Thursday, March 3, 2011

In Our Time - how old is the universe

BBC logo with a youthful
Melvyn Bragg

Oh joy! In Our Time this week was on the age of the universe.  Melvyn Bragg always at his best on scientific subjects where he acts as the listeners’ friend.  But sometimes when the subject is history or culture he pitches into the discussion himself and this is what we do not want. In January when discussing the industrial revolution he more or less shut one of his guests up, and told her she was talking rubbish. I think he suspected her of Marxism.  I'm starting a campaign to have him retired and replaced by Andrew Marr. 

Next week (Thurs 10th, 9 am): Free will.  Even better‼ 

In Our Time is my no 1 podcast, see my podcast recommendations.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Youth vs age in the Irish Labour Party

I heard a perceptive sociological analysis of the tensions that will be manifesting themselves right now within the Irish Labour Party and especially within the parliamentary party.

The old stagers will be saying to themselves: this is the last chance I'll get to be in government before I retire. It’s now or never.

The young guard, which will include a good number of their first-time TD’s, will be saying to themselves: if Gilmore sups with the devil, we'll be slaughtered at the next general election. I'll be a one-time-only TD.  Lets go into opposition now; then come the next general election we'll have clean hands and can win even more seats at the expense of Fine Gael discredited by hammering the population to bail out the bankers. By that time I'll have enough experience to be in the running to be a minister.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Don't do it!

Eamon Gilmore

Tonight the Irish Labour Party is negotiating with Fine Gael with a view to setting up a coalition government.  See today's Irish Times.

They would be better advised to construct a broad left opposition, with Sinn Féin and the 4 (or is it 5?) United Left TD's. It would be a good move for Eamon Gilmore to drive such a hard bargain that Kenny can't agree. But the problem is that the prospectus Labour put to the electors was that they would go into government with Fine Gael, not that they would oppose them. So they're goosed either way.

But more goosed if they join the government.  They will go the way of the Greens in Ireland and the Lib Dems in the UK. Will get the blame for hammering the workers. And will deserve to get it.

I see that under the Labour party constitution, the leadership must get the approval of a delegate conference before it can enter a coalition government.  I wonder how lively that will be.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ireland : Tories routed. Tories to form government

Victorious United Left Alliance candidates Richard Boyd-Barrett
(People Before Profit); with Joe Higgins (Socialist Party)
and Clare Daly (Socialist Party) celebrate at the Dun Laoghaire
count centre in Loughlinstown. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Fianna Fáil is down from 73 seats to 17, as of a couple of hours ago. The count continues so they may pick up a few more. A protest at ceding sovereignty to the IMF and hammering the workers to pay the bond holders. Their electoral meltdown was most keenly felt in Dublin, where, if I read it right, they now only have one TD (finance minister Brian Lenihan).

With all 47 seats in Dublin filled, it’s Labour Party 18, Fine Gael 17, Sinn Féin 4, and the United Left Alliance 4.

We missed the election as we are in London. No postal votes. And no United Left Alliance candidate standing in our constituency, Cork East.

So one Tory party has been decisively ejected. But hey, what's this, another has been decisively elected. The Fine Gael candidate Pa O’Driscoll, a pleasant fellow, came canvassing and I told him I had never voted Tory and wouldn’t be starting now. He said : We’re not Tories. But on the way out the door he said: Well I admit half my party are, but not me.

The Irish Times reported on February 24th that former leading Progressive Democrat Pat Cox is advising Fine Gael.   The PD's (now defunct) are the most right-wing party to have existed in recent Irish history. Cox was noted as the apostle of “light touch” regulation, and promoter of the market-knows-best philosophy. Policies at the heart of the present catastrophe.

US: Anti-union law still stopped by absent Democrats + Federal shutdown threatened

I see that all 14 Wisconsin Democratic state senators are still out of state, preventing a quorum, and hence preventing passage of a law to bust the public service unions in the state.  Background, protests and pic .

Wisconsin school districts are warning teachers that their contracts might not be renewed, due to Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to solve budget deficits. If Walker's bill to cut nearly all public employees' collective bargaining rights becomes law, it would void current teacher collective bargaining agreements that lay out protocol and deadlines for conducting layoffs. 

Sourced from another story on NPR, Feb 26. I don’t follow all the details but that's the bones of it.

Meanwhile President Obama has restricted himself to one statement critical of the Gov Walker’s attitude to unions, but otherwise appears to be staying out of it. See Obama Quiet As Union Protests Grow In Swing States (NPR story 24 Feb + 4 minute audio clip.)

He has bigger fish to fry.  The Republicans threaten another total government shut down as they did to Clinton.  See The Feds Are Prepared For A Shutdown. Are You? (NPR story 25 Feb + 4 minute audio clip.)

According to The Economist, 19th Feb, three US states already ban collective bargaining for public employees (North Carolina, Texas, Virginia).  Ohio is going the Wisconsin way and a Florida bill would ban deduction of union dues from state workers’ pay.