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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.