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

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 f 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?

Comments >> (18 comments)

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

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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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Poll: Is Brexit a good thing?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Nov 27th, 2019 at 11:33:18 AM EST

Accepting the fact that most Brits aren't listening and couldn't care less what we think, what are our collective thoughts on Brexit at this stage?

Poll below the fold:

Comments >> (72 comments)

Letter to the British people

by Frank Schnittger Sat Nov 23rd, 2019 at 02:17:19 PM EST

With the UK preparing for a general election, the Irish Times invited its readers to write an open letter to UK voters (of less than 300 words). A selection of those letters are published here. Some are of a quite personal nature. Many focus on the impact on N. Ireland. Mine, copied below the fold, focuses on the larger political and economic implications.

Feel free to use the comments section to write your own letter. We could even publish a selection of our letters on our front page! A more broadly European perspective would be useful. And yes, you are allowed say "go now and don't let the door hit you in the arse as you leave". All viewpoints are welcome...

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Why the EU and UK will be enemies

by Frank Schnittger Wed Nov 20th, 2019 at 01:20:36 PM EST

Boris Johnson likes to talk about "our friends in Europe" when talking about the cooperative future he sees emerging between the UK and the EU post Brexit - where both will be competing as equals in a globalised world economy. But it is much more likely that the EU and the UK will end up being mortal enemies.

There are a number of reasons for this. Some are political: If Brexit succeeds in delivering a more prosperous UK, why would other countries wish to remain in the EU? Being part of a political union involves inevitable compromises and constraints on national polities. Why would they endure such constraints if there wasn't a demonstrable pay-off in terms of economic prosperity and political influence in the world?

But if Brexit is a threat to the future of the EU, so also would a relatively successful continuing EU be a threat to the UK: Not only might Scotland and N. Ireland secede to become part of that greater prosperity, but the divisions within England and Wales exposed by Brexit between Leavers and Remainers, north and south, and the winners and losers of globalisation would be exacerbated.

Brexit sets up a very dangerous dynamic whereby both the UK and the EU have a vested interest in securing their own stability by seeing the other fail. This is the stuff that wars are incubated in, even if, on this occasion, it leads to no more than an economic war. But there are also a number of reasons to suppose this economic war could be deep and long:

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Brexeternity

by Frank Schnittger Sun Nov 10th, 2019 at 04:02:49 PM EST

In all the sturm und drang around a no deal or a Boris deal Brexit, it is easy to forget that this is just the prologue. All the Brexit deal does is settle some outstanding details arising out of the UK's departure: It does very little to decide the shape of the future relationship between Great Britain and the EU.

I use the term "Great Britain" advisedly, because the one aspect of the future relationship between the EU and the UK that has been decided in the deal is that N. Ireland, will remain, for all practical purposes, in the Customs Union and Single Market (CUSM) - whatever Boris Johnson might say otherwise.

But for the rest of the UK, aka Great Britain, all options are still on the table - all the way from a no deal trade war, through trading rules dictated by WTO Treaties, to Canada+++ or Norway---; whatever that may mean. As Boris Johnson has demonstrated, it's all about the marketing: His slightly reheated and amended version of May's deal is suddenly acceptable to the hoards of hard-line ERG Brexiteers who voted against her original version three times.

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Spanish election thread

by IdiotSavant Fri Nov 8th, 2019 at 06:17:20 AM EST

Spain will go to the polls on Sunday, November 10. Its the second election this year; an earlier one in April saw the Socialists - who had gained power in a confidence vote - gain an easy plurality, then refuse to negotiate a coalition with the left-wing Podemos (which would have allowed them, with the support of a few minor parties and the offered abstention of the Catalan Republican Left, to form a government). Instead, they gambled on new elections and winning a greater share of the vote.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Boris off to a bad start

by Frank Schnittger Wed Nov 6th, 2019 at 10:45:29 PM EST

Boris Johnson enters the first day of the official UK general election campaign with an average lead of 11% in the 11 polls published since the House of Commons voted to hold a general election. These poll leads range from 7 to 16% and there is no discernable trend over the past week. Not too bad a start, one would have thought, until one recalls that Theresa May's lead was 19% when she called the 2017 election.

Boris Johnson's campaign launch has also been dogged by no less than three scandals on the opening day of the official campaign:

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DUP under pressure in Northern Ireland Election

by Frank Schnittger Thu Oct 31st, 2019 at 01:28:47 PM EST

Newton Emerson has a very interesting take on how the general election may play out in N. Ireland. The DUP currently hold 10 seats to Sinn Fein's 7, with one independent Unionist.  Essentially Northern Ireland has been re-partitioned East West between unionist and Nationalist representatives with a nationalist enclave in West Belfast.

By Furfur, Brythones - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

 

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Turkeys vote for Christmas

by Frank Schnittger Wed Oct 30th, 2019 at 11:29:11 AM EST

And so the turkeys have finally voted for Christmas. The House of Commons has overwhelmingly voted for an election on Boris Johnson's preferred date of 12th. December.

The vote gave Boris Johnson the date he was looking for and there were no amendments to expand the franchise to include EU nationals or 16- and 17-year-olds. But the prime minister is facing the voters with Brexit still not delivered and his pledge to leave the EU by October 31st in shreds.

Some Conservative MPs fear their constituents will punish them for spending five weeks campaigning rather than scrutinising and passing the withdrawal agreement Bill. And all Conservatives are conscious of the electoral mountain they must climb to return to power.

More than 30 seats short of a working majority of 320 as they go into the campaign, the Conservatives expect to lose seats to the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland and to the Liberal Democrats in the southeast and southwest of England. At odds with the DUP over the Brexit deal and with no other potential coalition parties, the Conservatives will need to win a majority if they are to form the next government.

Labour is on 25 per cent in an average of opinion polls, 11 points behind the Conservatives and just 7 per cent ahead of the Liberal Democrats. Labour started the 2017 election campaign polling 25 per cent too, but more than 20 points behind Theresa May's Conservatives.

Corbyn's allies draw comfort from the outcome in 2017, which saw Labour draw almost level with the Conservatives with 40 per cent of the vote. And Labour has more coalition options than the Conservatives, so it does not need a majority or even to emerge as the biggest party to have a chance of forming the government.

On the other hand Corbyn is by far the most unpopular of the party leaders and the Conservatives are targeting Labour-held seats that voted Leave in 2016, particularly in the midlands and northeast England, and in Wales.

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Krugman-Admits-He-Was-Wrong! (Pt. 1?)

by ARGeezer Fri Oct 25th, 2019 at 05:56:09 PM EST

Paul Krugman -- finally -- admits he was wrong!  Lars Syll RWER Blog

Paul Krugman has never suffered fools gladly. The Nobel Prize-winning economist rose to international fame--and a coveted space on the New York Times op-ed page--by lacerating his intellectual opponents in the most withering way. In a series of books and articles beginning in the 1990s, Krugman branded just about everybody who questioned the rapid pace of globalization a fool who didn't understand economics very well. "Silly" was a word Krugman used a lot to describe pundits who raised fears of economic competition from other nations, especially China. Don't worry about it, he said: Free trade will have only minor impact on your prosperity.

Now Krugman has come out and admitted, offhandedly, that his own understanding of economics has been seriously deficient as well. In a recent essay titled "What Economists (Including Me) Got Wrong About Globalization," adapted from a forthcoming book on inequality, Krugman writes that he and other mainstream economists "missed a crucial part of the story" in failing to realize that globalization would lead to "hyperglobalization" and huge economic and social upheaval, particularly of the industrial middle class in America. And many of these working-class communities have been hit hard by Chinese competition, which economists made a "major mistake" in underestimating, Krugman says.

Michael Hirsh  -  The Economist

It was quite a "whoops" moment, considering all the ruined American communities and displaced millions of workers we've seen in the interim. And a newly humbled Krugman must consider an even more disturbing idea: Did he and other mainstream economists help put a protectionist populist, Donald Trump, in the White House with a lot of bad advice about free markets?

Too important not to frontpage - Frank Schnittger

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News and Views

 December 2019

by Colman - Dec 11, 350 comments

Your take on this month's news

 End of Year (and possibly times) thread

by Colman - Dec 11, 70 comments

What could possibly go wrong?

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