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Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
Bin Charges: From Private Circus to Public Service Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:38 | Michael Taft
Beyond Grexit & Brexit, Advocating an Irish and a British role in solving Europe... Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:18 | Tony Phillips
Hardship never lasts forever? Wed May 04, 2016 15:50 | Raymond Deane
DDCI calls on New Government to Strictly Regulate Vulture Fund Acquisitions Wed May 04, 2016 15:22 | Irish Left Review
Warning: Ultra-Low Spend Economy Ahead Wed May 04, 2016 11:59 | Michael Taft
Centrism extremism: how horseshoe-politics silences brutality Sat Jul 02, 2016 18:25 | yeksmesh
Of Tankies, Trots and Social Democrats Thu May 12, 2016 23:41 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason
Avatars of the Advanced-Capitalist Psyche â€“ Capitain America: Civil War Mon May 09, 2016 00:07 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason
Wailings about Left Unity Sat Feb 13, 2016 01:13 | James O'Brien
The Bern Manifesto: Why I am Voting for Bernie Sanders Wed Jan 27, 2016 23:59 | Jerome Nikolai Warren
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005
A bird's eye view of the vineyard
We Will Resist Tue Aug 23, 2016 02:59 | The Saker
Moveable Feast Cafe 2016/08/23 ? Open Thread Tue Aug 23, 2016 02:00 | Herb Swanson
In the wake of Biden?s visit: Serbia at the geopolitical crossroad Mon Aug 22, 2016 19:05 | The Saker
Syrian War Report ? August 22, 2016: Deep Crisis in Eastern Syria Mon Aug 22, 2016 19:02 | The Saker
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei:?US stuck in region because of Iran?s Islamic Revolution, revolu... Mon Aug 22, 2016 18:40 | The Saker
Michael Taft - Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:38
The Minister is set to introduce a freeze on bin charges which would at least give us some breathing space. The following sets out an alternative outline to waste management. This is not a hard proposal; others will come up with better ideas. However, it is clear that the current situation is not sustainable ? from an environmental, economic, and social perspective.
1. A Public Service
Waste collection should be a public service. In the late 19th century great strides in public health came from water, sewerage and waste collection services; all provided as a public good. We should return to this principle. This does not necessarily mean that waste collection would be provided directly by the local authority or some other public agency (but it could ? see below). However, rather than relying on market-forces to provide the service or set the charges, local authorities should re-assert active management and control of waste collection.
Tony Phillips - Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:18
Robert Schuman was a former Vichy bureaucrat who became finance minister in post-war reunified France. He later became French foreign minister, then president of the European Movement, now official historians of European integration call him an ?architect of the European Integration Project?. EU Public Relations officials celebrate Schuman?s declaration (made on the 9th of May 1950) as Europe?s birthday with photos of cupcake with a single European candle[sic.]. The European Parliament awarded Schuman the title: ?Father of Europe?. Two years later he died, in 1963.
Europe, according to Schuman ?will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity [?] to secure in the shortest time the supply of coal and steel [?] which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war?. The 1951 Treaty of Paris formed the European Steel and Coal Community (ECSC) introducing an open market for military raw materials. The ECSC morphed into the Common Market, the Economic Community (EEC/EC) and now the European Union (EU) while adding the regional currency, The Euro; a currency managed in Frankfurt but spent in Dublin and Athens. When the global financial crisis hit Europe, again EU Federalism was mooted as a cure. Where is the debate in Ireland and in the UK on a federal EU? Are we really that insular?
Fast forward to 2016, almost a decade into the EU crisis, and the Anglo-Saxon press in Europe frames its ?Europe? debate between two goalposts (?Brexit? and ?Grexit?), as coined in the Financial Times by German journalist, Wolfgang Munchau.
Brexit is one possible result of Britain?s June 23rd referendum on a UK exit from the EU. The Brexit referendum follows mild-mannered arguments by UK Prime Minister on legislative flexibility (mainly financial safeguards for the City of London). David Cameron?s suggestions for sovereignty loopholes for the UK absenting them from EU financial controls rubbed the other European leaders up the wrong way. Perhaps this is not surprising as EU nations, the UK and Ireland included, are desperately trying to navigate the financial and political fallout of the European phase of the Great Recession.
Grexit revisits Summer 2015, when SYRIZA leaders capitulated to further austerity (and more Sovereign debt) while remaining in the Eurozone countermanding their own referendum decision to reject the third EU offer. Even the IMF recognizes this as a third phase of Extend and Pretend in Greece, kicking the stone down the road till 2016 (afterBrexit).
Globally, European integration, an open EU market, and the survival of the Euro, is debated in the Bank For International Settlements (BIS) and the G20 and the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR). Barack Obama conveyed his opinions to European leaders in his recent springtime visit. Neither Brexit nor Grexit are income neutral for hedge funds. Vulture funds would do well should Schaüble have his way forcing Greece out of the Euro and Brexit offers lucrative fluctuations in Sterling Foreign Exchange futures.
In the German Bundestag and in the other seats of EU power mum?s the word. Brussels and Frankfurt feign business as usual.
UK and Irish newspapers debate European Integration using national balance-sheet arguments on EU contributions and the taxation that pays for this. Taxation without representation is certainly an important issue, but this masks a deeper debate on supranationalism and European federalism. In Dublin?s Fleet Street, border controls and national corporate tax rates form part of a cautious debate on sustainable growth under conditions of high debt. Lucky for Ireland the term Irexit doesn?t quite roll off the tongue: ?Ireland is not Greece? after all.
Instead of debating Federalism in Ireland a parochial debate focuses predominantly on national interests particularly its low corporate tax rates and the choice by US multinationals to offshore their EU headquarters locally. Ireland is English speaking; its trade and cultural ties are North Atlantic, a reflection of its history and its ongoing emigration; locally rebranded ?diaspora?. None of this bodes well if Brexit passes. Ireland?s eastward facing Euroports export to Britain; there is significant cross-border trade with Northern Ireland. The governing coalition fears geographical isolation between Washington D.C. and (a possibly non-EU) Westminster.
Raymond Deane - Wed May 04, 2016 15:50
In 2006 I concluded my review of Reem Kelani's debut album Sprinting Gazelle with the phrase ?I believe it's a masterpiece.? That belief has subsequently matured into a certainty, and the disc has become one of my favourite albums in any genre. A full decade later Kelani's follow-up album Live at the Tabernacle, on Leon Rosselson's Fuse label, could easily have proved an anti-climax. Instead, it complements its predecessor admirably while also being a masterpiece on its own terms.
Kelani refers in the album booklet to ?live concerts? as ?the essence of what my musical journey is all about?. This journey has hitherto also entailed composing, teaching, musicology, and performing in works by classical western composers with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, so it is hardly surprising ? if frustrating for her growing legion of fans ? that she regards recording as something of a sideshow.
The performance recorded here took place at the 2012 Nour Festival of Arts in London (the Tabernacle, Notting Hill), and the double-album eventually materialised thanks to a Kickstarter campaign of which Kelani says: ?In an age in which music is structured according to the laws of the market place, and political narratives are suppressed, nothing is more comforting and assuring than grassroots support which can be neither bought nor sold.?
Concerning Sprinting Gazelle, I wrote that Kelani ?shuns political rhetoric, preferring to allow the music to speak for itself?. This is as true of the Palestinian material on the new album as it is of Kelani's comments both on stage and in the excellent booklet accompanying the recording (I really recommend buying the hard copy, as the whole thing is so beautifully produced). Of course Kelani is hardly apolitical. She is a member of the Anti Capitalist Roadshow, a "collective of singers and songwriters... opposed to the ideologically driven austerity programme imposed by this [UK] millionaire government". Some of the material on the second Tabernacle disc relates overtly to the 1919 Egyptian revolution and the 2011 Tunisian revolution. However, she seems content to allow Palestine's interminable trauma the status of an implicit if unmistakeable backdrop.
So has a political narrative been suppressed here after all? An informative and sympathetic Guardian interview from 2008 clarified that Kelani ?initially struggled to get a record contract here [the UK] because of her [Palestinian] subject matter.? She admits that on the cover of Sprinting Gazelle ?I was very careful...I did not say 'from Palestine'. I said 'from the motherland'. I'm walking on eggshells all the time.? Nonetheless, she asserted that ?[t]here is a message that Palestinians don't exist, so my narrative is... my existence, both personally and collectively ? As a human being, as a woman, as a Palestinian."
By now Reem Kelani's existence and hence her narrative is so firmly established that she could probably afford to kick aside the eggshells, although admittedly the defamatory energies of the Israel lobby are inexhaustible. In the CD booklet Alan Kirwan, curator of the Nour Festival in 2012, writes that ?[a]t the heart of her work is the recurring image of Palestine?, and the album's epigraph ? cited in English and Arabic ? is a defiant quatrain from the jubilant traditional Palestinian song Il-Hamdillah:
This song, which euphorically closes both this album and Sprinting Gazelle, contains lyrics ?collected... from field recordings of Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon and Jordan?. The opening track on Disc I, Let us in! (Hawwilouna!), was ?recorded from a group of Palestinian refugee women, originally from the village of Sha'ab near Acre? (in present-day Israel).
Irish Left Review - Wed May 04, 2016 15:22
DDCI calls on incoming Government to prioritise strict regulation of controversial funds
A new report released today (Tuesday May 3rd) by Debt Development Coalition Ireland highlights the manner in which vulture funds have aggressively bought up large volumes of debt in recent years, and how this form of financial speculation has had hugely negative social impacts both in Ireland and the Global South.
Entitled "From Puerto Rico to the Dublin Docklands: Vulture Funds and debt in Ireland and the Global South" the report shows how the Irish government has actively facilitated vulture funds through both the IBRC and NAMA.
For example, Texas based Lone Star Capital bought 60% of all assets brought to market by IBRC, while 90% of assets sold by NAMA went to US firms, the majority to private equity firms.
DDCI Director, Maeve Bateman, said:
The report?s author, Dr Michael Byrne of the UCD School of Social Policy, said:
The report recommendations include:
Michael Taft - Wed May 04, 2016 11:59
Of course, spending a lot of money doesn?t guarantee you optimal results. But spending too little certainly won?t get you optimal results. So how far behind are we falling? Let?s compare public spending (excluding interest ? this is called ?primary? expenditure) in the EU-15 countries.
I?ll use the method devised by Seamus Coffey who hangs out at Economic-Incentives. He excluded elderly-related expenditure and then compared Ireland with the rest of Europe. He did this because Ireland has an advantage here ? we don?t have to spend as much on pensions and related expenditure because we have a smaller proportion of elderly. In the EU-15, the over 65 cohort makes up 19 percent of the population; in Ireland, this cohort makes up 13 percent.
2014 is the latest year we have data for old-age expenditure. In the following, old-age expenditure is subtracted from total primary spending. For instance, Ireland spent 37.2 percent of its adjusted GDP (adjusted per the Irish Fiscal Council?s hybrid-GDP estimate that factors in the accounting practices of multi-nationals). It spent 4 percent on the elderly, leaving an expenditure level of 33.2 percent excluding elderly-related spending. Figures for European categories are mean averages.
Ireland ranks below all the European averages. What difference would it have made in 2014 in actual Euros and cents?
[Note: some will say that defence spending should also be factored in as other European countries spend more than us. This is true. In the EU-15, defence spending makes up approximately 1.3 percent of GDP; it?s 0.4 percent in Ireland. In any event, defence spending is a policy choice and, in my opinion, shouldn?t be excluded from comparisons. But if you insist, knock off about ?1.5 billion off the numbers above.]
In 2014, it could be argued that we are already a low-spend economy but as I wrote here, the situation could actually be worse. I have reservations about Seamus?s method. Excluding old age expenditure not only removes the demographic driven part of overall spending, it removes policy choices. Most other EU-15 countries spend more on elderly per capita than we do. Second, if we are to adjust for the elderly population, then we should also adjust for youth demographics. In Ireland, under-20s make up 28 percent of the population, compared to 21 percent in the EU-15.
Communist Party of Ireland - Wed May 04, 2016 10:56
The May issue of Socialist Voice is now available online.
As Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael agree to set up another committee to manage the affairs of the rich, water charges and Irish Water have been used as a political football between them. In this centenary year it just goes to show that James Connolly got it right when he wrote: ?If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the Green Flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.
Opinion: Two strategies: Connolly?s (1916) and Sinn Féin?s (2016): D. R. O?Connor Lysaght
James Connolly is presented as the ideological inspiration of the majority of the politically committed in the 26-county Republic of Ireland. Of that state?s four main parties, only Fine Gael would deny him this role, tracing its roots to a compost of John Redmond and Michael Collins. Its rivals, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and Labour, each describe themselves as the keeper of Connolly?s flame.
Tories? attack on doctors is only the beginning: Tommy McKearney
Do you, like me, subscribe to the view that Britain?s Conservatives are an unscrupulous lot, forever searching for new ways to make the rich even richer? With this in mind, and in spite of the absence of documentary proof, it strikes me that the intensely bitter dispute between junior doctors in Britain and the Tories? secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt, is about more than just pay.
Time to get rid of special courts: Paul Doran
With the election now over, the issue of the Special Criminal Court has been largely forgotten?that is, unless you are stuck in one of Europe?s most disgusting prisons, namely Port Laoise, where ?slopping out? is still the practice.
Irish GDP: The great con trick: Eoghan M. Ó Néill
Capitalism has been in stagnation for decades. Economic growth has been sluggish, rarely rising above 2 per cent. Ireland, on the other hand, is once again the poster economy of capitalism. Having cast off the shameful remnants of the ?Celtic Tiger? years and the financial crisis of 2008, Ireland is once again an economic powerhouse, with the growth in its gross domestic product (GDP)
Michael Taft - Fri Apr 29, 2016 13:45
The Stability Programme Update, the latest economic and fiscal projections, signals the start of the budgetary politics that will inform the next Government. In particular, it shows the level of money available for the Government for spending increases and tax cuts. Speaking in the Dail yesterday, the Finance Minister stated:
Remember all that stuff about the fiscal space during the election? It was stated that there would be ?8.6 billion available over the next five budgets. This has been increased by approximately ?2 billion due to changes in the complex calculations. So, we have ?10.5 billion.
An extra ?2 billion: sound good? Not really ? not when you look at the detail.
Let?s compare two main budgetary projections that were presented in Budget 2016 ? only a few months ago ? and the current projections published in the Stability Programme Update: investment and expenditure on public services (Government consumption).
Spending on investment and public services has been revised downwards in the current projections. The differences may seem small but it puts the increased ?2 billion in ?fiscal space? the Minister referred to in perspective.
For instance, in the budget last year the Government projected investment spending over the five years to be ?25 billion. They have revised this downwards to ?23.5 billion ? a cut of 6.2 percent. We?d have to increase investment by ?1.5 billion just to get back to the projections in the budget ? and that was already one of the lowest levels of investment in the EU.
Regarding expenditure on public services, over the five years the Government has revised this downwards by nearly ?4 billion. Get the picture? Now let?s factor in inflation (using the GDP deflator ? unfortunately, we don?t have an inflation projection for public services).
Michael Taft - Fri Apr 29, 2016 13:40
The Sunday Business Post?s investigation into JobBridge was devastating. The programme has been used to staff the HSE, Hewlett-Packard, public enterprises, supermarkets and universities. A large number of interns report frustrations, especially as they have almost no workplace rights, while the investigation showed a scheme that grew out of control lacking robust monitoring and compliance mechanisms.
It?s time JobBridge was closed down. The youth section of Unite the Union has long campaign for its abolition; Impact has recently called for the programme to go. It?s already being reduced. The programme will be cut from ?70 million last year to ?51 million this year. Cut the rest of it.
And let?s use the money to create a real programme of work, targeted at people who are having a hard time in the market. Long-term unemployment can be a dismal experience. The longer you are out of work, the more difficult it can be to get back in: your current skills may be become degraded, previous work routines are undermine, there can be mental health issues, you get stuck so far into a rut that it is difficult to pull yourself out. Training programmes work best when the person is motivated and there is a belief that a job is possible at the other end. Long-term unemployment is the ultimate de-motivating experience, leaving people with little hope.
In 2015, long-term unemployment (without a job for more than a year) averaged 114,000. That amounts to 5.3 percent of the labour force. By contrast, long-term unemployment in the EU-15 makes up 4.7 percent.
When we turn to what can be called ?chronic? long-term unemployment ? two years and longer ? we find, on average, 83,000 stuck in this situation and, of this, 50,000 have been unemployed for four years or longer.
So let?s redirect the resources ? approximately ?85 million - from the JobBridge and Gateway programme) into a guaranteed real job programme. In other words, the state should become an employer of last resort; when people cannot find work in the labour market, the state will provide that work. What would such a programme look like?
Michael Taft - Fri Apr 22, 2016 17:52
The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) has released its latest Cost of Doing Business in Ireland. It is always an interesting compilation of graphs, charts and statistics that compare Irish competitiveness against other countries. The current release has been accompanied with a media bustle about ?high-cost? Ireland. This, of course, has long been the case. The NCC lists a number of culprits: transport, utilities, credit and childcare.
And what would a ?competitiveness? review be without mentioning ?labour costs? (I think they mean ?employee compensation? which is not a cost but I?ll let that go for now). Once again, the NCC has produced a misleading picture about labour cost trends. This has resulted in media reports referring to the ?high cost? of wages. The NCC has even produced a graph to give the appearance that labour costs have been rising faster than the Eurozone average. I reproduce the graph below.
You might think, from a first glance, that since 2010 Irish workers have been getting pay rises that exceed the Eurozone average. The general picture is that, while wages fell between 2007 and 2010, since then they have been rising at a pretty swift pace. Thus, we have to watch out; otherwise our wage levels will become ?uncompetitive?. Thus, we have to be more moderate, or ?sustainable?.
The only problem with this picture is that it is wrong and misleading. The NCC graph is based on the data from Eurostat?s Quarterly Labour cost index which can be accessed here (it would be helpful if the NCC actually sourced the data source and not just the agency that produced the data). In this dataset, you can choose different types of measurement. I?m assuming the NCC is using the ?percentage change compared to same period in previous year? not seasonally adjusted (it works in some respects).
The measurement that the NCC uses tells you what it tells you but, at the same time, it can distort the picture. Here is an example. Let?s say that wages fall by 1 percent in year-on-year quarter. Then the next quarter it falls by 0.5 percent. Well, you?d say that wages are still falling though at a slower rate? and you?d be correct. However, using way the NCC measures it, it would show wages rising since the ½ percent fall is less than a 1 percent. This is the stuff of statistical battles.
Seán Sheehan - Wed Apr 20, 2016 15:07
Spring Reading: A review of some of the book I have enjoyed so far this year.
The Opacity of Narrative by Peter Lamarque (Rowman & Littlefield)
China Miéville critical essays edited by Caroline Edwards and Tony Venezia
Art and Idea in the Novels of China Miéville by Carl Freedman (Gylphi)
The form of fictional stories that monopolize the subject matter of newspapers? book reviews and the display tables in bookshops is representative realism, filling in a story in reassuringly familiar ways as if there is a readily knowable world out there and a novel can capture it verbally just as a photograph shows us what it is a photograph of. A photograph or a realistic novel, we naively feel, stands in a causal, mimetic relation to their subject matter but, as the essays brought together by Edwards and Venezia and the critical study by Freeman show, there is a narrative complexity to China Miéville?s novels that rejects such a model of transparency In place of a fixed line leading to a determined destination, Iron Council describes a train line (and the journey along it) that is always in the making: ?Miles of track, reused, reused, it is the train?s future and its present, and it emerges a fraction more scarred as history and is hauled up again and becomes another future.? In The City & The City the ability of