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Unleash the McQuaid redux! All this talk about an improvement in the housing market… April 30, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Perhaps I’m far too cynical, but when I read Dan O’Brien in the IT telling us about Central Bank research that says:

Irish house prices were undervalued by between 12 and 26 per cent as of the end of last year.


If correct, property prices could rise suddenly and significantly if the causes of the undershooting in prices were removed.

And then continuing:

The main reasons cited for the continued fall in prices are a lack of investor confidence, negative future house price expectations and an uncertain macroeconomic outlook. Additionally, “the requirement for substantial deleveraging within the Irish financial system and the associated issue of mortgage credit availability are also considered as significant reasons for the decline” according to the report.

I turn once more to Alan McQuaid of Bloxham, who although speaking from the belly of the beast has, at the least, a degree of consistency to his pronouncements. As noted before the weekend:

However, he said, there was unlikely to be a significant improvement to the market until the employment situation improved.

“Irish consumers will want to see the housing market stabilising before they feel confident about the economy overall. Even allowing for the Budget 2012 initiatives to boost the property market, as well as lower interest rates from the European Central Bank, the short-term risks to house prices remain to the downside in our view,” he said.

“Although the March data are a step in the right direction we don’t see any significant improvement in the housing market until the employment situation gets better and bank lending returns to some sort of ‘normality’, which is still some way off in our opinion.”

And has some wise words too as regards lending…

But analysts warned against too much optimism over the figures.

”Although these latest banking figures are encouraging to some degree, particularly in relation to the deposits side, the underlying message from the data is still one of overall weakness and difficulties in the sector,” said Bloxham’s chief economist Alan McQuaid.

”The bottom line is that Ireland remains a long way from where it wants/needs to be as regards credit demand/availability to get the domestic economy moving again. The reality is that until the banking sector crisis is fully resolved and things improve on the labour market front then the supply/demand for credit will stay subdued in our view, severely hampering the overall recovery prospects for the economy as a whole in the process.”

And there’s something uniquely depressing about reading the following in the SBP this weekend. Discussing the fact that there have been fifty homes sold this year in the €1m plus range – and accepting that compared and contrasted with the height of the boom that may be a pale shadow of what took place then, we are treated to the following:

Savills director Ronan O’Hara said the majority of the houses changing hands for more than Ђ1 million were not being sold on the open market, but quietly and without any advertising or publicity. He said the reduction in stamp duty rates in the last budget had made larger homes more attractive.
“It has made a difference. Many of the sales have been to couples with good salaries who are trading up from modest homes to trophy homes,” he said.

Trophy homes? Haven’t we been down this road once before in recent years and has nothing been learnt?

Maybe it’s me, but it seems there’s a bit of a media campaign to talk up the housing market, quite in defiance of the actuality.

Though if at the highest levels there’s a ‘recovery’ it seems to fit with what Garibaldy noted on Sunday about wealth in the UK and what Michael Taft has written here about the impact of the financial crisis on various sections of the society…

“People & Power : Collapse of the Celtic Tiger” – Al Jazeera Documentary April 30, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Capitalism.

A Documentary from Al Jazeera “People & Power : Collapse of the Celtic Tiger” from January this year.

A look at how Ireland, once a beacon of booming development and social prosperity, has been plunged into economic desperation.

‘Artist of the Irish Revolution, the Cartoons of Ernest Kavanagh(1884-1916)’ April 30, 2012

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

James Curry, author of ‘Artist of the Irish Revolution, the Cartoons of Ernest Kavanagh(1884-1916)’, will give a lecture on this long neglected figure next Monday, April 30th, at 7pm in Saor-Ollscoil na hÉireann, 55 Prussia Street, Dublin 7pm – All welcome

Left Archive: Ireland in Rebellion, Gerry Foley, Including Interviews with Cathal Goulding, Chief of Staff IRA and Tomás Mac Giolla, President, Sinn Féin. March 1972 April 30, 2012

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive.

To download the above file please click on the following link: IRL REB GF

Published by Pathfinder Press in 1971 and then reprinted in March 1972 this document was written by Gerry Foley who passed away last weekend. It complements another document written by him during the same period which analyses aspects of the conflict on the island. Foley at that time was very close to the leadership of Official Sinn Féin.

It is perhaps best to let the document speak for itself, but as can be seen it is divided into an Introduction, a chapter entitled Why Socialism is Coming to the fore in Ireland by Foley and interviews with Cathal Goulding and Tomás Mac Giolla. Worth noting that both those interviews date from 1970.

Foley saw considerable scope for progress in the course of the events in Ireland during those years, but he also articulated a clear-sighted critique which noted both the problems facing Official Republicanism (and the potential political strength of their rivals in Provisional Republicanism) and the opportunities implicit in the struggle.

Thanks to Jim Monaghan for noting another of Foley’s documents available here.

UK’s Richest Worth More Now Than in 2008 April 29, 2012

Posted by Garibaldy in Britain, Capitalism.

The BBC reports the news that the Sunday Times rich list of the 1,000 richest people in the UK reveals that they are worth more now than their predecessors in 2008. Their wealth has climbed 4.7% over the past year, and now stands at £414bn. I wonder how much tax they pay.

Remember, we’re all in this together. And trickle down economics works.

1981 Hunger Strike – At Everyman Theatre, Cork, May 2012 April 28, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Thanks to JL for forwarding this. Tickets available from: Box Office, Everyman Palace Theatre, 15 MacCurtain Street, Cork

Behold – the democrat! April 28, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.

Perhaps this is just mean-spirited, but this is from Stephen Collins overview of John Redmond’s career…

On the face of it, Redmond exemplifies the dictum that all political careers end in failure. Yet for all that it is arguable that modern democratic Ireland is far closer to his political dream than it is to the messianic visions of the 1916 leaders.

Is he sure?

This from Dr Rosemary Cullen-Owens, ‘in her talk in the series, A Decade of Anniversaries 2012-2023’.

“From 1910 the Irish Parliamentary Party, under John Redmond, held the balance of power at Westminster and Home Rule seemed assured,” she said.

Dr Cullen-Owens said Redmond and British prime minister HH Asquith were against women’s suffrage. This prompted the Irish Women’s Franchise League to respond militantly, she added.

Meanwhile, Brian Hanley has been fighting the good fight in the IT letters pages on the issue of Home Rule and how the reality is a fair bit more complex than is sometimes/often presented by some.

This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to….NRBQ April 28, 2012

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

A very welcome guest TWIMBLT from anarchaeologist…

I can’t lie and say I’ve been up in the bedroom listening to NRBQ since their formation in Louisville KY in 1967; I won’t even say I was aware of the band over the period of their best-known line-up between ’74 and ’94. No, this is another of those bands I’d never come across before, but that’s not to say I hadn’t heard their music ex situ. For NRBQ have been featured several times on the Simpsons and can be heard on Hal Wilner’s ‘Stay Awake’ Disney tribute murdering Whistle While You Work. Their music has also cropped up over the years as an unrecognisable Yo La Tengo cover (or two) and CLR hipsters might well know them through the recordings of She & Him.

For the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet are seemingly a ‘musician’s band’, much beloved of among others YLT, Keef and indeed the Replacements, who also featured in this column a few weeks ago. I heard them through the good offices of Thomas Meinecke, from another acronymic band featured here in 2010. And indeed it seems NRBQ were not unsurprisingly covered by FSK, although it could well be argued that the Munich band, as is their wont, were actually covering NRBQ’s own cover of Santo and Johnny’s 1959 pedal-steel hit Sleep Walk.

The band fell in around keyboardist Terry Adams, the best line-up featuring the late Tom Ardolino on drums, Joey Spampinato on bass and Al Anderson on guitar. They were on occasion joined on stage by their manager, a former professional wrestler, the late Captain Lou Albano, who also looked after the doubtless more profitable business arrangements of Cyndi Lauper. It could and has been said, that NRBQ have to be the best bar band in the world and are thus, by definition, doomed to penurious obscurity. If this prejudices what you’re about to listen to, remember, they must be the only group to have appeared on the bills of the Grand Ole Opry, the Berlin Jazz Festival and the New York Folk Festival (and all in the same year). Back in the new mainstream they were one of the several opening acts on the US leg of REM’s break-through ‘Green’ tour in ’89 (along with the likes of the Go Betweens, Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, Throwing Muses and the Indigo Girls).

The clips below can only suggest that they must have been a brilliant live experience in their ‘80s heyday. They often distained the concept of the set list, preferring a greatest hits package and accepting random cover requests from the audience. The greatest hits package wouldn’t have taken that long; the band has had a single entry on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 70 in 1974. Get That Gasoline Blues is posted on youtube by an Italian fan who links the song to the energy crisis and America’s nostalgia for cheap gas. I’ve been told it’s been covered by Canvey Island refinery rockers Dr. Feelgood and indeed if it wasn’t, it should’ve been. Dummy should have been a contender in 2004 and the video is well worth a look. Elsewhere, the band’s bemusement with the business is demonstrated to good effect as a Virgin Records executive tries to sell a video involving some charmingly playful interaction on the part of the band, albeit with some rather cute puppies.
A lot of the material posted on youtube concentrates on the more traditionally good time r’n’b elements of their music, a function of the appetite for this type of thing in middle America, or at least that section of the population who brought along video cameras to gigs in the ‘90s. As a consequence, there’s little enough material available from their earlier shows or indeed much other stuff showcasing the other elements of their glorious music. The quality of the footage is atrocious to our eyes. For if the bar room blues are the attacking force of their scattergun sonic assault, the band demonstrates a promiscuous capacity to extend their reach into jazz and Be Bop, Beach Boys’ pop, southern white soul and well into the punkabilly end of the r’n’b spectrum. That the band were often accompanied by the Whole Wheat Horns beefed up the sound, building to a maelstrom of a show.

Terry Adams can sound like Monk on occasions, his live playing most obviously influenced by Jerry Lee with undercurrents of a jazz background adding that extra dimension to his keyboards. As one of three writers in the band, he took most of the lead vocals, along of course with Anderson and Spampinato and the occasional comic turn by Ardolino, who would take up and vocalise over any of the other instruments after much persuasion from the rest of the band. Spampinato’s rendition of I Love Her, She Loves Me has, at least once, brought this writer to tears.

The rhythm section could and would switch from a motronic Sun Ra raga to a mid-Beatles bop on the off beat. Spampinato, who was married to country maverick Skeeter Davis (well due a moment of glory on the CLR?), played sideman to Keef on both his solo debut ‘Talk Is Cheap’ and on the Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll! bash for Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday. His electric bass can mostly sound like a stand-up slap, quite a feat when you look at the energy of the performances. Ardolino, who died in January, would often play with four sticks gaffa-taped onto his hands. His drumming style was unconventional and funky, and can possibly be characterised by a loud, bass bin-worrying ‘thwack’. Ardolino was an enthusiastic collector and producer of sound-poems, essentially vanity projects where lyricists could, for a fee, have their music written and professionally performed. This has become a sonic outsider art, one which encompasses both the genuinely bizarre and the profoundly poignant, but all of the songs being special in their own right.

Anderson is better known these days as a Nashville songwriter and session player and penned many of the country songs that made it into popular consciousness throughout the ‘90s including Tim McGraw’s The Cowboy in Me and Ty England’s No. 3 hit in 1995, Should’ve Asked her Faster, songs you can hear preformed every weekend in small pubs in south Donegal. LeAnn Rimes got to No. 6 in the US country charts and made it to No. 23 in the Hot 100 in ’99 with Big Deal, a song Anderson co-wrote with Jeffrey Steele of Boy Howdy (of whom I know absolutely nothing). Big Al was the first to jump ship after a New Year’s Eve gig in NYC in 1993, his place taken by Joey’s brother Johnny from the Incredible Casuals. Anderson’s playing is both loose and focused on the job in hand (according to whatever style that job might demand) but it’s grounded on country-style finger picking with blasts of Stax and the echoes of free jazz ever present, a guitar tradition carried on by the likes of Eugene Chadbourne and Thurston Moore. Big Al, as you’d imagine, plays Fender guitars (a Telecaster and a pimped-up 1956 Esquire with NRBQ).

The band’s very eclecticism and their focus on interminable, though financially necessary gigging resulted in a poor relationship with the majors, and they were never to see the record sales which would surely have put them at the forefront of the global roots revival in the ‘90s. Originally signed to Columbia, their first album ‘NRBQ’ didn’t do the business and the record company vainly set the band up with Carl Perkins for their second attempt, ‘Boppin’ the Blues’ (1970). They were dropped by Columbia before they could finish their third album.

‘At Yankee Stadium’ their sixth studio album is worth getting hold of. The cover has a long shot of the back corner terracing of the old stadium, which, if examined carefully will also reveal the band as tiny specks in the front row beside the dugout. Released in 1978 on Mercury Records, it was actually recorded in Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Studios outside Woodstock. The album is full of good, even great songs (with the bare minimum of Sun Ra abstractions and comedy numbers) but was possibly drowned in the spring tide of the new wave.

The band continued to tour the college circuit, where the punk wars had been well lost, leaving nonetheless an audience open to an alternative ‘alternative’ old fashioned rock’n’roll. To a certain extent, the stage show suggests the band themselves didn’t take themselves too seriously and despite the musicianship and virtuosity of the individuals concerned, they remain more celebrated as members of NRBQ than they do in the other areas of music that they comfortably occupy. But the years on the road were also taking their toll and by the mid ’90s with the departure of Big Al and despite the continuing popularity of big hair, things just mightn’t have been the same any more.

In ’94 Terry Adams was diagnosed with throat cancer and went off the road for a while. The band continued as Baby Marconi where Adams, on his recovery, would tour with Japanese rockabillys the Hot Shots. Maintaining a connection with cartoon culture, all the members of NRBQ contributed to the 1995 SpongeBob Squarepants album, ‘The Best Day Ever’, where they worked alongside Brian Wilson, Tommy Ramone and Flaco Jiménez. In ’97 Adams went on the road again with the Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet, which last year released an lp ‘Keep This Love Goin’’, perhaps controversially under the NRBQ moniker (although Tommy Ardolino sat behind the drums on a few songs). A 2004 reunion performance was followed by a few gigs in 2007 but with Tommy’s passing, we may never see their like again.


Here Comes Terry (the usual gig opener)

Too Much (Elvis cover, 1998)

I Want You to Feel Good Too (with the Whole Wheat Horns, early 1980s)

I Want You to Feel Good Too (1989)



And for the real fans…

Saturday Night with Connie Chung (with record boss meeting)

God Bless Tommy Ardolino! 1955-2012 tribute on Youtube

Unleash the McQuaid! It’s house price data time again. April 27, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I’ve been perhaps a bit harsh on Alan McQuaid of Bloxham, here and here for his identikit statements on the house price decline issue. But got to admit he brings a bit of much-needed sanity to the latest news trumpeted by the Irish Times that ‘house price decline slows for the first time in seven months’. Given the not inconsiderable role the IT played through affiliated entities and its own property supplements in the housing area over the past two decades one might think they would be a little…cautious… about the whole issue. But.. nope… not really.

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY prices fell further in the year to the end of March, but the pace of decline slowed for the first time in seven months, according to new data published yesterday.
According to the Central Statistics Office, prices for homes fell by an average of 16.3 per cent on an annual basis last month, compared with 17.8 per cent in the year to the end of February.
However, on a monthly basis, there was no change compared with February. The last time there was a halt in monthly price declines was August 2010.

Though in fairness to the IT they were not alone. Our beloved Minister of Finance had this to say in another article…

Mr Noonan said for the first time in a long time house prices had marginally increased in Dublin in March, by less than 1 per cent.

Well that’s got to be good for that market. No? Which has seen the following:

According to Central Statistics Office figures, which do not take into account cash sales, the national index of house prices is now 49 per cent lower than its highest level in 2007.
Almost a 50 per cent drop since 2007. It makes one wonder where those current paragons of economic orthodoxy were in 2007 not to be able to discern that there was a bubble and the bubble was close to imploding.

And the current and future problem is, as noted by Glas Securities:

“While these figures are undoubtedly positive in the context of accelerating price falls since late 2010, it is worth noting that monthly price data can be volatile, particularly as the data is restricted to mortgage transactions and prices have still fallen 4.1 per cent in the first quarter,”

And McQuaid is even more downbeat/realistic.

…the March figures were an improvement on the previous two-month period, and offered signs of encouragement that the annual rate of decline has stabilised.
However, he said, there was unlikely to be a significant improvement to the market until the employment situation improved.

“Although the March data are a step in the right direction we don’t see any significant improvement in the housing market until the employment situation gets better and bank lending returns to some sort of ‘normality’, which is still some way off in our opinion.”

And this stability he mentions?

Bloxham is predicting a double-digit decline in house prices for the year, in the region of 15 per cent.

Surrogacy – redux April 27, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Breda O’Brien was talking, coincidentally – given this post put up the week before last here, about surrogacy again. It’s strange. Bioethics is like catnip to me. In part because I have a passing acquaintance with some aspects of it, but perhaps more so because it so indelibly seems to be the future, like it or not. Anyhow, surrogacy… Using the Father Reynolds case as a hook with which to impale RTÉ for ‘bias’ she asserts:

There is a strong sense of mission in RTÉ, a desire to hold institutions and individuals to account, and to effect positive change. However, if a team becomes convinced they know the best “way forward” and are doing society a service by nudging it in that direction, the danger is that fundamental journalistic standards will be flouted.

And that:

I believe there is a “liberal bias” in RTÉ, although I prefer to call it an “illiberal bias”. True liberalism defends the expression of ideas with which it does not agree.

And also:

There is also a liberal bias in this paper. The difference is The Irish Times makes this clear, and people who buy it know what they are getting. RTÉ, as a public service broadcaster, has a very different remit. I would like to think people also buy this paper because it does its job well, and by and large, reports events fairly and accurately. RTÉ also does a very fine job with limited resources.

So she gives an example:

Even when potential problems are pointed out, RTÉ does not change. On a recent Prime Time programme on surrogacy, I said I would not appear as someone opposing surrogacy after a package full of beautiful babies, and grieving mothers who could not regularise their children’s situation, unless the package also tackled the serious ethical and moral dilemmas of surrogacy.
My request was ignored. Miriam O’Callaghan referred on air to the package as “positive towards surrogacy”. I was given four uncontested minutes to redress the emotional priming of the nine-minute package, followed by an interview with Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who intends to legislate for surrogacy. This was considered balance. Not so much Prime Time, as “priming time”.

A number of thoughts are raised by this. Firstly O’Brien is coy about her own position. That ‘people might know what they are getting’ she might note in the article that she is no disinterested observer on these matters but is in fact a member of the Iona Institute, a socially (and to some degree economically) right of centre Catholic entity. No disgrace there, but something that should be made clear from the off. And it’s not as if she didn’t have an opportunity to do so. She says the following:

Valid points were made in the “package” preceding the studio discussion, such as when commentator David Quinn said Fr Reynolds was “fortunate” to have been accused of a crime which could be scientifically disproved, that is, of fathering a child. Had it been “merely” rape, there would have been no chance of reclaiming his good name.

David Quinn is, of course, another member of the Iona Institute.

Secondly, and in a way this is a more serious issue, she posits the concept of ‘balance’. But she, of all people, should know, as was noted here the week before last, the single best appraisal of the area of reproductive technologies and issues conducted in this state was the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction which reported in 2005 and whose findings have subsequently been sat upon by successive governments. And the findings of that report were strongly, overwhelmingly in fact, in support of surrogacy arrangements being introduced. In that context what is the nature of ‘balance’? She doesn’t represent, as best as can be judged, a mainstream view on these matters at least in regard to various stakeholders appointed by the state to examine the issue, but an outlier, and a very very marginal one at that.

And in both pieces on the issue she has remained silent about that report, perhaps because it is so profoundly inconvenient to her thesis.

What’s interesting though is how Iona itself will use cherry pick reports as they see fit. As one comment under the O’Brien article notes, their approach to gay marriage is a particularly revealing example of same. But so is their coverage on their website. Unlike O’Brien they actually mention the Commission for Assisted Human Reproduction:

The Government-appointed Commission for Assisted Human Reproduction recommended in 2005 that in surrogacy arrangements, the commissioning parents be deemed to be the legal parents.

One of the members of the commission, Christine O’Rourke, expressed dissent about this recommendation, saying that “the risks of exploitation and commodifcation” accompanying surrogacy outweighed its benefits.

Ms O’Rourke, Advisory Counsel to the Attorney General at the time, expressing her dissent in the CAHR’s report, recommended instead that surrogacy be prohibited.

She said that there was “a broad cultural consensus that a woman who has just given birth may be uniquely vulnerable and the removal of her baby against her will is repugnant, unless she poses a threat of immediate harm to the child”.

She added: “This social norm is reflected in Article 10(2) of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which obliges Contracting States to accord special protection to women who have just given birth.”

But even this is misleading. Let’s quote the CAHR Report again:

The majority of members were in favour of regulating surrogacy, and all members were strongly of the view
that commercialisation of the practice should not be permitted by the regulatory authority.
One member was strongly opposed to regulation and took the view that surrogacy ought to be prohibited.

Presenting the report in the way Iona does is to ignore the almost total agreement on the CAHR.

Does O’Brien represent a broader societal view? Perhaps, but we have no means of knowing how broad that view is in the absence of polling data (which I haven’t been able to find as of yet, though if it exists I’d be very grateful for links).

I’m not for a second denying O’Brien the right to represent her viewpoint or to promote this on RTÉ or wherever. Though in truth if she is getting four minute slots and newspaper column inches to do so she’s hardly in a marginalised position given the weighting we saw on the CAHR on the issue. Nor am I disputing that this is a difficult enough area which demands careful consideration – though I’m not antagonistic to surrogacy. What I am suggesting is that on this issue she protests too much and as I noted last week her shaping of her response to surrogacy is profoundly flawed.

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