Thursday, February 19, 2009

Prawo who?

"It is quite embarrassing to see that the system has created Prawo Jazdy as a person with over 50 identities."

Embarrassing indeed, though hardly surprising. One suspects your average member of the Garda traffic division does not have a great command of the Polish language. If you ask me it also raises another intriguing question: has the PSNI been making the same mistake as our southern mates?

Monday, February 16, 2009


"Whilst I am not saying that I would prefer to Sinn Fein in government because they are a soft touch, I do believe that if the SDLP had more people there we certainly wouldn't be able to get away with what some of the things we have been able to get."

Ian Paisley Junior speaking about the SDLP on BBC's Hearts and Minds last Thursday

Hat Tip: Patsy McGlone

More polls

Within 24 hours of the tnsMRBI opinion poll in the Republic showing a huge rise in support for the Irish Labour Party on Friday, a ComRes survey in the UK painted a more dismal picture for our GB-based comrades.

The thing that makes the poll such a nasty read for the left isn't that the Tories have an increased lead, it's the fact that the Lib Dems are now breathing down Labour's neck. Nick Clegg seems like an genial chap though he isn't exactly the most formidable of political beasts and much of what I have heard from him on the economy in recent weeks has been amounted to little more than populist bluster. However, in a time of crisis populist bluster can be quite a vote winner and obviously Nick's calls for individual fat cat bankers to hand back their huge bonuses has struck a chord with some people out there. If the Liberals under his leadership do manage to surpass Labour then UK politics could possibly be in for the same sort of shake up that the party system in the south of Ireland may also be on the verge of. Of course, its always wise to be careful when dealing with these sort of findings; pollsters are fallible human beings like the rest of us. Still, we live in extraordinary times - everything is possible.

Speaking of anything being possible, anyone fancy an anti-Tory coalition with the Lib Dems? No, really.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More on that freedom of speech thingamajig everyone is banging on about like

Got twenty minutes to spare? This contribution by Christopher Hitchens to a debate on the subject of free speech in Canada a few years back is worth a few minutes of your time before you head out to watch the rugby this afternoon (or whatever other light-hearted activity you choose to get up to). It's particularly pertinent given the messy Geert Wilders debacle which took place over in Britain earlier this week. Debates on free speech are normally dull affairs packed with clichéd references to worn out old Voltaire quotes and bollocks about people "dying in ditches" to defend my right to say what I want. This is much better. Right, I'm off to shout "fire" at the multiplex cinema down the road from me:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Two views of social democracy

This is the state of Labour politics in Ireland at the present time. To the south first.

It may only be an opinion poll but the results of the latest tnsMRBI survey being carried in this morning's Irish Times makes for fascinating reading. Not only have Fine Gael now moved past Fianna Fall in the polls but the Soldiers of Destiny have also now been demoted to third place by the Labour Party. With the Sinn Fein vote rising one percentage point and support for the Greens also holding up well it is clear that Biffo's boys are losing crucial ground to the reds. Also intriguing to see Eamon Gilmore now has the highest satisfaction rating of any party leader. I can't say that I'm all that surprised by these developments. Clearly a lot of people down south feel the same way as good ould Eamon Dunphy felt on last Friday's Late Late Show. Even so, these sort of dismal figures are unprecedented for FF and Labour haven't been riding this high for a long, long time. Perhaps one of the outcomes of the catastrophic economic crisis will be to break up the decades old political status quo in the Republic that had Fianna Fail as the largest party, FG behind them and Labour a distant third. Maybe by the autumn we'll see the Shinners leapfrogging FF. Now, that would be funny.

Meanwhile, as Labour surge ahead down south, up north the organisation's northern fan club remains meaningless. The 21st Century Commission of the party decided a while back that members of the Northern Ireland Labour Forum will not be permitted to contest elections in the province. As a result Jenny Muir, NILF member and author of the South Belfast Diary blog, has understandably decided to leave. I suppose being a member of a political party that doesn't stand in elections can't be much craic. It's interesting to note too that despite some people's suggestions Jenny has stated she will not be joining the British Labour Party. If anything the attitude of London Labour has been even more hostile than that of Dublin Labour. After all, it took the threat of legal action by the GMB's Andy McGivern just to get them to allow Northern Irish citizens to purchase a party card.

Is there really any point in being a socialist in Northern Ireland these days?

Peace, Bread, Tits!

Hat Tip: Will

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Free speech and that kinda stuff

Odd how a good old fashioned controversy makes you curious. Just as a few years ago I developed a brief interest in satirical Danish cartoons, the Geert Wilders kerfuffle made me seek out Fitna - the Dutch parliamentarian's seventeen minute documentary on Islamism. To be honest it wasn't all that hard to find. A quick Google search and there it was staring me in the face on LiveLeak. Anyhow, here it is. Wasn't all that impressed with it myself. Certainly no reason to bar the bloke from coming into the country though:

Fitna - Documentary about Islam - Watch more

Slap my bitch up

I'm not accusing anyone of anything or insinuating that somebody took someone else's advice but isn't it slightly bizarre that only a few days after that fat useless prick off ITV's This Morning programme said this that suddenly we have this taking place? Hmmm.

Anyone know if Ruth Langsford has walked into any doors recently?

Three men and a buggered economy

I don't usually bother with The Late Late Show as I think Pat Kenny is a complete arsehole, however every now and again it does throw up something interesting and last Friday night was no exception. No, I'm not talking about the cringeworthy interview between Pat and Pete Doherty. I'm talking about the return to the show of Messrs Dunphy, Harris and Waters. Their appearance just before the 2007 general election has already gone down in telly folklore, though if you ask me the return last week of these three musketeers was even better. If you haven't seen it before now take a trip over to the website of Telefís Éireann - as we culchies call it - and marvel at how John Waters somehow remains extraordinarily calm amidst Dunphy's tears and Harris's tales of his cancer treatment (also intriguing to hear Senator Eoghan hark back to his Stickie days by making reference to Lenin and his remarks on "excitative terror"). Proper TV says me.

Incidentally, while I'm on the subject of the Late Late perhaps you can help me: did I dream it or did Pat Kenny really once ask Eddie Izzard if he thought his success Stateside had anything to do with the success of Mrs Doubtfire? Nah. Must've dreamt it. Not even Pat could utter something so absurd.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Piss off, blondie

To say that I was surprised by the news that the Dutch MP Geert Wilders had been barred from entering the UK would be a wee bit of an understatement. This is one of those stories that you really have to cast your eye over twice or three times just to make sure you read it correctly the first time round. Apparently Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom in the Staten-Generaal, was due to speak in London tomorrow at the screening of his controversial anti-Islamist film Fitna but was denied the right to visit under an EU law which permits a state to deny an individual entry if they are considered a threat to public policy, security or health. The Dutch parliamentarian stated that he received a letter yesterday from the British ambassador informing him that his visit was considered a threat to "community harmony and therefore public security." And so begins a diplomatic row.

I would not count myself to be amongst Geert Wilders biggest fans. Some of his views are frankly ridiculous, such as his proposal to outlaw the Koran by using the same legislation that is used to ban Mein Kampf in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, as foolhardy as that may be, it is nowhere near as preposterous as the claim currently being made by the government that Mr Wilders somehow poses a threat to the security of the United Kingdom. I am quite sure that even in the past 24 hours many people much worse than Geert Wilders have set foot on British soil. Indeed, is Geert Wilders really worse than the antisemitic, homophobic, Pokemon-hating friend of Ken Livingstone, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi? I think not.

According to the most recent update on this story Wilders is going to fly to London tomorrow and tell the authorities where to stick their ban - unless of course someone with an ounce of wit intervenes and overturns this ban.

Watch this space.

Worse to dire

Poor old Tzipi must know the game is up. Kadima topped the poll in Israel but sadly the performance of the religious right and the collapse of the Labor vote means that Bibi will more than likely be the country's next Prime Minister. This morning Livni indicated that she would not rule out forming a coalition with Yisrael Beiteinu, though one wonders why Lieberman's mob would want Kadima when they can have Likud. Anyhow, YB's Yitzhak Aharonovich smugly stated to the Jerusalem Post that "these days it looks like we will be the deciding factor, and we will prefer Likud."


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bad to worse

Sectarian headcounts are hardly alien to those of us that have the good fortune/misfortune to reside in Northern Ireland, so David Blair's article in today's Daily Telegraph regarding the growing Arab population in Israel and the occupied territories would have appeared gloomily familiar to anyone reading from my part of the world. According to Blair, the combined Arab population in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel will very soon outnumber the Jewish population in this disputed land. He states:

"Altogether, about 5.7 million Jews and 5.4 million Arabs live between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Because Arabs have more children, they will probably become the majority within a decade. If Israel keeps all this territory, the country will face a terrible dilemma. Will it be a Jewish state, or a democracy? Once the Arabs form the majority, Israel could not be both… Israel's only escape from this dilemma would be to divest itself of four million Arabs by allowing a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. No Israeli politician can avoid this hard reality, not even Benjamin Netanyahu."

In other words, far from it being a hindrance, a Palestinian state is probably in Israel's long term interests. Intriguingly though some in Israel seem determined to open up a second front.

For decades many supporters of Israel abroad have taken pride in pointing to the state's treatment of its Arab minority as a sign of moral superiority over its more unsavoury neighbours. Now, enter Avigdor Lieberman. With Kadima and Likud neck and neck in the polls this week's Israeli general election may be decided by Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party. This ultranationalist grouping which split from Likud a decade ago wants to take a radically new approach to what they look upon as a dangerous band of fifth columnists that threaten the foundations of the state. YB's campaign slogan has been 'No Loyalty, No Citizenship'. In other words, if Israeli-Arabs do not buck up their ideas and pledge their allegiance to the Jewish state then they will be stripped of their citizenship (as for the party’s proposals for a final settlement to the century old conflict between Arabs and Jews, I’ll leave it up to you to do your own research on the Lieberman Plan and its so-called 'populated area exchange plan'). Worryingly, Yisrael Beiteinu look set to gain more seats in the Knesset than the Labor Party and take third place overall in the election. A Likud-YB coalition seems more than likely.

If, like me, you were one of those people that stared dejectedly at your TV set back in January at the images of the chaos in Gaza and felt things couldn't get any worse then perhaps now may be the time to prepare yourself for yet another sudden deterioration. Like the creature at the end of a horror movie that appears to die only to rear its ugly head again and again, I never felt comfortable enough to believe that the creation of Kadima would once and for all kill off Netanyahu. However, the growth in popularity of Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu has been as surprising as it is depressing. The prospect of a Bibi-YB coalition at the same time as Hamas are at the height of their popularity amongst Palestinians is simply too much to contemplate. We can only hope that the opinion pollsters have done a New Hampshire on this one. Rightly or wrongly, Israel has been at war with its neighbours for far too long. Now is not the time for Israel to be declaring war on its own people.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Hold the front page

I saw two men at the Centra shop on Botanic Avenue this morning having a right old chuckle at the front page of the Daily Telegraph. What did they find so amusing? This:
And that just about sums up the male population of Northern Ireland...

What's left?

Apologies for covering old ground again with this post but the Lindsey dispute is still irking me - in particular the reaction of certain individuals and groups to this mess. I don't care how some have attempted to dress up the wildcat strikes as some kind of a spontaneous outburst of proletarian radicalism, I still find the whole fecking episode utterly sickening.

It is no coincidence either that those elements of the left asking us to 'understand' the flag waving racist halfwits in Lincolnshire are the exact same elements that want us to see the revolutionary potential of Hamas suicide murderers in Palestine, ex-Baathist death squads in Iraq and Taliban butchers in Afghanistan. It has been acknowledged by many in recent years that in the absence of any recognisable world revolution a large section of the left have decided to throw their weight behind any group of barbarians willing to take potshots at the Yankees. At home they are similarly desperate for some sign of a rousing within the working class and, as a result, the mere sight of a picket line on a cold winter day brings on some serious wetting of far left pants. Did the oil refinery workers have legitimate grievances? Perhaps. However, the way in which they manifested themselves was abhorrent and the union 'leadership' was absolutely pathetic. More Alf Garnett than Arthur Scargill.

Here are some my particular favourites:

Friday, February 06, 2009

Things that annoy Johnny: No. 233

Apparently Will Young (yes, that Will Young) told the Independent back in 2002 that "reading Marx pushed me into doing what I wanted to do. It made me want to put a definite personal stamp on the world rather than just being part of the system."

Oh, fuck off.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Workers of the world, divide!

Say what you want about the strike at the Lindsey oil refinery and the other sympathy strikes which followed it across Britain, but Petrograd 1917 it most certainly is not. While some on the left have attempted to supply explanations and offer justifications for the striking workers, I have found the flag waving protests to be a revolting affair.

These strikes have been strikes with a difference. No Socialist Worker banners. No clenched left fist salutes. No chants about the workers united never being defeated. The order of the day on these picket lines has been Union Jacks, BNP members making attempts to muscle their way in on the protests and xenophobic mutterings about foreigners stealing work from the 'indigenous population'. While union bosses have made determined efforts to convince us that their dispute is with the employers rather than the Italian workers, some of the men I've seen interviewed outside the North Killingholme plant have been less cautious with their tongues. One striker being interviewed by the BBC's Nick Robinson even introduced me to a new racist phrase - 'eye ties'.

It's not just those greasy, cappuccino-guzzling, pizza-chompers getting a hiding either. Writing in the Times David Aaronovitch notes how the dispute in Lincolnshire has provided the grounds for something approaching a national rant:

"Facts notwithstanding, the Lindsey strike has brought a colonic flush of sentiment about how entitled the British are to their rage. Some of the country's leading commentators have enjoyed one of their occasional joyous moments of getting down and dirty with the workers. There has been nonsense about the slow patience of the English ("but when roused to ire… blah, blah"), about how we should be more like the French, whose utterly pointless national strike paralysed that country on Thursday, about how the ordinary man should blame the bankers, the EU, the Government, the quangocrats or anyone else."

All of this combined with the fallout from the Carol Thatcher fiasco means that if you happen to be one of the many people that enjoy saying 'its political correctness gone mad' and 'they're coming over here taking our jobs' then the past few days will have been like Christmas for you.

My own take on this issue is fairly straightforward. British workers should not be discriminated against. However, neither should foreign workers be discriminated against, something which clearly would be taking place if we took the advice of Sammy Wilson or followed the slogan of 'British jobs for British workers' which adorned the placards of many strikers over the course of the past seven days. Regardless of whether the applicant is Peter from Peterborough or Piotr from Poland all workers should enjoy equal treatment and expect equal pay for performing the same tasks. Nationality should neither help nor hinder your chances of employment. If anything it should be an irrelevance. Had the word commonsense not become such a meaningless term I'd almost be tempted to use it.

Back to work lads.

Freestate unemployment on the rise (again)

Things aren't looking too good down south at the moment. Unemployment has jumped to 9.2% - the highest rate for more than a decade. A record 327,900 people are currently out of work. The Live Register figure has risen by a staggering 80% in the space of just twelve months. And just to put some icing on the cake, Biffo says that things are going to get worse before they'll get better and as many as 400,000 could soon be jobless. That the Celtic Tiger has passed away isn't a surprise. Not even the most loyal free market fundamentalist would have believed that the remarkable economic growth witnessed in the Republic during the nineties and early part this decade could be sustained. What has been surprising was the way in which the poor old beast dropped dead so suddenly.

Just how long before these sort of depressing figures come north?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Good news

It is slightly disappointing that all of the main news broadcasters in the UK over the past few days felt that the subject of snow was infinitely more important than millions of Iraqi citizens going peacefully to their polling stations to vote in provincial elections. Perhaps an election in this part of the world is only considered newsworthy when it is accompanied by a widespread unrest and a Schwarzenegger-style bodycount.

For those of you who couldn't give a damn whether or not the Cockneys had their roads gritted on Monday morning, you may find William Shawcross's piece in yesterday's Guardian to be of interest. As Shawcross points out, what makes this election special is that it is that it is the first to be handled by the Iraqi people themselves. Iraqi security forces guarded the polling stations. International observers oversaw the goings on. Almost 15,000 people - from clerical fascists to communists - stood for public office. Aside from the peaceful nature of the election, I found the following to be a cause for celebration too:

"All the Islamic parties lost ground, especially that associated with the so-called 'Shia firebrand', Moqtada al-Sadr, whose share of the vote went down from 11% to 3%. The principal Sunni Islamic party, the Islamic Party of Iraq, was wiped out. The only Islamic party to gain ground was the Dawa party of the Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki - and even that party dropped the word Islamic from its name."

The majority of people still consider the war in Iraq to be a disaster - that much I would not dispute. In truth though, it's a lot more complicated than that. In the space of just a few years Iraq has gone from totalitarian dictatorship through a bloody period of occupation and insurgent violence before coming to what is now a fledgling democracy. That it has its flaws and is riven with sectarian divisions should not be allowed to detract. The intervention in Iraq will in time be viewed as a success. Sometimes it takes an anniversary for people to cast their minds back and reconsider their attitudes towards certain events. March 2013 may be an adequate time to reflect on just how far Iraq will have travelled in just a decade.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The neverending story

I was under the impression that the Sean Garland counterfeiting story had finally gone away, but not so. Obviously I don't know if Garland is guilty of the crimes cited by the United States but what has always puzzled me was why the Official IRA - or some form of armed fund raising Stickie department - was kept in existence. Even so, I am equally baffled by how persistent the US have been. Eoghan Harris, certainly not a pal of the veteran republican, made some interesting remarks to the Irish Independent in relation to the continuing insistence by Washington that the former Workers Party leader be extradited:

"But I still find it baffling that the USA would pursue a sick old man who led the Official IRA to a ceasefire in 1972 and that they would hound him for the bloodless crime of forgery while welcoming, in the White House, Provisional IRA leaders who have a lot of blood on their hands and who waited another 30 years before following Sean Garland's good example and calling a ceasefire. It seems that this former senior IRA figure who took the path of peace should apparently be now the only senior IRA figure to be pursued by the American and British intelligence. In a week which saw the Eames/Bradley report drawing another veil over Provo/IRA crimes, why is this old republican still being pursued?"

I suggest a deal to end this fiasco: the US drop extradition proceedings and in return the Stickies shut down their bizarre 'group B' wing. Any possibility? Of course not.

Expect this one to drag on for a while.