Archive for December, 2008

Lost in Commission

Irish Finance Minsiter Charlie McCreevy.
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Commissioner McCreevy’s actions demonstrate a total absence of respect for the European Parliament, and appear to be more appropriate for a paid lobbyist of the finance industry than a European Commissioner. His consultations are in our minds little more than time-wasting exercises embarked upon with the hope that they might provide further excuses for him not to carry out the will of the Parliament.

Me, I never understood why some Irish people opposed to the Lisbon Treaty saw fit to point toward the loss of a commissioner as a reason for voting no. Something to do, I think, with Ireland losing influence at the heart of Europe, or some similarly trite and ignorant formulation.

Well, it looks like losing a commissioner, everything else being equal, might have been a good thing for Ireland, as it could have stopped loads of Europeans from hating our guts so much (that is, of those who give a toss about the European Union and who can actually tell the difference between Ireland and England). That is not an argument I expect the No-Not-Again campaigns to put to good effect, but it is an argument nonetheless. However, the immediate problem is how in Christ the government is going to spew forth a candidate for commissioner who does not act like a paid lobbyist of the finance industry.

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I wouldn’t, but he would

A common reaction among Christians of a certain stripe, when confronted with some public display of disrespect toward the symbols of their faith –a giant chocolate Jesus, a Playboy cover allusion to the virgin Mary– is to say something along the lines of ‘how brave of them to do it to Jesus or Mary. Maybe next time they should do it to Muhammad’.

The implication, on the surface, appears to be that Christians are a tolerant lot, and therefore an easy target for cowards. But I think there’s something else going on: maybe a form of negative projective identification. I am tolerant, but he, the mad Muslim is not. I turn the other cheek; he chops your head off, blows up your family. If it wasn’t for me and those like me, you wouldn’t be able to get away with what you do. Aren’t you lucky that you have people like me to make fun of? Because if you didn’t….

So the ideal forms of punishment -corporal and capital- for offending religious norms are withheld, on account of the goodness of the Christian. But the more you think about the hypothetical scenario offered, the more it becomes clear that what you are told ‘the Muslim’ would do to you is in fact what the Christian would do to you if he could. It just so happens that he can’t. Lucky you.

A comparable situation is when an older teacher harks back to the days of corporal punishment and says to an errant student something like ‘if this were 30 years ago I’d knock lumps out of you’: the desire to knock lumps out of the student is barely concealed.

What put me in mind of all this was an observation made by Toby Harnden on his blog yesterday about the journalist who threw the shoe at George Bush.

But ask yourself this question: How would al-Zaidi have fared if he’d hurled a pair of shoes at Saddam?

The same observation was repeated today by the Irish Independent’s mind-at-work, Ian O’Doherty:

Still, it would have been interesting to see how Saddam Hussein would have reacted if someone had fecked their shoes at him.

Jail would have been the least of their worries; but hey, let’s not focus on that, right?

What emerges in both instances is the implication that the journalist –who by his brother’s account is presently too badly beaten to appear in court– should consider himself lucky that he wasn’t subjected to more vicious punishment for throwing shoes at the man responsible for the destruction of his country through invasion, high altitude bombing and military occupation. In both instances, the writers draft Saddam Hussein in to deliver the ideal punishment for the act of supreme ingratitude. And not only is the journalist to be condemned for what he did, but Bush is, in Harnden’s case, to be revered for his supple reflexes.

News of a sacking

“You’re only allowed one of any particular voice on Today,” claims one insider. “If a favoured new arrival has the same accent as you, they’ll farm you out to other projects. It happened with Carolyn Quinn and Sarah Montague. It also happened with Eddie Mair and Jim Naughtie – there could only be one Scottish accent. Once they wanted Webb, they could only have one posh voice. Stourton had been falling out of favour for a while and they kept lining him up with these big documentaries and huge series to let him down gently. The news got leaked before they’d put everything in place.

So why was Edward Stourton really sacked from the Today programme? I have no idea, and could hardly care less, since I never listen to the programme. However, I think we can eliminate one possible motive from our enquiries: that he was ejected because he was an insufferable asshole, since Justin Webb is his replacement.The upside then – less Justin Webb on TV.

Not so swimmingly

Roche held at gunpoint during Co Wicklow hotel robbery – The Irish Times – Mon, Dec 15, 2008

Mr Roche (61) had a gun held to his back at the Co Wicklow hotel complex, his spokesman confirmed.
Mr Roche was with his official driver at the time and both were shaken by the incident.

“Mr Roche was returning from a daily swim at the hotel’s pool when he was approached from behind and had a gun shoved into his back,” his spokesman said.

“He was forced into a room with his driver and other staff members. Obviously he is shaken by the incident but is currently helping gardaí with their inquiries,” the spokesman added. The Druids Glen Golf Resort is located just 30 minutes south of Dublin.

First, my sympathies to Dick Roche and the others who were held hostage, which must be a terrifying experience.

It’s a sad day when a government minister can’t take a daily swim in a five star hotel without some dudes with guns coming along and ruining the morning. If there was a public swimming pool within ten miles of where I live and I was able to get there in the mornings before going to work, I know I’d be really pissed off if someone did something like that to me.

If the Irish people had voted Yes in the Lisbon treaty, this would never have happened, you know.

Leather for Hell

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Shoes thrown at Bush on Iraq trip

Al-Baghdadiya’s bureau chief told the Associated Press that he had no idea what prompted Mr Zaidi to attack President Bush, although reports say he was once kidnapped by a militia and beaten up.

No, I’ve no idea either.

Listless Listlessness Averted

Appeal to Reason album cover
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The Recession
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OK, I know this list thing is all a ruse to get people to buy as many records as possible before Christmas, it’s wrong to measure musical epochs in terms of years, and I  place no value whatsoever in an objective hierarchy of musical quality and so on. But to hell with it, it’s Friday, and here are my top 25 albums of the year, in as particular an order as possible.

1. 808s and Heartbreak – Kanye West
2. At Mount Zoomer – Wolf Parade
3. Untitled – Nas
4. Dear Science – TV on The Radio

5. All Rebel Rockers – Michael Franti and Spearhead

6. Acid Tongue – Jenny Lewis
7. Appeal to Reason – Rise Against
8. Evolver – John Legend
9. The 3rd World – Immortal Technique
10. Los de atrás vienen conmigo – Calle 13
11. In Ear Park – Department of Eagles
12. Red Letter Year – Ani DiFranco
13. The Recession – Young Jeezy
14. You & Me – The Walkmen
15. Harps and Angels – Randy Newman
16. Tha Carter III – Lil Wayne
17. Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
18. Microcastle – Deerhunter
19. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
20. The Age of the Understatement – The Last Shadow Puppets
21. The Renaissance – Q-Tip
22. The Way I See It – Raphael Saadiq
23. The ’59 Sound – The Gaslight Anthem
24. Welcome to Mali – Amadou & Mariam
25. Koushik – Out My Window

Some notes: If you had told me immediately after my first listen that You & Me by The Walkmen would feature in my end of year list, I would have uttered a long and disbelieving p’shaw. And yet there it is. And had you told me that Fleet Foxes would be outside the top 10, I would have walloped you with the nearest fire extinguisher. No room for Neon Neon, probably kept off the list by Koushik’s sampling of the Free Design. Some angry stuff on there too at 3, 5, 7, 9, 13, and funny angry stuff at 15, though I would have expected to see some more, given current affairs.

Some notable disrecommendations:

* Bon Iver: dreary and brittle
* Glasvegas: wearing and grating. Only good thing about it is it gives you a reason to go back to Back to Mono.
* The Hold Steady: sluggish and boring.

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Ask a silly question

Sholto Byrnes: The Tories’ alliance with the Ulster Unionists revives the bad old days of Ireland | Comment is free |

What do you do if you are a moderate nationalist, broadly happy with the current state of devolution, keen to vote for the Conservatives?

You turn up at the polling station on your unicorn.

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December 2008
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