Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
"This was the season Gix Reverb saw storks for the first time. They were nesting in the ruins of the Roman aqueduct that previously had conveyed the icy waters of the mountains of Anatolia to the colony of Ephesus. Now there were storks there, roosting in the broken columns. Gix came to in a four-star hotel wearing a green Martin Margiela suit when the storks flew by like planes when you’re standing near to an airport, and you see their backs, the way they go down in increments. The storks landed in their huge nests while the sky turned pink.
Present also on the shoot was Virus O’Neill, who had added new metal studs to his face and, according to his agent, had also had his glans pierced. He also planned to have discs inserted into his earlobes in the manner of Amazon tribesmen, his agent pursued. In his press release. Read extracts here...
Friday, October 9, 2009
Click here for first part “Is the EU on the right path?“
Click here for second part “The decline of social-democracy”
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Even when they tire of dark prophecies as how we shall be written out of the book of the EU, Lisbonites on a less apocalyptic note assert that 35 years of membership have been good for us. A fair point, but by doing so they are suggesting that on Friday we are being asked to accept or decline membership of the union. This either reflects that they have so internalised the systematic bullying and isolating manoeuvres enacted against Ireland, and now on the Czech Republic, that they believe this to be the case. Else they are just being manipulative. The vote, it must be remembered, is on the Treaty alone. To suggest otherwise, as a priest might say, is immoral.
The soberest defenders of the Lisbon faith say that it streamlines EU institutions, gives some powers to the Strasbourg parliament in exchange for concessions on national sovereignty, creates a single five year EU president and High Representative on Foreign Affairs. But it seems amazing to this ardent Euro-federalist that 269 pages of post-modern meta-text on a far longer EU constitution, are necessary to frame such simple and agreeable notions. Read full article...
Saturday, September 26, 2009
I was on France Inter on Saturday, talking about the Lisbon Tricky. You can listen to the programme with brilliant journalists Jose Manuel Lamarque and Emmanuel Moreau here.
Le 02 octobre prochain, les irlandais seront invités au second référendum concernant le Traité de Lisbonne. Nous vous proposons de découvrir l’Irlande à la veille de cet événement, les positions des partisans du Non et du Oui à “Lisbonne”.
Monday, September 21, 2009
My latest Presseurop blog.
Less than two weeks to go before Ireland votes on the Lisbon Treaty, the Irish press is awash with Yes editorials. With little left to be said beyond sleep-inducing reassurances as how the fraught text will not compromise national taxation, anti-abortion laws and the continued presence of an “Irish” commissioner in Brussels, the tone is inevitably taking a shrill turn. Not without some light entertainment value. Leading the attack is columnist Kevin Myers, who declares that he would rather be governed “by a parcel of fork-tongued Euro-reptiles” than our home-grown “inept and unrepentant thieves”. Given the state of the Irish economy, Myers might be right in condemning the narrow assumption that Irishmen best serve Irish interests, but until reptiles have faces, people will always prefer to be led by their own species, even if it means ruin. Being recognizable, they’re still accountable, or would at least seem so.
On the No side, Vincent Browne’s GBH job on the treaty has been a gift to the No camp which continues to claim that the treaty will compromise our neutrality. Browne points out that a single European foreign policy would have had Ireland involved “up to the gills” in the 2003 Gulf War. This sounds fair enough, until you remember that Ireland in all its little fishness was complicit in the Gulf War anyway. Our so-called neutrality never prevented US warplanes from refuelling at Shannon airport, nor, as it’s suspected, serving as stopovers for extraordinary rendition flights. Until we live in a society that isn’t dominated by war and spoliation, Ireland will always be swimming alongside great sharks. Its neutrality has always been a fiction. Read on...
Monday, September 7, 2009
My latest blog at Presseurop.
A new poster by anti-Lisbon Treaty group Coir with portraits of James Connolly, Patrick Pearse and Thomas Clarke, three of the executed leaders of the 1916 Easter rebellion against British rule, accompanied by the slogan “They won your freedom, don’t throw it away” has Ireland’s pro-Lisbon establishment in a patriotic lather. Former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Garret Fitzgerald has accused the organization, a spin-off of anti-abortion group SPUC, of seeking “to abuse the memory…of our 1916 leaders...in aid of their own xenophobic campaign.” Tremulously noting that his father fought alongside these enemies of British imperialism, he writes “…my father spoke of the need to go beyond securing political independence from Britain by forging closer links with the rest of Europe.”
He is echoed by Eoin Ryan, a former minister of Fianna Fail, Ireland’s ruling party, who has declared “outrageous” a hypothesis aired by Nigel Farage, the outgoing leader of British eurosceptic party Ukip, that the men and women who took part in the Easter rebellion would have been against the treaty. “…our revolutionary heroes…believed passionately in Ireland as a European nation that would belong to strong international bodies,” he says, not before summoning up the memory of his grandfather, also present at Dublin’s General Post Office (GPO), the rebels’ HQ, in 1916. Read on...
Monday, July 20, 2009
My latest blog at Presseurop. Click here
When Parti Socialiste general secretary Martine Aubry, shortly after the French Socialists European election debacle in June, proclaimed she was giving the party “six months to change course", she probably didn’t reckon on Parisian philosopher Bernard Henri Levy butting in over at Journal du Dimanche (JDD) and declaring that she manages a "house of the dead." “The PS is dead... and must disappear,’ go his musings, splashed over JDD’s front page.
Philosophers teach us to die, as Cicero once said, so you could argue that BHL is doing the decent thing, since even Christ himself might have had second thoughts about resurrecting a body that, completely out of power since 2002, has not just been going gamey like Lazarus, but has lumps of it dropping off all the time, the most opportunistic, like Eric Besson, grafting themselves to President Sarkozy’s still vigorous UMP. As BHL philosophically points out, death has also visited the once mighty French Communist party. Looking further afield, he echoes similar obituaries in the British press. While the Spectator has unsurprisngly dubbed Labour a government of the living dead, no less than Observer columnist Andrew Rawnsley fears that Labour will never see power again, ever. Lest we forget, though, Labour is the party that ushered the Whigs, that extraordinary political machine that dominated Britain for two centuries, into oblivion. The lesson being that political parties are mortal too.
Indeed, a quick trawl through Presseurop and you can more and less see that the Socialist spectre that haunted the 19th century is now a shade, feebly protesting while in Berlusconi’s Italy, vigilante groups nostalgic for fascism now patrol its streets in a bid to flush out “illegal" immigrants. Interior minister Marco Bastoni, who campaigns on such lofty sentiments as "sticks for immigrants" assures us that these groups will be psychologically and politically vetted. But you only have to wonder about the mental profile of people who fancy a night out “on patrol” to twig that such controls by necessity are likely to be lenient. Over in Lithuania, the TiT party pushes for prison for those who “promote” homosexual “values”, while in Brussels David Cameron’s Conservative party kowtows to Poland's Law and Justice party, some of whose members go teary when the glory days of the Waffen SS are evoked.
Back in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil, after a street party for immigrant squatters, the French police fire a flash ball into a man’s face, liquefying his eye, shattering his cheekbone and nose, following this up with false declarations not just as to the "riot" they faced down, but on the victim's identity. A spate of flashball incidents, however, and the question as to why men of usually African origin are “committing suicide” regularly in temporary police custody are some of the many subjects, however, that the PS prefers to dodge. Indeed, like Italy’s PD, it has always been at pains to prove that it too can out-tough the right on crime and immigration.
So fine if the PS is dead. The only irony is that BHL, after saying the unsayable, shys away from the obvious conclusion and nominates ex-Mitterand ministers Segolène Royale, Dominique Strauss Kahn et al as part of a left “renewal”, rather than as the problem. Cynics might say that having served as advisor to Royal in her failed campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy, that he knows where his bread is buttered. The truth is that he probably doesn’t know himself, but unlike Socrates, won’t admit of philosophical ignorance. However, for anyone who believes in a progressive politics, there is enough matter to suggest that reaction is a Europe-wide phenomenon. Quite simply because Europe’s reactionaries, whether in Brussels or in each other’s villas, hang together. It follows that any counter movement requires a perspective that takes in the entire European space. This socialization of European leaders, after all, is but a reflection that a majority of Europeans are increasingly socialized too. While Socialism is dead, the International, strangely enough, may have only just begun.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Published on June 19 2009 |PRESSEUROP
Michelet, in his famous history of the French revolution relates the story of an aristocrat disguised as a peasant, fleeing Robespierre’s Terror for the safety of what it is now Belgium. Feeling peckish while still in France, he entered a tavern. When invited to order, he eagerly called for a twelve egg omelette, and thus sealed his own fate. Unmasked as a toff, he was dispatched back to Paris to, one suspects, an unpleasant fate.
Such a story springs to mind after a recent article covered here at Presseurop. British Airways, it seems, is doing so badly that CEO Willie Walsh has sent out an invitation to the company’s 40,000 employees that in order to “fight for our survival” employees should go without wages for up to a month. Walsh strangely believes he can lead by example by proudly announcing that he will forgo his own July intake, a modest £62,000 pounds out a total of £743,000 per annum “basic”. This is nearly seventy times more than the annual wage a member of cabin crew pockets. However, Walsh still expects “volunteers” to turn up by June 24 and share in his vast sense of personal sacrifice.
There is something so charmingly naive about Walsh’s idea that it has a whiff of the Ancien Régime about it. And who says Ancien Régime in 2009 suggests that our crisis ridden time is ripe for revolt. But wait. Since last year’s May 68 commemorations, it seems that not a week goes by without someone wondering if we’re not entering a new patch of historical turbulence. Witness a recent piece in the New Statesman by Andrew Hussey, in which he focuses on Olivier Besancenot’s NPA (Anti-Capitalist Party) apparently the darling of French youth, and very much a party that sometimes wittily exploits the great abyss that lies between the great and good's perceptions of life’s trials, and those of us muddlers on planet Earth.
Witty, but not nearly so captivating that Besancenot could talk a single seat out of France’s fed up electorate in the recent European elections. The answer might be in the party's name. NPA might be anti-captalist, but the moniker fails to suggest a direction forwards. A look at its manifesto and what you get is the long road back - a call to salvage the remains of the walfare state, in other words a sixty year old post World War 2 consensus. Nothing wrong with that as such, but hardly surprising then that French writer Julian Coupat should have said in an interview with Le Monde that NPA has got something of the “Stalinist grey” about it.
It may be all journalists’ dreams, and yet, all these 68 headlines suggest there's a longing out there for the intoxications of the past, the dangers of doing over a cynical old order. Among the moody young, there's definitely much apprehension as to what that unlikely philosopher Johnny Rotten once called the “third-rate reality” we live in. Right now, there can't be anything more redolent of a third rate reality than what Iranians bore witness to last week, when a creaking power most probably frauded its own re-election. There’s something so compelling about watching millions of protestors in the streets of Teheran asking for their vote back that we would rather forget that the people’s champion Mir-Hossein Moussavi, as several commentators have pointed out, has also got a big streak of Stalinist grey running through his soul. Now that the mood in Iran sours, as the regime looks to be brazening its electoral theft out, Libération editor Laurent Joffrin is apologising for the left-leaning French daily's jumping-the-gun "Teheran Spring" headline last Saturday. And yet, couldn't all these Iran and 68 fantasies suggest that here in the west there's some as yet inarticulate sense that our freedom is also thwarted? Maybe. In the meantime, though, in the absence of any credible alternative, our leaders can go on ordering giant omelettes.
Photo : Hamed Saber
Saturday, June 6, 2009
If you're from the left, you might have reasons to dislike Silvio Berlusconi. A provisional list could include recent pronouncements against a multi ethnic Italy, backed up by draconian anti-immigration laws, the fact his coalition partners the Northern Alliance press for preferential seating for “native” Milanese. All this must be fairly obnoxious to anyone with progressive instincts.
Then there's the eternal question as to the source of his personal fortune, his ownership of 50% of the national media, his recurring abuses of power. And yet no amount of financial dirt and dodgy deals has failed to make him so unpopular that he can’t win an election or two. His approval ratings rarely go below 50%, and as Italy votes for the European elections today, his Populo della Liberta stand to win 45%, if polls are accurate.
This is no doubt deeply frustrating for the Italian left. But it doesn't quite explain why left-leaning journal La Repubblica has taken Madame Berlusconi’s pending divorce to heart, publishing ten questions to the Calviere about his supposed relations with eighteen year old starlet Noemi Letizia. Without much effect it would seem.
No doubt there’s something ridiculous, if not embarrassing, and maybe even illegal, about what might be a 72’s year old's passion for a Lolita. But in what way does it advance the left's cause? Sex scandals have a habit of working in both political directions. And yet over a decade ago not even Bill Clinton's enemies in the Republican right benefited from the Monica Lewinsky affair. However, it seems no coincidence that since then, even on this side of the Atlantic, we have had to endure cheese and ham pieties about the blissful marriages our candidates enjoy. As if it were any of our business.
Berlusconi complains his critics attack him on Letizia because they have no “political ideas”. This is disingenuous, since he has been instrumental in trivializing Italian politics, via his TV stations, and the gaggle of bimbos he has put forward on the Populo della Liberta’s ticket for the coming elections. And yet he has a point. As political analyst Ilana Bet-El argued recently, “we are the midst of the worst financial crisis since the 1930’s and yet the left is nowhere”. Mainly because it no longer knows what its values are. What follows then is that in an ideological vacuum, it has erected itself as a guardian of morality. No surprise then that that other guardian of morality, the Catholic church, should have recently waded in exhorting the prime minister to be “sober and sombre” in his manner. Sombreness, usually appropriate for funerals, is certainly not the air Mr Berlusconi will adopt as he buries an increasingly sanctimonious left.
Friday, May 29, 2009
My latest blog at Presseurop
A couple of weeks back Lech Walesa caused mutterings in the Irish and Polish press for having been a guest speaker at the Libertas convention in Rome. Papers speculated whether this was not a ringing endorsement of Irishman Declan Ganley’s crusade against the Lisbon Treaty on a “pro Europe - anti EU” ticket.
“We need to heed the Libertas message and put the people back at the heart of the project,” he said. Rumours soon surfaced that for such chiselled gems the Nobel Prize winner and former Polish president had received €50,000 for his pains. A week later Polish daily Gazeta Wyborsza reported the figure was €100.000 and called him a “disgrace”. A tightlipped Declan Ganley refused to disclose. “Gentlemen do not talk about money to other gentlemen. The word honorarium includes the word honour.” And indeed for this Latin-monikered party whose Europe-wide candidates include Czech tax-evaders, a Holocaust negationist from Poland and France’s own Islamophobe-in-chief, the Viscount de Villiers, they are all honourable men, as Mark Anthony once said over the corpse of Julius Caesar. Later, Walesa bragged to fellow Polish journalists that for speaking he got more in one night than they earned in a year, which has a Linda Evangelista ring about it, though the model who would not get out of bed for less than 20,000 dollars does not apparently have to live off a Polish state pension.
Here’s where it all goes awry. After Rome, Walesa’s son told the press that “my father doesn’t agree with Libertas, their opinions or how it works,” As far as Poland was concerned, Libertas, he said, “don’t exist”. Walesa, on the defensive, grumpily asked impertinent journalists - “Should we lock them up and beat them?” After all he only wanted to take part in open debate with these honourable men. This week, reports the Irish Independent, Walesa now has personally distanced himself from the party which will be running some 550 candidates in 16 member states this June. He now urges Irish voters to say yes to the treaty rejected last year. “I don’t like the Lisbon treaty as a driver but it’s better than no driver at all.” There are bad drivers and bad drivers, however, so one assumes that the inference here is that the Lisbon treaty might go up over the kerb, jump a few reds rather than plough wildly through a crash barrier and plunge us all into a 300 foot ravine. In the meantime, Libertas hasn’t asked for a refund.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Is France taking an authoritarian turn? So wonders left-leaning daily Libération. In Marseilles a 52 year old philosophy professor has been charged for “breach of the peace in daylight hours disturbing other people’s tranquility.”
The incident unfolded all of eighteen months ago in Marseilles’ central train station where PL (only his initials are known) yelled “Sarkozy, je te vois!” (I can see you) as a means “to break the ice with some humour” as two police officers carried out an ID check on two youths. Passers-by are said to have laughed at this allusion to the French president’s predeliction for law and order crusades. The police officers, however ( described by PL as "very kind" ) “felt intimidated” and “invited” wise-cracking PL to the station. Eighteen months later he received a summons.
PL’s rebel yell would seem fairly innocuous, if not insipid, but Marseilles’ zealous local prosecutors have dug up the above-mentioned, and wonderfully eloquent, charge, from the very bowels of French law (dating from 1875) to protect presidential dignity. This, as Libération notes, is not the first of such incidents since the controversial Sarkozy rose to prominence. In 2004, an erudite demonstrator schooled in Roman period population movements was sentenced to one month imprisonment for having yelled “Go back to China, you Hungarian git” at the then Interior Minister - whose father hailed from Budapest. Unlike his tranquil predecessors, Chirac and Mitterand, the French president is renowned for his sensitivity when members of the public vent their pent. He has not just crossed swords with Breton fisherman, but last year launched a personal suit against a firm which produced a voodoo doll in his image emblazoned with the “Get lost, silly twat” remark with which he dispatched a farmer at the French Agricultural Fair of 2008.
Sarkozy’s street-fighting style, many complain, has diminished the office of president. "He wanted to break with his predecessors by going down into the arena himself," says political commentator Stéphane Rozès. But in bringing the presidential function to street level, "he invites citizens' invective." What worries Libération most, however, is that the case against PL was launched not at the President’s instigation but by "the zeal of public servants". "In other democracies," writes editor Laurent Joffrin, "this little affair would have caused a major scandal. In the Republic, we have the right to make remarks about the sovereign".
So is France’s often vulgarly eloquent street life being smothered by an increasingly monarchical Sarkozy aided by an obsequious judiciary ? One legal blogger alarmingly observes that "penal law is being instrumentalised in order to create a political police." Perhaps the mood would be less dark if the French left were able to rise out of the doldrums it has languished in since the passing of the Mitterand administration all of fourteen years ago. Le Monde reports that in the forthcoming European elections the PS, France's main opposition party, stands to win a lacklustre 22% of seats while the UMP at 27% will remain the largest French party at the Strasbourg parliament. The UMP, after all, is the party of a president whose approval ratings rarely go above 40%.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
If I may say so
Yes we “Cannes” (Part 2)
The French turn out more than 200 movies a year, market them cannily, and they host the industry's biggest bash. So how are French films faring? And is the French film industry getting an unfair boost from public subsidies?
Was on France 24
Click for a shaky start
Yes we Cannes
The French turn out more than 200 movies a year, market them cannily, and they host the industry's biggest bash. So how are French films faring? And is the French film industry getting an unfair boost from public subsidies?
Friday, May 8, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
A la venta a partir del 15-06-2009
Colección BTFL Books
Es el puente del 12 de julio en Dundrug, el “Las Vegas de Irlanda”, y el dieciseisañero Jerome Maguire, el único punki gótico de la ciudad, comunista y (autoproclamado) poeta laureado, quiere “descubrir el amor”.
Equipado con un condón, Jerome, a medida que la ciudad se va llenando de turistas de Belfast, Derry y…Frankfurt, obtendrá más de lo que busca. A pesar del Tigre Celta en Irlanda y el Proceso de Paz al otro lado de la frontera, the Troubles siguen persistiendo, al menos en la cabeza de Jerome, que había nacido en Inglaterra, y quizá también en la de los demás.
Traducción: Frank Schleper
Diseño: Estelle Talavera Baudet
Friday, February 27, 2009
France Culture phoned last week and said to me, Gerry, in what kind of dwellings will Irish people be living in 2029?
I had a think about this and the result of these thoughts were broadcast on Station Meteo the other night in French.
Basically, I believe that by 2015 Ireland will go bankrupt. Foreign capital all fled, nothing for revenue but tourism, of the green, responsible variety, naturlich.
No more cars by 2020
Citizens encouraged to travel by traditional means.
No more electricity by 2022. First Zero Emission nation applauded by the world,
2025 - citizens live in underground bunkers so as not to the spoil the sumptuous views of our nation's majestic lakes and enchanting mountains for ethical tourists.
They will eats spuds grown in public allotments and boiled in rainwater collected in big tanks.
Pigs and cattle in the living room provide adequate heat after the Home Fire ban of 2019.
A true symbiosis of man and nature and complete respect for the environment.
Viva the Sustainable Republic of Ireland.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The Theatre Dijon Bourgogne is a doing a production of Sean O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars (or rather La charrue et les etoiles in French) and this Monday 16th February I'm in Burgundy taking part in a discussion about Irish literature and Irish nationalism with the play's director, Irene Bonnaud.
This is interesting, as I might well air my new theory that Ireland ceased to exist at some point in the 1990's, the exact date of which I have so far failed to identify. So that the great poet O'Casey was a writer that in fact belonged to a lost civilisation like that of the Etruscans or the citizens of Atlantis.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I'm delighted to announce that the rights to Fever have been bought by Spanish publishing house El Tercer Nombre.
As of now, my prayers go out to the translator.
We expect a Spanish version of Fever to be published end 2009/2010.
Fidel Castro, who has a lot of reading time at the moment, will be sent a signed copy.