Meith 16 Music Books 17-18 June 2016more >>
Threat To Fishing Communities is Laid Starkly Bare in New Film - Atlantic 20:04 Aib 10 0 comments
Luas drivers show the way-Strike for a real recovery 22:41 Márta 31 4 comments
The publication of a damning report on Ireland’s public services was delayed by EU until after polls... 06:50 Feabh 27 2 comments
Russian Diplomat Drops a Bombshell: US Expected ISIS to Seize Damascus by October 23:13 Feabh 18 0 comments
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Signed in New Zealand amid Mass Protests 23:36 Feabh 10 1 commentstuileadh >>
Raymond Deane - Céad Beal 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 - Céad Beal 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 - Céad Beal 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 - Céad Beal 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 - Aoine Aib 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 - Aoine Aib 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 - Aoine Aib 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 - Céad Aib 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
Michael Taft - Máirt Aib 19, 2016 14:05
Workers at Tesco?s have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action to resist the proposed wage cuts that management is demanding. The issue is now going to the Workplace Relation Commission. This post is not about the details of the Tesco dispute (you can read about it here). However, it is timely to take a step back and look at wages that not only Tesco but all retail workers earn. And when you sneak that peak you will find that retail workers in Ireland are some of the poorest paid in the EU-15.
According to Eurostat (the baseline figures are from 2012, brought up to 2014 with the Labour Cost Index), Irish retail workers rank 12th in the EU-15. And these wages are well behind European averages.
But when we compare Ireland with our peer group, the comparison deteriorates dramatically. One peer group are Northern and Central European economies (NCEE). This is the EU-15 figure excluding the poorer Mediterranean countries (though it?s worth noting that Italian retail workers earn more than Irish). In this comparison:
A second peer group is other Small Open Economies (other SOE). This is a comparison used by the IMF and it refers to economies with small domestic markets and a high reliance on exports, just like Ireland. This category includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. In this comparison:
Some may object to this, claiming that if a company is not profitable, it cannot increase wages. This is true enough. But we are confronted with a problem: the last year we have comparative enterprise data in the retail sector is 2012 ? a bottom point in the retail business cycle with the economy still mired in a domestic demand sector. Although profits per employed was about 15 percent below the EU-15, profits in the foreign-owned sector (such as Tesco) was the highest in the EU-15. So even with the consumer economy at rock bottom, a substantial part of the retail sector was doing ok.
Michael Taft - Sath Aib 16, 2016 18:15
We will soon have a government. What kind will it be? Time and a Programme for Government will tell. But what we really need is an experimenting government; one that uses resources and creativity to experiment with different proposals. There are many good ideas out there but it is hard to know how they might impact on the economy and society were they introduced in one go. Commissions, green papers and studies can only tell you so much. We should experiment ? trialling ideas for a limited period in different contexts and sectors. We can then assess the results to see if they are runners. Here are a few examples.
1. Shorter Working Week
I wrote about this here. In Sweden a number of trials are being conducted to assess the impact of a shorter working week in terms of cost, productivity, firm or agency performance, customer satisfaction and the health and well-being of the employees. Why not trial it here? We could select public and private sector workplaces to run 18-24 month experiments in reducing the working day. A study of productivity and all other elements would be done before and after the trial period and the results made public for study and debate.
2. Basic Income
Basic Income ? a guaranteed payment to everyone regardless of employment status - is attracting more attention and discussion. Arguments centre around a new era of reduced formal work opportunities, the growing complexity of welfare states, strengthening workers? bargaining power (if I have a living income to fall back on, I can walk away from the boss?s grief), etc.
But there are downsides: the high cost of implementation, inflation, unknown impact on the labour market. This is complicated by right-wing arguments that with Basic Income we can abolish the welfare state and minimum wages.
It is unlikely that a Government would introduce Basic Income all at once, or across the board. If it didn?t work out it would be very expensive to undo the policies and repair the damage. However, some places are conducting experiments ? for instance,Utrecht and other Dutch cities. It will be limited to a certain cohort but the hope is to discover how it changes people?s behaviour and what the fiscal and bureaucratic impact would be. So why don?t we do the same thing ? we could model it on the Dutch experiments so we don?t have to re-invent the wheel. It could be run out in urban and rural areas for a time-limited period with the effects to be studied afterwards.
3. Labour-Managed Enterprises
There has been increased academic interest in the performance of labour-managed enterprises (workers? cooperatives, employee-ownership and other models). While extremely limited in Ireland, there are a considerable number operating in other countries ? notably France, Spain and Italy ? throughout the industrial and service sectors. Proponents argue that such enterprises increase productivity and firm performance while generating higher investment and reduced wage inequality.
Here is an opportunity to run a trial programme ? through Enterprise Ireland, local enterprise boards or a new agency if that is seen a better fit. It would provide funding and training, and work with firms that are closing down due to poor performance or owner-retirement as well as greenfield start-ups. This experiment would take time ? a firm may survive the first and even second year but could fold soon afterwards. However, this could be an on-going process, with periodic reports and analysis. This shouldn?t be too contentious ? after all, it is about generating indigenous enterprises and putting people back to work. What we might find is that labour-managed firms are a better route to those goals, with positive spill-over effects in the community.