Monthly Archives For May 2013

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Can It Really Be This Good?

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Unemployment falling to 13.7 percent. Employment increasing by 20,000. THe CSO's new Quarterly National Houshould Survey should be good news. So why isn’t it? When we dig a little under the numbers, what do the numbers tell us about the kind of economy that is emerging? Why should we be concerned?

First, let’s run the headline numbers.

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On the face of it, these are positive numbers: employment up by 20,000 over last year – returning to the level of employment in 2011 while unemployment has fallen by well over 1 percent. But now, let’s look at some numbers below this headline.

(a) The Rise of the Precarious Work

Probably the most disturbing aspect of the CSO release is the rise in precarious work. This can be seen in the rise in under-employment.

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The economy is still shedding full-time jobs. In the last year, the numbers working full-time fell by 6,000. The difference was largely made up by an increase of 17,000 in precarious work (a 12 percent increase) – people working part-time but wanting more work.

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Paranoia With A Plan

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Book Review: First Book of Frags by Dave Lordan (Wurm Press, Portarlington, 2013)

 

Dave Lordan announced his uncompromising presence with his first collection ‘The Boy In the Ring. The title poem is emblematic of so much of our recent history. In that brief lyric, Lordan invents or recalls the visceral experience of being the centre of a ring of violence. The boy in the ring is a child in an industrial school, a child in a court, a child in a schoolyard, a child on the street. Whoever he is, he is in great danger, and yet he is not simply a victim. The poem concludes with the unanswered/unanswerable question ‘When will the boy get out of the ring?’

Lordan’s work escapes from all the rings, including the literary traps of form and content. He is always a political poet, always challenging, both as a riveting reader of his own work and in print, so it was with great interest that I opened his first collection of prose.

The title has intrigued me for some time. ‘Fragging’ was the Vietnam War practice of dropping an occasional hand-grenade into the back-pack of an unpleasant officer. And these short fictions are hand-grenades. As the narrator in ‘Christmas Cracker’ says, ‘Tenderness and all that shite is for hypocrites and mealy-mouthed muffin-heads.’ And tenderness there is none in this collection. It seems deliberately set up to take the piss out of all the careful conventions of what we call Irish literature. There isn’t a simple chronological narrative with a sympathetic character and a redemptive ending in the whole thing. What there is a knapsack full of verbal hand-grenades and characters that would stand your hair on end.

‘Dr Essler’s Cocaine’ conjures a fascist orgy somewhere in the (future or present?) west of Ireland in which Lordan has the narrator tell us that ‘The Irishman does not care what his masters get up to as long as he is allowed to get drunk and lash out at his own.’ In another fiction, almost a poem, a series of complex statements about a character called Kathleen is clearly a meditation on the complexity of the feminine image of Ireland beloved of nationalists: ‘We must behave as if the dead are watching and waiting to receive us, or else we are lost. It all comes down to the dead, says Kathleen.’

‘A Bill’ posits an Ireland where transport has declined and the world has grown bigger so that what was once a nearby town is now distant, a place to journey to, and which is famous for its suicides in the same way that Knock is famous for its miracles. The story is about the media and counseling industry that develops around suicides and clusters of suicides, and about managerialism and capitalism’s desire to exploit every human action.

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Facilitating Corporate Tax Avoidance is at Heart of What is Wrong

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Here we have two investigative pieces in the Irish Times and the Guardian which show that jobs created by MNCs in Ireland are not necessarily the high quality, well paid types of jobs those defending Ireland’s tax avoidance system claim. The first illustrates that most of these are call centre jobs created to provide tech support for sales that may be registered in Ireland but are in fact generated in countries within and beyond Europe, Africa and the Middle East. As they require language skills far greater than even very well educated Irish workers normally have (Ireland has one of the lowest proficiencies in a second language in the OECD ironically enough) these are not jobs created for those who have been through the Irish education system. This is despite the fact that we are told that it’s not tax that attracts these companies but our well educated workforce. Again, this is attractive and is a credit to Ireland’s high level of completion at second level which is well above the EU average, but it’s being undermined and many of the skills that these companies require are in law and accountancy which narrows considerably the ability of people to think beyond the servicing of MNCs law and accountancy needs. It is hardly a coincidence that Cathy Kearney, which the Guardian describes as Apple’s ‘top lieutenant in Ireland’ is an accountant.

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X + Y = Stagnation

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The CSO release two sets of data yesterday which shows show why we are into a period of what Tom Healy, Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute, described as ‘stable stagnation’.

First up is the Retail Sales Index, which monitors the level of activity in the retail sector (both volume and value). This is one indicator of the health of the domestic economy.

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As seen, the Retail Sales Index has been stagnating since early 2011 – going up a bit, going down a bit. In the second half of last year it looked like the Index was recovering. Volume growth between June and December rose by nearly 3 percent. But since December, the Index has fallen every month. There was some hope of recovery in April, after the torrid weather in March but instead we suffered another fall. Indeed, last month was the third worst month since the crisis broke.

Now let’s turn to the Earnings and Labour Cost Survey which measures earnings per week and employment (which excludes self-employment). Turning first to earnings:

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Terrorising Children For Profit: Comment on Last Night’s Prime Time

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Richard of Cunning Hired Knaves makes an important point about the issues underlining the Primetime Investigates program last night about how certain crèches treat children in their care.

“Calls for assault charges to be brought against the childcare workers exposed in last night’s RTE Prime Time programme are not only missing the point, but obscuring it. The programme focused on a small sample of crèches. Not all crèches operate according to the same cost model as Giraffe or Little Harvard, but many of them do, with workers forced to cope in stressful, under-equipped and poorly supported conditions. Therefore it would be highly unlikely if the same pattern of violent abuse and degradation of infants were not replicated in many other crèches across the country, and the problem is not therefore one of the actions of particular workers, but a systemic violence perpetrated against small children, in the interests of profit.”

Read the whole thing on Cunning Hired Knaves.

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Tax Haven Dictionary

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Haven / ha-ven: (n) a place of safety or sanctuary; shelter. [Old English hæfen, from Old Norse höfn; related to Middle Dutch havene, Old Irish cuan to bend]. Example: ‘Ireland is a safe haven from (insert: e.g. dragons, personal ownership of semi-automatic rifles, taxation on corporate profits)’.

The level of self-delusion over Irish corporate tax rates is scaling the heights of the fantasy world we constructed for ourselves during the property boom. 'There is nothing wrong with our tax code', 'we are playing by the rules', 'its’ the fault of other countries','everything in our cocoon is fine – don’t bother us'.

To the question –is Ireland a tax haven – we get a torrent of answers: some defiant (‘we are not, nor have we ever been, a tax haven’); some convinced (‘are we a tax haven? Of course, we are; what planet are you living on’); and some more nuanced (‘we have many of the attributes of a tax haven’).

Personally, I’m not terribly interested in the labels. What’s important is what is actually happening. Let’s look at a table produced by Dr. Jim Stewart of TCD, based on a US Government report. This research into the tax paid by US multi-nationals in various countries found the following:

MT1As seen, Bermuda is a league-leader in providing the most secure ‘haven’ from corporate tax liability followed by Luxembourg and the UK Caribbean Islands. Next up is Switzerland, the Netherlands and, ahem, Ireland. A long way off is Germany, France and the UK.

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Corporation Tax: Ireland’s For Sale Sign

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Because of the ongoing coverage of Apple’s Irish tax arrangements and the fact that Ireland is considered to be a Tax Haven by the US Senate once again, we have decided to publish a PDF version of my article Corporate Tax: Ireland’s For Sale Sign.

Over the weekend, the Sunday Times article, which uses new research by Jim Stewart where he shows that Ireland is the third largest tax haven for the US after The Netherlands and Luxembourg, got a fair bit of coverage. This finding shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who was good enough to buy the first issue of Irish Left Review, or for matter, if they read the article by Mary Everett in the Q1 Quarterly Report from Central Bank of Ireland (April 2012, p56). In it the following table is used to illustrate how hard it is to figure out what is real economic activity and what is merely the movement of intra-company funds for the purpose of aggressive tax avoidance.

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The fact that 90% of Ireland’s export activity comes from US companies and that the majority of that activity is the funneling of profits through tax havens we can see that the vast majority of Ireland’s export activity is simply tax avoidance. But that is not to suggest that this money remains in tax havens waiting to be repatriated. Ireland, like The Netherlands and Luxembourg, is only a conduit. The money actually resides in US bank accounts.

Over the weekend too, it’s reported that the Department of Finance is considering closing the double Irish scheme “created by Charles Haughey in 1990”, according to the Sunday Business Post. However, as Jim Stewart argues in his paper, “changes in tax law happen all the time because Ireland prides itself on being responsive to business needs. Apple did a big reorganisation of its company around 2005 and as part of that it would have had to renegotiate its tax liability with Revenue”. Indeed Apple were not the only company to reorganise in 2005. Apple, Microsoft and Johnson and Johnson all became unlimited companies, which shields their accounts from scrutiny. Google, which also uses unlimited companies, benefited from a change introduced last year which had been lobbied for by the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland. According to Jesse Drucker of Bloomberg this led to the Dutch Sandwich, which routed profits from an Irish subsidiary to a letterbox company in the Netherlands back to an Irish incorporated company which is registered in the Bermuda for tax purposes also being no longer necessary. Now the money goes straight to the Irish company registered in Bermuda. This helped to cut Google’s tax bill by at least $2 billion a year, according to U.S. and overseas securities filings.

The following is taken from the opening section of my article, which provides an overview of the argument, but you can read the whole thing as a PDF here.

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‘Self-Hating Jews’, ‘Ideological Criminals of the Worst Kind’

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Book Review of three recent books by Jewish writers, Shlomo Sand, Jacqueline Rose and Judith Butler on Israel.

Ideological Criminals

This rose is red

Red is a colour

Therefore this rose is coloured

There is an initial plausibility to such syllogizing but Hegel uses this example to show where such thinking goes awry. It associates a universal (red) with a particular (rose) but, because different universals can be associated with a particular, the form of inference being employed here allows for more than one conclusion to be drawn. Red can also be a representation of communism or, as the crowds recently celebrating Alex Ferguson demonstrated, of Manchester United but we cannot infer that this rose is communist or a Manchester United rose. A plurality of conclusions can be drawn, though, because the presence of one universal does not preclude the possibility of there being others. The rose is not just red. It has a certain aroma, shape and so on but these various features do not have any necessary connection to one another.

A similar kind of understanding applies to the kind of dodgy syllogizing that goes along the lines of:

Hostility towards Jews is anti-Semitism

Israel is a Jewish state

Therefore hostility towards Israel is anti-Semitic

It might be thought to be a problem when Jews are hostile to Israel because an anti-Semitic Jew sounds a little odd – but, no, this is not a problem because they are just self-hating Jews and as such they deserve a place on the Jewish S.H.I.T. list (‘Self-Hating and/or Israeli-Threatening’). Not surprising, then, to find Shlomo Sand, Jacqueline Rose and Judith Butler on this list.

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Book Review: Social Work and Social Theory- Making Connections by Paul Michael Garrett

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Book Review: Social Work and Social Theory- Making Connections by Paul Michael Garrett (Polity Press, 2013)

At the outset of this text Garrett outlines his view that there is a frequently unrecognised value in applying social theory to social worker’s day-to-day education and practice. In this book, he makes the case that theoretical engagement can help social workers to navigate those “indeterminate zones of practice” (p.1). Garrett notes in his introduction that social work is often seen and represented as a practical, common sense profession- an ideal activity for “retired City bankers and ex-insurance brokers” as Garrett notes, quoting a UK government official (p.2). The reality is, of course, far more complex than this and Garrett positions himself in opposition to the harmful, yet enduring, belief that social work is, or indeed can be, “theory-less”

The book concentrates on critical social theory developed in Europe by contemporary thinkers and attempts to highlight where these theoretical positions and social work may meet, intersect and be beneficial to social work. At the outset of the book, Garrett explains two theoretical omissions from the text. The first of these being the work of Michel Foucault which he explains by way of noting that much has already been written linking Foucault’s work to social work. Furthermore, Foucauldian theory is thought to a greater or lesser extent on many post-graduate social work courses and I felt the omission could be justified. The second omission which Garrett addresses is around feminist theorists. Garrett acknowledges the absence of feminist theory in the text but states that the book itself is informed by a feminist analysis.

Garrett’s first chapter proper is focussed on the questioning theories of modernisation. He begins by questioning what happened to post-modernity, and its relationship to social work education. Garrett makes two important claims- firstly, that social work academia came to postmodernist thought much later than other disciplines and secondly, that the social work academy’s short engagement with postmodernist theorisation did not impact upon the day-to-day practice of social work professionals primarily because of the complex, sometimes impenetrable language of postmodernist theorisation. However, Garrett does acknowledge that the postmodernist turn in social work and the “blurring of boundaries between professionals” (p.23) along with the move toward actuarialism in social work did change how services were delivered. In line with this shift toward counting, and drawing on the work of Fredric Jameson (2000), Garrett argues that “a new kind of superficiality” (Jameson, 2000:196, quoted by Garrett) evident in late-capitalism was mirrored in the development of one-size fits all social work “tools” which have become increasingly prevalent, particularly in child protection and probation practice.

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Ode To The Minister For State Security

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Ode To The Minister For State Security – Kevin Higgins

He likes being photographed

with men in uniform

who all work for him. The law

is what he thinks appropriate

any particular day.

 

He’s the Traffic Cops. He’s the Army.

He’s everything the Special Branch

choose to tell him about

his enemies. In his brief case: things

about you even God’s forgotten.

 

He sees your smiley face

but heard tell of your

sweating backside

via a joke told him

on the fringes of a classified

national security briefing.

 

He’s the glorious portrait

of himself that, for now, hangs

above the Commissioner’s

thick brown desk.

 

He doesn’t suffer fools except

the journalist who writes the headline:

Minister Mustn’t Resign,

who in mitigation – it must be said –

was far too hammered to make bad

the promises and threats

he threw the Polish barmaid’s way,

as last night she assisted to the exit

his absolute confidence in the Minister.

 

Things remain whatever he prefers to call them,

given every legally held

Uzi submachine gun

in the state is technically

answerable to him.

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Yes, Say it Again: Ireland IS a Tax Haven and it’s Worked Hard to Be That Way

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So the US Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has declared that Ireland is a tax haven and Apple executives giving testimony to the committee have said that the Irish government gave them a special 2% rate. Rate in this context is irrelevant however, as the mechanism ensures that what Apple declares as taxable income is completely up to them. As many reports have suggested, Apple could pay as little as 0.05% on income earned and passed through Ireland, and the revenue appears to be sales tax on Apple products bought in Ireland. In addition they have also said that their Irish companies are not registered for tax anywhere, so that none of the $30 bn global income earned in the last number of years was taxed.The Irish government denies that it has provided special tax treatment to Apple, and that it is not a tax haven. This is the surest sign that it is one, according to Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK.

If you haven't already you could do worse than get one of the remaining handful of copies of the first issue of Irish Left Review, which includes a good interview with Ricard Murphy about the Irish system. There is also a long article about Ireland and corporation tax which deals this in a fair amount of detail.

However, with all the coverage I am drawn back to a post by Conor McCabe from July 2010 written around the time he was working on the chapter on the cattle industry in Sins of the Father. (Good news, the 2nd edition of Sins of the Father, with a new chapter on more recent developments will be published towards the end of 2013).

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Understanding European Movements: New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest

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The book Understanding European Movements, edited by Cristina Flesher Fominaya and Laurence Cox, has just been published and might be of interest to readers.

Cristina Flesher Fominaya and Laurence Cox, eds. (2013) Understanding European Movements: New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest. London: Routledge (Advances in Sociology series).

304 pp. hardback, ISBN 978-0-415-63879-1, release date 21 May 2013.
List price $143 / £80; discount $114.40 / £64 (order via www.routledge.com using discount code ERJ67*).

A paperback edition will come out in due course but in the meantime we are encouraging people to try ordering this through university and public libraries.

Across Europe, social movements are resisting the onslaught of austerity politics and challenging the legitimacy of the neoliberal economic model. In Ireland, commentary from both sides often revolves around the relationship between Irish movements and those elsewhere in Europe. At the same time, much of this analysis is flimsy, restricted to English-language information and anecdotal accounts. Understanding European movements represents a collaborative project by participants in the Council for European Studies’ social movements research network. Its 15 chapters include authors based in 11 countries whose analyses are all grounded in ethnographic and historical research on these movements – in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Spain and the UK as well as transnational relationships – and in keeping with the traditions of European movement research many are active, critical participants in the movements they analyse and the book is written for movement activists as well as researchers. The book offers a comprehensive, interdisciplinary perspective on the key European social movements in the past forty years and sets present-day struggles in their longer-term national, historical and political contexts.

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Progressive Film Club Fundraiser with Ken Loach

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Only a few days left but seats still available. The club needs this fundraiser to be a success, so that we can keep the wolf (pack) from our door. If you want to reserve tickets (€10 each) Please contact us at this email address or the club one at the end of the message.

As part of this fundraising drive we have a limited edition Bobby Ballagh print for sale at €400. The print, which is framed, is one of a hundred print lot and depicts James Larkin. It can be viewed in Connolly Books, 43 East Essex St, D.2.

Venue: The New Theatre , 43 East Essex Street, Dublin 2
Date: Sat 25th May 2013

2pm – Irish Premiere Dear Mr Ken Loach (30 mins) a film by Nicola di Lecce and Rossella Lamina.

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No2CrokePark2: Public Rally, Liberty Hall, Sat 25th of May @2pm

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Saturday 25 May 2pm

Liberty Hall

No2CrokePark2

Public Rally

The trade union movement emphatically voted nearly 2-to-1 against CrokePark2. Grassroots members across several trade unions are coming together this Saturday to host a public rally at 2pm in Liberty Hall entitled ‘No2CrokePark2 – No2Austerity’ to remind the government and others of that vote and that “No Means No!”. All are welcome. Please share for your friends.

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