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Opposition Slam Metro Plan Deadline

From RTE:

The Department of Transport's plan to have the Dublin metro up and running by 2012 has been criticised by Opposition parties.

Fine Gael has said the 2012 completion date is unrealistic if not impossible.

The party's transport spokeswoman, Olivia Mitchell, said Mary O'Rourke had promised in 1998 that the metro would be finished within seven years. She said Martin Cullen's timetable looked as unrealistic.


1) Its their job to do this, while at the same time providing reasons.
2) The reason is that Mary O Rourke promised it and it still isnt finished. Well Mary promised it, yes, however in between it was shafted for the two unjoined Luas lines. The reason for its non-completion is that it wasn't started. Thats of course the governments fault for bad judgement but not entirely an accurate point in drawing the inference from the available evidence.

C
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2.28.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

What I Learned Today...

The Speaker of the Iranian Parliament is an opium addict;
[From Persian Journal:]

Nuclear dossier is merely a pretext for exerting pressures on Iran by the US, said Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel here on Tuesday.

Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel (known as "gholam shire'i" for his addiction to opium) told Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy Yuri Volkov that Iran's peaceful nuclear technology poses no danger to regional and global security.

Which I'm sure reassures all of us who seek a peaceful resolution to the current nuclear standoff.

There was a song by The Streets which encouraged us all to imagine the "worlds leaders on pills", all love tonight, tomorrow I dont know ya.

Cian
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Profile Change

Ive decided to ditch the ol Red Rover pseudonym, its getting quite old hat.
Anyway il be working on a first name basis from now on in case y'all are getting confused.
Cian

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Happy Pancake Tuesday

To all of you who aren't at home with mammy this evening, i feel your pain. So i thought i would share with you my own recipe for success on the pancake front. This is not pulled from my previous post's object but purely my own.

300 mL Milk
2 Eggs
150 g Flour
1Tsp Vanilla Essence
3Tsp Drinking Chocolate Powder
Some oil/butter


If your using a food processor (recommended):
Whiz the wet ingredients.
Then add the dry ingredients in about three or four stages, whizzing between each addition.
Turn into a big jug and give a bit of a stir.
You can use some extra milk to get the bits out of the bottom of the food processor

If your using cave-man tools -like me.
Beat the eggs and milk together.
Sift in the flour in three stages, folding in the flour well before adding the next amount.
Finally add the vanilla essence and drinking chocolate.

Again turn into a big jug.

Heat your pan, put in a slice of butter (unsalted is best, if your using salted use some olive oil). Leave all the butter melt and then add it to the batter, this prevents the need for oil before each pancake.

Use a non stick pan, on about full heat. Let the pan get good and hot, then add in the mixture, it needs your own judgement to figure how much, depending on whether you like thick or thin cakes. If thin swirl from the center outwards for a nice thin crepe.

If the pancake doesnt flip or breaks in the middle you need more flour.
If it stick then you need a)more butter in the mixture or b) oil before each new pancake.

Dont forget your lemon, sugar, berries, maple syrup, banana, nutella or any other.

Away with you, no excuse now.

RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Jamie Olivers New Cookbook - E25 (An ethical dilemma)

Ingredients - E10
Being the prat who gets sacked for putting it on the internet before publishing...priceless.

Just got a copy of the naked chef 2 in my inbox. It claims to be his new book, The Naked Chef 2 emailed out by a staffer at his publishers to a friend and promptly zooming around the internet, I havent a clue myself.

Of course this presents a moral dilemma, one familiar to all those who use the web, to share or to protect Mr. Olivers good copyright? Modern day ethics doesnt come much more cutting edge.

Arguments for and against in the comments. (I have no intention of posting it online but since you all know its about now im sure your familiar with google.)

RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Rerunning the Love Ulster March

Good idea.
Great message.
Democratic tolerance needs to be practice.
Perhaps a little more police preperation.

But.
Wont happen.
Sadly.
RR
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2.27.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

A Pragmatic Call

By the EU on funding for Hamas. The stark choice is further violence being funded by an ever increasingly powerful Iran, or maintaining fiscal ties that bind over a government that needs to be brought to the negotiating table. While their positions are absolutely wrong and need to be changed, withdrawing funding now would only have deepened a crisis that has festered for far too long.


European diplomats earlier indicated that despite Hamas' victory, an immediate withdrawal of EU funding was not an option, as this would mean a break-down of the Palestinian administration, which is feared would be followed by chaos and fresh violence.


RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Sneaky Poll Numbers


The only reason to buy the Post yesterday was its tracking poll, it happily decided most readers will have no interest in the riots. Im sure the Editors were rewarded with the circulation figures for yesterday. Anyway the latest installment of the SBP tracker poll series, from now till election day, showed little news.

Two up for Fine Gael, two down for Fianna Fail and the smaller parties trading single point gains and losses. Pat Leahey breaks down some of the numbers but I have a number of thoughts myself.


It should be clear to all that at this point in time and rather long into the relationship the Fine Gael and Labour romance has not grabbed the public imagination. While FG continue to post gains on their 2002 all time lows, I feel this is little more than the return of their 'natural vote' to the fray. Heaven knows the myriad of reasons they moved off in 2002 but the natural level for FG support is around 25%-29% in recent times. Its breaking beyond that level that will do the business if the opposition are to get bums on seats in the cabinet office.

Labour similarly have been flying static for so long now you must wonder what they are going to do to increase support. Well simply put, it seems that the Labour TDs have had to adopt a common strategy of underlining government failings rather than engaging in some positive principle positioning. As McDowell noted yesterday, Joe Costelloe has a default setting on his typewriter which starts all press releases with Michael McDowell should resign. Its clearly not a working strategy and creates a standard of policy debate which is abysmally low. There is clearly little to be won by the infantile "decapitation stragegy" especially with a real campaign so far off. Instead of creating nice soundbites which will perhaps entice the electorate to consider the opposition as a prospect they are peddling the likes of Burton, Costelloe and others to hammer home a point the electorate dont want to hear "government bad...were good".

While its an argument many might agree with, its being made in the wrong way. All controversies seem to end in the same dialectical slagging match. Bad for politics and bad for prospects.

I dont buy the serious policy argument, Labour and Fine Gael are right to keep powder dry.
Observe what Hobbs did in September last year. He took cases and made his point, he may have taken the mikey out of government but he never had to make explicit the association between bad government and the way things are, something an inept FG and Labour are constantly resorting to.

The government seem to be equally as issue-laden from the numbers, Bertie's recent come and get me plea to labour suggests that there is a great deal of internal number crunching going on which suggests that this incarnation of FF government may be at an end. Thats not to say he wont get his three in a row.

McDowells own recent intervention which intimated a readiness to cast nets far afield following this election seems to certify the numbers that the leaders are getting. They are not and may not be good enough to form a third lasting marriage. All is still undoubtedly to play for, it is clearly Fianna Fail who have come back to the pack since the pack has hardly upped its game to any real or serious standard.

It may looks like two teams slugging it out now, but come the final results I wouldnt be surprised to see some crossing over and switching of loyalties. Half of labour find being in bed with the dead hand of FG to be too much, too stifling and perhaps a vote-loser.

If anything this poll underlines how parties are not in fact gearing up for an early election but conducting business as usual bereft of imagination and choc full of name calling and silly claims.

On SF, their one point gain is much of a much ness, over the next four or five months we will se the serious results of IRA decomissioning, political moderation, social activism and the inevitable backlash against all hues of republican over Saturdays riots. I am thinking that SF still have a lot of support left to gain, those chumps from Saturday rarely cast a vote, yet now they have a party moderately able to represent some ideology close to their own, if it can be called that. This moblising of 'fresh voters' is what will, if it happens, drive Sinn Fein into the mid-teens. From there it's anybodies guess.

I dont think small parties and independents will hold the same sway as before, the lack of big numbers for the big two suggests that it may be a good mid-teen result that will gift the balance of power to Labour or Sinn Fein (or the PDs if Tom Parlon is to be believed).

RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Afternoon Listening

Just a quick note to all of you, the excellent Sean Moncrief is away this week and his replacement is none other than Senator David Norris. I encourage all of you to listen it, its compulsive radio. You can listen online here.

So far its the most dramatic intonation Ive heard on radio for ages.

RR

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Sneaky Poll Numbers

The only reason to buy the Post yesterday was its tracking poll, it happily decided most readers will have no interest in the riots. Im sure the Editors were rewarded with the circulation figures for yesterday. Anyway the latest installment of the SBP tracker poll series, from now till election day, showed little news.

Two up for Fine Gael, two down for Fianna Fail and the smaller parties trading single point gains and losses. Pat Leahey breaks down some of the numbers but I have a number of thoughts myself.


It should be clear to all that at this point in time and rather long into the relationship the Fine Gael and Labour romance has not grabbed the public imagination. While FG continue to post gains on their 2002 all time lows, I feel this is little more than the return of their 'natural vote' to the fray. Heaven knows the myriad of reasons they moved off in 2002 but the natural level for FG support is around 25%-29% in recent times. Its breaking beyond that level that will do the business if the opposition are to get bums on seats in the cabinet office.

Labour similarly have been flying static for so long now you must wonder what they are going to do to increase support. Well simply put, it seems that the Labour TDs have had to adopt a common strategy of underlining government failings rather than engaging in some positive principle positioning. As McDowell noted yesterday, Joe Costelloe has a default setting on his typewriter which starts all press releases with Michael McDowell should resign. Its clearly not a working strategy and creates a standard of policy debate which is abysmally low. There is clearly little to be won by the infantile "decapitation stragegy" especially with a real campaign so far off. Instead of creating nice soundbites which will perhaps entice the electorate to consider the opposition as a prospect they are peddling the likes of Burton, Costelloe and others to hammer home a point the electorate dont want to hear "government bad...were good".

While its an argument many might agree with, its being made in the wrong way. All controversies seem to end in the same dialectical slagging match. Bad for politics and bad for prospects.

I dont buy the serious policy argument, Labour and Fine Gael are right to keep powder dry.
Observe what Hobbs did in September last year. He took cases and made his point, he may have taken the mikey out of government but he never had to make explicit the association between bad government and the way things are, something an inept FG and Labour are constantly resorting to.

The government seem to be equally as issue-laden from the numbers, Bertie's recent come and get me plea to labour suggests that there is a great deal of internal number crunching going on which suggests that this incarnation of FF government may be at an end. Thats not to say he wont get his three in a row.

McDowells own recent intervention which intimated a readiness to cast nets far afield following this election seems to certify the numbers that the leaders are getting. They are not and may not be good enough to form a third lasting marriage. All is still undoubtedly to play for, it is clearly Fianna Fail who have come back to the pack since the pack has hardly upped its game to any real or serious standard.

It may looks like two teams slugging it out now, but come the final results I wouldnt be surprised to see some crossing over and switching of loyalties. Half of labour find being in bed with the dead hand of FG to be too much, too stifling and perhaps a vote-loser.

If anything this poll underlines how parties are not in fact gearing up for an early election but conducting business as usual bereft of imagination and choc full of name calling and silly claims.

On SF, their one point gain is much of a much ness, over the next four or five months we will se the serious results of IRA decomissioning, political moderation, social activism and the inevitable backlash against all hues of republican over Saturdays riots. I am thinking that SF still have a lot of support left to gain, those chumps from Saturday rarely cast a vote, yet now they have a party moderately able to represent some ideology close to their own, if it can be called that. This moblising of 'fresh voters' is what will, if it happens, drive Sinn Fein into the mid-teens. From there it's anybodies guess.

I dont think small parties and independents will hold the same sway as before, the lack of big numbers for the big two suggests that it may be a good mid-teen result that will gift the balance of power to Labour or Sinn Fein (or the PDs if Tom Parlon is to be believed).

RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Get Rid of John Waters or Kevin Myers

Or both, and give Twenty Major at least one column a week.

So to recap - Rangers fans hate Celtic fans. Celtic fans hate Rangers fans. Rangers fans want to march, Celtic fans oppose. Police presence minimal, handiness of weapons and missiles optimal, scumbag count, high. Result - trouble. Quel surprise.
UPDATE:
Also on the topic of new commentators, welcome Copernicus' midnightcourt with a massively salient point at this juncture:
Gay Mitchell made the excellent point that these bastards are doing this shit in certain communities on a constant basis. Of course that's perfectly tolerable to our incredibly complacent government and bourgeois Tygger society as long as our leafier burbs aren't affected. Stand up the boys in the camel-hair coats and their chums in the construction industry who ghettoised swathes of the population in a process of self-enrichment in the 70s and 80s.
This is a deeper and more persistent problem for many than a one night stand on O Connell street. Not an excuse but a point of fact to be borne in mind by all of us hoping to figure out some remedy to the cycle of violence.

RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Riot Madness

I spent the weekend in the far reaches of the universe, away from a computer and reliant on RTE for news of the riots. I have at once to agree with Richard Delevan, if Newstalk mobilised a host of reporters and got to grips with a real story which was important to Dubliners and the country at large, which I hadnt realised they did, then RTE ought to be ashamed of themselves. Its not like there was even an irish team playing yesterday to justify the decision to go with sport ahead of the serious analysis needed of a serious and impactful incident. The people outside of a select distance of Dublin were sold short of their license fee as sport (if it was so important) could go to MW/LW and coverage initiated on FM.

I am disappointed in the decision of the national broadcaster to go with the programming they did and as a listener beyond the pale for a day, feel let down. And if it werent for the poll they are carrying today, the Post are equally as bad, selling readers short.

I feel that the bloggers in the irish sphere, were suffering no such issues however as the breadth and quality of coverage is incredible.

The lads who decided to defend the honour of our nation against the vile pillaging hordes of "PROTESTANTS!!!!"..."ULSTER PROTESTANTS!!!!!"..."THE WORST KIND"... were idiots. Our nation needs only defending from the persistent nastiness that seems to succour so close to the vile and reactionary forces at the margins of Irish republicanism. There is not a snowballs chance in hell that yesterday could be classified as political action. Last time I looked, so much of our politics owes its life to some of the figures adorning O Connell Street. Great men, leaders of men, but above all honest men.

Protest is one thing, a running battle against an "enemy" who retreated to their buses and a Garda force paradoxically charged with protecting the spectators as much as the marchers is outright thuggery. I wasnt altogether surprised to hear the first reports of looting (first heard in the country round five or six o clock thanks to the overtime put in at Montrose). I might have found an issue or two with the parade if I really tried, and to be honest, I have taken no notice of it since the time it was mooted by that lad Willy something or other.

Obviously these lads hadnt thought about the marches either, simply outlawed their right to march. They may not agree but the government of the day and ultimate guardian of our rights (though some may dislike it so) deemed the right and eligibility of this march to proceed. So proceed it should have. If for no other reason than to underline our plurality, and forge a new chapter in the path to peace and reconciliation. As Saint has so correctly argued, that test is failed (and hes right about the rest too, great post).

Yet it is clear that this state is not the homogenous unit of tolerance we would all agree it needs to be, ought to be. Dick has provided ample evidence of this. There is still a vast community of disaffected and marginalised Irish people. Men and women who condone violence against others in a manner which serves only to promote further violence, this was not some romantic revolt against to occupying forces. In this city, they are visitors. Here to make a point and seek to make a petition to our politicians. We ulitmately hold power over our governments decisions so we can be assured our views will be taken into account. We may seek to make the opposite case, but at all times we must seek to make peace. The irish on all sides of the border, for irish they be, must live in peace. Without peace all is lost, we are cast back to the Hobbesian state of nature, a war of all against all.

Thankfully yesterday's riot was akin to one hand clapping. It left people injured, shocked, apalled and reflecting on our own society, but it was not a riot of two sides. There was only one side intent on rioting yesterday and to the shame of all of us, it was neo-Republicans.

Do you know what would have really prevented all this? ID cards.

RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Hiatus (And some anti-terror news)

For a week of two, absolutely no time on my hands at the moment so il try to get back up and running as soon as possible.

Before I go i would encourage you all to read the disturbing abuse of legislation over in the UK, apparantly the team behind the "road to Guantanamo" movie showing at the Berlin film festival.
Craig Murray broke the news here, while Blairwatch and Talk politics follow up here. Lastly The Lip fills in the gaps (required reading).

Im sure this bodes very well for the enforcement of the "Glorifying Terror" clause to the recent anti-terror bill.

Under the threat of “prolonging” my detention, I cooperated in allowing her to go through my wallet. She took detailed notes on all its contents. All of my bankcard details were noted down, as were the details on other people’s business cards I had in my wallet. I was searched for objects that I might use to “hurt” the officers. However this took place about halfway through the interview after I had been with the interviewer alone for some time.

While searching through my wallet she asked me whether I intended to do more documentary films, specifically more political ones like The Road to Guantanamo. She asked “Did you become an actor mainly to do films like this, you know, to publicise the struggles of Muslims?”.

She also asked me what my political views were, what I thought about “the Iraq war and everything else that was going on”, whether the Iraq war was “right” in my view.

She then asked me whether I would mind officers contacting me regularly in the future, “in case, for example, you might be in a café, and you overhear someone discussing illegal activities”.


Disturbing stuff, and a further nail in the coffin of a popular-supported war on terror. And it seems that the right-now airing of Obornes documentary (C4 Dispatches) on the spinning of terror is likely to generate further opposition for this prosecution of a "war on terrorism".

I understand that the initiative of glorifying terror is commendable but is it really enforceable in a real world devoid of the double speak and double thinking that dominates the pr-led governments in our (post)modern democratic societies.

Anyway, i gotta dash but il try to get back soon, also good luck and well done to all finalists in the blog awards.
RR
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2.20.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Sean Haughey

After an insane week of actual work, dipping in and out of news yielded but the bare bones of political coverage. How in the name of (nondescript divine entity) does this qualify for coverage? Ok I get that both the political correspondents and Sean himself were outwinked by the master of winks and nods, indeed by the sounds of it Haughey may have been led to get his hoped up. In the end Bertie appointed someone else. This is NOT a shock, the guys cabinet arithmatic is never going to be predictable nor understood.

Saint has it right, not for the first time, the guy is taking this opportunity to grandstand, knowing full well that a bit of grandstanding is the only real key to getting a promotion next time round. You only qualify by bleating louder than the other maligned backbench TDs who dont fit the electoral math and/or have the right story.

Some of the best work pol cors could churn out this week was a sob story for some guy who didnt get a promotion, kicked up a fuss and didnt leave. He didnt leave because he is up there for the next promotion. An honest assesment of this "saga" would tell politically interested readers that on a grand scale this matters not one jot. The government will not fall, policy won't chage and we will hear little from Haughey near-term. Policy in the department affected is unlikely to get altered much. Overall this has little or no seismic impact. Yet for some reason the job of scrutinising government/political discourse is dominated by this non-story.

Personality politics is a fact of life, it sells more papers, ads or whatever. This really is scraping the barrel though, there are hardly any personalities to speak of.

[aaahhhh that feels much better.]
RR

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2.19.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Humour, My British Friends...

Had to put this up, watching the ol' newsnight tonight on BBC2 and I had to laugh out loud. Paul Mason (Business Correspondent) was doing a piece on the Services Directive (more on which anon), in the style of Euro-trash. Surreal in itself.

End report and return to Kirsty Wark

"We now go to the British answer to Antoine de Caunes, Peter Mandelson"

Oh the mental images. Du Caunes in the Commission and Mandy on C4 late on a Thursday....

RR
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2.16.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

More Cartoon Mayhem


You have to laugh, whatever your politics.
From pickled politics.









Incidentally, is the whole Cheney shooting business so much hype and so light on news that all and sundry must implore us to imagine it happened to others?
Richard wonders what if it was the other way round? While the Washington Note wonders what if it was Al Gore in that Fox interview seat after a hunting accident?

Perceived injustice all round then.
RR

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Irish Election

Just a note to mention to all of you that the Irish Election group blog is up an running.
With contributions from 19 Blogs and counting it is the go-to place for coverage of the irish election.
Its located here, with feed here.

This afternoon we are expecting a special guest post to sort-of inaugurate the blog so keep an eye on that.

If any of the other bloggers out there want to get involved, your all more than welcome just email me(address below).

Go, on check it out, you know your curious. And perhaps a little enamoured.
RR
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2.14.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Bertie: "Anyone for Government?"

It caught my eye as soon as I walked into the newsagents yesterday (hurrah from advertising), but yesterdays story in the Tribune about Berties openness to offers surely rocks the boat.

Bertie opened up the opportunity of a coalition with Labour should the maths of the next election make it necessary.

Just a few thoughts, FFs internal polls must be suggesting that there is a hell of a close shave coming up at the next election and that the current PD/FF setup may have to be jettisoned for Bertie to achieve his longstanding goal to be third-term Taoiseach.

Second, the relationship in the second term between the PDs and FF has not been the same since the removal of Kildares finest to Brussels. Since then Macreevy has been annoying folk in the EU while the PDs have been on the losing side of a large number of policy clashes. The relationship between them is bound the be put under strain when the minority party is seen to be sidelined (over the Airport e.g.), ineffective (Harney in Health) and/or a tad wild (McDowell).

The PDs have also been courting all comers which could ultimately lead to the odd conversion of the teams to FF/Lab and FG/PDs.

Bertie is playing the right game in terms of getting Labour into bed by appealing to the Unions. They have for a long time been men Bertie has nurtured ties with (since Labour minister in the 80s and before). They know he is a man with whom one can make a deal, and perhaps he is right that Union leaders do often cast votes FFs way. However they are also intertwined with the very essence of the Labour party and can stand in the position of king-makers come election day (although not to the extent of the Unions in thte UK Labor Party).

If it turns out that the only feasible coalition is Fianna Fail and Labour Pat Rabbitte may have to fall on the sword he planted in Mullingar. However he may not. While the Labour voting public is widely seen as being split over coalition with FF, the activists tend to favour Rabbittes attention to detail and organisational ability over the other contenders (who are often termed 'weak' in that department). Still the press have a key role in this regard and would crucify a man who has, never explicitly but nonetheless, ruled out government with FF.

Whether or not an FF/Labour coalition would achieve anything, have any merit or even be something to talk about is a post for another day. At the moment though, the fact that both governing parties are casting about for partners suggests that things are deteriorating in Cabinet Office.

*Michael D. refused to be drawn on his own candidacy next year. This suggests to me, that some in the party have been told to "go home and prepare for government", while Sinn Fein are pariahs there will be a large role for kingmakers on 12%-19%.

RR
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2.13.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Sunday Brunch

Only driving to dublin is worse than getting the train. So I arrive before you wrecked and weary. I havent listened to Sunday Brunch yet but I am familiar with parts of it. So a coy plug to all of you to go download and have a listen.

Kevin and I were drafted in to do some dissecting of the Danish cartoon row.

Below is a transcript if you wanna have a go, Id be more than happy to entertain you.

The editor of the Danish newspaper was right to publish the cartoons because he was free to publish the cartoons.

That much is about s as far as this debate has gotten. The Danish editor did indeed have the right to publish these and any other cartoons. He has the right to publish any article he likes or picture he likes. He also had the right to a free and fair prosecution if his publication of any of the above falls foul of libel laws.

That the editor had freedom did not for one millisecond place any imperative on him to act. It left him the option to publish or to spike the piece, like it does all editors. I don’t object to freedom of expression. In this case I think its place at the heart of the debate is questionable.

The editors were indeed free to publish these cartoons; it is not however in that freedom that one defends them. They are not simply expressions of freedom; they make serious claims about the nature of Islam and of its followers-freedom of expression does not put the cartoons above the possibility of being wrong.

These cartoons are deeply offensive, even barring the depiction of Mohammed. If Jesus was caricatured with a crusader’s helmet, sword and flag, pillaging a near eastern village, I think there would be a great deal of furore. The depiction of Mohammed with a bomb on his head feeds this idea that we in the west are on a collision course with Islam which is seen as an inherently violent religion. It provokes varying degrees of anger from the worlds Muslims while at the same time rallying support around the freedom to do so.

Such a collision course is in this case a fabricated one. Since these cartoons should have been published and roundly condemned as being wrong-headed. The depiction of Mohammed is an issue for Islam to deal with; the false and stereotypical depiction of Muslims by our media is one we should examine.

The decision then to republish in the name of freedom of speech suggests that >the moral content of the cartoons is irrelevant, Muslim objections to the moral content equally irrelevant and that the principle of freedom of expression at the heart of the issue. I disagree with such an assessment.

The right to free expression was clearly present in the first instance of the Jyllands Posten publishing the cartoons. What ought to have followed is an evaluation of the cartoons by both communities.

The freedom was underlined by their publication, what hasn’t been addressed was whether it was the right thing to do.

Instead there was a rush to divide the issue into 'us and them' positions of freedom and tyranny.

This action puts the cartoons above reproach. The resulting persistence in propagating the cartoons again places the content above criticism at the expense of defending the principle.

The Muslim community has a right to be angry. There is no doubt that all violent protest is to be condemned and it’s deeply damaging. Yet it is worth recalling that a vast majority of the worlds 1.5 billion Muslims were not on our TV screens this week burning flags or embassies.

I think the decision to republish was the wrong one; it was an unnecessary propagation of a series of offensive and ignorant cartoons. Being free implies the responsibility to reflect on ones actions and perhaps sometimes not use the freedom.

If I were an editor I wouldn’t have published these cartoons and certainly wouldn’t now republish them, but it is in the hands of the editors that the right must stay. The media should be free and fair.

RR

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2.12.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Flying Car Baffles Aussies and Googlers





Reading over at Piaras Kelly about attempts to manipulate Google Maps to some nefarious end, I recalled this story from a while back.

SMH reported that googleearth images from Perth seem to show a car hovering above the ground with its own shadow underneath it. The image is on the right here.

Now before you go all mad and spooky:


"The intriguing image was reported last week by the British IT news website, The Register

One the the website's readers subsequently visited the very spot and sent in photos showing that there were no unusual structures there that could explain the phenomenon.

Other sceptical readers wrote in insisting the image was an optical illusion and was either a bus shelter, a pergola, a hole in the ground. One said it was obviously "Harry Potter and his friends on vacation."

Still, there is no need to let facts get in the way of a good story. The car was gone by the time the reader got there since his orbital window had closed and he was due to return to Omega 5 to file his report into human behaviour. This report is part of the build up to the invasion of earth, and were it not for google earth we would never have seen it coming.
RR
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2.11.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Plus Ca Change... Eu Constitution Returns

Its been mooted for a while but it seems that Brussels really was intent on taking one from Bertie Aherns playbook and simply knuckling under for a while before going on as before. It seems that Estonia and Belgium are revving up to ratify the EU Constitution that it seems no one wants but are going to get anyway.

Is it right that a document such as this can be passed with little or no recourse to Referenda? Is it so important as to require popular support? This travels to the heart of the idea of representation of the people by legislators. Are we simply electing officials to exercise their best judgement on a topic with no requirement to consider our view, or do they require a mandate in certain important circumstances?

Does it really matter that the process seems to be unwanted by the people? I would like to think so, but the signals from Brussels suggests that lessons have not been learned and EU Government has not been forced to reflect on its role and status in broader EU society. Having been soundly rejected in France and The Netherlands and likely to be so in UK and elsewhere the message was to return to Brussels and get your house in order. In a move Bertie would be proud of they did the latter, said the former had taken place and went on as intended. While that might suffice for running a state whose electorate are docile enough, it doesnt do for a European project at all.

People dont often care to know what goes on in governance, they care to know that once in a while their opinion can be heard and on all else its a-pint-of-whatever-your-having-yourself. The prospect of doing more work and putting together a coherent plan with a decent central message and theme seems to be too much for a bunch of tired and lazy politicians/bureaucrats who are growing unused to dealing with a citizenry on a European level.

This constitutional move and the contents of it are unlikely to alter such a situation and bring the EU closer to public accountability and scrutiny. I am safe in the knowledge that I can vote on this issue, and may now choose not on the content but on the tone of the politics, however I would prefer to see the EU learn from an election defeat far more than it seems to learn from a victory in a national assembly.

Democratising a body as diverse and insular as the EU is no mean task, yet a simple ethos of public accoutability that moves beyond the Burkean paternalism would be a great place to start. Those of us sympathetic to the EU are as ostracised by this decision as those who are opposed to its existence.

This is not going to help talk of democratic defecits etc.

RR

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2.09.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Bolk(Frank)enstein Directive

Some news from Brussels via EU Observer that the fabled services directive has been put through the ringer at the EU Parliament. Members of the EPP centre-right grouping and Socialist groupings came to some agreements over the proposed directive to be sent back to the Commission for rewriting before presentation to member states.

Some of the compromises seem set to sooth the anxieties of Unions around Europe who have been playing the social-dumping card for all that it is worth. The main points of concern are the scope of the bill (will it extend to public services and public services provided by private operators) and also the now infamous 'country of origin' principle.

On the former, it seems that there is a rough compromise where outright public services seem to fall beyond the remit of the directive while the status of private services in the public realm are up for debate. According to the report neither side seem certain where private service provision in public services falls. However there seems to be clear ring-fencing of the status of public services.

Meanwhile the "country of origin" principle is to be reformulated.

Under Wednesday's agreement, the country of origin principle would be reformulated.

The new version states that while companies have the right to offer their services in countries other than those where they are set up, the member states hosting them must remove all the current obstacles the firms might encounter.

"All the rules which are discriminatory, unnecessary or disproportional must go," said Ms Gebhardt.

Referring to the infamous example, she said "It would mean that a Polish plumber could offer his services in France, without extra demands by French officers on his equipment, material or qualifications."

Self-employed plumbers or other professionals could sell their services at a lower price than their colleagues from the hosting country.

On the other hand, companies sending their workers abroad to provide their services would be obliged to follow the hosting country's minimum labour, social and environmental rules, in a bid to avoid "social dumping."

The vote is due for 16 Feb on the compromise so eyes on that one. FT helpfully provides a QandA on the whole shenanigans though it seems that compromise will end up sealing some form of deal.

Its not all sweetness and light however, members of the centre right seem a tad disappointed;
"We have been discussing with several of my colleagues that what is coming up as a proclaimed 'compromise' is actually a back down from our part, as with so many exemptions from the directive, it might end up quite empty and useless," commented the Czech centre-right MEP, Zuzana Roithova.


Its widely seen as a compromise position encompassing the main points of both sides. Seems to be for the best, the original country of origin position was as unworkable as it was wrongheaded. For the rest we shall have to wait and see.

RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Bertie is a Rare Orchid

Having some time on my hands and overcome with curiosity, I dropped by the Oireachtas website to peruse this mornings Leaders Questions. Well was I rewarded. Its unlikley that TV will show the scenes from which the following transcript is taken. I extract some of it here but really you must read the whole thing here.


I find that without pictures, the transcripts take on a rare, often chaotic format and when reading them the whole scene as it presents to the minds eye descends into farce. If they keep up the quality of this they may yet get RTE2 to commission a sit-com, it will be better than some of the shite they air.


Joe Higgins is asking a question on social housing provision, take it away Joe:



Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should ask a question.


Mr. J. Higgins: Does the Taoiseach accept that, in reality, social partnership is now another flag of convenience to curb workers’ wage demands? In the context of the partnership talks, while private capitalists are allowed by the Government’s policies to gorge themselves obscenely with speculative profits and tax breaks as crucial public services such as health and education go short, does the Taoiseach believe that the 18 so-called investors, who set up a speculator’s company in the Caribbean to scam €309,000 per year legally from the tax fund in this State deserve to be called partners, or would the term “parasites” come more readily to mind? The Taoiseach has facilitated them. I read in yesterday’s Irish Examiner that after——


An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate to quote and I ask the Deputy to confine himself to questions.


Mr. J. Higgins: I am asking a question. While I will not quote, I read in the Irish Examiner that after the Taoiseach’s recent visit to Singapore, they named a——


An Ceann Comhairle: It is not even appropriate for the Deputy to state what he read in the Irish Examiner. He should simply ask a question.


Mr. J. Higgins: Very well.


Ms McManus: This is ridiculous.


An Ceann Comhairle: The purpose of Question Time is to elicit information from the Taoiseach, not to impart information to the House.


Mr. M. Higgins: In Singapore, this would be a criminal speech.


Ms McManus: This is simply censorship.


Mr. J. Higgins: Yes. However, they named a new hybrid orchid in the Taoiseach’s honour. They called it “Mokara Bertie Ahern”.


Mr. Rabbitte: How can the Ceann Comhairle rule this out?


Mr. J. Higgins: It must have been sponsored by developers and speculators, as the Taoiseach has certainly been a true cara to them.


Ms McManus: A delicate flower.



Very good, we like flowers, it gets better, Joe finally decides to ask a question of the Taoiseach after two more attempts, relating to PAYE conditions and housing. Bertie asserts: "there is almost over-capacity in the affordable housing market, where people are not switching or——"


And here we go....



The Taoiseach: Through affordable housing, social housing and the voluntary housing sector, the issues discussed in social partnership have improved the situation.


Ms McManus: It certainly helped the landlords.


The Taoiseach: I have provided comprehensive figures in this respect.


Mr. Stagg: We got two in County Kildare from the entire package. Despite all of the building in County Kildare, we only got two.


An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Stagg should allow the Taoiseach to speak.


The Taoiseach: Half of Dublin is moving to County Kildare because the houses are——


Mr. Stagg: They are not moving into social housing or affordable housing.


The Taoiseach: They are moving into affordable housing.


Mr. Stagg: Not at all. We only got two. I received a report yesterday.


The Taoiseach: The county has extremely good affordable housing.


Ms Lynch: It should be good as it took five years to build.


Ms McManus: Let them eat cake.


An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach, without interruption, please.


The Taoiseach: There is some extremely good affordable housing in Kildare, which is much cheaper than most places, to that county’s credit.


Mr. Rabbitte: The Indian visit was not good for the Taoiseach. He is out of touch with what is going on.


An Ceann Comhairle: I ask Deputy Rabbitte to allow the Taoiseach to answer Deputy Joe Higgins’s question.


Mr. C. Lenihan: The Opposition wants to ruin the economy.

The Taoiseach: The Deputies do not want to accept we are building 80,000 houses and that through Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the affordable housing initiative, more than 11,000 sites have been generated.


Mr. Stagg: That is because investors are vying for tax breaks.


The Taoiseach: They do not want to say this is having a significant impact and they do not want to give credit to the affordable housing initiative, which is very unreasonable. They want to take issue with the ESRI and they do not want to recognise that this year’s budget was the most progressive in the history of the State.


However, I agree with Deputy Joe Higgins on one point, which is that the high rate of salary paid to ordinary workers is a competitiveness issue. I hope he is not against that and that he does not want to return to the old days of——


Mr. J. Higgins: The fumes from that orchid must have gone to the Taoiseach’s head because he is delirious, as he said yesterday about the Opposition. He is wandering in a——


Mr. C. Lenihan: The Deputy is a rare orchid.


Mr. Kenny: I heard a report about a flower called after the Taoiseach. Shelley wrote: “Full many a flower that is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air”.


Mr. J. Higgins: Gray wrote that, not Shelley.


Mr. C. Lenihan: Be careful of the cankerous rose.


Mr. Kenny: I am not sure in a political sense if the Taoiseach epitomises the orchid. When the people get an opportunity on the next occasion they might perform a painful process called an orchidectomy. Deputy Devins can explain what that means.



Someone really should bottle Conor Lenihan and sell him on Nassau Street to Aran Jumper wearing tourists. Im not sure if any or few of you find that funny but reading it earlier I nearly burst. Images of a strained Conor Lenihan getting the soundbite in, youd think he has learned once before.


How many orchid references can you spot in there?


At least we know they have their fun too.


RR
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2.08.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Blazing a Trail

From Sweden (where else) comes reports of an ambitious attempt to be oil-free within 15 years.


The intention, the Swedish government said yesterday, is to replace all fossil fuels with renewables before climate change destroys economies and growing oil scarcity leads to huge new price rises.
"Our dependency on oil should be broken by 2020," said Mona Sahlin, minister of sustainable development. "There shall always be better alternatives to oil, which means no house should need oil for heating, and no driver should need to turn solely to gasoline."

[from Treehugger]

Characteristically, they have actually thought this out and have some mechanisms in mind. Here's the list so far proposed or partially implemented.

*Large-scale investments in renewable energy and in research.

*Expansion of district heating initiatives (co-gen and use of waste industrial and utility heat for domestic needs) as was done famously in Denmark, and emulated in the US in a few rare instances.

*Not subjecting fuel that is free of carbon dioxide to the energy tax or the carbon dioxide emission tax.

*Exempting efficient vehicles from the congestion tax that will be introduced in Stockholm in January.

*Taxes on energy and on carbon dioxide emissions were raised, while other taxes, such as those on payroll were decreased by an equivalent amount.

*Municipalities receive grants to conduct long-term climate research and make investments in environment-friendly technology.

*There are interim objectives for each target, regional and local objectives to match, and an Environmental Objectives Council to monitor progress towards the goals.

*Progress is charted through 70 national indicators, which track results and verify whether the country is heading in the right direction.

Looking across some of the boards and comments responding to this news its clear that there is massive scepticism around the capacity to deliver on such a goal. However should the Swedes as usual manage to implement what most of us spend time debating about, it stands as a major example and guideline for other states to begin to wean themselves off oil. I recall another Head of State mentioned reducing the addiction to the black stuff recently so perhaps there is room for some helpful cooperation along the way.

The guiding sentiment here, "We want to be both mentally and technically prepared for a world without oil." is one that other governments would do well to copy. Pretending or putting solutions on the long finger, loses valuable time. Debate, fine, but once its won (which at this stage it quite clearly is), action comes next.

The Swedish government is working with carmakers Saab and Volvo to develop cars and lorries that burn ethanol and other biofuels. Last year the Swedish energy agency said it planned to get the public sector to move out of oil.


Action in cooperation with interests which might prefer a couple more years of oil goodness. Seems like they win again. While its a long way off, and an ambitous target, the Swedes are unlikely to have committed to it without full research and consultation. We shall wait and see, but in the meantime all states, big and small, should be taking lessons from the initiative.

Update:Just a fewe thoughts on the ability to ensure that Swedens good example is followed. Ths situation as it stands is similar to being in a class where Sweden does its homework and the teacher implores the kids at the back to follow such a good example. Outside of chat and a few threats, the teacher is powerless to ensure compliance. Similar problems abound in getting a solution to oil/global warming within the international community.

We all saw the difficulty in getting Kyoto off the ground and the talks in Montreal suggest a lot more chat will take place while Sweden blazes a trail. Swedens action is neither a big boost for unilateralist approaches nor grist to the mill of International agreement supporters. This simplly points out the failure of states to make simple commitments to reducing dependency on oil. Full credit to the UK they will never stop telling us that they are committed to 20% redux in CO2 emmissions.

The challenge laid down by the Swedish move is clear to all those who desire to see a sustainable world emerge from the depletion of oil/fossil fuel resources. There needs to be concerted and binding international arrangements to ensure the safety of the planet ahead of short-term national interest/profit. Long term the likes of Saab and Volvo are far more likely to succeed from this view. There is a case for much more concerted and binding action on the global community to reduce fossil fuel consumption and turn to renewables and sustainables.

Oil at $63 suggests now is as good and profitable time as any to make commitments to getting rid of oil.
RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Kimmitt: US Troops Contributing to Instability

Interesting comments from General Mark Kimmitt reported in the Guardian today. In a speech to the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London he outlined briefly some of the US thinking on post-Iraq strategy.

Kimmett conceded that the presence of around 300,000 troops in the region is a destabilising influence and needs to be addressed. He stated that there is no plan to remain in bases in Iraq once the US pulls out

Although he said the US would not keep permanent military bases inside Iraq, Brig Gen Kimmitt made clear it would retain assets and enough forces nearby to protect its interests there.
...
He suggested that the US had learned from past mistakes and that in future it would be "more sensitive to [the] culture" of the people who lived in the Middle East.
...
Brig Gen Kimmitt's speech is the latest indication that the American army is planning significant reductions in its 130,000-strong force in time for the mid-term congressional elections, to be held in November

He also makes some pointed references to focussing on Nation building. Four years after Afghanistan and three after Iraq, the focus is only now turning to the possiblity of nation-building and other forms of civic reconstruction.

His comments are an interesting insight into US Foreign Policy thinking, and his comments on nation building seem to suggest that the US recognises a broader based approach is necessary to promote and cement democratic develpoment in the middle east. Its a little sad that the U.S. has to signal this as a policy turn, since it should have been top of the list from day one.

RR

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2.07.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Who are We Meme?

Goodness me the whole meme thing is all over the place. Soon we will have blogs dedicated to filling endless memes, then we truly can ascend to the status of the mass media.
I was tagged by Saint so...
Onward and upward on a march through the politics of Rover
Gender: Male
Nationality: Irish
Country of Residence: Ireland
Orientation: Straight
Disability? No

How would you describe your political philosophy? A mix and match of progressive and liberal values.

Level of Education: Student at the mo, so Leaving Cert.

If you were to vote along party lines, which would you choose (Ireland)?
labour, green, ind depends on the quality of candidate really.

If you were to vote along party lines, which would you choose (UK)?
The stark raving loony party, or else Labour/Lib Dem depending on the contituency.

If you were to vote along party lines, which would you choose (USA)?
Democrat

Where do you stand on the EU? I think that it can be of valuable service to maintaining peace and cooperation throughout Europe. It needs to reform its vision of itself and also set about clarifying the powers, divisions and responsibilities of the institutions to the people. Can do a lot of good, just get over the whole trying to be a state thing.

Did you support the invasion of Afghanistan? At the time, yeah.

Did you support the invasion of Iraq? It perplexed me. Why go in when Afghanistan was still teeming with problems? I support the principle of removing dictators.

Do you continue to support either or both of those conflicts? Yes and no, Afghanistan needs some attention desperately. Its not up to scratch at all at the moment. Iraq was a mess, badly conceived, badly planned, badly executed. If it needed to be done, then it should have been done properly.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Irish politics?
Widening divisions over social provision, highlighted in conflicts over Health, tolling, Education... the amount of "two-tier" systems in operation in the place seems to grow daily.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing European politics?
Relevance, taking an up until now successful European project and reforming it to address the 21st century Europe. It should look at its capacity to represent groups as well as people and its capacity to enahance the democracies at local level, promoting general wealth across borders.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing international politics?
Getting people talking in any maningful fashion.

Are you, have you ever been, and do you ever wish to be involved in politics in a party political manner? Im not, I havent, Well have to see.

Who would you have voted for in the past US Presidential Election?
Kerry. Barely.

For whom the meme tolls: Suzy, Gerry, Freestater
RR

» Author: Cian » Comments:

The Cartoons

Were, ironically a danish band with songs immortalised in the simpsons (which episode? Answers in comments).

On a related point, there is an interesting post over at opendemocracy decidedly against the silliness of deciding to antagonise the muslim community.

In the same way, rights – like the freedom of the press – inherently offer us the right to decide when to use them. The grounds for that decision include common sense and prudence. I may have the right to throw away a cigarette near a pile of leaky petrol drums, but I will probably choose not to do so, and will be held criminally responsible for a conflagration. Publishing insulting cartoons of Mohammed at a moment haunted by suicide-bombings, fanatical murder and American-led war or threats of war in Muslim countries was an act of that kind.
...
Islam is presented as inherently intolerant, and therefore incompatible with Dutch or Danish values.


However, Craig Murray, ex-British Ambassador to Uzbekhistan and prior supporter of the rights of muslims in a variety of tyrannical states is pro-toon.
Religions need to be caricatured. God and faith may be perfect, but men are not, and throughout history religious structures have been used to exert social control, give power to a hierarchy, and to make money from the gullible. Religion has always been distorted to justify both war and repression of people's rights, and still is today, by Osama Bin Laden, George W Bush, and others. The dangers of protecting religion from ridicule are obvious.

So I don't agree with the protestors who have sparked such concern, and I think they are very foolish indeed to appear to be threatening violence.


Just to throw some gas on an already inflamed fire. While I'm not sure if it was inherently right or wrong to light this fire, Im certainly of the opinion it was both in bad taste and quite silly to do so. The clash of civilisations exists if it is created. It is not the necessary trajectory of history as some who commentate on the recent events may wish to paint it.

RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Argentine - Brazil Trade Agreement

Many interesting poltical stories taking place in Latin America right now, not just in terms of the ol romantic lefty stuff, but also from an International Relations point of view.
With the impending election in Haiti following the expulsion two years ago of Aristide and also the news of a new trade agreement between Argentina and Brazil which supports the mutual right to impose protectionism in both regions, there is much to discuss.

Dont interprete my berevity as commentless support for the above, more of a heads up for a topic Ill turn to soon.

RR

» Author: Cian » Comments:

While Blogs hold their breath

To see who I vote for in the blog awards...
Anyhow, those who are readers here not familiar with the now impending blogawards, get voting.
I know my favourites, and am glad to see Fi Fie get into the nominations. Anyway cast your votes as this is a bit of a big deal for the blogosphere in ireland.

RR

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Four Things Meme

I have been tagged by the good folks at freestater. So here you all are.

Four Jobs
Bar-man
Caddy
Being a student (its full time!)
ahh, being a student means i tend to pass up work for alcohol related passtimes so...
Blogging

Four Films you could watch over and over
Donnie Darko
Pulp Fiction
Snatch
A Night at The Roxbury

Four Places you've lived
Kerry
Dublin
China
Korea

Four TV Shows you love to watch
QandA
Yes (Prime) Minister
The Mighty Boosh
Father Ted

Four Places you've been on vacation
London
Andorra
Biarritz
Malaga

Four Websites you visit daily
Irishblogs.ie
Politicaltheory.info
Guardian
True Faith (For my sins)

Four of your favourite foods
Steak and Mash
Roasts of all sorts
Thai Green Curry
Banoffee

Four places you'd rather be
Cardiff
San Sebastian
SE Asia
New Zealand

Four people who are now tagged
Kevin
Saint
Gerry
Potatriotique

RR

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Welcome to the Irish Daily Mail

Great more flesh features in the Indo. Still im sure Vinnie will find the space somewhere.

Twenty, sparkling as ever, earlier this year. And he's not wrong.

RR
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2.06.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Abortion Should Be Legal

Fiona has decided to open up a decidedly divisive can of worms over at mental meanderings, arguing that abortion should be legal. She lays down the challenge as "I have yet to hear a rational, non-emotional and non-theological argument against legalising abortion in Ireland.".

Well she wont hear one here, I am of the opinion that abortion is a private decision, and as such falls outside the scope of government intervention. The arguments that are regularly put forward to make abortion illegal are religious/moral ones. I think it is clear over the past few weeks, that the west has become quite disentagled with morality and now increasingly operates a society in which religious moral decisions are private. Though those that hold them see them as universal, Christianity has been forced to accept that a plurality of views exist and their existence is enough to afford them accomodation.

The question of legalising abortion in a secular sense can often be boiled down to this issue:

1) The state has a duty of care to all citizens, can it thus extend to right to abort to mothers or must it protect the unborn as a citizen?

Obvioulsy this is a secular construction of the problematic of when a foetus becomes a human.
As Fiona argues "up to a certain time however that ‘living being’ is not autonomous and can not survive without the woman." That is certainly true, but it opens up again the issue of classification of human against animal or simply a bundle of cells. The point at which most states settle on in abortion legislation is 20-24 weeks. This suggests that there exists a certain amount of science to suggest that this is the maximum available time.

The relevance here is that the principle of abortion has to be measured against the universal requirement of the state to at least attempt to extend protection to citizens. However, this is a social conception of the argument and this means that citizens are required to be considered as autonomous in thier own right.

This places limits on the point up until which there can be an abortion and extends the choice to the mother and her only by virtue of her carrying the embryo. Failure to recognise this choice interjects moral stipulations above and beyond the legally recognisable arguments for sate intervention. Thus while late abortion can be argued for both sides since the foetus may in fact live through a birth, there is a point up to which abortion is the remit of the mother.

The liberty of a mother to have an abortion is a fundamental one, and in a state where the influence of religion on legislation should be resisted, in the interests of all in the society, this should be recognised. The state has an obligation first and foremost to its citizens and to the point where it cannot legislate on reasonable grounds to prohibit abortion entirely, it should not.

Living in a pluralist society suggests that the liberty should be maximised yet the debate not outlawed. The option should be there, the decision to have one is open to debate. Those who oppose are free to do so and convince others of their correctness, yet the state must not prejudice choice in the private sphere and as I have argued up until a certain point the pregnancy exists in the mothers/parents private sphere.

I believe abortion should be legalised, not because it is right or wrong, because there are those in society who desire it, often need it, and they are being falied by the states reluctance to acknowledge the pluralism in private morality that it is designed to protect.

Update: Check out Dossing Times to keep on top of who is saying what.
RR

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

The Limits of Free Speech?

Its no surprise that the folks over at dossingtimes and best of both worlds were on this faster than a hare in clonmel, its one of the bigger principle challengers around.

However, I do want to broaden it out a bit more, if I may be so bold.

The recent trouble arising out of Denmark and now many of the countries of mainland Europe, is something to provoke us all into thought. However the kidnapping of a German in the West Bank this afternoon (apparantly on the back of the cartoons) and the acquital of BNP leader Nick Griffin certainly pose some serious challenges to the principle of freedom of speech.

I myself have come nowhere near conclusion on the issue, so dont expect a definitive answer here.

Nick Griffin and a fellow party member were acquited earlier today of charges relating to racial haterd. You will all remember that this self same law was the focus of a bill which saw Tony Blair defeated twice in the commons on Tuesday last. Griffin was up on charges realting to an undercover BBC documentary which caught him on camera making various incendiary statements about Islam and foreigners in general. (Islam was a "wicked vicious faith".)

As he stood outside Leeds Crown Court, Mr Griffin happily thanked the courts for delivering a victory for "freedom". Needless to say, there were many unhappy faces. Labour MP Shahid Malik, member for Dewsbury which has returned the largest BNP vote thus far, was on Channel 4 News suggesting that nowhere is freedom of speech asolute and the defeat in the commons on Tuesday means that even under the new legislation Griffin would probably not be found guilty.

The obvious case, in his eyes, is that the state is required to step in to regulate the likes of Griffin and others on the fringes of our politics who exist on stirring up racial sentiments. That seems like a fair position, but it is one we shall return to later on.

The other case is much more familiar to us, those cartoons. Originally printed in a Danish newspaper, the cartoons have been published in solidarity in France, Germany (the right to blaspheme is central to democracy), Spain, Italy and further along. It has brought about serious reprecussions in the middle east, not least for Danish business. Diary group Arla is to lay off 140 staff due to losses incurred through the boycott.

The cartoons depict Allah (already flouting Islamic belief) in a variety of poses (turban as bomb, with lots of virgins and so forth). Its understandably provocative but more so when one considers that Islam has a proscription on artistic depictions of the prophet.

There is an interesting point made in the reuters article:



The dispute, which has parallels to the 1989 Iranian death sentence on writer Salman Rushdie, arises from the fact that Muslims still consider blasphemy -- or insulting the sacred -- as a crime while Westerners no longer take it seriously.

Jesus Christ has been mocked so often in Western media and art that it hardly causes outrage any more and courts usually reject legal suits against the satire. Because of the horror of the Holocaust, Western media are much more cautious about Jews.


The issue in this particular case does indeed revolve around the central role of blasphemy. Is it a crime or is it simply in contravention of a singular cultural norm and thus not criminal?

We have then two very different cases before us, yet the principle which governs the defence of both actions is the same, Griffin's right to freedom of expression makes him immune from race hate laws (indeed the principle makes him immune from any attempt to legislate), while freedom of expression allows Papers to print challenging depictions of a religious figure.

The first question that I think arises is this, is freedom of expression absolute?

It may seem like an oxymoron but it was the position forwarded by Malik on the news tonight. Is freedom of expression an absolute and incontrovertible freedom which entitles all those who bear it (members of most democracies) the right to speak out as the deem fit?
Or is freedom of expression a more limited freedom, in that it is free up to the point where it interferes with the freedom/liberty of another?

The answer to this question is likely to hold the key to the response to this issue as a whole. The tradeoff presented here, and at its most extreme, is between legislating against the right to denigrate religious figures or against the rights of people to preach racism and prejudice and enabling the licence of all to express themselves as they see fit.

The response for legislation is the most intuitive. Surely those at the receiving end of the offence should be entitled to some form of protection.

Yet the counter argument comes just as quickly, is it not better to allow these cases to be aired freely and gunned down with rational argument. Is it not better to have the country see Griffin as the loon that he is, or to allow Europe and the Middle East to have a debate over the status of religious figures? Would it not be worse to force these sentiments to be swallowed up and expressed in more dangerous and less detectable forms (violence, threats etc).

And at that the argument only just begins. I am aware that I have taken two issues which are in most respects completely different, what was done in Denmark was not "hate-crime" and what Griffin was doing was certainly not opening up a reasonable dialogue with Britains Muslim community and asylum seekers.

Yet the hold all defence of freedom of expression is present in both cases. Is such a thing justifiable, should "hate-crimes" have recourse to these ideals of freedom of expression? I am thinking in my heart of hearts that they should not. Hate is an irrational emotion which is not entirely subject to the controls of reason and thus open for rational debate. Yet if it never gets out there how is it to be confronted.

Ultimately, I feel that I must divorce the two and treat the issue of freedom of expression in a different manner in each scenario. If a general law regarding freedom of expression cannot be found then principles which guide responses to each particular event are the next best thing. However moving to this position implicitly accepts that there are times and places where it is justified and correct to infringe on the 'sacrosanct' freedom of expression.

Im sure that the number of libertarians out there are squirming in their seats at this thought, well good news, I havent decided yet, but I will.

The challenge to those who would continue to allow the two issues to be grouped together under the one defence is to present a coherent justification for all cases of expression. To admit that there may be no case which contravenes such a right.

To say that such a challenge is too much, is to say that there may be cases in which there is need to legislate. (Im sure most of you at this stage are clapping saying well done to the slow man from Kerry. Perhaps, but no position in this debate may be without justification.) To admit of exceptions is to be required to set the criteria for such exceptions, i.e. laying out the principles for particularity.

At this point we are back to the Commons on Tuesday night and the disagreements over passing a law on "religious hatred". Where is the line, even if its only a dotted one, where can it be.

For right now, that is where I will leave it. I am intrigued however, by the potential response of a blogosphere full of learned folk and different principles.

Is freedom of expression absolute? Discuss.

RR
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2.02.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments: