News

Putin’s global ambition

Vladimir Putin’s political career began following the collapse of the USSR; but his life as a KGB man never ended.

Every moment of his political career – from his time in Boris Yeltsin’s administration, to his rise to power and since then – has been a response to the humiliation which was visited upon Russia in the early 1990s.

Putin has shown the world who he is, repeatedly: from Grozny and Chechnya, to Ossetia and Georgia, to Aleppo and Syria, to the lands and cities of Ukraine today. With each atrocity, the question put to the world has been: “What are you going to do about it?” And each response has been criminally lacking.

Thus, Putin repeatedly challenged the post-WWII consensus and international system of laws and customs, and its weaknesses have been found out.

Having established that repeated grave violations of the rule of international law are without consequence, Putin understands that the entire world order is a Potemkin legal order.

Above all, what this means for Putin is that Western hegemonic power is without substance. Equally importantly, Putin does not care for international rules or institutions, principles or agreements, courts or procedures – indeed, he rejects them entirely and has successfully undermined them again and again.

In a lawless world, might is right

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an outrage against humanity. Yet, this horrific invasion is simply the beginning of his next phase of his political career, which is to (re-)establish and (re-)impose Russian hegemonic power. For Putin, this goal is of greater importance than any other consideration, domestic or international.

This invasion, as some commentators believe, may extend beyond Ukraine and at least as far as the Iron Curtain. However far it goes, member states of NATO are seeking to avoid any escalation with a man who controls nuclear weapons.

As we know, Putin has already made threats to use nuclear arms, and we have now seen members of the Russian army fire artillery shells at the largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Therefore, I don’t believe that Putin’s armed conflict will be limited to conventional warfare.

Will he use nuclear weapons against countries which border Russia? He could re-locate to Vladivostok, but he works in Moscow and is from St Petersburg, so that may be unlikely.

What possible alternatives could there be? What might make an easy target? What non-NATO EU member state at the western edge of Europe, next door to NATO and permanent UN Security Council members Britain and France, with basically zero military and defence capabilities might there be?

Such an action would neatly serve to demonstrate Russia’s total power to the world.

“I wish I knew how to quit you, Spotify.” Well, here are a few simple steps.

To anyone considering quitting Spotify, but doesn’t know where to start, here’s a short guide based on my own experiences.

A couple of days ago, I hadn’t a clue where to begin or what to do, so hopefully this’ll help anyone in a similar situation.

tl;dr

  1. Choose your platform
  2. Transfer your music between the old and new services
  3. Cancel your Spotify subscription / account

More details are below:

Step 1: What alternatives are there & how do I choose?

To start off, I asked twitter (naturally), and had a look through the replies, and through other conversations. This highlighted a few trends for popular recommendations.

Based on these word-of-mouth recommendations, my preferences were:

  • Deezer
  • Tidal
  • Apple Music

So, I started Googling. I searched for comparisons of the three platforms, and found a few helpful sites from the past year or so, including:

Choosing a streaming service will be a matter for personal preference but, for me, Deezer pipped it. This was due both to the music catalogue and options and the sound quality, as well as the fact that they are based within the EU so GDPR compliance is (I assume) guaranteed.

Also, with Tidal, the ex-CEO of Twitter has some kind of financial interest in it, so that’s a hard nope from me. And, with Apple, well.. it’s Apple. So, Deezer won the day.

Within a few minutes, I had set up a new account, choosing a payment option that works best for me.

Step 2: How do I transfer my music?

At first, I didn’t realise it was possible to transfer playlists between streaming services, so I imagined a massive pain in the whatsit with this.

However, Deezer offers a music transfer option, through a third party service provider, Tune My Music. I just went directly to the company’s website, and followed the step-by-step instructions on their homepage.

It was really seamless, completed in just a few clicks, and Tune My Music offers free or paid options to transfer music libraries between a wide range of streaming platforms.

Step 3: How do I cancel my Spotify subscription? 

Spotify doesn’t allow users to cancel Spotify Premium via their app versions – the option isn’t there. Instead, to cancel Spotify Premium plans:

  • Using a web browser, log into spotify.com/account
  • In ‘Account Overview,’ go to ‘ Your Plan,’ and click ‘Change Plan’
  • Scroll to ‘Cancel Spotify’ (or ‘Available Plans’) and click ‘Cancel Premium’
  • Click ‘Yes’ to confirm cancellation

Note: This will only cancel your Premium subscription, switching you to the free version after your next billing date – it won’t delete your Spotify account. This means, in the free version, you will still have access to your playlists and saved music.

Kissing Gates in Dublin: Access to Information on the Environment

In August 2021, I sent a request under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations to five public bodies:

  • Dublin City Council (DCC)
  • South Dublin County Council (SDCC)
  • Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council (DLR)
  • Fingal County Council (FCC)
  • Office of Public Works (OPW)
  • Waterways Ireland (WI)

AIE Requests are similar in some ways to Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests, but there are crucial differences: while FOI exists under Irish legislation, AIE arises from EU legislation. Therefore, the Irish State is bound by EU obligations in respect of AIE; however, the government of the day can amend FOI legislation, as it has in the past and proposes to do so again. There are also differences in the public bodies which are covered by AIE and FOI, with more bodies subject to the AIE Regulations. On the other hand, FOI legislation may capture more kinds of records held by public bodies, above and beyond environmental information.

I sent the below request to each of the public bodies. The replies and responses I’ve received have been.. diverse.

I am making the following request under Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations.

Please provide information with details of all barriers/gates on pedestrian routes within the [Council/Dublin] area, including: on roads, paths, lanes, at any pedestrian entry and exit points to parks, and at any locations within within parks.

This requested information to be broken down by location and by type of barrier/gate – the requested information to include, but not be limited to:

Gates
– ‘Kissing gates’
– Swing gates
– Styles
– A-frames
K-frames
All other barrier/gate types
– All locations of such barriers/gates

I am requesting the above information be provided in electronic format.

Essentially, I want to find out where and how many kissing gates and other barriers there are within Dublin City and County. It seems such a simple request.

I plan on providing updates in respect of each public body’s response in separate posts here, which will be grouped together under the “kissing gates” tag.

Wish me luck.

A letter to Claire Byrne Live

I emailed the Claire Byrne Live programme this evening. They cannot say they did not know.

* * *

Date: 9 January 2017 at 20:22
Subject: URGENT: Claire Byrne Live 09/01/2017
To: clairebyrnelive@rte.ie

Dear all,

I understand that tonight’s Claire Byrne Live (Monday, 9th January 2017) is to include Nicholas Pell among the speakers on the programme. Presumably, this will relate to a discussion on far-right extremism or similar.

I am urgently calling on the Claire Byrne Live team not to run with this item. As broadcasters, you have an ethical, moral and legal duty not to engage in such dangerous acts.

The right to freedom of expression is not absolute. It is limited. These restrictions are found in international treaties, such as the ICCPR and ECHR, and were included as a direct response to the events which led to the violent atrocities of the Second World War. Per ICCPR Article 19:

The exercise of the rights provided for in […] this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

 

These principles inform the Prohibition on Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989, as well as the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016. And they are found in the Broadcasting Act 2009, Section 39(1)(d):

39.— (1) Every broadcaster shall ensure that—

(d) anything which may reasonably be regarded as causing harm or offence, or as being likely to promote, or incite to, crime or as tending to undermine the authority of the State, is not broadcast by the broadcaster

 

Mr Pell is an avowed far-right extremist. This is publicly known, and he does not deny it. These are precisely the circumstances envisaged by the drafters of the exemptions to freedom of expression in the aftermath of World War II.

As Franz Frison, an Irish survivor of Holocaust, wrote in a letter to The Irish Times on 12 December 1988:

Having experienced fascism in the flesh […] If fascism could be defeated in debate, I assure you that it would never have happened, neither in Germany, nor in Italy, nor anywhere else. Those who recognised its threat at the time and tried to stop it were, I assume, also called “a mob”. Regrettably, too many “fair-minded people” didn’t try to stop it, and, as I witnessed myself during the war, accommodated themselves with it when it took over.

[…]

People who witnessed fascism at its height are dying out, but the ideology is still there, and its apologists are working hard at a comeback. Past experience should teach us that fascism must be stopped before it takes hold again of too many minds, and becomes useful once again to some powerful interests […].

 

I campaigned for marriage equality in 2015. Though the outcome was that which we sought, our volunteers experienced sneers, insults, and physicial assaults – some so severe that the Gardaí investigated. I recall that during Germany’s Weimar Republic, a nascent movement for decriminalisation of homosexuality had begun. Just a few years later, these people were being sent to their deaths in concentration camps by the Nazis.

This is not a game. You who are now reading this email may not realise the real danger of proceeding with tonight’s programme and this item, including Mr Pell. However, there are many amongst your colleagues and viewers who do.

I urge you to accede to my request.

Yours sincerely,

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail: Ireland’s marriage referendum

 

Yesterday, the day after Leo Varadkar’s coming out, the first shots of Ireland’s marriage referendum campaign were fired.

What the day’s discussions across national radio and television revealed – to me, at least – is that the Yes campaign is wholly unprepared and has been outmanoeuvred at the outset.

Although there are four months of this to go, the initial skirmish has undeniably been won by the No advocates.

The debates yesterday demonstrated that the No side has, as in other debates in the past, mastered the three key elements needed for success:

  • Political opportunity
  • Framing
  • Mobilisation
  •  

    Already, the Yes advocates are on the back foot. This seemed apparent to me in the morning, listening to Newstalk FM.

    By midnight, it was absolutely beyond doubt, in my view, that Monday, 19th January 2015 saw a resounding victory for the No campaign – before the campaign has even begun.

    Here’s how I think they achieved that.

    (more…)

    On “the equal right to life of the mother”

     

    The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

    Above, Article 40.3.3° of Bunreacht na hÉireann,
    as inserted in 1983 by the 8th amendment to the Constitution.

     

    Today, a case comes before the High Court of Ireland to decide whether a 16-week pregnant woman who has died must remain on artificial life support interventions to vindicate the Constitutional right of the foetus.

    In this case, “the right to life of the unborn” applies to a foetus that is not viable outside of the womb; while “the equal right to life of the mother” applies to a deceased woman.

    Is it possible here to respect, defend and vindicate (“as far as practicable”) the right to life of a foetus, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, where the mother has already died?

    What is being equated in these circumstances?

    What is the right to life of the deceased?

    How does a deceased person fit into the equation presented by Article 40.3.3°?

    This is a dreadful and horrific case. Whether any of these questions will arise in court today remains to be seen.

     

    The US Senate’s CIA report and Ireland

     

    Earlier tonight, on the eve of International Human Rights Day, the United States Senate report on the use of torture by the CIA (PDF) was finally made public.

    Compiled by members of the Democratic party on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the report details the scale and range of techniques used during the detention and interrogation of individuals in the custody of the CIA, post-2001. According to the Committee chair, Dianne Feinstein, these techniques amounted to torture. As noted by Channel 4 News this evening, many of the techniques detailed in the report were not previously publicly known.

    Where does Ireland feature?

    Where is Ireland situated in the context of these latest revelations?

    (more…)

    The problem with Clare Daly’s proposal on bodily integrity

     

    I saw this on Twitter this morning:

     

    Clare Daly TD proposal tweet 400x313

     

    The proposal by Clare Daly TD is to insert the following into Article 40 of the Constitution, replacing the existing Article 40.3.3°:

    The state acknowledges right of all citizens to personal autonomy and bodily integrity.

    Presumably the intention here is to remove the restrictions around abortion in Ireland, which many have argued have led to abortion effectively being exported abroad, most especially to England.

    This is the existing text of Article 40.3.3°, which was insterted following a referendum in 1983:

    The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

    One of the problems with Daly’s proposal is that it is exclusive, affecting only “citizens.”

    This wording creates a category of individuals in the state whose right to personal autonomy and bodily integrity is recognised – citizens of Ireland – and a category of individuals whose right to personal autonomy and bodily integrity is not recognised – those who are not citizens of Ireland.

    One obvious consequence of this approach is that a situation such as the case of Miss Y from earlier this year remains unaddressed.

    Thus, a fundamental right that is made contingent on citizenship status is no right at all.

     

    The “right to travel” has always been denied to asylum seeking women

     

    Ever since my time working with refugees in Ireland (from 2007 until 2011), I have been troubled by the effective blanket bar on allowing asylum seekers to leave the State.

    This emanates from Section 9(4) of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended):

    Leave to enter or remain in State.

    Section 9(4) An applicant shall not—

    (a) leave or attempt to leave the State without the consent of the Minister […]

    Irish citizens are free to exit Ireland’s borders and, being citizens of a member state of the EU, have the freedom to travel to over 28 European countries without the need to apply for a visa application and a grant of permission from immigration officers to cross borders.

    Most other people residing in Ireland with an officially recognised immigration status have the freedom to exit Ireland in a similar way. In practice these are generally citizens from countries outside of the EU. Whether from Canada or Cameroon, those seeking to travel within the EU, therefore, will need to apply for permission to enter another EU state.

    Asylum seekers are in a class of their own. They must seek the permission of the Justice Minister of the day if they wish to leave the territory of the state. (They must also, if the consent of the Minister has been obtained, seek permission from the other state to enter.)

    Asylum seekers in Ireland are seeking international protection from this state. While the rationale behind requiring such a person to remain within this jurisdiction throughout the duration of their application is understandable, this blanket rule is inherently problematic.

    During the almost five years of my work with refugees I encountered significant numbers of women who claimed to have been subjected to various forms of violence and torture, including sexual violence. Some were subjected to trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Some came from conflict zones, where the systematic use of sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. Some had become pregnant as a result of rape. Some had been subjected to intimate partner violence before or after arriving in Ireland. Some were children under the age of 18, including separated children in the care of the HSE.

    None of them could exercise their right to travel, if they so wished and had the resources to do so, without the consent of the Minister for Justice.

    This remains the case today.