The Council of Europe has confirmed that Latvia will be accepted into the Eurozone from 1 January 2014. Commission Vice-President Olli Rehn has called the Baltic nation “a success story” and said that its “shows that a country can successfully overcome macroeconomic imbalances, however severe, and emerge stronger.”
At a time when calls for a change in policy direction grow stronger every day, when the Eurozone heads towards recession with the European youth unemployment rate at 23%, pro-austerity officials badly need a success story. Latvia would seem to fit the bill; having weathered its fiscal crisis to return to modest growth, it could be the model student for the indebted European periphery. But those looking to the Baltic for proof that 'austerity works' should look a little closer.
Much like Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece, Latvia experienced a short period of intense growth, with a property market bubble fuelled, in the Latvian case, by cheap credit from Swedish and German banks. When the credit stopped, the economy did too and the Government nationalised Parex, the country’s second largest bank, taking on its Euro-denominated debt. Private debts were transformed into public liabilities, creating a fiscal crisis. So far, so familiar.
After the dissolution of the incumbent administration, the newly-elected coalition government responded with an aggressive austerity strategy. They targeted healthcare, education and public administration, with 30% cuts to public sector numbers and wage-reductions of 40%. Unlike in many other public-debt troubled countries, Latvia also squeezed old-age pensions, causing significant hardship for retired citizens. Despite IMF suggestions, currency devaluation was ruled out of the question and corporation tax remained unchanged at 15%. GDP shrank by a quarter over two years, leaving one in five workers unemployed.
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OURmedia Dublin 2013 Conference
“Dealing With Crisis: Community, Alternative, Citizens', and Social Media in Times of Change”
On June 24-25th
Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council Civic Offices (24th, 9.30am – 9pm) and DCU (25th, 9.30am – 4pm)
The opening event, “What News Does Dublin need? An Exploration of Models of News and Information That We Should Build for Our City”, is organised by the Dublin City Community Media Forum in conjunction with the Community Forum and will examine the news media in Dublin City. Speakers at this session include, Donal Higgins (DCTV), James Redmond (Rabble), and Jack Byrne (NearFM).
The two-day Alternative and Community Media Conference will examine different avenues of media used throughout the world as the pre-conference to IAMCR 2013 and will feature panels on 'Community Media in the Arab World' & 'Community Media for Peace and Development in Cyprus'.
These events are open to the public.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/OuRmediaDublin2013
Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/333175390146507/
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Barack Obama’s nomination of Irish-born academic and writer Samantha Power to the post of US Ambassador to the UN is yet another example of the increasing trend toward ‘humanitarian’ war by the US government’s hawks in sheep’s clothing.
Samantha Power is, at first glance, a poster-girl for the image the Obama administration has sought to convey since 2009: a caring, liberal woman with a deep passion for human rights and a no-nonsense approach to the evil dictators and tyrants of this world. Born in Ireland in 1970, Power emigrated with her parents to the US in 1979. She subsequently lived the quintessential American Dream, an immigrant girl who worked hard in the Land of the Free to rise to the very top of US academic and political life. She was a journalist from 1993 to 1996, working for various US papers, known chiefly for covering the Yugoslav Wars, during which she saw all the horrors of that conflict that instilled in her a lifelong commitment to the cause of human rights and freedoms. America’s liberal intelligentsia rejoiced when she was appointed to the US National Security Council in 2009 – here at last was someone who would bring a morality, a conscience, nay, even a heart to US foreign policy. That’s the well-polished image, anyway. But as so often with such facades, it hides an ugly reality.
Power rose to prominence in 2002 with the release of her book A Problem from Hell, in which she chided the US for its supposed indifference to genocides that took place from Yugoslavia to Rwanda; she asks “why does the US stand so idly by?”. No mention in the book’s 600-odd pages, of course, of the myriad atrocities perpetrated at the behest of the US government and the CIA since the end of World War Two – the mass slaughter of communists in Indonesia in 1965 and 66 by the US-backed Suharto regime, or that country’s savage invasion of East Timor, readily approved by US president Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, one of history’s worst war criminals. No mention of the disastrous UN sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. In fact, not much mention at all of any horrific war crimes and mass killings that were committed with the intention of furthering America’s goals for global hegemony. But of course, one could hardly rise to the top of the US political pyramid by telling the truth.
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Syrian government forces, reinforced by fighters of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, have today made a major breakthrough in their fight against foreign-backed militants holding the strategic town of Al-Qusayr, which lies on the road from Damascus in the south of the country to the north-western coastal cities of Tartus and Latakia. Syrian state television and the Lebanese Al-Manar channel, run by Hezbollah, stated this morning that Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters had re-taken the town after a decisive two-week battle with rebels.
A Hezbollah fighter reportedly told news agency Reuters: “We did a sudden surprise attack in the early hours and entered the town. They escaped”, ‘they’ referring to the insurgents. Sources for the various rebel groups fighting the government in Syria confirmed that their militias had abandoned the town and retreated north to the area of Debaa, not far from Qusayr; like most rebel sources this claim is unverified. What is certain is that after two weeks of intense fighting and many casualties on both sides, the town of Al-Qusayr, a vitally important waypoint on the main arterial roads linking the north and south of the country, is back in Syrian hands. For the rebels, it is a major defeat.
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Book Review of three recent books by Jewish writers, Shlomo Sand, Jacqueline Rose and Judith Butler on Israel.
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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This was originally published on Raymond Deane’s blog, the Deanery on the 16th of May.
As everyone knows by now, The Gatekeepers is a 2012 Academy award-nominated documentary film made by the Israeli director Dror Moreh. Moreh succeeded in interviewing the last six heads of Israel’s General Security Services, better known by its Hebrew acronym Shin Bet. These gentlemen display considerable frankness about the nature of their past activities, their belated advocacy of a two-state solution to the Palestine issue and their negative views of successive Israeli governments.
It’s not my purpose here to write another review of this much talked-about but surprisingly uncontroversial film. Interesting articles, both of which discuss it in conjunction with the Israeli/Palestinian film 5 Broken Cameras, may be read here and here. Instead, I wish to reflect on some worrisome aspects of the film’s framing and reception in public discourse, and to suggest that its propagandistic effect is dependent on such framing.
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As indicated before the elections, the right-wing opposition are engaging in activities similar to those that laid the ground for the short-lived coup in 2002. In brief the main points are:
- Venezuela’s right-wing groups engage in extreme violence after rejecting official election results
- Leaders from across Latin America congratulate President Maduro & call for official results to be respected
- Venezuelan Embassy in the UK Statement on the Election
- Union of South American Nations & Election Observers Calls for Respect for Venezuela Election Results
- National Electoral Council (CNE) explains that 54% of votes have been audited & the result is valid, as Nicolas Maduro becomes President
1. Venezuela’s right-wing groups engage in extreme violence after rejecting official election results
Groups linked to the Venezuelan right-wing opposition have unleashed a wave of violence across Venezuela following their loss at Sunday’s presidential elections and their refusal to accept the official results, again (as in many times in the past) alleging fraud without providing any proof, in order to undermine the will of the people.
Henrique Capriles, the losing candidate, called his supporters onto the streets and this was quickly followed on Monday by violence.
The situation has particularly worsened after right-wing national newspapers published a doctored photo claiming to show the government burning ballot papers and an opposition-aligned journalist falsely claimed that ballot boxes were being held by Cuban doctors – the first false accusation leading to attacks on buildings of the country’s independent national electoral council, the second on widespread attacks on the nation’s health services.
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April addition of Socialist Voice is now out. It can be viewed online here
- Time for a radical departure [EMC]
- Cypriots paying the price [EMC]
- Growing threat of NATO membership
- The state of bourgeois political economy [NL]
- William Thompson: political economy and co-operative communism [NL]
- The new pope [MA]
- The question remains: when are we going to talk about class? [PD]
- Can we learn from Cuba? (or where to go from here?) [TMS]
- Financialisation, the euro, and the crisis [NC]
- A modest exposure
- The family, private property, and the state [SOD]
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What follows further down is a transcript of an exchange between Guardian reporter Rory Carroll and the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, from Chávez’s TV programme Aló Presidente, broadcast 26th August 2007.
I was prompted to look up the transcript when it was referred to by Carroll himself, who has a new book out titled Comandante: Inside The Revolutionary Court of Hugo Chávez, in an interview on Today with Pat Kenny on Friday March 1st 2013. First of all, here is the excerpt from the Pat Kenny show.
Transcript: Excerpt from Today with Pat Kenny on Friday March 1st 2013
PAT KENNY: Now, the kind of weapons that he did use, besides the occasional imprisonment of somebody – humiliation. Heaping humiliation upon people’s heads. I mean, denouncing them on television. And I suggested to you when you came in, like what would it be like if you had Enda Kenny or Bertie Ahern on television for three hours, just mouthing away, commandeering the airwaves, and you said, what are you talking about, three hours? Nine hours. Non-stop.
RORY CARROLL: Yes, yeah. And em, well, speaking of humiliation, my own, I can give you a personal anecdote about that. I was on his TV show, he has a weekly TV show called Aló Presidente, Hello President, and I think I was on episode no. 294. I went in as a journalist, I had lobbied them to let me attend, and he invited me to ask a question. And I did, I asked him about the centralisation of power and risk of creeping authoritarianism, and boy did he let me have it. He proceeded to denounce me and it seemed eternal to me, this was all on live television.
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The government proposes to send eight Irish soldiers to Mali as part of a French-led EU intervention force in that country. According to Irish Times opinion writer Fintan O’Toole, this is all to the good – in a column entitled ‘This time it really is a war to save civilisation’, he writes that while the West has often got it wrong in the past, “Western powers… happen to be on the right side in a war in which the cultural stakes are very high”, citing alleged Malian rebel attacks on art and music. Nobody much will argue that these attacks are good things, or that there is not a pressing humanitarian crisis in Mali – the question is whether Western military intervention is an appropriate response to either.
For others, this latest Irish army deployment is seen as particularly positive because it will, for the first time, be carried out in conjunction with British forces (the Royal Irish Regiment). Justice and Defence Minister Alan Shatter has commented as follows:
“I believe that the provision of a joint UK/Ireland contingent is another step in the normalisation of relations between our two countries… In that sense it is a historic step and provides a tangible manifestation of the very positive relationship and the mutual respect that now exists between our countries.”
So what will this manifestation of mutual respect be doing, exactly? It will be providing military training and advice to an army that Human Rights Watch reports to be guilty of torture and summary executions, with the minority Tuareg group particularly targeted for abuses. This is the military that Irish and other European soldiers will be bolstering, though defenders of the deployment claim they will be training them in human rights (as well as map reading and marksmanship). What could possibly go wrong? After all, the leader of the 2012 coup that sparked the most recent crisis had been trained in the US, and look how well that worked out. (A Malian newspaper editor was recently arrested for criticising the salary of said coup leader). For once, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy had it right when he said that the French intervention was “supporting putschists”. When the fluff of ‘human rights training’ is brushed aside, the fact will remain that Ireland and its EU partners are enhancing the capacity of an army that is predisposed to carrying out coups, torture and executions.
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FIRST COMMUNIQUÉ FROM ‘CAMP DIGNITY’ (#Acampadamérida)
Extremadura can bear no more. There are more than 160,000 people (more than 30% of the active population) who are unemployed, and 70,000 of them no longer have any form of income. Extremadura is currently the most impoverished area of Western Europe: more than 40% of Extremadurans live beneath or on the threshold of poverty. The brutal cutbacks imposed by the neoliberal executives in Brussels, Madrid and Mérida are destroying our region’s public systems of health and education. Men and women, young and old, workers and unemployed, are all suffering the neoliberal attack and debt blackmail in the form of unemployment, exploitation, misery, eviction, exclusion and criminalisation.
We demand a basic income now. For months, thousands of people have mobilised throughout the whole of Extremadura seeking the implementation of a Basic Citizen Income, in successive street demonstrations and by signing up to the Popular Legislative Initiative. The Extremaduran Platform for a Basic Income and the dozens of social collectives that have supported its demands do not and will not accept the so-called ‘basic income’ -which is nothing but a very limited selective charity- proposed by the Extremaduran Government in response to the social mobilisation. We demand the implementation of a Basic Income that covers 100% of people in our region without an income, one that is high enough to guarantee the minimum of dignity that every human life deserves above and beyond the rules of the market: we are people, not commodities.
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Translation of an article by sociologist Jorge Moruno and philosopher Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop, published today in Público, analysing the present conjuncture in the Spanish state in light of major corruption scandals and the crumbling of the current regime’s legitimacy.
Government resignation – and then what?
The Bárcenas papers are not a simple case of political corruption in which a boss puts his hand in the till and all can be simplified by talking about rotten apples. Beyond the final denoument, what we are faced with is an entire process of putrefaction of the party system that arose from the 1978 assembly (cortes), in which the Partido Popular is the main -but not the only- political exponent of the Spanish real estate-financial bloc which has benefitted so much from these decades of bubble. Some of us have taken to referring to this ruling layer from the political-speculative tandem, which draws together the worst of our society, as a lumpen-oligarchy, thereby highlighting the nature of its policies and the way it puts them into practice.
This modus operandi functions by democratising the idea of the speculating property owner, turning every citizen into a potential entrepreneur with regard to his home or the one she aspires to obtain. The spreading of this idea and its practice brought about a situation in which, for a time, the possibility of social ascent was associated with the negotiating ability of the individual and not with the extension of collective rights and the development of a democratic culture that placed value on what is public. This operation of moving society to the right, based on the ideology of the property owner, always works as long as one can speculate a little bit more. Corruption, then, is not a mere consequence of casino-capitalism; it is also the necessary lubricant for putting it into practice. The common thread between regime politicans, speculators and builders is reflected perfectly in the Bárcenas papers, where many of the donors are now receiving contracts for Madrid hospitals up for privatisation. Corruption -of the systemic kind- is also seen in the way the vice-president of the CEOE (Spanish employers’ body) receives a discount in the cafeterias of public institutions such as universities and ministries, whilst at the very same time he rails against anything that sounds public, even when this sector is his biggest source of payment.
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According to an RTE news report of the 6th of February, 2013, the Irish government is considering sending Irish Defence Forces troops to Mali to aid in the training of the Malian military, as part of the intervention by Western powers, led by the French, in Mali’s internal conflict with Islamist militants. Despite the benevolent sounding nature of this exercise, if it indeed comes to pass, it will in fact be just the latest in a long line of collaborations that successive Irish governments have undertaken with the Western imperialist powers, to further the agenda of those powers in establishing political, economic and military dominance over the world’s poorest, yet most resource-rich, countries.
The story of the conflict in Mali, as told in the Western media, is the usual formula of the noble West intervening to help save another poor backward African nation from the evils of Islamic radicalism, and restore democracy and freedom. This fairytale would at this stage in the ‘War on Terror’ be utterly laughable if it were not for the deadly serious consequences of its acceptance by the populations of the Western countries.
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They say history repeats itself if its lessons are not learned. The truth of this saying is entirely apparent when one looks at the current events being played out in the arid deserts of northern Mali, an impoverished North African country and former French colony. It is fitting then that the bombs now raining down on north Malian towns are being dropped from French Air Force planes, and the troops now landing on the ground in the country bear the French flag on their sleeves, the flag that only a few decades ago dominated this region of Africa.
The narrative in the western media is the usual nauseating one: the French troops are intervening in Mali’s ongoing civil conflict to defeat yet another spectre of Islamist terrorism and oppression, and bring democracy and freedom to its long suffering people. One instantly recalls shades of the Afghanistan campaign that began in 2001 – and the parallels are not accidental. The current conflict in Mali, and the recent French intervention, has its roots relatively far back in the history of imperialism’s power games in the world’s poorest regions.
The ‘War on Terror’ declared by the United States and its allies at the start of the millennium has followed the same basic pattern since its inception: a country displeases the US imperialists, or refuses to submit to their will, or has one or other natural resource required for their plans. The populations of the west are then treated to long-running news stories, documentaries, and newspaper editorials extolling the evils of said country / regime / stereotyped dictator; a sort of ‘softening up period’, mentally preparing the people of the imperialist countries for the coming war to be waged on the ‘enemies of freedom’. Then, the imperialist militaries have been shown to take two main courses of action, depending on the strategic position of their targets: they either obliterate them with brute force (Afghanistan, Iraq) or they foment internal unrest, arm domestic opposition militants and extremist groups (usually Islamist in nature, given the current main theatre of operations), and attempt by subversion and subterfuge to destroy their target from within, using local proxies to do their bidding. This latter method has in fact proven to be the more effective, both for preserving imperialist military strength and for making such interventions acceptable to the population at home. Let us look at some examples.
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