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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mystic Skinner foresees again

You thought I'd forgotten, didn't you?

There I was, getting all carried away with my new Axis of Evil. I'd gone and forgotten to make my 2009 predictions. Nope. I hadn't. It's just that they're so depressing I was in two minds about posting them.

Make no mistake, this isn't going to be the best year for the vast majority of people on the planet. There will be economic upheaval, recession, war, famine, epidemics, poverty and the continued denial of human rights and democracy.

But specifics. You want specifics, right? Okay.

1. A severe crash in the housing market of Britain and Ireland, even worse than what's already occurred. The governments forced to intervene with banks to prevent massive scale repossessions and defaults.

2. The credit card lifestyle bill finally lands on the mat. Plenty of people with no assets other than a few payments on a 08-D car are going to find themselves defaulting on some very expensive credit loans. The problem of arranging refinancing, from semi-bankrupt banks who themselves cannot get credit, for these unsupported loans is going to stretch the banking sector beyond breaking point.

3. Multinationals use the excuse of recession to relocate to Eastern Europe. Cue 100,000 redundancies next year in Ireland.

4. Euro or no euro (and given that 40% of our trade is with the sterling zone even today, the euro is not currently helping), we might actually have to call in the IMF if the government cannot raise the funds to deal with their income shortfall AND that of the banks, especially if the credit card bill arrives too.

5. Empty shopfronts in high streets. Cars with for sale signs. Travel agents, estate agents, motor retailers all going bust.

6. A general election in Ireland after either the Greens grow stones and pull out of Government or they lose a crucial Dail vote, an election which Fianna Fail lose quite significantly to a Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

7. Obama's Clinton re-run presidency gets off to a poor start with a series of foreign affairs crises that even Bill and Hill can't solve for the noobie. For potential flashpoints, think Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, Ukraine, Indonesia and as usual most of Africa.

8. Britain definitely starts pulling out of their occupations. Troops to start leaving Iraq and Afghanistan. As recession bites, there will be a further round of culls in the Northern Irish public service sector.

9. Chelsea for the league, with Liverpool nipping their heels in second. United a distant third. Fergie to quit at long last. Perhaps Wenger to join him in walking from the Premiership.

10. The beginning of the end of low cost air travel. As airlines consolidate, and routes decrease, and more and more craft are parked in the Nevada desert, the consumer ends up with the worst of all worlds - prices like the luxury days of the 1970s with service of contemporary Ryanair.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The real axis of evil

Anyone recall the Bush baby's hilarious 'axis of evil' speech?

It was basically his shit-list of countries that he didn't like. And wanted to threaten. It included various rum locations like North Korea and Iran. None of them places you'd like to wake up a peasant in, but equally none of them currently occupying other people's countries.

So I thought it might be useful to put together an alternative axis of evil list, based on the proportion of misery particular countries are responsible for in the world today.

1. United States of America. Well, who else? Two foreign occupations, the ongoing 'wars' on 'terror' and 'drugs', state-sponsored kidnap and torture, funding Israel. They're really in a class of their own.

2. China. Repeated famines of their own population, the ongoing occupation of sovereign Tibet, the suppression of internal minorities, the sabre-rattling at Taiwan, and some extremely dodgy dealings in Africa.

3. Israel. An illegal state formed on other people's land, currently engaged in a particularly vociferous and unjustifiable genocide of the indigenous inhabitants. 300 dead in Gaza in the past couple of days alone. Israel is the terrorist state destabilising the entire Middle East, with American assistance.

4. 'Great' Britain. America's lapdogs in Iraq and Afghanistan. So that makes at least three foreign countries their military are currently engaged in, including their occupation of the North of Ireland.

5. Zimbabwe. Mugabe's syphilitic insanity should not be permitted to stand in the way of the self-determination of these beleaguered people any more.

6. Russia. Putin has seen how America has been permitted by the international community to wander into other countries with impugnity and has decided to emulate them. Their 'near abroad' of former Soviet states remains under constant risk of invasion if they don't tow Putin's line, as Georgia discovered this year and the Ukraine may well the next.

7. Pakistan. Politically in ruins, riven by terrorists in the tribal areas, deeply repressive to women and non-Muslims, Pakistan is a nuclear power with a series of border disputes with equally nuclear neighbours India and China.

8. Somalia. Without any apparatus of government for many years now, Somalia is now a devastated zone of anarchy from which pirates flood in droves to prey on the world's transit traffic.

The list of honourable mentions, where the people are denied democracy and self-determination by unelected elites, runs into dozens, sadly. There is no room to list all the states, on every continent, which refuse to permit their people free rein over their own destinies.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mystic Skinner to stay in day job?

It's near enough the end of the year now, and since I still don't know where I will be on the 31st (though I can pretty much guarantee I won't be sober), it is now time to review the annual Skinner predictions.

It might be time to return to the day job. Perhaps the crystal ball needs a good wipe down. But it won't stop me having another go tomorrow on what 2009 has in store for us.

Now, on with the show:

JC said: Pakistan becomes the no. 1 threat to world peace. By no. 1, I mean the return of the nuclear fear and five minutes to midnight.

2008 said: This is true. It's not covered so much on the Western media, but Pakistan is desperately unstable and is easily the biggest threat to global security (apart from the United States ongoing foreign policy, which we've had for some time.)
What with the Islamist bombings of Mumbai, the murder of Benazir Bhutto, the ongoing Kashmir issue, the porous tribal area borders with Afghanistan and the instability of Pakistani politics internally, we're set for more sweats from Pakistan, I suspect. Good prediction.

JC said: Bertie gets dumped at long last by Fianna Fail. When the chairman starts offering support to the manager in soccer, it's invariably followed by a sacking. So how else to read the fact that half the cabinet are sympathising with El Berto's ongoing tribunal antics?

2008 said: Jumped before pushed. If one disregard's Cowen's visit to Bertie's office on the Friday before he resigned, that is. That makes two for two.

JC said: A Republican, possibly Romney, will be the next US President. Pace Richard Delevan, who's been proselytising for Obama for some time (which is odd as eggs for an American right-winger), I can't see the US electing a black man. If he ran as Hilary's Veep, they could do it, but the 'dream ticket' will never come off, now that Obama thinks he can gain the nomination.

2008 said: Wrong, wrong, wrong. Change I couldn't believe in occurred. It remains to be seen of course what this leads to. So far, judging by the shape of Obama's cabinet, it's looking like Clinton II anyway. Not necessarily a bad thing in itself, I feel. But he's yet to be tested, and that is nailed on to happen sooner rather than later.

JC said: Man Utd for the premiership, annoyingly. Ferguson to again fail in Europe, and again to delay his retirement, much to Carlos Queiroz's chagrin. Real or Sevilla for the champion's league. Rafa Benitez to leave Liverpool in the summer after row with the club owners.

2008 said: Half right. United did their double, albeit helped significantly by twinkletoes John Terry. Fergie did delay the long-promised retirement, and Queiroz looks less likely a United manager by the day. The Mirror's Oliver Holt is tipping Martin O'Neill for that job now. Somehow both Benitez and the Americans remain involved in Liverpool. And they're currently top of the league. No one would have predicted that a year ago.

JC said: The SDLP and UUP to leave the Northern executive and set up in proper opposition. The SDLP will be courted by FF and Irish Labour who both finally formally set up as Northern parties, thus simultaneously copper-fastening the union and pissing off the unionists.

2008 said: The SDLP and UUP should have but they didn't. And with Bertie gone, FF's desire to push North has withered. Labour's eyes are all on the 26 county local elections. No sudden movements from anyone in this area.

JC said: British final pull-out from Iraq, and probably Afghanistan too.

2008 said: Well, they've announced it. But don't hold yer breath.

JC said: Ongoing dollar collapse, commodity surges, oil spikes, banking crises and falling house prices in Northern Europe, especially the bubbles like NI and Spain. In other words, job losses, house repos, and the end of living beyond your means on credit. There will be no credit available this time next year.

2008 said: Couldn't be more right. Unfortunately, we're in for an awful lot more of this.

JC said: No boycotts of the Beijing Olympics, despite the appalling behaviour of the Chinese government. The Chinese will finally outperform America in the medals table. People will mutter about drugs, as if that's a surprise. The 13 year old British diver will be the new Eddie the Eagle Edwards. In other words, he'll be crap but the British public will love him.

2008 said: Nope, no boycotts. But there was an unbelievable public response to the journey of the Olympic torch about the planet. It's cheering to know that the world at large genuinely does care for the fate of the occupied people of Tibet.
China did top the medals table. People did mumble about drugs and one or two even got caught. But the Brits did especially well and had some actual winners to talk about as 'personalities of the year' as opposed to the usual plucky telegenic losers.
On the other hand, Ireland now is apparently worse at Olympic sports compared to mighty nations like Trinidad, Bahrain and the Dominican Republic.

JC said: People will realise that 'social networking' sites are a waste of their time. Others will migrate from one site to another with increasing frequency. Astronomical share valuations in these firms will collapse. Call it Dot-bomb 2.0.

2008 said: Everything tanked economically last year. But this phenomenon keeps on trucking. There has been some consolidation, and there will likely be some specialisation in store in future. In the interim, everyone's on Facebook bar me. And that seems to suit everyone and me just fine.

JC said: I will finish my damn novel. Really, I will.

2008 said: Errr...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Enjoy the holidays

Seriously, do.

Eat, drink and be merry. Be nice to family and friends if you can. Get over the cloying schmaltz of the season and roll with it. Allow yourself to be suffused with fellow-feeling.

Because I am fearful that this could be the last opportunity for some indulgence for a little while.

Next year we'll see jobs lost. Many of them. Houses repo-ed. A spike in the dole, the homeless, deprivation and poverty in general.

The credit bubble is over and now the bill's arrived. Many people literally won't be able to pay.

It would be nice to think that as a society we can look after the less fortunate in hard times. But that's not the sort of society Ireland is today. Perhaps it was once. If so, that was quite a while ago, and to be honest, I don't remember.

After a decade of gombeen government and PD-brand Thatcherism, we're all out for ourselves now. I've already overheard conversations between people discussing where they hope to buy repossessed houses on the cheap. It's sickening, but that's life today in Ireland.

It will get worse before it gets better. That's the nature of these cycles.

I really hope people throw themselves into Christmas this year, learn to reconnect with each other and get a perspective on true value in society. It might turn out to be the difference in how we survive this depression.

I also hope that people push the boat out one last time this year. A little irresponsible indulgence on top of the already preposterous national credit bill won't make a massive difference. And it might keep a few people in jobs who'd lose them otherwise.

See ya next year. Be good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Enough to make a Jackal puke

Dan Kennedy, writing in the Guardian, is spot on.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney, the real power in the White House during the Bush presidency, is attempting to claim that the invasion of Iraq has worked out well.

Not well for Saddam Hussein, obviously, who was caught hiding in a cellar some five years ago and subsequently executed rather than sent to the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague.

And not well for the people of Iraq, unless one considers the faint autonomy of some of Kurdistan to be worth it.

Of course, the invasion and occupation of Iraq went really well for Dick Cheney himself, as he was able to transfer large amounts of US tax dollars into the hands of his old pals at Halliburton.

Increasingly, as one listens to the whining of Tony Blair about his anguish over the war, or indeed scoffs at corrupt old Bertie Ahern as he pleads to be considered the great peacemaker of Ireland, I have come to realise that the place to hurt these people is in their legacy.

Blair's not stupid, and now realises that his legacy will be ever ruined by his involvement in Iraq. Ahern is rather stupid, but his arrogance and ego demand that history credit him with things he had at best a tangential involvement in (peace in the North of Ireland and the boom economy), rather than the things he was up to his greasy little neck in (endemic Fianna Fail corruption, clientelism and gombeenism).

Cheney is also concerned about the legacy. And he remains in cynical denial about the wrongs he has committed.

His only out now is to try to persuade the rest of us to see things from his twisted point of view - a point of view which says that it doesn't matter if there were no weapons in Iraq, it doesn't matter if hundreds of thousands died needlessly, and it doesn't matter about America kidnapping and torturing people in third countries.

As Dan Kennedy says in his excellent commentary on Cheney's delusions, it is enough to make a jackal puke.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Irishmen are rapists says state-funded ad

The fake hunt for the imaginary tortured people continues, even in recession.

For years, I've been asking one simple question of Ruhama, the ever-growing state-funded religious quango dedicated to rooting out human sexual trafficking and to supporting those smuggled into Ireland and forced to work as prostitutes.

Where are the trafficked women you claim to help?

Frankly speaking, they don't appear to exist. Despite Ruhama's latest wheeze - a TV advert which depicts Irishmen as laughing casual rapists enjoying a pint after sexually assaulting a beauteous Slavic blonde - the evidence still doesn't stack up.

We'll wait and see what arises from the arrest of an Irishman and his partner in Wales last weekend. It is alleged that he may have been involved in a string of brothels across Ireland, some of which may have had trafficked women working on their premises.

But in the unlikely event that it does emerge that women were trafficked in this case, it would be virtually the first in Ireland. I quote below a parliamentary question from Denis Naughten to the Minister for Justice this week, in which it swiftly emerges that almost no one has been prosecuted for the offence of trafficking people into Ireland for sexual exploitation.

Six people. That's how many people have been done for human trafficking in Ireland in this century. Six people.

So, now that Ruhama have gone all multimedia, at least we know what they spend their significant state funding on. What we don't know is why they are funded to the extent they are, and why they are given money from the exchequer to slander Ireland as a rape nation and Irishmen as casual rapists.

Ruhama says it exists to support the victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. How many have they helped?

The reality of this sad, dark world is different to that which the sisterhood and their state-funded hysteria campaign Ruhama would have you believe.

Repeated studies, as well as police evidence from Ireland, UK, America and European countries, indicates that nearly all non-national women who travel to affluent countries like this one to work in prostitution (or indeed as lapdancers, strippers or erotic dancers) do so because they choose to.

Now, some feminists, especially those who make common cause with orders of Catholic nuns, don't like the idea that other women would volunteer to work in the sex trade, and might even travel abroad to do so. And indeed, no little girl ever grew up saying she wanted to be a hooker when she was older.

But the money is good, countries like Ireland are much safer than Eastern Europe or Africa, and the quality of living is higher. The sad reality is that many women do choose this profession, they travel to Ireland and elsewhere to work at it for a period of time, then they leave to go home or to ply their trade in another country.

Ireland is not a nation of laughing rapists, no matter what the sisterhood might say. How about they start justifying the expense they cost the taxpayer by telling us how many people they help annually and how they were helped.

Because if their only role is to create hysteria about a wrong that does not exist so that they can malign Irishmen as casual habitual rapists, then Ruhama has to be top of the list of quangos we need to cull.

Parliamentary Question for Written Answer:

284. Deputy Denis Naughten Information Zoom asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information Zoom the number of prosecutions and convictions for human trafficking and sexual exploitation in 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45075/08]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Deputy Dermot Ahern): Information Zoom It is assumed the Deputy’s question refers to prosecutions and convictions for human trafficking in the broadest sense, i.e. for both labour and sexual exploitation.

Section 4 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which came into operation on 7 June, 2008, creates a new offence of trafficking of children for labour exploitation and trafficking of adults for sexual and labour exploitation. No prosecutions have been commenced or convictions recorded for this offence to date.

Section 3 of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 (as amended by Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008) created the offence of trafficking of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation. To date one person has been charged by the Garda Síochána on four counts of attempting to incite another to commit an offence contrary to Section 3 of this Act. The accused was charged in January 2007 and has already pleaded guilty to one count. The case is listed for sentence hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on 24th February, 2009.

Prior to the enactment of Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, An Garda Síochána utilised the provisions of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, which remains in force. Since September 2000 over one hundred people have been arrested and detained in respect of alleged breaches of Section 2 of this Act. Five persons have been convicted in respect of twenty-five individual breaches of Section 2 Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, which relates to the facilitation/organisation of the illegal entry of persons into this State for gain.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

One in the eye for Big Brother

Never mind the TV show.

There is not, never has been and never will be anything relevant or important about sitting on your couch talking bollocks with your mates about the strangers sitting on a different couch, also talking bollocks, that you can see on your telly.

Never was the idiot box a more appropriate phrase than in relation to that nonsense.

But of course, like all entertainments permitted to us poor plebs, it serves as a distraction from the fact that in Britain more than anywhere else worldwide, the government really is watching you.

That's the real Big Brother in action. But thankfully it has for once been stymied in its tracks by the most unlikely of opposition - the European Court of Human Rights.

So immunised to the constant sight of human rights abuses are we today that the plight of people in horror states like Tibet or Zimbabwe just seems to become almost the way things seem destined to be in some parts of the world.

The abuse of people's individual basic rights is so widespread, so ubiquitous that we end up desensitised even to the erosion of our own rights as they disappear before our eyes.

Even with the images of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib before their eyes, American citizens still allowed both 'Patriot' Acts to be enacted with barely a word of protest.

And in the UK, the New Labour regime has presided over a wholesale eradication of basic human rights, with its most extensive public surveillance system in the world monitoring citizens whose DNA it takes without permission and stores forever without justification.

So the news today that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled this practice to be illegal should be celebrated by ALL EU citizens, whether British or not, whether resident in Britain or not.

It's not and never has been an issue of 'those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear.'

We've all lost count by now of how many times public records and sensitive information like bank, medical, military or political affiliation records have been lost, stolen or leaked into the public domain or sold to criminals.

There is a simple principle at stake here. The state apparatus has no right to take and store the DNA of its citizens, especially of those never convicted of a criminal offence. And if the European court rules that it is illegal in England, then it is illegal throughout the EU.

That's one in the eye for Big Brother.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Two Movies

I'm way too angry about the Fas expenses and all sorts of nose-in-the-trough nonsense going on among the ruling elite in Ireland this week to even write about it.

There are things that need to be said, but they'll have to wait until I calm down sufficiently first.

In the meantime, let me pose a question that kept me thinking much of this past week.

Recently, a good friend of mine celebrated his birthday by hiring a cinema for his friends for the evening. He got to choose which films to show, and picked two of his favourites. Now, this is actually more fraught than it may seem.

For example, that Seventies blaxploitation movie that you find hilarious might not go down so well among all your mates. Equally, your penchant for obscure early sci-fi horrors, or ponderous foreign black-and-whites.

I've been trying to decide what two movies I'd have shown in similar circumstances (fyi - my pal showed a sci-fi film that received a mixed response and a Woody Allen film that was universally adored).

In the end, I reckon I'd go with Wings of Desire (yes, I know, foreign black-and-whites ought to be a no-no, but this is just too beautiful for most people not to enjoy it) and Doctor Zhivago (the proper 1965 version which has EVERYTHING - Julie Christie, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, opulence, romance, star-crossed lovers, trains, snow, gulags, Soviet soldiers, you name it.)

What two movies would YOU force your best friends to sit through?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mbeki is a genocidal criminal

Thabo Mbeki is a genocidal criminal who ought to be facing the International Court of Justice for the unnecessary death of 300,000 South Africans.

He also shares responsibility for the death of innumerable Zimbabweans who perished solely because Mbeki has provided the only support that syphilitic scum Robert Mugabe has.

Those in the West who continue to cheer the 'rainbow nation' because they did well at rugby and Uncle Nelson has a nice friendly smile need to start paying attention.

Mbeki has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Africans. His single-party state continues to defy genuine democratic principles. And worst of all, he has sustained the evil of the Mugabe regime a full generation after it should have ended.

Not that I expect the apologists for Mugabe's despotism - generally one-eyed Marxists who consider any opposition to the syphilitic loon to be neo-colonialism - to start caring about ordinary Zimbabweans now, all of a sudden.

But perhaps the PC credentials of opposing the spread of AIDS might prick a few Western consciences.

Mbeki and Mugabe are no better than the previous post-colonial generation of utter cunts who have murdered their people for their own profit since the Europeans left.

But while we rightly consider the names of Idi Amin, Charles Taylor, Mobuto Sese Seko and Mengistu Haile Mariam to be dripping in blood and ignominy, so far the same reproach does not adhere to Thabo Mbeki.

But it should. It really should.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Time to free the weed?

Are economic times so tough that it's finally time to free the weed and tax it?

That's the question posed by this article from the United States, which makes a series of excellent points in relation to both President-elect Obama's former dope proclivity and the economic stimulus that legalising cannabis could potentially provide.

It's a fascinating idea for a number of reasons. Clearly prohibition has not prevented people from taking drugs identified under legislation as illegal. People who want to get wasted will get wasted whether it's against the law or not.

But it's not my intention to re-hash old arguments about whether cannabis is a 'gateway drug' (it isn't - that would be tobacco) or whether the current prohibition policy criminalises otherwise law-abiding people (obviously it does) or even whether cannabis is more or less dangerous to health and society than currently legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco (depends on how you measure the danger.)

Instead, I'd like to explore what might happen if we capitulated to Ming the Merciless and this campaign by legalising cannabis.

In estimating the transposition of illegal commodity into legal taxable product, a certain element of guesswork is inevitable. But Mr Reinertson guesstimates that the USA would reap $2.4 billion to $6.2 billion annually in regulated marijuana tax revenue.

On a scaled population level, that would translate into $32 to $82 million, or €25 million to €65 million. So, not so much really. Hardly worth the reefer madness that legalisation would lead to, really, is it?

Well, then again, that's quite a lot of cervical cancer vaccines or teaching salaries. Every penny counts in a recession, y'know. And we're talking tens of millions in revenue here.

And then there are the hidden revenues, like savings on imprisoning people simply for growing and selling a particular plant, such as these people who were arrested recently. After all, it costs us around €100,000 a year to keep each prisoner incarcerated.

How many people are behind bars currently solely for growing, smoking, possessing or selling weed? If all of those people were free, how much would we save? Now how many teaching salaries or hospital beds are we talking about?

And there are the social benefits too. More weed smokers may well mean an eventual upturn in lung cancer and possibly (the causative effect is disputed by many medics) a small upturn in schizophrenia.

But it would definitely mean fewer pissed-up loons causing fights and criminal damage on our city streets every night. It would likely mean less suicide too, as the euphoriant effects of cannabis are unlikely to lead to suicidal ideation as much as the depressive qualities of alcohol, which is found in the bloodstreams of over 70% of suicide victims.Link
Can we put a price on that?

Wikipedia (I cite with the usual caveats) has a useful table of the legality of cannabis by country here.

As can be seen, since there are almost no countries where cannabis is legal and very few where it is even decriminalised, anti-cannabis campaigners would no doubt latch onto this as a reason for maintaining the status quo.

They would scaremonger that any country that took the move to legalise first would be swamped by 'drug tourists.' I would cast that in a different light. Any country brave enough to take this step first would benefit from a significant upswing in tourism revenue. Again, what price on that?

In any case, as the Wikipedia table indicates, in large tracts of Western Europe cannabis is de facto decriminalised already, and we haven't yet seen the end of European civilisation as we know it.

We in Ireland already have laws dealing with driving or operating machinery while intoxicated. We already have an indoor smoking ban in place. We have the infrastructure and legislative framework in existence to legalise, tax, monitor and administrate a cannabis market.

Which mainstream party will be the first to back the legalisation of cannabis?

And will they wait until Obama undoes the American-led global prohibition (which only ever benefited big tobacco and vintners anyway) or will they be brave and take the lead in Europe (which is moving that way anyway) and reap innumerable social benefits, a tourism boost and substantial revenue increases as a result?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Remind me, who are the fascists?

Someone's got their hands on a year old members' list for the British National Party and published it on the internet.

Not just a list of their professions or their locations, but actual names and addresses. Their leader rightly fingered the Labour establishment as seeking to intimidate his members.

This is not the first time that members of this legitimate political party have been targetted by the establishment. I blogged before about how morons interrupted a ballet because the ballerina was a BNP supporter to call her a racist, even though she was dating a Cuban-Chinese dancer at the time.

At the opposite end of the political spectrum, members of Sinn Fein will find these tactics of intimidation to be familiar. Until they were brought into the mainstream (when the British and Irish authorities realised they could no longer be criminalised or ignored) they experienced similar tactics.

Again it is incumbent on me to point out a few things that ought to be obvious:

  • If the establishment considers the BNP to be an illegal organisation, they should seek to ban them. They've banned quasi-political organisations in Northern Ireland in the past.
  • The BNP is not the bootboy skinhead Nazi movement the Guardian would have you believe. It is a small nationalist party that opposes mass immigration. Parties with similar policies and indeed that espouse much more extreme right policies are permitted elsewhere without persecution and garner significant votes in places like France and Austria.
  • I'm not British and I don't support BNP politics in any way. But I fervently believe in freedom of speech, the right to congregate without intimidation, democracy and diversity of opinion.

This ongoing targetting of the BNP reminds me of the moronic position of some alleged anti-fascist far-left movements. They oppose any platform for those they consider fascists, without appreciating the irony that opposing freedom of speech and diversity of opinion is itself a fascist act.

You don't have to agree with the BNP to be appalled at this sort of intimidation, in the media and online. It's a fundamental attack on modern democracy in a country that claims to have invented it.

The BNP oppose further mass immigration into the UK, and the mainstream parties fear this position, as it is one with growing support in Britain, especially in this economic downturn.

The UK is a diverse population, but many consider it to be rash to continue an open-doors policy of immigration and an asylum system that is systematically abused. They're allowed to think this, whether their analysis is right or wrong. Publishing the names of those who feel this way on the internet is an appalling attempt to silence a legitimate opinion.

As an Irish nationalist, I have my own concerns in relation to a situation which has seen the non-Irish population here grow from almost zero to over 10% in less than a decade. I don't think such a policy is sustainable long-term, especially in the current economic climate.

And I don't think it is beneficial for a country still grappling with post-colonial concerns including ongoing occupation by a foreign power in part of its territory to have its indigenous culture further challenged by the scale of immigration we have seen in recent times.

Among the establishment, that's not a popular opinion, because we exist in a globalised economy and freedom of movement is a cornerstone of that system. And in Ireland as in Britain, a plethora of state-funded organisations have sprung up to proselytise to the public that any opposition to mass immigration is akin to overt racist tendencies.

Which is arrant nonsense.

The establishment in Britain and in Ireland need to realise that people see through these lies. They know through their own attitudes and behaviour that they can be concerned about the effects of an open-door immigration policy without espousing disgusting racist opinions.

And they can see by looking at diverse, multicultural societies like Australia or Canada or the US that plenty of countries have points-based, merit-assessed immigration policies and yet are clearly not racist nations, as Israel is or apartheid-era South Africa once was.

I've said it before and it needs saying again now. The more the establishment seeks to demonise these concerns, the more it throws petrol on the bonfire. People are entitled to their opinions, and are entitled to gather in political movements without the establishment seeking to intimidate them out of existence.

Because even if the BNP disbanded tonight, the opinions their members espouse won't go away overnight. They'll still be there tomorrow, only they'll go underground and get more radicalised.

No one believes that democracy in France or Austria is under threat, just because much more extreme nationalist parties get elected to positions of power. But obviously, a growing BNP takes votes from Labour and the Tories, just as Sinn Fein took votes from Fianna Fail.

It is fascist to deny such people their legitimate right to congregate, to deny them their opinion, and to seek to intimidate them out of organising as a political movement.

And such actions really are the threat to modern democracy in Britain and in Ireland.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Banking bailout - The Wile E Coyote version

Remember, what happened in the US happened here too.
This is a cautionary tale from leading economist, Dr Wile E. Coyote.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pot launches savage attack on kettle

We all know how some organisations attached to the lost Empire love to parade their poppies to the heavens at this time of year, while waxing lyrical about their Britishness.

One might well argue that they spare a thought for the many thousands, if not millions, who have died at the hands of Britain's military while they aggrandise their fallen soldiers this Sunday.

But they wouldn't listen and would only consider the remembrance of innocent victims as a churlish attempt to do down their heroic boys. So I won't bother.

Instead, I intend to turn my attention to that bastion of bigotry and drug-dealing terrorism, the UDA.

Apparently, they're still sabre-rattling, despite having decimated themselves with in-fighting in recent years. In a statement issued to mark Remembrance day, they warn that they intend to fight to defend their Britishness against what they admit is a 'non-violent' threat from Nationalists.

This comes on the heels of the latest Independent Monitoring Commission statement yesterday which noted its 'disappointment' at the complete and utter lack of movement on Loyalist decommissioning.

I have some questions for the powers that be. Why are the UDA permitted to continue in action, with their armouries intact, threatening the Nationalist community in this manner?

And when is President Mary McAleese going to knock her tokenistic outreach to these Loyalists on the head?

Remember, her husband golfs with the head of the UDA, the UDA get to party regularly in Aras an Uachtarain at her invitation, and she got the UDA brigadier an IRISH passport so that he could sneak past US Homeland security to go to America.

And all the while, the self-same people have their guns in the attic and are making threatening statements to Nationalists!

In their statement, the UDA also accused Republicans of racism, ignorance and bigotry. What a savage attack on the kettle by the pot!

The vast majority of racist attacks on ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland occur in Loyalist areas. This is a simple statement of fact. Furthermore, there could be few organisations on the planet more doused in ignorance and bigotry than the post-McMichaels UDA.

It's time that the authorities North and South lost their patience with this shower of thugs and drug dealers. It's time to lock them up and sieze their weapons. Let's start with UDA South Belfast brigadier Jackie McDonald.

He should be easy to find. If he's not at Stormont demanding money from MLAs for dubious 'community groups', then you'll likely find him on some posh golf course in the Republic on the green with Martin McAleese.

One can only imagine some great golfing conversations between those pair, though:

Martin: Nice shot, Jackie. You're on the green.
Jackie: Don't you oppress me with your Nationalist rhetoric, you fucking ignorant bigot, or I'll brain you with this nine iron!
Martin: Very sorry, Jackie. Would you like an Irish passport?
Jackie: Don't mind if I do. But don't you dare threaten my Britishness or I'll wrap this five wood round your neck! Here, do you fancy a wee wrap of cocaine?

Etc, etc.

99 well-read balloons

... floating in the North Korean sky.

This is a really beautiful news story.

It answers a question I had posed to myself in 2001, walking around the heavily policed Tiananmen Square, when it was announced that Beijing would host the Olympic games just past.

I remember thinking, as I scrutinised the secret police scrutinising me back, that the story of the Olympics in Beijing was going to be less about China opening up to the world and more about China closing down the usual global coverage of the games.

I couldn't see otherwise, unless there was a regime change in the interim. On the net, behind the great Firewall of China, you couldn't access any decent Western news source. I'd been on a train crossing Siberia and found out more about what was going on at home than I did in the capital of the most populous state on Earth. Even in Mongolia, there was greater access to information.

In the end, the Chinese did just enough to facilitate the foreign press, while attempting pretty successfully to keep a lid on free information flowing to their citizenry. But times had changed in those intervening seven years.

The press in Hong Kong, the movement of Chinese citizens across the planet and back, the growth of a new, post-Tiananmen dissidence abroad all contributed to the slow thaw of the Chinese Communist Party's 'mushroom' policy towards their people - ie keep them in the dark, and feed them shit.

But North Korea is like China used to be. It has all the crazy Stalinist-Maoist hallmarks, like isolationism, state-sponsored famines, loopy leaders seeking to deify themselves.

They're too poor for the internet and computers, by all accounts. Only the apparatchiks can access information from abroad, never mind travel there. Even Burma gets some tourists (not that I condone propping up the junta there, but tourists bring information to the locals.) The poor North Koreans really are mushrooms, stuck with only one bullshit source of information.

So fair play to the private citizens from the South who've taken it upon themselves to float news into the rogue state inside helium balloons. It's an inspired, inexpensive, low-tech, effective method for getting news and information into North Korea.

I can appreciate why the South Korean government is annoyed. Of course this will raise tensions at governmental level. Possibly for the North Koreans, it will raise problems domestically. But that can only be a good thing.

Right now, I'm simply delighted at the idea of mad Kim and his cadre frothing at the mouth as balloons explode in the sky, showering their nation with news that the information-starved people of the country are so hungry for.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Return of the cult of personality

The election of Barack Obama marks not only the triumph of celebrity politics, but also a potentially dangerous return to leadership cults of personality.

Anyone who travelled in Russia in the 20th century would be familiar with cult of personality politics - the stern statues of an exorting Lenin everywhere, his name and those of his peers scrawled across the streetnames in every town like graffiti.

But today, as Putin and Medvedev offer up their own tributes to that old genocidal maniac Stalin, some personality cults are in a resurgence.

In China, even today, the Mao cult remains vibrant beyond words. The days of the cultural revolution when kids would beat their elders to death with Mao's little red book while chanting his name are still in living memory.

But the fact that his odious, insane visage still smirks from the yuan banknote, the postage stamps, the huge tapestry that hangs over the front of the Forbidden City gates at Tiananmen Square indicates that the Mao cult must still be respected and worshipped today in China, even by those overt capitalists currently running the Chinese Communist Party.

But hard times create new leader cults, and we have seen a number in recent years.

Long before Nelson Mandela left Robben Island, a cult of personality had already grown around him. It was inspired by the traditional yearning for and apotheosising of a lost leader, and Mandela's long absence from the public arena created a tabula rasa - a clean slate onto which his supporters could project their own Messianic desires for him.

Mandela, an elderly man with marital problems and released into an unrecognisable world after decades of incarceration, had no option but to lead the rainbow nation as president. For him to choose otherwise would have been unthinkable.

His audience, one might say congregation of worshippers, demanded it of him. The expectations were sky-high. Looking back on that transition period now, over a decade on, it seems that Mandela did extraordinarily well to fulfil so many of those unreasonable expectations. And perhaps he could not have achieved so much without the unwavering support of his true believers.

So, it is possible that leader cults can be beneficial.

But much more often, they are malignant in some form or another, for the very reason that believers follow on faith and fail to examine or challenge the details of their cult leader's decision making until a tipping point is reached when a series of decisions perceived as wrong or flawed by the following turns into an emotional backlash voiced as betrayal.

In this context, one thinks of Tony Blair, or Clinton. Both assumed leadership with a large faith-based support, by which I mean a cohort of the electorate who believed as an article of faith that the new leader espoused exactly the sort of societal changes that they themselves personally desired.

Initially, it is impossible to disappoint such an electorate, since the very existence of such an electorate depends on and grows from visceral opposition to an unpopular regime. For the Clintonites it was Papa Bush; for the Blairites, it was Tory sleaze and Mad Maggie.

But as time goes on, the fallibility of such leaders becomes evident, and this is the dangerous point, as the faith-based electorate feels emotionally betrayed, just as a true believer might feel their world fall in when their guru turns out to have been taking their savings to buy Rolls-Royces and cocaine.

For Clinton, there are still pockets of faith fans around the world, as his $100,000,000 earnings since leaving the White House indicate. But domestically, it turned for Bill when he started bombing African hospitals and cheerleading Israel.

By the time he was caught with his cigar in the intern and was facing impeachment proceedings, the faith-based fanbase in the US had largely evaporated in anger and betrayal. The result was that decent, genuine Democrats like Kerry and Gore failed to get elected.

The Obama moment for Britain came with Blair's epochal 1997 election. A generation out of power, Labour had had to entirely reinvent itself. Then on the eve of power, their leader John Smith died. Blair emerged from the resulting power-tussle as the bright-eyed, smiley, youthful face of hope in British politics.

How strange it is today to think of that Blair in the context of the gormless fool insisting that he was right to ignore the will of his people by sending their troops to die while occupying someone else's country, because his religious faith told him it was right? But when Blair first became Prime Minister, he was the blank slate onto which dreams where projected.

We're in the same position now in relation to Obama, a tabula rasa himself whose employment record is hidden and patchy, whose main achievement is to have written two bestselling autobiographies that ironically reveal little about him.

His high oratory, his tendentious catchphrases and his lack of a political record allow his believers to project onto him whatever their personal desires for the future may be.

Obama created this situation, but in a way has become a victim of it. It is not his fault that the Aboriginals now believe that they will get greater rights in Australia because of his election, or that Hamas believe a two-state solution in Palestine can be achieved under Obama's watch.

These are merely exotic examples of how people outside of America have been infected by the Obamania. Global leaders too have been falling over themselves to position their nations as Obama's new best friend.

The result, as the ever-excellent Matthew Parris points out in today's London Times, is that there is now a dangerous unanimity about Obama which is likely to go extremely sour in a very ugly way. As Parris points out, governance is a lot more about 'No, you can't' than 'Yes, we can'.

Personally, I don't see a Mandela in Obama. The track record isn't there. The bravery isn't there. The inate intelligence isn't there. Obama does have Mandela's charisma and possibly exceeds him in oratorical skills. But that's simply not enough.

We're entering a serious global recession. America is bleeding from two unwinnable wars and the world's approbrium. China has it economically by the privates. Russia is intent on dictating within its own self-defined sphere of influence and seems prepared to roll out the guns if opposed.

It would take a politician of some great genius to extricate themselves from all of those problems, never mind reverse the stratospheric deficit, ensure universal healthcare for Americans and all the other many, many promises Obama made during the Presidential campaign. And that doesn't even account for the unseeable, unknowable problems that await.

As Parris says, no messiah has come among us and miracles are not now possible. Despite this somewhat obvious reality, otherwise intelligent people have abandoned sense and rationality in relation to Obama's election.

Sadly, they will be the ones most disappointed when realpolitik intervenes. They will be the ones who feel viscerally betrayed, and who will round on their hero for not living up to the fantasy in their heads.

And Obama's supporters really now need to start paying close attention to his actions rather than his words.

The appointment of Rahm Emmanuel as Obama's chief of staff is not good news for much of the world. Emmanuel was Bill Clinton's fundraiser, which raises concerns in itself, but is also a hardcore Zionist whose father was a Zionist terrorist against British rule. Add this to Veep Joe Biden, the self-proclaimed 'best friend' of Israel, and you can see quite quickly that the Hamas hopes for a settlement are utterly in vain.

Not many in the West will be sorry for Hamas. But everyone else will follow down the path of disappointment. The Greens will be similarly disheartened if, as seems likely, Obama appoints a movie star who goes to work in a private plane as his Energy Tsar. And so on, and so on.

The key to avoiding crushing disappointment in an Obama presidency is to monitor it closely. That way, in the words of Matthew Parris, 'the crest of expectation might subside smoothly into the gentle swell of history.'

For those who cried ostentatiously on Obama's election because elderly black American people they don't know, who themselves were generations away from slavery, were pleased;
For those who stood out in the cold roaring 'Yes, we can' like some strange combination of self-assertion class and Nuremburg rally;
For those who take any criticism or reticence about the new messiah as a personal slight;

Your dreams will be dashed. Nothing is more certain.

That doesn't mean you can't keep on believing, though.

After all, Stalin and Mao killed tens of millions of their own people and are still adored by many.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting in Wonderland

Or, the US Presidential Election through the Looking Glass.

It is now time, after two years of phoney war, for America to decide who gets to sit and weep on top of the smoking wreckage of the United States that Dubya leaves behind him.

And what a choice it is! Will you go for TweedleDem, the charismatic young black man, or TweedleRep, the heroic old white man?

Or will you, God forbid, actually decide who to vote for on the issues rather than on telegenics?

Let's have one final look at the issues:

If elected, Barack Obama will maintain the Federal Reserve.
So will John McCain.

If elected, Barack Obama will maintain the income tax levels and the commensurate level of federal spending, despite America's massive debt burden.
So will John McCain.

If elected, John McCain will continue the "War on Terror", and will likely expand its arena of conflict to include Pakistan and Iran.
So will Barack Obama.

If elected, John McCain will perpetuate the post-9/11 agencies and legislation which erode civil liberties.
So will Barack Obama.

If elected, Barack Obama will try to prevent normal market corrections, such as falling property prices, failures of unsound businesses, and liquidation of bad debt, thereby likely making the recession into a deep depression.
So will John McCain.

If elected, John McCain, will maintain the CIA, the FDA, military spending and overseas black ops interventions in the sovereignty of other countries.
So will Barack Obama.

If elected, Barack Obama will continue to offer unlimited American economic and military support to Israel, despite their occupation of Palestinian territory and daily breaches of human rights and UN declarations, leading to Muslim resentment worldwide.
So will John McCain.

If elected, John McCain will proceed with the unwinnable 'War on Drugs', which has so far wasted billions of dollars, created black markets and criminality, and made the USA the most incarcerated and addicted country on Earth.
So will Barack Obama.

If elected, John McCain will keep U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely with no withdrawal date set.
So will Barack Obama.

If elected, John McCain will keep funding the American global military presence and its bases in more than half of the world’s sovereign countries.
So will Barack Obama.

If elected, Barack Obama will promise education, healthcare and welfare provision that cannot actually be paid for without either raising taxes high or borrowing money that frankly does not currently exist on the capital markets.
So will John McCain.

If elected, John McCain will start drilling for oil in Alaska, off-shore and wherever else the USA can lay their hands on this dwindling resource.
So will Barack Obama.

Will there be change you can believe in this time tomorrow? Probably not.

After all, there isn't even a choice you can believe in. Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber are pleading for your votes, America. And they represent exactly the same policies.

As Bill Hicks once said, "It's the same guy holding up both puppets!"

Listen to Bill before you vote, y'all.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Not big or clever

I am currently attending a Whisky event in Glasgow.

Yesterday, I sampled at least nineteen whiskies in just under six hours.

This was not respectful to the wonderful whiskies I tried towards the end of the day, and it was not respectful to my body and mind, both of which are wracked with pain today.

Somehow, I managed to keep tasting notes for all (or at least, the first nineteen) whiskies I tried.

Okay, so the last few notes appear to be in Japanese, or to have been written by a man in the throes of an epileptic fit, but they exist nonetheless.

None of this is big or clever.

But since it marks the height of maturity compared to the juvenile behaviour on the boys' weekend trip to Amsterdam which just preceded this, I'm just glad to be heading in the right direction.

Which is towards painkillers, obviously.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Poison Pens 4: Propping up the Property Ladder

The pips are now officially squeaking.

As the Department of Finance sends auditors into the banks to view their loan books, the developers are beginning to panic properly now.

Previously, they'd been merely concerned. No one was buying their boxy apartments in the burbs for the inflated prices they'd listed them at. They'd tried every stunt in the book, from offering interest-free loans, to throwing in boats or Bulgarian apartments to seal the deal.

But the public weren't interested in buying in a plummeting market, and those few mad enough to consider it can't get a mortgage from the banks.

There seemed to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the developer classes when the budget was presented last week. The state was now going to offer its own sub-prime mortgages which would only apply to the surfeit of new build homes still on the builders' books.

Talk about a bail-out of builders masquerading as helping the homeless!

But now that people are actually being repossessed, there is little tolerance for Government stunts aimed at propping up the property market.

In recent times, the banks have been keeping the whole routine going, rolling over the interest on massive (by which I mean from the tens of millions upwards) loans to developers.

But that is likely to come crashing to a halt once the Government auditors oversee the banks' books. After all, why should the rest of us pay our mortgage under threat of repossession when builders who owe stratospheric amounts of money are being facilitated?

The builders know that many of them are likely to go bust if they are made pay the interest on their loans and the Government bail-out doesn't work.

Which is why we're seeing this week their mouthpieces in the media spinning like mad on their behalfs.

From Independent Newspapers come two classics of the genre: the first for grown-ups by someone who ought to know better (and perhaps does), the second a piece of cartoon analysis by an Evening Herald useful idiot.

In his piece, McWilliams paints his usual colourful pen portrait of his creation Breakfast Roll Man, who starred in his epoch-defining book 'The Pope's Children'.

But now Breakfast Roll Man is on his uppers - the developments won't sell, he can't afford the bank loan, pressure mounting on all sides. It's not an entirely sympathetic picture, but McWilliams ensures to inject some pathos into it.

Where McWilliams lets himself down is when he concludes that Breakfast Roll Man was duped by Bertie, and deserves a dig out of his own. This duplicitous piece of writing runs contrary to all common sense.

But since McWilliams was involved in advising the Government on the bank guarantee, we should take this latest message from him seriously. This is what he is advocating, and he currently has the ear of those in power.

The Evening Herald article is way more transparent. It's an outrageous puff piece in favour of granting Sean Dunne planning for his white elephant Ballsbridge tower before he is declared bankrupt.

Sadly, it's not available online. Let me judiciously present a few representative gobbets for you to choke on:

"Were the city planners pleased? Oh no. The well-heeled resident Leafies of lush Ballsbridge got on their mobiles to the Irish Times and muttered darkly about the destruction of Ballsbridge - meaning their snooty little enclave would no longer be as exclusive nor their houses as expensive."

It's priceless, isn't it? The coinage of the term 'Leafies', for example, as if leaves were exclusive to Dublin Four. What was wrong with the established pejorative term of 'Deefer', I wonder?
Then the snide reference to the Irish Times, the depiction of Ballsbridge as an 'enclave' - gated it is not - all add up to paint a desperate picture of little Dunne versus Big Bastard D4 snobs.

But wait, there's more. So much more.

"After all, Dunne deserves our support and indeed admiration. He's a swaggering, carefree buccaneer, who lives life to the full, takes terrible risks and spends his money rather than squirrelling it under the mattress. In short, like his tower, he's a diamond in the rough."

Let's parse that a little. A buccaneer is a pirate. It's probably the most honest word used by the author, the aforementioned useful idiot, Gwen Halley. Mind you, she likely wouldn't have used it if she knew its meaning.

But a pirate is indeed what Dunne is. And yes, he did indeed take terrible risks. Unfortunately, they didn't work out. He gambled and lost. But Gwen thinks the planning system should see 'the bigger picture' by throwing him the lifeline of planning permission.

Perhaps if Dunne had squirrelled his money away, perhaps if the nation and the Government had all done so, instead of squandering our new-found wealth (Dunne on leveraging property deals, the Government on pork barrel infrastructure and propping up their funders in construction, the nation on easy credit and inflated mortgages) we'd all be better placed to face this recession.

McWilliams and Halley are spinning on behalf of the developers, and Independent Newspapers is facilitating their doing so.

But nothing will save the developer class now. Sean Dunne will go bust, and so will Breakfast Roll Man.

The only remaining issue is how much money will the State (via this preposterous sub-prime lending scheme) and the rest of us (via buying those boxy apartments in the burbs in a falling market) waste in propping up the property ladder until its fall can no longer be postponed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Catch the pigeon!

It appears that the phoney war between Iran and the USA/UK has reached the levels of cartoon comedy already.

According to reports, the ayatollahs arrested two 'spy pigeons' who were flying suspiciously near their controversial uranium enrichment facility, which the Western powers allege is being used to develop nuclear bomb capacity.

The ever sober and responsible online editors at Sky News' website have produced this mock-up below of the errant birds:

However, I'm more inclined to envisage the event something along the lines of this:

Only, Dick Dastardly would be wearing a big, bushy Mullah beard, Muttley would be in a burqa and the pigeon would be sporting a Star of David, of course.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ireland's elderly respond to Medical Card withdrawal

Ireland's Over-70s are responding the the FF-PD-Hobbit coalition's decision to take away their medical cards in this week's budget:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Budget carnage

Did you enjoy your decade of gombeen government?

I hope you did, because the bill just arrived:

1% 'levy' on all earnings.
2% over 100K.
HSE middle management axed; review of public service to find more job cuts.
Decentralisation paused till 2011.
8c a litre on petrol, 50c on pack of fags, 50c on bottle of wine.
'Review' of pension reserve fund (he's going to raid it later.)
Dublin Metro on pause.
Over 70s med card axed for those who don't qualify - but they'll get a 400 euro donation towards med costs in its place.
Capital gains tax up.
10 euro tax on airport departures, 2 euro for 'shorter' journeys.
Tax on second homes and let homes, but not on homes for sale but not sold (got to look after those poor builders).
Child benefit halved for 18 year olds, and to be scrapped in a couple of years.

When your next pay cheque arrives, notably lighter than before, remember who to blame. You'll get a chance to have your say next year, when the local government elections come around.

(Pic shamelessly nicked from the geniuses at The Irish Sentinel)

Monday, October 13, 2008

So who goes to jail?

Now that economic armageddon has been averted/postponed/cancelled (delete as your confidence in the future dictates), who's going to carry the can?

Taxpayers, of course, will be paying in real terms for the banking and trading sectors' mistakes.

But will any of the criminals who brought us to this point be held accountable?

In Britain, it seems that despite nationalisation of four banks the only penalty for the bankers will be the removal of their bonuses this year. Big swinging mickey. How about removing their pay packets too, then removing their freedom?

In America, the bankers will be inflicted with 'oversight'. Apart from the fact that oversight should have been going on from day one, this seems to indemnify those responsible for this mess from any responsibility.

So we remain in the asymmetrical risk situation, whereby bankers make tons of money when their irresponsible bets come off, but lose little or nothing when they don't.

And in Ireland? No penalties for the bankers thus far, despite the state underwriting all their mess. And I predict that tomorrow's emergency budget will hammer the taxpayer while continuing to reward the big losers who caused this mess - the bankers and the builders.

Nick Leeson, now a successful employee of Galway United FC, went to jail for this sort of irresponsible investing. I'd love to see the many others who emulated his model of speculation receive a similar penalty.

But they won't, you can be sure of that.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A little bell will ring

In a few hours, in New York, a little bell will ring.

And then all your hard work, a lifetime's effort of diligence and sacrifice, will begin to vanish. All that you saved, all that you invested, all that you salted away in pensions for when you're old which is sooner than you'd like it to be, will start to erode, like salt in a rainstorm.

You think it's been bad already, with indices like the Dow and Nikkei falling 7-10% a day, and the Iseq a mere fraction of what it was only a year ago.

But once that little bell rings, complex mathematics overseen by overpaid shouting white men will take over, and all the many hours of your effort, all the careful scrimping and saving, the self-denial, the sacrifices you made, they'll all begin to fall in value.

Not in real value. You put those hours in, you did the work, you strove to ensure the future for you and your family. That value remains in your character and the admiration of those who love you and witnessed how hard you slogged.

But in monetary value, a large proportion of your efforts is about to vanish for no good reason other than the greed of bankers and traders and their deliberately opaque and complex system of self-reward.

The solution is NOT to do what is currently being done. The solution is to do the exact opposite. Rather than ensuring their losses, it is time to hold them culpable for them.

It's a solution I'm prepared to bet no government in the world will implement, not even Iceland which officially went broke as an entire nation yesterday. But it's the right solution.

It may provide you with a little comfort today, after the little bell rings and your savings, investments, pensions and stocks start to diminish before your very eyes, to know what the answer is to this economic meltdown.

That's why I offer it to you. Remember who's responsible for this mess and hold them to account. They just stole years of your working life and pissed it up the wall.

Otherwise, when that little bell rings, take cover. A global depression is coming out swinging.

Update: It's bad alright.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The reality of deadbeat dads

Last week, Minister for (in)Justice Dermot Ahern answered a parliamentary question in the Oireachtas about the inequality suffered by Irish fathers.

His answer was that existing legislation was perfectly acceptable in ensuring the relationship of children with their fathers following parental separation and divorce.

This is utter bollocks as everyone in the country knows. Unmarried fathers have to actually apply to be considered parents of their own children.

Fathers who separate from their children's mothers, no matter what the reason (short of maternal drug abuse or imprisonment) can expect to lose their homes and children in the family law courts.

All this inequality is based on two pillars of untruth - the outmoded prejudice that Mommy knows best, and the myth of the deadbeat dad.

That's why I must pay tribute to today's Daily Mail, whose reactionary politics would normally preclude it from depicting campaigning fathers as anything other than Spidey-suit clad loons.

Their article by writer William Leith is a superlative testimony to the reality of separated fathers' lives.

It should be obligatory reading for the single-mom agitators, who would rather see taxes spent on third party childminding rather than see legislation implemented to ensure children receive proper upbringing by both their parents equitably.

It should also be read by ignorant, complacent men in power like Dermot Ahern, who is only a marital separation away from doing the McDonalds weekend parenting shift himself.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Poison Pens 3: Speaking with forked tongues

So, you're an Irish tabloid editor and Grainne Seoige has finally managed to have that fella removed from her nice RTE couch and replaced with her own sister.

You run the only evening national paper in the country, so you're guaranteed to have the first review of their new show.

But if it's bad, and you slam it, you'll never get access to either of the photogenic, units-selling sisters again. And if it's bad and you don't slam it, then the readers will see through your vapid puffing of poo.

So, like the RTE producers who gambled on the sister act, you hope and pray it works.

Then it doesn't. It's a car crash, unwatchably bad. How do you review it?

Well, if you're the Evening Herald, you pan it and puff it all at the same time! Genius!

Front page today bills their TV critic Pat Stacey's review inside on page three. And Pat pulls no punches - "one great, big, private joke", "the Seoige sisters absolutely drip with smugness", "like being smothered with a pink blanket at a pyjama party", "a ramshackle mess", "catastrophically bad."

Well, that's the end of the Evening Herald running any 'exclusives' about the Seoige sisters for the next century or so, right?

Wrong. Because thirty pages in is where the Evening Herald destroys its own (admittedly greatly diminished) integrity by hedging the bet.

Their 'columnist' Sinead Ryan is one you can always rely on for vapid girly frothiness. There's not a subject on Earth she can't trivialise with her shallow insights.

And of course, she's got an opinion on the Seoiges that she just has to share with us - "super, sassy and sexy", "a winner", "fab combination", deserving of a "prime time Friday or Saturday night slot."

So, what is the casual reader, who missed the Seoige show, to make of the Evening Herald's reviews?

Is the show catastrophically bad or a fab combination? Is it like being smothered with a pink blanket or deserving a prime time slot? Is it somehow both, in the self-contradictory world of the Evening Herald?

And is the Evening Herald a newspaper with opinions and reviews that can be trusted, or is it a self-contradictory bag of shite?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What sort of cold-hearted cunt is Barack Obama?

George Hussein Obama, centre, in Huruma shanty town, Nairobi, Kenya, where he lives unaided by his somewhat wealthier brother Barack.

There are serious questions about Barack Obama that aren't being answered.

Questions like: was he actually born in Hawaii or was he born in Kenya, which would invalidate him from even running?

Questions like: what did he actually do during his years as a community activist and why have his employment records suddenly been made classified the minute journalists started asking to look at them?

But the most serious question about Barack Obama is the one about his character.

What sort of a man can run for high office, the highest on Earth, promising his vision of care for all, expressing his concern that no one be left behind and that the weakest be protected, while all the time he has abandoned his own brother to a diseased shanty town and Third World squalor?

Barack Hussein Obama is that man.

And George Hussein Obama is his brother, seen above being propped up by a journalist and friend due to either illness or drug use.

He lives in Huruma shanty town in Nairobi, next door to a low-rent brothel in an area where AIDS is endemic. He doesn't work, smokes dope all day, and lives with his aunt on a pittance he raises by begging. He also appears to be in poor health.

Barack has never given George any help. He's never even given George a penny to help himself. But he's written multi-million selling books boasting about his pride in family, in his heritage. Somehow, he's never seen fit to share the tiniest bit of that wealth with his own brother, who is forced to beg for a living in a Third World slum instead.

Despite that, poor George still supports Barack and has the whole neighbourhood backing him in the forthcoming presidential race.

I'm not American and I don't have a vote. Even if I did, I'd be a natural Democrat in US terms. But I cannot endorse such a man as Barack Obama.

I'm getting saddened at how so many otherwise intelligent people have fallen for the rhetoric here. Everyone seems to be sleepwalking into believing they've found the black JFK rather than actually questioning the candidate, and properly examining who they're seeking to elect.

John McCain has a thousand pages of medical records, was tortured in Nam and is running for this post four or eight years too late. John McCain, if elected, might die in office and leave Sarah Palin in charge, which is scary for many people.

John McCain has a lot of money, cars and houses. People pick on him for that. But Obama has a lot of wealth too. The difference, for me, is that John McCain hasn't left anyone in his family behind in a squalid gutter.

That's probably because John McCain was the person left behind in the squalor for years when he was a POW in Asia.

John McCain is demonstrably a man of integrity. A man who can't remember how many homes he has, perhaps. Let's say he's an old, occasionally forgetful man of integrity.

But any multi-millionaire man of power and influence who would leave his brother to fester in such a hellhole without even offering to help is no man of integrity.

And when that man then starts spouting about how he wants to care for everyone in his nation, I start thinking about his abandoned brother and wonder whether what I'm hearing is hypocrisy, psychosis or simply cynical lying to get elected at all costs.

Barack Obama is a man without character who left his poor brother to rot in a festering, Aids-ridden, malarial Third World shanty town, despite being himself a millionaire who boasts of his desire to help everyone he can.

Bear that in mind. Don't say I didn't warn you when he turns out not to be the black JFK after all.

P.S. Some Americans wish to help poor George even if his big brother the millionaire senator does not. Here's the link for Help George Obama, if you're interested in being a better human being than Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The world according to one-eyed men

Those jolly japesters in Republican Sinn Fein (the ones who split in 1986 when Gerry and the boys in the Provos went soft by deciding to run in Brit elections) aren't happy at all.

Apparently the PSNI (or 'British Colonial Police' as they are known within RSF circles) have had the audacity to drive around in the North, talking to the locals!

According to a press release from the three men and a dog in RSF, this "use of vans" is "putting lives at risk" because they are "being used in a sinister attempt to build relations with local people."

Why is such relationship-building so sinister, pray tell? Because it "thereby increases British intelligence capacity and capabilities in Ireland," of course.

They're beyond satire. They really are.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Now we're for it

An actual Iseq crash yesterday.

A 7% or so collapse in the Dow.

The Nikkei heading south tonight amid Japanese sub-prime problems adding to the international concerns from the USA.

And the likelihood of the FTSE going lower still tomorrow on the back of more concerns about British banks.

And no chance of legislation in America till Thursday because the Jews are celebrating their new year.

And all this on top of the disastrous market year globally already.

Now we're really for it.

Wave goodbye to your pension plans, your stock portfolios, and start worrying about the safety of wherever your savings are.

Buckle up. It's going to be a very bumpy ride.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Civil Service Skiving

I mentioned a little while ago that I support proposals to cull the dead wood from the Civil Service

I received some responses from civil servants who, while maintaining that they themselves work hard, admitted that many of their colleagues do not.

This week, I've had the displeasure to encounter some of those who don't work very hard at all, and as people in the private sector from Cork city to rural Kilkenny lose their jobs this week, the ongoing job security of some of these public sector wasters gets more and more insufferable.

I went to one public records office staffed by civil servants seeking access to public records. There was a big sign on the wall, demanding that people respect a 'business atmosphere' in the place by not eating, drinking or talking loudly.

Beneath it at a row of computer terminals was half a dozen people, all nattering away loudly at each other and on mobile phones, and half of them were munching on sandwiches.

I waited for a staff member to return from the back office to reprimand them. After about ten minutes I realised they were the staff.

Not once did any of them break off to see if I needed assistance or ask what I wanted, even though they'd spotted me entering (it's not a busy place.) I was forced to interrupt their banter to demand someone to serve me. The scowls I got were frankly outrageous. How dare I have the audacity to ask them to do their job!

In a second public records office, I went in to seek a record that ought to be available to the public. The spotty, barely post-pubescent lad behind the counter dutifully called upstairs and was told I couldn't get to see the record.

I asked the poor lad if I could speak to someone more senior, since the record ought to be available and I got no good reason why I couldn't see it. A random woman wandering past told me that I couldn't have it because a local authority had a copy.

I explained that I had no intention of driving halfway across the country to view a record that was two floors above me and ought to be freely available to the public.

Eventually, a balding man with a white-haired tonsure and flakey skin came down to see me. His manner and tone were appallingly patronising as he told me to go to the local authority. I again pointed out his statutory obligation to provide the record or a damn good reason why not.

He just repeated himself, in 'Computer Says No' fashion.

That's when I spotted the smell of alcohol on his breath. At 11.45 am. Clearly there wasn't any point explaining a person's statutory responsibilities to a person who is drunk at work. Nor is there much point in persevering in an office where people tolerate a senior staff member being drunk before lunchtime while on duty. So I left.

In the interests of balance, I have to report that I did go to a third records office this week. I went in with only sketchy information on what I was looking for, but the staff member I met was brilliant.

He gave me an hour of his time as we scoured records looking for what I wanted. When we couldn't find it, he made a series of useful suggestions on how to proceed. When I got more information, I returned to the office and the same guy came to the counter and told his colleague that he was familiar with my search and was willing to help again.

And after another half an hour, we found what I was looking for. I'd like to pay tribute to that excellent public servant while simultaneously deploring the unprofessionalism, laziness, rule breaking and alcohol dependency of some of the other civil servants I encountered this week.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Someone in Dell agrees with me

It appears that someone inside Dell agrees with what I wrote about their forthcoming shafting of Limerick, the IDA and Irish customers.

In any case, they've added my post to their media page (see below for screen grab - look at the section named 'Technology News' on the bottom left.)

Let's see how long that stays up before their PR police catch and delete!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The PDs are dead!

Hooray! At last some good news.

The PDs wound themselves up tonight, after winding up the rest of us for years. Obviously they couldn't face the hammering they were going to get next year in the locals.

Good feckin riddance to some seriously toxic rubbish.

What a rogue's gallery of chancers, gombeens, blusterers, pocketliners and ne'er-do-wells. I don't know how they ever had the audacity to pitch themselves as Fianna Fail's mudguard when they were the most damaging gombeen opportunists of all.

I note they leave just as the economic meltdown they helped create gets properly underway.

Chickenshit bastards that they are, they won't even try cleaning up the mess they made.

Can we now, pretty, pretty please, kick that lump Harney out of health before there are no public hospitals left, and implement some tax hikes on the superrich?

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cry me a river, Michael Dell

Dell Computers came to build their shitty, always-crashing PCs in Limerick because it was a) inside the EU and b) the IDA offered them tax incentives to do so.

But now it seems like they're upping sticks sometime very soon. Canny people might have spotted them building a huge new manufacturing plant in Lodz in Poland and wondered about the likelihood of them keeping two EU factories going in the current economic climate.

Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, that's exactly what their intentions are. They're laying off 8,000 people, and it looks like closing Limerick will account for 3,000 of those. This will devastate the Shannon region economically. Not that Dell care, of course.

Their share price plummeted today when the news began leaking out. Good enough for them, I say.

Good enough especially for poor impoverished Dell founder, Michael Dell, whose desperation for some cash is what's behind this latest shafting of the Irish people whose tax helped fund his entry into the EU's lucrative PC market.

Michael Dell's eponymous firm has largely justified the preposterous situation whereby computers made in Ireland cost more here than almost anywhere else because they were providing employment here.

Well, since they won't be for much longer, should we expect a 30% cut in prices? My hairy arse, we should. Dell will relocate to Poland, pay the staff a quarter or less of the Limerick wages and seek to pocket the difference.

And whose pockets will enjoy this sudden deluge of cash? Michael Dell of course, the world's third or fourth richest man, a man who clearly wasn't as tight for cash four years ago, when he gave George W. Bush the maximum $250,000 an individual could contribute for his 2004 re-election campaign.

A man who the poor deluded people of the University of Limerick thought fit to honour.

But there's a recession on, and Dell needs money clearly. After all, he's got a $250,000 annual property tax bill on his 33,000 square feet Austin mansion (see pic above). And fuel costs for his Porsche Boxter, his Hummer and his other vehicles are no doubt rising too.

Dell will be blaming that recession on the need for the firm to abandon Limerick. But of course, the real reason that Dell are moving is because they failed, not just the people of Limerick, but themselves.

Michael Dell took on Steve Jobs at Apple very publicly, spoofing that his firm were the more innovative. But despite Apple's products being overpriced trendy trash, Dell has still seen their share valuation go from less than Dell's to triple Dell's in only a few years.

Dell is a shitty firm who have let down the Irish taxpayer and their loyal Limerick workforce. They make crappy computers which break down and crash a lot. Their customer service is famously abysmal.

I hope the Irish people boycott Dell's products. I hope the University of Limerick demand their honorary degree back. And most of all, I hope Michael Dell ends up unable to pay either that property tax or contribute to anymore redneck political campaigns anytime soon.