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Empty populists association August 26, 2016

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There’s something entertainingly hypocritical about Nigel Farage campaigning for Donald Trump in the US Presidential Election. Where now all the complaints about Obama commenting on the Brexit referendum, where now the complaints about interfering in the sovereign affairs of a foreign state. And even were he to say, well, they started it, it does – at the least suggests that there’s no matter of any great principle here.

Sure… he says:

“I am being careful,” he added when asked if he supported Trump. “It’s not for me as a foreign politician to say who you should vote for … All I will say is that if you vote for Hillary Clinton, then nothing will change. She represents the very politics that we’ve just broken through the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.”

But hold on. If you appear at a rally for a politician and say you won’t vote for their opponent then…

But even that pales by comparison with the absurdities of Farage’s appearance this week. For example, as the Guardian notes:

The crowd seemed slightly puzzled by Farage’s appearance on stage. But Trump welcomed Farage warmly, and stood by him as he spoke.
Farage, on stage alongside one of the wealthiest men in the United States, said that Brexit was “for the little people, for the real people”.

It’s an old trick, isn’t it? The Tories have played it, as have the Republicans and other right wing parties. But rarely have we seen the reality behind the rhetoric so nakedly and unashamedly on display.

Inherited wealth…redux August 26, 2016

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Speaking of that a week or two ago, what about this instance, covered by David Mitchell.

In case you missed them, here are those unjust ramifications again.

1) Of the late duke’s [of Westminster] approximately £9bn, approximately £0bn goes to the taxman. I’m sure the Treasury gets some money, but nowhere near a billion quid, let alone the £3.6bn that would be owing if the estate were liable for the standard 40% inheritance tax rate. But it isn’t, obviously, for reasons that are as literally legal as they are figuratively criminal.

2) Of the late duke’s approximately £9bn, approximately £0bn goes to his three daughters.

3) Of the late duke’s approximately £9bn, approximately £9bn, and the titles of Duke of Westminster, Marquess of Westminster and Viscount Belgrave, go to his third child and only son, Hugh (25).

Mitchell continues…

A lot of people don’t like inheritance tax. It feels like stealing from the dead. It isn’t, but it feels like it. The reasoning goes: I worked hard for my money, I paid tax on it when I earned it (not all of the above quite applies to the late duke), so why shouldn’t I be able to leave it all to my children? Why should the taxman get any?

The answer is that, in order to pay for public services, the government should take money out of the economy where it’ll be least missed, where its absence is least likely to plunge people into poverty or reduce consumer spending. The money of the dead is therefore ripe for taxation: the owner no longer needs it, and his or her heirs have been doing OK without it up to now. Inheritance tax doesn’t discourage earning, it discourages dying, which I think we can all get behind.

It’s interesting, isn’t it even if clearly the duke is at the extreme end of the spectrum in relation to this, and Mitchell explains the rationalisations behind the duke’s thinking. One which is hedged in by concepts of family (yes, that again) where, as the former puts it, a scrap of shared DNA that passes down multiple generations is more important than ‘his own daughters,never mind the patients of the NHS’. Yet these are, for some, the ties that bind. It’s a peculiar view of the world.

Political upheaval August 26, 2016

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An interesting point made in Mary Regan’s piece in the SBP this last weekend where she considers the political upheavals in this and other states across the last few years. She notes that despite the ‘civil-war parties’ losing 30% of their share of the vote since the 1980s, dipping from 80% to 50% (entertaining to see the LP excluded from that schema):

But their demise is not as strong or as sudden as the retreat of mainstream traditional parties in other European countries. And so far, there has been no dramatic rise of another party to replace it.

She, of course, is thinking of SYRIZA or Podemos. And that is intriguing. I was thinking something not dissimilar the other day. That while the political structures we have known for many decades have disintegrated they haven’t seen a process of reconsolidation in a new form. So, instead, we are left with many competing voices beyond the ‘civil-war’ parties, albeit perhaps a slim majority of those voice on the Independent side are left of centre while SF is the single largest formation, and by quite some distance, outside of the Independents.

Perhaps because here that process of deconsolidation predated the economic crisis of recent years, that slowly the ‘civil-war’ parties were losing ground and momentum and when that crisis broke it accentuated the process. But… that without a clear incontrovertible alternative that process has now halted and perhaps, perhaps even reversed a little.

And this is a problem because forming a coherent opposition is next to impossible. The SBP has a long piece by Michael Brennan on SF (of which more on one particular point soon) which notes that SF has shifted towards a belief that only in coalition with FF is it likely to gain power. I wonder if that underestimates the antipathy towards it from FF. We’ll see.

But still. Political upheaval hasn’t delivered to us the outcomes almost all of us on this site would hope would occur. Perhaps political upheaval isn’t enough, and hoping for same isn’t enough. But if that’s the case then how will those outcomes be achieved?

FF’s shift to the left? And the left pressurising larger party TDs… August 25, 2016

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The Phoenix recently argued that Willie O’Dea is currently the most left wing, one uses the term advisedly, member of FF. And it argues that this is “because of his large working class Limerick City base”. It goes further and suggests that he has been arguing for ‘a lurch to the left’ by FF. All this in the context of FF arguing for increases in the state pension and other areas of social welfare – O’Dea is, of course, FF’s social protection spokesperson.

This is of course tactical, isn’t it, if such a phenomenon exists. And I think it does. FF knows that to win back the broad tranches of the urban, and sections of the rural, working class across the state a pitch to the left is the only way forward. Actually having FG in power to take the heat is no bad place for them. Telling how little talk there is of leadership heaves in the party currently. It’s as if they think it’s only a matter of time. And perhaps it is.

And certainly if any member of FF is aware of the pressures from the left he would be one. His own constituency, a four seater, is one he shares with SF’s Maurice Quinlivan and that unlikely holdout from the Labour Party, Jan O’Sullivan. With Cian Prendiville in the mix no doubt things are more up in the air that he would like. Thought granted, his position this time around was substantially better than the nadir of 2011 though not as good as 2007. Curiously though O’Sullivan’s vote held up somewhat better than might be expected. Anyone able to count for that?

Still this isn’t the only constituency where strong left challenges inflect the politics of the larger party TDs. Any other examples come to people’s minds?

Sports New: redux August 25, 2016

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The SBP doesn’t mince words – well, not too much, in its editorial this weekend. It notes that

Pat Hickey is innocent until proven guilty. But the emails to him leaked by the Brazilian authorities are emblematic of a contempt not just for Shane Ross – whom Hickey was advised by his lawyers to “put back in his box” – but for Irish sports fans and taxpayers.

Most sports fans watch the Olympics only having made strenuous intellectual leaps of faith, suspend their disbelief over doping and cheating and match fixing, in an effort to enjoy the true Olympian spirit.

And here’s a sensible point

The athletes deserve all the praise for their hard work [over the years before an Olympics], discipline and determination. But the Irish tax payer deserves recognition for their contribution too.

Tom McGurk in the same paper has a good piece on how money driven and elitist the organisations in international sports actually are, how wide the gulf between ‘Olympian’ rhetoric and the reality.

And to round it up, Michael McDowell makes the blindingly obvious but still necessary point on foot of what appears to be a most intriguing process by which tickets were made available:

Reform of OCI is now an urgent necessity…

OCI cannot be a personal fiefdom for sporting oligarchs. Continued public funding of OCI and its constituent sporting bodies should now be made conditional on major reform in OCI’s governance.

And he notes that transparency is key. If there’s any lesson to take away from all this it is, as ever, that enormous scepticism should be exercised in relation to such organisations. It’s just good standard operating procedure. Well, that and an absolute determination to ensure that those who present themselves as representing the citizens of this state in whatever fashion are held to account at all times and in all appropriate ways.

Starting from scratch after Brexit August 25, 2016

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It never ends. Literally it never ends. This piece here from the Guardian gives an overview of the complexity of the post-Brexit referendum situation that the United Kingdom now faces. Two year timelines, even in the event of a year or two delay in triggering Article 50 seems panglossian. The basic negotiations for a new arrangement between the EU and the UK may take the best part of a decade. Some think more. The talk is now of interim deals in order to smooth matters. There’s the not insignificant matter of the UK becoming a WTO member. There’s the trade deals with 65 separate non-EU states that being a WTO member will entail to replace those that the UK had as a member of the EU.

It gets better, as the article notes, the UK can’t sign a thing with non EU states until it is outside the EU. No US-UK trade deals for years to come.

There’s more:

None of these trade talks can begin seriously until the government has worked out pressing domestic questions. Will British farmers be protected against cheaper competition with import tariffs? Is the government prepared to “mostly eliminate” manufacturing by opting for unfettered free trade, as the leading leave economist Patrick Minford has argued? Will the four nations and all the regions of the UK get behind the vision of turning Britain into a “buccaneering offshore low-tax nation” favoured by some leave campaigners? A month after the vote, these questions have barely been discussed.

If that all seems insane, well perhaps it is because that it is. On some levels it appears that the EU needn’t do a thing to make the departure of the UK more uncomfortable in order to dissuade others from following the same path. That path as it stands is so difficult, so problematic that few would countenance making the effort.

And there’s the practical aspects. A civil service denuded of staff isn’t best placed to start the processes necessary as described above. They may not even be able to.

…the UK is scrambling to create a trade department from scratch. The government aims to have 300 specialist staff in place by the end of the year, a spokeswoman said, but it is unclear how many will have had direct experience of trade negotiations.
Even 300 would not be enough. One former EU trade negotiator, Miriam González Durántez, estimated the UK would need at least 500 negotiators. The EU typically sends 20 commission negotiators to any round of trade talks, backed up by between 25 and 40 technical experts, she wrote in the FT earlier this year. The UK has 40 trade negotiators, compared with the 550-strong trade department in Brussels.

It would, and is, unfair to accuse those who voted for Brexit of being stupid. The result was one drawn from many different reasons not least a toxic and ill-informed press and political environment where the actual failings of the EU were overshadowed by absurd exaggeration in order to divert attention from the arguably even worse failings of the British parliament and political system. But it is entirely fair to accuse those who led the ‘official’ campaigns of stupidity and worse.

Not because I would differ in regard to my own analysis of the EU – I’m deeply EU-critical but not supportive of exit short of something to exit to, but because this process is a diversion, one which the right are already making hay from and across a range of areas. And it is a process that is likely to last for years, that will clog up the democratic and representative structures of the UK. The article references this directly:

Keeping democratic oversight of years of painstaking, highly technical and politically charged negotiations with scores of countries will also be a mammoth task for Britain’s elected representatives.
“Keeping parliament updated when negotiations are running on different tracks will be a really big challenge,” White said. She wants to ensure any new parliamentary committees set up to scrutinise Brexit have “a clear role and route to influence government”.
For now, parliament’s means to hold the government to account over Brexit remain hazy. It is just one more of the many unanswered questions about what it really means to take back control.

All this will will be shaped, as we know all too well, by the Tories and shaped to their advantage. That’s the inevitable byproduct of this being overseen by the Tories. They have state power. Others do not.

But shaped in such a way as to minimise negative outcomes? Not very is the likely answer. The sheer lack of understanding of basic facts in relation to EU/UK relations, the complexity of the links between the two, the problems faced in disconnecting those links. This piece here points to the almost incomprehensible naivety of those pushing the official campaign.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series – 25th of August August 25, 2016

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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?

ABCs and class August 24, 2016

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Whether one agrees or disagrees with Ed Rooksby’s broader analysis here on Jacobin of Brexit from closer to the referendum, and I admit I tend to the former, he makes an excellent point in relation to polling, that:

…occupational category measures of social stratification do not operate on the basis of a Marxist understanding of class. Indeed, as Charlie Hore points out:

AB includes 25 percent of the population, including key groups of workers who have been in struggle recently — teachers, nurses, doctors and other health professions — and, in fact, most trade union members.
Charlie Hore’s piece, on SocialistWorker.org no less, particularly good at analysing the problems implicit in using ABCDE occupational categories.

And Rooksby notes too that:

In addition, the DE figures are skewed by the fact that this category includes pensioners (some rich, some poor), among whom there was a large turnout.

Conor McCabe amongst others has pointed out that using ABCDE categories, which are essentially categories devised for advertisers is, at best, problematic as a means of understanding class structures in contemporary society and potentially very misleading.

Given the preponderance of polls in this era – particularly during and since the economic crisis, and the manner in which they are used to support x, y or z obviously this underlines the point that they should be treated with extreme caution, particularly when used as instruments to determine ‘class’ positions.

Sports News August 24, 2016

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…no not that. Well actually, yes that. The thought struck me the other day looking at photos of Pat Hickey on the web was that so many of them were clearly from interviews staged at various points in the past. Photographs of him looking thoughtful (and by the by I’d forgotten the OCI had a HQ in Howth. Very nice). Photographs like this, and this, and this, and this, and many many many more…

What you want to say – 24th August 2016 August 24, 2016

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

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