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More on the public sector ‘watchdogs’… July 31, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

…from Noel Whelan, who writing in today’s Irish Times has decided that Michael Somers, former head of the National Treasury Management Agency must stand in as a symbol of public sector watchdog failure in the crisis.

Jim O’Leary passes with flying colours Whelan’s ‘remorse’ test…what’s that you may ask? Read on.

Another speaker was NUI Maynooth economist Jim O’Leary, a non-executive director of Allied Irish Banks from 2002 to 2007. In a paper, extracts from which were published in this newspaper last weekend, O’Leary argued that while, with the benefit of hindsight, it is tempting to see the banking crisis as the inevitable consequence of the credit boom that was “not the way the future looked at the time”. He said that the prevailing belief during the boom was that there would follow the much-vaunted “soft landing”. O’Leary continued: “Of course bank directors understood that a much more malign scenario was possible but they trusted that the systems for monitoring and controlling risk ensured that banks would be adequately protected if such circumstances arose”.

O’Leary was sceptical about the “soft landing” view of the property market but seems not to have said that often enough or loud enough at bank board level. In a passage delivered in Glenties with obvious remorse, he added, “it is a matter of profound personal regret to me that I wasn’t more forceful in setting out the contrarian view and didn’t work harder at analysing its implications.”

So, more convincingly to my mind, does Bridget Laffan, member of the NESC…

She pulled no punches, lacerated recent governments for their errors in fiscal management and cited the 2003 decentralisation project for particular criticism. She accused Brian Cowen of “blame avoidance” in his recent speeches and depicted as absurd the Government’s attempt to blame the Opposition or international agencies for not telling them they were doing wrong.

Laffan was as tough on herself as she was on others. She asked why so few of the publicly-funded bodies established to advise Government failed to sound alarms. She declared herself “ashamed” of her own involvement in the National Economic Social Council’s (NESC) failings in that regard.

But what of Somers?

I asked Somers why he had this “feeling in his gut” about Anglo Irish Bank and whether he shared this queasiness with anyone else in the financial or policy-making system. I asked, if he did, what was their response, and if he did not, why not. In reply Somers attributed his reservations to instinct – a sort of banker’s intuition – and said that he “certainly had not” told anyone outside the NTMA about his concerns because he would “have been blown out of the water”. He suggested this was because of the standing which Anglo enjoyed in public, financial and political circles.

The NTMA had no regulatory function in relation to the Irish banking system but the fact that it, as one of the biggest depositors of Irish taxpayers’ money, felt it should limit the monies it placed with that bank was significant.

It is curious therefore that Somers, who was one of the highest profile, most respected and best remunerated public servants, chose not to talk about his concerns with other public or banking officials.

In all of the recent debate about the failure of the public sector dogs to bark warnings during the boom, it was unnerving to hear one of the biggest beasts on the public sector’s stage suggest that although he had concerns about Anglo Irish Bank he did not share them. It was particularly disappointing to hear him say so in a tone which, unlike that of other speakers at MacGill, suggested no remorse.

Hmmmm… it seems to me that the remorse test is going to fail on any number of fronts, not least because as noted here on the CLR previously, this wasn’t simply a case of watch dogs not watching (Whelan implicitly acknowledges as much that the NTMA didn’t have that sort of an oversight function). Instead it seems to me that this was a case of a systemic aversion to genuine intervention, indeed an aversion to serious regulation, by the state in the market, pretty much any market. That the watchdogs, as with the Financial Regulator referenced in the post linked above were not fit for purpose. No doubt about it, some could and should have spoken up, but it seems perverse to blame individuals (or as seems to be the case the ‘public sector’ in some nebulous sense) when in truth the system itself simply could not countenance the thought that the fundamentals that underpinned it were incorrect and the regulatory authorities such as they were and are were established precisely in such a way as to eschew serious regulation.

And that’s to ignore a point that Somers makes, which may be self-serving but may also have a kernel of truth, regarding the reception of any criticism of Anglo Irish. Consider the absolutely uncritical reception Sean Fitzpatrick [as referenced here] received in his comments on how our society should be structured mere months before his subsequent fall from grace and during the period where state funds were channelled to Anglo Irish.

A Poor Sense of Irony July 31, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Afghanistan.

Quote from American Admiral Mike Mullen about the publication of the recent leaked documents about Afghanistan.

“Mr Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family,” he said.

This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… X – Under the Big Black Sun July 31, 2010

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

In the history of punk LA band X have, to some degree, been overshadowed by others – at least in terms of the perception of them on this side of the Atlantic. But John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake deserve greater attention, considerably more so, not merely due to their influence but also for the material they produced.

Starting off with a speedy punk/rockabilly sound as exemplified Johnny Hit and Run Paulene and a tendency to dual attack vocals shared between Doe and Cervenka. But in between the gaps something more complex was developing.

To my mind the best expression of this was found on Under the Big Black Sun which was released in 1982. The tone of the album was set by a stunning black and white illustration only softened by the giant calligraphic X.

Lyrically gloomy – apparently inspired by the death of Cervenka’s sister a couple of years previously – but dynamically furious it is a set of songs that touch on a variety of styles, doo-wop, country, rockabilly and so on, but somehow manages to cohere in a sound that is distinctively their own.

This was regarded by many as their step away from punk into the mainstream. But if this was a step towards the mainstream then it was a step which took their punk roots and eschewing new wave/post punk repositioned themselves in an area one or two steps across from country and rock and roll and in doing so providing a conscious or unconscious role model for a plethora of subsequent bands.

The individual songs range from The Hungry Wolf, and Riding with Mary, both of which teeter on the brink of collapse as melody collides with metallic energy – and with curiously throwaway vocals, and yet succeed entirely, to “Come back to me” which might well be channeling elements of Billy Zoom’s fathers big band career. And why not?

The Have Nots is truly great, a fantastic lyric underpinned by a mash of different guitar styles – and added hand-claps. From that song the line ‘Dawn comes soon enough for the working class’… too true.

But there’s so much more from them… their other albums, both before and after Under the Big Black Sun, are worth a listen. But this, this is the one I return to again and again. You’ll gather that I’m more than fond of it.


The Hungry Wolf

Riding with Mary

The Have Nots

How I (learned my Lesson)

Motel Room in My Bed

Come Back to Me

And live from the Decline of Western Civilsation

Johnny Hit and Run Paulene [this is from their first album – note Mr. Zoom’s unwavering eye contact with the audience. A man with style.]

What you may have missed on the Irish Election Literature Blog… July 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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AK is taking a well deserved break from the IELB for a week or so. In the meantime he put together a collection of some of the more notable material to date… as ever many thanks to him for what continues to be a great political resource…

Some 1997 Socialist Party flyers.

CPI Anti Water Rates Leaflet from 1983.

Sinn Feins Anne Speed from 1989.

John de Courcy Ireland running for The Democratic Socialist Party in 1982.

Declan Bree running for the Sligo-Leitrim Independent Socialist Organisation.

All Aboard The Condom Train from Workers Party Youth in 1991.

Also from 1991 a Workers Party Leaflet “A Democratic Convention in Defence of Public Life”.

And finally two odd ones…

From Cork the only leaflet I ever saw a candidate selling …‘Heres Up Em All’ from Bernie Murphy

and Clifford T Reid had an eyecatching Slogan.

Gort na Móna CLG & Glór na Móna present Community Lecture Series 2010: Bernadette McAliskey – ‘Civil Rights to Bill of Rights – Where to now?’ July 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Ireland, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left, The North.

Gort na Móna CLG & Glór na Móna present
Community Lecture Series 2010

August – Tuesday 3rd, 7.30pm

Bernadette McAliskey – ‘Civil Rights to Bill of Rights – Where to now?’

Bernadette is prominent socialist and human rights activist of some forty years standing. As a leading Civil Rights activist in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she was elected as the youngest ever MP at just 21 years of age. She was also very prominent in the Anti–H-Block campaign during the Irish Hunger Strikes of 1980-81 and subsequently survived an attempt on her life when she was shot by Loyalist gunmen during this period. She continues to work tirelessly as a community activist and political analyst and currently directs the South Tyrone Empowerment Project (STEP).

The talk will take place in Gort na Móna CLG, Springfield Road, Belfast.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this.

Paddy Rice… July 29, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Politics, The Left.

… a fine tribute to former priest, and human rights worker, Paddy Rice from Joe Higgins.

Thanks to LC for forwarding me the link.

Sky Snaps up HBO for 5 years July 29, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Capitalism, Inequality, media.

Brilliant, just brilliant.

More mood music on ‘selling off the silver’ of the public sector… July 29, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

In Prospect magazine – the issue dated July – Tim Leunig of the LSE writes about how public sector workers in the UK must work longer [though no longer than private sector workers] and their pensions shouldn’t be awarded on the basis of ‘final-salary’ in order to subsidise their pension provision. As it happens I’m not that exercised about the second point there. ‘Career average’, perhaps weighted slightly upwards somewhat, seems reasonable enough. But more interestingly in light of the debate on the cuts here are some of his thoughts on the situation more generally.

[George] Osborne needs to save a decent amount of money: we are hugely in debt and must pay back enough of it so that the economy can be bailed out next time it crashes. (there will be a net time, after all – capitalist economies are like that)… and [the measure(s) suggested] delivers big enough savings that we might just be able to rescue our economy from the recession of 2022 as well.

Three thoughts seem to me to follow on from that analysis.


A short observation July 28, 2010

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Economics, Inequality, Inequality.
1 comment so far

I love the way John Quiggin and Henry Farrell over at Crooked Timber call the most recent mid-term economic period The Inequality Boom. Even though they are referring (primarily) to the USA, I think it is a name we could usefully start using for what has come to be called the “Celtic Tiger”.

That is all.

Here’s something of interest concerning Ailtirí na hAiséirghe July 28, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics.

Can I point people towards this genuine find on the excellent Come here to me! [whose contributors I joined on a enjoyable trip around some of Dublin’s pubs a few weeks back – there’s a report on Come Here to Me! if you’re interested in the progress we made].

Anyhow, they’ve managed to get hold of Aiséirghe, paper of Ailtirí na hAiséirghe (who we dealt with here).

Unless I’m much mistaken there’s a reference on the back page of the paper to the relatives of a long-time commentor on the CLR.

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