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He really loves the Bomb… the more the better. October 20, 2017

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Where is the surprise in the following:

[According to] NBC News, the secretary of state muttered the remark [a certain President is a moron] to colleagues on July 20 right after a meeting in the Pentagon—a review of U.S. military forces and operations worldwide—attended by Trump, his main advisers, and the top brass.

And:

At one point in the meeting, a briefer showed the president a graph tracking the dramatic reduction in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons over the past several decades. That reduction is widely interpreted as a success story about arms-control treaties, the end of the Cold War, and the declining dependence on weapons of catastrophic destruction. But Trump viewed it with alarm, telling the group that he wanted more nukes. Pointing to the graph’s peak year, 1969, when the U.S. had 32,000 nuclear weapons, Trump said he wanted that many nukes now.

One can only imagine the response in the room to that. One has to have a degree of sympathy – perhaps unusually it has to be said, for the military industrial complex in the US and its representatives, because…

Various officials talked him down, according to the NBC report, noting the legal and practical restrictions and the fact that the roughly 4,000 weapons in our current strategic arsenal are better able to carry out their missions than the much larger force of a half-century ago.

Fred Kaplan argues that there’s no surprise at all, that all this was clear from the point Trump threw his hat into the Presidential race. Certainly if one listens to Foreign Policy magazine and other podcasts it is absolutely clear that the foreign policy/State Department/military/intelligence/pretty much everyone sector in government that deals with the world beyond the borders of the US (and some that deal within) is absolutely incredulous at the current situation. Kaplan notes that Trump has an infatuation with the military and with weapons, pretty much for their own sake. He also notes that he wanted a ‘military parade in honour of his inauguration’ – again he was brought down from this ledge after being told the streets of Washington ‘would be torn up’ by military vehicles.

And Kaplan makes a most interesting point. It is true that few Republican Senators or reps have supported Bob Corker (chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) who said that the White House was like an adult day care centre, but… not one of the Republican Senators came on Wolf Blitzer to criticise Corker. This only takes one so far… as noted elsewhere in Slate, this is grist to Bannon’s mill as he attacks ‘establishment’ Republicans. And yet, one has to wonder. Those representatives aren’t entirely detached from reality. For all the stuff about insurgencies against Republicans egged on by Bannon et al one wonders if that may be backfiring too, and what of Trump’s popularity, hardly stellar to begin with but now according to Ipsos/Reuters declining in the very states that powered him in the electoral college (and another poll shows drops in net approval across the US with him unable to improve his ratings anywhere). Before the celebrations break out it must be noted that much of the disquiet is due to immigration plans not coming to fruition. But that is a function of actual politics as distinct from rhetoric. And there’s little Trump can do to change that as such.

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Surely a former Bank of England chief would know about the implications of Brexit on customs? Or perhaps not. October 20, 2017

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Mervyn King’s intervention in the Brexit debate is interesting, because as with so many others he seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth.
So he argues against the chaos in the UK government:

“The big problem facing the UK is that the government doesn’t seem to have a clear strategy it has enunciated,” King told a Citigroup investment conference in Sydney. “I don’t see why the other side would make concessions at this point except simply out of the goodness of their own heart,’’ he said via video link from New York.
King, who served as Bank of England governor between 2003 and 2013, said he is concerned the government is placing too much weight on negotiating a transition plan when it isn’t clear what it would transition to. “It is more of a kick-the-can-down-the-road plan to put things off for a period,’’ he said.

But then says this:

His comments come after UK chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond last week raised the ire of supporters of Britain’s departure from the European Union by saying he would only start spending money on preparations for a “no-deal” scenario at “the very last moment.”
Mr King described Hammond’s stance as a “a strange position,” saying the government’s first priority should be to focus on a “credible fallback plan that makes it clear to every other member country in the EU that we are capable of leaving in 2019.”
“It’s possible that it might be too late to put in place. Certainly you can’t put in place new arrangements for customs forms and so on, migration arrangements, in the space of a few months,” he said.

Does King genuinely think that a Plan B is simply ‘customs forms’ or ‘migration arrangements’? If so he hasn’t a clue as to the reality of the logistics in regard to the UK becoming a ‘third country’ from the perspective of the EU. It’s not just Richard North now who has noted the implications at Dover and other UK ports (Chris Johns gives a good potted overview of that here ) and the near incredible structural changes that will have to be made – crucially whether this is a hard or soft Brexit. And the idea it was possible to plan and implement a Plan B (because one would have to) given the overall timescale from the referendum itself is for the birds. But hey, ignorance appears to be the default option in regard to Brexit from its proponents and some of the critiques made about it.

Michael Murphy interview October 20, 2017

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Very interesting interview with former newsreader and now psychoanalyst Michael Murphy in the current edition of Hot Press. Conducted by Jason O’Toole Murphy’s thoughts on a range of issues, not least his marriage to his partner Terry O’Sullivan and the struggle for lgbtq rights across many decades.

Did you always know you were gay?

Oh, I did, from a very early age. I knew. I recognised beautiful young men when I was growing up, more so than women. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I actually made the connection that sexuality tends in this particular way. It was extremely difficult because you really felt that you were a freak: you thought that you were the only gay in the village. It was only after a while that the gaydar would work and you’d suddenly say, ‘Hey, that’s somebody who’s similar to me’, and you’d strike up a tentative conversation.

A million miles away from what it’s like today…
Young kids today have no idea of the struggle we were involved in. I appreciate that it is still very difficult. And it is certainly difficult to tell your parents, because you worry that they’ll be disappointed in you. But the people of Ireland have accepted that there are gay people in their society and they’ve also accepted that you’re not supposed to poke fun at these people, and that it is a valid option. So, it’s a completely different world to when I was growing up.

I’m sure you still feel undercurrents of homophobia.
That was part of the conversation Terry and I had recently: we’re being very visible here, getting married. It’s an internalised homophobia that we have and that we have to overcome. And you wonder when you make your vows what people will think – will they have a go at you?

He makes an observation about Leo Varadkar…

Before Leo Varadkar came out, he actually stated in a Hot Press interview that he was against same sex marriage. Isn’t that bizarre?
Yes. It puts my love on a par with men and women who marry. Because my love is exactly the same, my depth of it, my care, my devotion is there. It’s very important to have that recognised and not to be excluded. I wouldn’t go so far as to say discriminated against, but excluded. Wasn’t Leo up there recently in Belfast at a marriage equality rally? So, he has changed his mind on that. And
I’m sure as he matures he will change his mind on a lot of things. That’s the wonderful thing about human beings: they can hold a position and then suddenly, when they’re presented with evidence, change that position.

There’s a lot more in the interview and it’s well worth reading, and in passing it touches on a very political aspect – his being the uncle of Paul Murphy and his attitude to the Jobstown protest which he is very much against due to the conferring that was taking place that day.

He’s also intriguing observations about RTÉ and the issue of retiring people at 66 (though that is obviously changing, for better and for worse).

This Week At Irish Election Literature October 20, 2017

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cpi37
Communist Party of Ireland statement on the 1937 Referendum on The Constitution and the Election held the same day.

The 1977 Fianna Fail General Election Manifesto, which I finally got my hands on!

A 2004 European Elections leaflet from Kathy Sinnott who is currently on Hunger Strike over the Oireachtas Committee not watching an abortion video.

A Flyer from Liam Van Der Spek who is The Labour Local Area Rep in Cavan

Dublin Workers Film Festival 2017 – Progressive Film Club October 19, 2017

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We are back after a long(very) summer break. This time to publicise an interesting film festival from our friends in the DWFF.
Also, watch out for the upcoming Cuban Film Festival on the 24/25/26th November. We will, once again be collaborating with the Cuban Embassy to present a collection of the latest films from the Havana Film Festival. Keep the dates free. Programme will be published soon.

Being a Leftist October 19, 2017

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Here’s a question, or actually, here’s a raft of questions. How do leftists manage in a capitalist world? Are there ways we can live, interact, organise that allow us to remain true to ourselves as well as progressing the projects we support?

Perhaps the flip side of this is to ask what is not being a leftist in this world?

And it seems to me there are many areas – perhaps all areas of life where this has a pertinence. In our social interactions, in economics and how we engage with the market and so on, in our activism.

Let’s put it a different way. What in our lives is similar to the way non-leftists live them. What is different? Are there areas where we can be more leftist?

Signs of Hope – A continuing series October 19, 2017

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

Closure of post offices and other resources? It’s not the State to blame, it’s right wing governments… October 19, 2017

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I’ve got to admit I was a bit irritated by this line from an Taoiseach the other day when speaking about the closure of rural post offices…

I read interesting analysis, not too long ago, of politics in France, And in France, the people who are most likely to vote for the Front National, for extreme right – or even extreme left – parties, are those who live furthest away from the post office, a Garda station or a train station.And I think, in many ways, the closure of post offices across rural Ireland – and the closure, indeed, even of Garda stations across rural Ireland – to many people is the State retreating and the State and the public sector abandoning them. And I’m very aware of the sensitivities in communities when a post office is closed: they feel that the State has pulled out and pulled away from them and doesn’t care about them anymore.

And that’s why – eh, one of the reasons – that we are determined to maintain and secure the post office network into the future.

As it happens I suspect he is in one part correct – remove services, facilities and resources and people will naturally go looking for others to assist in bringing them back (albeit the FN and similar parties usually have little more than cosmetic smear of support for citizens in such instances whereas these are fundamental to actual left programmes) But he makes it sound as if it is the State which has decided on this course of action when of course it is the political class of which he is a member – a right wing political class (bar the dishonourable examples from former social democracy) for the most part which has overseen such policies.

So it is more than a fraction disingenuous to frame this as he does.

The RDS on Saturday…. October 18, 2017

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Did an exhibition at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis in the RDS at the weekend. As ever I really enjoyed it. It’s lovely to get to show off some of my collection to an appreciative audience. It’s good for making connections with the person who has a few posters up in the outhouse or in the attic, a stack of leaflets somewhere and so on. Given it’s nostalgia it got it’s usual great reception.
Many more stands than the previous time in the RDS (in 2015), some party ones, others quite interesting like the UNHCR stand which had a typical tent used by refugee families. Conradh na Gaeilge, Irish Heart Foundation, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, National Women’s Council and various books and Souvenirs . There were also stands from USIT, The National Lottery and others. The increase in size seemed reflected in the number of delegates too.
My daughter and nephew were helping out for the day and enjoyed the whole experience. It’s a unique thing that most of us will never get to see. My daughter remarked that it was like a mix of a wedding and All Ireland. You’re dressed up to the nines, meeting and greeting people you may not have seen in years. How FF for its members was a lot more than a party. It was a lifestyle choice. People at the Ard Fheis with their parents, their grandparents and so on. Having a party heritage being very well thought of. Their social lives being partly the party.
Nobody thrilled with the current arrangement with FG, but surprisingly nobody jumping for the plug to be pulled either. Seems there’s no rush and well there will be plenty of time for something to arise that would be worth pulling the plug for. Danger too is that they won’t come back as the largest party and well they’d be in the same position again!
Saw Colum Eastwood and some other SDLP people there, although upon observing their presence and the rumoured merger, I was told that they are regulars at the Ard Fheis.
Given that there was an abortion debate , I was hoping that there would be some unofficial material distributed, alas there wasn’t and talked to a few people who went to the debate and they confirmed that there was nothing. The outcome I found depressing but it also showed how Conservative The FF membership actually are. There could be 50 Savitas a year and it wouldn’t change anything. Rather than a young/old split it seemed more like a Dublin+London/ Rest of the Ireland split on the 8th. It also shows what a challenge the whole Referendum debate will be with despite everything we know it coming down to “murdering babies” for a large portion of voters.
*I see the Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment has recommended that the 8th go, despite all the victim hood and play acting out of Mullen and Co.

Catalonia and other matters. October 18, 2017

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Many thanks to the person who sent this, written by Archon of the Southern Star.

PERHAPS if our esteemed Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, had spent some time reading the history of Catalonia, he wouldn’t have made such a contemptuous assessment of that country’s recent independence referendum.

Parroting the EU and Spanish Government line, Vlad declared that the Irish Government would not acknowledge the result of the Catalan referendum, despite the fact that 90% of voters backed independence. He loftily declared the referendum illegal because it did not respect the laws, constitution and ‘territorial unity of Spain.’

That was his opinion but the fact that he saw fit to lecture us on the need to support the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy in his constitutional battle with Catalonia was grotesque, if for no other reason than because in 2016 an EU report labelled Spain’s government to be the most corrupt in Europe!

Of course, Fine Gael’s endorsement of the right-wing Rajoy was par for the course. After all, Eoin O’Duffy, a self-proclaimed fascist and the first president of Fine Gael, took 700 Blueshirts to Spain in 1936 to help destroy a sovereign, democratic state under attack from General Franco’s fascistic armies.

Yet, one might have assumed that, before making his pronouncement, Vlad would have rummaged through a book about Catalonia and read something relating to the huge sense of injustice that underpins the Catalan independence movement. He could have started with Lluís Companys, the president of Catalonia until 1940. Franco murdered him.

But the historical grievances of Catalans do not interest Varadkar. Injustices such as Spain’s abolition of Catalonia’s political institutions, laws that prohibited speaking Catalan in public or using it in official business, the summary executions of some 3,400 anti-Franco opponents between 1938 and 1957, the disappeared, the arrests, the torture, and the fact that one of Franco’s last political acts was to order in 1974 the death by strangulation of a 26-year old political activist, Salvador Puig Antich.

With such political horrors embedded in the collective memory, it was inevitable Catalans would seek political independence. And it also was inevitable that Varadkar and his government – who are no friends of nationalism, Irish or Catalan – should mount a bone-headed defence of Spain’s controversial prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

At the heart of the matter was Rajoy’s use of the Guardia Civil to disrupt the Catalan referendum through violent means, a tactic that made little sense by reason of the fact that the pro-independence movement could have lost the referendum because of lack of support.

Varadkar, however, chose to ignore the arrest of officials, the seizure of ballot boxes and the firing of plastic bullets to try to prevent the referendum from happening. Nor did it concern our Taoiseach that some years ago this same police force narrowly failed in an attempt to seize power.

Worse still, Madrid’s heavy handed reaction compromised the success of any future moves to negotiate an agreement that would end the crisis.

Indeed, Varadkar with his ‘hard man’ approach to a problem that had nothing to do with this country sounded as extreme as Rajoy. What a pity that, before sounding-off like a foghorn, the Taoiseach did not seek the advice of someone like the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop.

She said, in relation to Catalan independence, that ‘all peoples have the right to self-determination and to choose the form of government best suited to their needs, a principle which is enshrined in the UN Charter.’

And, then, there’s this question: if, according to the Varadkar logic, the Catalans acted illegally, did Sinn Fein in 1919 also act illegally when its newly-elected MPs chose to establish a national parliament in Dublin rather than attend the one in London? Indeed the first step towards independence was the Dáil’s rejection of British law, Britain’s unwritten Constitution and Britain’s ‘territorial unity.’

Just like Catalonia in regards to Spain!

Here’s an interesting one: Three of Ireland’s premier food producers in the dairy sector are up to their oxters in bovine ordure. They’ve been listed in the national media as among the country’s worst polluters when it comes to environmental compliance.

Companies that breach environmental regulations are subject to increased inspections and monitoring by the environmental regulator. They also have to endure some rather bad publicity.

All very embarrassing for the country’s premier agri-business, particularly when the response to the news was swift and controversial. For instance, the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) came straight out and demanded that the government should abolish its ongoing Origin Green campaign.

Created by An Bord Bia as the world’s first national food sustainability programme, Origin Green’s purpose is to bring together the entire food industry – farmers, food producers, retailers and foodservice operators – in pursuit of a common goal.

And that goal is the production of safe, nutritious food within a viable industry that –as the blurb puts it – simultaneously ‘protects and enhances the natural environment and the local community.’

But, now, concerned by the distressing EPA report, the Irish Wildlife Trust has described the Bord Bia marketing initiative as ‘a sham.’ It said Origin Green created the false impression that all was well in the countryside, when it wasn’t.

Birdwatch Ireland also dived into to the controversy, commenting that the revelations didn’t come as a surprise. It made the important point that the government’s agricultural policies were not compatible with environmental protection, and that polluting companies should not get Origin Green certification.

In the meantime, residents and community organisations in East Cork – Cobh, East Ferry and Aghada – are following the ongoing controversy with great interest. They’ve already objected to Dairygold’s plan to build a 14-kilometre pipeline from Mogeely to East Ferry in Cork Harbour. The pipeline will be used to discharge three million litres of waste water every day from a new cheese production facility at Mogeely.

The East Cork objectors are awaiting a planning appeal decision on the matter, but Dairygold says the new plant will not cause a deterioration in water quality.

However, studies undertaken by NUI Galway contradict the co-op’s assertion that waste dumped in the inner harbour from the proposed factory would be carried safely away on outgoing tides.

And, to add to Dairygold woes, locals living in Mogeely are concerned at proposals for a new factory. In a submission to the planning appeals authority they say their lives have been damaged by ‘highly-offensive odours and extremely loud noise’ from the factory that already exists in their town.

But, intriguingly, whatever the outcome of appeals to An Bord Pleanála, one thing is certain: the current travails of some of Ireland’s largest farmer-owned agri-businesses have created a rumpus of considerable proportions.

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