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

 
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6 awkward facts about the refugee crisis.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 2, 2016 in European Union, Politics

1. Europeans don’t really want a load of dead bodies washing up on their beaches, nor do they not want to not help. Yeah, it’s that convoluted, but we are Europe.

2. Despite wanting to do the right thing, we don’t want a sudden surge of millions of immigrants arriving in Europe. Especially Islamic immigrants because of, you know, the thing.

3. We also know that by letting loads of immigrants arrive we will bring out the Inner Nazi in many of our citizens, and with that destroy the beautiful border-free continent we have built since 1957 instead of marching across each others borders with pointy helmets and questionable facial hair in the traditional manner.

4. As with every European problem, we know we have to solve it but don’t want to go far enough to actually solve it, which would involve either:

A) amassing a Vast European Army to invade Syria, shoot everybody who doesn’t look like they at least tolerate Guardian readers, and appoint a Pro-Consul like Paddy Ashdown or Nicolas Sarkozy to run the place and continue to mow down every IS nut in a bulging jacket and possibly the odd Russian “little green man” trying to stir up trouble,

or

B) annex part of North Africa, turn it into initially a vast refugee safezone to redirect everybody who tries to get into Europe, and eventually A Little Piece Of Europe where refugees could build a life for themselves under the watchful eyes of the above Vast European Army and said Pro-Consul.

6. Instead, we’re more likely to pass laws that we won’t enforce, shout at each other as the Russians prise away their former colonial underlings with the support of various hard-right traitors pretending to be patriots, and watch as this, the greatest, most  free, most peaceful, most prosperous Europe ever falls apart in petty nationalist bickering as China looms over The West. Oh, did I mention make deals with would-be Turkish tyrants and abandon the Greeks and Italians who rightly point out that this is a European problem and it’s grossly unfair that they be dumped with it?

 
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The Misguided Nostalgia of the Nation-State.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 13, 2016 in British Politics, European Union, Irish Politics, Politics

Europe_before_WWIFrom Geert Wilders in the Netherlands to Gerry Adams in Ireland to Marine Le Pen in France and Nigel Farage in the UK, there’s a common theme emerging across modern Europe.

After 50 years of European integration and globalisation, it has started once again to become fashionable to believe that nationalism has the answers. That if a country could just retreat behind its borders everything would be fine.

It’s a very attractive proposition in its simplicity. Close the borders, tell Brussels and whomever else to f**k off and we can all go about our business like we did in the nostalgic golden period that existed before the EU. When did it exist again? Before 1914? When we didn’t have obesity because the poor literally hadn’t enough food? The 1920s and 1930s when one after another European government fell under fascist control? That Golden Age?

But let’s set that nostalgia to one side, and face the reality of the nation-state as solution to our modern problems. Can we control multinationals and make sure they pay tax? Perhaps the US can, maybe China, but pretty much nobody else.

Immigration? Given the option of every country just quietly moving the refugees onto their wealthier neighbours, the answer is that border control would cost expenditure on a de facto warlike footing. That imaginary money you’d save by stopping immigrants, on housing and healthcare? Spend that now on border police and fences and holding centres and massively expanded navies.

Then there’s selling stuff. Regulation, tariffs, quotas, all the tools of the nation-state trying to keep various interests happy, and all with a price attached.

Want to buy a new imported car? Sure why would you need that when we make our own here? Why doesn’t it come with Bluetooth? Listen to you and your unpatriotic notions!

There is something of a gut appeal about the nation-state, being amongst “our own”, with our own culture  and language and music. It feels safer for sure. And let’s be honest: it does work. As long as a country is willing to make its own hard choices about its own resources, and carry the appropriate burden, it can work. But as you expel young foreign workers and tax their imports and restore the national currency, be aware of the choices, as other countries send your aging ex-pats back to you.

The greatest source of unhappiness during the Great Recession has been the anger created by governments making hard choices. Every nationalist hardliner has tried to suggest that nationalism presents an easier path of less hardship and easing of burden.

A Europe without the euro and the EU is a Europe of sovereign nations standing up for their own interests. Sounds fine, and it will be right up to the moment the French government shields French farmers from Irish and British competition. Or Germany puts a tax on German pension funds investing in London. Or Britain taxes pharmaceuticals coming into the UK from Ireland. Or Spain devalues the Peseta Nuevo against the Franc Nouveau. All the acts of sovereign governments. All new problems.

The European Union was, and remains, a forum where like-minded nations can work together to resolve the problems of the modern world, which are bigger than modern nations. Syria isn’t a British or Danish problem, but it affects them, and their leaders know it too.

The leaders of modern countries know that so many problems from trade to disease to war to refugees to crime start outside our borders. You can either cooperate on them, or hide behind your borders and try to manage the consequences. But the idea that the problems themselves will vanish or get easier is nonsense.

This is the world we live in. It isn’t going away no matter had hard we wave our flags.

 
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The Empire vs. the Federation: a comparison.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 21, 2015 in Cult TV, Movies, Movies/TV/DVDs, Not quite serious., Politics, Science Fiction

death star 2Watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and also seeing the new Star Trek trailer got me thinking recently about how society is ordered in both systems. Admittedly, the Empire existed when humans were still in dwelling in caves, and so a like-for-like comparison isn’t quite fair, but as models go they’re worth comparing.

Which works better? Depends on the question.

Economic Freedom: there’s no comparison. The Empire is a free trade Caveat Emptor kind of place, with huge discrepancies between rich and poor. Slavery is tolerated. On the negative side, private property rights don’t seem to be respected by the state as much as just tolerated. Imperial stormtroopers can burn down your farm without as much as a “by your leave.”Star Trek Enterprise Ship 1701 2

The Federation, on the other hand, is almost the opposite, in that it is in effect a Communist society where possibly all property is owned by the state. Having said that, civil rights seem to apply to a home and individual once it has been allocated. Slavery is banned in the Federation, as is discrimination based on many criteria. Many of them. The Federation seems to have more laws than the Empire has stormtroopers.

The Political System: both systems seem to devolve a lot of non-military power to local decision making, however it is chosen locally. There is a tendency in the Federation towards only permitting members to join that govern with the broad consent of their people and involves detailed negotiation and examination of a candidate. The Empire, on the other hand, just annexes planets. Think British Empire. vs EU.

The Empire is a dictatorship. The Federation Council is chosen by member states, with the Federation President being a low profile bureaucrat. Russia vs EU. Neither hold galactic elections. Only one has a leader who personally murders people.

Civil liberties: There are pretty much none in the Empire, whereas the Federation has probably the most civil liberties in any galaxy. The Empire executes people. The Federation does have the death penalty, but very rarely uses it. Instead, prisoners tend to be exiled to New Zealand. That’ll learn ‘em. Finally, Imperial forces seem to be limited to humanoids and clones, whereas Starfleet is multicultural. It might explain why stormtroopers are such dreadful shots.

Military power: Although the Imperial fleet is much bigger than Starfleet, the Federation’s ships are technologically more advanced, with both cloaking (unofficially) and transport technology. Most Imperial weapons seem to be crude energy blasters, whereas Federation weapons are targeted and sustained beams. Both sides boast a superweapon. The Empire has a Death Star, the Federation the Genesis Device. The Death Star has superior range, whereas the Genesis Device would have to be delivered from orbit by a cloaked ship. Having said that the GD leaves the planet intact and devoid of life, ready to be reseeded with plant life. It is the neutron bomb of the galaxy.

The Empire has far superior ground forces, with the Federation having a very limited Military Assault Command capability. It also has better psychics who can actually do stuff aside from sense that people are stressful.

So, of the two systems, where would one choose to live? It’s a simple enough choice. If you are a swashbuckling scofflaw with a belief that you can make your own way and outrun any other ship (and do, maybe, the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs, say) then the Empire is for you.

If, on the other hand, you want order, dignity, and enough money to live a nice middle-class life but no more, the Federation is the one. You can become very rich in the Empire, but also have it taken off you at a whim by the starving underclass or the shady Ayatollah who runs it. And they’ll either freeze your ass off or feed you to some sort of giant sand sphincter with teeth.

In the Federation you can work your way up through the fleet by meritocracy, or sit on your ass writing light operas. Whatever floats your boat. You won’t go hungry, and neither bounty hunters nor the military will bother you.

Unless the Empire decide they quite fancy owning the Federation, of course.

 
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Christmas gifts for the political anorak.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 15, 2015 in Politics

Either you’re the one, or you know one: the guy or girl who’s “into the politics”, and it means that this time of year buying gifts is deemed easy. “Sure isn’t he into the politics, won’t he love Eamonn Gilmore’s book?” Except, and here’s the thing, he probably won’t. He’ll have either read it already if he really wanted to, or has no interest in reading it, because just because it’s about politics doesn’t mean he wants to.

So, what to do? Well, fret not. Here’s a list of gifts for the political junkie in your life that they may not have. More importantly, some of these are old enough that you might even get them for very modest money in a second-hand bookshop. And yes, if it is the right book, they won’t mind it’s second-hand, something non-readers never seem to understand.

1. The Clann by Kevin Rafter. A short history of Clann na Poblachta, and with the election coming, a fascinating insight into a new party and what it takes.

2. Any Magill Election Guide from the 1980s. They’re harder to get these days, but are crammed full of the stats and pictures of aul fellas looking young pol-junkies love.

3. Making the difference? The Irish Labour Party 1912-2012. A collection of fascinating pieces on the history of Labour.

4. “Borgen” (DVD). Less people have seen this Danish political drama as it’s a bit pricey to buy. But it’s great. There’s also a Borgen companion book out now too.

5. Talking to a Brick Wall by Deborah Mattinson. Gordon Brown’s focus grouper, and a fascinating insight into modern political communication.

6. “Veep” (DVD). I have to admit to being a big fan of the HBO comedy series about the US Vice President. Again, not seen by many.

7. “Seven Days in May” (DVD): a thriller from the 1960s starring Kirk Douglas, about an attempted coup in the US. A great yarn.

8. “State of the Union” (DVD) A 1948 Frank Capra movie about Spencer Tracy’s millionaire industrialist running for President. Famous for his speech at the end.

9. “The Last Hurrah” (DVD) Another Spencer Tracy, this time about the old machine ward boss mayor of Boston running for re-election. You’ll see exactly what we did to US politics.

10. “City Hall” (DVD) Al Pacino as the mayor of New York. A cautionary tale about the compromises good men make in politics.

11. “The French Minister” (DVD) French comedy about a young advisor to France’s dynamic yet demented foreign minister during an international crisis.

12. “Salamander” (DVD) Belgian political thriller about a political conspiracy triggered by the robbing of an exclusive bank. Particularly entertaining for the dour middle aged police inspector hero who bizarrely has women flinging themselves at him.

 
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Cultural Appropriation is a good, rational, liberal thing.

Posted by Jason O on Nov 26, 2015 in Politics

I’d never heard of the phrase “cultural appropriation” until about two years ago, when someone objected to white people using a (non-offensive) word of American black origin. I can’t recall the word, but I remember the fury of the writer at the idea that other people could use words her ethnic group had originated. 

As a concept, I find it bizarre, the idea that a word or idea could be owned by any person, let alone a group. 

“We invented the colour yellow. Anyone else who uses it is oppressing us!” Am I supposed to be outraged at an Englishman using the word “craic”? Should an Englishman be offended at me using that great Irish phrase “Careful now!” because it is in his language, or me offended because it was written by two Irishmen for a British sitcom starring Irish actors filmed predominantly in London with British money but set in Ireland? More to the point, does any of this actually matter?   

I’m old enough to remember when Cultural Appropriation was something racist bigots feared. From Alf Garnett style fear of “smelly foreign food” to the KKK’s terror of the blood mixing of the races and the contamination of the bloodline, the far right looked at other cultures and saw nothing they wanted. Are we supposed to applaud that now? If I look at other races or nations and see food, clothing, language, things that I like more than my own native culture and suddenly that makes me some sort of colonial? Seriously?
Let’s just be clear here: the idea that you can look at another culture, see that they do something better, and say let’s copy what they’re doing, is what we used to call progress.

Ah, scream the Permanently Offended, but what if that food or culture belonged to a people who had been oppressed by your ancestors? You know what, I don’t give a toss. Let my ancestors answer for their crimes, I’m not carrying the can for them. Let us answer for our own crimes, not the crimes of ghosts.

Cultural Appropriation is if anything a badge of respect and open mindedness, that you accept that there is no such thing as an all knowing master race but that we can all learn something from the other people.

In short, Cultural Appropriation is the epitome of being liberal.

 
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Welcome to Bertieland.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 15, 2015 in European Union, Irish Politics, Not quite serious., Politics

Bertie AhernBertie Ahern had sat down with a mug of tea and a small plate of chocolate digestives, just as “Murder, she wrote” was starting, when his mobile rang. It was lashing down outside, real cats and dogs with extra dogs weather.

He frowned at the number. He didn’t recognise it, and had problems in the past with smart alecs getting his number and giving him abuse over the phone. The gas thing was that every one of them thought he was the first fella to do it. Bertie rarely hung up, just put the phone in the breadbin in the kitchen and went about his business, letting them tire themselves out. He’d occasionally pick up the phone to see if they were still there, catch a “Galway tent” or the like, and just carry on. They’d normally hang up in frustration, although one got quite distressed at the fact that Bertie had neither replied not hung up, and started asking was he OK. The former Taoiseach had ended up talking to that one, and they spent twenty minutes talking about the upcoming Premiership season. Your man hung up with a cheerful goodbye, having completely forgotten why he’d rung in the first place.

Bertie answered the phone.

“Mr Ahern? This is the Federal Chancellor’s office: can you take a call from Chancellor Merkel?”

Half of his chocolate digestive fell into his tea with the shock. He hadn’t spoken to her in a few years.

“Oh, eh, yeah. Of course.” His brain was racing. Could this be some smartarse radio DJ?

When the voice came on it sure sounded like her. Her English was better than people thought, but she didn’t really feel at ease using it. She always struggled to sound happy to be talking to someone, even when she was.

Read more…

 
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Fishamble presents: Bailed Out!

Posted by Jason O on Jul 29, 2015 in Irish Politics, Politics

bailedIf you enjoyed Colin Murphy’s excellent “Guaranteed!” which told the tale of the bank guarantee, then, like me, you’ll be looking forward to “Bailed Out!”, the story of Ireland and the Troika.

Based on official accounts and off the record interviews, Murphy sets out to tell the story of the crisis that nearly crippled the country. If it’s half as good as “Guaranteed!” we’re in for a treat.

Coming to the Pavilion Theatre from September 23rd.

 
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Crisis: a nuclear attack on Israel.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 3, 2015 in Fiction, Politics, US Politics

nuke

Repost.

The weapon, later identified as a 10 mega-ton former Soviet warhead, detonated just as the new Knesset began proceedings. In a flash, Israel’s administrative capital, political leadership and just under three quarters of a million Israelis died, along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.

The news was greeted in different ways. In the US, the president was rushed to the emergency national airborne command post, whilst the vice president and others were sent to the alternate national command centre in Mount Weather. US forces were ordered to def con 2.

In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Riyadh, spontaneous crowds gathered in grotesque displays of euphoria.

Read more…

 
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Good TV: Boss

Posted by Jason O on Jun 18, 2015 in Cult TV, Movies/TV/DVDs, Politics, US Politics

boss_poster

You’d be hard pressed to find a more cynical show about American politics than the two seasons and then cancelled series “Boss”, starring Kelsey Grammar. Grammar plays a Richard Daley style mayor of Chicago, and plays it very convincingly. Many say they struggle to watch Grammar without seeing Frasier Crane, but I find him a very watchable dramatic actor, and he certainly puts his acting chops on display here. He manages to be charming, impressive, cold, neurotic and terrifying in the role of Mayor Tom Kane.

I’m not surprised that it was cancelled as a show, because it lacks charm. if there is one word to describe it, it’s bleak. The style’s similar to Glenn Close’s “Damage”, which was another great drama but was just so full of morally bankrupt or compromised people and completely devoid of humour. This is the problem with “Boss”. Having known as many politicians as I have known in my life, I just can’t believe that everyone in public office is an amoral, self-serving, unsmiling prick. Is US politics, and Chicago politics in particular different? Possibly, but I doubt it. The show lacked a genuine human angle.

Like “House of Cards” that came after it, “Boss” works on the assumption that almost everybody in politics is on the make, including Kane’s icy wife played by Connie Nielsen in a proto-Claire Underwood. It also assumes that voters are very easily manipulated by pretty speeches and handsome candidates and soundbites. Indeed, it’s a very fashionable view in media circles (outside of political correspondents, who actually know better)  and indeed with growing numbers of voters, but it just ain’t true.

Kane as a mayor is convincing as the corrupt bastard who makes the buses run on time and keeps the streets clean, and I can buy voters holding their noses and voting for that. But the other candidates seem like stuffed shirts talking in soundbites, doing that thing non-politicians think is possible: moving votes by really subtle actions. You know the sort of thing: “Don’t forget to mention that your cousin was Polish. That’ll get the Polish vote on board.”

“Boss” is a watchable show, but does nothing to dispel the feeling that democracy is warping into something very very ugly.

Copyright © 2018 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.