Monthly Archives: August 2011

IT WILL BE GRAND

A bit further down this post is a translation of a joint declaration of the assemblies of Sol in Madrid and Syntagma Square in Athens.

I don’t know why I bothered.

This kind of articulation of common solidarity across international borders in a direct challenge to the European political and economic system cannot possibly interest anyone in Ireland, because it is not as if Ireland is being destroyed by politicians acting in connivance with bankers and European policy elites.

Besides, there is a Presidential election coming up in October.

More pressingly, Fianna Fáil need to realise they’re no longer relevant.

There is an orderly schedule of bondholder repayment. It would be wrong to question this. If public money that could be used to pay for schools and hospitals is being handed over to wealthy investors, then there is probably a very good reason for it. It will be grand.

Bonds

 

I don’t know about you, but I am more worried about the cost of sick days to business, which I heard about the other day in a news report based on a press release from the bosses’ organisation.

And it worries me that people in Spain are out mobilising for a week of action against a constitutional change that would introduce a debt ceiling and institutionalise neo-liberal economic policy. What sort of message would that send out to the markets?

No, Ireland’s approach is far better. The debt ceiling is on the menu for Ireland too. And it may require a referendum or two. But sure it’ll be grand. Here’s what Dermot O’Leary of Goodbody Stockbrokers says about it:

To this end, France and Germany agreed to take the lead on closer fiscal coordination by: (1) enshrining a debt brake in their respective national constitutions and push for similar throughout the euro-zone, and; (2) harmonising their corporation tax rates and bases. Ireland would have suspected that the corporation tax issue had fallen away following the agreement made at the July 21 summit, but it has now reared its head again less than a month later. On the former issue, Ireland and, indeed, Greece and Portugal, are all unlikely to have major problems with enshrining a debt brake into their national constitutions, given that these countries have little control over fiscal policy at this stage in any case.

Sure we can’t afford not to put the debt brake into the constitution in case it makes our European partners angry. So it’s probably best not to think about it at all.

Besides, the trade union leadership has things under control. Look:

Times

And moreover, there is real movement toward a change of direction in Ireland, with local solutions being proferred to local problems.

Run out of money to feed the children? The Labour Party minister thinks you should go to St. Vincent de Paul. They’ll sort it out.

So there is no need for anyone to think about political solutions or collective action of any sort, and certainly not in terms of taking to the streets.

In another ten years time we’ll look back on this and laugh.

Clearly Ireland is better off out of this. These people are only embarrassing themselves. Can you imagine if an Irish assembly had appeared in this declaration? God, that would be morto.

The Citizens in Sol and Syntagma express our outrage and we invite all those outraged in every square to join us.

From the US to Brussels, from Greece to Bolivia, from Spain to Tunisia, the crisis of capitalism is worsening. And those who caused it are the ones imposing their prescriptions for overcoming it. These are: channelling public funds into private financial entities and making the public pay the bill with austerity plans which do not take us out of the crisis but rather sink us deeper into it.

 

In the European Union, the attacks on sovereign debt by the financial markets submit cowardly governments to blackmail and hold parliaments hostage, who in turn adopt unjust measures behind the backs of the people who elected them. European institutions, far from taking firm political decisions in the face of the attacks by the financial sharks, align themselves with them.

Sol

Since the beginning of this crisis we have witnessed the attempt to convert private debt into public debt: an example of outrageous socialisation of the losses after scandalously privatising the profits. The high interest rates charged to those of us who obtain funding have nothing in the slightest to do with our solvency, but with the speculative manoeuvres carried out by large financial corporations, in connivance with ratings agencies, in order to enrich themselves.

Syntagma

Economic cutbacks have been accompanied by restrictions on democratic freedoms. Among these, the measures of control and expulsion of the migrant population and the restrictions on the free movement of Europeans through the European Union. Only the euro and the free movement of speculative capital enjoy open borders.

In the Spanish State we are being collectively defrauded. Public debt (60% of GDP) IS NOT A PROBLEM but nonetheless they use this as an excuse to make us believe that a grave situation justifies the grave attacks on our rights and collective wealth, attacks they threaten to escalate. On the other hand, private debt (240% of GDP) is a problem, and instead of applying austerity measures to the banks, they are given all sorts of assistance and sinecures at the cost of the public purse. The greatest “assistance” is the transfer at knockdown price of nearly half our system of savings banks, as well as profitable enterprises and activities. Meanwhile, access routes to the Puerta del Sol, the epicentre of 15M, are closed, in violation of various fundamental rights.

In Greece, they have imposed a Memorandum. They have told us that the cutbacks, the austerity and the new taxes on the population are necessary sacrifices to take the country out of the crisis and bring the debt down. They have lied to us! Each day they take new measures, salaries are slashed, unemployment rockets, the young emigrate. And the debt keeps rising because the new loans are used to make the enormous interest payments to our creditors. The deficits of Greece and other countries of the European South become the surplus of the banks of Germany and other rich countries of the North.

Neither wages nor pensions have caused the spiral in debt. This has been caused by large tax cuts and subventions to capital, and the binge on weaponry and pharmaceuticals. They bankrupt us so as to apply more destructive measures and cutbacks, and to sell off the land and public wealth at knockdown price.

We say:

  • They must withdraw their memoranda! Get them out!
  • We do not want government by the IMF and the Troika.
  • Nationalise the banking sector. With the bailout plans, the State has already paid above market value so that they can continue speculating.
  • Open the debt accounts to the public so that we know where the money has gone.
  • Radically redistribute wealth and change fiscal policy so that those who pay are those who have the most: the bankers, capital, and the church.
  • We want people’s democratic control over the economy and production.

Therefore, both squares DECLARE:

THAT THE AUSTERITY POLICIES UNDER IMPLEMENTATION WILL NOT TAKE US OUT OF THE CRISIS, BUT WILL SINK US INTO IT. THEY ARE DRAGGING US INTO AN EXTREME SITUATION IN WHICH THEY APPLY AND WILL CONTINUE TO APPLY BAILOUTS, WHICH ARE REALLY BAILOUTS TO CREDITOR BANKS, AND THERE WILL BE AN INTENSIFICATION OF GRAVE ATTACKS ON OUR RIGHTS, ON OUR HOUSEHOLDS, AND ON OUR PUBLIC WEALTH.

We must show our OUTRAGE and REBEL against these abuses.

This is what we do from the 15M movement in Sol and from the Popular Assembly of Syntagma.

Stop the austerity and bailout plans

No to the payment of illegitimate debt. This is not our debt . We owe nothing, we are selling nothing, we will pay nothing!

For a real and direct democracy NOW!

In defence of the public interest. Not a single sale of public property or services.

For the co-ordination of all those outraged across all squares.

Again, I’m sure this is all a load of nonsense, and the Irish government and advisors like Goldman Sachs grandee Peter Sutherland know just how to get us out of this. And sure if some of those progressives can slip a little advice here and there when they get a little ear time with technocratic elites, then that’s a Brucie bonus.

Best say nothing.

Bye now.

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Reborn Dreams

There was a general strike on in Chile this last couple of days. The Reuters wire report in the Irish Times began as follows:

Protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in parts of Chile’s capital today as a two-day national strike began against unpopular president Sebastian Pinera (sic), but mining in the world’s top copper producer was not disrupted

Watercannons

I had not been able to find other reports on this in the Times or in the other two main newspapers, the Independent and the Examiner, until news emerged that a 14 year old child had been shot dead by government forces.  

Riotsquad

The last time Irish media attention was turned to Chile was during the long episode of the miners who were trapped in the copper mine. When that episode concluded, present Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, who was seeking the position of Taoiseach at the time, appeared on RTE’s prime time chat show The Late Late Show. He claimed that if elected Taoiseach he would approach the economic and political crisis with the same vigour that Piñera (the billionaire Chilean president) had approached the problem of getting the miners out of the mines.

Pinera

There are other interesting coincidences between Chile and Ireland beyond the management style of certain members of the political class. For instance, because of past economic growth rates –largely a result of its mineral wealth, particularly copper- it became a commonplace to refer to Chile as ‘the jaguar of Latin America’.  It also has a caste of politicians who make a virtue out of running the country as if it were a business, and a Minister for Education with a taste for making money out of private investments in higher education.

Most reading this will be familiar with the story of Chile under Pinochet as a laboratory for the free market economics of the Chicago School after a US-backed coup against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.

Pinochet

And yet the deep inequality entrenched by the Pinochet dictatorship was within Chilean society was never properly redressed, even as the Pinochet dictatorship receded and the Concertación –a coalition of centre-left parties- took over the running of the country during the past 20 years.

Indeed, post-dictatorship Chile has long been a poster child for neo-liberal voices who sought to sugarcoat their ideological devotion to the market with a social democratic tinge. Chile was held up as the reasonable, measured alternative to the populist revolutionary inclinations of the Chávez government in Venezuela.

Consider, for instance, this analysis by British Labour Party MP Denis MacShane from 2009:

<a href=" http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/03/hugo-chavez-venezuela-media “>Barack Obama has robbed Chávez of his main anti-American card. Washington is calling for the return of the ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and Obama is seeking to support democracy and rule of law in Latin America.

Chavez

President Lula in Brazil or Michelle Bachelet in Chile are trying to create a step-by-step Latina social democracy in place of the populism inherited from the Peronist tradition.

Bachelet

These leaders seem more worthy of support from the British left than Chávez.

(I should point out that Manuel Zelaya did return to Honduras, but two years later, but not as president, and only after the Obama government had done everything it could to sustain the coup government and support the laundry of the coup through elections which, as Mark Weisbrot notes here,most of the rest of the hemisphere, and the world, rejected as neither free nor fair’).

It is interesting to revisit MacShane’s comments in light of a recent Wikileaks release from the US Ambassador in Chile, which ‘looks at ways the U.S. can counter Chavez and reassert U.S. leadership in the region’.

The cable assesses that

‘many of the region’s leaders and opinion makers…reject the notion that Chávez best represents the region’s interests’,

which is hardly surprising, given that the leaders and opinion makers usually come from the ruling class and largely represent ruling class interest whereas Chávez draws his support from the broad mass of poor Venezuelans.

The cable also notes that

‘Chávez has made significant inroads, particularly with local populations, by providing programs for the underprivileged and by casting the U.S. as elitist and only interested in promoting free trade to the benefit of big business.’

You would wonder how on earth he managed to convince local populations devastated by IMF adjustment policies of the latter.

Furthermore:

‘The slogans are facile: Neoliberalism makes the rich richer and the poor poorer;’

which, as populations across Europe are now learning, is facile in the sense that ‘cigarettes are bad for you’ is also facile.

But how did the ambassador to Chile envisage Chávez’s influence could be countered? In many ways, but one way stands out:

Chile offers another excellent alternative to Chavez.  FM Foxley seeks to integrate Chile more fully into the global economy.  Chile has not only stated but demonstrated — e.g. Bachelet’s letter to House leader Nancy Pelosi expressing Chilean support for congressional ratification of FTAs with Peru, Colombia, and Panama — its willingness to help bring along other Latin American countries into the global economy.  We should look to find other ways to give Chile the lead on important initiatives, but without making them look like they are our puppets or surrogates.

This, remember, is the social democratic government of Bachelet, not the current right-wing government headed up by the billionaire Piñera, whose management style Eamon Gilmore has admired in public.

This translated account by Victor de la Fuente from the Chilean edition of Le Monde Diplomatique provides the background to what is going on in Chile at the moment.

It illustrates that if there is something that ought to inspire Ireland from Chilean experience, it has nothing to do with persisting with obedience to the dictates of the market or Labour Party leaders seeking to adopt the managerial style of Chilean billionaires, but with the mobilisation of a student movement against government which serves entrenched privilege and supra-national financial institutions.

In Chile, the dreams of Allende are reborn

Hundreds of thousands of young people are demonstrating in the streets, something that has not been seen since the final years of the dictatorship. Chilean students, in three months of mass mobilisations, have changed the face of the country and placed the right-wing government of Sebastián Piñera in an uncomfortable positon.

Chilean society has woken up after two decades in which it was half asleep, since it had somehow conformed to the idea that there was no alternative to neoliberalism.

“A stage in the history of this country is ending. It started more than twenty years ago and has encompassed five governments. It began full of hope when in 1988 the Chilean people put an end to a dictatorship. Whatever its achievements, the postdictatorial stage built up despair and frustration. The unkept promises have consolidated a profoundly unjust society”, claims a text written by three leaders of the new left force.”

“Where did the exemplary “Chilean model”, the “Latin American jaguar” end up? If forty years ago, when the country was poorer, education was free, what has happened with development and the high rates of growth? Where is the money from progress?”, the young people are asking themselves.

On the 28th of April, presaging the large movement that would be unleashed in June, the first national mobilisation of university students took place, from public and private campuses, against the high level of indebtedness that they must take on in order to  access higher education.

In May winds of change began to be felt when thirty thousand people demonstrated in Santiago, and several thousand in various cities, against the HidroAysén project, which seeks to install five mega-dams in Patagonia. The opponents reacted swiftly in defence of the environment and in condemnation of the gigantic enterprise of the multinational Endesa-Enel, linked to the Chilean group Colbún. This project, supported by the government and leaders of the right-wing parties and of the Concertación, was approved despite public opinion, thus causing widespread condemnation throughout the country.

A little earlier there had been significant regional movements, such as in Magallanes against the rise in gas prices and in Calama for obtaining benefits from the production of copper in the region, as well as land reclamation and hunger strikes by the Mapuche. Then other demands emerged, the victims of the 2010 earthquake, who are spending their second winter in emergency dwellings, the copper unions who brought the mines to a halt, the demonstrations for the right to sexual diversity, but without doubt it was the secondary school and university students with mass strikes, demonstrations and school occupations, demanding free and quality education, who transformed the situation giving another dimension to the mobilisations and cornering the right-wing government.

They question the system

The student movement attacked the very foundations of the neoliberal system, staking a claim to the role of the State and demanding that education should not be considered a commodity. They demand an end to the education system based on profit, that the military dictatorship left behind. The most chanted slogan has been: And it will fall, it will fall, the education of Pinochet!

To achieve the fundamental changes they have set out the establishment of a Constituent Assembly to elaborate a new Constitution. The students also propose that funding for free education be carried out through the renationalisation of the copper industry and tax reform.  They seek the solution to the conflict by demanding more democracy, with the establishment of a plebiscite so that the citizens decide what type of education the country wants.

The students condemned the official press which is criminalising the demonstrations, and they conducted tough criticisms of both 0the Piñera government and the Concertación. They took over the TV channel Chilevision, and they also occupied the headquarters of the ultra-right UDI and the Socialist Party.

Allende

In parallel there is a strong rebirth of the figure of Salvador Allende, young people dressed up as the socialist president were enthusiastically applauded in the demonstrations, in which placards such as “The dreams of Allende are possible” appeared. The speeches of the martyred president, conducted more than 40 years ago, on education and the nationalisation of copper, broke records for internet hits.

The student movement has been characterised by its political clarity and also for its massiveness and persistence. It has been all-encompassing, with the participation of secondary school and university students, as well as teachers, parent associations, ONGs and unions.

As with other rebellions throughout the world new technologies have been widely used, but perhaps the main thing is that it has been a democratic and participative movement. The students have sought to maintain a good relation between with the activities of the leadership and the participation of the grassroots, with assemblies held where everyone gives an opinion and decides.

Suicide

They have shown great creativity in the form of their protests, each day they would appear in the streets with something new:  costumes, dances, imitations of collective suicide, mass kissing sessions, painted naked bodies, impersonation of preachers, standing still in the street, ingenious banners…by doing this they do not merely wish to attract attention, but also to involve other sectors and to distinguish themselves from the reports of street violence. They have gone as far as to repair damage caused on the fringes of the protests, painting the walls of houses or collecting money for the owner of a car that got burnt out.

Chilean education

If the mobilisations have been this strong it is also because of the injustice of the Chilean education model, implanted by the dictatorship and developed by the civil governments that succeeded it.

In primary and secondary education, in the last three decades there was a boom in private or subsidised schools, which nowadays take in 60% of pupils. There is not a single free public university since all of them –the public as well as the private- charge high fees, the only such case in Latin America.

Less than 25% of the education system is funded by the State and more than 75% of the rest depends on student payments. The State only dedicates 4.4% of GDP to education, considerably less than the 7% recommended by UNESCO. Today there are 60 universities in Chile, the majority of them private. The students must pay between 170,000 and 400,000 Chilean pesos (€250 and €600) monthly, in a country in which the minimum wage is €182,000 (less than €300) and the median salary 512,000 pesos (less than €800).

This situation means 70% of Chilean students take out student loans. 65% of the poorest quintiles stop their university degree because of economic problems.

According to the sociologist Mario Garcés it is a case of a perverse system, that leaves thousands of middle and working class Chileans in debt as soon as they finish study, since student loan repayment begins with one’s first job. He adds that education stopped being a mechanism for social mobility in Chile and ended up the opposite: a system for the reproduction of inequality.

Why now?

It is true that there were student mobilisations during the different governments of the Concertación, including that of 2006, under the presidency of Michelle Bachelet, known as “The revolution of the penguins” (because of the dark colour of the uniform and the white shirt of the secondary school students in public colleges).

However, never, in the last twenty years, were the protests so important as these. During two decades the Concertación administered the system by trying to maintain the complex balance between market policies and state regulation. It carried out some reforms, managing to lower the rates of poverty and extreme poverty, but raising inequalities,  leaving Chile as one of the 15 most unequal countries on the planet. At the beginning the Concertación had the benefit of the positive image of having contributed to the end of the dictatorship, but the discontent and the criticisms from the population kept building up, along with the indebtedness of the students. The injustice of the system became flagrant with the arrival of an openly right wing government that runs the country like a business.

Sebastián Piñera and the new leaders arrived with an even clearer conception of leaving education in the hands of the market, which was the last straw, moreover the young –who did not live under dictatorship- are less influenced by anti-statism.

Conflicts of interest also contributed to the student rebellion since the Minister of Education himself, Joaquín Lavín was a founder and shareholder of the Universidad del Desarrollo [a private university – R].

The discredit of the political class is at a high level. All opinion surveys show a persistent drop in support for right-wing parties in government and also in support for the Concertación, currently in opposition.

The young people only trust their own forces and those of the social movements, but neither in the parties nor in the institutions, rejecting the mediation of politicians and even the Church.

The government, in tackling the mobilisations, has used dialogue and repression, moving more and more toward the criminalisation of the movement. The official press –that is, nearly the entire press- has emphasised the violent actions, which have taken place at the end of many demonstrations, promoted by marginal groups, some of them delinquents and infiltrators, even police, who have been denounced using videos and photos.

The fourth of August past turned out to be “Black Thursday” for the government. The president Sebastián Piñera said “everything has a limit” and the Minister of the Interior, Rodrigo Hinzpeter, denied the right to students to demonstrate down the Alameda [the main thoroughfare in Santiago – R], as had become customary. The repression was systematic during the whole day, and 874 students were arrested, according to official figures. The response of the citizens did not take long in coming and that very night the street demonstrations, the ‘cacerolazos’ throughout every neighbourhood and city in Chile. The government, with its intransigence, turned the march into a National Protest, as in the times of the dictatorship. That same 4th of August the influential CEP survey gave Sebastián Piñera only 26% support, the lowest rating for a president since the return of democracy.

The students persist in their mobilisations, they reject the proposals of the government to lower the loan rates and they demand a radical change of the system. They have joined the rest of the social movements, they are taking part in the National Strike on the 24th and 25th of August and they continue to seek a plebiscite so that the Chileans themselves decide democratically. In whatever way the mobilisations might continue, a new form of practising politics has been born, from the social movements. The young Chileans are opening the great avenues that Allende mentioned.

 

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Time For…!!!

The quasi-official term indignados used to name the 15-M movement in Spain derives from the perception that the inspiration for the movement was the Spanish translation of Stéphane Hessel’s bestselling book Indignez-Vous!, or in Spanish ¡Indignaos!. The proverb that one should not judge a book by its cover is a wise one, but it is interesting to compare the French cover

Indignez_vous

and the Spanish cover

Indignaos

 

and the English language cover:

Time-for-outrage

Whereas the first two are simple, direct and emphatic, the third is disconcertingly elaborate. For one, what is the relevance to the content of the pen sketch of Hessel? Practically no-one knows who he is in English-speaking countries so it’s not going to capture people’s attention by making them think, oh look, a book by that guy

Also, what is the point of the French flag? True enough, Hessel is French and was a member of the Resistance and the book deals with France more than other countries, naturally enough. But the addressees of Indignez-Vous! are not specifically French. Hessel is at pains to emphasise the universal dimension to his concern (he was one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) as opposed to the ‘international’ dimension proposed in the drafting of the UDHR by those he describes as ‘our Anglo-American friends’. 

Thus the book is presented to the English-speaking market not as a political text intended to rouse outrage, but as a cultural artefact; a curiosity to be inspected by political anoraks who might take an occasional interest in things going on across the channel. Moreover, by translating the title as ‘Time for Outrage!’, the sense of a text that directly and urgently addresses a collective is lost, and in its stead there is a near parody of a call to arms. ‘Time for Outrage?!’ – under what circumstances would you find yourself shouting that at someone? It sounds like the sort of thing an Oxbridge drinking society might shout in the event of some rotter making off with their crate of Pimms.

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Time For…!!!

The quasi-official term indignados used to name the 15-M movement in Spain derives from the perception that the inspiration for the movement was the Spanish translation of Stéphane Hessel’s bestselling book Indignez-Vous!, or in Spanish ¡Indignaos!. The proverb that one should not judge a book by its cover is a wise one, but it is interesting to compare the French cover

Indignez_vous

and the Spanish cover

Indignaos

and the English language cover:

Time-for-outrage

Whereas the first two are simple, direct and emphatic, the third is disconcertingly elaborate. For one, what is the relevance to the content of the pen sketch of Hessel? Practically no-one knows who he is in English-speaking countries so it’s not going to capture people’s attention by making them think, oh look, a book by that guy

Also, what is the point of the French flag? True enough, Hessel is French and was a member of the Resistance and the book deals with France more than other countries, naturally enough. But the addressees of Indignez-Vous! are not specifically French. Hessel is at pains to emphasise the universal dimension to his concern (he was one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) as opposed to the ‘international’ dimension proposed in the drafting of the UDHR by those he describes as ‘our Anglo-American friends’. 

Thus the book is presented to the English-speaking market not as a political text intended to rouse outrage, but as a cultural artefact; a curiosity to be inspected by political anoraks who might take an occasional interest in things going on across the channel. Moreover, by translating the title as ‘Time for Outrage!’, the sense of a text that directly and urgently addresses a collective is lost, and in its stead there is a near parody of a call to arms. ‘Time for Outrage?!’ – under what circumstances would you find yourself shouting that at someone? It sounds like the sort of thing an Oxbridge drinking society might shout in the event of some rotter making off with their crate of Pimms.

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Glasses

Aznar

News Corporation director José Maria Aznar and his wife attending mass celebrated by Pope at World Youth Day in Spain (Juan Carlos Hidalgo (Efe) via).

Banderas

Poster for 1993 film Tirano Banderas, based on a 1927 novel of the same by Ramón del Valle-Inclán, about a despotic dictator who rules the fictitious Santa Fe de Tierra (Holy Faith of Earth).

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Ah Now For President

(to be sung to the tune of Who’s Gonna Feed Them Hogs by Tom T. Hall. Credit for the original idea to Eoin.)

 

Ah Now For President

I met him in a hospital about a week ago

He was lyin’ on a trolley and his voice was hushed and low

He said “son I’ve been here two whole weeks and don’t want to start a row

But the man I want for President is the man they call Ah Now.”

 

“Ah Now for President he does work behind the scenes

No-one else comes close you see for greeting kings and queens

Ah Now for President put an end to Ireland’s shame

Just the man to open Tesco Extras in our name”

 

I scratched my head “Who dat?” says I and he “Why, don’t you know?”

“Ah Now’s the only fella to keep this place on the go

He’s an economist, a jurist, a banker of great fame

And when silly doubts start bubblin’ up the folks cry out his name

 

“Ah Now for President that is the nation’s dream

The markets gave their blessing and they want him on our team

Ah Now for President that all important function

Just the man to serve our superegos an injunction.”

 

He was getting kinda heated and I said to him “relax”

But old fella here kept fussin’ on ’bout corporation tax

And the public sector workers who just had to share the pain

But when I mentioned bank bailouts he issued this refrain:

 

“Ah Now for President the man for stormy weather

No flouncing prima donnas now, we’re all in this together

Ah Now for President to bring us back to wealth

He’ll help you help the IMF to help you help yourself.

 

“The name Ah Now was firstly heard up on Calvary

When Jesus cried out “God above, why you forsakin’ me?”

Well the clouds they parted there and then, as the life drained from his brow

And from the heavens up above a voice cried out AH NOW!”

 

“Ah Now for President to lead us from the dark

I’ve visions of eighty thousand people packin’ out Croke Park

It’s twenty sixteen, and here we are, renewing our vows

Our hands on heart to breed a race of six million Ah Nows”

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Only asking, like, for debate, like.

Burqa

Look at this poll here by the Journal. It is a consequence of a call made by a Fine Gael councillor to have it banned. Here is how the Journal reported the Fine Gael councillor’s call:

Call

Simply by making the call himself, the councillor was now leading a more generalised call, as though this were a civil society movement of some description, like the call to end slavery, or the call for mortgage forgiveness, and not simply the knee-jerk reaction of people here and there when confronted with burqa scare stories.

There are lots of things to be said about this, but I would like to focus on just one: the wording of the second option in the poll: ‘I oppose a ban: women should be allowed to wear the burqa’. This option smuggles in a rather troublesome premise: that regardless of the decision taken to ban it or not, the state has the legitimate power to ban it. Not only that, but it is the state that authorises the woman to wear the burqa -and by extension, everything else- in the first place. So beneath the veneer of ‘let’s-have-the-debate!’ liberalish there is a wholly uncritical and automatic acceptance of the invincible legitimacy of state power.

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