that hints at something very dangerous about American politics. Now, let’s be honest: President Bush was hated by many too, and it got me thinking. Is this the way it is going to be, that every election is a faceoff between the two Americas? For example, if the Congress is won by the GOP on Tuesday, will they use it as a tool to attempt to destroy the Obama presidency, the way they tried to destroy President Clinton with the Starr report?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame Republicans for this, after all, some of the dumbest conspiracy theories about 9/11 and President Bush have come from the left. It’s the destructive winner-takes-all nature of modern American politics that is becoming so distasteful. Attempting to be a middle of the road Democrat or Republican is almost self destructive now, and this is not the way it used to be. President Reagan was able to work with Speaker O’Neill, yet now, working with people from another party is regarded as a weakness. Just ask Charie Crist.
Posted by Jason O on Oct 27, 2010 in Irish Politics
Every now and again you hear some commentator announce that what politics needs is more young people. Bollocks. No one who has ever met large numbers of the young members of our parties could possibly come away thinking that many of them are going to be great engines of change. As one pal of mine summed it up to me once: “In other countries, you join a party, and gradually sell out as you get older. In Ireland, you sell out from day one.” Maybe it’s the fact that they have such proximity to senior party members, but I’ve find younger party members to be so shockingly cautious as to be odd. When I was in the Young PDs, I almost had a stroke sitting in the audience of a TV show about young people in politics, listening to a Young PD colleague actually say, and I kid you not: “What young people want today is comprehensive tax reform!”
Ogra and YFG are even more jumpy about saying anything wrong. The Labour Youth people tended to be more left wing than their party, but were so trapped in their comfort zone as to be pre-baked. One referred to Mary Harney’s doctor-visit-only medical card as ”yellow pack” and then was stunned when I started using the phrase as a pretty good description of the policy. She could not believe that I could be comfortable using a phrase that in Labour circles was derogatory, as if the Labour “unacceptable” label deemed the phrase banished from use.
What Irish politics needs is not young versions of what’s there. It needs mass membership parties made up of people willing to take the political system off the professional political class and the young clones.
Posted by Jason O on Oct 25, 2010 in Movies/TV/DVDs
Saw the new Bruce Willis actioner, RED, last night. Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Karl Urban and Mary Louise Parker star. About a group of former CIA agents being hunted down because they all know a secret. Great fun, ridiculously silly action scenes, and Malkovich hams it up as the resident nut with his heart in the right place. Was also suprised at how good Mary Louise Parker was, given that I could not stand her character in The West Wing, and was never sure whther it was her or the character I just did not like. Turns out it was the character. Brian Cox and Richard Dreyfus also onboard to lob extra chunks of ham at the camera when needed.
Posted by Jason O on Oct 25, 2010 in Movies/TV/DVDs
History is a lie.
Sci-Fi aficionados amongst you will remember “Dark Skies”. If you don’t, then you’re in for a treat. Dark Skies was NBC’s mid 1990s answer to The X Files, and was set in the 1960s, telling the story of a young congressional aide (Without A Trace’s Eric Close) discovering a huge government conspiracy, Majestic 12, (led by the late and excellent JT Walsh) set up by Harry Truman to fight (and cover up) an alien invasion. The lovely Jeri Ryan (Seven from Voyager) becomes a cast regular late in the series.
Cancelled after a single season (A war crime by TV standards), what made Dark Skies so appealing was its use of real historical characters, from Truman to JFK to Ronald Reagan to Colin Powell and Charles Manson, and events, from the assassination of JFK (Shot because he was about to reveal the secret to the public) to the beginning of Vietnam, all in the context of the invasion.
The one disappointment is that it ended on a cliffhanger, never to be resolved, although rumour has it that there is a writer’s bible out there somewhere that has the whole plot-line….
Posted by Jason O on Oct 20, 2010 in Irish Politics
, Not quite serious.
Don't tell anyone, but she'd still vote for him.
She still thinks Barack Obama is doing a decent job. She supports a welfare system, opposes the death penalty, supports gay marriage, thinks Palestine should be an independent state and opposed the invasion of Iraq. Immigration has been, she feels, a good thing. She should be solidly Labour.
Yet. She whispers it quietly, but she doesn’t think that it is right that people should spend their whole lives on welfare, and that maybe even a low paying job supplemented by welfare might, you know, be better? That her friends in the public sector don’t realise how good they actually have it? That she actually thinks (Ssssh! sssh!) that it might be OK to want to work hard and be wealthy without being actually punished by tax? That if Hamas stopped firing missiles at Israel, and recognised Israel, you know, it might help put pressure on Israel? That, and for this she’s been called a Thatcherite, someone has to actually pay for public spending? And, and for God’s sake don’t tell anyone: She thought Tony Blair was right about most things.
And here’s the dirtiest secret of all: She thinks Brian Lenihan actually sounds sensible. Don’t get her wrong: She detests the Fianna Fail manouvering and carry-on, and thinks the political system needs to be changed. But FG are FF without the carvery lunch, and Labour are well intentioned but still insist on bending the knee towards people very good at spending other people’s money. Who on Earth will she vote for?
Posted by Jason O on Oct 19, 2010 in Irish Politics
If I hear one more person tell me that there are people on the dole taking home more money than they did in work, I’ll crack open their skulls and feed on the delicious goo inside. I’m on the political right, I’m not a lefty “Entitlementista” who thinks that money comes from nowhere, and I believe that people should pull their weight. But spare me this nonsense that people on the dole are raking it in. Yes, we have a section of the country that believes in welfare as a way of life, but they’re the minority. The great, great majority of people who have lost their jobs are still shell shocked and struggling to make ends meet, and I don’t envy them one bit.
I’ve encountered one person who was too proud to go down and claim, feeling ashamed. Ashamed? He’d worked his whole life, paid his taxes and his PRSI for this moment. He’d carried society, and it was time for society to reach down and say “Brother, let me give you a hand.” He was the person in mind when the system was designed, the idea being to maintain a person’s dignity between jobs. No shame in that, because it could be any of us, and I can tell you this: If I ever find myself in the same position, I’ll be down the welfare roaring and shouting for every bleedin’ cent. Shame? We’re the PAYE class. We paid for this country. The real shame is that they don’t come to our house with the cheque.