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Event: A politically feasible maximum wage? July 16, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Class/Class politics, Economics, Equality, Ethics, Excess.
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A politically plausible ‘maximum wage’?

16 September 2014

How we can make the ultimate antidote to inequality more than an egalitarian fantasy
Tuesday, September 16, 6-8pm, The Ark, Eustace Street, Temple Bar
Speakers: Speakers: Sam Pizzigati (Currently editor of Too Much, the global weekly on excess and inequality published by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.) and Dr. Mary Murphy (Central group Claiming our Future and Lecturer at NUIM.

___________

The idea of a “maximum wage” — a cap on the annual income any one person can claim — has been around ever since the time of Plato. In today’s staggeringly unequal world, that idea is making a comeback, in everywhere from Egypt to New Zealand.

But could a “maximum wage” ever actually become politically viable? A variety of North American activists think so. In Canada and the United States, their emerging strategy revolves around leveraging the power of the public purse — our tax dollars — against the global corporations now manufacturing inequality at an incredibly furious pace.

These activists are mounting a frontal assault on corporate compensation systems that have individual power suits routinely making more in a morning than most of us can make in an entire year. How far has their new movement come? How far could this movement take us? Join Sam Pizzigati of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, America’s boldest progressive think tank, for an up-close look at a promising new direction in egalitarian public policy.

_____
About Sam Pizzigati
Veteran labor journalist Sam Pizzigati currently edits Too Much, the global weekly on excess and inequality published by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. The New York Times has called him America’s “chief proponent” for the notion of a “maximum wage.”

Pizzigati has explored that notion in a series of books and articles that have appeared on both sides of the Atlantic. His most recent book, The Rich Don’t Always Win: The forgotten triumph over plutocracy that created the American middle class, 1900-1970, traces the influence of income-cap advocacy over the first half of the 20th century.

In an earlier book, the 2004 Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives, Pizzigati helps explain why we need a ceiling on annual income — and offers both a glimpse at what “maximum wage” life might be like and a strategic gameplan for moving ahead in an income-capping direction.

Pizzigati has edited the national publications of four different American trade unions. He spent 20 years directing the publishing program of America’s largest union, the 2.4 million-member National Education Association.

Pizzigati currently lives just outside Washington in Maryland, where he served as a founding board member of Progressive Maryland, a statewide coalition of labor, community, and civil rights groups.

Coltan, Congo and a missed opportunity July 3, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Business, Choice, Ethics, FairPhone.
1 comment so far

You might have seen the article in the Irish Times about a conference at NUI Galway, on the subject of women and leadership in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Apart from a one-paragraph nod towards Mary Robinson’s contribution, the Irish Times reported only about a plenary speech by Thomas Turner, who is a specialist for Amnesty International on the DRC.

Turner has written a number of books on the Congo and the war there. His message for the participants at the NUI conference dealt with campaigns on boycotting electronic equipment like mobile phones and games consoles because of the claims that the coltan, a mineral used in capacitors in small devices, contribute to rape and mass killings. His abstract for the conference is pretty clear on why that simplistic picture is a problem:

The latest such oversimplification, imposed by outsiders, concerns conflict minerals, mass killing and sexual violence. The Congo war is the bloodiest since World War Two, and the country is the “rape capital of the world”. However, there is a magic bullet that can put an end to the atrocities and that is banning “conflict minerals”. In recent weeks, it has been reported that most of the mines in eastern DRC are no longer controlled by warlords or militias, yet the level of rape and sexual violence remains high.

The Irish Times reports:

Mr Turner also cited the Kony 2012 campaign as another example where the public had been confused, with young people believing that if they bought a plastic bracelet they could eradicate use of child soldiers.

And this line that simple steps by western consumers and concerned citizens will not solve the underlying problems is reported in a review of Turnder’s book Congo:

avoiding the purchase of coltan-laden cell phones or mineral-containing gaming consoles is somewhat incoherent and unlikely to resolve the substantive issues

This has been a missed opportunity. I cannot tell if it was Turner or the Irish Times who missed it.

It is valid to point out the inadequacy of boycotts or of clocking up online views of the Kony video (99 million views since 2012).

But offering only criticisms of simplistic solutions is to do a disservice to those who engage with the messy complexities and work within them to try to bring real change. For example, Fairphone, a Dutch social enterprise, instead of boycotting coltan from the DRC has sought to secure sources of the mineral that reflect the concerns of the simplistic activists Turner criticises. And those who follow Fairphone’s work know that they are neither naive nor simplistic. They know full well that in a complex product like a mobile phone there are limits to what an organisation can do. But they also see the work they have done as only a first step.

By not exploring viable solutions and concentrating only on criticising those who are simplistic, Turner or the Irish Times, or both, missed an important opportunity.

Would you want to set up FairPhone? January 14, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Choice, Community, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, FairPhone, Human Rights, Technology, Workers Rights.
5 comments

Who in their right mind would want to set up FairPhone? Obviously you can check out their site to find out who actually did set it up as a Dutch social enterprise, but would you want to?

Park, for a moment, the ‘fair’ bit and think about what is involved setting up a company to make a new smartphone. Smartphones are complex products, with chips, capacitors, resistors, glass, sensors, casings, displays, batteries, cameras, speakers, antennae, sockets and other bits and pieces that I don’t know about. And you’d need software. You would also need to design all of this, or get people to do that for you, and to set up or find a factory to make it.

If you did do it, you would be going into a market with big brands like Samsung, iPhone, Sony, Nokia, HTC, and so on, so you would need a pretty strong selling point to attract customers from the products offered by those heavy-hitters.
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FairPhone June 11, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Community, Economics, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, Human Rights, Technology.
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[WorldByStorm suggested today that I move this up from a comment to a full post. I've uodated it because the time reference in the original is now out of date.]

Last year, I mentioned (in passing) that when I when I first bought a mobile phone, I made a point of buying from a telecoms company that recognises their workers’ union. I did not mention then that I had also done some research to see if I could buy a model that reflected my concerns — where the minerals are from, or union recognition for the people who make the actual phone.

So, I was pleased to see fairphone.com opened their new phone to pre-purchase.

On June 5 they hit their target of 5000 orders in order to go into production, and there are two days left to order one of the first batch.

And at the weekend just gone, they were working on aspects of the design their second phone.

The ethos is summed up in the invitation to the group of designers who participated in that workshop:

FairPhone was created because most people have no idea where the component parts of their mobile phone come from, how they are manufactured, and by whom. Bas: “Mobile phones are part and parcel of a complex economic and political system. We want to make this system visible to everyone. We do that by manufacturing the FairPhone, which unravels that system step by step.”

They recongise that their product is far from perfect — the rights of the workers is not secured through union recognition — but it’s better than any other phone I know of. Worth a look, I would suggest.

Oh dear… May 9, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Ethics.
24 comments

…no surprise to see that this, the thoughts of UK barrister Barbara Hewson on Operation Yewtree (the Jimmy Saville inquiry), Stewart Hall amongst other predators and age of consent laws appeared on Spiked.

But the language itself would be sufficient to provide an hint of the provenance. The subhead elides her arguments made later in the piece:

With its emphasis on outcomes over process, the post-Savile witch-hunting of ageing celebs echoes the Soviet Union.

Really? The Soviet Union? Really?

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Take action in the legislative process of EU-Seed regulation! May 2, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Environment, Ethics, European Politics, Seed diversity.
3 comments

This was sent to us at CLR earlier today

Take action in the legislative process of EU-Seed regulation!

There is urgent action needed to avoid damage by the upcoming new EU regulation of seed marketing. The new regulation will de facto ban old and rare varieties and farmers varieties and threaten the exchange and selling of seeds of diversity. DG SANCO (the General Direction of the EU for Sanitary and Consumer affairs) has been working on a proposal for a new regulation since years.

On Monday, the 6th of May they will present their proposal to the conference of commissioners. They could not get a consensus of the two other affected DGs, DG AGRI (agricultural affairs) and DG ENVI (environmental affairs). Both opposed the last draft of the proposal, and DG SANCO is not looking for a consensus.

The new regulation has mainly been drafted by Isabelle Clement-Nissou, an employee of GNIS, the French lobby of the Seed Industry. Madame Clement-Nissou was sent as a national expert to Brussels by the French government and is supposed to ” support ” DG SANCO. The drafts for the proposal became worse from the first to the second draft; and it is expected that the final proposal is going into the same direction. Since there is no consensus between the three DGs, the commissioners have to vote on the proposal.

If a majority of commissioners votes against the proposal, it should be stopped. If they vote in favour, it will be given to the EU Parliament and to the Council. The seed industry is pushing the legislation, because they’ve spent a lot of money to influence the seed legislation. Furthermore, they don’t want it to be postponed after the election of a new parliament in May 2014. They take the risk that the commissioners vote against it − and we think: the commissioners should do so! There is only a little chance to get a majority of commissioners to vote against the current proposal, but we still should try.

Each country of the EU has one commissioner in Brussels, so we need 14 votes against the proposal. The commissioners of DG AGRI and DG ENVI should vote against, so we need 12 more.

Please write to the commissioner of your country and convince him/her to vote ” NO ” on the proposal of DG SANCO on 6th of May.

Try to make a link from his/her department to the seed issue, and try to make clear to him/her that the proposal for a new EU seed legislation will affect the cultural and biodiversity heritage of your country and the freedom of farmers to use the seeds and the varieties they want to.

NO PROHIBITION OF SEEDS OF DIVERSITY! By the obligation to register varieties before marketing, the new regulation will be a de facto prohibition of old and rare varieties and of farmer varieties. Please write to your commissioner in Brussels no later than the 28th.

He/she has to make a statement on the proposal from 24th of April on, the sooner, the better. On the 6th of May, we must obtain at least 14 objections, otherwise this proposal will become the official proposal.

THE EMAIL ADDRESS OF THE IRISH EU COMMISSIONER MÁIRE GEOGHEGAN-QUINN IS: maire.geoghegan-quinn@ec.europa.eu SUGGESTED MAIL:

Dear Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, I have recently been made aware of the upcoming proposed changes to EU seed marketing law. This proposed new regulation will de facto ban old and rare varieties and farmers varieties and stop the exchange and selling of traditional seeds.

The apparent background to this is that DG SANCO (the Directorate General of the EU for Sanitary and Consumer affairs) has been working on a proposal for a new regulation driven by lobbying of the big agricultural seed companies. Apparently, however, two other EU directorates, DG AGRI (agricultural affairs) and DG ENVI (environmental affairs) both opposed the last draft of the proposal because it was so bad for agriculture and biodiversity. DG SANCO is now pushing ahead with the new law by putting it directly to the Commission this week.

I would urge you to vote against the current proposal, as it impacts everyone who cares about our seeds and our freedom to save, use, and exchange them.

Given our Irish heritage and background in agriculture and indeed the many rare and beautiful varieties unique to our country, it is vital that you understand how the proposal for a new EU seed legislation will affect the cultural and biodiversity heritage of Ireland, and the freedom of farmers and growers to use the seeds and the varieties they want to. By forcing registration of all varieties of every crop species that exists, the new law will prohibit old, rare and traditional public− domain farm varieties. This will guarantee huge profits for the seed industry but will be a terrible loss to the people of Europe as our agricultural heritage is outlawed overnight!

I would urge you SAY NO TO PROHIBITION OF SEEDS OF DIVERSITY! VOTE NO….

Yours faithfully,

More info at: www.seed-sovereignty.org

The State’s position on the rights in the kind of situation before Savita Halappanava’s death November 17, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Bunreacht na hÉireann, Ethics, Feminism, Health, Human Rights, Ireland, Medical Issues.
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Here is what the government says is the official procedure to be followed in the kind of situation that preceeded Savita Halappanava’s death, as explained by the Government to the European Court of Human Rights in 2009, and summarised by that Court in September 2010. [I have added the emphasis. Here they are dicussing the case of "C".]

189. As regards the third applicant specifically, the Government made the following submissions.

In the first place, they maintained in response to a question from the Court, that the procedure for obtaining a lawful abortion in Ireland was clear. The decision was made, like any other major medical matter, by a patient in consultation with her doctor. On the rare occasion there was a possibility of a risk to the life of a woman, there was “a very clear and bright line rule provided by Irish law which is neither difficult to understand or to apply because it is the same law that has been applied under Section 58 of the 1861 Act, under Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution and under the legislative provisions of every country which permits a pregnancy to be terminated on that ground”. As to the precise procedures to be followed by a pregnant woman and her doctor where an issue arose as to such a possible risk, it was the responsibility of the doctor and a termination could occur when the risk was real and substantial. If the patient did not agree with that advice, she was free to seek another medical opinion and, in the last resort, she could make an emergency application to the High Court (as outlined above). The grounds for lawful abortion in Ireland were well known and applied. Referring to the Medical Council Guidelines, the CPA Guidelines and the evidence of practitioners to the Committee on the Constitution, the Government considered it clear that, while there were issues regarding the characterisation of medical treatment essential to protect the life of the mother, medical intervention occurred when a mother’s life was threatened, the refusal of treatment on grounds of moral disapproval was prohibited and a patient was entitled to a second opinion. While the Irish Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists had no published guidelines concerning a pregnant woman presenting with life threatening conditions, that Institute would be in agreement with the Guidelines of the United Kingdom Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists concerning the management of ectopic pregnancies and it was probable that Irish gynaecologists would “by and large” follow the latter Guidelines with or without minor amendments or additions. This clear process of how a decision to terminate a pregnancy was taken in Ireland by the patient in consultation with the doctor was regularly followed in the case of ectopic pregnancies./blockquote>

[You may wish to know that Ireland was found by the European Court of Human Rights to have breached the human rights of "C".]

The 90-page PDF is available here.

Tax and income — a detail of our political priorities November 11, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Ethics, Ireland, Justice, Taxation Policy.
4 comments

This morning, I saw the breakningnews.ie story on what I assume is a “Sunday press release” from Mattie McGrath. The answer to a parliamentary question he asked established that 1,700 employees in four Irish banks earn receive more than €100,000 each.

In a moment of (poor-taste) whimsy, I wondered if anybody in IBEC is rewriting Martin Niemöller’s famous poem:

First they came for the top civil servants,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a civil servant.

Then they came for the judges,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a judge.

Then they came for the balied-out bankers,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a balied-out banker.

But I don’t think they need worry. I don’t hear the high earnings in the private sector questioned — whether that is the publicly traded companies whose financial results are public records or the legally private firms (like Dunnes Stores), where all is secret.

What I did hear though, was that on Friday, our good deputies put some time into debating Eoghan Murphy’s Tax Transparency Bill 2012. I am not surprised that the deputies understanding of tax transparency is ineffective and that the Bill is pointless. Real tax transparency would follow the Nordic model, where the amount of tax paid by everybody is a public record.

A Left-friendly email service provider? October 15, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Community, Ethics, Internet, Other Stuff, Society, Trade Unions, Workers Rights.
9 comments

Hi Folks,

My main email account has been with ireland.com since the 1990s. Today they sent an email to say they are closing the service in less than a month (so the domain can be transferred to Tourism Ireland).

I could simpy transfer everything to my back-up gmail account, and may do that simply to ensure that I have the data. However, I was wondering of any readers of CLR know of a Left-friendly email service provider?

So, what would be Left-friendly? My ideal would be one run as a co-op, and I wouldn’t mind paying for that, but I’ve no notion if there are any or if any I might find thrpugh an internet search are secure or reliable. My second preference would be one run by a company that recognises unions. (When I got my first mobile phone, I checked with the CWU to see which providers recognised it and/or other unions. The initial reply gave me a list of companies where the union has members, but I did get an answer the specific question a few days later. I don’t know how often the union gets a query like that.)

Thanks,

Tomboktu

Dear Account Holder,

The Irish Times and Tourism Ireland today announced a digital content cooperation agreement to promote Ireland as a tourist destination. The agreement spans a number of areas, including the sale of the ireland.com domain name to Tourism Ireland. Tourism Ireland will use the ireland.com url to attract more web traffic and enhance the promotion of Ireland overseas.

As a result, we wish to inform our @ireland.com email subscribers that the service will be discontinued from November 7th, 2012. From midnight on this date, you will no longer be able to send or receive messages. You will, however, be able to access your account until December 7th for the purpose of transferring any data (i.e. emails, tasks, documents, appointments and/or contacts) currently saved on your account. We are writing to advise you of this change and to ensure the transition to a new service provider is as seamless as possible.

To aid the transition, we have provided a step-by-step guide and FAQs on ireland.com and a helpline has been established to assist wherever possible. The helpline will operate between 8am and 8pm weekdays on telephone 1890 876 666 or 01 685 6999 or email customerservice@digitalworx.ie .

We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to our valued customers.

John O’Shea

Head of Online, The Irish Times

Sipo Annual Report July 21, 2012

Posted by doctorfive in Ethics, Irish Politics.
4 comments

In among the customary dump before the holidays is the Standards Commission annual report for 2011. The intro leads with a Eurbarometer poll from last year showing 86% believe corruption is a major problem in this country. The remaining figure looking remarkably similar to that unshakeable Fianna Fáil base is probably coincidence.

In a Eurobarometer poll (76.1) conducted in September 2011, 86% of Irish people surveyed agreed with the statement that corruption is a major problem in this country. A substantial minority of 36% of the sample believed that they were personally affected by corruption in their daily lives. 65% believed that bribery and abuse of position for personal gain was widespread among politicians at national level. If our trust in public institutions is to be restored and our international reputation improved, then progress in reforming our anti-corruption legislation is absolutely essential.

Aside, there is not a whole lot that hadn’t already been published but plenty of figures and titbits given the amount of elections last year. Well over a million spent on the Davis, Dana, Norris & Mitchell campaigns with no reimbursement having failed to reach a quota. Fine Gael topped the list incurring €527,152.01 expenses and not a single recorded donation. Almost 50k of that spend was with Amarach Research (run by former Fine Gael Political Director Michael McLoughlin) testing negative messages about other candidates.

ho hum

The code of conduct for members of Dáil Éireann remains sufficient (and a good laugh) but the Commission expresses disappointment that an ethical framework for the Garda Síochána and Local Government services has not been forthcoming. There is also details on the introduction of a voluntary system whereby office holders could elect to have their financial affairs audited by an inspector appointed by the Standards Commission at any time during their period in office and for a defined period thereafter as recommended by Moriarty.

Michael Smith’s complaint on Cllr Oisin Quinn is covered along with the Healy-Raes in Kerry and the Hogan\Gormley Poolbeg investigation. Arthur Spring was quite late with his tax clearance cert while Sipo is still awaiting clarification on Ciaran Cuffe’s use of Oireachtas facilities during the general election.

Neither Fine Gael or Labour disclosed any donations in 2011 and there were no Donation Statements from individual donors to any party. Last year was the lowest amount disclosed since the introduction of requirements 15 years ago, €30,997 in all though the CPI is yet to send a statement. However almost 400k was disclosed by individual politicians and parties received over twelve million in state funding which is not subject to income tax.

The report concludes with various recommendations from increased transparency and enforcement to sanctions for non-cooperation. Many unfortunately feature every year and are met with glacial action if any at all.

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