Wage inequality: Imagine if you will… November 24, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
…a referendum like this one held in Switzerland being so much as proposed by a major Irish political force*, let alone held. And yes, the vote didn’t go the way many of us would like.
Swiss voters on Sunday decisively rejected a proposal to cap “fat cat” pay, in a ground-breaking referendum on the issue.
Final results showed that votes against carried the day by 65.3% to 34.7% in favour. David Roth, the president of Switzerland’s Young Socialists and the referendum’s leading sponsor, said: “We’re disappointed [we] lost today.”
The proposal suggested a cap on executive salaries of no more than 12 times their lowest paid employee.
But somehow, even Switzerland is able to consider and reflect and decide upon the issue. And note that in the UK the TUC is calling for a cap of 20 times the pay of the lowest paid employee.
And by the way, how bad are things in Switzerland?
The young Socialists claimed during the 1:12 campaign that the ratio of the average salary among Swiss CEOs to the average wage had leapt from six to one in 1984 to 43 to one in 2011. Calculations based on figures compiled by the trade union Travailsuisse indicate that the biggest pay imbalance is at another drug company, Roche, where the salary of the best-paid executive is 236 times that of the lowest-paid worker.
Other firms where the ratio was in excess of 200 to one were ABB, Novartis and Credit Suisse. They were followed by Nestlé, UBS and Lindt & Sprungli.
I once worked for an European rival of ABBs. Cosseted is the term that comes to mind in relation to executives in that particular area. And that’s the kindest way of putting it.
* SF has a policy of a wage cap of €100k on public sector workers, with additional taxation on higher earners of 48%, which is fair enough, but doesn’t quite have the radical edge of the Swiss proposal.
Socialists or social democrats… November 19, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
…it’s a small thing but Stephen Collins’ article at the weekend on the ‘exit’ from the ‘bail-out’ rankled a little for me, well amongst other things, at this point when he wrote:
The hard and unsympathetic stance towards Ireland currently being adopted by the German socialists in their coalition negotiations with Chancellor Angela Merkel did not augur well for the kind of debate that might occur in the Bundestag.
Technically I wonder how accurate it is given that the party is the SDP, and sure, it’s a part of the SI, and no doubt some members do self-describe as ‘socialists’. But… nonetheless.
Ireland into the EEC: The 1972 Debate November 19, 2013Posted by irishelectionliterature in European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
The opening day of the Peoples Movement exhibition, Ireland into the EEC: The 1972 Debate. The exhibition has displays of pro and anti EU publicity materials stretching back over three decades.
The trouble with France… is what exactly? November 12, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, The Left.
Been listening to a podcast by former BBC Paris Correspondent Emma Jane Kirby entitled ‘BBC Analysis France: sinking slowly?’. It’s an incredible piece, not least because of the set of assumptions behind it – one where free market solutions are the only way forward and there’s an almost palpable sense of disbelief that any society could offer a situation with reasonable pension ages or so on. It’s deeply anti-statist, and needless to say rolls out an Economist correspondent, and a range of economists and economic commentators who Kirby admits are ‘provocative’, to reinforce the idea that all the French need is a dose of Anglo-Saxon style capitalism. And so we hear about ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’, complaints about ‘taxi’ services and so on.
It is true that there is an elite within the France political and economic class that is self perpetuating and that dirigisme is problematic in various respects yet… and yet.
When one hears one contributor that French political class have to be honest and must orient themselves to ‘create the next Google, the next twitter’ the analysis just seems to be incredibly shallow.
Tellingly the only voice from Government is one which is largely pro-‘reform’, and no countervailing opinion is put. And there’s a rather disturbing line of argument pursued which appears to condone an Italian style ‘political rupture’ and the installation of a ‘technocratic’ President.
From all of it one wouldn’t believe that the French economy – and this is in no sense to gloss over its actual problems – is as Kirby also admits:
“…the fifth largest … in the world and outperforms the United Kingdom in productivity.”
When is an exit from the bailout not quite an exit from the bailout? November 7, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.
In recent weeks, the EU powers quietly prolonged the period in which Government can draw down loans under the current bailout programme by two months until the end of February.
The view within the troika is that this “technical” adjustment provides a window until then for the Government to make a final decision on a precautionary credit facility, for use only in a financial emergency.
In troika circles, the expectation is that the Government will not declare any formal application until it knows the likely outcome of the negotiation.
An Phoblacht November edition October 31, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
The November edition of An Phoblacht is just rolling off the press and will be in your local newsagent nationwide from Friday morning.
IN THE NOVEMBER 2013 ISSUE
Dublin & Monaghan bombings, Miami Showband Massacre and Glenanne Gang: UDR, RUC and British Army in the dock with UVF
Miami Showband Massacre victims sue British over collusion
Shooting IRA history: Photos from Tan War and Civil War
Water meters: Will only our rivers run free?
Joe Brolly & the GAA: Scoring points on the past
London Irish Centre packed for Sinn Féin conference ‘Towards a New Ireland’ – Unprecedented range of speakers ensures Ireland stays on political agenda in Britain
Challenging times – Liadh Ní Riada, bringing a strengthened republican voice to the European Parliament
Conor Murphy MP on opinion polls and Border polls
‘Lethal Allies’: Anne Cadwallader’s explosive new book naming names in Britain’s dirty war in Ireland previewed
‘We need a fighting, radical and independent trade union movement,’ says Senator David Cullinane | Top US trade unionists ‘In Common Cause Against Austerity’
The struggle for equality in education
Mortgage crisis: Homeowners warned against loopy ‘legal protection’
History in Omagh as Tyrone women Sinn Féin councillors elected to two top posts
Tragedy and courage as Priory Hall saga ends
Housing crisis: Proof that capitalism doesn’t work
Remembering the Past: The centenary of the Irish Volunteers, Óglaigh na hÉireann
Tá sé thar am éirí as an euro
Mickey Brady MLA on the cold reality of fuel poverty
The Basque peace process is under relentless attack from Madrid securocrats
MEP Martina Anderson welcomes EU tobacco product curbs
Uncomfortable Conversations: The time is here for unionism to stand up and be part of this debate
Book Reviews: The enigmas of Parnell and Kildare in the Tan War
Farm Forum’s first meeting in Mayo
All this and much, much more…
They spy… October 29, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, US Politics.
Niall Stanage in the Sunday Business Post this weekend was writing about the US phone tapping scandal. Apparently it is a scandal when political leaders of foreign states are tapped, not so much when it’s just ordinary folk. Interesting that.
It is assumed, though not proven, that information Snowden provided was also the basis for an investigation by the German magazine Der Spiegel which led to allegations that the mobile phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel was among those targeted by the United States.
The accusation was all but confirmed by the evasive response of Obama’s White House spokesman, Jay Carney.
Carney stressed that Merkel’s phone was not being tapped now and would not be in the future. But he determinedly avoided making any such declaration about the past. In doing so, he was seen to be tacitly admitting the surveillance.
”What I can’t do and won’t do is answer every allegation that appears in print about intelligence activities that may or may not have been engaged in by the United States, because the path that leads us down is not one that we can travel,” Carney said during one press briefing.
There is no mistaking the outrage that the disclosure about Merkel caused in Germany, just as somewhat similar allegations caused a furore in France.
Stanage, understandably, positions this as a problem for Obama. And no doubt it is. And he notes that:
Now, even some former Bush advisors are coming to his aid over the most recent revelations.
Stewart Baker, who was an assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under Bush, argued that Germany and France should not be seen as entirely dependable allies of the United States.
In an article for the website of the New York Times last week, Baker contended that the two nations in question ”were not our allies” in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
No doubt they – the Bush advisors – would on foot of the latest reports that the phone-tapping of Angela Merkel was taking place from at least 2002.
The reported surveillance of Angela Merkel apparently began under the George W Bush administration and continued into the Obama administration, and required explicit presidential approval.
This last is interesting because:
Chancellery officials say Mr Obama reportedly told Dr Merkel he knew nothing of the surveillance and apologised.
The unnamed NSA official contradicts this version of events in Bild am Sonntag, claiming Mr Obama was informed of the action by NSA chief Keith Alexander in 2010.
“Obama didn’t stop the action then, rather left it run on,” said an unnamed NSA official to the newspaper, allegeding the intelligence gathered went straight to the White House.
What’s fascinating, and I mentioned this last week, is that there’s so much contention about it. I’d have thought it was sensible to assume that the US spied on anyone and everything that took its interest, as indeed would other states. That is simply standard operating procedure I would imagine in such instances.
Baker makes a point along similar lines:
”He and his administration are targets for the intelligence services of practically every nation on earth, including some of those complaining loudest,” Baker wrote. ”That’s not because he set a bad example; he could abolish the NSA, the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community tomorrow, and the US would still be the world’s biggest target.”
That may be true but it does not lessen the difficulties caused by the disclosures that have been made.
Again, as I was writing last week, that’s in no sense to deny US culpability, but it is to suggest that information and intelligence surveillance could and should be subject to much more rigorous controls at international level, in much the same way as different but no less noxious substances and materials are. But how likely is that? It’s expedient for many, if not everyone, that such practices continue and will continue into the future.
But it’s also instructive and educative, and it points up more clearly just how important it is to allow for areas of privacy for those of us in more banal areas.
Surveillance? Hey! It sure is different when it’s your phone. October 24, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics.
Reading the reports of German and French outrage over NSA bugging of their politicians, including and up to the level of Chancellor Merkel a number of thoughts come to mind. Wouldn’t the working assumption be that the NSA did this as a matter of course? And if not why not? Are the politicians sufficiently credulous (word of the week obviously) to believe the United States, or indeed any other power with the technological capability, wouldn’t do that if it had the opportunity and the means?
I’m in no sense exculpating the US in this.
The outrage in Berlin came days after President François Hollande of France also called the White House to confront Obama with reports that the NSA was targeting the private phone calls and text messages of millions of French people.
While European leaders have generally been keen to play down the impact of the whistleblowing disclosures in recent months, events in the EU’s two biggest countries this week threatened an upward spiral of lack of trust in transatlantic relations.
But why? According to reports:
Merkel told Obama that “she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices, if the indications are authenticated,” Seifert said. “This would be a serious breach of confidence. Such practices have to be halted immediately.”
Different though, presumably, when it’s just Jane or John Doe. And this thought isn’t unique to me.
Criticism was not focused only on the US president, but has extended to the German chancellor, whose chief of staff had only recently declared the NSA scandal as “finished”. Many feel Merkel had failed to react appropriately to the Snowden revelations, and was only stepping up the rhetoric now that she had been personally affected.
Germany’s data protection commissioner, Peter Schaar, said that the reports showed “the absurdity of politicians trying to draw to a close the debate about surveillance of everyday communication here”. He went as far to say that it had been irresponsible of politicians not to be more upfront in calling for the US to clear up the matter.
More broadly the issue raises almost entirely contradictory thoughts. I’ve long operated on the assumption that online one’s life is beyond one’s control, that intelligence agencies, or whoever, will be able to pick through the detritus. It’s irritating, actually it’s more than that, but it’s a bit like a force of nature, one has to work around it (something I’m too lazy to bother to do) or work within the constraints it imposes. But really, should it be like this? Data retention for unconscionably long periods, commercial and state oversight of areas that are private and innocuous?
And what is most striking in relation to the above is the sense that there are very few forces standing up for those of us who think like this. There’s some partial moment in the European Parliament, though no doubt commercial and security issues will dilute that. But really who cares?
Until it’s their phones and conversations that are tapped into…