Tag Archives: Listrade


Back in 2008, an outsider politician took on the establishment. His pitch was simple, they don’t listen to you and they are in the pockets of Wall Street. They are the rich elite, serving the one percent while having long ago abandoned the pretense of caring about those who are struggling and the working class.

Despite being a long way behind in polls, despite being written off, a rousing speech in Iowa against the establishment, promising those hit hard by the recession hope and change. It proved a turning point in Barrack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton.

Eight years later and the DNC is surprised that the same people who’d been told Hillary was the establishment and was serving the one percent, didn’t change their minds and vote for her this time around either.

Populism. It’s a nice term. Has a patronising ring  about it too. Seems like it’s only appealing to the uneducated voter, not the learned, they would never fall for it. Like the learned don’t read “popular fiction”, they read “literary fiction”.

Over the last twelve months we’ve seen several elections and a referendum. Populism has played a significant part in all results. There are common features to populism, but it’s too easy to ignore them because of the division between left and right.

When it’s Trump or Le Pen appealing on populism, it’s only appealing to old racists and uneducated. When it’s Corbyn or Sanders, they’re “galvanising” the youth. And it appears that there is some truth to that in terms vote demographics as opposed to motivations.

They all blamed the “establishment” whether it is the established political parties or those that hold influence over them. They all pointed to the current political system not working. They pointed to your woes, your struggles and more importantly, they offered solutions.

The best thing that happened to Corbyn was the leak of the draft manifesto. The leak was malicious, an attempt to ridicule Corbyn as an old out of touch Trotskyite.

In the words of the Gibb brothers “I started a joke, which started the whole world crying. But I didn’t see that the joke was on me, oh no.” (I prefer the Faith No More version)

Instead of mocking, people looked at the manifesto and thought it was pretty good. It had actual bone fide promises and deliverables. The Tories had little. Their promises were to look into social welfare, look into health care but only when re-elected. No substance, at least none that people could easily see.

Macron’s election and later majority shows that even the centre-right can take advantage of populism, especially when running against a far right populist. You can even create a new political party and still win.

The key is to understand that there are a lot of people out there who are not seeing the benefits of the recovery. Those who have been left a long way behind due to austerity. Those who aren’t working for financial, pharmaceutical or tech companies and aren’t seeing the benefits of globalism. They want hope, they want change.

They will follow a leader who can speak for them who can give them a solution. It looks like they’d prefer it if that promise didn’t involve the prospect of goose-stepping and mass deportations. But, you know, any port in a storm.

Then there’s Leo Varadkar.


Dear God.

Leo has decided to vilify the left and their supporters. He’s right from one perspective: they are a threat and are likely to be a threat in any election. But he’s now put him and his party exactly where everyone suspected they were: the establishment.

There’s a chance that this attack on the left will have similar consequences as Hillary’s “bucket of deplorables”. The disenfranchised have shown that they will turn up and vote against you when they are given a figurehead. Leo has set himself up as they perfect foil for anyone who wants to take up that mantle.

Who exactly is advising him? Has he read any analysis of the last 12 months? Or is this actually his idea of how populism works?

The left don’t have to respond, they don’t have to do anything except capitalise on Leo portraying himself and his party as the vindictive establishment.

The only thing standing in the way of the left (or any party) is concrete policies and a cohesive party. Which admittedly is a pretty big thing to not have and, unfortunately, they don’t.

Anyone could do this. The alliance of the left could come together under a new party.

The alternative is that one of the other parties takes up the mantle. But we’ve seen that it’s only ever effective for those who can show that they are “outsider” and underdogs. It’s an opportunity for the right too, in the spirit of Macron.

In a very turbulent year, we have seen that there is widespread disenfranchisement with the political class. The parties will always have their base, but that base is always small.

Their success is reliant on swinging voters and the youth staying at home. Now even the swing voters are looking for change and the youth seem to have got its act together.

It will probably need someone who isn’t currently part of the political world. But the opportunity is there if they want to take it. Leo has set it up perfectly for anyone to capitalise on this, if they want to.

I’m just worried nobody does want to.

Listtrade can be followed on Twitter: @listrade



All I know is that I don’t know nothin’. And that’s fine.

There’s a certain peace and restfulness that comes from admitting that the more you learn and more you know, the more aware you are of just how much you don’t know.

Each bit of knowledge and education only opens up a whole other area of knowledge and information about which you are ignorant.

At this point you could insert one of numerous Richard Feynman quotes on learning, life and everything like, “Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.

He’s right, it doesn’t matter. It is much more interesting to have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned (Feynman again). Sorry seems to be the hardest word, but it isn’t as difficult a phrase as “I don’t know.”

All politics, all ideologies and all religions are all about easy answers. You can rest easy because we’ve done the difficult thinking for you and here are our answers. All we ask is your unconditional support and belief.

Except, it turns out that they don’t have the answers either.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (PLDA) 2013 was supposed to be an answer. But what was the question? It wasn’t how do we protect unborn life and it wasn’t how do we protect the life of women after Savita Halappanavar.

The question was how we protect doctors when making a decision that might conflict with the Constitution. Doctors shouldn’t need the enactment of legislation in 2013 to help them make a judgement on what is best for the life of the patient. And yet they insisted they did.

But the Supreme Court insisted they didn’t.

In its decision on the X Case, the Supreme Court discussed at length the conditions that would permit abortion under the Constitution. For 22 years doctors had some clarity that where there was a real and imminent risk to the life of the mother, they could perform an abortion.

The death of Savita had nothing to do with lack of legislation and was all to do with doctors not wanting to make a decision.

The PLDA was bad law enacted in haste and yesterday we saw that doctors still won’t make a decision, even when the Supreme Court and the law says they can. Suicide is a risk to the life of the mother, PLDA allows for this and for an abortion.

Except if someone is suicidal and a genuine risk to themselves, then they should be committed to a mental institution. The former requires three medical opinions, the latter just one.

Oh, but not when you jump in a river and actually try and kill yourself. Then you’re grand. No risk there.

The problem with narratives is that when you have them, they become like a hammer and everything looks like a nail. It’s easy to read a lot into what the psychologist did in committing the girl to an institution. We’ll probably never know and so shouldn’t speculate.

But to repeat an old mantra, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

The problem with narratives is that we can’t discuss abortion as we should. Not religion, not ideology, just ethics. Unfortunately, we’ve let ethics become synonymous with religion.

We’ve allowed a situation where one specific branch of one specific religion gets to be the dictator of ethics. We need a debate free from that. Unfortunately, no politician would be brave enough to have that discussion.

If you were to do a list of who has an abortion and why they have an abortion, the results of that list might be swayed by your views on abortions. Are the women old or young? Married or single? Is the abortion due to their health or the foetus’s?

Our only basis for answering this is to look to the statistics from those countries that do have legalised abortion. Great Britain (not UK as many in the UK have realised recently due to legislation not being enacted in Northern Ireland) is probably the best comparison.

Any legislation is likely to be the same where abortions require medical approval and a similar set up. From the statistics available, we know that in 2015 185,824 (3,451 from Ireland) abortions were performed.

· Based on 2015 births, approximately 20% of pregnancies were terminated in England and Wales.*

· 80% of abortions are performed in the first 9 weeks and 98% within the first 19 weeks (69% and 97% respectively for Irish women)

· 70% of women are in a relationship (65% for Irish women)

· 77% of women are white.

· 54% had been pregnant in the past through to delivery (47% Irish)

· 38% have had previous abortions (19% Irish)

· 98% have abortions on the grounds of Category C “risk to the physical or mental or mental health of the mother” (96% Irish)

· 86% of women are over 20 (52% aged 20-29, 34% 30+) (91% Irish, with 46% 20-29 and 45% over 30)

· 3% of abortions were for serious abnormalities or disabilities to the foetus (Category E) (4% Irish)

· 3 abortions (number, not percentage) were performed in emergency situations to save the mother’s life (due to mental or physical harm).

· 629 (0.3% of abortions) were because the foetus was diagnosed with downs syndrome (1.1% Irish)

*very rough approximation

How do we interpret this? I don’t know. Looking at the statistics above: it’s complicated. It isn’t, as Leo claims, like the lads popping off to Amsterdam.

This is mature, rational women, in a relationship, many who have seen a previous pregnancy through to birth.

They are 98% of 185,824 who have weighed up the pregnancy and its consequences and a doctor has agreed an abortion is necessary. Over 180,000 individuals like the population of County Limerick.

There is no single group mind behind their decisions. The only common feature is they live in a state that allows them to make that decision in consultation with a doctor.

In Ireland, we’ve legislated for the three abortions that were medical emergencies. But someone had to die before we even did that. We haven’t addressed the issue of suicide risk, but then we haven’t addressed the issue of suicide risk in general.

Under the PLDP, it isn’t enough to be diagnosed with cancer; it needs two doctors to confirm the cancer. With mental health, we want three doctors to confirm your state of mind before anyone will make a decision.

Twenty two years after the Supreme Court said it was permissible without legislation, that suicide risk was a risk to life, that you can take the threat of suicide at face value, you do not have to wait until they are pressing a knife to their wrists.

One doctor can do that. One doctor can believe the woman and act. The constitution does not prohibit that. Doctors did not need to wait 22 years, we didn’t need legislation. Doctors didn’t need to lobby our legislators so that it required three doctor’s opinions.

You can make of the statistics above whatever you want. You can use them to support pro-life or pro-choice. But they are what they are.

All I know is that I know nothin’. It’s complicated. Life is complicated. Somehow, we’ve managed to make complicated the bits that aren’t complicated when it comes to permissible abortions under the constitution..What hope do we have with the bigger issue of abortion in general?

The only thing I can say for sure is that it’s time to listen to those who have had experience here. Not those who want to insert an ideology into other people’s decisions.

There are over 180,000 of them in Britain, over 3000 in Ireland. Maybe listen to them, not me.

Listrade can be found on Twitter @listrade  where he mainly steals jokes from Keith Chegwin.

Yesterday: Tony Groves on The Three Doctors


You can tell Derek Mooney’s column on Monday on Brexit was a good piece because there were no overly negative comments. Not even the usual abusive ones about Derek. He summed up much of what I was thinking about how Brexit is being entered.

Brexit will probably be bad. Not because the principle of a Brexit is a disaster, but because of how this Brexit came about.

The nature of the Brexit campaign was xenophobic, untruthful and incompetent. The only reasonable explanation is that this was a deliberate tactic so that the result would be remain.

A Larry Beinhart conspiracy in the real world, except devised by idiots. Now those idiots are running the negotiations. It doesn’t bode well.

The West Wing and House of Cards have given an unreal expectation of what happens in the corridors of power. All give far too much credit to cunning and scheming politicians.

Principled public servants and devious lobbyists. A lot more sex and less murder than the real world. The political world is far more Yes Minister written by P.G. Wodehouse than Dobbs or Sorkin.

The art of negotiation is well documented. Experts will sell you books and courses on the subject for decent fee. If you didn’t get onto the Oxford PPE course, you can at least feign status with some good buzz phrases. At least nod at them when you hear them like on holiday when you recognise one of the French words the waiter said.

It was disappointing when you got a policy change through without a bit of a fight and negotiation. When the relevant person accepted their mistake and changed it, you were always left a bit flat.

They weren’t doing it right. We’re supposed to do the dance of banging desks, slamming doors and letting me say at least once “I have a mandate from my members!”

A good prolonged negotiation was a soap opera you could pitch back as a David and Goliath. Sell like it’s a lost cause and you’re the only one standing up and speaking the truth.

Members want you to be having meetings and shouting. They don’t want resolution with a courteous email and phone call.

You never went into a negotiation (in Ireland or Europe) with the idea of compromise or of listening to the other side. This was your opportunity to show everyone how wrong they are.

How if they listened to you and your “facts” they would have no choice but to concede on every point. Your preparation was to have your argument laid out with “facts” and attacks on the other side’s “facts”.“You call that a source?” “You’ve misrepresented those results.” “You made a spelling mistake; it means your entire argument is void.” You had no intention of actually listening to the other side or to reason.

Sounds familiar?

Of course, the real negotiations happened outside the grandstanding of the formal room. Over coffee or a pint you could throw off the shackles of your mandate; agree it was all crap and that both had a point.

Unfortunately, we could never admit that formally and the cod-negotiation continued. “Here comes a regular, am I the only one who feels the shame?”Nah. We had mandates remember?

Except we didn’t.

Members are like voters. They preferred for us to do the hard work and tell them how to think. At least that’s what we thought. We’d analyse the policy, find something inflammatory and send out a biased overview. Anger-up their blood and there was our mandate. The more we found, the more we justified out existence.

The members we spoke about were like the constituents politicians speak of. The man with two pints Enda spoke of. The British Brexit voters Theresa speaks of. The 28 Member States Michel Barnier speaks of. All figments of our imaginations. Traits and opinions we make up and condensed into a mythical person or group.

The people and the Member States exist of course, but what they think or would think is complex, diverse and a bit more rational than we’d like. So we created their opinions for them. Manipulated genuine and easily corrected mistakes to fit into whatever Key Action Point we’d promised to deliver on that year.

We should worry about how the UK will enter these negotiations. They sold Brexit on a promise of getting rid of foreigners and a lie about British Sovereignty.

But we should also worry that the EU won’t care too much about little old Ireland. Heck, there’s even a chance that what’s bad for Ireland in this will benefit Central Europe. The greater good being those large states losing out to Ireland.

The EU has already created its own strawman to fight the UK strawman. There’s a reason it took so long to negotiate an EU deal with Canada. It had nothing to do with complexity. It was 28 Member States who still consider themselves as 28 individual Member States.

One nation would object to an aspect of the deal that would impact their particular interest. Britain only has to negotiate on the terms of British interest. It will no longer have to take account of what will upset the other 27 states.

There is no central EU-mind. It isn’t just Britain who is parochial, each member state is. We’re still European by politics and geography rather than culture and mind. European when it suits, like in golf. We’d still stab the others in the back if it were in our interests, like in Eurovision.

Because of the UK’s stance on negotiations, the EU has created its own aggression. The diplomatic and greater good is for a soft exit. The outcome is more than likely to be a hard exit for no other reason than spite.

Any impact on Ireland, positive or negative will be accidental. Our interests are handy soundbites, but they will not impact the outcome. The EU cannot allow exiting to be easy or soft, no matter what the consequence.

Like most negotiation, there is nothing to negotiate. This isn’t a peace negotiation, this is pure fictional politicking. Compromise is a fallacy, sometimes one side is right and the other wrong. Compromise implies equal validity to opinions.

Political compromise is rarely true compromise. More often than not it is giving a few things to one side and a few things to the other side. See the 20 years of Social Partnership and National Agreements. Both sides could stand like Chamberlain waving their pieces of paper. The common good forgotten in the need for both to show that they didn’t lose.

Negotiation is about how both sides come out without looking weak or incompetent. It is rarely about fixing the problem. Ireland will have to take a hit to prevent wider chaos in the EU.

Michel Barnier’s brief will be that the greater good is making sure the Union remains. Making sure that no other state gets notions of leaving. Make it as hard and painful for Britain as possible. If Ireland is collateral damage, it’s a price worth paying.

We’ve spent a year laughing at Brexit, now a UK win in the deal might be the best result for Ireland.

No problems there then.

Three years ago Listrade asked himself “are we the baddies?” after 10 years working for a lobbying group and now works in PR and Communications for the Bilderberg Group. He is widely credited for leading the group away from its New World Order manifesto and into investing in Pizza restaurants.



Listrade writes:

One of the more interesting things about inhabiting social media or comments sections is playing behavioural psychology bingo. This act in itself is a form of cognitive bias. It suggests I consider myself above the average commentator who regularly indulges in logical fallacies and cognitive biases.

The average driver considers themselves a better driver than the average driver. Wikipedia-researched logical fallacies and cognitive biases get thrown out into online discussion as tools to diminish an opposing argument. The accuser implying they would never be so stupid as to fall into that trap.

The good news is that practically everything that annoys or angers you about people on the internet is easily summed up by one of the numerous Wikipedia articles on Psychology. The bad news is that it applies to us all equally.

Sticking to our so-called “bubbles” gives the impression that opinions appear to have become more polarised and hardened. That only the side we align with shows logic and reason. That it would be a better world if the other side would just admit they are wrong.

The biggest problem comes from the fact that the “other side” usually doesn’t exist. We’ve created it and tagged it as a reductive left or alt-right. We’ve assigned characteristics from a minority to the majority.

Polarisation of opinions has been inevitable, not because people are unreasonable or irrational, but because people are people. This dive into the “post-truth” world was always going to happen ever since the first BBS [bulletin board system]. Then came the dark days when Uncle Tupelo split up and you had to choose between Farrar or Tweedy. No middle ground, choose now.

Mathew Inman did a great strip on something called the backfire effect in the latest Oatmeal, which was a distillation of the You Are Not So Smart podcast’s three episode in-depth look at this effect. The principle is that some beliefs are so key to who we are, that no matter what the evidence put in front of us, we will reject it.

Reject it and become even more hard-lined in our belief. In short, somethings we hate being wrong about and will believe all kinds of crap in order that we can convince ourselves we aren’t wrong. The current polarisation of opinions can be put down to the backfire effect.

Way back in my early days of public policy, a new early draft of legislation landed and I was charged with finding all the problems with it. For problems, read things that the people who paid our wages wouldn’t like, i.e. things that would cost them money.

There were a lot of problems with it and not just financial ones. It was a mess. The bits that weren’t poorly written were cut and paste from archaic UK regulations (UK references left in place) There was no way it could go through as it was. Except it very nearly did.

Once the errors and necessary corrections were highlighted, rather than them getting changed, the responsible Department dug their heels in and put all their effort into pushing it through with the legislation as it was.

The only amendments accepted at the initial stage were those that would make it worse (for us at least). It was 12 months of swimming upstream against the backfire effect before we got anything changed.

There is plenty of research (much of which is gone through in the podcasts) that seems to show this effect and on a range of issues and topics.

We argue away in a vain attempt to convert and change people’s minds and it turns out it is all for nothing and only works to make them more hard-line in their belief. If anything it drives them to be more extreme in their views than lessening them. That’s how we end up with r/Donald.

However, a worse trait is that when someone finally admits they were wrong against all the psychological odds, we shame them. The Twitter user @Trumpregrets has over 250,000 followers. Its soul aim is for us smarter liberals to laugh at those who now regret voting Trump. Instead of welcoming them or working to align them to a cause, we create a twitter account for all the smart liberals to laugh at the stupid blue-collar workers.

We routinely remind politicians and celebrities of when they were wrong years ago, even though they’ve admitted their error or changed their minds based on evidence.

We say they’ve flip-flopped and post a tweet from seven years ago of them stating something different. It’s acceptable when they deny ever having held such an opinion; have at them, but when they’re admitting they were wrong, that’s different.

Against all the odds and human nature, some people accept their belief was wrong. Let them have that moment without sneering or shaming.

After far too long in public policy and my eventual epiphany, it became as physically draining working against the backfire effect in the legislature as it is trying to reason with someone on an internet comment section, except with less Youtube links.

I vowed to never be that person, to weigh up the evidence and not dismiss contrary views so quickly. I would admit when I’m wrong and not be ashamed. I’m sure that when the day comes when I am wrong, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Three years ago Listrade asked himself “are we the baddies?” after 10 years working for a lobbying group and retired to Argentina with other ex-lobbyists and baddies. Since then he has never finished the novel he’s been working on for 20 years, but has completed Undertale in peaceful and genocide several times and is two Korok seeds short of 100% completion in Zelda.