Sunday, March 16, 2008

motors & machismo

this blogger has a confession to make. I'm permanently a few weeks away from learning to drive. at various points I've felt that it might help me get over the speed bump of procrastination to commit to driving an automatic. but this admission to compatriots has lead to furrowed brows at best, and questioning of masculinity at worst. ( and that was from a women ) this came into my mind when considering the passionate relationship between the Irish and their cars, and how to bolster the use of public transport in Ireland. its an issue for which the government receive a lot of flak but for which, in Dublin at least, they are in a chicken and egg situation. Congestion charges are a good idea in principle, but they would have to be introduced in tandem with an increase in public transport provision. and even then, do we know for sure that people will get out of their hermetically sealed automobiled bubble. Shane Coleman astutely pointed out in the tribune recently that dublin bus is a much maligned service, but you suspect that without huge motivation to change ways, that message falls on unreceptive ears.

the government are manfully trying to roll out public transport in the regions, but an aside to a recent news story struck home. an elderly gentleman was killed a few weeks ago when his car was struck by the Ballina to Manulla Junction train. apparently the driver of the locomotive and the ONE PASSENGER were uninjured.

the dail and us

the fact that we need to go to the bother of contacting a t.d in order to visit our national parliament, says an awful lot about our ambivalence towards it. if we cared sufficiently about this bureaucracy, we would have shouted and roared and it would have been changed long ago. but politicians are more than happy for us to remain in slumber, and there's little chance of it changing any time soon. in the next opinion poll it would be interesting if the public were questioned about whether they are as exercised as the opposition about the interminable dail holidays.

on the off chance you see Oireachtas Report at some point of your life ( I'm finding myself watching it more; say a prayer for me ) you ll notice that the average t.d doesn't think that attending is all that important. that's because in the clientelist political culture we live in, with the impediment of multi-seat constituencies, your local joe teachta dala is hard at work trying to deliver for the pork barrel of his constituency. direct competition for various parts of the country not being confined to the gaa pitch! one of the few t.d's who had a more catholic view of a member of parliaments workload, Alan Shatter, wasn't thanked for his curious moonlighting as a legislator when he lost his seat in the 2002 election.

Economic journalist Marc Coleman was guilty of some hyperbolic titling when he named his recent book The Best Is Yet To Come. when the small print was examined it emerged that this rosy future could occur if we undertook reforms, like a root & branch change to the electoral system. some of us wont hold out breath and expect the best anytime soon!

behind paisley's back

interesting listening to the talking heads on radio, and newspaper columnists wishing good riddance to Ian Paisley in the last few weeks. none of this perspective was provided about ten months ago when the famous handshake occurred between the dup leader & bertie ahern. respected northern commentator ed molony in his just published book outlines how the northern settlement was only finally achieved when paisley & his sinn fein counterparts had vanquished the dup & the sdlp respectively, by their own obstructionism. albert reynolds, hardly someone known to prick the balloon of the established peace process story ( particularly when praising his own contribution ) commented in the wake of paisley's retirement, that he had been informed long ago that paisley wouldn't agree to a settlement until he was top dog himself.

if the above seems like carping criticism, ( and a part of my conflicted soul thinks it is ) perspective in regard to what happened in the north in the last 15 years may be important for this reason; namely that part of the ammunition used by fianna fail to disregard the events at the mahon tribunal is to put the taoiseach front and centre in the settlement. this amongst other things disregards that nearly seven years after the belfast agreement, the ira was still robbing banks and mudering robert mccarthny, which the two governments were toothless in the face of, only for the republican movement to be brought to heel by the dup.

on a related issue bertie, in his wonderful way of bigging up himself out of the side of his mouth, recently opined that it was easier to deal with the tribunal now than it would have been when he was spending 40/50 hours a week on the north. it seems extraordinary that a prime minister can devote so much time to one issue that isn't war directly involving his own electorate, but it also brings into view the issue of delegation. vincent browne recently reflected on how successful sean lemass was in running the country, only working an 8.30 - 5.00 day.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

up to high doe

Mind you John Waters isn't all bad. I got a particular kick out of his description of a certain tabloid as "a rag" around the time of Wayne O'Donoghue's release from jail. Waters has been the one public figure in recent years who hasn't been afraid to appear politically incorrect and has thus denounced the downward slide in our culture, with the tabloid newspapers in the vanguard. the most obvious manifestation of this recently was the hysteria surrounding the appointment of the Irish soccer manager. perhaps their previous behaviour made it inevitable that the F.A.I would not be trusted in their stewardship of the process to get the right man. but the shrieking irrationality of the reportage of the protracted saga was only matched with the cheerleading euphoria of Trappatoni's appointment. ( lest we forget an Austrian club manager, who has been the only one of the last three Italian mangers to be a palpable failure )

Politician's also inevitably get sucked into this "tabloidisation of thought". Regarding the supposed crime spree Fine Gael T.D Michael Ring stated that liberal commentators wouldn't be so easy on crime if they had been affected themselves. Westport's finest might want to go on Mastermind with the bleeding obvious as his specialist subject, but that quip in of itself doesnt invalidate learned argument. Donie Cassidy, proud custodian of the upper house of parliament, guessed on Vincent Browne's t.v show that the % of Irish people who have tried cocaine was 30%. Close but no cigar Donie; its actually .5%, which probably sent Donie scurrying back to his dictionary to remind himself of the definition of "epidemic". His estimate was so off beam that it made one wonder whether some obstacle is preventing enough oxygen from getting to his head?

Every Pat Kenny usually so empirical it seems he's still doing his college chemistry experiments, has fallen prey to overstatement. he recently took to introducing the task of his Friday morning gathering as poring over "the extraordinary events of the week", even when the events had been positively humdrum.

Mind you despite all the above, on the basis of watching bits of recent rugby internationals, i'm quite willing to lead a witch hunt against Eddie O'Sullivan!

humanists & humanity

this blogger formerly went out with an atheist who claimed, which i found very dubious, that she knew there wasn't a god. however she and her family put virtually every else i know to shame, in this breakneck modern world, in regard to the voluntary work they do for society. i thought of them when i saw a recent issue of Hot Press where renowned songwriter John Waters said the following;

" I have been in debates with many atheists and most of them are actually deeply unpleasant individuals................. to actually believe requires................ emotional intelligence, intuitive intelligence, creative intelligence.

Now possibly the bould John, who inexplicably lives amongst his decadent cultural inferiors in Dalkey, had a run in with Richard Dawkins, who wouldn't be a great salesman for atheistic modesty. Yet his verbosity in accusing atheists of arrogance ( if such language was used against single fathers he'd probably spontaneously combust ) was quite the most impressive example of pot calling kettle black in some time.

The clinging to intuitive intelligence is also an impressive canard when you know you can't rely on the facts to back you up in a debate, and was possibly picked up from his Late Late partner in crime Eoghan Harris. Another in this school is Derek Fanning, who in a recent Magill article about the Taoiseach's travails stated that "his intuitive compass" told him that the Taoiseach is a good person.

Would that us mortals were so well fixed intuitive- wise! Who needs book learning and reading tribunal transcripts when your gut tells you all you need to know.

Monday, March 10, 2008

tribunal security

it ain't up to much. no flashing of credentials, bag checking for semtex etc.
thus a few on day release can worm their way in.

pat leahy of the business post recounted a few weeks ago that an oul' fella shouted "padraig flynn made a right f***in eiijit out of you", but didn't know if the comments were directly aimed at the taoiseach.

as someone who wasn't seated at the right hand of the father, huddled with the other journalistic masses ( apart from the ever iconoclastic vincent browne ,who hung with the proletariat ); i can inform you pat that the taoiseachs name was used in vain.

recent opinion poll

of course the fact that a large section of the population are indeed bored with the mahon tribunal ( or more likely were never engaged to start with ) has been discussed in regard to the recent opinion poll. to this observer at least the media's reaction to the latest poll is puzzling. surely at this point they should realise that even if fianna fail announce audacious new policies like a national air horn to wake us up at 4am for work, or that a portion of our income taxes will be diverted to an offshore account of raphael p. burke, circa 35% of the electorate will still vote for them.

if journalists were armed with this realisation they wouldn't have to get into a lather when the soldiers aren't punished appropriately in a given poll. the fourth estate then tend to over react in the opposite direction and ignore the fact that roughly 50% actually care deeply about the revelations from the tribunal.

the media seem slow enough to come round to the idea that, in a world where dermot ahern ascribes charles haughey not to be corrupt ( at variance with the moriarty tribunal ) so that obvious and malign comparisons with bertie ahern cant be made, we are entering into a mini cultural war a la 82/83.

bad news bearers

matt cooper and the last word appear to be fighting a running battle with their listenership re the depressing topics they cover on the show. text messager after text messager assail the show for talking about the declining economy and want more positive stories broadcast. im presuming naturally that cooper and his staff are scanning the newswires for missives of kittens rescued from treetops or anything to do with fluffy Bunny's, but in the interim hes stuck with passing on the harsh Newtonian reality re the property market; that what goes up, must come down.

he actually slightly lost his temper one evening, when covering the taoiseachs evidence to the tribunal, insisting to irate texters bored with the events from dublin castle, that it was an issue of public concern.

all very curious. a journalist friend of mine suspects the government press office is suffering from an itchy texting finger at the moment.

paddy powers week

its cheltenham week and im pretty excited. an intriguing champion hurdle, kauto v denman etc. whats different about this scribbler is that although i will likely have a few bets, i could quite easily have given up gambling for lent. its not to be gainsayed & is a fact of life, but a martian coming down for the week would find the interlocking of racing and betting fascinating. for example on newstalk sport of a night, the racing coverage is always introduced along the lines of " lets try and win a bit of money for you for the weekend". conversely although gambling on football has gone through the roof in recent years, previews of a man. utd. v liverpool tussle are never introduced with something like "steven gerrard is attractively overpriced to be first goalscorer".

on the odd occasion that someone rings me when im in a betting shop, im sheepish about admitting to my location, as you always get the impression that the reasoning that there's a tasty novice chase at sandown won't be accepted as kosher. when i was racing with a friend recently, he commented that it was curious how little i bet, yet the same would never enquire whether i had money riding on a gaa match

gay byrne & leaving cert history

i heard a former senator on the radio the other day stating that the road safety authority needs a more with it ( my italics ) head honcho. he backed it up by saying that of a straw poll of twenty 15-24 year olds of his acquaintance, only a handful had even heard of him.

which lead me to wonder if anyone is doing history for the leaving cert anymore since gaybo's part in the modernisation of ireland in the 60's was covered on the syllabus when i was a lad. who could ever forget the frisson of excitement that went around a class of naive 16/17 year olds ( or maybe that was just me ) when the teacher had to relate the bishop and the nightie tale and dutifully used the "n" word!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

public service broadcasting and chelsea

with declans faves resting tonight; so do rte. it seems as if the public broadcasting remit doesnt cover showing chelsea. ( or heaven forbid the likes of the real madrid ) so the public service remit it appears isnt to educate viewers by showing the cream of european football. rather the credo is that less ratings when manyoo & liverpool are in repose means csi miami looms into view. ( who's the more ludicrous figure; david caruso or avram grant? )

and so the montrose schizophrenic dance goes on! eamonn ryan, in the week of the release of the stations salaries, is talking tough about the broadcasting of extra home made product. in fairness the advertising rates which the late late show can charge are astronomical. the counter argument is that a stuffed animal could present the late late, insert obvious joke..........

a solution could be to try an idea from american football. putting it in simplistic terms if a team wants to keep a certain type of free agent they have to offer the same salary as a competitor. thus if rte wants to pay marion finucane 450,000 grand another station will have to offer her that amount.

not a chance of it happening though!

sacred cows- sindo style

in last weekends sindo they had a series of articles under the above heading. one by declan lynch had a cut at the irish times. now for the record i like the times ( and am thus obviously a snooty elitist ) and have an instinctual suspicion of lynch due to his regular cuts at the gaa, and his avowed championing of sitting in dublin pubs in high summer, cheering on liverpool loud enough so the backwoodsman allotted to another part of the pub watching hurling & football, can hear him.

nonetheless it was an extremely odd missive. firstly, he obviously never reads publications such as the dubliner magazine & phoenix who are nibbling on "madam's" pub in virtually every issue. even such as the tribune & the business post, who would attract many of same readers love to take the occasional swipe. secondly we naturally can accept the bona fides of an independant newspapers journalist that he offers constructive criticism, rather than being part of the usual indo campaign to namecall those who deign to stay outside their tent.

live & let live declan. some people ( an increasing number by the latest figures ) actually like a newspaper to be serious. others like it to be a paper version of XPOSE! there should be room for all of us. then again if you dont want us in the snug with you watching liverpool v derby, i imagine we'll live.