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Fear of an election? May 24, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Stephen Collins makes an interesting point re the selection of Brendan Howlin as leader of the Labour Party last week when he suggests that:

One of the reasons TDs wanted Howlin to take over without a long internal debate is the belief among many of them that the Government is not going to last more than a few months and they need to be ready for an election at any time.

Three thoughts strike me. First that they may be right in that respect – it certainly would be sensible to treat this Dáil term as an extended pre-election period. Though, whether anyone is going to go very soon is more open to question giving the state of the polls. Secondly that they’re remarkably optimistic for a party who did so poorly last time out that matters would change in the interim – particularly given their polling numbers are decreasing yet further. Thirdly, that oddly enough a contest with Kelly and Howlin going head to head might actually have been useful for them in terms of redefining the LP. Of course, it might not, but one thing that seems to me reasonably certain is that for the LP the issue is to change the narrative in relation to the party. Part of that process is making the last government seem like then, rather than a little before now – and that is a distinction with meaning.

The problem is that Alan Kelly seems even more wedded to the record of that government than might be expected. So perhaps an Alan Kelly LP would be all about the then. Not that a Howlin LP is going to be much different. It was genuinely remarkable to see Kevin Humphrey’s being so loyal to Jobbridge. When the SBP amongst others is saying that the scheme is tilted too much towards employers who are exploiting those on it, well, these things are clues.

One interesting aspect of the Kelly debacle was the sense of entitlement that came from that quarter. Another was the rather entertaining fact that others had been elected under precisely the same system and no complaint had been raised by him, or his colleagues, as regards the way it worked. I tend to the view that if an organisation has a structure and processes that are broadly agreed by its members then it is near pointless to complain if they are worked as they can be. A more useful question is to ask why the supposed of alternative of Kelly appears to be no alternative at all and what that tells us about the situation of the LP today.

I don’t know if this will hobble Howlin in the future, is it too much like inside baseball to resonate negatively further afield? But it is telling perhaps that long before last week a narrative regarding his wish to be elected without a contest had already been established (Phoenix, if I recall correctly, had something on this). But in a way, and this is another aspect that is important to keep in mind, it doesn’t matter. The LP is largely irrelevant in this Dáil. What Howlin can do to alter that state of affairs remains difficult to discern.

Water wars… May 24, 2016

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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The political conflict around water continues. That FF is waxing and waning on the issue isn’t unimportant.

But this is also useful, one suspects, for the government in forcing its new and potentially more recalcitrant members into line on the matter. For examples, consider John Halligan’s plight:

Independent Minister of State John Halligan will vote with the Government in a Dáil debate calling for the abolition of water charges this week, after initially indicating he would support a Sinn Féin motion on the issue.

So there was a chat:

The Waterford TD clarified his position after speaking to Simon Coveney, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, who also has responsibility for water charges and Irish Water.
It is understood that Mr Coveney and Mr Halligan, who is the Minister of State for Training and Skills, discussed a counter-motion to be tabled by the Government.

And all is changed:

Mr Halligan’s initial statement that he could back the Sinn Féin motion on abolishing Irish Water and water charges came before he had read the actual motion. Voting against the Government would in effect have meant he would lose his ministerial job.

And so no one will be half in and out of the government. Not if FG can help it.

Greece… again. May 24, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The Observer Business Leader has some pertinent points about the latest phase of the Greek crisis. It notes that:

Greece’s predicament is simple. It has debt repayments to make this summer and it doesn’t have the money to pay the bills. The European Union can solve this acute cashflow problem by unlocking the funds pledged to Greece under the terms of last summer’s bailout agreement, but it will only do so if Athens demonstrates that it is serious about sorting out its budget. Austerity today will lead to generosity from EU finance ministers when they meet on Tuesday.

So that’s something to watch out for today. But it suggests that something has changed:

Here’s where things get interesting. The difference between this Sunday and all the other tension-packed Sundays that have studded the Greek crisis over the past six and a half years is that, this time, the battle is not between Greece and the “troika” of the European commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Instead, there is a face-off between Europe and the IMF.

And:

The Europeans badly want the fund to be part of Greece’s bailout and to contribute money to it. But Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, says her support is conditional on two things: a credible deficit reduction plan and a decent slug of debt relief.
Hardline EU governments, led by Germany, have resisted this idea, fearing the Greeks will interpret any writedown of its debts as a sign of weakness that Athens will exploit to avoid meeting its budgetary commitments.

What’s astounding about this is that this is the same discussion that has been going on now for years. Greece is unable to make repayments, Europe demands more. The IMF plays a curious role both supportive of the latter and making a case for the former. Good cop and bad cop to the EU’s bad cop.

Is the situation genuinely as serious as follows?

EU finance ministers have sought to bridge the gap with the IMF by saying debt relief will be provided “if necessary” at the end of the bailout in 2018. This has the advantage, as far as Berlin is concerned, of deferring a decision until after German elections next year.
The IMF is not going to swallow this classic piece of Brussels fudge. It wants debt relief for Greece and it wants it now. If not, the fund will walk away. This has been made abundantly clear by Lagarde and her officials.

Well, the leader notes that Brussels won’t accept a write-off. But… and here is where the duplicity of the process becomes most evident, instead:

… so as an alternative to a “haircut”, the fund has proposed exceptionally soft terms: nothing until 2040, a 40-year repayment period thereafter lasting until 2080, and a 1.5% cap on interest rates. The fund believes this sort of package is necessary because Greece is expected to do the impossible – run a budget surplus of 3.5% of GDP excluding debt interest payments for two decades.

Nothing can be done. Something must be done. Some formula will be found so that something is done… The Observer believes that ultimately some form of the above will be implemented. Haven’t we been here before. Won’t we be again?

Statement from Work Must Pay Campaign May 23, 2016

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PRESS STATEMENT FROM THE WORK MUST PAY CAMPAIGN RE: MINISTER OF STATE
HALLIGAN’S AND MINISTER VARADKAR’S REMARKS ON JOBBRIDGE

The struggle continues…

The Work Must Pay campaign notes the recent remarks of Minister of State
for Training and Skills, John Halligan TD and Minister of Social
Protection, Leo Varadkar, where both outline their commitments to ending
JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme, launched by Joan Burton TD as
Minister of Social Protection in the previous Government.

The Work Must Pay campaign, a group of young political activists and trade
unionists which was launched in late 2014, welcomes the remarks. We have
little doubt, however, that huge forces will oppose their sentiments,
including IBEC, ISME and the State itself.

The purpose of JobBridge has been flagged consistently by others and the
Work Must Pay campaign in particular: to exploit valuable, talented young
people by making them work for a third of the minimum wage, that is, for
those under 23 years of age, €100 a week in Jobseekers’ Allowance plus a
€50 top-up from the Department of Social Protection for 40 hours’ work. The
employer does not hand over a cent. It is a form of modern indentured
labour, pure and simple.

Many will argue that JobBridge had or still has a use, to integrate young,
unskilled people into the labour market, etc. We would say that the
recently published data in the Sunday Business Post, which showed that the
scheme grew ten-fold over five years since its inception to an eye-watering
50,000 interns, puts paid to this mistaken view. If employers, be they
Google or the local hardware store, are offered the opportunity to hire
somebody at no expense, they will seize the opportunity. It was not
uncommon for PhD graduates to be sought under the scheme, for instance. The
State has been a rampant user of JobBridge, with the HSE and every
third-level institution in the country exploiting it numerous times, partly
due to the recruitment embargo in the public service.

The Work Must Pay campaign notes the growing opposition to the scheme among
trade unionists, politicians and the wider community, from the current USI
President to IMPACT, the largest public-sector union, which ran a motion
opposing JobBridge very recently. Many were appalled at the open abuses of
the scheme reported in the Irish Examiner recently, where full-time jobs
were clearly replaced by unpaid interns, with interns suffering verbal
abuse and mental health issues due to poor treatment by management and
colleagues.

The Work Must Pay campaign notes the outstanding success of our vocal,
noisy, effective protests placed outside numerous small businesses who have
in turn agreed to remove their JobBridge ads.

We call on Minister of Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, to abolish
JobBridge, as well as the recently-launched, insidious, “JobPath”
programme, modelled on JobBridge, but where private contractors will take
responsibility, and payment, for finding suitable private and State
companies willing to hire more unpaid interns. We demand legislation to
ensure that no employer can subvert the State’s minimum wage by lawful
means, including the abolition of all unpaid work schemes.

Refer to our Facebook page for information on our recent protests, and note
our petition calling for JobBridge abolition as well.


On behalf of the Work Must Pay campaign.

Our petition to be sent to the Minister for Social Protection calling for
immediate JobBridge abolition:

https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/work-must-pay-abolish-jobbridge-every-worker-deserves-a-wage

Phew… dodged a bullet this time… May 23, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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…in Austria.

Austria narrowly avoided becoming the first EU country to elect a far-right candidate as head of state, as postal ballots decided a knife-edge presidential run-off vote in favour of his environmentalist rival.

After an election that had been too close to call last night, a count of the absentee votes this morning pushed 72-year-old Alexander van der Bellen past anti-immigration Freedom Party rival Norbert Hofer and into the largely ceremonial post of president.

The FPO is no stranger in all these issues (though I wasn’t aware, or I forgot, that it was in government with the SPO in 1983 in a somewhat less hard-edged right wing iteration).

But there’s a deeper question here. At some point we will see a far right candidate take a non-executive Presidency, or worse again a PM position, in some European state – perhaps Austria next time around (though interesting what the winning candidate represented). What is to be done, as the question goes, in that situation?

A new phase on the US right… May 23, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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…is the thought that strikes me reading this. You know that odd jerk of recognition one gets realising that one period in time is now over and a new one well under way and somehow the transition from one to the other hasn’t been at all clear cut, except in retrospect? Reading this outline of the Koch brothers and their seeming failure to shape the Republicans in the way that they had hoped, particularly during the Tea Party years, it suddenly came to me that not merely was that latter manifestation of right wing anger over, we were now under Trump in a completely new dispensation.

The Koch brothers are curious – genuinely libertarian in their views on foreign wars, social issues like the war on drugs, and so on, utterly implacably hostile and reactionary on economic issues to workers rights and so forth. Yet Trump is in many respects the antithesis to them. And so, it seems, was the Tea Party. Reihan Salam writes:

…the financial crisis and, soon after, the Obama presidency. President Obama’s fiscal stimulus and the Affordable Care Act gave conservative activists focal points for their outrage, and Americans for Prosperity helped organize Taxpayer Tea Party rallies across the country. The Tea Party movement appeared to be exactly what the Kochs had always dreamed of: a libertarian mass movement that was capable of taking over one of America’s two major political parties. At that early stage, at least, the Tea Party didn’t appear to be overly concerned with social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, nor did it talk all that much about immigration. Tea Party leaders were focused on a government that had in their view grown too large and too powerful and that was busy lining the pockets of Wall Street insiders.  

But for there is quite a but in all this:

It soon became clear that the Tea Party was not the libertarian mass movement the Kochs and their allies imagined it to be. The opposition of older conservatives to Obamacare was motivated less by a generalized distrust of government than by a fear that it would shift government resources from deserving people like them to the undeserving poor. Moreover, Tea Party conservatives were in many cases more socially conservative than mainstream Republicans. As the Obamacare debate faded from the scene, grass-roots conservatives found themselves energized by other issues, including opposition to the Gang of Eight’s efforts to push comprehensive immigration reform, legislation the Kochs were strongly inclined to support.

And:

The Kochs had hoped that the Republican Party of the future would be led by people like Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who managed to get blue-collar conservatives in his home state excited about rolling back collective bargaining rights for government workers. Instead, the party turned to Trump, an anti-immigration hardliner who maintains that there is absolutely no need to reform Social Security and Medicare and who hardly ever complains about the size of government. The Tea Party voters nurtured by the Koch network have been at least as energized by Trump’s calls for building a wall along America’s southern border as they were by the fight against Obamacare.

Isn’t that something? Perhaps it is explicable by recourse to defining the constraints of the possible in political activity. The Koch brothers ideology breaks down and apart when applied in the context of an enormously complex socio-political and economic structure like the US polity. It can only carry so many – even Republicans – with it before running out of steam in the face of actual issues that impinge on people.

Salam argues that the Koch’s are in it for the long term, and no doubt they are, but one has to wonder if even they with all their financial resources might feel just a little defeated by the dynamics that have become evident in recent years?

Irish Left Archive: The path to marriage equality in GCN – I May 23, 2016

Posted by Tomboktu in LGBT Rights, Marriage equality, Social History.
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It is a year since we voted not only to lift the ban on same-sex couples getting married, but to place an obligation on the state to put in place a law for marriage equality.

Marriage equality was not always the priority for the gay community. This post looks at the evolution of interest in that topic and the related questions of gay families and of the recognition — both legal and unofficial — of partnerships. It is far from a scholarly article: First, it uses just one strand of data: the pages of Gay Community News (GCN) in the first half of 1990s; second, my collection of back issues is incomplete. Never the less, they illustrate what the gay community’s leaders were saying and what its media felt was important to report.

The first issue of GCN in my collection is from 1990, and even that is too late if you want to do a complete analysis, because it does not show if or how the Irish lesbian, bisexual and gay community reported on or reacted to the introduction of civil unions in Denmark in 1989.
(more…)

Vote Hillary for the X-Files! May 22, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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From the Guardian…

If she wins the White House, she would become the first female president, the first spouse of a former president to hold the office herself, and, possibly, the first president to have devoted time on the campaign trail to discussing UFOs.
“There are enough stories out there that I don’t think everybody is just sitting in their kitchen, making them up,” Clinton said in a radio interview in April.

Now me, I’m a sceptic. But still. Always interesting to see what these sort of exercises unearth.

The Hooded Men May 22, 2016

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Storm in a teacup May 22, 2016

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Got to be honest, I was a bit dubious about the reports in the Sunday Independent that the government was close to collapse with Independent Dr. Michael Harty of Clare supposedly:

…dramatically [pulling] his support from the Fine Gael-led minority Government after he was overlooked by Mr Kenny when he was appointing junior ministers.

And the quotes in the article didn’t seem to go quite the distance that the Independent was suggesting.

And lo and behold, Deputy Harty himself appears to dismiss the report:

Clare Independent TD Dr Michael Harty has said he does not intend to vote against the Government in key votes, such as Budgets or confidence motions.

Dr Harty said media reports that he has “withdrawn” support from the Government do not reflect his position.

Of course it may suggest that there’s a perception problem and that the media will play that up for all its worth, but that is a given in this context.

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