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At the National Convention Centre this afternoon March 31, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
8 comments

Good march, good protest, good turnout, and as said in comments elsewhere, looked like substantially more than 5000 but perhaps a touch less than 10k, at least by the time the NCC was arrived at.

Here’s what the IT was saying during it…

Harry McGee:
Aternoon session begins as thousands of anti-household tax protesters gather outside the National Convention Centre. I can’t remember such a large rally outside any national conference of any party.

Interesting to measure that against the media response subsequently.

Here’s a few photos…

An Phoblacht – April/Aibreán – Issue out now… March 31, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin.
7 comments

From the editorial:

The same bullying approach by the political establishment will be evident again, over the next few weeks and months, as they attempt to coerce voters into endorsing the Eurozone Austerity Treaty on 31 May.

This treaty seeks to surrender what limited fiscal power remains in the hands of Irish people to unelected officials in Brussels. It is anti-growth and anti-jobs and if ratified will place an economic straightjacket on Ireland for decades and lead to further austerity, more unemployment and more emigration.

Issue includes:

‘Truly Remarkable’ – Unionist reaction to Declan Kearney’s An Phoblacht article
Symphysiotomy – A childbirths clinical scandal on a par with the clerical scandals
Springsteen – The Boss’s new ‘Wrecking Ball’ reviewed by Ross Carmody
Belfast City Council spearheads development plan for facilities, services and jobs – Peadar Whelan talks to Sinn Féin Cllr Deirdre Hargey
The British Army general’s ‘tiger hunt’ mindset and shoot-to-kill
Sinn Féin launches a new campaign for the country: ‘Love Rural Ireland’ – Martin Ferris TD on the ‘Love Rural Ireland’ initiative
‘This generation can deliver Irish unity’: Sinn Féin Republican Youth Congress hears from David Cochrane (Politics.ie), Sarah Bardon (Irish Daily Mirror), Brian Rowen (Belfast Telegraph), Pearse Doherty TD, Gerry Adams TD and speakers from Scotland and the Basque Country
Ó Cuív faoi chinsireacht sna meáin
Mary Lou McDonald on the Mahon Tribunal and 1916
Phil Flanagan MLA: Making Ireland a powerhouse of renewable energy
Murder of Sam Marshall: How was Sam shot dead by the UVF while 8 British Army soldiers had him under surveillance?
Mol an óige – Le Tevor Ó Clochartaigh
Book reviews: 16 Lives (Easter Rising leaders); Race for the Áras,
Left-wing republican elected new leader of Wales’s Plaid Cymru
New US film by Tea Party darlings from Tyrone and Donegal is backing fracking
Sport: Ciarán Kearney’s ‘Between the Posts’ – Bolton Premiership player Fabrice Muamba tragedy shows that cardiac health deserves wholehearted support
Sport: Gerard Magee tackles ‘Northern soccer’s elephant in the room’
And Pat Doherty MP meets Ireland’s Olympics stars in London

This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Swell Maps, Jane from Occupied Europe March 31, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
9 comments

Once upon a the in the mid-1980s I bought a Nikki Sudden album having heard at one or two removes that the Swell Maps were top. That the album was a rather drab affair, to my ears , and fixated on what seemed to be country music, is not Sudden’s fault but instead an indication of my lack of a broader musical education.

When not that long after I finally got around to listening to Swell Maps, and in particular Jane from Occupied Europe – which was released in 1980, I have to admit I was sort of puzzled as to what the musical lineage between Sudden’s later output and them actually was.

But long after it began to make some sort of sense. The music was the product of two brothers, Epic Soundtracks and the aforementioned Nikki Sudden, along with Biggles Books, Phones Sportsman, John Cockerill and Jowe Head. Sudden and Soundtracks are both dead, and perhaps that accounts for their relative lack of profile – though that said they are hugely respected. But here’s yet another band that deserved more recognition than they received. Their first album, A Trip to Marineville is well worth a listen, not least because they too had their influences and it’s fun to parse them out listening to the album, and many will know their debut single ‘Read About Seymour’ (which although released in 1978 and has all the usual punk tropes also has a spirit of inventiveness and eccentricity which sets it apart from the mainstream of that movement) – and as an aside, it’s worth noting that they had been formed as early as 1972, albeit in nascent form, and like a lot of groups of that period punk wasn’t exactly Year Zero, but more a sort of push that propelled them forward. But Jane from Occupied Europe, or The Swell Maps in ‘Jane From Occupied Europe’ as it is sometimes known was special.

In a way this is textural music. It’s not that there aren’t melodies, they’re here in abundance – ‘Secret Island’ has a fine ascending guitar line – albeit monotonal, but rather like Sonic Youth [who admit to their influence] the sounds are as important, if not more so, than the melodies. And perhaps in that respect this is a perfect example of the more/most experimental side of post-punk, at least where that strand eschewed keyboards. So you get drones, you get guitars, you get some keyboard sounds and you get a sense of each song slightly or seriously falling apart.

Jane from Occupied Europe was the album where they moved fully, or more or less fully, into post-punk. And yet while this wasn’t punk, though it would hardly have sounded like it did without punk opening the door for this sort of frantic experimentation, yet it was punk.

Listen to ‘Let’s Buy A Bridge’ and it’s frantic pacing. And then compare and contrast with ‘Robot Factory’. The latter is a perfect example of their experimentation. Joy Division style beats that fade in and out set against an hissing series of tones before returning. That it opens the album is perfect, a statement of intent. Cake Shop Girl is a song that Bowie could, perhaps should have written.

The jagged thrust of tracks like ‘Border Country’ are inflected with an energy that is belied by the almost spoken vocals of the verse. But listen then to the almost atonal keyboard at 1.10 or so which arrives to change the dynamic of the song entirely. And everything is so detailed from drum fills to sounds.

So, while as noted above, while it may sound like it’s falling apart it really isn’t.

‘The Helicopter Spies’ arrives in a rush. And even though many of the songs are a little faster than mid-paced there’s an energy to them that is quite distinctive. And the hand-claps. Extra points, as always, for hand-claps.

In passing reflect on the song titles which are in and of themselves fantastic a mish mash of cultural influences from the 1950s onwards… ‘The Helicopter Spies’, ‘Let’s Buy A Bridge’, ‘Secret Island’…

Enjoy.

The Helicopter Spies

Let’s Buy A Bridge

Secret Island

Blenheim Shots/A Raincoat’s Room [best listened to in full to get a sense of how the two tracks blend into each other]

Border Country

Read about Seymour (1978)

Cake Shop Girl

Interview with Lucinda Creighton… March 31, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
4 comments

…in the Daily Mail. Conducted by Jason O’Toole, it’s…er…revealing.

Let’s take the Household Tax:

When we meet in her office in the Taoiseach’s Department, Lucinda laughs nervously when I open our interview by stating that it’s been a total PR disaster for the Government. But during the course of this remarkably candid interview, the 32-year-old — who has a reputation for wearing her heart on her sleeve and once stormed out of a 2009 meeting when she felt Enda Kenny insulted her — not only acknowledges that mistakes were made with the household charge, but she also accepts that it is double taxation for those who paid stamp duty.

Uh-oh – for Fine Gael:

Governments have to own up when there are mistakes,’ she says of the household charge debacle. ‘I think anything less than that is not convincing. The biggest issue was the fact that the leaflets didn’t go out. If you’re not communicating with the public you have a problem — and that was a problem. ‘That’s been addressed; certainly in my area the leaflets did arrive this week. It’s late in the day but at least the problem has been rectified. Clearly, there won’t be as high a takeup on it as we might have liked at the outset. Mistakes have been made along the way. It was very rocky…’ Implementing the charge has been beset by embarrassing errors — everything from the lack of payment options to poor communication, to how information leaflets failed to materialise after the printing company given the contract went into receivership. Minister Hogan had to backtrack on his pledge to track down non-complaint householders by checking utility bills when the suggestion was shot down by the Data Commissioner Billy Hawkes. And plans to get local council staff to go door to door like debt collectors were scuppered when the public sector unions stated their members would not do that. Should Phil Hogan now put his hand up and accept responsibility for the mistakes? ‘

Do tell:

‘He’s the minister in charge for the implementation of this household charge, so he is the person responsible,’ she says. ‘But the Government as a whole takes decisions and has to accept responsibility when things go wrong.’

Neat.

I bet she’d be furious if she ran the Department of Environment? ‘Sure. But look at the big issue — the distribution of leaflets. That company has gone bust, so no head can roll there. They’re gone.’ It’s hard to envisage how Minister Hogan will be able to target the roughly one million defaulting householders. ‘I don’t know what the minister’s approach is going to be, but people have to pay the charge. It’ s essentially up to local authorities to ensure that it is paid. If it’s not paid the local authorities will have a shortfall and will have to identify services to cut. If a substantial number of people haven’t paid they will have to get the finger out and ensure that those charges are paid.’ The argument put forward for introducing the household charge is that we’re the only country in the EU without property taxes. But we’re also the only country to have stamp duty, clearly making this double taxation. ‘I’m accepting that point. I have particular sympathy for people who bought property at the height of the boom and paid significant stamp duty.
‘But my point is this: stamp duty never went to local authorities. We all feel like we’re paying twice on lots of things, but the reality is that the money is gone. That money was wasted by the last government.

Then there’s Europe:

As Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda is all too aware that she too could potentially face into a mael s t rom i f both she and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore fail with their joint spearheading of the Yes campaign in the upcoming fiscal compact referendum. ‘It’s not a question about being kicked out of Europe and I’m not going to speculate about what happens if we vote no. ‘I actually think the No side should be telling us what they propose if we vote no. They’re asking us to take a leap into the unknown and to vote for more uncertainty in our economy and for an unknown outcome. If we vote yes we’re sending out a very strong signal to potential investors, to the European Union and, just as importantly, to the rest of the world that we are absolutely committed to solving the currency crisis.

And more:

‘The content of the treaty is about ensuring that we balance our budget along with all other member states.
It only requires 12 member states to ratify it. It will go ahead whether we vote for it or not, with or without us. There won’t be a second referendum if it’s defeated.’
She is adamant that no concessions will be offered to Ireland on the promissory notes to pacify irate taxpayers in an effort to ensure the treaty is passed.
‘We can’t take it to the treaty because it can go ahead without us. So, we can’t hold a gun to anybody’s head.’

We’ll see.

The Household Tax redux… March 30, 2012

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

As we wait over the next 48 hours for the outcome of deadline for the Household Tax registration here’s a little something for those wavering in their intent not to pay, or for those who need more information. Check out the editorial in the Business Post this weekend on this issue. It argues that:

People should pay the household charge. The fundamental reason is that not doing so is breaking the law. Everyone has a right to protest against policies they do not like, but the way our society works is that we elect a government, one of whose fundamental roles is deciding how revenue should be raised. This government has ruled that there will be a €100 household charge.

That’s fine to a point, but there is the issue of a right to break laws (and indeed to face consequences if one does so). There’s also a more nebulous issue about the broad response to laws. If there isn’t a solid societal support, if a citizenry resile from them then it seems legitimate that a government should rethink them. The SBP is never shy itself to argue that one piece or another of legislation (see last week its thoughts on collective bargaining). Granted they don’t call for boycotts, but they do for lobbying and so on. There’s little question but that a section of the electorate is making its views known on the issue, and that it is passive not active, and that in the long term the government will claw back much of this is beside the point.

It continues:

To claim, as its opponents do, that the household charge represents a uniquely unjust and oppressive imposition on Irish citizens and taxpayers is preposterous, even by the standards of hyperbole that sometimes characterise our political debate.

I’m not sure if many people do argue that it’s uniquely oppressive, but it certainly is unjust. And the SBP admits as much:

It is not a perfect tax. However, we are in difficult times and the exchequer urgently needs extra revenue. Part of this inevitably involves higher taxes and, with income tax already pushed up sharply, this must involve a widening of the tax base, particularly to property.

And if that were the case, that we had a progressive property tax I wouldn’t have a poster in my front window for the campaign, nor have attended meetings etc, nor worked on various materials for the campaign. But this isn’t quite a property tax, it has no relationship to the nature of the property itself. And tellingly the forms distributed for it don’t seek to determine the value or nature of the properties either.

True, there is nothing in the household charge which obliges better-off people to pay more. Some will struggle to pay yet another bill. However, nobody could argue that the overall tax system here is not progressive, given the very sharp increases in income tax on middle and higher earners in recent years.

But that’s not the point. This is the tax we’re dealing with. It’s not progressive, yet it is imposed on assets (for some) that intrinsically contain significant values (and those who are least well able to afford it are the very ones who have seen wage freezes or cuts – approaches which impact upon them disproportionately worse as against those on medium to higher incomes – that’s the thing about regressive economic approaches). For a tranche €100 is literally next to nothing. Not even a blip on their finances. For others its an inconvenience of greater or lesser proportions. For others still its a significant sum that eats into already precarious finances.

The editorial then goes on an odd tangent.

This ensures that the better-off pay more while, in other areas of the tax system – notably indirect taxes – everyone pays the same. Motor tax, stamp duty and many other taxes and charges operate on this basis – none of these takes income into account.

There are strong arguments they should. Indirect taxes are notoriously unprogressive (in the technical and non technical senses). But that’s not the issue. Those are pre-existing and often long existing taxes (stamp duty by the by isn’t entirely flat being 1% up to €1m and 2% on the balance. One wonders if that’s the model for a future ‘progressive’ property tax).

But there’s a broader point. This government, which contains a self-avowedly social democratic element, has introduced a new tax on arguably the largest single expenditure for most people. It damned well should be progressive, otherwise it makes a mockery of any pretensions to progressiveness on the part of the government or any shift to progressive taxation in the economy. By starting in such an inept and unjust fashion it has called into question its bona fides in this area as a whole.

The government has made it clear that its intention is to introduce a full property tax to replace the household charge, which will involve a higher charge for more expensive homes. This will raise significant extra revenues over the next few years and is the most effective method of taxing wealth, ironically long a demand of many of those calling for a boycott.

But in the meantime people are left with a flat tax whose length of time being imposed is open to question (one year? Unlikely given that the working party on the property tax only came into being after Christmas and there’s no register to work from to impose a proper one next year. Two years? Three? Enda Kenny was particularly ambiguous on this issue in the last week or two). That’s abysmal. The SBP itself in the same issue notes how maladroit the Government has been in the introduction, and publicity and implementation of this tax. All those added to the basic inequity of it demonstrate a dismal attitude in relation to it.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the charge, those calling for households not to pay are encouraging people to break the law. It is essential, therefore, in fairness to those who do pay, that those who do not are made to pay additional charges for late payment. If they continue to refuse, then further penalties must be applied.

This last argument is a strange one, the one about ‘fairness to those who do pay’. Even if this tax is turned over there are numerous mechanisms for those who have paid to be recompensed, perhaps as a discount for a future progressive property tax. One could as easily argue it is essential in fairness to those who have paid that this tax as currently constituted is stopped now in order that a proper, progressive property tax is introduced as soon as possible (I’m aware there’s dissent on this issue from some on the No side, but I find it difficult to believe there’s no means of crafting a genuinely progressive property tax as a part of taxation of all property and not just houses. Michael Taft has had some thoughts on this very matter).

As should always have been the intent.

Its Rovers and Bohs .. March 30, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
19 comments

Tonight will see Shamrock Rovers entertain Bohemians in Tallaght (Live on RTE2) for their first league clash of the season.(they already met in the Leinster Senior Cup with Rovers winning on penalties)
Last week in front of over 5,000 Rovers took on old Ringsend Rivals Shelbourne winning 4- 0, amongst the crowd was President Micheal D. Higgins. Must say its nice to see the President attending League of Ireland matches, despite his Galway United team no longer being in the league.
Bohs have yet to win in Tallaght, something they came perilously close to doing in the Leinster Senior cup. So aside from the rivalry there’s that record for Rovers to hold on to.

Over the past few years the tables have turned with Rovers now top dogs in the league where Bohs had dominance for a number of years. At this stage Bohs should have been playing in a brand new stadium in Harristown with tens of millions in the bank. Instead that deal fell through and  instead they are heavily in debt and field a fairly inexperienced team. Bohs have yet to score and lie bottom of the table on a point , although they have had a tough start with games against  Shels, Derry, Pats and Sligo. So as you can imagine confidence is high in Tallaght …. but when we were bust and the year in the First Division we managed to get results against a far superior Bohs outfit.

So I’m in the strange position of actually expecting a win, normally you’d hope for a win! That’s the thing about Rovers now , expectation. I still think last seasons European exploits will be hard to emulate and what I’ve seen so far new manager Stephen Kennys style is not as suited to European football as Michael O’Neills teams were. Still there’s an expectation to win games and an expectation to win the league. All of which is a bit odd to the likes of myself who is still in dreamland about where we are after being so close to going out of existence.

This Week At The Irish Election Literature Blog March 30, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Election Literature Blog.
1 comment so far

Starting off this week with “Put a real campaigner on the Council” a 2004 Local Elections leaflet from Socialist Party candidate in Dundrum Lisa Maher.

On then to Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphys March 2012 Newsletter “Vote No To The Austerity Treaty”

A Keep Up The Boycott leaflet from The Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes

Then I gather this was due to be released in a fanfare but the fuss never happened “Fine Gael -One Year in Government On The Right Track”

and a late addition .. A leaflet from George Galloways recent Bradford West by-election campaign

“More people are now dying by suicide than on Irish roads” March 29, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Recession, Society.
7 comments

This evening’s BBC Radio 4 news programme The World Tonight had a taped piece about suicide in Ireland, and how the recession has led to an increase in it. It begins at about 16 min 35 seconds into the programme:

The introduction:

As the financial crisis continues to strike across Europe, one of its impacts as well as a loss of jobs and livelihoods is an increase in the number of suicides. In Ireland, the problem is particularly marked compounded by historical sensibilities and a feeling of shame about the issue that refuses to go away.

A quote from the piece:

International research suggests that for every 1 percent rise in joblessness, there is 0.7 percent rise in the number of suicides, and Ireland’s own figures have borne that out. The year after the big crash — 2009 — at least 520 people took their own lives. That’s 25 percent up on the year before. The latest official count is only for part of 2010, but it suggests a continuing increase. And experts say many more unexplained deaths mean the real toll could be much higher.

More people are now dying by suicide than on Irish roads, and among young men, suicide is the biggest killer. That’s not unique to Ireland, but the social taboo factor is particularly strong here, in a country where suicide was a crime less than 20 years ago.

The full programme is here.

Phil Hogan speaks! March 29, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
9 comments

I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean the following to come out quite the way it did…

When asked if he would resign if fewer than half the households registered, he replied: “Seeing that I’m the first Minister to bring in a new tax without a proper household tax database, I’ll be sure that I’ll bring it in as best as I canand I will not be contemplating resignation.”

Meanwhile we can watch the by now near hourly updates on the progress of registration.

From there here’s my favourite line… so far:

The 500,000 mark appears to have been reached, but the figure is still short of 1.6 million.

What you want to say… Open Thread, 29th March, 2012 March 29, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left, US Politics.
98 comments

As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

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