The response of some public servants to the scrapping of the 30 mins cheque cashing time is quite revealing. What it shows is that there is a large section of the public sector who are not actually being selfish or mean, but genuinely believe that surreal anomalies like this are normal. They constantly harp back to the statement “we didn’t wreck the banking system, so why should we suffer”. They are, of course, correct. But they also need to recognise that the large gap between public spending and tax revenues is as a result of the intervention of their union representatives, alongside a reckless Fianna Fail/PD government that ceded the spending to them. Also, the relative safety of their jobs has to be given some monetary value, because that is the sort of feature that people in the private sector would happily pay BIK on.
Just saw the last episode of the TV show “Monk”, which I thought wrapped up the show and the characters very nicely. The show is about a brilliant but flawed detective who suffers from extreme OCD after his wife’s murder. I’ve always liked the show for its gentle humour, engaging characters and mystery storylines, and it acts as an antidote to the gorey realism of “Criminal Minds” or “CSI”. Sometimes you just want to be entertained for an hour, something “Monk” never failed to do. Will no doubt become another addition to my wing of the National Obscure DVDs Library.
The strong performance of the True Finns party in the Finnish general election isn’t an easily dismissable anomaly. All across Europe, from Wilders in the Netherlands to Marine Le Pen in France to the Swedish Democrats or the Danish People’s Party, f**k-the-EU nationalism is on the rise, and connecting with voters of both the right and left who would never traditionally give such parties a second look. The really frightening aspect is that EU leaders, by refusing to appoint a charismatic President of the EU to make the case for integration, are leaving an open goal. If we don’t act soon, watch as one-by-one the European Council is replaced by nationalist eurosceptics until it’s too late
Excellent piece by Dan O’Brien here about why Irish government has failed so many of the tasks of running a 21st century country, including the definitive summary: “The most localised and least cosmopolitan political class in western Europe has run the region’s most globalised economy into the ground”. Always strikes me that we have a bizarre means of measuring successful leaders in Ireland. It’s like saying “How do we pick good brain surgeons? Well, first of all we see if they can get us a good parking spot near the hospital.”
Posted by Jason O on Apr 16, 2011 in Books
” A Very British Coup”, is both a book and a television series, now available on DVD, and is the granddaddy of great British political drama. The book, by Labour MP Chris Mullin, of Birmingham Six fame, is a very lively, quite short but enjoyable read. Written in 1981, what’s fascinating about it is how radically the political landscape has changed, in that the politics and issues raised in the novel are almost quaint now, not as much in their relevency (Who runs the country, and indeed society?) but in the fact that they are no longer debated in mainstream British politics.
The basic story, in both the book and the television series is the tale of how Harry Perkins, a left wing former miner, leads the Labour Party to victory on an avowedly hard left manifesto. He then finds that winning the election was actually the relatively less stressful bit, as the establishment, the press barons, the US, the EEC and NATO all move against him, in subtle and not so subtle ways
The Television series, made in 1988, stars Irish actor Ray McAnally as Perkins, and is an absolute treat, so much so that some thieving bastard stole it from my house.
This is all back in the day when political drama involved overweight men making hard decisions, not sleekly racing down corridors in pedi-conferences. Good article by Chris Mullin here in the Guardian (Where else?) about the context of the book.
Posted by Jason O on Apr 15, 2011 in Irish Politics
No, I’m not talking about a Robert Ludlum novel. I’m talking about the possibility being pushed by Stephen Donnelly TD and others of a referendum on the EU/IMF deal, and the bank bailout. I have to admit to being undecided myself, as both Donnelly and Shane Ross have pushed the idea, and neither is from the usual headbanger faction in the Dail. But a few questions occur to me:
What would we actually be voting on? To burn the bondholders? By how much? 1%? 10%? 100%? Or would we leave it up to the government, because if we do, and they give, say, a 25% haircut, then surely the headbangers will be screaming “Sellout!” faster than Richard Boyd Barrett can buy a fresh bag of exclamation marks. Yet if we do the usual Irish abortion/EU treaty thing of voting No for ill-deined reasons, and with no clear alternative, how can anyone tell if the government is betraying the will of the people or not? Just look how we vote on abortion: We’ve had five votes on abortion, and not once have we ever been asked do we actually want abortion.
If we are voting against the deal, what are we voting for? The ECB is currently ensuring that our ATMs have money in them, and that our government has money to pay public servants. What happens if we vote to scrap the deal? Will the ECB and EU/IMF then scrap their end of the bargain, and withdraw the cash? Do we know? More to the point, if they very clearly say “Yes, we will withdraw the cash”, will the headbangers then complain that we are being bullied into voting for the EU/IMF deal, as if we have a God-given right to German taxpayers money, having stiffed their banks?
Do we know what percentage of the senior bondholders are Irish institutions and pension funds, and what will happen to them?
Let’s get some answers to those questions before we go marching off to our polling stations humming Bjork songs to ourselves.
Posted by Jason O on Apr 14, 2011 in Irish Politics
Vincent Browne in the Irish Times makes a fair point about the “Agghh! Senior Counsel! Run away!” approach to banning political donations here. If we can’t ban political donations outright, then why not make them so prohibitively expensive to receive that politicians will have no choice but to turn them down. If a candidate or party has to pay a 1000% tax on every donation received, surely that’ll kill the thing stone dead. After all, the one thing the Irish state has proven itself well capable of is taxing people.
In a discussion recently with a Fianna Failer about gender balance in politics, it got me thinking about the amount of guff spoken on the subject. I’m not sure it’s a huge issue to the women of my generation, or at least, they won’t admit that it is. Certainly, quotas for women seems to have few supporters, which is fair enough. But what annoys me is the fact that the same people who oppose quotas for men and women still want to be part of the “This is a problem, something must be done” brigade. They want the kudos of being seen to be concerned about the issue, but instead want to get into the same discussion we’ve been having for the last 20 years about changing the culture to “encourage” more women, etc, that is, talking about it without ever fixing it. The reality is that quotas for men and women would solve the problem in a single election. As for the argument that is made, that it will bring in “token” untalented women, ask them to publicly name the token untalented women in their party who would fill the quotas. Bet they can’t.
Finally, hat tip to Nicholas White on this extraordinary story about same-sex marriage in the US. And a bizarre one about interracial marriage in The Economist.
Posted by Jason O on Apr 13, 2011 in Irish Politics
This morning’s Irish Times tells us that Fine Gael and Labour have started their policy U-Turns with gusto, and not a little pathetically either.
Proposed state board chair-people can be questioned by an Oireachtas committee, but without the power of approval. Why not? Fine Gael and Labour talked about giving power from the executive to the legislature, yet here, their first test, what do they do? The exact same thing Fianna Fail would have done.
Vacancies on state boards will be quietly advertised on department websites. Sounds sensible? Really? Ask yourself this: If Noonan gets a cut in the interest rate from the IMF/EU, will he just quietly advertise the news on the DOF website?
But my favourite one is the announcement that it is “not possible” to remove state boards. Not possible? Why? Gravity? The laws of physics? If only we had some sort of elected legislature that could change laws. Or if something was “unconstitutional” (the ultimate lazy politicians refuge) could we not change this too, on the much ballyhooed “Constitution Day”?
Of course, you have to wonder, if such a thing is impossible to do, why did Fine Gael announce it before the election? Why did they not know? After all, they do have over 50 full-time parliamentary researchers. And it’s not like the question “Does anyone know a good lawyer?” needs to be asked at a Fine Gael meeting. Admittedly, it does get asked at Fianna Fail parliamentary party meetings, but that’s normally after receipt of a letter from Dublin Castle. Are the Blues so incompetent that they are literally making up policy on the hoof? Abolishing the Seanad? Drunk tanks? Oh, wait…
My favourite item in this whole affair is Brian Hayes’s response to those FF appointees. In what is becoming the standard answer from Fine Gael (as was given to Michael Lowry), the offenders are asked to resign, to “do the right thing” as the Blues look on moon-faced. Only Fine Gael could import the powerlessness of opposition into government. Is that going to be Brian Hayes’s role in the government, as a sort of shit superhero with feeble powers who runs around the country with his underpants outside his trousers “urging” evil-doers to “do the right thing”? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Corporal RightThing and his amazing powers of scowling in the window at people.
Maybe they should ask Fianna Fail to go over to the state boards and beat them up for them, so that they don’t tear their jumpers or scuff their knees? To think, this is the party of Michael Collins. But then, am I the only one who thinks that if Collins were alive today, he’d be in Fianna Fail?
As one looks at Fine Gael, one can’t help being reminded of the children’s toy Action Man: was very popular in the 1980s, has a penchant for dressing up in military uniforms, and like Action Man, hasn’t got any balls.
Posted by Jason O on Apr 12, 2011 in Not quite serious.
The Son of God is back! And this time, he's taking on the bad guys!
Coming soon on Fox: Mike Steel (Played by 24′s Kiefer Sutherland) is a veteran FBI agent who plays by his own rules, wisecracking with his ex-wife whom he still loves and bringing up their precocious teenage daughter Lisa (played by Seventh Heaven’s Jessica Biel). Now he’s got a new partner: Jesus Christ (My Name is Earl’s Jason Lee), son of God, and together, they’re going to take on the terrorists and the drug-dealers!
Cut to scene:
Mike and Jesus are sitting in a car outside a crack house:
Mike: Right, back up’s too far away. We’re going in. You take the back, Jesus.
Jesus: Gotcha. The meek are going take these suckers down (pumps shotgun).
Cut to scene:
Mike’s forgotten to arrange food for his daughter’s birthday party:
Lisa (wearing a very skimpy bikini): Daddy, everyone’s so hungry!
Jesus enters the kitchen with a very small McDonald’s bag. The logo is clearly pointed at the camera.
Jesus: Filet o’ Fish, anyone?
Mike: Jesus, there are over 40 people at this party!
Jesus winks at Mike:
Jesus: Got it covered, man!
Lisa hugs Jesus.
Lisa: I love you, Jesus.
She puts her hand on Jesus’s well-developed chest, and gives him a knowing look.
Jesus: I love you too, Lisa.
Mike glares overs at Jesus, who gives Mike a “What?” grimace.
Cut to scene:
Mike is tied to a chair. The Devil (played by former Vice President Al Gore) is lecturing him.
The Devil: When I’m finished, same-sex marriage will be compulsory! And inter-racial! It’ll be traditional marriage that will be illegal!
Suddenly, the window shatters, and Jesus comes in, hits the ground, rolls, and comes up with his shotgun.
Jesus: Hey Satan! Climate change this!
Blows Satan away.
Jesus Christ, FBI. Only on Fox.
Germany: Hiding behind the sofa to avoid looking down the back of it for change.
The German people have announced that they are going away on holiday for a few months and will be out of contact for a while, an official source in Berlin announced yesterday. However, sources in Dublin, Athens and Lisbon have reported seeing Germany’s car still parked in the driveway, and also noted that the curtains are down. The Greek government confirmed that it did ring the doorbell for a good ten minutes without any response, but is pretty sure that it saw someone duck down behind the sofa when it peered through a slight gap in the curtains.
An unofficial source in Dublin confirmed that Irish premier Enda Kenny had climbed over the side gate on the pretext that he had “heard breaking glass and wanted to check for burglars because there had been a report of burglars in the area or something”. He reported that the curtains in the back are also pulled down, and was sure he heard a voice say “Did you lock the back door? That redheaded f**ker will be in here faster than you can say “just a few bob to tide me over” although he admitted it could have been a radio left on to deter burglars.
Germany’s neighbour, France, confirmed that Germany had gone away, but then stormed across the road to have another heated altercation with Libya over the state of their backyard. Libya was seen later that day with a black eye which he swore was self-inflicted.
Posted by Jason O on Apr 10, 2011 in Irish Politics
Enda: A man of his word.
” For me a drunk tank is the proper place for anyone arriving drunk at accident and emergency units…Fine Gael will not tolerate the habitual, rampant drunkeness that has taken hold of communities all over Ireland. Arrive at an A&E drunk and you will be shown to your proper place- a drunk tank”
Enda Kenny addressing the 2006 Ard Fheis. The Taoiseach is a man of his word and integrity. Can anyone from FG tell me when this policy is being implemented? Or perhaps someone in Fianna Fail could put down a parliamentary question?
On the 5th May the British people vote to decide on whether they keep the First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system, or switch to the Alternative Vote (AV) system. As both a political junkie and an Irishman, I’ve a interest in this debate, primarily because of how absolutely surreal the debate has become. I thought I’d write today about a few casual observations of the debate.
One thing that has struck me has been that one’s attitude to AV is shaped by one’s attitude to politics, and I don’t mean left wing or right wing. Take this piece in The Daily Telegraph by Robert Colville, where he complains that AV would force the Conservative party to be more centrist, presumably because that’s where the voters are. He seems to be outraged that a party would have to actually follow the voters, and not the other way around. Read more…
Posted by Jason O on Apr 9, 2011 in Irish Politics
Will be renouncing my Catholicism in the census tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not an atheist, indeed it will surprise some that I actually find comfort in prayer. But I really don’t want to be associated with an organisation that regarded being gay as a more serious matter than raping children. In short, I can’t be a Catholic anymore because I believe in a compassionate God, and they don’t. So I’m cutting out the middleman and going wholesale.
Interesting piece about the Schools Chancellor of New York City resigning here. Imagine that. A public official resigning because the mayor felt they just weren’t up it. Won’t see any of that nonsense here.