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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The lies they tell: Part 5

Two weeks ago, Bertie Ahern said Enda Kenny told a 'bare-faced lie' after the Fine Gael leader had pointed out that the Taoiseach is not tax-compliant.

It turns out that the Taoiseach was telling a bare-faced lie. He is not tax compliant.

Ahern then went on to claim he was unable to become tax compliant until after his involvement with the Mahon tribunal ceases. He said the tax authorities told him that.

This also was a bare-faced lie.

Bertie then claimed he had meant to say 'authorities on tax' (ie his accountant), rather than tax authorities (ie the Revenue.) Yesterday in the Dail he finally admitted that the Revenue have made no mention of Mahon and are not intending to, or required to, wait until the end of the tribunal to deal with the Taoiseach's tax issues.

So, Enda Kenny told the truth. And the Taoiseach has repeatedly told lies about his tax status.

The only remaining question to my mind is why anybody in this country still believes a word this man says.

He's still laughing at us.

More on this from Slugger and Public Inquiry.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

President Obama's conundrum

Here's a pertinent little point I suspect might raise a few hackles, but that's what I'm here for, so let's go.

What would President Barack Obama do about affirmative action programmes after he was elected?

Try as I might, as I wade through the positivist verbiage that passes for political discourse in the US presidential election, I can't find a single hard statement by Obama on the issue.

But in the past, he has said he supports affirmative action supporting the promotion of blacks in educational admissions, public employment and state contracting. Then again, he's also said that the black community need to take responsibility for their own fate, and that there is no black or white Americans, just Americans. So, the position is a little contradictory.

But if he gets elected, the future of affirmative action going to come to a head, no doubt about it.

Because a black president would put the nail in the coffin of the theory that underpins the entire process. A black president would be walking, talking proof that there is no glass ceiling for minorities in the land of opportunity. Obama himself holds an undergrad degree from Columbia and a Harvard Law degree, and there is little evidence he entered either institution as a result of affirmative action. He's just a very smart guy.

Whither then, the state-sponsored skewing of access to higher education in favour of blacks?

Equally, a black president, mindful of his core vote while seeking a second term, would be mental if he rolled back on the system whereby blacks are privileged in terms of access to the halls of learning, by way of quotas, lower admission levels, and so on.

It's a perfect checkmate, and one that conservative Republicans would be all too quick to put him in.

Let's briefly consider the concept of affirmative action. Firstly, it's discriminatory and anti-meritocratic. It permits those with lower test results to enter higher education in the United States purely on the basis of their skin colour.

This is based on the theory that black people are in some sense the subject of endemic prejudice within the education system, as borne out by systematically lower levels of educational achievement across the board.

Now, one of three things is causing that lower level of achievement. (Here's where the hate mail begins.)

Either the systematic racism exists, is widespread, and in many cases is being perpetrated bizarrely by (presumably self-hating) black teachers in predominantly black schools.

Or black students are simply not applying themselves to their studies to the same degree white and Asian students do.

Or they can't apply themselves to that degree because they are generally not capable of competing at the same level.

Depending on your position, there's a case to be made for all three explanations. Does racism exist? Sure. But is it really as widespread as to push black student test results around 15% below that of white students in general? Let's say it is. In which case, a country so endemically racist is unlikely to ever elect a black president. We'll see about that come November. But if he is elected, then the country just isn't that racist.

Do black students not take their studies as seriously as other students? Perhaps not. Poverty could be feeding into that, of course. So could gang culture, family breakdown and a few other factors. But Latino students are just as impoverished in general, just as affected by gang culture and family breakdown, and they do better than black students in general. South-East Asian kids are, especially first and second generation immigrants, also impoverished. But they do better than the white kids in general, never mind the black kids.

Are black kids inherently less academically able? (Cue the hate mail.) There are IQ studies that show a clear differential in educational attainment for various races. Ashkenazi Jews score 15% higher than Caucasian kids on IQ tests. Black kids are a further 10% behind. Such studies are often depicted as racist, junk science in the PC media without their ever offering scientifically based counter-arguments.

But they're invariably done by highly respected scientists, who have a lot to lose and little to gain by publicising such research. And simple logic dictates that we are not all born with the exact same intelligence potential.

And simple examinations of post-grad level students, especially in the sciences, indicate a vast predominance of Jewish and Asian (including sub-continental Asian) kids well out of kilter to their predominance within the wider population. And given how many of those are the children of recent immigrants, at least among the Asians, affluent backgrounds don't explain it.

Which brings us back to President Obama's affirmative action conundrum. He cannot support affirmative action in education if his own election demonstrates that America is not endemically opposed to black betterment in society. And he cannot scrap it without alienating his core vote.

If you can work a way out of that checkmate for him, he may well have a job for you as Education Secretary come next January.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

And the nominations are ...

According to one informed net source, this little blog has made it to the Irish Blog Awards longlist as Best Political Blog for the second year running.

Once again, it's up against some very stiff opposition, in the shape of major group efforts like Irish Election and Slugger O'Toole, and the blogs of professional politicians, such as Eric Byrne and Ciaran Cuffe.

From my perspective, it's great to see some of Ireland's longest running political bloggers on the list too, like Richard Delevan and El Blogador. Nice to see the less serious commentators, like Bock, rubbing shoulders with the occasionally too serious, like the Cedar Lounge boys too.

It's an eclectic list, well worth delving into by anyone with any sort of political interest in this country.

If there's a surprise omission, for me it would have to be the always excellent and provocative Public Inquiry. But I suppose you can't have everything.

I'm frankly delighted to have made the cut, especially considering that three-month period last Autumn when lack of net access meant I could barely blog at all. And I would urge y'all to consider Skin Flicks when you get around to voting in the Blog Awards.

More than anything, though, congratulations are due to Damien Mulley for organising the event.

The best thing about the Irish blog awards is the fact that it brings, in the shape of the long lists, a sampling of the very best of the Irish blogosphere to a wider reading audience.

So take some time out, peruse the various nominees in all the different categories, from food blogs to photoblogs, politicos to humourists, and discover for yourself some of the excellent Irish blogs out there. That's what I intend to do over the next few weeks.

Well done to all taking part, and of course, vote Skin Flicks if you're so inclined!

State of the union address translated

Why am I up so late? Good question. Blame the damn birds.

Actually, I'm watching Bush's final State of the Union address. (Link to full text.)

This is a depressing experience I wouldn't recommend to all but the hardiest of souls.

So to spare the more delicate among you, let me bring you some relevant excerpts, complete with translations into English:

"In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth. But in the short run, we can all see that growth is slowing."
- Oh. Y'all noticed the recession, huh?

"Members of Congress should know: If any bill raising taxes reaches my desk, I will veto it."
- I need all the money I can get for my exceedingly expensive war and to stave off the worst of the forthcoming economic collapse. So let's keep borrowing!

"Thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships you approved, more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our Nation's capital have found new hope at a faith-based or other non-public school. Sadly, these schools are disappearing at an alarming rate in many of America's inner cities. So I will convene a White House summit aimed at strengthening these lifelines of learning."
- Let's teach more kids about intelligent design, everyone. And while we're at it, we can cut funding for state schools.

"The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change. And the best way to meet these goals is for America to continue leading the way toward the development of cleaner and more efficient technology."
- Fuck Al Gore. We had to sign that Green crapola in Bali. But in the meantime, at least we've got Iraq to milk dry of its oil.

"Every Member in this chamber knows that spending on entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is growing faster than we can afford. And we all know the painful choices ahead if America stays on this path: massive tax increases, sudden and drastic cuts in benefits, or crippling deficits."
- Fuck the poor and sick too. We can't afford that shit. We're at war remember? Make that wars, actually. So let's axe the handouts.

"We are engaged in the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century. The terrorists oppose every principle of humanity and decency that we hold dear. Yet in this war on terror, there is one thing we and our enemies agree on: In the long run, men and women who are free to determine their own destinies will reject terror and refuse to live in tyranny. That is why the terrorists are fighting to deny this choice to people in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Palestinian Territories. And that is why, for the security of America and the peace of the world, we are spreading the hope of freedom."
- The people of Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine are all terrorists. And we have to fight them, because they're this century's Soviets.

"One of the most important tools we can give them is the ability to monitor terrorist communications. To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning. Last year, the Congress passed legislation to help us do that. Unfortunately, the Congress set the legislation to expire on February 1. This means that if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. The Congress must ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted."
- You can't give citizens their privacy and civil liberties back after you've taken them for no reason. So let's keep bugging the people.

America is opposing genocide in Sudan and supporting freedom in countries from Cuba and Zimbabwe to Belarus and Burma."
- Only we're doing it really quietly, because none of them have oil we want.

"America is a force for hope in the world because we are a compassionate people, and some of the most compassionate Americans are those who have stepped forward to protect us."
- We express our compassion through military force and imperial occupation, which is why we're so popular all around the world.

That's the state of the union, folks. Teetering on the verge of economic collapse, eradicating secular education, scrapping welfare and health for the poor, fighting Muslims because the country needs an enemy, and bugging their own people.

Nice work, George.

P.S. Here's a beautiful Youtube edit of last year's speech. All you're meant to take away from the entire address in a minute flat.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Man on the moon?

Everyone is entitled to believe one crazy conspiracy theory.

Human minds being what they are, discerning patterns among unrelated events is both the reason we rose above the other great apes to the level of civilisation and the reason paranoia is endemic.

Hence the popularity of clearly mental propositions, whether they be the Zionist one-world government, the secret bloodline of Jesus, the CIA took out the twin towers on 9/11, or my personal favourite, the faked moon landing.

Now, being by nature too lazy to research the facts about dubious issues, I am happy in my ignorance over whether man ever did make it to the nearest satellite or not. Suffice to say, that in my lifetime precious little advancement in space travel has occurred.

So either NASA hit a wall pretty quick in terms of what's technologically possible, or they faked their early successes in order to get one over on the Russkies. Since whatever factual records exist are edited, or classified, or possibly faked, it's hard to know for sure.

Certainly, the issues over lighting in the moon landing footage, and the inability of satellites to discover where the original landing site is today, do raise a few concerns. But let's face it, none of this particularly matters in (and on) a world suffering so many wars, famines, corruption and atrocities as the one we inhabit.

There are other things to get upset about, you know.

Like the Jews running the world with the shape-shifting lizards, who got the Vatican-controlled CIA to blow up New York and blame it on the ragheads because otherwise people would find out about Jesus's children, for example.

The moon landings, fiction or fact, don't rate highly in terms of contemporary relevance, I'd argue.

But you'd think that NASA, conscious that there are people out there who doubt everything they've ever claimed to have done, would be sensitive to anything that would imply it was all a big game.

Apparently not. The defunct Multideath Corporation, so defunct in fact that they never got to funk at all, has drawn my attention to NASA's latest project: they're looking to team up with a computer games firm and create an educational online game about space travel.

So NASA intend to go up against the World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings online and all those other outlets for net-enabled nerds with too much time and not enough social life.

Fair enough, one thinks. A little bit harsh on the games companies who will have to compete against the US government in their own market, but if this is where NASA are going, so be it.

But it does leave me wondering why they're ploughing US tax dollars into creating games software, designed to allow people to pretend they've visited the moon when they haven't left their unkempt bedrooms. Unless, of course, NASA have a special expertise in this area.

Is this a prelude to NASA admitting that they've been spunking tax dollars on fantasy space travel for the past fifty years?

Just a thought. A crazy, paranoid conspiracy theory thought. But we're all entitled to one.

P.S. Seems like Fred Reed agrees too. I'm becoming worried at how many opinions I find I'm sharing with a notoriously unhinged, former 'Soldier of Fortune' staffer.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

How much democracy would you like?

How much democracy do you have? And how much would you like?

If you're reading this, chances are you live in a 'democracy'.

That's because a founding pillar of democracy is freedom of speech. It's also because liberal democracies encourage optimal economic circumstances, leading to more widely spread affluence, and by extension, greater computer ownership and internet access.

Or so we're told.

I live in Ireland. It's a 'democracy'. Most of the people who read this blog are from Ireland and other Anglophone countries like Britain, America, Australia, Canada and so on. They're all 'democracies' too.

But are any of those places truly democratic, and what do we mean by the word 'democracy' anyway?

I'm a democratic fundamentalist myself. I believe in the primacy of the will of the people. From where else does executive power draw its legitimacy?

But is voting once every four or five years for local representatives, who then subordinate their wills to those of rigid party structures in order to secure advancement, really an assertion of your will?

Do those representatives truly represent the views of those who elect them? Is the ability to remove such representatives once every five years genuinely sufficient to ensure that they act upon the will of those who elect them?

Of course not. And this is the fundamental problem with Western Democracy as we know it.

Let's consider Ireland:
An unelected President.
A head of government that the people didn't elect (and never do), who is mired in dodgy financial dealings.
Inconvenient referendum results ignored by the executive, and re-run until their chosen result is obtained.
Licorice all-sorts coalitions in control, composed not by the people but by the political party structures.
Support for a war that the people marched in their hundreds of thousands on the streets to reject.

None of that truly represents the will of the people. It is undemocratic to the core.

Then there are the undemocratic elements we share with other Western democracies. Things like irregular elections, executives that are elected by parties not the people, lengthy periods where the public are unable to challenge any government decision except through protest or the media.

Not to mention the vested interests that subvert democracy here and elsewhere. Everything from the overtly corrupt - like big business lobbying and cosying up with the politicians - to the structural, such as the internal party structures that inflict governments on the public that they never chose, such as the FF/PD coalition, or the current incumbent government.

A true representation of the popular vote any time in my living memory ought to have elected a FF/FG coalition. But it never did.

Democracy as a word comes from Greek roots - demos, meaning the people, and kratia, meaning to rule. Democracy literally means the system through which the people rule themselves. By that definition, we don't have a democracy in Ireland. Almost nowhere actually has a democracy, in fact.

There's a reason for that, plenty of reasons in fact. Liberals tell us that true democracy is dangerous, as it amounts to the tyranny of the majority. Given true democracy, like neanderthals we would all vote to disenfranchise gays, ethnic minorities and so on. Everywhere would be like Stormont once was - rule of the majority for the majority only.

The right also hates true democracy. That's because the people get in the way of important economic decision-making. People want to keep national resources and not give them to private enterprise. They want costly, bloated public services like health and education that private enterprise can deliver more efficiently. Basically, they get in the way of profit-making.

Is it any wonder then, with such opposition, that democracy has never been permitted to flourish?

Except in one place, that is. One tiny country, with almost no natural resources, and difficult geography. A country that, without military power, has managed to remain one of the most peaceful and affluent on Earth for centuries, despite internal divisions of geography, language and culture.

That country is Switzerland. You'd have thought such a successful system would have given other places food for thought. But apparently not. The rest of us cannot be trusted with the direct democracy enjoyed by the Swiss.

The Swiss are the living example that the early American constitutionalists who first iterated the fear that true democracy leads to tyranny of the majority were wrong.

In Switzerland, if you don't like a law, you consult your fellow citizens about it. If 49,999 others don't like it either, you can challenge that law and a referendum is automatically called on the issue. Same deal if you want a law introduced.

Ancient Athenian democracy was so concerned about the potential of the rich and powerful hijacking elections and garnering power to their own ends that they eschewed voting. The government was decided by lot instead, on the assumptions that everyone (alright, everyone who was a native, and wasn't a woman or slave) was equally qualified for public office purely by virtue of being a citizen.

That's an intriguing concept to ponder in this age of Hilary Clinton spending $100m (and counting!) on her US presidential campaign. Where did all that money come from, and why? If she is elected, how beholden will she be to those funders? The same question can be asked of any of the candidates in either party, of course. They're all tainted.

I'm not suggesting a return to Athenian democracy, not even one based on universal suffrage. The fear of Roisin Ingle or Steve Staunton accidentally becoming Taoiseach is simply too much.

But we could definitely go down the road that Switzerland has, with many more decisions being turned over to the people to decide for themselves. A referendum on the war would have shut Shannon to US warplanes. A referendum on the health service would have rejected Harney's transparent privatisation plan and insisted on proper funding of beds and services. A referendum on the M3 would have ensured the road went nowhere near the Hill of Tara.

You can begin see why the powers-that-be don't want you to have too much democracy now, can't you? The pesky people would get in the way of making the decisions they want - decisions that enrich them and their funders and pals at the expense of the rest of us.

I'd like to see a lot more of the decisions in Ireland made by the people. We really aren't as stupid as the professional political class think we are. Usually, we're well ahead of their curve.

And I'd like to see regular referenda as a prelude to much more democracy, including a strong right to impeach any member of the Oireachtas or indeed the President, by way of popular vote. Don't like the Minister for Transport? Get the petition together, and we'll have a vote on removing him from office.

We don't live in a real democracy. We live in a land, like most other lands, run by a political class for their own benefit and that of their funders, occasionally influenced by the fourth estate, who themselves aren't shy at posing to represent the people while peddling their own agendas. Here's what Fred Reed has to say about democracy and the press in an American context.

So how much democracy do you really want? How much do you deserve? And when are we going to get up off our knees, remove our collective mouth from the peckers of those who rule us with contempt, and demand the right to rule ourselves?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Chat Soccer

A big shout out to the lads behind www.chatsoccer.eu, a new online news service and chat forum for everyone with an interest in Irish soccer, from the Eircom league to Keano's Sund-Ireland, from the FAI's shenanigans to the grass roots junior game.

If footie's your thing, then this site is going to be of interest, I reckon.

Already chatsoccer has shown its credentials by beating the mainstream media pack to the developments on the international manager story, so clearly 'going forward' (as some might say!) it's the site to check out for the insider knowledge on all things Irish football related.

Now, if only they can organise a sub-section on the Irish League, my life will be complete!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Daft birds singing in the dead of night

Dublin, January, 2.30 in the morning. Afflicted again by insomnia, I am standing, chilled, in the sodden remnants of the back garden.

And birds are singing.

For sure, the sky is not exactly the ebony emptiness speckled with flickering stars that nighttime evokes in rural areas. A swathe of clouds to the north, towards the city centre, are reflecting back to ground the amber glow of streetlights.

And in the gaps between the orange clouds, the sky is that greyed-out kind of cornflower blue which one generally associates with dull November afternoons, the ones that end in sudden rain.

But this is the middle of the night, not the afternoon. And it is January, nearly the darkest time of the year. We are many hours from sunrise.

So why are the birds singing?

I can hear starlings and sparrows, and a number of other songbirds my urban ears are incapable of identifying. They are all singing, a full throated dawn chorus. In the middle of the night.

I'm no naturalist, as I said. So I don't know if this is a perfectly normal thing for birds to do. Though I suspect something is deeply wrong here. Wrong against the natural order, if you will.

Perhaps this error on the part of local birdlife is something to do with global warming, akin to migratory flocks taking off at the wrong time of year, or snowdrops peeking through the ground in Autumn and not the New Year.

Or perhaps there is another explanation, in which case, I would genuinely love to hear it.

Why are the birds singing in the middle of the night? Is this unique to Dublin or is it happening elsewhere? Perhaps there is some folksy country aphorism that can explain this? 'Birds sing at night – your ecology is shite.'

I'm actually a little concerned by this. If anyone can explain this phenomenon, please let me know what the birds are doing and why.

It might help me sleep a little easier.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Roaring laughing

RTE had an 'experimental' new comedy series on over these last two weeks. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, shite.

This is not surprising, given RTE's track record of comedy incompetence. This is the station, after all, that cancelled 'Scrap Saturday', turned down 'Father Ted' and yet pumps money into endless series of brain manure like 'Killinaskully' and 'Naked Camera.'

RTE don't do comedy. Period.

RTE appears to have all the comedic capacity of a four year old's funeral. The station couldn't raise a laugh with a fork-lift truck. Nothing they do, least of all their own dadaist business practices, is ever funny ha-ha. Funny peculiar? All the time. But never funny ha-ha.

So, I tuned into 'The Roaring Twenties' with a heavy heart and some valium handy. It wasn't promising. The premise, something about four young doleheads and media monkeys living in Rathmines, was obvious and depressing. The acting was as hammy as a gammon sandwich. The v/o was creepy. And it wasn't funny at all.

So far, so standard issue from RTE. But apparently the people behind this particular televisual waste of time are noobies, fresh out of college and still cutting their TV teeth. So, a little credit for the first-timers. The truth is, it wasn't all their fault.

Now, for reasons I can't outline here, I happened to see the script for this show last Autumn, before it was filmed. I will clarify that I had fuck all to do with making this show. It was nothing to do with me at all. But the script did pass through my hands at one point. And I will say this. It was shite, but it made sense.

It had a start, middle and end. Early scenes set up gags that happened later on. There was plot progression. It was shite, but it had it's own internal logic.

But what appeared on RTE didn't make any sense whatsoever. Stuff was apparently cut arbitrarily during the filming. There were end-of-show gags that made no fucking sense whatsoever because the set-up scene earlier on had mysteriously been axed. The net result of this editing by madman was that what little coherence or humour that had existed in this project was cut to ribbons.

Oddly, all the bits that got cut seemed, to my recollection, a little risqué. Which is especially odd, given that the same show happily depicted some goth chick watching a pig-sex porno. (I kid you not, it was that sort of show.)

I can only conclude that someone in RTE's hierarchy, fearful that an deliberate and amusing gag could be broadcast over the network for the first time ever, slashed the show to bits to prevent it from making any sense whatsoever, and therefore eradicating the possibility that it might make anyone laugh.

So another RTE comedy dies. Farewell, it won't be mourned. But I for one feel a bit sorry for the noobies who thought this was going to be their big TV break, and I feel a bit sorry for the actors and crew who put their time into making something only for it to be sliced up like turkey breast back in Montrose.

Hopefully, next time everyone will have more sense and take their scripts to Channel Four like Linehan and Mathews instead.

RTE don't do comedy. Period.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Poor Liverpool

First they have to share their European City of Culture status with some frozen Norwegian village.

Then it emerges that the arsehole Americans who bought Liverpool FC have been attempting to remove Rafa Benitez from his job and replace him with former Olympic diver Jurgen Klinsmann.

This is beyond tragic.

Thankfully, Rafa kept winning long enough for the blond bombshell to look elsewhere and he will now be mismanaging Bayern next season instead, thank fuck.

It seems that the Arab consortium which wanted to buy LFC last year, but were beaten to the deal by the Yanks, are still interested. Fantastic. Let's all pray to Allah that the Americans sell out to them and fuck off ASAP.

Hicks and Gillett - you are no longer welcome at Anfield. You do not understand this sport, or this club. You have over-indebted yourself for this ego-trip at our expense. Do not dare lumber LFC with the financial mistakes you have made. And do not dare sack Rafael Benitez.

Please sell up to the Arabs, who at least are proper fans, and vanish back across the Atlantic now.

You're not fucking welcome.

Mystic Skinner

Exactly a year ago today, I made my 2007 predictions. I even foolhardily suggested that the good folk of the blogosphere should go out and punt their hard-earned on my predictions.

So, is there now a mass mob of irate and skint bloggers headed to Skinner Towers to attack it again?

Let's find out:

I said:
The NI elections will see a bump in the SDLP vote, but not enough to overhaul Sinn Fein. Both parties will hail their performances as a success. The UUP will similarly close on the DUP and both parties again will claim public support for their strategies. Ian Paisley will then find further nit-picking reasons not to enter power-sharing, and the whole process will end up on ice again, and Northern Irish citizens will still be denied democracy.

2007 said: Ner-ner. Totally wrong. Big Ian ended up fancying Marty McFly something rotten and now they both love being in bed together, so to speak. Who knew?

I said:
More American troops will enter Iraq, which will deteriorate further, if that is indeed possible. The US government will blame Iranian influences within Iraq for the upsurge in violence and, with the support of Tony Blair, though without British troops, will attempt to overthrow the Ahmedinejad regime.

2007 said: Half-right. It's still a work in progress. Only yesterday the Bush baby was out sabre-rattling about Iran again. This is coming down the pipeline, just a little slower than I thought.

I said:
The destruction of Afghanistan will continue apace, in media silence and to no particular outcry from the Western world. Al-Qaeda will retain a presence there, and British and American troops will start to leave in order to free up manpower for Iraq, and later, Iran. Opium will flow out of the place, children will starve, women will be suppressed and many people will die needlessly.

2007 said: Bang on the money. Ross Kemp in Afghanistan isn't going to show you the opium dealing or the complete chaos that is Helmand province. But he will make a nice show about the brave squaddies still stuck out there. Bless.

I said:
Fianna Fail will be returned to power in a bad-tempered election marked by the emergence of negative campaigning for the first time in Ireland. Expect particular trouble in the Dublin Central constituency, where Bertie the cheque signer faces off against the fashion wing of the Republican movement, Mary-Lou.

Hard to fault that. 2007 says, well done Skinner! 100%

I said:
However, the PDs will not be returned to power, leaving McDowell in control of himself only in the Dail, as Mary Harney, Mae Sexton and the rest all bow out ungraciously. The PDs will be behind Joe Higgins' Socialists in parliament after they secure a second seat.

2007 said: Close but no cigar. Harney stayed and McDowell lost. So did Higgins.

I said:
The Shinners will boost their number of TDs, but not so much as to create a hung Dail. Bertie will make up the numbers of his government with randomers like Jackie Healy-Rae as he did previously.

2007 said: Yes on the all-sorts government, no on the Shinner tide. Half wrong and half correct.

I said:
Enda Kenny will face a leadership challenge, as will Pat Rabbitte. Enda may survive his, but Pat will not. Expect to see Brendan Howlin in charge of Labour by year's end.

2007 said: No one wanted Enda's job, so he stayed. Howlin didn't want Rabbitte's job so it went to Gilmore instead.

I said:
Tony Blair will finally get thrown out of Number Ten, to be replaced by Gordon Brown after a late party leadership challenge from John Reid and some other numpties. 'New' Labour will continue to ignore the needs of the British working class despite the figurehead change, and will continue to leak support to the Tories. The BNP, Respect and Scots and Welsh nationalist votes will all inexorably rise.

2007 said: Spot on again! Another bullseye.

I said:
The Basque peace process will collapse, leading to further sporadic bombings and violence. Shinners will wring their hands about it and talk about the need for dialogue.

2007 said: Yes, but not quite as critical a development as was predicted. Only a little violence, and only a few arrests. But this peace train is definitely going in reverse.

I said:
Conflicts will flare across Africa, in Sudan, Somalia, and along the Western coast. But that happens every year, so that's not really much of a prediction, I admit.

2007 said: Nope, not much of a prediction. But it did happen. Darfur is a genuine weeping ulcer on the face of the planet at this stage.

I said:
Manchester United will win the Premiership, leading to the 'mutually agreed' departure of Jose Mourinho from Chelsea. In a fit of pique, he will take Frank Lampard with him to Real Madrid. Whoever wins the Barcelona-Liverpool tie will win the Champions' League.

2007 said: Hope you made money on the Premiership tip because the CL was a little off. Liverpool beat Barca but couldn't get past AC Milan in their second final meeting of three years. Spot on about Mourinho, though. And as soon as he gives up on managing Liverpool and takes the Madrid job, Fat Frank will be packing his bags.

I said:
There will be a major spike in oil prices again.

2007 said: Instead there were many and repeated spikes in oil prices. And there's more to come.

I make that more than three-quarters correct. Is it time to start applying for a job as a seer or oracle?

Friday, January 11, 2008

2008 Predictions

I made a few predictions this time last year. I'll return to see how wrong I was about 2007 in my next post.

In the meantime, here is my doom-mongering for 2008.

1. 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.

2. 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?

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. British final pull-out from Iraq, and probably Afghanistan too.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. I will finish my damn novel. Really, I will.