Colonel Zhai Zhigang, the first Chinese man on the moon.
“Good evening. Paris entered its third consecutive week of martial law today as President Le Pen attempted to restore order across France in response to the ongoing economic crisis and trade disputes with her neighbours. A summit with English prime minister Boris Johnson broke up without progress, as neither country was willing to unilaterally lower the large tariffs on imported products which now dominate the former European single market. Former German chancellor Angela Merkel, laying a wreath at the tomb of assassinated President Hollande, who was murdered in the panic of 2013, expressed regret at the European unemployment rate of 30%, and blamed the decision of European governments to dismantle the eurozone in 2012 as being the catalyst for the collapse of free trade across Europe. She said there was some truth to the Beijing People’s Daily’s description of Europe as “an economic backwater”.
In Dublin, the Taoiseach has resigned following her decision to deploy British troops to assist the overwhelmed Irish security forces, following weeks of rioting across urban areas in the country. In her resignation speech, the Sinn Fein leader called the thousands of businesspeople who have fled the highest income tax rates in Europe “Traitors who should be delighted to pay taxes to their country”. Last week , twelve people died in a pitched battle with police and soldiers which resulted in the Irish Parliament being burnt down.
In the United States, President Perry announced that the US Border Patrol would soon have powers to detain pregnant women from seeking abortions in Canada, following the sharp increase in cross-border abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe Vs. Wade. The president also received a gift of the US flag that Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin placed on the Moon in 1969 from Chinese President Hu. The flag had been recovered by China’s astronauts when they had placed a large Chinese flag on the lunar surface in December 2020. President Hu also announced that China intends to land a man on Mars by 2025.
Finnish Police today arrested over one hundred protestors demonstrating against the presence of Russian troops in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The president of Lithuania has stressed that with the collapse of both NATO and the EU, it was important for small countries to be respectful towards the dominant power in the region, and that Russian troops were present as a sign of good faith. The president refused to comment on Russia’s ongoing military occupation of Ukraine, other than to say that it was “an internal Russian affair”.
Prime Minister Johnson has suggested that Chinese requests for ministerial representation at the British cabinet, given the size of Chinese investment in the UK and Chinese loans to the UK government, were being “looked at” by the attorney general. He expressed satisfaction that British ministers were no longer being asked to consider amending or rejecting draft regulations drawn up in Brussels. That’s the news tonight. Good night.”
Interesting speech by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. As governor of a traditional Democratic state, he had an interesting balancing act to carry out, giving red meat to the convention whilst not going too conservative for his own voters. It was impressive, and what struck me was that it was one of the few political speeches given in the current US election cycle which could be given, for the most part, by a Irish politician. I’m not saying that one ever would, because that would involve not pandering to everyone, but the values expressed would ring true with a section of the Irish electorate.
The one downside of the speech, I thought, was having the Romneys watching. His boisterous New Jersey-ness, along with his ample girth, contrasted sharply with their Stepford iciness. Mitt looked like he was badly suffering from constipation.
One final thing: the Democrats would be very dumb to keep hammering on about Gov. Christie’s weight. A lot of Americans see themselves in him.
One of the more striking factors about the Irish Civil war is that it happened at all. When one thinks about the fact that a group of men (and some women), many quite young (Collins was 32), who had served as comrades in arms, broke up over matters of principle like the border and the recognition of the oath of allegiance. This wasn’t about power or who would get what ministerial car. Men actually resigned their seats in parliament over the question of a republic versus dominion status.
Here’s my question: is it in any way conceivable that the current occupants of Dail Eireann would ever do anything like that? That points of principle would cause them to renounce their seats, so that their personal and political integrity could be maintained? I can see the debate:
“This treaty is a disgrace. I’m calling on the minister to hold a full scale review of it!”
“No, it’s passed by the house. Do your worst!”
“This is the worst treaty ever negotiated with the British ever, and when we get in, we will deliver a United Ireland and Full Employment and Free Butter and Jam for the Over Forties!”
“So you’re resigning from the house, then?”
“Eh, steady on now. Did I mention I wanted a root-and-branch review of the treaty?”
“I’ll give you a new handball court in your parish.”
“This is a fine treaty, and I commend it to the Irish people with the spirit of my father and grandfather, whom you all knew well.”
It is 2021, ten years after Fine Gael and Labour swept to power in the 2011 general election promising to change the face of Irish politics. How have they done?
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future of the Seanad is nearing completion of its report, which will go to the cabinet, and then onto a Social Partners Forum for consideration before returning to a sub-committee of the Oireachtas before being discussed by the Council of the Isles. Following that, the government will consider the reports, and issue a green paper on options for Seanad reform.
President McGuinness is in his first seven year term, following the rejection of the Constitutional Convention proposal to reduce the term of the President to five years, on a turnout of 19%. The report of the Constitutional Convention concluded that the Irish political system has made Ireland the country it is today. It recommended the insertion into Bunreacht na hEireann of a declaration of social justice and statements of the rights entitlements of various interest groups. It also recommended that every Oireachtas member should have a Twitter account.
As the 2021 general election approaches, Sinn Fein trails Fine Gael by 5% in the polls, with Fianna Fail in third place and Labour in single digits, its parliamentary party depleted by the wipeout of 2016 and defections to Sinn Fein.
Fianna Fail pledges to “stand up to the Troika” and that “there is a better way”, promising to reverse cutbacks and replace the hated Property Tax with an as yet uncosted or detailed “more fair and equitable alternative”. FF pledge to scrap the tax and then set up a forum with the social partners and some people not receiving money from the taxpayer to consider alternatives.
Sinn Fein, getting scrutinised about their role in government in the North, have vowed that when they enter government RTE and the media generally will be brought under “more democratic control”, as will the Gardai and the judiciary.
I’m currently reading Robert McGregor’s excellent “The Party” about the Chinese Communist Party, and I’m really struck by the parallels with Fianna Fail. Like the CPC, FF fought in a civil war, although Mao fought Chiang Kai-Shek who was a dictator, whereas FF’s founders attempted to overthrow the democratically elected Dail Eireann and replace it presumably with a military dictatorship. Of course, once in power FF did not murder its opponents and accepted democracy belatedly, leaving office just as Mao came to power in China.
The other interesting comparison is how FF, like the CPC, are obsessed with paying heed to very old stated values even though in government those values were largely set to one side. Finally, the CPC puts loyalty to the party above everything else, and regards the state and the party in power as being the same thing. In every CPC appointee’s office is a special phone connecting that official to the party machine. It is primarily used, apparently, by party officials to get government and semi-state jobs for that official’s family and political cronies. Sound familiar?
He’s intelligent, articulate, witty and has an ideolgical point of view. Which explains why he is struggling in Ireland, where there is a deep suspicion of people who “believe” in things. He finds himself gnashing his teeth when on radio panel discussions and people say things like “the Irish people aren’t ideological” because it is not true. The problem for him, and he knows it too, is that they ARE ideological but don’t know it. How else could Ireland have never ever elected a left wing government from 1922? Fluke? Roll of the dice?
What’s more, his ideological beliefs are held against him by a certain type of producer who does not believe it is “appropriate” to have such a person on the airwaves. The airwaves (the state run ones anyway) are only for people with the mainstream views that he and his partner Sebastian meet in Donnybrook Fair when they pop down for a latte and the latest New Yorker. You know, ordinary Irish people like them.
The sad thing is that if he were in the states, he’s be haring along by now. He’s be a sidekick on a syndicated talk-radio show, have a book out called “Why conservatives eat pizza and liberals eat sushi” and would be on Fox News at least once a month to answer the remark “Of course, not ALL Europeans are socialist wackadoodles”.
Sadly he was born in Ireland, the country which has managed to extract politics from its political system, replacing it with the phrase: “But minister, what about the people on the ground who will be hurt by your inability to defy the laws of monetary physics?”
The mid to late 1960s were a very productive time for British science fiction, spy and fantasy television, and in particular, a certain type of slightly fantastic, tongue in cheek adventure. “The Avengers”, probably the trailblazer, was nominally about a British intelligence agent and his civilian assistant, but what it really was about was slightly kooky mysteries. It was not just a “let’s catch a Russian spy this week” type show, but rather a “How did a man drown in the middle of a field near a top secret military research base?” or “Why has an airliner filled with diplomats arrived a day late in Heathrow with the passengers and crew unaware that they are even late?” show. With mad scientists, secret weapons, world domination et al, It was all good fun stuff.
“The Champions”, filmed in 1967, was very much in the same genre. It told the story of three agents of Nemesis, a Geneva-based western intelligence agency that battled everything from Nazis to plots to steal nuclear weapons to mysterious events like Interpol agents committing suicide. Starring Stuart Damon as the cocky American, William Gaunt as the cool dry-witted Brit and Alexandra Bastedo as the strikingly beautiful scientist, all were endowed with special powers after crashing near a Tibetan monastery (I know, I know).
It was, after “The Man From UNCLE”, my favourite TV show growing up, which is funny because I actually watched it at least 15 years after it had ceased production.
Pretty much forgotten today, the plots were all international crisises and high stakes around the world, from Tibet to the Carribean to Wales(!) save for one thing: the cast never went too far from Elstree studios in London. Made by the British television company ITC, the series was produced by Monty Berman who was notorious for doing things on the cheap. Three episodes, for example, were all set on submarines to allow for use of the same set, with the episodes filmed back to back. Foreign locales were always denoted by stock footage, and Nemesis Headquarters (actually an office block in Elstree) always had the same Volkswagen beetle with Swiss plates parked outside! One street set, appearing as a Geneva suburb one week would reappear as a Central American street the next week, with suitable dressing. Ironically, one of the best episodes, “The Interrogation”, where one of the agents is tortured for information, was written for a single set to save money.
Still, it is an entertaining show for its day, although you will find yourself gritting your teeth at the limited scope for Alexandra Bastedo’s character as the scripts hardly ever required her to do anything but look very pretty and provide plot exposition. It is also gratingly sexist, with Bastedo contantly being patronised with “loves” and “dear” and told to keep out of the way, despite the fact she had the same super-strength the other two had. But that was the time it was, and it would make a great drinking game now.
Gaunt and Damon, on the other hand, had genuine chemistry and the ability to bring humour.
If you were a fan of The Avengers, you’ll like this. It’s also great for spotting quite a few British TV actors of the day, and one very famous American actor.
Executive Action is a Burt Lancaster movie from 1973 which tells a fictional account of how and why the assasination of President Kennedy was carried out.
Almost an American Day of The Jackal.
Using real footage from the era, the movie tells, in a cold, almost documentary style, how a group of ultra-rightwing industrialists initiates, debates and plans the murder.
Although lacking the charm of The Day of The Jackal, it does a very believable and workmanlike job of identifying how the assasination was carried out and then covered up with Lee Harvey Oswald as a prepared patsy.
It was actually quite ironic that Lancaster plays one of the chief conspirators given that he had been a life long liberal, even campaigning, at the end of his career, for Michael Dukakis in 1988.
Not yet released in English primarily for region 2, it is available on region 1, and worth a watch, especially for its curiously mournful soundtrack and the chilling “real power in America” opening montage. It has been posted on Youtube at various times.