The "discussions" about a date for #GE20 took longer than the campaign will

Saturday, February 8. Just a few weeks for the Republic to discuss the issues of the day and vote for representatives in what will be the 33rd Dáil. Absolutely shocking.

Traditionally it is the sitting Taoiseach who gets to set the date, and I have no problem with this. But let’s be clear on what has actually happened in recent weeks – Leo Varadkar was consulting heavily with the so-called leader of the opposition Micheál Martin over the timing of the election.

Why? Because they have been in a virtual coalition government, that’s why. The official terminology is “confidence and supply” but the reality is that by abstaining on votes for legislation, Fianna Fáil have effectively been supporting Varadkar’s agenda. Now we are suddenly expected to see them as rivals yet again, while those who are actually offering a real alternative to the electorate are left on the outside.

Then there’s our system of voting on these shores. In my opinion, the “PR:STV” method we employ, while it includes the words “proportional representation” in its title and thus creates the illusion of being inclusive, is actually anything but.

In my opinion, offering voters the opportunity to choose a second option* does appear democratic, UNTIL you realise that most constituencies have the leading parties running multiple candidates. If you voted Fianna Fáil number 1, chances are you will also vote them number 2 if you have the chance. So, much like the infamous “first past the post” system used in the UK, the non-establishment parties are generally shut out.

What I would prefer is for something like a merger between the two systems. Currently there are 158 seats. Rather than 3-, 4- and 5- seat constituencies, I would have 158 x 1 seat ones (actually I’d prefer fewer TDs, maybe 150 or less). THEN we can use a simple PR method of voting where there is infinitely less confusion over counts, surpluses and transfers, plus we know for sure that over 50% of voters chose the winner. And to be clear – although I favour progressive candidates, should we employ this method and the FF/FG duopoly still prevailed, I could hardly complain about it, could I.

Anyway, that is of course more of a technical matter – what lies ahead right now is a shortened election campaign, with the ridiculous posters already going up on lamp posts within 24 hours of the announcement being made.

I’m going to do my best to follow the “campaign trail” as best as I can over the coming weeks and see what kind of promises these people will be making (if any) plus how the Irish media is covering it all. JLP

* – yes I know we can also vote for 3,4 and 5 etc but seriously, how critical are those choices when it comes to your ballot being counted?

And so the predictable corporate media takedown of Bernie Sanders begins…

We saw it with David Norris here in Ireland in 2011, when the Irish mainstream media took a letter of clemency the progressive candidate wrote 10 years previously as an excuse to associate his name with the word “pedophilia” on virtually a daily basis until he withdrew from the campaign.

It happened to Jeremy Corbyn from the moment he became the Leader of the Labour Party in 2015, with the tactics remaining more or less the same (although much of the attacks came from within his own party) although you can replace the word “pedophilia” with “Antisemitism” and it contributed greatly to an embarrassing election defeat last December

Now with Bernie Sanders showing himself to be leading the polls in Iowa, CNN is doing it to him, just a day before the last Democratic debate before the first caucus takes place.

The stakes were high when Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren met at Warren’s apartment in Washington, DC, one evening in December 2018. The longtime friends knew that they could soon be running against each other for president. The two agreed that if they ultimately faced each other as presidential candidates, they should remain civil and avoid attacking one another, so as not to hurt the progressive movement. They also discussed how to best take on President Donald Trump, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters. Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.

Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in private 2018 meeting that a woman can’t win, sources say
MJ Lee, CNN.com

The key words in the above quote are in the headline – “sources say”. To be fair to CNN, they at least tack them on, although being at the end, they could well be ignored. There is certainly nothing in the opening passage of the article itself to suggest that they are second (third? fourth?) hand reports of a private conversation.

As you can see, MJ Lee categorically states at the end of the quote : “Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.”

They do include a response from Sanders himself, albeit halfway down the page :

“It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

They do walk it back slightly today, quoting Warren herself who claims : ‘I thought a woman could win; he disagreed‘. An important distinction, yes? That immediately throws into question how this exchange was interpreted. HOW did he show his disagreement, Senator Warren? Did he actually say “I disagree”? Did he actually say something along the lines of “I do not believe a woman can win”? Or, as I suspect, did he happen to be shaking his head right after you said “I think a woman can win”? That COULD suggest disagreement, but it could also suggest he was shaking his head while forming his thoughts. We don’t know.

Whatever the strategically planted attempts to be ‘fair’, there is no doubt that the overwhelming slant of these articles is that there is a suggestion that “misogynist” is to Sanders as “antisemite” supposedly was to Corbyn (you hear nothing about it now he has said he’s stepping down as leader) and “pedophile” supposedly was to Norris (he’s still a Senator!).

The Young Turks, who are Bernie backers, offer this take on the story :

All of this leads me to believe that Bernie shouldn’t be the nominee, but only because I fear that if that were the case, the US corporate media would then consider Trump the lesser of two “evils” and continue to give the president’s rhetoric infinite free air time much as they did in 2016.

Since I primarily want that orange moron out of the White House, and it seems that the Democrat darling is Joe Biden, I would probably be supportive although I reckon it would be a smart move to nominate Warren as his VP, while publicly promising to adopt some of the progressive platform in the first term as a sweetener.

I would be satisfied with such an arrangement, although my ideal choice would have to be Bernie. It’s just a shame that the only reason not to have a Progressive government is that the corporations wouldn’t be agreeable. Even if it’s not in my lifetime, I hope a day will come whereby their objections won’t matter. JLP

Record-breaking hospital waiting lists left until late in RTÉ News broadcast, with little or no discussion #IrishMediaWatch

“The most frustrating part is that we know how to solve this problem: increase staffing and bed capacity, expand community care, and get going with the Sláintecare reforms. Instead, the HSE continues to enforce its rigid recruitment controls, starving hospitals and community services of the staff they need. Our members are rightly appalled by the conditions they are forced to work and care for patients in.”

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha
Trolley overcrowding 9% worse than any other year

To be clear from the outset, this is not a post about the Irish health service. I will do them from time to time on this site, but what I m more interested in is the coverage by the Irish Media, and that is my focus today, specifically that of RTÉ’s Nine O’Clock News on Thursday, January 2, 2020.

And before I get to that particular episode, I should probably make my feelings known about RTÉ in general. Of course I don’t have a problem with the existence of public service broadcaster, but I do believe that the Irish one is, shall we say, far from a shining example of how one should be organised. I am opposed to the continued charging of a license fee and I feel RTÉ tends to approach broadcasting from a perspective of what I call “elitist group-think”.

But all of that said, even I can’t complain about their lead story on their primetime (lower case ‘p’ so as not to be confused with their current affairs programme with an upper case) news show leading off with news of the untimely passing of Marian Finucane. She was well respected both inside and outside Montrose and this was definitely news to be leading off with even if wasn’t on RTÉ.

That said, I still have issues with the sequencing of stories on this particular half-hour broadcast. After an extensive report which chronicled Finucane’s career, there then followed coverage the Australian bush fires, talks in the north on the resumption of the Stormont Assembly, and the appointment of Hillary Clinton as ambassador of Queen’s University, all before the commercial break.

When they returned, there then followed a further segment on Finucane where anchor Eileen Dunne interviewed a former colleague. Personally I feel this was unnecessary. There will no doubt be several tributes on the network in the coming weeks and that would be the time for such interviews.

I feel that time could have been allotted to a more intensive discussion on a report released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation which offered alarming statistics. Instead when they did get to the issue all they could fit in were brief quotes from representatives from the INMO and the Irish Patient’s Association (essentially saying “the numbers are bad”) as well as one from Minister for Health Simon Harris (essentially saying “when you look at it another way, the numbers aren’t so bad”).

Normally I am annoyed when an important topic such as this is covered with soundbytes from politicians representing just the government and the “opposition”, which these days is technically Fianna Fáil even though they are in what I call a “virtual coalition” with Fine Gael. But this report didn’t even have that.

In an ideal world, the Progressive viewpoint should always be heard when the topic is the public health service, as this is one of the movement’s main priorities. But even talking points from one of the so-called “principle left-wing” parties such as Sinn Féin and Labour would have done in my opinion. For the record, the piece on the RTÉ website follows a similar vein.

Maybe I’m alone in wanting the full range of debate on key national issues when it comes to our national broadcaster? But I think not.

“Housing crisis? What housing crisis?” asks Irish mainstream

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“We continue to expand our macroprudential framework to ensure we have the right tools to manage potential risks to financial stability and the addition of the Systemic Risk Buffer will be an important tool for us in building a resilient banking system with sufficient capital buffers to absorb these structural shocks.”

[translation : “We want you to forget this mess is partly our fault by pointing to Brexit and using intentionally complicated economic jargon”]

Article in Journal.ie by Cormac Fitzgerald : “Hard Brexit could cause house prices to fall, Central Bank warns

TROLLWATCH : All Aboard The Mysogyny Express!!! 🙄

It’s trolls, WUMs and bots that give social media a bad name, so here at FPP we occasionally have a TROLLWATCH post to call them out.

If anything RTÉ did too much work in producing this particular clickbait.

All they needed to incur the wrath of the Angry Irish Straight Men Brigade was the (clearly deliberately unflattering) photo and a headline that read “Lesbian Footballer Complained about Something”.

On a personal level it was good to be back defending Rapinoe once more after my earlier post suggesting her White House comments were ill-advised.

Paul Vanderheijden Having achieved a modicum of notoriety, whether deserved or not I leave for others to judge, for her comments regarding the White House she now must consider she has some special status to level criticism.

Personally, I consider her as a very good player, with a foul disposition and a big “chip on her shoulder”.

Máirtín Ó’Riain God I am looking forward to this tournament ending. Sick of hearing about this team.

William Parker Her anger and hate over shadow her skill in the field 10 years from now all we will remember is that angry world cup player “what was her name”?

Aidan Mc Carron Will not be watching it no matter what day or time it’s on. Better drama on tv

Podge Foley I disagree with him

Brendan Ó Conchobhair wah wah wah….i think that was the quote

according to Facebook these were among the most ‘relevant’ comments

JL Pagano 99% of comments from men, 99% complaining about her complaining. And to everyone who thinks they’re hilarious by saying “him”, well, you’re not.

RTÉ didn’t exactly help using this photo either.

On the actual subject matter, she absolutely has a point. It’s all about the 24 hour news cycle these days and a senior World Cup final should have one all to itself.

My contribution

#IANWAE

Brid Smith TD addresses Drimnagh residents on the proposed ‘carbon tax’

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I could have been at home watching Manchester United v Barcelona.  But I made myself a promise that I would make an effort to get more involved in local politics, and given the amount of signs I have seen around the area for this meeting in St John Bosco Youth Club, a mere ten minute walk from my front door, to not go would be to break that pledge.

The meeting was held by local councillor Hazel De Nortúin.  Now when I say ‘local’, she hails from Ballyfermot, yet she represents me as Drimnagh has been curiously cut in two and my house falls in the ‘Ballyfermot/Drimnagh’ zone.  Still, the very holding of this meeting shows that the councillor is willing to be involved throughout the ward.

Her party is People Before Profit.  I confess to knowing little about them, save for assorted Facebook posts, but I do know that their name itself is closely aligned to my politics so it was a safe bet that I would feel at home in this company.

The principal speaker was Brid Smith TD and the theme was ‘Why Carbon Tax Won’t Stop Climate Change’.  She began by highlighting the protest by schoolchildren all over the country, but particularly outside the Dáil. where over 15,000 were reported.

Deputy Smith also pointed to a poll which found that 39% of Irish people saw climate change as one of the most important issues of today, adding that while some might think that was a low percentage, she was actually encouraged by it.

She has recently been sitting on a Special Oirechteas Action Committee which followed on from a Citizens Assembly.  She referred to it as more of an ‘Inaction’ committee because it appeared that the decision to level the carbon tax on ordinary citizens was already made.

She claimed that the supposed thinking behind the tax was that if people’s habits could be changed, ie if we can move away from carbon-intensive forms of energy, then supposedly this would influence (‘by osmosis’ as she ironically called it) the large corporations.

An interesting plan if true…especially given that when it comes to distributing wealth, corporations tend to favour things going in the opposite direction.  When it comes to the carbon tax, should we call their plan “Trickle up?”

She also pointed out that even if carbon taxes did have some positive effect, they would never be enough to tackle climate change on their own, yet once implemented the government could well consider them to be a ‘catch all’ of sorts.  ‘The one tool becomes the only tool’.

Next the TD covered the whole area of ‘Just Transition’ – when she explained it I knew what she meant though I had never heard it called that before.  Basically when a society moves from one form of energy to another, care must be taken that the existing workers in the old service are offered the opportunity to move into the new field.  Seemingly People Before Profit have been working with Bord Na Mona workers in this area.

Apparently three of the main political parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour, along with the Green Party, are in favour of pushing ahead with this tax, which probably means it is likely to go through.

In the interest of fairness I took some time to go over the websites of various parties to see how they presented their policy (if any) on carbon tax and/or climate change in general…

FINE GAEL – banner on homepage #TogetherOnClimate Climate Action – when you click it you see 16 links under heading of ‘progress’ none of which refer to carbon tax.

‘carbon tax’ search produced links on Special Oireachtas Committee

FIANNA FAIL – No search facility. No mention of carbon tax under section ‘tackling climate change’

LABOUR – ‘Labour’s clear preference is for ring-fencing funds from carbon taxes to pay for home retrofitting, including in local authority housing, and other ways of reducing energy poverty’

SINN FEIN – ‘Imelda Munster has criticised the agreement…to increase carbon tax four fold’

GREEN – Cuffe : ‘The aim of the carbon dividend, or carbon cheque, is to change behaviour. By placing carbon taxes and giving back what is taken to households it provides direct incentives for people to move to low carbon heating.’

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS – can’t find policy on carbon tax but policy section shows they are keen to reduce emissions
RIGHT2CHANGE 10-Point policy programme – ‘A Progressive Government will make protection of the rights of Mother Earth a Constitutional Imperative’

‘The IFA is up in arms over suggestions that people should eat less meat and drink less milk. No doubt carbon taxes will be pushed also as a key part of this debate.’

‘Women make up 70% of farmers world-wide yet only own 2% of land…they are responsible for 90% of the caloric intake of the average family’

SOLIDARITY – nothing on climate change on ‘what we stand for’ page

…just to be clear, my research for the above information was not exactly extensive.  There are so many parties in the jurisdiction that it isn’t easy to keep up with them all.

As you can see my attention was drawn most to the Right2Change platform – the quotes above were taken from the Facebook page of Joan Collins TD.  I like the way they constantly use phrases like “Under a Progressive Government Ireland can…” because while that may be extremely aspirational right now, if we don’t discuss and use such terminology regularly, it could remain so.

But that’s not to say I was completely turned off the PBP folks just yet.  They passed around a page for names and addresses – I offered my information though I fell short of ticking the ‘Join’ box for now.

When the meeting was over a chatted for a few minutes and then left.  I was first to head for the door and Deputy Smith thanked me for attending.

I’m glad I did, and I look forward to following the progress of the PBP’s resistance to the introduction of the tax.

Next on this site I’d like to start covering the various candidates standing for election to the council in May.

#IANWAE

 

“What, exactly, is a Progressive?”

“What, exactly, is a Progressive?”

I was asked this in an email recently and saw it as a challenge.  After giving it a few days’ consideration, this was my reply :

Wow that’s actually a very interesting question from the ‘How long is a piece of string?’ genre. I doubt many could tell you ‘exactly’ what it is but I definitely appreciate the opportunity to express what it means to me.

I only started being interested in politics & government during The West Wing years (1999-2005) and I only followed the non-fictional American version on a daily basis when Barack Obama first announced his intention to run for POTUS.  Still, that’s about 20 years overall, and my fundamental beliefs have not really changed too much in that time.

For starters, I think the most basic characterisation of political thought is flawed.  While pretty much every opinion can be described as ‘left’ or ‘right’ or somewhere in between, I disapprove of that framing because it falsely represents what the two sides stand for.  Seemingly the further ‘right’ you go, a smaller (or richer) subset of people get ‘priority treatment’ by the government. But if we accept the directional branding, then we automatically cede half of the argument to a group of people that by definition is a ‘minority’.

What words should we use instead? Damned if I know.  But if we MUST use an arbitrary two-dimensional axis, then I believe the Progressive movement should be at its true centre, or to put it another way, it represents a ‘median perspective’.

I understand it to be an approach to government that neither prioritises the corporate world nor rejects it out of hand.  It is essentially in favour of policies that promote equal opportunity for all citizens.  It is also for public ownership of, and government prioritisation in, key areas like health, education and first responders.

Then there’s the elections themselves. Progressives want them to be run without the influence of corporate donors and PACs because they only tend to produce corporate politicians, even in the Democrat Party.

And going back to the left/right thing, since Progressives would disagree with the so-called ‘centrist’ approaches of the likes of Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, they get branded as the ‘radical left’, as if their opinions are extreme, even though pretty much everything about the viewpoint is based on fairness.   This also suggests that they are somehow a direct alternative for those on the ‘far right’ and thus, bizarrely, an equivalent of sorts to Trump and his minions.

Of course the (mostly corporate owned) ‘mainstream’ media is complicit in all of this.  Using the ‘left vs right’ paradigm and assuming the Democrat Party fully represents the ‘left’ makes it easy for them to use a boilerplate approach to covering every issue.  “This is where the Dems stand, and this is where the GOP stand.  Now the issue has been covered, let’s move on to the next one.”

In these times when Trump has such a stranglehold on the Republican Party with views and policies that are at best radical and at worst downright dangerous, to equate giving them coverage with somehow being ‘balanced’ can only benefit the ‘right’, and that’s before we even consider that they have their own propaganda news network which has no place for balance whatsoever.

As far as I’m concerned, even the word ‘Progressive’ itself is an unfortunate choice.  We shouldn’t have to ‘progress’ to equality and fairness in society.  We should already have it.  Some might consider this assertion to be naive.  I believe it is naive to assume it is an unattainable goal.

But the reality is that the corporate world has become ‘the establishment’ after generations of false promises, spin and despite, at times, blatant austerity and discrimination.  I don’t believe the majority of people behind that world are necessarily ‘evil’, I just think they are preoccupied with looking down at the bottom line of a financial spreadsheet as opposed to looking up at the physical and social challenges faced by humanity.

If the Progressive movement can hone its message and get more people to look up, then perhaps one day we can have a new plane of political thinking led by ‘President Ocasio-Cortez’ or someone like-minded.

#IANWAE