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Pride – the film of the 1980s Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign opens this month August 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in 1984/85 Miners Strike (UK), Culture, Economy, LGBT Rights, The Left.
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This looks fantastic. A film on how the Miners were supported by the LGSM campaign. The way both groups interacted and, in a sense, further radicalised is educative, not least in later strong support from Miners groups against Section 28 but also in a sense of shared defiance against the right. As can be seen in this piece in the Observer, this is an history that is important because it proves how supposedly different struggles can be linked in a way that generates a mutual solidarity. The film opens in the UK later in the month.

Ah… white collar professionals… August 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
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…and the apparently hazy acquaintance with and understanding of tax and labour law some of them exhibit, as reported in the Irish Times yesterday:

When broken down by profession, the highest average settlements [with Revenue] were among pharmacists (€37,000), followed by accountants (€34,000), doctors (€30,000), engineers (€29,000) and solicitors (€26,000).

Liabilities in this area include undeclared income, staff not being placed on official payrolls and capital gains tax owed on the sale of properties or share dividends. The details are contained in internal Revenue documents prepared earlier this year and released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

This is interesting too, here…

The move has proved controversial, as some contractors claim they acted on professional advice in setting up these companies. In addition, some professional bodies argue that there have been genuine misunderstandings over the tax treatment of travel expenses.

Will those who gave such ‘advice’ face any liability? And given that this isn’t exactly a surprise to many of us…

Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America – 1969 to 1980. August 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, US Politics.
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Fascinating podcast now available of Alistair Cooke of the BBC’s ‘Letter from America’. It’s remarkable to listen to Cooke explaining the US political system and the events of the time. One wonders if people are better informed today – I suspect they might be a little bit.

They’ve been pulled together from the tapes of two listeners, which is remarkable really. Pretty good quality too, not too much cleaning up in evidence in respect of the sound.

The one’s from 1980 are of particular interest with an insight into domestic and international events during that period, from the Presidential nomination process of the year – and how Ted Kennedy did in the primary – or rather did not, to the invasion of Afghanistan. Cooke was pretty cynical, in a gentle sort of a way. Well worth a listen.

Education and elitism… August 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Culture, Economy, The Left.
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Useful research in the UK (headed up by Alan Milburn no less) from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission which notes some fairly astounding facts about how embedded elitism is in that state:

Looking at the background of more than 4,000 people filling jobs at the top of government, the civil service, the judiciary, the media, business and the creative industries, the commission investigated where they went to school, on the grounds that going to a private school is reasonably indicative of a wealthy background.

It sure is:

Only 7% of members of the public attended a private school. But 71% of senior judges, 62% of senior officers in the armed forces, 55% of permanent secretaries in Whitehall, 53% of senior diplomats, 50% of members of the House of Lords and 45% of public body chairs did so.

But it’s not just those areas that are overwhelmingly dominated by a certain social group (or class, let’s call them a class). For…

So too did 44% of people on the Sunday Times Rich List, 43% of newspaper columnists, 36% of cabinet ministers, 33% of MPs, 26% of BBC executives and 22% of shadow cabinet ministers.
It gets worse:

Oxbridge graduates also have a stranglehold on top jobs. They comprise less than 1% of the public as a whole, but 75% of senior judges, 59% of cabinet ministers, 57% of permanent secretaries, 50% of diplomats, 47% of newspaper columnists, 44% of public body chairs, 38% of members of the House of Lords, 33% of BBC executives, 33% of shadow cabinet ministers, 24% of MPs and 12% of those on the Sunday Times Rich List.
The report says the judiciary is the most privileged professional group. About 14% of judges attended one of just five independent schools (Eton, Westminster, Radley, Charterhouse and St Paul’s Boys).

And what about this?

And senior armed forces officers are the second most exclusive group, the report says. Some 62% of them went to a private school, and only 7% attended a comprehensive.

The report makes the point that this was ‘so embedded in Britain that it could be called ‘social engineering’’. Could be? Only could be?

And before people become complacent on this side of the water it’s important to understand that these are the very outcomes that so many seek through private education, access (or continued access) to high status and high salaried positions as well as the broader support structures that they provide.

Lets also note that this is going to get worse. In a society where a former Taoiseach can lightly talk of removing social supports and provision such as pensions and welfare it is clear that the opportunities to those without recourse to financial supports are going to be much lesser. That’s most of us.

Owen Jones makes an excellent point here:

The flaw with the report is an implicit assumption that inequality is not the problem, but rather that our current inequality is not a fair distribution of talents. “If only a few bright sparks from humble backgrounds could be scraped into the higher echelons,” seems to be the plea.

As ever it requires a genuinely left wing approach to alter this situation. Though where that comes from…

By the way, I’m a little conflicted about the Scottish referendum, not because I’m against independence – because I’m not against it – so much as regards the effects on those left behind by a Scottish exit. But… when one sees, as here, even if we had a good idea it was bad, just how rotten the set-up is in Britain. Well, after so much time and effort and with clearly so little reward in terms of ameliorating this, perhaps it is indeed time for Scotland to go it alone (not that it too doesn’t have its own embedded internal elite. But… still).

Risk and mortgages… August 28, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
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Useful piece by Mary Feely in the Irish Times which asks:

So why, after the worst property bust in history, haven’t I seen any public-interest ads on telly warning people of the risks of buying a home, and especially the risks of borrowing money to do so?
Maybe the powers-that-be assume the risks are obvious. For years it’s been impossible to switch on talk radio without hearing miserable unfortunates say they had no notion their lender was unregulated / didn’t know they’d still owe money even after they relinquished their over-mortgaged house / are gobsmacked their lender could veto a deal to sell their property at a loss.

I think that raises a very sensible point. That the sheer risk involved in mortgages, which after all are nothing more than extravagantly sized loans, and the manner in which they are contingent on incomes remaining extant, is something that is hugely under considered. It wasn’t even a factor in the coverage of the last housing boom, and now that we appear to be well within a sort of housing boom redux it is again unremarked, for the most part.

And Feely continues:

As my teachers used to tell me in secondary school, to assume makes an ass out of “u” and “me”. Given that our entire economy collapsed after a binge of, ahem, ill-advised property loans, it’s in the nation’s interest to make sure the next generation of borrowers is informed and rational – as supposed by free-market economic theory. And especially as the property market, having mouldered for several years in an unmarked grave, may be reviving.

The problem is that this ‘free-market’ doesn’t at all come close to addressing the risk issue. The respective balance of risk is distorted. The necessary information isn’t available. The concept of an ‘informed and rational’ decision in the context of media, industry and yes, political, enthusiasm for a housing ‘market’ is well-nigh impossible.

She continues:

Start by defining a safe level of borrowing, as a percentage of household income (not the maximum amount, the SAFE amount). Go on to explain who your jovial local auctioneer represents (clue: not the buyer). Give tips on how to test whether a price is fair. For example, dividing the purchase price by the potential annual rent will give a price-to-earnings ratio, a valuation technique used in other financial markets.

I don’t disagree, but there’s one thought that I can’t avoid. Some years back I had to get a loan for something house related. it wasn’t a stratospheric sum, but neither was it chump change, though my definition of the latter is probably very small amounts of money indeed. I remember going through the finances and talking to the loan provider and they said, quite bluntly, when I asked about risk that of course there was a risk and there was no way to insure against it (figuratively speaking). I could lose a job, I could have a massive financial blow of one sort of another, and so on. However cautious I was (and having grown into adulthood in the 1980s I’m cautious) that was the simple reality. Sure, I could sustain that in 2011, but 2012, 20015, 2020? In this system there’s always risk, and again we know who, for the most part has to bear that risk.

Latest edition of An Phoblacht out on Friday August 28, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
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• David Cameron and unionist parties reinforcing political logjams, Gerry Adams warns – ‘The political process is in trouble’
• Dawn Purvis, former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, writes in ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’
• Lining out for Gaza – Ireland rugby international Trevor Hogan talks to An Phoblacht about standing up for Palestine
• After the Elections – What Now? Jack O’Connor (SIPTU General President) and Jimmy Kelly (Regional Secretary, Unite the Union)
• Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds RIP – One of the architects of the Peace Process
• Caithfear deireadh a chur leis an gCóireáil Dhíreach
• Unionists surrender to the Tory war on the welfare state – Francie Molloy MP
• Irish teen on hunger strike in Egyptian prison
• Secret files on British Army’s notorious Ulster Defence Regiment revealed in new book
• Géarchéim Tithíocht ag Dul in Olcas sa gCaoi go bhfuil Praghsanna ag Dul i Méad
• Martin Ferris TD asks: ‘Who is standing up for farmers?’
• National Women’s Council of Ireland on ‘Women in politics: Barriers to women block progress’
• The myth of media balance
• Ireland and World War 1: Escalation, opposition and commemoration
• Mitchel McLaughlin – World War 1, the Easter Rising and ‘The Right to Remember’
• Russian sanctions herald push to new world order

A shift in societal values from collective action to abandoning the individual… August 26, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
21 comments

Excellent BBC Radio Analysis podcast available (21st July 2014) on the issue of ‘thrift’ and debtors. It goes in some unexpected but important directions, and while It’s deeply concerning, and it underscores the contradictions in regard to debt, it does points up the pressures increasingly being put on citizens to fend for themselves as the state retreats from areas (due to political and ideological approaches of the right).

Bishop Peter Selby of the St. Paul’s Institute makes perhaps the most pertinent comment:

There certainly seems to be no political ambition to take the view that we will always look after our elderly. We are expecting people to look after themselves. And once you move from defined benefit pension schemes to defined contribution schemes you’ve actually transferred the risk from the company or the state or whoever to the individual who is receiving the pension. Now once you’ve done that it’s not surprising that the step has been taken, and very quickly, to saying “what you put aside will be yours to deal with exactly as you wish. You won’t need to buy annuity” and all the other constraints there used to be.

That point about a societal view sums up the problem perfectly. We saw that reflected in John Bruton’s thoughts in New York last year. We see it everywhere. And the obvious problem is that it’s near impossible for individuals to fund pensions, insurance, etc because of the nature of the economic structure itself which suppresses wages.

And as the podcast continues, when ordinary people have to get pensions they can’t apply approaches of making ends meet that work elsewhere (as in supermarket shopping) because of the complexity of the factors in play. There’s more on payday loans and unsecured consumer debt. Seems to me that part and parcel of this is a low wage economy, a problem of growing inequality, mass advertising, low information for consumers and again, those ever increasing charges being foisted individually rather than collectively.

Funnily enough the Church of England seek an extension of credit unions, i.e. community based lenders. One doesn’t have to agree with everything, or even part of the rationale, to feel that that is better than the status quo. It’s a good podcast, but one has the feeling there could be a series made out of all the issues that are mentioned in passing, from the nature of consumption, social provision, debt and so on.

Mass Picket Against Strike Breaking At Greyhound Recycling, Monday Morning, Aug 25, 9 am August 24, 2014

Posted by guestposter in Economy, The Left.
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Greyhound Recycling, Crag Avenue, Off Station Road, Clondalkin Industrial Estate, Clondalkin, Dublin

That new flexible economy… August 24, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
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…for a vision of a world without unions, without labour power, without any real check on employers, bar the intermittent focus of the news media, check out this story here from the New York Times about how employees in Starbucks have to work to schedules that suit the company but are profoundly destructive of their wellbeing, in all respects.

Well, that’s alright then… August 23, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
4 comments

…reading the latest good news report on the economy – it’s all about consumer spending, or perhaps from their perspective more importantly consumer sentiment, this time from Investec, about how all is getting better I was struck in particular by the following:

The country’s unemployment rate of 11.5% is back in line with the euro zone average for the first time since October 2008 and the positive trends are set to continue, the stockbrokers added.

Fantastic… but hold on, we might be shuffling back to euro zone ‘averages’ but what is the level of those averages compared to 2008 – and all that before we even begin to unpack how that figure is arrived at and whether it actually masks significantly greater unemployment levels…

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