January's Here & There

 The Kingdom Does The Right Thing – Councillors in Co. Kerry have deferred any congratulatory messages to incoming US President Donald Trump, but they have unanimously approved a motion inviting Pope Francis to Kerry on his visit to Ireland in 2018.

Despite the varying views from council members on the two invites, the debate was unusually tame for some who spoke, especially Councillor Thomas McEllistrim, who talked about “Ireland’s lovely golf courses,” while independent Councillor Donal Grady said he had a problem with Trump’s comments “about women, and his attitude in general. “We should not invite Trump, full stop.” Another councillor rose to mention Bill Clinton who, he said, was “fond of women, too, and he was invited.” And so it went.
As the hour grew late, chairman Michael O’Shea ruled that the Trump outreach vote would be postponed to January.

Then came a less contentious motion by Fine Gael’s Bobby O’Connell to invite Pope Francis to Kerry. That motion received enthusiastic backing from members, and the arrangements for a papal invitation were underway.

So the Kerry Council, as rugged in the political arena as they are on the pitch, concluded a blissful evening doing the people’s work. The results were swift and conclusive: Trump No, Pope Francis, a serene Yes.

Londonderry/Derry Genesis Linked to Ulster Plantation – In the early 1600s, settlers from England and Scotland landed on the northern shores between Antrim and Donegal. Later the city name was changed from the Irish Doire to Londonderry by royal grant from King James 1. Prior to the Troubles, the usage of the name was less contentious, as Peter Robinson noted, until, he says, Irish Republicans began to “loosen the London connection.”Unionists then responded by increasing the use of London as an everyday prefix.

Today, Londonderry is the legal name for the city. In 2007 the High Court ruled that the city’s name could only be changed by royal prerogative or legislation. It has since become normal for many to simply use Derry to address the city or county without the political connotations. Using Derry as the name is a clue in divining where one came from or what religion they claimed.

In major public events, as when the city was named the 2013 City of Culture, the city finessed it by using Derry/Londonderry. Last September, the Boundary Commission announced that “Londonderry” would be lost completely, at least by the voting constituency —where it will instead be called “Glenshane.” And that decision, of course, has precipitated a new level of public discontent.

New Approach Seeks Corporate Tax Solution – Alan McQuaid, a leading Irish economist, has looked at the messy international tax differences that exist now in Ireland and said that the government should focus more directly in developing Irish indigenous companies rather than courting multinationals since firms that compete internationally are increasingly vulnerable following the “double whammy” of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

McQuaid, of Merrion Capital, said more effort should be aimed at keeping and developing Irish companies that compete internationally because that would reduce the threats of the US and the UK slashing corporate tax rates. Given the large number of US multinationals that operate out of Ireland and the wealth they generate, it could mean that US corporations under Trump could move for tax amnesties or a cut in US corporate tax rates to 15 percent, just a shade higher than the Irish corporate rate of 12.5 percent. Trump has already pledged something along those lines in an effort to repatriate huge US company profits that sit in a European country, with Ireland being a prime example, untaxed here and often unreachable by our Internal Revenue Service.

In a related Irish Examiner story, Stephen Moore, senior economic adviser to Trump, said the incoming Trump administration was wooing back multinationals with radical business tax cuts. “I believe that when we cut these taxes,” he said, “we’re going to cut our business tax rate from roughly 35 percent down to roughly 15 percent to 20 percent. If you do that we are going to see a flood of companies leaving Ireland and Canada and Germany and France and they are going to come back to the United States.”

UK, NI Offers Options: To Watch TV Ad-free Or No-Ads & Pay
– The inews and ITV Hub+ television networks based in the United Kingdom are upgrading their offerings to meet the challenge from Netflix and Amazon, two major US networks that have enticed millions of viewers to streaming, uninterrupted TV shows & movies at appealing rates.

The major appeal for the broadcaster is that it can offer a new subscription-on-demand service that allows viewers, if they sign on, to watch television without interruption and with no ads for a regular monthly subscription rate, roughly $50 to $60 a year. If TV advertising (as seen here and in the UK) is acceptable to the television viewer, they would get programs with breaks for product or service advertising and pay nothing, no subscription fees. Customers could avail themselves of either option. The UK service, just being phased in, is similar to existing music subscription platform Spotify.

There are other technical innovations that will be unveiled in the UK in the new year. With the development of the ITV Hub, said the broadcaster,” we can now offer viewers a choice to keep watching for free. Or to pay to watch without interruptions, if that’s important to them.”

Irish Police On Strike Face Drastic Penalties – An Garda Siochana, the police force that provides law and stability in the Irish Republic, is under a severe and unprecedented threat that will severely penalize the gardai’s personal pensions if they defy a ban and go out on strike against the government.

The former chairman of the Labor Court says that industrial relations in An Garda Siochana are “effectively broken,” and significant reforms are needed. A government report has threatened the police with losing their right to build up their pension entitlements for five years if they strike. The strong recommendation on pensions comes just weeks after the gardai went to the brink of an unprecedented strike to improve their pay and conditions.

This hardball strategy by both elements in the labor dispute is reflected by the intensity of the report and the inclusion of salary and benefit amounts that show the average pay for gardai is $66,317 per year. With benefits, the cost is in excess of $105,000.
The very real possibility of an Irish police strike is reminiscent of the Boston Police strike in 1919 when Calvin Coolidge was the governor of Massachusett. Outraged by the striking police, he sent a telegram to labor leader Samuel Gompers that included the governor’s now- famous admonition: “There is no public right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

The report’s recommendation is that the existing garda representative organizations should become registered trade unions and be permitted to engage in collective bargaining with garda management. The report also underlines the belief that “strikes should not happen in a police force.” The document recognizes that the proposed loss of pension accrual for gardai who went on strike would be “unprecedented” and would be resisted by members of the force.

Irish News Indicts Criminality At Stormont
– Following is a quote from the Northern Ireland-based Irish News, a popular newspaper with a large nationalist readership: “The launch of an awareness campaign costing half a million pounds and targetting the fundraising criminality of paramilitary gangs would be taken much more seriously if the current Stormont Executive was not funding jobs held by some of the very leaders of the same organizations.”

What a damning conclusion by one of the North’s hardest-hitting public journals. The criticism is accurate and overdue. In the North today there is an epidemic of copies and similar knock-off fashions and handbags that go directly to fund criminal activity by gangs, and what many consider “victimless crimes.” However, the money raised by criminal organizations is also involved in drug dealing, prostitution, and murder, part of the rough, renegade underworld that is clearly linked to some tainted community groups where gang leaders hold well-paid key positions.

Citizens are reluctant to report crime tied to paramilitary groups, and this is what the expensive public campaign is aimed to do: Expose gang leaders who are neatly linked to the ruling Stormont culture and can threaten whistle-blowing residents.
As the Irish News said on Dec. 6: “Giving people paid positions of influence in civic society at a time when they continue to exploit the communities they dominate is nonsense.” Once again, despite good intentions, the political leadership gap in the North is huge and reform to date largely unfinished.

Aussie Students Show Up Big Pharma –
Some may remember the biotech executive who raised the price of a life-saving drug last fall by more than 4,000 percent overnight to $750 a pill. The biotech greedhead was excoriated as a pariah but high school students in Australia went one better: In their school science lab they successfully recreated the over-priced drug, Daraprim, for only $2 a pill, or one quarter of one percent of the extortionist’s price. The students did all their research and formulating on their own time before and after school.

There has been a growing practice by some drug companies to purchase low cost drugs from small or overstocked industry outlets and then, without spending a dime for development or research, jacking up prices so high that those dependent on them are frozen out of the market and the drug is then available chiefly to the wealthy.

Does The Incoming President Have A Clue?
Like many who didn’t vote for Donald Trump and are dismayed by the lazy, boorish Know-Nothingness of this spoiled but dangerous con man, I consider his elevation to join Washington, Jefferson, the Roosevelts and their like to be a “clear and present danger” to the principles that have guided us for over 240 years.

On the personal side, I want to briefly talk about the life history of US Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Trump’s moronic put-down of this patriot, this unquestioned hero who spent over five years in a North Vietnamese prison cell, is one of the most disgraceful insults ever uttered by such an unqualified human as DJT.  McCain and Bob Dole, both Republicans and uncomplaining heroic military figures in the US Senate, reflected the virtues and patriotism of the men and women who serve. Trump could not carry the shaving kit or backpack of either man. Trump, the “deal” guy of four military exemptions, three divorces, countless bankruptcies, and a man without a shred of respect for the truth, dishonors those who came before him as president. I will respect the office, but not the man!

Most of his cabinet appointments have been insulting to more than half of the electorate. A white supremacist and apparent anti-Semite as Trump’s chief strategist; US Sen. Jeff Sessions as the US attorney general (this is a man once rejected by the US Senate for a federal court post); General Flynn as National Security advisor( this is a man who who looks primed for Dr. Strangelove’s strait jacket); the nominee to the Environmental Protection Agency has worked to close that critical agency; the nominee as secretary of labor, who supposedly represents America’s working men and women, opposes increasing the minimum wage and overtime reforms; and, finally, a cuddly pal of Russian Leader Vladimir Putin and CEO of the largest oil company in the world as our top diplomat, our secretary of state. Will the Exxon-Mobil guru know which pocket to look into to find his oil deal sheet OR his talking points in behalf of his primary employer, America?  Which pocket, Mr. Secretary?  The jury is still out on that.

I read that the Boy King has raised a fuss about his briefings from our State Department, essential and comprehensive for an incoming president. The author of “The Art of the Deal” complains that the briefings (that all elected presidents get before and after the inauguration) are too much to undergo, and unnecessary. “I’m a smart person, the braggart said. One answer as to why this twitter champ should attend the briefings is that “This is part of the jopb. You ran for it, so try to be something less than a self-centered jerk. It can feel good.

As I write this it has been many weeks since DJT has had a real, live press conference. Is he saving his wit and wisdom for the Capital ceremony on 1/20/17?  Or is he pouting.

A Note On The Election & An Appraisal
– Many Americans, bitterly disappointed that Trump will be the president, offer harsh verdicts on Trump’s ability to serve.  I share that concern, and in a few words want to mention Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s assessment of the recent campaign: “This election was an outrage, and we should never forget it. It was a tainted election.” He wnet on to give his answer to the Big Question for himself and for people like me: “Did the combination of Russian and FBI intervention swing the election? Yes.” he said. Pass it on.
It’s History’s Turn Now – When it is written, history will treat President Barack Obama generously. He has served with courage, heart, dignity, decency, and a balanced view of himself and his charge over these past eight years. For my part, I always felt that he was working for me and the American people. I trusted him to use his intellect, his humor, and his respect for the office to do his best for me.  In that regard, I believe, as in Catholic social justice, he has richly earned his keep. Thank you.                                

A head’s up for Christeen Kinealy, guest speaker at the Charitable Irish annual dinner on March 17. She is a historian, author, activist ,and director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. … Congressman Peter King doing advance work at Trump Tower for old pal Ray Kelly, former NY police commissioner. Will someone tell King that Kelly’s policies failed, ergo no big job. … Did you miss the memo?  When the TV cameras moved on, Carrier raised prices after listening to the Trumper and agreeing to save some jobs. … A recent shout-out By former Globeman Charlie Sennott in Turkey for Boston-based Peacemaker Padraig O’Malley: “This is a guy who has worked across both sides of the divide where there is intense conflict.” … Scientists are saying that a connector pipeline could get a reliable supply of geothermal power from Iceland to Northern Ireland to help ease NI blackouts.

Fox News’s resident “genius” Sean Hannity, coat carrier and advisor to Trump, is urging him to abandon the press. … Dublin could be the new target headquarters for a re-named Lloyds of London following the Brexit exit. … The largest US banks need to build new cash cushions against losses, a mandate by the Federal Reserve in its bid to cut the chances of future taxpayer bailouts. … A nice reminder from Teresa in Quincy to remember the late Sister Clare Crockett, who was killed by an earthquake in Ecuador last April. The missionary was 33 and a native of Northern Ireland. She was a sister with “The Home of the Mother” doing God’s work far from home. … Barney Frank, now retired from Congress, had a stemwinder of a column on the Globe’s Opinion page (Nov. 28) exposing Trump’s financial plan promises. Worth it; dig it up.

The Wash. Post’s Ruth Marcus does a well-deserved back-breaker on the racist, anti-Semitic Breitbart News, former home of Steve Bannon, who is a top advisor in the Trump WH. … Taoiseach Enda Kenny has talked with Trump about saving the valuable J-1 visa program. No news on the visas but both men will be in the WH on March 17, we’re told. … The Irish Navy continues to pick up migrants in the Med, now numbering some 3,000 saved by the Irish military. … U2–owned Dublin’s Clarence Hotel is doing well, in the black to the tune of half a million euros. … Another name to add to the list of possible US ambassadors to Ireland: Brian P. Burns, a recipient of an Eire Society Gold Medal whose name adorns the Rare Books Library on the Boston College campus. ...The Boston Globe had a news story conjecturing that if UMass Boston can find the money, there will be a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial not far from the EMK Institute and the JFK Presidential Library & Museum at Columbia Point.