The Boss

by Kieran Healy on June 13, 2006

“Charles Haughey has died”:http://www.ireland.com/focus/haughey/ at his home in Dublin at the age of 80. The _Irish Times_ today calls him “the dominant and most divisive figure of the past 40 years” in Ireland. If you’ve never heard of Charlie, think of him as something like a triple cross between Charles DeGaulle, Richard Nixon and Huey Long. The Times’ “obituary”:http://www.ireland.com/focus/haughey/obituary.htm gives an overview of his life. Essays by “Dick Walsh”:http://www.ireland.com/focus/haughey/ITstories/story3.htm, “Geraldine Kennedy”:http://www.ireland.com/focus/haughey/ITstories/story2.htm and “Fintan O’Toole”:http://www.ireland.com/focus/haughey/ITstories/story1.htm span his career from its brilliant beginnings to its scandal-ridden end. Wikipedia also has “a good article.”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_J._Haughey

Haughey was the leading figure of a generation of Irish politicians born in the years after the foundation of the state in 1922. They were in the ascendancy in the 1960s and by the end of the 1970s they were running the country. Haughey’s generation wanted a slice of the postwar economic boom, and they partly got it. The economy grew rapidly in the 1960s. Haughey’s career prospered and he became minister for justice, instigating a series of important reforms of the Irish legal code, and then minister for agriculture. He also became a wealthy man very fast — far wealthier, in fact, than anyone on a modest political salary could reasonably be expected to become. He bought a Georgian mansion and an offshore island. His extravagant lifestyle became a topic of conversation, and eventually his political opponents tried to make an issue of it. He brushed them off. His career nearly came to an end in 1970 with the “Arms Crisis”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arms_Crisis, but after a decade in the political wilderness he became the leader of “Fianna Fáil”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fianna_Fáil and, soon after, “Taoiseach”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoiseach.

The view of him taken by his supporters is key to understanding Haughey’s position in Irish politics. In a brilliant article written in the early 1980s, my former advisor at UCC, Paddy O’Carroll, made an argument about the importance of local culture to Irish political style. An important figure in the Irish mythos is the “cute hoor”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cute_hoor — the person who can magically bend the rules or circumvent them altogether in order to get what they want. Cute hoors are admired by “sneaking regarders”, those too timid to get involved themselves, but who admire the strokes he pulls to get what he wants. Haughey played that role in Irish politics on a grand scale, to the point where he was subject to a cult of personality. A pliant press helped. By the 1980s, Haughey’s long-term extramarital affair and his ill-gotten personal wealth were open secrets, along with much else about the country that could not be said in public. Joe Joyce and Peter Murtagh’s book, “The Boss”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=1N9LLQ1VTU&isbn=1853718912, a superb account of Haughey’s “GUBU”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=1N9LLQ1VTU&isbn=1853718912 government of 1982 is one of the few contemporary pieces of really hard-hitting investigative journalism on Haughey. (Joyce and Murtagh’s obituary for Haughey is “in the Guardian”:http://politics.guardian.co.uk/foreignaffairs/story/0,,1796554,00.html.)

A series of “legal tribunals”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moriarty_Tribunal in the 1990s took the lid of the whole thing, detailing the bribery and corruption that greased the wheels of Irish politics in the 1980s. Haughey was at the center of it all, of course. Called as a witness in one of these investigations Haughey tried to play the fool, claiming he didn’t remember anything. His own effort to pass himself off as a clueless gobshite, after a lifetime spent burnishing an image of shrewdness and authority, probably did as much to tarnish his legacy as anything the evidence showed.

Broadband Provision and Net Neutrality

by Henry on June 13, 2006

The Washington Post “comes out against”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/11/AR2006061100707.html net neutrality today, trotting out a bullshit telco industry talking-point as if it were established fact.

bq. The advocates of neutrality suggest, absurdly, that a non-neutral Internet would resemble cable TV: a medium through which only corporate content is delivered. This analogy misses the fact that the market for Internet connections, unlike that for cable television, is competitive: More than 60 percent of Zip codes in the United States are served by four or more broadband providers that compete to give consumers what they want — fast access to the full range of Web sites, including those of their kids’ soccer league, their cousins’ photos, MoveOn.org and the Christian Coalition. If one broadband provider slowed access to fringe bloggers, the blogosphere would rise up in protest — and the provider would lose customers.

It ain’t the “advocates of neutrality” who are being absurd here. The claim that “60 percent of Zip codes in the United States are served by four or more broadband providers that compete to give consumers what they want” is based on FCC statistics that are widely recognized (except by industry hacks) to be useless for this purpose. As this “Government Accountability Office report”:http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06426.pdf discusses, the FCC zipcode survey doesn’t provide any data on how many subscribers are served by particular broadband providers within zipcodes. It indiscriminately includes satellite broadband service, which isn’t a significant option for most consumers (and is only just about broadband in any event), in zip codes where there is at least one subscriber to the service. Furthermore, it lumps together (a) data on broadband services that cater to specialized business needs and (b) data on consumer broadband, as if they formed one and the same market. The result is that it grossly overestimates the degree to which there is actual competition in consumer broadband markets. The GAO estimates that when you exclude irrelevant providers, the median number of household providers in each zipcode is two. The claim that market forces will miraculously protect consumers and resolve the network neutrality problem is unsustainable; there probably isn’t a competitive market in most municipal regions in the US, let alone rural areas. Perhaps the Post editors weren’t aware of this, but I suspect that this is because they didn’t think it was part of their job to find out. Garbage journalism, pure and simple.

One Day in the Life of Abdul ibn Denis

by Chris Bertram on June 13, 2006

One of the things that has most annoyed the so-called “decent” left has been the use of hyperbolic comparisons between the US “war on terror” and barbaric systems like the Gulag. “The Euston Manifesto”:http://tinyurl.com/nofn7 expresses outrage that

bq. officials speaking for Amnesty International, an organization which commands enormous, worldwide respect because of its invaluable work over several decades, can now make grotesque public comparison of Guantanamo with the Gulag.

Well I agree with the Eustonites that the Gulag was much much worse, partly because it extended over many decades, and partly because it involved the incarceration and deaths of an immensely greater number of human beings. But there’s another way to think about the comparison, and that’s to ask about how the daily life of a typical Guantanamo inmate compares with the life of the average “zek” as depicted by Solzhenitsyn. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that one life is similarly awful to the other. This conclusion, though, depends on the presumption that accounts of life in the Gulag (from former inmates) and in Guantanamo (from former inmates) are both accurate. And they may not be. But here, for comparative purposes, are links to the online text of Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”:http://tinyurl.com/zce6f and a “Guardian report”:http://tinyurl.com/rnx6g about the experiences of Guantanamo detainees.

Recent Continental Philosophy

by John Holbo on June 13, 2006

I’m teaching “Recent Continental Philosophy” next semester. What would you do, if you had to do that? Recent is relative, of course. I’m thinking: Kant. No, seriously. I want to start by having the kids read Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” Then Foucault, “What is Enlightenment?” I want to make that a bit of a theme, yes. What texts would you weave around that red thread? I’m going to do some Foucault vs. Habermas (obviously.) I’m thinking about having them read bits of Robert Pippin, Modernity as a Philosophical Problem. How would you structure the course to suit my theme? There is a real problem with taking the ‘recent’ seriously. If the kids don’t really know Hegel and Nietzsche and Kierkegaard and Heidegger, what’s the point starting them out with Badiou, eh? I’m thinking of having them read a few of the short, intro chapters from the Critchley, ed. Companion to Continental Philosophy. I am also going to do a couple weeks on Zizek, because I know his stuff rather well at this point. In teaching a new course, I figure you should make sure to have at least a couple weeks on something you have down pretty cold. By the by, I’ve got a pretty good and funny Zizek post up at the Valve, if you like that sort of thing.