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Mainstream Media Silence on Aaron Cantú and Alexei Wood

Two US Journalists are facing over 70 years in prison following their coverage of rioting on Trump’s inauguration day. Media watchdog organisation reports that the US mainstream media has been almost totally silent about it despite previous ramblings of how Trump would lead “Dangerous Attacks on the Press”.

Journalist Aaron Cantú and Photojournalist Alexei Wood are the two in question and were arrested with six other journalists and over 200 protestors. They are charged with the Riot Act, Conspiracy, Incitement, and five property destruction charges. When BaldPolitiKs asked Wood how he would plead he replied “Not-fuckin-guilty” and that the arrests are a part of the state wanting to crush “organized opposition especially resistance with teeth”. In April further charges were added to over 200 people, including Cantú, by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Alexei Wood being arrested (Photo Credit: Lex Shoots)

Given the amount of resources the US media and others are putting into fact checking the Trump presidency you would imagine that this story would be receiving a significant amount of coverage? However, since it was covered on January 20 it has received next to no coverage, apart from the days of arraignment, in the US and western mainstream media. Why so?

Trump Protestors 20 January 2017 (Photo Credit: Josh Rushing

Wood managed to capture his arrest on video camera, which is still on social media. He recorded over an hour of footage whilst following the anti-fascist protesters and captures the time leading up to his arrest as well as his actual arrest and the arrest of protestors that had been ‘ketteled’ by police at the junction of 12th and L in Washington DC. There is little doubt about what happened and none of it explains his arrest.

During his footage he accompanies the protestors as they march through the streets of Washington to protest Trump’s inauguration. On their march several protestors can be seen deliberately destroying property, attempting to smash parking machines, spraying graffiti on cars and retail units, smashing the fronts of retail units and spraying the words “Revolution or Death” on a building shutter.

What can also be seen is the police use of pepper spray on several protestors, after another group of protesters broke through a police blockade, eventhough the remaining protesters had been contained. Most of those sprayed were at a standstill and kettled by police so it is not clear why pepper spray had to be used at all. Police also lobbed some kind of explosive gas into this group. Prior to this a number of shots can be heard, which Wood describes as “concussion grenades” and “gas dispersals”, yet it is unclear if these came from either police or protesters.

Wood does not participate in any of this although he can be heard cheering and exclaiming profanities as it happens. All of which could denote support. However, it could also denote the excitement of a journalist who is experiencing a high-energy event unfolding in front of his eyes. He mentions how he missed Seattle ’99 so he may well see DC ’17 as compensation for this. Most important of all, as mentioned above, he does not participate in any of the violence nor does he instigate or direct it in any way shape or form.

Police Pepper Spraying Protestors  (Photo Credit: Josh Rushing

Part of the way through the march there is an altercation where Wood, together with another photojournalist, exchange words with another gentleman in the protest. This other gentleman is recording with his smart phone, is somewhat older and dressed differently to the traditional black and hooded tops of these marchers. This man does not appear to fit in with the other protesters or journalists.

Wood’s behaviour is not that of a conventional photojournalist covering a protest or riot. Not only is this not a criminal offence but it may even be a positive development, given how poorly conventional journalism has served us, as there are no conventions for journalists apart from bringing the public a true reflection of what happened. Wood does just this and nothing else.

Cantú, not featured in any of the above videos, is quite an accomplished freelance journalist having written for Vice, Al Jazeera and The Intercept. Wood is a very talented photographer runing his own photojournalist website called where it states “He has dedicated his life to walking a radically authentic path since a young age. Questioning current paradigms, politics and modern industrial culture” The other six journalists have had their charges dropped, which remains unexplained.

At the time of writing Cantú did not respond to BaldPolitiKs’ requests for comment. Indeed other publications report that he was not in a position to comment based on advise from his attorney. While they have been up for arraignment, their court dates have not yet come up. Jury selection for Wood’s trial starts November 20. BaldPolitiKs hopes to speak to them then and will update accordingly.


Nobel Prize for Peace has Zero Credibility

Henry Kissinger gets Nobel Peace Prize (Photo       Credit: Mathieu)

Having criticised awarding the Nobel prize for peace to Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi, it’s only right I comment on the shortlisting of Mc Guinness, and eventual winning by the White Helmets in Syria, of the Tipperary Peace award. And please view this last link to view the ‘wonderful’ folk who have already received this award!

Tipperary Peace Convention with John Kerry (Photo Credit: US Department of State)

While there was a possibility that Aung San Suu Kyi once deserved a peace award, that time has now long passed and it should be withdrawn from her and from a number of these curious characters. Obama should simply never have received one. The jury is still out, in my mind, on the White Helmets. Funded by the US, French and other governments the notion that they are a charity needs to be dismissed. Beyond that I simply don’t know.

Aung San Suu Kyi with Hillary Clinton (Photo Credit: US Department of State)

I can understand how some might oppose Mc Guinness’ inclusion (‘he’s a freedom fighter’ and ‘he’s a terrorist’ as well as ‘he’s a sell-out’) but isn’t it more important where people end up than where they began – the opposite of Aung San Suu Kyi – it’s also important what they did to get there. Isn’t it also important where they lead people? Are they leading to good or bad?

Martin Mc Guinness (Photo Credit: ICTU)

Also when one uses violence, is it not also worth reflecting on why they used it, what their circumstances were and whether or not they were justifiably provoked into using it? It’s old hat at this stage is it not to say that Mandela used violence and was also a ‘terrorist’?

Melson Mandela (Photo Credit: annie_w)




Charlotsville Proves terms ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are Defunct

It’s time to drop the terms ‘right’ and ‘left’ and ‘far right’ and ‘far left’. They hamper social progress and can no longer claim, if ever they ever could, to carry any meaning or represent anything constructive. Can you even logically argue that there is such a thing as a ‘left’ or ‘right’ wing issue and if you can what does that really mean? ‘Left’ wing people are inherently good and ‘right’ wing people bad?

Right Wing March (Photo Credit: minispace

When independent commentators (difficult to find) condemn the ‘far right’ does it not logically follow that they should equally condemn the ‘far left’? And shouldn’t this then be in equal measure?

There is of course condemnation of the ‘far left’ but is it as intense as the condemnation delivered and social exclusion called for of the ‘far right’? I don’t believe it is and I don’t necessarily believe it should be, simply as I don’t believe in these terms ‘left’ and ‘right’.

Yet as they are logically a mirror image of each other shouldn’t the condemnation also be? But it’s not. This means condemnation and debate is not balanced? And isn’t our media supposed to be balanced? Or does it mean that we do not really hold the labels ‘left’ or ‘right’ in the same or indeed in any regard?

How often do the ‘far left’ bring armed militia onto our streets and mow down counter-demonstrators? I guess rarely ever, which would account for the lack of intense condemnation. In western society it appears to be the reserve of the right through ISIS attacks on innocent bystanders in Europe and Orange Order attacks on their Irish Republican neighbours. And just to use this as a form of comparison, would it then not follow that so-called ‘left’ and ‘right’ are not mirror images of each other so possibly centre ‘left’ and ‘right’ aren’t either. The terminology is therefore meaningless.

Orange Order Car Attack (Photo Credit: Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916

The reality is that the so-called ‘far right’ are not a mirror image of the so-called ‘far left’. However, the ‘far right’ i.e. those who preach hate and act on it towards minorities, should never be referred to as ‘right’ or ‘far right’ as it ultimately leads to the defeat of the so-called ‘left’ or any proper political perspective that strives for a better society.

The so-called ‘far right’ that marched and brought violence and death to Charlotsville and beyond (not for the first time in their history) are nothing and no political ideology – neither the labels of left or right, far or centre – should ever be assigned to them. They are too far off the scale.

These are violent thugs, they are cowards, with no political ideology whatsoever to offer, who operated in Charlottesville and beyond with impunity and apparently safe in the knowledge that little or no action would be taken against them by the state. This is not the first time either.

So the label of ‘right’ or ‘left’ for anybody who intentionally brings violence, armed militia and terrorism onto the street or who uses violence to advance a cause, particularly one that seeks to reinforce and copper fasten a position of privilege and discrimination, must be rejected regardless of the ideology it claims to represent.

And as for a ‘left’ or ‘right’ wing issue? Well I don’t believe there is such a thing and I don’t believe we should allow ourselves be duped and become embroiled in the apparent sanctity of any position, political or otherwise, based on the ‘left’ or ‘right’ label attached.


Celebrating World Autism Awareness Day with Author Cian O’ Farrell

For the last eight years World Autism Awareness Day has been held on 2 April where autism organisations celebrate the day with fundraising and awareness-raising events. The best known of these is the Light It Up Blue Campaign

April 2 ‘Shine a Light on Autism’ (Photo Credit: Autism Speaks)
April 2 ‘Shine a Light on Autism’ (Photo Credit: Autism Speaks)

This international day is adopted by the United Nations as a “growing global health priority” and it is marked when thousands of landmarks and ordinary homes shine blue lights in honor of those affected by autism with some individuals opting to wear blue.

The charity called Autism Speaks say that the colour blue was chosen as it is almost 5 times more common among boys than girls. The color blue therefore represents the boys diagnosed with autism.

On this day I usually raise awareness in my own way. I usually change my profile picture on Facebook to a blue light bulb and I share as many autism related posts  as I can. This year I did likewise and I also decided to interview a very special young man; my nephew Cian O’ Farrell from Seattle USA. Cian has autism and he is a writer. In fact he is author of The Big Book About Stanley which he wrote at the age of 12.

The Irish Society for Autism have explained autism as a range of complex disorders but I often wondered how I should refer to it. I mean, is it a ‘condition’ ‘special needs’ or what? It feels really awkward not knowing. Awkward for me that is because I’m ignorant. But Cian is very clear about what autism means to him – “Nothing at all. It’s just something I was born with”.

This is not one of those articles that attempts to tackle stereotypes and prejudices directed at people who are different to the “norm”. In any case, I refute the notion that there even is a “norm”. I myself am a, according to those ethnicity surveys I used to complete during my HR days, “White European Christian Male in his 40s” yet I am not convinced that I fit the “norm” of “White European Christian Male in his 40s”. Is there such a norm?

More importantly I don’t think such articles actually challenge stereotypes or prejudices. They usually result in lots of people saying the socially acceptable thing, with little feeling, while others defend their prejudices with a combination of randomly selected statistics and unsubstantiated anecdotes. That certainly is a norm!

Light It Up Blue Logo (Photo Credit: Autism Speaks)
Light It Up Blue Logo (Photo Credit: Autism Speaks)

So what about author Cian O’ Farrell? What does he have to say? I interviewed him about this and his book – The Big Book About Stanley – and how he came to write it at such a young age. This is how Cian responded to my questions.

How did you get interested in writing? 

I would sit at my desk and write the story on cardboard and then tie them together with pieces of string. I then stapled pieces of paper to make a book and I then wrote titles on the front page – this was the start.

Did you do a course to learn writing skills or just start writing?

No, nothing. I just started writing.

Who do you admire as a writer?

Walt DisneyJim HensonKate Di CamilloMaurice SendeckDave PilkeyJeff Kinney.

When did you write that book?

3 years ago when I was 12.

What is it about?

It is about a boy who celebrates Christmas with his family.

Where can people buy it?

You can buy it on Amazon.

Are there any other writers in your class/school?

No, I don’t think so.

Do you commemorate World Autism Day? If so, how?

By hanging blue lights outside our house and wearing blue. This year we had a special event at school during lunchtime to educate the students about autism. My mom posted pictures of it on FB.

Autism Awareness Day - Skyline High School (Photo Credit: Roisín O’ Farrell)
Autism Awareness Day – Skyline High School (Photo Credit: Roisín O’ Farrell)

What does having autism mean to you? Does it mean anything at all?

Nothing at all. It’s just something I was born with. 

What is school like – interested in the subjects/classes, teachers supportive etc?

School for me is great. Teachers are nice, they let me have free time to work on the computer to work on my new book. My favorite class is his language/writing group.

Hope to be writer in the future or do you have other plans?

I hope to be a writer in the future. I am working on my 2nd book now.

Plans to write any more?


Cian O’ Farrell outside his School (Photo Credit: Roisín O’ Farrell)
Cian O’ Farrell outside his School (Photo Credit: Roisín O’ Farrell)

He’s my sister’s kid and my nephew so obviously I am proud of him. But I am most proud of the fact that he is happy and doing what he loves. It’s inspiring, even to older people like me.

It may be too delicate or even insensitive to say this but I envy people with autism. I envy them even though I don’t fully understand what it is. Cian is my nephew and I see him as I see my other nephews and nieces and I don’t notice anything different about him apart from his amazing American accent. I mean, I’m from a large family and we are all quite different to each other, so Cian is just another example of this.

The reason I say I envy people with autism is that I have witnessed how they express themselves with an honesty and fearlessness that most of us could only dream of. How often have we called for such qualities in our public representatives or in our business people? How many of our public representatives posses these qualities? They continuously walk on eggshells, double deal and play games under the pretense of doing what is in ‘the national interest’? Is this really what they doing?

People with autism also have an incredible memory for detail, no matter how far back. Something that would scare the absolute bejaysus out of our public representatives!

I’ll leave you with a story a primary school teacher told me once about a ‘special needs’ class she supervised. There was a boy in this class with autism. He asked her;

“Miss, what is the worse thing you ever did?” She thought about it and said “I smoked a cigarette when I was 13”. He asked “What was wrong with that?” She replied “well its bad for your health and my dad was so angry that as a punishment he made me smoke the rest of the packet” The young boy replied “Ms… your dad is crazy!” to which her assistant teacher said “Hey…you can’t speak like that to somebody, apologise to Ms…” The young boy said “Sorry Ms…your dad’s an idiot”!

Brutal and heartfelt honesty and definitely what I would call ‘special needs’ – because quite simply it is special and we have a great need for it.

Light It Up Blue Logo (Photo Credit: Light It Up Blue Aspen)
Light It Up Blue Logo (Photo Credit: Light It Up Blue Aspen)



Starbucks is Coming to Milan in 2017

Think of Italy and you think of the 3 ‘F’s – FoodFashion and Football. Well add a fourth to that list, except it’s a ‘C’, and that ‘C’ stands for Coffee. Italy just wouldn’t be Italy without its famous coffee and in particular its famous Espresso coffee. Despite not being a top coffee producing nation (in fact Italy doesn’t even produce coffee at all), Italians drink over 70 million cups of Espresso coffee annually in over 100,000 coffee bars.

Furthermore, from observation over many years of living in and travelling through Italy, most of these coffee shops are either family run businesses or owned by an Italian parent company. And, just like their famous Espresso, it has been so for generations.

Classic Espresso
Classic Espresso (Photo Credit: The Culinary Geek)

So why would things change now? Who even wants change? Well apparently the international coffee juggernaut, Starbucks, wants change and a piece of that lucrative Espresso coffee drinking Italian market. They are coming to Italy and they just may stir things up. The Starbucks coffee drinking experience is so utterly different to the Italian way that it is hard to fully get that across. Starbucks coffee is served and consumed in a much different way to the traditional Italian style.

Suffice to say that Italians typically spend just five minutes drinking a short and strong espresso, while chatting to friends at a bar, and they never drink Cappuccino after midday or after food. Starbucks coffee is much larger, it is sometimes cold, people spend a long time drinking it whilst using wifi and you can drink a Cappuccino, Frappuccino or whatever you like whenever you like.

To make Starbucks entry even more controversial, they are set to open near Milan’s iconic Il Duomo, the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral and located next to the famous GucciPrada and Louis Vuitton fashion stores. And quite poignantly, the announcement of their arrival coincides with the death of Renato Bialetti. The Bialetti family invented the Moka Stovetop Espresso Maker and Renato turned it into a symbol of Italian style worldwide.

So Starbucks entry is somewhat the coincidence and it could change a fundamental part of Italian culture.

Bialetti Moka 2
The Bialetti Moka (Photo Credit: Kanaka Menehune )

So What do Italians Think?

Well who better to Espresso themselves than the local coffee drinking Milanese, who I met at 10 different coffee shops (see below) when on a recent holiday there –



And this is a 7 minute video interview with Italians where they explain how they felt about it…

The reaction was overall mixed with some welcoming it and others not. Some saying it would be “a novelty” for some time and others considered it as “insane as painting the Duomo purple”. Yet all of them, without exception, were clear about the position of Italian coffee;

“the coffee in Italy is very good and very particular” – Elisa (El Bechee)

it is special because of its “miscela” (meaning mixture) – Andrea (Time Café)

“it is famous in the world”  – Alessandro (Corsia del Giardino)

What will happen next?

Italians are proud of their coffee and they do not feel challenged by the entry of Starbucks into their market. The general consensus was that young people would go and that, after some novelty interest, Starbucks will probably succeed but it will not replace traditional Italian coffee drinking. In fact some locals told me that Starbucks had actually entered the Italian market some years back when they opened a coffee shop in the central train station. Apparently it closed soon after due to poor interest. I looked and looked but I could not find any evidence of this venture anywhere.

Iced Caffe Mocha
Iced Caffe Mocha (Photo Credit: Starbucks Ireland)

There is no doubt that the Starbucks style of coffee is different to the traditional Italian style. But, as already noted, Italian food is also famous as is their fashion. Italy has outside American influence in both these sectors yet the traditional Italian style survives and indeed thrives. The Big Mac is enjoyed by many but nobody would ever consider it a replacement for the traditional bowl of quality Italian pasta.

Likewise, Tommy Hilfiger would never replace Gucci or Prada. They complement each other. So why would coffee be any different?

Arnold Coffee
The new style coffee house – Arnold Coffee (Photo Credit: Peter Kearney)
Montmartre Café
The old style coffee house – Montmartre Café (Photo Credit: Peter Kearney)

Furthermore a coffee shop similar in style to Starbucks already exists in Milan – Arnolds – and it is quite close to Il Duomo. Yet it has not damaged the business of the traditional coffee house in any way. In fact some of the traditional coffee houses near Il Duomo were so busy that they could not talk to me, likewise Arnolds. So there is room for everybody. But lets see what 2017 brings.



Officer pulls a gun as cover is blown

December 2014 – Oakland, California, USA

Undercover police officers from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) were discovered infiltrating protesters against police violence in Oakland on Wednesday 10 December. One of the undercover officers pulled a gun on protestors after his cover was revealed.

Avery Browne, Chief of CHPs Golden Gate Division, said they have used and will continue to use undercover police officers to gather information on protestors, in last week’s San Francisco Chronicle. This reporter also contacted the CHP and they confirmed that they have “deployed officers to the cities of Oakland and Berkeley in response to planned demonstrations in those areas” since November 24 2014.

Oaklandplainclothes California highway patrol detective, who had been marching with anti-police demonstrators, aims his gun at protesters on Wednesday night (Photo: Michael Short)

People have taken to the streets across the USA for several nights to protest decisions by grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York to not indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.

Local Oakland reporter, Elin Baldassari, told this reporter that the march started with a group of roughly 150 people. It is believed that this march was organised by the activist group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).

The two officers, dressed as civilians, were walking with the group when the demonstrators started pointing at them yelling, “Hey, they’re undercover, they’re cops” according to Baldassari.

Only a few protestors remained from the main protest when the undercover officers were discovered, said Baldassari. At this point, she said, the protest ended abruptly.

“pointing it from one person to another

in a jerking and panicked fashion.

He was out of control” – Yvette Felarca

The CHP claimed that once the identity of the officers was discovered their officers began to walk away until an individual “grabbed the hood of the officer’s sweatshirt and struck him in the head”. The CHP claim that as a large group of protesters encircled the officers, the other officer drew his baton and identified himself as a police officer. The CHP claim they were in fear of their lives. However, neither the on-looking media nor protestors report seeing a police badge.

Yvette Felarca, Bay Area and National Organizer with BAMN claims she witnessed the undercover police officer “pull his gun out on protesters, including myself, pointing it from one person to another in a jerking and panicked fashion. He was out of control” said Felarca.

Ms Felarca believes “there are plenty of people at these protests who are enraged about Darren Wilson’s exoneration without needing instigation from under covers”. She went on to say “the police murders and cover-ups by D.A.s and grand juries provoke plenty of rage all on their own”.

Chief Browne said his officers had been successful in preventing Highway shut downs, which had been achieved by previous protestors. Chief Browne went on to say “we will use all of the avenues we can to keep the public safe”. The CHP claim the undercover officers were initially deployed among the crowd of protestors when “several individuals began to vandalize and loot the T-Mobile store. Officers dismounted from the vehicle and approached the crowd to develop information on who was responsible for the destruction of property”.

The San Francisco Chronicle also claimed that protesters vandalised a T-Mobile shop and stole its merchandise. However, protestors took to social media to counter this with claims that the vandalism had been instigated by undercover police. Browne said his agency was investigating claims and thus far he had not received any reports that his officers were involved in any such vandalism.

Allegations of undercover police instigating riots came to the fore during the protest at the North American leaders’ summit in Montebello, Quebec in August 2007. Video evidence identified undercover police among the rioters carrying bricks and the Quebec provincial police later admitted that three of their officers had disguised themselves as demonstrators during that protest.



Frank Ryan

First Published June 2014

Check out audio here – PART 1 –

 PART 2 –

From our history of fighting autocratic rule and the devotion of many to a religion, Ireland and Spain have a lot in common. In more recent times, through economic crisis, this common ground became more common and less grounded. A crisis we allowed ourselves be duped into by ‘hard-working’ European nations. These ‘hard-working’ Protestant nations, and their apologists, with much racial glee, rubbed our ‘lazy’ Catholics snouts in it. Not just with words but also with debt burden.

Statistically Spain’s predicament would appear much worse than Ireland’s. Overall unemployment stands at 26% with youth unemployment at 50%. A statistic leading some companies to exploitation of student interns. 110% and 50 year mortgages leading some to rent their homes to tourists, tom pay a portion of the mortgage, and rely on the kindness of friends for accommodation. A peak of 500 house evictions and 8 suicides per day and where the OECD reports that the Spanish poor have been hardest hit.

Despite these alarming statistics, both crises are similar as they are characterised by a property collapse, high unemployment, emigration, Government spending cuts and increased taxes. Similar again is the ease with which both our politicians produce favourable statistics to claim ‘things are getting better’. But things are far from improving in any meaningful way.

When this notion that ‘things are getting better’ was put to Spanish people in Dublin and Madrid, including politicians, business people and trade unionists, it met with absolute derision. Most believing the crisis and its effects will last at least another 10 years. In addition to high unemployment, Spain has lost a lot of its industry.

This is a gloomy picture. Add to this the arrest of protesting trade unionists, allegations of politically motivated journalist dismissals, and violence on the streets during the March 2014 protests. In this light Spain has passed the ominous point of no return.

But this would be far from an accurate portrayal of Spain or the Spanish. While more subdued than May 2011, the Spanish are fighting back and writing their own future. Recent anti austerity marches brought one million Spaniards onto the streets, regions of Spain are beginning to re-discover their identity, new political movements and parties have emerged and those affected by the mortgage crisis are becoming empowered. Spain may be in the grip of austerity but they are inching towards a bright future.


PAH (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca – Movement of Mortgage Victims)


People dealing with the ill effects of Spanish austerity is where the greatest hope lies. These are people who unselfishly give up their time, knowledge and resources to tackle the crisis and are attempting to build a new community. Groups and movements such as PAH are among the most noteworthy.

While not necessarily a political movement, PAH work with victims of the housing crisis. Their main aims are;

1. Cancelling of the mortgage debt upon handover of the property to the bank
2. Immediately stopping of evictions
3. Transformation of homes in the hands of financial institutions into social rents.

But these are not just aspirational demands, they are realistic. PAH volunteers meet regularly each week and assign volunteers to work with mortgage victims. Part of this work involves empowering mortgage victims to deal with the banks and mortgage re-payments.

Representative of PAH, Marie Cristina, said that in the early years PAH were working mainly with immigrants yet today they assist more and more Spanish people. While this change in profile has occurred, Ivan Tesoreria of PAH, says that they mainly still assist women as men fear the public admission of not being able to provide for their family. They suffer from what he describes as “…macho evicted…”.

In spending time with PAH, at a victims support meeting in the south of Madrid, I met a number of mortgage victims, where I discovered there was a lot more to the crisis in Spain than people simply finding it difficult to pay their mortgages. Some of whom ended up homeless, others with family while many occupied the many empty apartment buildings built during the boom years. Empty apartment buildings similar to Ireland’s ghost estates.

I met people who were to be evicted from these abandoned apartments, by the local council, and those who have lived in social housing for several years. Social housing that was sold, at a fraction of its original cost, to companies owned by Goldman Sachs, Blackstone Real Estate and the Bank of Scotland.

One of these was a Roma family, who were given a two day eviction notice by the Madrid City Council, despite having lived in one such abandoned building for five years. The father of this family has certified health problems and four young children. Yet they still have to leave the accommodation with life on the street as the only alternative.

Another lady, Marie Sol, has been living in a council house for 17 years. She had a lifetime contract on this house with Madrid city council yet recently had this reduced to a one year contract after it was sold to a private investor. She now lives in uncertainty as she is informed that this is a unilateral contract that could change any time.

Changes that could include upward rental fees or even eviction from her home of 17 years as these new owners sell on the property for a substantial profit. I contacted IVIMA (Instituto de la Vivienda de Madrid), who are responsible for such matters in Spain but I did not receive a response.

While part of the anti austerity movement, PAH do so much more than protest. They work with these people on a daily basis to empower them to take control of their own lives. They are filling a void left by a disinterested political class.

Other Movements

Spain Puerta del Sol

Opposition to austerity in Spain appeared to be most energetic in 2011 as it was in May of that year that the group 15M came to prominence. They lead the protests that culminated in Puerta del Sol, the symbol of Spanish resistance to austerity. These protests seemed to peter out as Spaniards became worn down by the relentless Spanish Government austerity, blamed on German insistence.

It was not until 22 March 2014, that 15 M’s successor 22M, came to the fore. Once again the Spanish took to the streets yet this time there was to be violence which many believe was instigated by the police. There are reports, from ordinary Spanish citizens, that Spanish police infiltrated the protestors on the day.

The 22M movement call for a cancelling of the debt, a shift of responsibility towards the rich and away from the poor and an end to TROIKA.


Other movements such as Movimento per la Democracia, wish to bring about change and an end to the cosy corruption between big business, the political system and the media. This group is working on a charter, in some ways similar to the Magna Carta, as a basis for a new constitution for Spain as explained by one of its organisers, Raúl Sánchez Cedillo.

Raul feels the need for change and takes aim at the media, where he feels there is “…a strong corruption between political power and big media…”. He feels this can be challenged through effective use of social media.

He believes groups such as PAH have a very important role to play. He believes they are, in their own way, fighting the excesses of naked capitalism and the vested interest of the financially very wealthy in Spain. Without groups such as PAH Raul feels things would be much worse as there would be no obstacle whatsoever to privatisation.


Ireland held elections in 2007 while Spain did so in 2008. In Ireland Fianna Fáil (FF) won a third successive election while the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE – Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) also retained power.

Identically, Ireland and Spain held elections again in 2011 and identically changed Governments. Significantly though for FF, who are one of the most successful political parties in the World, they lost 75% of its seats to a Fine Gael (FG – Christian Democrats) and Labour (Social Democrats) coalition. The PSOE lost around 35% of their seats to the Partido Popular (PP – People’s Party, a Christian Democrat party).

Why did FF took a bigger hit than the PSOE is a matter for debate? Is it as Professor Figerola, of Nebrija University, explains Spanish “…Civil War politics…”? Well does that not exist also in Ireland? Or is it as Jesus Gallego, of the trade union UGT explained, down to the Spanish electoral system that favours the larger parties? However, it does not really explain why the PSOE only lost 9.5% of the vote and FF lost over 24%.

It may be hard for Irish people to dredge up any sympathy for FF. However, why they suffered greater than the PSOE does need to be examined further.

Whether through ideology or lack of choice, both Ireland and Spain chose Christian Democrat parties in 2011. Ireland, however, also chose a social democrat party as the minor coalition party in its Government. A party which is now feeling the wrath of the Irish people who believed they would save them from austerity.

It would appear to make little difference then which party leads Government. Hasn’t it always been like this? So the question then is not about FF or Labour. The question is about why the electorate demonstrate such faith in people and organisations that continuously disappoint and achieve little more than the inevitable and the predictable.

Strangely then, despite sitting in opposition for over three years, FF do not show any signs of sitting in government any time soon while the PSOE are still very much alive in Spanish politics. In fact it can be seen that it is the PP who are under fire. In fact they are suffering an internal crisis as a new party, Vox, has emerged from their ranks. A new party that is attempting to move Spanish politics further to the right. Vox – Latin for voice – are attracting disillusioned PP voters. How long they will last beyond the upcoming European or even the 2015 general elections, remains to be seen.

This has not come to light in Ireland. With the exception of the Reform Alliance, a political force established by a handful of disgruntled pro-life FG et al members, no new political parties have emerged in Ireland. Vox are also a pro-life and family values party. They favour a low tax regime and, unlike the Reform Alliance, they support Spanish unity.

Other similarities between Vox and the Reform Alliance is that they both have connections to a fascist past. Family of senior members of Vox served under the Franco regime while the Reform Alliance, through its recent connections to Fine Gael, are connected to Ireland’s fascist movement of the 1930s, the Blueshirts. The Blueshirts fought alongside Franco during the Spanish Civil war where they were effectively wiped out.

Another new group calling itself Partido X has emerged. Choosing the name X as they are not a political party in the conventional sense – despite fielding candidates for the 2014 European elections. They claim to be “…an anti-party party…” as explained by Ruban, one of the ‘party’ activists. They claim to be a citizen network that wants to change the way politics is being understood as the traditional political parties are no longer useful for the purpose intended. They believe citizens need to have control over their institutions and there is a need transparency and participation in creation of the laws as Spanish citizens do not possess the ‘right to vote’.

Partido X, according to Ruban, wants citizens to be able to vote directly on laws that concern them and participate in the way laws are made. When asked to explain the first law they would change, Ruban replied ‘how decisions are made’. They stand for principles that nobody could deny – and end to corruption and greater citizen involvement in how their institution are run. Yet they vague light on how this would be implemented.

Interestingly the crisis has done nothing to dampen the spirits of those seeking independence for the Basque Country and Catalonia. The Basque town of Etxarri-Aranatz held an independence referendum on Sunday 13 April with 94% of voters saying “Yes” to independence. Jon Inarritu, MP from the Amaiur coalition, believes the Basque Country will thrive as an independent state as it already has its own industry and institutions in place.

Alfred Bosch of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (a pro-independence republican left wing party in Catalonia) believes Catalonia will also survive and that the referendum on 9 November will be successful. This is despite the Spanish parliament rejecting the idea of devolving powers to Catalonia without its consent. Despite this, he believes people will still vote on 9 November and that they will vote yes as the people of Catalonia are “…very resentful of the fact that the tax level is very hard…” and that “…half of the taxes that leave for Madrid, never come back…”. The crisis means people there are “…feeling the pinch…” but insists that freedom is the main driving force and not economical.

Furthermore article 8 of the Spanish Constitution which states, ‘the Army’s mission is to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain, to defend its territorial integrity and the constitutional set up’. In theory this article could mean Spanish troops on the streets of Barcelona should Catalonia proceed with the referendum and pursue a successful ‘Yes’ vote.


Spanish Crisis 4

During the 1 May protests speakers condemned the erosion of employment rights underway in Spain since the crisis begun. Indeed it is the very erosion of these rights that has been cited, in certain quarters, as the reasons for slight improvements in the Spanish economy.

Jose Luis Carretero, of the anarchist trade union the Solidaridad Obrera (Workers’ Solidarity), discussed the dilution of employment rights in Spain. These include;

• Employers need not seek government permission to make large numbers redundant.
• Probationary period has been extended from 6 to 12 months, during which, an employee can be dismissed without reason or compensation being paid.
• Individual bargaining is given preference by law to collective bargaining.
• Temporary contracts are the order of the day so employees feel no security that they can make ends meet and enjoy their lives.

Despite the grave difference in statistics, the Spanish crisis is the same as Ireland’s and indeed any other part of the world. However, it is not a financial, economic, political or banking crisis. It is much more personal than that. These four sectors are a mere representation of who we are or who we thought we were. In that sense this crisis has been positive as we can see that we are not these and never were.

However, it will be a negative experience if we do not learn from it and act. And learning and acting does not necessarily involve the establishment of a new political party or movement. In time they will do just as their self serving predecessors with innocent bystanders left, once again, scratching their heads asking “how did that happen”.

What I noticed, and this is not a Spanish or Irish phenomena, is that most political parties and movements thrive on fear. Established political parties generate fear over jobs, new movements generate fear over the establishment. Understandable yet unjustifiable and ultimately unsuccessful.

There is no political movement or system of living that has not been thought of. Yet very few have been put into practice as they were meant. Effectively they all failed. They failed as they did not adequately address people’s fears, anger and inability to trust. As long as this blind practice continues, failed systems and movements will also continue.

Solutions are more likely to be found through the work of groups like PAH. The selfless offering of one’s time and efforts to empower people, demonstrates what we are capable of. PAH are not trying to change Spain or change the world, instead they are working with their fellow man, in a very simple way, to say we are here for you. It shows us that no matter what any corrupt group of people throw at their fellow man, that we will stand together to empower people and build an empowered community.




First published June 2014


Three months ago today (8 June 2014) flight MH370 vanished with 239 people on board. As the mystery continues several theories abound. Relatives of those on board have become so desperate and disillusioned with rescue efforts, they decided to launch an effort to raise $5 million for investigations and a “whistle blower” reward.

Ph.D. Arabist-Islamologist, Dr. Kevin Barrett, has put forward the idea that Israel may be involved as a means of instigating war with Iran.

According to investigative Journalist and author of “Solving 9-11: The Deception that Changed the World” Christopher Bollyn, a replica of the airplane has been in a hangar in Tel Aviv since November 2013 –

Bollyn believes the official story could run along the lines – Iran hijack Malaysian plane and fly into Tel Aviv skyscraper. Israel would respond by waging war on Iran and, under the cloud of this war, according to other theorists, wipe out the Palestinians –

In reality, Iran would have nothing to do with it. Israel would either have crashed or hijacked the real plane, thereby killing all passengers or incarcerating them at the US military base in Diego Garcia.

Meanwhile the identical plane, from the hangar in Tel Aviv, would be flown into a skyscraper in Tel Aviv, Iran blamed and a war against them commenced. The images of two Iranians on the flight would add credence to this story.

Fortunately this is not how things panned out and Bollyn believes his publicising of this theory, defanged the possibility of another false flag terror attack. He feels he therefore helped to prevent something terrible happening.

Other theories surround the rumour that Chinese patent holders, of a new microchip with military applications, were on board the flight. As this flight was heading to China it is believed that some people did not want these particular passengers to make it there where they may wish to share or sell their information with Chinese officials.

With these Chinese nationals out of the way the Chinese would not get this technology or, if the flight was diverted to Diego Garcia, the technology would fall into the hands of the Rothschild’s.

Who knows if any of this stacks up. It would appear that both Israel and the Rothchild’s are at the bottom of almost every single conspiracy theory out there. Several serious questions do remain unanswered though.

One such question is why, of the 26 nations involved in the search for MH 370, have Malaysian authorities not sought the help of the Maladives. Inhabitants of the Maldives, claim to have seen a “low flying jumbo jet” on the day the flight MH 370 disappeared.

The account of the Maldives inhabitants, could quite possibly add credence to the notion that the plane was diverted to Diego Garcia.

Another such question is why, New Zealand oil worker Mike McKay, lost his job for simply reporting sight of the missing Malaysian plane crash into the sea, whilst ablaze.

A book, by author Nigel Cawthorne, claims the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was shot down during a joint Thai-US military training exercise. Cawthorne believes the families of MH370’s passengers will “almost certainly” never be sure what happened.

Cawthorne’s book supports the eye-witness testimony of McKay, that it was shot down shortly after it stopped communicating with air traffic controllers.

In addition to these unanswered questions, theories behind its disappearance include;

  • Shot down in a military training exercise
  • Flown north and shot down deliberately, prompting cover-up
  • Flown north in the ‘shadow’ of another plane
  • Tried to land on a desert island beach
  • Landed at a US military base
  • Headed for a remote airport in Langkawi, Malaysia
  • A fire throughout the plane
  • An explosion in the cockpit
  • A struggle at altitude
  • A botched hijack attempt
  • Pilot suicide
  • Sabotage – for a life insurance scam or corporate attack
  • A CIA cover-up

Check out here for more on these ––and-what-happened-to-it-9455120.html

Wherever flight MH 370 may be, it seems implausible that it cannot be found. Technology abounds yet this plane remains uncovered. You get the feeling it will remain so for some time and I fear not even $5m, will entice the utterance of a breath never mind the blowing of a whistle.

Read Dr. Kevin Barrett’s article here:


Andrias Ghukasyan – Armenian Presidential Candidate On Hunger Strike

Andrias Ghukasyan on hunger strike (February 2013)

Anti-corruption candidate, Andrias Ghukasyan, will continue hunger strike until 20 February, two days after the Presidential elections in Armenia.

Today in his 29th day of hunger strike, the 43 year old is camped in front of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences in the capital city Yerevan. He sits between two large posters, in Armenian and English, saying “Stop fake elections”. He believes Armenian President Serge Sarkisian’s government to be corrupt.

It was amidst allegations of corruption and street protests that President Serge Sarkisian came to power in 2008. However, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), gave the 2008 elections a relative clean bill of health.

Speaking through his wife Anna, as his condition is weak, he claims the ruling Republican Party is a “criminal party” and should therefore not participate in a presidential election. He made these feelings known to the election committee and went on hunger strike as a result of their inaction.

He believes President Sarkisian is “taking advantage of the poverty of ordinary people in Armenia”. He accuses the President of bribing local people to vote for him as he controls all systems of Government in Armenia.

He claims local school teachers vote for President Sarkisian out of fear of losing their posts in a time of 15% unemployment. The anti-corruption candidate claims voters passports are checked against the votes they cast. Although as it is a secret ballot it is difficult to verify such claims.

However, independent sources have claimed there is pressure put on teachers to vote for the Mr. Sarkisian and that most teachers were forced to join the Republican party.

Sitting placidly on a space blanketed deck chair, in a red Northland winter coat and black hat, Mr. Ghukasyan fights the harshness of the South Caucasus winter and the pain of 29 days on hunger strike.

His wife Anna reports his condition as good but worsened by such cold conditions. At night it can be as cold as -15 °C. The Public Radio of Armenia claim that while most candidates visited Mr. Ghukasyan on hunger strike that neither Mr. Sarkissian nor Mr. Bagratyan did so. The Minister of Health visits him every day.

Mr. Ghukasyan believes President Sarkisian will be victorious on 18 February but aims to “change the minds of Armenian people”. He wants the people of the South Caucasus’  “to believe they can change things in Armenia”.


9/11 Survivor – Message of Hope

Dan Daly Fire Chief

PUBLISHED ‘Irish Times’ Friday 9 September 2011 –

Chief Dan Daly remembers only too well the scenes of devastation and hopelessness he witnessed – he also remembers the faint glimmer of hope that inspired him so much.

September 11 2001 was ‘a beautiful crystal clear day’, what some pilots would call ‘severe clear’. Off duty that day, he was tempted to take his private plane up for a run around. But that run around was put on hold when he got a phone call from a friend asking him if he had seen what had happened, to which he replied ‘No’. His friend told him to turn on the TV and when Dan asked ‘…which channel…’ his friend replied ‘…it doesn’t matter which channel…’. Within minutes the 24 year veteran was at the scene and he couldn’t believe what was unfolding in front of him. He lost over 50 of his men at Ground Zero that day. One of those was Steve Belson, a very close friend of Dan’s who had convinced him to leave school teaching and join the fire department all those years ago, went into the North Tower and never came out.

He also remembers how he felt those days and for some days afterwards. Like so many Americans it was a feeling of anger. The ex Fire Chief, again like so many Americans, gave serious consideration to joining the armed forces to exact revenge. However, unlike some other Americans, those feelings subsided. Chief Daly began to realise a completely different message to most. He believes that 9/11 will remain one of the greatest atrocities of our generation, in the western world at least, and it is because the atrocity was so great that a new message must be spread.

Those feelings of anger subsided despite experiencing the horrific scenes of picking up human body parts and putting them into buckets along with the horror of losing close comrades and lifelong friends. Amongst the devastation, which has been well documented over the last 10 years, he would see that faint glimmer of hope. The hope he saw was through the volunteers who turned up to ground zero to set up tents and bring some comfort to the rescue workers through therapies such as massage and chiropractics. He describes how he saw ‘two worlds’ unfold in front of him. On one side there was Dante’s inferno as the two towers crashed and burned and on the other side there was a ‘City of Angels’ made up of these volunteers in their tents. In the early days there was no uptake on the services of the volunteers as firemen and other rescue workers were ‘too manly’ for such things. Yet as the days went by one or two tried it out, then three or four and pretty soon there were queues of rescue workers waiting to use them on a daily basis. These people, or ‘angels’as Dan refers to them, sent him this new message, helped those feelings of anger to subside and changed his life forever. Up until that point he viewed retirement as taking it easy and living it up in The Caribbean, again like so many Americans. A dream retirement for most Americans but not when you feel you have even more to give and after 9/11 to Dan Daly ‘that would be a very shallow thing to do’.

Dan feels compelled to have a positive influence on the world and to do something to ensure that events such as these may never happen again. In his talks he has spoken in New Zealand, Australia and in the ghettos of Rio de Janeiro.  What he teaches is that we ‘need to drop our ego and reach out to people’. Dan says that “9/11 was a wakeup call for everybody but it seems that everybody has gone back to sleep” People are still filled with fear and confusion which has lead to tension and they don’t know what to do. Young people growing up are ‘Hi Tech but Low Touch’ and the so called ‘leaders in society are lost to them’. He feels that the vibrancy is back in New York as ‘New Yorkers are survivors’ but wonders, with some disillusionment, ‘what kind of lesson will we have to experience before we get serious about living with each other in peace’

Now in that retirement, far from kicking back in The Caribbean, Dan Daly is spreading a new message, that message of hope, compassion and personal responsibility to ensure that we get the real message from 9/11. As a father, Dan is conscious of the world that the older generation are handing over. It is for this reason that he is focusing his message on the youth of the world. In so doing he has already travelled to Brazil, Nicaragua, Nepal, Canada, Chile and, this Sunday September 11, he will be addressing crowds at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght. He will be speaking on The 5 keys to Successful Living which is a message of personal responsibility and means that ‘your actions matter and your actions have reactions’.

And with a name like Dan Daly it’s a sort of homecoming. Dan, moved to New York when he was 3 years old, having been born in London to Irish parents. His father is from Cahirciveen and his mother from Mitchelstown with an uncle, who is a retired Senior Captain with Aer Lingus, residing in Co. Dublin.

Dan’s talks are pro-bono so, apart from a small contribution from the US State Department, he does not receive a fee for giving these talks. Dan says that ‘every human being is on the same quest – the quest for happiness – yet they get distracted on the way which is what leads to so many problems in the world’.  In all of Dan’s life as both a School Teacher and Fire fighter nothing compares to bringing a young 5 year old girl with Aids to the Bronx Zoo, from the Children’s Wish Foundation. He saw that he had made a real difference in her life, a difference he would like to make in so many more lives. It is ‘an amazing feeling’ and it is why he does it. Time for a new story from 9/11, time for this new message.


Japanese Tsunami Survivor

Chizuru & John Ryan

PUBLISHED‘Northside People’ (Page 12) 20 April 2011 –

My experience in the Kobe earthquake of 1995 and the long road back to normality

At 5:46 a.m. in the morning of January 17, 1995, a huge earthquake struck Kobe, my hometown.

It was a terrifying experience.

The Kobe earthquake claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people and changed people’s lives in an instant. While my family and I survived the immediate quake, and were very grateful for that, the road back to a normal existence was a long and difficult one. My father had his own small fish wholesale business and I always remember the sight of him sitting alone at the kitchen table one night with his head in his hands; how would he support his employees, how would he take care of his family?

The experience made me realize that life can be turned upside down in an instant and I have to live my life to the full without regret.

Sixteen years have passed since the Kobe earthquake and thanks to help from many people and the fortitude of the inhabitants, the city has been rebuilt. Kobe is now a very modern, convenient city but unfortunately, not the same Kobe that I knew as a child.

Japan Tsunami: Appeal for Donations

As you know from TV or radio, a massive earthquake, the seventh largest recorded in history, struck the east coast of Japan on Friday 11 March.

The earthquake, measuring 9 on the Richter scale, triggered a tsunami which hit the east coast of Japan with 10-metre-high waves, leaving a trail of destruction. One small historic coastal town called Minamisanriku has simply disappeared and half of the town’s population of 17,000 is still missing. No one knows yet what the final death toll will be.

What can we do to help?
In the immediate aftermath, what is necessary is blankets, cup noodles, milk. After that, people have to fix their houses, their boats, fishing nets, schools and hospitals and what they need is money. This is where we can help. I know that Ireland is in the middle of its own economic tsunami, but if you can spare a little, it will be so appreciated.

How to donate?
By credit card through the Irish Red Cross:

By bank transfer through the Ireland–Japan Association: (
Bank Name: Bank of Ireland, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
Account name: Ireland Japan Association – Earthquake Appeal
Account number: 81235601
Sort code: 900084

With time, the images from Japan will disappear from the TV but the process of recovery and need for aid will continue. When you have friends over for dinner or BBQ over the next year, if you can place a “Japan Tsunami Appeal” mug in a strategic place, it will help to give a steady stream of support.

The North East coast of Japan is famous for its beautiful coastline, and for its agriculture and fishing industry. In winter they have heavy snow. The people are patient, simple and warm. Please do what you can to help.



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