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Time and Haddington Road August 29, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Economy.

So Haddington Roads extra working hours are now being done and the extra time being worked has impacted at all sorts of levels. The Croke Park extra hours were a nightmare for my own family with my wife (a teacher) having to work late (or shall we say endure hours of pointless meetings that the principal was only too delighted to have a literally captive audience). At times my daughter was picked up from the childminder by her Granny, other times I had to leave work early or even take a half day…. and we’re lucky in that the Grandparents are only up the road and are delighted to help out when they can, but they cant always.
Earlier in the week I had to cancel a game scheduled to be played on Dublins North coast as I couldn’t get the required number of players. I talked to a few of the parents and a couple of them said that due to extra working time in Haddington Road they couldn’t have the child up at the club for 6 to be taken to the game , never mind drive all the way themselves. In the grand scheme of things its only small, but another GAA related example is a few of the lads coaching the Hurling and GAA have had to change training times as they could no longer make it for 6.30. Its a small thing but indicates how peoples time is precious (and in the case of childcare costly).
What struck me too is that the agreement and having to work the extra time has to a degree taken some flexibility away from people. You dont want to be seen leaving work early every Monday and Wednesday to take your child GAA or soccer training. It’s just the daily life stuff that its causing difficulty in….. rushing to get home for a hospital visit, a removal, a meeting….

50 years August 28, 2013

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Uncategorized.
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Cowen ‘did not believe warnings of economic collapse’? Really? August 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

The news this morning that Brian Cowen, perhaps our most hapless Taoiseach (and by the way, didn’t Ahern pick – or have picked for him – his departure at just about the optimal moment to preserve his historical reputation somewhat intact):

…said the then Fianna Fáil-led government had not foreseen the collapse in the economy and did not believe the minority of people who were warning of dangers at the time.
“Well, the truth is that we didn’t believe it. We thought the economy would have a soft landing, that economic growth would continue and we could pay for it through the growth that was to come,” he said.

Personally I find this inexplicable. Well, not completely inexplicable. As we know the great and the good in Europe and the OECD and elsewhere were quite the little cheerleaders of the boom. But even so.

I’m far from alone in the only person then in their 30s and later in my early 40s gazing in fascinated awe during the ‘boom’ at how absurd the ‘market’ had got. I remember conversation after conversation with contemporaries about how this was bound to crash, although I doubt any of us quite envisaged the situation as bad as it ultimately was.

The point being that the idea the boom was ‘self-sustaining’ was a pipe-dream. And obviously so throughout the middle to latter part of its course. Sure, there was an aspect of catching up, but the property market alone, and it wasn’t the only aspect of this by a long shot, was clearly overheated for years before the collapse.

Of course, let’s flip this around. Say Cowen was sincere, say he genuinely wasn’t aware that what was happening was ephemeral, that he did not think it could crash, doesn’t that say something too, that there was no store set aside the day when it might crash, because even if – even according to his lights – such a crash was unlikely/impossible, the chance was always there. What does this say of the preparedness of the government to plan for negative outcomes – however unlikely?

And there’s more, because this narrative he offers only takes us so far. What about light touch regulation that he and the preceding governments he was a part of oversaw, and which was instrumental in enabling the financial sector to run effectively uncontrolled? What of a more generalised obeisance to the market? What of the pernicious interweaving of state/government and private sectors (still, as we know in train) – perhaps best exemplified, at least in its starkest example by Sean FitzPatrick’s speech on government social policy only months before Anglo-Irish went to the wall.

There’s a lot more to the ‘economic collapse’ than the bank guarantee, a lot more even than the housing bubble, a lot more than excessive and unsustainable ‘growth’.

SF and the Seanad… August 28, 2013

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

The Phoenix has a short but interesting piece on SF and the Seanad under the heading ‘SF Senate Blunder?’ where it suggests that given the softening of poll findings in regard to abolition of the Seanad, SF may have made an strategic error in coming out in favour of abolition, thereby neatly positioning itself on the same side as… er… Fine Gael.

In fairness I suspect that like most of us on the left feelings are conflicted as regards the Seanad. Many of us are probably only very marginally in favour of retention because of who and how the process of abolition has been initiated by.

Still, as the Phoenix notes:

The party’s initial position of reform – and therefore retaining – the Senate was adopted by almost all the 17 SF Oireachtas members, but Pearse Doherty fought tooth and nail or abolition, wining the argument hands down at the AC.

And again, in fairness, Doherty had actually been there, done that.

Part of the argument was positioning, that FF was in favour of retention and therefore ‘no Republican party worth the name could be in favour of the inherently elitist Senate’.

And that too is in large part correct. But as the Phoenix points out, the tide is running against abolition, and while ‘the party’s base is probably still in favour of abolition the strong reform agenda is eating into not on the middle class but all sections of the population’.

Again, all this is in part a response to FG and Kenny, in particular, and the way they handled the issue. It seemed from the off to be half-assed, back of an envelop, ‘do something, anything’, populist stuff of the worst sort rather than a considered policy. And the electorate know this and are now all too familiar with political expedience of that sort. Moreover, and this is the kicker, this is an electorate only too willing to give a good kick to the government, just ‘cos. And who can blame them/us?

The Phoenix suggests that in the aftermath of a defeat for the government ‘reform’ will be flavour of the month, and that Mary Lou McDonald had argued that tying itself to the same side of the issue as FG means that SF may – in the event of such a defeat – appear to have ‘yielded the hight ground of political reform to FF’.

This could get tricky – if the No side wins. If. Big if. Smaller if than six months ago.

Televisions or food? Surely it’s televisions and food August 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A lot of what Jamie Oliver has said about school meals etc has been spot on. But this?

“I’m not judgmental, but I’ve spent a lot of time in poor communities, and I find it quite hard to talk about modern-day poverty. You might remember that scene in [a previous series] Ministry of Food, with the mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of Styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive fucking TV. It just didn’t weigh up.

It’s not so much the point about chips and cheese and styrofoam containers. That’s far from unproblematic. But it is about the ‘massive fucking TV’. Truth is that a ‘massive fucking TV’ can be got at Argos – for example – for less than €400. It’s not nothing, but spread across a year, or three it’s not impossible, either. And there’s another aspect to this.

I was at the Gaiety recently to see Riverdance – because that’s what you do when you’ve got a dance mad 5 year old. Interesting show, 65% good, 35% not. But that’s another story. Thing is it was bloody expensive to go there and it was the sort of thing that I’d find hard pushed to go more than a few times a year should the mood take me.

And for those who can’t get the money to go ever, or almost never, what’s the best entertainment investment? Something that costs €100 a year for four years?

In any case it’s all a bit prurient, a bit demanding of people on lower or lowest incomes that they live ‘just so’ or else.

None of which is to disagree with the point that there are huge problems in terms of foodstuffs marketed to those on low and lowest incomes, a serious dearth in ability to cook (for example, why is it that the skill to make meals isn’t a much more core component of the education system right through school years?), and of course – low incomes and excessive hours and broken up working days and all the small and not so small elements that combine to make food preparation just another hurdle in a day.

And by the by, to judge from stats available far too much time is spent in front of televisions (and other media) and for children in particular – but not just children, there’s the issue of lack of exercise etc that flows from this, and there’s little as depressing as going into an house where the television is always on. But…

It’s a bit more than massive fucking televisions. It really is.

What you want to say… Open Thread, 28th of August 2013 August 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Post general election 2016 Coalition frenzy time! Why? August 27, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
1 comment so far

Because we’re now over half way through this Dáil term. Yep, the 2011 general election was held on the 25th of February so last month was the 30 month midway point of the Dáil term. By the way, the last date the election can be called in 2016 is interesting too. One might think that if a Dáil term cannot exceed five years then it would be circa 25th February 2016, but no.

As this useful wiki page here notes, the date isn’t from the election, but from the first sitting of any given Dáil. So, given that the Dáil sat on 9 March 2011 that means that the election could be held up to 30 days after the dissolution of this Dáil which would bring us all the way to 8th April 2016.

I’m of the view that this government will hang on the full five years. There’s no compelling reason, short of some massive rupture that would see the LP drift off (and even in such a scenario who is to say that FF wouldn’t arrive at a confidence and supply arrangement with FG to keep the show on the road the full distance?).

But even if April 2016 seems like years away (and it is, it is) that’s beside the point. That psychologically important mid-point has been reached. We’re now coasting to the next GE. Sure, there’s a few way stations to be reached, most importantly the local elections.

And an old politicians thoughts are now turning to the next five years. So, add that to the usual Summer silly season stuff, the irritating (for some) lack of a new ‘right’ party, and small wonder that we’re beginning to see material about new ‘link-ups’ post 2016.

The kite Stagg flew at the weekend, where he envisaged precisely such a link-up with Sinn Féin is perhaps the most shameless, because it runs counter not merely to the rhetoric of the LP, but he knows that at this point the two are deeply competitive and SF is, by any reasonable standard, in the better position (the Phoenix noted the fall in the LP vote in its supposed stronghold of Dublin). SF could reasonably calculate that this side of the election it doesn’t need the faltering LP. Whereas it does no harm for him to say stuff like this in the hope of attracting the stray transfer from SF voters, or better yet, former and disenchanted LP voters. It will be telling if this is the only straw in the wind on this topic. If we hear more it might indicate that the LP is genuinely rattled, or be part of the tactic outline above – or both.

Of course many of us probably wouldn’t complain if SF and the LP did work together with other left forces in a government that was leftish in complexion. But that doesn’t seem likely, short of some fairly curious out workings of the vote at the next election. Which tells us quite a bit about the Irish political system. And it’s a pretty pass we’ve arrived at where even taking into account its well known issues the LP is fairly well to the right of SF. Interesting too if there’s any response from SF to this.

The O’Herlihy speech at the Béal na Bláth commemoration is great in its own way and on so many levels. And perhaps points to the dangers of inviting media personalities to make political speeches.

I’ve noted before that it seems to be all about SF, and the dangers of SF and FF linking up in coalition. Because otherwise what sense does his argument make? He talks about how FG has ‘moved with determination into the ‘governing’ centre-right position’ and how this leaves FF to ‘compete with Labour, and a renewed SF for space in the centre-left ground’. And he then says… ‘this, experts will argue is the natural working of party politics in modern European democracies. But must it always be so?’.

Put aside, if one can, the idea that FF is ‘centre-left’ (populist centre right seems more accurate), and note that he seems to be saying that FF should really be over there on the centre right (as he sees it) with FG.

Now that isn’t even the oddest aspect of it, for in his speech he argues that ‘the idea of re-embracing the word republic is another reason why I find the notion that FF and SF might merge or coalesce to be a disturbing and retrogressive idea’.

But who is seriously arguing that they would do any such thing, outside perhaps a coalition? This is a problem that simply does not exist – at least not at this point in time, and it would be a brave person who would seriously argue that it is at all likely any time soon. FF and SF, by contrast, are profound rivals – even putting the politics and positioning aside. Yet taking this as his starting point, this bizarre idea of a merger, he then decides the solution is… FG and FF merging!

Yet isn’t he also arguing for some sort of left/right divide, because it’s unlikely FG will become any less right wing in such a context. And then if that’s the case isn’t he then conceding the centre left to SF and the LP – and presumably others though they don’t get a look in in his speech.

But so what? Isn’t that more or less the status quo ante, even if the LP and SF are scrabbling around on the same centre-left ground?

And then what is the point of it all? Some belief that a single super-FG/FF would be a dominant political party able to see off all challengers? Sure, as it stands FG/FF between them command perhaps 50 per cent of the vote, but it takes but a moments consideration of the historical record to note that in the not too dim and distant past they had upwards of 80 per cent of that vote. And in May 2007 at the then GE they commanded 69 per cent of the vote.

Perhaps it is that the attrition of their combined votes is being noted with concern. And perhaps this is what is driving this along with the thought that as the ‘larger’ parties diminish the chance for smaller parties of a leftish inclination to enter government is increasing, a prospect that would not be looked forward to by some.

So yes, this is the silly season, and these events have – as we have seen in recent years, invited speculation aplenty.

And for the reality check, what about this?

Though have to smile reading this…

Other Fianna Fáil sources yesterday emphasised that it will not be ready to enter government for at least another term after its humiliating defeat in the general election in 2011. A senior party source said its structures will not be strong enough and that the electorate will not have sufficiently forgiven the party for the mistakes it made during 14 uninterrupted years in power.

Yeah, sure. If FF sees a sniff of power in 2016 and if the numbers do add up, hardly as a majority party, but even (particularly!) for them heading a coalition then they’ll look at precisely the same electorate and decide that they have been sufficiently forgiven!

PUBLIC MEETING – Syria and Iran August 27, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Hey! Look, they skew the benefit/work debate in the US too! August 27, 2013

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

Interesting piece on Slate.com, taken from Business Insider, on a Cato Institute report which seeks to prove that being on welfare in the US is financially more beneficial than working.

And how do they come to this conclusion?

They add up benefits available through eight programs to a low-income woman with two children, and find total benefit values well in excess of full-time minimum wage work, or even, in some states, middle-skill work. The study is called “The Welfare-Versus-Work Tradeoff,” and it’s meant to show why people don’t get off welfare.

Now isn’t that just a bit familiar? For as Josh Barro writes, this is incorrect because firstly, ‘very few people actually qualify for all eight of the programmes Cato looks at’, ‘welfare benefits for single adults are much less than those for women with children [and I presume men with children – wbs] and finally, ‘not all benefits are lost when a welfare recipient starts working’. We’ve seen that approach of rolling all potential benefits (and in particular non-cash benefits) into a single pool to try to justify similar claims here too.

Barro isn’t coy about one aspect of welfare:

That said, poverty traps are real. This is the phenomenon of people losing benefits as they earn more income of their own.

But he notes two basic truths:

It’s a problem that welfare programs need to be designed around, and there are two ways of mitigating it. One is to make benefits more generous by extending their phaseout ranges, so people don’t lose as many benefits as they earn more income. That costs money. The other is to reduce benefits. That reduces the standard of living for the most vulnerable people in America.

And the same is obviously true here as well.

And he goes further:

It’s easier to make an argument for the latter approach when you have an economy that creates broad prosperity and makes it easy for people to find living-wage jobs if they are willing to work. We don’t have that economy. This is the problem that conservatives and libertarians refuse to grapple with: If you’re unwilling to support policies that promote macroeconomic stability, such as counter-cyclical fiscal and monetary policies, you’re only making a more generous welfare state more morally necessary.

Perhaps worth remembering all this when we are next subjected to rhetoric from the government and Troika on ‘redesigning’ welfare or ‘labour activation measures’.

Philip Chevron testimonial August 26, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Music, Other Stuff.
1 comment so far

[The following is from a text message I sent today, that WbS asked me to post.]

I was at the Testimonial for Philip Chevron on Saturday night in the Olympia. He came on stage and looks very ill. Great gig. Each singer did two songs; one of their one and one of his, except Shane McGowan. Mary Coughlan pissed me off, as she hadn’t bothered to learn the lyrics off the song. It ended with three sets: Radiators, Horslips, and both together. Aidan Gillen was MC. He clarified something I’d wondered about. Song of the Faithful Departed on the album is slightly faster than the single version (which I’d heard on Dave Fanning’s show at the time).



[Roddy Doyle read a piece, a dialogue between two characters (Added on 30 August 2013: The script I posted is now replaced with the version posted on the Radiotors website.)]

-D’yeh remember Kitty Ricketts?
-I fuckin’ married her.
-The song.
-The song, the attitude, the whole fuckin’ shebang.
-The song – stop messin,. Yeh know what I fuckin’ mean.
-I do, yeah.
-You remember it.
-It was brilliant, wasn’t it?
-Yeah – brilliant. There were great songs back then.
-Great gigs as well.
-Yeah, yeah. The Blades, The Attrix.
-The Radiators from Space.
-Songs about Dublin.
-Made us proud, didn’t it?
-Still does.
-The fella tha’ wrote tha’ one, Kitty Ricketts.
-Philip Chevron – yeah.
-There’s a testimonial for him tonigh’.
-In the Olympia.
-Football in the Olympia? Fuckin’ brilliant. The Radiators from Space versus A Republic of Ireland Eleven – from space.
-Niall Quinn up in the gods.
-His natural fuckin’ habitat.
-Eamonn Dunphy on drums.
-Tha’ makes sense.
-Philip Chevron on the left wing.
-With his mazy runs an’ silky skills. Slashin’ at his opponents’ shins with his guitar.
-He isn’t well.
-Yeh know wha’ tha’ means – ‘isn’t well’? For men our age, like.
-I do – yeah.
-Chevron, but. What sort of a name is tha’?
-It’s Irish. He dropped the O.
-Exactly. It means son of the unfortunate fucker who couldn’t get the odds together to emigrate.
-Here, look it. We don’t normally do this. But we’ll lift the glass for Philip, will we?
-No – we won’t.
-Why not?
-Cos punks don’t do tha’ shite.


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