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Posts Tagged ‘Society’

Ireland decides: perhaps hardened criminals should not drive cabs

January 23rd, 2013 No comments
Plans announced to clean up Ireland’s 6,000 taxi drivers with criminal convictions astonish Angela

 

In Ireland, after you’ve hailed a taxi, the driver who takes you home might be a sex abuser (convicted), or a thief (convicted) or violent (convicted).

Just when we living on the Emerald Isle thought we couldn’t be shocked about the incompetence of the authorities (two and a half years into our economic bailout, each of us paying €14,000 to make up to rich speculators) – along comes the news that 6,000 licensed taxi drivers here have criminal convictions. That’s about one in six.

Read more…

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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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Were the Nazis mad? No, says Tel Aviv academic

October 15th, 2012 No comments

The old chestnut of Hitler’s mental state has re-emerged. Angela heard interesting takes on it at a London conference

WERE THE Nazis mad? Was Hitler possessed by some demon of the mind, which enabled him to carry a nation with him in his genocidal campaigns?

The answer is often a lazy ‘yes’. Collectively we cannot accept that such inhumanity to fellow creatures could be a sustained campaign for a whole nation.

But Jose Brunner of Tel Aviv University begs to differ: madness would have undermined the project. An incompetent or weak mind could not have sustained the huge undertaking which was the Second World War, and the extermination of whole races of people.

“Why do people say the Nazis were mad?” Brunner challenged a conference on totalitarianism in London. ‘They could not have prosecuted a war of that magnitude, over all those years, if madness was the prevailing condition.”

Likewise, says Brunner, a philosophy professor, the comfortably dismissive notion of Hitler as a madman distinct from society does not wash with his career. “If Hitler had been just mad, he would have lived his life in a garret, would never have been able to do what he did.” Read more…

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Bah, humbug, that Olympic opening ceremony was a mess

October 8th, 2012 No comments

Why I’m the curmudgeon over Danny Boyle’s Olympic distract-a-rama

 

It’s the internet, stoopid. And the crumbling of our brains. That, I’ve realised, is why I’m the blight at every enthusiastic mass-praising of Danny Boyle’s Olympics opening ceremony.

“Wasn’t it marvellous!” Brit-crowds crow. The gang was still burbling about it when I was in London last week. Mass adoration always irritates me. Unless I am the recipient.

But the lemming-like rush to declare it was such a fabulous event made me think of Leni Riefenstahl or Cecil B. De Mille and those grandiose cinematic extravaganzas which were calculated to make the poor schmuck in the cheap seats drop his popcorn.

Well, it was technically astonishing, and an awful lot went on. Then you’d expect at least those qualities for your £27 million.

However it was all over the place, and to my mind failed to fulfil three key requirements: was it a good piece of entertainment for the people in the Olympic Stadium?

Was it lucid and compelling for the vast television audience?

Did it act as an introduction to the great sporting event it was to usher in?

Taking the last first, the spectacular obviously meant to knock people’s socks off and be the memorable part of the evening. But the Olympics is about talented and dedicated athletes, not about directorial ego.

Was it lucid for a television audience? Probably more so than for the punters in the arena, who could only see bits and didn’t have the long-lens benefit of the cyber- and TV viewers.

But it was still very bitty – ooh, there’s Kenneth Branagh, now forget about him because the grass is all disappearing, there’s Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web, now there are people on hospital beds and lots of dancing and finally, finally, it stops. It was a mass of ideas and half-ideas stuck together with verve, chutzpah and lots of money.

Had the theme been Berners-Lee’s incalculable gift to society (he’s a Brit after all) and that alone, it would have been clear, clean, and obviously afforded all sorts of spin-offs. You can get anything on the Internet, and a brilliant creative person like Danny Boyle could have chosen from a myriad possibilities. Choice, however, was not the keynote of the night, but rather a philosophy of throw everything in. And that does, in fact, mirror the effect of the internet on our lives, but no clear line was drawn between Berners-Lee’s fleeting appearance and the rest of the show. No, the ambition was bigger than that.

As Charlotte Higgins wrote in The Guardian, “it was bewildering enough, at times, to its domestic audience; abroad it must frequently have been plain incomprehensible.” (Although she went on to explain that it made sense to the British, saving for some stuffy Tories.)

It sounds a bit like the disdain for dreary old ‘facts’ that is being displayed by the Republican presidential campaign in the US. Lord, why should anyone be able to understand this fiesta? That would be commonplace and predictable.

The Olympics opening ceremony ritual has gotten out of hand, with the Greeks and the Chinese much to blame for their ludicrous shows that went on way too long and cost way too much. Maybe Rio will calm things down a little. Maybe.

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Let’s not have a debate – let’s DO something about the media!

May 1st, 2012 No comments

Angela suggests that the cliche ‘we need a healthy debate’ should go the way of the News of the World

 

‘What we need is a proper debate about the media.’ ‘We need a debate about all these issues.’ Boy, am I sick of hearing and reading that. The get-out clause of politicians seems to have leaked into the discourse of the dissenters and complainers, yet they should avoid this phrase like the plague.

The latest instance is in the surprisingly strong judgment of the Murdochs by the House of Commons Select Committee which heard their evidence on phone hacking and associated sins last summer. The ‘not a fit person to run a media company’ was adopted, apparently, at the urging of Tom Watson MP. Watson, a doughty campaigner who has his own history of pain with News International, has used stronger language for the Austral-American media moguls in the past, and not always well-advisedly. Watson calls News Corp ‘the Mafia’

However, the ‘not fit’ quote was not embraced with enthusiasm by half the committee, five out of 11. Surprisingly or not, depending on your degree of cynicism, the split went along party lines. The five dissenters are Tories, featuring the lovely novelist Louise Mensch. ‘We all felt that was wildly outside the scope of the select committee and was an improper attempt to influence Ofcom,’ Ms Mensch was quoted in the noticeably benign story about the report in Murdoch’s flagship paper in his homeland, The Australian. News Ltd story on the report (Australian)

But still. Today, it is as if someone has pointed up into the sky at night, at the white circular luminous object hanging there, and said “The moon!” The love (or hatred) that dare not speak its name has indeed been named. ‘Not a proper person’ – as I observed on Twitter, the wording has been used in the past about moguls Maxwell and Al-Fayed. Were you under the impression that Rupert Murdoch and co were running all those news organisations out of a desire to make the world a better place? Surely, the old guy loves newspapers, and I cannot fault him for that. I love newspapers, even as I prepare to wave newsprint goodbye from the stage of history. But balanced with love of the print, the sound of the presses – even the lining of the canary’s cage the next day – newspapers, as the press, have to play a central and responsible role in informing citizens about the world around them. This is the role of the media in democracies.

Murdoch senior’s well-judged performance at the Leveson inquiry – far better than the befuddled apologist of the cream-pie attack last summer – showed the flinty charm that has helped him forge a massive business empire. It also revealed a little more of the ruthlessness with which News Corp can treat those who stray from the party line..

But it didn’t indicate someone who was prepared to accept a responsible role in democratic societies – despite the risibly guileless contentions about his insouciance in the face of government changes, and his sunny lack of interest in how power shifts affect the commercial interests of his newspapers.

So…let’s not have a debate that goes on and on and all the windbags wave their bellows around about the media. Let’s get the Leveson report and insist that the Cameron government do something about limiting the power of media owners.

What? Well, maybe we can have a debate about that (only kidding).

Thanks to the Guardian, and other generous sharers, here’s the link to the full report of the Committee:

Commons Report on Murdochs and Phone Hacking

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