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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

50% turnout? Politics needs more ‘Hell and Maria’ types

May 28th, 2014 Comments off

POINTLESS is an enjoyable early evening quiz show on BBC One. In it guests aim to decide which answer to a question would have had zero correct answers out there in the real world.

It’s hosted by Alexander Armstrong, with the wonderful, bespectacled Richard Osman as his sidekick. And last week there was a fascinating fact which appealed to me particularly. It was that Calvin Coolidge’s vice president on the 1924 ticket, Charles Dawes, was the same man who wrote the music for the hit song “All in the Game” in the 1950s. (“Many a tear has to fall, But it’s all, In the game…”.)

And to top his achievements, Charlie won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925. He was, according to the Nobel website, known as “Hell and Maria” Charlie.

Now there’s a multitasker/polymath par excellence, which leaves one musing via the cliché “They don’t make ‘em like that any more.” At least, not in our dull western democracies, where high office seems reserved for the superhumanly bland, setting aside an Obama or two.

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Assange and Wikileaks – reflection

November 28th, 2013 Comments off

This is a paper I wrote last year, and have belatedly decided it’s not half bad – though of course will be updating for lectures this winter...

THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS has a number of angles. One is the theme of free speech/power to the people; one is of the ‘little guy’ who takes on the global establishment and leaves it red-faced and determined to get revenge; one is the privacy or privileged nature of certain communications – or whether that never exists at all.

For people in the news media, one interpretation is that their role is undermined, even made redundant, by the Wikileaks phenomenon. At its core, Julian Assange’s project does away with mediation – the material goes straight from initiator to the public, so there is  no ‘mediation’ (filtering, editing, selecting) and so no role for media.

Wikileaks has blown open journalistic procedure. Yet it has also highlighted the need for professional journalistic practice, in selecting, editing, and presenting important information so it is of use to the public (which, it could be argued, the undifferentiated dumping of thousands and thousands of government messages can never achieve). In its first global coup, the release of the State Department cables in late 2010, Wikileaks could not have achieved the amount of coverage and controversy if it had not partnered with leading newspapers across the globe, whose senior journalists combed through the cables and selected the material which was most important and made the best stories.

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Is Ireland a racist country? Treatment of asylum-seekers says so

October 20th, 2012 No comments

A version of  this article originally appeared in The Irish Times, Friday October 19, 2012.

By Angela Long

Times are tough: many of you reading this are worried about the mortgage, the bills, the future. But imagine a nasty situation blows up in your street or estate, so nasty that you have to head for the airport and leave the country. When you arrive in a seemingly civilized destination, you have to tell an inquisitor the original name of Croke Park stadium, before you are allowed stay in the country.*

Absurd? It might be, but this is the equivalent of the type of question considered suitable as a test for people seeking asylum in Ireland. And, if the person cannot answer correctly about their home country, they are deemed to be ‘unreliable’ or mendacious, and their case takes a turn for the worse.

The 5,000 people living in our country today seeking asylum are at the bottom of the pile of concerns for legislators, authorities and the average citizen. But that should not mean they suffer inhumanitarian treatment. And the way they are treated by the Irish ‘system’ is nothing less than racist and cruel.

Innocent people can be put in limbo for three, six, even 10 years while a lethargic civil service dabs occasionally at their cases.

On September 27 a Congolese man who has been awaiting a decision on his refugee application for six years took his life at the refugee hostel in Mosney, Co Meath – a pleasant setting, but a remote location, like most of the hostels.

Suicide is a regular feature of the so-called system whereby Ireland lives up to its obligations under international treaties. Another, deportation, is the target of a new campaign for justice launched by asylum-seekers and their supporters.

Read more…

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The little guy is your only man

October 25th, 2011 Comments off

Angela is a Labour Party supporter – but it’s not that which makes Michael D. the best choice for the next Irish president

Sean Gallagher seems a nice bloke, but surely Michael D. Higgins, after a life as a public representative, activist, artist and social justice campaigner, deserves to be president of Ireland more than a mere businessman?

Last night (October 24) the seven candidates in Ireland’s presidential election fronted up for the final all-in debate of the campaign. Screened by national broadcaster RTE, the encounter was adjudicated by Pat Kenny, RTE’s highly-polished senior man. It was an entertaining affair on several levels, at once more light-hearted and yet more intense than the meetings earlier in the campaign, when most of the candidates had a hope of success (the two women, Dana and Mary Davis, became also-rans fairly early on).

Gallagher, way ahead in three polls of voting intentions taken at the weekend, got a rough ride. He was skewered on two issues: an amount of €89,000 which was paid into a personal rather than business account some years ago; and, probably worse from an electoral point of view, his role as a money-collector for Fianna Fail during the dying days of the Celtic Tiger.

Martin McGuinness (who has faced a relentless tide of questions over his role in the IRA) dared to suggest that Gallagher’s past as a bagman for the former party of God was ‘murky’. Murkier than murder? But Gallagher, normally straightforward and unruffled, was obviously fazed by the questions, and dithered between ‘not remembering’ whether he had collected a €5,000 cheque and claiming that the person who said he had given the cheque was an unreliable witness with a chequered past.

The question was whether all this will damage Gallagher sufficiently to snatch victory away from him this Thursday [October 27] when voting takes place.

He’s an affable, straight-talking guy, and has garnered a lot of approval from young people and closet Fianna Failers, as well as some of the more overt kind. The Fianna Fail candidate who dare not speak its name.

My question is whether a man, pleasant as he may be, who has a background almost entirely as a businessman, with no political representation or across-the-board engagement, is what Ireland needs or should have as a president at this stage. Read more…

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Riots – blame digital isolation

August 10th, 2011 Comments off

By Angela Long

Rapper Reveal, a dapper gent with a small geometric tuft of beard, has an interesting theory about the British riots. The kids, he says, are merely aping the behaviour they’ve seen in adults all their lives – naked pursuit of stuff, shiny fashion stuff, material goods.

It’s a sour twist on the triumph of capitalism.

Me, I blame the internet. Digital platforms, that’s what’s done it. And I do have a serious point here, not just referring to the well-publicised use of the closed Blackberry messaging system for the rioters to arrange their next ‘spectacular’.

As a cyberpsychologist, I’ve been interested for some years in how the internet is changing our lives at a deeper level than the obvious one of convenience. Some of it’s good, some is bad, but mostly the jury is still out on how a life revolving around digital platforms differs from previous modes of existence. And as all the emphasis has been on how to use the internet as a commercial tool – and for the media, how to make it pay – other bigger concerns have been ignored.

Look at the young people who’ve been out torching police cars, vandalising properties, stealing, casually and with impunity, from shops. A lot of them are 16 and under – perhaps not as many as the hysterical adult reaction suggests, but still a lot. These are the ‘digital natives’ – a term of disputed validity, but loosely referring to the generation which has grown up with the internet, and has no memory of life before the virtual world dominated. Laptops, screens, mobile phones, tablets – no novelty in any of it to these kids, nothing strange. And their world’s especially been formed on mobiles and smartphones. Read more…

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