Monthly Archives For November 2013

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The Runner: An Interview with Saeed Taji Farouky and Salah Hmatou Ameidan

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At the Galway Film Fleadh, which takes place annually in July, a film called The Runner caught my eye. The short blurb promised the story of a long distance runner that competed under the flag of a country that did not exist. That country is Western Sahara and that runner is Salah Hmatou Ameidan.

The screening served as the film’s premier- with Salah and director Saeed Taji Farouky present.  After the screening the two took questions; Saeed, a Palestinian, who has picked up a bit of his current London home in his accent and style and Salah, who carries the gauntness of a soldier balanced by his athleticism. The next day we met to talk about the film and the situation in Western Sahara.

I talk through Saeed, who translates for Salah and myself, though the subtle differences between Salah’s Sahrawri Hassaniya Arabic and Saeed’s Eastern Levantine Arabic sometimes make things difficult. They met in London and as Salah tells me their origins in struggle brought them together, though he uses sport and Saeed uses his camera to fight oppression. Saeed first visited Western Sahara with Salah to film the 30th anniversary of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declared on the 27th of February, 1976. Western Sahara is Africa’s last colony, the territory originally colonised by Spain was handed over to Morocco and Mauritania who made historical claims to the lands.

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Exhibition on Ireland’s EEC Accession Referendum in May 1972

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From the 16 November until Thursday, 21 November next an exhibition on Ireland’s EEC Accession referendum is taking place at the Culture Box, 12 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

The exhibition consists of material on the referendum campaign around Ireland’s accession to the then EEC on 10 May 1972.

That referendum debate saw many political and cultural figures contributing, including Garret Fitzgerald, Tom Barry, Alan Dukes, Desmond Fennell, Jack Lynch, Michael D. Higgins, Charlie Haughey, Mary Robinson, Declan Costello, Niall Tóibín, George Colley and Luke Kelly.

Ireland into the EEC: The 1972 Debate from Connolly Media Group on Vimeo.

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Secret Memorandum Reveals Breach of Trust over Budget 2014

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If what the Sunday Business Post claim is true, the Government has committed a profound breach of trust with the Irish people – a breach which should be urgently investigated by the appropriate Dail Committee.

The SBP’s front page article on November 17th – ‘Revealed:  Secret Deal to Spin Budget’ (behind a paywall) –  claimed to have had sight of a secret memorandum which

‘ . . . reveals that the coalition agreed a communication strategy with the troika to present different accounts of the budget to different audiences . . . a nine-point communications plan was agreed by both sides which emphasised their agreement  . . .’

Apparently, the plan, which was laid out one week before the budget, was to present the budget to the Irish people as a €2.5 million adjustment while at the same time telling everyone else outside the country that the adjustment was in fact €3.1 billion.   In any other country there would be outrage at a deliberate attempt to mislead – whether it was to a domestic or international audience.  I know this, had a Chief Financial Officer presented different company accounts to creditors and shareholders he or she would be cleaning out their desk by noon if not becoming the subject of a legal investigation.

This explains the fudge over the adjustment in Budget 2014.  I highlighted the potential for this in a post before the budget.  However, the SBP shows that this fudge went beyond providing cover for the Labour Party (who was publicly demanding a lower adjustment figure) or part of a general pattern that started with this Government – where there is considerable evidence that there has been more public spending cuts than the Government has owned up to.

If the SBP story is true, it reveals a deliberate plan to mislead – a plan carried out with troika participation.

It has been extremely difficult to ascertain the actual level of adjustment in Budget 2014 (an example of this is when the HSE claimed the budget imposed cuts of €1 billion on the health sector, even though the Government claimed it was €666 million).  The Government publicly claimed the adjustment was €2.5 billion but in theEconomic and Fiscal Outlook they refer to ‘additional resources and savings’ of €600 million which are not detailed. However, the Fiscal Advisory Council refers to these ‘savings’ as ‘temporary and once-off’ – which means that, in truth, this can’t be sold as part of fiscal consolidation package of €3.1 billion (you don’t consolidate a temporary measure).

The SBP article claims that the secret memorandum outlines the ‘additional savings’:

  • Special dividends of €250 million
  • NTMA savings of €250 million
  • Disposal of State Assets:  €150 million
  • Central Bank surplus of €20 million
  • Live Register savings:  €150 million

The memorandum goes on to state a further €80 million in measures need to be found.

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Why Public Investment is Falling

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The level of public investment is falling in most of the advanced industrialised economies including Britain. The chart below appeared in the Financial Times and has attracted some publicity because it shows this decline in the US in stark terms.

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The difference between gross government investment and net government investment is accounted for by depreciation. All investment is subject to depreciation over time. This deducts from the level of gross investment. In the US net government investment (after depreciation) has fallen from 4% of GDP close to 1% of GDP.

It is set to fall further. The chart below also appeared in the FT piece but was less remarked. It shows the various Budget proposals from the Republican and Democrat parties in Congress as well as the Obama proposals. In all cases the Budget plans are to maintain a trend decline in public investment (excluding defence spending) with just one minority proposal for a temporary increase in investment.

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Both the British government and the US government have talked a great deal about the need for greater investment in infrastructure and greater public investment.

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On the Irish government’s “precautionary credit line” and “exiting the bailout” – The Emperor has no clothes

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Statement from the Communist Party of Ireland

The Communist Party of Ireland today warned Irish workers not to fall for the latest ruse by the bankrupt political establishment with its announcement that this failed state will leave the “bail-out programme” — which is in fact a restructuring programme — by 15 December with or without a “precautionary credit line.”

This will not mean an end to any of the current or planned cuts in health, education, or social welfare, nor end the drive for privatisation. Nor will it prevent the need for continuous cuts in the future. The servicing of the debt is costing the Irish people nearly €9 billion per year — similar to the annual education budget. Austerity will be a permanent feature of the lives of working families far into the future.

Debt has become the principal political means for strengthening external mechanisms of control by the EU Commission – dominated by Germany – not just of this state but all member states and in particular over the other heavily indebted peripheral states. The capacity of the peoples across the European Union to democratically affect political and economic changes is being rapidly diminished. Democracy is being hollowed out.

It is simply not in the interests of the Irish political and economic establishment to assert independent actions, their interest lies in ensuring that the current process continues and deepens.

Ireland continues to be at the mercy of “the markets” – those who control the markets are those who control the troika.

Debt is also being used to push through the long-term strategic imperative of economic restructuring that is intended to restore lost inequalities and to impose new ones, not only in Ireland.

The announcement today has more to do with appearances than with reality. Just as we were the poster boy for economic development during the “Celtic Tiger” period, we are now being touted as the poster boy of good behaviour for accepting austerity without a whimper.

The European Union has to show to the people of Greece, Spain, Portugal and other EU member-states that if they take the austerity medicine without resistance, it works.

The system itself is in a deep and deepening structural crisis with debt and stagnation just the latest manifestations.

The emperor has no clothes.

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Purging Ourselves of Our Young

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At the weekend over 200 young people gathered in Liberty Hall under the auspices of We’re Not Leaving to draft a Young People’s Charter.  The charter addresses a number of issues – precarious work, internship, unemployment and emigration, mental health and housing.  You can read the draft charter here.  It is a considerable achievement and will hopefully be the basis of a sustained, substantial and ultimately successful campaign.

The name says it all:  we’re not leaving.  This in itself is a declaration of defiance and affirmation – defiance against the Government’s imposed austerity and affirmation that young people will fight for their future here.  Unfortunately, too many have been forced to leave – to the point that we are hollowing out a generation of young people to the economic and social detriment of all of us.

According to the CSO, emigration has risen dramatically in the last three years.

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Photos: Press conference calling for destruction of Promissory Note Bonds at Buswells Hotel, 12th November 2013

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Here are the photos of the press conference calling for destruction of Promissory Note Bonds at Buswells Hotel, 12th November 2013, hosted by Not Our Debt/ Ballyhea Says no 12th Nov 2013. Photo credits: Paula Geraghty.

Press conference calling for destruction of Promissory Note Bonds at Buswells Hotel, 12th November 2013, hosted by Not Our Debt/ Ballyhea Says no 12th Nov  2013

Cathleen Quealey of Charleville Says No, Katherine Murphy TD and Tom Fleming TD. © Paula Geraghty

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Greek Crisis Event: Will it Bring Barbarism or Socialism?

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The transcript of this talk by Aggelos Panayiotopoulos, given at the Left Forum’s event on the 26th of October 2013, was originally published on The Bottom Dog on the 11th of November.

A talk organised by Dublin Left Forum with Helena Sheehan (Left Forum) and Aggelos Panayiotopoulos (The Bottom Dog).

Helena’s talk was based on material already published in ILR (part 1 and part 2)

The Bottom Dog (publication of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions) will be publishing articles related to Greece and the Greek crisis as we believe there are a lot of lessons to be learned for Ireland. In the December issue of the Dog there will be articles about the economic crisis in Greece, the presence of Golden Dawn at the ship construction zone in Perama and their attempt to found a fascist Trade Union, Savas Michael Matsas’ trial and the shift towards fascism in the Greek political and social sphere, as well as the struggle of the ERT staff.

Dimensions of the Greek Crisis 

I would like to start by arguing that this crisis needs to be looked at from 3 different levels, that is: the global, the European and the Greek crises and how they feed each other. In that sense we are talking about a crisis, within a crisis, within a crisis.

My second argument is that if we attempt to understand the Greek crisis we should analyse the different dimensions that this entails: the economic, the social and the political dimensions.

By looking at those different levels and dimensions of the crises, the aim is to understand what caused the crisis in Greece, how it affected its people and a response to the crisis which will bring to fore alternative policies and political approaches.

As much as I would like to discuss the first argument I don’t have time to do so. Helena already discussed the systemic nature of the crisis, as well as other people such as Terry McDonough, who put this argument forward in a talk delivered at the Mechanics Institute in Limerick: ‘The six point alternative to austerity: a radical plan on a beermat’. I will instead focus on the dimensions of the Greek crisis.

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From Alpha to Omega Podcast: #041 PV or not PV

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This week Tom O’Brien’s guest is Dr Marco Raugei. Marco is a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, Oxford Brookes University (UK), and a Senior Researcher with the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change of ESCI – Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona (Spain). His main research interests are in theoretical improvements of existing approaches for environmental sustainability assessment, and the development of strategic energy supply scenarios, with special focus on photovoltaic (PV) technologies. He has also been actively contributing to the theoretical and methodological advancement of Emergy Synthesis, which looks at human-dominated processes and systems as parts of and ultimately supported by the larger system in which they are embedded, namely the global geo-biosphere.

You can sometimes find his writings on Ugo Bardi’s blog:

http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.co.uk/

We discuss his work on renewable energy, in particular his work on the current state of Photovoltaic or PV systems. We learn about the key differences between Energy Returned on Energy Invested and efficiency, bootstrapping fossil fuels to build a renewable future, re-organisation of our current economic system, and renewable energy’s storage problems.

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Breaking the Link Once and for All

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Day by day it gets weirder.  First, the EU commits itself to breaking the link between banking and state debt.  This was described as a ‘game-changer’ and led some in Ireland to believe that not only would future bank debt be borne by someone else, but that same someone else would also repay us for our past bank debts.  Oh, happy days.

But recent announcements suggest that just the opposite.  The ECB states that where banks fail the upcoming stress tests and they cannot raise capital in the markets, then national governments will have to pick up the tab.  And now an argument is being put about some European capitals that the European Stability Mechanism will only be a last resort for countries with bank debt problems – only after individual governments have come up with the money.  All this means that national governments will still be responsible for their own banks’ debt and capitalisation requirements; and if they get into fiscal trouble, they can use the ESM as a  . . . bail-out mechanism.

So breaking the link between banking and state debt may end up strengthening that link. This is what passes for common-sense in the Eurozone.

Still, there is a logic in all this that the Irish know only too well.  In a previous post I pointed out that the Eurozone could be on the hook for nearly €900 billion in banking debt.  Much of this is contingent and wouldn’t make its way on to public books.  But the problem is that we don’t know how much.  And this is before the bank stress tests.  The Irish people have rightly complained they shouldn’t be responsible for private banking debt.  So why should the Dutch or the Finnish or the Austrian people?  What would lead them to take on board on unknown but potentially large amount of liability?  If it’s not the Irish people’s debt, it’s not their debt either.

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