Posted by Jason O on Aug 30, 2013 in Movies/TV/DVDs
Posted by Jason O on Aug 29, 2013 in Politics
Syria. Ooooer. Don’t like the look of that.
Let’s be honest, Syria is causing us middle of the road former Blairites a lot of aggro. Yes, we can agree that the Assad regime is made up of an awful crowd of bastards just itching for a good Tomahawking. We can also agree that democracy is a good thing.
But then it all falls apart. See, if the Syrian opposition was dominated by Paddy Ashdown types who spent the evenings after a long day fighting debating the pros and cons of the Single Transferable Vote, you’d say grand. The fear, however, is that many, if not most of them, are sitting around the fire discussing “Do we get the Christians before or after we get those uppity women who want to read books?”
We in the West have to realise one thing. Human rights and democracy are not the same thing. What do you do when the majority of people in a country vote in free and fair elections not just for people we disagree with (the Americans do that all the time) but people who actually want to supress or even kill minority religions or ethnic groups or women? What if rounding up the gays and putting them in camps is the will of the democratic majority? Does that make it right?
What do we really need in Syria, if we can’t get a nice Guardian reader style democracy? We need human rights and order, stability, and peace. If Democracy means Syria becoming Iran, we don’t want it there. We want an authoritarian non-psychotic regime that maintains reasonable human rights and is stable. Like the former Mayor Daley Junior in Chicago. Neither the Assad nor Mubarak regimes were that. But I’m not sure arming the rebels will give us that either.
Morally, bombing chemical weapons facilities is probably justifiable in its own right. But in this civil war, the best we can probably do is try to get as many refugees as possible to safety, and help the Turks pay for it.
Posted by Jason O on Aug 27, 2013 in Politics
I am, as will be no surprise to regular readers, a believer in free enterprise. It is flawed, of course, but as a means of generating wealth and allocating finite resources to infinite human demand, it’s a effective system.
I can’t help thinking that we’re approaching one of those key moments in human history when an entire system takes a radical turn. See, globalisation has created wider wealth and more choice than at any time in human development.
But, coupled with technology, there is the serious danger that as it opens up almost unlimited opportunity for the very talented, it has the opposite effect for the people at the other end of the talent spectrum. As the very skilled travel the world as globalised citizens, becoming very wealthy, what happens to the less skilled?
Train and educate them is the usual mantra, and there is an element of truth in it, but what if it is not enough? What do we do with the growing number of working and now middle class who just can’t compete? Who just aren’t talented enough? Even if you do manage to retrain them, aren’t they just doomed to a lesser quality of life?
That’s life, some say. Except it’s not, because we’re making more and more of one particular resource. Wealth.
But it is not their wealth, goes the argument, and of course, it’s true, but only up to a point.
That wealth is created by two forces. One, the hardwork and creative skill necessary for wealth to be created, and two, a society to provide a marketplace for products and services to be sold.
And that is the key, because whereas the less skilled may not be part of the first group, he or she is most certainly part of the second.
That is where a new Capitalist Compact is needed, which agrees to the rich becoming rich, but in return supporting wealth redistribution, through taxation, to fund the bottom part of society which cannot compete.
It means freeing capitalists to create the wealth to fund a de facto socialist society, effectively the rich working in a luxurious, gilded engine room, powering the ship of social stability along.
Not as much a class war as a new class compact between the ultra-rich and the rest, and most importantly, a much under-discussed weapon in the fight against tax flight, because after all, there will always be some nation willing to hide the wealth of the rich. But how will they generate that wealth if we refuse to let them sell in the first place?
After all, do we not control the marketplace?
Posted by Jason O on Aug 21, 2013 in Movies/TV/DVDs
Thought I’d repost this on the news that Guy Ritchie has begun filming a remake.
When I was watching TV in the mid-eighties, just entering my teens, my two favourite TV shows had been off the air for half a decade before I had even been born. Curiously, both were about international organisations dedicated to maintaining global peace and destroying the plans of world domination by various nefarious individuals, and I often wonder did that subconsciously shape my political beliefs? The first was the British show “The Champions”, which was an Avengers style show. The second, and my favourite, was “The Man from U.N.C.L.E”.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E” was created by Norman Felton, a US TV producer who got the idea of recruiting Ian Fleming to help devise a new TV spy show in 1963. Fleming came up with the idea of a character named Napoleon Solo, and pretty much stopped there, as the producers of the Bond movies were not enthused about the creator of 007 creating another fictional spy.
Felton went on to flesh out the show, devising a concept of an American and Russian spy working together, just months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, to defend world peace. Robert Vaughn (now in BBC’s Hustle) played Solo, with David McCallum (“Ducky” in NCIS) as his partner Ilya Kuryakin. What made the show was not just the action and outlandish plots (silent gun battle in a crowded cinema, anyone?) to take over the world but the witty repartee between the womanising Solo (there were A LOT of pretty girls) and the acerbic Kuryakin. And, of course, we can’t forget the baddies, the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity, UNCLE’s evil twin, more commonly known as THRUSH. Bless.
Posted by Jason O on Aug 16, 2013 in Irish Politics
Tell me if this prediction isn’t true. Sometime in the near future, a government led by a Fianna Fail Taoiseach, possibly Micheal Martin, will be attacked in the Dail by either Fine Gael or Labour from breaking promises and targeting the vulnerable and all the rest of it.
You don’t have to be the seventh son of a seventh son to foresee that. You can predict it because there is nothing as predictable in Irish politics as the bastards lying to you and breaking promises. The Labour Party did it in election 2011 in probably the most widespread barefaced sleight-of-hand and fundamentally dishonest (or criminally incompetent) campaign of modern times, but every party does it.
But here’s the thing. In the words of 1980s popsters The Blow Monkeys, It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way.
At the next election, Micheal Martin should address the Irish people with a simple one page pledge, a tiny handful of specific, costed proposals that he pledges to implement. Not vague “World Class Health Service” nonsense, which is completely incapable of being measured, but very detailed promises. He should face the voters and tell them that every other Fianna Fail pledge is aspirational, and he will try his best to implement, but this small handful of acts are absolutely copper-bottomed, and he is staking his personal integrity on them.
I suggested this to a Fianna Failer recently, and he was horrified. “But what if he doesn’t deliver them?”, he asked, and that is the point. These should be pledges that are deliverable, that can be put in ads during the campaign and down loaded and stuck to a fridge and marked off. If he can’t even do that, he’s no business being Taoiseach. The key is that he creates two types of election promise: the aspirational, and the absolute, and asks voters to honestly be aware of the difference BEFORE they vote. Imagine if Eamonn had done that.
Now, here’s the Blow Monkeys:
Posted by Jason O on Aug 13, 2013 in Books
Jeff Greenfield is a political reporter for CBS, and his book “Then Everything Changed” paints three What-If scenarios based on real life facts: That JFK was nearly killed in December 1960, before being sworn in as president, that Bobby Kennedy nearly didn’t go through the kitchen in the Ambassador Hotel in 1968, and that Gerald Ford nearly beat Jimmy Carter in 1976. The three stories are not only very informative (Greenfield brings his personal knowledge of US politics and its players to bear) but also quite cheekily written, with asides about what effect these events would have had on other well known individuals.
A great read for the American political junkie. You can get it on the Amazon link here:
Posted by Jason O on Aug 10, 2013 in Irish Politics
There’s a scene in Tim Burton’s 1989 classic “Batman”, where two petty street criminals, having mugged someone, start arguing on a rooftop about whether the Batman, a vengeful vigilante, really exists. Batman then appears, and scares the bejesus out of them, to spread fear amongst criminals about their actions.
If you want political reform in Ireland, that’s how you do it.
First, you pick a dozen Fine Gael or Labour TDs (actually, all Labour TDs are vulnerable now). Don’t bother with opposition TDs: they’re powerless and their word is worthless. Go for the Fine Gael TDs who scraped into the last seats. People like Derek Keating, or Alan Farrell, and you tell them you are going after them personally in their constituencies, unless the government delivers on your specific political reform objectives.
Remember: you’re not trying to help some other candidate, but specifically to depress their personal first preference vote and transfers, to get people to leave the box beside their name on the ballot paper totally blank.
Then you circulate leaflets personally tying every lie the government has told to them, because the government’s lies are their lies too. Don’t even bother mentioning political reform in the leaflets, it’s not a sexy issue. Go for cutbacks and higher taxes. Remember, you want to frighten them into doing what you want.
Don’t forget to drop leaflets in their specific local area, their parish or housing estate. Drop it a few times, if you want, just to make sure that they see them, and see that you are working personally against them on the ground. Non-political people never quite understand just how paranoid TDs are about small numbers of organised people deliberately against them in their constituencies.
After a few deliveries, the TD in question may even try to meet you to address your concerns. If not, keep at it, keeping the TD informed as to what areas you are dropping leaflets in, and pointing out what you need them to do to stop. Believe me, she/he will be sweating, and will open a dialogue.
Now your foot is in the door. The important thing to remember is that the only currency TDs recognise is votes. If they believe you can affect votes in their constituency, your opinion/needs will matter to them. What happens next is up to you.
Small note: depending on the amount of money you spend/raise, you may be required to register with the Standards in Public Office Commission, and you should have some contact details on the leaflets.
*Also works on councillors up for re-election next year too, by the way, on whatever your local issue of concern is.
Posted by Jason O on Aug 7, 2013 in Irish Politics
I’ve never been to a summer school. I’ve heard they’re great fun and all, but I just couldn’t hack yet more worthies discussing the need for political reform, because it ain’t gonna happen, and so I’d rather catch up on that mocking behemoth in the corner of my sitting room called the Books I Have Not Read Yet pile.
See, when discussing political reform in Ireland, it is always important to define what we mean by the phrase. It doesn’t mean ministerial pensions or cars. It means executive decision making power, and fear. If the Taoiseach is actually afraid of something, then it has power, and that is what is meant by reform: giving the sort of power to one entity that another entity fears.
So, in that context, here are 5 reasons why we will not see meaningful political reform:
1. The great majority of voters believe that whilst other constituencies should elect TDs who care about the national interest, their particular area/parish is unique and needs a local grafter to help them defraud other taxpayers of money they’re not entitled to.
2. The skills needed to get elected are often little to do with the skills needed to run a country well. As a result, we tend to elect a certain personality type. The sort of people who use phrases like “working with the local community” as if it is a normal thing said by normal people. Or calling buying a pound of sausages “engaging with local business”. You know, weirdos.
3. Most Irish politicians see politics as a job, and see that having power and responsibility for decisions is a sure way of losing their job. As a result, most are happy to have no power, and to always be able to side with the popular side of every issue. Ireland is almost unique in the world in having politicians who lobby to have powers taken off them. Why do you think the County Manager system has lasted so long?
4. The Irish suffer, possibly through Catholicism, Celtic government, or British colonialism, from a Big Man syndrome, constantly believing that the source of both their problems and solutions to them are never within their own power, but within the power of some higher authority, be it God, Dublin Castle, or the Department of Finance. Across the world, from Scotland to Catalunya to Quebec, there is a constant political battle for self determination And local choice making. Ireland is jammed full of regions and areas who believe they are getting a raw deal from the centre. Yet there is no countervailing political movement for devolution and local control. We derive far too much masochistic pleasure from being the helpless victim. After all, we celebrate 1798, 1916 and the Famine, all failures, yet have no Independence Day.
5. The Irish have a fear of change. Where else in Europe would the people replace one political party knowingly with an almost identical carbon copy? Almost every proposed change, from the Luas to postcodes has been opposed for often spurious reasons. The national motto should be “Yeah, this is bad, but it could be worse!”
Am I being too cynical? I always remind people of both Noel Dempsey and John Gormley, two genuine political reformers who got all the way to cabinet with their integrity intact. Then their political colleagues worked them over, blocking change every step of the way.
Political reform? We’ll see a female Dr Who first.
“Ah great, here they are. Dusty Bin on steroids. What’s that? Masters of the known universe? Gimme strength. You crowd couldna master ma SkyPlus. One narrow corridor and you all stand there with your plungers in your hands like Oliver Letwin at an orgy, with a face like Justin Bieber leafing through The Economist. See that? That’s called swivelling yer hips. Ye didna think o’ that, did ya, ya ribbed for pleasure toasters? See that sonic screwdriver? I’ll stick that so far up ya, your eye’ll be backlit. Clara love, pop into the Tardis and put the kettle on. And see if there’s any Jammie Dodgers left. And where’s me phone?”