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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Rodrigo Y Gabriella July 13, 2019

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.
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A really interesting band that moved to Dublin in 1999 from Mexico. Having been previously been part of a Heavy Metal band they kind of mix metal rifs and Mexican style guitar. Have seen them a number of times live and they are excellent.

Working out his notice? July 12, 2019

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John Bolton has been worrying me this last while. Worrying me? Well, perhaps I mean I’ve been worried on his behalf. Worried on his behalf? Well, okay, that’s a stretch, his politics and mine are near antithetical. Still it has struck me in recent weeks his tenure at the White House as national security advisor may be due to come to an end. He has the appearance of a man working in a job on borrowed time.

Simply put I couldn’t see Bolton agreeing with much of the thrust of what passes for Trump era foreign policy. Some of it sure, but hardly all of this, not least the pandering to the DPRK. Or the interesting hesitation on the part of Trump in relation to Iran (a hesitation that on one level shows up the cosmetic nature of Trump’s approach, rhetorical rather than active, and yet simultaneously is something one is in this instance at least glad of).

In truth Trump is coming up against the limits of the possible and perhaps learning that in relation to Iran the agreement made under the Obama administration was, all things considered, pretty good and a significant step forward. As to the DPRK, who knows what’s going on there. Nothing of substance, that’s for sure.

And Bolton in all this? Well, he’s a bellicose character at the best of times. He can’t be enjoying this. And as Fred Kaplan notes, perhaps someone in despatching him to Mongolia during Trump’s travels around Asia this last week had a sense of humour (of sorts) for…

Surely Bolton, who knows history, gets the reference. He no doubt recalls that, in 1957, as part of his campaign to rid his inner circle of Stalinist remnants, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev banished the longtime foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov—executioner of some of the late Josef Stalin’s most savage diplomatic maneuvers—to the post of ambassador to Outer Mongolia.
Ever since, in the lexicon of power politics, sending rivals or unwieldy subordinates to Mongolia has been a metaphor for consigning them to oblivion. In Bolton’s case, it’s been given a blatantly literal spin. The fact that Trump’s daughter Ivanka and even Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson escorted the president across the Demilitarized Zone, while the national security adviser was marooned on the terrestrial equivalent of the dark side of the moon, highlights the pink slip in neon.

Repeating myths in the North about Brexit July 12, 2019

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The IT had a good piece interviewing four representatives of loyalism about Brexit and the current political chaos.
All articulate spokespeople for their community, though sadly not entirely representative of it given the dominance of the DUP, they were both flexible and oddly retrospective. For example, they confused the position of the ROI government entirely arguing that:

“There’s a feeling that 20 years of goodwill is being lost by aggressive statements by the Irish Government. That is a danger,” said Williamson. He points out the Belfast Agreement covers a million Protestants but feels the Government does not recognise the whole population the agreement protects by “making all these green statements”.
For these four men, it does not follow that because a majority (56 per cent) of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU that a majority would want to stay in the EU by being in a united Ireland.

And:

“Moving the constitutional tectonic plates is very dangerous and very irresponsible,” Irvine warned. He said that “most right-thinking people” in their communities would not want a return to “the dark days of the past” but he is worried about how younger loyalists who have no memory of the Troubles might react to the constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the UK being eroded in a post-Brexit world.

But the ROI government has been studious in saying it does not think a Border Poll is appropriate in the near future or that a united Ireland should or is an option at this point. Indeed it has been exemplary in arguing only for the GFA/BA and the current status quo.

Worse again they suggest the following:

These loyalists see the repeated warnings from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney about the threat of a return to violence, the importance of the backstop provision in the Brexit deal and the risk of a hard border – all raised as part of the Government’s objections to the pro-Brexit British positions – as undermining good neighbourly relations with the Republic.

But this is to ignore who else has been making precisely that argument, that being the security forces on both sides of the Border including current and former PSNI members. And also the NI civil service, as recently as this week.

I find it depressing that we are hearing from loyalism the same incorrect tropes as put around by pro-Brexit commentators and proponents and it does offer an insight into how rapidly those tropes have been adopted and amplified.

It’s odd too some of the contradictions expressed. For example…

…he recognises there is a “sea change” among moderate nationalists and that post-Brexit they would vote in a referendum “for some sort of agreed Ireland”. While he believes there will never be a united Ireland, he is concerned about what Brexit might throw up. “The representatives of UDA, UVF and the Red Hand [paramilitary group] all signed up to decommissioning because the union was safe. You go into the whole Brexit situation, nobody knows what is going to happen.”

But… also:

He thinks it “very likely” that English and Scottish nationalism could break up the United Kingdom and is concerned about what the coming years and wider political disruption across the UK might bring.

So that would suggest that some sort of united Ireland might well be a plausible (if not inevitable) outcome, no?

Interestingly though there is this:

Williamson said Sinn Féin and others who want a Border poll in Northern Ireland on Irish unification “haven’t told people what a united Ireland even entails”. He said that, post-Brexit, other options should be considered: a Northern Ireland-Scotland confederation, Northern Ireland and Scotland going “semi-independent” or the Republic “coming within the British Isles” or rejoining the Commonwealth.

That’s a lot of options, and some are clearly non-starters. But… there may be space in there which would provide a path forward.

Quite the vassal state they’re in… July 12, 2019

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Check this out from Martin Kettle:

What precedent was there, the foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat asked [chief of Britain’s Foreign Office Simon] McDonald straight off, for the head of state of a friendly government to do what Donald Trump has done this week and make it impossible for Britain’s senior representative in that country to do his job? McDonald’s answer was monosyllabic, crisp and explosive. “None,” he said.

Go on…

Labour’s Chris Bryant followed up. Surely there were precedents from unfriendly countries such as Venezuela? “I know of none,” McDonald replied again. Not even hostile states have behaved like Trump, he insisted. Had there been some distant occasion when a British ambassador fell foul of the White House in such a way? There was, McDonald admitted, a “difficulty” in 1856, when President Franklin Pierce accused the British ambassador of recruiting Americans to fight in the Crimean war. The listeners in committee room 16 laughed, but McDonald did not.

And:

And then came in many ways the most extraordinary remark of the lot. “Nothing like this has ever happened before,” McDonald told another MP. “There must be consequences. What they are in detail I can’t tell you this afternoon.”

Consider the political dynamic at work here. Difficult, granted, to disentangle it from the personality of Trump, but necessary. This is a situation where the leader of a sovereign, nominally friendly, state, has essentially pushed an ambassador of another nominally friendly state close to resignation (reading a lot of analysis it seems Darroch would have survived until the Autumn when his term was up even given Trump’s actions). But, as Martin Kettle notes, added to that was the initial leak, from pro-Brexit quarters, and worse again…

Boris Johnson, who knowingly refused to express confidence in Darroch during Tuesday’s ITV leadership hustings with Jeremy Hunt. It was Johnson’s action that led directly to Darroch’s inevitable resignation today.

Kettle points to a number of plausible reasons how Darroch’s words could have been leaked – from internal politicking to intercepts by other powers. But Kettle makes a devastating point, something I’ve riffed on here this week too albeit perhaps not so bluntly.

Either way, these options are devastating for the practicality of diplomatic cables in the modern era. They are a reminder too of the extent to which Brexit subverts the workings of the British state. There’s been nothing like it for alternative loyalty since the Soviet spies of the cold-war era.

Brexit introduces a new (dis) loyalty to the British state. Most of us will have deep criticisms of that state, but this is simply to state the fact. Who speaks for a Britain where a cohort within it appear entirely comfortable to effectively cede sovereignty to the US while continually espousing their supposed allegiance to British sovereignty. Indeed in a way what is so breathtaking is the sheer hypocrisy, as noted this week too, of those whose loyalties to Britain appear to be bizarrely cosmetic. Kettle also notes that Trump, at a minimum, weakened Britain, and that use of the term ‘nominally friendly’ is quite deliberate.

As for Johnson, what more or less would one expect?

Kettle makes a further serious point. This may be the new normal, the world has changed…

The underpinnings of Trumpism, in the shape of populist nationalism and contempt for other countries, alliances and accords, go much deeper, both in the US and in Brexit Britain. If Johnson, or any other Brexiter leader, gets his way, Britain may once again embrace the US. But the America they embrace will not be the outward-looking republic of presidents from Eisenhower to Obama but an inward-looking exceptionalist country that seeks to disrupt everything about the international order. In such a world, Britain risks becoming the vassal of a capricious unilateralist state. Johnson or his successor would be Britain’s Carrie Lam to Washington’s Xi Jinping.

And where does Britain stand in this? Numerous Tories have used the term ‘vassal state’ in reference to the EU – entirely incorrectly. This, what the UK has just been treated to, how Trump has acted, how Johnson has responded, is the very definition of a vassal state.

Noel Whelan July 11, 2019

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Was very sorry to hear about the death of Noel Whelan. His columns were always readable, and while I’m sure many of us wouldn’t necessarily agree with all that was in them on some issues he was very good – obviously marriage equality, and on others he offered an insight into a growing strand, albeit not necessarily a wide strand, within what might be broadly termed Fianna Fáil adjacent thinking that seemed socially much more liberal than others within that group. Very sad news.

1989 revisited: 11 July – Bush visits Hungary July 11, 2019

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A cool reception for President Bush in Hungary as noted by this report from the New York Times. The sense that he was lagging behind developments in the Warsaw Pact is very clear.
This from the Washington Post is more positive:

After a few words of praise for Hungary and its reform-minded communist leaders, whose experiments in market-oriented economics have brought this country a booming private sector, Bush flung off his raincoat and plunged into the crowd to shake hands before returning to his limousine for a drive across the square to parliament, where he was to have dinner. In a dinner toast, Bush told Hungary’s leaders, “Your nation is involved in an unprecedented experiment — a communist system seeking to evolve toward a more open economy, toward a more open and pluralistic political system.”

Right about being right? July 11, 2019

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The Slate.com Political Gabfest had US conservative David French on it and most interesting it was too particularly about attacks from the right on French – French would be Trump averse. But the critiques of him seem to come from a strand in US conservatism which is moving towards a sort of authoritarian position.

Here’s the background:

…Sohrab Ahmari, the op-ed editor at The New York Post, whose public career embodies some of those shifts and stresses: An immigrant whose family fled the Islamic Republic of Iran, he began his career on the right as an ex-Marxist secular neoconservative at The Wall Street Journal editorial page and has since become a traditionally inclined Catholic (a journey detailed in his striking memoir, “From Fire, By Water”) and also more Trump-friendly and populist into the bargain.
In the last week Ahmari has roiled the conservative intellectual world with a critique of something he calls David French-ism, after David French of National Review, another prominent conservative writer. This controversy, like the debate over Tucker Carlson and capitalism earlier this year, has been a full-employment bill for conservative pundits. But it probably seems impossibly opaque from the outside, since superficially Ahmari and French belong to the same faction on the right — both religious conservatives, both strongly anti-abortion, both deeply engaged in battles over religious liberty (where French is a longtime litigator). Indeed it is somewhat opaque even from the inside, prompting conservatives engaging with the dispute to wonder, “What are we debating?”

Essentially Ahmari argued that civility is a second order issue particularly since:

Then came Donald Trump, who appalled many people on the right but also kindled hopes that he might, in his own odd way, use governmental power to advance the cultural aims of conservatives. That’s a divisive idea in itself. Those in the camp with David French agree that there’s a culture war, but they want, in essence, to fight culture with culture and keep government out of the matter, except when it comes to preserving bedrock rights. Those in the camp with Sohrab Ahmari feel that government must take a more active role, using its power to do things like curb the excesses of leftism in academia and promote the traditional family structure, or else the culture war is as good as lost already. Beyond that, they feel the other side has declared war and stooped to any means to win it.

It’s this last which is so problematic because as the Vanity Fair article notes Ahmari argues that the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court fight was an example of a ‘power-mad left’. Except as the article continues, Ahmari’s reading is remarkably partial ignoring the fact Mitch McConnell had skewered Merrick Garland when he was the Obama nominee for the Supreme Court.

This blindness is telling and a bit depressing, but more important are the dynamics behind the call for a ‘government taking a more active role’. This is a deeply authoritarian approach and one that is far from unknown elsewhere .

Ahmari appears to have landed on a particularly hardline version of Catholicism, as against French who is Protestant and seems from what I can make out of him to be a decent enough character. Though others say that individuals from various Christian positions take different sides in this.

What’s telling is how the situation is one where there is a shift from conservatives defending freedom of speech for conservatives and the religious to one where they seem to want to do is curtail freedom of speech for those who are not conservative or religious. That’s a defining moment in a sense. On the gabfest there was a consensus that conservatism is in some ways isolated – the broader culture isn’t entirely positive for it though as French notes ‘both sides think they’re losing’. Though we, here, might feel that there’s a lot more than ‘both’ sides and many of us might feel a situation Still he had an intriguing line, which he borrowed from someone else, saying America has become more pro-gay, more pro-life and more pro-gun. Yet those like Ahmari ‘catastrophise’ matters for conservatives (as well as seeming utterly obsessed with sexuality, though as John Dickerson noted that if the faith of the person making the complaint is one where there’s a focus on sexuality…).

I think there’s a more cynical take on this than catastrophising on the part of conservatives. I think that this is regarded as a moment when perhaps paradigmatic shifts might occur – or to put it more bluntly, there’s an opportunity now with Trump in order to push their agenda through.

Of course for those of us who lived in a socially repressive Ireland of the 1970s and 1980s where there was overt repression against LGB people, where single mothers were pilloried, where anti-women legislation was on the books and so on (and I’m in no way suggesting all is sweetness and light now) it is difficult to believe the great claims that those like Amar make for those sort of societies. Ireland was more than that, of course. All societies are. But it was also crushingly limited by that too. One of my abiding memories is seeing young gay men I knew going to the gaysoc in the institution I attended rather than the one they were in which was a good twenty minute walk away due to obvious concerns over their safety and confidentiality and so on. The Amar’s of the world might think that a better way to organise matters. I’m convinced of the opposite.

As to the future…as the NYT notes:

The further this reconsideration goes, the more fanciful, utopian or revolutionary it might seem. (The integralists would cop to the last designation.) But the basic concept of a right rooted more in cultural conservatism and economic populism than in libertarianism and individualism isn’t fanciful; it describes the emergent right-of-center ideological formations all across the Western world. The American pendulum may swing back to fusionism after Trump — French is hardly alone in championing the old regime, and most Republican politicians remain instinctive fusionists — but some version of Ahmari’s turn is one that the right is making almost everywhere, for now.

Everything is brilliant! Apparently. July 11, 2019

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Check out the comments under this thoughtful piece by Karlin Lillington in the IT about how the unmanaged arrival of tech companies in Dublin city centre comes complete with negative knock on effects. As she writes…

On the plus side, the companies helped drive further renovation, and development on former industrial land near the bay. On the negative side, many now argue the companies never fulfilled promises to the existing communities, and that the deal wasn’t structured in a way that enabled the city to gauge compliance or to adequately protect area residents from gradual displacement. Social inequities festered.

And:

Ever more companies have come in [in San Francisco]. Rents skyrocketed (up to 45 per cent) following a 120 per cent rise in computing sector employees between 2014 and 2017. Now, as the Guardian reported this week, even the tech employees who drove this mass gentrification don’t like what they have wrought. With rents hitting $3,700 a month for a one-bedroom apartment (making Dublin’s €1,169/month, about $1,320, seem a bargain), even techies are being priced out.

Living in an area where much of this change is taking place it is noticeable the stresses that are now evident on transport, traffic, the movement of large groups of pedestrians to and from their workplaces, increasing house prices and so on. A small thing but telling – the location of a very famous tech company is in what was an unused commercial block. All for the good most would say, but at night the offices blazed with light generating light pollution around what was and remains a residential area. Secondly workers in those offices arrived and left throughout the night apparently oblivious to the impact of talking loudly as they passed through those same residential areas. Teething problems no doubt and easily enough rectified but evidence of how little thought was put in to what was a massive change in a community.

And Lillington is spot on in the following:

Continuing to bring in big company developments to a city unable to house its existing population, without looking at best practice elsewhere and without working with communities, activists, and informed specialists, means we lurch ever closer to the unwanted example of San Francisco, a renowned city now struggling with problems greatly exacerbated by the poorly planned-for expansion of the tech sector.

As to those comments BTL? Dismissive, uninterested, some filled with class-antagonism and the usual complaints about begrudgery and parasites and so on. And an interesting passivity that one of the few half-useful comments notes in relation to someone complaining about social housing tenants (as an aside the only trouble I’ve ever had with neighbours was with those who owned their own houses – not saying that tenants and residents from any background can’t be problematic but there’s a sort of knee-jerk assumption that only one group is the source of trouble that doesn’t sit with the facts) that ‘you can hardly sit back and do nothing’ and that they should engage if there is anti-social behaviours with management committees and whoever.

Stupidity piled on stupidity… hypocrisy piled on hypocrisy. July 11, 2019

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Perhaps the most absurd aspect of the Kim Darroch/Trump affair, that is the private comments that Britain’s Ambassador Darroch made about Trump and the US administration which were leaked, after Johnson not defending him and the man having to resign, is the tooth-grinding stupidity of those complaining about what was said.

Take by way of example Nigel Farage who says that this proves the wrong man is in Washington. That’s utterly risible. It’s not the job of an Ambassador for one state to function as the effective cheerleader for the leader of the state they are sent to. Anything but. Their function is to represent the interests of their own state. And part of that, a large part, is to give honest and unmediated analyses of those in the state they are sent to.

As the Atlantic noted:

…the optics of firing Darroch and replacing him with someone the White House finds more favorable—such as arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage, who Trump previously said would do a “great job” as ambassador—could be just as damaging. (Farage said this week that he wouldn’t be the right man for the job.) Rather than conjuring the image of a strong “global Britain” ready to reaffirm its prominence on the world stage once it leaves the EU, firing Darroch would instead portray the U.K. as a weak, deferential actor that can be bullied by even its closest allies.
It would also undermine the process by which Britain appoints ambassadors—one that is based not on the size of campaign donations (as is often the case in the U.S.), but by the length of distinguished service in Britain’s diplomatic corps. Prior to becoming ambassador to the U.S. in 2016, Darroch was the U.K.’s national security adviser.

Still, it’s a fascinating insight into the very clear contradictions and hypocrisies of Farage, a man who would presumably not be complaining were these comments about Barnier or some other EU worthy. And it raises interesting questions about the supposed anti-globalist credentials of Farage and those of his ilk. For all that he and they rail against those who would supposedly rob them of sovereignty it is very clear how partial and partisan those complaints are. Farage is supremely comfortable with the likes of Trump (and Putin too come to think of it). As indeed are others on the free trade side. But then this is about power and the accumulation and exercise of power. And if that means effectively becoming the representative of a foreign power and its interests… well so be it. And that raises the question as to when the penny is going to drop for some about the very real ‘elite’ this crew represents.

Though the weirdest thing is that Trump leans into the controversy by actually underscoring the points made by Darroch. Strange man.

Against Everyone With Conner Habib podcast – Conor McCabe: WHAT IS MONEY? WHAT IS CAPITALISM? July 10, 2019

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Available here with show notes.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/28247071

ABOUT THE SHOW
Against Everyone with Conner Habib is podcast with 100s of thousands of downloads and listeners, about how ideas – political, philosophical, social, spiritual – play out for people and culture.

In addition to Conor past guests have included: muslim feminist radical Mona Eltahawy, psychoanalytic theorist Todd McGowan, MacArthur fellow and weird tale author Kelly Link, queer activist and author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, anti-police activist and writer Alex Vitale, Chapo Traphouse hosts Will Menaker and Felix Biederman, radical political journalist Abby Martin, experimental punk musician Tim Kinsella, and more.

Here’s the link to a list of episodes: https://connerhabib.com/against-everyone/

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