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Saturday, 20 January

01:48

Budging the male bias openDemocracy

It's time to end the sausagefest.

Image: globewomen.org/globalsummit/

Four incidents happened this week that illustrate just how difficult it is for women to be part of public debates, to get their voice heard, to share their views, and to be listened to. Some were in full public eye, some were hidden in private emails, and another a mix. But each of them are in themselves vignettes of wider circumstances that give rise of a situation in which women are still, despite massive progress and some wonderful exceptions, all too marginal to debates about issues that matter to the economy, society, and the environment.

And that is a problem because the extent to which the economy needs to be transformed for our society and planet to survive is massive and it wont happen with the same old (often literally!) voices dominating the conversation.

So here is a snapshot of what change is up against.

Male bias in the blogosphere:

  • What became termed as #sausagefest was triggered on Wednesday when the blog FP2P published Stefan Dercons list of top ten thinkers in development. Almost all were men (and Dercon critiqued their limitations). Readers pointed this out and noted some of the many amazing women doing great work on a range of development issues. So Duncan Green (who runs FP2P) asked Alice Evans (who enriched all our vocabularies with the indelible term Sausagefest), to write a complementary blog to fill obvious gaps. Evans excellent blog and the related twitterstorm led to a remarkable list of remarkable women. A good part two, but why arent they household names for Dercon and others?.
  • That same day I helped suggest names for a high-profile speaker for an event later this year. Fortunately, the organisers, after hosting male speakers in 2017 and the year before, are trying to ask one of my favourite economists to speak who happens to be a woman. But the list of alternatives th...

01:23

Election season in Russia: violent acts and criminal cases against rights defenders, political activists openDemocracy

This week, the pressure on rights defenders, Open Russia and Navalny activists has turned increasingly violent. 

Memorial's office in Nazran, Ingushetia. Source: Memorial.

This article is part of our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia.

Russias presidential elections are drawing close and the machinery of repression, which is working overtime, has apparently no intention to stop. We continue to cover these events.  

The authorities continue to put pressure on Memorials branch office in the North Caucasus

  • - In Ingushetia, in the early hours of 17 January, unidentified people in masks set fire to the office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre. Staff of the organisation consider this to be an act of terrorism:

We consider this to be an act of terrorism. In accordance with Article 205 of the Russian Criminal Code, acts of terrorism include acts of arson, explosions or other actions intended to intimidate the public for the purposes of destabilizing the situation or to put pressure on international organizations. We believe that this attack is intended to influence the decisions we take. Behind this attack are the same forces that try to halt the activities of Memorial in Chechnya and to force human rights defenders to leave the North Caucasus altogether.

- In Chechnya on the morning of 19 January police searched the offices of Memorial in connection with the case of Oyub Titiev, head of the local branch of Memorial, arrested on the morning of 9 January and charged with possession of drugs. The Chechen police are putting pressure on the owner...

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Friday, 19 January

23:32

Jeremy Hunt hasn't got a clue AAV


The Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt is widely despised in the NHS. There's so much evidence that he's been doing a bad job it's impossible to fit the slightest fraction of it into the introductory paragraphs of a short blog post.

From the 100,000 unfilled jobs in the NHS to soaring waiting times and scrapped waiting time targetsFrom his ideological war with junior doctors to the ocean of debt the NHS is swimming in. From forced closures of dozens of NHS wards and facilities to plummeting service satisfaction ratings. From people dying in corridors and ambulances after the Tories slashed the number of NHS beds by 14,000 to the covert privatisation by stealth agenda that's going on under our noses. Jeremy Hunt's tenure as health secretary has been a disaster for the NHS.

The only way Theresa May's assertion that "Jeremy Hunt has been an excellent Health Secretary" can be accepted at face value is if she's actually delighted with his efforts to run the NHS into the ground in order for the Tories to make the argument for privatisation and the abolition of...

23:23

Dramatic turn over bid to quash the police ombudsmans Loughinisland report Slugger O'Toole

Pressure is mounting on  Mr Justice McCloskey to withdraw  from the hearing to  quash the police ombudsmans report on the Loughinisland  murders. 

The bid was made by lawyers including the recently  retired director of public prosecutions Barra McGrory. Last week the judge had already deferred a ruling to allow a new lawyer for the police ombudsman  to read himself into the case. This has turned out to be the former DPP.

Newly instructed counsel for the Ombudsman, Barra McGrory QC, and the Loughinisland families legal representatives argued that he should now withdraw from the case.

They are seeking a fresh hearing before another judge.

During exchanges Mr Justice McCloskey confirmed he had no memory of being involved in the earlier litigation until it was drawn to his attention, describing his recollection as zero.

It was stressed by counsel that they were not calling into question his judicial independence.

But Mr McGrory, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, insisted the application was based on possible public perception.

Reassurances which could have been given at the outset of proceedings cannot be given now that a ruling has been made in favour of the policemen, he contended.

In the circumstances of this case; given its history, given the years of dispute, and given the personalities which involved one of the applicants in the Omagh litigation, the lay observer is likely to be highly critical of an assertion by the court that the court had no memory of it and therefore it cannot have influenced the courts views, Mr McGrory said.

23:15

Reform proposals ready and waiting must be put to the renewed party talks and the public Slugger O'Toole

The Irish News reports that a basket of reform proposals have been withheld from public view because there are no ministers to sign them off. This is height  of exquisite absurdity. Here we have material for the agenda for the renewed party talks to get their teeth into. Once these papers have been presented to the parties to consider for a week or two,  ( if they havent  been already),  they should be signalled for early publication by the supervising authority of the British government, no doubt supported by Dublin and most if not all of the minority parties. If however the DUP and Sinn Fein were to pledge to action them in some form as part of a new agreement package, there could be a delay until that point is reached.

 

Last year The Irish News revealed at least 19 completed reports are being withheld from publication because departmental officials say they need ministers to sign-off their release.

However, at least 10 have been released even though staff admit they would normally require ministerial approval to publish them.

When asked for a copy of their policy on how these decisions are made, Stormont departments confirmed that no such policy exists.

The unpublished reports include a high-profile paper on the norths abortion laws, completed over a year ago.

An Executive Office spokesman said: The Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition was established as part of the Fresh Start Agreement. The report is not yet completed.

It will be for ministers to consider its findings and agree publication arrangements.

A FICT spokeswoman said: No decisions have been taken in relation to the processes around approval and publication of the commissions report.

 

22:01

Just Say Goodbye ***** Jonathan Fryer

Just Say GoodbyeJesse is a skinny but artistic 16-year-old living in a suburb of a small town in Massachusetts, bullied at high school and largely ignored by his handsome but sometimes violent alcoholic father. As a small boy, he found his mothers body, dead in bed from taking an overdose of pills. No wonder the kid is introspective. But Jesse has a devoted school-friend, Sarah, to whom he confesses his determination to commit suicide himself, at midnight on his next birthday. All her efforts to dissuade him are in vain. This might sound like the makings of a really heavy movie, but in fact Just Say Goodbye, directed by the young Matt Walting, is an often lyrical piece of great sensitivity and profound psychological insight. Though shot on a minuscule budget, raised from a range of donors, the film is anything but amateurish, fortified by a powerful script by Layla OShea and an extraordinarily self-assured performance by Max MacKenzie as Jesse; his voice is mesmerising and his steely determination to put an end to his largely unsatisfactory life gripping. Given the subject, the film could so easily have been maudlin, whereas in fact it is just the opposite: unsentimental and dignified, with an unusually perceptive insight into a troubled adolescents mind.

20:35

Promised You A Miracle Slugger O'Toole

In its first two episodes, Lisa McGees feisty sitcom Derry Girls  hasnt been afraid to tackle sacred cows.

But after making some jokes about Catholic schools, the Channel 4 sitcom finally went the full hog on Catholicism in episode three, bravely or rather foolishly, depending on your point of view inviting comparisons with the biggest sacred cow in Irish comedy Fr Ted.

This weeks episode found the gang on a study sleepover for a history exam in Erins house and they were all suffering varying degrees of sleep deprivation and stress.

Nicola Coughlins Clare was the most hyper after consuming five or was it 23? cans of a caffeine infused energy drink.

Jamie Lee ODonnells wild child Michelle boasted that she had been guzzling Pernod although no one was going to actually challenge that claim.

Saoirse Monica Jacksons Erin was in mourning over the loss of the family dog Toto.

Everyone including her mum, Tara Lynne ONeills hard headed Mary Quinn suspected this was her pre-packaged excuse for poor grades in the history exam.

Dylan Llewelyns English born James was so beside himself with exhaustion that he couldnt tell my rebellions from my uprisings.

This prompted a retort from Michelle that Martina Anderson would have been proud of: And whos fault is that? If you lot had stopped invading us for 5 f**kin minutes there wouldnt be so much to learn.

As for Louisa Harlands Orla, well she was just spacy so no change there then.

Stuffed with an Ulster Fry prepared by Ian McElhinneys Grandpa Joe while he ranted about Mrs Malarkey cheating at the bingo with a special pen, the gang trudged like death row prisoners to school.

Erin spotted a dog that looked exactly like Toto with a British Army patrol and soon they were pursuing it around Derrys Walls and into a church where they encountered the infamous Mrs Malarkey.

Clare was convinced a statue of the Virgin Mary in the church smirked at her while Erin chased the dog.

Michelle and Orla also claimed to have seen the smirk but when the statue appeared to shed tears, the Derry Girls thought they had a bona fide miracle on their hands with the added bonus of getting out of the exam.

This led to another appointment with Siobhan McSweeneys weary headmistress Sister Michael in her office and also Peter Campions impossibly good looking, trendy priest Fr Peter on whom even James developed a man crush.

With all the instant celebrity a Spice Girl...

19:08

Frontpage 19th January openDemocracy

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18:22

Where are the investigative journalists challenging patriarchy? openDemocracy

Amid growing threats to our sexual and reproductive rights, and enduring inequality, discrimination and gender-based violence, we need fearless feminist investigative journalism now. Apply for 50.50's inaugural feminist investigative journalism fellowships.

Womens March 2017. Womens March 2017. Photo: Mark Dixon/Wikimedia. Creative Commons (CC by 2.0). Some rights reserved.When a younger, less-experienced man receives a higher salary for the same job. When senior, male colleagues ask about your sex life. When the dominance of precarious, freelance work means no maternity leave and limited reproductive choice.

When everyone quoted, in yet another story, is a man. When all stock images of women seem to be of the same woman. When gender injustices and discrimination arent even on the agenda of possible story topics, let alone covered with the depth and commitment given to other issues.

We have spent most of our adult lives in journalism. This means first-hand experience with gender inequality in workplaces, and in what is produced in these spaces.

We were both, separately, attracted to investigative journalism by its core promises: to challenge the powerful and shine a spotlight on injustices. Good investigative journalism reveals important, new information in the public interest.

Investigative journalism should look beyond the headlines at injustices that the powerful would rather stay unreported. It must listen to marginalised voices and takes their stories seriously. But, we discovered, it also has largely overlooked patriarchy.

Where are all of the investigations into threats against womens human rights defenders? Where are the journalists holding governments to account for shuttered domestic violence shelters, or poverty and insecurity among single mothers in the gig economy?

Of course, there are reporters doing such work, too often on shoestring budgets and without the recognition they des...

17:16

Patriotism as a diagnosis openDemocracy

Nine years ago today, Russian activist lawyer Stanislav Markelov was shot dead in central Moscow. We republish the last article he wrote before his death.

Moscow 2012: March in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. CC BY-NC 2.0 Vladimir Varfolomeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.January 2018 marks the ninth anniversary of the murder of Stanislav Markelov and activist journalist Anastasia Baburova. On 19 January 2009, as Markelov and Baburova walked through central Moscow, they were gunned down by Nikita Tikhonov, a Russian neo-Nazi.

This tragic murder sent shocks through human rights, media and activist communities in Russia, and later exposed the neo-Nazi terror cell run by Tikhonov and several others. As was revealed at trial, the groups organiser Ilya Goryachev was using his connections to people inside Russias Presidential Administration and law enforcement to lobby for a new umbrella party that would preside over Russia neo-Nazis and extreme nationalists. Alexander Litoy writes about this trial (and how he wound up on one of Goryachevs lists) in detail here.

Born in 1974, Markelov led an active life. He was involved in the Russian Social Democratic Party during the early 1990s, joined the Maximillian Voloshin brigade, a left-wing medics' group, during the events of October 1993 in Moscow, travelled to Ingushetia with Memorial as a human rights observer, and helped lead the radical left Russian Student Union in 1994-1995. In the late 1990s, he was involved in the Defenders of the Rainbow anarchist ecological movement, as well as writing extensively about the authoritarian surge in Belarus.

In the early 2000s, Markelov represented the interests of striking workers at a Vyborg paper mill, people illegally evicted from Moscow dormitories and activists from an independent railway union. In 2002, he defended the interests of Elza Kungayeva, who was...

09:34

Hope for Russias hopeless elections openDemocracy

Im not participating in this shit could become the main political slogan at Russias upcoming presidential elections. RU

Source: cikrf.ruFor the first time ever, it seems Russian society is consolidating ahead of presidential elections not out of desire for victory, but because none of the alternative candidates have a chance at winning  and thus, no chance for real change. In conditions of deep political apathy, when people say to one another this is going to last for another six years and theres no chance to stop this, more and more active citizens in Russia find comfort arguing about how not to vote, rather than who to vote for.

The idea of boycotting the elections isnt new. It has always made me feel awkward just like anything thats overly emotional or unrealistic. But in light of the effective campaign carried out by Alexey Navalny, and the Central Election Commissions refusal to register him as a candidate, the opposition politicians old call to action began to look different. The rather widespread support for the boycott from an increasingly large circle of activists, politicians and political analysts was unexpected.

Elections in Russia are a rare time when opposition-minded citizens can state their position loudly and not only on the street

In terms of its effectiveness, a boycott is a desperate measure. But elections in Russia are a rare time when opposition-minded citizens can state their position loudly and not only on the street. A political boycott supposes a broad coalition made up of very different social groups (perhaps were witnessing the creation of it right now). On one side of the barricades, theres the forces who unite around Navalny...

Hope for Russias hopeless elections openDemocracy

Im not participating in this shit could become the main political slogan at Russias upcoming presidential elections. RU

Source: cikrf.ruFor the first time ever, it seems Russian society is consolidating ahead of presidential elections not out of desire for victory, but because none of the alternative candidates have a chance at winning  and thus, no chance for real change. In conditions of deep political apathy, when people say to one another this is going to last for another six years and theres no chance to stop this, more and more active citizens in Russia find comfort arguing about how not to vote, rather than who to vote for.

The idea of boycotting the elections isnt new. It has always made me feel awkward just like anything thats overly emotional or unrealistic. But in light of the effective campaign carried out by Alexey Navalny, and the Central Election Commissions refusal to register him as a candidate, the opposition politicians old call to action began to look different. The rather widespread support for the boycott from an increasingly large circle of activists, politicians and political analysts was unexpected.

Elections in Russia are a rare time when opposition-minded citizens can state their position loudly and not only on the street

In terms of its effectiveness, a boycott is a desperate measure. But elections in Russia are a rare time when opposition-minded citizens can state their position loudly and not only on the street. A political boycott supposes a broad coalition made up of very different social groups (perhaps were witnessing the creation of it right now). On one side of the barricades, theres the forces who unite around Navalny...

08:33

A renewed Poor Peoples Campaign revives Kings dream of challenging class divides openDemocracy

Can a new fusion of movements reignite the search for freedom and equality in America?

This article was first published on Waging Nonviolence.

Rev. William J. Barber speaks to the crowd gathered at Pullen Baptist Memorial Church in Raleigh, North Carolina on New Years Eve 2017. Credit: WNV/David Freeman.

The air in Raleigh, North Carolina was bitterly cold on New Years Eve, but the chill did not stop hundreds of people from gathering for a mass community meeting at the Pullen Baptist Memorial Church. Inside, the band was warming up on stage and friends called out greetings to each other as they went into the main hall.

A group of Raging Grannies filled a pew at the front, wearing floppy hats adorned with activist badges. Locals from North Carolina greeted activists who had traveled from around the country to attend. Some of them had recently been arrested together for protesting the tax bill on Capitol Hill.

As speakers began addressing the audience, people in the crowd linked arms and audience members flocked on stage to sing We Shall Overcome and chant Forward together! Not one step back! Together, the crowd assembled in Pullen rang in 2018 with a commitment for the coming year: to lead a nationwide campaign to save the heart and soul of American democracy.

Officially titled The Poor Peoples Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, the campaigns objective is to train a massive network of grassroots activists to spark a multi-fronted movement challenging four systemic evils in American society: poverty, racism, ecological devastation and the war economy.

One of the key faces of the campaign, former North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William J. Barber, delivered a fiery speech to those gathered in the church on New Years Eve. His voice boomed through the congregation, calling on everyone to speak truth to power and love to hate in the name of God and all that is holy.

What we face is not new, Barber then told the cheering crowd. But when you get scared, remember the folks in power are scared too. Theyre having nightmares!

Barber read biblical passages in which the marginalized citizenrythe so-called stones the builder rejectedrise up together to face the wolvesor politiciansto save their society. In doing so, he added, sometimes they even save some of the wolves.

A towering, imposing figure, Barber has been described by activist and professor Cornel West as a modern-day Martin Luther King, Jr. It is easy to draw the parallel, as...

A renewed Poor Peoples Campaign revives Kings dream of challenging class divides openDemocracy

Can a new fusion of movements reignite the search for freedom and equality in America?

This article was first published on Waging Nonviolence.

Rev. William J. Barber speaks to the crowd gathered at Pullen Baptist Memorial Church in Raleigh, North Carolina on New Years Eve 2017. Credit: WNV/David Freeman.

The air in Raleigh, North Carolina was bitterly cold on New Years Eve, but the chill did not stop hundreds of people from gathering for a mass community meeting at the Pullen Baptist Memorial Church. Inside, the band was warming up on stage and friends called out greetings to each other as they went into the main hall.

A group of Raging Grannies filled a pew at the front, wearing floppy hats adorned with activist badges. Locals from North Carolina greeted activists who had traveled from around the country to attend. Some of them had recently been arrested together for protesting the tax bill on Capitol Hill.

As speakers began addressing the audience, people in the crowd linked arms and audience members flocked on stage to sing We Shall Overcome and chant Forward together! Not one step back! Together, the crowd assembled in Pullen rang in 2018 with a commitment for the coming year: to lead a nationwide campaign to save the heart and soul of American democracy.

Officially titled The Poor Peoples Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, the campaigns objective is to train a massive network of grassroots activists to spark a multi-fronted movement challenging four systemic evils in American society: poverty, racism, ecological devastation and the war economy.

One of the key faces of the campaign, former North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William J. Barber, delivered a fiery speech to those gathered in the church on New Years Eve. His voice boomed through the congregation, calling on everyone to speak truth to power and love to hate in the name of God and all that is holy.

What we face is not new, Barber then told the cheering crowd. But when you get scared, remember the folks in power are scared too. Theyre having nightmares!

Barber read biblical passages in which the marginalized citizenrythe so-called stones the builder rejectedrise up together to face the wolvesor politiciansto save their society. In doing so, he added, sometimes they even save some of the wolves.

A towering, imposing figure, Barber has been described by activist and professor Cornel West as a modern-day Martin Luther King, Jr. It is easy to draw the parallel, as...

07:52

Education, Equality and Human Rights Mike Cole Book Launch All that is Solid for Glenn Rikowski

Education, Equality and Human Rights

EDUCATION, EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS MIKE COLE BOOK LAUNCH

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK LAUNCH

Education, Equality and Human Rights: Rights: Issues of Gender, Race, Sexuality, Disability and Social Class Edited by Mike Cole

Professor Mike Cole, is a Professor of Education at the University of East London, UK

This event will be held at: The Cass School of Education and Communities, Room RB.G.13, Stratford Campus, University of East London, Water Lane, London, E15 4LZ

On: 31 January 2018, at 17.00-19.00

 

 

The fourth edition of Education, Equality and Human Rights has been fully updated to reflect the economic, political, social and cultural changes in educational and political policy and practice, as austerity continues and in the light of the EU referendum. Written by a carefully selected group of experts, each of the five equality issues of gender, race, sexuality, disability and social class are covered as areas in their own right as well as in relation to educatio...

05:19

In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive Slugger O'Toole

On the day Sammy Wilson rightly apologises for his use of highly inappropriate language about An Taoiseach, Newton Emerson makes a vital point to unionism in his Irish News column

the way City Hall operates is the way Stormont would operate without the petition of concern. Whoever could make common cause with the unaligned bloc, now including the Greens and occasional socialists as well as Alliance, would win the day.

There was a timely demonstration of this last September when Belfast City Council approved a new Irish language policy, with Alliance enforcing a compromise between nationalists and unionists over provision for Ulster Scots and other languages.

The Stormont analogy would be passing Irish language legislation as part of a wider cultures act precisely the compromise the DUP claims to want and Sinn Fin has rejected.

The assemblys new arithmetic is likely to be as enduring as it is at City Hall, with Alliance in the driving seat for decades perhaps indefinitely. The 2021 census will reveal if the Catholic population is set to level off at just short of a majority. If so, Northern Ireland becomes a three-legged stool at the third legs permanent command.

The assumption that most unaligned voters are soft unionists was shattered by a LucidTalk poll last October, which found Alliance, Green and other voters sit on a three-legged stool of their own in a border poll, one third would vote for the union, one third for a united Ireland and one third are undecided.

These undecided centrists, around 3 per cent of the electorate, could determine everyones fate which once again has been widely noted.

Its an echo of something we said back in May 2003, in our own study of Unionism and the future, A Long Peace, when we posted a useful thought experiment, in which numbers between unionism and nationalism were evenly split

the strange mathematics of this parity referendum renders traditional allegiances irrelevant. What will be decisive will be those who, for whatever reason, choose not to pass through their home lobby. In theory, only one defection would be needed to swing the vote; one Protestant voting for a united Ireland, one Catholic voting for the status quo.

In practice, apathy could be just as important as apostasy; the absent and swing voter both up for grabs. Voters would judge the Union on how successfully it performs against possible alternatives. They would be swayed by the relative performance of leaders associated with the unionist and nationalist causes.

The attractiveness of Great Britain and the Republic as partners would...

05:11

Our son of a bitch Slugger O'Toole

The headline of Doug Beatties article in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday illustrates how sloppy language and sloppy logic hinder rather than help the process of understanding. Leave aside the article itself for now; one sentence in the headline alone (Republicans werent victims, they were victim-makers) contains a prime example of both.

Firstly, the sloppy language of Republicans fails to distinguish between the Provisional IRA and those people who never picked up a gun but would still regard themselves as Republican. In the same vein, when people blame Unionists for the actions of Unionist politicians or Brits for the actions of the British Government, it can be argued that a commonly understood shorthand is being used but in Northern Ireland the use of imprecise language is an open invitation to misunderstanding that many will enthusiastically accept.

This is a common ambiguity in the English language, the infamously context-dependent bare plural. When a statement is made about Republicans it can be read as particular Republicans, a few hundred members of the PIRA, but it could also be taken to mean all Republicans, a two-digit percentage of the electorate. It is probably safe to say that Beattie (or his subeditor) intended the former, and it is also probably safe to say that a significant percentage of actual Republicans took the other meaning.

Secondly, the sloppy logic of the false dichotomy implies that one cannot be both a victim and a victim-maker. It should not take much effort to think up an endless list of counterexamples. One can be both a victim and a perpetrator of violence, and indeed being a victim of violence can encourage one to subsequently become a perpetrator. This is not rocket science, but it is conveniently forgotten in the heat of argument.

But all this is just one example of excessive generalisation, a common rhetorical flourish that produces pithy soundbites but poor analysis. And when it is used like this to apportion blame upon others, the danger is that instead of singling out the guilty one has lumped the guilty in with the innocent.

Unionist, Nationalist, Republican, British, Irish each one of these terms is not just an abstract category, but an identity that is clung to by hundreds of thousands of people each. When you apportion blame to hundreds of thousands of people in one sweeping stat...

04:33

Martin supports repeal of 8th: because it has caused real harm to the quality of care available to pregnant women at critical moments Slugger O'Toole

This is going to create ructions, not simply within Fianna Fail, but within the wider polity

Cue a huge Twitter storm, and a lot of upset not least within Fianna Fail. But his lead point is the damage the Eighth Amendment has done to women. A nod there to the Halappanavar case, which I would guess represented a shift in the tide in of public opinion.

Then theres been the case of the Kerry babies, and a reminder of the overweening influence of the Catholic Church in what still feel to some of us oldies as very recent modern times.

It will force his own team to choose and go public at a time when Martins nearest rivals are still mulling it over. And Sinn Fein has already been forced to overturn an official position arrived at as recently as their November Ard Fheis.

Because it has caused real harm to the quality of care available to pregnant women at critical moments; because it has not and cannot change the reality that abortion is a present and permanent part of Irish life, because it seeks to force women to carry a pregnancy to term when they have been the victim of a rape or incest or when they have received the diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality, because it requires that pregnant women and doctors are faced with criminal sanctions.

And because it prevents us from responding in a humane way in order to help women in the most traumatic situations.

Because of these reasons and following a long period of reflection and assessment of evidence before the Oireachtas Committee, I believe that we should remove the Eighth amendment from Bunreacht na hireann and I will vote accordingly.

04:04

The Tory EU Withdrawal bill is such a shambolic power grab Labour had to vote against it AAV


Last night 243 Labour MPs voted against the Tory government's Brexit bill.

The Tories tried to make as much capital out of this vote as possible by whipping up their Brextremist followers into a rage with outright lies that Labour were "blocking the delivery of a smooth Brexit", which are a tad difficult to accept at face value given that the Tories and their bigoted DUP backers actually won the vote!

In reality the Labour Party (and other opposition parties) tried to do everything in their power to amend the Tories' basket case European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, and when virtually all of these amendments were defeated by the Tories and the DUP extremists they bribed into supporting them, Labour had no choice but to vote against this cynical and shambolic power grab the Tories have cobbled together under the guise of leaving the EU.

It's vital to understand that Labour and the opposition parties tried really hard to improve the EU Withdrawal bill, but the Tories and the DUP fanatics simply scrapped all the changes.


Here are just a few of the amendments that the Tories refused to make to their shambolic legislation:
  • Labour tried to ensure that no EU derived consumer protections, environmental standards, and workers' rights are scrapped during the process of quitting the EU. The Tories scrapped that amendment.
  • The SNP and other opposition parties tried to ensure that the Tories couldn't use the extensive law-rewriting powers they were giving themselves to revoke powers from the devolved parliaments (Scotland, Wales, N...

01:55

Anti-feminism and anti-gender far right politics in Europe and beyond openDemocracy

The proclaimed support of the EU for gender equality is seen as one element in a wider programme of colonization, whereby what was once Marxism is now replaced by gender politics. Book review.

lead Christiane Taubira when she was French Justice Minister in 2013. Bernard-Salinier/ Press Association. All rights reserved.The rise, over the last two decades, of the neo-nationalist, populist right is now a well-established fact across the political landscape. But the precise permutations taken and modes of organisation and affiliations on specific issues such as anti-LGBTQ rights, which many of these groups have pursued, is often less well-known. Two recent books, one by Bruno Perreau titled Queer Theory: The French Response (2016 Stanford) and the other edited by David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar titled Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe, (Rowman and Littlefield 2017) make significant inroads in filling this gap, each of them focusing on Europe, and in particular on questions of sexuality and gender.

Natural order

It transpires that campaigns against civil unions, same-sex marriage and full parenting rights to LGBTQ people were initiated largely from within the Roman Catholic church dating back to the late 1990s. There is a good deal of traffic between lay conservative Catholic campaigners, members of Opus Dei, as well as clerics, who acted as intermediaries bringing to the attention of Vatican scholars, developments from feminism and subsequently queer theory, each of which are perceived as threats to the family and the natural order.

Over the space of a few years feminism and queer theory has come to be subsumed by the term gender theory which is then demonised as a totalitarian force, for its attempts to undermine the differences between men and women and the sanctity of holy matrimony as the only rightful institution for the bringing up of children.

This invocation of the spectre of Stalinism is clearly a deliberate ploy to instil fear of the...

Anti-feminism and anti-gender far right politics in Europe and beyond openDemocracy

The proclaimed support of the EU for gender equality is seen as one element in a wider programme of colonization, whereby what was once Marxism is now replaced by gender politics. Book review.

lead Christiane Taubira when she was French Justice Minister in 2013. Bernard-Salinier/ Press Association. All rights reserved.The rise, over the last two decades, of the neo-nationalist, populist right is now a well-established fact across the political landscape. But the precise permutations taken and modes of organisation and affiliations on specific issues such as anti-LGBTQ rights, which many of these groups have pursued, is often less well-known. Two recent books, one by Bruno Perreau titled Queer Theory: The French Response (2016 Stanford) and the other edited by David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar titled Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe, (Rowman and Littlefield 2017) make significant inroads in filling this gap, each of them focusing on Europe, and in particular on questions of sexuality and gender.

Natural order

It transpires that campaigns against civil unions, same-sex marriage and full parenting rights to LGBTQ people were initiated largely from within the Roman Catholic church dating back to the late 1990s. There is a good deal of traffic between lay conservative Catholic campaigners, members of Opus Dei, as well as clerics, who acted as intermediaries bringing to the attention of Vatican scholars, developments from feminism and subsequently queer theory, each of which are perceived as threats to the family and the natural order.

Over the space of a few years feminism and queer theory has come to be subsumed by the term gender theory which is then demonised as a totalitarian force, for its attempts to undermine the differences between men and women and the sanctity of holy matrimony as the only rightful institution for the bringing up of children.

This invocation of the spectre of Stalinism is clearly a deliberate ploy to instil fear of the...

00:50

ISIS and Tunisia-Iran: a deeper link openDemocracy

The anger and ideals of excluded young people contain a story of the world's disorder.

"In 2018 the market basket is empty": this man attends a speech by the general secretary of the Tunisian General Labour Union during the Tunisian revolution's 7th anniversary, 2018. Chedly Ben Ibrahim/PA images. All rights reserved.Two recent columns in this series examined ISIS's future after the loss of its caliphate. The group, it was suggested, might in future pursue a threefold course: build on its affiliations with paramilitary groups across the Middle East, north Africa and south Asia; increase its attacks in the far enemy countries of the west; and transition towards a new insurgency in Iraq (see "The next war: ISIS plus expertise", 21 December 2017); and "ISIS: the comeback", 4 January 2018).  

The Iraqi part of this strategy is already well underway. A grim series of attacks in and around Baghdad has taken hundreds of lives in the past year, even during the coalition assaults on Mosul and Raqqa. The latest hit the capital early in the morning of 15 January, when two suicide-bombers detonated their devices at Tayaran Square where day-labourers gather for work. The results were terrible: at least thirty-five people killed and ninety injured. Some of the Shia dead were carried off for burial that day in the holy city of Najaf.  

Such operations confirm that ISIS paramilitaries remain active and are able to strike, including in the heart of Baghdad. In this respect the intense military campaign to dislodge the group from its former areas of control is double-edged. The United States-led coalition's aerial pounding inflicted huge damage on Iraqi urban centres, with hardly any sign of reconstruction so far. That risks the further marginalisation of the Sunni...

ISIS and Tunisia-Iran: a deeper link openDemocracy

The anger and ideals of excluded young people contain a story of the world's disorder.

"In 2018 the market basket is empty": this man attends a speech by the general secretary of the Tunisian General Labour Union during the Tunisian revolution's 7th anniversary, 2018. Chedly Ben Ibrahim/PA images. All rights reserved.Two recent columns in this series examined ISIS's future after the loss of its caliphate. The group, it was suggested, might in future pursue a threefold course: build on its affiliations with paramilitary groups across the Middle East, north Africa and south Asia; increase its attacks in the far enemy countries of the west; and transition towards a new insurgency in Iraq (see "The next war: ISIS plus expertise", 21 December 2017); and "ISIS: the comeback", 4 January 2018).  

The Iraqi part of this strategy is already well underway. A grim series of attacks in and around Baghdad has taken hundreds of lives in the past year, even during the coalition assaults on Mosul and Raqqa. The latest hit the capital early in the morning of 15 January, when two suicide-bombers detonated their devices at Tayaran Square where day-labourers gather for work. The results were terrible: at least thirty-five people killed and ninety injured. Some of the Shia dead were carried off for burial that day in the holy city of Najaf.  

Such operations confirm that ISIS paramilitaries remain active and are able to strike, including in the heart of Baghdad. In this respect the intense military campaign to dislodge the group from its former areas of control is double-edged. The United States-led coalition's aerial pounding inflicted huge damage on Iraqi urban centres, with hardly any sign of reconstruction so far. That risks the further marginalisation of the Sunni...

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Thursday, 18 January

23:29

US Senate launches attack on Nicaragua poverty programmes openDemocracy

The so-called NICA Act, if passed, would require the US government to veto loans from international financial institutions to Nicaragua. Espaol

Nicaragua's President, Daniel Ortega (L), and OAS General Secretary, Miguel Insulza (R) during Central American Integration System (SICA) summit, Managua, Nicaragua, August 8, 2012. Photo: German Miranda/dpa/aa

In an extraordinary move on the day before the US Senates Christmas recess, two Democrats sided with right-wing Republicans to introduce the so-called NICA Act which, if passed, would require the US government to veto loans from international financial institutions to Nicaragua. While it is still a long way from becoming law, the bill suddenly looks like a more serious threat to that countrys social progress.

The NICA act got support from right-wingers like Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, long hostile to progressive governments in Latin America, originally sponsored the bill. It was not surprising when it got support from other right-wingers like Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. But now Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Durbin (D-IL), who have both been prominent in challenging US support for the right-wing government in neighbouring Honduras, have put their names to the NICA Act too.

Why is it being promoted? Ever since the former guerrilla leader Daniel Ortega won election for a new term as president of Nicaragua in 2006, he has faced renewed hostility from the United States, even though of a much softer form than was the case during the Contra war of the 1980s. His opponents focus continually on his supposed grip on power, especially after the courts overturned a constitutional ban on presidents running for second and subsequent turns of office.

Their frustration intensified when his wife Rosario Murillo became his vice-president after the last national elections, even though she has been a key figure in the government from the start.

Most recently, his critics focussed their attention on the arrangements for last Novembers municipal election...

US Senate launches attack on Nicaragua poverty programmes openDemocracy

The so-called NICA Act, if passed, would require the US government to veto loans from international financial institutions to Nicaragua. Espaol

Nicaragua's President, Daniel Ortega (L), and OAS General Secretary, Miguel Insulza (R) during Central American Integration System (SICA) summit, Managua, Nicaragua, August 8, 2012. Photo: German Miranda/dpa/aa

In an extraordinary move on the day before the US Senates Christmas recess, two Democrats sided with right-wing Republicans to introduce the so-called NICA Act which, if passed, would require the US government to veto loans from international financial institutions to Nicaragua. While it is still a long way from becoming law, the bill suddenly looks like a more serious threat to that countrys social progress.

The NICA act got support from right-wingers like Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, long hostile to progressive governments in Latin America, originally sponsored the bill. It was not surprising when it got support from other right-wingers like Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. But now Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Durbin (D-IL), who have both been prominent in challenging US support for the right-wing government in neighbouring Honduras, have put their names to the NICA Act too.

Why is it being promoted? Ever since the former guerrilla leader Daniel Ortega won election for a new term as president of Nicaragua in 2006, he has faced renewed hostility from the United States, even though of a much softer form than was the case during the Contra war of the 1980s. His opponents focus continually on his supposed grip on power, especially after the courts overturned a constitutional ban on presidents running for second and subsequent turns of office.

Their frustration intensified when his wife Rosario Murillo became his vice-president after the last national elections, even though she has been a key figure in the government from the start.

Most recently, his critics focussed their attention on the arrangements for last Novembers municipal election...

22:40

Happy 18th birthday! Youre out openDemocracy

Tougher internal controls under Macron are only giving police more powers, allowing them to conduct identity checks in emergency shelters. Brutality towards migrants is likely to become even more common.

lead Children inside the former Liniere camp in Grande Synthe, northern France. Many who couldn't cope with life inside reception shelters had ended up in this camp.On New Years Eve, when cities were cheering and watching fireworks, Jahid called me from his shelter in France. He had been there since spring 2017, and had been living with the hope that his life would be sorted out in the not-too-distant future.

The underage refugee I had met in Lampedusa eighteen months ago was entitled to protection, and as such was promised by the French authorities that he would be given an immigrant card within two years that would ensure his indefinite leave to remain in the country. Ten months later, however, he was abruptly informed that his entitlement to protection will be coming to an end in five months time when he reaches eighteen.

Where will he go? What can he do? I have as few answers as he does.

This is the agonising cycle of life for tens of thousands of refugee and undocumented children and teenagers in Europe. Their lives are held hostage by the border regime across the continent, and they are experiencing hardship and destitution like many adult refugees. The majority of these children and youths are unaccompanied and without resources, and barely even understand why their misery continues beyond their arrival in Europe.

35 million, that is 15%, of the estimated 232 million migrants worldwide, are children and youths under the age of twenty. The majority of them are in developing countries, rather than in Europe. In 2016, more than 63,300 unaccompanied minors entered the EU (half of them Syrian and Afghan refugees). Among them, more than 25,000 reached Italy via the Mediterranean sea route.

As the worlds wealthiest continent, Europe has nevertheless been unable or unwilling to offer protection...

Happy 18th birthday! Youre out openDemocracy

Tougher internal controls under Macron are only giving police more powers, allowing them to conduct identity checks in emergency shelters. Brutality towards migrants is likely to become even more common.

lead Children inside the former Liniere camp in Grande Synthe, northern France. Many who couldn't cope with life inside reception shelters had ended up in this camp.On New Years Eve, when cities were cheering and watching fireworks, Jahid called me from his shelter in France. He had been there since spring 2017, and had been living with the hope that his life would be sorted out in the not-too-distant future.

The underage refugee I had met in Lampedusa eighteen months ago was entitled to protection, and as such was promised by the French authorities that he would be given an immigrant card within two years that would ensure his indefinite leave to remain in the country. Ten months later, however, he was abruptly informed that his entitlement to protection will be coming to an end in five months time when he reaches eighteen.

Where will he go? What can he do? I have as few answers as he does.

This is the agonising cycle of life for tens of thousands of refugee and undocumented children and teenagers in Europe. Their lives are held hostage by the border regime across the continent, and they are experiencing hardship and destitution like many adult refugees. The majority of these children and youths are unaccompanied and without resources, and barely even understand why their misery continues beyond their arrival in Europe.

35 million, that is 15%, of the estimated 232 million migrants worldwide, are children and youths under the age of twenty. The majority of them are in developing countries, rather than in Europe. In 2016, more than 63,300 unaccompanied minors entered the EU (half of them Syrian and Afghan refugees). Among them, more than 25,000 reached Italy via the Mediterranean sea route.

As the worlds wealthiest continent, Europe has nevertheless been unable or unwilling to offer protection...

22:23

A new round of Stormont talks can succeed only if they focus on the need to govern. And British-Irish passivity must end Slugger O'Toole

The local media are reporting po-faced that another last chance round of talks about restoring the Executive is about to begin. The interesting fact is that all five Assembly parties will be invited. Other than that, further comment seems redundant for now. The replies will be pored over for clues about any shifts of position. Nothing has emerged so far about the chairing role, neutral, mediating or steered, and whether the two governments or one of them will present any actual proposals. Without them I fear the talks are doomed.  As usual, nothing has emerged yet about the shape of the agenda or who goes first. It would be nice if somebody in the media  was at least to inquire.

At the same time, the background to the talks is rich in incident and comment. What does the McElduff affair tell us about Sinn Feins current approach to politics as a new leader is about to take the stage?  Malachi ODoherty  sees it as a qualified victory for the modernisers  but quotes chapter and verse about how far he believes they have to go.

Whoever leads the party next will have to accept that Sinn Feins evolution away from the IRA has further to go. .. Now the question for McDonald is whether she can hold the line there and insist she is not ashamed of the Shankill bombing, the shooting of civilians fleeing the Bayardo Bar bombing, the execution of supposed informers fingered by the chief informer Freddie Scappaticci.

For shame, once admitted to the discussion, has much to say that has gone unsaid for far too long.

Did her Killarney speech reveal a DUP leader sufficiently flexible and imaginative to cut a new deal?   The headline, Tone deaf Arlene gives us a foretaste of  Newton Emersons Irish Times piece. While it spins ingenious swirls of  interpretation from her words and record, it resolves itself in a contradiction.

If only she could strike the right tone, circumstances would be transformed.

It would be difficult for anyone to find the right tone in Fosters position.

And that is the problem of so much comment. Lacking so much hard information in a situation where omerta even about  political strategy is fatalistically  taken for granted, the discourse is overwhelmingly about ideology, attitudes and history.

The parties are like churches who launch off into another round of dispute about free will and the Virgin Birth when they should be getting together to set up food banks for the starving poor.

In the great series of nuclear disa...

20:46

The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt openDemocracy

The process of repression is outsourced to the citizenry who indirectly secure absolute power for the regime. It is a vicious cycle with the masses being both the victims as well as beneficiaries of repression. 

El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Streets of Old Cairo. March 2016. El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Autocracies, to maintain their hold on power, rely on heavy doses of repression. Their power appears to be heavily centralized in the upper echelons of the social order, however, the reality is much more complex.

Autocracies mould their masses, who are both the victims of repression and its beneficiaries. Beneficiaries in the sense of smaller autocrats also repressing those below them in the social order. As such, repression is decentralised, creating fertile ground for societal repression, the main victims of which are those on the margins and the weaker segments of society such as minorities, women and the poor.

This repression is recreated at all levels of society as well as in a number of situations at schools, the work place, and even within families and homes. With a state policy that condones this form of repression, a society with extremely limited margins of freedom is created in both the public and the private spheres, with the burden lessening as one moves up the social ladder.

Inequality is accepted as a natural condition, as those on the social margins are dehumanized, repressed and violated. This is an essential method for the preservation and the propagation of an autocratic system. 

Autocracy in the classroom

When one looks at Egypt and the lineage of repression, which I have personally experienced, one can only see that repression penetrates all layers of society. A simple example is that of the school system, and the levels of violence children of the lower classes are exposed to.

In 2015 a chi...

The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt openDemocracy

The process of repression is outsourced to the citizenry who indirectly secure absolute power for the regime. It is a vicious cycle with the masses being both the victims as well as beneficiaries of repression. 

El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Streets of Old Cairo. March 2016. El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Autocracies, to maintain their hold on power, rely on heavy doses of repression. Their power appears to be heavily centralized in the upper echelons of the social order, however, the reality is much more complex.

Autocracies mould their masses, who are both the victims of repression and its beneficiaries. Beneficiaries in the sense of smaller autocrats also repressing those below them in the social order. As such, repression is decentralised, creating fertile ground for societal repression, the main victims of which are those on the margins and the weaker segments of society such as minorities, women and the poor.

This repression is recreated at all levels of society as well as in a number of situations at schools, the work place, and even within families and homes. With a state policy that condones this form of repression, a society with extremely limited margins of freedom is created in both the public and the private spheres, with the burden lessening as one moves up the social ladder.

Inequality is accepted as a natural condition, as those on the social margins are dehumanized, repressed and violated. This is an essential method for the preservation and the propagation of an autocratic system. 

Autocracy in the classroom

When one looks at Egypt and the lineage of repression, which I have personally experienced, one can only see that repression penetrates all layers of society. A simple example is that of the school system, and the levels of violence children of the lower classes are exposed to.

In 2015 a chi...

20:20

Who drills, wins openDemocracy

When it comes to oil, Norway just cant help itself.

This week, a governing coalition was finally formed in Norway, a full four months after the general election which saw the minority government of Conservatives and populist-right Progress party remain in power. The new coalition platform now includes the Liberal party, Venstre, who have controversially joined forces with the Progress party for the first time, despite repeatedly denying this was a possibility during the election campaign.

Arguably, very little of Norwegian politics has any real international significance, barring a few issues. Two exceptions that come to mind are the potential influence Norway is having on Britains post-Brexit options, as well as the way the country manages its gigantic pension fund (the worlds largest sovereign wealth fund). But the most significant area is related to oil and gas activity, since Norway has for many years been among the worlds largest petroleum exporters by volume. Only the gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and U.A.E. are bigger exporters per-capita. A fair amount of the responsibility for the global climate crisis can justifiably be laid at the feet of Norway, which has become one of the worlds richest countries as a direct result.

Norwegian environmental organisation Natur og Ungdom protesting in Paris 2015. Photo by Helene Lind Jensen

Internationally, the political situation related to oil and climate has shifted significantly in the past year. President Macron has proposed an ecological transition law, intended to end the granting licences for oil and gas exploration in France. The World Bank has announced that it will no longer finance upstream oil and gas. The number of...

Who drills, wins openDemocracy

When it comes to oil, Norway just cant help itself.

This week, a governing coalition was finally formed in Norway, a full four months after the general election which saw the minority government of Conservatives and populist-right Progress party remain in power. The new coalition platform now includes the Liberal party, Venstre, who have controversially joined forces with the Progress party for the first time, despite repeatedly denying this was a possibility during the election campaign.

Arguably, very little of Norwegian politics has any real international significance, barring a few issues. Two exceptions that come to mind are the potential influence Norway is having on Britains post-Brexit options, as well as the way the country manages its gigantic pension fund (the worlds largest sovereign wealth fund). But the most significant area is related to oil and gas activity, since Norway has for many years been among the worlds largest petroleum exporters by volume. Only the gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and U.A.E. are bigger exporters per-capita. A fair amount of the responsibility for the global climate crisis can justifiably be laid at the feet of Norway, which has become one of the worlds richest countries as a direct result.

Norwegian environmental organisation Natur og Ungdom protesting in Paris 2015. Photo by Helene Lind Jensen

Internationally, the political situation related to oil and climate has shifted significantly in the past year. President Macron has proposed an ecological transition law, intended to end the granting licences for oil and gas exploration in France. The World Bank has announced that it will no longer finance upstream oil and gas. The number of...

19:45

No future in Karabash, one of Russias most polluted towns openDemocracy

With its population dropping, this choking copper town in Russias Urals is struggling to survive. RU

In the mid-90s, the annual volume of plant emissions into the atmosphere was more than 118 thousand tons of sulfur dioxide; per person in the city - about 7 tons. Photo: Ivan Chesnokov. All rights reserved.Karabash, a small town in Russias Urals, is known all over the world for its shocking environmental pollution. The copper-smelting plant has been polluting the ground and air of this company town since the beginning of the last century, and in the mid 1990s Russias Environment Ministry declared the town an environmental disaster zone.

Both residents and experts put Karabashs high mortality rate from cancer and respiratory diseases down to the towns copper plant. In the towns early years, its population reached 50,000, but this number has gradually decreased to its current 11,000. Local authorities and plant management claim that the environmental situation is getting better, but residents dont believe them. While 2017 may have been Russias Year of the Environment, theres been no noticeable improvement in Karabash.

Ive long since given up drinking the tap water, says Vladimir Kartashov, who has lived here all his life. I go to a spring and fill up large bottles. Im sitting drinking tea with Vladimir and his friend Vyacheslav Serov in a well-worn kitchen in a typical five-storey block of flats. This neighbourhood is regarded as the newest in town: it has food shops, several cafes where you can have a meal for 200 roubles (2.20) and a library. The flats are as far away from the smelting plant as possible until a few years ago they were safe from toxic emissions, but this is no longer the case.

Sometimes I sit here in the kitchen or the living room in the evening and I can feel gas seeping through the closed windows, says Kartashov. If you let a few drops of car oil [contaminated by copper pollutants] drop on a hot car exhaust pipe, you can taste it at the back of your throat.

A hundred year...

19:11

Frontpage 18th January openDemocracy

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17:00

Darkest Hour - what does a rash of Winston Churchill portrayals tell us about Brexit Britain? openDemocracy

Are our finest hours all behind us? What of the untold Churchill stories? And who can speak for Britain, today?

Image: Darkest Hour promotional poster, Working Title. Reproduced under Fair Use.

Winston Churchill is everywhere at the moment. It is as if there are only two narratives about Britains past: the Second World War and dramas about people of privilege, class and money.

The Churchill industry can cover both strands, and for some his is the last uncontested great story of Britain. To others he is the last statesman who unreservedly represented the moral case for Britain; whereas for many on the left he has long been a problem figure. And whilst this is about our past and the dark days of 1940, is also about the storm clouds gathering today - from Brexit to the widespread cynicism in politicians and institutions.

In the last year Churchill has been portrayed in the film of the same name by Brian Cox, the peacetime Churchill featured in Netflixs The Crown, and most recently, played by Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour. Oldmans portrayal concentrates on that watershed period in the Second World War in May 1940 where the Chamberlain Government totters and then collapses, Churchill becomes Prime Minister, and the War Cabinet debates whether to continue the war effort or to seek out peace terms.

This critical period has been covered in-depth by John Lukacs Five Days in London, May 1940 and more recently by Nicolas Shakespeares Six Minutes in May: How Churchill unexpectedly became Prime Minister. Darkest Hour opens with Labour leader Clement Attlee concluding the parliamentary debate that brought down Chamberlain as Prime Minister. Its a brave opening for the film the debate was known as the Norway debate, and its subject, the disastrous British campaign fought in Norway for which Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty was largely responsible.

This parliamentary occasion, lasting over two days in May 1940, was one of the great House of Commons moments. Speeches had consequences. Tory rebel Leo Amery who in 1939 had famously criticised Chamberlains patriotism by asking Labours deputy leader Arthur Greenwood to Speak for England - concluded his intervention by urging Chamberlain (and invo...

16:07

From PFI to privatisation, our national accounting rules encourage daft decisions. Its time to change them. openDemocracy

Countless daft decisions have been encouraged by national accounting rules which defy all economic logic. Taxpayers are now paying the price.

Public versus private is back. After the liquidation of Carillion, the governments use of private companies and outsourcing to deliver public services is under close scrutiny. Now the National Audit Office has added to this with a new report which reviews the costs and benefits of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back. After the liquidation of Carillion, the governments use of private companies and outsourcing to deliver public services is under close scrutiny. Now the National Audit Office has added to this with a new report which reviews the costs and benefits of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). The conclusion will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever scrutinised any PFI deals. It finds that PFI projects can be 40% more expensive than doing it directly with public money. This begs the obvious question: why did we ever enter PFI contracts in the first place? The answer is provided on page 11 of the NAO report: PFI is off-balance sheet for national accounts purposes, which means it results in lower recorded levels of government debt and public spending in the short term. Time and time again, governments and other public bodies have been lured into using PFI, even when it costs taxpayers much more over the longer term. But while part of the reason for the proliferation of PFI undoubtedly stems from political short-termism and an irrational fear of the national debt, there is another culprit which is rarely discussed: Britains rather peculiar approach to measuring public finances. Now be warned: this is not the sexiest topic. But it has had an enormous impact on the way that our economy has been run in recent decades, so try and bear with me. Whenever the government establishes a new body or privatises or nationalises an existing one, the resultant body must be classified for National Accounts. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) decides the treatment in the National Accounts by applying international accounting standards. If a body is deemed to be controlled by government or a public corporation, then it will be classified as in the public sector. If not, then it will be classified as in the private sector. So far so good. Once a body has been classified a...

05:49

Fireworks nights openDemocracy

There feels like a massive push towards diversifying the arts. It makes me feel uncomfortable when at the centre of that push we find mainly white, middle class people.

lead Art is just a word. Common Wealth. Jon Poutney. All rights reserved. Rosemary Bechler (R): Rhiannon, we are catching up with participants in our Team Syntegrity non-hierarchical conference in Barcelona last June, to see what impact it had. It's great to be back in touch. Could we start with some background on your work and what kind of process of change most interests you? 

Rhiannon White (Rhiannon): I grew up on a housing estate in Cardiff and we didnt have a theatre near where I lived. When I was a kid I loved making theatre, telling stories and bringing people together. When I did eventually go into the theatre, it felt pretty alien, judgmental and a bit bourgeois! Not a place where kids from a council estate should be! I made it my mission in life to shake it up a bit, and create theatre where people could feel like it belonged to them. Along with Evie Manning I set up Common Wealth. There were loads of empty buildings in Bristol where we lived and we would squat those empty buildings and make massive shows in them. We took theatre outside of the theatre.

We made a show about domestic abuse and we made it on a street full of people, inside a house. The house where we held the performance had neighbours either side. That show showed us that people have a real appetite for theatre regardless of where they come from. One woman in her fifties came to our show four times, and she had never previously been to the theatre. When we heard about that, we realised that was what we felt like when we came together because we wanted to make theatre. We wanted to share that experience, but on a massive scale.

So basically we set ourselves up as a theatre company and decided that we wanted to make works for people who might think theatre is not for them. Our work isnt just theatre: it includes visual arts, and music and is multidisciplinary.

...

04:22

Out of time: the fragile temporality of Carillions accumulation model openDemocracy

Carillion is the epitome of the modern financialized firm. Its liquidation tells us much about risk in modern capitalism, and raises serious questions about state outsourcing.

Look anywhere on Carillions website and we see metaphors for its supposed tangibility and strength, from the way it advertises its Tarmac Group heritage to its list of construction achievements which in fact precede its inception. The website projects an image of a company steeped in all things concrete and solid. However, as Carillion moves into liquidation it is evident it was anything but. By 2016 Carillions tangible fixed assets were just 3.3% and stocks 1.8% of its total assets.Look anywhere on Carillions website and we see metaphors for its supposed tangibility and strength, from the way it advertises its Tarmac Group heritage to its list of construction achievements which in fact precede its inception. The website projects an image of a company steeped in all things concrete and solid. However, as Carillion moves into liquidation it is evident it was anything but. By 2016 Carillions tangible fixed assets were just 3.3% and stocks 1.8% of its total assets. Much of its balance sheet was instead made up of intangibles (37.7% of total assets), of which almost all was goodwill (35.5% of total assets) (Figure 1). The value of that goodwill depended on Carillion continuing as a going concern, which is not now an option. Creditors now want their money back, but Carillion do not have assets which can be sold to make them whole. Carillion is the very epitome of the modern financialized firm and its liquidation tells us much about risk in this phase of financialization. The Carillion financialization story is not one of distributional struggles between stakeholders in linear time, where dividends and share buybacks come at the expense of either wages, employment or investment in a zero-sum way. Employment and average labour costs actually rose between 2012 and 2016. Carillions financialization story is about how firms manipulate their balance sheet to intervene in the temporalities of income and obligation; and how this may create unanticipated inter-temporal tensions. This view of financialization owes more to critical accounting than political economy. Critical accountants such as Hines (1988); Hopwood (1986); McSweeney (2000); Morgan (1988); Robson (1982, 1984) have long argued that accounting is a process which constitutes financial reality...

04:17

Cities of London and Westminster Jonathan Fryer

City of LondonTheresa May is hanging onto power with all the tenacity of a terrier refusing to let anyone take its bone away. But there is always a possibility that the Conservative Government only in office because of an arrangement in the House of Commons with 10 Ulster Protestants from the Democratic Unionist Party could fall some time this year, as the complexities of Brexit become clearer. If so, the Liberal Democrats are well-prepared, with prospective parliamentary candidates in place in most seats. In my case, I have been selected for the Cities of London and Westminster, which includes the City, Londons prime business and banking area, as well as the southern half of Westminster borough, including the Houses of Parliament and much of the West End.

...

04:11

Theresa May is letting Ben Bradley keep his job AAV


As the rest of us were celebrating the New Year, the Tories decided to quietly sneak out an announcement that they'd appointed the vile hard-right polemicist Toby Young to their new (and supposedly impartial) universities watchdog.

Within a matter of hours it became clear that the Tories had failed to do even the slightest due diligence on the guy they were handing a job to. Not only did Toby Young have a disgusting back catalogue of misogynistic, homophobic, and downright disgusting Tweets, he'd also been attending secretive pro-eugenics conferences full of white supremacists and paedophilia apologists, and writing articles attempting to rehabilitate the concept of eugenics.

Eventually, after a nine day shit-storm over his repulsive comments and views, Toby Young resigned, and any sensible and/or vaguely competent political party would have looked into how they managed to appoint someone with such an appalling track record, but not the Tories.

On the very same day that Toby Young resigned over his back catalogue of despicable articles and Tweets, Theresa May appointed the recently elected Tory MP Ben Bradley as Vice Chair for Youth.

Apparently his job would be to get more young people to engage with the Conservative party.

Had they bothered to check Bradley's Internet history before appointing h...

02:32

How to stop the next Carillion - 7 steps to public ownership openDemocracy

Jeremy Corbyn is right - this is a watershed moment for the ideology of privatisation that has plagued our public services for over 30 years.

Image: Carillion, improving the image of construction? Rights: Geograph.org.uk.

Here are seven steps we can take to address the root causes of the Carillion crisis and build up a robust public sector that wont be vulnerable to this kind of disaster.

Lets futureproof our public services by bringing them into public ownership. Heres how.

1) Stop outsourcing

Of course the government should bring all of Carillions public service contracts in house, permanently, where they should be across schools, hospitals, prisons and railways. It should also stop outsourcing altogether.

Weve been arguing against outsourcing since our launch in 2013. Our #PrivatisationFails resource shows that these profit-driven companies have failed us again and again. G4S at the Olympics. Atos failing disabled people. Richard Branson suing the NHS.

This is not a coincidence. Public services are mostly about caring for people. Private companies are driven by profit. This means corners are cut so that shareholders get their share.

The Institute for Economic Affairs says government cant run things. Its time to put that tired old mantra to bed. Research shows that councils can save money, improve quality and increase flexibility by bringing services in house.

Private companies are good at doing many things. Running public services isnt one of them.

2) Bring PFI deals in house

As People vs PFI have powerfully shown, Private Finance Initiatives are institutionalised systems for the theft of public money meant for public services. The collapse of Carillion gives us a chance to end this discredited policy. Its fantastic that Labour has taken a brave new position and is now committing to doing just that.

Helen Mercer has laid out...

Wednesday, 17 January

21:39

Apply for a 50.50 feminist investigative journalism fellowship openDemocracy

We need your help to track the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights. Apply for 50.50's inaugural feminist investigative journalism fellowships.

We need your help to track the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights. Apply for 50.50's inaugural feminist investigative journalism fellowships.

50.50 is the section of the independent media platform openDemocracy.net covering women's rights, gender and sexuality. We are looking for two part-time feminist investigative journalism fellows to work with editors Claire Provost and Lara Whyte on in-depth and investigative reports for the series tracking the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights.

Fellowships will run for three months, and can begin in March or June 2018. Each fellow will be expected to work with editors on 2-3 reports, and to prepare for and attend weekly (virtual) editorial meetings. Fellows will be paid per story up to 330 ($450) per report. They will also receive ongoing mentorship and practical training. Workshops will be arranged, where possible, on specific topics such as Freedom of Information requests, interview skills, and feature writing, depending on projects and fellows' needs.

Fellows may be based anywhere in the world. Previous experience in journalism, research, and multimedia storytelling is welcome. Most importantly, you are a creative, critical thinker and collaborative team player. We're looking for young women and trans writers, from anywhere in the world, with ideas and enthusiasm for original, feminist investigative journalism. Applicants between the ages of 20 and 30 years old, living in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, are particularly encouraged to apply. 

These are not full-time positions, and can run alongside other responsibilities. They may suit freelancers or researchers wishing to pivot towards investigations. You should be able to dedicate approximately 7-8 hours to this fellowship each week. You must be comfortable researching and writing in English (with other lan...

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