I hope it was none of you. I’d be very upset if one of my readers took it all too seriously and tried to assassinate Dana. That’s wrong and stupid. What if you failed and she got in on a wave of sympathy?
OK, I wouldn’t joke about this if I thought it was for real. Or at least I’d make different jokes. But it’s not real. No one was trying to rub out Dana. Maybe it isn’t hard to imagine someone with a grudge against the Catholic church having a stab at her tyres, but who stops at stabbing just one? And anyway, that’s no assassination attempt. Unless of course they had the expertise to damage a tyre just enough to cause it to blow out later when moving at high speed. You know, the kind of expertise that doesn’t exist.
No. The Scallons had a blowout. Unusual, but they happen. That they should even speculate that it was some sort of assassination attempt tells us all we… well, all we already knew about their grasp of reality.
Let’s pass over this sideshow, and concentrate on keeping Fianna Fáil the hell out of the Park.
I don’t know what Bertie Ahern‘s balls are made of, but perhaps we should be using it to generate nuclear energy. For they are massive. He told us today that not preventing the national economic collapse was the fault of the media, because they were too preoccupied with investigating his wrongdoing.
No that’s just awesome. Even Berlusconi must have gasped.
It’s utter nonsense of course. The media were full of voices shouting stop – certainly more so than government. Mr. Ahern is living out a self-justifying fantasy, and his words are as relevant now as, well, pretty much anything else said by a member of Fianna Fáil. With the obvious exception of course of Seán Gallagher. Yes, I think we can regard him as a member still. Though it appears he did resign both from his cumainn¹ and the party’s national executive, he hasn’t exactly distanced himself from the organisation, launching the campaigns of FF party candidates – presumably for a fee – as recently as six months ago.
It looks very likely therefore that his split with the party was not moral or ideological, but pragmatic. He wanted to be elected. To have any chance, he had to lose the stinking albatross-corpse of a Fianna Fáil ticket. And the ruse seems to have worked. People say they will vote for the honestly-really-not-Fianna-Fáil candidate. I don’t know what to say, you’re all mad. Mad, or masochists.
Rather like McGuinness², he’s building foundations for his party’s eventual rehabilitation. Unlike McGuinness though, he might actually win. And if he does, what are the odds of him returning to the party – in a greatly enhanced role – just as soon as his term is over? If not sooner.
Picture the scene. I’m doing a practice run with my driving instructor. I am a cat-bag of nerves, slopping adrenaline, making error after error. The lessons of the preceding ten months, the intense practice I’d done in the last weeks and days, are coming to nothing. I was forgetting to signal, forgetting my mirrors when stopping and turning, riding the clutch, coasting… The inattentive habits I’d worked like hell to eradicate were all back, all at once.
Nerves were making everything seem to happen too fast to control. Who can possibly look in a mirror, make the correct signal, look in another mirror, depress a clutch pedal, let up an accelerator, select the right gear, apply a little brake, let up the clutch pedal gently but not too slowly, steer, look in every possible direction for hazards, and pay attention to where you’re going all in the correct order and in such quick succession that you’re actually doing several of them at once? Ridiculous. It can’t be done. And that’s just one corner.
Then the heavens open. And not in the good way where divine providence looks down and beams me out of there. That I could’ve used. As in torrential rain. Torrential by Irish standards remember; a country where we say it’s fine if it’s only raining a bit. Some of you live places where weather like this would constitute a national emergency. Visibility was suddenly non-existent, the heater struggled to keep the windows demisted but succeeded only in making the car unbearable, conditions became hazardous and continued into ludicrous. I am dispirited. It’s not enough that I’m driving like a brain-damaged chicken, I now have to ford a flooded road to even reach the test centre.
I think to myself, I did not pick a good day to book a driving test.
So what happened next was quite weird. But it is what often happens in these situations. You could call it correct fear. Suddenly the adrenal glands stop being an impediment and start doing their job of maintaining my balance on the tightrope of concentration. All the hours of practice come back to me now. Instead of everything happening at once, there seems to be time to do it all. It’s… almost boring. Intense yet slow, like a black and white film. I’m no longer desperately worried about my driving test, because I’m doing my driving test. I’m in The Zone – one of those rare times when you live completely in the present.And in the present, there’s time for everything.
It was not perfect however. I made one mistake so bad that as soon as we were through the tester started giving me a hard time about it. My heart sank. And then it began to dawn on me that if I’d failed, he wouldn’t be bothering to give me a hard time about one mistake.
Sorry no blog post today. Instead I drove. And drove and drove and drove and drove and drove. Tomorrow is the test. I am just in bed now, entering into a state of profound preparatory relaxation. Ha.
But I am… almost confident. I feel I’m a far safer driver than last time. I’m a lot clearer about what you’re supposed to do with a car. But there’s still the worry that in one moment of inattention I could make a simple error and blow the whole thing.
One such error of course would be to sleep late and fail to turn up. So… Wish me luck.
I hadn’t intended to write about politics at all of course, with my driving test now less than 36 hours away. But if I can break that for something as parochial and – when it comes down to it – irrelevant as an uncorroborated allegation against a relative of a presidential candidate, I can surely spare a few words on the global revolt against capitalism. And as it happens, I have only three:
About ***ing time.
Really, what took so long? When the financial industry has been allowed to get away with the greatest act of larceny in history. When the people of capitalist countries have spent years looking on helplessly as their nations’ wealth was corralled into fewer and fewer pockets. As democracy degenerates into a re-branded aristocracy. As poorer people – indeed, poorer countries – are crushed by systems set up to benefit the rich, while being told that that is their personal failure. How have we managed to put up with this shit for so long?
It is great to see that ordinary people of good intent still believe you can change things. Or maybe they don’t believe that. Maybe they see no hope of ever changing anything. But they protest anyway, because they cannot not protest anymore.
RTÉ, the Irish state broadcaster, seems to be refusing to report the substance of the allegations against Presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon‘s brother.
This scared me half to death when I heard the news this morning. You see in Ireland we have some quite stunningly repressive libel legislation. How else could so many politicians have gotten away with so much? It did appear that this blog was the first here to relay what was being reported in the US, and when even the state-owned broadcaster didn’t dare repeat the answer to the question the whole country was asking, I had a horrible feeling that I must have overstepped the mark. Just how much would I be liable for? So it was with enormous relief that I saw the Irish Times today.
They at least followed suit after the IrishCentral scoop – so quickly and thoroughly in fact (Colm Keena’s background report is excellent) that I suspect they had the story prepared but didn’t want to be the ones to break it. The Irish Independent meanwhile, supposedly the leading quality broadsheet, coyly states only that there have been accusations of a sexual nature against a member of Dana’s family – nothing she hasn’t said herself. It all adds up to a picture of some pretty craven behaviour on the part of the Irish media.
RTÉ may at least have the excuse that as a national broadcaster they are bound by charter to be scrupulously fair to candidates. But when that reaches the point where they cannot report allegations which are now known publicly – as I write they are still saying only that she is upset by “media coverage about a family member” – it becomes pantomime. What’s more it now favours her unfairly, because their flagrant censorship lends weight to her apparent conviction that she is the victim of media persecution.
I passed! I passed my driving test! Well OK, it was just another practice run, but I practise-passed! After two abysmal practice-fails, that’s the best news I’ve had all week. I can’t describe how I feel.
Well actually I can. Tired. I feel very… tired.
I guess it’s relief. Fear of failure has been driving me for the last few days. Now it’s been alleviated a little, I’m as limp as a grounded weather balloon. Some coffee needed here I think. Also breakfast.
I took a long walk around the town of Tuam, shaking the nuts and bolts out of my skeletomuscular system. Had a coffee and a water and a croissant with bacon and cream cheese, and finally felt… still wrecked. But taut, springy. Like after a good workout. Then more driving practice for another two or three hours. Good, but not quite attaining the relentlessness of the day before.
The danger now is that, even on this exceedingly flimsy evidence, I’ll become overconfident again. My skills are still… marginal, to put it nicely. Passing the test is going to be hard. The more I do this, the more it becomes clear that driving well is a juggling act, an exhausting task that requires absolute full-on concentration for a protracted period. And though in time juggling can become second nature, that time is not generally “By next Monday”.
And I’ve got to produce that concentration while trying to make it look like it’s already easy. The proverbial swan – serene on the surface, kicking like a bastard below. So the next few days are going to be… like this I suppose. Exhausting. I want to be able to drive right, I am determined, I believe I can do it. But I wonder if determination and belief can really galvanise me in the same way that staring failure in the face did.
So according to a story just broken by IrishCentral.com, the “vile and false” accusation against a member of Dana Rosemary Scallon‘s family is that her brother – and campaign advisor – John Brown sexually abused their niece.
Pretty vile all right, and from an odd source. No complaint or charge of sexual abuse appears to have been made. The accusation comes from legal testimony given by the father of the alleged victim, Dana’s brother-in-law Dr. Ronald Stein, during the legal wrangling between the partners formerly involved in Dana’s record label. (Heart Beat Records, a “Christian music company the family had established in the U.S.” as IrishCentral describes it.) However he appears not to have accused Dana’s brother of the crime so much as claimed that he confessed to it.
It has to be emphasised that we have no particular reason to believe the accusation. Possibly the testimony by Stein is a fabrication made during a very nasty battle to control a lucrative family business. This is what Dana herself appears to believe, and as the Irish Times reported, the judge in that case said that “no witness spoke only the truth.”
Will this affect her campaign? In fact I think it could do her more good than harm. Unlike the loosely comparable issue dogging Senator David Norris, her brother has not apparently been convicted or even charged with anything, and the full extent of Dana’s involvement, as far as we know at this point, was to try to keep the allegation off the record and out of the papers. That may have been ultimately a foolish move – if an allegation is baseless you inevitably lend it credence by attempting to suppress it – but she doesn’t appear to have done anything at all improper. Then there is the issue that will inevitably follow on. Was some journalist really using this information to threaten her, as she seems to believe? If it can be shown (or made to look like) one was, then she has a sympathy vote coming.
I doubt if it is true though. It seems more likely that she perceived, or wished to characterise, any questions about these allegations as an attempt to undermine her campaign. But she should not pretend, even to herself, that such an allegation made in court is of no legitimate interest to the electorate. The biggest mystery here is how it did not come to light until this late stage.
Will it effect the outcome of the election? No, not at all. She was quite clearly not electable anyway.
Maybe it’s a fantastically complicated ruse to make herself look like a victim. It seems like the only chance she has now. A victim of what? Government, perhaps. The forces of secularism. But I’m guessing the media. She seems like the sort of person to blame the media for things. Which is fair enough I guess. It was the media after all that told everyone she has taken a vow of allegiance to the United States of America, something she seemed perfectly content not to tell us before becoming our President.
And as – in my own little way – the media, I’d like to point out to the US authorities that by running for the Presidency of another country, she is presumably breaking that oath. Last public figure to do that got assassinated with a drone, I mention in passing.
Speculation is rife of course. But I’m puzzled not so much about what the dark secret is, as by how there can be a false allegation known only to her and the… alleger? alligator? I mean, someone surely can’t be sending her anonymous mail to say “Do what I tell you, or I’m going to make up some shit about your mother.” A false allegation would be hurtful, yes, but a secret false allegation just doesn’t make any sense. Furthermore, it makes no sense to tell us about the existence of it.
The only conclusion I can draw is that, whatever it is, it’s probably true.
More frightened than ever now, because I just took a mock driving test. Not great. If it had been a real test, I would have failed. Three or four times.
On the bright side, it was the same thing each time – so really that’s only one error! A minor visual acuity problem, called “Stop-sign blindness”. I just need to remember that when STOP is written in big nasty official-looking letters on a bright red metal octagon fixed up a pole, it is not a suggestion. You be stopped. You put on the handbrake. You write “Me stopped now” in the fog inside your windscreen. OK, maybe that is unnecessary. But the main thing is, you’re definitely stopped.
And then you go again, often immediately.
My other problem is the brakes. I’m scared of brakes – scared I’ll stall if I brake while travelling. Which is unrealistic, but nevertheless I am. So first I tend to rely too heavily on engine braking, moving down a gear when it’s really not necessary, and when I do use the brakes I instinctively depress the clutch as well to prevent stalling, thereby blowing the engine braking. Or I simultaneously change down and then keep the clutch depressed but forget to brake, so instead of smoothly decelerating to a halt I just keep rolling forwards. So then I hit the brakes, let the clutch up, and then stall. Or I just get confused.
Sounds like I’m in a bad way? Not at all. Yesterday I did those things too, but I didn’t know I did them. So I’m making progress. Real progress.