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Mickey Spillane March 31, 2021

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From one extreme to the other. After yesterday’s guest post about Sean O’Casey, here is another from Joe Mooney about someone from the other side of the literary and political spectrum.

The Killing Man …

 “New York after dark, a vivid chameleon who by day was a roaring scaly dragon of business and ceremony and by night a soft quivering thing because the guts of the city had gone home leaving the shell to be invaded by parasites”.

 Not quite Shakespeare, and not quite Raymond Chandler either, nor even Jim Thompson, but nobody expected it to be. Mickey Spillane’s novels have sold in excess of 200 million copies worldwide and are still popular decades after they were first published. 

 Spillane was born in March of 1918, with a mixed parentage – Scottish and Irish. He started out writing popular comic book characters in the late 1930’s and early ‘40s, before his first novel appeared in 1947. This was “I the Jury”, which featured his most famous creation, Private Eye Mike Hammer. One contemporary review was brutally to the point – “Lurid action, lurid characters, lurid writing, lurid plot, lurid finish.  Verdict: Lurid”

 He would go on to see thirteen Mike Hammer novels published during his lifetime, along with many featuring other characters, including the patriotic Irish American ‘Hood’ . It’s hard not to believe that the first-person narratives were not echoing Spillane’s own philosophy:

 “So I like it this way. I can chisel the chiselers and don’t have to pay any respect to the phony politicos who run us into the ground for their own egotistical satisfaction. I don’t have to go along with the sheep who cry and bleat about the way things are and can do something about it in my own way. If this was 1776 I’d be a revolutionary and tax collectors would be fair game. I could drop the enemies trying to destroy us and be a wheel. So screw it. I’m not going to be a sheep.”

 Rugged Individualism and machismo defined the characters, who were tough talking, brutally violent, womanising booze-hounds, and sometimes worse. But they were true blue Americans, and had no time for anything deemed un-American, be that homosexuality, Communism or just general foreign-ness !

 “And before he could start the judo chop I belted him in the damn mouth so hard the skin of my knuckles split on his teeth and he rolled twice before the couch stopped him and he looked up at me with a face full of hate as big as your hat. He was one of those over-confident types who had put too many hours in a gym wearing a Jap toga and practicing un-American fighting and he forgot about a straight right to the kisser. Hell, I’d had it out with dozens of these types before.”

 In one novel the Mike Hammer mowed down forty ‘filthy commies’ with a machine gun – in the original draft it was 80 but apparently the publisher felt this was excessively violent and had it toned down!

“I lived to kill because my soul was a hardened thing that revelled in the thought of taking the blood of the bastards who made murder their business.  I lived because I could laugh it off and others couldn’t.  I was the evil that opposed other evil, leaving the good and the meek in the middle to live and inherit the earth!”

Anyone wanting to read and enjoy these books needs to know what to expect, and best leave your own politics and good taste at the door. To use modern parlance, they are not for snowflakes! Among those who championed Spillane and his work were John Wayne and Ayn Rand. Among those who derided his work was fellow crime writer Raymond Chandler, who commented “pulp writing at its worst was never as bad as this stuff” and “I threw the paperback into the wastebasket, not having a garbage can handy at the moment.” A review of one of Spillane’s novels described the “…painfully derivative writing and plotting, in so vicious a glorification of force, cruelty and extra-legal methods that the novel might be made required reading in a Gestapo training school.”

But Spillane did not allow criticism to divert him from his task of writing immensely popular works that sold well. In 1980 it was stated that seven of the of the top 15 all-time bestselling fiction titles in America were by Spillane. His own attitude to his literary abilities was simple:  “You can sell a lot more peanuts than caviar”.

Spillane’s novels, and his most famous creation, enjoyed success on the cinema and television screens. The best adaptation is undoubtedly “Kiss me deadly” (1955), though with director Robert Aldrich at the helm this is no surprise. Of note also is the 1963 version of “The Girl Hunters”, which has Spillane playing the lead role, a rare case of an author playing his own creation in this manner. (Does anyone know other examples?) 

Mickey Spillane was born on this month in 1918. He died in 2006.

Spillane as Hammer

Podcast – The Seniors Solidarity Party March 31, 2021

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The Seniors Solidarity Party was set up in 2008 as a reaction to the introduction of the means test for Medical Cards for the over 70’s. Although enjoying nationwide support, it fielded just one candidate , Party leader John Wolfe, in the 2009 Local Elections and never stood in an election again

The latest measures March 31, 2021

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I was actually somewhat surprised by how resilient the government was in respect of retaining and maintaining a range of significant measures in respect of Covid-19. There was a rising chorus in the press and particularly from business about the need for plans, and certainty and so on. On a human level this is entirely understandable and the need to continue with supports is obvious – particularly now that matters have moved into a different phase. Businesses and workers are essential components of the slow recovery.

The easing of certain restrictions seems reasonably sensible – though one hopes ‘residential construction restarting on 12th April’ isn’t a step too far too seen. The fact other measures are being pushed a bit down the line – training, outdoor sports and so on – until 26th April is also quite measured. Travel within one’s county or 20k crossing county borders seems reasonable too.

But what’s noticeable and different is the lack of bombast or promising more than can be delivered. The tone is perhaps the most important aspect of this – that this isn’t anything like a return to normality (whatever that is now) but rather steps along the way and quite small steps, which if numbers change can be halted or reversed.

Obviously the Government is pinning its hopes on vaccination. And not just the Government, anyone in their 70s or with friends or relatives in their 70s will know how closely the roll-out of the vaccines is being followed. So, as noted before, this is a sort of race to get as many vaccinated as quickly as possibly and tamping down expectations before that.

More than flags March 31, 2021

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Thought Newton Emerson’s most recent article in the IT had an interesting point or two. Convincing, well, perhaps not, or not entirely. But talking about Jim O’Callaghan’s proposals on a United Ireland he notes that O’Callaghan has argued for a form of power sharing, which is worth addressing. And I don’t think some of the following is without substance:

Northern Ireland has had the same human rights and equality laws as the Republic, almost to the letter, for over two decades. When nationalists complain of lacking rights and equality in the North, what they primarily mean is parity for their nationality, as reflected in issues from symbols to citizenship. Yet the Belfast Agreement recognises full British sovereignty, pending the choice through a border poll for full Irish sovereignty. At that point, unionists would start complaining of discrimination on the same grounds.

It is unavoidable, given the indivisibility of sovereignty, that one national community will tend to feel excluded from the other’s state. Describing this purely in terms of rights and equality is dishonest victimhood – would there be parity for Irish and British flags in a united Ireland, for example? Of course not. The real issue is political power, with power-sharing offering inclusion.

 

There is an element of truth about political power being the real issue. 

But, I wonder about the issue of flags and symbols – that’s important too. For example, a thought experiment, if the tricolour had parity with the union flag in Northern Ireland at ‘state’ level how would that change the dimensions of the problem? Clearly it would have some impact – perhaps quite a lot. Certainly it’s not just political power, however important that is. And I’d imagine Emerson must know this. For another tack, due to there not being parity the opposite approach has been taken in practice. Indeed Emerson notes this explicitly:

In a Stormont debate this Monday, Sinn Féin demanded parity of Irish and British symbols. Although judicial rulings have confirmed this is not the meaning of the Belfast Agreement, power-sharing lets Sinn Féin block British symbols in practice and show its voters it has real input into this concept of equality.

Anyway, he continues:

O’Callaghan clearly understands the implications for a united Ireland, as he advocates power-sharing instead of making proposals himself on symbolic issues. Nationalist suggestions of new flags, anthems, Commonwealth membership and similar totems are well intentioned but can fail to confront the uncomfortable fact that unionists would need meaningful power in contentious decisions.

As for the idea that a unionist bloc would cease to exist after unification, O’Callaghan recognises unionism as a people, culture and tradition with “its home in Ulster”.

Some from a formerly unionist background in other parts of the island might raise an eyebrow at that, but let’s go with the idea for the moment. At this point unionism does indeed centre on Ulster. And it is more than simply a political tradition but one with other aspects too. Some of us have supported the idea of a reverse GFA/BA for precisely this reason, amongst an array of reasons – one being not to replicate the mistake made in NI at its foundation of locking one tradition out, another being the simple weight of that community, a third being that this is a strand on this island that has a right to representation and expression.

Where Emerson dips into, unfortunately, characteristic hyperbole is in the following: “Recognising Northern Ireland’s historical legitimacy is a brave step for a Fianna Fáil leadership contender but it is essential to any hope of unification with reconciliation.”

And:

The Sinn Féin position that Northern Ireland is too illegitimate even to mention by name foresees unity as victory – conquest over a historic wrong and the community that perpetrated it. The more widely held view that partition was a “sectarian headcount” tells unionists their national self-determination was an act of prejudice. Why would the same not apply to a nationalist win in a border poll? It is Ireland’s own supremacism again, and not likely to work any better than its unionist equivalent.

But Northern Ireland’s historical legitimacy has been called into question from its foundation. And not just by nationalists and Republicans but eventually by the British state itself. For decades it was ignored, then once the situation destabilised beyond a certain point power was taken away from those who had shaped the political dispensation there, and solution after solution was attempted in order to make it palatable for a genuine majority of the inhabitants. This resulted in an agreement which saw as its near inevitable endpoint the reunification of the island.

To argue that there was much historical legitimacy in the establishment of Northern Ireland is quite a stretch. But to look at the rather dismal history of the place is to effectively undercut any idea of legitimacy whatsoever. It’s not just that partition was in some respects a wrong but that in that partition the maintenance of it necessitated further wrongs.

Is that ‘supermacism’ to state that or simply a hard-headed assessment of the realities of what the establishment of Northern Ireland entailed in practice – the domination of a minority community by a majority community. We hear quite a lot about how Republicans are supposedly attempting to rewrite history. This seems to me to be a rewriting on a grand scale.

And note that Emerson is now edging away from democracy in all this. Suddenly a nationalist win in a border poll – something that the GFA/BA is explicit is a legitimate exercise in national self-determination – becomes ‘Ireland’s supremacism’.

All that said, this is no time to replicate the mistakes of the past. A United Ireland could imaginatively, generously and, most importantly, pragmatically address these issues in ways that would involve a genuinely all-embracing way. Even Emerson in his own way seems to be reaching towards outlining them. Small steps.

Inequity March 31, 2021

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If you want a flavour of a certain strand of mostly middle class Irish thinking can I recommend comments under the IT editorial on the Beacon private hospital sending 20 doses to a private school. Of course as seen last night this is a story that continues to develop.

The IT editorial is, in fairness, absolutely correct when it states:

The public uproar that has greeted the mystifying decision of a private, for-profit hospital to break with vaccination protocols and provide 20 vaccines to teachers at a private school attended by the chief executive’s children is more than justified. It adds to the well-grounded impression that in Irish society those who can afford it – whether through private education or private healthcare – can play by different rules to everyone else; that they inhabit a closed, self-perpetuating world that is designed primarily to look after its own.

And perhaps even more so when it continues:

Those involved saw nothing wrong with what they were doing because, for some, jumping the queue is a right to which they have become accustomed. Waiting for one’s turn is precisely the principle that a private hospital is designed to circumvent. That’s not a system malfunction – it’s Government policy. 

But look at the comments BTL…

It is quite extraordinary that yet again the Politicians and the HSE have deflected blame from their own lamentable performance for a paltry 20 vaccines. Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the Beacon CEO, it is ludicrous that the Usual Suspects jump on to the anti-private sector theme, particularly private schools. 

Or…

More sanctimonious guff… This is low level political opportunism at its worst and wasted effort and columns written with this holier than thou angst. Alan Kelly started the ball rolling with his cheap shot and the holy trinity of the Irish Times, RTE and remainder of government couldn’t resist. 

Or…

Can you imagine the uproar if 20 doses where tossed into the waste bin? I am full sure that there are many clerical HSE staff who have been vaccinated on the sly. We all need to get a bit perspective

Or…

It would be wonderful to have a health system where everyone was treated promptly based on need but, sadly, I doubt that will ever happen. I suspect there will always be waiting lists for treatment in a publicly funded health system. And I doubt if you could outlaw private health care. 

Or…

I am amazed at how gullible the public are. This is clearly a HSE and Government distraction from the fact that THOUSANDS of vaccines haven’t been accounted for and the whole rollout has been a joke. They couldn’t arrange a p*ss up in a brewery and I am sure they are rejoicing that this issue of 20 vaccines has diverted the countries attention away! It screams witch hunt and distraction. 

Or…

Why can’t the armchair lynch mob see that Beacon is clearly and cynically being used by the government and the HSE as a scapegoat here? Anything to distract from the shambles of the vaccine roll out. Beacon were doing it for free – who’s going to take up the slack and at what cost to the tax payer?? 

Or…

Look at it this way: if the vaccines hadn’t been given to the teachers, if they had been thrown out, as it is now obvious they should have been, what would we be now be enraged by? 

Unlovely. But frankly, idiotic. Because the moment that inequities like this enter into a system and are allowed and explained away is the point at which actual people are put in a more vulnerable position (there’s even more overt apologias for outright inequity under Fintan O’Toole’s piece on the same topic). Or as the IT states:

Yet the injustice here is not abstract; it is painfully real. The State does not have a vaccine prioritisation list for the hell of it. It has one because, by looking after those most vulnerable to the worst effects of Covid-19 first, lives can be saved and serious illness averted. Twenty shots in the arms of healthy, relatively young people means 20 people who are older or suffering from chronic health conditions going without for longer. 

Some of those attempting explain these events away are likely to themselves, or those they know, be in precisely those categories which are impacted by this.

One of the most dispiriting dynamics in the world is seeing people willing to offer apologias for behaviours and structural issues that they themselves will potentially be impacted by. 

And speaking of hierarchies – consider this:

A teacher from St Gerard’s senior school in Bray has said they are “utterly devastated and very angry” that colleagues received vaccines from the Beacon Hospital.

In a letter to RTÉ’s Liveline programme the teacher wrote that not all teachers at the school had received the vaccine and only a small minority had.

Which underscores the necessity to adhere to the State’s vaccine prioritisation list and the inequities evident in deviating from that list.

What you want to say – 31st March 2021 March 31, 2021

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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Sean O’Casey: playwright and anti-fascist. March 30, 2021

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Thanks to Joe Mooney for this very welcome post…

“I am with the determined faces firing at the steel-clad slug of Fascism, from the smoke and flames of the barricades.”


The great Irish playwright Sean O’Casey was born on this day (30th March) 1880. 


O’Casey was a staunch opponent of Fascism, and  an unequivocal supporter of the Spanish Republican forces and International Brigades. When asked for a comment on the conflict he contributed:   “I am with the determined faces firing at the steel-clad slug of Fascism, from the smoke and flames of the barricades.”


In November of 1936, a few months into the Civil War he wrote : 


 “I am praying to God that the Spanish Communists may win. I wish I could be with them. However, if I haven’t manned a tank, or fired a rifle for the cause of Communism, I have , at least , in my day , fired stones at the police”.


And in June of 1939 he would write about the ‘Plough and the Stars’ controversy and Frank Ryan’s involvement:
“The leader of the attack then [Frank Ryan] has now become one of my friends- I was never an enemy of his; and we often played hurly together, more than twenty golden years ago. He fought in Spain , and came to see me in London when he was over recovering from a wound, to talk over the fight there was around the performance of ‘the plough’. He is now in prison in Spain, sentenced to thirty years in jail, and only the day before yesterday I was speaking  about him and the efforts being made to get him out. He is really a splendid fellow”. 


The 1940 play “The star turns red” was one of the most powerful political dramas written by Sean O’Casey . It strongly reflected his own support for the socialist and trade union ideals of Jim Larkin and his rejection of the fascism that was spreading across Europe. 


Two of the images below are from a 1948 production at The New Theatre” Sydney , portraying the opposing forces . The first could almost come from a horror movie, as we see figures reminiscent of the Blueshirts and the so-called Christian Front terrorise a woman. 


It was a controversial play , and was not staged in Ireland until 1978 at the Abbey Theatre.


Remembering Sean O’Casey on his birthday – playwright , author and anti-fascist.

An overview of the vote in Scotland March 30, 2021

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Thanks to JH for sending this on… a guide to the Scottish Parliament and the elections from the BBC.

Same old (wrong) solution March 30, 2021

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Thought a report in the IT last week about this dynamic developing, yet again, in FG was worth noting:

Fine Gael TDs have called privately on the Government to end the rolling national lockdown and implement county or regional restrictions.

At a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday evening Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also raised concern about potential Covid-19 reinfections.

It is understood Mr Varadkar said that several factors will be taken into consideration when the Cabinet meets next week to decide what restrictions to lift from April 5th.

And:

Party TD and former minister for housing Eoghan Murphy told the meeting that the level of risk is not the same across the country. He is understood to have said that it is “time to end the national lockdown strategy”.

So how does he propose that will work? It was tried before but the virus, being a virus, spreads with no regard for county or other borders. And the speed of that spread makes county or region based measures all but impossible to maintain. As noted last week the basic problem is there’s no easy solution and this is now well known. So why do people persist in seeming to pretend that there is?

Centenary of the Krondstadt Rebellion March 30, 2021

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As noted by arscáthachéile  in comments, this month is the anniversary of the Krondstadt rebellion. The immediate and medium to long term effects of the Rebellion are manyfold, but certainly led to a wave of disillusion amongst some supporters of the Revolution and to a reorientation of the Revolution itself.

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