Over at the home of freedom and democracy, there is a veritable force 5 hurricane zooming toward the office of Dick Cheney. It seems the whole American political chatterati, bloggers news heads et al have gone ape on the potential that a member of Bush Administration may get indicted.
This thing looks set to get only bigger as time goes on. Im sure all you guys have your favourite american blogs and are keeping well up to date with the growing intrigue.
I just want to actually draw attention to the dirty tricks infesting the whole process, look at the following videos from C&L taken from Bill Mahers show on HBO.
Criminalisation and politics - wmp
also check out the
"They shouldnt be nice to Fitz" clip - QT from thinkprogress.org
Of course the whole thing is drenched in the usual partisan politics so prevalant at this stage in the U.S. system at the moment. Its greata viewing but as usual, the debate over politics as entertainment raises its very real and very serious head. Its one way of conducting your politics, but is it the best?
Some blogs have pursued a great deal of factual posting and done their best to build a great deal of momentum behind their case, credit where its due that is hard work. Is it seriously worthwile talking impeachement? Not sure. Still they shall try.
And be countered by the likes of Bill Kristol, not that one. Seen here on the Daily Show absolutely unable to stand behind anything the conservatives have attempted in office. Take a look its excellent, again as entertainment.
Im very confused by the whole debate. Is there fair game in making politics into an entertainment product built out of two extremely partisan groupings? Is it the best way to engage voters? Does it suitably succeedd in running a society?
Im unsure, yet the alternative dry, dense and exclusive politics is surely not the winner either. Its a dilly of a pickle ned.
Categories: USA, Politics, Comment, Bush
Over at the home of freedom and democracy, there is a veritable force 5 hurricane zooming toward the office of Dick Cheney. It seems the whole American political chatterati, bloggers news heads et al have gone ape on the potential that a member of Bush Administration may get indicted.
To observers over here, it seemed that Charlie McCreevy failed to make the kind of impact on Europe that he had on us here. Yet fear not, little ones, for the prince is returning to the fray. Raising his head from the political tomb that is the EU Commission, he landed in Sweden seeming to take a swipe at their social bargaining model.
Im sure we recall his initial foray into Euro-politics trying to handle his inheritence of the Bolkestein Directive, otherwise known as the "Frankenstein" directive. That piece of internal marketry got cast aside to political expediency as the EU Constitution debate ran aground. The desire to impose market structures uniformally across the EU has not left the old warhorse, and he seems to be sharpening that blade of his to return to the old party of upsetting all and sundry.
The EU Observer reports that on Tuesday that Charlie told the EU "parliamentarians he found it 'extraordinary' that he had to justify his statements in support of freedom to provide services".
Many thought the threat of an internal market in service provision had been cast aside to the pressing need to make EU relevant and steer some form of tidy-up Treaty through the path where the Constitution once lay. Not so, Chaz doesnt do political niceties, and on a recent visit to Sweden, made claims of support for a Latvian company refusing to adopt Swedish wage partnership agreements.
Many like De Rossa above, cited the old incarnation of the directive as a major threat to the European social model, far greater than anything posed by the (now ex-) constitution. To most on the left, it is an instinctive opposition that occurs, neo-liberal policies are to be seen off at all costs.
Yet Charlie has been here before, precisely why he was
packed-off chosen to go to Brussels. His willingness to challenge those who would defy his mix of neo-liberalism and political pragmatism is well documented.
What seems to be at the heart of the issue is the legality, or correctness, of allowing workers from one EU country to work under the conditions local to that State and not fall under the provisions of the State in which they are working. A little like saying that the Gama workers here are exempt from our wage and working rules and only subject to Turkish laws and standards. Of course the law only applies to those Companies and States within the EU.
So Charlie looks set to draw up battle lines and adopt the position which will cause maximum discomfort to governments seeking to paint the EU as an important and secure institution. Still, we did actually sign up to all this internal market business a long time ago, its just the EU never really wanted to introduce them.
EU Politix has an equally good account of the standoff thus far, here. Some of the reaction has been good too. Proof positive that the EU does bluster like true pros.
At the heart of this dilemma it seems to me is the schizophrenic nature of the EU and the dichotomy of its status over the state. The EU was at once seen as the guardian of a way of life (the European Social Model) and the promoter of business and trade among the west of the continent. However more prevelant divisions have emerged where the EU has gone through bouts of major ideological fervour on both sides of its personality. Currently the commission is charged up with reform minded ideals and taking the EU further along is own stated path of increased market harmonisation.
The other teaser is the manner in which the EU seems to be able to impose its will on a government and by extension on a population. It looks like the working of the EU is set to become harder as long as the EU pushes policy at odds with the will of a state's electorate.
Its a game of wait and see to know how far Charlie is willing to run with this ball, it is certain though that the farther he travels, the tougher it will get. Still thats the way the Prince likes it.
Categories: Comment, EU, Politics,
To be honest, PI has kept a low profile around issues of Iraq, numberous reasons, among them better more informed bloggers are able to make better more informed arguments in their posts and little point in me regurgitating them. However, I was watchin the Mclaughlin group over the weekend and was struck by a stark question.
As the deathtoll in Iraq approaches 2,000 soldiers dead, is the current situation the lesser of two evils?
In throwing out the question there was the Blairesque list of deadly stats;
100,000+ citizens dead which is a contentious issue in itself (report, criticism Iraq BC)
~30,000 insurgents in Iraq linked to militant islam in some way and training in Jihad
2,000 U.S. soldiers dead
Little or no water or power in areas of Iraq
and on I'm sure you have most of these details by now.
By now, many on the left and right have divided the ground between adopted a variation of about four stances (1.staunchly pro, 2.staunchly anti, 3.pro first now not sure, 4.anti first now supporting 'our boys'). Yet beyond all the wingnut talk of unfettered freedom and reformation of the universe and leftwing talk of disaster, destruction and war-crimes, there lies a deeply contentious issue to be argued about.
Moving from positions of intractible differnce to engage with the following question is imperative if any of the wests lessons from Iraq are to be learned by us all. The question is;
Is the current state of Iraq the lesser of two evils?
I dont wish to make is so crude a questions as is it better than when Saddam was around? I think the question stands on its own merits.
Since this is the question at the heart of a PHD thesis not so much a post to a blog, I briefly wish to scoot through some arguments and turn it over the 'we, the people' to consider how and why wars get perpetrated in our name.
The first point that gets raised in an argument from the above question, is that Saddam was going to pose a larger global threat that that posed by the burgeoning group of Iraqi insurgents. Well, perhaps, if Saddam were capable of attaining WMD it would undoubtedly pose a threat. As one can see from here, there were numerous cases of dodgy evidence flying around in the build up to the war. We know now, that Saddam has little or no real weapons to his name. Attaining them, it has been argued, would be a project of five to ten years in length.
However, i would prefer to unpack this premise in order to focus on points I think are valid to both sides of the case. The whole concept of invading to pre-empt Saddam's use of WMD is based on a number of assumptions regarding the rights of states. Basic International Law tends not to authorise pre-emptive striking as a basis for war, much the same reason we dont tend to allow it as a defence for murder (unless you live in florida). The threat posed by Saddam's notional piles of WMD were adequete basis for war, irrespective of intent, actually verified stocks and materials etc.
The above premise presents the logic of this war in rather more self-interested terms than it is now couched in. The matters implicitly included in above arguments is that the Iraq war is a war of agression against Saddam and his regime. The goal then must be some form of secure state, secure society and adequete basis of ensuring peace in the global system. Thus the war must be about diffusing conflict with a state with WMD.
So why was it necessary to ignore the North Korea model and choose the Vietnam model? Why treat a threat from WMD as one from Communism? And if one doesnt accept those premises as correct, the basis of making the claim its better than Saddam with WMD seem facetious rather than relief at increased security.
Speaking of insecurity brings me to the next point, one advnaced by the left as their own critique and shot down by a various coalition of types 1,4 and occasionally 3 (above).
The argument being; the whole Iraq war was a vehicle off imperial hubris and has exposed us ever more to that it tried to defeat, namely, terrorism. Well these premises seem to be saying that Saddam is the lesser of two evils, thus seeing Leftists tagged as lazy totalitarian loving traitors etc. Well, its easy to see where a taunt like that arrives from but is the argument itself fair to make? Implicit again in the premises is the belief that all U.S. action abroad is wrong and an act of imperial interference. That view of the U.S. in terms G W Bush would be proud of is blunt and ill-considered. Many instances of U.S. response especially in times of crisis show it to be a state capable of benign action but equally with a powerful choice open to not doing so.
Many would point to such factors as a vindication for rubbishing the argument to begin with.
The U.S. acts in both benign and malign manners, discerning which one the Iraq war falls under is a toughie.
There is form in both cases, yet believing before seeing is no basis for saying this is another act of US imperial agression. Also the premise makes a number of implicit assumptions on the manner of international law. It doesnt apply to the US in all cases because the US is powerful enough to say so. That is basic fact, taking shot at it over war in Iraq on the basis of this is again implicit in argument 2.
It is the latter parameter of the second argument that should really be the crux of this argument. Whether the current status of Iraq is better or worse than the status quo under saddam, ought to be considered in terms of tow aspects. The first is the position of both 1 & 2 that it is better or worse relative to us in in the west i.e. whether we are better served by Iraq being the way it is now or the way it was then.
Allied to three should be considerations of the most important and often most forgotten aspects of war, its effect on civilians. Discussion on the current state of Iraq is most deeply effected by the status of all those struggling toward normality in the country at the moment.
Reports in media this weekend, suggest that popular attitude is in support of Insurgent attacks on occupation forces (hat-tip: Free Stater).
The status of people in Iraq, chronicled in great detail and with great interest by the likes of Rory Carroll before his escape from the city of Bahdad, is variously reported as tolerable, bad, miserable but rarely excellent, improving steadily and other superlatives that we in the west long to hear, need to hear, to be secure in the rightness of this war.
Who has benefitted thus far from the process of removing Saddam? Who has lost? How great have those gains and losses been and how great their potential increase?
We can from observation and memory, cite by rote those who fall on either side of the fence between the first two arguments, however as I have argued, they seem to be superficial positions to adopt to answer the question posed.
If we are to truly make progress in Iraq, both at home and in the country itself, a more honest approach to our argument is one informed by arguments 3&4.
The points in this regard are far more subjective and difficult to ascertain. However it is precisely for that reason that debate will forge a better idea of the way out of Iraq.
The debate about which is the lesser of two evils, is not some attempt to rake up the past, living in an argument past its sell by date and failing to sell papers any more. It is a genuinely important premise, neccessary in forming future policy in Iraq, necessary in preparing ourselves for events like 9/11 and 11/3 7/7. It is a responsible approach to honest risk assessment and honest account of deeds done.
If it turns out that Iraq is better off, then lessons need to be learned, successful principles and procedures abstracted and made to work in the interests of others elsewhere. However if the settlement is the contrary then the question to ask is not, why dont we put back in Saddam, but why when support was so strong for the development of democracy, when apathy for a dictator so high in a state, did the war fail to reap the reward for the Middle East and the West alike.
If the reason and morality were so insurmountably correct then why has Iraq gone so badly wrong? Perhaps the morality cited and the morality acted upon were not one and the same? Perhaps they were.
If we are to ask whether the current state of Iraq is the lesser of two evils, it is not sufficient to fall back on comfortable arguments which have been rehashed and driven to a dead end by ideologes in both sides. Engagement with this question informs areas from troop levels, to International Law, from Geneva Convention relevance to the matter of international Terrorism. We have to ask questions of our conduct to learn lessons in them, we must examine the action of others to see how war affects them on the ground. In making our decision falling back to saying Saddam was better is a damning failure and must be avoided at all costs.
I dont pretend to have gone anywhere near answering the question, I have laid out some positions I think are fairer to focus upon than others which are disingenuous.
I challenge many however, who have adopted clearer positions than I, focussed more time on it than I and more aware of the ins and outs than I, to engage with this question honestly.
Categories: Politics, Comment,
Gerry O Quigley regularly produces some very thoughprovoking posts over at ie-politics. I just want to highlight two recent points and perhaps throw my own two cents into the pot on some of the issues raised.
The first is raised in a post originally about Tom Garvin, rightly Garvin is seen as one of the country's brightest minds. Having studies under him, I have listened first hand to his attitudes toward our very own PR-STV system and his views on its effects on our national politics.
This debate has raged for a long time, Dev and Fianna Fail failed in two seperate referenda to have the system replaced with a plurality system in 1959 and 68. Garvin's critique is one that holds a lot of weight among political scientists who study PR-STV. That being;
"The key feature of this system is that it allows voters to vote across party lines. Therefore it means that candidates of the same party must compete with each other as well as with candidates from other parties. This encourages an intense localism as candidates of the same party cannot compete on the basis of policy and instead urge the voters to, in effect, shop local."
PR-STV is seen as being a primary factor in influencing the manner in which our national politics has come to resemble 166 TDs tending personal fiefdoms and cultivating loyalty by acting as primarily national politicians. The parochial aspect has undermined the role for local government and been cited as a factor in undermining the view TDs should have of themselves as national legislators.
Yet, replacing the electoral system with something else is a minefield of an issue. Should we go for Garvins Additional Member system, a la FDR Germany. Proponents see a place for a much more able type of politician capable of responding to national need and seeeing themselves differently.
Study of other similar type systems suggests though that MPs from the list side often tend to try to attach themselves to a constituency. The power of party bosses is such that many MPs are drawn toward the idea of true representation. This point I feel is not sufficient to argue against moderating our system with a list element. However for the benefits to be positive from a party, it must be said that the requirement is for party bosses to be able to see beyond personalities and actually employ meritocratic criteria for candidate selection. In a polity so openly corrupt as ours, that may be high hope.
The main argument against change in most of its forms, in my opinion, is a far more nihilistic view of our polity. The argument is that our polity is so small and our political culture so parochial that when allied to our weak local government, it is near impossible to reshape the party and political system to have the desired effect of a national Dail containing empowered and self-aware TDs who make policy in broad national terms almost detached from local politics.
That factor is central to the argument, yet I cant help wondering which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Is it how our culture must change to facilitate a move to a differing electoral system? Or will a move to a different electoral system facilitate social change?
In terms of minority politics, often populated by the more pious end of the political spectrum with little imperative to dabble with the dilemma of being in power, more seats may result for the likes of greens, PDs and smaller parties as they are less reliant of a geographical cluster for votes and open to benefit from national clusters of support unable to yield a seat in a single constituency. I think Gerry's point is quite solid;
"There must be many people who could ably serve in the Dáil but who are put off by the localistic and clientelistic nature of our political system. "
As Basil Chubb noted and im fond of saying, the dail is "a puny parliament, populated by members with a modest view of their functions and a poor capacity to carry them out."
Yet our experiment with STV is an experiment in broad social inclusion, the weighting of every preference and the embodiment of voter choice in practice. It transgresses party structures to make representative politics purely about representation.
If the system yields candidates seen as incompetent and ineffective, perhaps it is our criteria for electing them and the structures they inhabit that inform their efficacy.
There are powerful forces at play in our democracy, STV among them, Im as yet unconvinced that changing the system would yield the positive result mooted. Having said that, the status quo in terms of quality of TDs and Dail quality must be improved upon.
Categories: Irishpolitics, Comment,
News from WikiNews, easily Saturdays most enjoyable, if a tad disturbing, read. I can only imagine the poor child's lonely journey through school with a name like an online search engine.
"A Swedish couple, Elias and Carol Kai, has chosen to name their first born son Google, after the well-known search engine.
The Swedish tax authority, which normally frowns on unusal names, apparently had no objections.
The father, Elias Kai, says he's a "great fan" of the search engine and wanted to honor the service by naming his son after it. But Mr. Kai says he and his wife also chose the name because of the similar word googol. "[Googol] means 1 followed by 100 zeroes," stated Mr. Kai, "and I want my son to have lots of friends – I want him to be social, so the name also symbolises this."
Upon hearing the news, authors of the Google weblog wrote, "We wish him long life and good health, and hope his schoolmates aren't too hard on him."
Google Kai already has his own website at http://www.google-kai.com/"RR
Categories: Humour, Media
I posted recently on the extraordinary endeavour undertaken by the Autralian government to get itself into a messy private toll road problem that doesnt really fix anything. Its an interesting case to bear in mind as we consider what to do with the next phase of motorway expansion that is due to come about.
Well fresh news from Australia on the continuing saga of a Harbour Tunnel that isnt really working out, from a variety of bad planning and lack of usefulness, should give cause for pause and reflection on the lessons learned from our endeavour with NTR and the West Link. The Aussie government is worried about the fact that noone is using the tunnel, instead opting for 'rat runs' and other means around the city. In the deeds for the contract, it is stipulated that certain roads must be closed and restructured in order to feed traffic toward the tunnell. Should none take up the tunnel, they simply have to shut more streets.
That said, like all these things, the public would prefer the opposite, opening up more streets and facilitating freeer movement of traffic. If that took place it looks like the operator has the government over a barrell, in the deed they would have to compensate (to the tune of $100 million a year) for lost profits. That is one dodgy contract, nearly as insane as the one to build and operate the West Link and the PPP in London's tube.
Its a lesson I am likely to keep highlighting as the government goes all doe-eyed at the concept of 'private, competetive, efficient etc etc' tolled motorways. Money could be better spent doing it ourselves and spending more on public transport.
Categories: Australia, Economics
It goes without saying that I am disturbed by the disappearance of one of the Iraq wars clearest and most cogniscent voices. There is little I or any can do but hope, pray and encourage all our governments to do their utmost ot bring him to safety. His coverage has been stellar, clearcut and exemplary in bringing the feelings and stories behind the war to life.
As I have said, i hope he is returned to dafety as soon as possible. Elsewhere, Lara Marlowe is currently in Baghdad and has a piece on Guardian Unlimited about Rory.
Categories: Media, Iraq
Not sure if any of you have come across this yet, but i want you to try something fun.
open up google and type in 'failure' into the search bar.
Then click Im feeling Lucky button, see what comes up. I wonder if there is a message in there somewhere from Google execs or corporate culture.
Its probably conincidence though, right?
Categories: Media, Humour
Far be it for me to get carried away on a mighty flight of hyperbole and overreaction, well, not today anyway, yet I was listening to John Gormely of the Greens last night and he mentioned the whole impending destruction of our species thanks to killer migratory birds. All the broo-haha seems at one moment justified and the next a wanton feeding frenzy by those who get paid to churn out type irrespective of actual news occurence.
So why am I moved to type about the latest threat to human kind, well to bring it all back round, Gormely mentioned he has been in a meeting with the Health Department, once they got prised away from their IT systems dont you know, and other members of the Dail. At the meeting a question was asked about preparation for a impending flu pandemic should it occur.
The response he received was paraphrased as follows;
"the plan will be a non-hospital plan,"
"so there is no current plan?"
"not yet but we will be reviewing our plans and issuing guidelines in January."
I am not sure whether, again with our government, to laugh or to cry. How exactly is one expected to use a "non-hospital" plan to solve a flu pandemic? Is this an allusion to another iodine-tablet style plan? I hope so those things tasted yummy (what do you mean we werent meant to eat them yet?), perhaps they will seal all our doors in the hope of keeping us from hospital anyway.
Seriously though, despite the rather inept approach engendered in any non-hospital agenda, there is a desperate lack of forward thinking, strategic planning and responsiveness on display across the cabinet table. There is little political guidance being offered in any constructive manner and a willingness to swallow bamboozling amounts of consultant jargon on websites, ppay systems and a liquorice allsorts of wasted endeavour.
As I outlined, this is paraphrasing of some conversation/briefing with the Health Department, choose to believe or otherwise. I think that this shower's track record makes it highly plausible that when it comes to our health and our hospitals, they havent got a clue. Cmputers? Ah they've loads of those though.
To be fair its not simply the whole bird flu thing, its not our job to get worked into a lather every time some news outlet clasps to a major potentially world ending pandemic to fill 23 of the 24 hour news cycle. It is however, the job of our government to look at the potential for damage being exposed to flu risk as we are. Its their job to quickly evaluate options, put plans and responses in place and coordinate agents. Its not their job to wait till January. At least I didnt elect them to do that. Plans like this arent built in a day but some effort to show preparedness for contingency would be nice, even the back of an envelope with some scribbles, anything. Please.
Also, can anyone tell me what exactly is a "non-hospital" plan in response to a flu pandemic or any other pandemic of communicable diseases? More specifically how is this the best way to treat our problem? Id be mighty interested to know.
Not to worry Bertie is on the case. For more on a similar vein, try Planet Potato's very excellent post from yesterday.
Categories: Irishpolitics, Comment, Birdflu
So i finally weaned myself out of the ass-groove on the sofa and decided to respond to the sight of O Reilly re-entering Earth for the entire time it takes to promote his new book (for kids, dont you know) before leaving for Planet Fox somewhere out near Uranus.
Was it that funny, well the first time round you were on the edge of your seat waiting for Stewart to land that killer punch which makes O Reilly see the light and repent, to borrow some biblical metaphors. Once that didnt happen, i went online to watch it again. The second time is so much better. O Reilly is looks like he is sitting on dog vomit. He is hilarious.
Stewart made some tough questioning and landed some hot punches. O Reilly could do with more of that.
Me I just like to see stupid wingnuts taken out for a walk in the real world, poked with a stick and returned to their cage for some more frothing rabidly. If you missed it all, download it from Crooks and liars.
What about you? How was it for you?
I was particularly amused by the comment (1 of over 200) at the post on C&L as follows;
" Page 14 of Bill O'Reilly for Kids:
"Tahini sauce goes well on falafels"
Thats a book I gotta read.
Categories: USA, Comment, Media, Humour
For those with More4 tomorrow nights Daily Show will feature Bill O Reilly as the guest on the show. 8:30 tonight, with bells on. Anyone who is wondering where the hell you find More4 its being carried on all digital platforms, so dont be afraid to hijack anyones tv for a half hour or so.
Those who are unwilling to wait might be interested in Crooks&Liars take on it, which has clips from the interview.
Not meaning to labour the Israel point, I do however think it is well worth looking at an emergent argument in the U.S. between two prominent academics. The story is one I have come across a number of times recently (Gary Younge, Guardian) and surrounds the conflict between academics Norman Finkelstein and Alan Dershowitz. The debate centers around a new book to be published, or finally at this stage published, called Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (University of California Press 2005).
The reason I am posting is that a very excellent review by Neve Gordon which contains a lot of background on the story came to my attention. There is also a piece from the Jerusalem Post cited on Finkelsteins website but unfindable in the Posts website, here. There is finally an interesting Wiki entry.
One thing is guaranteed to come from all this, the book will sell shed-loads. As to whether these books highlight the way toward some enlightened peace in the middle east. If the authors arent willing to engage in enlightened argument, it doesnt bode well for their work either.
Categories: Comment, USA,
Reports from Newstalks off the ball suggest that Bernard O Byrne has told that Kerr aint getting a new contract. Listen live to news and response from Giles and Dunphy online at Newstalk's website.
O Byrne apparantly received a text confirming that Kerr is out and the search will be on soon for a new
Update: News headlines from Newstalk on the story;
"Its official...Roy Keane is no longer the republican manager" No lies.
Todays most depressing read for myself was the vindication for cynicism that was todays Guardian report on the status of Isreali Settlements in Gaza. The graphic, not posted to the web highlights the fact that the Gaza Strip consists of 19 square miles as opposed to the 23 square Miles appropriated in the West Bank since july. I remember writing about the cynicism that greeted the withdrawal from Gaza, how many saw it as an opportunity for Isreal to deal with its demographic headache and focus on settlements in the West Bank.
My opinion then was;
"Diatribes against Isreal achieve little, it has the full support of the super-power in its actions and a large messianic movement influencing settler policy. Life in the middle east is going to change following the disengagement but how and whether it is for the better is not certain.
Human Rights must begin to be offered to Palestinians, life must be allowed to improve and the evidence of occupation removed.
Palestine is oft-quoted as an influence for extremists, in the 21st century with human rights at the forefront of international action, to abandon palestine is no longer tolerable...
life on the ground is to change forever in the middle east, if we allow the break down of contiguity between Gaza and the West Bank, we may have out third Intifada."
This remains my full opinion and I deplore the activity of the Isreali government in damaging the prospects for peace generally and their security in particular. This could be the most foolhardy piece of policy in a long history of bravado moves. The potential for sidelineing moderates within the PLO and broader Palestine movement can only add grist to the mill of Hamas and others who believe violence is the only way.
If another intifada breaks out, it is likely that Isreal will return to occupy Gaza under a very different set of circumstances than it left, controlling vast swathes of the West Bank around East Jerusalem. Those of us who dared to hope for a peaceful trend to emerge in the long and bitter struggle, stand left down by the actions of bad faith and bad reasoning. Land grabs are indefensible, only facilitated by a weak international community stifled by an inability to secure valid Security Council action.
As a leftie, I confess to not suffering from a myopic preoccupation with the issue of Isreal/Palestine, however when the infalmmatory gestures loom so large and the threats to peace become so real, it is difficult to remain a detached observer. Many stand to die in the coming years unless Isreal has the willingness to stand up to the settler movement and tendency in society and government.
The need to co-exist is never more necessary than at this juncture in relations between the west and the middle east. Yet our reasonable arguments and desire for self preservation fall at the last hurdle and victory for the cynical seems assured.
Categories: Politics, Israel, Palestine, Comment
From my research for the post on the Ibero-American summit, from Presna Latina;
"with a general office and Enrique Iglesias as director,"
I truly was delighted to hear he wouldnt be making any more crap songs, yet surprised to learn he is "an experienced economic and international relations expert." Now whos the dark horse enrique?
Not as bad as the recent natural disasters on the public purse, yet the news from AP that $1 in every $5 (20%) given in loans to businesses affected by 9/11 has gone south, is bound to place even more pressure on the budget stateside. While the sum, $245 Million, is not very large in terms of the US budget, it is simply a microcosm of the larger picture which sees Bush unable, through some of his own doing and some not so, to reign in spending or raise revenue and performance to meet the demands of his now bursting-at-the-seams numbers.
There is surely some value in considering the fate of these business in the context of the US economy and system as a whole. If 20% of those with loans are struggling to pay back what they owe, it may be a reflection of possibly hardening climates for business in the US. If the most capitalistic of societies is struggling to generate business in sufficient quantity then the challenge to the global system is clear. Perhaps these numbers reflect other factors and that can be very easily argued though i suspect my suspicion has some truth to it.
Average figures for bad debt on similar schemes is $1 in $20 (5%).
Categories: USA, Economy, Comment
Reports over the weekend from the 15th annual Ibero-American Summit from Spain, center around a resolution at the conference of PMs from Latin America and Spain (17 in all) which affirms opposition to the US blockade on Cuba. While Castro himself wasnt present, his allies among latin states reissued calls for the removal of the blockade.
According to Xinua the text called "on the United States of America to comply with that laid down in 13 successive resolutions approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, and to bring an end to the economic, trade and financial blockade it maintains against Cuba."
In any mans language that is a strong call for states to make against the States, particularly from those in its self proclaimed back-yard. The U.S. in turn was just as quick to deploy rhetoric in an attempt to defuse any impact the statement may have. Their main quibble was with the use of the term Blockade instead of the more common Embargo.
Whats in a word?
That depends really, if one considers the cuban arguments to be of any merit the embargo has endured for over 40 years and cost $80 Billion in their estimates. Yet for America this is part of their broader calling to finally eradicate communism, right?
This is my queue to get all lathered up about american imperialism, call for an end to the embargo and swiftly move along, my days work done. Yet the problem with this debates is simply that, the approach is call for an end and walk away. An end to the embargo is necessary, as we learned in Iraq, sanctions end up doing irreperable damage to a society, affecting innocent to a far higher degree that the powerful. It serves to isolate a community from sympathetics international actors and divide the argument into a simplistic pro- or anti- argument. In effect the crude tools of embargoes, sanctions et al. serve to shelve genuine resolutions in favour of crippling time spent on the shelf and in the 'out' box.
True, the Cuban blockade smacks of American Imperialism, they are the only state or at least one of a handful able to get away with such a punishing unilateral action against the wishes of 17 UN Security Council resolutions. That in itself is not a justification for removing the embargo. The point to make here is that as a policy whose stated aim was to remove Fidel, for reasons of national security or otherwise, it failed.
40 years on Fidel is still around and so are his Miami based detractors. The rancour and muck that is brought into this debate make any clear cut solution unlikely. I found a rather interesting post over at freetrade.org some debate from the CATO institute, that bastion of progressive values and social justice. The arguments in themselves as an illumination of the differing methodologies used by left and right to arrive at various conclusions. Premises from the discussion above for removing the blockade are, free trade is hampered by the embargo, the US is missing out on invesment in Cuba others are making and on and on.
Yet it seems clear that many on all sides hold a hankering for the removal of the embargo. If anything those who desire to see change in Cuba are hampered by the existence of the blockade as those who wished to overthrow Saddam were by sanctions. Having an existing attmept at solution shuts other avenues to action, soft and hard.
Back at the summit meanwhile,
So back to the Summit itself following that brief digression. The changing of the terminology from embargo to blockade, ive already noted is a big deal. Diplomats read this stuff very analytically and the Latin American news agency reckons;
"The second resolution for the first time replaced the word embargo with that of blockade; not merely a semantic change, but a profound one."
Indeed it could be profound in more ways than one, the global system has always had a degree of willingness to tolerate criticism of the US, primarily however this criticism is done on the terms laid down by the US in the form of accepted terms and refined areas of debate. The big issues were non-negotiable. The willingness of Latin Americas leader to stand up again seems to be coalescing wierdly with the return of Daniel Ortega, leader of the Sandinistas during the dirty wars in Latin America , in a Dr Who esque return of the past.
So what is happening here, are we seeing some momentus moves toward some global realignment in the system? If the renewed vigour of Latin leaders in criticising America in a public and confrontational manner a signal of a return to some suggested bi-polarity? Perhaps, perhaps not.
It goes without saying that at the centre of all this is a figure familiar to all, Hugo Chavez. His staunch alliance with Havana has brought benefits to both leaders widely reported and observed with intrigue. It seems however, that the settling of Latin America back into a familiar pattern of leftist leaders and conflict with the states is something Chavez explicitly desires. I ponder whether, for him and some others at least, the emergence of China as a guardian to the awkward squad is providing some foundation to the renewal of vocal criticism.
It is too simplisitc to reduce it to a correlative cause-effect relationship but I think this certainly is having an impact.
Elsewhere in the summit was an explicit call for the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela to answer to charges of terrorism in hijacking a flight which 1976 killed 73 innocent civilians. There is little argument for not deporting him other than the Colombia 3 defence of Human Rights records and jail standards. Yet talking terrorism with the States is equally big talk from this summit, if nothing else it looks like providing some fodder for posts over the coming years.
I dont think this will result, yet, in any major fissure in Latin America and a return to the dirty wars of the Reagan years. However what is at play is something many in the global community are picking up on. At some level it seems the US hegemony is being challenged, accpetence of the US line is moving from traditional foes to more moderate states. Spains willingness to put its name to some of this is stricking. Perhaps nothing shall come, but I thinks its a space to watch.
Categories: Politics, Comment, US, Chavez, Cuba
The indo has this story on the dramatic revelations last night by Marie Farrell. The Garda response in the article is predictable itself;
" Gardai last night angrily reacted to the allegations, claiming Ms Farrell had perjured herself and the u-turn was 'a joke.'"
That may or may not be the case, however if the recent events around the country have done anything at all, it is reenforce the notion that our police force are out for themselves. That makes their judement very hard to swallow on balance and with improper procedures available to ensure truth and clarity for those who take a case against the force, the problem will not be going away soon.
On a more detailed note;
" Mr Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, said that certain information and sworn statements which he had obtained from Marie Farrell last month during a detailed interview had caused him great alarm."
They should also alarm Michael McDowell, the team now have evidence to go after an enquiry or a retrial to attempt to get to the truth of the matter. Just wait until the leaks begin to come out attempting to muddy Farrell's character, thats is a point where we can begin to consider some truth to her claims.
Latest reports from RTE suggest that Bailey's legal team is doing just that. The grounds to have the whole case reexamined and Garda conduct thrown under the spotlight is not just of importance to those who desire a competent and honest police force but more so for the Family of du Plantier who have suffered enormous trauma through the meandering and seemingly failed investigation.
Their pain should be the priority for all actors in this case. Theirs is the greatest of needs to clear all this up. The state and its forces have let them down badly in their search for justice for Sophie, now perhaps movement must be made in the case.
RTE also have clip from this mornings morning Ireland explaining in more detail.
Update: P O Neill has some good stuff on the case too over at BOBW
Categories: Irishpolitics, Corruption, Gardai
Scooped by TV3 tonight, though they dont actively feed their news online, is the allegations out of West Cork that Marie Farrell's statement on the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier was a fabrication. The only report available is Paul Byrnes one on TV, more is bound to be in the press tomorrow. Farell claimed to TV3 that here statement was a fabrication which she was force fed by Gardai. She has contacted the legal team of Ian Bailey, who last year took a libel trial against six media organs in this state over reportage of the allegations of his guilt.
The whole case seems to have been blown off the hinges by Farrell's new allegations regarding the willingness of our Gardai to fabricate evidence. Farrells claims to be in fear of her life of those whom she is outing (according to here).
According to the examiner, Farrell's evidence was crucial in that she claimed "that she saw Bailey a short distance from Ms Toscan du Plantier’s home, shortly she is believed to have been killed". If her new allegations against the Gardai prove true, many questions will be raised.
This case, currently and superficially at least, bears a marked resemblence to the Donegal affair, while nothing is proven yet in Cork there are serious questions being raised, again, as to the integrity of our national police force.
Should these allegations be proved correct, they will do an awful lot of damage to Michael McDowell over his bad apples claims regarding the force in Donegal. His arguments for the proposed oversight mechanism of ombudmans committee is predicated on the notion that there are but a few bad apples who misbehave in the force.
The nature and scope of the implications of Farrell's allegations and those I happened across over at Indymedia.ie (the only site with something on the story and I hasten to add the customary health warning of possible bias in the content out of duty) pose grave threat to the trust and competence of our force.
McDowell is trying to implement increasing number of behaviour changing laws (drinking, ASBOs etc) and he will be fully reliant on this forces integrity to ensure the law is carried out in spirit. If these stories dont stop seeping from the woodwork, government will have many serious probelms on its mind, not just computers.
Alongside the wider political fallout is the consideration of the damage inflicted on the local life of journalist Ian Bailey. His legal team are bound to demand an inquiry and the state may be liable for damages in some respect. Considering the track record laid down in the wake of McBriarty and Shortt cases, it could run and run.
For those unfamiliar with the background to this appalling tale of unsolved murder, some articles below may help being you up to date.
Wiki Entry (French)
Ian Bailey Libel Trial
Categories: Irishpolitics, Corruption, Comment,
Well, at this stage we have all either read or heard father Alec Reid getting a ribbing last night and blowing a gasket. Following this up with his comments on how nationalists in the north had been treated like animals and like jews under the nazis.
A nuanced response is required to this sort of a situation, I feel, when one invokes the Holocaust one doesnt do so lightly. Such a nuanced response we will not get on an island where one is either a West-Brit or some Semtex-Smoking-Guinness-Drinking-Shinner. So for some semblence of balance and a response to the actions of last night which chimes very close to my own, read the UI post.
He is dead on on all of it and saved me doing typing, posting and opining. Thanks UI!!
Years of heckling, abuse, anti catholic activity and anti-catholic feeling existed. The suffering community were scared witless by all the violence that followed. Another interesting response came from Bigulsterman. The need to recognise and acknowledge horrible hatred in the North is indeed essential, such is the reason calls for a Truth and Reconciliation style commission have some traction.
This manifestation of the same ol hulabaloo will soon die away, the feeling of unrecognised aggrievement is not going to go with it until it is dealt with.
Categories: Irishpolitics, NorthernIreland, Politics, Comment
From FTW, a piece ran in the China Daily recently giving Beijings take on the markedly unhealthy, unsustainable state of the american economy.
Ive gone on about China before and often sound like a conspiracy theorist Im sure, yet i encourage all of you to consider the argument outlined above, considering its origin in an organ of a huge US creditor. It lends more than simple journalistic insight to the issue, more a clearer, more distinct view of Chinese thinking on the Dollar and the sustainablility of US upswings in the long run.
This is a topic which I find genuinely fascinating considering the knock on effects that may take place in the global system should it come to pass. FTW is hardly the first to call it, but it is certainly one of the more consistent in its arguments. The premise of the argument that the US is on the ropes in economic terms comes from a confluence of events that are gradually eating away at what is an already unhealthy US economic setup. The US debt is financed by foreign Central Banks and investors who buy dollar assets to hold in reserve. The US uses this facility as a form of credit and it allows for deep deficits to exist relatively unpunished.
However, increases in oil prices, competition for resources from China and the increasing deficits in Bush's budget, make many consider current US forms of dominance untenable. Key findings from the US China Commission reported on the massive negative effects on the US trade with China is doing.
The counter argument to this finding is that Western States particularly the US with its military industrial complex are replacing low-end manufacturing which moves overseas with high-end high technology capabilities and services. Those who support such a position might wish to consider the findings I outlined above;
-- The rise in the United States' trade deficit with China from 1989 to 2003 caused displacement of production that supported 1.5 million U.S. jobs. The loss of jobs due to the growing trade deficit with China has more than doubled since it entered the WTO in 2001.
-- China's exports to the United States of electronics, computers, and communications equipment, along with other products that use more highly skilled labor and advanced technologies, are growing much faster than its exports of low-value, labor-intensive items such as apparel, shoes and plastic products.
-- The U.S. trade deficit in Advanced Technology Products (ATP) with China is now $32 billion, equal to the total U.S. ATP deficit.
-- China is also rapidly gaining advantage in more advanced industries such as autos and aerospace products."
So external deficits look set to keep balooning
Looking ahead it is difficult to see the US trading its way toward some rebalancing of the deficit, many wonder which will go first, the US economy or Chinese funding of the deficit. Consider the points made by FTW on the whole prospect of recession in the US. He is referring to the China Daily article first and then the story below, the potential Bankruptcy of GM.
"China pulls very few punches here and this public statement about Beijing’s tea leaf reading pulls few punches. It was kind of them to estimate a collapse in a year or two instead of right now. Had they said right now it might have started a dollar run before China could liquidate holdings at the top of the bubble. Now, before the winter cold hits and energy shortages become more than an inconvenience, the two key signs we should watch for are a Chapter 11 filing by GM (likely) and any moves by other countries to liquidate dollar holdings.
Critics and skeptics are quite right that a Chapter 11 filing is only for reorganization. But it would also allow GM – if the courts permit it – to dump all of their pension obligations off on the US Treasury and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation which is already insolvent. Don’t think of the damage caused by weakened GM shares. Think of what happens when millions of pension checks stop flowing. At least two airlines (Delta and Northwest) are dancing around that same move right now."Coupled with talk of GM filing for Chapter 11 and further weight being subsequently placed on social security to pay pensions which private firms were supposed to be managing well enough to handle, the article looks like a stark prophecy. It may not turn out this way, but if we say it enough then it probably will come true eventually.
China and its burgeoning allies in the awkward squad are going to pose a threat sooner or later to the current dominant ideology of international relations. Major reforms at UN level should have been far sighted enough to see the need for emphasising Democracy across the world and its insitutions. I mean genuine democracy, not puppet regimes and controlled climates of business. Hawks in the US are already looking keenly toward Chinese military build up and increasing share of global trade. Few are unconvinced of the inevitability of friction and standoff.
I realise that a recession doesnt turn the world on its head, it should give cause to contemplate, from the crash of 1929 we got a new world order and a massively destructive war. If recession is coming, there is need to be ready. A chaotic US society could take years to sort on the path to recovery. I fear those in charge have neither the time nor the vision to handle this problem, would they even want to? Perhaps this talk of isolationism and unilateralism need to be set aside and cooperative measures found to ensure a bust doesnt kill off the era of the "end of history".
Categories: Comment, Politics, USA, China, Oil
Er Dail actually but at times one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Browsing through the ol leaders questions tends to provide some nuggets. There is a wonderfully peurile nature to the transcripts which go up on the website of the oireachtas. In fact im minded of a comment posted over at Irisheagle on the beauty of Irish debating. In the vein of who shouts louder is this interjection from Berties Rottweiler Groucho Dea.
I dont know about you but I think that is the worst comeback I have ever heard in my life. Willy if we arent paying you to be inefficient, or open pubs in west limerick, then we at least expect a sharper retort. Just one, go one try harder. Squeeze.
Categories: Politics(Ireland), Comment,
Senator Shane Ross and the blogospheres very own twentymajor are but some of the natives here who get vexed at the first mention of that poxy bridge across the liffey. Considering the ire of many of those who are doomed to pass through its barriers daily, paying a toll in same manner one would pay to Dick Turpin, the government toyed with action only for consultants to (probably) lampoon the idea of a competing freely available bridge.
Anyway, consider our plight as being bad but consider the mess of a contract the Aussies wrote with their very own version of NTR. The company, Cross City Motorways, who operate the tolled city harbour tunnel for the next thirty years or so, has a deed that would make even NTR weep. The Sydney autorities are looking to improve public transport across the city and obviously the harbour too, this is hoped to impact on some of the car traffic in the city.
This means potentially bad news for our Toll Road owning friends in the antipodes, but hark, here comes their saviour. Written into the deed is a clause which apparently requires City Motorways to be compensated should better infrastructure eat into the margins, profits or other euphamism for cash in the arse-pocket, by the government.
I cant believe it either. Looks like someone is in dire need of consultants to write a decent contract. According to the report this aint the first case of it either as a motorway (M2) is subject to the same deal.
Not alone are they stuck paying for the yolk to make a profit but it seems to be utter shite at its job of keeping traffic moving. We know that story.
Story is here.
Blogger reaction, 1, 2, 3,(indymedia Sydney solely included to annoy rightists...its the little things)
Criticism seems to be unflinching and typically abrupbt. The design of the tunnel seems to have been deeply flawed to miss the major traffic spots and now many people get to indulge in the wests favourite passtime of 'i told you so'. Well we win, we could have told everybody so. So there.
Categories: Comment, Australia, Media
This could surely be a serious post on the need to treat the Kyoto protocol and global warming with due seriousness, something I agree wholeheartedly with, but i couldnt resist an easy jibe instead.
Consider the following headline from RTE;
Ireland's Kyoto bill could top €100m
(15:22) Consultants have estimated that Ireland is facing a bill of more than €100 million for failing to abide by its Kyoto limits.
Ill bet they have...and thats before you add on costs and fees incurred in the value for money stuff and other essential Consultant tasks carried out to tell us that government is looking at costing us more shaggin' money. When will we be rid of technocrats telling us how to run our lives? When we get a competent government i reckon.
Still, its not all bad, Cowen reckons hell only cost us E55 Million and save the rest from new government policy.
When it comes to knowing how much government looks likely to waste, i reckon the consultants are better qualified to tell us.
Easy jibe over, but if im thinking it, so must some voters. Tick Tock.
Categories: Media, Comment, Politics(Ireland)
Over the last few days, the whole storm over PPARS has grabbed the imagination (whatever of it is left) of the chatterati and we have descended into a mutually reenforced conception of irish politics as run by loons and outsourced to "consultants" wherever they are crafty enough to seduce government ministers.
Some of the work by Gavin at Irishcorruption.com in tying the disparate strings together has been a massive aid to those seeking to cut through the (slightly forced methinks) hyperbole over the waste of E150 Million and then some on IT systems, consultants and other shiny toys which cause politicians in the west to salivate.
So i turned on Q&A this evening to find its brief foray into being mildly interesting has been done away with and tonight we reverted to type, most notably with Willy O Dea's 100,000th appearance on the show (well it feels like it). The Hulabaloo over consultants etc seems to again have missed the glaring point that was pointed to by Vincent Browne at the weekend in SBP. The PPARS system, the electronic voting, pretty much all that is wrong with Irish politics, seems to revert to a gripe that those we elect fritter away money like the Manneken Piss dispenses water. We elect politicians to a Dail where they are fated to serve in a capacity as governing party or opposition. There is little attempt to supercede the partisanship inherent in the Dail since patronage can be thrown to anyone lucky enought to get a seat. Barring the Liz O Donnell aberration earlier this week, the party line is rarely broken.
Basil Chubb in commentary on the Dail referred to it as "a puny parliament peopled by members who have a modest view of thier powers and a poor capacity to carry them out". Major problems in Irish politics have often stemmed from the ineptitude of our representatives and many voters are numb to the occurence of ineptitude in our leaders.
If this is the backgroung into which consultants walk, then it is no wonder Delloit and Touche enjoy such presence in the public sector. From a deteriorating view of responsibility and a dim notion of the electorate expects of power, we have muddled through years of economic growth only to deliver us to a society which is deeply atomised, badly planned and lacking any sense of respect for the work citizens have done in making Ireland what it is today.
Further to this has come the undermining of the Mandarin culture in the civil service, where liberally educated men and women sought to temper democracy and act as a bulwark to Mobocracy that many predicted would befall western liberal democracies. Much work in recent times suggests that the erosion of the prestige of high mandarins in favour of serious technical expertise has led to creeping mobocracy and presents a threat to democracy existent since the times of Aristotle.
So the present edition of government ineptitude can be seen as part of a longer legacy of mutually impotent governing classes, setting up NTR, the West Link, through badly planned estates and commuter towns to PPARS. The legacy is as rich as the litany is long.
So who now runs this place? Are we in hock to the Consultants, the planners, the spinners and the managers? I fear a nasty conflation of much of the above.
I have a long time ago called for a much stronger commitee system to reinvigorate the Dail and empower TDs to think for a change. Yet Browne disagrees this is sufficient, in his article he cites the clear need for a seperation of powers and the clear division of Executive from Legislative branches. Such reform is a monumental task in a mature democracy.
Yet he has a point. Surely even the consideration of a new system, the discussion of serious reform of our society to reflect our new views and new realities, would in itself breed the awareness of reflection.
As a whole the body politik lurches from one crisis to the next, one media event to the next rarely pausing to reflect on the present realities and the emergence of this reality through time. From such a beginning we can beging to run out country again.
For the moment all we have are a group who see their role as facilitating technical and professional management of society thorough all sorts of media. Empowering TDs should begin with the encouragement to freedom of will, thought and expression.
Modern democratic reform is never easy, yet i feel that it is clearly needed in our country where noone appears to be at the helm.
Categories: Politics(Ireland), Comment, Government
Spotted over the weekend, only checked out now. The rather scary shootfirstlaw.org who said modernity was a one way path to Human enlightenment. If your a reader and in Florida or the U.S. then kick your cordite habit and get petitioning to remove from yourselves the cancer of gun addiction.
As the site implores of Floridians;
"Tell Governor Bush he made a mistake. The people of Florida deserve better than to be gunned down by the short-tempered and trigger-happy. They deserve better than to have the law put into the hands of private citizens."
Go check it out, personal freedom seems to begin to verge on the Hobbesian state of war.
Categories: Comment, USA, Politics,
I browsed over to the Guardian newsblog, where Luke Harding posted not long after I on the news on Germany's impending resolution of its political deadlock. He details the dismay among SPD heads to the left and right at the manner in which Schroeder has been set aside to ease the path to government.
Also it seems that already the Germans are backing my thesis that the result of a Grand coalition will be the shedding of members and support to the right and left of both parties with resultant support increases and thus increases in authority for Linkspartei, Green, FPD and neo nazis.
"With the SPD occupying crucial ministries such as finance and labour, the Left party is likely to profit in the long run when disillusionment with the "grand coalition" sets in, as it inevitably will. This is, after all, what happened last time there was a grand coalition in Germany in the late 1960s. The period yielded the Red Army Faction, a terrorist group, and the best ever result for the neo-Nazi NPD (German) in 1969, with voters drifting off to the radical left and radical right."
Its always nice to see someone agree with me, so i decided to post it. The whole thing seems like a bit of a joke, one can imagine politicians in government and the mainstream soldiering on the foster the impression of unity amidst the chaos of conflicting ministries, while the reality is that the electorate know and dislike what goes on and revert to left/right positions of a more clear cut variety.
An idea which occured to me recently, yes i do have one or two a year, is that this government is an experiment in everything "third way" politics was intended to achieve, a new way, not left, not right etc. Many foresaw the approach of third way or its variants as reconciling the long running divisions between centre left and right in a manner which secured electoral superiority for a muddled cloudy approach to society, economics, business and pretty much everything else. If such a proposition is accepted, then the disillusionment which may set in with the Grand Coalition could stand as a lesson to those other third way politicians left and right who are guarding their swing voters.
The disillusion, should it take place, may result in the reembrace by the electorate of more clearly defined positions on policy, in terms of the 4-D compass or simple 2-D left right scale. If this happens it will buck a trend which many considered the inevitable outcome of european party systems of a grouping around the middle ground in a vote-maximisation exercise. If this turns voters to the wings then it will have been a counter intuitive process, wont it?
The homogenous blob being created in the middle ground of most of Europes societies, and formerly existing in the U.S., risks becoming more of a turn off than being a dyed in the wool red. The upcoming German experiment may act as a macrocosm of the fate of moves to the Centre for those that have tried it.
I havent even started to unwind the various strands of such an idea yet, perhaps im too lazy too.
Categories: Politics, Comment, Media, Germany
Tonight heralds the latest foray of 4 into digital channels, the new 'adult' entertainment channel More4. I am delighted to see that the Daily Show will now be broadcast regularly rather than the global edition on CNN at the weekend. Let the laughs roll. Also they have a late night talk show lined up to reflect on the days events, hosted by Mark Dolan this week, someone else next week.
Yup it looks pretty good on paper.
It seems that after the guts of three weeks negotiation and posturing, the German Bundestag looks set to get a chancellor. The victor, drum roll please... Angela Merkel. We all recall the mixed messaage sent out by the German Electorate after initial polls suggested landslide support for a woman portrayed as a neo-thatcherite.
The electorate seemed unsettled by the comfort which Ms. Merkel's shadow cabinet showed with neo-liberal activism and ideas such as flat taxes and other various implements of neo-liberal 'reform'. Many in the country agreed with the need for the vaguely defined reform, yet none agreed with prescriptions for a solution, or descriptions of the problem. So the resulting election has been characterised as further evidence of an unsure European entity, struggling with the burden of unemployment and globalisation, unable to transfer export growth into economic health.
So the outcome of weeks of unclear behind the scenes machinations has been the expected Grand Coalition between centre-right CDU/CSU and centre-left SPD. (EU Observer, BBC)
In terms of personality politics the outcome is a mixed bag depending on your own ideological hue. The removal of the green party from government is a blow to those who saw their presence in government as an example to the whole green movement and instrumental in pushing the environmental agenda.
Elsewhere, the absence of Fischer looks set to be accompanied by the absence of his chancellor, Schroeder is reported to not be among the cabinet members, however he negotiated a hard bargain, the SPD will have 8 ministers against the 6 from CDU/CSU.
For a minority party that is some return on a disappointing election performance.
Consider the report from EU Observer;
" The SPD has secured key ministries such as the foreign affairs and labour market portfolios. The CDU, on the other hand, is said to have secured the interior and economics ministries. "
There looks set to be a lot of boat rocking trouble ahead for those in the new german government and that project requires ratification from parties and from Parliament.
Economics looks set to be filled by Edmund Stoiber head of the CSU sister party buy intirgue will surround the post of vice-chancellor and the process of drawing up the problematic programme for government.
As coalition negotiations go, this is a lesson in punching well above your weight. The CDU had it all to lose should talks fall through, the SPD have extracted a heavy price for participation in government and what follows will be murky and potentially very unwieldy.
It occurs to me that Blair found a large majority harder to manage than a small one, the logic here could play also over in germany. Left leaning SPDers will be apalled at some of the plans for government and the same may be true for those on the right of the CDU. The fallout from this government may run deeper into the german party system than we care to consider.
Should the result of this government be a fracturing of the 'big-tent' of left and right, the stability of a german system, so central to the EU's health, may fracture. The Linkspartei and Greens alongside the Liberals and neo-nazis are waiting to pick up dissatisfied swings away from a center that achieves little of clarity.
This is all conjecture at this point, but it could certainly happen.
The further fragmenting of a party system in germany could further muddy the question of how the EU as a whole responds to economic issues.
The other big deal is that many in the UK and Sarkozys France will look on dismayed as the SPD still hold sway in Germany and a new sweep of 'reformist' leaders falls at the first hurdle. Shock treatment for the EU, so desired by the UK, looks set to be stillborn.
As I say, all conjecture, but more fun than reality at times.
Categories: Politics, EU, Comment
At this stage you lot are bound to have noticed that there is some commotion among irish blogs (freestater and DI) over the very ingenious idea from damien mulley to have an irish blog awards this year.
I think its a great idea. Some categories could be pretty competitive and i think its something that will be of great benefit to the irish blogosphere as a whole.
Anyone trying to kick start it has my full backing should you need it.
Anyhow, pass the word on, post on it support it and perhaps we might do it.
On categories, i think best fiction or use of blogs for art (excluding photography which gets its own category) might be a nice touch. John o Donaghue might give some zero's our way if Brian lets him.
Turning the blogrol from lazy to highly efficient progressive machine, i added two in one courtesy of Freestater who has one of the largest knowledges of the blogosphere. take a very close and excellent look at some sites ill be plaigerising in future. Yellow elephant project, Jesus' General
Reminds me of a joke;
Q: Why do elephants paint their feet yellow?
A: To hide upside down in custard.
Q: Have you ever seen and elephant hide upside down in custard?
Well Then it must be working.
Categories: Blogging, Comment,
Further to the addition of Boliviablog and a variety of Irish blogs that should have been in here long ago, I am concurring with slugger, do i ever do different? and including desolate row on the blogroll.
Great looking blog for its wit alone. jeez there are many times in my life when i wished i was funny. No i know i should have paid more attention to my feelings of inadequacy.
Perhaps I overhyped the emergence of that titan of truth and balance, or whatever the Fox catchphrase happens to be today, onto the plane of blogging. The shifty bastards apparantly moved the goalposts (they have goals in USA right?) on our blogging comrades across the water to turn the show to their own ends. Im sure Bill was absolutely prepared to hold an informed, fair and balanced discussion on blogs on the Factor last night, he just got sidetracked by the mention of Mediamatters. That upstart with the nerve to post on the fact that O'Reilly is a nonsense and so is his pseudo-show.
As a mate of mine once said, that lad is a sack of kack.
Someone needs to shoe Fox up the arse alongside their British compatriots in the press.
Categories: Blogging, Media, USA
For those who see my blogroll as the awesomly static monument to laziness that it truly is, you may not have noticed the update link added recently for Bolivia Blog. The most recent post on the site is one dedicated to the regular american issue of anti-americanism. The response is most heart rendering, in true american style unafraid to mix passion so stirringly with a view of american values.
The post is here and well worth reading. The comments are equally interesting.
My response to his comments are that it is a sign of the times that americans see the need to first segregate the home nation into pro-and anti- americans, following from segregation of attitudes comes the purging of exposure to such communities. The most fundamental tenet of american society is as indoctrinated in the constitution the right to free speech and the corrolary commitment to discourse. Sure one mans war is anothers occupation.
True americanism for me, is a commitment to genuine and rigourous commitment to truth and justice, speaking truth to power, and acting on the moral responsibilities inherent in any truthful criticism. Where these aspects of the society fall down, there is an onus on democrats to stand up and say so. Nowhere is democracy so trenchently upheld as the ideal, nowhere is there more reason to intervene with power and make it work to its founding goals.
Perhaps Im wrong, thats ok, im irish and a meaningless blogger. For americans, this issue is a tinderbox of potential social division and isolation from the world at large.
Categories: USA, Comment, Politics
Just browsing through the awful shenanigans last evening in the Dail (debate on privae motion regarding PPARS), the delivery and much of the performance was pretty woeful. Still on paper there are a few gems worth reprinting.
Dan Boyle (Green) responding to Martin Cullens claim that "Deputies from Fine Gael and the Labour Party, during their time in Government, aspired to nothing more than mediocrity."
"This side of the House will not take any lectures on mediocrity from a mediocre man. We will not have any lessons on the proper use of public money from someone who, in every Department in which he has served, managed to come up with at least one crisis that kept this House and nation entertained, if not furious."
"On the wider issue of the waste of public money, I wish to highlight a number of examples. We learnt a month ago that the Dublin Port tunnel in my area was €200 million over budget and now it is in region of €335 million over budget. The electronic voting system cost taxpayers €52 million. The Government spent €30 million to buy a farm that was valued at €4 million. The Battle of the Boyne site, which could have been bought for €2.7 million, was bought instead by a private business and then sold back to the Office of Public Works 18 months later for €7.8 million. There was the revamping of the courthouse in Cork estimated to cost €6.5 million but which ended up costing the taxpayer the much larger amount of €26.5 million. Some 30 road projects, which were estimated to cost €932 million, have set us back €2.97 billion. Other road projects were 86% over budget."
Liz McManus with an open goal shot at government;
"The words “shock and awe” gained widespread currency from events in Iraq. They can also be used in this case but in a different context. Shock to describe the amounts of money lost by sheer waste with no value at all to the taxpayer and at the amounts spent with little or no meaningful return or value. Awe, to describe the dearth of results and the failure of so many projects."
Joan Burton: Does the Minister consider 35 site visits in Dublin to be enough?
My personal Favourite;
Noel Dempsey: It is true to say the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General serves different functions for the Government and the Opposition. For the Opposition, it presents an opportunity to jump up and down and start blaming individual Ministers for every flaw in our system. This is all very predictable and petty and proves the square root of nothing.
Joan Burton: Does the Minister even know what the square root is?
And so it all continued in much the same vein. Childish rants and some well meaning talk about better ministers, better government and that wonderful holy grail of efficiency. Then Ennui comes on to Dunphy this morning and delivers a decidedly underwhelming control of the arguments. The deeply worrying thing for this opposition is the manner in which voter motivation aint happening over the litany of misspends Finian McGrath outlined above.
Government seems set to sit tight and ship the poblem out to Prof. Drumm at the HSE. Parked and out of sight.
Categories: Politics, Comment, Opposition
One of those wonderful internet gizmos to tell me the real me, save me the hassle of self exploration and definition and cut to the chase of simply acting as myself. Anyway bloginality came via The blog and I.
Take the test, take the plunge, in four questions or so you will have the mist of existential confusion lifted from your eyes and be thrust upward toward eternal definition youness. Heres the link.
BTW: for those curious enough to care, thanks.My Bloginality is INFJ!!!