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Expertise? September 28, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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If ever a man wasn’t doing his cause any good it has to be the Catholic Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Phonsie Cullinan who has waded into the HPV vaccine issue (I won’t use the word debate because there is none) with a barrage of conceptually vacant soundbites.

Two days now we’ve been treated to his schtick…

Asked why he chooses to reject overwhelming medical evidence supporting the vaccine from the World Health Organisation and other authorities, Bishop Cullinan said “we all make mistakes”.
And asked whether the WHO was not a “legit organisation” he replied: “When you are dealing with a billion dollar industry you’re getting into deep stuff there”.

Uh-huh.

And almost needless to say, it’s all about the sex.

Getting the HPV vaccine “could” make young girls more promiscuous because “it changes the mentality,” Bishop Cullinan claimed in a local radio interview on Thursday. “The vaccine gets people to think they are fully protected against cervical cancer when they are not, he told WLR FM.”

Yesterday was worse, if that were possible….

“Why is this vaccine being ‘offered’ only to girls? One can add that the male contraceptive has been available for years. Are men using it? Why not? Where is the equality in that?”

And:

“I wonder could the large amount of money being spent on this vaccine be better spent on programmes which encourage our young people to live clean and chaste lives. I know that the vaccine may do some good but from what I have read it is not the most effective way to guard against cervical cancer.”

And… and… and…

“The vaccine covers 70 per cent of cervical cancers. Would you go on a plane that was 70 per cent safe? Smear tests will still be necessary.”

Still, let’s take heart. His contribution is unlikely to influence any and might just make those who refuse to accept the facts think again. Indeed on a slight tangent, it is so unusual for a Bishop to talk like this these days that it provides an interesting comparison with a past where all too often they were given license to opine at length on any topic that took their fancy. This topic though is simply too serious for anyone to treat it in the way he does.

The power of corporations… September 28, 2017

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Slate.com’s Gist has a fantastic podcast – with a short piece about ten minutes long which asks is Amazon a monopoly on foot of research carried out by some in the US. But there’s a real sting in the tail when it becomes clear that the researchers have been pushed back against by another multinational corporation. It’s a hugely revealing piece of work and ably demonstrates why monopolies aren’t just bad for consumers but also for democracy and research.

I’ll say no more.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series September 28, 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”.

What about the next guy? September 28, 2017

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Reading the exchange between Trump and Facebook’s Zuckerberg this morning about FB’s supposed bias against the former one line from the latter struck me as particularly telling:

“Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump,” Mr Zuckerberg said in his post.

“Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.”

So here we are. Trump is ‘one side’. A President with, frankly, extreme approaches and views (even given those who have gone before him), and that is now normalised into being ‘one side’. What is the next President from the ‘right’ going to be like? Will they double down on Trump’s approach?

Attacking McDonald September 28, 2017

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Discussing with someone the latest comments from Leo Varadkar directed towards Mary Lou McDonald this week, the first of which was a comparison with Marine Le Pen, the point was made that clearly FG has decided that there is political capital to be made in such attacks.

It’s an odd attack anyhow – given that simultaneously Varadkar attempted to wield the Le Pen comparison (fascist, etc) and back away from its implications (it wasn’t the fascism – she apparently ‘always goes back to her script’… so unlike any other politicians).

But why? Is this due to their seeing that in a post-Adams leadership McDonald would be a problematic competitor, or a broader concern about Sinn Féin in same context, or is it simply to solidify the base after a Summer where while they’ve done okay in the polls none of the supposed immediate benefits of a Varadkar leadership have been evident (so far) and so a re-emphasis on business as usual? Or is this a means of damaging FF who while M Martin stridently declares his antipathy to coalition with SF has a significant number of TDs who appear to think otherwise?

Kick over the statues? Sure, some of them. September 28, 2017

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Interesting piece by Patsy McGarry in the IT about the John Mitchel issue. Mitchel while an Irish nationalist was also a strong supporter both of the Confederacy and slavery. An unapologetic one and someone who fought for the Confederacy. McGarry asks:

Is it right that such a man is remembered so generously? In club or square or place?

One response is as follows:

The imposition of contemporary mores on historical figures is regrettable, the complexities of human nature are such that the achievements of any individual could conceivably be negated by their less favourable actions and beliefs. No one is perfect – a truth overlooked by the politically correct neo puritans.

But there’s a clear and obvious problem with that line of argument. The United States itself divided and fell into Civil War at least in part over slavery. Moreover the United Kingdom had already banned slavery (to its credit) and there was a broader anti-slavery sentiment. So which ‘contemporary mores’ are we talking about when the issue was at that time one that was hotly contested. And consequently to talk about political correctness or neo-puritanism is to completely miss the point.

There’s a further point. Today slavery is not prohibited due to political correctness or puritanism but due to it being regarded across the broad political spectrum as a wrong. This isn’t a ‘liberal’ view, or a ‘conservative’ one. It’s a general view. But again, one that was held widely enough (albeit imperfectly) while Mitchel was alive.

Nor is it possible to argue when the very real horrors of slavery were well known and a subject of such contention that an adherence to it, indeed more to judge from his writings, was merely a less favourable belief.

So for me it’s fairly straightforward. Mitchel’s beliefs were – even at the time – of such an extreme nature (and quite contrary to O’Connell who was genuinely and sincerely progressive in such matters) that all else is pretty much invalidated. And it would be no great loss to change names and remove statues.

And here we get to another point. For all the fuss about removing statues we haven’t been averse to it ourselves as a state. Famously in the grounds of Leinster House there was a statue of Queen Victoria which remained there post-partition until the late 1940s when Clann na Poblachta had it removed from public view. I think that’s quite reasonable. This was, after all, the site of an independent (or partly independent) polity’s parliament and representative institutions. There was an issue of appropriateness, to put it mildly. In the end it was gifted to Australia – a land more welcoming to it (for now).

So there’s no absolute principle at work here – or else people would be up in arms about such an egregious removal of ‘history’. Some statues from the period of British rule survive and no problem. Others don’t, again no problem. We don’t have to stand with every statue or feel compelled to remove every statue. Any more than every fascist era building in Rome was demolished − though there’s a strong argument that where memorials become focuses of far-right or racist agitation that too underscores a reason to do away with them.

There’s the example of Seán Russell who has a lovely statue which is but a hop skip and a jump away from where I live. Russell to me is a deeply problematic figure, going to Nazi Germany to get support for the IRA during the Emergency. That seems to me to be a step too far – even if, clearly, Russell was not a fascist or Nazi, and while I’m not advocating taking the statue down I am puzzled at the occasional Republican commemorations at it. Frank Ryan, of course, was brought to Berlin and his status there is a real curiosity. But it appears to have been a largely involuntary situation where the Abwehr were, without any great success, attempting to use him. And as we know Ryan and Russell shared a submarine journey back to Ireland though to no effect. Ryan was anything but a fascist and was someone who genuinely was caught up in the chaos of the war.

But Mitchel. I think he’s a problem and I think a long hard look at memorials and so on is an exercise well worth conducting. That’s not political correctness – not, as noted above, when the United States itself was convulsed in his lifetime over precisely the reasons we might feel concerned about it today.

More on that speech by Theresa May September 27, 2017

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I mentioned Ray Bassett and Stephen Kinsella’s thoughts on the speech by Theresa May last week in Florence. Bassett was complimentary, Kinsella anything but. If anything Christ Johns in the IT (mentioned I think by big) is even more scathing about it, noting that:

May’s speech was essentially a conversation between herself and those cabinet members who want her job. To the extent that she had much to say to Brussels and Berlin it was to appeal to them to help her keep that job. Specifically, neither she nor anyone else has any idea about what the post-Brexit UK relationship with Europe can or should look like. So Brussels and Berlin have been asked to solve Britain’s problem: “Please can you come up with some ideas for the post-Brexit world?” Similarly, there was nothing to suggest that the Irish Border question has been dealt with.

Moreover he points up one key aspect:

Having created a problem they don’t know how to solve, they have now kicked the can down the road “for about two years”. At the very least, this was an admission that triggering article 50 with no preparation of any kind verged on criminal negligence.

And:

The British still don’t get it: appealing for “partnership and creative solutions” sounds warm and fuzzy but ignores the fact that the only types of relationships the EU can offer the UK are Norway-style European Economic Area membership, Canada-style free-trade agreements or Turkey-style customs union arrangements. That’s it. May referenced by name these exact deals and explicitly and definitively rejected all of them. No number of appeals to imagination or partnership can get around the fact that the EU can offer only options that the British have already ruled out.

Johns argues that Brexit has become a problem without a solution. Seems a fair analysis.

But none of this is cost free – Johns notes that already the UK is set to be ‘one of the weakest economies in the world’ next year according to the OECD and that it was to turn around economic weakness that the UK joined the EEC. But he also notes that in her speech that the UK economy had been and always would be strong. When we’re dealing with such a level of delusion one has to wonder what if anything is possible to salvage from the wreckage.

An Taoiseach, neutrality and other matters… September 27, 2017

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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Thanks to the person who forwarded this – Archon of the Southern Star!

Because his image is at such a high level of fawning obsequiousness, our esteemed Taoiseach, Vlad the Impaler, might be playing a dodgy game by presuming that the electorate will support him in any attempt to abandon Ireland’s long established policy of political neutrality.

However, the unfortunate George Hook (recently hounded from his job for committing a linguistic indiscretion) certainly doesn’t buy into media brown-nosing. He got it in one in his assessment of Varadkar as a ‘public relations creation.’

Hook attributed our Taoiseach’s famousness to his participation in a Canadian ‘Gay Pride’ march, an action the world interpreted as a voguish affirmation of an Ireland that was now exquisitely trendy and more than ready to give a kick in the pants to the Irish Catholic Church.

But, prancing around Canada is one thing; the question implicit in Hook’s assessment was whether Vlad had any serious political substance? Although personally endowed with superb PR skills and having a team of excessively paid ‘meeja’ people who make sure he talks to the right audience in the right voice, Vlad’s political talents are perceived by many as limited to common-or-garden political conspiracies, particularly when it comes to chucking out a leader like Enda.

And, if he’s no statesman, could it be that he’s just a poseur with a noddle that’s full of street-smart guile?

Also important is this possibility: does his favourable relationship with the media help conceal a fundamental disinterest in Irish neutrality despite the fact that Irish people do not want any dilution of the country’s neutrality policy? Could it be that behind the mass communication image is someone who is unashamedly hawkish in support of France, Germany, Italy and Spain’s ambition to expand the EU’s military capabilities and create a common defence policy following Brexit?

Fact is that Varadkar is rather shy about commenting on neutrality even when the EU Foreign Affairs chief asks EU member states – and that includes Ireland – to promote ‘increased European spending on military missions, and the development of joint assets such as helicopters and drones.’ Indeed, he appears to have no opinions at all on EU expansionism and the plan to create ‘a superpower in the field of security and defence.’

In July, EU leaders agreed to increase defence co-ordination by means of a multi-billion euro weapons fund that comprises shared funding for battlegroups and – wait for it – ‘a coalition of the willing to conduct missions abroad.’ Now, where before have we heard the phrase ‘coalition of the willing’? Again, a deafening silence from Varadkar.

Nor does he comment on the Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO) which argues for defence integration in the event of a threat of war to Europe, and which has emerged as the dynamic that feeds EU militarisation, previously having been dormant as a provision in the Lisbon Treaty. Certainly there is a belief abroad that already he has indicated quietly to member-states that Ireland endorses a military amalgamation, although the extent of this country’s commitment to the creation of a European superpower has yet to be clarified.

What we do know is that, in June of this year, Varadkar made clear that Ireland would support moves towards securing the necessary finance to ensure the development of an integrated European military power. The announcement immediately sent alarm bells ringing and prompted Labour leader Brendan Howlin (remember him?) to criticise the militarisation of the EU which, he said, was ‘designed to complement NATO structures.’

He demanded a full debate on EU militarisation in the Dáil, although some commentators drew attention to Labour’s see-saw position on neutrality (it’s for neutrality when out of office but against it when in office).

For its part, Sinn Féin is clear on the issue. It does not want a FG-dominated government undermining Irish neutrality. The republican party failed in two efforts (2003 and 2015) to enshrine neutrality in the Constitution because of ferocious Blueshirt-FF opposition.

Against such a background, it was not surprising that Sinn Féin MEP, Liadh Ní Riada, said she was deeply disturbed at the appearance of the Irish Navy’s LÉ Samuel Beckett at the Defence and Security equipment International (DSEI) arms fair in London. She warned that the presence of the ship was sending out an entirely wrong message about Irish neutrality, adding that the Irish Navy in recent years has been saving the lives of the most desperate people in the world who flee war and persecution.

‘It places a stain on that fine and honourable record to send our forces to associate with the peddlers of nuclear weapons and those who boast about how effective their hardware has been in assisting human rights violations in Palestine, Yemen and beyond,’ she said.

‘The Defence Minister must immediately explain the rationale behind our Defence Forces attending this dubious event. Even setting aside the issue of morality, this raises serious concerns about how it will affect our long-standing tradition of neutrality.’

The Irish Anti-War Movement also criticised the decision. ‘The LÉ Samuel Beckett will not be available to protect our fisheries or provide emergency marine rescue services while in London, where its apparent duties are to help sell lucrative military equipment for the global arms industry. This is outrageous given that the Irish government has declared Ireland to be a neutral state.’
The organisation asked the following questions: did Taoiseach Varadkar approve ‘this misuse of an Irish naval service ship? Who paid for the visit to the London arms fair; was it an international arms company? What other members of the Irish Defence Forces attended the arms fair and why?’

The Department of Defence defended its position on the grounds that the presence of the LÉ Samuel Beckett at the arms fair was ‘an opportunity to portray to a wide audience the considerable level of commitment and investment made in recent years towards protecting and safeguarding Irish territorial waters, by showcasing the success of the offshore patrol vessel design and build capabilities.’
The builders, Babcock International, requested the ship’s attendance and, said the Department, ‘no additional advantage or benefit was received by Defence Force personnel.’

And now for something different: Here’s a story to mark the 35th anniversary of the death of Sir Douglas Bader, the RAF Second World War hero, who won fame as a legless fighter pilot (no, not in the drunken sense! He literally had no legs).

Bader was giving a talk at a posh English girl’s school about his exploits which went as follows: ‘There were two of the f***ers behind me, three f***ers to my right, another f***er on the left,’ he told the startled audience.

The headmistress went pale and interjected: ‘Ladies, we must bear in mind that the Fokker was a German aircraft.’

The airman replied: ‘That may be, madam, but these f***ers were in Messerschmitts!’

Renua… September 27, 2017

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A snippet in the SBP by Michael Brennan notes that ‘Renua has been holding more pro-life public meetings under party leader Cllr John Leahy to oppose the expected abortion referendum’.

Given we now have a sort of kind of date for the Repeal the 8th referendum is there any sense that that is gaining any sort of crowds or will reap electoral rewards for them?

“the international revolt by the working class and political elite” – huh? Say again. September 27, 2017

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Who said that? Or rather on whose behalf was it said? Clue one: his initials are SB. Clue two: a close friend is called Nigel. Clue three: He’s not a socialist. Not even close.

Yep, it’s Steve Bannon, man about the US, keen on his mission to spread the good news about the..er… working class and his hatred of political elites. Which of course explains why he just spent the better part of a year with a newly minted political elite drawn from a rather older economic and social elite. I suppose for those who like to delude themselves about such things this is progress of sorts, but for many of us it will just appear same old same old. And the thought strikes, few would have argued that one D. Ganley sweeping the political boards here in this state would constitute progress because he too spoke a language of faux-populism.

Anyhow, those of us a mite sceptical that one S. Bannon outside the White House would remain loyal to Donald Trump might think ourselves part vindicated by the news that less than a month after his departure he has done this (though the thought occurs Trump can now be on both losing and winning sides simultaneously – see below):

Steve Bannon made his debut as a political surrogate on Monday in a fiery speech in opposition to a Republican candidate endorsed by his former boss Donald Trump.
But at a rally on behalf of Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, the former White House adviser insisted, in a deliberate echo of Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar: “We did not come here to defy Donald Trump – we came here to praise and honor him.”

it gets better:

The specter hanging over the event was the fact that Trump himself has endorsed Moore’s opponent, appointed incumbent Luther Strange. Speakers at the rally depicted Trump as someone who had been led astray and insisted that a vote for Moore was the right decision for supporters of the president.
Bannon – who repeatedly denounced Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell while laying out his economic nationalist vision – even ended his remarks by proclaiming: “A vote for Judge Roy Moore is a vote for Donald J Trump and a vote for Donald J Trump is a vote to Make America Great Again.”
When one purports to know the mind of someone better than that person themselves…

Hilariously, and another indication that Bannon’s self-serving rhetoric about the white working class is just that… self-serving, who else popped up but that well known champion of the common man and woman, Nigel Farage. But even better was the utter contradiction in what they were doing and who they were doing it with:

The rally, held in a barn about 30 minutes outside Mobile, Alabama, also included Bannon ally Nigel Farage as well as former reality star Phil Robertson in an event that seemed to demonstrate the two critical strands of the Trump base: social conservatives and those who embrace the Breitbart strain of populism.
While Farage and Bannon denounced elites, big business and media, Moore and Robertson were far more prone to quote the Bible.
Farage denounced “career politicians, big banks and multinational corporations” and compared what he saw as Washington Republicans’ betrayal of the Trump agenda to the UK Conservatives’ attempts to “delay” and “water down” Brexit. He also made a slightly incongruous plea to Alabamians to “fill their motorcars” before they go to vote on Tuesday.

And guess who won? Why it was Moore!

And with another election coming up cue yet more faux class rhetoric…

“So you all remembered we talked last night about starting a revolution with Judge Moore’s victory? Well, Senator Corker stepped down today and he’s not going to run for re-election,” announced Bannon to loud applause. He went on to say that this set the stage for more candidates “who follow the model of Judge Moore and do not need to raise money from elites, fat cats, crony capitalists in Washington DC and New York City” to win in the future.

To me it is the condescension of their lines, the sense that for them the working class (or portion of same) has no direction of its own but is hardly more than a malleable means of achieving their own political goals which are quite distinct from and hostile to the working class.

And let’s be clear, Bannon continues to use a faux-rhetoric of class – despite championing repeal of ACA etc.

The former White House aide went on to slam several Republican consultants in Washington by name as he assailed “economic hate crimes done on the working class of this country”.

And lest that seem absurd, how about this:

A source close to Bannon described this as “the next iteration of the war against [the] political class and establishment” and said the Alabama special election was the next stage of “the international revolt by the working class and political elite”, following Brexit and the 2016 US presidential election.

Oh, and this Moore character – what a radical he is. How much of an insurgency he will kick off against capitalism.
That’s who Bannon and Farage stand with.

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