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CLR in 2013 December 31, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, CLR empirebuilding.
15 comments

WordPress’s software has generated an annual report for CLR. I don’t know how to make it visible to all, but here are some highlight,

Some visitors came searching, mostly for cedar lounge revolution, cedar lounge, cedarlounge revolution, cedarlounge, and thatcher for one direction fans.

Why would anybody enter that last term in a search engine?

That software had a problem with country names:

Most visitors came from IE. The United Kingdom & The United States were not far behind.

The most commented on post was from Janaury, and was …making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or right

Would you care to guess who the top five commenters were (across the whole year, not that post)?

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Le Gach Dea-Ghuí don Athbhliain December 31, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
3 comments

planetearth1

As always – in fact I’ll reuse last years words – many thanks to all of you who comment, post, send in suggestions, documents for the Archive (and this year a particular word of thanks to Aonghus Storey for invaluable work on providing that with a new structure and format), and collectively and individually contribute to this site (and others), particularly after 7 years online. Always appreciated and never taken for granted.

It was good to meet up with some of you this year and hopefully will meet up with more in 2014.

It’s also important to say thanks to all the other people online and off who are involved in the Irish left.

Other than that have a great New Year.

A war on many fronts… December 31, 2013

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

I’d sort of said I wouldn’t write any posts around the news this week – just to get a bit of down time, so its been a bit retrospective and history focused. But… just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in…three pieces of news over the past few days I think are worth referencing because they provide a pattern. Firstly, Nick Cohen, who as usual on basic economic policy proves to be a lot better than international politics or musings about the supposed iniquities of the further left, has some pointed thoughts on the sheer hypocrisy of the Tory led British coalition which after all the emphasis on the ‘Big Society’ of the voluntary and charitable sector to take up the slack from the state (or in fact replace the state in many areas) suddenly resiles when faced with the inconvenient truth that said sector starts pointing to massive need far beyond its capacity to deal with. At which point the Tories start to accuse said sector from ‘politicising’ the situation.

Food banks being a case in point. As demand for them shoots up what is the response Cohen quotes from

Lord Freud, the government’s adviser on welfare reform, [who] had to explain away food banks by saying: “There is an almost infinite demand for a free good.”

Cohen neatly demonstrates that access is not a case of waltzing in from the street, but he continues by noting:

You get nothing unless a charity or public agency has assessed your need and given you a voucher. The trust is at pains to make sure that the beggars – for hundreds of thousands of beggars is what Britain now has – receive a balanced diet. To feed a couple for five days, it gives: one medium pack of cereal, 80 teabags, a carton of milk, two cans apiece of soup, beans, tomatoes and vegetables, two portions of meat and fish, fruit, rice pudding, sugar, pasta and juice. That this is hardly a feast is confirmed by the short list of “treats”, which, “when available”, consist of “one bar of chocolate and one jar of jam”.

That this situation is tolerated, or worse explained away as market mechanisms in action, or worse again projected as not actually happening and being an invention of those charities and voluntary groups in the area tells us much as to what the Tories and their feckless partners in government find acceptable, even normal.

Speaking of normal, a curious – though in its own way linked – piece this morning from Carl O’Brien on the news that in this Republic:

New figures show a dramatic increase in anonymous tip-offs over suspected social welfare fraud, with more than 21,000 reports submitted to Government authorities so far this year.

The increase – up from just 1,044 five years ago, an increase of more than 2,500 per cent – highlights the extent of the cultural shift over recent years in reporting suspected fraud.

Curious because O’Brien regards this as evidence of some shift in Irish thinking, one that tilts towards ‘cost-savings’ and protecting the ‘national interest’.

O’Brien argues that:

Whereas just 600 reports of suspected fraud were reported to authorities at the tail-end of the boom years in 2007, the numbers jumped to more than 1,000 a year later just as the downturn began to hit.

Of course the fact that in the interim there has been a massive number who have – y’know, been made unemployed, would have nothing to do with that increase in numbers, or part of an attitude to state expenditure that it is intrinsically wasteful and that tax cuts are more important (tellingly O’Brien in a piece on our economic fortunes in 2014 and after from only a day or two ago made the point that ‘tax cuts’ aka ‘feeling economic improvement’ were unlikely to materialise for years, that conjunction being educative of a certain attitude abroad). Though in fairness O’Brien does note that it’s easy to do:

In addition, taxpayers hit with higher taxes and charges to maintain our social safety net feel a burning sense of indignation at anyone unfairly claiming benefits they’re not entitled to.

The Government, too, is all too keen to encourage whistleblowers. Anyone nowadays can simply log on to the Department of Social Protection’s website to file an anonymous report, without ever lifting the phone.

But there’s a bit of a problem. Because the actual levels of fraud are quite minimal in the system. Of all those reports on supposed fraud only 16% or so saw payments cut or stopped. And more pertinently because it indicates overall levels of fraud:

For example, a fraud and error survey of 1,000 people in receipt of the disability allowance last year found just over 1 per cent involved fraud and another 1 per cent involved clerical errors.

Similarly, a survey of one-parent family payments found that just over 2 per cent of payments related to suspected fraud, while 0.3 per cent involved errors.

Moreover, and in relation to the sometimes voiced line that with such measures will come a greater acceptance of social welfare or social expenditure amongst those who would other wise be hostile, there’s no sign of a political consensus emerging that ring-fences social expenditures due to such ‘control measures’. Quite the opposite (and by the way the fact that those numbers of reports are increasing so rapidly might also be indicative of a profound suspicion of social welfare expenditure come what may). The political consensus remains one where the major parties appear dead set on returning to the status quo ante of tax cuts in the future rather than social expenditure expansion (or in reality recovery to previous levels).

Actually there’s another problem in all this, which is that simply put, by the figures we’ve been offered by the Dept itself close to 4 in 5 (and here I’m being generous) of such reports are wrong.

Finally, as if I haven’t depressed us all and myself for one day, or year, what of this straw in the wind, also from this morning’s Irish Times:

Housebuyers who took out mortgages with Dublin City Council are now more than €13 million in arrears on their home loans.

The arrears figure has increased by €10 million in the past six years, prompting a senior council official to question whether the council should be dealing with mortgages at all.

And:

…assistant city manger in charge of housing Dick Brady said it was questionable whether the council should be in the “mortgage business”.

Applicants have to be refused a mortgage by two banks, before they can be considered for a loan from the council, a rule which remains in place despite the changes in the market.

“We as a local authority must examine the reasons for us being in the mortgage business in the first place. It is time that we asked ourselves is this a business that we should be in, having regard to the fact that in order to get a local authority mortgage you have to be refused twice by banks.”

In a society where the vagaries of a private housing market have been ameliorated by state intervention to only the most limited degree it is genuinely disturbing to hear the idea that the state would pull back yet further. And yet…

More on the 1956-1962 Border Campaign December 30, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics.
5 comments

Coincidental to discovering this educative site here – well, not so coincidental actually, I finally got around to reading Barry Flynn’s ‘Soldiers of Folly – The IRA Border Campaign 1956 −1962’ and it’s an interesting read. I noted in comments I’m not mad gone on the title, but it’s a comprehensive enough overview of the topic, though, as also noted in comments, Ó Bradaigh’s biography has a good overview too.

One interesting nugget which I had hitherto confused with Saor Uladh was the Laochra Uladh (Warriors of Ulster) splinter group, which was led by Brendan O’Boyle, an IRA man from the 1940s who as Bowyer Bell noted in The Secret Army ‘appeared to run a one-man bombing campaign’ and who died in 1955 when a bomb prematurely exploded in the car he was driving. According to some LU gave weapons to SU.

That Bowyer Bell link is fascinating because it mentions other groups, including an IRB, Arm na Saoirse which merged with the IRA (and as Bowyer Bell notes almost fantastically its members were unaware of the IRA before that, or perhaps not so fantastically), and the Irish National Brotherhood/Irish Volunteers which is described as ‘private and somewhat violent youth movement absorbed into na Fianna Éireann’. These apparently were all Dublin based. It does suggest a ferment of activity in the years running up to the campaign.

It’s interesting to consider what were the roots of that activity in the 1940s, a period when the IRA and Republicans were being pushed back by the state in Ireland. One other thought that strikes me is whether in some ways the anti-partitionism of Ailtirí na hAiséirghe during the 1940s (and I don’t mean that in a facile far-right=SF or the IRA way, but rather that AnahA’s anti-partitionism clearly struck a chord), and indeed the Anti-Partition Conference, were representative of a very broad anti-partition sentiment that ultimately saw expression in the Border Campaign?

Left Archive: Ireland – The Workers’ Party – Autumn 1987 December 30, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Workers' Party.
66 comments

WP DOC 87 COVER

To download the above file please click on the following link: WP DOC 87

This document provides a sense of the image the Workers’ Party sought to project internationally during the 1980s, particularly – but not exclusively – in Europe. It came on foot of significant gains by the Party in the 1987 General Election where it increased its representation to four TDs and a sense that the party was in the process of making even greater gains.

It states:

The battle for alternative socialist policies in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland received a major boost in general elections held in both areas this year, with substantial gains being recorded by WP candidates.

It notes the four TDs and that ‘in a number of constituencies the WP increased its vote substantially setting the scene for further gains at the next general election’.

It continues:

The election results confirmed a further slide in support for the Labour Party and gave a crushing blow to the sectarian murder and terror policies of Provisional Sinn Féin, whose vote slumped by up to 50 per cent in many constituencies ending up with just 1.8% of the national vote. The Communist Party of Ireland ran five candidates winning only 725 votes, .005% of the national vote.

Since the election the WP has established itself as the leading voice on the Irish Left. The party has proposed talks with Labour for co-operation on social and economic issues, but these were not responded to positively.

Following the election WP President Tomás Mac Giolla pointed out the basis has now been set for a clear development of Left-Right politics in Ireland, something which the conservative parties with the collusion of Labour, had striven to avoid in the past.

‘For the WP the task of building a strong and militant Left Alternative in Ireland, in cooperation with other workers’ communist and socialist parties throughout Europe, is a vital task in winning state power for the Irish working class’.

It also discusses ‘Northern Election Gains’, arguing that it ‘significantly boosted its vote in NI… increasing its total to just under 20,000’. This is suggests ‘showed a reduction in support of rate policies of bigotry and abstention, with the votes of both the Unions parties and Provisional Sinn Féin declining considerably’.

Inside it has an article on the murder of WP supporter Thomas Emmanuel Wilson by the Provisional IRA. And in the course of that it argues:

The WP position on terrorism has been absolutely clear for a long time: we call for its elimination. For this is not an isolated incident. No one is safe: these gangsters have bombed cafes, public houses, slaughtered men and women indiscriminately. And we insist that to label people as ‘police agents’ is a gross distortion of reality.

Other articles discuss the ‘SDLP – Washington connection’, and mentions the Irish Republican Club of North America which ‘opposes secret US funding of the SDLP’. They call for ANC recognition as the ‘authentic representative voice of the majority of South Africans’ and there’s a photograph on page four of MacGiolla and Kader Asmal at a rally in Dublin meeting ANC representative Reg September.

It takes Ken Livingstone’s ‘ignorance’ on the North to task on the same page. There’s also news about a 1916 commemoration in Belfast. Another piece by Sean Garland discusses the WP as a vanguard party and there is a long pieces on Nicaragua.

As noted above, the direction of this is explicitly oriented towards an international audience, and in particular one that, for want of a better term, would be part of orthodox communism and those elements on the left that would orient towards that.

Sunday Independent Goodwill Towards All December 29, 2013

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

Given the season that is in it, I thought it worth sharing Emer O’Kelly‘s reasons as to why we should give up on all that left/right ideological nonsense, and instead embrace a world built on ethical behaviour, ethics being, of course, “universal and ageless”.

Because ethics is merely another word for morality. And, a market economy is not necessarily immoral. And to define the market economy as unethical/immoral is to take a politically ideological stand. Once we do that, we cut ourselves off from influencing half the world. Because to be politically opposed to the market economy is confusing politics with morality. And over the long, weary and destructive years of the cold war, we saw how far right-left ideological clashes got us: into a stalemate of mistrust.

So there you are. Forget the politics, and all will be well this and every other Christmas.

Saturday’s radio — two items December 29, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Britain, Human Rights.
1 comment so far

I had the radio on this afternoon when the BBC broadcast a repeat of an interview with Cressida Dick, Assistant Commissioner with the Metropolitan Police in London. You can hear the 17-minute interview here.

She was the “Gold command” officer in charge of operations when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by police on 22 July 2005. She has since been promoted, three times. As the BBC notes at the start of the intereview, she was cleared of all blame.

In the evening, I had switched station to Lyric FM, and had Blue of the Night on. Among the songs played was ‘Hollow Point’ by Chris Wood.

Documentaries of 2013 (and other years)… December 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, The Left.
13 comments

…que suggested we crowdsource suggestions for the best documentaries of the year. As que says:

I’ve seen/listened to some crackers recently and would love to tap into what others here have already heard/seen

So if there are suggestions fire ahead with them, and if there are other documentaries that people think worth including go for it.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to…Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes December 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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For sometimes (well one clear instance in one song) very hard edged political pop, a fairly dark name and links to the Scottish pop scene of the 1980s Jesse Garon & the Desperadoes provide a perfect example. Members of them played in or with The Darling Buds, Meat Whiplash, The Shop Assistants and many more. They were produced by Douglas Hart of the JAMC. And as to the politics, well read on.

A Scottish group based in Edinburgh in the late 1980s, their debut single was the almost amazingly good Splashing Along. Their sound was typically indie-pop, slightly scratchy guitars, a lot of melody.

The approach to vocals was slightly unusual – though on reflection not that different from The Primitives. Fran Schoppler sang most of the songs, with Andrew Tully singing a number here or there. This dynamic of female/male vocals was interesting, generally effective and while perhaps losing the coherence of a single vocalist did allow their sound to encompass a broader range.

A Cabinet of Curiosities released in 1989 compiled their early singles and EPs to great effect. Nixon from a year later was an harder edged affair, with a tougher sound. Allmusic suggests that the album ‘revealed a more forthright perspective’. That’s one way of putting it, as wiki reveals single Grand Hotel referenced the IRA’s bombing of same, and notes that ‘Tully described this as a ‘fuck Thatcher and fuck the IRA for not killing her when they had the chance’ song’.

Subsequent to that they dropped from sight, though vocalist Fran Schoppler released a solo album in 2000. It’s a pity, they definitely had something of interest in the mix.

Splashing Along

The Rain Fell Down

Laughing and Smiling

I’m Up here

If I needed Someone

Adam Faith

Grand Hotel

Tinnitus Quartet December 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
13 comments

Here’s an interesting piece by US composer Brent Michael Davids entitled the Tinnitus Quartet where he attempts, and I’d think succeeds, in getting across to an audience the reality of his tinnitus, which apparently registers as a constant high A. It’s there throughout the piece.

For those of us who have less intrusive forms of the condition – I have a very low hiss in my right ear that’s really only audible when in quiet rooms or late at night – it’s deeply sobering.

Here’s more on the issue aimed particularly at those who make music. I’ve mentioned tests you can do to check your hearing, but it’s worth noting that while tinnitus is often a symptom of damaged hearing deafness is a separate condition. What’s good is that it’s possible to maintain a good level of hearing and avoid tinnitus relatively easily, and ensure that even where it does appear that it is contained. But it’s also sobering to realise that once it appears that’s it, it essentially never goes away.

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