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Those ‘alternative arrangements’… September 16, 2019

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Katy Hayward, reader in sociology in QUB and senior fellow of UK in a Changing Europe and a member of the Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group has produced this, a 16 page overview of alternative arrangements. The idea is that this provides a ‘framework for analysis’ but reading it one may well feel that many, many problems are raised just in detailing the supposed alternatives…
To take but one example:

First, a general exemption from customs procedures and reporting for small/micro enterprises trading below the VAT threshold has been proposed


But:

It is worth noting key problems that need to be addressed were this to be offered as a potential alternative arrangement to the backstop:
5.5.1. The assumption behind this proposal is that there is a ‘low risk’ arising from small cross-border transactions. The question immediately arises, however: what is the risk? Is it fiscal, regulatory, health, phytosanitary, economic, illegal immigration, security? Any such risk would be dealt with differently and should be viewed on different scales. And, secondly, how is it assessed to be ‘low’ and against what measures?
5.5.2. Secondly, the assumption that low risk is associated with small cross-border transactions is belied by the scale of the exemption. If it relates to 94% of all those businesses from NI trading, and to 47% of the value of all exports from NI to ROI [Republic of Ireland], then it cannot be considered to be of low risk from a wide number of perspectives, as noted above.
5.5.3. Thirdly, such an approach would incentivise non-compliance, not just in VAT and customs areas, but across all tax heads and other regulatory requirements.

There’s more in that specific instance, and more broadly in the other areas addressed. So, technological fixes?

6.4. It needs to be acknowledged that any alternative arrangements relying primarily on advance cargo information will require a level of data sharing and analysis that is currently not known anywhere in the world when it comes to crossing a land border. This is because at other land borders, the default position can be to deny entry; in the case of the post-Brexit Irish border, entry will be (be by? default) unopposed. The question then arises: why would a business submit the necessary detailed information? Incentive to comply needs to be paramount if any alternative arrangements system based on addressing this particular cornerstone of border management is to work.

But wait – there are so many elements to such fixes, that each requires outlining in detail – technologies that ‘can be used to confirm when a vehicle (or potentially a container or item on that vehicle) crosses a particular point at a particular time’ or that ‘can be used to verify information submitted’ or for ‘facial recognition’ and so on. But Hayward outlines the problems with each of these.

In total it makes the quest for ‘alternative arrangements’ look misguided at best.

Left Archive: Workers Party, John Lowry and Paddy Woodworth debate – Excerpt from Making Sense No. 21, March/April 1991 September 16, 2019

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To download the above please click on the following link. election-leaflet069.pdf

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.

This is an excerpt from the March/April edition of Making Sense from the Workers Party. It constitutes part of an exchange between Paddy Woodworth and John Lowry of the WP – following on from an article Woodworth wrote in the previous edition, Making Sense No.20 (see here).

In this one Lowry argues that Woodworth’s piece was ‘timely, although misleading, and at times highly inaccurate contribution to the debate on the future of the WP’. And he suggests that this was misleading because it conformed to ‘the stereotyped picture of the party painted in the columns of Magill and the Sunday Tribune – that of a secretive communist organisation with a hidden agenda’.

Lowry continues that ‘it is highly pejorative to view the WP as an integral component fo the international communist movement, pledged to an unquestioning acceptance of a Soviet model and forms of organisation. In 1989 the communist world movement collapsed so therefore the WP must accept all the implications and consequences of that, so the argument goes. That is not the history of the WP, and failure to recognise this only distorts the terms and parameters of our present necessary debate.

He states:

The WP has a different and unique history from that of the orthodox communist movement. It is one that is deeply rooted in Ireland’s revolutionary republican tradition.

And he argues that after reappraisal in the 1960s there was a decision ‘by the IRA to create a party of the working class in Ireland’. He notes that international links were forged but that ‘it was not until 1983, in fact, that the WP established formal relations with any eastern bloc party – the CPSU’. He defends democratic centralism (in part arguing that Seamus Costello sought to ‘divert the party away from its course’ and that democratic centralism ‘was accepted by the members of the party as the best means of securing their rights and wishes’).

He further takes Woodworth to task for finding fault in WP condemnations about the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin, suggesting this is ‘exactly the return with which we have become so familiar from sections fo the so-called Irish left and FF, who can barely hide their ambivalence boards the Provo’.

He suggests that ‘the WP never had nor has any intention of hiding or denying its past’ and ‘it has only been the consistent and unflinching WP condemnations of the Provos which have exposed the true nature of the beast when all around us others were attempting to make excuses for them’.

He argues that the WP is ‘a modern democratic socialist party’ and ‘the idea that we are a communist party in the Soviet mould is a mistaken one’.

If anyone has the full edition and would be prepared to forward it for scanning we would be very grateful.

Please note: If files have been posted for or to other online archives previously we would appreciate if we could be informed of that. We are eager to credit same where applicable or simply provide links.

Not so close encounter with an asteroid… September 15, 2019

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Was entertained by the reports in the news media this weekend about a close encounter with asteroid 2000 QW7.

A huge asteroid up to five times as tall as Dublin’s Spire will pass by Earth tonight, scientists have said.

Asteroid 2000 QW7 is between 300 and 600 metres long, according to NASA data, but it poses no danger.

Indeed. So how close will it pass by the Earth?

It will fly by around five million kilometres from Earth at 23,000/km/h, according to NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory.

Just to put that in perspective that is:

…around 14 times the distance between the Earth and the moon

There’s a serious point here though, that there are asteroids that pass closer, much closer to the Earth. As wiki notes:

Scientists estimate that several dozen asteroids in the 6–12 m (20–39 ft) size range fly by Earth at a distance closer than the moon every year, but only a fraction of these are actually detected.[1][2]

And were some of those to impact…

For comparison, the 1908 Tunguska event was caused by an object about 60–190 m (200–620 ft) in size, while the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor which injured thousands of people and buildings when it generated a large airburst over Russia was estimated to be just 20 m (66 ft) across.

And:

The table shows about 14 events in the 12 decades of 1900-2020 involving a body with an upper size estimate of 100 m (330 ft) or more making a close approach to Earth within one LD, with one (the Tunguska object) making impact.

Maria Walsh FG MEP, interviewed… September 15, 2019

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Jason O’Toole in the Mirror talks to Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh.

What’s telling is how little policy appears to exercise her. The big issues of the day hardly get a mention… she’s all about walking the Camino, and making it clear she ‘went to Mass every day’ the first time she did it but ‘was unable to do so on this occasion on the more isolated route’.

And:

As a lesbian, Maria said she is not happy about the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage.

She added: “But if you’re not in the pews then it’s very hard to make a statement then, isn’t it? And I get more out of the Church than what some people do. It just makes sense for me.”

And politics?

[she] acknowledged there couldn’t be a worse time to be starting out as a new MEP with Brexit looming.

Asked for her thoughts on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, she said: “I think he’s out of touch with reality.

“The question needs to be asked to the people again and I think you’d get a different outcome.

“I think when you’re quite blase and jovial with your wording, particularly around the peace process, my feelings of confidence in somebody lessens and that’s where he sits rights now.”

And that, bar a cursory mention of the election date, is her done. Is this the new politics?

Sunday and other Media Stupid Statements September 15, 2019

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Helen Thomas, Tory advisor, in the IT, during the week, argues in a piece lauding Johnson’s tactical and strategic skills that:

If the UK will not impose a border, then it will be up to Ireland to decide how to maintain the integrity of the single market. Rather than the Border being a weapon that forces the UK to choose between the union and the EU, it will instead force Ireland to choose between the UK and the EU.

At this late stage, does she really believe that?

Speaking of belief, does the author of the following genuinely believe that comments on television and radio reports carry the almost inexorable weight he seems to assign to them?

Last Tuesday, Bertie Ahern was equally emphatic – there could be no unilateral solution to the backstop that did not involve the majority of unionists.

Proof of the power of pluralist words came swiftly from Jeffrey Donaldson on RTE News that night.

“I welcome very much the comments today by the leader of Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin, and by the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. I think they were very significant comments, recognising that unionists have valid concerns that need to be addressed… and I think these comments were very helpful.”

Though there’s this that the same correspondent seems to think is gold, despite the words of numerous PSNI and NI civil servants about the dangers of a resumption of violence:

Henry McDonald, correspondent with The Guardian, author of Two Souls, a dark but hilarious novel about Belfast in the 1970s, spoke to Hot Press.

He was caustic about how media opponents of Brexit were bigging up the dissident threat.

“People are dishonestly ramping up the Brexit effect, saying, ‘We’re going back to war’. No, we’re f**king not. It’s insulting. I find some journalists the worst offenders.”

And then on to a degraded public discourse on both this island and the one to the east… for example a sitting TD said the following this week:

But if you watch the news and you listen, and even our Taoiseach three weeks ago said he’d take in an extra 200, eh what do you call, migrants from Africa – these are economic migrants.

“These are people that are coming over here from Africa to… to sponge off the system here in Ireland.

And there’s this contribution from the UK:

On Boris Johnson’s comments that Britain will break out of EU like The Incredible Hulk, Brexit minister Stephen Barclay said: “The Hulk was a winner and was extremely popular and I’d rather be backing a character and a leader who is The Hulk rather than one who is on the chicken run as Jeremy Corbyn is.”

Felines… September 15, 2019

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Read this the other day about the ‘science of stroking a cat’ by Lauren Finka, of Nottingham Trent University. Thought this sensible.

Whether cats make good “fur babies”, then, is very debatable. Lots of cats do like being touched, but lots probably don’t – and many tolerate it at best. Ultimately though, when it comes to cats, it’s important to respect their boundaries – and the wildcat within – even if that means admiring their cuteness from afar.

I like cats, but the idea they are ‘fur babies’ kind of grates on me. Particularly since having two cats in the house – courtesy, I kid you not, of LeftAtTheCrossroads, for which I am very grateful – it is difficult to feel that sort of sentimentality about them. One is a friendly creature, much given to patrolling the neighbourhood and vanishing for the night while doing so. He returns to eat and sleep before commencing the patrols again. The other is more inclined to spend time in the house, but allied to that she is a fantastic hunter, almost too good. In the last couple of weeks alone she has delivered a number of dismembered pigeons to the back door and I found her at the weekend batting a small and very terrified mouse around with the sort of enthusiasm I hope I never see replicated in a human. Fur baby seems almost demeaning as a term for creatures who are excellent predators.

An end of Summer poll September 14, 2019

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The Dáil returns this coming week, so no better time for RedC/SBP to offer us this news fresh after the Dublin/Kerry game:

FG 29% +1

FF 28% +4

IND 13% -1

SF 12% -1

GP 7% NC

LP 6% +1

IND ALL 3% +1

SD 1% -1

SOL-PBP 1% -1

What to make of it? That GP surge is a bit more tenacious than might have been expected. No one else is going to be very happy, though FG might be pleased they’re a whisker ahead of FF and Independents may be glad simply to have what they hold more or less.

Self service tills… September 14, 2019

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Anyone in Dealz recently? I was at their Clare Hall outlet looking for baked crisps (natch!) which they didn’t have and was fairly entertained by their self-service check out tills. There’s almost no circumstances in which I’ll use them ahead of a human check out. One side of that is an aversion to seeing jobs replaced by automation, because of their tendency to run into problems with basic aspects of shopping – for example, not recognising bags in bagging areas, having problems with bar codes and so on.

Dealz, though, has decided that having jokey voices on their tills is a good idea – last Summer Elvis, this year a Yoda-alike (Apologies for link to Sun). It is, as was put to me, a vast improvement on ‘English voices barking at you’ (a problem Tesco part addressed some years back).

Psychologically it’s clever. Won’t convince me to use them though.

Yet more TV subscription services… September 14, 2019

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Was entertained by the Apple Event this last week. Gasp at three cameras on its flagship iPhone 11, gasp at the price of the Apple Watch, gasp at the horrible horrible ‘slofies’ idea (that is slow motion video clips. 😦 ). Some clever moves – not least their Apple TV+ television streaming network that is free for a year with the purchase of a range of Apple devices and priced at $4.99 per month otherwise. Low enough, at this point, in a world where soon there may be far far too many providers of streamed TV. Or actually where there already are!

Speaking of which, one of the Apple TV+ flagship offerings is ‘See’ – dystopian future where people are blind. Check it out on YouTube. It looks… weird. And unlikely. And weird. How could armies engage if they couldn’t see anything? Likewise planting crops, building buildings. And on and on and on. I had cause to re-read the first chapter of John Wyndham’s The Triffids recently which depicts a world where almost everyone has lost their sight. That surely didn’t suggest a population that would survive well.

If they ever make a Tony Gregory biopic… September 14, 2019

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…they really should get Benedict Cumberbatch to play TG. Watched Brexit: Uncivil Wars last night and halfway through it struck me that Cumberbatch, playing the now ever-present Dominic Cummings, was the spit of a taller leaner Gregory. I’ve a few thoughts on that production – mostly good, but they’ll keep for a few days, other than to say there was some criticism of the performance of the Boris Johnson character – too caricatured. Wonder if that criticism holds up after the actual live performance we’ve endured the last few weeks!

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