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Meanwhile back at the Presidential Election campaign… May 31, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics.

Well now. It will be interesting to see where all this goes. But one would expect that this wasn’t an unexpected development for any of the protagonists. One interesting thought is how certain David Norris was that the tape – if released – would vindicate him.

Norris said that he was told ‘Presidential elections are as dirty as they get’ – and this may not be the only Presidential election to hang on a tape – even if to date there seems to be a consensus amongst those I’ve talked to on the left that he doesn’t have a hope. But this is true of all political activity except at the most mundane level. Pat Kenny made a reasonable point [bah!] when he noted the way in which in an era of Google some interview would ‘come out of the woodwork’.

But this isn’t really quite as new as it sounds. Granted there’s a distinction between general accessibility and more specific accessibility. Even ten or fifteen years ago when much wasn’t digitised online materials were mediated by the media. Now we can all go to the internet and find texts – sooner or later. But even if one has texts, as is all too clear, then we move towards the realm of interpretation. No doubt that’s the terrain that will be fought over in the next few days and weeks.

And still no Labour or Fine Gael candidates decided.

Fianna Fáil syndrome… May 31, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

Perhaps I’m in a particularly stupid mood, but I do find the level of artifice surrounding the EU-IMF bailout quite bizarre. I’m not much of a fan of our newish Minister for Transport, one L. Varadkar, and there’s little doubt that he did indeed exceed his portfolio in his recent comments, which merely goes to show that opposition and government are two entirely different political environments and the skill set applicable in one doesn’t seem to have the same degree of traction in another.

But for all that there was something almost bathetic about him being berated for saying something many will agree with, something which the market itself is arguing through its proxies and then seeing the market respond as if this was all news to it.

What outrageous thoughts were expressed in his words?

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper Mr Varadkar speculated on when Ireland might be able to return to borrowing on financial markets: “I think it’s very unlikely we’ll be able to go back next year. I think it might take a bit longer . . . 2013 is possible but who knows?”
The Minister added that it might mean an extension of the existing EU-IMF programme or a second initiative.

Dear oh dear oh dear. But what’s this I read in the Irish Times not a few days later?

Ireland may try to restructure its debt to lower interest payments or extend the maturity on its borrowings as the economy contracts again this year, according to Ernst and Young.

The Government probably will repay its debt and investors aren’t likely to lose any of their principle, a move that would imply a default, said Neil Gibson, economist with the financial services and advisory firm.

”It is much more likely that the debts will be repaid in full, but at probably a more modest interest rate or over a longer timeframe,” Mr Gibson said in a telephone interview today. He added that he expects the economy to contract 2.3 per cent this year as “the headwinds are too significant”.

Now I don’t take anything Ernst and Young say as gospel, there’s too much of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds about them. Yet they are an expression of [some] market sentiment. One might note that it was Bloomberg which carried that piece, so it’s hardly a state secret or something whispered in quiet corners under subdued lighting.

And given all that there was something to what Independent TD Stephen Donnelly said this week:

…that the problem for Cabinet was not what Mr Varadkar had said but that he had said it “out loud.”
“Leo has irritated some of his cabinet colleagues but certainly it’s refreshing to hear some straight talk.”
“The denial of the size of the problem and the insistence that we will continue to pay our debts and everybody else’s debts is beginning to feel a little bit like Fianna Fáil coming on the television and saying the IMF isn’t really here.”
“The reality is, whether we need another bailout or not, most people now believe that we will and that we will not go back to the markets,” he said.
Mr Donnelly said the markets would not lend Ireland any money “when we’re paying off everyone else’s debts.”

And it really does have that feel to it, that Fine Gael are rapidly assuming the bad habits of their predecessors of pretending that all is hunky dory long past the moment when it is apparent that quite the opposite holds true. Or consider this, as was put to me during the week. There’s poor old Richard Bruton pushed into the public eye to take the flak on JLCs [rightly so, by the way], and where is Michael Noonan in all this, indeed isn’t it notable how his public profile has subsided in the last few months – yes, at the very time when we face continuing economic distress. The conclusion? That the situation is now so bad that FG/LP are waiting for events and others to make the running for them.

That may be true, or it may not – but there is a strange air of passivity abroad.

Little Atoms Podcast with Adam Curtis May 31, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left.

Some of you are no doubt already listening to the Little Atoms podcast which deals with science, secularism, politics and a varied range of other issues and is available on iTunes for free. And they have had a wide range of guests, from Jon Ronson to… well, it’s a varied and interesting crew. Initially they seemed to be fairly closely aligned with the so-called ‘decent’ left but that seems to have faded somewhat, and no harm.

Anyhow, a rather fine interview with Adam Curtis about his latest series All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. I’ve got to admit I’m very very impressed by his critique, particularly of democracy, even if there are aspects of it which I might not fully agree with. His analysis as regards the way in which hippy met capitalism and capitalism met hippy and found they liked each other a bit too much is particularly convincing, even if not completely novel.

He may be stretching it with regard to building a theoretical construct which incorporates computer systems, democracy and genetics, and yet, and yet, it’s hugely persuasive. And his concept of ‘oh dearism’ or the liberal retreat is equally so.


The May 2011 Sunday Business Post Poll May 31, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, or perhaps it’s indicative of a certain weariness with the current political system on my part, but I didn’t find the news that the SBP poll was out anywhere near as interesting as I would have a few months back. It’s not simply that the election has been fought and won [or lost] but more a sense that this level of political activity is not where the focus of leftists will [or perhaps – and I say this hesitantly, because I’m surely not one in a position to be proscriptive – should be].

And yet, that lack of interest is most definitely a mistake on my part, because this poll is very interesting in three key respects.

Before addressing those three points let’s consider the overall results.

Fine Gael is up 2% to 41% – it’s highest level yet in an SBP poll [Check]. Labour is up 1% to 19%. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are unchanged on respectively 16% and 11% while Independents//Green Party and Others have dropped 3% to 13%.

First point? The absolute dominance of Fine Gael and Labour. A few months in and they still command a crushing 60 per cent of the opinion poll numbers. That’s pretty impressive whatever way one cuts it. And yes, they’ve had a number of good months, not least and most recently the visits by the Queen and Obama where the state was able to put its best foot forward. But even so, given the times that are in it that vote hasn’t merely held fast but increased.

Pat Leahy argues that:

…more importantly for the LP leadership it has not seen a fall-off in support for the party since entering coalition (as happened in 1992, when it last entered coalition after an election) despite fierce left-wing criticism, especially from independents in the Dáil. In fact there has been a fall-off in support for independents.

I’ve argued previously that I think Leahy overstates the fall-off in LP support in the 1992 period onwards. And it’s still very very early days yet to make hard and fast prognostications as to the direction of LP support, but he has something of a point nonetheless.

One small caveat, all this is within the margin of error.

Second point? The weakening of the Ind/GP/Other vote. Down 3% from the last poll in April 2011 is within the margin of error, but note that it’s actually down 4% from the 2011 General Election. That would seem to support the idea that this is a trend.

And it’s a troubling one I would imagine for the Ind/GP/Others. It suggests that after the euphoria of the 2011 election in those quarters (bar, obviously the GP) that to know the Independents is not necessarily to love them.

Richard Colwell of RedC in an accompanying article in the SBP argues that:

While it is normal for independents to suffer through lack of media coverage between elections, the scale of this decline so soon after the election suggest that voters may not be impressed by what they have seen so far from the independent candidates they elected.

But Leahy points to another potential reason:

Sinn Féin also maintains its electoral strength, at 11 per cent in today’s poll. A key target for the party is to assume the leadership of the left-wing opposition in the Dáil ahead of Joe Higgins and other Independents – and then to be seen as the effective leaders of the opposition. Given FF’s cautious support for many of the government’s economic policies, that is not an impossible goal.

I’ve been watching debates in the Dáil with some interest and it’s been very noticeable to me, as I’ve mentioned previously that the Independents are somewhat lost due to the diversity of their message. One moment they’re Shane Ross and business realpolitik, the next they’re Finian McGrath and a sort of traditional social democracy [and by the way, some kudos for McGrath who was one of the few non-SF parliamentarians to express any sort of reservations about the visit of the Queen], the next again and they’re Clare Daly and a strongly left wing critique.

I’m not trying to personalise this, but simply point to a dynamic that is extant – Daly, for example, is an effective speaker. But it’s hard to argue that the ULA as an entity has taken on a coherence – the very structures and constraints of the Dáil procedures work against that due to their not having a party status. So the Technical Group is rather like a hydra, multiple heads but working in different directions.

And Leahy’s point can be summed up as follows, that the arrival of SF in significant numbers has changed the situation radically. This is not simply due to their increased numbers, but rather due to the decrease in the numbers of the opposition as a whole. With a subdued – and they are, they really are – Fianna Fáil and an arguably overly variegated Independents/Others SF has had an opportunity to present the most cohesive formation on the opposition benches, an opportunity it has taken. That in contrast to the Technical Group has its own benefits.

All that said, before wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues on the Ind/GP/Other side of the fence, it’s worth noting that in historical terms 13% for them combined isn’t bad at all, at least not in the context of the last five years.

Third point? There’s a little sentence buried away in the SBP analysis by Leahy.

A footnote to today’s poll is the performance of the Green Party, no longer separately depicted in the poll charts, but there in the data all the same. The party’s new leader, Eamon Ryan – whose election was announced last Friday – can take some encouragement from the fact that the party’s standing in Dublin is a relatively healthy 5 per cent. It stands at 3 per cent nationally.

That’s somewhat better than their election result of 1.8%, albeit still within the margin of error and perhaps a bit more dispiritingly not above some of the polls in the run-up to the election including an SBP one from February 2011 . And the Dublin polling data is intriguing although presumably based on limited numbers so open to question. It might suggest that at the local elections the GP will become more competitive, particularly in the wake of the policies the government has signed up to. And if the Ind/Others continue to flag then there’s a possibility that they might pull votes away from them as well.

But that said I’d suspect that memories are too fresh and too raw for that dynamic to become evident too soon. And the next locals remain sufficiently distant and likely strongly competitive with SF and ULA and others keen to maximise upon government woes that they’ll simply be one amongst a number of forces vying. But, that said it’s just possible that some FG and LP voters will detach that way – particularly if the GP argues that they made the ‘right decisions even if they were unpopular’. But then again, on the other hand, what’s in it for such voters?

All this, though, remains in a vacuum. The Summer is approaching fast, there’s a sense that politics is winding down somewhat as the weather sort of improves. There’s also a sense that the big decisions are being long fingered to the Budget. That the government’s rhetoric on the bailouts has hardened to one of pretty much unquestioning support for continuing to implement the decisions made by FF/GP albeit while arguing they were the wrong decisions at the time is a tricky message to convey across time when such decisions translate at the next budget into actual further cuts. Then the nuance, such as it is, encapsulated there may become more difficult to sell.

The most telling indications will come in eight or ten months after the Budget. Then we’ll know how deeply embedded support for FG and the LP is. Pat Leahy notes that:

Recent years have shown just how much the political landscape can move in response to political and economic events, but FG looks set to remain as the largest party for at least the foreseeable future.

That’s crucial. Traditional allegiances have been disconnected, or more accurately shorn away. No party can depend upon the electorate in the way that they did for many many decades. In some respects the very concept of a core vote appears redundant, although we now know more or less where the FF core vote lies.

A small but curious point… Richard Colwell suggests the following:

Sinn Féin also retains the same levels of support as last month, securing 11 per cent of the vote. The figure suggests that the demonstrations against the queen’s visit organised by the party had neither a positive nor negative impact on party support overall.

Surely he’s mistaking the protests during the visit for SF demonstrations – isn’t he?

The IRA, 1956-69: Rethinking the Republic… May 30, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.
comments closed

I’m wondering has anyone else had problems sourcing Dr. Matt Treacy’s book? I was in Hodges Figgis today looking for it and the many copies there a week or so ago had all gone. Impressive, though they didn’t seem to know when the next batch would arrive.

Anywhere else anyone has seen it in Dublin in the last few days?

Left Archive: The Anglo-Irish Accord and it’s Irrelevance for the Working Class, World Socialist Party [Ireland], 1986 May 30, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, World Socialist Party.

To download the above file please click on following link:WSP ANGLO IRISH

Many thanks to the SPGB for the donation of this document to the Archive.

Issued by the World Socialist Party [Ireland], a successor to the Socialist Party of Ireland and as a part of the World Socialist Movement a fraternal organisation to the Socialist Party of Great Britain, this document is of a piece with those posted to the Archive in the last fortnight from Sinn Féin and the Workers’ Party both of which engage with the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The preface outlines the broad analysis.

The present pamphlet is in no way intended as a definitive statement of the WSP’s views on patriotism or nationalism. That is, our refutation and utter rejection of the assertion that patriotic or nationalistic aspirations and ideas can in any way be reconciled with the interests of the working class.

It continues:

Because it treats of a specific subject – the Anglo-Irish Accord – the interests of conciseness dictated that the pamphlet could only touch upon some of the major questions which the twin concepts of patriotism and nationalism bring into focus. It does not, for example, attempt an in-depth analysis of the role of governments, the co-ercive essence of the state, the use to which various national assemblies can be put, or the vital question of international conflict and war.

Indeed, in relation to such issues we would be sympathetic to the opinion that the pamphlet possibly raises more questions than it attempts to answer.

In the Introduction the pamphlet argues that:

[The Accord] wants working people to SEE things differently. It wants working people who follow Unionism to feel that NI’s place is more secure within the UK and it hopes to persuade working people who identify with Irish nationalism that things will change for the better.

It also argues that the Agreement does not ‘say anything to you about your problem as a member of the working class’. And it suggests that the difference between the Border Campaign and the armed struggle of the late 1960s and after was that unlike the former which dealt with an ‘abstract notion of a 32-county Ireland’ the ‘PIRA emerged out of a struggle for ‘civil rights’, a struggle based on the wholly mistaken idea that their RELIGION and not their CLASS position in society was the cause of their poverty, their unemployment, their slum housing and other miseries.

Later it proposes that:

…the sight of working people marching in ranks behind a Union Jack or an Irish tricolour, listening to some vicious politician telling them to stay divided and separated, and to let flags, banners, slogans and the fabricated fictions of historical events take precedence over the reality of poverty and deprivation that restricts and damages their lives must be tragic beyond belief!

The Accord does not try to expose these lunacies. Given that Thatcher and FitzGerald serve the same capitalist interest that helped to fabricate and promote the fictions, it would be naive to expect them to try.

It concludes on the point that:

…the sole purpose between the AIA is to simplify and cheapen the security burden of the capitalist class; to create illusions about individual dignity and ‘cultural identity’ that might lower the tribal temperature and allow our masters the most economic ‘law and order’ they require to facilitate their exploitation of us.

Another useful addition to the Archive.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week May 29, 2011

Posted by Garibaldy in Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week.

Ignoring headlines like Fitzgerald Represented All That Was Best in Ireland isn’t easy, especially not when any stories that point out how spectacularly he mishandled the economy and how he personally benefited from the “understanding” of the banks go out of their way to genuflect before his greatness before doing so. There is, however, more than enough stupidity to allow us to pass over such matters quickly.

In third place, James Fitzsimons twists Richard Bruton’s planned act of class warfare against the lowest paid workers into, you’ve guessed it, an assault by the evil public sector fat cats against the Most Oppressed Private Sector Ever.

What is even more worrying is that the minister can be so unfair to the most vulnerable in the private sector. Meanwhile, public servants continue to be insulated from the full impact of the recession? The Government, which is part of the elitist public sector establishment for pay and conditions itself, is willing to allow pay and conditions in the public sector to adjust slowly with the passage of time.

In second place, Anne Harris weighs in on the debate on the Republic’s corporation tax with this beauty

For your information, Eamon, the French small and medium businesses do not give a fig for us or our corporation tax. Nor does their government. Just as during the Second World War when all they cared about was the coffee in their cup and the sugar in their coffee, now all they care about is corporation tax and the quality of their life.

The French don’t care about anybody but the French. And the only people they kowtow to are the Germans. They always did and they always will. And when it all falls down (like it did with Vichy) they will say they (the Germans) made us do it.

Remember, the Sunday Independent is the voice of fearless pluralist cosmopolitanism that seeks to put the unpleasant aspects of history behind us, and that combats divisions left by past conflicts. Only when it comes to the Queen of course.

Marc Coleman wins this week, and picks up an additional award for barefaced cheek, in a piece arguing that the solution to Ireland’s problems is to be more like Israel, and tell the yanks how it really is and what they must do for us.

This is a country so similar to Ireland that it inspired my book, The Best is Yet to Come, on how we could learn from it by using our demographic muscle — both intergenerational and diaspora aspects — to pull ourselves out of the crisis.

I’d have thought that The Best is Yet to Come is something he’d have wanted us all to forget about, but apparently he’s proud of it.

Gil Scott-Heron: 1949 – 2011 May 28, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, The Left.

Obvious, perhaps, but appropriate.

‪This Weekend I’ll mostly be listening to….Spectrum Meets Captain Memphis -‬ Indian Giver May 28, 2011

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

Ah, Sonic Boom [no relation to Irma, if you’ll forgive me my little joke). Or Pete Kember, though he appears to prefer the former appelation. One time member of Spacemen 3, mentioned indirectly here. A neat ear for a melody, drugs references galore, a penchant for droning keyboards, a love of 60s trippy psychedelia and ambient and a hint of Mary Chain thrown into the mix. And yet it’s not him who gets the plaudits but Jason Peirce of Spiritualized, racing ahead on the outside with his neat ear for melody, drugs references galore, a penchant for droning keyboards, a love of 60s trippy psychedelia and ambient and a hint of Mary Chain thrown into the mix.

But that won’t stop me from loving dearly Mr. Boom’s output as a solo artist under the name Spectrum and loving not much of Spiritualized’s output (bar Pure Phase). All kaleidoscopes and colour wheels. I think he was trying to say something – hmmmm…

In fairness these men are still alive is a testament to the resilience of the human body in the face of self-inflicted pharmacological warfare. I’ve said it before, I’m pretty straight edge myself, bar Beamish and Smithwicks, so that don’t impress me much, but that said there’s always the odd interesting despatch delivered straight from the front-line. Particularly when it’s delivered in a format like this. Sweet melodies, one note keyboard lines, the 60s, no the 70s, no the 80s references, found sound and so on. A sort of compressed history of music, or at least one slice of it across the various albums released as Spectrum or Experimental Audio Research.

And here is Sonic Boom working with the now late but no less legendary Captain Memphis aka Jim Dickinson, a man with a Zelig like capacity to be there at some of the more interesting moments in rock over the past forty, or is it fifty, years. Producer, frontman, instrumentalist. All of these and more, and so some will recognise him from his work with Alex Chilton on Third/Sister Lovers as well as a career that linked him with a plethora of others including the Replacements. Indian Giver, the album is a shortish and snappy mixture of Boom’s trademark drones and Dickinson’s Deep South sensibility, the two merged into an updated 2000s sensibility without losing the strengths of their respective starting positions. Particularly interesting/enjoyable are the ones where Dickinson did spoken vocals over some of the tracks, “Til Your Mainline Comes” is perhaps the best. But those hankering after Sonic Boom’s trademark output won’t find this album wanting, from “Hey Man” to the keyboard driven groove of “Take Your Time”. When I found myself whistling along to the latter it struck me just how fresh, how effortless Boom makes it sound, but despite the fact that he’s been doing this for over two decades I don’t think it is.

I’d have liked to have heard them doing more work together. But Sonic Boom is no slouch when it comes to working with others, and a fairly diverse crew at that.

It’s far from a novel thought, but the capacity of rock and whatever else you want to call itself to find more in what should be an over-worked medium is fairly extraordinary. But although I’ve heard riffs like that which underpins Hey Man, I’ve never heard anything exactly like it. In that distinction is everything. I’ve thrown in How You Satisfy Me and Neon Sigh from Sonic Boom’s early 1990s output just by way of comparison. They demonstrate different aspects of his approach from poppy to more blissed out soundscapes. In some respects there’s little difference with what he’s been doing more recently, but that’s the point. There doesn’t need to be.


Hey Man

When Tomorrow Hits

‪”The Lonesome Death Of Johnny Ace”‬

‪The Old Cow Died‬

How you satisfy me [Spectrum, Soul Kiss (Glide Divine) – 1992]

Neon Sigh [Spectrum, Soul Kiss (Glide Divine) – 1992]

Bruton Bows to Employers’ Greed – WP Statement May 27, 2011

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

“The government has shown its true colours and launched a vicious and pre-emptive attack on the JLC process, and the working conditions and rates of pay of the lowest paid and most vulnerable sector of Irish society”. This was the reaction of Workers’ Party President Michael Finnegan following Minister Bruton’s comments last night.

“Minister Bruton’s intervention last night was also a serious assault on the Labour Court, a slap in the face to all who worked to prepare the Duffy-Walsh Review of JLCs which had only recently been published, and the death knell for any expectation of a balanced or fair review of JLCs, REAs or EROs.

“A modern economy cannot be built on slave wages” continued Mr Finnegan. “All successful modern enterprise is built on decent wages, proper working conditions; respectful labour relations, and an ongoing staff training programme. Unfortunately many of our Irish gombeens, who like to pass themselves off as entrepreneurs, have not learned that basis lesson. Instead they are wedded to the old get-rich-quick philosophy which is exactly the philosophy that has got us into the present mess”.

“It is particularly sickening for low-paid workers and their families to be lectured to by Minister Bruton who, apart from his annual salary of €181,000, is a substantial landowner and owner of stockmarket shares. This man, who has never experienced poverty in his entire life, is kicking those who are just about on the threshold of a living wage firmly into the category of the working poor. Does our Minister for Enterprise really believe that economic growth can flow from employments paying less than a living wage? If he does his economic understanding is remarkably perverse”.

“Once again, sadly, the Labour Party in government have totally succumbed to their senior partner. The performance of their deputy leader, Minister Joan Burton TD, as she floundered and fumbled on today’s Morning Ireland programme in an attempt to find some formula or fig-leaf to disguise this abject surrender was truly appalling. The Labour Party, having already departed from so much of their pre-election promises, have now deserted the working poor.”

“The Workers Party calls on the Trade Union Movement, Left members of the Oireachtas, all genuine Left parties and groups to unite on a campaign to defend the lowest paid and most easily exploited sectors of the workforce. If Bruton and company win on this” concluded Mr Finnegan “then we can rest assured that the race to the bottom in every sector of the economy will be a looming reality”.

Thanks to M for this.

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