Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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Six things to consider about Seanad Reform.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 5, 2013 in Irish Politics

1. The vast majority of Seanad reformers quite fancy being senators. I don’t blame them, so do I. But let’s be honest about it.

2. Most of the stuff about parliamentary scrutiny is twaddle. How many times has the Seanad ever fought the government?

3. If the Seanad is so good, why is it that no party leader since Garrett has deemed a single one of his senators worthy of being a cabinet minister? Not one! It means that abolition, for the most part, will only remove politicians of a secondary calibre, as decided by the party leaders themselves.

4. The 2004 reforms, which were stalled by the same people who now regard them as vital, were a great idea. In 2004. Now, they’re just a last throw of the dice.

5. Many “reformers” seem to want to take abolition off the table, THEN discuss reform. What’s the likelihood that those discussions will run for decades? Let’s see detailed reforms voted through the House and Seanad first, then we can vote on abolition. 

6. The biggest reform does not require a referendum. Just pass a law to allow each Dail elector to be a Seanad elector to an appropriate panel as in article 18.7 of the constitution. Let each citizen choose which panel they wish to affiliate to, and overnight we will have a directly elected vocational Seanad, wiping out the councillor electorate. Pass a law to do this, and open up the nominating process, and I’ll vote to retain.

 

 
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10 things I learnt about politics from watching “Borgen”.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 2, 2013 in Movies/TV/DVDs, Not quite serious., Politics

1. A country can function perfectly well with only three journalists, provided they are well resourced and serious about their jobs.

2. Sneaky people are attracted to labour parties, whilst evil people are attracted to conservative ones. Sneaky evil people tend to become tabloid editors.

3. Having a prime minister who can speak foreign languages in a posh and sexy accent is handy.

4. Coalitions are messy, but you can still get things done. After loads and loads of meetings.

5. A woman does not have to be under 40 to be incredibly attractive.

6. Modern politics is absolute hell on families.

7. The middle of the political road is where everybody claims to be until you have to do something.

8. If you want a really awkward political life, have your press secretary sleep with every woman under 30 that he meets.

9. Some people are in politics not just to be, but to do. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind when new facts are presented.

10. The Danish word for thanks is tak.

 
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Netflix’s House of Cards.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 2, 2013 in Movies/TV/DVDs

There are two stories to write about with regard to Netflix’s new series. The fact that as I was writing that sentence I had to correct the phrase “TV series” underlines what a ground breaking experiment the company has engaged upon. For those of you unfamiliar with the story: Netflix, the online TV and movie company, has spent $100 million on  a Kevin Spacey fronted remake of 1990s cult BBC political drama “House of Cards”. They’ve also taken the gamble of uploading the entire first season, all 13 episodes together, as a single available season.

First question: is it any good as a show? I’ve watched 5 episodes in a row over two days, and I love it. It’s stylishly filmed, the plot simmers nicely (it assumes the audience has a political clue), and producer David Fincher has tipped the hat at the original series in just the right way, with a few remarks (yes, he does use that saying) but also the to-camera commentary by the main character. Then there’s Spacey, who just chews up scenery in the role. Playing a poor white thrash but made good version of Francis Urqhart, Spacey’s Frank Underwood is an absolute joy to watch. Indeed, the one sad thing is the fact that the late Ian Richardson, who played the role in the BBC series, cannot play a cameo because it really would have been a guilty pleasure to see both men together. Robin Wright is captivating as Claire, his Lady MacBeth, and bears more than a passing resemblance to FF senator Averil Power (in appearence, I mean. Power is not evil). Finally, Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes, a young neophyte journalist, is exceptionally subtle as she manages to be both sexually vulnerable and extremely manipulative at the same time.

As to Netflix’s great experiment. Will it work? The idea of being able to access the entire season is a very attractive proposition. Indeed the only reason I have not watched it all is a fear of becoming that guy who sits alone watching box set after box set. But it does recognise a reality about modern viewing habits. Will it bring extra business to Netflix? Certainly, I’m anecdotally aware of people who signed up just for this show, but nearly all claimed that they would make use of the free month access, and then sign off.

Of course, that it is what I said when I signed up months ago. Netflix is so competitively priced  that I found I was getting value from it. It also, by the way, contributed to my withdrawing of business from HMV. Will these new customers stay on for season two, or find, as I did, the ready access to older shows I never watched originally, like Dexter and Breaking Bad being enough reason to stay? That’s the $100 million dollar question for Netflix.

 

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