Monthly Archives: February 2016

Irish Housing Madness Returns………

This feature in today’s Irish Times (see below) tells us something very important: the lunatic spiral in house prices which brought us first the Celtic Tiger and then the great banking collapse and recession cum austerity shows distinct signs of a comeback.

How else to explain the fact that in today’s Irish market you can buy for what you pay for a modest bungalow (ranch house in America) in Clonskeagh, an unexceptional suburb of south-west Dublin whose postal code, Dublin 14, tells you all you need to know, a chateau in France with six cottages and 180 acres of land, a period villa on Italy’s Adriatic coast, an eight bedroom villa on the Greek island of Corfu, complete with its own swimming pool and views of the Mediterranean or a four bedroom villa in Portugal, also with a swimming pool, a large one by the look of it.

Which one of these would you want to live in, or rather which one would you least like to live in. Silly question!

The point though is this: I seriously doubt that the Irish economy has recovered from ’08 so thoroughly that consumers there can afford to buy such an over-priced bungalow on what one might call ‘normal’ terms. e.g ten per cent down and evidence of an income healthy enough to support the interest on a loan of €800,000 ($900k).

My suspicion is that Ireland’s well-fed and pampered banks are back in the business of lending to anyone able to stay vertical long enough to shake hands on a deal while the government is content to turn a blind eye, not least because in rising housing prices the voters (who go to the polls on February 26th) may be hoodwinked into seeing a recovering economy.

If so, they won’t be the only ones hawking a mirage. The Irish Times publishes this little feature without comment and the casual reader is as likely left with the  impression that Ireland’s paper of record is a little bit chuffed with this piece of good news.

And why not? The Irish Times made an absolute fortune from housing ads during the Celtic Tiger years – it was the paper of choice especially for ads catering to the super-rich – and the suspicion lurks that the paper’s hyping of the Irish housing market in those days played no small role in creating and sustaining the bubble that very nearly brought the country to its knees.

But true to an old Irish tradition, we don’t talk about such things, least of all in our media.

‘Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve The Black Vote’

A week from this Saturday, Democrats in South Carolina will vote to choose between Hillary Clinton, the establishment party’s choice, and Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist challenger, as the party’s pick to fight the US Presidential election this November.

Hillary Clinton will be hoping that the primary will mark her comeback from two disappointing primary results: the narrowest of wins in the Iowa caucus and a thumping defeat in the New Hampshire primary. (The Nevada caucuses which come just before the South Carolina vote seem set to be tightly contested according to some estimates.)

Her hopes are based on the assumption that the large Black American Democratic electorate in South Carolina – the South’s most pro-slavery state during the Civil War – will turn out for her, largely because of the presumed popularity of the Clinton name with African-Americans, some of whom dubbed her husband, Bill, America’s first Black president (before Barack Obama’s election in 2008, of course).

In this devastating article in The Nation magazine, America’s equivalent of The New Statesman in the UK (before that magazine became a vehicle for Blairism), Black academic and writer Michelle Alexander, dismantles the Clinton/Black myth piece by agonising piece.

Alexander is the author The New Jim Crow, a prize-winning, breakthrough study of the mass incarceration of American Blacks in the last thirty years via the so-called War on Drugs, whose effect, if not purpose, is to return young Black and Brown men to the regime of mass discrimination and economic deprivation that characterised the Southern States of the USA between the late 1870’s and the civil rights era of the 1960’s.

In this article, ‘Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve The Black Vote’, Michelle Alexander accuses the Clintons – Bill as President and Hillary as his enthusiastic apologist – of primary responsibility for The New Jim Crow regime. And her conclusion is that the last people on earth that American Blacks should vote for is Hillary Clinton.

This article has so far been largely ignored by the US mainstream media but it has been picked up on social media where it appears to be circulating widely. Whether it will influence the vote in South Carolina and outweighs the support Hillary is getting from establishment Black Democrats, remains to be seen. But there can be little doubt that Hillary herself will not welcome it.

Nationalists and Republicans in Northern Ireland need to read this article for other reasons: the story of The New Jim Crow shows that while anti-Catholic discrimination in the North was atrocious, it was never as bad as that suffered, in the present as well as the past, by American Blacks.

And some of their leaders, in both Nationalist parties, should ask themselves just why they eagerly seek out Hillary Clinton’s political company and endorsement.


Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote

By Michelle Alexander

February 10th, 2016

Hillary Clinton loves black people. And black people love Hillary—or so it seems. Black politicians have lined up in droves to endorse her, eager to prove their loyalty to the Clintons in the hopes that their faithfulness will be remembered and rewarded. Black pastors are opening their church doors, and the Clintons are making themselves comfortably at home once again, engaging effortlessly in all the usual rituals associated with “courting the black vote,” a pursuit that typically begins and ends with Democratic politicians making black people feel liked and taken seriously. Doing something concrete to improve the conditions under which most black people live is generally not required.

Hillary is looking to gain momentum on the campaign trail as the primaries move out of Iowa and New Hampshire and into states like South Carolina, where large pockets of black voters can be found. According to some polls, she leads Bernie Sanders by as much as 60 percent among African Americans. It seems that we—black people—are her winning card, one that Hillary is eager to play.

And it seems we’re eager to get played. Again.

The love affair between black folks and the Clintons has been going on for a long time. It began back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president. He threw on some shades and played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show. It seems silly in retrospect, but many of us fell for that. At a time when a popular slogan was “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand,” Bill Clinton seemed to get us. When Toni Morrison dubbed him our first black president, we nodded our heads. We had our boy in the White House. Or at least we thought we did.

Gov. Bill Clinton, sitting with the band, turns out an impressive version of "Heatrbreak Hotel" as Arsenio Hall gestures approvingly in the musical opening of "The Arsenio Hall Show" taping at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, June 3, 1992. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Gov. Bill Clinton, sitting with the band, turns out an impressive version of “Heatrbreak Hotel” as Arsenio Hall gestures approvingly in the musical opening of “The Arsenio Hall Show” taping at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, June 3, 1992.

Black voters have been remarkably loyal to the Clintons for more than 25 years. It’s true that we eventually lined up behind Barack Obama in 2008, but it’s a measure of the Clinton allure that Hillary led Obama among black voters until he started winning caucuses and primaries. Now Hillary is running again. This time she’s facing a democratic socialist who promises a political revolution that will bring universal healthcare, a living wage, an end to rampant Wall Street greed, and the dismantling of the vast prison state—many of the same goals that Martin Luther King Jr. championed at the end of his life. Even so, black folks are sticking with the Clinton brand.

What have the Clintons done to earn such devotion? Did they take extreme political risks to defend the rights of African Americans? Did they courageously stand up to right-wing demagoguery about black communities? Did they help usher in a new era of hope and prosperity for neighborhoods devastated by deindustrialization, globalization, and the disappearance of work?

No. Quite the opposite.

* * *

When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, urban black communities across America were suffering from economic collapse. Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs had vanished as factories moved overseas in search of cheaper labor, a new plantation. Globalization and deindustrialization affected workers of all colors but hit African Americans particularly hard. Unemployment rates among young black men had quadrupled as the rate of industrial employment plummeted. Crime rates spiked in inner-city communities that had been dependent on factory jobs, while hopelessness, despair, and crack addiction swept neighborhoods that had once been solidly working-class. Millions of black folks—many of whom had fled Jim Crow segregation in the South with the hope of obtaining decent work in Northern factories—were suddenly trapped in racially segregated, jobless ghettos.

Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander

On the campaign trail, Bill Clinton made the economy his top priority and argued persuasively that conservatives were using race to divide the nation and divert attention from the failed economy. In practice, however, he capitulated entirely to the right-wing backlash against the civil-rights movement and embraced former president Ronald Reagan’s agenda on race, crime, welfare, and taxes—ultimately doing more harm to black communities than Reagan ever did.

We should have seen it coming. Back then, Clinton was the standard-bearer for the New Democrats, a group that firmly believed the only way to win back the millions of white voters in the South who had defected to the Republican Party was to adopt the right-wing narrative that black communities ought to be disciplined with harsh punishment rather than coddled with welfare. Reagan had won the presidency by dog-whistling to poor and working-class whites with coded racial appeals: railing against “welfare queens” and criminal “predators” and condemning “big government.” Clinton aimed to win them back, vowing that he would never permit any Republican to be perceived as tougher on crime than he.

Just weeks before the critical New Hampshire primary, Clinton proved his toughness by flying back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally impaired black man who had so little conception of what was about to happen to him that he asked for the dessert from his last meal to be saved for him for later. After the execution, Clinton remarked, “I can be nicked a lot, but no one can say I’m soft on crime.”

Clinton mastered the art of sending mixed cultural messages, appealing to African Americans by belting out “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in black churches, while at the same time signaling to poor and working-class whites that he was willing to be tougher on black communities than Republicans had been.

Clinton was praised for his no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to racial politics. He won the election and appointed a racially diverse cabinet that “looked like America.” He won re-election four years later, and the American economy rebounded. Democrats cheered. The Democratic Party had been saved. The Clintons won. Guess who lost?

* * *

Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the War on Crime or the War on Drugs—those wars were declared before Reagan was elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.

Clinton championed the idea of a federal “three strikes” law in his 1994 State of the Union address and, months later, signed a $30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorized more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces. The legislation was hailed by mainstream-media outlets as a victory for the Democrats, who “were able to wrest the crime issue from the Republicans and make it their own.”

Black convicts during the Jim Crow era

Black convicts during the Jim Crow era

When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, “President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.”

Some might argue that it’s unfair to judge Hillary Clinton for the policies her husband championed years ago. But Hillary wasn’t picking out china while she was first lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before. She not only campaigned for Bill; she also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying for legislation and other measures. That record, and her statements from that era, should be scrutinized. In her support for the 1994 crime bill, for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals. “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

Black convicts during the New Jim Crow era

Black convicts during the New Jim Crow era

Both Clintons now express regret over the crime bill, and Hillary says she supports criminal-justice reforms to undo some of the damage that was done by her husband’s administration. But on the campaign trail, she continues to invoke the economy and country that Bill Clinton left behind as a legacy she would continue. So what exactly did the Clinton economy look like for black Americans? Taking a hard look at this recent past is about more than just a choice between two candidates. It’s about whether the Democratic Party can finally reckon with what its policies have done to African-American communities, and whether it can redeem itself and rightly earn the loyalty of black voters.

* * *

An oft-repeated myth about the Clinton administration is that although it was overly tough on crime back in the 1990s, at least its policies were good for the economy and for black unemployment rates. The truth is more troubling. As unemployment rates sank to historically low levels for white Americans in the 1990s, the jobless rate among black men in their 20s who didn’t have a college degree rose to its highest level ever. This increase in joblessness was propelled by the skyrocketing incarceration rate.

Bill Clinton and two Irish friends

Bill Clinton and two Irish friends

Why is this not common knowledge? Because government statistics like poverty and unemployment rates do not include incarcerated people. As Harvard sociologist Bruce Western explains: “Much of the optimism about declines in racial inequality and the power of the US model of economic growth is misplaced once we account for the invisible poor, behind the walls of America’s prisons and jails.” When Clinton left office in 2001, the true jobless rate for young, non-college-educated black men (including those behind bars) was 42 percent. This figure was never reported. Instead, the media claimed that unemployment rates for African Americans had fallen to record lows, neglecting to mention that this miracle was possible only because incarceration rates were now at record highs. Young black men weren’t looking for work at high rates during the Clinton era because they were now behind bars—out of sight, out of mind, and no longer counted in poverty and unemployment statistics.

To make matters worse, the federal safety net for poor families was torn to shreds by the Clinton administration in its effort to “end welfare as we know it.” In his 1996 State of the Union address, given during his re-election campaign, Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over” and immediately sought to prove it by dismantling the federal welfare system known as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). The welfare-reform legislation that he signed—which Hillary Clinton ardently supported then and characterized as a success as recently as 2008—replaced the federal safety net with a block grant to the states, imposed a five-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance, added work requirements, barred undocumented immigrants from licensed professions, and slashed overall public welfare funding by $54 billion (some was later restored).

Experts and pundits disagree about the true impact of welfare reform, but one thing seems clear: Extreme poverty doubled to 1.5 million in the decade and a half after the law was passed. What is extreme poverty? US households are considered to be in extreme poverty if they are surviving on cash incomes of no more than $2 per person per day in any given month. We tend to think of extreme poverty existing in Third World countries, but here in the United States, shocking numbers of people are struggling to survive on less money per month than many families spend in one evening dining out. Currently, the United States, the richest nation on the planet, has one of the highest child-poverty rates in the developed world.

Despite claims that radical changes in crime and welfare policy were driven by a desire to end big government and save taxpayer dollars, the reality is that the Clinton administration didn’t reduce the amount of money devoted to the management of the urban poor; it changed what the funds would be used for. Billions of dollars were slashed from public-housing and child-welfare budgets and transferred to the mass-incarceration machine. By 1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to food stamps. During Clinton’s tenure, funding for public housing was slashed by $17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent), while funding for corrections was boosted by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to sociologist Loïc Wacquant “effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the urban poor.”

Hillary Clinton and a friend

Hillary Clinton and another Irish friend

Bill Clinton championed discriminatory laws against formerly incarcerated people that have kept millions of Americans locked in a cycle of poverty and desperation. The Clinton administration eliminated Pell grants for prisoners seeking higher education to prepare for their release, supported laws denying federal financial aid to students with drug convictions, and signed legislation imposing a lifetime ban on welfare and food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense—an exceptionally harsh provision given the racially biased drug war that was raging in inner cities.

Perhaps most alarming, Clinton also made it easier for public-housing agencies to deny shelter to anyone with any sort of criminal history (even an arrest without conviction) and championed the “one strike and you’re out” initiative, which meant that families could be evicted from public housing because one member (or a guest) had committed even a minor offense. People released from prison with no money, no job, and nowhere to go could no longer return home to their loved ones living in federally assisted housing without placing the entire family at risk of eviction. Purging “the criminal element” from public housing played well on the evening news, but no provisions were made for people and families as they were forced out on the street. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, more than half of working-age African-American men in many large urban areas were saddled with criminal records and subject to legalized discrimination in employment, housing, access to education, and basic public benefits—relegated to a permanent second-class status eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow.

It is difficult to overstate the damage that’s been done. Generations have been lost to the prison system; countless families have been torn apart or rendered homeless; and a school-to-prison pipeline has been born that shuttles young people from their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand-new high-tech prisons.

* * *

It didn’t have to be like this. As a nation, we had a choice. Rather than spending billions of dollars constructing a vast new penal system, those billions could have been spent putting young people to work in inner-city communities and investing in their schools so they might have some hope of making the transition from an industrial to a service-based economy. Constructive interventions would have been good not only for African Americans trapped in ghettos, but for blue-collar workers of all colors. At the very least, Democrats could have fought to prevent the further destruction of black communities rather than ratcheting up the wars declared on them.

Of course, it can be said that it’s unfair to criticize the Clintons for punishing black people so harshly, given that many black people were on board with the “get tough” movement too. It is absolutely true that black communities back then were in a state of crisis, and that many black activists and politicians were desperate to get violent offenders off the streets. What is often missed, however, is that most of those black activists and politicians weren’t asking only for toughness. They were also demanding investment in their schools, better housing, jobs programs for young people, economic-stimulus packages, drug treatment on demand, and better access to healthcare. In the end, they wound up with police and prisons. To say that this was what black people wanted is misleading at best.

To be fair, the Clintons now feel bad about how their politics and policies have worked out for black people. Bill says that he “overshot the mark” with his crime policies; and Hillary has put forth a plan to ban racial profiling, eliminate the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine, and abolish private prisons, among other measures.

But what about a larger agenda that would not just reverse some of the policies adopted during the Clinton era, but would rebuild the communities decimated by them? If you listen closely here, you’ll notice that Hillary Clinton is still singing the same old tune in a slightly different key. She is arguing that we ought not be seduced by Bernie’s rhetoric because we must be “pragmatic,” “face political realities,” and not get tempted to believe that we can fight for economic justice and win. When politicians start telling you that it is “unrealistic” to support candidates who want to build a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal healthcare, and an end to corporate control of our political system, it’s probably best to leave the room.

This is not an endorsement for Bernie Sanders, who after all voted for the 1994 crime bill. I also tend to agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that the way the Sanders campaign handled the question of reparations is one of many signs that Bernie doesn’t quite get what’s at stake in serious dialogues about racial justice. He was wrong to dismiss reparations as “divisive,” as though centuries of slavery, segregation, discrimination, ghettoization, and stigmatization aren’t worthy of any specific acknowledgement or remedy.

But recognizing that Bernie, like Hillary, has blurred vision when it comes to race is not the same thing as saying their views are equally problematic. Sanders opposed the 1996 welfare-reform law. He also opposed bank deregulation and the Iraq War, both of which Hillary supported, and both of which have proved disastrous. In short, there is such a thing as a lesser evil, and Hillary is not it.

The biggest problem with Bernie, in the end, is that he’s running as a Democrat—as a member of a political party that not only capitulated to right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled by a relatively small number of millionaires and billionaires. Yes, Sanders has raised millions from small donors, but should he become president, he would also become part of what he has otherwise derided as “the establishment.” Even if Bernie’s racial-justice views evolve, I hold little hope that a political revolution will occur within the Democratic Party without a sustained outside movement forcing truly transformational change. I am inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to save the Democratic Party from itself.

She may be surprised to discover that the younger generation no longer wants to play her game. Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll all continue to play along and pretend that we don’t know how it will turn out in the end. Hopefully, one day, we’ll muster the courage to join together in a revolutionary movement with people of all colors who believe that basic human rights and economic, racial, and gender justice are not unreasonable, pie-in-the-sky goals. After decades of getting played, the sleeping giant just might wake up, stretch its limbs, and tell both parties: Game over. Move aside. It’s time to reshuffle this deck.

Sandy Boyer, R.I.P.

Joan McKiernan, a long time comrade and friend of Sandy Boyer offers this tribute and memory of him. Sandy died on Thursday evening at Mount Sinai Hospital, Manhattan after a short illness.



Sandy Boyer, socialist fighter, died this week. His death is a loss to all the working class struggles, the social justice movements in the US, Ireland, and indeed, the world that he was involved in.

Whether it was teamsters or teachers in the US, political prisoners in Ireland, Puerto Rican activists, Palestinian solidarity campaigners, or the Black Lives Matter movement, Sandy was tirelessly exercising his brilliant organizing skills on their behalf.

Descended from what we might call American royalty, his mother Sophia Ripley Ames, came from a family who participated in the American Revolution. She was born in The Old Manse in Concord, Mass., now a National Historic Landmark, in whose backyard in April 1775, the first shot in the American Revolutionary War was fired, a shot described famously by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who also lived for a time in ‘The Old Manse’, as ‘the shot heard around the world’.

The Old Manse, Concord, Massachusetts

The Old Manse, Concord, Massachusetts

His parents went on to become revolutionaries of a different sort, supporting the working class and Black struggles in the US by joining the American Communist Party, which they remained members of until the Khrushchev revelations of Stalin’s crimes in 1956.

His parents were writers, his father, Richard Owen Boyer, was co-author of Labour’s Untold Story, author of The Legend of John Brown and a writer for The New Yorker and a host of other journals and newspapers. Both his parents traveled to Berlin in 1940 to chronicle life for ordinary Germans under Nazi rule.

His mother, Sophia Ripley Ames, who was for a while secretary to future US Supreme Court Justice, Felix Frankfurter, wrote a biography of Kwame Nkrumah and ‘Gifts for Greeks’, a history of ancient Greek civilization, for schoolchildren.

With parents in the Communist Party, Sandy was raised as what we call a ‘red diaper baby’.

His family lived in Croton, NY, where many CP families lived, so Sandy was not on his own. In this radio program, Sandy discussed his life as a ‘red diaper baby.’

His family paid dearly for their political activity, as did many others. His father was blacklisted, losing most of his employment. Although he had been hired by The New Yorker to write political profiles, he found great difficulty finding work after he was called and refused to testify at the McCarthy hearing in 1956. He ended up finding some work writing for a scientific journal (see obit below).

His mother was targeted by the Dies House Committee, the equivalent in the House of Representatives of Joe McCarthy’s Senate-based Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the principal vehicle for the blacklist. She headed The League of Women Shoppers, which was accused of being a Communist front (see obit below).

Sandy understood the hardship of the period as he knew the Rosenberg children, whose parents were executed by the US Government in 1953.

Sandy began his own political activity while he was still in high school, in the 1950s, when he organized protests in nearby towns supporting the civil rights struggle in the US. At that time, pickets against Woolworths and other stores were growing in the north, protesting against segregated lunch counters in the south.

By 1962 when he was about 18, Sandy had joined the YPSL, Young People’s Socialist League, in New York City. He was in the forefront of the building of a new socialist movement, rejecting the legacy of his parent’s generation.

The organizations he supported rejected both capitalist societies, the USA and the USSR, as providing any basis for building a future worker’s state and argued for the need for democracy from below. He worked with organizations that focused on the self emancipation of the working class.

They argued that workers and other oppressed groups had to organize to take control and reorganize society to meet their needs, not the needs of the rich and privileged. They argued that simply electing a new president or supporting an army to make the changes would not be sufficient.

Sandy recently continued that argument in this article on the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign. Sandy went on to join the International Socialist Clubs and then the International Socialists, for which he worked as NY organizer for several years.

With these groups, he became immersed in working class struggles and the fights of minorities – African Americans, women and LGTB for justice and equal rights. He brought his excellent organizing skills and political acumen to help build rank and file union movements, working with teamsters, postal workers, teachers, communication workers – all those fighting back.

Sandy, pictured at the Irish Arts Center, during the H Blocks protest

Sandy, pictured at the Irish Arts Center, during the H Blocks protest

In the early 1970s, Sandy joined us, Irish Americans building American support for the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. As the Troubles intensified in the North, Sandy was there through it all – anti-internment, the hunger strikes, support for political prisoners.

He became immersed in the Irish American community and struggle; he was honored for this work, which continued until his death.

His contribution to that struggle was invaluable. He organized speaking tours for Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey and other Irish leaders to inform and educate the American public of the political situation in NI.

Bernadette Devlin-McAloskey with Sandy Boyer in the RFE radio studio

Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey with Sandy Boyer in the RFE radio studio

He built many successful campaigns in Irish America – supporting those, such as Malachy McAllister, who found themselves fighting the American government attempts to deport them back to Ireland where they were threatened by loyalist paramilitaries.

He led a successful campaign in 1996 to end the unjust incarceration of Roisin McAliskey, Bernadette’s daughter, who was three months pregnant when arrested.

Since 1996, he joined John McDonagh and the late Brian Mor Ó Baoighill in presenting the popular weekly radio program, Radio Free Eireann (RFE), which airs on WBAI. They have provided a provocative analysis of the continuing struggle of people in the north of Ireland for justice.

They provided a venue for younger generations to learn about what had happened and what was really going on currently in Ireland – from a radical point of view. This was particularly important as the peace process grew and was established with a new power sharing government, with the participation of Sinn Fein.

Sandy (center) and John McDonagh (left)

Sandy (center) and John McDonagh (left)

As the peace process solidified, press coverage in both Ireland and the US became more narrow and less open to diverse opinion. John and Sandy provided a platform for those who did not conform with the new orthodoxy and did not get a hearing elsewhere.

Sandy conducted interviews with Irish Americans, such as Pete Hamill, and with Irish journalists and activists to explore issues and events that would not be covered elsewhere in Ireland or in the US.

Pete Hamill being interviewed on RFE

Pete Hamill being interviewed on RFE

He publicized the continuing struggles of Northern Irish people who are still seeking justice and supported the campaigns of the many political prisoners there, such as Marion Price and the Craigavon Two.

Marion Price, during one of many court appearances

Marion Price, during one of many court appearances

As well as presenting the best of Irish music, supporting Irish musicians here in New York, they also provided coverage of the controversial political issues of the day here in the city.

In recent years, Sandy worked with the Brooklyn Green Party, where he was instrumental in organizing a meeting on the Black Lives Matter Movement, building support for the Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones NY state election campaign and for James Lane’s congressional run against the district attorney who made sure that Earl Garner’s killer was not indicted.

Sandy’s life of activism was also based on gathering knowledge, seeking to understand our past in order to build the struggles of today and the future. His knowledge of history – labor history and the history of oppressed groups – American, Irish, and world-wide, was immense.

He shared his extensive knowledge and experience by leading classes in Irish history and politics, American labor history, and through his written contributions.

The breadth of his interest is indicated in just a few of his recent works. His review of recent works on slavery, “Slavery, Capitalism and Imperialism” was recently published by International Socialist Review (see below).

He took up the issue of Puerto Rican freedom in this article. He particularly enjoyed exposing our supposedly “progressive” mayor, Bill de Blasio, as he did in this Socialist Worker article, when he asked shouldn’t New York City’s liberal mayor be focused on honoring his promises around affordable housing.

One of my favorite memories of Sandy is of him on a picket line – any line, any cause of the many he was involved in. He wasn’t like the rest of us who marched around, shouting our slogans, and perhaps speaking amongst ourselves. Sandy turned out – to the passers-by.

He spoke directly to each person that came by. He explained why we were there, and why they should be supporting our cause. It was his calm and clear explanations and reasoning that often convinced people on a range of issues.

As the tributes come flowing in, we can see the admiration that Sandy earned for his work in the anti-war movement, South Africa solidarity work, and Palestinian solidarity, to name a few. He was respected and loved on both sides of the Atlantic for his deep commitment to the Irish political struggle.

Sandy looked forward to building the successful American revolution, which he insisted had to be built on an integrated party encompassing the working class organizations and the black liberation movements confronting the current issues of criminal and social justice. Sandy is no longer able to contribute to those movements.

We can all appreciate the contribution that he made. But more important is to continue to build and support the movement, extend his commitment and put into practice the lessons that we have learned from him.



The British And The North’s Past: When Actions Belie Words

Theresa Villiers, NI Secretary of State, in her speech yesterday promising to deal with the North’s troubled past, had this to say:

… the representative of the sovereign Government here I am acutely aware that we have a responsibility to do all that we can to tackle the legacy of the past in this part of the United Kingdom.

And this:

……I will never seek to defend the security forces by defending the indefensible. Where there is evidence of wrongdoing it will be pursued. Everyone is subject to the rule of law.

That same day two years ago, the Derry Daily published the story below. Make your own mind up about which reflects the real mind of the British system:


Police files on the investigation into the death of  Sammy Devenney, the Derry man who died after being badly beaten in his home by members of the now-disbanded RUC,  have been “reclassified” by the Metropolitan Police and are to remain secret for another eight years, it has emerged..

Mr Devenney (42), a father of nine, died on 16 July, 1969 from injuries sustained in the 19 April attack in his William Street home in which a number of his children, eight of whom were in the house at the time, were also beaten.

Sammy Devenney - his family say that RUC men beat him to death but a British report on the incident has been kept secret

Sammy Devenney – his family say that RUC men beat him to death but a British report on the incident has been kept secret

In a report issued in October 2001, the Office Police Ombudsman upheld the family’s complaint the RUC never communicated to them directly about the events of that night.

Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan revealed her Office had located a complete copy of the report of an investigation into the incident carried out by Metropolitan Police officers, under the direction of Detective Chief Superintendent Kenneth Drury, which was never before made public and which acknowledged and detailed attacks by RUC officers on the family.

Ms O’Loan said the Drury investigation could neither prove nor disprove the allegation that Mr. Devenney’s death had resulted from the RUC attack on him and concluded  it would not be possible “after all this time” to pursue disciplinary action against the officers involved.

The Pat Finucane Centre, the Derry-based human rights group representing the Devenney family, has revealed a Freedom of Information request for the investigation files to be made public was turned down by the Metropolitan Police who said by doing so would “not be in the public’s interest.”

Sarah Duddy, from the Pat Finucane Centre, said the family were anxious to find out what information on the attack was contained in the files and the “cover up” that followed.

A Response To Theresa Villiers On Dealing With The North’s Past

Bob Mitchell makes a welcome return to the columns of with a sharp response to NI Secretary Theresa Villiers, who claimed in a speech yesterday, dedicated to the problem of dealing with the past, that there was a ‘pernicious’ narrative which blamed Britain for the Troubles:


Are some PSNI legacy investigations about to bear fruit?

In a speech at the Ulster University, Northern Ireland’s secretary of state said it was a misrepresentation to say that wrongdoing by the security forces during the troubles was ‘endemic’ and that ‘some people’ were pursuing a pernicious counter narrative of the past’.

Who said it was endemic?


What narrative of the past is being countered?

Could it be the bland elitist histories of the troubles produced by former army officers? Or is she referring to the ‘oral testimonies’ that relate the individual experiences of the common soldier?

The question of ‘what happened?’ has been fully recorded many times – from the excellent ‘Lost Lives’ that tries to account for the detail behind every single killing – to the meagre outline material in overviews of Op Banner produced by senior or elite soldiers. Personal accounts by more junior ranks are often more emotive, but rarely include insights into the context of their times.

Theresa Villiers acknowledges some members of the security forces behaviour “fell below the high standards required of them” and “where there is evidence of wrongdoing, it will be pursued”, but, she continues, “we need to be mindful of the context in which the security forces were operating.”

Where is the historical record of ‘context’ and on what evidence can it be based?

In part of her closing comments the Secretary of State introduced the now common conservative tactic of scaremongering: the government want to retain the power to prevent disclosure of some information on health and safety grounds to prevent action by ‘violent dissidents’ or ‘Islamist terrorists’. Islamist terrorists intervening on behalf of armed republicans? Now there is a new one!

The vast majority of controversial killings during the Troubles occurred in the early to mid 1970s – the government have had over 40 years to investigate whether there was evidence of wrongdoing and to ‘pursue’ the matter. Perhaps they do not read their own embargoed records.


Is it not therefore, legitimate, given the total lack of governmental progress, for others to enquire into controversial incidents that happened 41 years ago?
If, as she stated, there are a “large number of complex sensitive cases” that only concern a small minority of soldiers or policemen (given that the “vast majority carried out their duties with exemplary professionalism”), is it not the case that where research or journalistic enquiry focuses on this large number of complex cases, that they are also, by definition, not re-writing the limited narrative of the ‘vast majority’?

Clearly, while some investigations do appear to be in progress (and who knows, might be getting somewhere) there is scope for the revelation of some ‘context’.

Watch this space.

Now We Know Why Lloyd Blankfein Felt Re-Assured By Gerry Adams….

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I have, more than once, made mention of an infamous tȇte-à-tȇte between SF President Gerry Adams and the Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, that took place on the margins of a Hillary Clinton love-fest organised by Irish Voice publisher Niall O’Dowd in Manhattan last St Patrick’s Day or thereabouts.

Gerry Adams chats with Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York

Gerry Adams chats with Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York

My impeccable source for this story, who must remain unnamed, told me that Blankfein asked Gerry Adams for a private chat and ten minutes later emerged to tell friends that not only had he been impressed by the Provo chief but ‘re-assured’.

Re-assured about what, we can only guess at. Well, actually that’s not too difficult.

Researchers at Goldman Sachs were about to publish a report voicing concerns that if Sinn Fein did well in the next Irish general election they might well follow the example of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain and threaten to stop bailing out the banks.

Naturally, Blankfein would have worried about this, knowing that if Sinn Fein went down this road others might be tempted to follow suit with possibly disastrous financial consequences for Goldman Sachs.

Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein is greeted by Hillary Clinton at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. Blankfein and Adams would likely have rubbed shoulders at CGI get-togethers

Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein is greeted by Hillary Clinton at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.

Sinn Fein’s inclusion in the group of small but increasingly popular radical European political parties opposed to the austerity policies that accompanied/facilitated the bank bailouts, had been a source of growing concern for the world’s elites, as evidenced in this 2012 Financial Times piece headlined: Sinn Fein joins Ireland’s austerity backlash.

Explaining that his party’s route to power in Ireland could come via a public backlash against austerity policies, the SF chief told the paper:

“It may not be a rush to the barricades but there is a slow revolution taking place,” Mr Adams told the Financial Times in an interview.

It is hard to read the following analysis, taken from the columns of yesterday’s Irish Times, of the Sinn Fein election manifesto for the general election later this month and not conclude that the re-assurance Blankfein sought and got from Mr Adams was to the effect that there was no reason to worry about overheated newspaper articles like that.

Gerry and the boys would see that the banks were looked after. No Syriza nor Podemos are Sinn Fein. Well, actually, maybe Syriza…….

I have argued many, many times in these columns and elsewhere that you cannot begin to understand Sinn Fein unless you realise that politically it is a chameleon. It believes in nothing, has no ideological roots and loyalties, can hold one view one day and a completely different one the next, and that the stance it decides to take is determined solely by its potential to attain one overriding objective: power and the office that comes with it.

Like a chameleon, Sinn Fein changes its colours to suit its environment. So it has been with the Irish banks and the bailout.


SF now accepts legal targets for debt must be met

Sinn Féin’s manifesto marks something of a change of tack.

By Arthur Beesley

The party relentlessly opposed the painful post-crash austerity drive, and it campaigned loudly against Europe’s fiscal treaty in the 2012 referendum. Now it claims to comply with stringent budget rules laid down in that treaty, rules which will seriously curtail the next government’s room for manoeuvre.

It seems, therefore, that Sinn Féin accepts that legal targets vis-à-vis the continuous reduction of deficits and debts must first be met before any new money becomes available in any given year.

Doing that while delivering a huge expansion in government programmes is a very tall order indeed, but it’s the same for all parties. It’s still a shift for Sinn Féin, which is viewed with distrust in business circles and faces political attack for lacking economic credibility. It will still take a very long time to convince its most ardent critics.

The party takes as read the Department of Finance assessment that the opening net “fiscal space” for the next five years is €8.6 billion. Via a swathe of new taxes, including a 7 per cent levy on income above €100,000, Sinn Féin would add €1.71 billion per year to the €8.6 billion. Sinn Féin assumes another €366 million would come from public sector savings, never easy. Having pressed for a wealth tax on net assets years ago, however, Sinn Féin now pledges only to “examine” such a tax in government.

No disruption

Sinn Féin’s promises, like those of other parties, assume no disruption to growth. It takes as a given a Department of Finance forecast that 188,000 new jobs will be created, but argues that 20,000 more posts will be created in “frontline” services and that another 38,000 posts will flow from its €7.4 billion capital programme. Easy to say; difficult to do.
Sinn Féin would eliminate the local property tax and water charges. It would remove 277,000 workers earning less than €19,572 from the universal social charge but retain USC on other earnings.

It would introduce free GP care for 250,000 “or more” per year, and it would make prescription drugs “free for everyone”. Housing initiatives include the construction of 70,000 new social units.

These proposals, and more, assume that a Sinn Féin government takes in a good deal more revenue from taxpayers. In that sense Sinn Féin is a tax and spend party, prompting Fine Gael to declare its plan would detonate a “tax bomb” which would wreck growth. Fianna Fáil charged that the plan would scare off multinational investors.

Budget targets

New current spending programmes amount to €6.35 billion;€3.1 billion would go to capital plans.
Sinn Féin does not account for up to €1.5 billion in anticipated benefits from a loosening of EU budget targets.

In line with the Department of Finance, it assumes the starting “fiscal space” for 2017 is €500 million. To that it would add €289 million in a year-one yield from the 7 per cent levy on an individual’s income above €100,000. Further unspecified monies would be raised from charges such as a sugar tax on drinks.

The 1 per cent tax on betting would rise to 3 per cent. There would be a staggered reduction of private pension tax relief.

Business owners would pay a 15.75 per cent employers’ rate of PRSI on salary in excess of €100,000. The rates of capital acquisitions tax and capital gains tax on passive investment would rise.

The total anticipated yield is set out in the manifesto, but the yield from individual measures is not.

Why Hasn’t The Irish News Published The ‘AA’ Special Branch Documents?

irish news

It is now two weeks since The Irish News published, under Allison Morris’ by-line, the story claiming that an agent in the Ardoyne unit of the IRA, known only as ‘AA’, told his RUC Special Branch handlers of a plan to blow up the leadership of the UDA in the autumn of 1993.

The story claimed the police allowed the plan to go ahead with the result that on October 23rd, 1993, nine people lost their lives – six shoppers, two children and one of the IRA bombers – when the bomb detonated prematurely inside Frizzel’s fishmongers on the Shankill Road, above whose premises the UDA top brass were supposed to be meeting, but who were that fateful afternoon fortuitously absent.

The story, which has had a quite sensational impact, not least on the still unresolved debate on how to deal with the past, was, however, completely unsourced.

It is not unusual for reporters covering the sensitive and dangerous subject of political violence in Northern Ireland to grant their sources, either security forces or paramilitary, anonymity to protect their lives, jobs or freedom.

In such cases readers must rely upon the track record of the reporter when judging the accuracy of the story. But not even that was done with this story.

Instead, The Irish News’s readers were told this, in the January 25th story:

The Irish News has seen documents which show the Ardoyne IRA chief was in contact with his handlers in the run up to the bombing and passed on details of ‘scouting missions’ to the Shankill.

These documents, the paper explained, had been stolen from the Special Branch office at Castlereagh RUC station in March 2002 in a raid widely suspected to have been carried out by the IRA.

On January 27th, the paper published a second story, again saying it ‘had seen’ documents but this time adding the adjective ‘classified’ to describe the papers.

Since then the accused agent ‘AA’ has, through his lawyer, asked that he be allowed sight of these documents, a demand which this blog at least, considers to be a reasonable one given the gravity of the charge leveled against him.

The Irish News has, so far, failed to respond to this request and in fact has not, to my knowledge, said a word about ‘AA’s’ demand, even going so far as to exclude it from a report on his lawyer’s statement.

In the absence of any clarification from The Irish News, observers can be forgiven for focusing on the language used by Allison Morris to describe her access to the vital, incriminating documents.

Ms Morris has twice written that she has ‘seen’ the documents. She has not made any claim to have the papers or copies of them in her possession. Is it possible, then, that The Irish News does not have these documents and that it cannot comply with ‘AA’s’ demand even if it were inclined to so do?

Did The Irish News base this story only on a sight of the documents? And for how long did its reporter have sight? Five minutes? Thirty? An hour? What did the paper do, what could it do in such circumstances, to verify the authenticity of the papers?

And what of The Irish News’ editor, Noel Doran? Did he have sight of these documents? On what consideration did he base his decision to publish the story? When is he going to explain the background to this most important and possibly consequential story?

If there is a satisfactory explanation to all this, he should give it and do so promptly.

This is about journalistic standards, what is acceptable and what is not.

‘Gerry Adams’s Baffling Book Of Tweets’ – The New Yorker

Written by Mark O’Connell, Slate magazine’s book columnist, this acerbic take on Gerry Adams’ latest publication, ‘My Little Book Of Tweets’, appeared in Friday’s edition of The New Yorker blog. Enjoy:


Gerry Adams, the president of the Irish republican party Sinn Féin, is set to release a collection of his bewildering tweets.

A man is sitting at a desk. He is gray-bearded and bespectacled, and his shirt sleeves are rolled smartly to the elbows. He is sucking on a lollipop, this man, and momentarily adrift in quiet reflection. He pulls the stick from his mouth and evaluates the diminished state of the confectionery, sucked down to a mere glistening fragment. There is a strange look now in his eyes, an expression of melancholy whimsy. Or is it something darker? We can never know the minds of others, but the mind of this particular man is especially unknowable. He sucks the last of his lollipop, places the stick gently on the desk before him. His current state of lollipop-induced wistfulness leads him to think of a song from long ago, a children’s song by the variety entertainer Max Bygraves. On a whim, he takes out his iPhone, and opens up Twitter, and types the lyrics of the song:

When u come 2 the end of a lollipop. 2 the end. 2 the end of a lollipop.

When u come 2 the end of a lollipop. Pop goes ur heart. Xo TGBE.

He presses send, and he leans back in his chair, taking his own advice (“TGBE” presumably stands for “Tóg go bog é,” a phrase which means “Take it easy” in his native Irish). He watches the likes and retweets roll in, and he is, for all we know, at peace.

The man we are talking about is the long-standing president of the Irish republican political party Sinn Féin, former M.P. for Belfast West, and currently sitting TD for the Irish electoral constituency of Louth. He has repeatedly been accused of membership in the I.R.A.’s Army Council, and of having ordered the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother the I.R.A. believed was passing sensitive information to the British Army. We are talking about Gerry Adams—although perhaps it would be closer to the truth to say that we are talking about “@GerryAdamsSF,” the persona created by Adams through the medium of his consistently bewildering tweets, and whose relationship to the “real” Adams is a richly ambiguous one. Adams joined Twitter in 2011, and in 2013 his contributions to the social-media network began to be widely noted for their increasingly odd amalgamation of absurdity and banality. They have now been collected in a slim paperback volume, just published under the feyly utilitarian title “My Little Book of Tweets.”

Given his surface inscrutability, the cliché about not judging books by their covers might as well have been coined in reference to Adams himself. As it happens, though, a fairly accurate idea of this book’s over-all affect can be gleaned from the image on its cover: a selfie in which a goat rests its affable head on the author’s fleece-jacketed shoulder. The goat is beaming happily, but Adams’s expression is cryptic; his eyes stare blackly from behind dark-tinted spectacles, as though quietly notifying the potential novelty book-buyer that it would be in the best interest of the goat’s health if he or she approached the checkout and made the purchase without any further delay. The cover image captures an interplay between the preposterous and the unsettling—which is to say, the interplay between text and context—that characterizes the book as a whole.

Considered in isolation from the controversies and ambiguities that surround Adams like a mephitic haze, the text itself is undoubtedly weird, but hardly interesting on its own terms. The most interesting thing about it is that it was published at all, given that the target readership for Adams’s tweets will presumably have already read them in their natural habitat. (The tweets’ spelling and grammar have been cleaned up in the book, so there’s that.) I myself am not one of Adams’s ninety-nine thousand followers, but I’ve seen him retweeted and aggregated enough times over the last three years to have got a sense of his general approach to social media, and to be familiar with the most notable examples of his output. The man we encounter in these more widely shared and discussed tweets is a studiously whimsical figure, likelier to be found holding forth on his collection of rubber ducks and Teddy bears—or putting out a general inquiry as to the height of Elvis Presley, or sharing photos of some cupcakes he’s just whipped up, decorated with the faces of puppies—than blasting out hundred-and-forty-character polemics about the necessity and justice of a united Ireland.

Politics remains a mostly background presence in the tweets collected in the book, typically only raised as a subject of coy allusion. One page, for instance, features a diorama model of a prison, complete with tiny men playing football in a barbed-wire-fenced exercise yard. “I came upon this model of a H Block,” the tweet accompanying the photo reads. “Isn’t it a wonderment the things U come upon?” (No gloss is provided here, though a scholarly footnote might inform the reader that “H Block” refers to Long Kesh prison in County Down, where Adams was interned for three years in the mid-seventies, for membership in the I.R.A., an organization to which he has always unflinchingly denied ever having belonged.)

Another photo depicts a rubber duck recently added to what seems a truly prodigious collection of same; this particular bath toy is a London tourist souvenir, wearing a headdress in the style of Big Ben’s iconic roof. The text of the tweet—“Tick Tocky ár lá”—might need some unpacking for international readers, to whom it wouldn’t be apparent that “Tiocfaidh ár lá” is an Irish phrase, meaning “Our day will come,” and which is understood as a battle cry of militant republicanism. In the absence of any kind of elaboration, you can’t help wondering whether this might not be a joke, transmitted on dog-whistle frequency, about the I.R.A.’s numerous London bombings throughout the years, about the violence Adams himself was so instrumental in bringing to an end. This sort of clumsy jest wouldn’t be at all the sort of quip you’d expect from such a famously polished and canny political operator—but then again the whole strange enterprise is decidedly not the sort of thing you’d expect from him, which is possibly the whole point of it in the first place.

The book, with its routine dispatches from Adams’s extracurricular activities (“Pilates. Aaaaaahhhhh”; “1st Pilates of 2015 . . . ”; “Seriously overstretched myself @ pilates”) and its endless jokily plaintive references to overdue household chores, creates a vacuum of significance so total that you wonder whether you’re missing some deeper intent. There is, for instance, an overwhelming emphasis on bathing: aside from the frequent testimonials to his menagerie of rubber ducks, Adams insists again and again on his enjoyment of every aspect of the bathing process. “So the bath beckons!” we are told. “Plastic ducks. Soapy suds . . . .” Elsewhere, he tweets that his bath “Overflowth,” advising his followers that he has just taken delivery of his “1st Orange Duck,” and that “A Good Suddy Soak” awaits him. If you encounter the book, as I did, fresh from a re-reading of “Where The Bodies Are Buried”—Patrick Radden Keefe’s 2015 New Yorker piece about the murder of McConville, in which a number of former I.R.A. volunteers claim that Adams ordered her killing—you might be inclined to read his commitment to keeping the public briefed on his ablutions as a haphazardly staged psychodrama of guilt and purification.

In one of the transcripts of recorded phone conversations between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, recently released after a Freedom of Information request by the BBC, Clinton casually mentions to Blair that his daughter Chelsea happens to be writing a college paper on Adams, and that he himself has been reading up on his history as a result. “I don’t know what the real deal is between him and the IRA,” he tells Blair. “It’s hard to put pressure on him when you don’t know what’s going on. It’s bizarre.”

This sense of an absolute occlusion of the “real” Adams has always been a factor in his political presence—which is not to say that he is necessarily any more inauthentic than your average successful politician, just that the concealment of the “real deal” is, as Clinton remarks, so bizarre. It is as though Adams were his own doppelgänger. The most absurd expression of this arose not out of any duplicity on his own part, but from a legal move made by the Thatcher government, which banned the broadcasting of his voice in the United Kingdom. Between 1988 and 1994, whenever Adams appeared on British radio or television, his speech was dubbed by an actor. Watching clips of those appearances now, they seem a kind of avant-garde video art, effecting an uncanny critique of political discourse. The thought presents itself that perhaps all politicians should be dubbed by actors—to emphasize the slippage between speaker and speech, to enact an estrangement of the performance we know is being staged. In any case, it’s difficult to reconcile this version of Adams—a man who so frightened his political enemies that they felt the need to exert control over the vibrations of his very larynx—with the harmlessly eccentric gentleman we find in this book, reaching into his pocket for a pen and taking out his toothbrush, and, elsewhere, reaching into his bag for clean Y-fronts and taking out a grandchild’s bib. (“Silly Billy. Need 2 pack better in future.”)

This cognitive dissonance is the appeal of his Twitter persona, of course, but it’s hard to believe that an operator as artful as Adams is approaching the project as anything other than a means to a political end. Writing in the Belfast Telegraph last year, the journalist Henry McDonald pointed out that the effect of Adams’s tweeting about bouncing naked on a trampoline with his dog was to distract a media that should have been focussed on other matters—for instance, why Sinn Féin were imposing public-spending cuts in Northern Ireland, where they are in power, while opposing them in the Republic of Ireland, where they are not. To imagine that such a move would be far too cynically manipulative, he wrote, would be a misunderstanding of “the ultimate Machiavelli of modern times.”

This suspicion, that Adams is displaying his whimsical side for un-whimsical reasons, is reinforced by the timing of the book’s publication: “My Little Book of Tweets” arrives just three weeks before Ireland’s general election, on February 26th. The country is badly in need of a strong left-wing opposition to the presiding neoliberal consensus, and Sinn Féin’s popularity has grown in this vacuum. But Adams has always been a highly controversial figure south of the border, and there is a sense that his past, whatever version of it you happen to believe, is a deal-breaker for many Irish voters who might otherwise be aligned with his party’s policies. The self-confessed “Silly Billy” that the book presents may or may not be a useful fiction, but as a character he is a dramatic departure from the figure with whom the Irish electorate was previously familiar. How deep, really, is his affection for bath toys, his childlike sadness at the dwindling of lollipops? These questions must now be added to the many whose answers we may never know.

Why Wall Street Loves Hillary

The contest for the Democratic Party nomination for President is now a two-horse race between the establishment favourite, Hillary Clinton and the elderly, radical (in American terms) outsider, Bernie Sanders.

Hillary is the feminist candidate and the choice of the party’s centrist elite, while Sanders, who is not even a member of the Democratic party, is a dissenting voice, albeit one who could have found a comfortable place in, say, Tony Blair’s Labour Party, who calls himself a ‘Democratic Socialist’.

But as I say, this is America and the fact that a candidate who even uses the adjective/noun ‘Socialist’ to describe his politics can come within a few votes of defeating the anointed choice of the Democratic establishment in Iowa and has her on the back foot in New Hampshire, is an upset beyond words and a reflection of how changed American politics are as a result of the still reverberating financial crisis of 2008.

Hillary greet Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein at the annual Clinton Foundation bash

Hillary greet Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein at the annual Clinton Foundation bash

And so Hillary’s links to Wall Street – and beyond that her husband’s thralldom to the big banks during his presidency – have become the issue that may decide the outcome of the primary contest (although the Black vote, dazzled by the Clintons and happy to ignore the role both husband and wife played in facilitating the mass incarceration of working class, young Blacks, could yet come to her rescue).

Anyhow, this post is devoted to reproducing an authoritative examination of Hillary & Bill Clinton’s indebtedness to Wall Street that was published on in 2014.

Although written some time before Hillary declared herself a candidate, the article is still a timely classic and serves as a warning of what we could expect if a second member of that family occupies the White House. (And that’s before we get to her foreign policy!)

Why Wall Street Loves Hillary

She’s trying to sound populist, but the banks are ready to shower her campaign with cash.

By William D. Cohan, the author of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World (2011).

An odd thing happened last month when, stumping just before the midterms, Hillary Clinton came in close proximity to the woman who has sometimes been described as the conscience of the Democratic Party. Speaking at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston as she did her part to try to rescue the failing gubernatorial campaign of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, Clinton paid deference to Senator Elizabeth Warren, the anti-Wall Street firebrand who has accused Clinton of pandering to the big banks, and who was sitting right there listening. “I love watching Elizabeth give it to those who deserve it,” Clinton said to cheers. But then, awkwardly, she appeared to try to out-Warren Warren—and perhaps build a bridge too far to the left—by uttering words she clearly did not believe: “Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” Clinton said, erroneously echoing a meme Warren made famous during an August 2011 speech at a home in Andover, Massachusetts. “You know that old theory, trickle-down economics? That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”

The right went wild. See? Hillary Clinton has finally shown her hand. After having sat out the financial crisis and all the economic turmoil that has followed in the past six years—and with good reason, since for most of that time she was tending to the nation’s diplomacy as secretary of state—she is proving to be an anti-Wall Street populist too, and as much a socialist as her former boss, President Obama.

But here’s the strange thing: Down on Wall Street they don’t believe it for a minute. While the finance industry does genuinely hate Warren, the big bankers love Clinton, and by and large they badly want her to be president. Many of the rich and powerful in the financial industry—among them, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, Tom Nides, a powerful vice chairman at Morgan Stanley, and the heads of JPMorganChase and Bank of America—consider Clinton a pragmatic problem-solver not prone to populist rhetoric. To them, she’s someone who gets the idea that we all benefit if Wall Street and American business thrive. What about her forays into fiery rhetoric? They dismiss it quickly as political maneuvers. None of them think she really means her populism.

Although Hillary Clinton has made no formal announcement of her candidacy, the consensus on Wall Street is that she is running—and running hard—and that her national organization is quickly falling into place behind the scenes. That all makes her attractive. Wall Street, above all, loves a winner, especially one who is not likely to tamper too radically with its vast money pot.

According to a wide assortment of bankers and hedge-fund managers I spoke to for this article, Clinton’s rock-solid support on Wall Street is not anything that can be dislodged based on a few seemingly off-the-cuff comments in Boston calculated to protect her left flank. (For the record, she quickly walked them back, saying she had “short-handed” her comments about the failures of trickle-down economics by suggesting, absurdly, that corporations don’t create jobs.) “I think people are very excited about Hillary,” says one Wall Street investment professional with close ties to Washington. “Most people in New York on the finance side view her as being very pragmatic. I think they have confidence that she understands how things work and that she’s not a populist.”

The bottom line for Wall Street, says this executive—echoing many others—is that Clinton understands that America’s much-maligned financial industry wants to be part of the solution to the country’s problems. “Everybody who makes money feels a shared responsibility,” he continues. “Everybody sort of looks at her with a lot of optimism because they feel she doesn’t mind making hard decisions. She’ll do what she needs to do, but it’s not a ‘Let me blame you.’ It’s, ‘Hey, here’s what you’ve got to do.’ And I think that’s very different.” During a speech last December at the Conrad Hotel, in New York, her message could not have been more different from Obama’s hot, anti-Wall Street rhetoric: “We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it.”

During the 2012 presidential election, Wall Street felt burned by Obama’s rhetoric and regulatory positions and overwhelmingly supported with their money Republican candidate Mitt Romney, co-founder of private-equity firm Bain Capital. Now, though, there’s a significant momentum back behind the Democratic contest. “The money is already behind her,” the Wall Street money manager says. “I don’t think it’s starting to line up behind her: It’s there for her if she wants it.”

The informal head of her informal Wall Street outreach effort for her informal campaign is a finance executive she knows well—and recruited to work for her at the State Department. Tom Nides, 53, the Morgan Stanley executive, knows both New York and Washington intimately. Today he speaks with Clinton regularly and has begun to play the role of gatekeeper on Wall Street to her embryonic campaign. He also has been known to run interference between the Obama administration and the leaders of the Israeli government, in order to try to patch up their dysfunctional relationship. “Tom at the end of the day is the guy—she trusts him, she knows him,” says the Wall Street investment manager.

Nides returned to Morgan Stanley in 2013 after two years working for Clinton at the State Department as deputy secretary of state for management and resources. Nides (with whom I once shared a one-week summer rental on Nantucket) epitomizes the revolving door that has long existed between Washington and Wall Street. Born in Duluth, Minnesota, he served in a senior leadership role for a diverse group of Washington politicians, from Representatives Tony Coehlo and Tom Foley to, as chief of staff, Mickey Kantor, Bill Clinton’s U.S. trade representative. He worked at Fannie Mae for six years, ran Joe Lieberman’s 2000 vice-presidential campaign and served a brief stint as CEO of Burson Marsteller, the public relations firm.

In 2001, Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack took Nides under his wing. When Mack was named CEO of Credit Suisse, Nides went along with him as chief administrative officer. When Mack returned to Morgan Stanley as CEO in 2005, Nides accompanied him again as chief operating officer and then stayed another year serving in the same role for James Gorman. Then Nides returned to Washington to work for then-Secretary Clinton at the State Department, replacing Jack Lew, who became head of the Office of Management and Budget. Many thought Nides’ time at Morgan Stanley was over, especially with Mack’s retirement at the end of 2011. But Gorman—also a Hillary supporter—surprised people by bringing Nides back to the firm as a vice-chairman.

Now Nides is the first stop in New York for many a visiting dignitary and for those ambitious Wall Street types hoping to get access to Clinton. Nides declined to comment on the record, as did other Wall Street executives with whom Clinton is said to confer, among them Blair Effron, one of the three founders of Centerview Partners, an investment banking boutique, and Marc Lasry, the founder of Avenue Capital, a New York hedge fund, who was almost named Obama’s ambassador to France.

But Greg Fleming, Nides’ partner at Morgan Stanley and the president of Morgan Stanley Wealth and Investment Management, was pleased to discuss his enthusiastic support for Clinton. He says that the “broad perception” across Wall Street, among both Democrats and Republicans, is that she, “like her husband, will govern from the center, and work to get things done, and be capable of garnering support across different groups, including working with Republicans.” He agreed that, as a former senator from New York, Clinton is trusted by Wall Street and will tackle issues, such as fiscal and tax reform, that have been long neglected thanks to the intractable polarization that rules Washington these days. “She will be trying to govern from the center with a problem-solving bent like her husband,” Fleming says.

Beyond that, Hillary Clinton—and the Clintons generally—have always courted Wall Street assiduously and without apology. In June, the biggest donors to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation met with the Clintons at Goldman Sachs’ headquarters in lower Manhattan for a day-long discussion about the foundation’s goals. Goldman has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Clintons’ foundation, and in October 2013, Hillary Clinton gave two speeches at Goldman. Her usual speaking fee is $200,000, and Goldman is known to be a full payer on the speaking circuit. Goldman is hardly alone—Clinton is popular in the financial industry: In 2013, she also gave speeches to KKR and the Carlyle Group, two private-equity behemoths.

Wall Street does not seem to be the slightest bit shy about coming out for Hillary—and are now contributing their money to prove it. While Priorities USA Action, a super PAC dedicated to getting Clinton elected in 2016, does not have any Wall Street banks among its top 50 donors to date, there have been large contributions from wealthy hedge funds, such as Renaissance Technologies, which has donated $4 million (the largest single contribution); D.E. Shaw, whose employees have donated $1.375 million; Khosla Ventures and Soros Fund Management, which have each donated $1 million; and Ripplewood Holdings, a private equity firm, which contributed $400,000. There are many Wall Street financiers who have donated $25,000—by design, the maximum contribution—to the Ready for Hillary superPAC.

Goldman is an interesting case study. As in nearly every other way, it has always been careful to hedge its bets where electoral politics is concerned. Historically, although trending Democratic, Goldman employees have managed to give nearly equally to both parties in presidential elections. And a lot of it: Since 1990, Goldman’s employees have given $47 million to political candidates and various political action committees—more than any other single group of company employees. But that calculus changed dramatically in 2008 when Goldman employees gave about $1 million to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, second only to that given to Obama by the employees of the University of California, who donated nearly $1.8 million. By contrast, Goldman employees gave only $235,000 to Senator John McCain, the Republican Party nominee.

By 2009 the bloom was off the rose. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Obama not only referred to Wall Street as the “fat cat bankers” but also blamed Wall Street for causing the financial crisis. “People on Wall Street still don’t get it,” he said. In July 2010, just weeks after a much-vilified Goldman agreed to pay a $550 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission—then the largest fine ever—to settle charges stemming from Goldman’s underwriting and selling of a synthetic collateralized debt obligation, the details about which the SEC believed Goldman had failed to properly disclose to investors, Obama joked at the White House Correspondents Dinner: “All of the jokes here tonight are brought to you by our friends at Goldman Sachs. So you don’t have to worry—they make money whether you laugh or not.”

By 2012, in an historic turnaround, Goldman went full force for Romney. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Goldman employees gave $1.2 million to the Republican National Committee and another $1 million or so to Romney directly. By contrast, Obama received a mere $210,000 from Goldman employees (who also gave $493,000 to the Democratic National Committee). “In the four decades since Congress created the campaign-finance system, no company’s employees have switched sides so abruptly, moving from top supporters of one camp to the top of its rival,” the Wall Street Journal observed. So far this year, Goldman remains a Republican shop. Some 63 percent of the firm’s political contributions, or $1.75 million, has gone to support Republican candidates.

That will change if Clinton decides to run. For starters, as the former U.S. senator from New York, she is well known to many of Goldman’s leaders. They have seen her at numerous Goldman events over the years or at fundraisers in the Hamptons. Blankfein ran into the Clintons in August at a party in the Hamptons at Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s house, and there are the many pictures of Blankfein smiling broadly at her side during September’s Clinton Global Initiative in New York. A few weeks later, they spent time together at a dinner celebrating the Goldman Sachs “10,000 Women Initiative,” a Goldman-funded training and education program for female entrepreneurs.

Many Goldman employees, especially women, are also excited about the historic potential of the 2016 presidential election since Clinton could become the first female president. “They’re not going to reflexively support any woman, but she’s a woman that seems more or less in sync with the way they think about the world,” says another former Clinton administration official who now works on Wall Street. “And she’s successful, and they just like her.”

More significant, the 10,000 Women Initiative was designed by Clinton operatives and is being implemented at Goldman by people who still have close ties to her. For instance, Goldman paid Gene Sperling, a longtime Washington insider who was director of the National Economic Council under both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, nearly $900,000 in 2008 for his help in creating the 10,000 Women Initiative. Noa Meyer, who runs the program at Goldman, once wrote speeches for Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady. “The whole idea to spend money on women and women’s education in developing countries came straight out of her playbook,” says someone familiar with the origins of the 10,000 Women Initiative. “The same people who got her interested in that issue are the people who …design[ed] the program.”

Of course, the ties between Goldman Sachs and Washington run deep, very deep, and many analysts have argued that the broad deregulatory moves pushed by former Goldman senior partner Robert Rubin—who later became Bill Clinton’s National Economic Council director and then Treasury secretary—were a major part of the process that led to the subprime mortgage disaster. But Rubin was only among the latest in a long line of Goldman executives who went to Washington and helped create the talent-and-ideas nexus that later became derisively known as “Government Sachs.” Sidney Weinberg, the longtime senior partner at Goldman Sachs in the 20th century, was a confidante of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s who enticed him to Washington on several occasions before, during and after World War II. In 1938, Roosevelt offered Weinberg the position of ambassador to the Soviet Union, but Weinberg thought better of it because he did not speak Russian, was a Jew from Brooklyn and didn’t want to leave Goldman. In November 1943, FDR did succeed in enlisting Weinberg to go to the Soviet Union “openly” as a representative of the Office of Strategic Services—the predecessor of the CIA—although what he did there and for how long has been lost to history.

In 1968, Henry Fowler joined Goldman Sachs as a partner, and thus became the first former Treasury secretary to spin the revolving door and land a Wall Street job. John Whitehead, who was the co-senior partner of Goldman Sachs in the 1970s and the early 1980s, became deputy secretary of state in the second Reagan Administration, after he retired from the firm. John F. W. Rogers, a former close Reagan advisor, has been the longtime consigliore at Goldman and oversees both the global communications and government relations departments. Rubin, who had befriended Fowler during his time at Goldman and who went on to run Goldman Sachs in the 1980s, along with Steve Friedman, left Goldman in January 1991 to join the Clinton administration. In 1995, he succeeded Lloyd Bentsen as Treasury secretary. Friedman, meanwhile, became chairman of the National Economic Council under George W. Bush, and, of course, Hank Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman, was Bush’s Treasury secretary during the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

Rubin, apparently, is not content to go gracefully into the good night when it comes to wielding power, and lingering questions about his continued influence inside the Clinton camp are at the center of an issue that is likely to dog Hillary through 2016. From his perches as co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and as a founder of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, Rubin—long considered a Washington kingmaker—continues to cast his spell on the Obama administration, which has been, and continues to be, chock full of appointees with close ties to him, including Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, Gene Sperling, Jason Furman, Jack Lew, Michael Froman and Sylvia Matthews Burwell. While Rubin’s reach is both unprecedented and stunning, it remains to be seen whether he is able to work his magic and position Blankfein into an important role in a Hillary Clinton administration, should there be one and if he aspires to such a thing.

All of which raise the most pertinent question of all: rhetoric and fundraising aside, where does Clinton really stand on Wall Street? If she becomes president, is she going to side with the Rubinites—or has she come to realize, as even her husband apparently has, having conceded in remarks that he naively supported too much deregulation, that Wall Street must be carefully watched and kept at arm’s length?

She’s been fairly cagey about this issue, eager to assuage both sides. Where Obama blamed Wall Street—not inaccurately—for behavior that caused the 2008 financial crisis and championed new Wall Street regulations like the Volcker Rule and the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that really stick in the craw of money men—all while presiding over a veritable profit boon for the financial industry—Clinton said hardly a word on the topic of Wall Street shenanigans.

Her nascent populism has only appeared in the last year or so, as the Elizabeth Warren movement took off. For instance, in a speech at the progressive New America Foundation, she spoke about the dangers of the growing inequality in the country. “Americans are working harder, contributing more than ever to their companies’ bottom lines and to our country’s total economic output, and yet many are still barely getting by, barely holding on, not seeing the rewards that they believe their hard work should have merited,” she said. “And where’s it all going? Well, economists have documented how the share of income and wealth going to those at the very top—not just the top one percent, but the top one-tenth percent or the top-hundredth percent of the population—has risen sharply over the last generation. Some are calling it a throwback to the Gilded Age of the Robber Barons.”

She also lamented how government regulators had “neglected their oversight” of Wall Street and “allowed the evolution of an entire shadow banking system that operated without accountability.”

Asked about these issues, Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill is quick to point out times she has called for more regulation—an eagerness that underscores how the Clinton operation wants to appear populist even as it collects the Wall Street money. Merrill noted that back in March 2008, as a presidential candidate, she called for “much more vigorous government oversight and enforcement of the subprime mortgage market.” He also said that she staked out positions, in the year or so before the financial crisis hit, on reducing or eliminating the carried interest of private equity partners being taxed at capital gains rates; on a financial transaction tax; and on repatriating overseas income by U.S. corporations. In a 2007 press release from her campaign, for example, Clinton declared: “Our tax code should be valuing hard work and helping middle class and working families get ahead. It offends our values as a nation when an investment manager making $50 million can pay a lower tax rate on her earned income than a teacher making $50,000 pays on her income. As president I will reform our tax code to ensure that the carried interest earned by some multi-millionaire Wall Street managers is recognized for what it is: ordinary income that should be taxed at ordinary income tax rates.” Clinton said she would use the funds generated by the tax change—which some have estimated at $4 to $6 billion per year—to invest in middle-class and working families.

There’s no question, when and if she decides to run, that she’s going to have an incredible support foundation from Wall Street.”

Yet all of these efforts seem at best a combination of campaign trail rhetoric or minor tweaks around the edges—rather than the wholesale change that an Elizabeth Warren-type populist would want to impose on the financial industry.

Probably the best answer to the question of what Clinton will do to Wall Street comes from Wall Street’s own support of her. Wall Street executives, bankers and traders have already shown their hand in support of the two Clintons individually as well as of the causes they care about most deeply—money they wouldn’t contribute if they thought her political future would be detrimental to their economic future. And, in return, one thing we know about the Clintons: They value loyalty profoundly. They are unlikely to turn their backs on the banks, especially since it seems highly unlikely that Warren will mount the kind of outsider challenge to Hillary in 2016 that Barack Obama did in 2008. Instead, Clinton will find ways to work with Wall Street on issues it cares about, rather than vilifying it for political gain.

Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen says that Hillary’s hope is that she can use supposed slips like the one in Boston to appeal just enough to the liberal wing of the Democratic party to ward off Warren, who offers a “far more resonant message with the Democratic base than Hillary’s.” Without a strong national ground organization and a strong financial network, Warren’s message alone won’t get her very far, but the Clintons want to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2008, when an idealism-based campaign derailed her inevitability campaign.

She will also have much of her former opponent’s network behind her again in 2016. Robert Wolf, the former president of UBS’ investment bank who now has his own advisory boutique, 32 Advisors, has long been described as Obama’s BFF (Best Friend in Finance), and although he has little direct involvement with Clinton or her campaign team, he plans to support her fully when the time comes. He is one of the hosts of a December 16 gala in New York City where she will be honored. By his rough calculus, six in 10 Wall Street types are Democrats, three are Republicans and just one is independent. He predicts that the independents, who voted for Obama in 2008 and then defected to Romney in 2012, will return to Clinton in 2016. As he says, “There’s no question, when and if she decides to run, that she’s going to have an incredible support foundation from Wall Street.”

As we have all seen repeatedly, Wall Street often gets what Wall Street wants. Will it get a President Hillary Clinton, and will she be the president Wall Street expects?

William D. Cohan is the author of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World (2011).

‘AA’ RUC Agent Story – Allison Morris Needs To Do Better Than This!

The Irish News’ reporter Allison Morris will have to do better than this if she wants to convince her readers that her story about the IRA agent known only as ‘AA’ is true.

Allison Morris Pic

In recent days ‘AA’ released a statement through his lawyer, Padraig O Muirigh (Paddy Murray, for the benefit of my non-Irish speaking readers), denying that he was an agent for the RUC Special Branch who had tipped off his handlers about an IRA plot to bomb the UDA leadership in October 1993.

Allison Morris’ response, in the columns of today’s Irish News was to lampoon ‘AA’s’ statement, and compare it to the denials made by Freddie Scappaticci when he was accused in the media of being the agent ‘Steaknife’.

She wrote:

Claims that he was being targeted by “scurrilous allegations and reckless journalism” could have came straight from the mouth of the army agent Stakeknife, believed to be west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci.

Well, my mother was not born on Mars but if The Irish News was to publish a story claiming that, thanks to her, I had Martian blood flowing through my veins and I responded by accusing the paper of ‘scurrilous allegations and reckless journalism’, would that put me in the same category as ‘Scap’, a discredited, lying former Special Branch spy?

Would that mean that my denial was worthless?

I think not.

Here is the text of her story. Enjoy:

Analysis by Allison Morris
05 February, 2016

Denials by IRA man said to be ‘AA’ sound familiar

THE denials issued on Thursday by the man said to be agent ‘AA’ – an IRA commander at the time of the Shankill bomb – sound very familiar.

Claims that he was being targeted by “scurrilous allegations and reckless journalism” could have came straight from the mouth of the army agent Stakeknife, believed to be west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci.

Back in 2003 Scappaticci, who is now to be subject to a police investigation into his alleged involvement in more than 20 murders, hit out at the media as he insisted his innocence.

“I had to leave my home for a couple of days for safety’s sake and lie low, my family has been tortured by the British media and gutter press,” he said.

Shortly afterwards he fled Northern Ireland and now lives under an assumed identity in England.

This week former Sinn Féin director of publicity Danny Morrison said suspicions about Scappaticci were known to republicans as far back as 1990, 13 years before he was outed by the media.

The allegations about AA were also known by republicans as far back as the end of 2002, again just over 13 years before they were finally revealed in the Irish News.

A team of police officers from outside Northern Ireland will now investigate the Stakeknife case.

The Police Ombudsman will probe allegations about AA.

The investigation will need to establish not just if the RUC had prior knowledge of an attack on the Shankill in 1993, but also why a man known to be the commander of the IRA throughout the 1990s has never been arrested or questioned in relation to the numerous attacks carried out by the organisation’s most active unit.