Roundwood House Mountrath Country Accommodation

The Republican Party

The Grand Ol’ Party ain’t what it used to be. Most certainly it is not the political organisation led by Abraham Lincoln. It is hard to know when its rapid descent from a powerful elephant to a pint sized one – with a very large bellow – began, but it was not helped by Nixon’s paranoia (a man who was capable of being a great Republican), nor by the arrival of the exorable neo-cons, the extremist Tea Party, fiercely untruthful radio jocks and television anchors, and the fatal affliction of Trumpism. This current disease is now so virulent that no recovery seems likely. The most awful thing about Trump’s ascent was that, before he won the nomination, almost all of the party leaders knew exactly what a danger he represented and spoke out about that inherent risk in the most violent terms. After his nomination as their candidate, it was heart-breaking to watch supposed protectors of the Commonweal suddenly transform themselves into ambitious disciples whose language of dignity and honour turned out to be incapable of resisting the magnet of power. Trump himself is barely worth analysing. An empathy and intellectually free bully with a minor talent as a reality actor who still seems to believe that his role was real. He is to be pitied, but the damage he has done will haunt us all for a very long time.

One of the consequences will be the eventual, but likely, annihilation of the party he was supposed to be representing whilst in office. Its disappearance will not be sudden. It will be delayed by the oddity of an ancient constitution that is treated as Gospel and apparently to be so for eternity. Nor will it be helped by a binary, two party only, electoral system and the never-ending electioneering that is required to elect Congress every two years. It will happen, but the further damage to American society and democracy caused by any delay will be incalculable.

The current party policy platform would not seem to amount to even a small hill of beans. The message would seem to be entirely negative – not to allow the current administration achieve anything – good or bad. It is a very strange way to represent their constituents. In such circumstances, modulating our language is actually improper. When a child is nervous of thunder, it is perfectly reasonable to quiet them with a story of God moving furniture. This is not a reasonable response if used when standing under the only tree in an otherwise open field. That does not mean that we are free to call Trump a new Hitler, which he is not, Hitler was a very clever evil genius, luckily Trump is just silly. Nor should we succumb to the falsehood of calling Republicans, Fascists. Behind fascism is a coherent, if mistaken, philosophy. But we should be overcoming our reluctance to use a very sensitive, and history laden word, by proclaiming openly what they really are. That both he and his party are fast becoming proto-Nazis.

We tend to forget that The Nazis themselves did not arrive out of the blue, replete with terrifying legions of SS and Panzer divisions, but rather as a collection of ordinary people of the kind found in any state, particularly in times of chaos; embittered victims and veterans, super nationalists, ordinary citizens without hope, and a ragtag band of bullies suffering from misplaced Leader worship. Their violence was encouraged by their party and the members encouraged to engage in ever more reprehensible behaviour. Numbers were increased by false history, endless lies and encouragement of hatred of those who were perceived to be different: particularly Jews, but also trade unionists, foreigners who were not Aryan (that is white, excluding Slavs), Social Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Roma people, LGBTQ+ people, intellectually and physically disabled and God knows who else. Part of their very nature was to own the liberals and stake out the territory that was the proper place for women. They used the radio stations and print media who were favourable to them to disseminate impossible falsehoods and conspiracies. They promised that their leader was the only one who could restore Germany to its rightful place in the world: MGGA in other words. Despite all the hatred they bred, they never did achieve a majority. If Trump and his acolytes were made of the same stuff as Der Fuhrer and his associates were, the mini-insurrection at the Capital would have been much more violent and consequential, and the coup might have been successful.

Following the early nature of the proto-Nazis, the Republican Party has accepted the idea of a Great Leader who is never to be questioned. They have persuaded their own badly treated workers that unions are a kind of communist threat, thus annihilating any hope of reasonable balance between capital and labour. They have increased their control of the courts, including the Supreme Court, using the shadiest of political means. The obvious fallout effects of this can be seen in giving corporations the right to use their enormous wealth to influence elections, forgetting the long, and necessary, legal wars in trust busting (corporations are just a modern word for trusts). This, combined with a complete disinterest in protecting the central glory of democracy – the right to vote and their willingness to espouse the founders’ words as holy writ, Christian holy writ at that. The party has also almost entirely prevented any move to bring human rights in line with the rest of the democratic world. Even more egregiously they wasted endless lives by belittling Covid precautions as a liberal plot and/or unnecessary.

The Republicans are going to win the 22 midterms. Well, so the pundits have it anyway, and perhaps they are right. Everything is on their side: even history. Parties in power usually lose seats in midterm elections. Gerrymandering is being developed into dark fine art. Voter restrictions are becoming ever more inventive. Even the Constitution is in their favour with its two senate seats per state, irrespective of population size. How can they lose?

And yet! In physics we all know the meaning of equal and opposite reactions. In politics it is sometimes called push-back. Is there any reason to believe that there might be such a strong reaction amongst the electorate? The answer has to be yes, and the reason has to be in what exactly the Republican Party stands for at the moment. They are blatant in their professed aim of not helping to run the country. They want no part of anything that might improve the lot of their own population. They have turned bipartisanship into a dirty word and refuse any inquiry into the most heinous events, for example the violent invasion of their own seat of government.

What they do say they want is to reduce tax for the wealthy yet again. To get rid of the Affordable Care Act. To stop nearly all immigration and any additional gun restrictions. To get rid of abortion in all circumstances and to control the country through the Supreme Court if all else fails. Not a single one of these policy positions commands majority support.

This kind of zero-sum game of politics is not a new development in the party. The idea that the job is not to do your best for your people but to win at any cost. To persuade enough people that your mistakes were victories, or failing that to persuade enough of them that the unfortunate fallout was due to someone else’s hatred. That twisted view of politics within the party started quite a long while ago. It mostly began with the advent of Newt Gingrich, Denis Hastert, the Neo-cons, and the plethora of insane, attention-grabbing radio jocks, particularly Rush Limbaugh. They provided lift off for the Tea Party and that was followed by the faux philosophies of Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson and the published inanities of people like Anne Coulter. The effects of all this were multiplied by Carl Rove’s brainchild that policy and principle did not matter: just numbers (Rove’s idea was embraced all too warmly by Cummings in the U.K., which has led them into the Maelstrom of Brexit).

They seem to have decided that women and university graduates are predominantly liberals, but disregard any consideration that this might be because of an extremist agenda, one that regular conservatives might not like to be associated with. A platform that supports religious fundamentalism, racism in all its forms, gun extremists, super nationalism, conspiracy theory followers, cult followers and anyone else who can be considered to have strange beliefs.

Trump has put at risk even their own extraordinary, self-serving achievements. During the last half century, they have persuaded their population that Americans are, in various ways, slightly superior to other humans, that their history is overcrowded with heroes and saints. That Christianity is the only true religion and that American democracy is the envy of the free world. They have, with some help from the Supreme Court, persuaded workers that unions are bad for them, although professional unions are to be lauded. That in fact workers are basically lazy and are only motivated by money. That poor people are poor because they won’t pull their socks up and making it difficult for them to vote is right and proper, because they are not really proper stakeholders. That liberals will, if given the chance, destroy the American Dream and need to be owned. That those same liberals will waste the hard-won money of the country by giving it away to damaging programs like social welfare, Medicare, Medicaid and the very concept of socialized medicine. Because of Trump, the danger and injustice inherent in all of these beliefs will become more obvious.

It is already obvious to most observers that the future is not a world where only a small elite part of the world’s population will be exclusively privileged. It is probably too late to rescue the party from its own self-caused demise, which leaves the necessity of finding a strong Conservative party, whatever it may be called. It will have to be one that does not just listen and speak to itself alone. That does not allow a hardcore of extremists to use primaries to decide who is unclean and must be banished. That appreciates that cross party negotiation is right and proper. That truth, evidence and expertise are among the essential tools of politics. That puts conspiracy free conservatism back on its pedestal. When will this happen? I don’t know, but with the accelerating dangers of climate, it had better be sooner than later.

The American conservative movement needs to rediscover Reason.

Roundwood House Mountrath Country Accommodation

The War On Drugs

We are hopelessly locked into a cruel and unwinnable war. A repeat of the first hundred years one. I am referring to the war on drugs. It is eviscerating our health care systems, our law-and-order institutions, our urban societies, our penal systems. And our young people. Despite all of this destruction, we still continue to favour politicians who promise to be tough on drugs; to have zero tolerance for them. But, since I was knee high to a grasshopper, these same politicians have been boasting continuously of record hauls of all of the offending substances, seemingly oblivious to the fact that decades of record hauls, by definition, tells us that the industry (if we can call it that) is constantly growing.

Of course, ordinary citizens wish that the forces of law and order would just put an end to the scourge; lock up the miscreants, confiscate their ill-gotten wealth and be relieved of all of the burdens that the trade imposes on our societies. However virtuous, such an approach is not going to succeed. Why? Because of the unimaginable amount of monetary gain it offers to the criminals involved.

We have tried this before when the substance involved was alcohol and America introduced prohibition. All that programme achieved was bigger and more violent gangs and gangsters and made alcohol even more attractive. Nowadays, we are inclined to write off the abolitionists as overly conservative, perhaps even overly religious, but they were as well-meaning as we are in our attempts to banish the modern pandemic of hard drugs. Alcohol was, and is, a drug. It was, and is, capable of inflicting serious damage on a sizable section of our societies. It does, fortunately, have a number of important virtues. It is a prolific lubricant of social intercourse. It allows our worries, fears and even secrets to be more openly expressed. In times of shock and extreme stress it can help us survive. Usefully, it has an ancient history, which has allowed us millennia to analyse its benefits and disadvantages. Conversely, our modern problem – drugs – often drive us inward and away from the essential human joy of social interaction. More appallingly, for drug users, the addiction rate is almost total.

We need to have a better understanding of what exactly is going on to have any chance of a solution. Our conception of the shady characters on street corners and back alleys being the drug pushers is totally wrong. Most are just sad misfits operating as powerless retailers. We clog our court systems and expensive jails with them with very little hope of rehabilitation, because they know no other life. For every one we deprive of liberty, there are dozens of replacements. The seemingly unacceptable reality is that the real pushers are school or college friends, work colleagues or social friends. Generally, these can be seen as those we refer to as bad company for our children in school but they exist at all ages. It is reasonable to think of them as silly or perhaps more frequently as existing addicts searching to tempt others for a few fixes for themselves. Some amongst them are more dangerous, prone to violence, and with ambition to move up the gang ladder. From there up it is more like the film nasties we are used to: self-satisfied, brutish, cruel and largely invisible to the forces of law and order.

That is still not a full picture, but a nicely sanitized one that can be attributed to the supposed “low life” who live in the inner cities. Except that the drug lords are swimming in an ocean of cash of such volumes that it cannot be dealt with without large numbers of bankers, financiers and accountants. They also need to corrupt some law and customs officers. Does anyone believe that paragons of high society who pushed unnecessary opiates onto an unsuspecting public were not low life drug dealers? Or that the doctors who wrote the, often fatal, unnecessary prescriptions were better than corner boy suppliers? Are the tobacco manufacturers, who for so long hid the evidence of damage that they possessed, less reprehensible than the friend who persuades his more gullible colleague to try this new kick? Even the wealthy, who can afford recreational use of cocaine, are guilty of supporting a rancid industry. Some of the denizens of our greened and pleasant neighbourhoods, by indulging themselves, are even more guilty of enabling drug use as the underprivileged and underpaid residents of the least salubrious inner-city ghettos.

Because of the literal hurricane of illicit wealth constantly being produced by the trade the one possibility of ending the plague lies in choking off the money supply, and the only hope of achieving that aim is to legalize and nationalise the entire thing. I can hear the gasps of horror. The State deal in Drugs!!! Relax! There is no chance of it happening in the near future. Our universal politicians are far too intent on proving that they adhere, more closely than their competitors, to the general morality and thoughts of their electorate. It is this quirk that delayed the end of slavery, women’s suffrage, social welfare and medicine and a thousand other improvements to society that we now consider to be of obvious benefit. It is still peculiar that we have listened to solutions about drugs for generations, all with the same message of tougher sentences, more police, more ruthlessness and zero tolerance and continued all that time to see the blight, and all of its associated evils, grow and grow.

The advantages of legalising and controlling the supply by nationalising it are legion. We can begin to treat our addicts as patients, not as criminals. Vast sums of money will start to re-enter the visible economy. Gun crime will reduce in many parts of the world as drug gangs’ wealth is reduced. The trade itself will be decimated. There is no point in trying to create addicts if they are going to disappear almost immediately. Police and customs work will become more bearable and our jails will be less crowded and less expensive. Our cities will become safer. Our children will be less at risk. Life in general will become saner.

There will be a negative side to such an approach but it will be temporary. The gangs will become ever more feral and violent as they try to make the changeover too expensive, emotionally and financially. Those who secretly make their money from the abysmal trade will use their proxies to persuade the righteous that it is not proper for the State to get involved. Other crime will increase as criminals struggle to find other sources of income. When we see all of this happening, we will know that we are on the path to success.

However aghast you are at the idea of the State playing such a role; however much your righteous anger is inflamed by the very thought; it doesn’t matter. However long it takes to summon the will, it will happen. It is the only solution to putting an end to an horrific societal evil. We have a choice. One that we will have to face at some point: either take the money out of the abysmal trade, or face decades of an unwinnable Afghan style war, with its appalling costs, both social and financial.

Our righteous anger will not win that war.

Roundwood House Mountrath Country Accommodation

The Brexit Enigma ….

 … January 2022

Brexit is the royalty of twenty first century enigmas. In a world which has decided that economics and money are more important than life itself (i.e., other people’s lives), why would anyone decide to desert their nearest and biggest market without having firm plans in place about the next move? Writers of various hues and economists of diverse talents have since destroyed the garden, endlessly beating around the bushes looking for a sensible reason for the decision. There is no answer unless it is to be found in fairy tales of Empire or just xenophobia. Returning to their age of buccaneering world trading is a nice idea, but they seem to forget that they no longer rule the waves, do not have the necessary ships, and the Colonial Office can no longer write the terms of trade deals. The nonsensical UKIP party supported Brexit without a single known policy of what to do afterwards. Farmers voted for it, seemingly oblivious to the inevitable consequence of mountains of cheap antipodal beef and lamb burying them. Fishermen voted for it without any idea that they were like owners of large stocks of sea urchins, snails and frog legs, deciding, in support of the antiquated myth of true sovereignty, to reserve them all for sale on the British market only.

This demented incoherence is most noticeable in British policy relating to Northern Ireland. Driven by their emotional need to proclaim a clean and fundamentalist Brexit, they abandoned the single market. But to avoid upsetting the Americans by reneging on the Good Friday Agreement they had to sign a Protocol; an act that deeply offended Unionism. This offence was deeply heartfelt, despite the enormous gift of having access to both markets!

Almost immediately they broke the rules and we had the truly historical moment of a British Cabinet Minister telling Parliament that ‘Yes, the Government had broken the law, but very narrowly’. It calls to mind the story a senior Irish judge used to tell of his first ever case on the bench when, exasperated by endless technical arguments, he turned to the witness, a bus driver, and asked, “what colour were the traffic lights when you entered the junction?”. Being unwilling to lie under oath, the witness’s hesitant reply was, “an early red Your Honour”. A bus driver trying to diminish his fault is funny, but the British Government? Then, a few weeks later they told us that they had never intended to abide by the Protocol anyway. Wow!

Ireland, particularly the North, is being used as a meaningless pawn by the current Government in Westminster. When the Unionist community are appalled by the idea of a border in the Irish Sea (unless it is for abortion or same sex marriage), their government agrees and loudly proclaims that such a thing is unthinkable. Then, suddenly, there is one because they are desperate to get a deal done. When the Americans cough, they are reassured that the Good Friday Agreement is very close to British hearts. When sleaze and incompetence need a distraction, they invent a scandal about the availability to the locals of The Great British Sausage or introduce the tourism destroying, red tape idea of an electronic visa for E.U. Citizens visiting the Republic but wishing to visit the North whilst here. Most E.U. tourists do not even know that there are two administrations on the same island, and will be even more confused by the non-existent border.

If nothing else, Brexit in Ireland should teach us a global truth: no State should ever govern a community of which it knows nothing, and does not care a jot about. In their ignorance and their own interests, they have allowed a community, for which they are responsible, to remain endlessly in the troubled past. How many English people do you know who care a smidgen whether their neighbours and friends are Catholic or Protestant? Tensions in the six counties will not be reduced by appointing a series of abrasive, non-diplomatic, pawn-using Ministers to negotiate Brexit conditions with Europe. The ordinary British public need to be apprised that the difficulties in Northern Ireland are not due to an imaginary flaw in its own citizens – but to their own neglect.

Roundwood House Guest House Accommodation and Cottages

A Little Bit Crooked!

It took me years to realise that it’s impossible to take a photo with straight lines in Roundwood House, because everything is actually a little crooked.
If the ceiling looks straight the floor looks crooked and vice versa 😅