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There’s almost always an alternative… September 21, 2018

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A piece which note that Bernie Sanders is making some good political weather in the US in relation to online retailers – in particular one which has an ‘A’ as the first letter of its name and an ’N’ as the last.
The description here by the author, James Bloodworth, is no doubt familiar to almost all of us, but it really brings home the problems… and there are – almost always – alternatives. Alibris for one, which handles music etc as well as books.

I worked undercover as an order picker at one of the company’s warehouses for three weeks in 2016, in the small Staffordshire town of Rugeley in the United Kingdom. I took the job as part of the research for my book, Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low Wage Britain.
The warehouse employed about 1,200 people. Most of my co-workers were immigrants from eastern Europe, predominantly Romania. During shifts of 10 and a half hours, it was our job to march up and down the long narrow aisles picking customer orders from two-metre-high shelves. Over the course of a single day a picker could walk as far as 24 kilometres (representatives from Amazon would frequently boast that the warehouse was the size of “10 soccer pitches”). We were paid the minimum wage to do this, which at the time was £7 ($9) per hour.

10 and a half hour shifts on the minimum wage. And beyond that it’s not just the wages – though that’s pretty abysmal.

Before I started the job I had a relatively positive view of Amazon – admittedly derived from my use of the company’s website as a consumer. When I set out to write my book I was simply looking at low-paid, precarious work. I ended up working at Amazon by accident: my search for a low-paid job merely coincided with a recruitment drive on Amazon’s part.
Yet what I found while working for Amazon shocked me. I had done warehouse work previously when I was younger, along with a range of other poorly paid, manual jobs. In other words, my shock at the way workers were treated by Amazon was not a product of some wet-behind-the-ears naivety: I fully expected warehouse work to be tough. Yet what I witnessed at Amazon went far beyond that. This was a workplace environment in which decency, respect and dignity were absent.

As evidenced by this:

The warehouse had the atmosphere of what I imagine a low-security prison would feel like. You had to pass in and out of gigantic airport-style security gates at the end of every shift and each time you went on break or needed to use the toilet. It could take as long as 10 or 15 minutes to pass through these gigantic metal scanners. A corporate, Orwellian form of double-speak was pervasive. You were not called a worker but an “associate”. You weren’t fired but instead you were “released”. Near the entrance to the warehouse, a cardboard cut-out of a fictional Amazon worker proclaimed, via a speech bubble attached to her head, that “we love coming to work and we miss it when we’re not here”.
The contrast between this sickly corporate uplift and the reality of life as an order picker at Amazon was stark. Workers were regularly admonished by management for clocking up so-called “idle time”, which was usually no more than the time it took to go to the bathroom. A recent survey of Amazon warehouse workers in England by the group Organise found that 74% were afraid to go to the toilet during a shift out of fear of missing productivity targets. On one occasion I found a Coca-Cola bottle containing urine sitting incongruently on a warehouse shelf amid the assorted miscellany, evidently left there by a worker too scared to take a toilet break.

That’s not a life. That’s not a working environment any of us would accept for ourselves. Convenience, as the author notes, has a cost. So it makes sense to check out how we can bypass that.

There are times, occasionally, when there may be no alternative, and yet most of the time with a bit of inventiveness to go a bit further and sometimes a willingness to pay a little more, one can happily find a source for goods. It’s well worth it.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series September 21, 2018

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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?

Speaking of BusConnects September 21, 2018

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One small additional point, the maps on the website are… shall we say… difficult to decode, a key problem. And their resolution is remarkably poor too (particularly on Additional Peak Hour services).

BusConnects critics… September 21, 2018

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Since the news of the plans for BusConnect I’ve been wondering how the political class would jump. A fair bit of caution, I think it is fair to say, marked the first tranche of public meetings about the issue. And this no doubt was a product of politicians trying to determine what the public thought.

And just this morning comes the news that:

Minister for Transport Shane Ross told a residents’ association meeting in his constituency on Wednesday evening he had nothing to do with the BusConnects plan and had no responsibility for the National Transport Authority, according to people present.

A remarkable statement some might think. But what is driving this curious reticence to take at least part ownership of what surely is the epitome of ‘change’ and…er…’transport’.

Well, if this is to be believed, perhaps this provides an answer to both the question as to what the public may be thinking as well as the Minister’s stance…

Minister for Transport Shane Ross was heavily criticised at a private meeting of Fine Gael TDs and Senators on Wednesday night over his handling of the controversial redesign of the Dublin Bus network.
The Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting also heard fears that the BusConnects scheme had the potential to damage the Government.
The discussion came just after the Dáil debated a Fianna Fáil motion on the issue. Dublin North West’s Noel Rock tabled his own motion at the party meeting, and called BusConnects a “political landmine”. He also accused Mr Ross of being “seriously politically disinterested” in it.

It’s not even the issue of Ross, interesting though that may be on some levels, but rather that Fine Gael TDs are getting antsy about it.

And why not? When one considers that, as the IT notes, certain areas are losing direct access to the city centre and that they will be dependent upon hubs on spines and said hubs being serviced sufficiently well that buses are available that aren’t already full with passengers, one can see the scope for concern on the part of those who use the services.

Former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald described the BusConnects issue as “extremely politically dangerous”. Senator James Reilly, who is trying to win back his seat in Dublin Fingal, Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell, Dublin Fingal TD Alan Farrell, and Dublin South West’s Colm Brophy also raised it.

Mr Rock said Fine Gael was not treating the issue “appropriately seriously as a party”.
“The Minister appears to be politically disinterested too,” he said, adding that he did not want to sound “alarmist”.

This here perhaps overstates the case when arguing that this cold becomes the ‘new water charges’. It’s not state wide…And yet… and yet… this rings true:

Next, a revamp is proposed that would puncture the bubble that usually separates policy from daily life: the introduction of bus interchanging for many passengers to get into the city. This means eliminating several existing direct routes in favour of more “orbital” routes around the city that intersect with frequent city “spine” services. This is as meaningful a change to some commuters’ lives as proposing to charge them to fill their kettle for their morning brew. This hyper-local impact is also what is most frightening for elected politicians, who are beginning to get skittish.

There’s a lot to dislike in the tone of the piece – not least the typical for the IT (and gratuitous) dig at ‘trade unionists’ and the ‘hard-left’ but interesting isn’t it how there’s something stirring as regards antagonism to the proposals.

Going nowhere September 20, 2018

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…South Dublin County Council made the sensible decision not to nominate any candidate for election after the following… Words fail me as regards the account of what happened prior to that.

Where was this guy five, ten, fifteen years ago? September 20, 2018

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“We need a moment to reconnect with working people,” he said. “We are the Labour Party. We are not the Liberal Party.”

What’s his name?

Labour TD Alan Kelly has rounded on his Leinster House party colleagues by telling them their performance is “not good enough”.

And he’s been an LP elected rep since when…

In 2007, Kelly launched his own political career when he secured election to Seanad Éireann for the Agricultural Panel. He was the only Labour Party candidate in that grouping.[3] After the election of Eamon Gilmore as leader of the Labour Party in 2007, Kelly was appointed as Labour Party Spokesperson on Tourism and was Seanad Spokesperson on Finance and Local Government.

And before that?

Kelly became Chair of Labour Youth in 2000, having previously served as Co-Chair.

They’re only now realising this? September 20, 2018

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From the LP think-in at the weekend…

Others criticised some of their colleagues for airing their concerns over the party in the media, and said Sinn Féin is gathering support from former Labour voters.

Dissident Republicanism and Brexit… September 20, 2018

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That BrexitLawNI report mentioned by An Sionnach Fionn over the weekend is fascinating in the section on Brexit and the Peace Process. Check this out…

The three most prominent ‘dissident’ groups are the Real IRA (RIRA), the Continuity IRA (CIRA) and Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH). In addition to CIRA, RIRA and ONH, some dissident republican groups such as Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) have focused on internal policing issue (including attacking alleged drug dealers and anti-social criminals).93 In 2012 the RIRA merged with RAAD to form an organisation styled as the ‘New IRA’. The dissident republican analysis has since 2006 been represented politically by both the 32 county sovereignty movement and a campaigning political party called Éirígí. In September 2016 a new political organisation titled Saoradh was formed as a ‘Revolutionary Irish Republican Party’. This was an attempt to pull together the various dissident political organisations under one banner and to renew the commitment to complete the ‘unfinished revolution’ by liberating Ireland and realising the social emancipation of the Irish people in a 32-county socialist republic. Although it is a political organisation, Saoradh has been linked to the ‘New IRA’.

And:

It is important to stress that the current capacity of these groups to engage in violence is
significantly less than their Provisional IRA predecessors twenty years ago. All dissident groups are heavily monitored by the police and security services – a task made easier by their much smaller size. In addition, their level of community support within the nationalist community is much lower than that of the Provisional IRA.96 Notwithstanding their diminished capacity and low levels of community support, it is also important to note that it would be foolish to dismiss the potential for increased republican dissident violence as a result of Brexit. The history of militant Irish republicanism suggests that widespread popular support is not a necessary precursor to an armed campaign. For example, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the IRA was essentially decimated but this did not prevent a resurgence in the 1950s.97 Although the organisation existed merely in skeletal form, it still managed to engage in a violent border campaign between 1956-1962. During that campaign, eight IRA men, four republican supporters, and six RUC members were killed, and a further 32 RUC members were wounded and 400 republicans were interned without trial in NI and the Republic.98

Then there’s this:

Interestingly the IRA ‘Border Campaign’ of the fifties was cited by several republicans to the
BrexitLawNI team by way of a caution against dismissing the potential threat of dissident
republicanism post-Brexit. One veteran South Armagh republican recalled that when he
expressed doubts in the late 1960s that an armed struggle would emerge, an older neighbour reminded him of the border campaign and cautioned that it could ‘all happen again’. Indeed, to underline the historical lineage of armed resistance to partition this interviewee referred the team to a 1961 play by Michael J. Murphy titled ‘Men on the Wall’. This play in his view powerfully captured both the symbolic importance of the border as an inspiration to engage in political violence and the ‘spill-over’ effect in Irish history, wherein each generation took up the mantle of ‘republican struggle’ passed on by the previous one. Interestingly he noted that the current Brexit debate had prompted him to organise a reading of this play in his local border village.99

This is fascinating:

Most dissident republican groups supported Brexit in the belief that a) the EU represents the interests of capital rather than working class people b) it infringes on Irish sovereignty and c) it undermined the Good Friday Agreement.100 In particular, Brexit is broadly viewed by dissidents as ideological confirmation of Britain’s imperialist attitude and a classic example of the usurpation of Ireland’s right to sovereignty and self-determination.
96

And:

The security risks from dissident republicans posed by a hard border are apparently shared by security professionals in NI. In May 2018 the Chief Constable of the Police Service of NI (PSNI) confirmed that he is preparing a business case for up to 400 extra police officers to ensure that they are ‘match fit’ to cope with the increased security risk posed by the post-Brexit era.109 The Chief Constable also expressed particular fears about the risks associated with a ‘hard border’ between NI and the Republic.

For the want of five polling centres September 20, 2018

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A certain MP must be counting himself lucky this morning. Not that he wouldn’t have won the subsequent election… but nonetheless…

No agreed Independent Presidential candidate? No surprise. September 20, 2018

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As The Journal reported last night:

INDEPENDENT TDS AND senators have failed to agree on a presidential nominee.
21 independent members of the Oireachtas met this evening to discuss the issue.
A statement issued by TD Michael Fitzmaurice and Senator Gerard Craughwell, who organised the meeting, said the group failed to reach a consensus following a “robust debate”.

And:

“After considering a wide range of views it became clear that it would not be possible to secure agreement for any single prospective nominee,” the statement notes.

But how would it be otherwise? For all the talk of left and right being a thing of the past there are clear differences in approach and political position amongst Independent TDs and Senators. And there are those who would tend to support the incumbent, others who might weigh in behind one or other of his opponents. Trying to get 21 to throw their lot behind a single one, particularly with a very popular incumbent was always quite an ask. And that popularity is an issue too. Who wants to back a candidate just ‘cos? Or rather what elected representatives want to do so. Unlike SF where win or lose they broaden their base even marginally for the Independents, pulling as they do in so many different directions, there’s simply no added value supporting a candidate who, on the face of it, is set to lose, and potentially quite badly. That can’t help the Independent brand – particularly given that everyone bar SF will be standing as an independent.

All that said it would be interesting to know more about the deliberations and what was said.

By the by, check out who attended the meeting:

Maureen O’Sullivan; Joan Collins; Michael Harty; Mattie McGrath; Victor Boyhan; Tommy Broughan: Ian Marshall; Michael Collins: Danny Healy Rae; Sean Canney; Catherine Connolly; Pádraig Ó Céidigh; Michael Fitzmaurice, Gerard Craughwell; Carol Nolan; David Norris; Brian Ó Domhnaill; Denis Naughten; and Finian McGrath.

Fascinating to see two members of the government in there, no? And what about the other Independents4Change TDs not there?

Speaking of the definition of independent, how about this? Gemma O’Doherty who argues that councils have a ‘democratic duty’ to nominate someone. I wonder if that is a view widely held? She also said:

“They have heard my presentation. I can only do so much. If they don’t want to nominate anybody it is disgraceful. We have three Dragons, a Senator, a Sinn Féin MEP and the incumbent. We need an independent candidate.”

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