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If you open the shops, they may not come…  August 31, 2022

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Well here’s no great surprise. The Irish Times reports that:

The volume of retail sales fell by 8.1 per cent in the year to July as sales of motors, food, beverages and tobacco all saw double digit reductions despite the easing of the Covid-19 emergency, the latest data from the Central Statistics Office shows.

Four sectors showed an annual increase in the volume of sales. The largest of these was in bars where sales soared by 56.8 per cent compared with July 2021 when some Covid-19 restrictions still applied.

However, bar sales remained 8.4 per cent lower than pre-Covid-19 levels in February 2020.

How difficult is it for some in the media and economatariat to understand that there is not just a residual caution on the part of many with regard to going to crowded places – but also a cost of living crisis? By the way that bar figure is particularly  interesting. Wouldn’t January and February  always be quiet months in that trade – interesting that early to mid-summer would be below ‘normal’ February figures. 

Tilting the electoral field in the UK August 31, 2022

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A timely warning from OpenDemocracy on one very problematic legacy of the Johnson era -though is that too grand a term given how short it has actually been? The introduction notes:

Boris Johnson’s final act as prime minister will be to rig the next election, it seems. Or, at least, to try to. As openDemocracy reportedlast week, the last kick of his boot as he walks out of the Downing Street door will be to the balls of the Electoral Commission.

Already limping from a lack of funding and ludicrously low maximum fines, the regulator charged with defending the UK’s democratic process – which had a word or two to say about both Johnson’s 2019 election campaign and the pro-Brexit movement in which he played a prominent role – will be told that it should charge fines only as a last resort.

Instead, if a party takes a cricket bat to the laws of our democracy (rules intended to stop the rich from buying elections), the umpire will now have to politely ‘request improvements’ before taking matters further.

Of course, every political party has been on the wrong side of these laws at some point. But, structurally, there is one party that wins by trussing up the regulator – one party that consistently breaks laws and has cash to pour into elections. You know which one.

But there’s so much more. Changes to voting rules which impact on voting patterns favouring householders over young renters. Limits on citizens living abroad removed. The removal of voting rights at local elections for EU citizens. The redrawing of constituency boundaries. And the threat to put more Tories into the Lords. Anyone of those is abysmal, taken as a whole… 

And the article continues noting that there are issues around political speech – limitations to protest:

The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act came into effect in June, severely limiting protest rights for people in England and Wales. Police can now set strict conditions for demonstrations and, if these are broken, imprison anyone who encouraged people to go to the demo for up to 51 weeks. Even if they didn’t know about the conditions.

If you ‘wilfully obstruct a highway’ – which, of course, any decent-sized demo does – you can be jailed for up to a year. If you are found to have caused ‘serious annoyance’ or ‘serious inconvenience’ – perhaps through the sort of direct action of which there is a long and healthy tradition in the UK – you can now go to prison for up to ten years.

And it doesn’t end there. The efforts to incite culture wars, transphobia and marginalisation of BAME people continue. Efforts to curtail the rights of unions, protest movements, parts of the media (in an environment almost uniquely toxic to the left already).

And there’s one paragraph that really sums up how wretched the system is from top to bottom.

Britain’s democracy, with its neo-feudal voting system, its House of Lords, its unchecked executive powers and royal prerogatives, has always been a compromise between the ruling class and those they rule, rather than a proper system of government by the people.

And for all the progress over centuries and decades the realities of that foundation to the overall structure mean that it is permanently in thrall to the right and to reaction. 

Podcast- Post Office Candidates in Roscommon in 1991 August 31, 2022

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The Legion of Ex-Servicemen / British Legion "The Others" The Alan Kinsella Podcast

This Episode covers  The Legion of Ex-Servicemen (Later the British Legion) that contested a number of Irish elections between 1925 and 1934.
  1. The Legion of Ex-Servicemen / British Legion
  2. GOD -For Bible Readings In The Dail
  3. The National Group
  4. The Independent Dublin Dream Team Band
  5. Post Office Candidates in Roscommon in 1991

In early 1991, An Post issued details of a massive cost cutting plan which involved the closure and downgrading of various Post Offices throughout the Country as well as the introduction of roadside boxes for those whose dwellings were a distance from the road. Two ‘Post Office Candidates’ , Paul Beirne and Danny Burke stood in Roscommon in the Local Elections as a protest.

The comeback kid… but it’s no joke. August 31, 2022

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From the Guardian.

Boris Johnson has not denied setting his sights on a political comeback after he leaves Downing Street, as he sought to cement his legacy in his final week as prime minister.

On the first of a flurry of visits to mark what he will paint as key achievements of his administration, Johnson faced questions about his future after No 10.

He deflected and spoke about the rollout of faster broadband, also urging people to have hope that the worsening cost of living crisis will get better in 2023.

Haven’t the people of these islands suffered enough? 

What you want to say – 31st August 2022 August 31, 2022

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

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

Mikhail Gorbachev – 1931-2022 August 30, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A figure of world historic significance. Thanks to DBR in comments for noting his passing.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader whose reforms led to the unlooked for break-up of his own country, and to the demise of communism across central and eastern Europe, has died in Moscow aged 91.

Gorbachev, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1990, had died after a “difficult and protracted illness”, Russian news agencies cited hospital officials as saying on Tuesday.

Gorbachev was the the first and last president of the Soviet Union. He became the general secretary of the communist party in 1985, aged just 53, a post he held until the party was itself dissolved in 1991, with the Soviet Union vanishing soon afterwards.

The childishness of UK political discourse August 30, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Exhibit A.

Seen to be taking the energy crisis seriously August 30, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

That would be the government, which held, yesterday, a ‘two-hour’ meeting on ‘energy security, supply and price’. And they’re back again to discuss more on the topic next week.

No decisions were taken at today’s meeting, but the high level group will convene again – possibly next week.

Work is said to be ongoing to assess how the Government can continue to help relieve some of the pressure on people and business.

A statement this evening said: “The Government is very conscious of the concern of households and businesses around increased energy costs.

They’re not the only ones. The EU is likewise holding meetings and talking about ’emergency action’ to alleviate the energy supply price crisis. 

“The skyrocketing electricity prices are now exposing the limitations of our current electricity market design,” EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told a forum in Bled, Slovenia.

“It was developed under completely different circumstances and for completely different purposes. It is no longer fit for purpose,” she said.

“That is why we, the Commission, are now working on an emergency intervention and a structural reform of the electricity market. We need a new market model for electricity that really functions and brings us back into balance.”

This is interesting for many reasons. For a start – what will this restructuring entail? What were the limitations previously (or more accurately, currently)? And in a context of reduced supplies (in part due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia) how are shortfall’s made up? 

Major sea-level rises ahead August 30, 2022

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The news in the Guardian yesterday that:

Major sea-level rise from the melting of the Greenland ice cap is now inevitable, scientists have found, even if the fossil fuel burning that is driving the climate crisis were to end overnight.

The research shows the global heating to date will cause an absolute minimum sea-level rise of 27cm (10.6in) from Greenland alone as 110tn tonnes of ice melt. With continued carbon emissions, the melting of other ice caps and thermal expansion of the ocean, a multi-metre sea-level rise appears likely.

Billions of people live in coastal regions, making flooding due to rising sea levels one of the greatest long-term impacts of the climate crisis. If Greenland’s record melt year of 2012 becomes a routine occurrence later this century, as is possible, then the ice cap will deliver a “staggering” 78cm of sea-level rise, the scientists said.

27cm, even 78cm, doesn’t seem too great if one measures it out physically. Though the impacts on low-level areas are very real. And there’s no wiggle room on 27cm. That’s the rises that are already built in due to climate change to this point. 78cm could be avoided. But there’s worse. 

“There is growing support in the scientific literature for multi-metre levels of rise within the next 100 to 200 years,” said Colgan. A collapse of the colossal east Antarctic ice sheet, which would lead to a 52-metre rise in sea levels if it all melted, could be averted if rapid climate action is taken.

The implications of that, let alone multi-metre but lesser rises, across a century or two, are going to be hugely difficult to engage with. And consider that nothing functions in isolation. It’s not just (the word ‘just’ is used advisedly) sea level rises, it’s not just rising temperatures, it’s not just the loss or damage to biospheres, it’s all those and more functioning across a range of areas simultaneously and all interacting with one another. 

So, what does that mean in practical terms? 600 million people live in coastal zones across this planet. Trillions of dollars of economic wealth. Human and economic damage on a scale that has been so far not seen outside war, but which will outstrip even that. 

Or let’s narrow the focus in yet further. What will our coastline look like? How does this impact our cities and habitations? This in the Mirror is useful.  

And this tool is particularly useful for seeing how matters will stand in 2030 and onwards.

What I find remarkable is the wilful aversion to facing up to this. Then again, we’ve had two years of a similar dynamic with Covid-19 where people quite literally had evidence of the impact of the virus around them and yet chose to dismiss or ignore it. So perhaps something that happens more slowly and more insidiously, though no less injuriously, is going to be ignored by those for whom it is an inconvenience or easier to dismiss. With time running out to even part mitigate the issue to this point one has to wonder what will be needed to convince those who won’t currently act to change their minds. 


Public sector pay talks choreography August 29, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Listening to the news this morning about the public sector pay talks and how the government intends to return with a new offer on foot of the last one the thought struck me was this all choreographed within an inch of its life?

Talks ended without agreement in June after unions and staff associations rejected a 5% pay increase over two years saying it fell far short of inflation.

The Government defended the offer saying that the increases would come on top of a 2% rise already in place under the existing public sector pay agreement, delivering a cumulative increase of 7% and bringing the total cost of the pay deal to €2.3 billion.

Ahead of the resumption of the pay talks, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath called for flexibility on both sides.

Well, he’s one of the sides. So not sure what that means. 

Unions have said that the Government must “significantly improve” its pay offer to prevent industrial action ballots next month.

President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Kevin Callinan said they would be flexible and would engage positively but added that the Government’s position in June had not reflected the reality of the cost-of-living crisis.

So what is it to be, this apparently final offer from the government? The framing on RTÉ was interesting too – perhaps it was me, but there seemed to be almost a ‘tut-tut’ tone at the temerity of unions to seek such increases as well as foreboding comments about how industrial action might land amongst members and the general public later in the year. 

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