The voting has reached 342 in the Congress, the necessary 2/3rds majority against Dilma Rousseff, and there’s a deep roaring noise in the Lower House (Camara) of the Federated Republic of Brazil. “Dilma Fora” has now become “Tchau Querida!” – the most prominent banners of the last day’s marches. (“Por Democracia, Contra Golpe” made a good show. too.) Vote by vote, every steaming delegate shouted out his or her reasons for a “Sim” or “Não”, professing to do so in the name of family, in the name of their constituency, in the name of the people, of shopkeepers, workers, hospital patients, and every other segment of the public they could think of. At one point is simply devolved into a competition as to who shout say “Sim” the loudest – though one elder simple said, “eu voto sim” in the shortest speech of all.
Dilma in Santiago, Feb. 2016
I must admit that the expressions of disgust at the ‘parliamentary coup’ in progress on the part of some staunch PT-istas were among the most impressive mini-speeches in the five-hour odyssey but the avalanche of votes against the Partido dos Trabalhadores – often against a corrupt government rather than Dilma Rousseff in her own person, be it noted – sounded unmistakably like a majoritarian consensus. It seems to me that, for everyone there “on the night”, the dodgy Impeachment charges had morphed into a vote against a government which tirelessly supported a regime of inveterate corruption on the political plane, even when the perpetrators were as often among bought-on Congress supporters as from its own senior ranks (though not a few of these). In restaurants and shopping centres, during weeks past, all the talk was about the need for a moral reform in Brazil and and end to the “bad ethos” which seems to dominate every walk of life – even to the extent that, as someone told me today, doctors and dentists don’t consider it necessary to supply an invoice when they fill out a prescription or lavish their attentions on that migraine or that abcess which has been causing trouble all week. R$200 will see the job right. (Perhaps we aren’t so different.) Continue reading
Samantha Power – March 2015
Samantha Power was born in Dublin. According to hear-say she was at Mount Anville Convent School in Dalkey before moving to America with her parents at the age of 9. Perhaps best known for resigning from Obama’s election campaign team after calling Hilary Clinton a “monster” in 2008, she’s also the author of a book called A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide (2002) – and today she’s US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) with a special brief for ethnic minorities around the world.
A little earlier this month she addressed the EU Parliament and asked European governments to spend more on defense to match the American investment, warning that the number of missions world-wide that call for a military response is growing not diminishing. Meanwhile Britain’s defense spending is set to fall again – though not as low as other European members who have failed to reach their 2% undertaking. All of this re-opens the debate about Western intervention in troubled regions of the world – a subject on which there is more dissension, if possible, than on austerity at home. Continue reading
Along with other traces of “Band of Brothers” realism Brad Pitt’s new film “Fury” contains a fairly lengthy sequence in which a charming young German woman supplies the cub-soldier who figures implicitly as the narrator (and sole survivor) with his first experience of physical love in circumstances which strictly correspond to forced sex, or even rape. For better or worse, Die kleine Fraulein dies prettily in an ensuing bombardment thus leaving the sensitive GI with an embittered soul – or is it a dose of Machiellian realism? – and turns him into an efficient tank-corp killer primed for hands-on lesson doled out by a avuncular Brad in out of the no-quarter-given episodes of the film when die-hard Nazi prisoners get their come-uppance.
“Fury” – Inside Germany in a Sherman Tank
The story melds Sergeant York, Platoon and just about everything else in cinema history in which individual fortitude in American uniforms wins the day over villainous enemies. A special twist is, Brad speaks German and so mediates all the exchanges with the enemy – both the ladies and the SS “pigs” whom he is so adept at liquidating – and whose kinship to the former remains fuzzily uncertain. (Part of the ‘play’ here is about good Germans and bad Germans, and then American Germans as purgers of German badness with presumed benefits for the Angela Merkels of our world.) Continue reading
At the risk of clouding the more serious question of water-politics in Palestine-Israel dealt with earlier on this blog [see below], I want to mention a dimension of the conflict which is ‘hiding in plain view’: sartorial differences between West and East. Middle-Eastern Arabs, especially women, and Islamic societies generally (though less in the FAr East) frequently if not invariably wear traditional clothes more or less embedded in the Sharia code – or the popular perception of same – which have the effect of casting them as “natives” on the world stage in the pejorative colonial sense of that term.
The communicative import of such clothing on our televisions screens is complex but the general message it transmits above all is to tell us that they are not part of the ‘fashion’ world we all inhabit and hence, in a very real sense, a different lot of people from us. This much seems certain – we can’t sell dresses, skirts, or tank-tops to them – though the irony is worth savouring that the keffiyeh worn by so many men, including Yassir Arafat, is very predominantly manufactured in Birmingham where, in fact, it was designed. Continue reading
The Koch Brothers are capitalists – no surprise. Their source of wealth is the energy industry, chiefly petroleum and related enterprises including down-stream chemicals, agriculture, electronics, and even tax and accountancy. All this is available on their corporate website and career pages – just crying out for your job application like any regular employer. You can reach those pages through Google [Koch Industries and Koch Careers]. There you will find that their website banners represent them as the very different from the enemies of democracy so familiar from the hate-placards seen on Internet and Facebook where hysterical voices vie with more credible commentators such as Huffington Post‘s Bill Bigelow to chart their grip on US law-making and education in the Right-Wing’s campaign against “big government”.
The Kochs call themselves ‘liberationist’ as distinct from ‘liberal’ or ‘neo-liberal’ in current American parlance. ‘Liberationist’ is virtually synonymous with the Tea-Party Movement which equates the American Dream with the maximum of freedom for capital and the minimum concern for those who have failed to accumulate it in profitable amounts. Continue reading
At the risk of rising danders, it’s tempting to add some words to Kevin Kiely’s invective on the IT Gang. Unfortunately the ‘cabal’ he speaks of has the right of it, at least in some important regards. Item: it has a nigh-monopoly of the best minds and the best writers in Ireland at the moment. Item: Colm Toibin is the most remarkable man of letters we have seen since Sean O’Faolain and a much more talented prose-writer than the other. Nor is he like O’Faolain, a semi-humanised creation of Harvard, bearing in mind that O’Faolain took a Commonwealth scholarship to that Ivy League college and had a very tough time under the stern eye of the Chaucer scholar T. N. Robinson, who thought him raw material at best.
Kevin Kiely on “The IT Gang” [online]
O’Faolain nevertheless internalised the Hawthorne literary ethos that prevailed in American Eng. Lit. at that moment and turned it to good effect when he returned to Ireland – though there always remained a sense of promulgating some form of higher culture (mercifully not English) from the standpoint of a somewhat tenuous conception of moral superiority which he derived from the unique mix of puritan-liberalism in the best New England tradition. (That’s why SOF annoys the hell out of me most of the time.) Continue reading
Stephen Fry …
In late January of this year, Gay Byrne hosted Stephen Fry on his “Meaning of Life” programme – normally a televised packet of consolations for Irish oldies with their feet firmly bedded down in the world of Catholic beliefs. Things did not go as smoothly as planned. Apparently Gay expected that his trump card in any contest with atheist interlocutors – “You walk up to the pearly gates and you are confronted by God, what will you say?” – would win the day, only to be met with the opinion that the God who created cancer in children is an “evil, capricious, monstrous maniac” whose long-term hospitality in the suppositious after-life is the charming Englishman would certainly refuse. Continue reading
NI Arts Minister Ni Chuilin
The minister refutes …
The recent announcement that a Government minister in Dublin has “refuted” allegations of misuse of travelling expenses when, in fact, he merely denied them, has led me to ask myself who are the greatest refuters in the land. A brief internet search has persuaded me overwhelmingly that the word “refute” is something of a brand-mark verb for Republican politicians in Ireland and – in the majority of cases – a virtual prerogative of the Sinn Fein Party. Continue reading
I saw Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” last night – already biggest grossing film since God knows when. It’s certainly a good film in the cinematic sense but it’s also about more sensitive cowboys in battle, hurt lockers and ‘evil savages’ on the ‘insurgents’ side. Yes, they’re still calling them insurgents. Insurging against what? The new world order? And what will be call the troublesome little men who rose up in the 1916 Rising when those commemorations come around? My point, in case I have lost the thread, is that Irish people generally think insurgency against empires is a good thing. Not this time, apparently. Continue reading
Mehdi Hasan is “Fed up with hypocrisy ..”
The other day I followed a link supplied by a friend on Facebook leading to an article by Mehdi Hasan who writes under the title, “As a Muslim, I’m Fed Up With the Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Fundamentalists” in The Blog – a signature line-up of contributors to the Huffington Post.
I admire the article for its clarity and force in dealing with a turbulent question. There is no doubt that Mehdi abhors the killings as much as anyone. He also demonstrates the danger today for democratic people – us, that is – arising from an uncritical identification with the content and policy of Charlie Hebdo and using it as a mascot for our idea of freedom. It cannot serve in this role because of its flagrantly offensive contents. We may be free, but we are not all hell-bent on devising the most insulting messages for our other-culture co-nationals. Continue reading