Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Reckless voters must be confronted.

ErdoganPreviously published in The Times Ireland Edition on 18th July 2016.

Writing on social media last week about the Nice attack, the conservative commentator John McGuirk remarked that “at some point soon, people are going to say “you know, we tried the nice way. We tried tolerance. We tried being understanding. Maybe it’s time to give the crazy guy a shot at it.”

It’s hard to dispute the logic of his argument, given the rollercoaster of the last 12 months. From Trump to Brexit, we are witnessing what some are calling “post-truth” politics but what I prefer to term The Right To One’s Own Facts. The most disturbing aspect of the Brexit debate for me was the willingness of voters particularly but not exclusively on the leave side to casually dismiss facts which did not fit with their worldview.  

But what should really alarm us is that there now seems to be substantial numbers of voters who choose to vote recklessly on the basis that “sure, it can’t get any worse, can it?” There are literally millions of people voting for Trumps, Farages and Erdogans. It can always get worse.

In 1979 the trades unions brought down Jim Callaghan’s Labour government because they thought he was too right-wing. Think they were still applauding themselves for that act after ten years of Mrs Thatcher? Reckless voters keep thinking that they can’t break the system, even when they pretend they want to.   

But they do want to break it, some say. Why shouldn’t they? They’re disengaged. Except they’re not. They are completely engaged by other taxpayers through the state. It often provides their dole, their healthcare, their housing, their kids’ education, all funded by the taxes of voters whom they themselves seem to hold in contempt for being “an elite”.

The welfare state isn’t some form of natural fiscal phenomenon. It’s a decision by voters collectively to provide what is, in many instances, a form of nationalised charity. Sure, get insulted all you want at that definition, and talk about entitlements and rights, but bear in mind that whilst all of us, in every class, cannot avoid paying some tax, even if it is just VAT, some pay far more into the pot than they draw out, and others vice versa. You know where the poor are disengaged properly? Venezuela. When you can’t even find toilet paper on the supermarket shelves. Disengagement? That’s abandonment by the state,      and it isn’t happening here.

The other awkward reality about reckless voters is their contribution to the rise of the hard anti-immigrant right in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. What do these countries all have in common? How about, in one study after another, they collectively have the highest standards of living as nations in the world, which actually means in human history. So what’s their gripe? How disengaged are they? Is their broadband speed letting them down? Not getting enough time to play Pokemon?   

What unifies Trump voters, Brexit voters, far right and far left voters? For some it is simple racism. We seem to believe that racism is no longer possible, but is merely a symptom of some other underlying cause. But guess what? Some people just don’t like people who are a different colour or creed. It doesn’t matter why, we just have to ignore them because their opinions are irrational and listening to them about the direction of society is like listening to Jimmy Saville about child protection protocols.

But I would suggest that the racists are a minority, and the real motivating factor for many of these voters is the speed of change, and that’s a big problem. Yes, immigration transforms societies, but so does technology. The speed of transport has sped up immigration, but it has also sped up shipping times from the cheaper labour less employment rights factories of China and thus made off-shoring jobs much more viable. How do you stop that?

The Trumps and the Le Pens can stop immigration, and erect walls, both physically and tariff. But they can only alter the speed of change by actually withdrawing their respective countries from the globalized economy, which has all sorts of consequences from labour shortages to the price of food in the shops.

For me, the greatest reason why we should ignore reckless voters is their belief that complexity can be removed. That “take back control” or “just send them all home” is an actual solution. This is using a match to see if there is any petrol left in the drum stuff, and it must be opposed.

Of course, all that assumes that a majority of voters will vote in a non-reckless way, and that, in the age of Trump, is a hell of an assumption to make. Just look at the Erdogan of Turkey.

In 1932, in Germany, 52% of voters voted for either the Nazi party or the Communist party. Many of those same voters would have to wait for 17 years for another free election, and only after their country lay literally in ruins and under occupation.

It is very possible for voters in a democracy to vote to abolish themselves. Reckless voters have a right to be heard. But they don’t have a right to grab control of the wheel of the bus and take us all down with them. Nor are we obliged to let them. 


What if…Prime Minister Johnson

Boris-Johnson“Just a mo,” the Prime Minister said, pulling his jacket off, then struggling with the bullet proof vest. His close protection officer helped him. It was the lightest model they could find, as the PM was “fed up looking like the Michelin man” on television, but it still added to his not inconsiderate bulk. The security services had insisted he wear it in public after he’d been shot at a month ago by yet another demented right-winger screaming at him for being a traitor. That was outside of London. In London they screamed at him for being a racist. Tony Blair had rang him recently to thank him for taking the pressure off him.

“I really appreciate it, man. I’m being invited to dinner parties in Islington I haven’t been to in years!”

He ran a hand through his blonde mop, and fell into a seat at the table, facing his chief of staff and that very sharp focus group lady they’d drafted in.

“Right, let’s get on,” he waved his hand in the air, as if signalling a dancing girl whose performance he had to tolerate.

The focus group expert clicked on a slide.

“Basically, they think you’ve betrayed them. The words liar, traitor, all keep repeating. And it is all to do with immigration.”

“But we’ve reduced immigration! Look at the stats! In the last quarter…” the PM blustered.

“Prime Minister, they don’t care about the actual details.”

She wasn’t lying, the PM thought. The justice secretary had his two front teeth punched in by a yob at a public meeting screaming at him about mass migration and “experts”. Indeed, the tone of the country had turned nasty in the three years of his premiership. Hate crimes were going through the roof as people deemed not English, whatever that meant, were subjected to all sorts of abuse on the streets. In some schools they were even having to segregate students to stop them fighting by race.

He’d been appalled by this, and was pouring resources into the police to tackle hate crimes, but that seemed to have angered some people even more. When he appointed the first non-white home secretary the amount of abuse he’d received in the post had been shocking.

“The perception, prime minister, is that you lied about stopping immigration and kicking the foreigners, in particular the Muslims, out.”

“But I never promised that!” he protested.

“They think you did. In some demographics, over 80% of respondents are convinced they heard you make that specific promise. It’s becoming a self-reaffirming loop. The more they get angry at you not delivering what they think you promised, the more they convince themselves as to what they heard you and others promise.”

He picked up a Jammie Dodger and munched on it. He really wasn’t enjoying being PM at all.

“Right, so how do we get the truth out? Brief journalists better? I mean, there’s a 14% reduction in immigration…”

The focus group woman looked at the chief of staff.

“I’m sorry prime minister, but I’m not sure it’s possible.”

“What?” the PM asked.

“This demographic is impervious to statistics or experts. All lies as far as they’re concerned, and Brexit to them was the signal that it’s OK, that they’re the real voice of the ordinary people. They only trust their own eyes, and every time they see a woman in a headscarf or a dark skinned man…I mean, we’ve had to stop using mixed-race focus groups for political work because it’s getting too dangerous. A man was nearly stabbed in one last week. Their measure of success on immigration would involve closing mosques, public arrests of non-whites, evictions from public housing. Making non-ethnic whites carry national identity cards was quite popular, especially if they were required to wear them on clothing…”

“Bollocks to that!” the PM said.

“A significant proportion think we should leave the EU?”

“We have left the EU!” the PM blurted out, biscuit crumbs going everywhere.

“They don’t believe you. Many believe we’re secret members. They believe UKIP are telling the truth. The phrase EU-Lite, you know, his phrase, comes up a lot. Also a number want to know why you aren’t promising to veto Turkey joining the EU?”

“And then there’s the £350 million a week,” the chief of staff said awkwardly.

“Not still!” the PM exclaimed.

The focus group woman nodded.

“It seems to have really locked in to public consciousness. Every local cut to spending, every school, hospital, the 350 comes up. They want to know why you aren’t using it to fund the given service. Some people think you’re using it to build a giant mosque in the next town over. It’s always the next town over.”

“It funds our access to the single market?” The PM said to nobody in particular.

“Yes, well that feeds into the UKIP line about you funding secret membership of the EU.”

The PM looked at his watch.

“I have to go. Have a state dinner for President Capaldi. Wish I had a bleedin’ TARDIS,” he muttered, as he went out the door.


The price of peace?

Posted by Jason O on Mar 22, 2016 in Events, Politics

I wrote this after the Paris attacks. Still applies today, with some changes.

It’s hard to fight an idea, and that’s the problem with IS. This isn’t Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union where there was a clear command structure and someone at the top to negotiate with, someone who can then give an order and hostilities cease. Radical Islam isn’t like that. There isn’t a boss, just loose networks and cells and feeble minded young foot soldiers willing to give their lives in pursuit of an idea.

The truth is, we’ll probably never eradicate the idea, or the threat, just learn to contain it better. Paris last year, or Brussels today, is maybe, God forgive me for saying this, the future.

The way it is going to be.

Yet there might be a way to stop the attacks. We could try to deliver on their idea, to the extent that we no longer become a target because we deliver better on it than they do.

In Ireland we could start by rounding up the small number of Irish Jews. The Chief Rabbi of Ireland, former justice minister Alan Shatter and others. Take them all to the Curragh under armed guard and then what? Maybe execute them, live on television so that IS can see our commitment to their idea? Or, to avoid the bloodshed, maybe transport them to Iraq and hand them over. At least we would not be the ones actually killing them, right?

Would that be enough? Maybe not. What about the gays then? Maybe round them up. Bit tricky, as we don’t have a list, but you know, start with Panti’s Twitter feed and go from there. True, it’ll be awkward, having celebrated passing marriage equality, but needs must. We could even use the marriage equality campaign’s email and activist list to identify more of the gays we will need to kill.

That won’t be the first instance of irony either. To placate the idea, we’ll probably have to ban all the non-Islamic religions, and pick up their advocates too. Bishops, priests, again it’d almost be funny to see David Quinn and Panti both staring at the same firing squad, but that’s the price.

Would that be enough? They’re not mad on the whole women equality thing, so strip women of their rights, just to be safe. Clare Daly, Averil Power, Ruth Coppinger, they’ll all have to be put in their place because there’ll be no room for uppity women with their notions of being equal to men. Burkas all around, no girls to go to schools, maybe beat the women who can read just to get them used to their new place. Would that be enough? At least it would solve the gender quota issue.

As we’d watch our sisters and mothers and daughters become chattel, as we watch our Jewish and gay and lesbian friends get shot dead, as we all praise Allah and punish the non-believers and especially those Muslim traitors who dared stand with the Jews and the gays and the women, maybe that’ll be enough for the believers in the idea to stop attacking us because we are implementing the idea better than they can.

Let’s do it all across Europe. Stop bombing IS. Maybe start bombing Israel instead? They’d like that, right? All across Europe we could round up the Jews again, raid the synagogues, watch the Jewish schoolchildren holding their German identity cards which told them they were equal citizens shaking in their hands as they are separated from their non-Jewish friends.

Let a religious police beat Dutch girls in Amsterdam who dare wear short skirts. Close Anne Frank’s house, because after all, the Nazis were right. Same with Auschwitz and Birkenau. We’ll have to rewrite our schoolbooks obviously. As for all those refugees fleeing IS, maybe order the Royal Navy, the Irish Navy, the Italian Navy to open fire and machine gun them in the water?

The truth is, if we surrender enough to the idea, the attacks will probably stop. If we don’t, the chances of us completely eradicating the terror cells are slim. In a continent of 500m, it’s impossible to stop every three or four poisoned fanatics with a bomb vest or a machine gun. We just can’t stop them. We may even stop most of them, but we just can’t stop them all.

The truth is, surrender is the most effective option.

But you know what?

Fuck them. Let them come with their bombs and their guns, and let them face the barrels of Muslim British soldiers or Muslim French cops or gay Dutch special forces officers or female Belgian cops. We’ll put them in the ground, and the next ones too, and then mourn our losses. Because what we have in Europe is a different idea to IS, and it is an idea worth fighting and yes, even dying for.

There is a high price we will have to pay to defend our synagogues and magazines (and airports and Metros) and gays and women and all religions and yes, our Muslims too.

The alternative is not peace, but a living death watching our Jewish friends and neighbours and all those others whom IS deems not fit to exist disappear off in the back of a truck or in a train carriage.

No. This is Europe. This is our way of life. Out on a Parisian night, flying home to family, travelling on the Metro, men, women, gays, straight, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, atheist.

This is our idea. This is our continent, our way of life, and it’s the right way of life because millions want to come here and live it too.

Paris was strong. London was strong. Madrid was strong. Brussels is strong.

Fuck them. Let the terrorists come at us. Europe can take it.


We have been here before.

Posted by Jason O on Nov 13, 2015 in European Union, Events

Repost: wrote this in response to Charlie Hebdo. It still stands.

Amidst the debate over recent events in France, there’s been, particularly online, a sub-text. In short, it’s summarised as “Yes, we know all Muslims aren’t terrorists, but…” The Irish have an insight into the thinking, having experienced it directed towards us when we were in the UK during the highpoints of Provisional IRA  terrorism. Plenty of British people looked suspiciously at the Irish and struggled to separate the murderers of Enniskillen or Hyde Park from the millions of Irish who didn’t support the IRA. Statistically, as with Muslims now, there was a higher probability that a terrorist would come from an Irish Catholic background.

There was no shortage of talk that the Irish as a people “weren’t doing enough” to condemn and oppose terrorism. Yet, what would a crack down on the Irish population in the mainland UK have done for reducing terrorism? As much as the hardline did in Northern Ireland for IRA recruitment?

The awkward reality is that Europe is faced with a choice. We can single out and target our Muslim citizens, or we can accept and treat them as we treat everybody else and fight the terrorists as simple criminals.

Speaking for myself, I don’t want to live in a Europe where the targeting of one religion is regarded as a solution to our problems, even dressed up as something like fighting terrorism. We have been here before, the only difference being that our great grandparents in the 1930s had never experienced the outcome. We have. We’ve seen the footage and we’ve stood in the places that result when you single out one religion. It starts small, with registration. Then certain jobs are restricted. Then they are made live in certain controlled zones. There are those, when faced with this argument, who say that The Jews weren’t carrying our terrorist attacks. Either are The Muslims. Nor were The Irish. Some Muslims are, and the moment we start pointing at a group as a single monolithic bloc, well, we know where it leads.

Europe is the freest place on Earth, where you can sit on a beach and on one side see Muslim girls wearing hijabs and on the other women sunbathing topless. Where a Muslim, a black and a white police officer be honoured for defending our and their way of life. The threats to that freedom come from extremists on many sides, and we must be vigilant.

But the biggest single threat to that freedom is not a savage attack on a magazine. We can face that down. We are stronger than those bastards. The biggest single threat is the temptation to destroy our freedom by forgetting the lessons of our European past, by listening to those who point to one group of Europeans and say that they are the problem and we must find a “solution” to them.

We have been here before.


Give Greece a wire brush write-off?

Posted by Jason O on Jun 30, 2015 in European Union, Events, The Sunday Business Post

Sunday business post logoPublished in The Sunday Business Post

15th March 2015

When it comes down to it, if they’re honest, the Germans will probably admit in private that there isn’t a hope in hell of Greece paying back its debt. They’ll also admit that the debt isn’t really the problem.

The real problem is that Angela’s hard line is beginning to take on the same golden calf standing in German politics as the commitment to restoring the national language is here. Except unlike us, the Germans tend to mean it.

We forget that for every Greek worker waving a sign saying “We are not a German colony” there’s a German worker happy to hold aloft a sign saying “Not a cent of my taxes, Angie!”, and unlike the Greeks, the Germans actually can remove her from office.

But what really matters to the Germans is the fear that firstly, the Greeks will immediately go back to their old ways of regarding taxation as being an interesting philosophical concept, and secondly, the Spanish, Irish, Portuguese and Italians will all suddenly stop self-flagellating, look at our trousers bunched around our ankles, and pull a collective “Now, hold on a minute!”

The trick then, is to find a way of cutting the Greeks some slack but doing it in such a way that the other problem countries do a Meatloaf: “I’ll do anything . . . but I won’t do THAT!”

A bit of imagination will be required. It’s all well and good signing memorandums of understanding, but nobody really believes them. You have to make them do something so humiliating that other countries baulk at the idea of requesting the same deal. For example, letting Brussels nominate the head of Greece’s tax collection authorities, and the head of its public service, and maybe even its finance, labour and justice ministers.

Extreme? Yes. Humiliating? Definitely. Worth a hundred billion of a write-off? Hmmm.

Would the Irish, Spanish or Italians concede the same? I doubt it. Sure, the wags say that Greece and Italy did actually let Brussels nominate their prime ministers, but this is much bigger. This is actual direct control.

Would we allow Olli Rehn be appointed to the Seanad and then made Minister for Taxation and Public Sector Reform for a €30 billion write-off? Sure, we announce, until he tries to bring in, say, Swedish tax transparency where everybody’s salary and tax is published online. Or tries to get us to pay for, God forbid, the actual amount of water we use?

How would our political class react if Brussels demanded that all our junior ministers not be members of the Oireachtas, but people technically knowledgeable of the portfolios they are covering?

How would learned colleagues in the Kings Inns react to a Dutch justice minister announcing that he was abolishing the difference between Irish barristers and solicitors? Good God man, an affront to democracy! There’d be wigs flying everywhere in indignation.

Suddenly €30 billion would become a mere metaphysical construct, something that pales into insignificance when your real live water bill arrives and the minister thinks nothing of turning off the water supply if you don’t pay, and doesn’t know or care who Joe Duffy is.

Yeah, the demonstrations will be all “national sovereignty now!” but the truth is that we wouldn’t want that nosy bloke from down the road looking up how much you actually earn and pay in tax, or that you don’t declare to the Revenue that mobile home you rent out every summer.

This would be the troika on speed with a SWAT team. We’d actually harp back nostalgically to Ajai Chopra and the way he’d look at you, peering over his half-moon glasses and saying “these ministerial pensions are a bit Liberace, aren’t they?”

And that’s the problem: the Greek compromise by its very nature, whilst relieving the actual pain of the Greek people, has to humiliate them to ensure that the rest of us don’t ask for a portion. We’ve got to wheel a lovely big wooden horse up to the gates of Athens, and everybody has to know what it means.

It’s like those old stories about how so many sexually transmitted diseases were solved with a bottle of Dettol and a wire brush. Has to be done, good in the long run, but still makes onlookers look on and exhale with a grimace thinking, “Thank Christ that’s not me.”


RIP Leonard Nimoy

Posted by Jason O on Mar 1, 2015 in Events, Jason's Diary

Pick a star, and head on ’til morning.



Charlie Hebdo

Posted by Jason O on Jan 7, 2015 in European Union, Events, Politics

As a general rule, there’s something pretty obnoxious about setting out to insult someone else’s religious beliefs. In a free society, one has a right to do it. But good manners sometimes dictates that you keep your opinion to yourself. We all have to live here, after all, and the mark of a civilised society is that we all tolerate and respect each other, even those we disagree with.

Having said that, the right to offend has to be pretty much inviolate, because like democracy itself, mankind has yet to devise a better system. Surrender the right to offend with your opinions, surrender it to the state or some other authority, and you chip away at freedom itself.

Too much freedom of speech is always less of a risk than too little, and those who advocate restricting freedom of speech are nearly always talking about other people, not themselves.

But using violence to define the borders as to what opinion is acceptable? That has no place in the free world. Believe in that, and there is no place for you here. Go to one of those lesser nations who believe in the approved opinion, the ones whose people are always fleeing to live in Europe or North America or Australia or New Zealand.

This is not negotiable, if you are born here or came here. Freedom of speech, democratic elections, the rule of law, religious freedom, equality between men and women are not some a la carte menu to be chosen from when it suits. This is our society, and it works. The United States and the countries of the European Union could give away a million free passports in a day if we wished, with no doubt that there’ll be no shortage of takers. These are the fundamentals, and we may tinker with them, but they aren’t going away. If you can’t bear to live in a society where people can tweet cartoons you don’t like, then you should go away.

If you choose to take up arms against that society, then we will take up arms against you, and there are literally millions of us ready to fight to defend what we have built here.

Our society, for all its flaws, is the pinnacle of Human progress. It separated church and state, ended slavery, defends the rights of minorities and believes in individual freedom.

It is not up for negotiation, and as the millions on the streets of France and across Europe tonight have shown, it will be defended.


Scotland: 10 years after Yes.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 13, 2014 in British Politics, European Union, Events, Not quite serious.

Scottish-Parliament-22664852024: As Scottish voters go to the polls in Scotland’s third general election since it voted Yes to independence in 2014, many will be pondering how things turned out in the Scottish republic after its first decade as an independent nation.

The fact that it is a republic will certainly have come as a surprise to those who voted Yes in 2014. The passing of Queen Elizabeth II in 2019 gave the SNP the moment to dust off their plan to complete the project, rushing through a bill in Holyrood creating the office of President, to be filled by parliament itself. After much negotiation, a beloved Scottish actor agreed to take the position, although only as a strictly non-party head of state. The headlines were variations of “President Who?”

Criticism of the SNP administration is rampant, although, for certain reasons, not as boisterous as one would expect. The decision of the government to create and generously fund a Scottish Broadcasting Service dedicated to “the promotion of Scottish culture and values” tends to ensure that the government point of view is always put across. That’s not to say that the opposition parties are denied access. They’re not. But casual remarks about them as “the English parties” by the odd presenter is not unusual. The fact that the majority of the board of governors of the SBS have SNP connections isn’t remarked upon too much.

Likewise, the decision of the Minister for the Protection of Scottish Culture and Heritage to generously subsidise private media organisations which promoted the culture also had an effect on how the media covers stories. Indeed, cultural subsidy of Scottish produced media, very much based on the French model, with requirements that a certain percentage of material broadcast be created in Scotland, is the norm, and is much welcomed by the Scottish arts community. The joke is that former “Taggart” cast members are getting very rich on the royalties. Once again, there are murmurings about journalists not being censored or directed as to what to write, but aware of what side their bread is buttered.

Then there is the Scottish Security Agency. Stating that the first priority of a state must be to protect its people, the post-vote government immediately moved to create an internal security agency, staffed initially by former Scottish MI5 and British Army intelligence operatives. The agency was given the mandate to fight crime, espionage and terrorism, but also to prevent threats to Scottish values. It’s this part of its charter which has been most controversial, especially when it emerged that the SSA had been keeping opposition MSPs under surveillance. The Director of the SSA, meeting with a parliamentary committee, caused both outrage and applause when he defended the practice, pointing out that the former unionist parties had actively fought the existence of the country, and so their loyalty to the country must surely be in doubt.

That attitude is more prevalent than many admit. Many former Labour, Lib Dem and Tory politicians in Scotland chose to move to England after the Holyrood Parliament made it illegal for Scottish office holders to hold UK passports. Likewise, only those holding Scottish citizenship alone can now vote in parliamentary elections. Indeed, to qualify for social welfare payments, a Scottish citizen is required to prove that they had voted.

The period between the Yes vote and Scottish entry into the EU and other international organisations allowed the SNP, almost uniquely without international restraint, to shape the state in their own image, pushing through constitutional changes with a slim parliamentary majority. As the president comes to the end of his term, Scots vote knowing that the next president will, under SNP legislation, have the power to assume executive power, an idea the SNP borrowed from the “staunchly democratic” Erdogan administration in Turkey.

Polls show that the outcome is balanced between the SNP on one side, and the Alliance for Change on the other, but questions must surely be asked as to the ability of the SNP to move the state apparatus in its own benefit, especially with the use of oil revenues to subsidise “strategic” industries, again with the proviso that the SNP government have a direct say in the hiring policy of those firms subsidised. In the universities, membership of the SNP is taken as a wise move, career-wise.

Writers note: this is a pisstake, not a prediction!


Frank and Birgitte Vs. The Kremlin.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 4, 2014 in European Union, Events, Not quite serious.

The White House.

President Frank Underwood rises from his seat to greet EU Council President and former Danish Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg Christensen.

Frank:      “Birgitte, my God, look at you, it’s youngah you’re                               gettin’!”

Birgitte:   “Thank you Frank, you can take the syrup as poured,”

The President smiles at his EU counterpart, and directs her to a sofa.

Frank:     “Would you like a snack, Birgitte? Perhaps some                   ribs, or maybe I could tempt you to join me in                       an iced tea?”

Birgitte:  “Actually, I would like an apple, if that’s                                   possible?”

Frank:     “An apple? How sensible of you.” (sotto voce to                      camera: “An apple! How European!”)

Frank presses a button on his desk.

Frank:     “Maria, can we get President of the European Council of the European Union Nyborg                         (glance to camera) one of our delicious South Carolina apples?”

He then sits across from Birgitte.

Frank:      “Birgitte, I don’t mind telling you, It’s hard enough tryin’ to keep the Kremlin from                            spoiling the front patio when you guys over there in the European Union can’t agree on                      lunch, never mind a position on the Ukraine. I’ve seen better organised herds of                                  arthritic cats.”

Birgitte:   “I agree, but I think we can come to a common position…”

Frank:      “When? When he’s in Kiev? Riga? Warsaw? Birgitte, I grew up with guys like                                        our friend Vladimir. He’s a pretty straight guy, but he’ll only be straight with people he                     regards as equals. Whilst you guys are debating whether to cancel his subscription to                         G20 magazine, this guy is gonna keep helpin’ himself to your lunch money. You can win                     his respect alright: (Frank raps his heavy ring on the coffee table). With the stick.                               Maybe not used, but ready to be used.”

Birgitte:  “I agree Frank. I’m a nice caring European liberal, but I know a fascist when I                                     see one. I just think we need a little outside the box thinking.”

Frank:     “Go on.”

Birgitte:  “I’ve spent two days assembling a peacekeeping force. Denmark, Poland, Germany,                           France, Belgium and Luxembourg for a start…”

Frank:      “Luxembourg? Does Luxembourg even have tanks?”

Birgitte:    “They have anti-tank missiles and professional well-trained soldiers who know how to                      use them, Frank, and a Luxembourgish missile will take the turret off a Russian tank                          just as effectively as an American one. It’s a small force, Frank, just 160 vehicles. But I                      also have been studying this…”

Birgitte handed a file to the President. He opened it.

Frank:        “Public tenders for various building projects across Europe and the US. I don’t…”

Birgitte:     “Look at who is bidding on them.”

Frank reads on, smiles to himself, then turns to the camera: (“The Chinese are bidding on all these. Two Chinese firms in particular, both owned by members of the Chinese Military Commission. I Like the way her Nordic mind works!”)

Frank:        “You’re thinking of a pincer movement, aren’t you madame President?”

Birgitte smiles slightly.

Birgitte:     “NATO command tell me that the Chinese have a major exercise planned for the                                 Russian border for three weeks from now. Of course, if they were to suddenly mobilise                      and bring the exercise forward.”

Frank:        “Even the Kremlin doesn’t want to be worrying about an EU force entering the                                     Ukraine…”

Birgitte:       “A small but well-equipped peacekeeping force with US support available if needed,                          at the invitation of the Ukraine government,”

Frank smiled.

Frank:          “Of course. At the same time a million heavily armed Chinese are testing their shiny                            new armoured personnel carriers and fighter bombers on their Eastern flank.”

Birgitte:       “We’ll have to convince the Ukrainians to respect the Russian minority, of course,                              and perhaps devolve some autonomy to the Crimea and some other regions, but we                            leave the Kremlin very clear as to our lunch money.”

Frank:          “That we do, madame President. Let me see what happened to your apple. I wonder                          did they send someone to South Carolina to pick it!”


Anti-capitalist protestors still want a capitalist standard of living.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 17, 2011 in Events, Irish Politics

Money, the cause and solution of all problems.

Money, the cause and solution of all problems.

The “Occupation” protests in Wall Street and elsewhere are understandable. However, there is a certain tone to them which is disturbing, primarily because of its vagueness. In short, they’re heavy on emotion but light on rational think through, focussing not on what economic model we should be utilising, but instead the idea that there is an evil 1% who have ruined everything for everybody else, and if those people vanished everything would be ok.

As a means of venting frustration, this makes perfect sense. But it doesn’t point to an idea as to how we choose to run this planet. Many of the protestors are quick to dismiss capitalism as a failed model, but the reality is that post-1945 spike in living standards in the west was funded by capitalism. The welfare state, although initially funded by social insurance and taxation, eventually expanded to require the much hated capitalist bond markets to make up the deficit. We created a welfare system where people believe in a right to healthcare regardless of actual cost and a fixed retirement date even though advances in healthcare (brought about mostly by capitalism) have led to huge increases in healthcare costs and also increased the cost of funding pensions for people living far longer than when their retirement date expected them to. Follow that with the low taxes movement of the 1980s, led by President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, which moved to slash tax revenues whilst doing relatively little to match those tax cuts with spending reductions, which then put an even greater demand on the bond markets to fund the welfare system. Today, we’re reaping the reward of that.

Could we create a model that doesn’t need capitalism and the bond markets? Probably, provided we are willing to live in a society free of the baubles of the capitalist system. We could build societies based on the revenue generated within that society, but you’re talking a bare bones society free from iPads and designer labels and Sky Sports, or foreign holidays, credit cards or multiple cars and it’s there that the anti-capitalist occupiers start to lose commitment. You are asking people to work hard for far less disposable income, in effect, a form of permanent austerity programme. 

What we are talking about is a more equal society closer to the 1920s in terms of consumer choice and standard of living, and let us not forget that the much hated 1% included Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and the musicians and filmmakers and many of the people that innovated the products we have grown to love. If we are to have a society where accumulating substantial wealth through innovation is not to be permitted, fair enough. But don’t expect those people to just sit quietly. Somewhere in the world will welcome them, and there they shall go, and prosper, because there is a reason why hardly any of us have products in our homes from actual communist economies. Unless, of course, you decide that they are not permitted to exit the state, and must stay and work. Problem is, the whole of Russia and Eastern Europe tried that from 1945-1989, and it didn’t work either, at least, not without shooting a lot of people.

Copyright © 2016 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.