Posted by Jason O on Nov 30, 2011 in European Union
A superb, blunt, honest and visionary speech by Poland’s foriegn minister here. Well worth reading both the actual speech text and The Economist analysis here.
Apologies for the bad formatting earlier.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 28, 2011 in European Union
Some uncomfortable Euro Truths.
1. Germany does not want to rule Europe. They don’t need to. Germany is such a major economic force that we want access to their markets, and so pander to them. Want to ignore the Germans? Fine. Don’t sell them stuff, buy their stuff, or ask for their money. They don’t do invasions anymore, other than with beachtowels.
2. The EU did not “depose” Berlusconi or Papandreou. The Italian and Greek parliaments have the absolute right to vote for whomever they wish, in the same way the bond markets have a right to refuse to give people they think are dodgy billions in pensioners savings as an unsecured loan. Would you lend Silvio money?
3. Your country is not the only country in Europe that holds free elections where leaders have to answer to the people. Just because people in your country want something, that does not mean that people in another country want the same thing. Nor does it mean that they are evil or wearing pointy hats or unusual facial hair.
4. If you don’t want money from the IMF, EU or ECB, they can’t do much to you.
5. There was a time when there was no EU, and national sovereignty did not assure control over your daily life. Just ask the Poles, Czechs, Dutch, Danes, Norwegians, Belgians and French.
6. Blaming the EU for austerity caused by reckless domestic policies is like blaming the Mountain Rescue Service for gravity.
7. All the really big decisions in the EU are not made by Eurocrats, but national politicians, elected in national elections or by national parliaments according to national rules. In other words, by you.
8. Don’t want to be in the EU? That’s fine. It’s your national political system that is keeping you in. Do something about that. It’s not like the EU has a massive military machine to stop you. We had to ask the Americans for help bombing a country whose navy was made up primarily of camels.
9. If you honestly can’t see the difference between the EU and the Soviet Union, don’t forget to ask a grown up to help you turn off this big fancy machine when you’re finished. And put your crayons away, too.
10. The one thing that seems to irritate Eurosceptics even more than the Democratic Disconnect in the EU is any attempt to fix it.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 26, 2011 in Irish Politics
, Not quite serious.
The Deputy for Dublin East Central.
Which is better value for money to the taxpayer? A back-of-the-envelope exercise.
Constutuency work: The TD will do more clinics than a rotting corpse, and will attend more funerals. The corpse will probably only attend one.
Legislative scrutiny: Neither will seriously help shape, draft or debate legislation. The TD will claim a daily attendence allowance. The corpse won’t, so I’d put the corpse marginally ahead on this one.
Executive scrutiny: The Tribunals showed us that the Dail wasn’t up to scrutinising the government. In fairness, a rotting corpse wouldn’t do much in that regard either, but would cost less than a TD, money which could go to deferring the cost of a tribunal, so again, from a value for money perspective, the rotting corpse wins.
Expenses: A rotting corpse would cost us a few Euro in terms of preserving fluid and a big glass drum to carry it around in. But probably less than it costs to ferry a Kerry TD between airport terminals. Another win for the rotting corpse.
On balance, if we were to have local ombudsmen to deal with the constituency graft, we could probably replace most backbenchers with corpses with little loss. In fact, if we were to drown the existing ones in preserving fluid, we’d save on their pensions too!
Posted by Jason O on Nov 26, 2011 in Irish Politics
“Other people should pay for things I want!”
“It’s not fair that when we vote for the same three parties we always vote for, we get the same policies!”
“Down with taxes on me. Up with taxes on people I don’t know”
“If I don’t like how something affects me, it’s not fair!”
“The more strongly I feel about something means how right it is!”
“Wealth is not created by hard work but some other way that isn’t nice!”
“There is an easy solution to all our problems but bad people won’t tell us what it is!”
“Poorer people than me deserve all the help other people can give them!”
“People are more important than money except when it comes to the money I get!”
“Capitalism is evil except for Facebook, Twitter and my lovely new iPad!”
Posted by Jason O on Nov 24, 2011 in Irish Politics
I’m not going to regurgitate the whole Darren Scully carry-on. But a few things occurred to me:
1. If a DUP or Tory councillor said the exact same thing about Catholics or the Irish, we’d be livid.
2. Whilst classing a whole ethnic group together is very very silly, I don’t think he actually is a racist. The fact that he didn’t think through the logic of his argument is far more worrying.
3. Newcomers to Ireland do have an obligation to adjust to our culture, and it is not racist to say so.
4. Whilst it is easy to get irritated with the usual “racist” labellers (who debase the label and make life just that little bit easier for real racists by making them believe they speak for “ordinary people”) what is really disturbing about this whole thing is the way it allows every vile remark out of the woodwork and onto radio shows and online. It is quite staggering the number of Irish people who believe that other ethnic groups should tolerate things they would not tolerate themselves.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 24, 2011 in Just stuff
Hellraisers is one of those books you read in a single holiday because it is a) quite short, and b) just so chock full of laugh out loud stories that you fly through them looking to get to the next one.
The subject is Burton, O’Toole, Reed and Harris, back when men were men who went roarin’ shoutin’ and fightin’ and then delivered their lines perfectly on set.
Whether it was Harris demanding tea and toast in a police station or Reed announcing to crowded pubs that one of his friends had a bigger cock than he did (When he wasn’t shooting at helicopters with his shotgun.) an absolute joy to read.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 23, 2011 in Irish Politics
You'd like one, but you don't need one.
I recently posted a remark on Facebook about how the Irish people have historically never cared that much about eliminating poverty in our society. I was attacked for that remark by a Fianna Failer who was, at the time, attacking Fine Gael for being right-wing. He suggested that it was a disgraceful thing to suggest, and that the Irish people did care. Of course, on paper, he’s correct. As a people, we talk an awful lot about poverty reduction. It’s just that at election time we always vote for the parties that promise to let us keep our money rather than give too much of it to people poorer than us.
Imagine, for example, the state decided to raise extra revenue for distribution to the poor, and chose to levy a luxury tax. The concept would be a tax on high value non-essential goods, on the basis that the only people who would end up paying the tax would be those with disposable income. It could be levied on high value vehicles, clothes, certain foodstuffs, foreign holidays, consumer goods like iPads and cellphones, etc. Yes, it would be tricky to determine exactly what would be covered, but the tax could be collected by a new high rate of VAT on those specific products.
So, here’s my question. Is there a single Irish party, from the Socialist Party to Sinn Fein to People Before Profit all the way across to Fine Gael that would suggest levying a tax like this on NON-ESSENTIAL products like this to help raise additional funds to help the most vulnerable in our society? The answer is almost certainly not, because it would be incredibly unpopular. Irish people would not be willing to go without non-essential consumer goods so that poorer people could live better, and that’s why we don’t care as much as we claim about helping the poor.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 22, 2011 in US Politics
Let the people settle the argument.
The paralysis in US politics, signified by the failure of the Super Committee, is serious, so why not a serious and radical solution?
Why not put both the Republican and Democratic plans to the people in a referendum, and let them decide? Yes, I know, the US doesn’t “do” national referendums, but we live in extraordinary times and the deficit needs to be dealt with, and if the political system can’t solve the problem, then let the people slice the knot.
By the way, I have no idea how the vote would go, so this is not a partisan thing. This is a results thing. One way or another, the American people need an answer, even if they have to give it themselves.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 21, 2011 in European Union
, Irish Politics
, US Politics
Lagarde: Look into my eyes...
The International Monetary Fund has proposed a radical solution to the international debt crisis by suggesting that the entire population of the planet be hypnotised into forgetting that it borrowed or lent trillions in dollars and euro.
IMF boss Christine Lagarde suggested that as the entire banking system is based for the most part not on real cash or assets but confidence, if a mass televised hypnotism programme was activated at the same time global banking and trading systems were reset to zero, the global economy could start from scratch.
Whilst explaining the details of the plan, codenamed “Operation Ctrl-alt-delete”, she also suggested that whilst we were at it, we could also do something about teenagers using the phrase “whatever!” and people who get emotionally attached to The X Factor contestants they’d never heard of a week before. Or people who put things like “You need to love yourself before you find love” on Twitter.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 20, 2011 in Not quite serious.
We're all going to IKEA!
It’s still, for the Irish, an event. You don’t just “pop in” to IKEA, but put aside a half day, usually with a “Sure, we can get a bite to eat out there” thrown in. Sitting in the restaurant, you can see the spectrum. The young still-in-love couple, debating, in between nuzzling, what will fit where in their new home together. An inordinate amount of time and coy looks goes into the tour of the bedroom section. Their Polish or Lithuanian counterparts are much less tactile, their relationship almost formal. He looks built to strangle a Soviet infantryman (often the truth) and she looks like a perfume model, striking and bet (yes, bet) into 1980s style jeans that would look ridiculous on anyone else, but with cold, dead eyes that would chill a happy-go-lucky Irishman. He can look, he can want, but he would not want to keep.
Then there’s the couple with kids. Both automatons, dealing with the ever rotating cycle of child needs and demands, barely looking at each other. She gazes off into the distance, morosely recognising that this is her actual life. He uses the opportunity to steal a glance at the gorgeous Pole strutting by in boots normally reserved for a Waffen SS commander.
The journey through the store has two effects. It gives ideas to one group about how to better manage their homes: “I didn’t even know you could buy those hanging things! See! We could hang your mother from the stairs with that!” and reminds the other group of how grotty their home actually is.
When in doubt, some form of DVD rack-slash-bookshelf is bought. After all, they’ve come all this way and sure they’re practically giving them away and anyway we can always use more shelves. She rolls her eyes at his DIY aspirations. At the food section, a browse ends up with a bar of chocolate for the drive home and a box of what looks like cookies. He’s not sure, but they look like cookies. In IKEA headquarters in the Netherlands (yes is the answer to your question), accountants scratch their heads and wonder just what is the obsession with dog biscuits in the Irish market?
A moment of panic ensues in the car park, as to whether the long cardboard thing will fit in, even with that great solution of Irish men across the world to any spacial problem: “We’ll fold the seat down!”
It eventually fits, as long as she doesn’t mind twisting her body in the passenger seat with the suppleness of the average Phuket lapdancer. The kids are stacked into the back seat like illegal immigrants in a container truck.
Finally home, he goes at it with gusto, thinking that he really should have bought that mini-toolkit they were selling at the cashpoints (“Practically giving them away!”). Nearly taking the finger off twice with the butterknife he uses to turn the screws, he loses his temper and beats the last screw in with the butt of the knife, sucking his other finger to stop the blood. Fortunately, she’s in the garden stopping one child trying to feed the younger one to the dog. He admires his handiwork. She’ll never see the coerced screw, and it’ll be grand as long as nothing too heavy is put on it. Like DVDs. Or books.