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

Rabies Brexplained

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 2nd, 2020 at 12:18:02 PM EST

British readying for Brexit: They never saw it coming, mate

Sometimes our vocabulary has to expand to encompass new realities. Covid, for example, has added "lockdown", "social distancing" and "flattening the curve" to our daily lexicon. Likewise, the UK's departure from the European Union has already given us words such as "Remainers", "Leavers" and "cake-ism" as well as, of course, the word "Brexit" itself. Phrases about "unicorns" and "cherry-picking" have been given a new resonance.

But Brexit, set to take full effect on January 1st, now requires the urgent invention of another word to capture the simple reality that the self-harm inflicted on the British people, across so many areas of their lives, is the direct effect of Brexit itself and of the hard version of it pursued by the Johnson government. Many people, of course, understand this well both in Britain and around Europe. But if this elementary reality has to be explained every time that British tabloids express astonishment at the latest materialisation of the bleeding obvious, we may lose the will to live.

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I don't like lawyers

by Frank Schnittger Mon Nov 30th, 2020 at 11:41:14 AM EST

Well, really I do, except I have to admit that none of my best friends are lawyers. My problems with the legal profession in Ireland are four fold:

  1. They are incentivised by the reward structure to mythologise, over-complicate and drag out any work they are given to do, because they are essentially private contractors paid by the hour for the amount of work they claim to have done, and much of what they do is not strictly legal work, or work for which a legal qualification should be required.

  2. They are an almost entirely self-regulated profession, resisting all attempts at public accountability, have a near monopoly of professional legal training, and are often nepotistic in character, with legal practices handed down through family members and dependent on networks of contacts rather than any extraordinary expertise in a particular field.

  3. Despite having many members of the utmost integrity and probity, I would also argue the profession is structurally corrupt, with many civil cases settled out of court for fear of ruinous legal fees, beyond the means of most litigants or defendants, who are therefore forced to settle for an agreement with little reference to the facts or the merits of a case. The lawyers in such cases are essentially acting as deal brokers, not lawyers, and virtually always extract a hefty proportion of any financial settlement for themselves.

  4. The "legal industry" as I call it, has a vested interest in self-enrichment through frivolous or exaggerated litigation, with the judges who decide cases from the same tight social circle as the lawyers representing both sides, who are incentivised to maximise the damages (for one side) and prolong the litigation and the fees accruing to both. Why throw out a case your best buddy and golfing partner stands to make a lot of money from?

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The economic realities of a united Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Mon Nov 23rd, 2020 at 03:38:24 AM EST

Newton Emerson is perhaps the leading unionist commentator in Ireland, and has a regular column in the Irish Times, regrettably generally behind a paywall. He provides a valuable insight into unionist thinking in Northern Ireland, which can often be startlingly different from nationalist, liberal or progressive perspectives.

Nevertheless he is no fundamentalist bible thumping bigot, and his political allegiance would lie closer to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) rather than the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) founded by Ian Paisley.

While appreciating his articulation of often legitimate unionist concerns, I have sometimes taken issue with his conclusions, and in fairness to the Irish Times, they have often published my critiques in response. The letter below is one such critique where I challenge his arguments that a recent Sinn Féin paper misrepresents and underestimates the true costs of re-unifying Ireland:

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Raising public morale

by Frank Schnittger Fri Nov 20th, 2020 at 12:39:22 AM EST

In Ireland, as elsewhere, debate about the most appropriate public response to the pandemic is becoming increasingly fractious. A minority of expert opinion is still advocating for a zero Covid policy while government and various businesses and interest groups are arguing for a "more balanced" approach which seeks to minimise the economic and social damage caused by lockdown measures.

The success of any lock-down is dependent, very largely, on voluntary compliance rather than enforcement measures, and so it is easy for many people to become disheartened in the face of mixed messages and grim infection and death statistics. I have sought to lighten the mood and paint a more hopeful picture in my letter to the editor published by the Irish Times (scroll down the page) and below the fold:

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Europe under Covid-19

by epochepoque Mon Nov 16th, 2020 at 02:50:15 PM EST

As we are living through the massive second wave of Covid in the darker months of the year, it's time to wonder what has gone wrong with the response to the plague in Europe.

Back at the beginning the of the year countries in Europe were simply unprepared. Most countries in the world that have managed better had been burned by SARS in 2003. Pain is a powerful teacher and fear can reliably chase away complacency. Therefore Taiwan (No. 1!), Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand, etc. acted decisively and quickly. Measures included strict quarantine, contract tracing (the thorough kind), border control, mask wearing, sometimes lockdowns, all of which the population bought into. It's not just Asia. West Africa (burned by Ebola) is doing so much better than Europe with daily case counts we can only dream of.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Brexit and Northern Ireland's food supply

by Frank Schnittger Fri Nov 13th, 2020 at 12:34:03 AM EST

Brexit and Northern Ireland's food supply

A chara, - I nearly choked on my Tesco cornflakes while reading Newton Emerson's eloquent plea for Northern Ireland's dominant supermarket chains to be granted a special exemption from EU single market and customs union rules (""EU reveals indifference as it takes its threat to North's food supply to the wire" (behind paywall), Opinion & Analysis, November 12th).

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The powers of the President of the USA

by Frank Schnittger Mon Nov 9th, 2020 at 02:16:28 PM EST

Fintan O'Toole has his usual eloquent take (subscriber only) on the limitations of Joe Biden's Presidential victory. However in one respect, Fintan's take is as delusional as the President-elect he criticises. Fintan appears to believe that Joe Biden has the power to change the system if he merely highlights its most notable defects. That is, sadly, far beyond the President's powers, and is not going to change much any time soon. The minority's power and privilege depends on there being no significant change and to imagine they will give that up without a fight is delusional.

What follows is a draft letter to the Editor which I very much doubt will be published, so I submit it here for your edification and elucidation...

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Georgia on my mind

by Frank Schnittger Thu Nov 5th, 2020 at 01:40:11 PM EST

With the vote count slowing to a trickle, it is looking increasingly likely that Biden will win Arizona and Nevada, and probably even Pennsylvania and Georgia when all the early mail in votes are tabulated, although he doesn't have to win the latter two to win election.

This is in sharp contrast to Democrats most likely failing to win the Senate, and actually losing seats in the House. With Republicans controlling the SCOTUS and the Senate, it seems unlikely any Biden administration could achieve much of their centrist agenda, never mind progressive legislation.

With the two Georgia Senate elections likely proceeding to a run-off on January 5th., Democrats may get a second bite at that cherry. Trump's reaction to his defeat could still have ramifications for the shape of the next administration. Who would have thought that Georgia would represent the Democrats' best hopes of winning the election?

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US Elections Live Blog

by Frank Schnittger Tue Nov 3rd, 2020 at 01:44:19 AM EST

Election day is finally upon us and soon we will know the result - by this evening, if President Trump has his way! 98 Million people have already cast an early ballot - 71% of the total 2016 turnout - and a record turnout is expected. Michael McDonald, a Professor at the University of Florida is predicting a total turnout of about 160 Million - up 16% from 138 Million in 2016.

This is despite increasingly desperate attempts by the Republican party to suppress the vote - culminating in yesterdays court proceedings to invalidate 127,000 votes  in Texas because they were cast at temporary drive in centres housed in tents, rather than in a building "structure". President Trump has also said he will send in the lawyers to stop the counting this evening if he is ahead at that stage - as if there is some constitutional requirement to count only as many votes as can be counted within a few hours of polls closing.

It is difficult to envisage a more desperate and defeatist message to send to the electorate than seeking to disenfranchise millions of voters who have cast their ballots in good faith. Democracy be damned. But it also sends a clear message to an electorate which may be less than fully enthused to vote for Joe Biden. A vote now represents an act of defiance against those who would seek to deprive you of that right. It's democracy or fascism, your choice.

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The gathering storm

by Frank Schnittger Thu Oct 29th, 2020 at 09:29:21 PM EST

For a variety of reasons, I have been internet free for the past couple of days, so today has been about playing catchup in an attempt to discover what, if anything, has changed in the US election. As always, there is a danger that you get caught up in a bubble of partisan thinking, and simply don't understand some of the many changes under way.

Certainly there have been some negatives in the data from a European point of view. Biden is said to be doing less well with Latino/Hispanic voters than Clinton did. The addition of Harris to the ticket hasn't made some black voters feel any less taken for granted. Texas still feels slightly out of reach, not helped by Biden's comments about transitioning away from oil in the second Presidential debate.

But the reality is you have to dig pretty hard to find negative data about the prospects of the Democratic party and its candidates at all levels of the election. More and more Senate seats seem to be in play and polls at Congressional district level have been outpacing the national polls for quite some time. Biden's lead has stayed remarkably steady and solid in the 7-11% range for the past few months, and even "lean Republican" states like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio seem to be trending his way.

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(Mainstream) Economists On The Run

by ARGeezer Sat Oct 24th, 2020 at 08:49:18 PM EST

Que Schadenfreund

Economists on the Run - Michael Hirsh, Foreign Policy


 Paul Krugman has never suffered fools gladly.... 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.

Frontpaged with minor edit - Bernard

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Trump looked like a loser

by Frank Schnittger Fri Oct 23rd, 2020 at 04:09:09 AM EST

The second and final presidential debate was a more "normal" debate with much less interruption and incivility. Republican supporters will breath a sigh of relief that Trump didn't implode again. However the longer the debate went on the more frustrated he became, and started to look more surly, bitter, divisive and angry, especially when Biden was speaking.

Even when invited to say how he would bring people together in his inaugural address he engaged in bitter recrimination, while Biden gave his usual bringing people together speech. When challenged about the 500 children separated from their parents - Trump just said "good".

The debate won't do much to change the trajectory of the campaign, but that must count as a defeat for Trump. He needed Biden to implode, and yet Biden probably gave his strongest performance to date, and was willing to say he would phase out the oil industry over time despite his reliance on winning Pennsylvania.

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US Senate Elections

by ATinNM Mon Oct 19th, 2020 at 05:32:31 PM EST

Started out as a quick comment to Franks' "It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over' diary and got carried away.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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It's not over yet

by Frank Schnittger Mon Oct 19th, 2020 at 01:46:22 PM EST

It's been almost a fortnight since our last round-up on the US Elections and not a huge amount has changed. Biden got a 3% uplift from +7% to +10% in the opinion polls after the first debate and Trumps subsequent Covid-19 diagnosis, with many Americans disapproving of Trump's performance in the debate and his failure to take adequate precautions against the disease. Post debate bumps in the polls often don't last, but the continued prevalence of the pandemic has kept Trump's performance on the pandemic front and centre of the political stage.

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The 2021-2026 EU UK Trade war

by Frank Schnittger Sun Oct 11th, 2020 at 02:57:07 PM EST

The 2021-2026 EU UK Trade war was an unprecedented event in post WWII European relations although it did have some minor antecedents in European economic wars prior to that - such as the 1932-38 Anglo-Irish economic war. It ended only after the near collapse of the UK economy and led ultimately to Scottish Independence and Irish reunification.

Relations between the UK and EU had been deteriorating ever since the 2016 Brexit referendum culminating in the breakdown of relations in early 2021 following the UK adoption of legislation which explicitly broke the "oven ready" EU UK Withdrawal Treaty which had been ratified in January 2020 following a general election fought and won on endorsing its terms.

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Harris wins Vice Presidential Debate

by Frank Schnittger Thu Oct 8th, 2020 at 04:16:35 AM EST

The Vice Presidential debate ended with a slight win for Kamala Harris but is unlikely to change voting intentions to any significant degree. The moderator allowed Pence to constantly over-run his speaking time and interrupt Kamala Harris on hers, and made no attempt to ensure the candidates actually answered the question asked.

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Electoral Tide swings towards Democrats.

by Frank Schnittger Tue Oct 6th, 2020 at 09:28:04 PM EST

It's been a month since ARGeezer's diary on the US elections, so what has changed? Firstly, some significant events have taken place:

  1. The untimely death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  2. Threats by Trump to refuse a peaceful transition of power
  3. The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg
  4. NYT release of information on Trump's tax returns
  5. The first presidential debate
  6. Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis
  7. Trumps hospitalization and release
  8. A cluster of other cases at the White House and among Republican senators who attended the White house ceremony to nominate Barrett to the Supreme Court.

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Respecting the Law

by Frank Schnittger Thu Oct 1st, 2020 at 12:26:54 PM EST

Two things puzzle me: Firstly, how can the UK government presume to rely on the benefits of WTO membership when it is itself in flagrant breach of international law in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement which was ratified only this year following a general election won on recommending its terms?

And secondly, why is the EU's only response to date been to threaten legal action against the UK before the ECJ when one of the stated aims of Brexit is to break free of the jurisdiction of the ECJ. Why would the UK respect the judgement of a court it has explicitly sought to delegitimize?

Allowing states to flout the law has real consequences for real people, as the people of Northern Ireland can testify only too vividly. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for the wilful gunning down of 26 unarmed civilians, 14 of whom died, in Derry in 1972. Now the Northern Ireland Prosecution Service has announced that only one soldier, named soldier"F" at the enquiry, is to be prosecuted, almost 50 years after the fact. Hence my draft letter to the editor below:

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Racism loses in Switzerland

by IdiotSavant Mon Sep 28th, 2020 at 03:29:44 AM EST

Over in Switzerland, the racist "People's Party" tried to have a Brexit-style referendum on ending freedom of movement with the EU, so they could stop the "flood" of foreigners. But the Swiss people said No:

Swiss voters have resoundingly rejected an attempt to tear up the country's agreement with the EU on the free movement of people, in a referendum that echoed the Brexit vote.

The largest party in the Swiss parliament, the rightwing, anti-immigration Swiss People's party (SVP), called the referendum, arguing that the country must be allowed to set its own limit on the number of foreigners coming in to work.

However, the initiative - opposed by government, parliament, unions, employer organisations and all other political parties because it would put Switzerland's overall relations with the EU in jeopardy - was rejected by 61.7% of voters, final results showed.

The EU had made it clear that freedom of movement was indivisible from the rest of their relationship, and that ending it would also mean ending trade, research and transport treaties, just as for the UK. Swiss voters clearly value those. And hopefully, it'll mean a fall in the fortunes of the People's Party as well.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Comments >> (10 comments)

The reality of Brexit strikes home

by Frank Schnittger Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 12:07:00 AM EST

Newton Emerson, a unionist commentator, has an article up in the Irish Times echoing Boris Johnson's complaint that the EU is threatening to blockade N. Ireland's food supplies. This is part of Johnson's justification for breaking international law even though discussions at the joint implementation body on the N. Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement had been, by all accounts, making good progress in resolving outstanding issues.

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News and Views

 November 2020

by Bernard - Nov 1, 214 comments

Your take on this month's news

 October Surprises 2020 Edition

by Bernard - Oct 2, 11 comments

I read the news today, oh boy ...

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