Blasphemy is a Crime in Ireland

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I awake this morning to a more frightening world. Yesterday blasphemy became a crime in Ireland, one element of a bill supposedly focused on defamation. Today in Ireland, certain categories of ideas gain for the first time a special status; a protection normally reserved for human beings.

Yesterday, in the final moments before the hammer fell, facing a Seanad rebellion the government found a Green party TD wandering the halls to swing the vote. They succeeded in enacting the worst and most pernicious piece of legislation in this countries history. This is our response.

[Note: This article is an editorial – if you’d like more information on the legislation itself, and how it will be enforced, please read our original piece, published in June: Proposed Irish Blasphemy Legislation]

When the Founding Fathers of the United States framed the Bill of Rights, drafting their amendments to the American constitution, they made sure to enshrine both the freedom to worship and freedom to critique. Indeed, not only are these rights protected in the foremost amendment to the US constitution, both rights are stated in a single paragraph.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The framers of the American constitution recognised implicitly that freedom of speech and the plurality of religious worship necessitate one another. Despite the many abrogations of individual freedom and privacy that have occurred since, this right has remained effectively inviolate. Opinion, especially factually true opinion, may usually be expressed.

The framers of the second Irish constitution had less noble motivations, in publishing the document which persists (necessitating frequent amendment) to this day. In consultation with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland, they enshrined the ‘special place‘ of that religion, the importance of a woman’s role as home-maker, and the pre-eminent sanctity of monogamous heterosexual marriage.

Dermot Ahern, Ireland’s current minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, claims that this flawed and outdated document compelled him to create legislation prohibiting blasphemy, and further that it would be against the spirit of the constitution for such legislation to be toothless. Thus he has created a bill, passed without debate during a session attended by, on average only six TDs at a time, which foists a €25,000 euro ($34,900 USD, or £21,439 Sterling) fine on anyone who “publishes or utters matter”…

“grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”

Perhaps the minister, in claiming to be compelled to legislation is being honest. After all, article 40 of the flawed and outdated Irish constitution states…

“The State shall endeavour to ensure that organs of public opinion, such as the radio, the press, the cinema, while preserving their rightful liberty of expression, including criticism of Government policy, shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State.

The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent material is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

So, while the Irish supreme court had ruled that deciding “of what the offence of blasphemy consists” was impossible; and despite recent recommendations from an Oireachtas (parliamentary) committee that references to sedition and blasphemy be removed from the bill, national and international criticism from journalists, and lawyers alike, and frequent suggestions that the constitution as a whole should be replaced, Dermot Ahern may honestly have seen it as his duty to create a heavily penalised crime of blasphemy.

Perhaps this legislation will be struck down at a European level. Perhaps it will prove unenforceable in practice, as the conflicting and competing claims of religious doctrine make prosecution more trouble than it’s worth. These outcomes would be wonderful, and they seem reasonable, but they are in no sense guaranteed. Irish Attorney Generals and Directors of Public Prosecutions have in the past shown little hesitation in bringing manifestly unfair and unnecessary cases to trial, based on bad legislation and the demands of religious special interest groups.

What is less ambiguous is the likely effect of this legislation, whether effectively enforced or not. Without any significant outcry to bolster their indignation, the Irish news media are certain to reduce their coverage of contentious religious issues. Lets take the infamous Muhammad caricature controversy, as an example. Perhaps it was unnecessary for the Irish media to republish the cartoons that were the source of such outrage four years ago, but in today’s new legislative climate, it would be unwise even to report on the debate. Books which take issue with religious convention are this morning more difficult to publish, plays, radio progammes and television shows mocking or challenging the veracity of religious claims more difficult to commission and to broadcast.

Domestic Irish comedy has long been a deceased, decaying creature, lumbering on in blissful disregard of its own death, but we can say goodbye to any hopes of a native broadcaster producing the next Life of Brian, or a foreign broadcaster choosing Ireland as the location for another Father Ted. A friend (who shares my opposition to the blasphemy legislation) has spoken of his distaste in siding with folks like Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman, and “Richard bloody Dawkins”. It’s easy to forget that almost every influential post war satirist from Spike Milligan, to Peter Cook, Chris Morris and the Pythons, would have also have faced prosecution under this legislation.

Ireland seems fond of its dead writers, we name bridges after Samuel Beckett and erect statues of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde, we build writers museums and interpretive centres, and opine grandiloquently on their literary significance. Dead writers are more likeable. Lest we forget, all of these men were in their day accused of blasphemy. All wrote controversial, critically acclaimed works which could have faced prosecution under this bill. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that had Dermot Ahern been in a position to enact his censorious legislation at the turn of the century, much of our great literature, from Salome, to Waiting for Godot, to Ulysses might not have been published. More recently, the Irish comedian Abie Philbin Bowman performed a critically acclaimed comedy show ‘Jesus the Guantanamo Years‘, reimagining the father of Christianity as an imprisoned Middle Eastern terror suspect. Could such an act get a booking in this country today?

Advocates of civil liberties refer to such ‘soft censorship’ as chilling effects. The chilling effect here may influence more than a few edgy comedies and current affairs pieces. Ireland is inarguably recovering from decades of unhealthy religious influence in public life. We know now that the amount and extent of sexual abuse at the hands of the religious orders – who still by the way control 92% of our primary schools, extended to monstrous proportions. The influence of religious interest groups in delaying the legalisation of contraception, homosexuality, and access to sexual health information – all prohibited until the 1980’s and 1990’s, were and continue to be readily apparent. We are a nation coming to terms with multiculturalism, while at the same time dealing with our liturgical demons. Freedom of speech is not merely important at the current moment, it is vital to the recovery of our society from decades of the abuse of the influence of religion over every aspect of civil life.

Ironically the defamation bill of which the blasphemy amendment is a part, creates new protections for Irish journalists from accusations of libel. Timely protections, as Ireland has historically had some of the most egrigeous slander and libel legislation in the world. Legislation that prevented the reporting in the 1980’s of endemic political corruption which siphoned untold amounts from the nations coffers (see previous article). A culture of institutionalised corruption which continues today. A legislative climate which for example, protects the anonymity of investors personally loaned hundreds of millions of euros by the ‘troubled’ Anglo Irish Bank.

What place then, in this or any defamation bill, for the protection of special categories of belief from offence? Blasphemy is of course, not the same thing as defamation. And neither are accurate definitions of what this new legislation prohibits. What it makes illegal is broadly, intentionally offending religious people. But why, one might ask, is it necessary to intentionally offend? Ignoring for the moment the reversal of the the fundamental legal principle of the Presumption of Innocence (under the new legislation a defendant must prove the “genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic value” of their speech), and the impact on the great literary and satirical works already referenced: The freedom to reason necessitates the freedom to articulate.

Language is the tool of thought, framing and to some extent delimiting possible conceptualisations. This is why the freedom to criticise and yes intentionally offend, is vital. Tolerance requires not silence but active plurality, the intolerance of intolerance. What Isaiah Berlin called the difference between positive and negative liberty, the distinction between freedom from and the freedom to. Healthy, positive social change of the kind Ireland desperately needs, only ever occurs though reasoned debate – protest alone is rarely sufficient, but the freedom to freely discuss, to complain, to offend and to upset the status quo, is a necessary prerequisite. These are subtle points, but ones with unsubtle practical consequences. This legislation bring religion right into the heart of issues like gay marriage and adoption – areas of law and civil life that demonstably conflict with matters held sacred by all of the Abrahamic religions. Areas of law that appear to conflict too with opinions held by Mr. Ahern himself. During the dail debate on the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993, Fine Gael TD Brendan McGahon stated…

“I regard homosexuals as being in a sad category, but I believe homosexuality to be an abnormality, some type of psycho-sexual problem that has defied explanation over the years. I do not believe that the Irish people desire this normalisation of what is clearly an abnormality. . .

Homosexuality is a departure from normality and while homosexuals deserve our compassion they do not deserve our tolerance. That is how the man in the street thinks. I know of no homosexual who has been discriminated against. Such people have a persecution complex because they know they are different from the masses or normal society.”

At the time Ahern, who as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has rejected proposals for Irish Civil Partnership legislation, not only indicated his agreement with McGahon’s bigotry, but added…

“Will we eventually see the day in this country when, as has happened in the USA, homosexuals will seek the right to adopt children? We should think seriously about this possibility.”

We can’t know that Dermot Ahern intends to use his position to do everything in his power to limit the rights of those he believes to be ‘abnormal’ and unworthy of tolerance, but his own statements do imply that he would not be unhappy if that was one side effect of the new legislation.

Not only is this law unnecessary, dangerous and the result of dubious motivations, to call it poorly worded is a mealy understatement. It is possessed of the self evident ‘truthiness‘ of a Jeremy Carkson rant, or a Daily Mail editorial. This new law places the beliefs of Scientologists, preachers the Church of the Subgenius and worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on the same footing as the dogma of major world religions. It provides for the “seizure and removal by any member of the Garda Siochana of all copies of the statement to which the offence related that are in the possession of any person“. In practice this wording could refer to anything from the pulping of magazines to the purloining of computers containing browser caches of pages repeating the offence. That, I need hardly point out, might include your computer, since you are currently reading an unquestionably blasphemous website.

Much as been made of the Mr Aherns ‘generous’ last minute climb down on the original wording of the bill – which provided for imprisonment in addition to a €100,000 euro fine, for spoken or published ‘blasphemy’. No one seems to have mentioned that this aspect of the bill directly contravened the 60 year old United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 12 of which reads…

Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

Good thing they caught that, on the day the bill was passed.

Religion has many uses, notably as a consolation or hermeneutic device. It provides for some a map of our affective world. Its allegories, be they biblical or koranic, may like Aesop’s fables promote ethical behaver and self reflection. As the writer Alan Moore is fond of saying magic becomes really interesting once you realise it’s reality is an internal one. Secular philosophers have all but abandoned the effort to deduce or advocate a poetic ethics, let alone a pragmatic ideology of purpose. In it’s place have arisen life coaches, new religious movements, ala carte Catholicism, and secular humanism. All of which are worthwhile if individuals find them personally meaningful. It is when we begin to mistake religious belief for concrete reality, protecting doctrine as a special category of privileged knowledge, that we find ourselves in trouble. Meaning is non exclusive, it is the domain of the purely relative. Belief can hold no absolute claim on truth. By enshrining dogma into law, we necessarily make ourselves slaves to outdated traditions that like our constitution, were invented by men now dead, to suit conditions that no longer apply.

The response of my peers to this legislation has been characteristically Irish – variations on ‘Isn’t it terrible’, ‘there’s nothing we can do’, ‘ah sure it’ll all blow over’. One friend has already withdrawn a piece written for this website, afraid of its ramifications for his future career. Another seems genuinely scared even to even read articles discussing blasphemy, given “the current climate”.

As for myself, I have no €25,000 to give the criminal justice system. I own no property and am, to be brutally honest the proud possessor of student loans of the type mathematicians refer to as ‘non trivial’. That said, to quote the ever succinct Twenty Major, I shall continue to “blaspheme who I want, you God fearing cunt Ahern“.

Jesus Advocates: Masculinism

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What does it mean to be a man? What is today’s masculine paradigm? Is it the Govenator, that steroid hewn fusion of marketing mythology? Is it Alan Partridge or David Brent, swollen, broken half men, wracked with narcissistic self loathing? Is it Don Draper, the illusion of a confident misogynist? Perhaps it’s the midget machismo of Shia Di Caprio, or the outlaw effeminacy of Orlando Depp? These stereotyped caricatures of heroism and vanity – the bad boy, the androgynous pretty boy, the distinguished gray, exemplify just how vacuous and illusory manhood has become. For this generation of men, brought up by lone mothers or distant humbled beta males – crude wrecks at the weekend, inadequate serfs on the 9 to 5 – there are no role models. ‘We’re a generation of men raised by women’, Tyler Durden, Chuck Palahniuk’s homoerotic street brawler tells us from his grungy bathtub, as he unwinds from another futile bout of self destructive violence. Heroism, that noble ideal, has been prostituted to a seduction fantasy – fireman, soldier, cowboy, cop. Her knights in shining armour. His village people. Rationality, moral and emotional strength, the courage to make the unpopular choice – be it conscientious objection, the rejection of fatuous consumption, or political idealism, whatever its colour – have become hollow jokes, sneered at in sitcoms, derogated as dangerous, radical, absurd, by a contemptuous news media.

So what are men to do? How are we 30 year old boy-children, sloppily shaped with moulds, infantalised and co-dependent, product soaked, molly coddled, over educated and under taught bros, to grow up? Should we run off to the woods, strip down to our hairless chests and compare our screams? Appropriate expression of pained frustration though it might be, roaring’s just another symptom. Should we hunch our shoulders, curse our bosses, hit the bottle and our women, like our fathers fathers? Should we submerge into Men’s Health, Ken doll paragons on low-carb diets, with perfect abs and teeth and matching Abercrombie belts and shoes? Is there a way we can redefine what it means to be a man, while still remaining men? Not a marketing demo, or an urban tribe, or a social problem, or a suicide statistic, or an empty suit, or an ‘edgy’ creative, or a food/sex/games/sports junky, but a fucking man. Is there?

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Maybe.

Masculinism sounds like a disease, one of those chromosomal problems where a hairy clitoris and two tiny, half descended external uteri, doom a lady to a lifetime of bedroom humiliation. That or the right wing, woman hating, worship of a past that never existed. A time when men were men, and women were obedient, subtly perfumed fraulein. Let’s be honest here – as far as gender roles went, the past fucking sucked. Patriarchy might have kept men from becoming self loathing, cathode tanned nincompoops, but it tied men and women into permanent loveless relationships. It froze smart, talented ladies out of contention in the arts and sciences. It raised emotionally dependent, sexually constipated women, and uncommunicative, exploitative, and sexually incontinent men. Perhaps the sexual revolution has leached gigalitres of androgynist birth control hormones into the water system, turning us each into infertile ladyboy Jesuses; but it has provided men and women with the opportunity to be honest. Honest about our desires, our disgusts, our orientations. It has leant us the opportunity to uncover our kinks, and to lay aside the judeo-christian baggage that made us loath our purest instincts.

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So, there’s no going back – no desirable BMP ruled nouveau 1950s, of flying cars and wiggle dresses – no social order at the expense of institutional prejudice and exploitation. In it’s place, for men – confused by the choices and demands of our corporate dystopia, there is another alternative. Progressive masculinism, the awkwardly entitled, rarely articulate counterpoint to feminism. An ideology that accepts the reality of gender differentiation, without imposing gender dysphoria. An ideology that must begin with an acknowledgement of the progress made in gender relations, and the laudable goals of contemporary feminism: To list but a few – Wage Equality, the ending of Female Genital Mutilation, the acceptance of the rights of transgendered and gay people, an end to the Islamic world’s cloistration and control of women, a condemnation of media promoted unhealthy and unobtainable body images, and free universal access to sexual heath information, contraception and abortion.

These goals and achievements exist not in opposition, but as harmonic counterpoint to the equally audible goals of progressive masculinism. Goals like – gender equality in parenting and adoption rights, the elimination of divorce dowry (also known as alimony), an opposition to the media’s fetishistic and pejorative depiction of masculinity and male ageing, the reduction of violence against young men (by far the most frequent victims of violent assault and murder), a solution to the silent crisis of male suicide, the treatment of male incarceration as an opportunity for reform rather than punishment, the elimination of male rape, the creation of ‘wellness’ facilities to provide free information, testing and treatment for male illnesses (men die younger, and of treatable ’embarrassing’ conditions like prostate cancer), legal protections from proven false claims of violence, rape and paternity, active discursive participatory education which better addresses the learning styles of boys, an end to male genital mutilation (euphemised as ‘circumcision’), and the acceptance of innateness and healthiness of the varied manifestations of the male sexual drive – as no more inherently immoral or selfish than the desire to pair bond or bear children.

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Some of these ideas may seem radical – yet in truth they are no more radical than the ideals of the 60’s feminists, or of turn of the century suffragettes. Less so in fact, since our society for all it’s flaws, only passively prohibits the open debate of gender roles and sexual identity. These goals reflect a need to move beyond the redress of patriarchy, to the beginnings of a gender equality; rooted not in notions of socially constructed genders, but innate and healthy sexual differences.

The alternative to a collective reexaminination and reconceptualisation of the rights and responsibilities of both men and women is the status quo. Emasculated manhood, fetishised femininity, and reparative positive discrimination. A men’s movement is needed – not to burn y-fronts in place of bras, not to re-chain women back to a reproductive cycle that left their brains untended at 14, and their bodies old at 40; but to bring into the light of day the realities and challenges of male life. To admit male pain, without excusing male cowardice, to accept male desires without condemnation or indulgence. To enshrine for both genders the legal protections and social enablements that have finally, and not without a terrible fight, emerged (in the developed West) for women.

macho-jesusWe can start by picking better male role models. Scientists not sportsmen, wanderers not warriors, artists not salemen. We need to provide boys with opportunities to learn about men worthy of their respect. We need to provide men with the opportunity to earn the self respect we so desperately lack. We need to eulogise men who encapsulate the positive elements of masculinity – curiosity, energy, honesty, bravery, ingenuity, artistry, invention, competition; and surmount our capacity as men for indolence, gluttony, destructive violence, hubris and corruption. We boys need heroes.

British Politics Special: Gordon Brown and the gathering night

Dylan Moran has a beautiful little skit (above) in his stand up show ‘Monster’. It deals with potential, the idea being that if you imagine yourself to be good at something then you should never, ever attempt it, lest you be revealed as the fail you are. Ladyboy Jesus knows this only too well, look what happened when I gave in to my messianic urges…

Something similar is happening to Gordon Brown. Lurid photos of his quick bitten nails are plastered across the broadsheets as evidence of frayed nerves and mental frailty. Minister after minister flee the government like rats leaving a sinking ship.

So what’s happened, why and what would Jesus do?

Gordon Brown became Prime Minister after ten years as Chancellor of the Exchequer. For many observers of British politics this was seen as an opportunity for Labour to break away from the faux “managerial” style of Tony Blair and to re-engage with the progressive values that once were a cornerstone of the party. The way some commentators talked, Brown’s arrival at No 10 heralded the second coming of Clement Attlee. The problem with this analysis, of course, was that it ignored the simple fact that for many years of his chancellorship Brown had been acting as the de facto domestic Prime Minister, letting Blair get on with his costly foreign adventures. Many are now arguing that Brown should not be judged merely on his two years as Prime Minister, but on his whole twelve years since Labour came to power.

So let’s do it. Under Brown, the poor have gotten poorer, the rich have not only gotten richer but have arse raped the economy, pissed onto its crying face, then collected their elephantine pensions. At the same time, Britain has become a police state, with plod given almost mythic powers, the end of trial by jury and the removal of the right to remain silent. In some cases, innocence is no longer assumed but must be proven. There are now more surveillance cameras in the UK than anywhere else in the world. Public private finance initiatives have led to a drop in services, schools run for profit and Burger King franchines in hospitals. Not to mention the war(s), which of course is considered bad form…*

Brown’s major successes have been to give control over interest rates over to the Bank of England, and his response to the banking crisis last year. It’s a model that has been followed world wide and been credited with saving the financial system.

So what, after twelve years of Brown, has changed? Why are the backbenchers revolting now? Well, there’s the expense scandal, which could not have hit at a worse time. Britain, along with the rest of the world, is in recession. And most importantly, many now believe that they will not be re-elected with Brown in charge. This is very much a case of MPs desperately hoping that they avoid the fate of so many- unemployment. I can’t say that I’d be sorry to see the back of many of them. They are, by and large, deeply compromised cronies, whipped so firmly that it takes the direst warnings and omens to stir them to anything resembling free thought. And when they do think for themselves? They think of their own skin.


This is a great bit of yahhbooo! politics.

And yet… This is not good for the country. The Lib Dems share of the vote declined in both the county council and the European elections. Clearly their choice of a character vacuum as a leader has back fired. And if the voters don’t choose the Liberal Democrats, whom many dismiss out of hand as no-hopers, then the bastards will vote for the Conservatives. The current economic crisis has created an international consensus for progressive politics. This is neatly symbolised by the election of the increasingly disappointing Barack Obama. And yet in Britain, this opportunity for building a more equitable society falls in the lap of the Conservatives, a political party dedicated to the market, to business. The market which has so eloquently failed and business which has so nearly brought the world to its knees. This is a shame of the grandest order, a neatly ironic twist.

The greater irony is perhaps that it was Labour, a party who sacrificed much of its socialist heritage to take on the clothing, terminology and methodology of business, which has been brought low by mismanagement and bad business.

None the less, Jesus believes that a renewed Labour party would be the best hope for a brighter tomorrow. Renewed? Here’s the Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus’s guide to election victory for Labour (if not an actual victory, then at least an attempt at damage control for when the Tories arrive).

1) Order a full, independent enquiry into MP’s expenses. The police should be involved. It should report within one month. Criminal charges should be brought, all those found to have misused the system to be barred from standing again.

2) MP’s salaries and expenses to be overhauled. A simple one off payment for the job down is sufficient.

3) Drop a number of expensive and stupid policies- ID Cards, Trident and the privatisation of the Post Office. They aren’t necessary, nor are they desirable.

4) Set up a government bank. Make it the most boring bank in the world. Give people the option of doing the safe thing; don’t leave them solely at the mercy of the high street banks and their short term-ism.

5) Write a constitution. Entrench a bill of rights in it. Add elements of direct democracy. Do away with 1st past the post, and bring in the Single Transferable Vote form of proportional representation. Have an elected second chamber, whose sole role is to scrutinise. Have fixed terms for the length of a government, not just a maximum.

All of these initiatives give added trust to the voters and limit the powers of the executive. If Labour is re-elected, it will be in large because they have given their trust to the people. When they lose, these measures will undermine any Tory government’s powers to fuck things up.

Come the next election, David “Dave” Cameron will probably be invited to form a government by the Queen. However, if there is a proportional representation system in effect he’ll have to bring in a smaller party to secure an over all majority. Practically speaking, this will have to be the Lib Dems, thus ensuring the worst free market excesses of the Conservative radical ideology will be thwarted. If Gordon Brown and Labour can force through Jesus’s Program for Government, then perhaps it won’t have been twelve wasted years.

*On a personal note, Ladyboy Jesus would like to deny any involvement with Dubya and Tony’s decision to go to war. It was a cynical attempt to redraw the map of the Middle East, to benefit themselves and their countries. Thanks, but no thanks Rummy!

Election Special: Top Five Smug Mugs

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Hot on the heels of the paper of record’s sterling electoral journalism, and just in time for the tail end of today’s Irish local elections, we here at Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus have compiled a comprehensive list of the five smarmiest candidates standing in the local, European and national by-elections.

sinn_feinCertain threads run through the posters this year. The Shinners look young, pretty and hard working – salt of the earth types, who if called to action could certainly find the business end of an Armalite AR-18 gas operated, selective fire assault rifle.

labour_manThe Labour stalwart (a typical example pictured left), by contrast appears dignified, committed, occasionally glamorous, and effortlessly beneficent to his gardeners, chauffeurs and chiropractors.

The Greens with their unkempt hair and poor dental hygiene, have evolved little from their woolly forebears, the environmental activists of yesteryear.

While the Tribe of the Irish and the Soldiers of fail can do little to differentiate their bucolic, vaguely threatening, dipso mugs.

Without further ado, we present the Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus Election 2009, Smug Mug list!

Honourable Mentions

Garrett Tubrity

runner_up_garrett_tubridyReason for exclusion – he must suffer through the indignity of being related to this ‘man’.

Eoin ‘Chad’ Ryan

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Reason for exclusion – the poor man looks like a sex criminal.

Winners

No 5 – Paschal Donohoe

Image by Infomatique, available under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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Fine Gael, Dublin Central. After a critically acclaimed early career as the pointy eared duke at his primary school production of Nospheratu, Donohue has risen to prominence as a ‘human doll’ for men’s cosmetics.

No 4 – Proinsias De Rossa

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Frank Rose, Labour stalwart and returning MEP candidate is a man with ‘blood on his hands‘. Though a known street brawler, he is absolutely not a terrorist.

No 3 – Shay Brennan

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Subliterate Fine Gael foetus and son of a dead man, Shay Brennan or ‘Shady Shay’ as he’s probably known, is crouching in the Dublin South “bye election”. This prince amongst men hopes to follow in the footsteps of translucent politicos from Robin Cook to Ronald Regan.

No 2 – Dan Boyle

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Green candidate for the European Parliament, Dan Boyle, from the tip of his finely sculpted triple chin, to the chill tint of his half rim glasses, has a face that bellows ‘money’. With his magnificent electric blue tie, smooth pampered cheeks and tailored suit, he’s a man who can be trusted in any restaurant emergency. Dan’s special talent is being a cousin of ‘hairy angel‘ Susan Boyle. If elected, Boyle promises to ‘to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do’, fat chance.

No 1 – James Carey

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He’s James Carey on the ballot, Jimmy Carey on the poster, but whatever you call him he’s a maverick. This East Meath Independent has a face that says ‘Introduce me to your mother, then leave us to it’. At just twelve and a half, Jimmy is the youngest candidate in this years elections, but that hasn’t preventing him swimming like the furious little tadpole he is, to the top of our rankings. Congratulations Mr. Carey, you are officially the Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus Smuggest Political Mug in Ireland, 2009!

Amusing Fact: Little Jimmy was recently charged by Gardai for an ancient offence (we at Ladyboy Jesus can imagine the pain, we’ve got a few of those rattling around in our closets), worse still the boys in blue turned “shooting at a lady’s bum with a pellet gun to very serious charges including firearms offeces and serious assault”. Dems the worst kind of ‘offeces’. For shame!

Jesus Advocates: Direct Democracy

Something interesting is going on over at United Minds.ie. Ross O’Mullane, a candidate with no previous political experience, is running in the Dublin South constituency on a direct democracy ticket. With only two days to the June 5th elections, a candidate is standing in an Irish by election, on a platform radically opposed to representative democracy – and the mainstream media are largely ignoring him.

I ran into Mr O’Mullane at last weeks Blasphemy Ireland meeting, and he was nice enough to buy me a drink while I sat him down and quizzed him on his take on ‘direct’ or ‘pure’ democracy.

Background – What on Earth is DD ? (Other than a tasty evening for everyone)

Direct democracy has existed in a variety of forms – from the Swis ‘Canton‘ system, to Athenian Democracy, and differentiates itself from representative democracy by providing the citizenry with a direct involvement in the formation and passage of legislation.

It is in practice, a radically enabling political philosophy. Rather than providing, as a friend put it, ‘the right to unseat your king’, direct democracy offers the voter a genuine say – an active engagement with decision making. MP’s, TD’s and the like may exist under such a system, but are compelled to carry out the will of their constituents – freeing them from the necessity of unrealistic campaign positions and the undemocratic influences of party whips. The public sphere becomes enervated by individual engagement with personally relevant debates, and citizens are for the first time rationally motivated to vote, not only to influence marginal elections, but to partake in the political process on an issue by issue basis, at the local and national level. Like adolescents encountering responsibility and consequence for the first time, the electorate grows up.

With the development of open-source software and the internet, the potential now exists to effectively implement direct democracy in a populous nation with mass enfranchisement. Nonetheless, despite its intrinsically more democratic character, difficulties exist with such an open system.

Potential Problems with Direct Democracy

At once the most philosophically insignificant and practically important difficulty with the establishment of direct democracy, whatever its form; is the challenge it poses to incumbent political interests, entrenched corporate powers, international financial institutions and transnational non-state actors. These organisations, whatever their diverse motivations and organisational structures, exist to facilitate their own interests, and possess, under Western capitalist liberal-democracy, enormous soft power. Power to influence trade negotiations, power to affect the implementation of copyright treaties and human rights laws, and power to – as wikipedia puts it – establish and modify the ‘structures and mechanisms of social order and cooperation governing the behaviour of…. individuals’. Establishing a system under which power transfers from national and local institutions to the citizenry, seems all but impossible. Impossible – except for the actions of individual candidates like Mr. O’Mullane, who if elected would be under no more compulsion than any other politicians, to carry out their stated electoral promises.

A deeper ideological challenge, but one which in practice doesn’t affect the implementation of direct democracy, is the notion of the ‘Tyranny of the majority‘, the fear the capricious mob will abrogate the rights of unpopular minorities, abolish unpopular human and civil rights, introduce populist ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments, or merely hamper the fair and reasonable treatment of minority groups from the very well off to asylum seekers.

The best response to such arguments is perhaps a recourse to the dimensions of culture as defined by the political scientist Gerrt Hofstede. Historically, societies with the greatest power distance – the most unequal distribution of power – have exhibited some of the most unfair and wilfully malicious treatment of minority groups. It is important to differentiate power distribution from income distribution in this regard, since under certain communist systems such as Mao’s China, or Pol Pot’s Cambodia, relative social equality has existed hand in hand with enormous power differentials. In examining contemporary societies we can see a link between power distance, and poverty, corruption, and mistreatment of minority groups. Essentially I am arguing that tolerance emerges naturally from an active engagement in the political process, just as it has been show to emerge from interpersonal interactions with ‘othered’ groups. This is an issue that cannot be confounded so easily however – and any directly democratic society would need to consider in its organising principles how to enshrine the basic and emerging civil and human rights of minorities.

In one sense however, the risk of such tyranny is greatly overblown – as in a direct democratic system, citizens are primarily motivated to vote in issues that affect them directly. It is important to note that moral panics would be even more damaging to political discourse under such a system. Hence the regulation of media ownership would be of even greater importance, as would, in the context of new media, open and fair access to information.

Finally, specially in relation to technological systems for direct democratic engagement, like the ones favoured Mr. O’Mullane, the potential for the hacking and gaming electoral instruments has to be countered. As Ireland has so recently discovered, electronic voting provides new opportunities for electronic voter fraud. In the United States, widespread use of electronic voting at the 2000, and 2004 elections, created huge damage to public confidence in the electoral process, after allegations of electronic vote fraud by the (largely republican owned) manufacturers of demonstrably flawed and ‘game-able’ electronic voting machines emerged. Although each individual decision in a direct democratic system would have less importance than the zero sum game of representative democratic elections; voter confidence in the systems used to assess the public will (whether electronic or mechanical) would be even more important.

As Time magazine recently discovered, it can be extremely difficult to protect fair, anonymous electronic voting against the wilful actions of a committed minority of hackers. Nonetheless, secure electronic voting is not an unobtainable goal. We have pretty good systems for protecting the privacy of secure communications, and assuring data integrity; and with work, and open implementation, such technologies could restore public confidence in computerised voting systems.

Where does Ross O’Mullane stand?

[Note, this was a brief and very informal conversation, and Mr. O’Mullane was not aware that Jesus would, one short week later, commit it to the public record for all eternity]

When asked about the difficulties of preventing electoral fraud (in relation to issue specific votes), Mr. O’Mullane stated that he hadn’t had time to consider the details of his proposal – and that this would be something investigated after his election.

When asked about the potential threat to existing political interests, Mr. O’Mullane indicated a disdain for the existing political parties, and expressed the importance of the involvement of individuals outside the party machines.

When asked about potential minority disenfranchisement, Mr. O’Mullane conceded that although he considered the contemporary Irish population tolerant, if the popular vote on a given issue usurped minority protections, then he would follow the will of the voters.

Four Proposals listed on O’Mullane’s website

1. Citizens have a direct voice on all issues. Passionate experts will be making decisions on issues rather than self-serving politicians. The United Minds Forum is open to for all people to discuss any issue.

2. Constituents of Dublin South elect a representative to Dail Eireann, and then vote on all key issues on the United Minds website. (a secure voting platform will be developed once the representative is elected.)

3. The elected representative in parliament actions the results of these votes, and maintains regular communication with the forum users.

4. It’s an efficient system that will see us effectively tackle the massive challenges facing our towns, our country and our planet.

So, what does Jesus think?

Direct democracy is a stunningly wonderful idea, that might just work in practise. It’s great to see an unknown and articulate candidate embrace democracy in it’s purist form – literally, rule by the people. That said, Ross O’Mullane is fuzzy on the details, and when it comes to determining the underlying structure of a political system, details matter. Mr O’Mullane’s aversion to existing political institutions is understandable, even admirable in the context of the failure of the PD’s on the right, the surrender of the Greens on the left, and the moribund, special interest owned ‘pragmatism’ of the’ cumman parties. However Mr. O’Mullane’s apparent disinterest in organising a movement – beyond this local election, and his specific candidacy; limits the potential influence of his ideas. As a candidate outside the political mainstream, it is actually more important that he bone up on the political science. To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin, if I have to have a TD at all, I want my TD to be smarter than me, to know more than I do about national and local issues, and should he suggest a radical ideology, I bloody well want him to know more about how it might work in practise than I do. Despite his background in ‘branding and marketing’, and despite the fact that he works for a gambling company, Mr. O’Mullane seems like a nice guy. A nice guy, with a nice idea. Perhaps he’s just not the right guy to create in Dublin South a ‘beacon of genuine democracy’. Still, Jesus would probably vote for him, because the devil – be he known, or indeed unfamiliar, is never better.

Neither Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus, Jackdaw Fool, nor the author of this article is affiliated with any political candidate, party, or organisation.

Update: An automatically generated adsense advertisement has been removed from this post

Proposed Irish Blasphemy Legislation

blasphemysnickers

This magazine is almost a week old, so the time seems right to address the great big Fianna fail elephant in the room. The provocation that lead to us putting this project together. Last week I attended a meeting of ‘Blasphemy Ireland‘. I’d been incensed by media reports of Dermot Ahern’s (Irish Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform) proposed Defamation Bill. The Irish Times, amongst other publications, had reported that the minister intended to invent a new offense of ‘Blasphemous Libel’ (presumably, literally disparaging God’s reputation in print).

If you haven’t been following the debate, check out these links the media’s coverage.

Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bil
A Blasphemy Clause That Doesn’t Fit The Bill
Letter from National Union of Journalists
Harney defends introduction of blasphemy law
Ahern ‘bemused’ by criticism
European Lawyers Oppose Blashemy laws

Even a scan of the article / op-ed titles gives a rough map of the development of the debate. Politician announces an unpopular and unnecessary amendment, introducing for the first time real penalties for a constitutional offense that the Supreme Court has previously ruled unenforceable. The opposition (Labour), suggest reducing the fine to a mere 1000 euro (down from the proposed bill’s 100,000 euro maximum!), and excluding works that have any ‘literary, artistic, social or academic merit’. The paper of record (and a dozen other rags) immediately act to criticise the proposed legislation. As does the national union of journalists, citing the European Convention on Human Rights. A much loathed politician, whose party collapsed last year for lack of public support, speaks out to defend the legislation. A UN mandated ‘security’ and human rights organisation, actually ‘the worlds largest security orientated intergovernmental organisation‘ suggest ‘chilling effects‘ on free speech if the bill is enacted. The Minister responds by calling his critics ‘fantasy conspiracy theorists’, and stating that he has been advised by the Attorney General that the constitution compels him to enact legislation, and that in the currant economic climate a constitutional amendment (which he himself would prefer) would be unwise. He adopts some of the protections proposed by the Labour opposition, namely the exclusion from prosecution of works of ‘literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic value’. However the minister alters the oppositions suggested wording, so that ‘genuine‘ rather than ‘any‘, value would be required for protection: Putting the onus on the writer / broadcaster / commentator / pundit / horses mouth, to prove that their speech is of worth. The minister also fails to adopt the oppositions proposed fine reduction. In response, Labour withdraws their support for the Defamation Bill, and Fine Gail (the largest opposition party) propose a referendum on this aspect of the constitution. Lawyers advising the Council of Europe release a report stating that ‘insult to religious feelings should not be a crime; and that the offence of blasphemy should be abolished’.

With all this in mind, I headed to a meeting in that infamous hall of sedition, Wynns Hotel on Talbot Street, last Wednesday evening. The meeting had been organised by a new organisation, Blasphemy Ireland (thus far largely an amalgamation of the Irish Humanist and Atheist societies). The panel were composed of Michael Nugent, chair of Atheist Ireland and co-author of the play I Keano; Ian O’Doherty, contrarian Irish Independent columnist; Dick Spicer, chair of the Humanist Association of Ireland; and Robbie Bonham, comedian and cartoonist.

Overall the meeting was enormous informative, and the points made by the panel, and most of the audience were cogent and intelligent. Anyone who has regularly attended meetings or lectures, no matter how esteemed, will understand how rare that combination is. The campaign however seems, so far, too focused on Atheistic / secular objections to the inclusion of religious protection in statute. As a member of the audience pointed out, all religions constantly derogate the opposition – ‘No one comes before the Father except through Me’, John 14:6-9, ‘flee from the worship of idols’ (1 Cor. 10:14), etc. The more religious among you will doubtless recall better examples with ease. As such, the Defamation Bill as proposed, would endanger religious speech (especially minority religious speech) as much, if not more than secular criticism.

Ian O’Doherty pointed out that religious extremists will use the law to pillory journalists, leading to chilling effects on journalistic expression.

Dick Spicer explained that he was already in contact with Christian fundamentalists who planned to use the legislation to ‘martyr’ themselves, by attempting to be fined, and ultimately jailed (for non payment) under the proposed offence. He pointed out that some Christian fundamentalists do not view Allah as the same God they worship, but literally as the devil (what could be more heretical to Muslims!), and are prepared to state this publicly; specifically for the purposes of ‘martyrdom’.

Michael Nugent pointed out that Charlie Haughey, Ireland’s former Taoiseach (prime minister), a man described by the Moriarty Tribunal as ‘devaluing democracy‘, amongst other things for his receipt of ‘unethical’ payments from businessmen and wealthy non-nationals seeking citizenship; was the politician who introduced the current blasphemy legislation (with its 7 year maximum prison term). Apparently, when prompted to define Blasphemy in Oireachtas debate, Haughey responded ‘Everyone knows what it is’.

At the close of the meeting I was more convinced than ever that this legislation in particular, and the whole body of Irish defamation law in general, are ill considered and stand in opposition to the free exchange of thought that is at the heart of the democratic process. As someone building a career as a writer and humorist of sorts, with a poison pen and acerbic tongue, I won’t deny a personal interest in the freedom to puncture inflated egos, tip sacred cows, and to depict in words an often unpopular, and occasionally correct version of reality.

And so, this blog / PDF magazine / website, which would have come about anyway perhaps, under another and less contentious name, became ‘Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus’. The title encapsulates my view that rights exist only as far as they are expressed; that the default state of permissiveness in any area of public life is, forbidden. By titling our site so provocatively, we do not aim at incurring a prosecution we could neither afford to fight, nor under the proposed Blasphemy legislation, win; but rather to point out the silliness of stifling speech, particularly speech critical of the inherently absurd elements of faith, state, and self importance in public life.

Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus’s Blasphemy Amendment FAQ

So what exactly does the constitution say?

Article 40.6.1, states the “publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law” [Note – There doesn’t seem to be a linkable, searchable Irish constitution online].

Article 40 also, rather frighteningly states…
“Organs of public opinion… while preserving their rightful liberty of expression, including criticism of Government policy, shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State.”

What’s the current state of the law?

Under Charlie Haughey’s 1961 Defamation Act, blasphemous OR obscene material is punishable by up to a seven year prison sentence, and a 500 punt (634 euro) fine.

What did the Supreme Court say?

In 1999, in the case of Corway -v- Independent Newspapers, the Supreme court ruled that currently, as the 1961 act failed to specify the nature of blasphemy, “it is impossible to say of what the offence of blasphemy consists”.

There’s a thorough examination of the evolution of the law in this area, over on Blasphemy.ie.

What does the Defamation Bill propose?

“A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.”

Under the Bill “Blasphemous matter” would be “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”

This means that an article or broadcast would need to intentionally offend an unspecified number of members of any religious group, on any unspecified ‘sacred’ topic.

Why is this wrong?

As we here at Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus see it, the proposed legislation is flawed in a number of regards.

1. The proposed legislation curtails a fundamental human right, free speech, without a substantive benefit to society. Whether or not the state has the right to curtail human rights for any reason whatsoever, is a debate for another day. Hint: It doesn’t.

2. The proposed legislation would make an offense merely of causing offense, in relation to the ‘matters held sacred by any religion’. This not blasphemy, which Websters define as ‘the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God’, but rather heresy, ‘adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma’.

3. The proposed legalisation prohibits criticism of any opinion held by any religion. This is the rub of the matter. No one, be they journalist or concerned citizen, would be free to make statements which offended the opinion of any religious organisation on any issue. Let’s just go over that again. ‘Matters held sacred by any religion’, needn’t include merely the faith and practises of any religious group, but any area of culture, law, human behaviour or public life, which is ‘worthy of religious veneration’ (Websters again).

3. The degree of the proposed fine is so high that it seems likely to forestall any criticism of any religious group or belief by bloggers, independent journalists, newspaper letter writers, and anyone not protected by the financial clout of a major institution.

4. Ireland has suffered gravely from it’s existing Defamation legislation’s delimitations of free speech. Arguably, the deafening journalistic silence during periods of political corruption in Ireland documented by the McCracken, Flood and Moriarty tribunals, were in large part due to the ‘chilling effects’ of existing libel law. We do not need to extend the ‘protection’ of defamation law; rather it should be severely curtailed, so that it acts to protect individuals from persecution, rather than organisations and public figures from reasonable suspicion.

5. The proposed libel legislation is opposed by all of the opposition parties, the national union of journalists, and independent European and UN legal advice organisations.

What can I do to stop it?

Head over to Blashphemy.ie, where a campaign is being organised. Write a letter (ideally on paper, as emails are generally ignored), to your local TD, to Dermot Ahern, and to the Taoiseach. Even old rubber lips himself needs to get re-elected.

The Bill is currently before the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights, here’s a list of it’s members.

You can also show your support by joining the Blasphemy Ireland Group on Facebook, and much more importantly by heading along to the next meeting in your locale.

Marshmallow Jesus Guide to Anal Sex

gay-jesus

So, you’ve been dating your insignificant other for a few months, somebody’s birthday’s approaching and anal is on the table. What do you mean it’s a one night thing and she’s up for it? Anal sex is not to be trifled with. Done right it can be sublime and incredibly intense for both parties. Unfortunately – chances are, if you’ve done it before, you did it poorly. Done wrong – quickly and without adequate preparation, particularly when alcohol is involved, it can result in agonising pain, the vile sector of santorum (look it up), or even an ‘anal fissure’ – a slow healing internal wound that will make wearing your bottom a cruel obligation.

But there’s no need to fear, with Marshmallow’s British Public Schoolboys guide to informed, ecstatic anal, you’ll be up in that booty in no time, wondering why it took you both so long.

Step One – Anal Play

Over a period of weeks you’ll want to prepare for your initial anal experience with your partner. Anal play is important – both as a form of foreplay to ensure you’re both into the experience, and to prepare the fuckee’s behind for the fuckers cock. No amount of anal play is too much preparation – it should be as far as you go at least the first few dozen times you experiment in this area. You can begin experimenting initially with fingers and tongues, and move on in later session to small flexible latex dildos or vibrators. Start playing around the sensitive nerve endings surrounding your butt, and move on to in-ass play in later sessions. Use lots of a good water based lubricant and go slowly. Anal play should be hella fun for both parties. You may want to try a variety of lubricants before finding one that has the right balance of slippy (yum), sticky (yuck) and taste for you.

Step Two – Enemas

This step isn’t strictly necessary, but is rather, highly advised – especially for first time anal. Preparing for the act itself using an enema or douche will avoid messy accidents and make your or your partners butt a prettier place to be. An enema bag resembles a hot water bottle, and is designed to squeeze warm water into your rump. Most bags come complete with a tube and a variety of nozzle attachments. You’ll want to use distilled water, available from most chemists – not tap water or any included solution (especially not saline, which can be drying, not good for anal!) to fill your bag. Enema bags come in a variety of quartages (1 imperial quart is just over a metric litre). Enema kits can be purchased in most chemists (in the laxative area or behind the counter) or from regular online stores like Amazon. A bag size between half and one quart should do unless you have an enormous arse cavity.

How to Use – Wait an hour after eating. Boil (then cool to luke warm) your distilled water, pour it into your enema bottle. Lying on your back, squeeze the nozzle in and release the fluid slowly. Remove the nozzle. Hold the fluid until your feel the need to go to the bathroom. You may experience mild cramps. Don’t worry, this is normal. Wait thirty minutes to an hour before engaging in anal sex.

Step Three – The Big Day(s)

bummingMake sure you’re both on the same page. It’s not big, clever or legal to surprise someone with a dick in their arse. Engage in lots of finger foreplay – by this point you should be able to painlessly double finger your partner. Make sure your partner is relaxed. If she or he feels tight, do other things and come back to it. This is something you want to do lots right? Don’t rush it.

When you do both feel ready, use a condom and lashings of lovely lube. Even though you should have had the all clear from your regular STI tests, lots of nasty bacteria live in the colon, so always wear a condom. Do not double dip either partners or orifices – there’s a reason pornstars get infections. Remember thesimple rule, one condom, one hole. Although if you’re a boy girl couple (or dykes with a strap on) you may want to have lots of lovely vaginal sex first.

Enter your partner slowly, continue slowly, and for Christ’s sake if it hurts stop! If done right, anal sex should never be painful. Your first time round you will probably not be able to go all the way in. This is fine, you don’t have to. Enjoy the brief experience of empathising with an enormously well endowed man. Don’t get all crazy excited and polax your poor lover. Be gentle and patient. Your partner lying face down maybe a good position initially, although doggy style (with your partner on hands and knees, use pillows to ensure their comfort), will give you more visibility and control.

If your partner is experiencing tightening you may want to try poppers (myl or other alkyl nitrates) a (legal – at least in Ireland) sniffable drug sold in little bottles (often marked as room deodorisers) in sex shops (for between five to ten euro). Popper are a safe muscle relaxant, but may result in headaches for some folks. A few sniffs should relax your butt.

For more information check out ‘the ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women’ by Tristan Taormino and ‘Anal Pleasuure and health’ by Jack Morin. Also check out Dan Savages excellent weekly column ‘Savage Love’ and his podcast the ‘Savage Love Case’, available at the Stranger.com.

Fees Me Bollix

education

In a country such as ours, with comparatively few competitive advantages over our neighbours and competitors further away, education is vitally important. As the Minister is fond of saying, ours is a knowledge based economy. Well, knowledge and Common Agricultural Policy based. Despite this, the government have consistently underfunded the driving force in this knowledge based economy – the universities. Even before the current economic downturn reared its Putin-like head, Trinity was facing a massive funding shortfall. This was due to a switch in the government mechanism for calculating financial support – taking teaching quality out of the equation and shafting Trinity in the process.

With the balls up in the markets, the government has turned to underwriting – essentially nationalizing – the Irish banking sector at huge risk to the taxpayer. To make up the shortfall, they are again undercutting the education funding, and health and so Cowen acolyte and Minister for Education Batt O’Keefe starts to trot out the same old spurious arguments in favour of third level fees: Students will earn more and therefore ought to pay. Never mind that if they do become high earners they will end up paying more anyway within our (rightly) progressive tax regime. Never mind that many many students do not in the end make fuck tons of cash, many go into teaching, or VSO’s or heroin. Even the assumption that it is third level degrees that lead to greater earnings is spurious, it could be that those who achieve in the education domain often have the drive to earn fuck tons of money in the business world.

So – what to do? We here in Marshmallow take our responsibilities as the petri dish of government and college policy very seriously (see next page for list of suggested cuts). On a national level we need to look at taxation. Don’t spend millions bailing out big institutions. The whole reasons they pay giant wages is that they take on massive risk. The government’s strategy has simply been to remove that risk. If a pensions fund manager balls up the retirement of thousands of people then there should be some strong legal mechanism for slapping the shit out of him.

Ireland’s one major advantage globally is a incredibly low rate of corporate taxation. It’s currently, at 12%, well below the European average, and is the reason companies like Google have their European HQ here. This could rise somewhat – justifiably should rise – and although the the multinationals will squeal Ireland will still be very competitive in this respect. There is still an argument for adding a new higher tax bracket for those earning over a couple of million a year and closing the tax loop holes – around farming and property in particular – that allow millions to be hidden away from the tax man. Spending on social housing, health and yes, education is not flushing money down the drain. To use an old cliche, it’s an investment in the future. We will all be richer and better off in the long run. Fuck fees.

Prudes Porn Pig Out

cop2In September the sex shops of South inner city Dublin were raided by An Gardai Siochana. Officers confiscated an estimated 8,000 pornographic DVD’s from adult shops situated within the jurisdiction of Pearse Street Garda station. Police were acting in the ill-defined area of censorship of pornography in Ireland.
Under Irish law pornography is theoretically legal, so long as such films do not depict acts which are illegal in the state. It is illegal to possess a DVD, film, photograph or “make use” of a website which depicts such acts. However, while most European countries license sex-shops to sell adult movies,
Ireland does not.

According to the Video Recordings Act 1989, DVD’s and videos are not legitimate until they have been rated by the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO), formerly known as the Irish Film Censor’s Office. The IFCO’s role is to view films before release in the state, and award them an appropriate certificate.
The Video Recordings Act empowers the film censor to prohibit a video if, in his opinion, it contains ‘obscene or indecent matter’ which would tend to ‘deprave or corrupt’ persons viewing it.

However the IFCO charge a rate to certify films which is beyond the capacity of porn distributors to pay. Thus, in a tortuous legal twist, films sold in ‘adult stores’ are deemed illegal by the Irish state not because of their content, but because they have not been passed through the censor. According to the Garda Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit, cited in a 2006 report, “The laws pertaining to Adult Pornography are viewed by An Garda Siochana as seriously out of date and inadequate in the present climate and need to be reviewed.”

Many see the porn business as a reality of the modern world, and one that should be outside the scope of film censors. Shop owners are forced to bypass the censor’s office because of the prohibitive cost of certification . Pornographic movies are filmed on tight budgets, targeting fleeting popular taste, and
have a much shorter shelf life than conventional films. Distributors must constantly refresh their wares in order to ensure continued sales. New charges introduced in 2004 have meant the cost of getting a film classified cannot realistically be recouped on the profits from its sale. This state of affairs allows An
Gardai Siochana to make a great show of seizing ‘illegal’ pornographic films on an annual basis.

Confusion over the place of pornography in contemporary Ireland, and the authorities’ aggressive exploitation of this situation for political ends, are symptomatic of a country that is still timidly emerging from a long history of sexual oppression and censorship. The bullying and harassment heaped on these small businesses evokes the suppression and control practised by the traditional Catholic hegemony over the Irish people, and before them the British yolk. Part of the problem seems to be a lack of debate on the issue. A climate needs to emerge in which the sex industry can be discussed and reviewed openly. A climate in which sexuality moves from a shameful topic, whispered about in confessionals or bayed by half mad gingers from religious megaphones on O’Connell street, to a casually
and honestly discussed part of mainstream Irish life. The sex shops are taking advice on a joint legal pursuit, although the legal costs of fighting the raids might amount to 10,000 euro. Raids on the sex shops on the North side circuit are expected to occur soon.

In the name of Christ* Shut the Fuck Up!

*plus other assorted superheroes, talking clouds, invisible beings and Oprah

dermotahern_163045t

Dearest Dermot,
(dermot@dermotahern.ie, dermot.ahern@oireachtas.ie)

I would like to congratulate you for your excellent use of the tax payers resources and your own energy with your proposed new blasphemy law. By Christ’s Hairless Taint, this is the best thing I’ve heard of in a long time. Already this country lags far behind any normal standard of freedom of speech, and with your help we should fall even further back in the field.

I would love to know what prompted the sudden need to tighten up on blasphemy. Have too many people been yelling “Ram Allah up your arse, Ahern!” at you in the street? Or perhaps is this a bone to throw the god-bothers in exchange for a little less public criticism of some of you policies? Or was this simply motivated by your genuine worry and pity for all those offended by Father Ted, Dogma and South Park?

Also, please do not consider what constitutes a religion. Will Buddhism, which philosophically doesn’t particularly adhere to the standard religious model, be included? If so, will other similar belief structures- Marxism, Spinozaism, Onanism- be protected also? How about some of the older religions, like the Rightful and Holy Worship of the Great Lord Baal, which are currently unpopular, but still need your valued protection? What will the status of cults be? Will we be able to warn against Scientology and others on the lunatic fringe? How many challenges in the courts are you expecting?

I would encourage the you to push through this frankly unnecessary and potentially harmful legislation with all haste, and ignore the need to re-affirm the rights of everyone in Ireland to free speech. Some might say that currently our libel laws are a total disgrace and that perhaps you should be re-writing these, rather than polishing the swollen glands of some god-pimp, but these people are total idiots, bereft of reason, god and a decent dry-cleaners.

Keep fighting the good fight,

Yours sincerely

Andrew Booth,
Editor
Piranha! Magazine
TCD

PS, Twenty Majors funnier response; here.