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Austria: lightly green tinted authoritarian nationalism January 10, 2020

Posted by Citizen of Nowhere in climate change, European Politics, Greens.

The young master poses on a gas guzzler

Despite claiming in July that there was zero chance of coalition with the nationalist conservative ÖVP, the Austrian Greens have done just that.  The coalition agreement between the two parties lays out a continuation of the authoritarian nationalist neoliberalism of the previous ÖVP/FPÖ government adorned with a dilute greenwash.

Charitably, I can imagine what the calculation within the Austrian Green Party; Kurz had made it clear that if he didn’t get an agreement that he would turn back to the FPÖ as coalition partners.  They may have considered that any compromise was worth preventing this.

However, what the Greens got were minor and vague measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, along with control of a group of ministries which could theoretically significantly contribute towards the familiar rhetorical goal of carbon neutrality in year X.  The anno mirabilis is always conveniently outside the term of the government, and in this case it’s 2040.  The Greens will be further constrained in practice by the ÖVP retaining control of finance ministry and thus the right of veto over anything the the Greens might attempt within their revier.

The ÖVP, in contrast, came away with the usual neoliberal packages: substantial reduction in corporation taxes, tax cuts for the better off and persecution of the unemployed. At the same time the ÖVP builds on the FPÖ programme of arbitrary preventative detention of asylum seekers on a large scale, and the repressive surveillance police and military powers in the context of Frontex that this entails. Symbolic cultural humiliation of Muslim women wearing headscarfs feature, inevitably.  And Austria becomes an enthusiastic participant in PESCO.  The Greens in opposition rejected this FPÖ agenda vehemently.

Victor Orbán will feel very comfortable with the political accommodation reached in Hungary’s neighbour. Together the two governments can continue to defend the ‘Christian’ west against the Muslim hordes, and fight nationalist culture wars while facilitating frictionless global capital accumulation.

The FPÖ will also be happy that their brand of aggressive racism and xenophobia has so successfully infected the ÖVP.  The dragging of centre-right parties rightwards by nationalist xenophobe competitors proved successful for UKIP and is a key strategic goal of the AfD with regards to the CDU/CSU.

However, the consequences for the Austrian Greens of being politically complicit with the national conservatives, could be as fatal for them as it has been for the centre-left SPÖ.  The Greens will also outfit the ÖVP with an environmentalist camouflage that might deceive naïver and softer green voters.

The general political lesson is that only within a left-green coalition can either political tradition prosper. And there are times when parties should walk away from coalition negotiations and loudly explain why.

Had the Austrian Greens rejected this humiliating coalition; and the FPÖ, weakened with scandal, been forced to make a probably unstable alliance with the ÖVP, both parties of the right would have been weakened.

Yes, time is running out to escape climate catastrophe. But this goal isn’t served by Green parties neutering themselves for next to nothing.

Links (in German):



The Lia Fáil May 30, 2014

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Culture, Environment.

I dread to think what awaits whoever did that to the Lia Fáil. This stuff used to be deadly fucking serious years ago, still is in some places.

The Tuatha Dé Danann were to be respected, for your cows will be dry and there would soon be no butter in the churn. If you were lucky. The Bishops never managed to beat it out of us but money finished off the fairies in the end.

Green and red paint could suggest some sort of Mayo involvement. Though seeing as the football team near the end of their own curse, I don’t believe warring vandals from the west would risk desecrating the seat of the High King.

Wasn’t it tomb tampering that finished Sean Quinn.

According to these locals, it was the decision to move a megalithic burial tomb 20 years ago which led to the fall of his cement, hotels, and insurance empire.

The Aughrim Wedge Tomb stood for 4,000 years in the townland after which it is named, two miles outside Ballyconnell, Co Cavan. But when it got in the way of the expansion of a massive quarry for Quinn Concrete in 1992, permission was granted by the Office of Public Works to move it. Following a full excavation of the site, it was moved — stone by stone — and relocated in the grounds of Mr Quinn’s Slieve Russell Hotel on the other side of the village.

“I’m a big supporter of Sean Quinn because of what he has done for this area but that tomb should never have been moved,” said publican Toirbhealach Lyons, the owner of Molly Maguire’s pub in Ballyconnell.

Mr Quinn has since lost the cement works, the hotel, a raft of other businesses and his multi-billion euro fortune. According to bankruptcy documents, he now claims to have just €11,000 in the bank.

On national level we all continue to pay dearly for the destruction of Tara.

In June 2007 Minister for the Environment Dick Roche signed an order destroying the Lismullin Henge. Lismullin Henge was a 4,000 year old astronomical observatory and place of worship and hailed as one of the most important archaeological finds of the century.

Roche was since held up by an armed gang in the Druids Glen Hotel and soon lost his job. (His car also burst into flames two years ago)

Martin Cullen the then Minister for Transport nearly got sucked out of a helicopter when the door fell off on one of his extravagantly expensive trips.

The chief Health and Safety Officer was seriously injured by a falling tree when felling began at Rath Lugh in 2007.

A worker was killed when he became trapped at Fairyhouse where there have been many accidents on this stretch of road.

A human tooth was discovered in a digger which was used to destroy the famous ancient feasting grounds and gathering place of ancient Harpers at Baronstown. The digger, while leaving the site, fell off a low loader onto the N3. Shortly afterwards the stairs in the National Museum collapsed.

And finally, just last summer, several large wasp nests were found throughout the valley. In Celtic Lore the appearance of the wasp was associated with the anger of Mother Earth.

But all this is nothing new.

The fairies had more clout than even developers once upon a time as this Dáil transcript from 1952 can reveal.

Mr. Dunne In my view, all we can hope from the Irish News Agency is that it will do a very good job in accordance with the traditions and outlook of our own people.

The question I want to put to the Minister is this: “Is he satisfied that, during the last six or eight months, news agency has done a satisfactory job in the presentation of news for foreign consumption?” I have my doubts.

I will come in a moment to so-called news being released from this country by the news agency which can have no other effect but to bring Irish journalism and, indeed, the reputation of our nation as a whole into contempt. It is from that point of view that I would like the Minister to examine what has been happening with regard to the news agency and to decide what will be the policy for the future.

I am about to quote now from an Irish News Agency dispatch released in Fleet Street on November 3rd of last year.

It is headed: “Fairy Fort Stays—30 Houses Go. Ballynanty Beg, Limerick, Saturday, Irish News Agency.”

It goes:—

“Limerick City Mayor, Matthew Macken, declared to-day— ‘If I have to get a gun to defend the fort, I will certainly do it.’

He was referring to a circular mound believed locally to be the headquarters of Limerick leprechauns, which this week caused the partial hold-up of the new housing scheme. It started on Monday when workmen employed by Limerick Corporation to build 475 houses refused to clear the mound on the site because it was a fairy fort.

Limerick City Mayor, Macken, investigated the matter and then announced: ‘We will have to give in to the fairies. We have decided to leave the fort standing.’ The men resumed work on condition that they would not have to touch the mound.

Said corporation overseer, John McNamara:

‘The people of Limerick will not go within miles of the fort. Several members of the bulldozer crew said they saw leprechauns making shoes there that night.’ ”

It must have been on Monday morning that they saw them. I will continue the quotation:—

“Previously, the corporation brought men in from the adjoining County Clare, but strange things happened to them when they tried to build houses near the fort. Said Overseer McNamara: ‘They built a few house gables, but next morning not one of the gables was standing.’

Other people recalled queer things that happened during recent years at the fairy fort. Farmer Collins owned the land on which the fort stands and was forced to sell it Said he: ‘I just had to sell it because all my cattle died.’ It was purchased by Matt Foley. Said he: ‘I had to sell it, too, because my cattle losses were phenomenal.’ Farmer Dan Kennelly purchased it and turned his milch cows to graze on it but they stopped giving milk. He had to accept a low price for it from the corporation.

Local schoolteacher, Robert Cashin, says: ‘The fort is bounded by a number of fruit and nut trees. We were always warned not to touch them, but I remember, as a boy, a playmate of mine pulling some hazel nuts one day from one of the trees. He became a cripple for life.’

Limerick’s Deputy Lord Mayor, Gerard Dillon, says: ‘I would not lay one stone upon another within 100 yards of the fort. I live quite near the place and, as a boy, my mother always told me not to go anywhere near the fairy playground…’ Because of the decision to preserve the fort, 30 fewer houses will be built.”

This was issued by the Irish News Agency for world consumption and it appeared in the overseas Daily Mail, in several other English newspapers and in other publications. I do not think anybody will try to justify the like of that as being a legitimate product of a news agency operating in this country for the purposes of building up respect abroad for the Irish nation and for Irish traditions.

As I said at the outset, there is no question about the fact that we need a news agency. One of the greatest difficulties under which the Irish nation has had to labour for, it may be said, a century has been the difficulty of trying to get the Irish point of view put over in sympathetic terms in the foreign Press.

Sympathetic terms are hard to find.

No doubt many in Labour Party are feeling a bit poxed.



Another week February 21, 2014

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Economy, Energy consumption.
1 comment so far

…and another trip to a European court for Ireland

 For failing to up competitiveness in the electricity market.

The EU electricity Directive to increase competition was introduced in 2011. Ireland could be liable for a fine of €20,000 each day.

“Ireland has failed to take the various steps needed to introduce greater competition to the energy market,” said Peter Power of the EU office in Dublin.

“Greater competition in the energy market means better prices for consumers … the commission wants a separation of the energy production and supply activates from the networks, in order to bring other players into this market.”

Replace energy with water and skip on a few years. And while we’re here.

Must make note of this from Independent Newspapers earlier in the month

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Ogle signalled his intention to step down in the coming days.

The news will come as shock to members of the ESB unions, coming as it does just weeks after Mr Ogle successfully led a campaign to have their main pension scheme reclassified and treated as a defined benefit scheme.

But the campaign is said to have taken its toll on the Co Louth native, who was subject to much adverse media comment over the threat of power cuts in the run up to Christmas.

Would you want to set up FairPhone? January 14, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Choice, Community, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, FairPhone, Human Rights, Technology, Workers Rights.

Who in their right mind would want to set up FairPhone? Obviously you can check out their site to find out who actually did set it up as a Dutch social enterprise, but would you want to?

Park, for a moment, the ‘fair’ bit and think about what is involved setting up a company to make a new smartphone. Smartphones are complex products, with chips, capacitors, resistors, glass, sensors, casings, displays, batteries, cameras, speakers, antennae, sockets and other bits and pieces that I don’t know about. And you’d need software. You would also need to design all of this, or get people to do that for you, and to set up or find a factory to make it.

If you did do it, you would be going into a market with big brands like Samsung, iPhone, Sony, Nokia, HTC, and so on, so you would need a pretty strong selling point to attract customers from the products offered by those heavy-hitters.

Le Monde Diplomatique: “The corporation invasion” December 21, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Economy, Environment, Inequality, International Finance, The Far Right.

Readers might be interested in this article in Le Monde Diplomatique

Imagine what would happen if foreign companies could sue governments directly for cash compensation over earnings lost because of strict labour or environmental legislation. This may sound far-fetched, but it was a provision of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), a projected treaty negotiated in secret between 1995 and 1997 by the then 29 member states of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) (1). News about it got out just in time, causing an unprecedented wave of protests and derailing negotiations.

Now the agenda is back. Since July the European Union and the United States have been negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) or Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), a modified version of the MAI under which existing legislation on both sides of the Atlantic will have to conform to the free trade norms established by and for large US and EU corporations, with failure to do so punishable by trade sanctions or the payment of millions of dollars in compensation to corporations.

(1) See Lori M Wallach, “A dangerous new manifesto for global capitalism”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, February 1998.

And why haven’t you heard of it?

The TTIP/TAFTA negotiations are taking place behind closed doors. The US delegations have more than 600 corporate trade advisers, who have unlimited access to the preparatory documents and to representatives of the US administration. Draft texts will not be released, and instructions have been given to keep the public and press in the dark until a final deal is signed. By then, it will be too late to change.

The full article is available here: http://mondediplo.com/2013/12/02tafta

FairPhone June 11, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Community, Economics, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, Human Rights, Technology.
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[WorldByStorm suggested today that I move this up from a comment to a full post. I’ve uodated it because the time reference in the original is now out of date.]

Last year, I mentioned (in passing) that when I when I first bought a mobile phone, I made a point of buying from a telecoms company that recognises their workers’ union. I did not mention then that I had also done some research to see if I could buy a model that reflected my concerns — where the minerals are from, or union recognition for the people who make the actual phone.

So, I was pleased to see fairphone.com opened their new phone to pre-purchase.

On June 5 they hit their target of 5000 orders in order to go into production, and there are two days left to order one of the first batch.

And at the weekend just gone, they were working on aspects of the design their second phone.

The ethos is summed up in the invitation to the group of designers who participated in that workshop:

FairPhone was created because most people have no idea where the component parts of their mobile phone come from, how they are manufactured, and by whom. Bas: “Mobile phones are part and parcel of a complex economic and political system. We want to make this system visible to everyone. We do that by manufacturing the FairPhone, which unravels that system step by step.”

They recongise that their product is far from perfect — the rights of the workers is not secured through union recognition — but it’s better than any other phone I know of. Worth a look, I would suggest.

Take action in the legislative process of EU-Seed regulation! May 2, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Environment, Ethics, European Politics, Seed diversity.

This was sent to us at CLR earlier today

Take action in the legislative process of EU-Seed regulation!

There is urgent action needed to avoid damage by the upcoming new EU regulation of seed marketing. The new regulation will de facto ban old and rare varieties and farmers varieties and threaten the exchange and selling of seeds of diversity. DG SANCO (the General Direction of the EU for Sanitary and Consumer affairs) has been working on a proposal for a new regulation since years.

On Monday, the 6th of May they will present their proposal to the conference of commissioners. They could not get a consensus of the two other affected DGs, DG AGRI (agricultural affairs) and DG ENVI (environmental affairs). Both opposed the last draft of the proposal, and DG SANCO is not looking for a consensus.

The new regulation has mainly been drafted by Isabelle Clement-Nissou, an employee of GNIS, the French lobby of the Seed Industry. Madame Clement-Nissou was sent as a national expert to Brussels by the French government and is supposed to ” support ” DG SANCO. The drafts for the proposal became worse from the first to the second draft; and it is expected that the final proposal is going into the same direction. Since there is no consensus between the three DGs, the commissioners have to vote on the proposal.

If a majority of commissioners votes against the proposal, it should be stopped. If they vote in favour, it will be given to the EU Parliament and to the Council. The seed industry is pushing the legislation, because they’ve spent a lot of money to influence the seed legislation. Furthermore, they don’t want it to be postponed after the election of a new parliament in May 2014. They take the risk that the commissioners vote against it − and we think: the commissioners should do so! There is only a little chance to get a majority of commissioners to vote against the current proposal, but we still should try.

Each country of the EU has one commissioner in Brussels, so we need 14 votes against the proposal. The commissioners of DG AGRI and DG ENVI should vote against, so we need 12 more.

Please write to the commissioner of your country and convince him/her to vote ” NO ” on the proposal of DG SANCO on 6th of May.

Try to make a link from his/her department to the seed issue, and try to make clear to him/her that the proposal for a new EU seed legislation will affect the cultural and biodiversity heritage of your country and the freedom of farmers to use the seeds and the varieties they want to.

NO PROHIBITION OF SEEDS OF DIVERSITY! By the obligation to register varieties before marketing, the new regulation will be a de facto prohibition of old and rare varieties and of farmer varieties. Please write to your commissioner in Brussels no later than the 28th.

He/she has to make a statement on the proposal from 24th of April on, the sooner, the better. On the 6th of May, we must obtain at least 14 objections, otherwise this proposal will become the official proposal.


Dear Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, I have recently been made aware of the upcoming proposed changes to EU seed marketing law. This proposed new regulation will de facto ban old and rare varieties and farmers varieties and stop the exchange and selling of traditional seeds.

The apparent background to this is that DG SANCO (the Directorate General of the EU for Sanitary and Consumer affairs) has been working on a proposal for a new regulation driven by lobbying of the big agricultural seed companies. Apparently, however, two other EU directorates, DG AGRI (agricultural affairs) and DG ENVI (environmental affairs) both opposed the last draft of the proposal because it was so bad for agriculture and biodiversity. DG SANCO is now pushing ahead with the new law by putting it directly to the Commission this week.

I would urge you to vote against the current proposal, as it impacts everyone who cares about our seeds and our freedom to save, use, and exchange them.

Given our Irish heritage and background in agriculture and indeed the many rare and beautiful varieties unique to our country, it is vital that you understand how the proposal for a new EU seed legislation will affect the cultural and biodiversity heritage of Ireland, and the freedom of farmers and growers to use the seeds and the varieties they want to. By forcing registration of all varieties of every crop species that exists, the new law will prohibit old, rare and traditional public− domain farm varieties. This will guarantee huge profits for the seed industry but will be a terrible loss to the people of Europe as our agricultural heritage is outlawed overnight!


Yours faithfully,

More info at: www.seed-sovereignty.org

Carbon weighting November 4, 2012

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Environment, US Politics.

Fatigue had long set in with the tokenism, ‘folk’ and events Stateside. While always and immensely fascinating, on the small p; that window to a grim future of ultra-staged politics and the obscene budgets now necessary to find an acceptable face of inequality has always repelled me on a few levels.

The campaign has thrown up an interesting tension. The sharpening of extremes has developed an odd hue of choice in the most embedded of two party systems while ultimately leaving either candidate well short of answers for the America they hope to define let alone one those middle classes sincerely expect.

With two days to polling you’ve suffered enough barely thought out analysis so I just wanted to highlight this clip as the first to fill me dread beyond any of the foreign or economic sentiment of campaign 2012.

The chant, those who shout the loudest, instantly cognisant of the threat and appropriate response. Instinct.  A backdrop as we zoom slowly back to Romney and all it represents. The hollowest of rhetoric bookends.

A real essence in there I think. So much contained.

The interesting dynamic is that like Japan, seeing Manhattan underwater brings disaster into our world. Watching five bedroom houses float out to sea last year carried a shock the routine images of third world devastation have long lost. Similarly, now events of this force have moved up the East Coast the issue may become harder to shout down or at least lead some to shout a bit louder. This arrival in the first world has an effect not unlike the magnifying of the ugly in politics I mentioned at the start.

Bloomberg’s Businessweek on Friday led with, It’s Global Warming, Stupid, a convenient swerve away economy and obvious kick against one candidate but an interesting departure for Wall St. none the less. New York’s last big event continues to ripple around the world. Naive to hope Sandy will have anything like the same effect but epicentres like that make it harder to forget.

Obama arrived and soon found deflation when the economic mountain emerged and his team appear to have copped on to something politicians elsewhere are going to get used to.  Like the first, his second term comes on the tail of an event that calls into question the approach, challenges and short-termism, until the next time.

Privatising Bin Services ………. September 9, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Environmentalism.
Tags: ,

Came home yesterday to find this lovely letter from Greyhound Waste waiting for me. Needless to say I’d forgotten that South Dublin County Council had abdicated its role in providing bin services and that Greyhound Waste had taken their place. All the while I’d told Panda and others that I wanted to stick with the Councils service as I actually believed a council should be providing such a service.

When the bin tags first came out I got myself a Green Cone and dramatically reduced the amount of rubbish that was ending up in my black bin, allied to that my youngest would soon be out of nappies, so my biggest source of rubbish was gone.
For hedge clippings, grass cuttings and plastics etc I’d go down to recycle centre in Rathmines once in a while with them. They started charging there for green waste , so I built myself a compost heap in the garden.
At this stage I don’t use my Brown bin and put my black bin out maybe 4 times a year.
So upon reading the letter I was delighted to see that I was going to be saving money on my bins.
except I wasn’t.

I read and then reread and found that no I had to pay this new annual sixty euro charge or my bins wouldn’t be collected.
Sixty this year ….. how much next year? how much the year after?
I don’t mind paying bin charges for each black bin I put out but I do mind having an annual charge whether I like it or not.
Whats the story with pensioners, unemployed etc? Will they have to pay the private company the sixty euro to have their bins collected?
We’ll soon have charges for water and whatever else they can invent and in time these utilities will be privatised. For whose benefit?

A little bit of science February 2, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Environment, Other Stuff, Science.

When I was in school, I had planned to be a scientist. But life took me on a different course. For a while after completing a science degree, I did get to copy-edit scientific journals, and in a later job I did interview a guy for a job who had published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. (He had dropped out of the “tenure rat race”, as he called it, but with a pre-PhD co-authorship in the prestigious PANA, he should have had no difficulty getting a job if he’d finished the doctorate. But love and marriage brought him away from all that.)

So, I was dead jealous when I read about a study that has been accepted for publication in the Royal Society’s journal Biology Letters. Visually, it offers a clue as to why it is different from your usual academic paper in a learned journal (and make no mistake, Biology Letters is a learned journal). First, if you run your eye over the references section at the end of the paper to see if you recognise any of the preceding work in the area, you find there is no such section. And, second, the published paper has three figures that contain tables like this one.

Image of table published in Biology Letters









If you think the handwriting in that table looks a bit child-like, you would be right: it is child-like because it was written by a primary school pupil. But the paper does not report a study that is about primary school pupils’ handwriting. No, that table was the authors presenting their findings. The whole study was conducted by 25 school pupils aged between 8 and 10 years old. They did have some adult help, but that is described as minimal.

The study was on the ability of bees to learn where to forage, using the colour and position of “flowers”, which were made of perspex for the experiment.

I suspect that they have had a little bit of help in writing up the research: they open the “Discussion” section with the following comment:

[This experiment] tells us that bees can learn to solve puzzles (and if we are lucky we will be able to get them to do Sudoku in a couple of years’ time).

And where the typical acknowledgement of grant support in a scientific paper would be limited to various foundations or state scientific funders, this paper thanks” the George Inn—where the manuscript was written—for the free Cokes”.

Biology Letters has accepted it for publication because they have checked and it appears that it is novel scientific research.

The paper is short enough 6 pages, and is available here.

My heartiest congratulations to each of you, S. Airzee, A. Allen, S. Baker, A. Berrow, C. Blair, M. Churchill, J. Coles, R. F.-J. Cumming, L. Fraquelli, C. Hackford, A. Hinton Mellor, M. Hutchcroft, B. Ireland, D. Jewsbury, A. Littlejohns, G. M. Littlejohns, M. Lotto, J. McKeown, A. O’Toole, H. Richards, L. Robbins-Davey, S. Roblyn, H. Rodwell-Lynn, D. Schenck, J. Springer, A. Wishy, and T. Rodwell-Lynn (but I am dead jealous of ye!)

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