Posted by Jason O on Jun 30, 2014 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
The Republican National Committee, preparing for the 2016 race for the White House, has demanded that nominees must now participate in a swimwear section during the debates.
“We reckon it could be part of the foreign affairs section, given that, you know, beaches feature strongly in US foreign policy. Normally when we send marines running up them,” E. Chuck Chuckson III, Vice President for Gridlock Affairs of the RNC said yesterday.
“Of course, if Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to participate in something as All American as a swimsuit section, then you have to ask, what else is she hiding? I hear Remington Ladyshave isn’t a big campaign donor. Of course, she could always wear a burqa. I’m sure she has a few of those at home.”
The RNC has also announced that another criteria has been added to the GOP primary process. “As well as making sure a candidate is conservative enough on immigration, gays, denying healthcare and generally taking a firm hand to the untermenschen, we’ll want to make sure that a pair of Speedos is, shall we say, well stocked?”
Former Republican nominee Sarah Palin endorsed the idea: “Gee, I wish I could have had that opportunity in 2008, to show my NRA credentials by getting the guns out!”
Posted by Jason O on Jun 29, 2014 in Books
Andy Weir’s “The Martian” is one of those books that I had never heard of when I first saw it on Audible, and after I read it could not understand why, because it’s great.
It’s a techno rather than sci-fi thriller about an astronaut who gets trapped on the Mars surface. I don’t want to tell anything else, because I’ll just give plot away, but the concept of the novel is so simple and yet genuinely inspiring.
Weir puts across the simple idea that out there in space left, right, Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, gay, straight, nothing matters. You’re just a human in a spacesuit and nature is trying to kill you 24/7.
There’s already talk of a movie of this. I seriously hope they make it, because it would be a wonderful tale of humanity at its very best.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 23, 2014 in Irish Politics
, Not quite serious.
Bullying is a terrible thing.
Poor Micheal has been bullied by girls named Mary, given a wedgie by a group of older boys who call themselves The Senators, and a boy in a wheelchair recently threatened to roll over his foot. For 50c a week, we can save up and buy a good sturdy broom handle that we can put up the back of Micheal’s jumper. It’s not as good as a real spine, but sure, it’s better than nothing. I mean, just look at that sad little face. Ah Jesus.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 23, 2014 in European Union
, Irish Politics
Check out Dr Kevin Byrne’s “Now or Soon” blog here, where he looks at some interesting issues of public policy. And no, that’s not an oxymoron.
Kevin comes from the book-readin’ wing of Fianna Fail, and so is watched carefully at all times by his party peers.
JCJ is coming to get you! Woooo!
Let’s start with a few facts about the European elections:
1. It’s hard to claim Jean Claude Juncker won a democratic mandate for anything. That’s just not how most Europeans outside of a section of Brussels actually vote in European Parliament elections.
2. Having said that, it’s hard for British eurosceptics to claim that the result went their way either. Even in Britain a majority of voters voted for parties that support the European Union. In France, where Marine Le Pen scored a very handsome result, most French voters didn’t vote for her vision of an EU-free Europe.
3. The tendency of British eurosceptics to co-opt results for their own use, either deliberately or through incompetence and genuine ignorance, continues unabated. You would easily think, reading the British media, that Marine Le Pen was some sort of free market fellow traveller. The truth is, JCJ’s vision of Europe, with a European single market at its heart, is far closer to David Cameron’s vision than Marine Le Pen’s.
4. But the biggest fact is that David Cameron has once again, by pandering to the never-to-be-satisfied maw of British eurosceptics, sabotaged a process in which Britain might get some of the things Britain wants. That’s the bizarre thing: watching the British PM get humiliated over JCJ you’d be forgiven for not knowing that Britain is A) the second biggest country in the EU, and B) that British reforms do have some considerable support with other member states. Yet through either incompetence or gutlessness, David Cameron has managed to not get Britain what Britain says it wants.
And for what? To stop a “federalist” becoming European Commission president? THAT’s what he wanted to fight on? Really? I mean, by British standards, isn’t every single European Commission president a federalist?
More to the point, who cares? It’s the same with the new British obsession with the phrase “ever closer union”. To put it in context, getting upset over these essentially symbolic things is sort of like France obsessing over the fact that Britain, like Iran, has a state religion, with religious leaders in political office and the prime minister effectively choosing bishops. Do you know how weird that looks? Yet the reality is that it barely matters in the day to day affairs of the United Kingdom.
And, let us not forget how JCJ was picked in the first place. Because David Cameron insisted upon pulling the Tories out of the European People’s Party. Cameron pulls the Tories out of the largest centre-right force in Europe, and then bitches and complains about that same centre-right force choosing a candidate he doesn’t like? Seriously? Come on, admit it: who really screwed up here? This was all entirely predictable years ago, yet David Cameron’s obsession with genuflecting towards the political fetishes of the Tory right and their media pals results in him getting an outcome directly in contradiction to what he says he wanted. And we’re supposed to feel sorry for him?
The reality is that Europe’s voters neither voted for or against JCJ. But a majority of them probably expected there to be a European Commission president at the end of the process, and JCJ, like Schulz and Verhofstadt, put his name on the table early, where it is no less legitimate than anyone else, and surely an improvement on the “Election By After Eight” process behind closed doors that used to choose the Commission president.
Where was David Cameron’s candidate? More to the point, who is David Cameron’s candidate? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Posted by Jason O on Jun 19, 2014 in Irish Politics
, Not quite serious.
Joan Burton winning is essential to the public good – and we are proud to endorse her.
It might seem unusual for us, as former Progressive Democrats, used to being roundly castigated by Joan Burton, to take the step of supporting her bid for the leadership of her party. In truth, it is not a step we are taking because we love Joan Burton – rather, because we love our country.
The nation is at a crossroads, and it would take very little for those in the Government parties who are more concerned with their own seats than the future of Ireland to be blown by the political breeze away from the path of sober austerity and onto the road to reckless populism. There are those who now seriously argue that the nation should abandon its projected €2billion in budgetary cuts this October, and instead return to the bad old days of handouts, grants, and goodies for the preferred children of Ireland’s chattering quangocracy.
Alex White is amongst them. Joan Burton, so far as we can tell, is not.
Minister Burton has a proud record at cabinet. Since her election and subsequent appointment to cabinet office, she has largely cast aside the populist bleating that defined her term in opposition, and dedicated herself to the task of rationalising and reducing the state’s bloated and obscene welfare budget. She has done so quietly and efficiently, coming to media prominence only in defence of those necessary and judicious reductions in spending that have provoked scorn in those who judge every policy on its emotional, rather than economic appeal.
There are those in her party whose reaction to welfare cuts, the reduction in our outrageous levels of child benefit, or the long-overdue slashing of funding to spurious agencies and activist groups would have been to abandon their post, as we saw with Roisin Shorthall. There are those today who would challenge Minister Burton whose reaction and rhetoric poses the same threat – instability driven by base emotion.
The temptation to be perceived as “compassionate” instead of competent, or to bow to the taunts of those who exist to denounce basic mathematics as a form of cruelty, is growing in the Labour Party, many of who yet cling to the notion that the numbers on the national balance sheet will improve if it is simply wished for hard enough. Minister Burton is the one candidate who has shown the ability to put her head ahead of her heart, and though we do not share all of her views, we commend her for that.
Then there is the matter of stability. The nation needs sound and stable Government – a trusting and enduring partnership between the two parties that have been entreated to serve. Minister Burton has shown that she can work around the cabinet table, and that when called upon, she can enact the policy preferences of her senior partners with as much enthusiasm and energy as those that are dearest to her own heart. She has shown herself a servant to the nation first, and the narrow demands of partisan bickering a distant second.
We live in a time when mature and sober politics are under threat as never before. Leaders face a daily barrage of hysterical tweets and emotional emails and withering whines from the opinion pages of newspapers. There are those who would redevote Labour to what they see as the deserving classes – a sector of society whose relative poverty and pleaded helplessness is seen as a reason to cast aside the austerity programme that has rescued the nation in the cause of more demeaning and expensive handouts. That would be an error for the country.
We trust Minister Burton to pursue the liberal agenda that we agree with her on. We trust her to be sober, judicious, and responsible with the public purse. We trust her to subordinate the emotive demands of the online horde to the inescapable demands of the national ledger. We trust her, in short, to become the historic figure she was born to be, and not the partisan player she might be tempted to become.
Of her opponent, little need be said. When given a choice between a putative Tánaiste who has delivered for her nation, made the toughest choices, defended and embraced economic reality, and a man who was a student Marxist-Leninist, the choice is clear.
As proud former Progressive Democrats, we stand with Mrs. Burton. We ask all right-thinking people to do the same.
The author has requested anonymity.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 18, 2014 in Irish Politics
, Not quite serious.
A house in Dublin 4.
Stephen: Mum, Dad, can you both sit down for a minute? Mum, can you put down that Irish Times crossword. I have to tell you something.
Mum: Is it important Stephen, I really have to meet Susan about that Ivana Bacik fundraiser.
Stephen: Please, it won’t take a moment, it’s very important.
Dad: Go ahead son.
Stephen: Mum, Dad, I’ve wanted to tell you this for so long, but I…
Dad: Take your time son.
Mum: Stephen, you’re frightening us, are you ill?
Stephen: I’m…well, I’m not gay.
Dad: Oh God, not us.
Stephen: I’m sorry, I’ve thought long and hard, I thought I might have been, but I’m not.
Mum: I think I’m going to be sick! What will the neighbours say? I was only talking to David Norris at that Abbey fundraiser last week. How can you do this to us?
Dad: Sophie, please…are you sure, son, are you sure you’re not confused, I mean you’re only nineteen, you’re still experiencing new things. I mean, what about Robert, you both seemed so happy together.
Stephen: Yeah, I know, I really tried, but then Rebecca and I…
Mum: Rebecca, that girl who you brought home last Easter? I thought she was just a friend?
Stephen: And she was, but we got closer, and, actually, last easter…
Mum: That hussy seduced you, that’s what she did. Don’t tell me that hussy seduced you in this house! This house, where Mary Robinson held her very first fundraiser! You have brought nothing but shame…
Dad: Sophie, please! You’re not without blame here! Who bought him that 24 boxset when he was eleven? You wouldn’t let me buy him that Barbara Streisand collection. And you kept that Bette Midler CD collection for yourself! Look son, what ever happens, we both love you, no matter what way you want to live your life.
Stephen: Thanks Dad. There is one other thing.
Dad: What is it, son?
Stephen: I’ve joined Fianna Fail.
Dad: Sophie, where’s my shotgun?
Posted by Jason O on Jun 16, 2014 in Irish Politics
Michael Martin felt more than a little uneasy as the final results of the general election of 2016 became known. It was true that Fianna Fail was still a handful of seats behind Fine Gael which had just lost 30 of its 76 seats won in 2011, but given the wipeout in 2011, the FF leader had reason to be happy. The reality, however, was that the party now faced a conundrum.
As soon as the shape of the new Dail had become known, both FF and FG had opened lines to the 30 odd (in some cases, very odd) independent TDs, and were quickly determining that keeping a government in place with such a volatile grouping would be almost impossible. Labour had staggered back into the house just barely in double digits, shell-shocked and with half the parliamentary party on Xanax, and in no place to be taking initiatives on anything. The party leader had just narrowly kept her seat after a 4 day recount and the generosity of 3 voters and their 12th preferences.
All eyes were on Sinn Fein, with its 28 new deputies, and the party moved quickly. Martin, knowing full well the impossibility of getting a Fianna Fail/Fine Gael coalition agreed to by his members, and certainly not with FF as the junior partner, had at least to sit down with Sinn Fein. His delegation, let by Willie O’Dea and Michael McGrath were shocked to discover that not only had Sinn Fein prepared a fully detailed programme for government, but they had actually carefully gone line by line through Fianna Fail’s manifesto, “Whatever it takes!”, to find areas of common agreement.
The FF delegation were disturbed by the sheer detail of the programme. This wasn’t a fig leaf to get everybody into Merc and Perks, but a detailed, costed and timed grid of actions for the next government. Taking away the Sinn Fein document, FF had to scrape together a team of experts given that most if its appointed parliamentary “policy advisors” were basically people’s relatives. The experts, including one celebrity economist came back. This programme will reward Sinn Fein voters and basically screw everybody else.
Martin, under pressure, then suddenly found himself receiving another political blow. The acting Taoiseach had invited Fianna Fail for talks, and despite FF protests about the incompatibility of an FG/FF arrangement, the media were getting more and more hysterical about FF’s refusal to meet with the government. On top of that, Martin knew that he needed to at least have a possible FG/FF deal as leverage against the Shinners, and so sat down at a neutral location with Kenny.
As expected, Kenny broadsided him. The Taoiseach, despite his massive setback in the election, was still far more in control of his party than Martin was of his. Martin, in fact, had had to keep the location of both the SF and FG meetings secret to prevent Mary Hanafin turning up to negotiate on behalf of the party whether Martin liked it or not. Retiring to a private room to read the document Kenny had presented, Martin, sipping his herbal tea, was horrified to find nothing policy wise he could object to publicly as unacceptable. Even in the areas of water and property tax, which FF had made big running on during the election campaign, Kenny proposed that an independent commission examine both areas, and that both parties be bound by the outcome. Exactly the sort of thing we would have suggested, Martin thought. He decided to play his big gun.
Returning to the room with the Taoiseach, the FF leader demanded equal cabinet seats and a rotating Taoiseach. Kenny said he’d get back to him. Both men knew they were moving into a game of Political Chicken.
The FF/SF negotiations were now moving at a quick pace, with SF leaking to the media its willingness to take fewer ministerial seats than its share of the Dail suggested in return for policy commitments. FF TDs were beginning to lean on Martin, who was also under huge pressure from the media for even considering coalition. The Corkman decided to gain the initiative, publishing a list of carefully constructed demands of SF. No SF ministers in Justice or Defence. No to Sinn Fein’s demand of the abolition of the Special Criminal Court, and most of all, no Gerry Adams in cabinet.
In the talks, Sinn Fein calmly accepted all three, but with provisos, and suddenly, the deal was done. Kenny tried to sweeten the deal, offering the rotating Taoiseach, but it was too late, and five weeks after polling day, the new Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein Government of National Unity was unveiled.
Many in the media (and Fianna Fail) speculated that the government would play out to a usual ending, with the junior partner getting demonised for the government’s failings, but that was without recognising that Sinn Fein was not a normal political party. Having paralysed the Government Information Service with its own nominees, Fianna Fail ministers protested when Sinn Fein started giving its own party briefings weekly in Sinn Fein headquarters, sometimes announcing measures before they had even been announced in the Dail.
Sinn Fein ministers stuck firmly to the programme for government, again catching out their FF counterparts by turning up on day one with draft legislation prepared in opposition as private members bills. A white paper on a United Ireland was prepared, and legislation which preserved the Special Criminal Court in name but removed the great majority of crimes covered by it was speedily put through the Oireachtas, despite the serious misgivings of some FF TDs.
Then came the budget. Sinn Fein’s wealth tax, new 48% upper rate of tax, increases in employer’s PRSI, and taxing of pension contributions were all rammed through despite FF trying their usual delaying tactics. Finance minister Michael McGrath found that he was department head in name only, as his Sinn Fein junior minister demanded and was given, by order of the Taoiseach, joint access to all papers and decisions. Sinn Fein, to the surprise of FF, didn’t do a Gilmore but actually had every intention on delivering their specific spending promises to their targeted voters, regardless of the effect on the people who didn’t vote for them.
The subtle behind-the-scenes operation of Sinn Fein continued. One Fianna Fail TD was shocked when his daughter showed him her new school history book, and a chapter on great peacemakers such as Ghandi, Mandela and Adams. A question in the Leaving Cert history ordinary paper asked students to identify the parallels between the 1916 Rising and the Armed Struggle of the Provisional IRA.
Then Willie O’Dea resigned from the cabinet when the Taoiseach refused to support him over Sinn Fein’s blocking in cabinet of the promotion of “certain” Gardai, whom they deemed “political” and whom O’Dea pointed out were all counter terrorism and organised crime specialists.
As the 2019 local and European elections approached, Fianna Fail candidates reported that local authorities, with large Sinn Fein membership, and with county managers answerable to the Sinn Fein minister for the environment, had started turning a blind eye to republican murals on local authority housing designating “Sinn Fein territory”. It was becoming harder and harder to canvass in these areas as SF activists dogged and abused other party canvassers, with the result that other parties started cutting their losses and abandoning the areas to Sinn Fein altogether.
Opinion polls showed that the Sinn Fein media operation was unequalled. SF was taking claim for pretty much every good story coming out of government, whilst Fianna Fail, which had embedded all its communications people in well paid government positions, were paralysed by Sinn Fein vetoes and interference over joint government communications. On top of that, business and middle class voters, especially in Dublin, being clobbered by new taxes, were swinging firmly to Fine Gael under its new returned prodigal daughter leader, Lucinda Creighton. Sinn Fein assiduously hovered up a good chunk of the working class and welfare vote with its delivery on welfare spending promises, whilst blaming Fianna Fail for failures elsewhere.
In the local elections, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein were the clear winners, with Fianna Fail taking a hammering from Sinn Fein in working class areas, and Fine Gael in middle class areas. For the first time in its history, Fianna Fail fell to third place in local government seats.
The following week in the Dail, Creighton took great pleasure in presenting the Taoiseach with a biography of German Chancellor Franz Von Papen. The Taoiseach did not appreciate the joke.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 13, 2014 in An Occasional Guide to Modern Life
She got a shock when she stumbled across the news on Facebook. Just a string of random comments and offers of sympathy to his family from friends, some of whom she had known. She was surprised at her own reaction. It had been years, and many relationships ago, and to be honest, she couldn’t remember the last time she had given him a thought. Yet today the memories were strong. The relationship had petered out, two people who hadn’t fought or cheated or disagreed, but just concluded that it was going nowhere. They’d kept in touch for a little while, sent the odd birthday text, just moved away from each other. Now, she’d never bump into him again, see him across a street, maybe even pretend not to see him, none of that would ever happen.
There was a moment when he really mattered to her, a torn strip in her life where he just might have been someone very important to her, or had the potential to be. He’d not been perfect, and was just a little too self obsessed for her liking, but he’d been kind too, and he had always made her laugh. They’d had their own in-jokes, their own words and phrases that meant something just to them. At night, in bed together, she had felt safe, and when she felt cold she knew she could just move close and snuggle against him and his arms would come around her and keep her warm. They’d joked about just how warm he was in bed, a human hot water bottle, she’d said. Now, that heat was gone forever.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 10, 2014 in Fiction
, US Politics
President Nixon: Tragically Slain in Dallas, 1963.
PRESIDENT NIXON DEAD. SHOT IN DALLAS. VICE PRESIDENT CABOT LODGE SWORN IN AS PRESIDENT.
The murder of Richard M. Nixon on the 22nd November 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald brought a meteoric political career to a cruelly abrupt end. The man who had risen from entering Congress in 1946 to defeating Senator John F. Kennedy in the razor thin election of 1960 was almost certain to be re-elected in 1964, given his adroit handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, tough line on Vietnam (remembering Truman’s “losing China”) and his hard-line on civil rights solidifying black votes into the Republican column. The death of the young, cheerful and endearingly awkward war hero president stunned America.
Vice President Henry Cabot Lodge easily defeated Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, running on a thinly veiled racist (against his own better judgement, he admitted years later) states rights campaign the following year. As history now shows, the Republican landslide of 1964 was the last good thing to happen to the former Massachusetts senator. Read more…