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Food Safety November 20, 2019

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This is kind of revealing, the website of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. I went there over the humous products recall this fortnight or so. Amazing to find how many products across Lidl and Aldi have been affected by the issue. And not just Lidl, but also Iceland. And not just Iceland, but Spar. And Supervalue. And Centra.

Interesting, the food alerts and allergen alerts too. Of course given the multiple brands sold across the island the number potentially problematic are next to none. But then again… not something one wants to get wrong.

But I wonder how many people visit that site regularly. Or know the products which may have contamination, or ‘possible presence of beetles’ or whatever…

Shoring up his base at any cost… November 20, 2019

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Dismal news that:

“The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Mr Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

Yet it was bleakly amusing to see in some reports the US described as an ‘honest broker’ hitherto. That’s not even close to correct. Yet even rhetorical shifts have a consequence in these matters. And of course for the Trump administration it shores up elements of his voter base.

A circular – if ineffective – firing squad November 20, 2019

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Entertaining to see the hot water respective FG and FF by-election candidates have found themselves in – or rather have got themselves into, this last week or so.

Again, as noted last week, the simple fact candidates have gone forward with these very obviously problematic aspects to their political identity suggests a remarkable lack of command and control and oversight by their parties. And one has to wonder whether there will be much tighter surveillance by them in the run-up to the General Election.

But clearly there’s no end of parsing of former Twitter and other social media accounts going on in a sort of mutually assured destruction approach. So far leaders are standing by candidates, and apologies are forth-coming. What would it take for them or others to be jettisoned?

What you want to say – 20 November 2019 November 20, 2019

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

51:49 Johnson Corbyn debate November 20, 2019

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Well, that was a strange one. As Joe notes in comments:

Jez very concerned about potential damage to the Union in the tory Brexit deal, especially concerned about the deal treating Northern Ireland different to the rest of the UK. Strange days indeed 🙂

But that wasn’t the strangest part. I’m a bit surprised that the LP hasn’t crafted a better response for him on a second referendum. And clearly Johnson has decided that is the only real territory worth fighting on in this election.

As to the public, perhaps as mystified as the rest of us:

A snap poll for YouGov suggests that, by a margin of 51% to 49%, viewers thought Johnson won the debate. (See 9.10am.) But the same poll found that more people thought Corbyn did well than Johnson did well – a different measure – and, as ITV’s Robert Peston points out, Corbyn did better on this question with Tory supporters than Johnson did with Labour supporters.

That Corbyn rating, the second one, is fascinating. Michael White once of the Guardian argued years back when Corbyn became leader of the BLP that his appeal might be that he was ultimately seen as a safe pair of hands. Could it be that that might take effect (as it did in 2017, albeit insufficiently) as the campaign continues. Whatever else he remains in the contest.

‘Non-ideological’ ideology. November 19, 2019

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Interesting to read Pat Leahy on RTÉ at the weekend. In the IT he suggested that government Ministers look dubiously on that organisation, at least its news gathering aspect and consider it slanted against them. He argues:

Some of this is about corporate performance. And some of it is about chafing at the intrusions of journalism. Fine Gaelers constantly raise the coverage of the campaign against water charges (one senior Fianna Fáiler tells me: “They have a point”). “RTÉ opposed water charges and did everything they could to bring them down,” says one Minister. Many others have said much the same to me.
My view is that Fine Gael greatly overstates the water charges stuff. But the important thing for RTÉ to understand is that Fine Gael really, really believes it. As Tony O’Reilly observed, governments always feel persecuted by the media; oppositions always feel ignored.

But wait, he throws them a bone.

…some of it may be justified. Even RTÉ’s stoutest defenders would admit that its coverage of issues can sometimes amplify demands for more public spending without the context of necessarily confined budgets. After all, to spend in one area means not spending in another. Powerful interests tend to get less scrutiny than Ministers. Whatever you think of this, the perception in Government is real, it is keenly felt, and it is a dynamic that RTÉ bosses will have to deal with. It is they, after all, who are asking the Government for help.

Yet that is a specifically ideological view of public policy – even if it attempts to cloak itself in some sort of neutrality. It ignores the reality that those proposing increased public spending tend to be attached to parties or entities that support…well… increased taxation. There’s no great mystery there, but it is presented only in part in order to delegitimise that particular ideological approach.

The Impact Of The Troubles On The Republic Of Ireland – The Last Word with Matt Cooper November 19, 2019

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This will be of interest to many here:

Much has been written about the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 50 years since the conflict began.

Dr Brian Hanley has now written The Impact of the Troubles on the Republic of Ireland, 1968-79, a rare examination of the effect the Troubles had in the south.

He feels that this “profound” effect has often gone unrecognised, along with the wave of emotional solidarity many had with northern nationalists.

He joined us on The Last Word to discuss this story.

Healthcare and ideology November 19, 2019

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Two letters in the Irish Times about public and private in hospitals outlined some of the territory in that particular debate, though perhaps calling it a debate is too kind. The first from TJ McKenna argues that any changes are cosmetic, and that:

The current income received by public hospitals for the treatment of private patients is approximately €650 million per annum, approximately 15 per cent of the national hospital budget.

When this funding is no longer provided by private patients, usually through insurers, it will have to be replaced from government funds in order to maintain patient care in public hospitals at the current level. So what are the benefits to be expected in the provision of healthcare to public patients for this significant investment?

Private patients seeking comprehensive emergency care will find this only in public hospitals. A private alternative does not exist as there is very limited provision of emergency care in private hospitals, service being usually restricted to between 8am and 6pm, Monday through Friday. The capability to treat major trauma has yet to be developed in private hospitals. Outside these hours and at any time for major trauma, private patients are always treated in public hospitals.

Concluding first with this:

As there will be little or no change in the admission of emergency patients the impact of eliminating private patients from public hospitals will be limited to the consequences of the reduction in elective admissions.

And then arguing that:

Eliminating private patients from public hospitals will deliver on an ideological ideal but it will be associated with much less benefit than naively expected and at extravagant cost.

In the text he notes:

As Irish citizens, we are all entitled to access public healthcare.

Though no word as to whether that healthcare should provide as good or better than a private ‘alternative’.

But as Dr. Jason Carty of Tallaght Hospital in response has some interesting thoughts. For example:

Dr McKenna points out that Irish citizens are entitled to access public healthcare. The reality is that many Irish citizens won’t trust the public system, not because of the care within it, but because of the difficulties accessing and navigating it. It’s also true that some Irish citizens don’t know of their right to public healthcare, because they are so ingrained in the culture of Irish private healthcare. In Ireland, there is not the assumed right to free healthcare that I experienced with the NHS when living in the UK.

And he notes:

For over a decade, the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has been using Irish taxpayers’ money to pay for the treatment of public patients in private hospitals, primarily to reduce waiting lists. For the 2019 budget, the NTPF will receive €75 million, €75 million that is not being invested in the public system but is being handed over directly to private hospitals. The NTPF’s very existence is as a result of failures within the public system. The status quo always benefits somebody.
I have no recollection of any private insurer contributing to the build cost of any public hospital in this country. Take the current children’s hospital: as it stands, when it will open its doors, on day one the private insurers will be able to profit from admissions without having contributed to its build. The status quo always benefits somebody.

He also notes on foot of the observation by McKenna that private hospitals have no set-up for major emergencies that ‘this isn’t a flaw, it’s a feature. That’s the way the private hospitals like it. It means that they can manage and make money from patients who are sick, but not catastrophically sick, and leave the patients who take time and money to the public system.’

And he notes:

If there is an ideology at play here, then for me it is the ideology that private healthcare needs to stand on its own two feet once and for all in this country, and stop scrounging off the public system.
The private system relies on the public system so much more than the general public perceive.
Even the advertising for private insurers and facilities plays on the bad news stories of trolleys and waiting lists.

I’ve never used the private system – my encounters have been with the public one and my experiences have been good, albeit it has taken a while to access certain procedures. For example I have to have colonoscopies every four or five years due to hereditary factors and the Mater public is excellent in respect of that. I’ve had reason to use A&E in the last four years and while it was no walk in the park the attention was excellent. However I have immediate relatives who have twice accessed the private system in the past decade or so and in each instance there were very strange deficits (including recently a person in post-op being left on a trolley for five hours because not a bed was there to be found). That’s anecdotal, and there are obvious issues as regards waiting lists. But it does seem more than passing strange that private medicine would co-exist within public structures and as evidenced by Carty, the idea that private companies would profit from entirely state funded builds is beyond belief.

But this, to an extent, reminds me of fee-charging private education, still supported by the state. If there is a constitutional bar on doing away with these entities so be it. But supporting them from the public purse seems bizarre, to put it mildly. And if that’s ideological, well, so it is, but no more so than an ideology that is comfortable with the status quo.

Climate Crisis II November 18, 2019

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Excellent Slate Politics Gabfest podcast (wow, that’s a mouthful) where they engaged with the bizarre US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Granted, as they noted, Paris is weak stuff from a left perspective (and by the by, is it me or has the term ‘left’ become much more a feature of debate and discussion in US politics, replacing the non-too lovely ‘Liberal’). But they went much further noting that there was an absolute contradiction between the supposed ‘economic’ realism of those propounding that line as against the clear economic benefits, in innovation to take one area alone, in developing new technologies around renewables. And then there was this from David Plotz.

Florida may not exist as a state in substantive form in 50 years. If you are in Miami, if you live in Miami, own any real estate in Miami and aren’t incredibly concerned about climate change you’re a fucking moron.

True that.

Latest UK GE Polls November 18, 2019

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The Guardian Poll of Polls wasn’t updated past the 12th last night. Haven’t had time to check it this morning, but, the Wiki page on UK polls shows three weekend polls that have the Tories opening up a further lead over Labour with 44-45% ratings as against 28-30% for the BLP. The Liberal Democrats are mired on 11-15%, the Brexit Party falling to a very low 4-6%. In a way this consolidation isn’t unexpected. If you want a Brexit with some kind of a ‘deal’, well, then you’re likely to vote Tory. Brexit Party is a wasted vote. Remain and soft Brexit have the BLP and LDs fighting over what is left. As always what is so striking is how the Tories were able to leverage their position by pushing for a much harder Brexit than might have been expected.

Of course these are polls, not the actual election, something may change, actual seat outcomes may be different. And there’s just shy of four weeks to go. But, as of now there’s a huge hill for the BLP to climb.

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