Monthly Archives For July 2013

Portugal: Brussels Ready to Tighten the Screw

, , Comment Closed

 This article originally appeared in French in l'Humanité on the July 3, 2013. Translation by David Lundy. 

The European Commission has lost two of the foremost proponents of austerity in Portugal, where the right-wing government is teetering. Worried about the “financial markets”, Commission President José Manuel Barroso is calling on the country to “clarify the situation as soon as possible” and demanding that Portugal continue its neoliberal crusade.

Barroso is concerned. That's because Minister of Finance Vitor Gaspar announced his resignation. The craftsman of the vast austerity measures required by the troika just threw in the towel. “Vitor Gaspar had to face the fact that his potion was hopeless and also unacceptable for the Portuguese people who for months have resisted the dictates of the European Commission and a policy of servitude from the government of Pedro Passos Coelho” explains François Cocq of the Left Party (Bloco Esquerda).

Read Post →

Video: Counter-Cartographies of the City

, , Comment Closed

Video of the talk given by Eoin O’Mahony & Stephen Rigney, Loom Studios, Dublin, 4/7/13
Organised by Provisional University and filmed by The Live Register.

“In the aftermath of the Celtic tiger, the contradictions of debt-fuelled property speculation as a means of economic growth are materialised in the abundance of empty buildings and vacant lots in Dublin’s north inner city. Ironically, this part of the city has a shortage of community spaces and faces an emerging housing crisis, at a time when so many spaces lie idle and closed off from use by virtue of their designation as private property. This begs the question, whose city is this?

Development plans and maps suggest a city of privately owned places connected by thin and vulnerable veins of public space. But Dublin can also be mapped in a way that represents alternative relations across space, such as the city as a place of occupations, of needs and of community. Used this way, maps, which so often are used to justify the appropriation of collective labour by private capital, offer a tool to reimagine Dublin as something more than terrain for property investors.

Stephen Rigney and Eoin O’Mahony are PhD students in the department of geography at NUI Maynooth. They are currently working together to map derelict spaces around Dublin’s north inner city and to develop a counter-cartography of Dublin.”

Read Post →

Statement from Galway Pro-Choice

, , Comment Closed

Statement from Galway Pro-Choice

21 years since the X Case Ruling, the Irish Government has finally introduced legislation to provide for life-saving terminations. However, instead of protecting women, it has made the route to their constitutional right to be so arduous that it effectively encourages them to continue to travel abroad even when legally entitled to a termination in this country.

For the first time in Irish law, this Act defines ‘unborn human life’ which was given an equal right to life to that of the woman, as a fertilised ovum from the moment of implantation. Consequently this bill does not offer the right to choose a termination to women in Ireland who are pregnant with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. It makes no provision for abortion in cases of rape or incest, during an inevitable miscarriage while there is still a foetal heartbeat, nor indeed does it serve the needs of women whose health is at risk if a pregnancy is continued.

Orlaith Reidy of Galway Pro-Choice stated:

“Forcing women who are suicidal to face panels of between 3 to 7 medical professionals is such an ordeal in itself that women entitled to a legal abortion here will continue to travel abroad, rendering the legislation ineffective. There is also no provision to ensure those against terminations in all circumstances cannot sit on these decision making panels raising the possibility of a woman not being granted a termination regardless of her case including if there is a genuine risk to her life.”

Savita Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital after being denied a termination of an inevitable miscarriage. The inquest into her death found that had she been granted it when she made the request, she would most likely still be alive today. T.D’s, including five from Galway voted against this legislation as they believe it is too broad and will equate to ‘abortion on demand’. Yet this legislation is so incredibly narrow it would not have saved Savita’s life.

Dette Mc Loughlin of Galway Pro-Choice said:

“Under the bill ‘illegal’ abortion continues to be a criminal offense, carrying a 14 year prison sentence for the woman, and also for a doctor that performs such a termination, putting undue pressure on medics. This will affect only the most vulnerable women; mostly the thousands who order abortion pills online and take them without medical supervision. This will have potentially devastating consequences as women will be afraid to seek the medical care they require.”

Galway Pro-Choice concludes that we now must move towards repealing the 8th amendment (Article 40.3.3 of the constitution) to deliver what women in Ireland need and deserve, and the majority of people in Ireland support. We, along with other groups in Ireland, are calling for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment and will be launching our campaign with a public meeting at the end of the month.

Read Post →

An Irish Prayer

, , 2 Comments

An Irish Prayer
After Charles Cotton’s 17th Century Poem “The Litany”
 ssss
From soft-bodied, suited snails who smile
and slither through shining corridors,
through the slick paw of justice,
through the smudged subtext
of the daily papers, through
the precious pennies of our savings accounts –
from their slippery, silvery trail
Deliver us.
 sssss
From the public Punch and Judy show
starring Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael
and only You, God, know what role Labour plays
(but we can imagine them all backstage
after the shouting's done for the day,
cosying up for pints for which we've paid)
but please Deliver us.
dddd 
From the couches of our apathy, from
our conditioned inferiority, from
our muttering religiosity, from
our slack-jawed gullibility, from
our yawning inequality, from
our paralysing futility, from
our grotesque lack of accountability –
Deliver our country, Lord
Deliver us!
ssss

Read Post →

Comparison of Relative Performance of China and the West Since the Financial Crisis Began

, , Comment Closed

I greatly admire and avidly read Gavyn Davies blog, but his latest comments on China, unusually, lack precise numbers which therefore creates some ambiguities which can give unnecessary credibility to wrong analysis. Putting in precise numbers should bring clarity.

China's government has spelt out officially its precise growth target. That is to increase GDP by 100% in 2010-2020 – about four times the prospective growth rate of the US in the same period.

Given China’s cumulative growth in 2010-2012 (17.8%) this means China has to hit a 6.9% average growth rate for the rest of the decade to achieve its target. As all this is unambiguously spelt out the relevant yardstick is whether China will achieve this.

It is a wholly spurious method, not used by Gavyn but used by others, to invent some target China never set and then claim there is a ‘crisis’ because China has ‘failed’ to achieve a target it never put forward! There is no indication China is falling below its projected growth target – China’s growth this year will clearly be above the target rate.

Read Post →

Behind China’s Liquidity Crisis

, , Comment Closed

In June, China suffered its worst liquidity crisis in over a decade. Some sections of the U.K. and U.S. media exploded with wild comparisons to the US financial crisis in 2008.

Such comparisons were nonsense, however, based on an elementary economic mistake. The U.S. did not suffer a liquidity crisis in 2008. It faced an insolvency crisis. The former is a shortage of means to meet immediate payments; the latter occurs when banks’ liabilities exceed their capital. In 2013, Chinese financial institutions faced liquidity problems, but not a single major institution failed. Numerous U.S. financial institutions collapsed in 2008. Comparing the two events is rather like claiming that the flu and the bubonic plague are equally serious, since both are illnesses!

But not being the bubonic plague doesn’t mean that in its own terms flu is not unpleasant, or that it doesn’t have side effects that last for some time. Therefore, it is important to analyze the crisis’ causes in order to determine whether similar events will recur. While the exact form of crisis was not predictable – it never is – both Chinese economists and the present author predicted why there would be problems for the Chinese economy. Now that June’s symptoms have been somewhat ameliorated, whether a similar crisis emerges in the future depends on whether the key mistake that led to the present one is resolved.

The key symptom of June’s crisis was a spike in interbank lending rates to a 13 percent peak. Willingness to pay this indicated that financial institutions urgently needed cash. Analyzing the links between the underlying disease and the symptoms shows why.

The core problem that led to the liquidity crisis was advocacy that China abandon the policies which for 35 years have made it the world’s most rapidly growing economy, in favor of something termed “consumer led growth,” a theory that boosting consumer demand will lead companies to a more rapid increase in production of consumer goods and a more rapid rise in living standards. Unfortunately, this theory factually doesn’t take into account that investment is the main source of economic growth, and conceptually it doesn’t understand what a market economy actually is.

Read Post →

Repression in the Name of Rescue: The Oireachtas Justice Committee’s Sex Work Proposals

, , Comment Closed

Wendy Lyon of Feminist Ire on the barely noticed draconian measures recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality to be included in the forthcoming legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex.

Last month, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality announced its support for legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex. While this received some media coverage, little notice was taken of the related recommendations put forward simultaneously by the Committee – some of which are frankly draconian. These include the following: 

  • “An offence of recklessly permitting a premises to be used for the purposes of prostitution”. Although a sex worker who operates alone out of a premise is committing no crime under either the present or proposed legislation, this would effectively criminalise indoor commercial sex by penalising a landlord who fails to act against it. According to a report commissioned by the City of Oslo, a similar provision in Norway’s penal code (enforced under the ominously-named “Operation Homeless”) has led to the eviction of sex workers from their flats, and makes them less likely to contact police about crimes committed against them lest the police then threaten their landlords. It has also led to the racial profiling by landlords of “nationality groups associated with prostitution”, who now find it difficult to rent premises and must depend on third parties to secure accommodation for them. 
  • “power for An Garda Síochána to have disabled or vested in them any telephone number in use in the State that is suspected on reasonable grounds of being used for the purposes of prostitution”. This provision could cut off sex workers’ access to communication by phone – which would affect them in all aspects of their life, not merely their sex work activity. (While many sex workers use one phone for personal calls and one phone for business, it’s unlikely the Gardaí could easily distinguish between the two unless they were prepared to listen in to all calls made or received by a suspected sex worker – a civil liberties breach reminiscent of the Snowden revelations.) Denying sex workers the right to use telephones could also have adverse effects for their safety, by making it impossible for them to use “ugly mugs” schemes that alert them to dangerous clients, or preventing them calling for help if attacked. 
  • “that the accessing of web sites – whether located in the State or abroad – that advertise prostitution in the State should be treated in the same way as accessing sites that advertise or distribute child pornography”. Leaving aside the question of whether it is appropriate to treat seeking out sex from an at least potentially consenting adult as comparable to seeking out abuse of a child, this proposal makes no distinction between those who seek out sex and those who advertise it. Thus, sex workers themselves could be liable to prosecution (and presumably placement on the sex offenders’ registry) by accessing these sites for the purpose of advertising. Outreach health and social service workers who engage with sex workers through these sites, as well as sex industry researchers, would also be affected. It goes without saying that this proposal would require a significant expansion of the apparatus already in place to monitor Irish internet usage. 

Read Post →

Alternative History: Constance Markievicz Gets A Sex Change

, , 3 Comments

Alternative History: Constance Markievicz Gets A Sex Change  

for Rhona McCord

 “97 years ago people lost their lives in that park over there.

  Constant Markievicz gave up his life to enable enable us

  to eradicate suppression, taxation, addiction, criminality…”

Tom D’Arcy of Direct Democracy Ireland

 gggg

Truth is, Joe, I have it on good authority

that fella Constant Markievicz, was shot

by the British in the park across the road.

Secretly buried on the moon by people

with names that, to me, sound

homosexual. While I have you, that man

on the ventilator in Johannesburg

isn’t Nelson Mandela but an imposter

installed by the same shower who want

to bring euthanasia to Ireland.

ggggg

 We’ve reached the stage, Joe, in this country,

which fellas like Constant Markievicz fought

and died over, if a man has the audacity

to tell the people what’s really going on,

or even what’s not, Special Branch

take daily cum-shots of his Facebook page

and file them away for later use.

Get the Minister on here, Joe.

And when he denies it, you’ll know

the truth I speak.

KEVIN HIGGINS

Context.

Read Post →

The roads to power: capitalist democracy and socialist strategy

, , Comment Closed

This article comes from an abortive book project that I was working on about five years ago. The questions that it raises about political strategy for the radical left now appear far more pressing than they did when I wrote it, in the light of events in southern Europe and especially Greece. It sets out two alternative strategies for left-wing parties in capitalist democracies—one passing through the established parliamentary institutions, the other going beyond them—by summarizing the views of two important Marxist thinkers, Ralph Miliband and Ernest Mandel. It was originally published in Spirit of Contradicition on the 1st of July.

On the eve of the global economic crisis, the French socialist writer Daniel Bensaid announced the ‘return of strategy’ as a topic for discussion among progressive and radical forces. According to Bensaid, a long defensive period was drawing to a close: ‘We are coming to the end of the phase of the big refusal and of stoical resistance . . . [characterized by] slogans like ‘The world is not a commodity’ or ‘Our world is not for sale’. We need to be specific about what the ‘possible’ world is and, above all, we need to explore how to get there.’[1] Bensaid argued for renewed discussion, not of ‘models’ for radical change, but of ‘strategic hypotheses’: ‘Models are something to be copied; they are instructions for use. A hypothesis is a guide to action that starts from past experience but is open and can be modified in the light of new experience or unexpected circumstances.’[2] 

Labour and socialist movements in the industrialized North have been dealing with the challenges posed by bourgeois or capitalist democracy for many years. These questions are now of equally pressing interest beyond Europe and North America, as various forms of capitalist democracy take root from Brazil to South Africa. A ‘strategic hypothesis’ of the sort called for by Daniel Bensaid must address the opportunities and difficulties which such political systems present for the Left. 

Classical perspectives 

The body of thought known as ‘classical Marxism’ can be of limited use for any survey of capitalist democracy, and for obvious reasons. Marx and Engels died at a time when absolute monarchies still dominated European politics and universal suffrage was a rare phenomenon. The leading thinkers associated with the Russian revolution and the Communist International witnessed a period when parliamentary democracy appeared to be in danger of extinction. As Eric Hobsbawm recalls: ‘The twenty years between Mussolini’s so-called ‘March on Rome’ and the peak of the Axis success in the Second World War saw an accelerating, increasingly catastrophic, retreat of liberal political institutions . . . the only European countries with adequately democratic political institutions that functioned without a break during the entire inter-war period were Britain, Finland (only just), the Irish Free State, Sweden and Switzerland.’[3] 

Read Post →

In Search of Those 2,000 Jobs Per Month

, , Comment Closed

A number of Government Ministers – Richard Bruton in particular – have claimed that the economy is creating 2,000 private sector jobs per month.  This is intended to show their policies are working and that the economy is turning the corner.  2,000 jobs per month – it seems impressive (until you consider the 290,000 unemployed, the nearly 80,000 on labour activation schemes, the 156,000 who are working part-time but want to work more; and until you consider that the Government is actively shedding jobs in the public sector).  Still, creating 2,000 private sector jobs per month is better than losing jobs.

But where does this stat come from? Is it real?   Let’s go searching.   There are two data sources for private sector job creation.

Quarterly Household National Survey

There are two ways to estimate growth:  annually and quarterly year-on-year.  The former estimates the number in a calendar year, the latter estimates the growth in one quarter compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

One problem with the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) is that we don’t have an annual estimate of private sector employment.  They changed their methodology and, therefore, some quarters are missing going back to 2011.

So let’s examine quarterly year-on-year growth in private sector employment.

Read Post →

Consent, by Kimberly Campanello

, , Comment Closed

Book Review: Consent, by Kimberly Campanello, Doire Press, 2013 

Consent is alive with poems that move the gut, that shock and excite in equal measure.  Eating and shitting, fucking and childbirth, living and dying – all are on full display and the end result is a collection that celebrates the body’s strengths and its breakdowns, and Campanello treats both with a tenderness that demands the reader pay attention.

Humour and defiance are out in full force throughout this collection, and each serves to highlight Campanello’s kindness to the body as it struggles to navigate  a world bound  by the ‘antonyms that bind consent’. In the opening poem ‘Consent’, physical acquiescence due to lactose intolerance, ‘My bowels are bound/by cheese and fear,’ is handled with humour that reads slightly of defiance –  ‘Meaning my shit is bound/for another bright port’.   In short, this sort of breakdown is nothing to be ashamed of.  In ‘The Eggshell Rule’ defiance – born of the notion that it is the fault of the skull, acquiescing for being so thin, a thinness that permits death –   turns to talk of equality, pushing the poem to an ending that is greater than the sum of its parts:

I just want to tell you,

I am a man and you are a woman.

But we are equal

in my mind.

fffffff

And how did I find you?

And you, me?

As is.

Elsewhere, as in ‘Grandma’, a poem about the body’s breakdown to Alzheimer’s, humour and defiance give way to love –

You burn through the bottom

of four coffee pots

You serve your grandchildren

raw sausages on Sunday

When you’re hungry

you eat ice cream

fffffff

 You forgo shots of botulism in the face

to stop the twitching in your eye

You are still beautiful

Like a baby mouse

your bones and veins

breathe through your skin

Read Post →

More WTF than Why: How to Frame the Wrong Question about the 2008 Bank Guarantee

, , Comment Closed

Fintan O'Toole has some interesting questions that he suggests any future banking inquiry should tackle, but won't. The questions are worth considering because they illustrate a systemic trend regarding the class nature of Irish politics and the underlying cause of our regular banking scandals. I provide some information but not answers to these questions here. However, one of the final questions suggests that despite providing an indication of a pattern of behaviour which, if examined properly would bring us closer to a fuller understanding of how Irish society really operates, he actually hasn't a clue.

“Why were there no prosecutions or disbarment of directors after the Dirt inquiry found in 2001 that the banks had engaged in a massive fraud on the State?”

Well, Irish Revenue knew since 1976 that offshore tax avoidance by Irish residents was occurring. In 1985 the Irish government created DIRT legislation to tax deposits, but guessed at the time that 25% of those with deposits in Ireland were using fake addresses to avail of Irish banks non-residents account facilities – tax dodging in short. Note, that was a guess, they had no idea how big it was as officials assured banks that they didn't want to frighten away genuine foreign depositors who were using Ireland to avoid tax in their own country. They did nothing until 1998 when the story broke after an Irish banker got into a professional spat with another banker and somehow his claim, made in 1991 that AIB was liable for £100m in unpaid DIRT tax got into the papers. Incidentally, in his book which he published after the reports and the DIRT scandal broke he admitted that he pulled the £100m figure 'out of his ass'. AIB finally settled with Revenue for £98m. There were several tax amnesties in the 80s and 90s, yet often the money held in these account was not declared, as an inquiry into the DIRT scandal revealed.

Read Post →

Beyond Austerity: the Unite pre-Budget seminar, July 11th

, , Comment Closed

Following a series of austerity Budgets which have shrunk the economy, reduced social protection benefits and cut workers' take home pay, the time has come to look Beyond Austerity – to examine the kind of Budget we need to stimulate the economy, put people back to work and give hope to households and local communities.  In this pre-Budget seminar organised by Unite, a range of speakers will give their perspectives on Budget 2014.  The event has been designed to maximise discussion and debate between the speakers and other participants.

The seminar will run from 9.30 am to 2 pm on Thursday, July 11th, in the Gresham Hotel, Dublin.  The full programme is below.  If you have already registered, we look forward to seeing you on the 11th; otherwise, please contact alex.klemm@unitetheunion.org to register.

09.00 
Registration, tea/coffee

Chair
Prof Kathleen Lynch, UCD School of Social Justice

09.30                     
Welcome/Opening
Jimmy Kelly, Regional Secretary, Unite

09.45  
Budget 2014 – The Economic Context
Tom Healy, Director, Nevin Economic Research Institute

10.15  
Why Incomes Matter
Camille Loftus, Research & Policy Analyst

10.45
Discussion 
(Chair: Eoin Ronayne, General Secretary, CPSU)

Read Post →