Thursday, October 27, 2016

ASTI strike

While not making any comment on today's ASTI strike it is worth noting that the Germans pay their teachers different rates for similar work.

Teachers, along with all public servants, earn more money in the west than in the east, the former German Democratic Republic.

When it comes to discrimination, the ASTI should remember that it has discriminated as to who can join join its union.

And never a word of apology.

When I began teaching the ASTI refused me membership. As a priest, they considered me management.

Then and now I have never been part of management, something to wear as a badge of honour.

Vatican ashes

The story of the Vatican document on what to do with human ashes is unfortunate.

Or is it all part of a political power game in an attempt to stall the work of Pope Francis?

Serious or just funny?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

UK's Ukip inquiry makes public its brawling affair

Ukip announced this evening the results of an internal inquiry into a brawl between two of its members. Since the brawl one of the antagonists/participants has left the party.

It's interesting to observe organisations/institutions which have their members brawling with each other.

Also, it says a lot about the management of such organisations.

It's worrying that organisations, which have a public dimension, allow brawling members to remain within the fold.

At least Ukip has to be commended for holding an inquiry.

Far too much aggression on Dublin's dangerous roads

There has been a significant increase in traffic in the Dublin area in recent months.

With that increase there has been an ever-growing aggression on the roads.

The streets and roads have become a far more dangerous place. And the offenders are both drivers of cars and cyclists.

Cyclists, and cars too, crashing traffic lights.

Policing seems negligible.

Many cyclists are travelling far too fast, too close and too aggressively as are so many drivers of cars.

And this is being noted by someone who has been cycling in the city for 62 years.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lagerfeld wants to make the earth a more pleasant place

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Do you like your surroundings? Or are you even unaware of them?

It is spectacularly uplifting to walk into a home, an office or a public place and see it tastefully decorated, where form follows function.

Some weeks ago I spent a few days away from home. I arrived in my  accommodation and went straight to my room. I was instantly struck by the ugly furniture in the room. Bland, boring, a white table, wardrobe, bed post, all in a depressing plastic! And then the pictures and paintings on the walls were horrible beyond words. It was an uninviting atmosphere. Doubtful if there had been any thought or planning gone into putting the room together.

It set me thinking about how the environment around us can influence our mood and peace of mind. It also prompted me to wonder about style and fashion.

Of course people like different things. Also, fashion changes from season to season: one year green can be the colour, the following year it's blue. Trends change continuously and they are influenced by many things, including films, exhibitions, events. The Olympic Games, big football occasions, all play a part in influencing styles and fashions.

Anyone who watches RTE TV's 'Reeling in the Years' will notice how styles change over time. We look at it and are tempted to say how 'silly' people looked 'back then'. But on the other hand it's what people felt at ease in, they felt 'great' looking like that. 

Personal style never goes out of fashion.

There are those who follow trends, but surely the underlying principle should and must be that style or fashion cheers us, helps make us feel good and look good too.

Paris-based German fashion designer, artist and photographer Karl Lagerfeld says it well: “I’m a very down-to-earth person, but it is my job to make  that earth more pleasant."

I was at a meeting in a hall some weeks ago. Looking around the room I noticed the prints/pictures that were on the walls. I can't believe anyone would look at any of them and I can't imagine how they could ever possibly lift one's spirits. Why at all are they there?

Do you like your surroundings? Are they uplifting, joyous, relaxing?  Do you regularly look at the paintings on your wall? Do they help make you a happier person? Do they challenge you and inspire you?

I probably know nothing about art or design but I do know what I like and don't like.

A friend of mine, who is an artist, has been making hand cut paper collages for the past few years. The images that she creates pop with colour and energy. And immediately lift your spirits and give you great pleasure as soon as you see them. 

Last year she and a fellow artist friend of hers exhibited their work in Wexford during the Opera Festival. It was my friend's artistic debut and to her delight it proved such a success they are back exhibiting again this year during the Opera Festival. The exhibition, Phase .: 3, which opens this Wednesday, October 26 is taking place at 44 South Main Street, Wexford, opposite Penneys.

I bought three works at the exhibition last year and yes, they do enhance my home.... adding colour and elegance, and  I regularly look at them and it does me good.

There is an emotional power in shapes, forms and colour. And you don't have to 'know' about art to enjoy or appreciate objects of art that you like and admire.

Do you like your surroundings, those paintings on the wall?

Monday, October 24, 2016

A day in history

On this day in 1942 the very first hints of a defeat for Nazi Germany on the Volga began to appear. A Soviet victory on the great river was no longer seen as completely impossible.

Operations of Paulus' Sixth Army in Stalingrad slowed down considerably due to exhaustion after two weeks of intense fighting as well as the weather growing appreciably colder.

UN anniversary

The United Nations was founded on this day in 1945.

It came into being after World War ll in order to prevent such an event ever happening again.

On October 24, 1945 there were 51 member states, today there are 193.

Ireland joined on December 14, 1955.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Award for Carolin Emcke

Carolin Emcke was awarded the German Book Publishers Peace Prize (Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels) in the famous Paulskirche in Frankfurt-am-Main today.

'Stupid' Tories are going to do Brexit the hard way

Excellent piece in yesterday's The Irish Times by Stephen Collins on Brexit.

Probably 'excellent' because the writer of this blog agrees with it. But also, because it is so clear to follow, no going back and having to re-read a sentence.

The PR of the powerful versus the powerless

Today's Gospel reading (Luke 18: 9 - 14), the parable of the Pharisee telling us how great he is and then the little man down the back of the temple, who asks for mercy, is a great story.

The last line runs: For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised up.

Does anything ever change in state or church? Simple answer: no.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Run on Irish passports

After the Brexit vote 14,228 applications for Irish passports were received at the Irish Embassy inLondon  during the months of August and September.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Maybe it's good to hide the meaning of an acronym

Like everything in life, most things, ideas, whatever, always have some purpose.

And so it is with the acronym. It's much easier to say Nato than North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, ESB Networks, than Electricity Supply Board Networks. People work in IT.

But so often the same acronym can become a method of obfuscation. And many reasons for that.

Sometimes just as well one does not know what they mean.

There is one in St James's Hospital: it's MISA or Misa. The Mercer Institute for Successful Ageing.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Caught red-handed

On one day last week 900,000 cigarettes were seized at Dublin Port.

The cigarettes had been illegally imported into the country.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Vatican watcher Politi talks in Trinity on Francis papacy

German Italian journalist and Vatican watcher Marco Politi spoke in glowing terms in Trinity College last evening on the papacy of Pope Francis. He was a guest of the Loyola Institute.

Clearly he is a fan of the pope from Argentina.

But there seems to be some sort of disjoint between what Francis is saying and what's happening in the church in Ireland.

Politi spoke at length on the type of people who are being appointed to senior positions under Francis.

What does the pope know about what's happening in Ireland and the style and type of men who are being appointed to the Irish episcopacy?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How genuine is Trump's apology after he's found out?

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
While the most sophisticated jets ever made drop their bombs over Syrian cities, particularly Aleppo, the United States of America prepares for its November elections.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton slug it out. It's not a pretty show. While they fight it out Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, does not know where Aleppo is.

The now infamous tape of the Donald telling his buddies, using foul language, what he can do with and to women, has orbited the world many times over.

What a nasty piece of work he is. But it fits. It complements a lot of the other nasty things he has been saying: Mexican thieves and rapists and Muslim undesirables.

If it weren't so sad it would be hilariously funny. To think that millions of people will vote next month to put this man in the White House is scary. At the Republican convention that elected him to be the party's presidential candidate a middle-aged woman said that she was voting for him because he was a man with great family values.

What was particularly noteworthy was how the Donald apologised for his 'locker room language'. It's an interesting term. What at all goes on in locker rooms?

The apology reminds me of an episode fadó fadó in the US soap 'Dallas'. JR Ewing was up to trickery but was caught by his wife. He apologises and she quips that the only reason he apologised was because he was caught. Of course the only reason he says he's sorry is because he was found out.

I can't imagine the Donald voluntarily apologising for a wrong-doing if we didn't already know about it.

This is the same man who wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico in order to keep out undesirables. Maybe he needs to build a high wall around himself.

It's the same story with the whole sad affair of clerical child sex abuse. If it had never become public knowledge the churches would never have uttered a word of apology. Even worse, church authorities did their damnedest to keep it all quiet. Heavens only knows how much they paid in hush-hush money and how many deals of confidentiality were drawn up between perpetrators and victims. Is all the profuse apologising a result of having been found out?

Last week in Germany there was another example of hypocrisy. The Rosenburg Report was published, which gives a tiny glimpse into how in postwar Germany so many former Nazi officials walked into top State jobs. 

The former Nazis managed to protect one another and they were in a position to keep everything under the carpet. Most were never uncovered. On the other hand, the German State has been exemplary in trying to make amends for the barbarous evil of National Socialism.

There was a line in the Gospel reading at Mass on Wednesday of last week:  "A curse is on you Pharisees, for you love the best seats in the synagogues and to be greeted in the market place."

It reminded me of the Trumps of this world. People thinking they deserve a special spot in the limelight. And then when they're caught the apology is the cure-all.

But in a way, isn't it something we all try. We do wrong, no-one hears about it so we stay stum. If we are found out we might own-up and say we are sorry. 

How genuine is our sorrow? But it is different from the carry on of the Pharisees, postwar Nazis church apparatchicks and the Trumps of this world. Or is it?

Monday, October 17, 2016

'Swaggering Trump offends even in his defence'

Powerful piece by Maureen Dowd in today's The Irish Times.

Oscar Wilde on religion

Scientologists have moved in to a new plush building in Dublin's Merrion Square. It's not far from the Oscar Wilde monument.

Oscar Wilde's take on religion: .... like a blind man looking in a black room for a black cat that isn't there, and finding it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Working pastoral bishops

Peru jouirnalist Alejandro Bermúdez says of the men Pope Francis is to give red hats to on November 19:

They aren't so interested in leading cultural battles, but more in doing pastoral work.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The power and the glory

The 'Thinking Anew' column in today's The Irish Times.

Michael Commane
 The front page headline on last week's German weekly newspaper 'Die Zeit' ran: 'The power of the insulted'. A very clever headline that tells the story of our time.

Populist politicians in the western world are tapping into the feelings of those who feel dispossessed, those who feel they have lost out.

There is a mood about that the world is tired of the status quo, that the elite have been in control for far too long and simply do not understand the plight of the 'squeezed middle' and those who 'keep things going'.

Part of the irony of the current political play is that those who claim to be on the side of the common people are quite clearly deeply ensconced in the heart of the so-called elite classes.

It's baffling how mega-wealthy privileged people can give the impression that somehow they are 'one of us'. And it seems to be working. Right across the western world, there are millions of people who are now placing their trust and indeed hope in right-wing ideologues. History, and indeed, common sense,  tell us that such people and their policies always leave the poorest people in society less well off.

There are always battles as to who should be the ruling class. There are peaceful ways to do it but such change can also happen through bloody revolution.

But it does seem that right now there is a worldwide cry for change. And that cry seems to want to swing the pendulum in a right-wing direction. It's also happening within the churches. And it seems to be inevitable that the tectonic plates are moving.

There is no doubt that our leaders need to be more answerable to us and more careful in how they use the world's resources. However, the loudest voices for change  often offer us fear, begrudgery and isolation. That can never be good.

But that's the way of the world. Power is some sort of aphrodisiac and there are those who crave to be in the top jobs. They will do anything to get to the top. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Tomorrow's Gospel throws some sort of universal wisdom on our relationship with those who hold worldly power.

A poor widow pleads with a corrupt and powerful judge to help her in her miserable plight. She is simply looking for justice to be done. She wants him to intervene on her behalf and help right the wrong that has been done to her. She is persistent and keeps asking him to do what is right.

Eventually, he comes on board. His reasoning is: "Even though I neither fear God nor care about people, this widow bothers me so much, I will see that she gets justice; then she will stop coming and wearing me out." (Luke 18: 4 - 5)

Commentators use this Gospel to point out how prayer, our pleading to God ultimately works. If a corrupt judge will eventually listen to a nagging woman, how much more will a loving God, listen to our pleading. And that makes great sense.

But there is also a story in that Gospel that is telling us that all power on earth is limited, temporal and ecclesiastical. And that no matter who is in power or what ideology is prevalent, that we can never rest on our laurels and allow those in power and control to do as they wish.

Plato's gnat, who constantly asked questions of those in power, is always needed to keep us and the ruling classes on their toes.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus is always at the heels of those in power, no matter what hue they are.

Yes, we have to live by the rules, but putting all our trust in any sort of temporal power is never the full story. There is something greater to be found by looking upwards and contemplating the word of God.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The story of a Syrian family in their home of adoption

BBC 2's 'Newsnight' last evening told the story of the Badreddin family from Syria.

The family came to Britian under a programme launched by the then British prime minister, David Cameron.

On their arrival, BBC filmed their first steps in the their new country. While filming, their son, Omar Badreddin, was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Leazes Park in Newcastle.

Yesterday in Newcastle Court Omar was found not guilty.

The approximately 25-minute 'Newsnight' clip is a moving story of how an innocent family suffered so much in their country of adoption.

The programme ran from 22.30 yesterday and excellent television.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A terrible insult to tramps to call him Tramp Trump

The latest Trump revelations would make it all so funny if it were not so serious, vulgar and pathetic.

Amazing a tag such as Tramp Trump has never appeared. Then again, it would be a terrible insult to tramps.

Before Hitler came to power, the management at Mercedes realised he was a moron but believed once in power they would be in a position to contorl him.

From 1933 onwards they supplied him every year with a new top-of-the range vehicle, indeed, specially built for the 'moron'.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Report shows Nazi influence in postwar Germany

Piece in yesterday's The Irish Times makes for great reading.

But why should anyone be surpised? Isn't it, more or less, similar style peolpe who make their way to the top jobs in all the professions. Every now and again, someone special turns up.

At the former Stasi HQ in Berlin's Normanen Strasse there is a picture of the top brass in the organisation.

Take a trip to Wansee in the south east of the city and there too on the wall is a photo of the men who planned the 'final solution'.

Both pictures show men who look educated, knowledgeable. Most of them lawyers.

The way of the world.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Primo Levi's words put a 50-minute delay into context

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Early morning flights out of Dublin are not for the fainthearted.

It was the 07.20 Ryanair service to Berlin. It meant getting out of the bed at 04.15. The taxi fare from Dundrum to the airport was €17 short of the return Dublin Berlin ticket. We certainly live in a strange and unexplainable world.

It appears Monday mornings are the busiest in the week at the airport. 

The queue at security seems endless but it did end and everyone was on the plane shortly after 07.00. Schedule departure time is 07.20. Michael O'Leary would be delighted with the efficiency of the staff. And all done in a seamless fashion. It was a full plane. 

Monday October 3 was a national holiday in Germany. The Germans celebrate national unity every year on that date. Last year it was on a Sunday. Tough luck for the Germans. No free day on the Monday.

It seemed everyone on the plane was German, taking advantage of the free Monday.

All passengers sitting in their seats, ready for take off. The plane is pushed back from the stand. It's bye bye Dublin. Or is it?

The plane creeps along. Then sometime around 07.30 the pilot tells us we are in a queue and there would be a delay in taking off. There are 11 planes ahead of us. He keeps us well informed. It is approximately 08.10 before the wheels leave the ground. Never before experienced such a delay at Dublin Airport but one of the cabin crew tells me that is how it is every morning at that time.

We eventually arrive in Berlin Schönefeld at 11.00 German time. Ryanair must hate that sort of delay as it causes knock-on delays. They take pride in extra short turn-arounds but any hi-cough and the proverbial hits the fan.

I was sitting beside a couple from Wismar, which is in north Germany, a city in the former East German State.

They had been in Dublin for the weekend. It was their first time in Ireland and they had enjoyed themselves. They stayed in a hotel in the north inner city, found it somewhat expensive. They were generally positive about Dublin but were surprised to see so many empty and dilapidated buildings. They'd come back and would like to visit the south west of Ireland.

Wismar is not far from the former west east border. People in the east are still earning less than their fellow citizens in the west. They told me they know people who travel a 90-minute return train journey every day to Lübeck in the west where they earn significantly more money. Different rates of pay for the same job happen not just in Ireland.

I was on a five-day visit to the German capital with a friend, who had never been in the city.

Later that day we visited the Memorial to The Murdered Jews of Europe. It is in the heart of the city, near the Brandenburg Gate.

The memorial was opened on May 12, 2005 and consists of 2,711 concrete blocks over an area of 19,000 square metres. There has been controversy about the memorial. Walking through it, getting lost inside it, gives one a tiny glimpse of the terror of Nazi tyranny.

There is also an information centre which chronicles some of the horror that millions of people suffered.

Inside the main door is a quote from Primo Levi:
"It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say."

A 50-minute delay at Dublin Airport is little to worry about.

Monday, October 10, 2016

RTÉ's Chemnitz

RTÉ is badly mispronouncing the German city of Chemnitz. It's pronounced Kemnitz and not Schemnitz, as the national broadcaster is pronouncing it.

The old name of the city was much easier to get right: Karl Marx Stadt.

Very few words in German begin with a c. Maybe that explains the mispronunciation.

More Trump

Nice piece in Saturdays' Guardian.

And then this in today's Guardian:

‘I did not say that … it’s locker room talk’
Trump did say that he would “grab [women] by the pussy”, and was recorded saying so in 2005 in a video published by the Washington Post on Friday.
Pressed by moderator Anderson Cooper, he did admit to having made the comment, though he then said he had never actually acted in the way. He was accused of “attempted rape” in the 1990s, though never convicted.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

That border again

The picture features in this week's German weekly newspaper 'Die Zeit'. It is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The paper gives a full page to how Brexit might or will bring back old wounds.

Journalist Jochen Bittner interviews former member of the IRA, Richard O'Rawe, who gives advice to the Europeans, especially the German government:

Be hard with the British. That' the only thing that will bring them to their senses.

The headline on the piece runs: Is that the new EU-border?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Headline catches the mood

The headline in this week's 'Die Zeit'.

Clever headline: 'The power of the insulted/offended'