Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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Karl Urban IS Judge Dredd.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 16, 2012 in Movies/TV/DVDs

To all those Judge Dredd fans who had their hearts broken by Stallone’s 1995 crime against cinema, rejoice. I have seen the new “Dredd” movie, and this is our guy. It looks and feels like the comic, and Urban, basically doing a young Clint Eastwood impression, delivers both in terms of action and dry one-liners.

It feels, with a script by Alex Garland, like a labour of love, and the attention to detail is wonderful. Mega City One is portrayed as a real city, busy, scruffy, worn down, with people just striving to get by, and it also manages to be sci-fi without too much sci-fi, essentially being a 22nd century Die Hard.

Olivia Thirlby also delivers as Judge Anderson, especially as she toughens up as the film progresses. There’s also a nice twist in the plot as to how the lead baddie, Ma-Ma, played by Game of Thrones’s Lena Headey (there’s a typecast danger right there) decides to deal with Dredd.

Dredd 2? I’ll be first in the queue.

 

 
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Beware the September surprise.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 15, 2012 in US Politics

In the US presidential election of 1980, the Reagan-Bush campaign team were always afraid of what was termed “an October surprise”. This was where, just before polling on the first Tuesday in November, President Carter would suddenly announce that he had successfully secured the release of the hostages being held in the US embassy in Tehran. Such was the terror of the effect that would have on the president’s reelection chances that rumours abounded for years later that the campaign had dispatched future CIA director William Casey to Paris to secretly negotiate with the Ayatollah’s regime. Whilst this was never proven, it is a fact that the Reagan administration did secretly supply weapons components to the Tehran regime.

The parallels to the 2012 campaign are not that similar, save for one thing: the power of events far away from the US to affect the election itself. President Obama has a tricky balancing act to perform here. On the one hand, he can’t panic as Governor Romney seems to have, issuing threats and pointing fingers before facts are known.  

But at the same time the people of the United States will not tolerate a president who allows them to be humiliated. On top of that, it is a poor call if it is true that White House people attempted to pressurise Youtube to remove the offending film which has set off so much violence and cost the lives of US diplomats. The right of any religious grouping to take offence does not trump the western right to free expression, and President Obama would do well to realise that many of his staunchest liberal supporters feel that way. If there is one abiding value that has shaped democratic western policy since 1939, it is that those who attempt to deprive us of our human rights through violence need to realise that they will be met with steel, for those rights are non-negotiable, whether you believe they were god-given or not.     

 
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Political nerd heaven.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 14, 2012 in British Politics, Irish Politics, Jason's Diary

The Mother of All Strokes!

The Mother of All Strokes!

Sometime in the mid-1980s, this (then) teen-aged nerd stumbled across IT: the Holy Grail of political toys. In short, “Westminster: The Election Game”. I lost it in one of many house moves years later, and mourned it occasionally, until finding it on eBay some months ago and forking out. It has been the centrepiece for two evening gatherings of hardcore political anoraks since.

The game is essentially about winning a British general election, forming a government and getting bills through, whilst fighting by-elections and being ever aware that you could suddenly lose your majority and thus power.

Of course, as this was Irish pols playing, the normal Irish psyche kicked in. First of all, most of the rules were jettisoned because they didn’t allow enough shafting. Then, there was a fight over who would lead what party, with every player wanting to be the Lib Dems until yours truly pointed out that this was set in 1983 and they weren’t around. So they took the Liberal and SDP labels, grudgingly accepted Labour and the Tory banner was very much handed out under protest.

The general elections themselves, held under First Past the Post, again showed the Irish propensity for the stroke. With two fingers to ideology (“the mother had one of dem and the leg came off!”) the Tories and Labour divvied up the seats in a no-contest pact quicker than you could say “Gerrymander”, and fought and defeated a ramshackle Liberal-SDP Alliance that spent more time squabbling amongst itself (and occasionally running candidates against each other) than fighting the Red-Blue coalition. This was followed by a Labour-SDP government, an SDP landslide, and a return to the Red-Blues.

In true nerd fashion, one participant kept a laptop tally on the votes (alright, it was me) which were needed for the constituency results, and it clearly showed just how hilarious FPTP would be if the Irish were let at it, with the party with the smallest share of the vote winning the biggest share of seats.

The game ended with a resolution that more mischievous bills be permitted next time, including one allowing a player to introduce the pleasures of the Single Transferable Vote. Lovely!

 
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The ethics of book browsing.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 12, 2012 in Jason's Diary

The Company of Books, Ranelagh.

The Company of Books, Ranelagh.

I don’t buy hardbacks. I find them heavy, awkward and unnecessary. Yet every time I go to The Company of Books in Ranelagh, I end up buying one. The reason is that it is one of those bookshops where the stock is chosen by the owner, and so you invariably stumble across books that you would not normally see in the big chains amidst the Teenage Vampire Porn and the Bondage Porn and Jeremy Clarkson.

Sure, I could note the book down, and probably find it cheaper online, but that is actually wrong. Here is someone running a business selling books, not running a book showroom, and we have a moral obligation to support those businesses if we actually want to keep them open. I’m not just referring to this bookshop but independent bookshops in general (Raven Books in Blackrock and The Ranelagh Bookshop are two others).

And yes, I say this as someone who has published on Kindle. But all three are great bookshops and it is a question of use them or lose them.

 
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What on Earth does “vulnerable” actually mean?

Posted by Jason O on Sep 10, 2012 in Irish Politics

There is a tedious Groundhog Day style repetition about Irish politics (and at times on this blog about writing about it. But I’ll go on.) when we debate “social justice” and the need to protect “the vulnerable” from cuts in social spending. Let’s cut to the chase here: this is all about money, who gets it and who it is taken off. Vulnerability can be warded off by money, and so surely we can designate an income level upon which we decide marks where vulnerability begins and ends?

But there’s a problem, see. Logic (and maths) tells you that if you are going to shield the people below the threshold, then you must put extra burdens (through taxes normally) on those above the threshold, and that’s where our elected representatives actually refuse, short of waterboarding (now there’s an idea) to reveal what they think. Too low, say 20k, and you exclude people who need help. Too high, say 75k, and you start to sound ridiculous, although I suspect there are people in all three main parties who, having suckled off the public teat their whole lives, would struggle to scrape by on €75k. Let us not forget that the higher you go, the heavier the burden of taxation on those remaining above the threshold, and you’ll start to get a backlash there too.

Let us at least start by setting the bar at what vulnerable is.

 
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A senator speaks sense (shock horror!)

Posted by Jason O on Sep 10, 2012 in Irish Politics

I was at a social event recently where I met a veteran senator who was railing against the unfairness of the proposed property tax. I was ready to dismiss him as yet another populist panderer when he shocked me by suggesting, quite unprompted, an alternative.

He suggested we just be honest about it and raise income tax. After all, it’s based on ability to pay, is progressive, and would not require a new collection system to be created.

There is the issue of the fact that both FG and Labour pledged not to raise income tax in the election, but there is a way around that too. Why not devise the proprty tax, and the amount it will raise, translate it into an income tax rise and put both to the people in a referendum, with a pledge that the Dail will enact whichever the people endorse?

After all, surely the people can absolve the government of an election pledge?

 
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The Gemini Agenda: a little taste.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 9, 2012 in Books, eNovels & Writing

The Gemini Agenda: A plan to take over the world before some other fella does.

The Gemini Agenda: A plan to take over the world before some other fella does.

An excerpt from my latest enovel, The Gemini Agenda, available from Amazon.com (Just here to the right of the page. See, I’m spoiling you!) 

Honorius Plenty III, on his twenty-first birthday, had learnt in this very room that his great-grandfather had sunk the Titanic.

The billionaire swivelled in his chair to face the floor-to-ceiling window that afforded him a clear view of Central Park. He had grown up in this huge penthouse, taking possession of it after his father had died, and yet he never grew bored of the view of the city. When he needed to think, this was where he turned, dimming the lights to allow him to drink in the flickering vista of the park and the skyline, feeding his sub-consciousness, somehow allowing an idea to emerge.

He still recalled the day thirty years ago. His father, with whom he had had an indifferent relationship, had summoned him, sat him down, and opened the wall safe. From it he had withdrawn a worn leather-covered journal and returned to his desk. He had then begun reading.

That morning, Honorius Plenty III had finally understood why his father seemed to carry the world’s burdens upon his shoulders. He had always assumed that his father was just a dour man who took the managing of the world’s third-largest private family fortune with an overdone sense of gravity. As his father spoke, carefully reading passages from the first Honorius Plenty’s personal diary, the young Honorius realised that his father was borne down with the guilt that his family fortune was based on the deaths of thousands of people in possibly the greatest theft of all human time.

The diary described the massive ship slipping under the icy, still water, and the dark night, and the cries and moans of the survivors. It had been the lack of wind that had done for the pride of Belfast. The stillness of the night meant that no waves crashed against the side of the wall of ice, and so it had not been spotted by the lookout until it was too late to allow for adequate remedial action. Or at least, that was how his great-grandfather had wanted history to see the events of April 14th and 15th 1912.

The truth was different. The iceberg was not the cause of the tragedy. The actual cause was a British master criminal who had meticulously planned the operation, having received a fabulously enticing nugget of information from one of his many spies and retainers. This particular one had been a senior official of His Majesty’s Treasury who indulged in both opium and the delights of being spanked by dusky maidens from the Dark Continent.

The collision with the iceberg was not an accident, but rather had been contrived with the use of an electrically powered tugboat that had previously been anchored to an iceberg within the Arctic Circle. Engineers had spent six weeks excavating and securing the buoyant mountain to the craft, ensuring the vessel would remain both well hidden and manoeuvrable.

Contrary to both historical belief and James Cameron, the impact of the iceberg caused only minor damage to the mighty ship’s hull. It did, however, provide a well-planned and executed distraction for the limpet mines planted along the hull in specific locations. Each was radio controlled, and each exploded as the iceberg neared its position. Each device penetrated the hull and permitted millions of gallons of water to overwhelm the vessel’s overly optimistic anti-flooding devices.

Regardless of how the flooding occurred, history observes that from that point on the vessel was condemned to a tomb on the bottom of the Atlantic.

As the diary proved, history got that one wrong as well.

The Titanic did sink beneath the waves, depriving over fifteen hundred individuals of their lives. What history had not recorded was the fact that engineers hidden within the Titanic herself, in concealed oxygen-supplied compartments, immediately activated electrically powered compressed air pumps. At the same time radio-controlled plates secretly fitted beneath the ship’s waterline were moved mechanically into place, sealing the punctures in the hull.

This complex operation had the effect of preventing the ship from sinking to the ocean floor, instead suspending her sixty metres beneath the water’s surface.

Seven days after sinking, and with the area clear of recovery vessels, the pumps were activated. The ship broke the surface again, and was moved out of shipping lanes by the now camouflage-free tugboat. This operation was, coincidentally, the reason why in 1985 it took Dr Robert Ballard’s team so long to locate the wreckage.

She was, quite literally, not where she should have been.

The vessel was boarded, and the specific cargo removed with explosives from its strong-room and then transferred to the tugboat. Two other vessels were also required to assist, such was the size of the cargo. Once the cargo had been removed, the mechanical plates holding back the water were jettisoned, causing the ship to flood bow first, pulling its stern and magnificent propellers up into the air before snapping its spine and severing the beautiful behemoth in twain. 

Although it is forgotten now, Britain in 1912 was a nation paralysed by fear of foreign invasion, a paralysis fuelled by the burgeoning market in invasion literature such as Erskine Childers’s The Riddle of the Sands.

As a result, the British government, wary of war with Imperial Germany, had begun to make provisions for a number of eventualities, one being a defeat by Germany and possible invasion.

Under such duress, His Majesty’s Treasury instructed that one of the defensive measures undertaken was that two-thirds of the British Exchequer’s gold reserve was to be moved to Canada for safe-keeping.

With the benefit of hindsight, it was not a good idea; although on the plus side, it did create the world’s first billionaire.

It also demonstrated that when rotund Belfast pillars of society declare that “God Himself” cannot sink a given vessel, well, that’s just looking for trouble.

 

 
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Ryanair’s O’Leary has the measure of the Irish people.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 8, 2012 in Irish Politics, Jason's Diary

Michael O'Leary deals with another customer complaint.

Michael O'Leary deals with another customer complaint.

Ryanair’s foulmouthed CEO Michael O’Leary gets savaged at least once a year when Ryanair treats a customer “unfairly”. This is where someone usually misses one of Ryanair’s many conditions and it ends up with the customer paying out an eye-watering penalty fee. In short, Ryanair’s customer service policy seems to be “We obey the law. You didn’t read the conditions. F**k you.”

What’s interesting about this is that O’Leary has reinvented the concept of traditional customer service, by recognising what customers want even more than they recognise it themselves. We’ve all been screwed over once by Ryanair, and yet most of us continue to use them because he gets us to where we want to go cheaply and without killing us or making us go through intolerable conditions. Instead, we study our tickets and conditions like hawks to stop the bastards catching us out, and as a result, we get cheap tickets for the most part.

In short, O’Leary has called the Irish bullshit bluff, and faced us down. Given the huge amounts of negative publicity the airline gets from this, and the novel approach of the CEO calling some of its passengers “idiots”, traditional PR practice will tell you that he should apologise or suffer huge drops in business. But he doesn’t, because for all the guff and bull we go on about dignity and enough is enough we only really give a damn about the money in our arse pocket. Where is the massive drop in former Ryanair customers who will “never again” use Ryanair? There are some, but in the grand scheme of things, not enough to matter. If Michael O’Leary stood at the door of one of his planes and said “Good morning fuckface” to people as they boarded the plane, they’d still board and use the plane, bitching about how he had spoken to them. This guy has the measure of us.

 
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Do not ask for whom the bell tolls.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 5, 2012 in US Politics

Do you think, at this moment, Bin Laden wondered which side the president was on?

Do you think, at this moment, Bin Laden wondered which side the president was on?

Four years ago, with a funny name and a foreign history, they called him a traitor. He would be the enemy’s man in office.

Then he hunted down and killed the nation’s great enemy, and they still called him a traitor.

Then he sent robots to kill more of the nation’s enemies than the man from Crawford, and they still called him a traitor.

Then he kept open the island prison, even though closing it would have made him popular with his loudest allies, and they still called him a traitor.

He stands now with the bodies of the nation’s enemies around him, and they still call him a traitor.

So here’s the question: is it possible they don’t know what the word means? Just asking.

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