Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney has upped the ante in the race for the White House by pledging that if he is elected president of the United States he will sponsor a constitutional amendment to require, by law, that Israel can nominate the US secretary of state. “Let Israel know that it will have no truer more loyal friend in the White House.”
Already, Governor Romney was attacked by Likud leaders in the Knesset for not showing enough commitment to the middle eastern state. One source said: “Mitt Romney is only a fair weather friend of Israel. If he were a real friend he would pledge to introduce a bill to ensure that only citizens of Israel can hold the office of president of the United States. That’s what a real friend of Israel does.”
Romney has already issued an apology this morning for suggesting that he might put the interests of the United States ahead of those of Israel. “I’m sorry for making that remark, because it was a dumb remark. The interests of the US and Israel are the exact same. How could they not be? After all, they’re both decided in the same building in Tel Aviv.”
Some supporters of Israel remain unconvinced, with one source suggesting that Romney show his commitment to Jewish voters by disappearing into the bathroom with a packet of razor blades.
Christopher Nolan’s third installment in the Batman trilogy is, arguably, the greatest superhero movie yet made. Simple as that. And yet, and here’s the funny thing, the movie is not as much about a superhero as the effect he has on a city. Watching it, one gets the feeling that there is more talk about Batman and his symbolism than him being actually onscreen, and it is curiously a better film for it. For example, there is a scene when he finally returns, and one of the older cops, recognising the tell tale signs of a Batman entrance, advises his younger partner that he’s in for a treat. In short, Batman is as much part of life in Gotham as the buses.
Unlike say, The Avengers, which is a hugely enjoyable film, TDKR gives a almost realistic idea as to the reality of living in a city where an extraordinary individual affects daily life. If anything, TDKR is closer to The Bourne Supremacy or the much underrated Bruce Willis movie The Siege than The Avengers or Iron Man.
The cast is excellent, with Tom Hardy shining as the thuggish yet curiously charismatic villain Bane (speaking in what sounded to me like a Sean Connery impression), and Michael Caine as a very touching Alfred Pennyworth. But for me, the real breakout characters were Joseph Gordon-Levitt as beat cop John Blake and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, who crosses over as an actress in this movie from being that pretty girl next door to seriously sexy. Both showed real onscreeen charisma.
The action scenes are very nicely put together, with some of the set pieces nothing short of spectacular. Nolan is proven right not only about not bothering with 3D but also moving away from the ultra-quick jumpcut style fight scenes of the last 15 years, where the viewer can’t actually see anything but a blur.
The plot is very much of its time, although nowhere near as political as some reviewers are making out, and it wraps up the trilogy in a very satisfying manner. There is a clear route, and an interesting one, to continue the franchise, but one would be afraid that someone other than the Nolan brothers could make a balls of it. After all, look what Warner Bros did after Tim Burton. Having said that, isn’t it time Christopher Nolan was asked to do a Bond movie?
The controversy about massive taxpayer losses in the semi-state Western Seaboard Exploration Company (WESEX) has continued with the publication of the Smythe Tribunal report yesterday. The tribunal’s sole member, Mr. Justice Archibald Smythe, has concluded that close to ten billion euro of taxpayer money has been spent exploring for oil and gas in the Corrib field, and that given the amount of oil and gas discovered, after extraction costs, the amount spent will almost certainly never be recouped by the taxpayer. Judge Smythe was particularly critical of decisions of successive governments to insist on the taxpayers carrying the cost of the exploration when the risk could have been passed onto private operators in return for tax write-offs.
Sinn Fein and the United Left have been quick to criticise the entire WESEX affair, accusing the government of nationalising the liability and costs of exploration in order to shield “their Golden Circle friends in the oil industry.” A ULA TD told us: “It’s the same old story. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour could have forced private companies to pay for the exploration themselves, but instead they forced the taxpayer to carry this massive white elephant, transferring billions of taxpayers hard earned cash to the oil industry, for nothing in return. How many schools or hospitals could have been built for that money? Dublin could have a light rail system or a Port Tunnel now if they hadn’t insisted upon the taxpayer nationalising the exploration costs.”
If I were the defence counsel for a certain high profile business person, I would try the Haughey Defence, that my client has been so demonised in the media that a fair and impartial jury is impossible to assemble.
That’s why the government should introduce emergency legislation to move such trials to the Special Criminal Court immediately. If they don’t and the trial collapses, Enda and Alan Shatter should resign, because if I can foresee something like this, with no legal training, so can they.
The Gemini Agenda. Coming soon to an iPad and Kindle near you.
Some of you will have noticed that I am not posting as much recently. My apologies, but I am in the final draft with my editors as to my new eBook, “The Gemini Agenda”, which will be available on Amazon very shortly.
Normal service, that is, ranting angrily at our modern age and its Kardashians will resume thereafter.
In the meantime, here’s the blurb for the book:
It is the slightly-near future. NATO agents Oscar Stephoe and Darcy Jones are racing to locate the codes to an orbital weapons platform.
Billionaire Honorius Plenty lll, great grandson of the man who actually sunk the Titanic, is plotting to take over the world before someone else does.
Celebrated writer RJ Salter, the woman who discovered who really killed President Kennedy, is trying to find out who murdered the world’s most powerful media mogul.
A group of world leaders are working on a plan devised in the wreckage of the Second World War to change the world.
And someone wants to make wooden legs fashionable.
1. Abolish the Seanad, reduce the Dail from 158 to 120 seats, and reduce every county council to between 7 and 15 members, depending on population. We can use the money we save to fund the following:
2. Elect a full-time executive mayor and County Ombudsman in each county, paid the same salary as a TD. The mayor will have the the power to direct the county manager. The County Ombudsman will deal with social welfare issues, etc. Both are barred from seeking election to the Dail in the immediate election following their leaving office. Neither can contest Dail elections whilst in office. Civil servants will be barred by law from dealing with individual cases raised by TDs.
3. Make election manifestoes legally binding, with elected members capable of being personally sued for up to half their salary if they do not deliver on the specific promises in them. You’ll see candidates pay real attention to what goes into their manifesto.
4. Issue every voter with an annual statement as to how much they pay in tax, what they receive, and what proportion of their taxes are spent on what.
5. Allow 100,000 ratified voter signatures trigger a referendum at the next general election to amend the constitution, except on spending.
6. Introduce term limits for politicians of no more than four terms.
7. Elect the Dail based in constituencies allocated according to the month one is born. Overnight, every TD is a national TD with constituents in every city and parish in the country. Each constituency must ensure that 40% of the members elected are a different sex from the remainder.
8. Directly elect the Taoiseach and allow him/her to appoint the cabinet. Bar TDs from holding seats in Cabinet.
9. Ban All political donations, and require the Revenue Commissioners to contact every voter every year offering to make a €10 donation to the party/candidate of their choice.
10. Merge election and referendum commissions into an independent Voter Information Agency with a statutory obligation to analyse and evaluate for accuracy party manifestos.
“Recount” is a real treat for political junkies, telling in detail the story of the 2000 presidential vote recount in Florida. Based on four different books, the movie surprised me by not playing up the usual “Bush stole it!” angle but instead pointing to the chaotic nature of how elections are run in Florida, and how the Republicans just played a better ground game than the Democrats.
Although Kevin Spacey is the star, the movie is absolutely stolen by Tom Wilkinson as James Baker and a brilliant performance by Laura Dern as Katherine Harris, the completely out of her depth Florida Secretary of State.
It also does that thing that American filmakers do so well, taking a dry subject such as election law (And what the hell a hanging chad was!) and turning it into edge of the seat stuff.
A great cast, a fast paced story, and should be in every political hack’s DVD library, in between The West Wing and The Candidate.
Yesterday’s terrorist, the old adage goes, is today’s statesman. From Martin McGuinness to Mandela to Michael Collins to the recently deceased Yithzak Shamir, non-conventional warfare has a long and not necessarily disgraced history. Were the patriots who used guerrilla tactics against the legitimate forces of law and order in the American Colonies terrorists? Of course, the definition of terrorism has become more nuanced, especially since 9/11. A terrorist needs to be two things now: one, attempting to impose a set of values upon a group of people (normally the majority) who don’t want it, and two, not a conventional fighting force attached to a legitimate state.
But what happens when ordinary western citizens inside a recognised legal system of government and laws decide that the system itself cannot be reformed by legal means? Most political systems in the west, to varying degrees, are beginning to bend more to the will of wealth than to the mass of citizens. This isn’t just about political corruption either. Our society is becoming so complex in everything from communications to medicine to banking that it is becoming less possible for citizens to even understand the issues, let alone know how to lobby their public officials in their own interests.
Take Ireland. We have a public sector pay and pension system which is structured in a way as to serve the interests of its members, and I include our political and trades union leaders in this. As a result, we now have the bizarre scenario where EVERY SINGLE PARTY effectively supports, minus some tinkering, that structure. At the moment, if you want to vote against that self-serving system, you can’t.
Now, it is true that there is nothing in Ireland to stop a group of people running candidates opposed to the status quo, and if they can’t get people to vote for their values that’s their problem. But if, as in the US, a nominally democratic political system (200 breakfast cereals but only 2 political parties? Seriously?), the system is pretty much rigged against outsiders (congressional seats are gerrymandered, for example) and money wins out nearly every time, then don’t be surprised if even moderate people start to turn to a new form of illegal protest targeted specifically against the political system.
Imagine for example a new group emerged in Ireland demanding that a referendum be held proposing that the Dail be reduced to 100 seats. Already there’s a demand that many voters would say “Yeah, we should at least be allowed vote on it”. It’s also a demand that most politicians would vehemently oppose going to the people for fear of it passing.
Supposing that group then actively engaged in actions specifically against government backbench TDs (Opposition backbenchers don’t matter, and agree to almost every demand put to them by any interest group), like breaking into printers and destroying political leaflets before they can be delivered. Or constantly letting down the tyres on TD’s cars EVERY SINGLE TIME they park their car outside of Leinster House, thus disrupting their schedules for the whole day, with LET US VOTE painted on the car so as to clearly communicate the price for ending the campaign. Or breaking into their offices and specifically destroying all their constituency files. Or getting their mobile phone numbers and bombarding them with the demand to such a degree that no one else can get through to them, forcing them to change the number. All the things that make it harder for a TD to do the things that get them elected. Nothing physically threatening, all carefully targeted and systematically repetitive, and all based on the concept of LET US VOTE AND WE WILL STOP DOING THIS.
Am I advocating this? Of course not, it’s illegal. But don’t assume that people will tolerate a political system that puts its own interests first forever. Nor should we assume that the public would automatically oppose such illegal actions against politicians. After all, so it makes the lives of government backbench TDs hell without physically hurting anyone. So what? There would be a clear way out (let the public vote on the aforementioned demand) and if they force the government THEY keep in power to deliver, the problem goes away.
An illegal but very civilised form of terrorism, surely?
“Lead Balloon”, co-written by and starring stand-up comedian Jack Dee, is a BBC produced show about about C-grade celebrity comedian Rick Spleen and his frustrations with his life and only moderate success.
The cast is superb, with particular note going to Anna Crilly as his dead-pan Eastern European cleaner Magda, and Tony Gardner as the snap-at-any-moment local cafe owner Michael.
The show was continuously compared in its four season run to “Curb your enthusiasm”, which is understandable given Spleen’s ability to get himself into humiliating situations, but that takes away from its own charms.
A treat if you haven’t seen it. All four seasons are out on DVD.