Corporate Dems vow to do things ‘better’ – let’s hope that includes listening

Whatever you might think about Donald Trump and his administration, their tenure in the White House, a shade over six months old now, has been a rollercoaster ride with something new to report each and every passing day.

The biggest drawback to this obsession with the latest Washington shenanigans is, of course, the fact that although Trump & co might provide us with easy one-liners and online memes, there is also a very serious side to the story in that we are talking about the government of the most powerful nation in the world.

It’s all very well to ridicule the man in power right now – but it’s pointless unless you can suggest a reasonable alternative.

That alternative is the broad tent that is the Democratic Party, and the 2016 campaign in particular has divided it into two distinct factions….the “corporate wing”, essentially those in the most senior positions in Washington right now, and the “progressive wing”, ie those who follow the social equity platform of the likes of Bernie Sanders.

Here is a recent quote from the Washington Post to ponder…see if you can guess which side of the Democratic tent it came from…

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself. So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Obviously I want you to think that’s a Progressive, when in actual fact it’s one of the most senior corporate Democrats, Minority leader of the Senate Chuck Schumer.

Ever since the election, Schumer and his counterpart in the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi have been as much under attack  from their left as from their right, probably more so.  And most of it was deserved.

But there has to be a point at which even progressives realise that the Schumers and Pelosis still represent the front line of the resistance to the current terrifying incarnation of the Republican Party, and once and a while they need to be given a bit of slack, especially when they are making noises that sound like they come straight out of the Bernie Sanders playbook.

I’m not one to give the Democrat leadership too much praise – the best thing that be said about the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is that at least their corporate policies aren’t as bad as their opposition.  What I would rather do is change the narrative – it’s not about how much or little we appease the wishes of the “one percent”, rather it’s about formulating policies that are fair to everyone whether it benefits the rich or not.

To promote this mindset I fully understand the need to hold big-donor politicians to account no matter what their stripes.  But what do we do when they start using slogans that reflect our agenda?

“A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future”

Of course it’s natural to be sceptical when they start to look as though they’re drinking the Bernie KoolAid.  But care must be taken to ensure healthy scepticism doesn’t morph into petulant rejection.

For now anyway, I am willing to give the likes of Schumer a chance.  After all, it can’t have been easy to keep 48 Democratic senators united against Trumpcare – you can be sure one or two of the “Blue Dogs” (more right-leaning Democrats) were courted by the GOP and none have budged.

If the Democrats really want to adopt progressive values to their platform – remember they did at their convention last year only many feared it was empty promises on paper – they need to be supported, voted for, and put under pressure when there are any signs of them failing to deliver.

After all, that’sq what being a ‘Democrat’, with a large or small d, is meant to entail.  JLP

#IANWAE

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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

#IANWAE

The Anatomy of a #Liveline Segment : #TescoStrike

Usually it is against my better judgement to listen to Joe Duffy’s Liveline, especially when it covers issues I really care about.  For a show that no doubt would insist that it is “fair and balanced”, it is generally anything but.

Yet as I pointed out in an earlier article, just because we consider sections of the media to be “corporate-controlled”, this does not mean we should always refrain from listening to them, as they are every bit as much “players in the game” as any politician or other major public figure whose behaviour we wish to examine.

To this end I’d like to introduce what will be an occasionally-recurring series here on FPP : “The Anatomy of a Liveline Segment” where we will critique his coverage of a particular item in the news.  For this first instalment, we finally get to mention the ongoing strike at Tesco.

First, some background.  Joan Collins TD explained things from the workers’ perspective in the Dáil :

“Tesco is one of the few employers in the retail sector that still has thousands of decent jobs, where workers can earn enough to live. And now this is under attack.

It has those jobs because workers organised – research shows in the retail sector that those in unions earn around 30% more than those who are not.

That is why Tesco is looking to break the union, so that it can make big profits off the back of cheaper labour and join the race to the bottom in retail.”

Of course the giant retail chain were to have their own say, pouring doubt over the union’s claims and deferring to an old chestnut which the Government uses as a cop out to avoid direct involvement in industrial disputes :

“It is surprising that Mandate are balloting for industrial action in a small number of stores. Most unusually the union is rejecting a Labour Court Recommendation which it had sought and sets out a clear and generous resolution.”

When it comes to the Labour Court, while it’s proclamation is known as a “recommendation”, when it comes to how it is used in the “court of public opinion”, more often than not it is portrayed as an ultimatum akin to “like it or lump it”.

So let’s see how Joe handled Tuesday’s segment.  He was off that day and in his stead was Damian O’Reilly, but this doesn’t absolve Duffy of responsibility for the content…his name is regularly repeated throughout the show whether he is there or not.

Here is how the segment progressed (click here to listen in full) :

  • First we are introduced to Des, who is described as a “well-known, well-respected businessman”.  He owns a butcher’s shop located beside Tesco Greystones and claims his business is adversely affected by the picketing union workers.  He says that on Friday and Saturday over the weekend his taking were down between “70 and 80 percent”.  Damien then mentions another business owner from the same complex who was “too upset to come on air”.
  • Eventually over 4 minutes into the segment we get to hear from a representative of the workers, namely Keith Pollard, an Industrial Officer with Mandate Trade Union.  His first point is that their fight is not with shop owners like Des, and that the strikers’ intention is to picket the front of the Tesco itself, not the wider shopping complex, yet the company management will not allow it so they must go outside.
  • Despite the fact that Pollard has offered an explanation, O’Reilly repeatedly asks him why the workers aren’t doing more to avoid affecting the small businesses.  For me, given that they can’t picket indoors, this effectively means Damien is asking him to call off the dispute altogether?  Also, throughout the segment, O’Reilly’s number to describe the effect on Des’ business jumps from 70 to 80 to even 90 percent.
  • This exchange goes back and forth through the first half of the overall segment.  Des is worried for his business, Keith say the workers would move if they could, Damien makes it looks as though the workers are somehow being unreasonable. Nobody seems able to move forward from this position and they waste a lot of time repeating themselves.
  • What about Tesco?  Damien tries to absolve himself in the early stages –  “We’ve invited them on, they’re more than welcome to come on.”  Sixteen minutes into the segment, he reads out a statement from them (“in fairness”, as he puts it) – basically they claim that the workers were asked to move outside in the interest of the “safety and comfort of customers”.
  • We are joined suddenly by “Graham Nolan” (I can only assume he is a “random member of the public”), who also makes it out as though it is only up to the strikers to resolve the issue.  “Why don’t they have it clearly written on their placards that they are just picketing Tesco?” he asks (paraphrase)
  • Then they take a break.  When they come back, Des, Keith and Graham are gone.  Now we have three new callers.
  • First up is Barry, another random caller.  He is sympathetic to the picketers and claims they are friendly and that the onus is on Tesco not the workers.  Damien replies “You have a good point but the problem is in this instance….” before repeating the point about the (probably well over 100% by now) drop in takings for the small businesses.
  • Next we have Theresa, who is actually a picketer.  She makes an excellent point that perhaps it’s not them stopping anyone from entering the shops, maybe instead it’s the shoppers’ own conscience.
  • Finally we have Paula Hannon, an elderly lady (apparently) who claims she was somehow prevented from entering the centre.  “A terrible experience”, “they were walking, blocking me”, and she was subject to “intimidation”.  Personally, I believe she felt intimidated, though I’m not altogether sure that was anywhere near the intention of the picketers as she suggests.
  • Then O’Reilly reads another statement from Tesco, which miraculously supports Paula’s claims of intimidation.

This post has gone way longer than it probably should, but I will finish with a few thoughts.

If the show’s intention really was to be “fair and balanced”, it wouldn’t have focused solely on the collateral effect on local business.  No decent person wants to see anybody lose out in situations like this, but what about the workers?  Are they not also collateral victims?

There are two sides in every industrial dispute.  Tesco initiated this situation by proposing to exchange an existing agreement.  The workers did not agree, yet Tesco still claim they will press ahead, now using a “Labour Court Recommendation” as some kind of endorsement.  It is still up to the workers to accept, which they clearly haven’t.  Now they should be talking to each other, and any effect on the wider community, be it business owners or shoppers, is a direct consequence of this failure to meet.

As far as I am concerned, if they refuse to send a representative onto the programme, Tesco shouldn’t be allowed to have statements read out.  Remember – the segment was divided in two, so their rep wouldn’t have to go up directly against the union one.  By providing statements to be read unchallenged they are showing themselves to be cowards in my view.

While this segment of the programme did allow representatives on both sides of the issue to have their say, it has to be said that the general tone of the presentation was extremely weighted in favour of Tesco.   Not that this was much of a surprise, but we feel it’s important to call them out on it whenever possible.

You can expect more “Anatomy of a Liveline Segment” posts in the future.  Probably need at least a week to recover from this one though! JLP

Our favourite Progressive video of 2016

Seems a bit unfair of us to award a title like this, as there were so many candidates throughout the year from such great sources as The Young Turks, Democracy Now and The Majority Report….and let’s not forget great Irish offerings like Gemma O’Doherty’s independently-made documentary on the Mary Boyle case.

But still, we’re going to go for this one from Lee Camp (or as we call him “Geeky Jesus”) from Redacted Tonight.  In under ten minutes he brilliantly captures the misguided nature of the conservative mindset and gives us a few laughs in the process.

Exploring the true meaning behind USA’s “Labor Day”

You can always count on the good folks at Fair.org and their podcast Counterspin to give you the real story hiding behind the corporate media hype.

In her post ‘Invisibilizing the Workers Who Actually Do the Work’, Janine Jackson offers some history on the closest thing the US has to when we know as a “Bank Holiday”, namely today.

It’s presented by corporate media as, most importantly, a long weekend with a parade—or, more seriously, as a holiday fought for by US trade unions to honor American workers. But the day has more complex origins. A national holiday had been a goal of US labor—several states already celebrated—but Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day in the midst of an attack by federal troops on striking Pullman railway workers, leading many to see it as an attempt to appease workers more than honor them.

Some fascinating stuff there.  The post is an edited transcript of the podcast which is well worth a listen.

Oh and another thing…the US Presidential race is meant to crank up another gear after Labor Day – just sayin’

“Secrets of a Global Super Court” : essential reading to understand why we need to #StopTTIP

In the ongoing #AppleTax debacle one of the most common themes used by both Apple and the Irish government is that the ruling of the European Commission is essentially an “attack on our sovereignty”.   If they truly believe that, they must also surely be unified against the ISDS courts due to be used by the TTIP and other such proposed treaties should they come into effect.

According to reports, resistance from both France and Germany could ensure the TTIP doesn’t go ahead, but still I reckon it’s vitally important that the wider public appreciates just exactly what the proposed treaty entailed because I very much doubt the multinationals corporations are going to give up and not try to force something similar through down the line.

Thanks to the latest episode of the excellent Democracy@Work podcast featuring Richard Wolff, we have discovered a series of articles by Chris Hamby on Buzzfeed which expose exactly what these so-called super-courts are all about, who comprises them, and what kind of rulings they have made in the past.

The series kicks off like this :

Imagine a private, global super court that empowers corporations to bend countries to their will.

Say a nation tries to prosecute a corrupt CEO or ban dangerous pollution. Imagine that a company could turn to this super court and sue the whole country for daring to interfere with its profits, demanding hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars as retribution.

I urge you to read on.  There are four articles in total.  The third one is about Sri Lanka but should still be of particular interest to Irish readers.

Inside The Global “Club” That Helps Executives Escape Their Crimes

The Secret Threat That Makes Corporations More Powerful Than Countries

How Big Banks Bled A Tiny Island Nation

How America’s Gift To Trade Treaties Can Come Back To Hammer It

Has an Irish media outlet conducted a similar investigation?  A Google search of “ISDS” under the “Country : Ireland” setting produces nothing from national newspapers, if that means anything.