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Mad Dogs and Ulster Men

What with all the recent activity in the North, attention here has again moved away from the loyalist community north of the border and squarely back onto the IRA or ex-IRA or Sinn Fein on its own etc, fact is the loyalists get short shrift at editorial meetings again. However a timely essay from Stephen Howe (part1 of 2), is available on open Democracy and it details in an interesting fashion the current issues at play up North.
His first diagnosis on the coverage of the Riots which flared up across the north in recent weeks is as follows;
"Much media and political comment has “explained” the profundity and rootedness of this feeling in terms of bigotry and criminality, of archaism and atavism."
The implicit point being that such reporting evidently missed the point. The following essay, perhaps half-essay, is a more reflective attempt at giving some socio-cultural background to the events of recent years and the particular societal difficultie in loyalism they are a symptom of. Its tough going in parts, a tad detached and academic but offers a very global insight to the plight of current identity politics in Loyalism.
Deep deep sociological breakdown is cited as a major problem which struck, strikes even, at a confluence of other tense events in the North.

"De-industrialisation, demographic decline, the tendency of the more enterprising or successful to move out to the suburbs if not further afield, low rates of educational achievement and very high ones of family breakdown, petty crime, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse – all these are features which the poorer Protestant districts of Belfast, Portadown or Ballymoney share with those of Liverpool, Glasgow or Swansea, and indeed those of Dresden and Detroit."
This reading of events includes belfast in the growing litany of failing social structures which are being ravaged by the new dawn of unfettered globalisation. While it would be unfair to draw the conclusion that the riots are a direct result of global forces, indeed foolish to ascribe such power to those forces as yet, it is clear that issues affecting aspects of identity politics in Loyalist areas are common to many other major, or former, industrial giants.
The process of de-modernisation as Owen terms it, can have the very real effect of removing one or more social pillars which prop up common identity in communities. The removal of such familiar aspects by forces beyond control of the local people is a mightly dry tinder onto which to throw the peace process.

"On that level, their crisis is generic, a variant on the crisis of socio-economic modernisation which afflicts large sectors of the older industrial economies everywhere. Not only has “globalisation”, in many of its aspects and especially those which enthusiasts hail as positive, enabling, freedom-enhancing, never fully penetrated those sectors, but in a sense it has already been (it was there, for instance, when Belfast could truly claim to be at the centre of worldwide networks of trade and manufacture), offered its tantalising promises, and then gone again."
What follows is a denser examination of Loyalist sociology, not the subject matter of this post, however it is worth noting that its place in his thesis seems to be that the removal of some form of economic certainty from the indentity of Northern Loyalists, has forced the unhappy observance that similarities exist in cultural expression and now may be increasingly forced upon them in the guise of the Peace Process and cross community governance.
To simplify such conditions down to merely broad resentment at the benefits, perceived or otherwise, afforded catholics is not to do justice to the current very real identity crisis in Loyalist politics.
Identity globally is threatened by globalised popular culture, the merits of which are argued at length elsewhere, the confluence of this crippling problem with a community already insecure of its own role, relevance and security of being, is a flame waiting for oil. The Northern authorities will have their work cut out for them if they desire to truly build a community in any sense of the term, for many hurdles have been erected and not properly addressed.
The sad fact is only some of these are direct results of the troubles and subsequent peace process and therefore avoidable.
RR

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9.29.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Return of The Dail

Tomorrow sees the return to plenary session of Dail Eireann, only 13 WEEKS AGO, I posted on the quality of the holidays they receive. Perhaps it was a cruel and easy jibe on a sunny summer afternoon. I still believe that the holidays are excessive, better arrangements can be made for governing the country and ensuring regular parliamentary oversight and access. A 13 week holiday serves little benefit in the broader political process.
Anyhow, they're back and there is little of the hulabaloo that greeted they're departure. For the affecionados, Matt Cooper will be doing the Last Word live from the Dail tomorrow, interviews etc.
For those looking to the session ahead, a good piece in the Sunday Business Post recently on what the opposition look set to take government ot task over.
Personally, im concerned about the Rossport 5 issue which has gone on far too long, while 5 men sit needlessly in jail. The right to protest, especially when justified, should be protected.
Also ASBOs, SSIAs, the Health Service and the Environment look set to take centre stage. Surely the usual faces will do some grandstanding and by next month all will be well in the world again.
So tonight have one last pint for the Silly Season. Drink up for tomorrow we march.
RR

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9.27.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Unhealthy Scepticism In The North

I
There are, quite necessarily two parts to this post. The first is to herald the current but soon to be old news of official disarmament of the IRA. Statements this afternoon from De Chastellain and the decommissioning body, confirmed what had been apparent for some time to those close or even even moderately aware of actions within the movement.
I am however, only moderately immersed in the fact at the moment and without doubt the volume of stuff over at slugger (1, 2, 3, 4, and on and on )and the quality is well worth spending some time over in order to get some idea of where we appear to be at.
II
Which brings me to the second part of the post, I am struck by the contribution of Michael McDowell on The Last Word and DUP MLA Gregory Campbell on The Right Hook. Since the time of the classic philosophers, scepticism has been a constant thorn in the side of public discourse. The contribution of Scepticism in promoting better and tighter arguments is clear in the statement "healthy scepticism". Yet up north it seems that the role of scepticism has begun to move from promoting clearer and better knowledge and better means of discourse (a la Hume and Descartes).
The north has taken scepticism and turned it a sickly shade of consitpated. Ian Paisley Jr, in the background here on The Last Word is underwhelmed, the IRA have failed the 'sincerity test'. As if provided from above, the very real example of the strangulation of progress through debilitating scepticism is here on our radio.
Plato made a famous, in my view, coherent argument that scepticism is self-refuting by nature of its scepticism about truth.
This paradox exists up north equally, we have a scepticism about what we know (The DUP's belt and breeches approach, photos and Clergymen) and scepticism about what can be known (We dont even know how much weaponary they have).
Now we have reached a point where the only answer to sceptic questions is deeper and more damaging scepticism.
The point is that it is making little or no material benefit to the current political process, well it doesnt, its not supposed to rather its a ploy to hinder progress behind the search for unassailable and irrefutible truth.
In politics, such truth is rarely forthcoming in stable societies let alone one as divided as the north. The dead end that is the search for total truth, will paralyse the process if it is allowed to do so.
So Reg Empeys willingness to move toward the decomissioning as a positive note sparks the opportunity for a renewal of working politics. The DUPs position is unsustainable both politically in a north screaming for leadership and progress and philosophically as a destructive and crude attempt at hollow logical premises.
The responses of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern are constructive in the extreme, is the General and are the clergy independent? Well who knows? The point is that the volume of evidence before our eyes supports the thesis that the IRA has moved into its new phase.
Past crimes must be dealt with in new and non-traditional forums.
How do we know they destroyed it all?
WE DONT. The next step, like all major steps in politics, is one based on faith. Clinton let Adams into the U.S. on faith in reynolds' word. All of the northern movement toward peace is a step of faith.
So without grounding in reason, pure and simple, we must call for ends to unhealthy and indefensible scepticism, acceptance of need to forge a new reality and progressive in our attitudes. The Military Guard is gone. Significant it is. Get on with the jobs you were elected to carry out boys.
RR
Those looking for some excellent debate, here.

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9.26.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Lets Move on From Polls

I know that the last fortnight has yielded a veritable landslide of polls from most if not all the major media outlets in the country, another one today over at the Irish Times (here, subs req'd). In terms of its own inherent news value, the poll says 54% would like a change in government (though not necessarily a Fine Gael/Labour/Green concoction).
Other notables;
FF: 36% +2
FG: 25% unchanged
Lab: 14% unchanged
SF: 10% -1
Green: 5% +1
PD: 4% unchanged

Reaction aplenty over at the politics.ie forum. Though I am far more concerned about the manner in which these polls are rapidly turning discourse at the start of the new term into talk of elections and giving the impression of one long campaign up until 2007 sometime.
The benefit to the government of the emergence of polls cannot be downplayed. A guy like Eddie Hobbs can do immense amount of damage with his 'polemic' and many others can too, the government has a hard time combating criticism as much of it is merited these days.
A poll however offers them the sole opportunity to do just that, they can use the numbers in the same way they throw spending figures at us, not in terms of qualitative value but as matters of factual improvement. The poll offers them a backdoor response to criticism by citing their past record on this or that and saying that they are listening etc.
I am not rallying against polls per se, it just seems that some editors have come under the illusion the next election is around the corner, well it aint, at least not until SSIA time which will boost the Coalition no end.
Yet the 'misdirection' afforded the governing parties by polls, offering cover from engaging with criticism and problems, can be most damaging at moments like these. The Dail is due to return next week and a snapshot is arguably quite handy to have, yet broader discussions are at play which deeply require the oxygen of publicity, in weeks these results will be consigned to memory, yet privatisation of he health system will still loom large on the agenda, as will issues of pensions, equality, taxation and commitment to a fair society.
The examiner reports that the Green party are planning to tackle the Government next week on just such a platform, criticising performance and policy is the job of opposition, responding and adapting is the job of government. The role of defending your numbers to journalists is establishment navel gazing. Many of us will not be called to vote any time soon, yet our opinion needs to be cemented on issues of the day.
The rhetoric rolling from the parties in the past few days, including 'major' speeches by Rabbitte et al, seems to be a proper symptom of movement toward the middle in a rational attempt to attain major votes from those who participate. The only party seeming to motivate new voters is Sinn Fein, their growth standing as testament to their strategy, irrelevant of morality.
So the release of polls merely supports the theory that a move to over-populate the centre ground will merely cement existing levels, alienating those already disillusioned with the political system and no longer entertaining their needs or interests in policy considerations. Perhaps the transformation of Rabbitte is most marked in this regard.
Many of us are concerned over the issues of national consideration outlined above, yet it seems that much of the Dail bubble is more focussed on the material politics at the moment of support and votes, little time or account is given to the normative function of the interim between elections in deciding direction, deducing goals from first principles and carrying the electorate with you to support your moves.
To be honest it seems that not tying themselves to collations this early in the political cycle is benefitting the greens by giving them space to breath and find their feet on issues of policy, many may well scoff at stereotypical environmentalists etc, but they are doing and will do some serious running on policy where others will focus on strategy and numbers. The electorate are not stupid and increasingly refuse to be considered as rationally reducible numbers in the voting game. Those parties like Sinn Fein and the Greens which ostracised or scoffed in mainstream circles have sufficient space to exercise normative discussion about Social Justice, inclusion, the North and other areas.
Many feared that this might befall Labour post pact as it was forced to row-in behind FG policy position and reinforce the status quo of argument. Perhaps they may be correct as well as those who said it will increase votes.
The triumph at this early period of process over policy (hat-tip:ie-politics) seems to suggest that the mainstream has learned little about reengaging a political process and has little interest in being seen to include those at the fringe and sidelines. Doing so reduces the pool of votes as turnout falls and makes a move to the centre both the cause and solution to our problems.
I reckon that the true benefit in the preoccupation of our system with polls and snapshots will go to the parties who bravely leave the mothers breast of numbers and rational certainty, make arguments and find a responsive audience in the electorate.
Meanwhile, our front pages and airwaves should be implicit in encouraging policy from first principles and helping to construct the myriad of those principles we believe in.
As a progressive I feel that the polls are reducing the output of discourse and stymying the wealth of tough questions we as a society must grapple with.
How we treat our newest, oldest, youngest and poorest, how responsible we are to the sick and the well and how run-down our structures are becoming in delivering our desired outcomes might be considered as questions of today rather than the short vox-pop of election 2007.
RR
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9.24.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Lets Move on From Polls

I know that the last fortnight has yielded a veritable landslide of polls from most if not all the major media outlets in the country, another one today over at the Irish Times (here, subs req'd). In terms of its own inherent news value, the poll says 54% would like a change in government (though not necessarily a Fine Gael/Labour/Green concoction).
Other notables;
FF: 36% +2
FG: 25% unchanged
Lab: 14% unchanged
SF: 10% -1
Green: 5% +1
PD: 4% unchanged

Reaction aplenty over at the politics.ie forum. Though I am far more concerned about the manner in which these polls are rapidly turning discourse at the start of the new term into talk of elections and giving the impression of one long campaign up until 2007 sometime.
The benefit to the government of the emergence of polls cannot be downplayed. A guy like Eddie Hobbs can do immense amount of damage with his 'polemic' and many others can too, the government has a hard time combatting criticism as much of it is merited these days.
A poll however offers them the sole opportunity to do just that, they can use the numbers in the same way they throw spending figures at us, not in terms of qualitative value but as matters of factual improvement. The poll offers them a backdoor response to criticism by citing their past record on this or that and saying that they are listening etc.
I am not rallying against polls per se, it just seems that some editors have come under the illusion the next election is around the corner, well it aint, at least not until SSIA time which will boost the Coalition no end.
Yet the 'misdirection' afforded the governing parties by polls, offering cover from engaging with criticism and problems, can be most damaging at moments like these. The dail is due to return next week and a snapshot is arguably quite handy to have, yet broader discussions are at play which deeply require the oxygen of publicity, in weeks these results will be consigned to memory, yet privatisation of he health system will still loom large on the agenda, as will issues of pensions, equality, taxation and commitment to a fair society.
The examiner reports that the Green party are planning to tackle the Government next week on just such a platform, criticising performance and policy is the job of opposition, responding and adapting is the job of government. The role of defending your numbers to journalists is establishment navel gazing. Many of us will not be called to vote any time soon, yet our opinion needs to be cemented on issues of the day.
The rhetoric rolling from the parties in the past few days, including 'major' speeches by Rabbitte et al, seems to be a proper symptom of movement toward the middle in a rational attempt to attain major votes from those who participate. The only party seeming to motivate new voters is Sinn Fein, their growth standing as testament to their strategy, irrelevant of morality.
So the release of polls merely supports the theory that a move to over-populate the centre ground will merely cement existing levels, alienating those already disillusioned with the political system and no longer entertaining their needs or interests in policy considerations. Perhaps the transformation of Rabbitte is most marked in this regard.
Many of us are concerned over the issues of national consideration outlined above, yet it seems that much of the Dail bubble is more focussed on the material politics at the moment of support and votes, little time or account is given to the normative function of the interim between elections in deciding direction, deducing goals from first principles and carrying the electorate with you to support your moves.
To be honest it seems that not tying themselves to coalitions this early in the political cycle is benefitting the greens by giving them space to breath and find their feet on issues of policy, many may well scoff at stereotypical environmentalists etc, but they are doing and will do some serious running on policy where others will focus on strategy and numbers. The electorate are not stupid and increasingly refuse to be considered as rationally reducible numbers in the voting game. Those parties like Sinn Fein and the Greens whice ostracised or scoffed in mainstream circles have sufficient space to exercise normative discussion about Social Justice, inclusion, the North and other areas.
Many feared that this might befall Labour post pact as it was forced to row-in behind FG policy position and reenforce the stsus quo of argument. Perhaps they may be correct as well as those who said it will increase votes.
The triumph at this early period of process over policy (hat-tip:ie-politics) seems to suggest that the mainstream has learned little about reengaging a political process and has little interest in being seen to include those at the fringe and sidelines. Doing so reduces the pool of votes as turnout falls and makes a move to the centre both the cause and solution to our problems.
I reckon that the true benefit in the preoccupation of our system with polls and snapshots will go to the parties who bravely leave the mothers breast of numbers and rational certainty, make arguments and find a responsive audience in the electorate.
Meanwhile, our front pages and airwaves should be implicit in encouraging policy from first principles and helping to construct the myriad of those principles we believe in.
As a progressive i feel that the polls are reducing the output of discourse and stymying the wealth of tough questions we as a society must grapple with.
How we treat our newest, oldest, youngest and poorest, how responsible we are to the sick and the well and how run-down our structures are becoming in delivering our desired outcomes might be considered as questions of today rather than the short vox-pop of election 2007.
RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Those Stupid Three Ads!!

Anybody out there who reads this blog, please anybody, somebody, tell me what those stupid fucking 3 ads are about.
"We like Music" i get, i have no clue why they have odd looking bubble things, its killing my brain cells one by one.
All answers on a postcard to the usual address.
RR
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9.22.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Should We Worry About Northern Ireland?

Browsing over to slugger I found out that the Vice-Chairman of the policing body in the North was violently attacked with a baseball bat type of weapon last night. Now i know that most in the south are regularly unpreturbed by incidents in the north, regularly ignoring or even ridiculing the ongoing difficulties across the border.
As the Sindo gloated on Sunday, 55% of us dont even desire to vote for a united ireland. So i wonder, are we wrong to gloss over Northern events, is it really a basket case or should we be getting worried about the place again.
Looking at it in a cool manner, which can be difficult to do at times, there is a seriously anaemic political process taking place at the moment. There is little cross-community governance to speak of, Stormont hasnt opened its doors in a very long time and the past few months has seen some startling pictures of Loyalist violence.
The recent attack on the Vice Chairman, finger being pointed at IRA dissidents, is inexcusable, I think all would have to agree with that. Yet how far are we willling to go in the south, how much are we willing to do, to enforce and police a settlement to violence. Rather is there anything we should or must do? Are we genuinely interested in conesting a role for cross border social intervention etc?
Things seem to look good on paper for Sinn Fein, IRA are heading off (hopefully), weapons due to go (eventually) and there is a sympathetic ear in the NIO again.
So we look over the border bewildered as another outbreak of violence sweeps the provence and sends ordinary decent people running for cover.
Yet even if SF were in power in Stormont, the South would take as little notice as ever, Sinn Fein is seen as a very different entity on both sides of the border by most here.
Perhaps this post is making little sense, i apologise profusely if that is the case. I am simply a man in confusion. Does the poll in the Sindo reflect the fact that we look at the north as an alien entity? If it does then is that a position we are soundly entitled to take? Is the lack of empathy and emotional interest in occurences a symptom of broader social disharmony in the south?
I think that we lack a deep understanding of social divsion still taking place in the North, but from any reading of it, it certainly seems to be the cases that a will to violence exists among private militias of all hues. The consistent undermining of PSNI legitimacy by a combiation of their own behaviour (and that of the old RUC) and political actors has seen this most divided of societies reach the brink of peace and devolution but recoil into violent fraternicide. The blood spilt in the loyalist fued and blood spilt over the likes of the McCartney killings. These are seen to exist in some other spatio-temporal realm.
As a friend said to me the other day, "it doesnt really feel like its up the road does it?". We have lost any affiliation in terms of identity with the North, its been lost under the more pressing issues of economic development, prosperity and jobs. No longer do many here see them as 'us'.
So I am grappling at the dark for reasons to be hopeful, reasons to believe that a united ireland poses a solution to slaughter up north but also offers the means to relieve social inequality, reasons for all of us in the south to reengage with ideas of national identity and put a national question that was never properly answered to bed.
This is not about southern navel-gazing, more about a stubborn attempt to reconnect those who feel its no longer our problem with the fact that we share the same geographical territory, same primary language and that on both sides of the border there is a desire to move toward a peaceful and inclusive society.
The idea of last nights attack is shocking to me, the message it sends out about the health of a legitimate state for Northern Ireland is distressing to democrats all over. The seeming degeneration of northern politics into factional violence again is distressing in the extreme, but for the south its distressing in the manner in which a baby who refuses to settle and sleep is distressing. I wonder have we lost our identity and human connection to the north?
Im not sure why I posted this, perhaps confusion, or else incoherence.
I have a sneaking suspicion that interventions like those of Mr. Consistent Michael McDowell to rubbish any sign of progress in the North with some piece of "i know what i know" insider knowledge, is breaking down a peoples willingness to endure a sense of affiliation with the North.
Either way i worry that in a similar fashion to the troubles, if not more worrying, we in the South are again moving away from interest in the North. The alienation makes for a more hostile political atmosphere, serves to heighten unionist suspicion and make deal making a more complex occasion than it is already.
The solutions? Well if i knew this i wouldnt be blogging would I? Perhaps i am wrong in my diagnosis, but if i am correct, a social disconnect which reintroduces itself and is allowed to fester for political purposes (stifling the rise of Sinn Fein south of the border), may do more harm in the long run than good in the short.
RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

A War of All Against All in Iraq

Watching Channel 4 News at the moment, just a second ago an analyst on the current situation on Iraq suggested that the current role of the Occupying forces was to prevent extreme violence or a "state of war", as he termed it.
It is interesting to see the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes brought into current accounts of violence exploding in Southern Iraq. As some or most may be familiar with, Hobbes saw all unregulated relations between man in his natural state as a state of war, a war of all against all, where constant desire and competition for scarce good forced all inidividual actors into war with one another. The chaotic depiction of human nature by Hobbes has been contested of course.
The reason all this is so intersting to me, anorak that I am, is that the only solution Hobbes felt he could advocate, such being the natural state of man to be at war, was the overwhelming centralisation of physical force in a sole sovereign. The social contract was seen as binding all men together in service to the sovereign, in return for guaranteed individual security from a state of war.
Of course this is all intersting because that means that Iraq requires (if it is in a State of War or close to it) a Hard-Man sovereign, ruling through fear of his/her unbridled power which is exercised against all those who dont succumb to their will. For those who acquiesce there is a life of peace and non-interference, those who rise up or resist are to be swiftly and violently expunged.
If memory serves me correctly, this is precisely the regime that existed before the US/UK coalition went to war.
RR

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9.21.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

More on the Aussie Senator Racism

While i picked up Joe Sartors comments via the Sydney Morning Herald, i missed their editorial on the outburst in that same edition. (hat tip: Guambat Stew)
The rush out to make some form of apology for what is an outdated form of racial slur that can have no place in a democracy of the 21st century. As far as i know when one man says;

"Get off your backside Mick and bring your black arse in here to talk to me about it."

Its not one of those cute and cuddly things that outdated zenophobes do, its a signal that something is inherently wrong with the politial culture that accepts such latent racism.
While im sure many will wonder why i, sitting so far from any Australian and with little power over Aussie politics, should get worked up over this. Its simply because i feel that matters of race lie so close to the heart of social exclusion and inequality that we cannot but try to fight it home and abroad in an attempt to forge more inclusive and dynamic societies. Racism has no place if we are to give all amongst us their chance and opportunity.
From the SM editorial;(scroll to the second editorial)

"To listeners they seemed to have been intended almost fondly"

God, where do i begin on the patronising tone of that one? Its the latent, racial slur, the slip of the tongue that reflects the fact that most of the work done combatting racism has forced it to go unspoken but not unthought.
There will unlikely be resignations, but there should certainly be soulsearching among democracies at large. We in ireland have our own native community of travellers subject to similar levels of racism as the aborigninies. Modern Democracy is a project of including all in the governance of all, about forging social strength through collective deliberation. If we have failed to eradicate racism and prejudice from our discourse or even our collective consciousness then we still have a long way to go.
RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Another EU Constitution

File it under "saw this one miles off". Yup as many predicted and some feared, MEPs feel now it has been long enough since the yolk got rejected to reintroduce the EU Constitution. EU observer has the story.
It will be subject to a bastardised version of the original process as an initial document containing non-contested issues will be sent on to a convention to rule on the more contentious issues of social-model and immigration. Thats peachy only the Observer points out that the issues where consensus is said to exist are the ones which caused much contention at the last convention, institutions and power relations. Wonderful stuff.
Still, it poses a question of whether this is a process worth embarking on again or is there a response alternative to this process which voters in Holland, France and the many sympathetic to the no position can proffer as an alternative. If so then it seems that the period of reflection is at an end and we are back to the old EU game of power grab by institutions.
All this steamy politics leads to a super vote in 2009 on the new treaty (bet it will not be billed as a constitution second time round), coupled with parliament elections.
The first move in this is by parliament;
"Aside from differences on some of the details, several MEPs in these groups have agreed that it is up to the EU parliament to seize the moment and try to get the treaty in place by 2009."
Its a fascinating debate for anoraks but can the EU afford another 4 years of navel gazing in a turbulent time for the continent and the organisation.
RR
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9.20.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

The Truth About Oil?

For those of us plenty perplexed by the rise in the price in oil and the knock on effect on the price of distillates, there is a plenty interesting article (of US origin so harping on about the 'costly' us price for 'gas' though still internationally quite cheap) over at energybulletin looking at some of the myths perpetuated about the whole oil price rise and the price of petrol. Its here and its pretty good.
Some exerpts to give you the gist;

"A sustained run of $3 gas could be what finally kicks the legs out from under the U.S. consumer—already, Wal-Mart is blaming lackluster sales on high gas prices —but it's hard to know for sure. After all, so much of the conventional wisdom on oil has been wrong. That's a problem, because if the U.S. is ever to make progress on treating its oil addiction, it needs to understand its source."

So in order to clarify some root causes and ensure $3 gallon doesnt just get el-nino ised into the cause of everything. Some myths dealt with;
"gas companies are rippping off everyone"
"Hedge funds are inflating the oil price"
"Were running out of oil"
"The US is running out of refining capacity"
"Government must intervent to bring down oil prices"

It makes for fascinating reading particularly the second myth regarding the hedge funds. To quote; "if hedge funds really are driving up oil prices, they're doing a lousy job of profiting from it."
I must say however, parroting do-gooders everywhere, that the rise in oil prices hepls us all to make decisions about our power and energy sources. The alternatives may not yet be there in shiny wrapper and packaging, yet the increasing price of oil makes r&d investment in these companies more inviting. The DTI in the UK have invested money in R&D for methanol fuel cells and the road to more sustainable and cleaner energy is one now opening in front of us.
I worry that once oil prices recede, even moderately, our political leaders and social commentators will forget the time we were all Greens and cease calling for bio-diesel and cleaner cars, cease calling for windfall taxes on oil companies.
That must not be allowed to happen, oil is not something to be used profligate, not any more. The sad and simple case may be that we casually ignore it, or our leaders do that for us, in pursuit of the easy life.
RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

More Polls, More Fog

The current plethora of poll releases leaves many in the political game feeling like the election is about to be sprung from a hat and around the corner. First of all its not.
So the release of a poll in today's indo heralding good news for FG and Labour Coallition, while not being so good news-wise for the labour support (12% from a 13% average following). The FF-PD coallition are well back into the dogfight now as both coalitions are neck and neck.
I think the old cliche that a poll is merely a picture in time should be recalled before much exicted exploration is done of the poll findings, its a long way to 2007 and by then Eddie Hobbs and the rip-off may well be a dim and distant memory.
I am happy to see those in power getting slammed back into reality, though i doubt serious solutions will be found, merely postmodern attempts to clean up the appearance of rip off without acknowledging root causes.
Talk of only 2% between the sides places the greens willingly in a rainbow setup, as yet it might be too early to take such privelages with the greens as they seem to be a deliberately awkward side to tack down, minus Greens the Fine Gael and Labour coalition will have a bit more work to do losing another 6% to make the gap 8%.
The green sensitivites and indeed the role they may play in the next election looks set to be something very interesting indeed. Should they attach early to one side or other they will be denigrated as imbeciles and leftists etc, yet should they keep their powder dry, they may well hold some aces on election night.
We shall see in TWO years, not tomorrow nor perhaps before SSIA time. I think we should treat this as fodder for a slow news day and keep working to support progressive policies and parties in Ireland.
RR


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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Aussie Racial Sensitivity

Great to see that antipodean race relations are still as strong as ever. This from the Sydney Morning Herald. If it werent so easy to get angry over his behaviour it would be funny for its sheer foolishness.
For the lazy;
"Of all Frank Sartor's gaffes over the years, this was the worst.

Yesterday the Planning Minister publicly apologised, admitting he had "stuffed up" after he told the Aboriginal Housing Company's chairman, Mick Mundine, on radio to "bring his black arse" in to talk about a dispute over the redevelopment of the Block in Redfern"

Nice one, mate.
RR

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Media Sellouts

This post from daily kos via public theologian. A rather sickening example of media incest and obscene amount of centralised control of mass information and opinion forming material.
For the lazybones among us its Kos' response to this editorial and the manner in which it outlines a variety of rather sick sounding Media types.
Blogger ethics seems to take a backseat in the face of much widerspread and endemic rot.
RR
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9.19.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Left Crowing over German Result

Footage of the studio-debate showdown between Merkel and Schroeder in Germany, looks unlikely to be the only occurance of contested outcomes of the German Election. Browsing through the blogsphere brought me to two of many who see this election in Germany, coupled oddly with an encouraging result from New Zealand, as a positive result for lefties.
Over at dead men left, one can almost taste that satisfaction of the linkspartei result. The points are often simply reflecting the pressure that the vote from the extreme placed on the two center parties. The idea being the the existence of the left party stole the support from CDU in the East of Germany and forced a backtrack from SDU over reform noises which led to a general leftward trend and in places extreme leftward trend.
Other voices over at the European Tribune are equally relieved that the solid showing of the left in Germany led to over 51% of votes being held by the Left. Statistically it seems much of this is pointed comment on an election which has thrown some market certainties into disarray. The German voters only seem moderately interested in market reforms if this line of thought is to be extended by myself.
They voted in roughly half-half for a mixture of jobs and increased security of employment, many will point to some abstract 'modern reality' as reason for the impossibility of fulfilling their desires. Such a reality may or may not exist, ontologically speaking, though I fear those who suggest that the two are incompatible are worried to think outside the cosy little box.
Still the german result presents all of us with some interesting games in the EU over the next while. Those on the left are still adjusting to the sunlight after years of being locked away on the internet.
I personally doubt this is some grand reemergence of 'old' left wing thinking. Many agree that for a new left in the 21st century we must shake off some of the stifling dogma of the 20th. But a vote is not on some abstract ideal system, merely an abstract ideal goal, and a majority of left parties of various hues, shows German commitment the their social market is as vibrant as ever.

Also the very excellent Wikipedia entry is already up and running on the whole election including background and reaction. Wowsers.
RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Drawing the Lines after German Election

While those crazy germans allow the dust to settle on the wonders of PR in forcing strange bedfellows into power, it interesting to note that the some others in the EU are pinning their loyalties in public, from EU Observer;
The leftists of Spain, Sweden and the Czech Republic have all backed Schroeder, congratulating him on a job well done in turning a whopping deficit into a three seat difference in parliament.
On the other hand, and perhaps most interestingly, Nikolas Sarkozy has taken the gamble of congratulating Angela Merkel in a private letter. That is a tricky enough gamble by the 'French President in Waiting, Young-pretender etc etc'. If Schroeder succeeds in cobbling together a coalition then Sarkozy must hope he doesnt hold grudges. From looking at the international arena this is the sort of puerile nonsense that actually causes rifts on the international stage, and we all thought they went on about GDP, Trade and all sorts.
RR

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Return to full blogging

I know that recent weeks have been notable for my absence in regularity, since taking senokot i find myself more inclined to regular blogging, Hurah!.
Seriously normal service is to be resumed forthwith.
RR

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Chavez Pleases Leftists

For those unwilling or uninterested in following the UN summit in New York, then you have probably missed an incredibly public and hostile critique of US foreign policy and attitudes to the UN by none other than Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
The outburst will undoubtedly please leftists and leave others wondering why eactly Pat Robertsons advice was not taken more seriously in dealing with the Venezuealn President. The remarks, made regarding the Iraq war and US railroading of the UN come at a point in time where the global south are more organised and willing to speak out than any other in recent memory.
His rant moved from the international to the environmental, he has this to say on the prevelance of underoccupied SUVs on the streets of New York;

"That's crazy, one person with a huge car ... that is using up gas and polluting the atmosphere," he said at a news conference. "The world cannot tolerate this model of development called the American way of life."

His uppity comments at the UN are coupled with his intent to help ditribute oil to members of the carribean and increase some form of economic indpendence, it reads like a holy grail for anti-globallising lefty people and perhaps thats his intention. Doubtless it will piss George off biggo, global war on people with big attitudes and contrary opinions anybody?

While we may dismiss his stance and grandstading for the benefit of dissenters and an attempt to strengthen the position of the awkward squad, his critiques have a lot to offer dialogue on the UN and shouldnt be dismissed out of hand. The likelihood of the UN moving to an international City is very small, the idea however has merit for the independence of the body and the image and mentality it can promote in the widerr world. The approach to decision making and indeed the fact that it is not able to reign in seeming abuses of power by member states are also issues needing to be addressed.
Its fair to say, we ignore Hugo's critique at our peril, in the same way we ignore the broader venezueland situation at our peril, recall his oil deals and desire to diversify power within the international system.
This is a man who look likely to make things difficult for oil consumers in the US and has already signalled large increases of exports of oil to China, he is clearly positioning himself between many poles, playing a real-politik game. The question is how long will the US tolerate the loss of oil security in its own back yard to increasing Chinese influence?
RR
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9.16.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Media Wakes Up to Bush

Very interesting article over at salon.com regarding Time and Newsweeks newfound rage and disillusion with George Bush. THe contrast seeping through the american media in the wake of hurricane Katrina and indeed the new poll results on popularity of the president and his war, is palpabale.
One wonders however if it is enough for media to jump the latest bandwagon in the form of Bush's unpopularity. I prefer mine to be ahead of the curve analyitic and challenging. TIme and newsweeks new stances seem to be more about reactive pandering.
RR
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Election 2007: Poll results and Progressive Votes

On Sunday we had one of the first polls to emerge from the red mist of rip off outrage. The Sunday Business Post's Red C poll (articles 1, 2, 3) held good news for many, bad news for some and for the likes of myself and other observers little news at all.
In the wake of the whole rip off republic outrage that swept this country with a fervour unseen for many years, there was bound to be an inevitable backlash to the current incumbents, those who have unarguably presided over 8 years of growth and cost of living increases. The backlash seemed there in the results of the RedC poll, just look at the Fianna Fail numbers; the projected vote share down by 5% to 32%, a low if ever there was one to be had, and popularity of the current coalition well down to 50%.
Should the alternatives feel buoyed by this slump in fortunes inflicted by a Corkman and his calculator? Perhaps, yet politics in Ireland is little about snapshots in time that are polls. The landscape will be much changed over the coming months. The increasing popularity of Fine Gael seems due less to their extensive and engaging critique of the government rather being first in line to pick up Hobbs trail. They are rightly claiming that the whole Rip-Off thing is their baby, yet they did little running with the topic. I wonder if the situation would be much different were the current opposition in a position of power.
The boost in FG support toward the 25%-29% range is to be somewhat expected. The FG vote suffered substantially at the last election from a number of unfortunate (for them) conflations of issues such as good economic conditions and some limp campaigning against a professionally run Fianna Fail outfit. Yet traditional analysis of the charts and graphs suggests that there is a 'natural' vote share of 24%-29% out there to be solidified and extended, these are levels that act as support for a fall and often as ceilings for a rise. Thus the Fine Gael return toward the high twenties can be argued as a normalising of the balance.
The point is that it is not necessarily occurring in anything more than stronger media presence by Enda Kenny and better presentation of him as a taoiseach in waiting. Of course I accept that point is not globally true and some may genuinely be converting to FG and finding their positions gel with the attitudes at large in a greater manner. I doubt it. I think that what is happening here is similar to what may occur in the UK when the Tories get their act together. Those who left FG to support a party more dynamic and moderately sympathetic to their position(PDs and possibly Fianna Fail/Independent candidates) may now return to the natural political home and appear to boost the vote.
So the whole thing can be reduced to numbers causes and effects and little in terms of political grit, policy, debate and ideology. Well that's a tad disingenuous of me if I leave it as such, my main argument is that the current FG support rests on the return of a natural level of support rather than a breakthrough with the public at large. Enda Kenny appeals first and foremost to natural FG supporters. That was his first task and he is successfully presenting himself as a Statesman with big talk, big shoulders and a lot of Bushesque bluster.
The FG policy machine did cooperate with Labour in presenting a joint position of Ssocial partnership which I have yet to read but may do so tonight.
I believe that Simon over at Dossingtimes puts across a very good point regarding the nature of the fracture in Fianna Fail support. Its obvious we don't like them much at the moment, but commonly enough we do not like Fianna Fail most of the time they are in government, yet we still vote for them. So if the vote share projected on Sunday is likely to materialise someone somewhere must gain right? Not quite.
As Simon points out, the greens have a concentrated six percent of the vote in the Urban Dublin area, this looks likely to deliver proportionately more seats than perhaps they deserve but it is precisely such swings and roundabouts that allow Fianna Fail to nearly take an overall majority on one of its lowest vote shares in the last election. Simon points to the obvious conflict between the left parties in Dublin which will divide votes and secure seats for center parties.
I am certainly looking to see more fervour on the part of the progressive and left parties in Ireland, for far too long the issues which are important in this society have not been aired, divisions of power and the inequality of our current adaptation of various economic and political systems.
The destruction of voice and of dignity within Irish society, failure to promote a genuine vision of Irish values, coherent approaches to social disintegration stemming from inequality and postmodern capitalist morality. Heady stuff but for a political party it should be fodder for policy. Much of Hobbs critique points to the shallow manner in which politics occurs and sees itself.
Political actors see strategy and long term projects as secondary to band aid solutions to the latest independent 'expose', or travesty of justice in the 'Star'.
So the failure by Labour to interact on a serious level with these goals, whether out of consideration for the necessary concessions which come with partnership with FG or because of the direction Rabbitte sees the party as heading in, presents a dilemma for a voter motivated by Hobbs critique, suspicious of FG and of Sinn Fein, yet without a genuine progressive or Green candidate in their area.
The poll reflects the old dilemma of our stunted party system, the parties feel the need to move to the center to be electable. The center is dominated by Fianna Fail and they pretty much dictate the orthodoxy. Thus when a voter desires radical reform or even an inkling of purpose, direction and motivated consideration for their interests and the integration of individual need with the common good, they are left with the SWP, Greens (on the Left) or PDs (on the right).
The problem then is that a voter is stuck at the center, and if the center is dominated by FF why go with a pretender or impersonater and just stick with the proven FF?
The choice is stunted at birth due to stifling media climates and hostile conservative elements. The power in the hands of the progressive parties is to harness current disillusion and dismay with the manner in which our politics is conducted and channel that aggression toward achievable goals of inclusion, improvement of living standards, costs of living and promoting alternative spheres of life. The opening up of Irish borders has not met with opening up of Irish society and politics to new ideas and better options.
Labours opting for the tried and tested FG coalition may blow up in their face. No change at 13% represents less than a ringing endorsement for a party that never looked unified behind the blueshirts and a leader that looks a tad shifty.
Hobbes showed that the public are not simply the negative entity of apathetic individualists the media like to casually term them, the 800,000 odd viewers who made an effort to listen to Hobbs proved that the Irish are imaginative and receptive to discussion, it doesn't suit current or potential incumbents to have debates like that held by Hobbs. Talking truth to power is not in their game plan.
Yet if our democracy is to stand up to the challenge of apathy, to stand up to the relentless assault of social inequality and issues of living on this island, to stand up to a changing face of demographics, new ideas are required.
The results of this poll show that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are ready to fight the old fight, their natural levels of support are there yet without much floating support. New parties such as Sinn Fein, Green even the PDs are looking at dividing up the voters who are not naturally FF or FG. So Labour is stuck in the middle by attaching itself to FG. Its as many feared if it is true, yet on the day Labour may pull off a masterstroke by ensuring the coalition promotes both parties and ensures a better oxygen for their ideas. Perhaps but perhaps not.
As a progressive I feel that our current situation as a society is unsustainable, Hobbs highlights issues affecting our governance, issues affecting our corporate culture, issues of vested interests and dodgy business practice. His scattergun approach caught a lot of innocents aswell but all is not well in our little state.
New ideas are being asked for, the poll shows exactly where the electorate see them as being located. At the periphery of our interest and knowledge in small parties and indepedents. Unless the left get organised and cooperate we may well be heading back to the past in 2007.
RR

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9.13.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

New Guardian New Conflict

Picked this up from irishblogs, many of the readers of the Guardian dont like the dropping of the doonesbury strip and the web is being used for protest. Looks like an opportunity to talk of blogging as the next big thing for protest again. Hoorah.

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/editors/archives/2005/09/12/should_doonesbur
y_be_saved.html


RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

The New Guardian

Well, I got my hands on yesterdays one and i am in a bit of confusion over what i think of it. Those over at forum.politics.ie are equally confused though some simply dislike the paper, fair enough says I.
My own reaction to the new paper is certainly positive regarding the size. I was rading it on a bus yesterday and for the first time managed not to elbow that frail old lady sitting beside me, thus sending her into fits of coughing.
So on size, yeah somewhere between a tabloid and a broadsheet are ok, berliner seems to work with me and for Guardian readers, there is that feeling of uniqueness that the paper likes to cover itself in.
The inserts (Media yesterday for example) look fantastic in colour and the articles are still incisive and very accessible. Some in the graphics department need to come to terms with the full colour supplements and stuff like that but yesterdays MEdia Guardian was a very readable supplement, improvement there too.
I noticed on the forum that one poster said the new G2 is crap. Il be honest, I rarely read it. The size is undoubtedly a bit fiddley. It seems more like that Glamour magazine yolk than a features section. Still as i said, i dont read it much. So the verdict on that is for others to call.
I felt, however, that no matter how cool or not the new size and how all singing all dancing a full colour paper may be (eventually it wasnt full colour, which served the center spread picture of police and soldiers in the north no justice), it was in the editorial where the proof of the pudding lay.
The new front page is a bit breezy and active, thats good. Its still serving up two to three major stories but detail has moved inside. All in all its not too downmarket a stance to take...yet.
Between the covers are new bits and old bits. The old commentators are there, and Simon Jenkins is on his way to keep Max Hastings company as regular 'challenging' contributors.
The comment pages feel lacking however, the old one bustled with essays and words all over the gaff, I felt that they may have culled the word haul or else cut the quota of comment pieces. That doesnt make me very happy, I enjoy the opinion pages for a lot of challenging dialogue. I feel that currently, its comment section could afford to be more robust, still its only settling in yet.
Its good to see the news coverage get picked up again. The last few weeks was a skeletal affair while many journos were away working on the new format or on holliers.
So the news section seems to be improved, perhaps its the increased page count or simply increasing content. Still I cannot shake the feeling of dumbing down. Its a natural reaction though i doubt it will last. On reflection its a good solid advancement for a paper badly in need of a lift in sales. This move could make the paper into a much stronger entity. I will not stop buying it, though I am still sceptical on the fate of the comment section.
Much of it is fresh, the layouts new and the practical design very solid. The content retains some serious tone, the test of time will be a strong one however. If the change in format fails to halt circulation decline it could be curtains for serious content.
It will be interesting to watch over the coming months the leanings of the paper and ideological shift if there is any. I hope there aint, yet its all change currently.
Thats it really. Good bits, bad bits and still some ironing out to do.
RR
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New Guardian Layout Blog

For those interested in tomorrow's revamping of the Guardian, the guardianblog is blogging all day, one of its editors is following the progress on the first edition of tomorrow's paper. It seems to be a little bit of indulgence but offers some interesting insights for those aspiring to enter journalism. Myself, well im just happy to be a lazy ass blogger, with no need of editorial fact checking.
Still whatever floats ones boat.
RR
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9.11.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

The New Guardian

From Guardian.co.uk via perfect.co.uk file under; "exciting, hopefully"
Id be interested to know all your responses to it if you read it, il probably post on the change on Monday. From a media point of view rather than political etc.
RR
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9.09.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Hurrican Katrina

Folks,
I know ive been rather quiet of late but things simply ran against me and i had little access to the laptop or the Internet. Anyway im back for a brief moment and i decided to throw two cents into the already overflowing fountain of comment (1, 2, 3...just google it)on the Hurricane.
I came across this comment in a post over at harry's place. It seems everyone is in a tangle over who exactly is responsible for what and how soon?
Well most of us agree that Federal Authorities too little too late, but the spotlight seems to require being directed at all levels and levers of government in this case. The point by neal is relevant in the context of division of power and other issues at stake in the blame game. The unfolding of the horrendous casualty stories is bound to ratchet up pressure on GWBush, his agencies, their heads (especially FEMA), and perhaps as importantly the state authorities and relations between state and federal level.
Anyway, to the post and the comment.
Post is here. Typical rant at the socialists attempt to capitalise on the issue.
Comment is the second one, for those lazy among us;

"Gene,
Certain parts of the administration's response would have been far better had troops not been stationed in Iraq. Clearly, the absence of troops slowed the response even though, as noted in the New York Times, some troops were sitting around when they might have been tapped for duty.

On the other hand, the most notable thing to recall - something no one seems to understand outside of the US - is that the US is a federal, not a national, system. The national guard is a state militia. Disaster relief is primarily a local matter. The state must actually request help - something, evidently, Louisiana failed to do for an extended period.

Which is to say, with all of Bush' ineptitude - and it is real -, it is only one small part of the story. The larger story is that our system is no better than the calibre of government available at the state and local level.

And, in the South including, most particularly, Louisiana, government is corrupt and incompetent and, evidently, not willing to protect its population. It is to be noted that large numbers - if I recall, a third of the force - of police basically failed to report in New Orleans. In New York or Boston or San Fransisco or Chicago, such an occurence is unimaginable.

Even then, Bush was amazingly incompetent. And, moreover, he seem disinclined to take the flood seriously, using the event, initially, as a photo opportunity to say he was doing something, albeit not much at all.

At this point, however, things have clearly been corrected. Presumably, had the response been prompter, fewer people would have died."

The argument here that moral outrage is something to be directed at authorities across the board, not federal authorities ONLY. Although federal responses to emergencies require better organisation and the presence of its leaders. The concept of pulling together seems to have died in the embers of 9-11. The old game of jurisdiction and other squabbles look set to dog a sad day in american history.
RR
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» Author: Cian » Comments:

New Addition to Progressiveireland

Ladies and Gents, i am aware that posting has been painfully sparse in recent times and leaving you short of guidance in these increasingly troubled times. LOL.
Anyhow, i have recruited another member to the insane brigade. He will be positng irregularly, thats the kind of guy he is. No idea what topics will be and since there is no editorial line or any political pre-requisites hopefully it will be interesting.
Look out for posts in the next few days from some alias or other which isnt Red Rover.
RR
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9.04.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments: