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This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… Simple Minds February 26, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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It’s hard now to remember when Simple Minds weren’t a bloated mid-1980s pop band but were a credible, no – an essential, new wave outfit producing a blend of guitars and dance inflected, even disco inflected, keyboard driven music that pushed back frontiers. When Jim Kerr was a man who was slip sliding along the edge of the experimental. When… well, that was then and this is now.

It was Alastair, sometimes of this parish, who I think loaned me Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call (though I may be wrong about the latter) way back when, probably sometime around 1984. But I was already in thrall to ‘I Travel’ and other tracks that Dave Fanning had played by them. This was amazing stuff. Propulsive, dynamic, unrelenting. Guitar music set to Moroder style keyboards. And here’s an interesting thing, some of you will know that I’m a bit of a fan of a certain Steve Hillage, and in particular his and Miquette Giraudy’s dance/electronica experimentation under the System 7 moniker in the 1990s and 2000s, but it was he who produced Sons and Fascination. Which makes sense.

Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, though released simultaneously and culled from one set of sessions were separate albums, perhaps one of the great releases of the early 1980s. ‘Love Song’, ‘Sweat in Bullet’, ‘The American’, ‘Theme for Great Cities’, ‘In Trance as Mission’, and on and on. Song after song, a number of instrumentals and reworked tracks. And almost all of them classic in their own way.

Listen to ‘Theme for Great Cities’, with it’s deceptively simple keyboard line and surging guitars, all underpinned by insistent drumming and bass and a hint of Jean Michel Jarre – but in a good way. This was a band who not merely got what was possible with new wave but were able to translate it into action. And you can here echoes here not just of then contemporary electronic tinged music, but of later experimentation. Or that great surging baseline that underpins ‘Love Song’ (and another odd video as you’ll see below).

Simon Reynolds in his excellent overview of post-punk seems to regard ‘Promised You A Miracle’ as their best moment, but for my money their last best moment was ‘New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84)’ from the same album as PYAM, which melded keyboards with a soaring chorus. That two note keyboard line that again references Moroder, still brilliant even now, along with that chorus. Of course 1984 seems so far behind us, 26 years, and yet I think there’s something about that song that makes it seem fresh and ready for investigation.

But in its genius, and perhaps this is true of ‘Love Song’ too, it also contained the seeds of all that would later go wrong, a certain hint of plodding pomposity.

And of course it all went wrong, didn’t it? And early too – mid 1980s. They sang ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, a song they hadn’t even written, and soon enough they had gone the U2 route into the worst excesses of the ‘Big Music’ (or the Psychedelic Furs route, though the Furs clawed back some degree of credibility in the latter years of their career), indeed their journey was even stranger because it’s difficult to make a strong case for U2 being particularly innovative [The Edge’s guitar work? Well not so much in my book]. Whereas Simple Minds wereinnovative. One of the great pities of their journey was that they moved away from a range of areas that they could have built upon.

But nothing can take away the sheer weirdness of their sound in the early 1980s. His voice set to those sounds. It was something else, an harsh, abrasive, soft, compelling combination. Remarkable and worth revisiting.

I Travel

Theme for Great Cities

The American – 12″

In Trance as Mission

Sweat in Bullet (Video)

Love Song (Video)

New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84)

Predictions…predictions…predictions… or the wisdom of the crowd [on the CLR] February 25, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
37 comments

I’ve mentioned previously how this may well be the most polled, the most over-polled, election of recent times. That being the case the disparity between polling results and actual results will be fascinating to see – if there is any. And of course there will be in, at least in one respect, that national percentages don’t translate neatly to constituency outcomes.

Of course that’s where the interesting stuff is really, in that gap, and not just interesting but also essential in terms of the outcomes for those on the left and progressive part of the spectrum. So that in mind anyone want to hazard national totals for the parties? Or indeed now that things are [almost] finished, the outcomes in constituencies?

To start it off here are some predictions from the Irish Times reporters from yesterday.

Monopoly February 25, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Ireland.
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Fianna Fáil Monopoly game

This Week at The Irish Election Literature Blog: 2011 Election Special -Part 2 February 25, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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A Leaflet from The Socialist Partys Joe Higgins in Dublin West

He Cannot Change His Spots” -Vote No to Gerry Adams

Vote For Experience and Common Sense” asks Michael Healy Rae

Sean Haugheys dropped the Fianna Fail Logo

Leo Varadkar dropped a candidate from his letter and mock ballot paper

A flyer from young Dylan Haskins , I wonder how he will fare ?

and finally fresh from the door mat ‘Good Morning Voter from your Local Representative’ writes Cyprian Brady.

Polling Day 2011… February 25, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
55 comments

Okay, it’s all over. More or less. And that’s a good thing. We can but hope that the left in all its myriad and wondrous forms will do well.

As always, it’d be interesting to get some impressions of how voting is going across the state.

Any thoughts?

For those fresh from the coalface, here’s a look back to 2007. February 25, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
11 comments

During the 2007 General Election we had a series of communications from a number of intrepid canvassers that gave some flavour of that contest.

You’ll find them, here, here, here, here and here.

For those of us involved in the hard edge of political campaigning at this and other elections here or elsewhere they’ll be all too familiar. It’s that sense of effort without clear reward, bar a shining moment when our candidate is elected, or takes their place with like minds, that seems to me to sum up this activity. Street after street, door after door, trying to talk to people for a fraction of a minute who usually aren’t interested and don’t want to know.

It’s funny, however much I can detest aspects of some political parties I retain huge respect for any politician, or their supporters, who actually get out there and put in that effort. While naturally wanting it to be entirely wasted. 😉

Election daze… February 25, 2011

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

Okay, it’s finally here. So let’s talk briefly about outcomes.

The issue of coalition is problematic. It’s true that if, for example, the Labour Party went into government with Fine Gael then that might ameliorate the tone and thrust of FG policies, particularly as regards privatization, many of which are profoundly inimical to left and progressive projects. But we’ve had an object lesson in the past three or four years in the shape of the Green Party of just how limited the traction for political parties can be in coalition.

Is the next, most likely, government going to buck that trend? History wouldn’t instill confidence. Already the mood music has Labour being offered non-economic Departments.

There’s also the problem that we can tell from previous history that smaller parties in coalition tend almost overwhelmingly to fare appallingly badly after such coalitions. And the pendulum, at least hitherto has not subsequently swung leftwards.

In other words a short term vote to shore up the left component of any coalition likely to take office in the next few days or weeks is no guarantee as to the long term outcomes and seems likely to weaken those long term outcomes from a left perspective.

It’s not even a case of the best overshadowing the good. There is no good.

We know that this iteration of Fine Gael is on economic issues one of the most conservative that we have seen. We also know that this iteration of the Labour Party is one of the least radicalized that we have seen (a couple of years back, just at the beginning of the crisis, I was out with a few members of the LP who might be considered close to thinking in the higher reaches of the party. I was genuinely shocked at how even then when the weight being placed upon the Irish people was much lesser than it is today in the wake of the ECB/IMF deal they were so pliant and willing to align with the orthodoxy – and it is that which I mean by less radicalised.).

It would be great if one could easily say that the Labour Party, or whoever, should eschew coalition. We know that that is not going to happen. We know that given the opportunity that party will participate fairly willingly.

I’ve always seen the left as including Sinn Féin, the Workers’ Party, the ULA, left Independents and being as generous as possible some who might be better considered as progressives than necessarily as leftists. But I’ve also seen the left as inclusive in some respect of the Labour Party. That remains true even if they go into coalition, at least for some LP members. And Godspeed to them if they can ameliorate the situation. Problem is that that then consigns them to the compromises that may work, but may not – particularly if we have an FG party with 70 plus TDs.

But for those of us who believe that participation in a government with Fine Gael is a step too far for leftists, where are we left?

It seems overwhelmingly likely that the LP will be in government with FG. Which means that there are further choices for this cohort of us who I describe.

And in truth our votes won’t make a blind bit of difference to government formation. A runaway FG isn’t the result of the left of Labour. It’s shifting voting patterns on the part of those who have always voted centre and centre right. If the LP couldn’t seal that deal, by pulling those voters to them, then your vote and mine won’t do so. Nor will more LP members make an FG/LP government more likely. Oddly enough fewer might do the trick since that would allow for an easier carve up of the spoils. But then their influence is diminished and so on and so forth.

So all that factored in then the goal becomes one of attempting to shore up the left beyond the Labour Party.

And that means that at this election one can only recommend left of centre candidates and, unless in extremis, candidates who won’t participate in government with centre or right of centre parties.

Obviously for those in constituencies where there is no significant left of centre candidates then it’s a personal decision as to which is the most progressive, least conservative candidate and whether that is sufficient to allow for a vote.

Other than that, we’re all on our own in that polling booth. But, in many many constituencies there’s more than enough options for those who want to vote for progressives and leftists. For most of us, myself included, voting for non-Labour, and most certainly non-right of centre parties, has been the pattern of a lifetime.

I don’t believe that pattern has been wasted. My own sense is that the activism of the 1980s when the Workers’ Party provided a strong oppositional left voice (even if flawed in some respects) and one that staked out a sense of what was possible both on left and right (in the sense it demonstrated that too extreme economic attacks on working people would be met with a coherent political response), is broadly speaking a model for the current and future period.

None of us have any illusion that left forces, though potentially numerically stronger than they’ve ever been, will do anything other than remain in opposition, but as that they can provide an exemplary role in the Dáil. Nor can we be under any illusions that there are plenty of reasons to critique those left forces, be they SF, the ULA, WP or Independents/Others.

But if anything is to happen it is necessary to have voices both in the Oireachtas and outside, so that activism can take place in both places. Those of us who have been in formations or support them or Independents know how important a Dáil voice is. A Joe Higgins or a Tony Gregory or a Tomás Mac Giolla, or indeed a Pearse Doherty, broadens the engagement. It would be heartening if all were able to fall in with a single formation. But that’s not going to happen, not in the short to medium term, and perhaps that’s a good thing. A diverse active left is one that can reach many people and places. Given how weakened it has been this is a necessity. So is a left which is represented by as many of these strands as possible.

Beyond that one thing is crucial. Get people out there voting for whatever candidate(s) of the left you can. That’s essential above all. This is an election where every vote on the left and progressive spectrum will count in many, if not indeed most, battlegrounds.

And good luck to all those who have contested this election and supported and campaigned in big ways and small for left/progressive candidates, formations and parties.

A chance to push for a Tobin tax (sort of) February 24, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, European Politics, International Finance, Trade Unions, Uncategorized, Workers Rights.
1 comment so far

The suggestion of a tax on financial certain financial transactions (primarily on short-term currency trades) in order to put some “grit” in the system and generate a social benefit from the transaction was proposed by the Nobel prize-winner James Tobin in 1972. More recently, many have suggested that other aspects of the financial industry — the bonuses paid to traders and executives in the banks, for instance.

The EU has taken some action — baby steps, but potentially useful — in bringing some control to the sector and reigning in its madness. Last November, the EU amended the law on capital requirements for banks and on remuneration policies in the sector. Some of the provisions were to be implemented (or, in EU-speak, ‘transposed’) by 1 January of this year, all of the rest by 31 December. There are twenty new characteristics set out for the pay policies of financial institutions in the amending law, and you won’t be surprised to know that none of them would set a leftie’s heart aflutter with excitement. (I do think it interesting that one of the new points required by the directive is the following:

(m) payments related to the early termination of a contract [should] reflect performance achieved over time and are designed in a way that does not reward failure.

I suppose we might see a glimmer of a possibility in the staandards set for remuneration committees that large instiutions are required to establish, if they don’t already have one:

When preparing such decisions [i.e. decisions regarding remuneration], the remuneration committee shall take into account the long-term interests of shareholders, investors and other stakeholders in the credit institution.

A nice start would be to make sure that “other stakeholders” is defined to include customers and non-trading staff.

The next stage of dealing with banks at an EU level is under way. The European Commission is conducting a public consultation on taxation of the financial services sector. The Commission has identified three reasons for “addressing the issue”, as they put it:

  • Substantial public financing support during the crisis, need for fiscal consolidation and possible under-taxation of the financial sector.
  • Undesirable behaviours for the society as a whole (systemic risks), e.g. excessive risk taking.
  • Uncoordinated patch-work of national measures may:
    1. create incentives for tax-driven relocation either within the EU or outside the EU and distortion of competition;
    2. create situations of unrelieved juridical double taxation

    The second bullet point has to be of interest to those of us on the Left.

    The Commission is being both thorough and focused in its consultation. They are asking that responses deal with 57 questions, and they do ask for each of those you respond to that you provide evidence if you have any.

    Questions 10 to 21 deal with the core idea of a Tobin tax (although the Commission’s possibilities are not restricted to the specific type of trading/speculation that James Tobin had proposed be taxed). The level of thinking that is going into this can be gauged by the final question in that set: “What do you think of the effect on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from broadbased [financial transaction tax]?” Questions 22 to 37 deal with the question of taxes on wages and profits in the sector. And, again, they are thinking of the broader picture. For example, they ask: “Do you think that the tax incidence of the tax will fall of the financial sector, or it will be shifted to the customers?“.

    I’ve no doubt that the technical details of the consultation will mean it will pass most of us by, although we can be sure that the industry and the businesses in it will contribute their views. (On that, I wonder will the Department of Finance and the current or new Minister use the golden shares acquired as part of the bailout to make sure any Irish companies the State has rescued do not make submissions reflecting the interests of those who couldn’t run them properly, but the public which is now propping them up).

    The consultation does provide us, simply as citizens, to make our views known, and I hope that both citizens and bodies like TASC, unions, the parties of the Left, and the MEPs (both ongoing and soon to be former :)) make submissions. Consultations close on 19 April, and all submissions will be made public (along with the identities of those making submissions unless there is a good reason not to reveal that information — see the consultation documents for an explanation of how that operates).

    Meanwhile, while you’re waiting for the results you could listen to this… February 24, 2011

    Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
    13 comments

    … a play which was on this afternoon on BBC Radio 4. Here’s the details:

    On Feb 24th 2011 (the Eve of the Irish General Election) we flashback to the end of November 2010, when Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, made an announcement that confirmed the nation’s spectacular decline from economic miracle to European basket-case. A decade of mismanagement and barefaced corruption had left the economy in freefall.
    The Bailout chronicles the resignations, the rancour, the public fury and the gradual dissolution of a parliament barely able to ratify the IMF loan before it collapses in disarray at the end of January 2011. And we follow events as they unfold right up to the eve of the general election on 25th February the day after our broadcast.
    Using an urgent, fast-moving drama-documentary approach, The Bail-Out follows 3 months of tumult – which leaves the British listener thinking, there but for the grace of God…..
    Karen Ardiff, Richard Dormer, Pat Fitzsymons and Ali White star as two couples one in Dublin and one in London, who are forced to come to terms with the collapse of what they realise was an illusion of prosperity, and must decide what the hell they are going to do now. With Mark Lambert as Professor Culloty a Professor of Economics and Niall Cusack as a campaigning journalist, Ger McQuaid.
    Director Eoin O’Callaghan
    Writer Hugh Costello and producer Eoin O’Callaghan have a proven track record when it comes to interrogating the shibboleths of modern Ireland. Their recent Radio 4 collaborations include Smoke and Daggers, which exposed the amoral underbelly of the Celtic Tiger, and What the Bishops Knew, which shone a revealing light on the Catholic church’s inept response to the abuse crisis.

    It’s…er… different, not least to hear clips… well, look, I don’t want to ruin it for you.

    Google Maps Street View opens a window on a past election… February 24, 2011

    Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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    …if you go to East Wall, and Dublin Central, or parts of it on Google Maps Street View you’ll find that many of the photographs were taken during the 2009 Local, European and Byelections. Many a famous face on the posters.

    Actually, I should add that there’s more than one person sitting outside the entrance of a house or two who is readily identifiable to some of us on the left in the constituency.

    Worth a look…

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