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Not exactly addressing the issues of Brexit… May 24, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This was sent to me, a link to a piece on Jacobin by Thomas Fazi and William Mitchell entitled Why the Left Should Embrace Brexit.

It’s all sunny uplands but at no point does it engage with any of the basic aspects of the situation.

There’s not one mention of Ireland, of the Border, of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. There’s nothing at all about tariffs, about the World Trade Organisation, about the customs union. The single market is dealt with in a depressingly cursory fashion, with no consideration of the practical aspects of it – and a rather unconvincing argument that it hasn’t worked on its own terms (as well as completely ignoring the significance of being the major anglophone state within the EU with all that that entails and similarly ignoring where it can stand outside the EU).

It’s as if those writing it are discussing something completely different to the mundane and prosaic aspects of the EU in place of – for want of a better term ‘high politics’, or to put it another way, generalities and generalisations. So we are told that the SM, etc, are irrelevant to British economic welfare. And yet given that it doesn’t seriously engage with the realities of what underpins that economic welfare there’s a significant deficit at work. Or we are told that renationalization and other policies ‘would be hard to implement under EU law…’. Telling how that line has shifted from the rhetoric of pro-Lexit proponents hitherto where we were told that it was impossible but still – since when do leftists balk at ‘hard to implement’? But of course it isn’t impossible, it’s just been done but the Tories themselves in relation to a rail franchise, and states such as France, Spain and Germany would more than likely acquiesce to same, for why wouldn’t they? Or if not identical be entirely open to municipal and cooperative and other forms of ownership none of which are disallowed by EU membership.

High politics is fun. We can all talk about such stuff at length and with no real need for detail. But it isn’t really the basis for a serious analysis of the EU as an economic construct where a much greater effort to engage with the complex and banal detail is absolutely necessary.

I fear that some are about to be massively disappointed in regard to the idea that Brexit, a line argued by the authors, provides a break with Neo-liberalism, because even on that grounds there’s much less room for optimism – quite apart from which if one is pinning, as they do, ones hopes on a BLP victory under Corbyn they’re really pinning far too much on what may or may not come to pass, which suggests that far from this being any sort of a rupture it is at best a fleeting moment, and I say all that from a pro-Corbyn position. And in truth the rather mild leftism of the Corbyn BLP (which as noted previously while a vast improvement on what has gone before for quite some time is quite some distance short of that tribune of red revolution Jim Callaghan – though in fairness to Callaghan for all that he was regarded as ‘right of the BLP centre’ he seemed a lot more comfortable with a much more socialist approach to economic affairs than any of his successors before Corbyn) doesn’t seem to me to represent a rupture so much as an amelioration. Good to get, but entirely possible within the EU or EFTA, or EEA. And what happens if the BLP isn’t the next Government of the UK? It’s a lot to bet on a victory by that party.

But most tellingly, they go for the ‘hard Brexit’ option, explicitly so when they say:

That is why Corbyn must resist the pressure from all quarters — first and foremost within his own party — to back a “soft Brexit.” He must instead find a way of weaving a radically progressive and emancipatory Brexit narrative. 

Emancipatory? Progressive? For who?

Again, no regard to this island or its concerns. And no regard to the enormous stresses that Brexit, with such a finely balanced vote, has engendered in the UK. And most centrally no regard to what the single market (and customs union) mean in practice in terms of everyday trade between these islands and the UK and the rest of the EU.

To be clear, if at this stage, almost two years into the Brexit process, one is still talking about the ‘high politics’ – airy notional stuff indeed, particularly after the very mixed electoral results both in the immediate past and a year back – with no interest or engagement with the very real, very tangible and intractable issues that are now front and centre for this state, the EU and the UK then that’s no contribution at all to anything approach a debate.

Remember the massive capital expenditure the Trump administration was going to initiate? No? Neither do they. May 24, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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In the past week, Donald Trump has abandoned what was left of the “economic nationalism” that drove his presidential campaign. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters there may not be an infrastructure bill before the end of the year, which likely spells the end for Trump’s promise to revitalize the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, and airports with billions in federal dollars.

Still, that’s not all Trump as President has diverged from Trump as candidate on. Health ‘reform’, tax ‘reform’, immigration ‘reform’ etc.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series May 24, 2018

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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?

A serious lack of empathy… May 24, 2018

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This is a fascinating piece – a submission to the Citizens Assembly from an anti-abortion speaker. Dr. Dónal O’Mathúna, Associate Professor of Ethics at Dublin City University offers his views on the matters at hand. What I find particularly notable is the way in which everything is framed in soft language but at every point as the argument digs in it returns to the old certainties and moreover locks directly into extremely reactionary attitudes to sex, social relations and so on. For example take just this section:

One way to decide when autonomy clashes with other ethical principles involves the so-called harm principle: that people have the freedom to do what they want, so long as they do not harm others. This is precisely where the freedom of choice argument breaks down in abortion. There is always an ‘other’ where abortion is concerned. And by definition, that other ends up dead. Whatever opportunities, or potential opportunities, the unborn might have, they are terminated totally.
The unborn are one group of humans least able to express autonomy. Yet if given the opportunity, they, with the same uncertainties we experience, can become autonomous and live their lives. Society has a duty to protect the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn.
Relational autonomy goes beyond the right to choose; it includes the responsibility to choose rightly. If we get into bed with someone, we take on certain responsibilities whether we acknowledge them or not. Intended or unintended, a pregnancy may result.
This is partly why becoming sexually active is such a momentous decision, with most societies urging that it be reserved until a committed, permanent relationship exists to welcome a child into society.
This aspect obviously doesn’t apply in rape situations. If a woman had no choice in becoming pregnant, how should she be responsible for the unborn? Rape is abhorrent, and my heart goes out to anyone who has been raped.
But at the same time, the unborn had nothing to do with the harm inflicted. Why should they be the ones to have their chance at life terminated? If allowing the unborn to grow and experience life is the right thing in other situations, it does not matter how the pregnancy came to be. Certainly, after rape, this would be very difficult, heroic in many ways.
Taking away the life of the innocent because of a man’s crime will not relieve the pain or bring justice. Allowing life to come from a heinous crime can let some good come from something bad.

What’s astounding to me is just how detached from how most people live their lives, how most people engage with the world around them. It is indeed asking for people to be ‘heroic’, though that’s not necessarily the word I’d use. And that’s simply too much to ask of many/most people. And we know that’s the case because all he proposes requires incredibly constrained social and legal structures to force certain behaviours – which in any event are circumvented where at all possible.

He argues at the head of the piece that:

The principle of autonomy has become widely respected, especially in healthcare. In general, this is good.
I’m glad we are putting behind us the days of clergy running people’s lives, husbands making all the decisions for their wives, or doctors telling patients what to do.

But this is precisely what he is doing himself. Telling.

There was a further example of this at the debate on RTÉ during the week where there was a woman who argued against abortion in the case of FFA. What struck me listening to her, again, was that there was an incredible unreality in terms of her understanding or empathy with women who were in the same position as her. For her it was simply given that everyone would have the experience as a positive one as she saw it. And that if they didn’t, well, they should. It’s very difficult to engage with someone who holds those sort of beliefs because her overwhelming positivity allows of no dissent. For her it was an experience that she came out of feeling enabled. For her it is literally incomprehensible that someone else might have the same experience and come out of it feeling entirely different.

But this is a strange gulf because to many, perhaps most, of us it is clear that a pregnancy in such circumstances would be beyond harrowing, something we simply could not endure ourselves. And likewise with rape and incest, and so on. And all the rhetoric about how positive this can be, no must be, doesn’t prevent the reality that what is actually being said is – under all and any circumstances there can be no allowance for abortion and not merely must you go through this, but – and this implicit – if you do not find it enabling and uplifting this is somehow a problem with you. I find that literally incredible. I imagine many others do too.

Doctor! Doctor! May 23, 2018

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Check this out. An account of 45 minute Skype session with a leading thinker of our time. Who could it be who charges such sessions for a mere $200. Why it’s Jordan Peterson! Those of us who find his thoughts as expressed in his books…er…a bit limp, will not see much to change them reading this:

Peterson acolyte Trevor Alexander Nestor, a young unemployed white man, posted the audio of his session online. This example suggests that if these sessions are anything like Peterson’s clinical practice, what he’s providing is far from therapeutic.
Nestor starts the session by discussing his research on low sperm counts and socio-culturally enforced impotence while Peterson mostly stays silent. It’s when Nestor begins to complain about women who find marriage oppressive that Peterson commences a long rant about Betty Friedan:
“So I don’t know who these people think marriages are oppressing. I read Betty Friedan’s book because I was very curious about it, and it’s so whiny, it’s just enough to drive a modern person mad to listen to these suburban housewives from the late ’50s ensconced in their comfortable secure lives complaining about the fact that they’re bored because they don’t have enough opportunity. It’s like, Jesus, get a hobby.”
The two continue to volley, expressing exasperation at the presence of liberal dogma at universities and a certainty that women would gladly be homemakers if only they were allowed to admit that preference.

Do they believe this stuff? It’s bizarre. The idea that 1950s bourgeois society wasn’t oppressive to women – and by the way to men too, and let’s not even start on how it functioned in regard to children, is risible. The attitudes expressed about women are lamentable – to put it at its mildest.
You can read the original account here as well as…well… his latest foray into theory…

Wherever he goes, he speaks in sermons about the inevitability of who we must be. “You know you can say, ‘Well isn’t it unfortunate that chaos is represented by the feminine’ — well, it might be unfortunate, but it doesn’t matter because that is how it’s represented. It’s been represented like that forever. And there are reasons for it. You can’t change it. It’s not possible. This is underneath everything. If you change those basic categories, people wouldn’t be human anymore. They’d be something else. They’d be transhuman or something. We wouldn’t be able to talk to these new creatures.”

Hmmmm… I do not think he understands causality. Or representation. Or reality.

There’s his frankly bizarre theories about the ‘left’ which is another term he appears to have only the vaguest acquaintance with.

Or this which is equally risible:

Violent attacks are what happens when men do not have partners, Mr. Peterson says, and society needs to work to make sure those men are married.

“He was angry at God because women were rejecting him,” Mr. Peterson says of the Toronto killer. “The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.”
Mr. Peterson does not pause when he says this. Enforced monogamy is, to him, simply a rational solution. Otherwise women will all only go for the most high-status men, he explains, and that couldn’t make either gender happy in the end.
“Half the men fail,” he says, meaning that they don’t procreate. “And no one cares about the men who fail.”
I laugh, because it is absurd.
“You’re laughing about them,” he says, giving me a disappointed look. “That’s because you’re female.”

Well, I’m laughing about that too, and I’m not female. At least, I’m laughing at the way he presents it – because everyone, male or female fails at some time, and while I have sympathy for them, at least to a degree, the idea enforced monogamy is a solution is so absurd, so useless as a serious proposal as to be simply a waste of time (though as the NYT writer notes it’s odd for him to argue against equality of outcomes, one of his bugbears, except in matters male and sexual).

What’s depressing is the sense that is what passes for deep thinking in these circles.

Incapable of apology May 23, 2018

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The point was made on the Slate Political Gabfest that Trump almost never apologises, this in relation to the comment by one of his staffers in relation to John McCain – that he seems utterly unable to say sorry, except very very infrequently. Though, as the point was also made, the business milieu he came from perhaps conditioned this as much as his own individual personality make-up.
Problem is, it seems to me, that it’s one thing as a business person who lives only partly in the public gaze. But as President of the United States ones life is much much more in the public gaze and that may have problematic outcomes further down the line.

Still hanging in there… May 23, 2018

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Excellent overview of the machinations in the UK cabinet over Brexit – Joe pointed to it in comments. Is May, still there, still hanging on, perhaps more astute than we tend to give her credit? Well, whatever else, she’s certainly a survivor. And she’s backed the Brexit proponents into something of a corner:

The significance of this week, therefore, is that Johnson, Gove, Fox and Davis have signed up for a soft Brexit at least until the next election, simply because we will not be ready for anything else. 

And that’s the thing about survivors. They tend by definition to survive. Whether this is any good, any good at all, for Britain, is another matter. I suppose an argument could be made that even a Tory led soft Brexit is better than a hard Brexit. But the costs multiply. Where it ends, no one knows.
Flicking over to UK Polling Report it notes:

The regular poll from Opinium for the Observer came out this weekend. Topline figures are CON 43%(+3), LAB 39%(-1), LDEM 6%(-1). Fieldwork was on Tuesday and Wednesday and changes are since last month. This is the largest Conservative lead Opinium have shown since the election, following the trend we’ve seen from other pollsters of a modest improvement in the government’s position in the polls.

And perhaps that’s a part of the May dynamic. There’s no reason for panic, but…

EU in trade talks with Australia and New Zealand… Meanwhile the UK… May 23, 2018

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Here’s a neat demonstration of the differing weights that the EU and UK bring to the table in a Brexit world.

The EU has leapt ahead of the UK in the pursuit of free trade deals with Australia and New Zealand after member states gave the green light for talks to start within weeks.

With Theresa May insistent that leaving the EU will involve exiting the customs union and the bloc’s external commercial policy, the announcement from Brussels opens up the possibility that the EU could enjoy better terms with the two Commonwealth nations after Brexit than the UK will.

As is this:

New Zealand’s trade minister, David Parker, said the UK’s withdrawal did not diminish the huge potential gains for his country that would come from breaking down trade barriers with the remaining 27 member states.

He said: “The EU is our third-largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth more than $20bn [£10.3bn]. Even excluding the UK, our trade with the EU is worth about $16bn annually.”

$4bn is nothing to be sneezed at, but where is the room for growth, and with who?

And then there’s (utterly) the crazy element inside the UK Tories…

…there are some voices in the Brexiter wing of the Conservative party who would like to radically liberalise the farming sector in the UK, and open it up to challenge from highly efficient antipodean agricultural exporters.

Best of luck with that…

What you want to say – 23rd May 2018 May 23, 2018

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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Bait and switch May 22, 2018

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I wonder is this being too clever for their own good, the news that:

[the] RTE tv debate on the forthcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment has been thrown into chaos as the representative from Save the Eighth has pulled out at the last minute.
Cora Sherlock, the representative for the No campaign, pulled out of the debate late this evening.
Save the Eighth has nominated Maria Steen, the lawyer and Iona Institute representative, as a replacement for Sherlock.

RTÉ argued that they wanted as many voices as possible to represent the sides – so Ms. Steen wasn’t an appropriate replacement. It all seems a bit much given Sherlock was making a lot of noise about how Harris wouldn’t face them.

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