‘Inequality in America: A National Town Hall’ is required viewing all over the world

Apologies once more for the gap in posts – financial realities mean we have had to prioritise our monetised site in recent weeks as it has been a busy time for content over there.

However, even if we managed to post every day since we kicked off FPP in August 2016 we wouldn’t have been able to express our core beliefs more than this one and a half hour long video of the recent town hall hosted by Bernie Sanders.  Please check it out if you haven’t already.  It’s a shame it was only covered online.

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Economic ‘experts’ from the mainstream media act as though crony capitalism is the only game in town

THE ISSUE

We always need to be sceptical of the mainstream media, but arguably the area where we need to be more so than any other is that of economics.

THE MEDIA

Article by Dean Baker in Center for Econopic Policy and Research on February 21, 2018

It Wasn’t the Market that Made Elites Incredibly Rich, It was Elites Rigging the Market to Make Themselves Incredibly Rich

None of the rules we have in place that redistribute upward were given to us by the market. They were the result of deliberate economic policy.

THE COMMENT

When legislation is passed that cuts corporate taxes it is chiselled into concrete, yet when it redistributes wealth among the lower classes it is written on tissue paper.

The reason that quote is rather clunky is that it’s mine, and I’m far from a qualified economist, but FWIW I reckon the #AppleTax issue and way the Irish government protects its corporate tax rate are at the forefront of a status quo that is generally accepted as ‘untouchable’ and similar thinking exists in other western countries.

For that reason Baker’s quote from his article is what inspired me to write this post, but the wider point is that when it comes to economics we have to look beyond what the ‘experts’ put forward by the mainstream media say, and that is where the internet comes in.

I’m not saying we have to agree with the thoughts of people like Richard Wolf, but if we are to have a full discussion on any topic it seems a no-brainer to at least discuss the alternatives and even a massive crash like that we experienced ten years ago wasn’t enough to have us wondering if  allowing the top corporate players to run the economy wasn’t the best idea. Since then elected representatives who dare to oppose austerity are virtual outcasts both in the Dáil and in media coverage of same.

So that’s my point…but if you’re on for getting more specific, check out this Op-ed in the NYT and then read Baker’s reply.

While Economics is an academic field in its own right, there’s no reason why we the voters can’t educate ourselves to a decent standard on it once we know where to look, and more importantly, where to be sceptical.  JLP

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CNN’s Chris Cuomo uses facts to challenge Trump’s claims of economic success, including the President’s own words

THE ISSUE

President Trump wants us to stop focusing on anything negative to do with his administration and instead heap praise on him for the success of the US economy since he took office.

THE MEDIA

YouTube clip by CNN on 29 Jan 2018

Trump [in clip from campaign speech]: “When you hear 4.9 and 5% unemployment the number is probably 28 and 29, as high as 35…”

Cuomo [in CNN studio]: “You know what?  I agree with the President!

THE COMMENT

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” ― Daniel Patrick Moynihan

For me, the health of an economy is far from the only yardstick by which we should be judging our government.  But even if we accept that it is, CNN’s Chris Cuomo has done a great job putting the figures Trump has been crowing about into context.

At best, the economic reports under Trump are basically continuing the success that Obama had after inheriting a disastrous crash of the market.  But as Cuomo points out, in some areas the figures aren’t even that great in themselves.

But the best evidence he has comes from ‘candidate Trump’ who’s words are often found to be in direct opposition to those of ‘President Trump’.

And don’t just take CNN’s word for it…back in August the New York Times pointed out that : ‘Trump Praises the Stock Market at 22,000 That He Said Was a Bubble at 18,000

Let’s be clear…all politicians play fast and loose with economic figures to big themselves up, it’s just that in Trump’s case he has taken it to a whole new level by selectively ignoring his own words from the not-to-distant past.  JLP

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Trump has done nothing but shut down key parts of government since he took office but you wouldn’t know it listening to Democrats and media

THE ISSUE

Whether it’s through stupidity, unwillingness or incompetence, the Democrat leadership cannot get across the simple message that Donald Trump’s agenda of racism, misogyny and pro-corporatism is bad for the American people, and the mainstream media isn’t much better.

THE MEDIA

YouTube clip by Dan Rather on The Young Turks on January 22, 2018

The Government Shutdown Ends With a ‘Promise’ For DACA Vote From the GOP – The News With Dan Rather

“…if most of the media ignore the year-long slow-motion shut down and if Democrats don’t raise enough stink about it, maybe it’s because too many of us have signalled that we’re on board”

THE COMMENT

Shortcomings with relief efforts in Puerto Rico.  Throwing millions off their medical insurance by hacking away at Obamacare.  Going after Medicare and Social Security.  Gutting the staff at the State Department.  Rescinding regulations for the sake of it.

Those are just some of the actions Donald Trump has taken since being sworn in just over a year ago, yet in recent days he has been able to frame the word ‘shutdown’ as meaning something that is only harmful to the US military, which already receives more funding than any other nation by a long, long way.

At first I was annoyed at myself for not realising that what the President has done since taking office is effectively a massive shutdown in itself, but I’m not involved with politics and government on a daily basis – the point is so simple and obvious that we have to wonder why his primary opposition, namely the Democrats and, as he calls them, ‘The Fake News Media’, haven’t been highlighting it all weekend?

Thankfully we have people like the legendary Dan Rather to get the message out there.  And as he points out, it’s possible that the general public is also complicit to an extent.

As I recently pointed out here on FPP, the likes of Chuck Schumer with his ‘bowl of Jello’ and Nancy Pelosi with her ‘poop Sundae’ simply don’t have the charisma necessary to deliver the kind of soundbites needed to combat Trump’s twitter tirades.  Meanwhile we have Dick Durbin gleefully using the word ‘bipartisanship’ as if it also necessarily means ‘fairness for the American people’.

Besides…if anything should have clinched the message battle for the Democrats re the latest shutdown it should have been that absolutely disgusting ad which suggested they would be responsible for any future murders by illegal immigrants.  That was nothing short of Hitler-esque propaganda [script most likely written by Stephen Miller] which speaks volumes for the intelligence levels of the demographic at which it was aimed.

The party badly needs new leadership.  Whether or not Mitch McConnell keeps to his word on DACA by February 8, the Democrats have left themselves wide open for negative press between now and then for having caved far too easily over the spending bill.

And there I was, very close to writing a post here praising them for finally showing a bit of fight.  Why do I allow myself to get so deluded?  JLP

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PS – As I’m about to publish, Trump has tweeted this :

I rest my case.

 

Irish Times lets Fine Gael off the hook big time in end-of-year love-in, er, I mean, podcast

THE ISSUE

The Irish political conversation is dominated by a narrative that insists the electorate’s only two options for government leadership are the so-called ‘Civil War’ parties.

THE MEDIA

Podcast by Irish Times – Inside Politics : ‘The Year In Politics’ on Tuesday, December 26, 2017

‘…people feel they can relate to these people more because they feel they have lived the same experiences they have…’

THE COMMENT

Over in the US, Donald Trump and his Republican-led government are constantly moaning and groaning under the weight of repeated challenging reporting from publications like the New York Times.  Too bad its Irish namesake doesn’t give our own recently-appointed political leader similar treatment, if this ‘end of year’ summary is anything to go by.

Essentially the all-male panel has given Leo Varadkar & co a free Party Political Podcast.  Wherever these are recorded, I pity the poor cleaning staff because they’ll have their work cut out removing all of Fine Gael’s 2017 political woes that have been swept under the carpet.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten that this is the party that had to admit defeat on the water charges.  Well, when I say ‘admit’ defeat, I actually mean grudgingly concede it.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten the fact that Varadkar rose to power under an electoral process within his party that was chronically tilted away from the grass roots members, meaning all he had to do was shmooze his way through his fellow TDs to get the nod.  This weighting method is very similar to that which saw Hillary Clinton controversially secure the 2016 Democratic nomination at the expense of Bernie Sanders.

Apparently we are meant to forget the homeless crisis still prevalent in the Republic, simply because the Taoiseach says so.

And apparently we are meant to forget the disgraceful whisteblower controversy which nearly sparked a Christmas election and ultimately cost the Tánaiste her job.

Nobody expects the mainstream media to completely ignore a government’s positives, but what this IT podcast has done is to summarize the Irish year in politics thusly…’Sure isn’t it great that our top cabinet members are all so young?‘ [paraphrase]

And as one of the leading bits of ‘evidence’ of the effects of having such youthful leadership, the ‘lads’ cite the Eighth Amendment debate.

Despite the fact that Fine Gael’s own Citizens Assembly recommends repeal and legislation, and despite the fact that the Oireachtas Committee recommends repeal and legislation, the government position at the time of this podcast was that a decision is yet to be made on how to proceed.  No guarantee has been forthcoming that a straight yes or no choice on repeal will be offered to the Irish public.

Yet somehow the panel twists this state of affairs into one that represents a sweeping generational change.  Well, for this conservative jurisdiction that may be true to an extent, but given that Fine Gael are the country’s most conservative mainstream party [just about ahead of Fianna Fáil], do we think these ‘young pretenders’ have reached their current positions by cultural revolution or because the elder statesmen ahead of them on the ladder gave them a helping hand along the way?

And the final insult for me from this podcast came when they made the most ludicrous segue from the potential impact of FG’s boy wonder on the Irish electorate to the ‘youthquake’ experienced in Britain’s general election campaign that brought Jeremy Corbyn extremely close to Number 10.  I had to switch it off after that so you’ll have to listen yourself to find out what they said after that.

Here’s to a 2018 where Ireland’s political establishment, both in Leinster House and the media, are called to account whenever they ignore at best, or put down at worst, progressive issues.  JLP

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Trump’s #Charlottesville reaction highlights the need to stop using ‘left’ and ‘right’ to describe political spectrum

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”

Before I start on the theme of this article, have you ever seen a US president more obsessed with his predecessor?  It has gotten to a stage where he just throws his name into his statements without any real context.

Anyway…you have no doubt read volumes on what happened in Charlottesville and it is not my wish to delve too much further into the horrific events, at least not here.

What I want to point out is something I feel is crucial for the progressive platform to gain more followers, and it is a very simple one.

Rumour has it that human civilisation once believed premises like the earth being the centre of the universe, or at other times that it was a flat plain as opposed to a spherical planet.  Maybe such misconceptions don’t effect people’s everyday life, but then again it’s hard to have a philosophical grasp on existence when you don’t even have the fundamentals correct.

So what I’d like to challenge is the way we label political ideologies as ‘left’ and ‘right’, because it suggests some kind of balance between the two.  On the most basic level, what we call the left represents a society that is fair to everyone while the right does not.

But to properly understand where the conflict comes from you first must appreciate how it started.  Whether you believe in evolution or creation, there must have existed a time when the human race had no elitism.  Then as it became clear that certain resources were more valuable than others, some people took control of them and were selective about those with whom they were shared.

Over time those who had control over the resources got better and better at holding on to that power.  Countries with tyrannical leaders simply run roughshod over their opposition, while those which claim to be democracies use a variety of tools to make sure elections go the way of the ruling classes.

Donald Trump became president on the back of one of these tools, ie supporting a specific group of voters he felt could help get him elected; in this case middle to lower class white men who felt that the civil rights movement had somehow discriminated against them.

Because this movement provided votes for the Republican party, it is considered to be on the ‘right’.  And because the obvious racist and fascist leanings of this movement, it has become fashionable to label them as ‘alt-right’.  Even with this distinction though, the fact that it is called any kind of ‘right’ seems to lend it equal status to whatever is called the ‘left’.

As the mainstream media fully supports the left-right paradigm, the President can claim, however wrongly, that he is being fair to ‘all sides’.

What we who have been shoved on the ‘left’ of this pseudo-spectrum must do is renounce it.  A society that purports to be fair to all citizens is not half the argument.  It is the only one.   Of course we won’t all agree on how it is to be achieved, but given we believe in fairness, chances are the discussions are going to be devoid of such words as ‘fire and fury’.

Anyone who feels they have to ‘tone down’ their views to somehow ‘be fair’ and ‘not exclude the conservative opinion’ is basically validating the very argument that conservatives want.

The white men who marched on Charlottesville are bigots.  Nothing they feel was ‘taken from them’ was really theirs in the first place.  To offer them any sense of legitimacy is not being fair, it’s not being balanced.  It is turning back the clock on American society to a time when the ruling classes needed only the crudest, most basic tools to hold on to power, as opposed to the more intricate ones they use today.

Progressives need to stop allowing themselves to be defined by a scale that doesn’t really exist.

#IANWAE

 

 

It’s not about Jobstown, Paul Murphy nor Joan Burton. It’s about what side you’re on.

The date was September 17, 2016.  I got the Luas with my wife and our two young children to Heuston Station, which was one of the meeting places for the latest Right2Water march.  We all set off towards the centre of town, and there were thousands gathered in just our section and the various groups from around the city were to converge at St Stephens Green.  

As we walked along the quays, I’d say it was probably around Ormond Quay, a man walked up to my wife as she pushed the buggy carrying our then 17-month old daughter and stuck a microphone in her face.  Behind him was a cameraman with his device pointing at her.

“So why are you marching today?”

“I don’t want to talk.”

“But I thought you cared about water changes?  Why are you marching then if you don’t want to talk about it?”

To be clear, I am paraphrasing the man, but that is definitely the gist of the exchange.

Needless say I wanted to throw him into the Liffey.  On a more sensible level, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind.  My wife does not feel comfortable in those situations.  And why should she.  All she wanted to do to lend her support for something she believed in was march, and it is as much her right not to talk as it is to talk.

How dare you confront a peaceful protester in this manner?  Would you not at least ask permission for the interview first?  Identify yourself and the broadcaster or publication for whom you are reporting first?  This is what I wanted to say to the man.  But I knew it wouldn’t come out that way so I took her hand and led her away from him.

I don’t want to give the impression that I go to these marches all the time.  That’s not because I’d be ashamed if I did, in fact it’s more to the contrary…I’m ashamed that I had somehow managed to be elsewhere each and every time such activism was going on, no matter how much I believed in a particular cause.  My “excuse” for the past year or so has been that I have been more interested in the US Presidential campaign plus my online time has been taken up by running a monetised sports blog.

None of that really matters, though.  You either show up for events like this or you don’t.  And on this day I honestly thought showing up was enough.  I should have been more prepared for a moment like this one.  I should have known to confront this asshole with a clear head and using accurate language to give him a proper soundbite and I should have also known to use my phone to record my own words as well.

Anyway, here’s my point that relates that incident above to this article.  

Do you believe my recollection of what happened?  Or do you think I’m exaggerating the reporter’s aggressiveness and/or lack of professionalism for the sake of the cause I was marching for?  Your honest answer to that question is very important when it comes to contemporary Irish politics.

Something else happened to me on the day of that protest.  As we waited at Heuston Station for the march to start, I was handed a placard.  I looked at it. It read “Jobstown Not Guilty”.  I handed it back to the man.

The reason I wouldn’t take it was not that I was opposed to the Jobstown cause, rather that on this particular day, while I did know about the incident in question involving then-Tánaiste Joan Burton, I was unaware of the specifics of the pending legal case, and also the organisation to back the defendants.  

Basically I didn’t want to be going around with my children holding a placard for a cause I knew little about.  And truth be told, in the short amount of time between receiving the placard and handing it back, I didn’t have time to check whether or not it was somehow connected to Sinn Féin, which was my greatest fear.

Since then of course, I have gotten to know more and more about the #JobstownNotGuilty cause.  Again because of other distractions, I never managed to get too involved in the activism, but you can be sure I was delighted when the defendants were found not guilty at the end of June.

Was the delight down to my thoughts on the actual events which transpired on that fateful day in Jobstown in November 2014?  Of course not.  I wasn’t there.  My delight stems from the fact that this was way, way more than a court case.  This was actually the coal face of modern Irish society.  People’s approach to the topic could not illustrate more where they stand with regard to the “haves vs have-nots” nature of public opinion these days.

And am I a fan of Paul Murphy?  I can’t answer.  I don’t know the guy personally.  But I do know that he was elected by the people of Dublin South-West on a ticket which couldn’t more clearly define his mandate if it tried : “Anti Austerity Alliance”.

I have certainly read multiple attempts to smear him though.   Like this op-ed by Philip Ryan in the Irish Independent over the weekend.

Paul Murphy really fancies himself as Ireland’s modern day Nelson Mandela with a megaphone

Here’s a thought…instead of slagging the man off for his megaphone, why not ask yourself why he feels the need to use it?  Or better still…give him the megaphone YOU’RE using.  Let HIM write a piece in the Indo and let your readers form their own opinion?  

No – it’s much easier to hide behind your column and slag the man off along with half-truths and tenuous associations.

And while we’re on that subject…a few points.  The pro-establishment media are very concerned with the fact that a water balloon was thrown.  So much so, they make it sound like it was a Molotov cocktail.  If that’s the extent of the violence that took place, then that’s surely enough to question the general narrative for starters.

They are also very concerned with the fact that Joan Burton is a woman.  Why?  She was the Tánaiste at the time.  It shouldn’t matter a jot what gender she is.  There was nowhere near this level of hysteria when President Higgins had a similar in-car experience a couple of months later, although the mainstream coverage was still very much anti-protester.

And as for “kidnapping”, well that one’s easy.  The court has decided it wasn’t.  Therefore it wasn’t.

But we had the ultimate side-taking just recently in the Dáil by our new Taoiseach.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fnewstalkfm%2Fvideos%2F10156467130447907%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Asked by Deputy Murphy if there would be a public inquiry into false statements made by gardaí throughout the course of the trial, Varadkar replied thus…

Deputy, you had a fair trial…

…so we’d best leave it at that.”  Had that been the Taoiseach’s point, even it it meant brushing Murphy off on the Garda thing, I would have understood to an extent.   Remember…“Taoiseach” is supposed to mean “leader”, and one every bit as much of the people who voted for Murphy as those who voted for Fine Gael.

But he couldn’t resist going on…

…you were acquitted, but that doesn’t mean that your behaviour was right.  And it may well be the case that you weren’t engaged in kidnapping, but it was thuggery.

…and his good buddies at BlueshirtFM, aka Newstalk, were on hand to provide plenty of “huzzah!” for his clearly biased opinion.  No fear of asking a Solidarity representative on to provide some kind of balance.

The Jobstown trial and all the pro-establishment opinion surrounding it is not about what took place that day.  It was about framing the narrative of Irish political discourse.  The country was brought to its knees by the actions of the government, the banking sector and the construction sector and one by one the public are expected to pick up the tab.

Whatever you may think about Paul Murphy, he is merely the latest focal point for the establishment to attack through various means.  If it wasn’t him it would be someone like Brendan Ogle.   Or Mick Wallace.  Or Ruth Coppinger.  Or Clare Daly.  The way this country is set up right now, it’s remarkably easy for those either wishing to suck up to the establishment or afraid to appear “too left” to play the man (or woman!!!) instead of the ball.

And what is the ball?  It’s the true political discussion, one that is not being had anywhere it matters.  It’s not about Fianna Fáil vs Fine Gael.  It’s not even about “haves” vs “have nots”, at least not precisely.

It’s about three distinct groups….those who speak for the “haves”, those who speak for the “have nots” and the most important of all, those burying their heads in the sand, making countless excuses for not getting involved.  Much like I tend to do.  At least I find the odd hour or two to voice my opinion here, though that of course is nowhere near enough.  JLP

Follow the Jobstown Not Guilty Facebook page here

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