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Good Riddance

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jun 10th, 2019 at 01:13:28 AM EST

Theresa May has stepped down as Tory party leader with an approval rating of -49% and to the regret of almost no one. She had outstayed her welcome, and even that welcome had come mostly from the Tory faithful. She was  admired by some for her perseverance and staying power in the face of almost insurmountable odds, although for many it was just a manifestation of her stubbornness and crass insensitivity to all but her own views.

In the end, even those who had felt some sympathy for her because they felt she was being treated more shabbily because she was a women, had been handed a poisoned chalice by her predecessor, and was no worse than her Tory colleagues, found it difficult to justify her policy positions. Her last days as leader were spent having to endure listening to Donald Trump telling her who should run the UK and how.

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Going Dutch?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jun 7th, 2019 at 10:26:49 PM EST

Unlike the low key, almost private, visit of Donald Trump to Ireland this week, Dutch King Willem-Alexander is being afforded the full formalities of a state visit next week. Accompanied by the Dutch foreign and trade ministers and a trade delegation, the subtext is the preparations both countries are making for Brexit.

Mark Paul has produced an excellent preview for the Irish Times

A few years ago, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who occasionally used to moonlight for fun as a pilot for the Dutch airline KLM, bumped into the Ryanair chief executive, Michael O'Leary, at a conference.

O'Leary was characteristically bombastic and facetiously invited the royal to work for Ryanair instead. It isn't hard to imagine O'Leary smirking in self-admiration at his temerity in wiping the eye of a monarch in a slagging match.

Ryanair subsequently became embroiled in a damaging industrial relations war with many of its pilots, leading to strikes in some countries before a peace deal was struck last year. Its difficulties were compounded at one stage by a staff scheduling crisis that forced Ryanair to cancel thousands of flights.

For a time, O'Leary's well-won reputation as an aviation genius lay in tatters. Sensing an opportunity to get his own back, the Dutch king sat down at his computer and composed an email to O'Leary, asking him if he was still looking for pilots. By some accounts, the Ryanair boss struggled to see the funny side.

Read more... (28 comments, 747 words in story)

Trump's triumphant trolloping tirades

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jun 5th, 2019 at 10:25:29 AM EST

I have a policy on not writing on stuff I have already seen better portrayed elsewhere, which makes Kathy Sheridan's piece on Trump's visit to England a hard act to follow... Coming from a small country well used to humiliations by the greater powers around us, there is not a small amount of schadenfreude associated with seeing the UK similarly abused. One wonders where exactly "taking back control" morphed into becoming a Trump vassal state, with Buckingham Palace used as a helipad for the US embassy and venue for a Trump family Downton Abbey themed holiday adventure.

The policy content of the visit seems to have been confined to telling the Brits who should become their next Prime Minister (Boris Johnson), who should lead their next Brexit negotiations (Nigel Farage), insulting his host, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, as a "stone cold loser", and telling the British that the promised terrific trade deal with the US would require opening up the NHS to US private venture capital takeover, and the UK food chain to US chlorinated chickens. Can you imagine the Brexiteer outrage had Juncker even hinted at such things?

Even Sky's Promo for the visit (20 seconds) depicts an alien spaceship as a hostile invader casting a dark shadow over Britain, even over the Queen, and then turns out to be nothing more than Trump's blimp. Someone in Murdoch's empire is sure to get sacked. The Brits are very good at laughing at themselves but many won't know whether to laugh or cry at what Brexit Britain has become. Still, with Trump also due to visit Ireland, they may be laughing at others soon enough. Apparently Leo Varadker refused to meet Trump at his Doonbeg golf resort where a dinner in Trump's honour was held last night attended by the Irish Ambassador to the US, Dan Mulhall, and the government's special envoy to the US, Fine Gael back bench TD John Deasy.

A State Banquet it was not. President Michael D. Higgins was otherwise engaged criticising Trump's "regressive and pernicious decision to leave the global Paris Agreement" and stating that those at risk of exclusion from society were "being abandoned to become the prey of xenophobes, homophobes and racists." Could there have been a message for Trump in there somewhere?

Comments >> (24 comments)

Irish European and Local Election results

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 29th, 2019 at 11:57:40 PM EST

Counting in the Irish European Elections has been completed although there is a re-count in Ireland South where only 327 votes separate the final two candidates with almost 100,000 votes apiece (scroll right to view all the count totals up to count 18). Overall the election is a triumph for the Greens and Fine Gael (EPP) who increased their share of the first preference vote at the expense of Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail (ALDE).

In Northern Ireland a surge in the centrist and non-sectarian Alliance Party vote meant that they gained a seat at the expense of the Official Unionist Party. Ireland doesn't seem to be following the European trend towards fragmentation of the party system and a growth (in some countries) of the far right.

Read more... (5 comments, 1014 words in story)

British European Election results

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 27th, 2019 at 12:58:55 PM EST

Despite furious attempts to portray the vote as an endorsement of a hard no deal Brexit, the results actually support the thesis that there has been a significant shift to Remain.

The Brexit party's gain of 31.6% of the vote does not make up for the combined losses of other Leave parties of 50.3% of the vote, made up of UKIP (-24.2%), Conservatives (-14.8%), and Labour (- 11.3%); a total loss of 50.3% of the vote and a net loss for Leave of 18.7% of the vote. Even if you leave Labour out of the equation, unambiguously Leave supporting parties lost a net 7.4% of the vote.

Remain parties, on the other hand, gained a total of +22.4% of the vote, made up of Lib Dems (+13.4%), Greens (+4.2%), SNP (+1.1%) Plaid Cymru (+0.3%) and Change UK (+3.4%).

Translated into seats, this means that the Brexit party gained 29 seats, whereas UKIP (- 24), Conservatives (-15) and Labour (-10) lost a combined 49 seats for a net loss for Leave of 20 seats. Remain Parties, on the other hand, gained 20 seats: Lib Dems (+15) Greens (+4) and SNP (+1).

And that is before you consider the virtually certain gain of a seat by the Remain supporting Alliance Party in N. Ireland at the expense of the Ulster Unionists.

Disgracefully the BBC declared the Remain/Leave contest within the election a draw. But then their Polling expert psephologist Professor John Curtice was awarded a knighthood by Theresa May.

Comments >> (24 comments)

Counting In Irish Local and European Elections.

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 25th, 2019 at 12:10:10 PM EST

Counting has begun in the Irish Local and European elections. Some exit polling data is also in. A constitutional amendment to liberalize further Ireland's divorce laws looks set to be carried by an overwhelming 87% to 12% if the exit polling data is to be believed.

The government has indicated that it will use this Constitutional Amendment liberalization to legislate for the automatic recognition of foreign divorces and the reduction of the waiting period for a divorce application to succeed from four years to two years of separation.

The early indications are for a surge in the Green Party vote, a near humiliation for the anti-emigration candidate, Peter Casey, in the European elections, and a disappointing performance for Leo Varadker's ruling Fine Gael Party (relative to earlier opinion polls). More left wing candidates and parties have generally performed well - though not the establishment Labour Party.

Overall, therefore, it looks like Ireland is continuing its liberalizing trend, in sharp contrast to the right wing nationalist trends in the UK and in some other parts of Europe. I will update this story as more results and hard data comes in...

Read more... (12 comments, 1012 words in story)

May is not the only Leader who needs to go...

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 24th, 2019 at 09:17:51 PM EST

Back in September 2018 I wrote in Theresa May: Dead Women Walking?:

Nothing undermines a leader more than having important members of their own side align themselves with the opposition: First Donald Trump rather pointedly remarked that Boris Johnson would make a great Prime Minister. Then Boris Johnson chips in that Theresa May's Chequers proposals represent the white flag of surrender. Now Rees-Mogg praises Barnier for his charm and remarked that Barnier and Brexiteers are agreed that Theresa May's Chequers proposals are "absolute rubbish."

How is the poor woman supposed to conduct a negotiation when her own side give such aid and comfort to the enemy? In a normal democracy, Johnson and Rees-Mogg would be excoriated for betraying their own side. But it seems anything goes when it comes to attacking Theresa May. She is the fall girl for a negotiation they are determined to see fail.

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Europe Elects - Results

by Oui Thu May 23rd, 2019 at 07:51:17 PM EST

Complete surprise result in Dutch exit poll - LABOUR WINS - PvdA

>> See Update Dutch results below in posted comment. <<

The loss of three seats for PVV - Geert Wilders - go to new rightwing party Forum for Democracy - Thierry Baudet.

The last poll was completely off target – here.

More below the fold …

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Corbyn failing the test?

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 17th, 2019 at 02:39:44 PM EST

In a kindness to all concerned, Jeremy Corbyn has finally put an end to the the Conservative Labour talks aimed at finding a common solution to the parliamentary impasse on Brexit.  Everyone knew that both sides were simply playing for time, but it would have been farcical to continue after Theresa May had announced that her premiership was nearing its end.

Nevertheless his letter to her calling time on their joint efforts showed considerable more class than did her riposte. He thanked those involved in the talks for their detailed, constructive, and good faith efforts but said that the remaining differences between the parties combined with the instability of the government had made it impossible for them to succeed. For her part, May blamed divisions in Labour over a second referendum for the breakdown.

The reality is that Labour had offered her a lifeline to continue in office past the local and European elections, and if she really wanted a deal she could have had one. It would have meant compromising on her objections to a continued close relationship with the Customs Union and Single Market, and, in all probability, a second referendum to validate the deal. Without that there is no way Labour could be sure the next Tory PM would deliver on the deal.

Read more... (68 comments, 1288 words in story)

Imminent: Trump's War In Persian Gulf Region

by Oui Wed May 15th, 2019 at 11:39:01 AM EST

As I have written in my recent diary about signs of war preparation beyond the typical warmongering of the neocons in the White House and on that shining hill in Washington DC ...

Pompeo Cancels Berlin Visit .. Flies East Out of Moscow

The U.S. won't shun using the "tiny" nuclear bombs to impress other nations of the (al)might of the Pentagon and U.S. military prowess. Donald Trump is set out on a course to perform "better" than any previous American president in history. Carter got bogged down in the Iranian desert with a failed rescue attempt of hostages. Reagan got clobbered in Southern Lebanon and suffered great losses. Clinton was a fool who couldn't keep his zipper up. Bush and Obama made flawed decisions to expand wars beyond a theater the Pentagon and its global allies could handle. Terror has expanded a hundredfold across the globe.

The European Union was founded on a premise of peace between nations. The enemy is inside one's self, there is no reason to start a new global war on any scale. The Persian theater has been and will be a grave of innocents led into war by megalomaniacs.

More below the fold ...

Front paged - Frank Schnittger

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Britain wants its troops to commit war crimes

by IdiotSavant Wed May 15th, 2019 at 03:35:07 AM EST

That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from its "vow" to introduce an amnesty for crimes committed by soldiers and to derogate from the ECHR:

The new defence secretary has promised to introduce an amnesty on historical prosecutions for military veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else around the world - with the exception of Northern Ireland.

Penny Mordaunt will consult on proposals for a presumption against prosecution for offences committed more than 10 years ago and will say she supports plans to opt out of the European convention on human rights (ECHR) in future armed conflicts.

But the minister risks courting conflict with some on the right of her party, who want Northern Ireland to be included within any amnesty, following the prosecution of a former paratrooper for the murder of two people on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

Front paged - Frank Schnittger

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RIP Booman.com

by Frank Schnittger Sun May 5th, 2019 at 07:38:23 PM EST

Martin Longman has decided to turn his community blogging site (Booman.com) into a commercial subscription site as a vehicle for his own writings and political ambitions. Comments will still be possible but even paying subscribers will no longer be able to publish their own diaries. Renamed Progress Pond, it looks much more up to date, but then again it looks very much like most other political and news sites on the web.

From a personal point of view it is a tragedy because I used to cross-post most of my diaries there, and often got as much of a response to them there as I do here. It helped me to keep in touch with a distinct US blogging community, and I liked to think I helped to keep them in touch with European affairs as well. With Trump at the helm the US is growing ever more distant from European sensibilities, and it doesn't help if blogging communities lose touch with each other as well.

Read more... (16 comments, 602 words in story)

Corbyn's Moment of Truth

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 4th, 2019 at 10:57:34 AM EST

Long after the scale of the Conservative defeat in the 2019 Local elections had become clear the BBC was still running with the headline that the elections were a disaster for the major parties and that the Conservatives and Labour had "lost hundred of seats". The reality is that the Conservatives lost 1,334 seats and Labour just 82 compared to the 2015 results.

But there is a sense in which the BBC has (perhaps inadvertently) actually got it right. In 2015 the local elections had been run in parallel with the general election in which Cameron had won an unexpected overall majority. So the Labour performance is actually slightly worse than on a day in 2015 when the Tories won an overall majority and unleashed the joys of untrammelled Conservative rule (including the Brexit referendum) on the nation.

Read more... (19 comments, 1632 words in story)

UK Local Election Results [Update 5]

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 3rd, 2019 at 04:59:06 AM EST

The UK Local Council elections took place yesterday and the votes are currently being counted. The elections took place in much of England and all of N. Ireland but not in Scotland, Wales, London and smaller parts of England. Turnout has been quite low, in the 30-40% range, but this is normal for local elections if they are held on their own. The last major Local elections were held in 2015 at the same time as the general election of that year.

Despite the growing disparity between the performance of the Conservatives and Labour, the BBC is still headlining its Election report by saying "the Conservatives and Labour have lost hundreds of seats"... The Conservatives and UKIP, the leave supporting parties have lost a combined 1,500 seats, while the Lib Dems and Greens, Remain supporters, have gained 900. And yet Corbyn and May think the elections represent a mandate to complete Brexit.

With 100% of the votes counted, the main trend is that pro-Remain Lib Dems and Greens are gaining a lot of seats at the expense of the Pro-Leave Conservatives and UKIP parties. The Conservatives have lost 1,334 seats. Labour, which has tried to have it both ways, has ended up treading water and losing 82 seats and control of some councils. The other major trend has been a big gain for independent candidates at the expense of the major incumbent parties - usually the Conservatives, but sometimes Labour as well.

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The Jewish State and the Holocaust

by Oui Thu May 2nd, 2019 at 12:17:18 PM EST

All wars of choice are horrible episodes in terms of human suffering and devastation of lives lost.

The 20th century was one of the ugliest with many genocides and the first unleashing of massive destruction by use of the atom bomb.

The European Union was founded on the principle of the Four Freedoms and to build a union of peace, not accepting devastation of war. In the new century, the lessons of history seem to be lost as the production and spread of arms is seen as economic well being. I strongly disagree ... and will resist thru my writing and voice at the ballot box.

Raphael Lemkin (June 24, 1900-August 28, 1959) was a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent. Before World War II, Lemkin was interested in the Armenian genocide and campaigned in the League of Nations to ban what he called 'barbarity' and 'vandalism.' He is best known for his work against genocide, a word he coined in 1943 from the root words genos (Greek for 'family,' 'tribe,' or 'race') and -cide (Latin for 'killing'). He first used the word in print in Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation - Analysis of Government - Proposals for Redress (1944)

More below the fold ...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Brexit Revisited

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 30th, 2019 at 07:48:52 PM EST

Many people will no doubt be pleased that Brexit has been removed from the headlines, even if only by a tragedy like the Sri Lanka bombings or the attempted Venezuelan Coup . But as they used to say about the IRA, it hasn't gone away, you know!

In truth, not a lot has been happening, despite Donald Tusk's injunction to the UK not to waste the time it has been granted by the extension of the Brexit deadline to the end of October.

The May government has seemed like the rabbit stuck in the proverbial headlights, unable to decide which way to go as the onrushing car approaches. MP's were glad of the Easter recess, only to find on their return that not much has changed...

But has it?

Read more... (16 comments, 826 words in story)

Guilty, as charged

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 30th, 2019 at 03:36:45 PM EST

An edited and truncated version of my letter to the Editor was published by the Irish Independent as it's featured and highlighted letter last Saturday, much to my surprise. It was an early draft of a very long letter which I feel I improved substantially (following Bernard's comment) in my subsequent letter to the Editor of the Spectator. I only discovered it on Monday.

Today The Irish Independent has published a riposte in which I am accused of lacking "balance" in my critique of the Spectator. In particular, I am accused of failing to mention "the importance of Jesus and his resurrection" in my critique. Little matter that I was writing specifically about The Spectator's apparent anti-Irish bias (as noted by the Irish Ambassador to the UK), and more specifically its demonisation of Leo Varadkar.

Today's featured Letter reads as follows:

I read what I felt was an unbalanced view of the special Easter edition of the 'Spectator' in the Irish Independent (Letters, April 27) by Frank Schnittger.

He fails to mention the Easter edition contains six pages devoted to the importance of Jesus and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.  The editorial has as its central theme the fact that "Christianity is dying and traditional belief is dismissed as embarrassing superstition by the secular states of the west".

There is a two-page article by a young British actor under the title of 'Way of the Cross'. The central theme as a byline to the heading is 'Without Christ we would not have western values'. Charles Moore in his weekly 'Spectator' notes devotes his full page to an evaluation of the four Gospels of the New Testament, summarising the powerful message as it "bridges the chasm between God and man" and explains divine love.

The commissioning editor Mary Wakefield has an article headed 'The true cross'. In it she describes the dying of a 93-year-old friend who was not very religious, but his final week in which he stuck to his resolve and sank from consciousness made her, although she was a Catholic, begin to understand Easter and the passion of Christ for the first time.

As far as the article by Liam Halligan, he was invited by the Irish Government in 2012 to join the Global Irish Network - a high-level advisory board of Irish nationals living outside the island of Ireland. Don't blame the 'Spectator' for his views, as the Irish Government appointed him aware of his journalistic views.

Hugh Duffy

Cleggan, Co Galway

Clearly, I am guilty as charged.

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Socialists win Spanish General Election [Updated]

by Frank Schnittger Sun Apr 28th, 2019 at 08:05:23 PM EST

{Updated} The Spanish Socialist government has won the general election with 123 seats (+38) in the Congress of Deputies, and an overall majority of 139 seats out of a total 265 seats in the less powerful Senate.

Congress of Deputies poll results and change since 2016 elections.

The main winners are the outgoing Socialist government (+6%) and the new far right Vox party (+10%). The major losers are the corruption scandal hit Partido Popular [-17%] and Podemos [-5%]. Outgoing Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez is expected to form the next Government probably with Podemos and perhaps some other regional party support. 176 seats are required for an overall majority in the 350 seat chamber.

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Spectating on Ireland and other pet hates

by Frank Schnittger Thu Apr 25th, 2019 at 10:32:52 PM EST

In my more idle moments, and purely as a service to you, dear readers, I sometimes spend some time perusing the online editions of right-wing UK publications such as the Telegraph and The Spectator. There you will live in an alternative factual universe, where poor Britain is set upon by an evil EU, and worse still, is betrayed by its supposed allies.

Chief culprit, these days, seems to be the Republic of Ireland, which has been set upon an anti-British course by its demonic leader Leo Varadker. "Little Leo" (who stands 1.94 metres tall), stands accused of "do[ing] anything to suck up to the top gang in the EU playground..." and giving a "calculated two fingers to Brexit Britain" by applying for observer status at the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie rather than rejoining the British Commonwealth.

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Sheela na gig

by Frank Schnittger Mon Apr 22nd, 2019 at 05:04:22 PM EST

The inclusion of often sexually explicit iconography in the architecture of ancient churches, cathedrals, castles and public buildings has often struck me as odd, given the predominance of the puritan paradigm in so much of religion today. The grotesques, chimeras and gargoyles of Notre Dame are variously supposed to have been intended to ward off evil spirits, with gargoyles also fulfilling the practical function of redirecting rainwater away from the stone masonry to reduce the erosion of the mortar from the walls.

However the Sheela na gigs, found over much of Europe, but most frequently in Ireland, were often sexually explicit mostly female figures whose purpose is the subject of some dispute. Various hypotheses have been put forward ranging from that they represent the survival of a pre-Christian pagan goddess, a fertility figure, a warning against lust, or a more general protection against evil.

More recently some feminists have re-interpreted the imagery of Sheela Na Gigs as portraying a more positive, empowering view of female sexuality and adopted it as a symbol of Irish feminism. However it is open to question whether this has more to do with present day cultural and political concerns rather than what they were meant to portray in their own time and culture.

Perhaps there is no unifying theory of what they were meant to represent in a lot of different and often localised historical contexts. Perhaps some artists and stone masons were just having a little fun right under the noses of their clerical and civic overlords: An imaginative rebellion against the stultifying orthodoxy of authoritarian religion. Perhaps they were intended to allow us to project our own fantasies onto them so that they can mean different things to different people at different times.

Your fantasies are welcome...

Read more... (57 comments, 409 words in story)
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