Saturday, 21 June 2008

First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

Like a grey ghost, first edging slowly onto the stage, then like that bird on a wire, Leonard Cohen showed us all how to be free. Seeing him play last night at the Manchester Opera house merely served to cement his legendary status in the minds of all present. For an amazing three hours, the 73-year old moved effortlessly through old, familiar classics and some of his more modern greats. Notwithstanding the frequent cheesefest that was the backing band (we're talking the schmaltziest of solos on the sax and Hammond organ here) or the guy sitting next to me who intermittently decided to sing out of time and key, this was a fantastic gig.

From peppering the show with humorous little anecdotes to lifting the roof off the opera house with a spectacular version of Hallelujah, Mr. Cohen presented a masterclass in performance. I don't even care that every gig cannot be this memorable; I will take this one with me to the grave.
Sincerely, S. Wednesday.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

So, is Ireland going to become part of some pan-European superstate with huge military expenditure and the capacity to fiddle with the corporate tax rates of individual nations?

According to some "No" camp commentators, this is the vision of Europe that awaits us. While there may be many valid reasons for voting No in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty tomorrow, the primary arguments put forth from the "No" side are generally not among them. These arguments include loss of neutrality, loss of control of internal tax systems, introduction of abortion, legalisation of prostitution and the mandatory taking of hard drugs (I'm not sure who came up with that one, but it's been bandied about repeatedly). Fortunately for the "Yes" camp, none of these issues rings true.

For me, voting yes tomorrow is a vote for a more streamlined, democratic and transparent EU that guarantees the basic rights of its people. The fact that there is no single giant golden carrot to offer the Irish people has made this a hard sell for the "Yes" side. It is a much easier decision to say that the treaty is too complicated and other people should have done a better job at explaining it to you, than to actually go out and try to understand the core issues.

More than one person has told me that they planned on voting no until they found out more about the actual content of the treaty. So, please, if you plan on voting No, at the very least make sure you are informed and you do it for the right reasons.