Catalonia and Spain.

The story of Catalonia isn’t finished yet. The Catalan government is trying to hedge its bets. It seeks to declare its independence but it also wants to delay this declaration to allow dialogue with Spain and the EU. Spain demands that Catalonia stops its independence drive. Spain seeks to dismiss the Catalan government. Spain is determined to prevent an independent Catalonia from happening. And the EU seems to be backing Spain.


Like a lot of other issues this issue has an economic basis to it. Catalonia is a rich region. Spain doesn’t want to loose a rich province. Spain doesn’t want its power reduced. Major Catalan businesses are moving their headquarters to other parts of Spain. They don’t want independence. Catalonia already has its national and cultural rights respected. A majority of people in Catalonia seem to oppose independence. This conflict ignores the economic problems that Spain faces. This conflict doesn’t resolve the economic problems that face Spain.


The Spanish government is heavy handed in its relations with Catalonia. I hope that this conflict doesn’t spill over into violence. I hope that cool heads can bring us back from the brink.


Catalonia decides its future?

The independence vote in Catalonia has happened. I condemn the violence that the Spanish state unleashed. This violence made a bad situation worse. There are two questions that arise out of this vote, did a majority vote for independence and would independence help the people of Catalonia and Spain? In the last election to the Catalian parliament the separatist parties gained around 47% of the vote. This means that the majority of the Catalian people want union with Spain. In the vote on October 1st the separatists had a greater desire to vote. The results of this vote on independence do not express the real views of the people. I would say that this vote does not reflect the real views of the people. Catalonia is a rich region. If Catalonia were to leave Spain it would benefit by keeping its money but Spain would loose money by Catalonia leaving Spain. The economic problems that face Spain will not be resolved by Catalian seperationism. This is a distraction from the problems that Spain suffers from. These problems will remain even if Catalonia were to go independent tomorrow. It is against the law of Spain for Catalonia to go independent. I am more concerned with the question of democracy than I am with the law because I believe that the will of the people is supreme. But it is unclear what the people of Catalonia really think about independence. You can be both a Catalian and a Spanish nationalist. Nationalism exists under different state formations. Catalonia has full home rule under Spain. It is a rich region. The national rights of the people of Catalonia is protected.


Recent developments in Newstalk shows our private media is dominated by one man. We need diverse views in the media. When we listen to the news we are listening to the news as interpreted by by our elite. Excluded voices needs to be included in our media.

Catalian vote on October 1st.

I will not as an Irish man lecture the people of Catalonia and Spain. I believe that democracy must be respected. The ghosts of Francoism must be slain. The government in Madrid is a reactionary government that only cares for the rich. The Spanish constitution doesn’t allow for seperationism. Yet if the people were to freely vote for independence what position should a democrat take?


Catalonia is a rich area. There is an economic reason for Spain to hold onto Catalonia. An analysis of this vote will need a few days reflection. I will give my views in another blog. I will say that Spain is in the EU. This issue involves us Irish people as EU members. Spain has high unemployment. It’s youth unemployment is very high. The youth of Spain don’t get dole. They have to rely on their parents if they are lucky. Starvation is no solution to unemployment especially when jobs are not there. This situation produces alienation and anger among people. Extremist politics and certain forms of nationalism benefits from this alienation.

George Hook and Newstalk radio.

George Hook was suspended by his radio station Newstalk. I believe his Twitter account isn’t in use. There has been a debate about what he said on social media. He apologized and I think that what he said was wrong. There is no justification for rape. But an aspect of this story that isn’t mentioned is the economic context of media. The media market determines who gets hired and fired. Even some journalists who work in the media are not bringing out this aspect of this story.

Private radio gets a license from the state to broadcast. It must make money to cover its cost. It gets its money from advertisers and sponsors. The presenters seek to generate interest in the station. The presenter’s job is to build an audience for the station. The station uses the audience figures to get advertising money for the station. When sponsors withdraw from a programme then the presenter isn’t doing his or her job.

George Hook lost sponsors from his programme. The publicity from his comments was affecting the station’s brand in the market. The station did what it did because of commercial reality. These are the facts of commercial media today. What judgement we make about George Hook must take into account this reality.

A free and diverse media is the life blood of our democracy.

As we observe in dictatorships the media is under state control. Media content is also controlled by the state. Independent journalists are harassed, jailed, exiled and murdered. People are denied different opinions. People can’t hear different ideas. Ideas that contradict the dominant ideas of society challenges dominant ideas. Society is allowed to debate different ideas and new ideas can emerge.


In democratic societies a free media is allowed. But if a few dominant media groups controls the flow of ideas then the people are not allowed to access new ideas. Healthy debate is denied. Media groups needs resources if they are to function properly. It is important that different media groups are allowed to function in society. It is important that these different media groups allow people with different agendas to have their voices heard as well.


Debate is important in society. The voters needs to hear different views. Voters needs to have their own views challenged as well as having their views heard. The Internet has allowed new ideas to inter the debate. But they can become echo chambers where we only hear what we want to hear.


No society is perfect but journalists needs to publish stories without fear or favour. We mustn’t allow dissent to be silenced. In a democracy the media should be the means where the citizens have a national conversion. The reality may fall short of this ideal. New media has challenged newspapers. New methods of funding the media needs to be found. Computers and smart phones are in competition with our television sets. This competition raises questions about national broadcasting and the license fee.


A society with only a few media giants dominant in it is better than a society ruled by a dictator. But the free media needed for a functioning democracy is lacking in this society. New and different voices are needed to open debate in a democracy. I hope to contribute to that debate on my blog and other social media.

John O’Brien.

President Trump and North Korea.

President Trump is in the news again. This time he has threatened military action against North Korea if they continue to threaten the world with the use of nuclear weapons. North Korea is a family dictatorship. Power has been handed down from grandfather to son to grandson. The Kim family run their secret kingdom using the methods of the secret police and a heavily armed military force. George W Bush had called North Korea along with Iran and Saddam’s Iraq as part of the Axis of Evil. South Korea and Japan are worried about their own security due to the threating behaviour of North Korea. China and Russia borders North Korea. From 1950 to 1953 the United States and North Korea were in conflict with each other. The end of this war led to a stalemate instead of peace. The United States still has a military presence in the Korean area. The North Korean regime has nuclear weapons because they want to keep themselves in power. It is an evil dictatorship. The position of nuclear weapons has made this crisis a serious threat to the survival of the world.


After World War II the Cold War was called the Cold War because the two Superpowers had nuclear weapons. They couldn’t attack each other because that would have led to a nuclear war. They fought each other by supporting proxy forces around the world. The end of the Cold War has seen more countries gaining nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan are nuclear powers now. They hate each other. The problem with nuclear weapons is that if they are used then the world would be destroyed. Any crisis that involves nuclear weapons needs to be resolved for the sake of humanity. A nuclear powered aggressor demands a new set of skills by military and political leaders. The shadow of nuclear war has haunted humanity since the end of World War II.


President Trump has sought a dialogue with China and Saudi Arabia. When it comes to North Korea he has always took a tough stance. While the North Korean regime is an evil regime its fall could affect the South Korean economy. There would be the problem of refugees in the region as well. The fall of a dictatorship and the spread of freedom is a good thing. Careful planning is needed in relation to how the international community deals with North Korea.


President Trump is attacking North Korea on Twitter. This issue is in the public domain. I hope that this issue can be resolved soon. We don’t want to be in a living nightmare.