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Free movement of labour inside the EU and the Tories. October 20, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, European Politics.
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I’m no great fan of José Manuel Barroso to put it mildly, but he has a point here when he :

…dismissed possible Conservative plans to impose a cap on EU migrants as an “airy fairy” proposal that would never be accepted.

Britain signed up to agreement after agreement in relation to the free movement of labour inside the EU.

What’s compounds that, and is so palpably hypocritical about the Tory stance is the complete lack of interest as regards capital movement.

But it’s also interesting looking through comments BTL to see how indifferent they are to the one actual land border that Britain has, with the RoI and it’s intriguing, is it not, to wonder how this state would fit in with all these plans (though there are bilateral agreements IIRC since the 1920s).

Some see this as a typical bluff by the British government but I wonder? I don’t believe UKIP will have anywhere near the sort of influence some are suggesting it will have in the next parliament, or even the sort of numbers some are throwing around, but there’s little doubt in my mind from talking to people in the UK in recent times and having been there recently that there’s been a decisive shift in the broader mood. Where this takes them is a troubling question.

Speaking of troubling, what of this from those clowns in UKIP?

a new Ukip calypso theme tune sung [by former DJ Mike Read, FFS, and he has form here having sung songs for Tory conferences] in a fake-Caribbean accent that criticises political leaders for allowing “illegal immigrants in every town”.

Clowns… or..?

Amazon – the global digital East India company. October 17, 2014

Posted by guestposter in Culture, Economy, European Politics, The Left.
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Many thanks to Gewerkschaftler for this post…

My trades union is engaged in a long term fight against Amazon for half-way tolerable pay and working conditions in its distribution centres in Germany. Basic stuff like trades union representation or even a works council, reasonable breaks, being paid for the time spent while standing in line for security checks. Compliance with local labour law. Some degree of respect for workers from the management. etc.

We are trying to extend this fight internationally and have had some initial success.

But it would help all those who are not uncritical admirers of totalitarian hyper-capitalism knew a thing or two about Amazon’s business strategy and role in the great cancer. Mathew Stoller’s piece here has a good brief survey of just how and why this electronic trading monopolist has become so powerful.

Firstly this isn’t an electronic retailer any more. Bezos’ ambitions are much wider – he is constructing a monopolist trading empire – something like a global East India Company. Amazon itself says that it competes in the following sectors:

physical-world retailers, publishers, vendors, distributors, manufacturers, and producers of our products, other online e-commerce and mobile e-commerce sites, including sites that sell or distribute digital content, media companies, web portals, comparison shopping websites, and web search engines, either directly or in collaboration with other retailers, companies that provide e-commerce services, including website development, fulfillment, customer service, and payment processing, companies that provide information storage or computing services or products, including infrastructure and other web services, companies that design, manufacture, market, or sell consumer electronics, telecommunication, and electronic devices.

Amazon is hardly taxed because all it’s profits are plowed back into aggressive expansion and the accumulation of assets. In this sense it is doing what capitalist are supposed traditionally to do, namely invest – as opposed to the recently hegemonic financialisation of everything, everywhere, regardless of what the company actually sells.

Why does it dare to invest? Because Bezos is convinced of his monopoly power. Here are some of the monopolist strategies:

It is a capital-parasite – in other words uses the working capital of it’s ‘partners’. As the company puts it:

On average, our high inventory velocity means we generally collect from consumers before our payments to suppliers come due.

Or in plain English:

… if you are a supplier to Amazon, you not only sell the company goods at cut-rate prices, but you are also effectively required to make Amazon a 0% loan that turns over as long as you have a relationship with the company. Amazon is a cannibal, running itself on the working capital of other, small companies.

Amazon’s strategy of vertical and horizontal conglomeration and the power it brings is a negative sum game in terms of the surrounding capitalist networks of production and exchange.

It’s quite clear that Amazon is a deflationary force, pushing down wages, prices, tax revenues, and new non-Amazon business activity. It has deflated prices in book publishing, and retailers across the board are terrified that Amazon is in the process of ripping their guts out. The company is having a ripple effect across the economy. To the extent that deflation is a serious problem, which it is, Amazon is a villain. And this isn’t just ‘technological process’, it’s straight up market power over workers, suppliers, and even governments.

Even the benefits to consumers are balanced by a quasi-feudal, company-store relationship between them and the big A.

The one group that is treated with exceptional grace is consumers. They get low prices and great service. But this relationship is increasingly feudal, with low prices and great service as the benefits I get for surrendering my liberties to Jeff Bezos. I may get excellent prices on my Kindle, but I am now a renter of those books. I can’t lend them to my girlfriend any more, unless Amazon says I can. Amazon can take them away at any point. It knows every page I’ve read, everything I’ve highlighted, it knows what I might want to buy. It knows what I’ve watched on Amazon prime, where I’ve lived, what I buy on a regular basis, whether I’m price sensitive, an impulsive buyer, what I might be selling. Amazon knows, and at any point can exert power.

Stoller’s ‘solutions’ are of the ‘regulate this un-American monopoly and it will be fine’ order. Allow me a certain skepticism, given the recent history of regulating capitalism. But he at least stumbles on the realisation that economics is always politics.

The problem with Amazon is not fundamentally one of economics. I mean, yes, it’s destroying wealth, but this is a symptom of the real issue. Amazon is a cannibal. It eats other companies in ways large and small, it eats the time of its workers, and it eats our government through tax avoidance, all to create a cash generating machine. It sucks in investment in as much of the economy to serve its ends, much as Walmart did in the 1990s (a substantial amount of American productivity basically boiled down to Walmart getting more efficient). Amazon is a tyrant, it rules through terror, and left unencumbered, it will destroy swaths of the U.S. economy. Arguments for Amazon as pro-consumer essentially boil down to ‘well its use of economic terror is efficient’. And the British East India Trading company sold really cheap tea in 1775.

All Bezos needs now is a armed partner. But wait – isn’t Bezos a big drone-fetishist, like many of his techno-optimist peers?

Resistance is hard, but essential.

Thresholds for parties… October 8, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics.
14 comments


Just looking at the results of the Swedish general election which had a win for the Social Democrats, or at least not a loss, with a minority government with the Greens being formed.

I was struck by the way in which the Swedish system predicates against independents. It’s not entirely clear if it is entirely impossible to be an independent, but the Riksdag has a 4% threshold nationally for political “parties”, and 12% in constituencies can’t help. There appear to be some local ‘parties’ that have an independent characteristic, but any information on this is gratefully accepted. In a way it is fascinating how few polities appear to have independents. The fact that they have waxed and waned in this polity is actually quite remarkable. Like them or loathe them – and in truth they represent such a broad spectrum of political ideas and dynamics that it is arguably reductionist to see them all simply as ‘independents’, they are an organic expression of political activity in this state.

I suspect that we may hear calls from some quarters for that if the next round of government formation becomes deeply problematic, from the perspective of a smooth transition with relatively little horse-trading, in 2015/16. Though Article 16 of the Constitution presumably would stymie such calls, wouldn’t it?

That Tory ‘Bill of Rights’ plan and the implications for Northern Ireland October 3, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, European Politics, Northern Ireland.
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reading this was useful. Conor Gearty in the Guardian notes that the Tories ‘promise’ to essentially derogate from the ECHR (which, needless to say they, the Tories, seem to assume is part of the EU structure), has an interesting side effect closer to home:

What of Scotland and of Wales? Neither gets a mention – just a vague reference to working with the devolved legislatures “to make sure there is an effective new settlement across the UK”. The referendum’s message of inclusivity is already long forgotten, it seems. And the Good Friday agreement, which settled Northern Ireland’s conflict – it specifically requires incorporation of the convention into Northern Ireland’s law. What will happen there?

Gearty suggests it’s effectively back of an envelope politicking, yet more reddish meat thrown to appease the unappeasable on the eurosceptic wing of the party. Indeed so. But as always there’s the sense that Cameron and Co simply don’t get, or perhaps more accurately, don’t care about the ramifications of what they do. We saw something similar in the near immediate clawback of promises made during the Scottish referendum once the vote was in.

While you’re thinking about that think about this… George Osborne decides to take a swing at the charity sector in the UK. Looks like some are going to take a swing back.

George Osborne has triggered a backlash from charities after he urged companies to defend the economy against their “anti-business views” and those of pressure groups and trade unions.

He is beyond parody. But he is also in power.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Europe October 2, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics.
6 comments

RTÉ News has learned that the offices of both the President of the European Commission and the President of the Parliament had to intervene in the row between Ireland’s EU Commissioner designate Phil Hogan and Dublin MEP Nessa Childers MEP on the eve of his parliamentary hearing.

And:

According to an EU source, Mr Juncker’s office asked Mr Schulz’s officials to encourage a meeting between Ireland’s commissioner designate and Ms Childers so that the row would not be “played out in public and between legal offices”.

Officials in Mr Schulz’s cabinet then wrote to Ms Childers offering to “facilitate a meeting”.

In the event Mr Hogan wrote to Ms Childers himself seeking a meeting to “explain the facts” and “deal with any misunderstandings”.

Ms Childers declined the offer on legal advice, RTÉ News has established.

If this takes light in the Irish media that would see FG under pressure on three fronts.

And did any catch a truly dismal performance by Joan Burton in the Dáil this morning at Leader’s Questions, particularly in relation to Mary Lou McDonald. No end of ‘I make no apology…’ or evasion. Or, and this was notable ‘Fianna Fáil’ this, ‘Fianna Fáil that’. Not a good comparison one might think to make in a week when the names Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been linked (unless the idea is to try to put clear water between the LP and the other two, something that seems difficult to achieve given that it remains in government with FG). Notable too the shout-out to the public sector workers.

‘A crazy bubble which never made sense’. That would, of course, be the 2000s. But wait up, this wouldn’t be around the same time the LP sought to reduce income tax rates yet further as per their 2007 General Election manifesto?

Could be.

And what would the rUK be like in relation to the EU? September 11, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics, Politics of Scotland.
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Another day another poll, this time tilting towards the No side. Whether that’s a ‘swing’ back as the Guardian puts it is very much open to question. Let’s hope they don’t withdraw the sort of kind of offer of Devo Max – eh?

Anyhow one has to wonder what the result of a Yes vote would be in regard to the rUK and Europe. Would it strengthen euroscepticism in a sort of bloody minded, feck ‘em, we can go it alone, we don’t need any of them, or would it soften coughs in relation to going it alone? Just on that, where would the rUK stand in relation to other EU states in terms of size, etc? Well, rUK GDP would be approximately 10% less than that of the UK as is though the rUK will rank about 6th in the world economically.

This piece here points to some basic aspects of the situation.
As does this.

Some useful detail squirrelled away there even if one disagrees with the overall thrust:

The White Paper spells out Scotland’s precise demands. The RAF would be asked to hand over one squadron of 12 Typhoon fighters for the new Scottish air force. That may not sound much – until you remember that the RAF only has two squadrons of air defence jets. So the rebirth of an independent Scotland would deprive the RAF of 50 per cent of its strength in air-to-air combat.
Scotland would also demand two frigates from the Royal Navy. Again, that may not sound much – until you remember that the Navy only has 13 frigates. Along with six destroyers, that means Britain possesses 19 big warships. So Scotland would demand 10 per cent of the core of the surface fleet.

And as does this from the BBC.

Just in terms of population the rUK would have close to 58m people as against 63m people in the UK. The nominal GDP of England is $2.68 trillion dollars, Scotland ¢235 bn, Wales $85.4bn and Northern Ireland $37.33bn. Or to put it another way, current UK GDP is approx $2.435 trillion dollars, the rUK will be $2.19 trillion dollars.

Even apart from the central issue this has to be one of the most fascinating political events of our time, not least for the questions that it throws up.

Questions, though, that are not being addressed it would appear in Ireland, or rather this state. As Arthur Beesley notes in the IT. He makes a fair point, it would be arguably wrong of the government to make a statement for or against the process, for a myriad of reasons, whatever one’s views on the issue. But this is intriguing:

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan shows no evident appetite for public discussion of the matter. According to his department, there has been no Cabinet memorandum on the Scottish question since Flanagan took office. It was the same during Eamon Gilmore’s time.

And there’s this:

In a statutory assessment last April of risks facing the State, Scotland was disposed of in a single sentence. This document cast the referendum in the context of a promise by British prime minister David Cameron to hold a referendum on European Union membership in 2017 if he secures re-election next year. “If the so-called Brexit option is taken, it could introduce profound uncertainty into Anglo-Irish relations. Similarly, the outcome of the Scottish referendum on independence could introduce an element of instability into Northern Ireland.”

Yes. Indeed.

Speaking of matters military, this is sort of an eye-opener…

And over in the UK… August 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, European Politics.
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Is this editorial from the Guardian on Tory defector Douglas Carswell just a little too gushing…

Unlike some Eurosceptic Tories, Mr Carswell is not a one-trick pony. He is an independent libertarian-minded MP who argues the need for radical political reform in the digital age and who has championed banking reform too. But it is his implacable Euroscepticism that made him switch to Ukip and which he highlighted in his resignation statement.


Well, libertarian-minded, yes, perhaps… he’s no end of enthusiasm for ‘direct democracy’, ‘recall of MPs’ and stuff like that.

And while it’s heartening to hear about his appetite for ‘radical political reform’ and indeed ‘action to clean up Westminster politics’… could it be that this paragon of virtue also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Carswell#Parliamentary_expenses_scandal Sure could!

European Election 2014: Sweden and the United Kingdom July 9, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, The Left.
2 comments

As Liberius notes…

[here's] the final part of my series on the European election, covering Sweden and the United Kingdom with a listed overview of the results to conclude. The Swedish results gave me a chance to crowbar in some music, enjoy!

A genuine resource, and many thanks to Liberius for compiling it.

European Elections – Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain July 3, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, The Left.
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From Liberius, an update to the ongoing and very useful overview of the European Elections available here. As Liberius notes:

Part seven of my series, covering Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. This part is the penultimate part; part eight will include the results discussed in the entire series presented as a list.

Any old European Parliament group will do… June 24, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics.
64 comments

And as CMK notes in comments, Brian Crowley has been expelled from the FF parliamentary party!

Ireland South MEP Brian Crowley is no longer a member of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party.

The long-serving Cork politician lost the party whip as a consequence of his decision to depart from the Alde group in the European Parliament to join the Eurosceptic European Conservative and Reformist group.

Can’t really say I’m surprised at the news that Brian Crowley MEP for Ireland South, and member of Fianna Fáil, has jumped from FF’s EP Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group to the Conservative Reformist group led by the British Tories. Crowley has always been a more conservative figure than some might have thought.

Entertaining too to see FF slowly push back as it began to realise just how problematic this actually was, moving from a relaxed enough position on it to one where FF chief whip Seán Ó Fearghail acknowledged that Crowley’s actions constituted ‘major difficulties’ for them.

And so it does. Bad enough to be beaten back to one MEP representing them from Ireland, but to see the one remaining MEP go on a solo run is worse again (and have to effectively jettison him). Does this damage Martin’s authority? Sure it does, but political parties are voluntary associations and there’s little he can do. Eject Crowley and he loses him – probably for good. Sit tight and nothing changes, but Crowley remains a member of a group which Ó Fearghail admitted that ‘FF had absolutely nothing in common’. That’s probably pushing it, but it has to be a bitter pill to swallow to see Crowley joining a Tory led group.

Interesting to see this comparison made:

“If you take this course of action, then you move on,” said one TD, who did not want to state his position before today’s meeting.
“It would be like someone here joining the technical group and it’s not dissimilar to Lucinda [Creighton]leaving the Fine Gael parliamentary party but remaining a member of the party.”

Of course the issue of groups is fairly fluid in the EP but there are limits to that fluidity and Crowley appears to have reached them.

As to FF more broadly, well, yet another example of how the party is unravelling at the seams. It’s not a major crisis, it has little functional effect upon domestic politics in this state, but it contributes yet another small example of how things are not as they were. The seemingly near-invincible political machine that dominated the Celtic Tiger years is now a smoking hulk shifting hither and yon across the political landscape with no clear direction in mind and with some members of the crew happy enough to hang on by a fingernail.

You know, I’d almost have some sympathy for Martin.

Almost.

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