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Wednesday, 14 November


ALDE Resolution on Saudi Arabia Jonathan Fryer

This is the text of the Saudi Arabia resolution, drafted by Prof. Paul Reynolds, which I successfully moved on behalf of the UK Liberal Democrats at the ALDE Party Congress in Madrid at the weekend:

Jamal Khashoggi

On Saudi Arabia

The Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Party convening in Madrid, Spain, on 8-10 of November 2018:
Having regard to:
the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the 1966
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the UN Convention
against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment; the Arab Charter on Human Rights, ratified by Saudi
Arabia in 2009.
the continuing air attacks by Saudi Arabia that included the use of
banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed
the role of Saudi Arabia in supporting barbaric militias in Syria and Iraq;
and the Saudi led blockade of Qatar;
authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious
international concerns have repeatedly been raised about access to
justice, womens rights, and restrictions on freedom of expression,
freedom of assembly, and freed...


The cabinet line holds but the DUP are poised to vote against the government Slugger O'Toole

For the cabinet, crunch time hasnt been formally reached but it all seems over bar the shouting. Significant resignations are unlikely. After a progress report to the cabinet this morning, the old Remainer David Lidington says agreement is within touching distance while the younger Leaver Brexit secretary Dominic Raaab repeats the mantra of good progress. Raab had been reported as a possible cabinet quitter. Boris for once, sounds plausible:    No one is fooled by this theatre. Delay after stage managed delay. Meanwhile the government are facing defeat in the Commons this afternoon over a vote to force them to break precedent and publish the Attorney Generals full advice on the PMs withdrawal proposals.  The DUP  are said to be ready to oppose them for the first time on a Brexit vote, but the government may avoid a vote, back down and publish and be damned.

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, is opening the debate for Labour. Nigel Doddsthe DUP leader at Westminster, asks Starmer to confirm that paragaph 50 of that report said there should be no new regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain without the approval of the Northern Ireland assembly. Starmer accepts that.

Starmer says this issue remains unresolved. He is not pretending it is easy, he says. But he says we keep being told a deal is near, only to be told it is not ready.

UTVs Tracey Magee tweets that DUP sources say their MPs will vote in support of todays Labour motion calling for the publication of the legal advice on Brexit including the backstop. The party has previously called for the advice to be made public.

Kate Hooey, reared at Mallusk on a pig farm just beyond the northern edge of Belfast, a passionate unionist and yet a Labour MP, has written a diatribe against the EU and the Irish government which has fascinating details about a fishing dispute  in it. Experts will know all about it but why has she left it so late to make the overall case? It all goes to show that the devil is in the detail. While for me, its always been clear than any deal will be worse than what we have now, there was plenty wrong with EU regulations and the common fisheries policy was one of them. Better though to have fought for change inside the EU house  than shouting over the wall outside. It would be wrong to elevate fishing as another  breakpoint in the  negotiations. Michael Gove, a Scottish fish processors son, is using fishing rights reform to try to make Brexit more appealing in pro- Remain Scotland.

Extracts from Kate Hooeys article  

The Irish government, in cahoots with the EU, h...

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Tuesday, 13 November


Expanding the map: how funders can ensure quality work for all openDemocracy

Philanthropy can have blind spots and red lines. We must resist the temptation to sidestep difficult issues when it comes to workers rights. 

Wood factory in Viet Nam. Aaron Santos for ILO/Flickr. (cc by-nc-nd)

On 8 October 2018 we published the BTS Round Table on the Future of Work, in which 12 experts explain recent changes to the nature of work and offer new ideas in labour policy, organising, and activism. This piece has been written in response.

As a funder working at the intersection of human trafficking and workers rights, I greatly value the landscape analysis and call for collaboration found the new report Quality Work Worldwide, recently released by the Ford Foundation and SAGE Fund. As another funder recently reflected, it is especially helpful as a directional map which identifies specific sites for improving the quality of work globally. Equally importantly, it also includes an analysis of specific barriers which can be anticipated, such as investors short horizon on profits and lack of global governance, when it comes to changing the direction of our global economy.

While both funders and NGOs can benefit greatly from this map, there are still some uncharted areas.  In this piece, I identify two additional themes that merit further consideration:

Recognise sex work in the analysis

When we talk about informal work, we too often leave out the sex industry. Like many within society, funders can turn away from sex workers. Because of criminalisation and stigma, even labour rights funders often forget about this large sector, or gravitate towards more palatable causes.

Sex workers have been in conditions of precarity long before recent shifts in the economy made headlines. Operating in a hostile environment and without any of the benefits attached to legal employment, sex workers have nevertheless...


Funding the future of work means addressing gaps in the present of work openDemocracy

Investing in frontline communities builds resilience and increases opportunities for non-exploitative work.

Rug-making in Mongolia. Byamba-ochir Byambasuren for ILO/Flickr. (cc by-nc-nd)

On 8 October 2018 we published the BTS Round Table on the Future of Work, in which 12 experts explain recent changes to the nature of work and offer new ideas in labour policy, organising, and activism. This piece has been written in response.

Our economic globalisation has raised hundreds of millions out of abject poverty. It has also left far too many with far too little. The global labour market teems with workers seeking employment to lift their lives beyond subsistence, yet the contexts in which they search for work make them highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The predatory and pernicious side of economic globalisation thrives on an endless supply of fragmented, marginalised and invisible labour. No sector is immune to this reality because it is a hallmark of our market system. Its a design feature of the global economy, but it need not be.

The statement by the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundation and Sage Fund properly underscores the challenges presented by our current economic paradigm and draws attention to the various levers that drive and reinforce inequalities. Helpfully, the statement also articulates opportunity areas that are primed to address the design feature mentioned above.

The Freedom Fund supports work across these opportunity areas. Working towards our mission to end modern slavery, we have a front-row seat to the emergence of powerful solutions for ensuring fairness, equity, and justice for all workers.

In Thailand, we work in the seafood sector where labour abuses, including forced and bonded labour, are rife. Migrant workers in the seafood sector scour the seas on fishing vessels for weeks at a time, catching the seafood served in restaurants and sold by retailers across the world. These workers have no bargain...


#Remembrance in Ireland: we dont need meaningless gestures from the restlessly unwilling Slugger O'Toole

Perhaps its just me, but I dont detect as much of a poppy controversy as in previous years. That may be that because being the 100th anniversary, a significant emphasis this year has been where perhaps it always should have, ie the wars end.

Widen the lens and youll see that the poppy was the invention of an American woman inspired by a Canadian soldiers poem. Her idea was for the artificial poppies to be manufactured in France by women, for the benefit of children.

Still, 100 years after the end of that war, and 96 after partition, Remembrance is complicated in Ireland. But at the weekend, the historian Diarmaid Ferriter had an educated crack at untangling some of its primary threads

Thousands of Irish family histories are haunted by the war and it continues to provoke strong sentiment because of its horrendous scale and the ways it is memorialised, but there is also a greater appreciation now that the memory and sense of it is ill-served by the reduction of a multitude of personal experiences into neat parcels of affiliation or motivation.

Or to put it a slightly different way it is not Britain that Remembrance means in Ireland, but men and women who believed they were fighting for Ireland as it was in 1914. That inveterate bridge builder, Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan who commissioned the Irish poppy  has said:

there was no conscription on the island of Ireland, so all those soldiers chose to fight, around one in seven men of service age enlisted voluntarily.

The thousands of Irish people who fought and died in World War I were shop workers, farm labourers, brothers, sons and daughters. They came from every city, town, village and townland across the island of Ireland.

Soldiers signed up for different reasons, including financial necessity, out of a sense of adventure, or importantly in an effort to secure the long-awaited Home Rule Bill for Ireland.

As Ferriter notes, there was not the enmity in the 1920s that is often imagined between WWI veterans and those of the Irish revolution

Many nationalists in the 1920s, for example, did not object to remembrance but what they regarded as its hijacking. In 1927, leading figures in the new Fianna Fil party spoke at a protest at College Green in Dublin to object to what Sen Lemass referred to as remembrance gatherings that...


Could integration help Ukraines Roma? openDemocracy

In Ukraine, civil society campaigners are trying to stop discrimination against Roma communities by helping them organise and integrate. RU

Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.Since the beginning of 2018, there have been five attacks on temporary Roma settlements in Ukraine. After people arrived in Kyiv, Ternopil and Lviv areas for seasonal work from other areas of the country, mostly Zakarpattya in the southwest, nationalist extremist groups evicted Roma from their camps, setting fire to tents and household goods. These far-right groups were angered by the fact that Roma set up camp in parks and wooded areas, while the police did nothing about it.

In most cases, the attackers were charged merely with hooliganism, although the additional charge of infringement of the equal rights of citizens in connection with their racial or ethnic origin or religious identity was added in relation to attacks in Kyiv and Lviv after pressure from activists. In the most recent attack, in the Lviv area, a 24-year-old man, David Pap, was murdered, and four more were injured.

Civil society remained unsatisfied with Ukrainian law enforcements reaction on the attacks against Roma settlements. Attacks on Roma arent only offences under the criminal charges of hooliganism, murder and infringement of equality. This kind of persecution contravenes Article 24 of Ukraines Constitution, which states that there can be no privileges or restrictions on grounds of race, colour of skin, political, religious or other principles, gender, ethnic or social background, material position, place of residence, language or any other factor.

Its not, however, easy to investigate attacks on Roma as racially-motivated offences. While the government and law enforcement have no particular position on th...


Theresa is still stuck at deadlock with the cabinet Slugger O'Toole

If the Tory press is to be believed, Theresa May is now refusing to be bounced into the early deal the EU has almost ready and waiting for her to sign apart from the finicky wee detail of the backstop. Sunday night and Mondays mornings late negotiating session in Brussels  failed to clinch it. Its politics not policy now thats holding it up, meaning the massed ranks of her critics from left and right including the DUP. Even so, having got so far from a position of almost unique weakness has been a stunning exercise of prime ministerial pull.  Another way of putting it is that the divided cabinet is still failing the bite the bullet or fire it at her. After huffing and puffing before the cameras, the sceptics will acquiesce by the end of the week. Or else quit? Probably not, they may calculate.  Blame that on the EU negotiators or the Commons vote on the withdrawal deal. And then the dam may burst. Laura Kuennesbergs assessment is well-informed:

  Why does Number 10 believe there could suddenly be a better answer to the same set of problems? As one former minister said, two plus two is not suddenly going to equal five.

And at the top table there seems to be growing appetite for a change of approach. Three different members of the Cabinet have told the BBC that the PM has to ditch her plan. Carrying on like this, they suggest, is simply banging their collective heads against the same brick wall, because it will never get through Parliament.

Some of them are even suggesting that the prime minister should consider walking away from the talks. One of them told me: The raw truth is there is a gap between what we can accept and what the EU is offering.

She needs to change the dynamic and only the prime minister can do that. That might mean walking away, or saying this is our best and final offer.

Another said: She needs to say that there wont be a deal in order for them to move she needs to play hardball.

Another senior minister said there is no political logic in carrying on with something that has a cats chance in hell of getting through Parliament, calling for her to pivot.

Is it realistic to imagine that she might change tack?

Well, certainly its not straightforward after more than two years of deliberations.

Is it likely? Theresa May is not the kind of politician who does much on impulse.

And a senior member of the government told me recently it was crazy to think the prime minister could change tack at this late stage.

William Hague ex- foreign secretary asks in his Telegraph column...


Lets play shuffle the Granny! The absurdity of our health service waiting lists Slugger O'Toole

Good report by Seann Graham in todays Irish News on the surreal situation of patients going abroad for surgery. Essentially a patient can pay to get treated in another European country and the health service will reimburse them the cost when they come home. With waiting lists up to 4 or 5 years for operations like hip replacements many patients are taking this approach, and who could blame them. From the article:

A SPIKE in the number of patients travelling across Europe for operations due to Northern Irelands dire waiting lists has cost the health service almost 1.5m in a last resort scheme under threat from Brexit. Desperate pensioners facing five-year delays for hip replacements in the norths hospitals are among those getting loans of up to 10,000 to fly to Lithuania and other parts of eastern Europe for cut-price surgery.

Figures obtained by The Irish News shows a huge rise in the number of applications to the EU scheme which was introduced four years ago and allows patients to pay upfront and then be reimbursed by the NHS. Just 14 people used the little-known initiative in its first year but as the norths waiting lists rocketed and publicity around the EU Cross Border Directive increased, application numbers surged to more than 700 in the past year.

A total of 1,007 people were approved by the norths Health and Social Care Board since 2014 with 1,536,234 paid out to 416 patients. Not everyone who successfully applies decides to proceed with treatment, a board spokeswoman said. Private hospitals in Dublin are currently running newspaper advertisements urging patients to apply for the scheme, warning that time is running out with Brexit looming.

Now in some respects, this scheme is a good thing if it gets people the operations they need. But where it gets surreal is when you find out that Kerry pensioners are coming up to Belfast for hip and knee replacements to avoid a four-year wait in the Republics Health system. From The Journal:

DEPUTY MICHAEL HEALY-RAE is booking buses to take people from Kerry to Belfast for hip and knee replacements because they are waiting between three to four years for the operations in Kerry.

Tomorrow, 14 people awaiting cataract surgery will make the six-hour journey from Kerry to Belfast, joining 2,234 Irish patients who have had to travel outside of the State for healthcare in 2018.

In our hospital here in Kerry we have not done an operation on a hip or a knee since June, said Healy-Rae.

It is ridiculous to think th...

Monday, 12 November


Brexit (and Boris) torpedoed openDemocracy

The battle of Brexit has finally been joined as Boris Johnson is blown out of the water by his own brother.

Jo Johnson's surprise resignation over Theresa May's Brexit plans have been criticised by his brother, Boris. Image: PA Images.When the Argentinian dictatorship of General Galtieri seized the Falkland Islands, known to them as the Malvinas, in 1982, Parliament echoed with the rage of wounded, Anglo-British patriotism. It endorsed the dispatch of a task force to ensure Britains claim. As the ships sailed across the equator the balance of public opinion opposed the use of force. Then, Thatcher ordered HMS Conqueror to torpedo the antiquated Argentinian battleship Belgrano. The nuclear-powered submarine sunk its target. Over 300 of its crew drowned in the South Atlantic. The ruthless display ensured war would follow. Opinion swung decisively behind the Prime Minister. While some of his soldiers and pilots fought hard, Galtieri's bravado display of puffed up aggrandisement collapsed, humiliated by an utter lack of preparedness for a real battle.

Today, it is the Generalissimo of Brexitannia, Boris Johnson, who has been torpedoed. After two long years of preparation the battle of Brexit has finally been joined by a well-aimed, perfectly executed strike which has holed the Leave campaign that he led below the water line. The torpedo was the stunning resignation statement of his younger brother Jo Johnson MP. Johnson junior was Theresa Mays loyal Minister of Transport. Now, he has pulled out of the government denouncing its negotiations with the EU as a catastrophe of statecraft while clinically skewering his brothers braggadocio. He has pledged to vote against the prime ministers deal with the EU should it reach the House of Commons, where its defeat is now likely. He has called for a Peoples Vote instead, to endorse remaining in the European Union.

Johnson junior was a Remainer, like all sensible ruling class conservatives including the prime minister, and he backed her attempt to deliver a Brexit that works. But the prime minister could not escape its contradictions. As I...


Kyrgyzstan survives on money made by migrant workers, but it doesnt know how to spend it openDemocracy

No country in the world is as dependent on remittances as Kyrgyzstan. But this money is often used by families to survive, and allows the state to avoid its obligations to its citizens. 

Illustration: Daria Udalova.

This article was originally published on Kloop, a Kyrgyz investigative website. We translate it here with their permission.

Altynai, 24, doesnt know what she will do if her parents stop sending money from Russia. Shell be in a hopeless situation without those 20,000 soms (220) a month this money is her only way of surviving. For the past three years, Altynai (name changed) has been living with her grandmother, whose pension isnt enough to buy anything.

She says that residents of her village in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan frequently leave to work abroad. Theres never enough jobs here in Leylek district, which is bordered by Tajikistan on three sides. There are no new enterprises being opened. Most people work for low wages in state institutions.

Indeed, over the past decade, more and more people have been leaving Kyrgyzstan to work abroad. In Russia alone, there are more than 800,000 Kyrgyz citizens on the migration register. Most of them come to work. In 2017, they made money transfers to Kyrgyzstan totalling $2.5 billion which was more than the total state annual expenditure.  


Get your tickets for the Slugger End of Year Review 2018 Wed 19th Dec 2018 Slugger O'Toole

Now firmly established as a Christmas Tradition, join us as we look back on the year in politics with the Cinderella and widow Twankey of local commentators Allison Morris and Alex Kane.

Our good friend, comedian Tim McGarry will get everyone into the mood when it comes to our politics if you dont laugh you will cry. Your host for the evening will be the best thing to come out of Lisburn since Coca-Cola, Alan Meban. The event is sponsored by MCE Public Relations.

Location: The Dark Horse Bar, Belfast (this venue is wheelchair friendly).

Date: Wednesday 19th December 2018

Time: Doors open 6:45, show starts 7:15pm.

This event always sells out so grab your tickets now or you are not going.

Slugger does not get any funding. This is a fundraising night to keep Slugger Lit into 2019!

We are sold out! If you want to go on the reserve list email


Mental health and artificial intelligence: losing your voice openDemocracy

While we still can, let us ask, "Will AI exacerbate discrimination?" as the productive forces of mental health are restructured within a techno-psychiatric complex. Poem.


Sketch,2018. Flickr/Whinger. Some rights reserved.

'You sound a bit depressed' we might say to a friend,
Not only because of what they say but how they say it.
Perhaps their speech is duller than usual, tailing off between words,
Lacking their usual lively intonation.

There are many ways to boil a voice down into data points;
Low-level spectral features, computed from snippets as short as twenty milliseconds
That quantify the dynamism of amplitude, frequency and energy,
And those longer range syllabic aspects that human ears are tuned to,
Such as pitch and intensity.

A voice distilled into data
Becomes the training material for machine learning algorithms,
And there are many efforts being made to teach machines
To deduce our mental states from voice analysis.

The bet is that the voice is a source of biomarkers,
Distinctive data features that correlate to health conditions,
Especially the emergence of mental health problems
Such as depression, PTSD, Alzheimers and others.

And of course there's the words themselves;
We've already trained machines to recognise them.
Thanks to the deep neural network method called Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM)
We can command our digital assistants to buy something on Amazon.

Rules-based modelling never captured the complexity of speech,
But give neural networks enough examples,
They will learn to parrot and predict any complex patte...


Why drug policy is a feminist issue openDemocracy

Like feminism, harm reduction is a philosophy that encourages us to do away with the false distinction between good and bad women.

A spokesperson from the Legalise Cannabis Society, UK, 2003. A spokesperson from the Legalise Cannabis Society, UK, 2003. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved. People who use drugs face widespread stigma and criminalisation. This is well-known. But drug policy discussions often centre on men. The experiences of women, trans and gender non-conforming people who use drugs are ignored and silenced though they face particular challenges accessing care and the gendered stigma of being perceived as unfit parents and fallen women.

In May, I participated in a meeting that AWID (Association for Womens Rights in Development) co-organised in Berlin with feminists and women who use drugs from across eastern Europe and Central Asia. We carried very different experiences and backgrounds, but had a common purpose: to learn from one another and connect the dots between drug policy and feminism in the region.

Women shared their experiences with using drugs including shaming and violence from doctors, sexual violence, criminalisation and stigma within their communities. We looked at how feminism could help push for responses centred on their unique experiences. Three days and many conversations later, I was convinced that drug policy was a feminist issue.

Feminism calls on us to see the specific experiences of all women, including women who use drugs. Women face particular challenges...


The moment of truth may really be very close but what truth? Slugger O'Toole

All we can do it count heads and count down, for the cabinet to take a decision or non-decision on Theresa Mays negotiating plan or face up to the serious option of No Deal. They have until Wednesday to agree proposals for triggering a late November EU summit and 21st January to seal the deal or bid to extend Article 50. Or for the Tory party to throw Mrs May out and plunge Britain into an unprecedented political crisis. At least when they toppled  Neville Chamberlain in 1940 and Anthony Eden in 1957 after the Suez debacle, obvious leaders and strategies  were right at hand.

From the sidelines, Boris Johnson calls for cabinet mutiny

No member of the Government, let alone the Cabinet, could conceivably support them, or so you would have thought. And yet the awful truth is that even if the Cabinet mutinies  as they ought  it will make little difference

The so-called Chequers proposals are in truth very far from dead. The essence of the idea that the UK should remain in the customs union and the single market for goods and agri-food is what the backstop entails. And you can be absolutely sure that this idea will be at the heart of the deal that I have no doubt the Prime Minister will shortly and magically secure.

She will delay for as long as she reasonably can, and then she will say that unless MPs sign up to this surrender, we will have the chaos of no deal. As a scare tactic, it is infamous. The Government has deliberately and flagrantly failed to prepare the UK to walk away from the talks, the better to be able to bludgeon MPs into voting for surrender. As a scare tactic, it is also false: yes, there might be some temporary effects, but as with the Millennium Bug I do not think the planes would fall from the sky or that medicines would have to rationed, or any of the other nonsense. And it is also false as a pair of alternatives.

There is a much, much better way forward for this country ...


Reflections on the role of philanthropy in the world of work openDemocracy

If philanthropic foundations want to positively affect the lives of workers, then they should use their money to hold the powerful to account and to help workers be heard. 

Overview shot of the 2017 Salzburg Global Seminar 'Driving the Change: Global Talent Management for Effective Philanthropy'. Salzburg Global Seminar/Flickr. (cc by-nc-nd)

On 8 October 2018 we published the BTS Round Table on the Future of Work, in which 12 experts explain recent changes to the nature of work and offer new ideas in labour policy, organising, and activism. This piece has been written in response.

Three funders the Ford Foundation, the Sage Fund, and Open Society Foundations recently wrote about their strategic priorities when funding interventions in the world of work. The Ford Foundation was the most detailed, identifying their five areas for strategic interventions as follows:

  1. Changing company practices and behaviour; 
  2. Influencing investment; 
  3. Establishing international standards and norms; 
  4. Strengthening and enforcing labour laws; 
  5. Organising workers to build voice and power.

My assessment is that the conventional human rights framework the third strategy on this list requires reinforcing. Despite all of the talk of new and different approaches, there remains considerable value to actually holding governments accountable for existing standards which they  have agreed to uphold, yet frequently fail to do so. The final strategy organising workers also deserves special emphasis and needs further funding to amplify and transmit workers voices.

Despite all of the talk of new and different approaches, there remains considerable value to actually holding governments accountable for...


An original commemoration of the Fallen of World War One Slugger O'Toole

You might have missed the centenary of the Day the Guns Fell Silent on 11th November, as commemorated  with terrific originality in the Pages of the Sea project devised by the film director Danny Boyle. Ireland was well represented by three very different people in three spectacular beach locations. Boyles brilliant Olympic 2012 opening ceremony in London displayed the British gift for creating new traditions without irritating venerable traditionalists with dogmatic lessons about the iniquities of war and the  British Empire etc etc.  (Perhaps Boyle should take us on?)




For him in the Olympic opening ceremony, British history was about the foundation of the NHS and the horrors as well as the achievements of the industrial revolution. Showing an altogether different side of the Queen, he had Daniel Craig as James Bond  commission her in the flesh to parachute jump into the stadium  as a double. Yesterday we saw the Queen in a new tradition of her own, as an observer of the  wreath laying at the Cenotaph for the second year of the retirement of  the Duke of Edinburgh from public life .

On Sunday morning portraits of individuals killed in the war  were created on sandy  beaches throughout  Great Britain and Ireland when the tide was out and were washed away when the tide came in. The fleeting existence of the portraits symbolised the transience of life in war in particular, together with its longer lasting memory.


Rifleman  John McCance from Dundrum  who died at  Passchendaele in 1917 was depicted at nearby Murlough. He has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial along with 35,000 others.


A huge artists impression of First World War nurse Rachel Ferguson was  displayed at Downhill beach. Miss Ferguson, from Moneymore, died in 1918 while working for Queen Alexandras Imperial Military Nursing Service.



When Will the War Be By?

By Russell Bruce

Powerful film made by Michael Russell. Scottish poems, songs and writing of the First World War made by Eala Bhan Ltd for BBC Scotland to mark the 80th anniversary of the end of the war and shown on 11th November 1998. Devised, written and produced by Michael Russell of Eala Bhan Ltd , directed by Ishbel Maciver and featuring Bill Paterson, Elaine C Smith, Norman MacLean, David Hayman and Iain Anderson.

When Will the War Be By ? from Michael Russell on Vimeo.

Michael has arranged to show it  this evening. Brings back memories of working with Michael on various projects during our time in Argyll, including a film festival Dorothy and I ran for two years with Michael and David Bruce (no relation). Courtesy of Western Ferries we screened Seawards the Great Ships on the open deck as darkness fell on an October evening on the Clyde.

Seawards the Great Ships 1961 ...


Donald Trump and the politics of emotion openDemocracy

Trumps ability to create a shared mood among voters was honed in the world of professional wrestling.

The Trump Unity Bridge trailer on August 18, 2017 in Iowa City, Iowa. Credit: Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0.

In 2017 Donald Trump posted a clip of himself on Twitter wrestling an avatar of CNN to the ground. In the thirty-second vignette he seizes an individual with CNNs logo where the head should be and pummels them. The point was to position himself as a defender of truth, flattening media enemies who spread disinformation about his reign.

It was a predictable move: Trump is a recurring character on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), body slamming its CEO Vince McMahon, buying its Monday Night Raw program and remaining unperturbed by an egregiously racialised boogeyman who regularly appears in the ring. He is the only US President to be inducted as a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

His immersion in this world might appear to be just another instance of the absurdly comic combining with the brutally terrifying in his presidency, but it is much more than that: the collision between Trump and wrestling provides an insight into his tactics and the broader contemporary transformation of electoral politics. The WWE taught Trump how to fuse the interests of big business with a mass of people coagulated around shared rage.

Nationalist populism is an odd phenomenon in the ways in which it creates alliances between voters who occupy structurally opposed positions. Trump has managed to combine support from the corporate world, evangelical Christians, rural southerners and ex-union Democrats in a way that confounds existing psephological models. Transcending, at least to some extent, distinctions between left and right, this alliance melds together the ultra-rich with the people they have actively disempowered.

Theres an obvious inconsistency here: big capital fattens itself on the democratic choices of its victims. But this also suggests that ideology a...


Armistice 2018 Commemoration Jonathan Fryer

3FD0BB67-E403-4016-BDB7-B1A8C5D35606I found pictures of the Armistice Day commemorations in Paris today deeply moving. President Emmanuel Macron spoke with dignity against nationalism and war. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, stood next to him, underlining how these two great European powers, which had fought each other three times during a period of just 75 years, are now allies and the mainstay of the European Union a body which now unites not just most of the countries of Western Europe but also the formerly Communist states of central and Eastern Europe. It was good that both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump were present, too (even if Trump blotted his copybook by pulling out of an earlier, related engagement because rain was forecast). Despite some recent tensions in the Wests relations with Russia, the Cold War, which kept us teetering on the verge of nuclear Armageddon, is long over. Scores of nations were represented at senior level in Paris, but shamefully Theresa May was not there. Apparently she thought it more important to be at the Cenitaph in London rather than participate in this unique, truly global event. Reportedly she sent David Lidington MP (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancas...


We talk about the brain drain as though were concerned but we dont actually try to solve it! Slugger O'Toole

Jonny McCormick is the Director of Rosseau Ltd and runs a podcast called Spoke.

In the true nature of a soapbox post, this is a one perspective rant but Id love to hear your thoughts on what Im saying so please do let me know what you think in the comments!

We constantly hear about the brain drain in Northern Ireland. How our talented young people (and increasingly people of all ages) are leaving to find work and opportunities further afield. Its easy to find reasons for this:

The political context I dont need to go into a lot of detail here Im sure but the current political impasse and genuine lack of will to solve it is completely exhausting. Aside from disengaging and ignoring it entirely, its hard to see how politicians are going to improve things for people choosing to make a life here

Lack of comparable opportunities this may be a slightly more controversial one and Im sure lots of people will disagree given that there is lots of inward investment in job creation, etc. But, when these jobs are compared to comparable jobs in places like Dublin, Bristol or London the salaries and opportunities are not commensurate. By way of example, a solicitor could earn somewhere between 3 and 5 times as much in London or the South of England and whilst the cost of living is higher its certainly not comparably higher

Discriminating social progress again there will be many who disagree but a restrictive and, I would argue, regressive approach to social progress is a major draw for people to pursue additional freedoms elsewhere

But what I want to talk about is actually much more foundational and personal. My brother and his girlfriend are currently in the process of moving from living in Australia to Northern Ireland. Going against the direction of the usual exodus theyre starting to look for houses, jobs and other things needed to settle and build an enjoyable life.

My brothers girlfriend is a teacher and is understandably wanting to continue in that career when she returns so shes applying for teaching posts. Having secured half a dozen job interviews shes gone back to request an initial interview via Skype given shes currently 10,000 miles away. Each request has been summarily dismissed, almost as if the interviewing panels are frustrated at being asked to make this accommodation in the 21st century. Aside from the fact that she managed to secure her current teaching position in Australia via a Skype interview, it seems bizarre to me to narrow your talent pool because you dont want to talk to them on a computer instead of in person.

This is indicative of what I mean by complaining about the problem of brain drain but not actually doing anything to try and stop or reverse it. It may be one example, but Id wager that there are many more stories just like it out there. If we genuinely want to secure a prosperous, peaceful, diverse Northern Ir...


It's the anti-Corbyn hypocrites who are really trivialising remembrance AAV

It's 100 years to the day since the end of the First World War, a conflict my great-grandfather died in, leaving his two young daughters fatherless. My mother's grandfather was one of 8 million military casualties (a similar number of civilians died during the conflict too).

I've spent the day thinking about my great-grandfather's tragic death and the ramifications that have rippled down through the generations for my family, and contemplating the unimaginably vast waves of grief, suffering, and poverty that WWI wreaked upon millions of other families all across the world.

Today of all days we should be solemnly remembering the horrifying consequences of war, but like clockwork the right-wing virtue signallers are out in force to use Remembrance as a stick to attack their political foes with.

This year they're deliberately trivialising the whole subject with pathetic claims that Jeremy Corbyn's grey raincoat wasn't solemn enough (?!?) and outright lies that he wasn't wearing a poppy (he wore two poppies on his raincoat and suit jacket while he laid a large wreath of poppies at the Cenotaph).

In 2015 the right-wing shreikers made ludicrous efforts to claim that Corbyn disrespected veterans and the war dead by not bowing deeply enough at the Cenotaph (when he was actually the only political leader to stay behind after the ceremony to chat to veterans as the rest of the dignitaries cleared off to a slap-up meal in the warmth).

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