Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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10 things about the West we don’t like admitting.

Posted by Jason O on May 17, 2011 in European Union, Irish Politics, US Politics

Go on the West!

Go on the West!

1. Oil isn’t evil, and even the wars about oil aren’t as much about profit as about keeping the energy supply to the whole planet open.

2. In the west, more poor people use oil than rich people. The rich can afford solar panels and turbines and hybrid cars. The poor for the most part can’t.

3. Sometimes good people have to kill bad people first, before they kill us.

4. No. We can’t all just get along. There are large sections of the human populace who are offended that women are treated as equals in the west, or that homosexuals are not put to death. They believe that we are at best misguided and and worst wicked for believing in equality. They are wrong. We are right.

5. The western system of organising society and government is superior. Just ask the millions who try to come live in the west every year, and the millions of westerners who don’t leave. To paraphrase President Kennedy: “We’ve never had to build a wall to keep our people in”.

6. The west sometimes kills civilians. The west also makes a far greater effort to avoid civilian deaths than any other major power in human history. 

7. The evil capitalist west contributes more of its treasure to helping the poor of the world than any other major power.

8. After eight years in office, to the day, George W. Bush, one of the most powerful and hated men in the world, ceded that power voluntarily and without violence to a man openly opposed to most of his fundamental beliefs. Try and get the Castro or Kim or Assad or Ghaddafi families to do that.

9. The west is filled with thousands of people who freely write and march and speak about the flaws of western government and society, without systematic abuse or supression. They have few equals outside the west. How many Richard Boyd Barretts or George Galloways or Michael Moores are there in the parliament of North Korea? Plenty in the People’s Re-Education Camps, one suspects.

10. It’s not a coincidence that the people with the highest quality of life in the world come, for the most part, from countries that adhere to western values. 

 
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Jason’s Diary

Posted by Jason O on May 16, 2011 in Jason's Diary

Brought my younger brother and sister to see “Hop” in Dundrum yesterday. It’s a movie that can be taken in two ways: One, about a young Easter bunny and his human friend who find their destiny, or two, about a load of oppressed chicks made work for a privileged and unelected Bunny caste whom they then overthrow in a peaceful revolution before the bunny caste is restored to power by powerful American intervention. I’m always surprised how prevalent the concept of the “birthright to command” is in children’s movies. I’m not getting all Guardian about it, just ask yourself how many times you see an elected leader in kids movies. They’re always benevolent kings or elders with a “right” to rule. My younger sister (7) announced that you should do what a princess says, but that everyone should be a princess if they want to be. The democratic heart continues to beat.

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Speaking of monarchs, keep an eye out for all those politicians and their wives being very careful not to bow or curtsey when the British Queen arrives, for fear of having the piss taken out of them by the country. Can’t help thinking that there’ll be some in Fine Gael just itching to tug the forelock, although that’s probably very unfair. After all, it was the blues who actually did a lot of the fighting against the Brits when Dev sat out the War of Independence in the Waldorf Astoria. Having said that, I hear he had to put up with some pretty sub-par room service, so everyone took one for Ireland.

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Hundreds attended the Rally Against Debt in London. Hundreds. Bless. Is it because they have little support, or more likely, the people who support them are not the demo type? After all, millions do vote Tory.

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And finally, the things the Brits worry about. Here. Having said that, if it’s true, it makes the EU look pretty pathetic too.

 
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Is it time for the Liberal Democrats to go after the eurosceptic vote?

Posted by Jason O on May 14, 2011 in British Politics

Time for Nick to play as dirty as the Tories?

Time for Nick to play as dirty as the Tories?

These are challenging times for the Liberal Democrats. Having seen electoral reform cruelly snatched from them not by their political enemies but by the British people themselves, and seen their polls ratings plummet, they must be racking their brains for options for the future.

The party needs to examine options it would never have considered before. First of all, it has to accept that First Past The Post is here to stay in the medium-term at least, and use it.

The party has got to come to grips that its appeal as a party has been to a great degree as a centre-left protest party. It’s hardly surprising that so many of its voters dropped off after coalition, because those voters were onboard only as long as the party pandered to their particular grievances. Don’t forget that there are Tory rightwingers going about ranting that David Cameron has been “captured” by the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dem vote seems, probably because of its historical position as the perennial third party, to be particularly soft. Every party has soft voters. The problem is that most Lib Dem voters seem to be opportunistic rather than actual liberals.

So, what lessons can be learned?

1. The failure of electoral reform is a serious setback, and means that if they are to survive, the Lib Dems, on leaving this government eventually, cannot reenter government again until PR in some form is on the agenda. PR is the only way of protecting the party as it sheds its opportunistic voters.

2. Until PR is assured, the party must remain outside government, fighting a guerilla style campaign against the government of the day, building up its support, and being as selfish about protecting its own interests as the Tories and Labour were about theirs in the AV referendum. I have previously argued that the party should participate in coalition, but that was on the clear basis of getting electoral reform. Now that’s off the table, everything changes.

3. As part of that, the Lib Dems should attack the Tories from the right over Europe. There is nothing inherently anti-European about supporting a referendum to confirm or repeal Britain’s membership of the EU. Should the Lib Dems consider a stand down pact with UKIP in seats where Tory MPs are vulnerable to a UKIP challenge, in return for UKIP agreeing to do the same in Lib Dem seats? Imagine the effect on Tory MPs in Con-Lab marginals who suddenly wake up to the potential of a viable UKIP candidate in third place, specifically targetting eurosceptic Tory voters. Transforming UKIP candidates from a few hundred to a few thousand votes would have them sweating spinal fluid in Central Office, and good enough for them. They lauded the system, and so the Lib Dems should use the much lauded First Past the Post for what it is: Crude, ugly and open to manipulation. It is the choice of the people, after all. AV would have given the Tories UKIP transfers. Now that it is off the table, the Lib Dems helping UKIP drain off Tory votes is in the Lib Dem’s interests, in that preventing a Tory majority (or making a further mockery of FPTP) allows for more opportunities for the party in a new parliament, as well as possibly getting a “loan” of UKIP votes in Lib Dem marginals.

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

 
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Jason’s Diary

Posted by Jason O on May 13, 2011 in Jason's Diary

Interesting piece by Toby Young here on the poor performance of the left in what should be, you would think, a time of opportunity here. He makes the point that the old coalition of middle class social leftists and working class economic leftists is breaking down. It’s especially visible with the right in the US, UK, Australia and Canada eating into traditional left-wing but socially conservative voters. Interesting lessons for both Labour and Fianna Fail here, I think. Also raises issues for Sinn Fein. Remember how quiet they went during the citizenship referendum?  

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The Economist raises a similar point with regard to Marine Le Pen here

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Dublin City Council is looking to hire an Arts Officer here. Check out the salary. So that’s what the Fine Gael private sector pension levy is going on! But then, it is a frontline position.

 
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Books you should read: The Dying Light.

Posted by Jason O on May 12, 2011 in Books

Both exciting and disturbing in equal measure.
Both exciting and disturbing in equal measure.

“The Dying Light” by Observer journalist Henry Porter is terrifying because it is so humdrum in its approach to the creation of a very modern form of tyranny. The story follows a young British lawyer (And former SIS operative) who is investigating the death of a friend and former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Downing Street doesn’t like that, and deploys the subtle but suffocating tools of the  state against her and her allies.

What is genuinely troubling about the book is its believability, and how the “If you have nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear.”  argument has been used to equip the state with a frightening array of powers open to misuse by unprincipled people in power, or worse still, people who think they know what’s best for the rest of us. The scariest thing of all is that the arguments made by the chief baddy in the book are the exact same arguments I’ve heard a well-meaning political aspirant make to me about the need for the Irish government to have these powers!

Also worth noting is the difference between the role of the British Parliament in the book, and how the Oireachtas would respond to the same challenges. Suffice to say it’s hard to see the Dail acting as a bulwark of individual freedom.

A lot of the powers used by the government in the book are already in law in the UK. Just look up the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 which is practically a police-state-in-a-box.

I found “The Dying Light” to be pretty much unputdownable. 

 
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If only we had had a shit-throwing monkey.

Posted by Jason O on May 12, 2011 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

The monkey was concerned when he saw the reliance on property taxes.

The monkey was concerned when he saw the reliance on property taxes.

Someone asked me recently as to whether those of us who worked in the construction industry knew what was happening in terms of the property bubble. The answer is yes, we did know. We used to see that famous figure of 88,000 dwellings being built in a year (when Sweden, with twice our population, was building 12,000)  and we would laugh out loud. Why didn’t we do something about it? Because, and here’s the truth, we actually thought someone else was in charge. I remember listening to Brian Cowen, who was minister for Finance at the time, and thinking “Well, he and his officials are paid so much, they must be absolutely shit hot and know what they are doing. After all, if you pay peanuts, you only get monkeys.”

The truth, of course, is that the pay the best to get the best rule does not apply in Ireland. In fact, if we had had Bertie Ahern in the room with a monkey throwing his (the monkey’s not Bertie’s) feces at a wall covered with property dampening measures, from mortgage lending restrictions to property taxation to ending tax breaks for building, we would, as taxpayers and citizens, have gotten better value out of the monkey.

In fact, I’ll got further. We know there are a 100 things that we don’t want to do that we know we should do, from water metering to public sector pension reform. If we had a monkey throw shit at just one of those things every twelve months, and we did whatever the monkey decided, that monkey would be doing this republic a greater service then the contribution of most of the members of our national parlaiment. At least better than the collective contribution of Seanad Eireann. Maybe that should be on the ballot, asking the good people of Ireland would they like to replace the upper house with a shit throwing primate? After all, the monkey wouldn’t fiddle his expenses and claim he lived hundreds of miles from his parliamentary constituency. And he’d work for peanuts.

 
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Meanwhile, in The White House…

Posted by Jason O on May 11, 2011 in Not quite serious., US Politics

National Security Eyes Only.

Subject: The Oil Crisis.

Dear Mr. President,

As you are aware, the recent upheaval in the Middle East and Arab world has caused us serious concern with regard to Saudi Arabia and our oil supply. It is not hyperbole to suggest that the uninterrupted continuation of Saudi oil, until we in the West decide to free ourselves of this addiction and get serious about renewable energy, is vital not just to the United States but to the global economy itself. An interruption in the supply will have a serious, possibly catastrophic effect on the fledgling economic recovery.

It is my contention, Mr. President, that the protection of the supply is not just in the interests of the United States but is deemed a vital global interest, and the United States and her allies must be prepared, by military means if necessary, to secure that supply. Obviously, we would hope that such action is not necessary, but we must recognise that nevertheless, if a Libyan/Tunisian/Egyptian situation were to develop in Saudi Arabia, which holds 19.8% of global oil reserves, we may be forced to act.

In recognition of this situation, I have drafted this short memo, in consultation with State, Defence, the NSA and here in Langley to begin to put shape on what may be required:

1. The Timing question. When? We must be ready to act early. If the wells are seized by militants they could be destroyed or damaged in such a way as to interrupt the supply for months or even longer. This cannot be allowed to happen. We must be ready to deploy forces to secure key facilities within 36 hours. This is all predicated, obviously, on a fatal collapse of the House of Saud.  

2. The Military question. Who does the heavy lifting? US Forces will have to provide most of the actual forces necessary. However, given the delicate political nature of the operation, I would suggest that as broad a coalition as possible be recruited to make even nominal contributions to the force. Given that China is as much reliant on this source of oil I would suggest that the PRC be given a joint leadership role with us. This will aid us in terms of getting a UN mandate for the operation, and also, given that a long-term presence in the region will be required to keep the wells secure, the PRC can be expected to share some of the military burden. Although Russia is not as reliant, our sources in Moscow suggest that the Russians would be willing to provide support in the UN Security Council as long as Russia is assured “her share”. NATO, Japan and other allies will also provide token forces.

3. The Islam question. Given the importance of Saudi Arabia, as the home of the Holy City of Mecca, it is vital that this issue be handled with the utmost of sensitivity. As part of the operation, Turkish forces will be deployed to secure the perimeter to the holy city, and Turkey shall issue a declaration demanding that the operation respect the sacred nature of the city, and do not deploy within a wide zone encapsulating the city. We shall accede to this request, whilst the Turkish forces shall ensure that the Mecca Exclusion Zone (MEZ) shall not be used to host forces hostile to the International Energy Stability Zone (INESZ).

4. The Political question. We cannot, of course, discount how controversial this operation shall be. Given the vital interest at stake, this is unavoidable. However, it is important that measures be taken to ensure political support across the Western democracies. In particular, the establishment of a United Nations Saudi Oilfield Commission (UNSOC).

This will be an independent body tasked with setting the price of the oil to be sold and collecting the income for distribution in the interests of the Saudi people. It will be very important that this body be seen to be credible, setting the price independently based on a pre-defined band, and that its spending be transparent and primarily centred around increasing the living standards of the Saudi population. However, we should be honest in stating, in crafting its founding charter, that a 2% premium will be added to oil sales to those states that have not contributed to the coalition, to fund the ongoing security operation. In addition, given the amount of political opposition there will be in western (Espc European) countries to the operation, I would suggest that we crystallise the options in the following way: That only nations that sign the INESZ charter can buy oil directly from UNSOC. This will have the effect of making the charter a Yes/No political issue in most countries, forcing them to choose between Saudi oil and political posturing, and we have every confidence that the great mainstream majority in most countries  will support pro-charter parties in national elections given the alternative. This will give us a solid democratic mandate at home.

Finally, the membership of the UNSOC must be made up of individuals of international high standing. We’re suggesting persons such as Kofi Annan, President Lula da Silva, Mary Robinson, possibly even Bono. It will make relations with the UNSOC abrasive, but that, we suggest, would be a good thing from a politcal perception point of view. It is a prerequisite of the operation that coalition countries do not “profit” from the operation. The operation is to secure the supply, not steal it.

We appreciate the enormous implications of what we are suggesting here, Mr. President. It would obviously be a scenario that we would like to avoid. However, the secure supply of oil to the West is a integral component to global stability, and cannot be allowed be interrupted. Whatever the global political ramifications, the economic effect would be much worse. Whilst we must recognise that it is a principle of simple natural justice that the Saudi people own the oil, and must be the primary benefitting party to that ownership, we cannot permit it being used as an economic weapon against us.

Director, Central Intelligence.

 
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Jason’s Diary

Posted by Jason O on May 10, 2011 in Just stuff

Canada's Fianna Fail got their heads kicked in as well.
Canada’s Fianna Fail got their heads kicked in as well.

Canada has had an election where the centrist Fianna Fail-style Liberals (In government forever, good at spending other people’s money, and progressively more corrupt the longer they remained in power) have been kicked into third place for the first time ever.

Interesting discussion here on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “The House” political affairs show about the future of Canadian politics.

You anoraks know who you are, and you love it!   

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Interesting piece here from Mick McLoughlin’s www.Foriegnpolicy.ie on Ireland’s parochial approach to the EU.

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Smart move by Phil Hogan here on water charges. After all, if we are trying to get people to use water responsibly, then of course it should be based on usage. Actually agreeing with Phil Hogan! Jaysus, I think I’ll go and have a nice lie-down. (And see, I can be nice to the Blues!)

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Some curious comments about the British queen’s visit here. I find it funny that some people regard the date as “insensitive”. For f**k’s sake, this is Ireland: Every date is insensitive for one reason or another. As for using historical reasons not to welcome her, I’ve never bought into this slaves of history argument. History is to learn from, not to be constrained by. One thing though: Can the media stop referring to her as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in the same breath as Barack Obama, US President. Either he gets his full title, (His Excellency Barack Obama President of the United States of America) or nobody does. We are a republic, you know, and should show equal respect to the head of state of a friendly republic.

 
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Jason’s Diary

Posted by Jason O on May 10, 2011 in Just stuff

Am I the only person under 40 who doesn’t get Jedward? It’s a career, they’re making money, fair enough. I just don’t get why adults give them so much attention. The front of the Irish Times? Really? Is that supposed to make us regard the Irish Times as being irreverent? Still, what do I know? I watched “One Foot in the Grave” and always regarded Victor as being a perfectly balanced individual.

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Well done Fingal County Council on nominating Senator Norris. Fine Gael’s plan to stop the people choosing the president could be thwarted yet.

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Here’s a mad one to look at. Political holidays for politics junkies. www.politicaltours.com

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Delighted to see that Raven Books in Blackrock has moved to larger premises on Blackrock Main Street. Great staff (who actually read books, which is a novelty), and that eclectic mix of books that only an independent operator can provide. Hope they prosper, although as with all small bookshops these days, it’s a question of use it or lose it. Check out their website here.

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And finally, Europe Day is just plain silly. I’m a pro-European, and I find it embarassing, trying to create a fake sense of patriotism about the EU. It occurred to me, as I sat in the bath at the weekend reading my backlog of Economists (The magazine, not the academic professionals. I’m not a Thomas Harris character) that if there was a well-funded rival to the EU advocating a different form of European integration, I suspect I’d support it.     

 
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A book worth reading: The Last Sherlock Holmes Story

Posted by Jason O on May 9, 2011 in Books

Amongst other things, I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan, and just happened to come across this in Hodge Figgis. I then promptly went to buy it as an audiobook off audible.co.uk, which says an awful lot about the future of book stores in high rent locations.

It’s a good thriller written by the late Michael Dibdin (who went on to write the Aurelio Zen crime novels) about Holmes investigating the Jack the Ripper killings, and is particularly of relevence to Sherlock Holmes fans who will get the references to the original stories, etc. In fact, given the twists and revelations in it, and threading very carefully so as to avoid spoilers, I’d say it’s a must-read for Sherlockians (yes, there’s a word for us). As it was published in 1978, however, I suspect I’m coming somewhat late to the party.

The BBC audio version here is read by Robert Glenister, who plays “Ash” in BBC’s “Hustle” TV series. There’s a certain snootiness about audiobooks for some reason, as if it’s a lazy way of enjoying a book. I travel a lot with work, and whether it’s a CD in the car or downloading onto my iPod and listening on my treadmill, it’s an excellent way of utilising time to enjoy books that I otherwise would not have time to read.

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