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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The High Llama’s – Gideon Gaye October 25, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Six or seven years of This Weekends and there’s still so many groups that haven’t been covered. Here’s an album I’ve long meant to discuss, The High Llama’s – that being Sean O’Hagan formerly of Microdisney with a group of friends, and their album Gideon Gaye from 1994. Emerging from the – at this remove – slow demise of Microdisney, a group who have been dealt with previously in this spot, O’Hagan took quite a while to get going in contrast to his former Microdisney comrade Cathal Coughlan who in a way had the Fatima Mansions seemingly ready to roll almost immediately.

And that contrast between them is only heightened by the different natures of their solo enterprises. Where Coughlan is all sturm und drang, nodding to punk, hardcore, and whatever in his bid to weld together a genuinely ferocious vehicle with which to express his worldview that of O’Hagan is almost the polar opposite, melodic, soft, an overt hommage to the Beach Boys of the Smile era.

If the intention is to offer us a sunny world where textures are as important, no, more important than melodies – for there’s little question but there’s an ambient drift here, it works perfectly. Checking In, Checking Out is west coast personified, but it’s better, shorn of all nonsense that accompanied that genre (and to my ears there’s an oddly krautrock inflection to the piano as it chugs past – and that makes sense given his work with Stereolab during this period). Sure, it’s no stranger to the baroque, Track Goes By lavishes the listener with a not-entirely necessary, but far from unwelcome, ten minutes. The Goat Looks on is all lavish swoops and dips.

And yet, and yet.

Is that a hint of the Seeds In Your Room in the background of Giddy and Gay? And isn’t there something, well, just a little demented in those sweeping strings? Where exactly is O’Hagan taking the listener?

The effect can be both smooth and oddly claustrophobic – this is a seamless vision of the world and like all such personal visions it can exclude more than it intends to keep in.

And what of the lyrics? Is Checking In, Checking Out seems to be a reflection on LA…

if funny looks don’t get you down,
you could get on in this town.
the drivers crawl along the curb.
the thought of walking’s quite absurd,

But is it partly autobiographical? And what of this from Track Goes By?

now country music at this time of day
can make the future seem so far away.
though the trade was slow, the cabby knew more
than he let her know.

Granted, O’Hagan’s voice is an acquired taste. I like it but I’d be the first to admit that it can be a little weak. But the compositions are artfully crafted to conceal that for the most part – and the fact that vocals are few and far between with instrumentals predominating doesn’t hurt.

It’s worth saying that none of this is a huge step away from Microdisney. I always admired – actually, perhaps loved isn’t too strong a word – the way in which the anger of Coughlan’s vision was set against the Steely Dan/countryish inflected melodicism of O’Hagan’s guitars. The thing is that O’Hagan brought a punk/new wave economy that in its own way was as subversive of the music as was the vocal and lyrical content:

This from, Goodbye, It’s 1987 is a perfect example of same with it’s musical arrangement.

The High Llama’s next album, Hawaii is pretty damned impressive too, they toured as Arthur Lee’s backing band for some of the 1990s and they’re still going, last album released just three years ago. I like that.

Up in the Hills

Checking In, Checking Out

The Goat Looks On

The Goat Strings

Track Goes By

Green Day October 24, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, The Left.
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From the Progressive Film Club…

A reminder about this weekend’s screening, which is devoted to environmental issues.

Where : The New Theatre, 43 East Essex St., Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
When : Sat. 25th October 2014
Time : 15.00hrs

(A) 3pm – The Last Ice Merchant – 15mins

Ecuador is small in size yet rich in geographic diversity. The land ranges from the towering, snow-capped Andes to the lush, coastal lowlands, the Amazon jungle and the Galapagos Islands. Chimborazo, with an elevation of 20,700 feet above sea level, is the tallest mountain in Ecuador and the closest point on Earth to the sun due to its proximity to the equator. The summit is covered with snow-capped glaciers.
Twice a week for over half a century, Baltazar Ushca has hiked up the slopes of Mount Chimborazo, the tallest mountain in Ecuador, to harvest glacial ice that covers the highest altitudes of this dormant volcano. In the past, up to forty ice merchants made the journey up the mountain to mine the ice; today, however, Baltazar works alone. Even his brothers, Gregorio and Juan, both raised as ice merchants, have retired from the mountain to find more steady work.
The Last Ice Merchant tells a story of cultural change and indigenous lifestyle through the perspectives of three brothers who have dealt with change in different ways.

(B) 3.30pm – Th Wisdom to Survive – 60mins

Climate Change, Capitalism & Community

THE WISDOM TO SURVIVE accepts the consensus of scientists that climate change has already arrived, and asks, what is keeping us from action? The film explores how unlimited growth and greed are destroying the life support system of the planet, the social fabric of the society, and the lives of billions of people.
The film examines the challenges that climate change poses and discusses meaningful action that can be taken by individuals and communities.
Will we have the wisdom to survive? The film features leaders and activists in the realms of science, economics and spirituality discussing how we can evolve and take action in the face of climate disruption.
Directed by John Ankele & Anne Macksoud
Videography: Michael Sacca
Music: Eugene Friesen – Cello
A film by Old Dog Documentaries

Robert Navan,
Progressive Film Club


Phone: 087 6257521

From 2005 advice to Sinn Fein from the SWP October 24, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.

Distributed outside the 2005 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis by the SWP…
click to enlarge….

It’s all a game – eh? October 24, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.

Anyone following tech and gaming in recent times will have, I guess, been at least half aware of the gamergate fiasco.

If you can be bothered to delve into this, and perhaps you should, if only because of the disconnect between the supposed rhetoric of some gamers and the death threats directed to women like Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian, Leigh Alexander and Zoe Quinn amongst others – threats so serious that they have had to leave their homes and/or had their life turned upside down in various other ways, or because Intel pulled advertising from certain sites due to pressure from ‘gamers’ or because it exposes a serious fault line over gender and race and what some term – pejoratively – “social justice” issues, then here’s a bunch of links…

Wiki on the overall issue, the nytimes on intel pulling ads, some useful information on who plays what sort of games - hallo Halo and COD fans, upwards of 25% of you are women, neatly skewering the idea that women only play mobile or non FPS style games, here’s something on harassment and threats and the law in the UK, here’s something on how Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel a speech in Utah due to threats, here’s something from well back earlier in the Summer relating to some factual information that’s useful – as well as a truck load of examples of people not understand the actual meaning of conflict of interest and finally here’s a more recent piece from the Verge (who have taken a progressive, or if you prefer a simply civilised and egalitarian attitude on the whole thing) on where things stand at the moment – featuring not least a late arrival to the issue – why yes, one J. Assange.

Does any of this matter? I think it does when women (or men) receive death threats and are forced out of their homes (and perhaps also on foot of the fact they are raising progressive issues). This is an oddly contradictory, sometimes progressive, sometimes reactionary cultural moment, and that mixture is perhaps precisely because the culture is changing rapidly. We see various toxic manifestations of same, and while some of those are peripheral it’s useful to track them and to consider how they represent deeper dynamics within our societies.

Water charges? “Too ambitious”, they say? And those changes being contemplated… Too little too late… October 24, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

hot on the heels of the news that the Tanaiste thought “the timeline for the set-up of Irish Water is “certainly too ambitious”” – which raises the question where has she been for the last three years, now we are told that:

The Government is preparing an additional package of “comprehensive” changes to the water charging system, to be announced in the coming weeks, in an effort to blunt the political damage to Fine Gael and Labour.


While changes for parents of dependent children still living in the home are in play, sources stressed no details or measures have been finalised. However, any changes are likely to focus on the €102 rate for additional adults rather than any additional tax or welfare proposals.

It’s little enough and nowhere near satisfactory when the clear demand is abolition of the charges and the raising of revenue/funding of water through general taxation. But it does point to the simple fact that the government is clearly deeply concerned by the ongoing campaign(s) against the charges, after all, weren’t some budgetary measures meant to ameliorate the damage to them too?

I think evidence that they simply don’t get the depth of anger and opposition to the charges is evident in the following too:

With the Government set to cap water bills at a fixed rate in order to provide certainty – with speculation the freeze could be in place until late 2016, when the majority of meters have been installed – TDs and Senators have raised the issue of families with adult children living at home.

Until late 2016 they say, and then there’d be another government and charges would presumably creep up and…amazing stuff.

Still, let’s note one other thing, for anyone who says that campaigns don’t have any effect… here’s clear evidence to the contrary.

Title Night October 24, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Culture.

Tonight I’ll be up in Tallaght for Rovers last game of the season against Limerick…. There is a far far big clash this evening in Oriel Park as Dundalk host Cork City in the title decider. Dundalk need a win , Cork a draw or better. It’s a hard one to call but despite Dundalk having home advantage , which doesn’t just mean a huge home support but that awful plastic pitch too, I think it will be Cork City that lift the trophy. Pressure in a title run in does funny things to teams and fans.
Last week in Bray in woeful conditions Dundalk couldn’t get their passing game going at all. There has been a title build up in Dundalk for a while and I gather the Town is more than excited about it.
Still Hows this for pressure … from The Dundalk Democrat

No disrespect to Cork City, but, if Dundalk FC are not crowned 2014 SSE Airtricity League winners at 9.45pm this Friday evening it’ll be one of the biggest travesties to have befallen Irish football in decades.

Whether or not they deserve to be champions is, in essence, yet to be decided. Cork City are a very good side in their own right and, just like Dundalk last season, they have hung in there right to the end but, make no mistake about it, Stephen Kenny’s men are the best team in the league and are, arguably, one of the best sides the domestic scene has ever produced.

Cork are a canny side. Colin Healy is still class, Dan Murray can marshall a defence with the best of them, Billy Dennehy is back to his best, Gearoid Morrissey is excellent and they are a very good team. I think they will have enough… we’ll know later tonight.

I’ve been to a couple of title deciders and the night Rovers won the title out in Bray was probably the most nerve wracking night of my life. Tonight though is even bigger as its the two teams playing for the title.
Any views as to who will win or indeed any good title winning or losing memories

This Week At Irish Election Literature October 24, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Election Literature Blog.
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Starting off with “We Are Family” a series of flyers for Marriage Equality produced by The Community Foundation of Ireland.

Then from the 1998 Assembly Elections campaign a letter to Belfast voters from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

A flyer for a “Water Is A Human Right -No To Privatisation” meeting held last night in Stoneybatter

Last week I got a large package of material from Scotland with leaflets etc from The Scottish Independence Referendum (mostly Yes stuff and very little from The Left) , I have doubles of plenty of them so if anyone wants I can send them on some spare leaflets.

Ah… that’s tax relief… October 23, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

From the IT this evening…

The Government is to relax the rules governing a special tax incentive scheme to attract foreign executives into Ireland after just 31 individuals availed of the scheme last year.


Under the original rules, an employee was able to make a claim to have 30 per cent of their income between €75,000 and €500,000 disregarded for income tax purposes.
However, after a low take-up rate in its first two years of operation, Mr Noonan plans to remove the €500,000 cap, making it significantly more lucrative for highly paid individuals to work here. The scheme is also to be extended until at least the end of 2017.

There’s nothing like the Finance Bill, is there?

Meanwhile, what’s this from the pensions ‘industry’? October 23, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

EWI was first off the mark early yesterday on the following:

**** from the private pensions industry on Ráidió a hAon this morning, purring in a ‘business segment’ about how much public subsidy they get, and advocating (of course) slashing the state and public pensions, and forcing autoenroll of the citizenry into their grasp!

It is pretty shameless. At a conference of the Irish Association of Pension Funds there was all sorts of alarmist stuff.

Irish workers cannot be sure of receiving a State pension in retirement in future generations,

And why is that? According to them:

The cost of existing hidden state pension liabilities are estimated by the Pensions Authority to be €440 billion – more than double the €203 billion national debt estimate for the end of this year, a figure that already amounts to 111 per cent of GDP and requires significant reduction under European budgetary rules.

And their solution?

Just a thought. According to them…

A study of 25 state pension systems by the Australian Centre for Financial Studies and Mercer finds that Ireland’s State pension is among the best in the world in terms of adequacy.

And yet, as I know from my own experience when people have tried to sell me private pension plans the line is that the state pension is simply insufficient for the lifestyle I am supposedly eager to enjoy. There may be some truth in that – not as respect of said lifestyle but the broader issue. Note this view from outside the insurance industry bubble.

But all this sits oddly with the idea that the state pension is adequate because the talk is rarely if ever about boosting the state pension to a significantly higher level, instead it’s all about commercial pensions taking up the slack in some way.

There’s also the question as to how much credence should be placed in studies by commercial pension providers given the fairly obvious potential for conflict of interests.

The study cited above is the ‘Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index’ and comes from the Australian Centre for Financial Studies and Mercer.

Some might not find that problematic. Some might no.

It’s interesting to note the assumptions built into the ‘Mercer Global Pension Index’. If we go here we can see that it takes a profoundly, well, political line on pensions…

• Some governments have increased pension ages over the longer term.
• The labour force participation rate of 55-64 year olds in most countries has steadily increased.

There are those of us who would consider the first far from an ‘improvement’. But note too the use of the term ‘reform’ throughout. ‘Reform’ in what sense and to whose benefit?

Useful also to look at the ACFS’s ‘corporate partners’ who are apparently ‘like-minded organisations’. That would ANZ, National Australia Bank, Mutual Limited. Amongst others.

Does all this invalidate the ACFS or Mercer? No, but it does mean that any suggestions from that quarter should be considered very carefully indeed. None of this is revealed in the article on the piece in the IT. It’s not even a consideration. The data is simply taken as read – ‘Australia and the Netherlands are seen as having the next best state pension provision’…etc, etc.

Meanwhile, here’s a stark warning from the private pensions industry.

Warning: If you invest in these products you may lose some or all of the money you invest.

Hmmm… sustainability they say?

Meanwhile, another day another scare story…

Trust in the Irish pension system is at an all-time low, the head of the industry lobby said yesterday, warning that the Government should not rush to introduce any form of mandatory pension saving.

This last, by the way, flies in the face of the Mercer advice – though before we applaud Mercer’s progressive credentials let’s remember what auto-enrolment actually means as against strengthening state pensions through general taxation.

Addressing the IAPF annual benefits conference, Rachael Ingle, chairwoman of the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF), said the industry wanted to conduct research on how big an issue inadequate pension coverage in the State is “before we compel all the people of Ireland to save for retirement at a time when they are all cash strapped”.
“There is a huge amount of work to be done before any type of auto-enrolment solution is introduced in Ireland,” she said, saying any system would need to involve affordable and meaningful contribution rates.

This, is also, of course from the broad commercial area that gave us this highly politicised gem back in the 2000s in the Irish Insurance Federation’s submission to the then Green Paper on Pensions:

And what did the Irish Insurance Federation say:

* We do not support the idea of mandatory pensions. The introduction of fully mandatory pensions would create more problems than it would solve. There would be a high degree of complexity involved and it would be very difficult if not impossible to design a regime which would be appropriate for all participants. In our opinion the better option is a reasonable basic State pension and voluntary provision on top of this.

* Why not mandatory? Because:
o Enhancing the “Pillar 1” State pension, as recommended, would go a long way towards providing an adequate retirement income for low- to middle-income earners; this in turn reinforces the idea that any additional pension provision – while it should be promoted and incentivised by the State – should remain voluntary;
o It represents an abdication of personal responsibility and it weakens the link between effort and reward;
o It removes personal choice;
o It enshrines the principle that citizens must be taken care of by the State from ‘Cradle to Grave’ and increases ‘Big Government’;
o It creates a dilemma regarding who should manage funds and may result in a lack of individual savers’ control over the management of their retirement funds.

A commentator writes about pensions… October 23, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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A certain E. Harris, as noted in the SISSOTW, was in fine form at the weekend, but I do think it’s worth teasing out very slightly further some of the implications of what he is saying.

As I said, I am no longer a republican socialist. But I still retain the sharp sense of social justice that brought me into the Workers Party – and out of it again. Reflecting on the Budget I was struck by the blatant bias of its class politics.

So far, so good I guess (all things considered)…

The Budget boosts those who already have too much.

Indeed, though it is here that it begins to slide off the rails…

The only big group to come through the recession in comparative comfort was spared any cuts. I refer to the well-padded public sector.
The NYU findings mean I have no hope of changing the cold hearts of the Labour Party, Sinn Fein, Joe Higgins, or other protectors of the public sector. But as some of them are brazen enough to posture as socialists, let me ask them two simple questions.

And he continues:

How can you condone a system in which public servants, on average, are paid eight euros an hour more than workers in the private sector? How can you condone a system which sees private sector workers with no pensions taxed to pay the pensions of public sector workers?

Now I too feel there are issues here. I think that there’s a problem but let’s see what his view of the problem, or even a partial solution is.

In any fair society, the first priority would be closing these gaps. Far from doing so, the Budget favours propping up the status quo. And the most striking symbol of selfish class politics was giving a fiver to rich and poor children alike.

But it is implicit in his thinking, as expressed to this point, that the priority would not be raising the general state pension so that those private sector workers without pensions would enjoy a better pension provision than hitherto, but instead lowering public sector pensions (his thoughts on child benefit are interesting too, though tangential to this discussion, not for him the evidence that universal benefits are more effective in reaching those who need them than means tested benefits).

But by how much? He does not say. Fully, so there is no disparity? How does that benefit those who are forced, like so many of us, to depend upon a state pension which is, as the private pensions industry is always quick to point out, inadequate? Some of the way, if so how much or how little?

Indeed his bona fides on this issue would be considerably more credible if he at least made some effort in regard to demonstrating how he intended that private sector workers without pensions would be better off rather than it simply being business as usual.

But to do that would, of necessity, require taking on a business sector of which a large part is entirely comfortable giving no pension provision at all to those who work within it. I’ve problems with the public sector pensions system (though some have been addressed) but one could hardly complain that, whatever those problems, the principle of employers taking some regard for those who work for them was ignored. By contrast what of the – what is it, over half of – private sector workers with no pension provision provided by their employers.

And clearly his time in the WP somehow didn’t quite stretch to the concept of levelling up as distinct from levelling down.

It’s also remarkable how fully he has internalised a belief system, and this from a man who once cleaved to the notion of the state as a directly progressive force in generating economic activity, that ‘civil servants create no jobs’. Of course it’s also a nonsense. States can and do generate economic activity, civil and public sector workers in a multitude of roles are central to this, whether in the NRA, or health or education or local authorities or whatever. Indeed it’s something of a big lie to suggest otherwise, as well as being on a purely analytical level risible.

One other point. He waxes lyrical about the following.

Most Irish jobs are created by self-employed Irish people. They could hardly do so if they did not earn over €70,000 a year – the salary of many a civil servant who create no jobs at all. This small group also pays the most taxes.
Fine Gael backbenchers have failed to protect this tiny but productive group. Just as they have failed to see fair play between the public and private sector. This may please the Labour Party but Fine Gael will have to pay the butcher’s bill at the next General Election.

Now, as it happens I’ve no antagonism at all to those who are self-employed. I’ve argued before that the lack of social protections that has typified the approach of the state towards them (albeit with some amelioration in recent times) has been simply wrong. But is he right to place his trust in the idea that they are the main engine of job creation?

A look at this from Michael Taft raises some significant questions about that proposition.

Michael’s conclusion is that:

The fastest growing sectors are construction and the public sector sectors of public administration and education which, again, doesn’t indicate a broad-based growth. It is worth noting that the majority of sectors suffered a decline. Two notes: these are seasonally adjusted and exclude the not-stated category – so the total of the above sectors don’t add up to the total. And the agriculture sector – which experienced the biggest volatility during the CSO revision – may retain its volatility for a while.

Last year he notes:

The low-paid hospitality sector could have made up 50 percent of the net gains while in the first half of this year most sectors declined

It’s worth noting that construction, public administration etc, and low-paid hospitality sectors are not generally the sole preserve of the self-employed (actually there’s a broader question as to what is defined as the self-employed in his definition of the term – does he mean sole traders, or those in partnership or limited companies? And if so is his definition so broad as to be unwieldy, i.e. all those who have companies and employ others or those who are actually sole traders? Or could it be he simply means business men and women?).

And this has some interesting points too… not least:

The reason why the rise in one-person self-employment is not an indicator of good news, is that during a brutal recession, it is likely involuntary.


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