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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Watch it and weep

That didn't last long, did it?

Don't worry, I'm not actually returning to this blog. I'm just temporarily decloaking to spread the word about this documentary on the state of Ireland's economy.

I think it explains, in a way that the Irish media crucially refuses to do, what the problem is, what's really going on, and how Ireland is being carefully fucked over by international financiers.

This is essential viewing for every Irish taxpayer, every person in negative equity, every person recently made unemployed, every person who is seeing their income collapse as the cost of living soars, every person who still believes the lie that Ireland is being bailed out by Europe, rather than the other way around.

Please send this around, let the word get out. Things will only keep getting worse until we reach a tipping point where enough people in Ireland know what's really going on to successfully reject it and properly enforce real change.

Goodbye (again.)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Jumping on the bandwagon

Irish blogging is a bit of a perilous thing, and I'm not referring to that poor lad who got hit for a 100K libel bill either.

It's basically unpaid writing, and many of the country's best bloggers have at some point walked away from it because whatever they were getting out of it wasn't worth the effort they were putting in.

Twenty Major is the most recent and highest profile casualty of this trend. Like all the others, I wish him all the best with his real life and other endeavours.

Unlike 20, or many of those other blogs, none of the 500 plus posts I made here ever won an award, though one or two did get seen by a lot of people and a few remain perennially popular. But this blog never garnered a massive readership, and to be brutally honest, that was fine by me. It was never meant to be populist, so much as thought provoking.

I took a contrarian and iconoclastic approach to current affairs, pointing out hypocrisy and corruption, casting a close eye on the media and identifying subjects and issues that deserved more attention. I'm happy with the body of work contained herein. I think it achieved the objectives I had for it, and the posts will remain here for the foreseeable, for anyone who comes by them.

What I'm saying in a long-winded fashion is that, like the others, the time has come for me to walk away from this. It began as a ranting board, somewhere to air my thoughts and opinions and vent a bit of spleen on occasion. Unfortunately, the things that predominantly make me upset these days are personal rather than public, and while I greatly admire the bravery of confessional bloggers, I really don't think I'd be comfortable going down that road.

Rather than be tempted into doing so, I'm instead calling it a day. I won't say that I will definitively never return. You never say never, after all. But it won't be for quite a while if ever. I have personal issues that require attention, wounds to lick, and that can only be done with dignity if done in private. Or at least, that's what applies in my case.

It's been fun, and I will pop back from time to time to do the housework and greenlight any comments that come in on the existing posts. The strength of this medium is the interaction between writer and reader, the debate that ensues, and I always really enjoyed that aspect, even the abusive posts. Everything that sparks a debate, or made me think, was a welcome interchange of thought, and that's what sets us apart from the beasts.

I'm off to get drunk and listen to some rock music now. The sun is shining. I hope I can shine too. Be good wherever you are.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Gotcha - Kelvin McKenzie calls out the Media Studies machine

The British Independent is running a fascinating perspective from old Red Top warrior Kelvin McKenzie on the explosion of media studies courses and journalism schools.

The article, which is an amended version of a speech he provocatively made at a London University recently, suggests that the media studies industry is little more than a racket, aimed at providing funds to universities and keeping hasbeen hacks in employment, rather than training the next generation of journalists.

On some of his points, he's clearly correct. Journalism isn't a profession requiring years of study. It's best learnt on the job, in a newsroom, under the guidance of older, wiser journalists. And with the print journalism industry currently in crisis and laying off workers left, right and centre, there are no job opportunities for the veritable hordes of graduates emerging from colleges every year.

McKenzie is probably right to advise would-be journalists to avoid such courses and seek employment directly from local newspapers and train up that way. However, in such a job shortage, there are few opportunities for starting journalists even there.

They are, in effect, competing with the many recently unemployed journalists who have experience. There has been a growing trend in the media as in other industries to utilise graduates as work experience fodder, paying them nothing as interns in order to avoid hiring staff. So a would-be young reporter is really up against it, seeking work where there is no work, against more experienced journalists and also against those who are prepared to work for no pay.

Many will struggle even to find unpaid placements. Others will struggle along for years as freelance workers, living on pittances. Most will simply give up and migrate into other industries, or else retrain in something else. For this latter cohort, they will effectively have wasted money and time on three years of study that was of little or no use to them.

The explosion of media studies courses has been identified in some quarters as an example of the dumbing down of education at both secondary and tertiary levels. It seems, on surface analysis, like an easy ride for kids to 'study' TV shows and newspaper articles for three years, play with sound editing software and video cameras a bit, then emerge with a degree.

McKenzie's point - that a shrinking industry does not require the 25,400 media studies graduates emerging from British universities each year - is only one aspect of the debate, however. Not all of those graduates wish to work in the media, any more than all history graduates wish to be professional historians or all literature graduates wish to be professional poets.

There is a sense in which a liberal arts degree functions to equip a student with critical apparatus that can be used generally in their lives. Educating young people about the intricacies of an ever more proliferating, ever more agendized media is not the most useless thing a university can do.

However, it does seem odd that we are now in an age where people are becoming professionally trained consumers of media even as the media itself is debasing (by way of job losses, lower reporting standards and increased dependence upon PR materials.)

There is an argument in favour of applying the same academic rigour of analysis to the sort of media people consume today as was traditionally reserved for the analysis of classical literature. Why should The Wire or the lyrics of The Beatles not warrant such attention? But the question arises as to where the line is crossed into risibility. What value, for example, might a doctoral study of Britney Spears' music possess? Ironic kitsch value only, I'd suggest, which itself serves to debase the concept of academic rigour.

On the one hand, if people want to go to university to study media, then that is in itself a legitimate consumer decision and universities are merely responding to the education market. Increasingly, they are encouraged to take this service provider perspective by governments.

But on the other hand, what is achieved for society by churning out tens of thousands of people with degrees in how to read newspapers closely? Is this not a form of dumbing down from the days when they learnt to apply that level of criticism to Ulysses or the Peloponnesian War? It clearly doesn't serve the media industry, as McKenzie acutely and somewhat cruelly points out. The only industry well served by this trend is the media studies industry itself.

In the meantime, McKenzie must be commended for making the point that such graduates ought not to expect an entrance into the industry with their qualification. Perhaps the universities might be more up front and honest with their 'customers' on this point. Then tens of thousands of students might not enter such degrees harbouring ill-fated ambitions to form part of the industry they spend three years studying.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is it coz I is black and a footballing millionaire?

A couple of incidents in the stratospheric heights of football recently serve to illustrate the new paradigm of racism today.

Firstly was bananagate, an incident of shocking racism that wasn't, which took place in London at an international friendly between Scotland and Brazil. Brazil won, thanks to two goals from wunderkind Neymar, who, like many Brazilians, is a tanned lad of multiple ethnic backgrounds.

In short, a banana was thrown onto the pitch near him at one point. Obviously, this was a despicable act of racism on the part of dour, sore-losing, pasty-white Scots. We had Neymar, who while still only a teen is already a millionaire and set to become exceptionally rich this summer when he moves to a top European club, pontificate about how offended he was by this appalling act. We had his teammate, the indisputably white Lucas Leiva, rant even more about how such actions were neanderthal and unacceptable in this modern age 'where we are all equal.'

Never mind the small fact that the banana had come from the end holding the Brazilian fans. The Scots, while protesting their innocence, made all the usual statements about stamping out racism. How could they do otherwise, with the ongoing sectarian problems of Celtic and Rangers?

Now it transpires that, in fact, it was thrown by a German tourist who was sat in the Brazilian end. This teen has been interviewed by the Metropolitan police for, effectively, just littering. The police are happy he had no racist intent and was just being stupid.

Will Neymar and Leiva now apologise for maligning the entire nation of Scotland? Don't hold your breath. Racism doesn't flow in that direction, as we well know.

The second issue was the publication of a report detailing the apparent lack of black managers in football. There were only 2 out of 92 in the whole English league. This, apparently, amounts to racism among the clubs, and the report noted that since fans had no problem with black managers, it was institutionalised within the industry of football at the top level.

Until you look at a couple of statistics, that is. The black population of England is around 2%. So basically, that's spot on the ratio of black managers in soccer. Another interesting statistic is that around a quarter of players are black, some ten or twelve times their prevalence in the general population.

So when the demographically proportionate number of managers are black, it's apparently insufficient and evidence of racism, but when ten times the proportion of players are black, that's not. It's just evidence of superior skills.

No one thought to look at the superior skills argument as it relates to the black managers. Two of the most high profile ones - John Barnes and Paul Ince - have been largely rubbish, in Barnes's case, spectacularly so. Gullit and Hughton have performed much better. The evidence points to black managers being just as likely to be rubbish as white managers.

Incidentally, the report didn't even refer to the astounding dearth of players or managers of Asian sub-continental origin. Perhaps sense prevailed at this point and they realised that those kids all gravitate to cricket instead.

Here is the modern race paradigm. It's still racism even when the proportion of black people in a given environment reflects exactly the population as a whole. Fair isn't fair. More than fair is the new fair. But it isn't racism when the proportion of black people in that environment exceeds tenfold the proportion in the population at large. That's not unfair. That's just greater ability.

And this paradigm cannot ever be queried, because anything and everything will be twisted into an allegation of racism, even when the complainants are multi-millionaires proclaimed globally, and even when the incident is something as daft and innocuous as a German teenager throwing away a banana he didn't want to eat while enjoying a soccer game on a trip abroad.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Somewhere it's sunny

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. The recession has hit Skinner towers in earnest.

Income has plummetted, and bills are soaring. Scumbags have broken into and stolen from both the house and the car. There is a general air of gloom - such experiences are not mine alone, after all, but increasingly common across Ireland.

What pisses me off in particular is the theft of Mrs Skinner, who is emigrating to take up a job abroad. This is underpinned by the common assumptions that there are no jobs in Ireland and there won't be for the foreseeable future.

While I generally concur with this gloomy assessment (especially in the context of Ireland accruing additional debt by way of the 'bailout' which will not be diverted towards investment or job creation, but will actually suck money out of an already flattened economy in terms of repayments), I'm always aware of Mark Twain's statement that "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."

Consensus has its own dangers beyond that of propelling prophecies towards self-fulfilment. As a lifelong contrarian, I am for once loathe to rail against the current thinking that Ireland is royally fucked. But I am prepared to state quite clearly that we have not become Zimbabwe overnight, our cities have not been levelled like Christchurch, nor has a significant proportion of our population and country recently been drowned and irradiated, as in Japan.

It's also worth remembering that lies beget lies (Oh, what a bitter web, etc). In fact, one of the ways to identify a fundamental untruth is to establish that it is spawning little untruths all over the place. Such is the case with the lie that Ireland is bankrupt and beholden to the EU.

This lie (in fact, it is the European banks which are bankrupt, not Ireland) is inspiring the many little lies we see today, the lies that cause the doom and gloom. Lies like there are no jobs, or our people must emigrate, or we must be taxed more and receive fewer benefits.

On a personal level, I've experienced these lies inspiring yet more tiny white fibs, as the web of untruth is woven to support the more significant lie that Irish people must emigrate or be financially punished. I object to those lies. I find them personally offensive. They are, in no small manner, ruining much of my life at present.

It's time we all examined our preconceived notions of where we are, collectively. Biffo, in his gnomic culchie reasoning, asserted that 'we are where we are.' This is demonstrably hard to argue with. What's debatable is where exactly that is.

Is it the PIIG basketcase economy Europe tells us must be punished and endebted? Is it a land bereft of jobs, opportunity and compassion for the unfortunate, a land riven with crime and fatally burdened with debt, heading to hell in a handbasket for generations, which smart people must abandon? Is it the European Zimbabwe?

I'm not convinced it is. The sun still shines on us. Perhaps we need to see through the clouds of lies and remember that it's always sunny somewhere, and sometimes it's sunny here too, even now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Desert Island Skinner

No, I'm not on holiday. (I'm Irish - I can't afford holidays any more.)

I've been compiling my 'Desert Island Discs' list. It was interesting fun actually, so I'm pleased to share the fruits of my labour. I'm also profoundly curious to know what would be on your list.

I've been listening to a lot of BBC radio recently. (Infinitely superior to Pravda.)

There is great current affairs and sport to be had from Radio Five Live. Six, which nearly got axed recently, is epic for quirky shows of interesting music presented by individualists. Three is the model upon which all classical music channels are based, but the original is still the best. One and Two are avoided like the plague.

Four is a personal favourite. I listen to it while driving for two reasons - firstly, its unashamed intellectualism makes me feel smarter than I actually am and distracts me from venting endless rage upon the blind and retarded people with whom I find myself sharing Irish roads, and secondly, because when Gardai stop you for whatever reason and hear you listening to a documentary about the King James Bible, or The Archers or even the Just a Minute quiz, their gruff bucolic heads become baffled, and they forget why they flagged you down, apologise, tug their forelock and wave you on with a jovial good day.

See? Even thinking about Radio Four makes your sentences longer and full of words like 'jovial' and 'bucolic'. What's not to love? Yet, like Six, it nearly got axed recently in the BBC cuts. Or rather, PC harridans wanted it dumbed down so that de yoof could like, get wot it woz all about, innit? Thankfully, the wiser heads seem to have prevailed.

I appear to have gone off track. What I really wanted to post about was my delight that Auntie Beeb has gone and archived the last 500 episodes of my personal favourite BBC radio programme in a searchable format online. Pay attention, Pravda - THIS is the sort of thing a licence fee is supposed to be for, not paying ridiculously inflated wages to stuttery eejits like Joe Duffy.

Anyhow, you just can't listen to Desert Island Discs without wondering what your own selections would be. This thought has strangely gripped me over the past little while, and as a result, I've finally closed in on my list of castaway music and items.

I would of course be happy to accept the gratis Collected Shakespeare and King James Bible that programme originator Roy Plomley kindly provided to castaways on the grounds that if he hadn't, the vast majority of guest would choose them as their book picks. Both, after all, are fine works of creative fiction, elegantly written.

So, after much aforethought, were I ever to come to Auntie Beeb's attention and be invited into the studio to imagine my stranding on a desert island, here are my eight pieces of music (in no particular order), book and luxury:

1. Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers

Probably the best band out of Britain in the past two or three decades. It was difficult to choose a single track from these lads. Tsunami, Everything Must Go, La Tristessa Durera - they're responsible for so many wonderful songs. I ended up edging for Motorcycle Emptiness because lyrically it expresses so much about what plagues the underclass and, amazingly, it was one of their first songs, from their stupendously good Generation Terrorists debut album. Anyone who loves rock music can't help but be impressed by the riffs dripping off this song.

2. Everyday is like Sunday - Morrissey

The high watermark of Morrissey - just coming out of the storm of the Smiths, before he got a bit lost in his own strange universe. You'd need to be inhuman not to relate to this a little, sometimes. We've all been there. A little, sometimes.

3. Here Comes The Night - Them

Yes, he may be a grumpy old cunt, but he always could and still can sing with the best of them. Throw in his undoubted talent for composition, and Van the Man remains a national treasure. You could frankly pick almost anything from his entire career, but I have a soft spot for this particular early performance when he was with Them, which comes complete with cringeworthy Jimmy Saville introduction. He's so young he's skinny here, looking disturbingly like Rory McIlroy the golfer, with it all ahead of him. Epic.

4. Hey - Pixies

The best song off the best album by a band who hundreds of other bands owe their careers to. Choppy, discordant, melodic, soft, loud, gentle, harrowing. And all in just over three minutes.

5. Then She Did - Jane's Addiction

Another groundbreaking band who never got the credit they ought to have. The album this comes from - Ritual de lo Habitual - is one of those rare beasts; a record with not one second of filler. Every song is a stone cold classic. No wonder they broke up afterwards. It couldn't be topped. This song is theirs and my favourite off the album, a paean to a dead mother written in Farrell's usual tangential manner with the band's trademark ocean-sized sound transiting through more movements than most operas.

6. Watching the Wheels - John Lennon

Lennon's comeback tirade against his many critics who had bemoaned everything from his marriage to his long weekend out of the game. Manages to shut them up with this simple, effective and moving testimony to the importance of what's important. Life, as someone once said, is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

7. Ya Na Ho - Jim Pepper

Pepper's career reads like that of a lot of jazzmen - he was innovative (one of the first people to mix jazz and rock into fusion) and a journeyman, playing sax in other people's bands for many years.
What sets him apart is his background - he was an American Indian, or what they call 'Native American' these days, of Kaw and Creek heritage. When he had the opportunity to do his own thing, often what he did was very different to the sax jazz he did for others or even his own fusion jazz releases.
Among his discography are a series of remarkable records from the Seventies, where he singlehandedly created a second new musical genre - part US folk, part Amerindian traditional chant, the songs are hypnotic, touching, simple and profound. In the end it was literally a coin-toss whether to pick this or Going to Muskogee. I like his classic Witchi Tai To as well, but I like this better.

8. Cloudbusting - Kate Bush

I didn't mean for this list to be so short on women. I like a lot of female artists, probably more than male. Something about the tone of the voice, maybe. There were a lot of women just outside my top eight in the end. But this was always in there, as was a good few more of Kate Bush's unique songs.
This has everything, frankly - a song about experimental science from a child's point of view, complete with subversive critique of big government, heartaching expression of family life torn, and an epic video starring her as a little boy and Donald Sutherland as Dad.
She's got a new album coming out this year apparently. I'll be first in line as ever. She's an international treasure.

Oh, yeah. I get a book and a luxury item too.

I'd love to be pretentious and say something like Finnegans Wake, which would certainly keep you going for as many years as you might be stranded on a desert island, if not for many lifetimes. But the first time was a struggle, and it frankly isn't that much fun picking apart multilingual puns. I'm going to plump for an old favourite, a real blockbusting literary masterpiece - Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess.
Burgess wasn't just the author of nasty little shockers about violent kids who drink drugged milk and speak Russian. He could write - properly write - too, and this was his bona fide masterpiece.
Effectively it's like a tragic Zelig. It's the whole of the 20th century in a novel, told with gusto and brio. Everytime I read it, there's something new in it I didn't properly notice before, because it is absolutely brimming with ideas, set pieces and literary genius. It should have won the Booker Prize in 1981, but the best books never do win the Booker.

My luxury? Well, on a desert island you already have solitude, which is what I find luxurious these days - time to myself. Since that's a given, I'm rather torn as my choice would be dependent on the flora of the island I landed on. Is there any barley growing there? What other plants exist? One assumes food is available, but the words desert island imply sand not crops.
If there was barley, I'd go for a pot still as my luxury item. Assuming there are trees, I'd be able to make my own whiskey. A still would remain useful even if one was only distilling fruit though. Yummy fruit brandies are still better than no alcohol. But without barley and wood to mature my spirit in, it just wouldn't be the same. There's a reason why whiskey, an Irish invention, is adored worldwide and pineapple brandy is not.
So, if there was no barley, I'll take some feminised cannabis seeds and grow some weed instead.
Either way, on my desert island, it would be my rules, so no prohibition on either distilling your own or growing your own, and I frankly don't mind which, though I'd edge for the still if barley was available.

That's my list anyway. What's on yours?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More 'pin the tail on the donkey' appointments

The list of Junior Ministers has been announced, and just like the seniors, it appears as if the names were pulled out of a hat in a raffle.

Among the lowlights -

Gaeltacht Affairs – Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Affairs Dinny McGinley
Confirmation, if it were needed, that Fine Gael intend to shovel money at the language mafia.

Primary Care – Department of Health Roisin Shortall
One wonders why Liam Twomey didn't get this role, what with him being, y'know, an actual GP and former FG health spokesman and all. WTF does Shortall know about the intricacies of primary care?

Small Business – Department of Enterprise, Jobs & Innovation John Perry
His previous briefs were science and the marine. Why isn't he in one of those roles now?

Tourism & Sport – Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport Michael Ring
A waste of Ring, as I said before. He could and probably should have been the senior here. Why not Shane McEntee?

Trade & Development – Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Jan O’Sullivan
Facepalm time. There are literally dozens in the two governing parties better suited to this role than Jan.

Disability, Equality & Mental Health – Department of Health & Department of Justice, Equality & Defence Kathleen Lynch
God Almighty. She frankly should never have been promoted again after writing references for rapists. Yet another stereotypical appointment of a woman to a 'caring' portfolio.

Public Service Reform & OPW – Department of Public Expenditure & Reform & Department of Finance Brian Hayes
Hayes gets the key-holding job of the OPW. Well, I suppose it might keep him out of trouble, at least.

European Affairs - Department of the Taoiseach & Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Lucinda Creighton
You must be kidding. Lucy-Loo dealing with the EU? Does someone have a deathwish? This post had Alan Kelly written all over it. He's done a belting job as MEP and knows how the place works.

Training & Skills – Department of Education & Skills Ciaran Cannon
Why is the man who ran the PDs into extinction being rewarded with a job? And what does John Deasy have to do to catch a break here?

Public & Commuter Transport – Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport Alan Kelly
Kelly's able, but this really had to go to a Dub who knows what needs done, not a lad who was Munster's MEP until a wet weekend ago.

The others depress me nearly as much. The front bench appointments really don't fill me with any confidence about Enda Kenny's ability as a 'chairman Taoiseach'.

Plenty of pratfalls ahead, I fear.

Musical cabinet chairs

Well, that's not exactly reassuring, is it?

Inda ended up delaying the cabinet announcement for ages because Labour were having a storming row over who got to plant their arse in ministerial mercs, and when he did announce the line up, it was a total dog's dinner.

To borrow a sporting analogy, it would be like playing Robbie Keane as goalkeeper, Shay Given up front, and dropping some of the best players.

In fact, it looks as if Enda got them to play a game of musical chairs, and then, when the music stopped, told whoever had their arse on a seat to reach underneath and open the envelope to find out what their brief was.

Let's go through it post by post, shall we? G'wan then.

Taoiseach - Enda Kenny. Not much can be done about that. In an ideal world, it would be Gilmore or Bruton, but there you go. Kenny it is. Ah, well. Keep calm and carry on.

Foreign Affairs - Gilmore.
Was always going to claim a plum job for himself and Iveagh House is notoriously an easy ride. But he's not the most diplomatic of people, nor the most outward looking. (In fairness, not the worst either.)
Who should be doing the job? Ruairi Quinn or Richard Bruton. Both are well known internationally and usually smooth operators. Plus, we badly need someone with financial know-how to deal with the pressing issues coming at us from Brussels.

Finance - Noonan.
Well, he may have performed well during the election, but he's still a poor third option (if not fourth) behind Quinn, Bruton and probably Joan Burton too.
This is his reward for the election work and the negotiating work. Let's hope he doesn't fuck it all up like he fucked Fine Gael's electoral chances up for a decade.

Public Service Reform - Howlin.
WTF? I mean seriously, what the fuck? This is so wrong on so many levels. After doing the heavy lifting of ensuring that there WAS a public sector reform minister, Fine Gael seriously dropped the ball here. Looks like they gave the post to Labour after claiming Noonan for Finance, expecting Joan Burton or Quinn to take it.
Instead, for some reason fathomable only to internal mandarins within Labour, they've put a beard in charge of the beards. This will not work, frankly. There won't be any successful reform.
If FG had been smarter, they'd have ceded Finance to Quinn or Burton, and then put Noonan in this role and watched him do the business.

Justice, Equality and Defence - Alan Shatter.
Great call, albeit somewhat expected. The only downside of this that I can see is that he's not an obvious bedfellow of the military. Perhaps this means cuts there, I don't know.
What he will hopefully do is bring in a raft of legislation that will address some of the areas that Fianna Failure dismally forgot to deal with, from the long-awaited children referendum, to fathers' rights to increased prison tarriffs for burglary, theft, personal assault and petty crime.

Social Protection - Joan Burton.
About the only good thing you can say about this decision is that she couldn't do worse than Coughlan. No one could. Joan didn't want this job, won't like it and is probably seething she's been given it. It's so crass and obvious giving the 'caring' ministry to a woman also.
I'd have liked to see something bold done with this ministry. Leo Varadkar, perhaps, or Pat Rabbitte. Someone who could bring new ideas to how welfare should work without mindlessly cutting.

Health - Reilly.
Was never going to be anyone else. He's nailed this portfolio down for a long time. Now let's see can he kill the HSE dragon and if he'll refrain from sparing his doctor pals the hard lessons of recession and reform.

Children - Frances Fitzgerald.
Why is this a ministry? Why not a ministry for women, or men, or old people, or ... You get my point. What's so effing special about kids they need a full cabinet minister? Sure, Frances has all the right touchy-feely credentials, but I really fail to see what is going to be achieved with this.

Education - Ruairi Quinn. Not the worst decision, but a waste of Quinn's talent in my opinion. I'm glad a schoolteacher didn't get the job, but this might have been a good role for someone like Simon Coveney or Leo Varadkar.
I expect Jan O'Sullivan wanted this one. We might have ducked a bullet there. O'Dowd was the FG spokesman recently. Another bullet ducked, I suspect.

Enterprise - Richard Bruton. Well, at least he made cabinet. It frankly makes no sense that he's not in Finance. I expect he'll do a decent job here, but Quinn, Burton or even Noonan or Varadkar could have been given this one.
Personally, I'd like to have seen Burton in it, as she might have put some manners on the likes of IBEC.

Transport, Tourism and Sport - Leo Varadkar. No, that's not a list of three things Leo knows very little about, apparently he's now the minister. And Jesus wept, is the next verse, I believe.
If Howlin had to have a cabinet job, this is one he could have held down nicely. He has that leprechaun look that Bord Failte love, decent GAA and sporting connections, understands the need to develop transport OUTSIDE the Pale and would have been unlikely to fuck any of it up.
Though to be honest, Jimmy Deenihan, Michael Ring or Willie Penrose might have been decent picks too.

Environment, Community and Local Government - Phil Hogan. Again, this smacks of having to accommodate him in there somewhere. This actually IS an area that Howlin knows about and this is where he should have been sat.

Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht - Jimmy Deenihan.
Give the culchie brief to the culchie, is it? Deenihan would have been better in sport. Though to be honest, I don't see why he's in the cabinet really. I tend to find that the more rural the minister, the less arts and heritage gets dealt with and the more money is diverted into the Gaeltacht.
Since FG intend to end mandatory Irish in schools, presumably Deenihan is here to keep the language mafia quiet with endless grants, at the expense of arts funding and heritage protection. This should have gone to a Dub, ideally Frances Fitzgerald or Roisin Shortall.

Communications, Energy and Natural Resources - Pat Rabbitte.
Well, since none of the available candidates are going to take an axe to ESB wages, fibre the country overnight or nationalise our oil and gas fields, in the most important matters, it frankly doesn't make a difference who took this brief. Rabbitte's well able for it, but it's not the best use of him. Another talent playing out of position. This might have been a good role for Fergus O'Dowd, who at least understands communications. Coveney would have been an excellent pick, though.

Agriculture, Marine and Food - Simon Coveney.
Obviously Farmer Gael were always going to claim this one for themselves. Would have been immensely entertaining to see an urban Labour minister though, just to put manners on the endless begging bowl tactics of the IFA.
Rabbitte would be my ideal pick here. Sure, we'd see the odd tractor convoy on the M50, but it would be a small price to pay for dealing with the farmers, the fishermen and the cute hoorism of Tesco with alike disdain.
For a less abrasive and more blueshirt friendly option, Michael Ring would be perfect. Michael Ring, ffs. Perhaps Inda prefers having him doing the constituency chores. Waste of talent again.

Super Junior at Environment in charge of Housing and Planning - Willie Penrose.
If the rumours that he spat the dummy over not having a merc are true, he should have been kicked to the kerb, even if he is that rarity, a long-standing rural Labour TD. And if the government are serious about this role, and didn't just bump it up to accommodate Willie, then it probably should have gone to a Dub or at least someone from the commuter belt, where most of the shit in this brief is located.
What does Willie know about pyrite, or planning corruption? More importantly, what does he think he will do about it, once he stops sulking? This would have been a great role for Leo Varadkar. He knows the issues inside-out, and would have hit the ground running. It would be a decent role for him to learn his trade in too. Another missed opportunity.

I'd have axed the Ministry for Kiddies and introduced a Ministry for Employment too, since that is by a mile the most pressing issue in the country. That's where I'd have liked to see Phil Hogan. The man has wide experience in covering a number of different sectors, could negotiate hard with both bosses and unions, could keep an eye on Burton if she was in Enterprise, and could put the case for Irish jobs on an EU level.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Filthy to the very last

Fianna Fail - they just can't help themselves.

If there was another reason required for Enda Kenny to stop playing footsie and thrash out a deal with Labour immediately, it's that while they don't do so, the existing Fianna Fail ministers - mostly just de-selected by the people - will continue to get as much corruption achieved as possible before being removed from ministerial office forever.

Check this latest horror story -

Corrib permission granted subject to conditions

Mr. Pat Carey, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, has announced that in response to applications received on 31 May 2010 from Shell E&P Ireland Limited (SEPIL), acting on behalf of the Corrib Gas Partners, that permission has been granted, subject to conditions:

  • for consent to construct a gas pipeline from the Corrib gas field subsea facilities to the Corrib gas terminal at Bellanaboy, Co. Mayo; and
  • for approval of an addendum to the Plan of Development for the Corrib gas field development.

Copies of the consent letters and supporting documentation are available on the Department’s website at this link http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Natural/Petroleum+Affairs+Division/Corrib+Gas+Field+Development/.

Talk about taking your revenge out on the people. This is akin to Ben Ali absconding from Tunisia with the country's gold wealth. Carey, out of spite, has just endorsed the giveaway of our entire gas resources as a last act of evil. He shouldn't be permitted to do this. He just got voted out of office. All decisions made by such lame duck, unmandated ministers must be undone immediately by the incoming government.

Friday, February 25, 2011

JC Skinner's guide to PR-STV tactical voting

Sorry, should have got this up earlier. Hopefully it'll still reach a few people before the voting closes.

1. As John Waters says, vote all the way down the list of candidates to potentially maximise the use of your vote.

2. In practice, you actually do the opposite. This means counting the number of candidates on the ballot and then voting all the way up from that number to 1. If there are 12 candidates, you find the one you hate the most and least wish to see elected and put the number 12 next to their name. Then you find the next most loathed, and they get number 11. And so on, till you get to number 1.

Do this carefully, and if you get it wrong, ask for an eraser or a new ballot paper from those in the polling station, telling them you made a mistake. Don't put a messed up ballot or an ambiguous one in the box or it will be discounted. Check over your vote to make sure all numbers are accounted for and each one only once. Don't miss out preference number 3 and have two number 4s for example.

3. If you want to vote tactically, do your homework. Check out bookie odds, like Paddy Power, or constituency profiles such as are in local papers, the Irish Times, etc, to see who is most favoured to be returned.

Let's say you want to punish Fianna Fail and they're running two candidates in your constituency. Obviously, you want to put them last and second last on your ballot. But in which order? In the order so that the least likely of the two candidates is higher placed. So do your homework to establish, within parties, which candidates have the best chance of election.

But what if one of them is likely to get a seat and the other has little hope? Then you reverse the order. Only do this if you're sure that one of them is getting in, though. In cases (FF in Dun Laoghaire is one) where there is going to be one candidate elected from a party but it's unclear which, vote according to your own preferences.

4. This works positively too. Let's say you're a Labour voter. If they're running two candidates in your area, you want to put them 1 and 2. But in which order? Put the least likely candidate higher, since the preference will keep them in the game longer. If he does drop out, your vote will then drop down to bolster the other Labour candidate.

5. Consider saving the deposits of brave independents who have no chance of winning a seat. They've done what you and I didn't have the stones to do - put their money and neck on the line, and tried to take on the big boys in a David and Goliath struggle that they cannot win, just to make their point. If there are two or three of these in your constituency, they'll be the first ones to be eliminated.

But if they get sufficient preferences, they'll at least get their deposit back. Once they are eliminated, your vote can then drop down to the candidates you actually want to see elected. So consider giving your number one to the brave independent with no chance of election. It costs you nothing, voting wise, as your vote will remain in play. But it could save them their money.

6. Don't think locally - think nationally. These are Dail elections, not a popularity X-factor vote on which gombeen is most likely to fix the road. Currently, this means your choice is between three options - Fine Gael, Fine Gael and Labour, or Fine Gael minority with Independent support. (Fine Gael and Green or Fine Gael and Sinn Fein are both extremely unlikely, and anything involving Fianna Fail is a non-runner.)

So, if you want to see a Fine Gael government without Labour, Labour candidates should go below Fianna Fail ones and everyone else on your ballot. Equally, if you want to see Labour in government and do not wish to see a Blueshirt only government, you want to put Labour candidates as high up as possible, and the Fine Gael ones below Fianna Fail, Christian Solidarity and everyone else.

7. Punish incompetence, corruption and criminality. If one of your local candidates was part of the last corrupt government that sold out the nation to benefit bankers, punish them for it. If your local TD is a known Independent gombeen man who propped the government up in order to play the big shot locally, punish them for it.

Only if we punish these people, not only by de-selecting them but also by giving them the smallest number of votes possible, will they begin to understand that such venality is no longer to be tolerated by the Irish electorate.

8. Don't be too concerned about giving higher preferences to distasteful parties. If you follow the tips above, you may disconcertingly find people like Christian Solidarity or Sinn Fein unusually high on your ballot. Don't worry too much about this. They're not getting elected (caveat for those dozen or so constituencies where there is a Shinner in the mix) and it's actually more important to make your vote work for you hard in the manner described above than to be overly worried about giving a looney your number 6 preference.

After all, mad as a brush and potentially dangerous they may well be, but they aren't getting elected and even if they did they could not do as much damage to this state as was just done by the last government.

9. As we say in the North, vote early and vote often! Exercise your democratic right today, because if you don't you've no right to complain later. Make sure others do too. Give people a lift to the polling station if you can. Help old people out to vote (unless they're FF tribalists, in which case, feel free to barricade them in for the day!)

Most of the planet don't have the democracy we do. They're on the streets risking their lives for it all over North Africa right now. So don't let the incompetence and corruption of our politicians jaundice you and make you apathetic about the system. It's a good system but you have to use it and you have to make it work for you. Hopefully this post will help you do just that.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The curious case of the empty plane in the night sky

A gombeen stares right into my front room, like a drooling idiot grinning slackjawed at technology never before encountered. His empty-headed moonface is there morning, noon and evening. The police won't permit me to move him along. Apparently it would be a crime for me to do so.

This gombeen's name is Micheal Martin. He is the leader of Fianna Fail and tomorrow he hopes against hope that the Irish people will be so remedially stupid as to forget the economic treachery he played such a prominent role in so recently and elect him as Taoiseach.

You have 450,000 reasons not to do so - all of those people languishing on the unemployment register.

You have 80 billion reasons not to do so, in fact - all of those euro that he and his pals stole from your pocket to pay off the bankers' bad gambling debts.

But permit me to add one other reason, freshly minted. Consider it the latest turd floating on the tidal wave of detritus and sewage that Fianna Fail have made of this country. Consider it Micheal Martin's most recent demonstration of his brazen inability, his brass-necked incompetence.

The Irish air force flew a plane to Libya, where there is massive civil unrest, to evacuate our citizens from the country. Let's park for the moment the question of why the Irish state, with such precarious finances, should pay to evacuate those who pay no taxes to this country. They can be asked to pay later. Right now, they need to get out. The money's not important just now.

Last night that plane departed Tripoli with no passengers. Let me spell that one out. Due to a quirk of election times, we still have a government and ministers, of which the current foreign minister is Brian Cowen, due to Micheal Martin resigning his post after challenging Cowen for the Fianna Fail leadership last month.

So Cowen is immediately to blame for this abject failure to retrieve our citizens. But in a more meaningful way, the blame falls on Martin, under whom all the protocols for such evacuations would have been developed.

It's not a case that people could not be evacuated. In fact, at least two Irish citizens and likely more were evacuated by the British government earlier today. They've been on BBC Radio Five Live explaining their gratitude to the British authorities for doing so, and their gratitude to the British taxpayer for underwriting the cost of their safety.

British prime minister David Cameron is currently out of Britain, in the Gulf on a trade mission. However, he immediately apologised this morning for Britain's slow response to evacuating their own citizens. He's apologising for not getting his people (and ours) out quick enough, even though he was out of the country when this happened.

Where's the apology from Cowen and Martin for failing to get anyone out at all? I haven't heard it. I don't expect to hear it. There won't be an apology because for these corrupt cretins, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

It's at times like these that I feel sickened to be Irish, sickened to be represented by these venal incompetent scum.

They're a cancer in this country. And if we don't wipe them out for good, they will return to kill off their host, this nation, once again, as they've done so many times before.

Imagine sitting in Tripoli airport, afraid for your life last night. Imagine watching the Irish air force plane taking off empty into the night sky. Imagine your relief when the Brits find you quivering in the terminal and tell you that they've a seat for you as far as Gatwick if you want it.

Fianna Fail never fail to disappoint. They should not be trusted with operating a coffee dock kiosk, never mind a nation.

Let's amputate them tomorrow. Let's cut out the cancer for good, before they leave all of us stranded on the tarmac, set to face armageddon, while they jet off into the sunset once again.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rumours from the campaign trail

Some great rumours out on the campaign trail so far, most of them libellous and likely untrue and probably all of them being spun by rival candidates about each other.

My favourite election yarns so far -

* Not one but two candidates in Dublin are allegedly hiding secret illegitimate children. Extra points for candidate A for his secret illegitimate child apparently being black.

* A candidate who supposedly has more than a passing acquaintance with the gay porn industry in their past.

* Straw grasping award goes to a number of Fianna Fail incumbents who are telling anyone who will listen that people should vote for them to ensure a 'strong opposition', which is apparently 'essential' for a healthy democracy to function.

* The candidate allegedly telling voters not to give Joe Higgins a preference because if he's elected Clare Daly will become an MEP for Dublin.

* My "Avril and Mairead' award for the best internal party spats so far - the evergreen rivalry between FF's Mary Fitzpatrick and Bertie's bagboy Cyprian Brady in Dub Central. Silver medal position for the battle of the outgoing ministers Hanafin V Andrews in Dun Laoghaire. Bronze to Fine Gael's Derek Keating and Frances Fitzgerald in Dublin Mid West.

* The Dublin South West candidate who reckons that his rivals are taking down his posters is mistaken - it's actually a craze among the local kids who are making Halloween type masks out of them!

* The Nigerian ministerial advisor on integration to the Lenihan brothers was so impressed by their understanding of migrant cultures that he quit his job in disgust to run against Brian in Dublin West.

* Oh, and could someone tweet or poke or (forgive my retro-ness) even just tell TV star Dylan Haskins that the real election is held in voting booths around the country and not on internet discussion boards? The poor lad apparently thinks he's got it in the bag because he topped an online voting poll, bless him. The bookies think otherwise in a big way, needless to say.

As you can see, I don't get out of Dublin much. I'm reliant on ye all out beyond the big bollix to let me know what great yarns you've heard about the candidates in your area.

Don't get pissed at me if I have to moderate them though. I don't want sued.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The quandary of the reluctant floating voter

I can't vote for Fianna Fail or the Green Party because they are national traitors who deserve to be in jail.

I can't vote for Fine Gael because they are a bunch of would-be Tories itching to lower taxes for the rich and devastate social welfare.

I can't vote for Labour because they want to preserve unionised public sector jobs at the expense of those in the private sector who can no longer afford to keep the parasite public sector class in their 49% higher-paid jobs.

I can't vote for Sinn Fein because they are closet fascists who endorse mass immigration without the introduction of a points-based work permit system.

I can't vote for Independents because they are almost all pothole-filling clientelist parish pump attendants who will flex no muscle or power or influence over government.

Christian Solidarity are Catholic fundamentalists, New Vision are actually a very old vision (Indie Fianna Failers) and Fis Nua are disgruntled Greens.

I need a party to vote for who will cull the excess in the public sector, create jobs, preserve the social welfare net for those in genuine need, close the open-door on immigration, reverse emigration, and provide affordable education for the people of Ireland.

But that party doesn't apparently exist. So who the hell am I supposed to vote for?

Monday, February 07, 2011

No comment required

Chelsea 0 - 1 Liverpool FC

Sunday, February 06, 2011

There is a better way

This is an update to one of the earliest posts I ever wrote on this blog, back in 2006, some 500 or more rants ago.

If you recall, Molly/Misbah was a little girl who ran away from a council estate in Scotland where she lived with her mother to be with her father in Lahore, Pakistan, sparking an Interpol search.

It subsequently transpired that the child wanted to live with her father and other siblings there, and was very unhappy at the prospect of being with her mother in poverty and deprivation in Scotland.

There was, at the time, concerns about the mother's drinking too.

In the end, Molly got to live in Pakistan with dad, but one wonders whether that would have been the case had the evidence not stacked up so strongly that it was the best place for her. Had she not expressed her own desire so dramatically to leave, had her mother not been drinking, had her father not been affluent enough to fight the case, it could have been very different.

Anyhow, the update is that she has now, as a near-adult, moved back to Scotland to be with her mother and one of her sisters. Reading between the lines (Mum's had a child by another relationship taken from her custody) the girls are looking after their mother rather than the other way around.

But what's crucially important about this development is that it came about as the result of out-of-court negotiations between all the parties. IE the dad Sajad Rana could have sat in Pakistan and ignored all the mother's claims, but he didn't. He facilitated her visits and permitted his children to return to be with her when they expressed that interest.

There is a better way to resolve custody disputes than the traumatic and dramatic adversarial court system that put this family through the ringer over 3 years ago. And these people have found that way. It is to talk, mediate, negotiate and put the children first at all times.

I congratulate Sajad Rana for showing grace by allowing his children to be with their mother, and I congratulate Louise Campbell for having grown into a responsible relationship with her children and her co-parent.

And I'm delighted for little Molly/Misbah, who I suspect will never again feel the desperate need to run away sparking an international manhunt because she was so unhappy about the situation created by her parents' break-up.

Many couples can learn from the example here. The lessons are myriad - mothers who vindictively use their children against their exes may find those children come to reject them. Parents who show dignity and respect their children's need to see their other parents are rewarded with love and loyalty. And no one need enrich the parasites of the legal profession in resolving the issues that arise when a relationship breaks up.

There is a better way. Perhaps it's time we all migrated to it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

A millennium of Irish kidnapping, exile and enslavement

The first man I met this morning is expecting his fiancee to be kidnapped and made to slave abroad anytime now.

"It's inevitable at this stage," he said through bloodshot, sleepless eyes. "I fell like I'm powerless to stop it. It's like my entire future has just been amputated. What can any of us do?"

The second man I met this morning has already had both his sons kidnapped and is fearing his daughter may soon be taken too.

"It hurts every day," he admitted. "But you can't say that. People think you're whining. Everyone's in the same boat. Who hasn't had someone depart? It used to be that exile and banishment was a punishment for some of the worst possible crimes. Nowadays, it's all young people have to look forward to."

The third man I met had been kidnapped himself many years ago. It took him decades, most of his life, to escape and return home.

"We were conditioned to accept it, weren't we?" he asked. "We just didn't query it. It was normal. That's what people did. They went away. People went to slave abroad and those left behind were to just act as if that was perfectly normal. But it wasn't normal. It was how a slave race behaves. In darkest Africa, where they don't have anything at all, they have their children, their fathers, their husbands and wives. Their children aren't taken. But ours were. And are."

This is a tale of Irish helotry. A long dark tale with no happy ending.

A millennium ago, the Norsemen conducted raids all across the North Atlantic, pillaging land and monasteries, and taking children and women as slaves. Among the worst affected places was Ireland, where the passive locals seemed to accept a proportion of death and captivity as their lot in life. Elsewhere, they fought the Vikings off.

In 1631, Barbary Corsairs from the North African coast conducted a famous raid on Baltimore in Cork. The slavers departed with the entire populace of the town, all but one of whom were destined for a life as a galley slave or harem whore.

The Seventeenth Century was something of a high water mark of Irish people being kidnapped into slavery abroad. Following the Battle of Kinsale, the English had 30,000 military prisoners to deal with. So they sent a load of them into slavery in the New World colonies.

The first ones are thought to have arrived in the Amazon around 1612. A proclamation in 1625 formalised the system. Irish political dissidents would be transported and sold as labourers to planters in the West Indies.

Cromwell upped the ante further in 1649 after sacking Drogheda, when he said: "I do not think 30 0f the whole number escaped with their lives, but those that did are in safe custody in Barbados." The following year he oversaw the sale of 25,000 Irish children to planters in the island of St Kitts. That following decade, more than 100,000 Irish children, mostly under 14 years old, were sold as slaves to planters in the Caribbean and New England.

For the masters of independent Ireland in the period between the 30s and the 60s, economic development was much less important than subduing the populace with fundamentalist religion and maintaining the post-colonial one-party state for the benefit of the elite within that party.

The policy was simple - export the excess population, the ones with drive, ambition, education. Because they were dangerous. They risked rocking the boat. They risked overthrowing the cosy cartel. So the elite learnt from Cromwell - export your enemies. Exile the opposition.

A later variant of this same poisonous clique realised that a certain degree of economic development might be welcome, since it would provide a bigger pie for them to carve up among themselves. After a period of time, they found that they had for the first time in a millennium, reversed the flow of population.

Ireland's lost children took the opportunity to return. They sold up their successful lives abroad in their thousands for the chance to return home and be among their friends and family once more.

But they were bitterly betrayed, their fortunes pirated from their pockets by the property developers and then their futures at home eradicated by the cosy cartel of thieves as they stole all the wealth, and indentured the country to pay for their gambling debts.

And now, after that brief hiatus, we find ourselves resuming the same sad old song we've been keening for over a thousand years. Once again, our bright, our young, our talented, are being exiled to slave abroad.

One time, nearly a millennium ago now, the Irish resisted the process of kidnapping, exile and enslavement.

Brian Boru faced down the Viking raiders in the Battle of Clontarf, the visceral anger of the Irish finally sprung forth and found voice. Of 6500 Vikings, only one in ten was still alive when the day was over. There were casualties - Brian himself fell in battle. But that one time, the message of resistance was clear.

We need that same spirit today. We can no longer indulge the coterie of filth who line their pockets while our families are broken up, our loved ones exported like cattle abroad.

When Fianna Fail come knocking - if they dare - think on everyone you know forced abroad as a result of their pocket-lining policies.

And I won't blame you if you give them a taste of what Brian Boru would have done to them.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Poison Pens 9: telling the opposite of the truth

All today's headlines from the CSO unemployment figures would suggest to you that the number on the dole is actually dropping.

Take this one - you'd assume that meant there were nearly 7,000 more people in work than there were last month.

Here's Pravda RTE singing the same good news song. And here's the Irish Times.

At least to the latter's credit, they reveal buried in their story the actual truth -

"While the number of people on the Live Register did increase over the month the level of increase was less than the increase recorded in the month to January in the previous three years. As a result, on a seasonally adjusted basis there was a monthly decrease of 6,900 on the Live Register in January 2011," the CSO said.

There you are. Actually the number signing on increased. All the headlines are telling you the opposite of the truth.

I'd expect this crap from the government. I recall successive British governments fiddling and massaging dole figures so often as to render them meaningless.

But why are the Irish media telling the opposite of the truth when it comes to unemployment?

PS: Loving the work of this gentleman on Twatter.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Arabs offer hope to the world

Tunisia has overthrown the dictator Ben Ali, who has absconded with their treasury of gold to the Gulf with his harridan wife and pampered children.

Now Egypt is on the streets, demanding the removal of the dictator Mubarak, who has long ruled the country with an iron fist and who intends for his son to inherit his Pharoahdom.

I hope sincerely that the Egyptian people can win their right to self-determination just as the Tunisians have. Mubarak is on the ropes tonight, having shut down the internet yesterday and received a stern warning from the US, which props up his regime, that his time is effectively up.

What's fantastic about this development of democratic protest in North Africa is that it is an unexpected victory from an unexpected source.

For decades now, those of us who believe in the right of people to rule themselves have been despairing as one populist uprising against a Big Man ruler after another was crushed by tanks, guns and the military.

Indeed, ever since Tiananmen Square, it seems like the norm has been for protests to be crushed, or at the very least put down with mealy-mouthed words about 'reform' and a shuffling of the ruling elite. Burma, Thailand, the central Asian states, Zimbabwe - too many peoples to mention have failed to secure their freedom, leading me for one to fear that it was perhaps no longer possible for a nation to liberate themselves.

And of all the places to lead the way and show that it is possible, the dictatorships of Arab Africa are certainly not where I thought this tidal wave of hope would emerge. Brutalised by their leaders, plagued by Islamofascist opposition, demonised by the Western world - these people were poor candidates to show us all what freedom means and how important it is.

I recall Egypt myself with great fondness - a nation of educated young thinkers, curious about the world, philosophers, hard workers. Cairo is a well-behaved metropolis where a woman can walk alone after midnight and not fear being harrassed. Partly, yes, this was the result of a police state. But also, it is the product of a culture which values debate over drinking, camaraderie over casual sex. An honourable people ruled by a dishonourable regime.

In Egypt, they have experienced millennia of tourists visiting the treasures of their country. And so, they are well-practised at haggling and hussling money from their visitors. I quickly learnt one useful word in Arabic that sufficed when all other refusals to bargain fell on deaf ears.

'Imshi!' is not a pretty word. It generally shocks those it is directed to. It generally makes them gesticulate angrily and leave. I used it often to get rid of begging children following me around.

Now the Egyptian people are telling Mubarak 'Imshi!' And in Libya, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, all over the Arab world in fact, dictators are squirming in their palaces, fearing that they will be the next one to be forcibly removed.

Mubarak should mutter and gesticulate if he wishes. He may even attempt to empty the Egyptian central bank like his thug brother Ben Ali did in Tunisia. But he must, in the end, go just as Ben Ali went.

Good luck tonight, Egypt. Hopefully no more blood will be spilt in the transition to democracy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Comedy government continues

Long after it stopped being amusing and became a sick joke.

Cowen has quit as Fianna Fail leader, but not as Taoiseach.

Party before people, as it ever was with the soldiers of destiny.

"We must cast off the shroud of negativity and regain our national perspective," says Biffo.

You really couldn't make this shit up.

The last laugh comes on Wednesday with Labour's vote of confidence in the Taoiseach. Since he won't walk, it appears he has to be removed forcibly. The Greens are now hinting they will support the motion. I hope they do.

The crucial thing at this point is that the Finance Bill is not enacted into law, so that a new government, after the election, will have the room to renegotiate the bailout.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

They're out at last - now let's jail them

Some vote of confidence that was. Within a day, half the cabinet have quit on Cowen.

It's at times like these that the political clock suddenly accelerates, and more can be achieved in a matter of moments than might take weeks in normal times.

The criminals are running for cover, each rat seeking its own route off the sinking ship. These are the end times, the dog days of this evil, traitorous administration, and now, as they fall into acrimony and turn on each other, seeking selfishly to shore up their individual spoils and treasures, is the time that they should be halted in their tracks by the people of Ireland and held to account for their treachery.

Mussolini's end was swift and ignominious, as was that of Hitler, Ceaucescu and any number of petty tyrants and traitors who sold out their people to death, or war, or crippling poverty, or endless debt enslavement while they continued voting themselves pensions and pay raises, living like emperors, right up to the moment they realised the people now desired retribution.

And there must be a reckoning for what this shower of thieves have done to Ireland. There must be an accounting, omitting none of them. Let's not forget Bertie Ahern, the gangmaster of this current cabal, nor those who snuck out of the party early, McCreevy, Hoppity Cullen, O'Dea the perjurer.

Treason in Ireland is a capital crime, one of the few carrying death as a penalty, and there is no doubt whatsoever that their indenturing the nation to debt slavery to pay off the losing bets of big bankers and their cosy circle of developer and banker friends amounts to nothing short of treason.

Don't let them sneak off into the night with their ill-gotten gains, not this time. Don't let them die in their sleep, in their mansions, like the crook Haughey did.

Let us hold them to account for their actions. For if we do not, if we tolerate this last outrage, what type of nation can we in any honesty claim to be?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NAMA in Blunderland

Come with me once again down the rabbit hole well trodden by Irish property developers and their enablers in Irish banks and the Irish state bodies.

Our hero today is Killiney solicitor Brian O'Donnell, a man who somehow managed to leverage his business in just over a decade to the point where he was buying Washington skyscrapers overlooking the White House, entire buildings in London's Canary Wharf and Stockholm's biggest office block.

Of course, the money for these nine-figure purchases was largely borrowed from banks. And now they'd like it back. Bank of Ireland is looking for around €70 million from O'Donnell and his doctor wife. But that's dwarfed by their total property debts of over $1 billion.

So far, so Celtic Tiger collapse. But what's especially hallucinogenic about this case is not only the massive amount of money that the banks leant to a lawyer and a doctor to buy skyscrapers all around the world. What's really, really straining the limits of credibility is the fact that our hero is currently on a panel to advise NAMA.

Needless to say, like all good state agencies, NAMA is spunking absolute fortunes of state money at lawyers. The agency is expected to hand over €260 million to legal eagles over the course of the next decade. That's a quarter of a billion euro of OUR MONEY.

And who are these incredibly expensive legal advisors? Well, 64 firms have been appointed to a panel to share the booty. And unbelievably, Brian 'Billion in the hole' O'Donnell is one of them.

Let us pause for a moment to catch our collective breath at this audacity.

Somehow a lawyer managed to persuade the banks to loan him not a few hundred grand for a couple of buy-to-lets, nor even a couple of mill for an apartment block, but one BILLION dollars for skyscrapers.

Then it all went tits up for property, and now the banks want their cash back and are suing to get it. O'Donnell being a lawyer, is obviously fighting it. Fighting in court is what he does well, unlike investing in property.

Meanwhile, the state via it's impaired bank loans vehicle NAMA is doing the best it can to bail out the poor developers and the banks who got burnt went property went poof.

And of course, this is inevitably a bonanza for lawyers, as all state agency activities tend to be. But the incredible chutzpah, the sheer gall of all involved to appoint a lawyer to this advisory panel, which will pocket quarter of a billion in fees, who himself got spectacularly burnt and is in debt to the tune of $1 billion on property, is staggering.

Let's go over it one more time, real slow: NAMA has decided it is appropriate to take legal advice on handling their crappy property loans from someone who themselves owe a billion bucks to the banks on property deals.

They're either mad as a hatter, or they've been chewing on the wrong side of the mushrooms. And they've obviously stopped even caring about what they do or how it looks to us poor pleb mugs who just had our entire futures mortgaged to the IMF to pay for all of this mess.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More false dawns than a transvestite conference

That's my impression of the ongoing farce that Brian Cowen finds himself in.

Another day, another 'momentous' speech in which he once again clings onto power at any cost, daring the Greens, his own party, the plotters in his cabinet to grow a pair and take him out.

It's becoming like Groundhog Day now. Each time, it's billed as a potentially epoch-changing moment. Mired in the shit he created, Biffo announces a speech. The meeja dust down their overtime slips and grab a cab to government buildings or whatever hotel, shebeen or outhouse Biffo has chosen this time.

Then out comes Cowen, licking his lips and blustering the same tired old bullshit about doing his best for the country, while some few remaining loyal colleagues simper alongside.

Then Pravda RTE announce that it was a strong and important speech by the Taoiseach, to gales of laughter from the public beyond the Montrose cumann.

And the proverbial can takes another kicking down the road, and the country remains essentially misgoverned by incompetents while the much-needed general election is once again delayed for the benefit of a handful of timeserving crooks in power.

Every repeat of this farce is costing us literally millions, costing us more of our rapidly vanishing sovereignty, costing us what little credibility we have left on the world stage.

Sure, the Opposition leaders will be cracking open the bubbly tonight at the prospect of Fianna Fail sliding ever further into obsolescence in the polls. But right now, none of this does the country any good whatsoever.

Will it actually take riots to remove this government? Do we as a people have less backbone than the Icelanders, the Greeks, the Tunisians? I'm ashamed to say we do.

Tune in midweek for another repeat of Cowen's single transferable 'I won't go' speech. If you can stomach it, that is.

Edit: Fianna Fail meltdown gets more amusing and confusing after Micky Martin decides to hold his own press conference. Here's what he had to say (apparently without first convening a committee to draw up a report):

Bottom line: He offered his resignation and it was refused (Real men just resign without asking for permission first) and will oppose Biffo on Tuesday, but confusingly still supports him as Taoiseach. He thinks he should lead Fianna Fail because he introduced a smoking ban years ago. And even though he's holding press conferences, he isn't canvassing for the leadership of the party.

My only remaining questions after two car crash press conferences in a row are:

What in hell are the Greens still doing in Government tonight (other than waiting to claim full ministerial pensions if they can keep going la-la-la with fingers in their ears until May)?

How many more passive-aggressive disgruntled ministers will hold similarly confusing press conferences before Tuesday's vote?

Friday, January 14, 2011


Let's take this one slowly.

I'm out in the pub tonight, meeting an old friend I haven't seen in quite some time.

'I read this racist blog', he tells me. 'Skinflicks', it's called.'

He goes on to tell me how he was stunned by what this blog had to say about asylum seekers.

I was in turn stunned that he thought this blog was racist.

So to clarify, I'm not going to give it the old 'some of my best friends' argument, because frankly, that's not really important. Instead, let me simply remind everyone that I've been arguing for a new asylum system for years.

In that pro-active system, I've argued that we as a nation should send planes out to known warzones and patriate people who demonstrably deserve asylum, as defined by local NGOs, especially Irish ones like Goal and Trocaire.

I'd also add that the Department of Justice themselves have stated that the vast majority of asylum seekers from certain countries, especially Nigeria, are lying. IE They were refused asylum on first application. This isn't surprising, since Nigeria is an affluent African country which is not at war with itself or anywhere else. Sure, it has problems. So do we.

We cannot afford to accommodate all people who earn less than we do, and the asylum system was set up to save people from death, not provide a new life for those who earn less than we do.

I'd love to see Aer Lingus planes bringing people from the Congo, from Afghanistan to Ireland so that we could offer them asylum. What I didn't love was us accepting in fraudsters from the Nigerian middle class who burnt their passports at Heathrow or on the plane as asylum seekers.

I didn't love us accepting asylum seekers who subsequently got elected mayor of their adopted town in Ireland and returned to Nigeria for a ticker tape parade, when they had told Irish authorities that their life was at risk if they ever went back.

Now we have no spare money. Now the tidal wave of economic migrants has dried up. Now we can and should implement a proper asylum policy that actually offers asylum to those deserving it. There's sadly no shortage of such people. We have NGOs all over the world. We can find no end of them. Let's help them, the people who actually need and deserve it.

Because it is, in my opinion, frankly immoral to pose as an asylum seeker if you are actually an economic migrant. It is immoral to pretend to be at risk of death or torture when that is not the case, just to gain access to free housing, education and benefits. Those are provided for people whose lives were genuinely at risk, and those who claim for it fraudulently are eroding our ability to help those who really need the help.

I'm not against an asylum policy at all. I just wish we had a proper functioning one, because so far, we never have. I just wish that we had a system that allowed economic migrants to enter and live in and support Ireland on Ireland's terms, rather than a system that drove them to pose as asylum seekers.

That's where I'm coming from. I was sad to hear that my position wasn't clear to at least one reader. Hopefully now I've clarified what I mean.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 was the joint warmest year ever

According to the global warming freaks.

Strangely, according to the rest of us, it was bloody freezing. I've never in my lifetime known temperatures approaching the -18C we were seeing on a regular basis in Ireland during December.

But obviously, I'm wrong and actually the weeks of snow, the crappy summer and the record low temperatures were a hallucination and in fact I ought to have been out sunbathing.

Because of course, it was actually the warmest year we've ever had.

Meanwhile in other news, Marilyn Monroe is set to marry Elvis at his mansion on the moon, with Shergar as best man and Hitler as bridesmaid.

Monday, January 10, 2011


That's Ireland's per capita safety net if the euro goes belly-up. €46 per man, woman and child.

Let me explain. Ireland holds a mere 6 metric tonnes of gold. (This is an improvement on only a few years ago, when our gold holdings were a tiny 2 metric tonnes.)

Six metric tonnes translates into 192904.478 troy ounces. That amounts to around 0.0433 troy ounces per person in Ireland. At the current price of €1061 or so per ounce, that's a mere €46 of insurance each if the single currency goes boom.

Why does this matter? Because gold is real money. The euro is simply currency - fiat currency, created by the EU in an ill-fated attempt to challenge the post-Bretton Woods hegemony of the dollar as the world's reserve currency.

And why is that important? Because increasingly, fiat currencies are collapsing. The dollar is engaged in an almighty printing press operation designed to destroy America's overseas debt even as it erodes American citizens' personal wealth. The euro, due to the ongoing debt crisis in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and other member states, will inevitably follow.

The markets are well aware of all of this, and have been fleeing to safe havens for months now, such as the Swiss Franc and the Brazilian Real, both of which are so overvalued as to be harming their indigenous economies. But money has also been flowing into commodities. In a world where money is potentially infinite, only finite commodities can store value meaningfully.

Hence the upswing in oil, gold and silver prices.

Weimar Germany is the most memorable example of what happens when a currency ceases to be a meaningful store of wealth. But we've also seen it recently in Zimbabwe too, where hundred million Zim dollar notes became the norm.

In the current economic climate, all currencies are in a race to the bottom, as governments seek to devalue in order to restore competitiveness. At such a time, hedging wealth in real money - gold, oil, land, commodities, precious metals - becomes inevitably more popular, driving up the price.

Of those commodities, gold is the most important, because it has held the role of real money among humanity for over 5,000 years. You can't print more of it. It is non-inflationary. That's why all central banks hold it - as a hedge against currency fluctuation and hyperinflation.

To a lesser extent, silver, the former 'people's money' fulfils a similar role, or did until the last century when stringent efforts managed to remove most of the planet from a bimetal or gold standard and onto a fiat currency system that is now unravelling.

What does this mean for the average person? Well, there are only around 4.5 billion ounces of gold in the world, and more than 6.5 billion people. Gold has shot up in value in recent years, as the world economy began to fall apart. But this is not a bubble so much as the beginning of its rally.

What will happen if the world currencies continue to devalue at the current rate? More and more people will seek to hedge their wealth in the only non-eroding, infinitely divisible store of wealth there is - gold. And there's less than 3/4 of an ounce per person to go around.

Don't expect the government to be in any position to help you at that point, if paper becomes almost worthless and gold takes off for the stratosphere. Because, as we now know, they only hold 1/25th of an ounce for every person in the country. You're going to have to look after yourself on this one.

An even more interesting role is held by silver. Historically the money of currency (being of a lesser value than gold by an historical ratio of c. 15:1), silver has been undervalued for many years, partly due to price suppression by big banks like JP Morgan.

But silver is also in huge demand industrially, and there is even less of it available for personal investors than there is of gold. If paper begins to collapse as a viable means of exchange, we will see what is already happening in Zimbabwe - people reverting to precious metals as currency.

And in that context, the value of silver, currently nearly 50 times cheaper than gold, will rise even more quickly than the yellow metal. It will become again the means of exchange, as gold itself will be so valuable as to be unusable for small transactions.

For such reasons, I think it is wise for people to consider holding some gold and silver. Note, I don't say invest in gold or silver funds, such as GLD or SLV on the market. Those funds simply don't have the metal. They are fractionally leveraged in the same way banks are.

IE they hold only a fraction of what they trade (believed to be less than 1% currently). If you have such investments, I'd consider divesting them and seeking actual physical metal if I were you, as the price of physical metal and 'paper' metal already appears to be decoupling.

There are bullion accounts out there, where your money is stored as gold and silver in your name, thereby saving you the anxiety of stashing metal around your home. A quick google will throw them up if that interests you. I have an account with one for peace of mind.

Because if the euro collapses, then your euro savings go with it, and you'll experience the same poverty that Germans in Weimar did if you don't have some gold or silver - real money when the paper goes poof.

After all, the government only has 1/25th of an ounce with your name on it.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Can we now admit that they weren't refugees?

Irish economy booms. Suddenly, out of the blue, the place is swamped with hundreds of thousands of asylum applications, largely from countries which, though poorer than here, are not experiencing notable civil unrest or war.

Irish economy collapses. Suddenly, out of the blue, the number of asylum applications crashes overnight. Nothing has notably changed in the countries from which the vast majority of our 'asylum seekers' originate - Nigeria, China and Pakistan, in other words. Pakistan is no more unstable than it ever was, China is no more open than it was five years ago and Nigeria remains stable though corrupt oil-rich nation.

Department of Justice figures have repeatedly revealed that the vast majority of such claimants are simply lying, and are nothing more than economic migrants. Now the economy is in the shitter, obviously the number of claimants is drying up, vindicating the Department's statistical claim that these are not, were not and never were political refugees.

So can we now admit that the bulk of asylum seekers were simply chancers on the make? Or will we continue squandering much needed public funds denying reality in the name of political correctness?

Such a strategy has finally become too much of a burden for one Irish council, it seems. For years, the Dun Laoghaire 'Festival of Cultures' was heralded as the flagship event of multicultural Ireland - a public festival that celebrated diversity and the rich heritages of the many migrant communities in Ireland.

Now that it's been scrapped, the council has revealed that actually the festival was a financial disaster, sucking half a million quid out of its much stretched budget and resulting in street violence.

Why couldn't they have told us this earlier? And why was the state paying for this at all? The Chinese community celebrate their New Year in Dublin annually. They pay for it themselves. There are St Patrick's Day parades all over the world. They are primarily funded by local Irish-descended community groups.

But here we have an occasion for public disorder, that cost the council a fortune annually, dressed up as a beneficial interaction of migrant cultures.

Over the past fifteen years, we have seen some seismic changes in Ireland, irreversible changes that have not all been beneficial to the state. After the Celtic Tiger rollercoaster, we find ourselves once again bankrupt and exporting our brightest youth to other shores, where they will not receive political asylum with its free housing, food and education. Nor will they receive 200 euro a week benefits or find the local council spending half a million to promote their culture.

A scan of the origins of PPS number recipients by nationality over the past decade or more reveals just how our immigration and asylum system was abused. How our good nature and hospitality was effectively abused.

Yes, there are a few Iraqis and Afghans. Not many Congolese, or Darfurians, though. No, what we received were primarily lying Nigerians, from one of the richest of all African countries, who circumvented the Dublin protocol on asylum to claim where the benefits were greatest.

Now, I'm the first to accept that they're not leaving. The days of a homogenous and pasty white Ireland are gone for good, and I won't particularly miss them.

But in our newfound poverty, can we also emulate the actions of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown council and introduce some honesty at last into the diversity debate?

The 'festival of cultures' was a money-sucking excuse for public order offences. Can we similarly now admit that the vast majority of asylum seekers to Ireland weren't actually refugees at all, but simply economic migrants who lied their way into the country?