Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Prepare for the breakdown

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 27th, 2020 at 02:35:27 PM EST

Both the EU and the UK have now published their mandates for their negotiating teams on their future relationship. As might be expected at this stage, they couldn't be further apart, and some "expectations management" is no doubt involved. But neither is there anything to suggest that my central expectation of a no deal Brexit at the end of 2020 will not, in fact, come to pass.

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The wonder of democracy

by Frank Schnittger Sat Feb 22nd, 2020 at 12:08:26 AM EST

There has been a lot of hot and heavy commentary in the Irish media as to who has and has not got the "right" or "responsibility" to form a government following the inconclusive Irish general election result where three parties, Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, got between 25 and 21% of the vote.

Most of this has been legitimate banter between partisan supporters trying to portray their party in the most favourable light and place it in the best position to either lead a government or force the other two parties to break their electoral pledges and form a most uncomfortable coalition government.

The received wisdom is that whichever party ends up leading the opposition will be able to exploit the discomfiture of the coalition parties and clean up at the next election. Few believe Ireland's public health care and housing problems will be solved in the next few years, but that won't prevent the next government from copping the blame when they fail to do so.

But lest the naive be disillusioned by the whole process, I have provided some context in a letter published as their lead letter by the Irish Independent:

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Political revolution or government as usual?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 13th, 2020 at 02:39:14 PM EST

My highest probability expectation both before and after the Irish general election is that it is unlikely it will be possible to form a stable government from the configuration of parties the electorate have thrown up. It took 70 days to form a government in 2016 when Fine Gael had 50 seats, and that government was only possible because Fianna Fail, with 44 seats, agreed a "confidence and supply" arrangement with Fine Gael under which it would abstain on votes of confidence in order to allow a government to be formed.

It is generally agreed that the confidence and supply arrangement did Fianna Fail no favours with the electorate as it was unable to pose as a radical alternative to Fine Gael, having facilitated the broad thrust of Government policy over the past 4 years. Although Fine Gael were the biggest losers (-15 seats), Fianna Fail also lost 6 seats with Sinn Féin (+14) and the Greens (+10) the biggest beneficiaries.

The only other time a major opposition party has facilitated a government in office was in 1987, when then Fine Gael leader, Alan Dukes announced his "Tallaght Strategy" to facilitate a Fianna Fail government basically implementing Fine Gael policies. That, too, didn't end well for Fine Gael.

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Live Blog: Irish General Election results

by Frank Schnittger Sun Feb 9th, 2020 at 11:45:05 AM EST

Ireland went to the polls yesterday, and the counting of votes began at 9.00 am this morning. Counting is a labour intensive manual process, and given the complexities of the multi-seat, single transferable vote system can take some days to complete. Early indications are that the poll was quite high given the inclement weather conditions and that the pre-poll indications of a surge to Sinn Fein are being borne out by the actual results.

Last night's exit poll indicated a statistical tie between the main three parties but the earliest indications today are that this may understate the performance of Sinn Fein who appear likely to top the poll in a lot of constituencies. They will rue their decision to run only 42 candidates, however, which will put a ceiling on how well they can do. The exit poll makes for some fascinating reading as it allows a demographic analysis of who voted how. Sinn Fein appear to be well ahead in every age group bar the 65+ demographic.

Health, Housing, Homelessness, Pension age and climate change were the issues influencing most voting decisions with Brexit and immigration cited by only 1% of voters as the most important issue influencing their vote. 65% of voters regard increased expenditure on public services as more important than reduced taxation, and 63% stated they had not benefited personally from the upturn in the economy.

The first first count results are expected this afternoon, and I will update this diary as more results come in.

Comments >> (58 comments)

Breaking the cordon sanitaire in Germany

by IdiotSavant Fri Feb 7th, 2020 at 02:20:09 AM EST

Part of the story of the Nazis' rise to power in Germany was the willingness of mainstream right-wing parties to work with them to keep out the left. Because of this, one of the fundamental rules of postwar German politics has been "do not work with Nazis". As a result, successive far-right parties have found themselves isolated, unable to get anywhere. Until yesterday, when the "mainstream" Christian Democrats and Free Democrats colluded with (neo-Nazi) Alternative für Deutschland to roll the left-wing Thuringian state premier. But it hasn't worked out like they expected:

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

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A Revolution in Irish politics?

by Frank Schnittger Mon Feb 3rd, 2020 at 03:39:35 PM EST

Sinn Féin level with Fianna Fáil at 24% in latest opinion poll

Sinn Féin has surged ahead of Fine Gael and is tying with Fianna Fáil for the highest vote among political parties, according to the latest opinion poll published on Sunday.

The Business Post/Red C poll puts Sinn Féin at 24 per cent, up 3 per cent on the previous survey by the same pollsters a week earlier.

Fianna Fáil is down 2 per cent to 24 per cent and Fine Gael down 2 per cent to 21 per cent.

In the space of the two surveys, Fine Gael is down 9 per cent and Sinn Féin up 11 per cent, confirming a trend in other polls.

Sinn Féin secured their first seat in Dail Eireann in modern times in 1997 with 2.5% of the vote. Since then their vote and seats has increased steadily to 14% and 23 seats in 2016. Their fortunes seemed to be waning with the failure of the Northern Ireland institutions and their failure to have any influence on the Brexit debate in Westminster. However since the Brexit withdrawal deal was done and the N. Ireland institutions were restored their standing in the polls has skyrocketed in inverse proportions to the fortunes of Fine Gael.

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The Mistrial of Donald Trump

by ARGeezer Sat Feb 1st, 2020 at 04:59:25 AM EST

The House impeaches, the Senate tries the case, per the US Constitution. If only it were that simple. At the moment all hangs in uncertainty. Tonight it appears certain that at least 51 Republican senators will vote not hear additional witnesses and to acquit Donald J. Trump of the charges in the House Articles of Impeachment: Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. This is despite the fact that retiring Senator Lamar Alexander conceded that the House Impeachment Managers had proven their case.

WASHINGTON -- As he weighed the evidence against President Trump, Senator Lamar Alexander reached an unavoidable conclusion: Mr. Trump had done what he was accused of, pressuring a foreign power to investigate his political rival. But however inappropriate his conduct, another conviction overrode the first: Americans would not tolerate the Senate stepping in to substitute its own judgment for that of the voters fewer than 10 months before the next election.

"The Senate reflects the country, and the country is as divided as it has been for a long time," Mr. Alexander said Friday during an interview in his Capitol office. "For the Senate to tear up the ballots in this election and say President Trump couldn't be on it, the country probably wouldn't accept that. It would just pour gasoline on cultural fires that are burning out there."

With that logic, Mr. Alexander delivered a victory to Mr. Trump -- and to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, with whom Mr. Alexander has been friends for more than a half-century. In announcing he would vote to block witnesses at Mr. Trump's impeachment trial, he set Mr. Trump on a quick course to his inevitable acquittal.

But this national crisis will not be resolved with the acquittal of Trump. In effect, for reasons listed below, this trial was a mistrial.

Great summary of the state of play - Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Brexit Day

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jan 31st, 2020 at 12:25:42 AM EST

It is with very mixed feelings that I approach Brexit day. On the one hand I have argued strenuously and at length that Brexit is in the interests of neither the UK nor the EU, and plays into the hands of ultra-nationalists, disaster capitalists, global corporations, and great power imperialists. On the other hand I have tired of the seemingly perpetual whingeing, prevarication, lying, and sheer incompetence of successive UK administrations and their oppositions.

From a purely practical point of view, it is reasonable to hope that the EU institutions will operate more coherently, cohesively and efficiently without the continual disruptions caused by UK participation. The loss of 73 mostly far right and often disruptive UK MEPs will be no loss at all. It his high time the EU focused on other priorities and for Brexit and Brexiteers to leave the stage.

Although EU Chief negotiator Barnier and Trade Commissioner Hogan will continue to be centrally involved in UK EU trade negotiations, I expect that issue will gradually decline in the list of EU priorities and the UK's baneful influence on EU foreign policy will also diminish. A lot still depends on whether President Trump is re-elected, or not, but it is relations and trade with the US, China, Russia and third world countries that will gradually come to dominate the EU agenda.

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US Spy Plane Crashed On Taliban Territory Afghanistan

by Oui Tue Jan 28th, 2020 at 04:18:36 AM EST

Unconfirmed reports a high-ranking CIA officer was on board ...

More below the fold ...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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The narcissism of minor differences

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jan 14th, 2020 at 08:46:08 PM EST

An Taoiseach Leo Varadker has called a general election in Ireland for February 8th. - in the immediate wake of Brexit actually happening at the end of January and the devolved institutions being restored in N. Ireland following an agreement between the N. Ireland parties and the British and Irish governments.

The timing is significant for a number of reasons. Fine Gael's slim Dail majority had become increasingly precarious as the "confidence and supply" agreement with Fianna Fail had faltered and as various independent and other TD's threatened to withdraw their support. A no-confidence motion in Health Minister Simon Harris could well have been carried and would have further high-lighted the governments greatest failing while in office.

Leo Varadker and deputy prime Minister (Tanaiste) Simon Coveney are widely seen as having done a good job on Brexit and so it was in their interest to hold the election while Brexit was still high on the news and political agenda. When the two governments and the N. Ireland parties finally agreed to the restoration of the N. I. Assembly and Executive after a 3 year hiatus, another important item on the Government's to do list was ticked off.

That said, a win for Leo Varadker and Fine Gael is anything but a done deal. Fine Gael have led the government for almost exactly nine years since 2011 and it is rare for any Irish government to win 3 elections in a row. There is considerable yearning for change in the country, despite full employment, the economy growing at c. 5% p.a., and the government actually running a surplus. Failures in public housing, healthcare, and transport policy have sapped the electorate's patience and homelessness, rapid housing rent increases, hospital waiting lists and impossible commuting times are likely to figure prominently in the campaign.

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More Spanish repression

by IdiotSavant Mon Jan 6th, 2020 at 10:59:24 PM EST

Back in December, the European Court of Justice ruled that jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras was a Member of the European Parliament and therefore had immunity from prosecution. In a democratic state under the rule of law, he would have been immediately released from prison (and compensated for his illegal detention), as his "conviction" occurred after his election. Instead, Spain continued to detain him. And now, Spain's Central Electoral Commission has declared that he is no longer an MEP, on the basis of that purported conviction.

But it doesn't stop there. The Central Electoral Commission has also purported to unseat Catalan President Quim Torra, using anti-terrorist law, and in explicit violation of Catalonia's statute of autonomy (which places that power solely in the hands of the Catalan Parliament). The Catalan Parliament isn't going to accept this, and is going to assert its rights, which will set it up for another direct collision with the Spanish judiciary.

In both cases, the message is clear: elected Catalans will not be allowed to advocate for independence, no matter what the law says. Hopefully, higher levels of the Spanish judiciary will correct these decisions. If not, the European courts will. But its just another example of Spanish repression, and another reminder that if Catalans want to be free of it, they need to be free of Spain.

(And meanwhile, Spain's parliament is debating a new government, on which the abstention of the Catalan Republican Left is vital. They've extracted promises of direct government-to-government negotiations on independence, with a public vote in Catalonia on the outcome, and they've made it clear that they will pull the plug and topple the government if those promises aren't kept. But with repression continuing, and political prisoners still in jail, its an awful risk for the ERC, and they may be punished by their voters for it).

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Revered Martyrs? Holy Hell!

by ARGeezer Sun Jan 5th, 2020 at 02:46:40 AM EST

We have seen Qassem Soleimani refered to here and in the US media as a 'revered martyr'. It is understandable that he might be revered and seen as a martyr in Iran and by Shia Iraqis, but there is no reason for US media to repeat that framing for US audiences. Soleimani was a brilliant strategist but no more to be revered than any pedophile prelate, prostitute politician or US general. I am struck by the smirk that is so often on his face, especially when basking in the approval of the Supreme Leader. He is more aptly compared to the IRA strategists behind the London bombings in the 20th century. Repeating the  characterization of 'revered martyr' both reinforces Iranian propaganda and simultaneously makes US journalists using it look  ridiculous and/or or suspect to a good portion of the US population.

The claim that Soleimani almost single-handedly saved Shia Islam is surely hyperbolie. Shia have been persecuted by Suni since the death of Ali, but yet they survive and flourish. They have well earned their reputation for being a persecuted minority. But now they are the ones doing the persecuting in Iran. Shia are in control there and have dealt harshly with many of the ethnic minorities that had served the Persian Empire. They won't even allow Baha'i children in Iran to attend school. Many Iranian ex-pats I knew in LA were minorities, Jews, Baha'i, Kurds, etc. The Persian empire under the Shahs was a much friendlier place for ethnic and religious minorities. Now Iran 'enjoys' Shia triumphalism.

None of this is intended to justify the sorry way in which Western powers from the Crusades to British and French Imperialism, the legacy of which was assumed by the US, has treated Suni and Shia alike nor to pick sides between them. Saudi Whabi and Salafi in general are a match in fanaticism for anything Shia Islam has to offer. It is still the Middle Ages in the Middle East.  

Ironically, Soliemani in death may accomplish what he could not in life - the removal of the USA from the Middle East. But that will be mostly attributable to Trump. Trump acted without thinking through the situation and mostly out of his sense of needing to look good. But he has no long term plan other than to leave the Mid East. It is almost fitting that the foolish misadventure of Bush 43 and of Trump will likely be bookends to the period of intense involvement in Iraq and Syria. This will be a sad development for all those in the region who hoped for a more secular government, but Republicans and Trump in particular do not believe in 'nation building'.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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United States of America Declared a Bandit State

by Oui Sat Jan 4th, 2020 at 10:16:10 AM EST

Europe and nations across the globe should express their disgust with the acts of banditry and bullying of the President . There should be no room for acts of fascism humanity had hoped to have left behind the genocides of the 20th century that tore up society. The lone action of the world's most powerful nation in terms of the economy and military, should be a shining example, not the acts crossing International Law and the Geneva Conventions. Friends of America or no friends of human kind by keeping silent or going through the motions of criticism without sanctioning barbaric acts.

Ever since the attacks of 9/11, the U.S. and allied nations have torn up existing laws in order to get the "bad guys". By doing so, terrorism across the globe has flourished and increased a tenfold with over a million deaths of innocent civilians: fathers, mothers and children. This got to stop NOW before the community of nations are dragged into an all consuming nuclear stand-off or a Third World War.

Planet Earth is in jeopardy, destruction will be complete once the Middle East explodes into a war of aggression. Members of U.S. Congress are a representation of the American people and are in many ways more hawkish on foreign policy than the President himself ... a perpetuum motion of destruction lies ahead of us. Democracy as was intended by the Founding Fathers has floundered for decades ... the Trump campaign won over the Electoral College but the popular vote was for the candidate of the Democrats Hillary Clinton by over three million votes.

More below the fold ...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Happy New Year to one and all

by Frank Schnittger Tue Dec 31st, 2019 at 07:25:56 PM EST

For many people 2019 was a year to forget and the decade of the 2010's wasn't much better. What were your highs and lows, funniest moments, and greatest achievements or regrets?

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A victory for democracy in Catalonia - and in Europe

by IdiotSavant Thu Dec 19th, 2019 at 11:47:47 AM EST

Back in May, jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras ran in the European parliamentary elections as head of the Ahora Repúblicas. AR won 5.6% of the Spanish vote, enough for three MEPs. But Junqueras was not allowed to take his seat, after Spanish authorities refused to release him temporarily from pre-trial detention to complete the post-election formalities. In effect, like the British government before it, the Spanish government was claiming a right of veto over who the people could elect. And now, the European Court of Justice has said that that is not allowed.


The EU Court of Justice has ruled that jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras had immunity from the moment he was officially elected to the European Parliament on June 13th, after Spain's electoral commission proclaimed the final election results. Thus, the European Court states that he should have been able to leave jail at that time and travel to Brussels to take office.

In a hearing of the Luxembourg court this Thursday morning, it was also ruled that if the Spanish Supreme Court believed that pro-independence leader Junqueras should have been kept in jail, it had to tell the European Parliament and ask for the suspension of his immunity.

The ruling is clear in its assessment of the facts at the time that they occurred and represents a slap in the face for Spanish justice whose correct course of action in the spring was to have either allowed Junqueras to travel to take up his office or to have asked for the removal of his immunity. But the EU court does not clarify in its ruling if the decision can be applied now, that is, if Junqueras should now be able to go free to perform his duties as an MEP in the European Parliament.

The question now is whether Spain will respect the ruling, or whether it will try and impede an elected MEP from going about his business. And if they want to do the latter, then the Socialists can kiss goodbye to any hope of Catalan cooperation in their attempt to form a government.

Meanwhile, Spain also blocked two other Catalan politicians, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín, from taking office. The ruling will also apply to them, and should allow them to immediately take their seats. Because it is voters, not governments, who choose MEPs, and if governments don't like the choices voters make, tough shit for them.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Comments >> (3 comments)

UK General Election Results 2019

by Frank Schnittger Fri Dec 13th, 2019 at 12:51:53 PM EST

So the Opinion polls weren't so far off after all, with the Labour Party losing votes to all the other parties, but, given the idiocies of the First Past the Post electoral system, only the Conservatives and SNP reaped the benefits in terms of seats:


As was to be expected, all the "centrist" MPs who left or were thrown out of the Labour and Conservative parties and stood as independents, ChangeUK or Lib Dems lost their seats. The two party (+ regional/nationalist parties) system reigns supreme. There is no room for dissidence or doubt. You must follow one major party leader or the other. The system is designed to promote polarisation and conflict. Contrary to reports of unprecedented queues, turnout at 67% was down 1.5% on 2017.

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UK election thread

by fjallstrom Thu Dec 12th, 2019 at 10:17:09 AM EST

Election day! Vote! GOTV! Make sure votes are counted! All the fun and spectacle of democracy!

Or just comment from afar. That works too.

Frontpaged by Colman from behind the sofa

Comments >> (68 comments)

A leader for leavers and remainers?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 11th, 2019 at 01:23:19 AM EST

Letter to the Editor published in the Irish Times.


A leader for leavers and remainers?


A chara, - Fintan O'Toole buys into the media propagated myth that Jeremy Corbyn is some sort of far-out radical lefty who wants to revolutionise UK society (Weekend Review, December 7th).

But Corbyn gained this reputation for opposing imperialism, Apartheid, and the Iraq invasion; and supporting LGBT rights, a united Ireland, and radical measures to combat climate change before it was either fashionable or mainstream in UK politics to do so.

What were once radical positions are now mainstream, and since his election as leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn has consistently adopted mainstream, centrist and even establishment positions.

He campaigned for remain in the 2016 referendum, he accepted the result as democratically binding, and he tried to keep both leavers and remainers on board within the Labour Party by adopting a "soft" Brexit policy whereby the UK would retain a close economic relationship with the EU while ending the political union.

It wasn't Corbyn who said f**k business, starve the Irish into submission, Muslims are bank-robbers and letterboxes, the EU is the new Soviet Union, or the Brexit negotiations would be the easiest trade negotiation of all time; and yet he is the extremist with a limited grasp of reality?

His domestic policies are aimed at reversing years of Tory austerity policies which have resulted in inequality, poverty, and deprivation unprecedented in modern times. If it was possible to fund decent health, educational and public housing policies in highly indebted post-war 1950s Britain, why is that such a radical idea now?

Corbyn may or may not lose Thursday's election, but if he does it will be due in large measure to the success of the oligarch-owned UK media in demonising him, with supposedly "enlightened" commentators such as Fintan O'Toole in tow.

Fintan O'Toole accuses him of being uninterested in power, but that is because he wants to restore power - and a decent quality of life - "to the many, not just the few".

At a time when the United Kingdom has never been so divided, is not a leader who tries to accommodate both leavers and remainers, unionists and nationalists, north and south not precisely what the UK needs right now? - Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER

Comments >> (9 comments)

MEGA: Make Europe Great Again

by Frank Schnittger Sun Dec 8th, 2019 at 01:53:46 AM EST

I used to write quite a lot about US politics - about 65 stories on the European Tribune alone. And then Trump got elected and I could face it no longer. Say what you like about the legitimacy of his election, but the very fact that a guy like that could get elected doesn't fill me with much hope for the USA as an advanced polity. And why write about him when so many there are much more qualified to do so?

I came of age politically through meeting some South African anti-Apartheid activists who inspired me to do my masters thesis on Apartheid. I couldn't bring myself to visit their country until Mandela was freed and elected President. I did not want to become complicit in the Apartheid regime by visiting the country while I would still enjoy the privileges of a white European under Apartheid. I feel almost as bad about visiting the USA now: lots of great people, but the system absolutely sucks.

And now, having written 170 stories on Brexit, I am beginning to wonder whether my interest in writing about the UK will survive a Boris Johnson victory in this weeks general election. Any country which could vote for Boris Johnson as its leader has to be seriously f*cked up... And yet all you hear and read in the media commentary about the election is of self-proclaimed former Labour voters deciding to vote for Boris because they can't stand Corbyn.

What is it they can't stand about Corbyn when he has been (a relative) voice for moderation and reason in an increasingly dysfunctional, corrupt and disintegrating political system?

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Irish By-Election results

by Frank Schnittger Sun Dec 1st, 2019 at 12:17:10 PM EST

Fine Gael, the Irish ruling government party, has just lost all four by-elections held to fill the seats of Dail members who resigned on winning seats in the European Parliament last June - making its already flimsy Dail majority even more precarious.

To be fair, it was defending only one of those seats, with the others previously held by Fianna Fail, Independent and Socialist TDs (Teachta Dála, or members of parliament). Governments rarely win mid-term by-elections in Ireland, with opposition party supporters more likely to turn out in low-turnout elections.

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News and Views

 December 2019

by Colman - Dec 11, 484 comments

Your take on this month's news

 End of Year (and possibly times) thread

by Colman - Dec 11, 100 comments

What could possibly go wrong?

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