Posted by Jason O on Jun 30, 2011 in Movies/TV/DVDs
, Not quite serious.
V: A nice "Screw You!" to the fans.
Was anyone watching the “V” remake? What about “The Event”? Anyone? I didn’t think so, especially as they were both cancelled. But here’s the thing: Both ended on a cliffhanger. Both were cancelled without ever revealing to the public what happened in the end, and that, my friends, is one of the reasons I didn’t watch the damn things after the first couple of episodes. They were just layering on one mystery after another and I decided to step back and see whether these shows actually reach a conclusion, or just give the two fingers to their viewers. Sure, if they were any use I could watch them on DVD.
Now, I know, in the grand scheme of things, there’s plenty more to worry about in the world. I agree. But still, it’s an irritant. If only we had some sort of international parliament that could pass laws in a single market of 500 million people. Couldn’t they instruct programme makers to even release a statement telling us what happened? Even a sodding eBook?
Sorry, what was that? The European Parliament has more important things to be doing with its time? Like what? Denying its electors information on how its members take the piss with expenses until one courageous Irish lawyer kicks them up and down the streets of Kirchberg? How about driving up and down in trucks from Brussels to Strasbourg?
With all due respect, this sounds right up their street.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 29, 2011 in Irish Politics
- Nuclear Power: The Great Irish Hypocrisy Generator.
Imagine if one of your neighbours called around to your house to complain that you were getting too many pizza deliveries to your home. Imagine he complained about the noise of the pizza guy’s bike, the traffic he caused, the danger to pedestrians, and the high cholestrol caused by pizzas. Then he walks into your kitchen, pops open the box, helps himself to a few slices, and walks out your door, pizza slices in hand, lecturing you that you’d never see him ordering rubbish like this.
Welcome to the brazen hypocrisy of the Irish and nuclear power, as outlined by this story in the Irish Times. Before you even get into the pros and cons of nuclear power, and whether it is suitable for Ireland, try and stomach the political football brassneck of how Irish politicians deal with it. Niall Collins’s party was in power for the last 14 years, during which they did little of real note on Sellafield, and during which the opposition savaged them for it. Now the parties are flipped, and the saga continues, with Fianna Fail assuming the mantle of the indignant, and the newly empowered FG/Lab coalition doing the “there’s nothing we can do!” dance. But what really makes me wonder is who exactly are the voters stupid enough to constantly vote for candidates who claim that they will get Sellafield closed? Sellafield is a major industrial player in its region, employs people, and generates electricity and stores waste, both services of which are used directly and indirectly by Irish consumers. If it employed people in Ireland, and the Brits told us to close it, we’d tell them to get stuffed.
Of course, what really should grate with anyone interested in Ireland’s long-term future is the shallow depth of the energy debate in Ireland. It’s summed up basically as: “That nuclear thing is evil, make it go away, and everything will be OK. Windmills are nice as long as they’re not near my house, and oil will never run out because one of those proper countries will figure it out and we can jump on the back of them like a parsitic yet curiously sanctimonious leech.”
As far as a global energy crisis goes, pray that better people than us are thinking about it, because if it’s up to us and our elected representatives, thousands will die.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 28, 2011 in Jason's Diary
Broadly speaking, I believe in the theory that you have to pay well to get the best. Yet, curiously, this rule only sort of half works in Ireland, judging by this story. We have two universities in the top 200 globally (Here) although we just barely fail to make the top 75. Yet we’ve over 1000 lecturers on €100k a year. Really? For that sort of spend on talent, should we not have a least one in the top 25?
The reason Fine Gael are less than enthused about reforming local government, and very cool on letting local authorities set the household charges that will fund, you got it, local authorities. Here. It shows a shocking lack of imagination on the part of the coalition, in that if they were to devolve household charges to county councils after the 2014 local elections, it would probably be Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein councillors (and future Dail candidates) left running them, and having to make the calls themselves on taxing and spending locally. Fianna Fail, because of Brian Cowen’s innate caution bordering on paralysis, let Labour and FG break through in the last local elections, and then use them as a blame-free platform to build Dail profile. The coalition needs to ponder this.
Nice to see someone with a bit of imagination in politics.
A very depressing piece here about the EU et al by Martin Kettle in The Guardian.
Brendan Howlin continues to surprise with his new department. They’re providing some fascinating data here. Hat tip to Jane Suiter.
If the government are smart, they’ll allow the new Independent Fiscal Council to cost opposition policies independently. After all, if the coalition is going to be bound by it, why not make the opposition?
Posted by Jason O on Jun 27, 2011 in eNovels & Writing
There once was an Irish fellow with a beard who enjoyed writing fiction. He read a lot of Christopher Buckley and Rob Grant and others and decided that he’d quite fancy having a go at writing something himself. Perhaps, for argument’s sake, say, a not-so-serious satire about modern politics and celebrities and love and the odd serial killer.
Something light, you understand.
When he finished writing it, he did the logical thing, sending it off to agents hoping to catch the eye of one, and hoping that maybe they could sell it to a publisher.
Alas, the agents didst frown upon his humble novel, and sent him letters saying “No thanks” and “Not for us”. They were, to their credit, polite. Some were even kind. He was not embittered or angry, festering in his bedsit about a giant conspiracy in the great publishing houses to deny the world his tales. He understood. They were businesses, and could only use their finite resources on sure things like Jordan or volume two of Geri Halliwell’s autobiography. Dead certs.
His book was not a dead cert.
But still, he thought it was quite good and would really like others to read it.
Fortunately for him, he was living in an age where the letter “e” was placed in front of things and they were transformed magically. eReaders. eBooks. eStonia. Well, maybe not that one, but you get the idea.
It was the age of the Amazon Kindle and eBook reader, and people downloading eBooks. Shortly after that, the nice people at Amazon announced that they would let people like our hero make his novel available directly to the public. So he commissioned a cover designer in Pittsburgh and an eFormatter in Denver (there are a lot of lower case “e”s in this story).
Then a number of very skilled people either edited or ran their eyes over his novel and shared their valued opinions (“Are you paid by the comma?” and “You really like jokes about wee”), and finally, in late June 2011, it was uploaded to Amazon, where you can buy it for the princely sum of 99c. Yes, 99 eurocent. Because he wants people to read it as opposed to retire to an island, put up a sign saying “No Trespassers” and return to nature. Anyone tell me what movie that line is from? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? No? Never mind*.
If you have not got an eReader, you can download (for free) a Kindle reader for your iPad, PC, iPhone or tablet here. It’s easy to download. After all, I did it, and you know what I’m like with technology. The CIA have me on standby just to stand beside Iranian reactors, which will almost certainly cause them to crash.
But enough of that: Here’s the blurb on “The Ministry of Love”, which I hope is a tongue-in-cheek satirical thriller. That’s what I was writing, anyway.
Love. Everyone wants it.
Prime Minister Alexander Fairfax reckons he might just get a second term if he can provide the people with it. Dr. Julian Tredestrian, the most brilliant mind of his generation, reckons he has a plan how to deliver it. International assassin The Stoat (The Jackal was already taken) has been tasked by powerful interests to stop it.
In the middle of all this, Chief Inspector Switzerland has got to catch a serial killer who keeps killing really irritating celebrities.
Love. It always gets a bit messy.
You can purchase the eBook here on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, or Amazon.de, and you would be doing me a great favour if you would leave a review on the website you purchase it from. Don’t be afraid to be honest. They like that at Amazon, so they do. By the way, if you’re Irish, you have to buy it through Amazon.com, bizarrely.
*Pussy Galore said it, in Goldfinger. So she did.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 25, 2011 in Irish Politics
There's a rainbow coming...
Listening to the news that New York state has decided to legalise gay marriage made me consider what will happen here. In the programme for government, there’s a commitment to reviewing same-sex marriage as part of the constitutional convention. Will we have a referendum? It’s hard to see the government wanting to risk a proposed constitutional reform package by lumping something as controversial as SSM into it, so a stand alone referendum would seem likely. If Labour don’t deliver on that, it’ll be hung around their necks, and they know it too. As to whether it would be won, I have to say, as a convinced supporter of SSM (and a former passionate homophobe, to my shame), that I don’t think so. It’ll be divorce in 1986 all over again, with polls showing strong support for the Yes side until the debate starts and the crazies bring gay adoption into it (something the Irish are not ready for, which is mad, considering all the nutters I know had straight parents) and it falls at the last hurdle.
But don’t despair, because the debate itself will be useful. Labour will be the most solidly pro-Yes party. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will allow a free vote, and Sinn Fein will whisper “vote Yes” in the softest tone possible, with the same (non-existent) passion they showed during the citizenship referendum. In fact, if Labour are smart, they’ll strap Sinn Fein to themselves for the duration of the campaign, and embarrass the shit out of them as the shinners try to have it both ways, being fashionably lefty but not pissing off their conservative rural voters. As the shinners are going after Labour’s working class voters, Labour might as well make it hard for them.
The vote will be a 42% Yes, or thereabouts, and will lay the seeds for the next time, when we will win. TDs will be surprised that even in rural areas, there will be people who voted Yes, and the smart ones will know that this is an idea whose time, if it hasn’t quite arrived, is certainly on its way. After all, remember the people who led the Divorce campaign in 1986? Garrett, who lost in 1986, was laid to rest this year a national hero who was proven, on divorce and so many other issues, to have been right. Remember the leaders of the sucessful No to Divorce campaign? No, me neither.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 24, 2011 in European Union
, Irish Politics
As the euro crisis progresses, certain things need to be confronted. The first is that the withdrawal of Greece from the euro may be unavoidable, as the Greek populace decide that they will just not wear any more imposed-from-outside austerity. Instead, they may decide to attempt to reflate by defaulting on existing debts and introducing a new low-value export and tourist friendly drachma. They seem to forget that defaulting on their debts (and their medium-term ability to borrow) will mean that public spending will have no other option but to be matched to collected taxation (an austerity measure even more brutal than the ones they are currently objecting to, it would seem) but nevertheless, it may happen.
What happens to the euro? Well, let’s be honest: a currency that has bits of it falling off in mid-flight is not a confidence builder. But that does not mean it’s doomed. Anglo-Saxon economists tend to undervalue the political will to maintain monetary union, and also the fact that Germany and Greece are not seen as the same. But it does mean that in order to stop the fire spreading from Greece to Portugal, Ireland and elsewhere, the eurozone needs an imprenetrable firewall, and that may be fiscal union. If the Germans and others in the eurozone are to be expected to copperbottom the euro, possibly through a “eurobond”, then they will want their hands on the levers of power. Call it a Fiscal Council, call it the European Finance Ministry, or the EuroTreasury, that will almost certainly be the price.
Outrageous, many in Ireland will cry. Never! They shall not pass! It’s true, the chances of us passing a referendum to create a fiscal union are pretty slim. So what happens if we vote No? Legally: Nothing. The treaties stand. But bear in mind that Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy will, if they know what’s good for them, be very clear as to what Plan B will be, because their own electorates will demand it. If the Irish vote No to fiscal union, it could well be perceived as a No vote to saving the euro in its current form, which will almost certainly send market lenders legging it from Irish debt, because it now places Ireland on one side and France and Germany on the other. That in turn will surely leave Ireland once again reliant upon bailouts to fund current expenditure.
That may well put the Irish people in pole position once again, with their ballots to decide on one of two options: One is that we vote to exercise the McWilliams option, leaving the eurozone, defaulting on our debt and abandoning, in the medium-term (like Greece), the bond markets, and making a mad dash for instant budget balancing and a hope that An Punt Nua will kickstart the economy. Incidentally, as part of that, it would mean us accepting a liquidity crisis as savings fled the country, a huge hike in the cost of imported products, including our energy supply, and the next five years cutbacks rolled up into an eye-watering almost instant kick in our fiscal goolies. But, we will have our nominal sovereignty.
Or, we join the European Fiscal Union, possibly roll up a large proportion of our banking debt into long term (and thus more affordable) eurobonds, keep getting bailed out in terms of current spending, probably surrender our corporate tax, or a part of it, and accept a small seat at the heart of a Franco-German dominated federal union.
In short, the choice may well be a sharp drop in our living standards in return for our nominal sovereignty, or a relative maintaining of our living standards as the Arkansas of a United States of Europe.
But do not doubt one thing: The choice, ugly as it may be, will be ours. We may not like the choices on offer. But they will be ours to make. There will be some who say that it is not a democratic choice, that we are, in fact, being bullied. Bullied by whom, though? 82 million Germans? Because 4 million Irish getting what they want is democratic, but 82 million Germans getting what they want isn’t?
We have the right, through default, to stand up to the alleged bully and tell 82 million Germans to get stuffed. But there is a price to that, and it’s ours to pay, and it is that reality that irritates Irish people the most. We’re comfortable as the hapless victim of the inscrutable: We’re not so comfortable being master of our own painful choices.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 22, 2011 in European Union
After three years of legal battles leading all the way to the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament finally yields to Citizen Toland, and releases its internal audit report on MEP expenses. You can read it here.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 22, 2011 in European Union
The fallout from Irish barrister Ciaran Toland’s victory in the European Court of Justice continues, as reported in today’s London Independent here. Curiously, the story seems to get more coverage in the US (Wall Street Journal) and UK media (Telegraph, Independent, BBC) than here.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 21, 2011 in European Union
, Irish Politics
, US Politics
It's our oil too.
There’s a standard whinge that goes around about how the West doesn’t really care about human rights as much as it cares about oil. It’s true. We don’t, and we should at least admit it. And when I say we, by the way, I’m talking about the Irish and the Americans and the rest of the western world.
Because, you see, there’s the big ugly wart at the heart of western democratic society, the one that makes Roger Cole and Richard Boyd Barrett cry. That, given a choice between cheap oil in steady supply, and human rights in some faraway country, western working families will quietly slip into the polling booth and vote for the “Keep bombing and keep that oil flowing” party.
Don’t believe me? Just look at how non-existent Shannon has been in the last two general elections. If the Irish people had to choose between NATO membership and a sharp rise in oil prices, if we had to deploy troops to secure our share of the global oil supply, we’d do it. After all, even RBB needs to use the bus to get to demos.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 20, 2011 in Irish Politics
The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round. With money.
This story Here, in The Irish Times, is illustrative of the state of Irish politics today, in that you have all the key factors of the dysfunctional nature of Irish Politics:
1. A group of people angry at the withdrawal of a publicly funded/subsidised service. Well, some of them probably are. Given their references to privatisation, a large number are surely the Usual Left Suspects. But let’s assume that there is public disquiet too.
2. A state body, funded by the taxpayer and user fees, i.e. bus fares.
3. A deficit caused by a) a decline in the use of the service, b) possible cuts in exchequer subsidies, and c) funds being spent within the organisation on things other than providing the primary services, ie terms and conditions of the employees of said service.
In short, as with 90% of issues in Irish politics, it’s about money, and who pays.
So, who should pay?
The bus users, through additional fees? Probably unfair to dump the whole cost on them. After all, non-bus users also benefit from the existence of the bus service, as it reduces the number of cars.
The Rich. No doubt this is the answer of the People’s Front of Judea. The easy solution to every problem.
Dubliners? This is probably the fairest solution. An income tax levy on taxpayers living in Dublin to close the gap in Dublin Bus’s deficit. An unpopular idea? Almost certainly, but why? Because we have been brought up in a political culture to believe that someone else will always pay for stuff we want? That’s what has us where we are today. But let’s be fair about it. Let’s ask the voters of Dublin to vote on it, on the same day as the presidential election.
If they vote to accept the levy, fair enough. If they vote not to, we cut bus services accordingly. The people will have spoken, deciding what they want to do with their money.