Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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President Carter was a visionary.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 29, 2021 in US Politics

Despite the fact that I’m on the centre-right politically, many of my political heroes are on the left. The Kennedys, FDR, Harry Truman, Pierre Trudeau, LBJ, and amongst those, one of my greatest heroes would be President Carter.

He’s been much maligned, and painted as a political failure, but I think that Jimmy Carter was a visionary who won office too early, and was doomed to inherit a presidential term (1977-1981) of which the key events (oil crisis, Iranian hostages and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) would have destroyed whomever was in office.
His governorship of Georgia was one of healing the racial divide, and his winning of the 1976 election, coming from absolutely nowhere, was a stunning achievement which transformed American politics. In terms of his key issues he was right in his analysis. He was the first president to get serious about the need for liberals to adapt to the realities of the restraints on government spending, and he rightly predicted that the failure of the US to get to grips with its energy needs and reliance on foreign supply would cause it problems in the future, and this was before global warming. He was also the first president to get serious about human rights,  and people forget that the military buildup that eventually broke the Soviet Union actually began under President Carter, something the Republicans try to airbrush out of history.

It took the Democratic party a generation to realise the need to bring moderate separate church and state Christians (like Carter) on board, having surrendered the Christian vote to the hateful fire and brimstone crazies.

The truth is, the Democratic Party needs more candidates with the moderate. compassionate qualities of Jimmy Carter.

 
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The solution to statues.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 27, 2021 in Irish Politics


“History’s greatest monster!”

Previously published in The Irish Independent.

I think I have it. The solution to the problem of statues of individuals falling out of favour with people or becoming unfashionable. 

The ancient Romans, used to redesigning public monuments as previous emperors fell out of favour with the new regime came up with the concept of having interchangeable heads on statues. 

All hail whatsisname until he either drops dead from overindulging on pheasant stuffed butter-fried giraffe or until the senate accidentally repeatedly stabs him, and the new fella needs to be lauded. Off comes the head, always sitting on a flattering chiselled Love Island style physique, and on goes the head of the new guy. 

All hail the new guy and everybody can go about their business. I don’t know what they did with the old heads but if they were big enough they could probably be chiselled into toilet bowls maybe, as the final insult? 

Admittedly, it might be tricky with some existing statues, but horses for courses, as they say. 

I could easily see Bertie Ahern’s head on the O’Connell statue on O’Connell Street in Dublin, and Paul Murphy, Richard Boyd Barrett or Ryan Tubridy could easily rest comfortably on the shouty statue of Big Jim Larkin just down the road.  

There’s plenty of statues of now forgotten aldermen around the place that could be repurposed every 20 years. In Dublin city council in particular it could be a whole new area of debate to divert them from their current debates and deep concern for the housing and planning situation in Gaza. In fact, it’s not impossible we’d end with a load of statues of leading figures in Hezbollah, which would be novel. Who knows? 

As for the question of new statues in future, of who merits public honouring going forward, a bit of imagination and technology could work. If we end up in a united Ireland, we might have a demand for a whole new batch of statues that cross the divide. I think we could probably agree that a statue of Liam Neeson menacing someone on a phone could be a wonderful symbol of the new Ireland. Perhaps also a statue of Boris Johnson who could unite both sides of the sectarian divide in animosity? One man’s Lundy is another man’s Bertie Wooster. 

As for the more contentious ones, like the Edward Carson statue outside Stormont, is there anything to be said for building a replica for the plinth outside Leinster House, but equipping both platforms with an equal-sized statue of Michael Collins and through a series of hydraulic lifts and trapdoors we could have them popping up and down at random moments causing equal cheer and anger to the watching crowds as their favourite rockets up out of the hatch to a blast of the Tones or “The sash my father wore”. They could be set on a random rotating setting so that people could place bets as to which one will pop up next.   

To ensure future proofing, we could also consider holograms, which of course gives us the added benefit of just deleting people who fall out of favour, or perhaps restoring people if history takes a new look at them. We could find ourselves gazing admiringly at the towering visages of Shane Ross or John Delaney shimmering above the streets, although we would have to be careful that the system doesn’t get hacked and suddenly have the glowering sneer of Cromwell or Nigel Farage peering down upon us. 

Of course, it is possible that the age of consensus is over, and that it may be impossible to agree on which public or historical figures to honour, especially given the po-faced Stalinist attitudes of a growing section of society who regard any human flaw or change in public attitudes as grounds for absolute cancellation from society. We might have to settle for the great fictional figures of the age with a link to Ireland, like Dracula, Jed Bartlet, Pat Mustard and Tyrion Lanister. Why not? After all, Budapest has a statue of “Colombo”.  

But then, that’s where technology could help. As we have a Covid tracker app on our phones now, there’s nothing to stop us all having a SafeStatue app on our devices as well, that will change the holographic image based on the consensus of people around it. I could see a statue of Garret Fitzgerald waving whereas someone else could see Una Mulally chastising a straight white man for existing, or Fintan apologising for same. 

You know, something for everyone. Until someone starts complaining that they’re offended not by the statue that they can’t see but by the fact that someone else can see it. Then it’ll all kick off, especially in a country that just loves to be offended on behalf of something else.  

It is possible that we just won’t be able to agree, and instead will have statues based on the events that we all agree brought us together as a people. Like the Easter rising, Euro ‘90, when Fidelma bedded Miley (The jezebel!)  and of course that time we as a country stepped up and rescued Matt Damon from Covid. 

Maybe that’s the way forward. 

Nothing says Ireland like a statue of a major Hollywood star carrying a bag from Centra that we all hoped for one brief moment was full of a few cans and a breakfast roll.           

 
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You have to love the sheer hubris of this.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 19, 2021 in Brexit Referendum, British Politics, European Union

 
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Great Books I’m reminding you to read: Hellraisers.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 17, 2021 in Books
Roarin', drinkin' and shoutin'.
Roarin’, drinkin’ and shoutin’.

I know I raved about this book before, but was rereading it, and it is well worth the read. That and the fact that when I first blogged about it, there was only me and a cat actually reading the blog.  Hellraisers is one of those books you read in a single holiday because it is a) quite short, and b) just so chock full of laugh out loud stories that you fly through them looking to get to the next one. The subject is Burton, O’Toole, Reed and Harris, back when men were men who went roarin’ shoutin’ and fightin’ and then delivered their lines perfectly on set.
Whether it was Harris demanding tea and toast in a police station or Reed announcing to crowded pubs that one of his friends had a bigger cock than he did (When he wasn’t shooting at helicopters with his shotgun.) an absolute joy to read.

 
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British spy loses employment appeal over sexually inappropriate behaviour, drinking.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 16, 2021 in Movies/TV/DVDs, Not quite serious.

MI6At a special session of the Employment Appeals Tribunal convened in camera under the Official Secrets Act, Commander X, formally of the Royal Navy and Secret Intelligence Service today lost his appeal against dismissal from the service.

X had been dismissed 18 months previously after numerous warnings about drinking on duty and making sexual advances on both fellow employees and targeted individuals. The final incident was a fracas caused by X in the service’s quartermaster branch. The head of the branch alleged that X had turned up after lunch “with the usual four Martinis on board” and proceeded to berate staff for not being able to provide him with a discreet way of carry prophylactics. “You’ve no shortage of lasers n’ shit, but you can’t get me a handful of fucking rubber johnnies! Have you seen some of the quim I have to bang for Queen n’ country? Do you know why they call her Octopussy?”

This had been the second incident involving the Q branch. X had previously been disciplined for trying to use a dart launcher to give himself a penicillin injection. A service doctor later testified that X was “riddled” with STIs.

A number of women, both from within the service and without gave evidence of X’s inappropriate sexual advances, using service equipment to remove their clothing without consent, and searching out particularly emotionally damaged women who were vulnerable and seen as easy prey.

“The man was like a vulture if there was any woman in a 5 mile radius who’d recently lost a love one through violence. I think it got him, you know, going. And don’t get me started on age. 18 and up, he was in like Flynn,” another member of the 00 section said.

The same agent disputed a claim by X that this was all part of “serving Queen and Country”.

“That’s nonsense. The other three of us are all happily married. He’s the only one charging around pissed like a rutting rhino. It’s a complete lack of professional standards. At the MI6 family day he made a pass at my 18 year old daughter. Poured champagne on her and then tried to help her out of her wet things. I mean, does that even work?”

The head of MI6, Alex Younger, admitted that X had not been dismissed earlier because he had been a useful asset in the past. “The man is so conspicuous and incapable of doing anything discreetly that we would use him to distract attention from our real operations. He spends his days driving around in ridiculous cars and trying to bed anyone in a skirt whilst our real operatives are quietly, you know, gathering intelligence. The problem has been that he is so effective at getting attention from foreign intelligence agencies that they immediately go on alert looking for our real agents when he arrives in the f**king airport. Now we just send him to places like Denmark in the hope he might use up someone’s resources following him, wandering between seedy bars, casinos and VD clinics. I mean, who on Earth wears a tuxedo as much as this guy does? And don’t mistake him for a waiter. He’s kicked off on a number of occasions over that.”

The tribunal was reminded that X had been married, but his wife had died in suspicious circumstances, with X claiming that she’d been murdered. No charges were ever brought.

The tribunal ended in a fracas when the presiding chair of the tribunal had to order X removed when he suggested, during her delivery of her findings, that they might like to adjourn to his hotel to “review” her findings. He then physically attempted to stop her talking by forcing himself onto her with a kiss, and was only stopped when she punched him in the penis.

 

 
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A good book worth reading: Alpha Dogs

Posted by Jason O on Mar 15, 2021 in Books, Politics, US Politics

alpha-dogs(Previously published)

Another one for the political junkies, “Alpha Dogs” details the rise and fall of Sawyer-Miller, one of the first political consultancy firms, and a firm that played a major role in bringing down both Marcos and Pinochet. Full of little nuggets of political wisdom, including their polling which told Listerine that as their consumers were the sort of people who obey instructions on products, they could increase their sales of Listerine by 25%, by increasing the cap size by 25%. They also proved, in getting Boston Mayor Kevin White reelected in the 1970s, that voters will vote for a candidate they don’t actually like if they can be convinced that he is a) competant, and b) will use competancy to pursue the interests of people like them.

It also highlighted for me how different Irish politics is from most other western countries, in that whilst politics is dominated by professional politicians everywhere, it is remarkable how in Ireland political issues play such a minor role in elections, something Frank Luntz talked about when he was in Ireland. Irish politicians are far more sophisticated in knowing what makes their constituents tick than any pollster can tell them, yet that knowledge seems to paralyse them into policy inactivity. It isn’t that issues like taxes or spending or immigration don’t exist in Ireland, it’s that an entire political class has managed to pull off the most brilliant political three card trick ever, and convinced voters voting to elect members of a national parliament that those issues have nothing to do with them!

A very entertaining read, and the sort of book that political anoraks will need to read with a pen in one hand for marking passages. Or is that just me?

 
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One of my favorite political cartoons.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 14, 2021 in Cartoons, US Politics

 
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Still regard this as one of the great election posters of all time.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 14, 2021 in British Politics

 
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UK lack of knowledge about EU annoying.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 14, 2021 in British Politics, European Union

I was listening to a (normally reliable) UK podcast recently where a participant seemed unsure about the difference between the European Parliament and the European Council.
No big deal says you.
Perhaps not: save that the person in question used to be a member of the said European Council…

 
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The rotting of classic television.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 14, 2021 in Cult TV

Steed(Previously published)

I’ve written previously about my interest in old British and US cult TV shows from the 1960s and ’70s, and the recent passing at 93 of British actor Patrick Macnee, who played debonair spy John Steed in the 1960s British spy series “The Avengers” has triggered a few thoughts on the subject.

Two  Christmases ago I treated myself to the complete Avengers TV series on DVD, which ran in its original format from 1960 to 1969. The show was a success in its day, being very popular as one of the few British shows to be exported to a US TV network.

But what struck me, watching it, was the number of then young actors in it who became quite well known later in life but have since passed away, with Macnee being the last male lead still living. Its main producer and de facto creator, Brian Clemens, also passed away earlier this year. Watching the show one realises that many of its original viewers have also since passed away (it was off the air three years before I was born) and that the show’s human hinterland, the people who made and watched the show are gradually vanishing.

This is actually a relatively new phenomenon given the fact that television as a medium is only really sixty five years old. Unlike music or movies or other aspects of culture, TV had, until quite recently, a large number of still living if elderly TV pioneers who had been the actors, writers, producers and directors. It was still possible to ask them what they had been trying to communicate, and what their stories meant.

That access, the ability to ask the actual participants, is rapidly dying out across the world.

We are now seeing a whole new avenue of cultural history open up as these shows go from being just old TV shows to a glimpse into the society and culture of a previous age. Watch spy shows from the 1960s and see how many of them like “The Man From UNCLE” or “The Champions” were about international cooperation to preserve peace. “The Avengers”, for example, had a number of episodes where the two heroes fought to stop some baddy trying to sabotage European unity (I’m not joking), the assumption being that it was obviously a good thing. By the 1990s, on the other hand, shows like “The X Files” or “Alias” were about how one’s own government was the enemy.

It’s the same with sitcoms. The 1970s sitcom “Maude”, starring a pre-“Golden Girls” Bea Arthur, was one of the first TV shows to address abortion, which in itself says something about changing culture. Imagine the hysteria that would have arisen if “Friends” had an episode where Rachel had an abortion. “Will and Grace” and now “Modern Family” both traced the changing social attitudes towards homosexuality. “Star Trek” allowed issues of segregation and race be addressed in a thinly disguised science fiction setting, including the first ever inter-racial kiss on US television. TV history is important.

That’s why programmes like the Emmy Foundations interview archive, where actors, writers and others talk at length about their experiences on these TV shows, is important.

RTE should be doing this, talking, for example, in depth to Gay Byrne and others about The Late Late Show. They are part of our living cultural history, and have a story to tell.

Copyright © 2021 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.