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Ghost Dog

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Hometown: Canary Islands Archipelago
Home country: Spain
Member since: Wed Apr 19, 2006, 01:59 PM
Number of posts: 16,692

About Me

A Brit many years in Spain, Catalunya, Baleares, Canarias. Cooperative member. Geography. Ecology. Cartography. Software. Sound Recording. Music Production. Languages & Literature. History.

Journal Archives

Europeans used to ignore their parliament. Not any longer

Europeans used to ignore their parliament. Not any longer
Young people are suddenly interested: they understand that cooperation is the only way to tackle Google, or the climate

Caroline de Gruyter Wed 29 May 2019 08.00 BST

... I moved to Brussels in 1999 to report on asylum and migration. This was already a hot topic, due to refugees from the former Yugoslavia and people crossing the Mediterranean in boats. I spent most of my time at the commission, which produced proposals on border protection and common asylum rules, and at the council of ministers, where member states later shot these proposals to pieces in relative secrecy. But I hardly ever went to parliament. It produced excellent reports on migration but only had advisory powers. MEPs felt useless and frustrated. Their voters were left in the dark.

This has completely changed: since the 2009 Lisbon treaty, MEPs co-decide with governments on asylum and migration. Today, not only does the European parliament have more legislative powers but there is also much more awareness of the big issues. Everybody understands that countries cannot tackle climate breakdown or Google on their own. Because of the euro we have a common monetary policy; because of Schengen we share an immigration policy; because banks trade across borders, we have European banking rules and supervision. In Brussels, ministers and prime ministers take decisions on sensitive issues that citizens care about, such as security and defence. Just as national parliaments control governments in The Hague, Lisbon or Bratislava, the European parliament controls them when they take decisions in Brussels... This is how it should be: when our governments act in Brussels, there must be democratic control. That’s how democracy works – we have it at every level of governance, whether it’s municipal, regional, national or European. We just have to make sure that those levels are well-equipped with the tools that a mature and legitimate democracy needs: courts, governments, parliaments and oversight...

... I regularly give lectures about European issues. Young audiences are suddenly extremely interested. They want to know how Brussels works, and how Europe can navigate in a turbulent geopolitical landscape with superpowers such as the US, Russia and China circling around it. They understand that they have something to preserve, and they don’t want their children to be forced to choose between an American and a Chinese model.

People will now speculate about who will become president of the commission or the council. That’s good news. If we all finally step on to the European podium, ready to engage – even Eurosceptic parties who were previously only interested in “exits” – surely that’s good for democracy. It increases democratic checks and balances in Europe, and the legitimacy of what’s decided in Brussels...

Much more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/29/europeans-parliament-young-people-eu

The far-right ENF has 58 seats only, and no allies

unless you count the Brexiters, in the EFD.

See: https://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1014&pid=2321054

The Green / European Free Alliance group in the EU parliament includes the Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru and Catalunya's Esquerra Republicana among others seeking EU reforms... It has natural allies in the United Left / Nordic Green group (38 seats).

Remainers won these elections - and they'd win a second Brexit referendum

What happens next is outlandish. About 100,000 of an ageing tribe, whose party scraped a derisory 9% in the European elections, are about to choose the next prime minister for all the rest of the UK’s 46 million voters. The Conservative party, which likes to call itself “the most successful party in the western world”, is now funded more lavishly by the legacies of its dead members than by its living ones. The keys to Downing Street have been handed on before in this high-handed monarchical manner without an election, but that doesn’t make it any less disgracefully undemocratic, as with so much of our failing constitution. Avoiding the legitimacy of election did Gordon Brown no good at all, giving him the hunted air of an insecure Richard the Third-ish usurper. The success of both the Brexit party and the Liberal Democrats’ “Bollocks to Brexit” riposte has obliterated the illusions of middle-ground, fence-sitting compromisers. Tory fears of the Nigel Farage surge will make it all the more likely that the crown falls into Boris Johnson’s incapable hands. The new prime minister’s lack of legitimacy will be a serious weakness, after the party scored its lowest vote since 1832.

That abysmal result will see the Tories move heaven and earth not to call a self-immolating general election, which would let the Farage hordes on to their Westminster turf. But with the same cast of MPs, the new prime minister inherits the same parliamentary maze, an Escher drawing of impossible hyperbolic geometry where each staircase leads back to an infinite beginning. Extraordinary that a Tory chancellor of the exchequer says he may bring down his own government with a vote of no confidence if any step is taken towards the no-deal Brexit stair. Yet the new leader will have been chosen on a promise to take exactly that stairway to hell... Trapped in the same paralysis as Theresa May, what happens next? The new leader will reach an impasse where going back to the people is the only escape parliament can agree: a referendum will look less alarming than a general election to both main parties. Instead of a mauling by Farage, the Tories would share his hard Brexit platform in a final conflict in this long culture war.

This is the only way to cauterise the gaping national split and confront once and for all the many dark issues that lurk beneath the nativist Brexit idea. By now, escaping from Brexit altogether offers a better long-term chance of recovery for the Tory party than being for ever branded with the dire consequences of a no-deal economic disaster.

In these elections remain was the winner, not Farage. What mattered beyond the number of seats won was the sum of remain votes. Lib Dem, Green, Scottish National party, Plaid Cymru and Change UK outpolled Brexit and Ukip by 40.4% remain to 34.9% hard Brexit. Now add in Labour and Conservative votes, divided – as pollsters Britain Thinks and YouGov suggest – by allocating 80% of Tory votes to leave, and 60% of Labour votes to remain. That suggests a remain win in a referendum by 50% to 47%. Certain? Of course not – it’s close – but this three-point remain majority certainly makes it a democratic outrage to press ahead with any kind of Brexit without giving voters the final say. And what is not in doubt is that there’s a clear majority against a no-deal Brexit...


More from BBC Europe editor:

... Europe's voters are looking elsewhere for answers. They're drawn to parties and political personalities they feel better represent their values and priorities.

Some are attracted by the nationalist right, promising a crackdown on immigration and more power for national parliaments, rather than for Brussels. Italy's firebrand Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is a successful example, as is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Other voters prefer a pro-European alternative, like the Green Party and liberal groups, which also performed well in these elections.

The new European Parliament will be broadly pro-EU but also fractured, making law-making and change difficult. Just when Europe's voters are screaming for change...


(Also without mentioning the United Left/Green group, which held its ground although it weakened through fragmentation in Spain).

European elections: far right 'surge' ends in a ripple

Source: The Guardian (in Budapest)

After months of boasts, bluster and apocalyptic rhetoric, Europe's far right had a modest night at the polls in the European elections, making striking gains in some countries but losses in others. In the end, a promised populist surge turned out to be more of a ripple.

There were expected strong showings for leading figures of the European far right, such as Hungary's anti-immigration prime minister, Viktor Orbn, whose Fidesz party took more than half the vote, and Italy's interior minister, Matteo Salvini, whose Lega was the biggest party. Marine le Pen's National Rally also narrowly topped the polls in France.

But while there were losses for traditional big parties in many countries, far from all of those votes went to far-right or populist parties, with greens and other pro-European forces also doing well...

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/27/european-elections-far-right-surge-ends-in-a-ripple

This gives a pan-EU, more detailed and nuanced view than you'd get from most MSM propaganda articles. Not mentioned is that the mainstream Green/EFA group is definitely left-wing and includes some pro-EU regional nationalists such as the Scottish SNP, while the rarely-mentioned Confederal Group of the European United Left /Nordic Green Left, which brings together left-wing MEPs in the European Parliament is also pro-EU and includes some regional reformists as well as Green interests and parties.

See official (provisional) results here: https://euobserver.com/eu-election/144963

Note that the far-right anti-EU nationalists are in the ENF and in (not all of) the EDFF, which together will hold only 15% of seats in the new EU parliament.

(Do you like real music?): Freedom (Spanish) Rhapsody (Klezmer)

Amazing, imho:

Chagos Islands: isolated UK faces thrashing in UN vote on ownership

The UK is facing a diplomatic rout at the United Nations on Wednesday when the general assembly is expected to vote overwhelmingly to demand Britain relinquish hold of one of the last vestiges of empire in the Indian Ocean. The US and the UK have lobbied intensely at the UN to avoid support for Britain dropping to single figures among the UN’s 193 member states on the issue of its continued possession of the Chagos Islands, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory.

The vote follows an advisory opinion issued by the international court of justice (ICJ) in February that UK should hand over control to Mauritius, which claims sovereignty over the islands.

London and Washington are trying to persuade allies to at least abstain, so as to prevent support for Mauritius reaching triple figures. The Mauritian mission to the UN believes it has reached that threshold, winning pledges of backing from more than 100 member states. Such a lopsided defeat would also serve to underline British isolation in a battle that many UN member states, particularly in Africa, see as a last stand to preserve a relic of empire, and at a time at a time when its European Union allies, dismayed by Brexit, are no longer automatically offering support...

... Britain took possession of the Chagos archipelago in 1814 and held on to the islands after Mauritian independence in 1968, allegedly through coercive pressure on independence leaders. Three years earlier the UK had secretly leased one of the islands, Diego Garcia, to the US to use as a military base. The people of the islands, the Chagossians, were forcibly evicted and have been campaigning for their return for decades...


The Liberal Embrace of War (Taibbi; Rolling Stone)

American interventionists learned a lesson from Iraq: pre-empt the debate. Now everyone is for regime change

... The social media era has made it much easier to keep pundits in line. Propaganda is effective when it’s relentless, personal, attacking, and one-sided. The idea isn’t to debate people, but to create an “ick” factor around certain ideas, so debate is pre-empted.

Don’t want to invade Syria? Get ready to be denounced as an Assadist. Feel ambivalent about regime change in Venezuela? You must love Putin and Maduro.

People end up either reflexively believing these things, or afraid to deal with vitriol they’ll get if they say something off-narrative. In the media world, it’s understood that stepping out of line on Venezuela or Syria will result in being removed from TV guest lists, loss of speaking income, and other problems.

This has effectively made intellectual objections to regime change obsolete. In the Trump era, things that not long ago aroused widespread horror — from torture to drone assassination to “rendition” to illegal surveillance to extrajudicial detention in brutal secret prisons around the world — inspire crickets now...


U.S. issues warning on airspace near Gulf as Iran tensions simmer

Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an advisory to U.S. commercial airliners flying over the waters of the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to exercise caution as tensions between Washington and Tehran continue to simmer.

The advisory, issued by the FAA on Thursday and circulated late on Friday, said the warning came amidst “heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region which present an increasing inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or mis-identification”...

Read more: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-iran-airlines-gulf/u-s-issues-warning-on-airspace-near-gulf-as-iran-tensions-simmer-idUKKCN1SO06B

Alternative headline: "US warns strike force might shoot down commercial airliners"

Guardian Exclusive spins SIS 'intelligence' on Iran tension

Two senior intelligence sources said that Qassem Suleimani, leader of Iran’s powerful Quds force, summoned the militias under Tehran’s influence three weeks ago, amid a heightened state of tension in the region. The move to mobilise Iran’s regional allies is understood to have triggered fears in the US that Washington’s interests in the Middle East are facing a pressing threat. The UK raised its threat levels for British troops in Iraq on Thursday.

While Suleimani has met regularly with leaders of Iraq’s myriad Shia groups over the past five years, the nature and tone of this gathering was different. “It wasn’t quite a call to arms, but it wasn’t far off,” one source said.

The meeting has led to a frenzy of diplomatic activity between US, British and Iraqi officials who are trying to banish the spectre of clashes between Tehran and Washington and who now fear that Iraq could become an arena for conflict.

The gathering partly informed a US decision to evacuate non-essential diplomatic staff from the US embassy in Baghdad and Erbil and to raise the threat status at US bases in Iraq. It also coincided with a perceived separate risk to US interests and those of its allies in the Persian Gulf and led to a heightened threat that more than a decade of proxy conflicts may spill over into a direct clash between Washington and Tehran...


Well, first of all note the present tense used in head and sublines, when the meeting referred to was three weeks ago. Around three weeks ago, I recall, Iranian officials were saying that if attacked by the USA, they could retaliate against US assets in the region.

Oh, and select a sinister photo of Suleimani, naturally.

Then, the content nowhere emphasises that the US executive started this, by unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear deal a year ago, imposing sanctions and ratcheting up the tension as acts of deliberate policy. Iran has until now been in full compliance with the deal and has been waiting for the EU to come up with a promised 'way round' the US sanctions, something that appears to be difficult. Iran now says it will cease to comply with some of the terms of the deal. The US continues to ratchet up tensions, and Iran's proxies are surely now on high alert, ready indeed to retaliate.

That the British in Iraq, Bahrein, Oman and elsewhere are also on higher alert, as will be the French, is one more ratchet wound on the wheel that rolls towards war, as Bolton has promised.

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