War seen as entertainment by sections of the general public (video rant)

Haven’t done a video rant in ages and over the past few days this story has been on my mind so now seems to be the perfect time to share it.

As homelessness in Ireland continues at alarming numbers, the “Civil War Parties” are more interested in property tax levels

Dublin has the highest rate of homelessness with just under half of all people using emergency accommodation living in the capital.

Over 10,000 homeless in Ireland for tenth month in a row
James Cox – Buzz.ie

Mr Varadkar said agreeing to reforms of the property tax system should be central to any deal struck between two party leaders, who are expected to hold talks on an election date in the coming days.

Varadkar seeks property tax deal in election talks
Philip Ryan – Irish Independent

Since 2016 the Irish government has been run by what I call a “virtual coalition” between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Politically they are essentially the same party in the modern age, yet with the help of the mainstream media they continue to perpetuate the notion that they are somehow the only options to lead government.

After almost a decade of FG Taoisigh, the general perception is that it is now FF’s “turn”, and this seemed to be a part of the “confidence and supply” agreement drawn up between the two parties after the 2016 election which shut out the various left-leaning parties from providing any semblance of real opposition.

This means that as Varadkar & Martin thrash out the terms for the next election, they also get to determine the battleground on which it will be fought, and according to the above article in the Indo, it seems that is going to be property tax.

I doubt this revelation could possibly be more ironic. On the same week when the country’s homelessness figures are released (it was hard to find an article which didn’t lead with the news that the figures had dropped because that is misleading – they are essentially unchanged and definitely way, way too high), rather than make this a priority for the electorate, it is actually how much more tax homeowners will be expected to pay on which they choose to focus.

Don’t get me wrong – of course property tax is an important issue, especially because it is one that tends to hurt those just getting on the ‘ladder’ as opposed to those much further up it, but when compared to the shortfalls in public housing around the country as NAMA continues to announces amazing profits, I really think it’s a no-brainer that those without homes should be discussed before those with them.

We’ll see how the Irish “Left” goes about the task of forcing the issue to the forefront of national discourse.

As a sidenote, there were a couple of interesting paragraphs in the Indo article which began with the word “Meanwhile”….

Meanwhile, it can also be revealed Fine Gael’s election manifesto will promise to introduce free GP care for all children under 16 if the party is returned to government.

Meanwhile, Minister for State Michael D’Arcy has said the country faces having its first left-wing government if Fine Gael is not returned to power after an election…The minister said this means the next government could consist of Fianna Fail, the Labour Party, the Green Party and Sinn Fein.

On the healthcare, while of course any progressive worth their salt would be delighted with this election promise, we would much prefer if it came from a progressive government rather than being a “bone” thrown by a “centre-right” one.

As for the second quote, two things : first, I never cease to be amazed how the prospect of left-leaning government is presented like a “bogeyman” in the media (ask Jeremy Corbyn) but more importantly, if anyone thinks a government led by Micheal Martin can be described as “left” they’re fooling themselves, no matter what other parties are propping up the coalition.

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.

It looks like Trump is ready for his War Of Convenience

Translation : If you back what I did, you’re a true American. If you don’t, you’re not.

Donald Trump won’t be the first world leader to cite jingoism as justification for war. He won’t even be the first US President to do so. But the above tweet, posted shortly after the air strike that intentionally killed a high-ranking Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani (without congressional approval, of course), clearly displays that classic extra bit of Trumpiness which involves a practically cartoon-level of extremism.

And can we please be clear on what has happened between Trump and Iran over recent years? There was a deal in place between their government and the international community which was being enforced. Tensions were significantly reduced. Then along comes 45, determined to undermined everything that was done by 44, and he rips it all up.

You don’t need to be an expert on international affairs to know that every action Tehran has taken which can be considered provocative since then can be directly linked to the withdrawal from the JCPOA agreement. Trump started this. So if war results, it’s his fault. That cannot be disputed, whatever the official line of the White House.

And isn’t it convenient how this move happens to come as yet more evidence is coming out surrounding his ‘perfect call’ to the President of Ukraine? That for which he is in the process of being impeached?

And isn’t it convenient that this airstrike provides a perfect excuse for the so-called ‘moderate’ GOP senators to kiss Trump’s ring?

“I commend the Administration for taking this decisive action today in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists. The world should not mourn Qassem Soleimani, a man whose name is synonymous with murder in the Middle East and who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)

Republicans Celebrate Trump’s Targeted Killing Of Top Iranian General
Nick Robins-Early – Huffington Post

This is not a pie-in-the-sky conspiracy theory. This is two plus two equals four. Grounds for war with Iran have been fabricated over time by this White House to be used as a Trump Card, pun intended. Now he seems to think he needs to play it. We’ll see what Tehran does in response. Hopefully the result is not that which we all feared back in November 2016.

Trump’ hypocrisy (and Fox News’ effectiveness) exposed in one of his shortest tweets of 2019

We returned to blogging yesterday as part of a New Year’s Resolution to post more often about Irish politics, but of course that doesn’t mean we’re just going to ignore the US President altogether!

Even the fleas on the dogs in the street know that when the US Senate eventually gets around to having a trial on Trump’s Impeachment, he’s going to be “acquitted”, mostly because of the extremely high bar of 67 out of 100 votes required to do so.

Another thing we all know is that Trump is going to Lord it over everyone once that happens. He will see himself to have moved on, to be fully exonerated, and if anyone should bring up the subject again, they are nothing but sore losers. Anyone who has followed his twitter account over the past few years will know this will be his way of thinking.

With that inevitability being established, let us consider his way of thinking in the above tweet. It was originally posted as a follow-up to one where he essentially praised himself for the way the storming of the American Embassy in Baghdad was handled by the US troops. This message was a little sting in the tail to serve as “red meat for his base”, so let’s explore his premise shall we.

There were a total of TEN investigations into the 2012 terrorist attack on the US government facility in Benghazi, Libya, but by far the most significant was Trey Gowdy’s one for the House Select Committee, which ran for two years and included over 8 hours of tesitmony by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. All suspicions that the investigation was a political exercise (witch hunt???) were confirmed by Republican congressman (and current House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy when he said on Fox :

 “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

Investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attack

Although the exhaustive investigations did find areas where the government departments could have performed better, there were no conclusive findings of serious wrongdoings against anyone, including Clinton. Or to put it another way, she was EXONERATED.

Yet here we have the President still referring to it (sidenote – on his first attempt at the tweet he spelled Benghazi wrong) and thanks to years of Fox News constantly finding infinite different ways to brainwash their viewers into believing “Benghazi > Death of US soldiers > Hillary’s fault” regardless of the actual findings, it still proves an effective weapon for him today.

Since he is so keen to invoke the Benghazi situation, perhaps that means he himself is willing to testify about Ukraine before the Senate? And since his current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also a leading figure in Gowdy’s committee, he should be more than willing to do the same?

I won’t hold my breath. And while Trump’s ability to get away with blatant hypocrisy is indeed scary, I’d be much more worried about the role of Fox News in this narrative.

Micheal Martin behaving like Taoiseach-in-waiting before #GE2020 has even been called

The Universal Social Charge (USC) will not be abolished in the next five years, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said. Mr Martin has made clear the charge will continue for the full duration of the next Government’s term.”

Martin: USC ‘will not be axed in next 5 years’ : Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner

Happy New Decade, and once again, apologies for the long gap in posting. Things were happening and online priority had to be given to our other site.

But now, our 2020 New Year’s resolution dictates that at a bare minimum we should have 5 posts on Irish politics every 7 days between now and the General Election, and to kick things off, I have been drawn to this article in the Irish Examiner which starts with a pair of jaw-dropping sentences as far as I’m concerned.

This country has been in a political trance for decades now, with the general public fully convinced that the only alternatives for government are the so-called “established” parties. Since FG have been in power since 2011, the air of inevitability that it is now FF’s ‘turn’ is, quite frankly, terrifying, especially when you consider they have been led by a member of the exact same inept government that Enda Kenny used to get into power in the first place. And even then, it was considered his party’s “turn”.

When is this ridiculous cycle going to be broken? When are we going to realise that while the “Civil War parties” may be alternatives for each other, they are certainly not alternatives for the country?

Over the coming months we plan to explore the current political scene here in Ireland with a view to examining the media coverage of the issues, the parties, the candidates and most importantly, the persuading of the general public to actually get out and vote.

Is Trump the “sharpiest” knife in the drawer?