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Gilets jaunes: Protest of the rural poor? November 30, 2018

Posted by Citizen of Nowhere in Uncategorized.

Mouvement des gilets jaunes, Andelnans, 24 Nov 2018
The Gilets Jaunes movement in France is threatening an already unpopular Macron government. The movement is blocking roads and petrol stations and clashing with police throughout France. The protest is morphing from a protest against fuel rises, into a general one against another turn of the austerian screw, inflicted by that former great white hope of the European Centrists, Manuel Macron. Macron’s popularity continues to nose-dive.

Interestingly, demographically the GJs are primarily a movement of the working rural poor in France. Urban support is limited.

Anyone who has lived in rural Ireland knows the syndrome; because of the political decision not to provide adequate rural public transport, you are locked into maintaining a poison-spewing monster just to get to work or the shops or to maintain a social life. It’s even worse if both partners are working.

A urbanite can often avoid these costs, and what with the generally lower wages in the country, compulsory car ownership means the real wages of rural workers start at several thousands per year less than their urban equivalents, simply due to the costs of cars.

If you accept the need to use ‘Green market signals’ rather than direct public intervention to effect environmental change (which I don’t) then it makes sense to raise taxes on fuel. However this ignores the needs of rural workers locked into traveling long distances by car every day.

Mouvement des gilets jaunes, Menoncourt, 25 Nov 2018

There’s all sorts of potential for the GJs to become a Poujadist anti-environmental reactionary force, and Le Pen of course has come out in support. But then it could go the other way and be the next wave against centrist austerity.

The CGT trades union has called for support of the GJs as part of a demonstration for social justice tomorrow. There has to be an alternative.

Consumers or citizens? November 30, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Here’s a question, is a consumer the same as the Irish population? I ask because in this report on mobile phones I read:

More than half of smartphone users in Ireland think they use their devices too much, according to a new survey, which also found that on average smartphone users here look at their phones 55 times a day.


97% of consumers in Ireland have access to either a smartphone or tablet and 98% of smartphone owners use their devices daily.

And this under the heading:

97% of Irish population have access to smartphone, survey finds

I do not think the headline is correct.

Meanwhile, is this optimistic/pessimistic?

Commenting on the report, Richard Howard, Partner and Head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications at Deloitte, said: “In the 2018 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey we have started to see a balancing in our addiction to smartphones.
“2018 is also the year where we are finding the phone starting to replace cash and cards as a primary means of payment, which highlights how the smartphone has become intertwined into our daily lives.”

Signs of Hope – A continuing series November 30, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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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?

History Man November 30, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Never sure I entirely agree with Diarmaid Ferriter’s take on matters in the Irish Times. Still this piece noting the centrality of history and the likelihood that history having been down-graded as a subject may become ‘class-based’, noting:

In 2011, the Ofsted report on history teaching in British schools, where history is compulsory only up to the age of 14, expressed concern “about the wide educational divide in this country when it comes to studying history . . . in affluent areas history is studied well and widely, whereas in many more deprived areas it has been neglected and ignored”.

It is incredible to me, given the rhetoric about history and commemoration, this past number of years that any effort would be made to downgrade it. And yet that has occurred, and his point as regards the class implications is well-made.

Mind you this too I like…

We should also reject a suffocating, present-centred judgmentalism; what Richard Evans, the renowned Cambridge historian, has characterised as wishing a personality change on the generation of a century ago and “lecturing the people of the past on how they should have done better”.

It’s a real problem where past events are always regarded through the lens of the present, where motivations or circumstances extant at the time are dismissed, underplayed or ignored and where alternative courses of action are proposed as if they were feasible given the then prevailing material conditions.

Of course we must consider matters in relation to our principles and ideologies, but acknowledging the limitations of those in the past is not to legitimise those limitations, but simply to recognise them. And particularly where there are isolated examples of more progressive individuals or groups it is key to keep in mind how widespread their influence or plausible potential influence.

A world of weakened UK workers rights, post-Brexit… November 30, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, has a depressing piece in the Guardian about workers rights under Brexit. All of this was pointed to by some on the left prior to the referendum and after the result. That a Tory Brexit was always going to leave the situation of workers less good than it was before, and that given the only Brexit on the table was a Tory Brexit anything else was sheer fantasy.

But even still, it’s amazing how the analysis from Moyer-Lee points up the fragile state of UK workers rights, and how much they depend on the EU to give some backbone to them. But then the EU is signed up to ILO conventions as well as the social chapter. I’d be the very first to say that those are insufficient – but there’s a difference between insufficient and non-existent.

According to the [May] deal, when it leaves the EU the UK will enter into a transition period during which pretty much everything will remain the same. This goes for workers’ rights as well… And shoved into eight short paragraphs is the UK’s commitment to not reduce employment rights below those in place in the EU at the end of the transition period, protect and promote social dialogue on labour matters, and implement International Labour Organisation conventions and provisions of the European social charter.


…these eight paragraphs sound great. But they appear to be unenforceable. For whatever reason, the interpretation of these rights is excluded from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), and disputes about these provisions are excluded from the binding arbitration that governs most of the rest of the withdrawal agreement.
The UK does commit to have an effective system of labour law enforcement (which it doesn’t currently), but it’s unclear how much that helps workers’ rights when it comes to maintaining EU employment law, given the unenforceability of the commitment to maintain that law.

But perhaps this is true of the deal as a whole? Er…

The lack of detail and the weak enforcement provisions of the employment law sections stand in stark contrast to other areas of the agreement. For instance, the 89 pages of EU law, which will continue to be binding in Northern Ireland, regulating everything from imports of US maize starch residues to trade in deep-frozen cow semen, all of which is subject to the jurisdiction of the CJEU.


As is characteristic of so much of the Brexit process, the workers’ rights provisions in the backstop are a gamble, the real effect of which is not entirely known, which will certainly fall short of the status quo and even farther short of the ideal.

And as to the future, the author writes… ‘Unsurprisingly, the document has little to say about workers’ rights.’

But, and this is key,

In other words, the more integrated the UK is with EU economy and structures, the more EU employment law the UK will have to obey. Any arrangement that leaves the UK less integrated than an EU member state will result in fewer EU employment law protections than a member state would have.

To read some commentators one would think none of this exists, but even a cursory reading shows otherwise. And worth keeping in mind how the UK opted out of the social chapter from 1992 to 1997 – so to say they have form is to understate matters.

Throughout the process of Brexit it has seemed to me that any change to the status quo ante should not leave workers worse off than before whether in their workplaces, culturally, societally, travel wise or whatever. Yet across one area or another it is absolutely clear that the process itself does indeed leave workers worse off, and substantially so in certain aspects. If an ‘alternative’ does precisely the opposite of what our politics seeks then that is no alternative at all.

Speaking of which: He loves the working class, so he says, but he won’t lift a finger to help them… November 29, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

And earlier in the month the same self-proclaimed champion of the working class was up to similar tricks. Scotland this time…

Bannon, during a combative interview with the BBC’s Scotland editor, Sarah Smith, dismissed Sturgeon’s concerns as “a smear”, claiming “these are not racist views”.
He said: “This is a working-class movement. That smear to say it’s racism is too simple. That’s one of the reasons populism is catching fire throughout the world.”

There’s so much to unpick there. Is he saying that because it is working-class (quite a claim but as usual unsubstantiated) it cannot be racist in whole or part? And if the smear is ‘too simple’, perhaps he’d elucidate… As to it ‘catching fire’…

The expectations of the NO side on the 8th referendum November 29, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I was talking to someone recently who was close in to the No side on the recent referendum on the 8th, that is who would have canvassed against it and worked directly with those leading that campaign. And it was enlightening because they themselves – and I felt this was a broader sentiment – expected the vote to be close to that seen during the divorce referendum in the 1990s – that is, remarkably close. They said they felt it could have gone either way, but that on balance they thought it was going to be passed.

I thought those interesting admissions – it certainly explains the palpable sense of shock and surprise from that campaign when the result came out. And for all the rhetoric from some it seems to me they’ve been fighting a rear-guard action subsequently. Indeed my sense was that they were concerned other amendments might be in the pipeline and that they’d be passed too.

But then again I and others I know thought it would be closer too, though I felt it most likely to be in the 54-57 per cent range in favour of YES.

I wonder if another aspect of the sense of dislocation on the part of the No side was coming to terms, or attempting to come to terms, with the reality that their understanding of the country was at stark odds with the reality of a state where fully 66% voted yes and 35% voted no and where urban and rural areas were well matched in terms of results and turnout. At this remove, months onwards forging a course forward must be difficult for them to envisage in the context of that.

The new authoritarianism: any old contradiction will do… November 29, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Guess who said this?

“I’m a populist, an American nationalist – I always want what’s best for the United States,” he said during one conversation in the Mayfair hotel. “But I am also from German descent and Irish descent. I spent a good part of my life in Asia – and here, right? My business interests were here; I virtually lived in London for much of the 90s, right? I sold my bank to a French bank. I have got great affinity for the working-class people of Europe.

Jesus wept.

Meanwhile… there’s this:

One party with which Bannon is working is a small, far-right Italian group called Brothers of Italy. Prior to introducing me to its leader, Giorgia Meloni, Bannon had described Brothers of Italy as “one of the old fascist parties”, adding that it “may be a little too right-wing”.

When I pressed Meloni about her party’s heritage in the Italian Social Movement, founded by supporters of Benito Mussolini, she flatly rejected the fascist association. Bannon leaped to her defence. “I think you’re trying to say, ‘oh these guys are bunch of Nazis’,” he said. “We’re partnering with parties that are going to become quite mainstream, over time.

Er… that’s not exactly reassuring.

Those positive ‘effects’ from new party leaders… November 29, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Looking at the SBP/RedC poll this last weekend it struck me that there clearly was a Varadkar effect – at least somewhat. In 2016 FG won 26% of the vote. This year it has been polling between 33 and 34%. Fianna Fáil’s fortunes have been less auspicious, varying between 22% and 27% – though M. Martin may be content that the last three polls have seen an upward tick from 22% to 27%. Mary Lou McDonald? Nothing much to write home about – SF has gone from 14% in 2016 and ranged between 16% and the now not great 13%. As to others? Independents have fallen from 13% in 1016 to 10% now, but also gone down to 9% this year as well as reaching 13%. Labour has fallen from 7% at the election down to 5% though currently they’re at 6%, which seems to be close to their usual level this year. The Independent Alliance is at 5%, but 4% is more usual. Sol/PBP have had 0% the last two polls falling from an election high of 4%. The SDs got 3% in 2016 but have been mired at 2%. The Green Party closer to the 3% they received at the election. And let’s not talk about Renua.

Determining where support shifts between parties is more difficult to ascertain – but there does appear to be some relationship between Independents and Fianna Fáil. When the latter is up the former are down.

There’s one winner in all this, Fine Gael. Come what may they can expect some seat increase at the next election, unless their ratings fall precipitously in the meantime. Fianna Fáil may also do a bit better than expected. Sinn Féin possibly a little worse. Keep this up and they could be losing seats.

Independents are going to face a culling – the question is the scale of that. I’ve mentioned before on a really bad day the current crew could be down to bare double figures. On a better day perhaps 20 odd – though that might include the LP/SDs etc. I’m certain that Sol/PBP are more robust than their 0% score, and most/many of their TDs will return, but any thought of gains must now be regarded as unlikely. Similarly for the SDs and the GP. What they have they may (just) hold though even that is not a given. And the IA may perform a little more strongly than expected. And that goes for the LP, no real room there for gains but the idea they return with most of the current crew seems reasonable – though that comes with a caveat that any who do not stand will not be replaced by new TDs.

And yet, Richard Cowell in the SBP in accompanying text, notes that there is a fundamental uncertainty to the broader contexts which makes all the above open to question. Brexit casts a shadow and he notes ‘this doesn’t appear to have had a marked impact on voter intention…’. Yet. But a crash and burn Brexit might change things significantly. Then Fine Gael’s sheen might look a little tarnished and so on.

Morally dubious? November 28, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Not sure I buy this piece in the Observer at the weekend, by Tiffany Jenkins, author of a book entitled… Keeping Their Marbles: How the Treasures of the Past Ended up in Museums – And Why They Should Stay There whose basic thesis on that topic is…

When history is judged through the simplistic prism of right and wrong, it flattens it. And as the accusations about the sins of the past grow louder, we hear less about the objects that are at the heart of the disputes and of those people that once created and so admired them. Ancient artefacts enlighten us about the world and about past peoples. That is the object of museums and their objects, which is too often forgotten in these present-day battles over the rights and wrongs of history.

Hmmm… and this line from the same article also seems problematic:

On 13 January 1897, the Times of London reported a “Disaster” in Benin, modern-day Nigeria. As they entered the city during a religious festival, members of a British delegation had been attacked. Ostensibly in revenge, but probably to overthrow the Benin king, who consistently defied the British Empire, they organised a punitive expedition, stormed the palace, and had him exiled. To pay for it, troops looted the royal treasures: delicate ivory carvings and magnificent copper-alloy sculptures and plaques, known as the Benin Bronzes. Around 700 of the 4,000 objects ended up in the British Museum, where they have astonished millions of visitors. The rest were swept up by Germany and Austria, and then the US.

France has a similar, morally dubious, story to tell.

Morally dubious? Seems a bit weak. And it doesn’t end there, not least when she puts forward the argument that one reason artefacts shouldn’t be returned is because…

The objects campaigners want to be returned, to apologise for colonisation, then, were crafted on the back of the slave trade. Following the logic of righting historical wrongs, aren’t these artworks tainted by that immoral practice? Perhaps the descendants of the Benin king should apologise for slavery, before they are approved as morally worthy owners of the artefacts.

Er… that seems to be missing the point entirely. And presumably deliberately since the issue of location seems not to be addressed at all. This by Simon Jenkins is a lot better.

Speaking of that he makes the point that replicas or copies of artefacts are far from valueless – particularly in a digital and mass transport age. And he notes that ‘The ancient obelisk that forms the focus of the British Library’s current Anglo-Saxon exhibition is made of polystyrene.’.

Somewhat interesting fact. The Cenotaph in London was originally a wood and plaster of Paris construction, one of many constructed temporarily for the parade that marked the end of World War One. There’s no actual continuity with that structure and the current iteration except the design. I’ve often wondered what is/was the ‘real’ Cenotaph?

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