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The President used the ‘s’ word February 23, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Class, Community, Culture, Economy, Ethics, European Politics, Inequality, Ireland, Neo-conservatives, Political Philosophy, Social History, Society.

The archived speeches on the site of the President, http://www.president.ie go back only as far as 1997 (Mary McAleese’s inauguration speech), and even in a group that consists of nine members, a sample of two is not a good representation. That said, it is worth noting that this week, President Higgins caused the words socialism and socialist to appear on that site for the first time, by using them in a speech yesterday on Tuesday in London.

When the L.S.E. was founded in 1895 by the four leading Fabians, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw and Graham Wallas, its founders were convinced of the power of education in not only lifting their fellow citizens out of poverty but also of such citizens understanding, participating, and in time, offering an alternative form of society, one that would be egalitarian, democratic, tolerant, one which would extend and deepen democracy in every aspect of life. Such an achievement would also constitute, they felt, the establishment of socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

He also said

the great founding texts of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Croce and others

and, quoting Frederick Powell,

“Privatisation is the road back to autocracy, in which a hollowed-out state is bereft of anything meaningful to attract the support of the citizen – especially the marginalised, excluded from the mainstream of society.”


Standing in support of unregulated markets, of unaccountable capital flows, of virtual financial products, are scholars who frequently claim the legitimation provided by a university. The university is at times put under pressure to demonstrate its utility as the seat of the single hegemonic model of society and economy that prevails.

I believe universities are challenged now not only to recover the moral purpose of original thought, emancipatory scholarship,


Weber, of course, could not have envisaged the consequences of the journey intellectual thought would make from reason to rationality, but then on to calculable rationality, and finally, in our own time, to the speculative gambling that is at the heart of so much global misery with its view of those humans who share our fragile planet, not as citizens, but as rational choice maximizing consumers.

We are in such a winter as Weber foretold. For example, we have arrived at quite widespread acceptance by policy makers of a proposition rejected by the majority of serious economic historians, that markets are rational. This, on occasion, leads, in the extreme, to the suggestion, absurd and all as it may sound, that it is people who are irrational, the markets rational


The mid-twentieth century constituted an atmosphere where social capital emerged and social democracy mediated conflict. The twentieth century saw too a public debate about the role of the State, the rights of the individual and social policy, of the balance between these areas.

In succeeding decades political philosophy and social theory gave way to issues of administration analysis of the role of the State faded and gave way to applied studies, in an administrative sense, of the State’s actions.

A discourse based on solidarity interdependency, shared vulnerability, community, gave way to a discourse on lifestyle and individual consumption. A society of citizens gave way to a disaggregated mass of individual consumers.


There is not, for example, any better future for economics as a subject and discipline than as political economy within a system of culture.

Wow. That won’t go down well on Merrion Street.

See the video here: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=1362

Me, NAMA, TINA, EBS and the final frontier December 12, 2009

Posted by Tomboktu in Business, Ethics, Neo-conservatives, The Far Right.

I have received notice of the EBS’s Special General Meeting that is being held next Friday to decide on a resolution that would permit the Society to issue Special Investment Shares to the Minister for Finance. Those shares could allow the Minister to have an majority in any vote on any resolution in the Society voted on by members and to appoint or remove directors of the Society.

The board of directors state in the information booklet sent to members that in the event of a “no” vote, the board “does not believe that it will identify any alternative source of capital and it could have material adverse consequences for EBS’ business, operating results, financial condition and prospects”.

I picked EBS for my mortgage precisely because it is a mutual society, owned by its members. Some years ago, I chose to bank with TSB because it, at the time, was the nearest equivalent but that has gone west with the sale by the State of TSB to Irish Permanent. In this country, I now don’t have any choice but to bank with a for-private-profit bank.

While a “yes” vote would not technically change EBS into a for-private profit entity, I do not share the ethos of the mandarins in the Department of Finance and I do not trust them to continue to respect the wishes of those of us who want to so even the minimal bit that we can in the current financial markets and structures to avoid contributing to the accummulation of massive wealth by a small group. I am worried that in a few years time a common “consensus” will “emerge” stating that it is “clear” that it would be “best” for the State to privatise EBS.

How should I vote on Friday?

Magill, the end is near? November 15, 2006

Posted by smiffy in Ireland, Irish Politics, Neo-conservatives.

One can only hope!

Opening the Sunday Tribune at the weekend, it was interesting to see a complimentary edition of November’s Magill fall out. Interesting and rather pleasurable, not because I’m any great fan of the magazine (we’ll get to that) but because it suggests to me that it might be in trouble. Why else would something which claims a circulation of 13,500 be reduced to this kind of gimmick to try and drum up a readership? Especially when the edition chosen to give away is so utterly awful.

In its current incarnation, the magazine has never been what you might call ‘good’; some of the pieces that have appeared in it have been absolutely appalling. One needs only to recall the ludicrous ranting about the Greens, which mixed distortion, ignorance and an unhealth fixation with the ‘philosophy’ of Ayn Rand. Similarly, the attack on Finian McGrath for his support of Cuba was so hysterically over-the-top (essentially implying that the country was no less than a Pyonyang on the Caribbean) that it discredited any argument the author might have had. In fact, McGrath’s response to the piece, and his apologetics for the anti-democratic nature of the Castro regime was far more damaging than anything a Mgaill writer could come up with. Jason Walsh had a piece decrying the demise of the ‘Irish left’, in which any resemblance to the Irish left that actually exists was rare and purely coincidental. And the less said about the pseudonymous ‘Sean Sexton’, the better.

These are a small selection, but aren’t isolated cases. One could spend hours pointing to the amateurish attempts at commentary that fill the magazine each month, or so. The real problem is has it that they’re far, far too lazy. There’s no real research or effort at uncovering and presenting fact-based-arguments in the vast majority of what’s churned out. It’s all just assertion, based on received wisdom and a rather desperate desire to appear controversial. It’s little more than a sandpit for a bunch of people you’ve never heard of (unless you’re familiar with the much, and deservedly, maligned ‘Freedom Institute’) playing at being journalist, but resembling a self-consciously conservative chimps’ tea party.

The current issue, the one that fell from the Tribune, is abysmal, even by Magill’s lamentable standards. It appears to be made up almost entirely of filler. Let’s consider exactly what’s in it. It’s 94 pages long, which is made up of

  • 24 pages which are just transcripts of documents released under the 30 year rule (not quite ‘secret documents never before seen in public’), plus two pages of Eamon Delaney telling what’s in the following 24 pages (no insight, comment or analysis of the documents, mind, or consideration of how they might be relevant to the situation in Northern Ireland today).
  • Nine pages recapping the contents of the report of the Barr investigation, with a few asides thrown in disputing the conclusions. Written by ‘Our special correspondent’ (unnamed, of course), it could have have been condensed into three or four pages if the ‘correspondent’ had any journalistic ability or a competent editor (both a rarity in Magill, of course)
  • Two pages of a turgid and rambling piece on China and India entitled (with all the subtly of a bull in a china shop) ‘Sweet and sour’.
  • Two pages of a music column, which is a page and a half two long.
  • Two pages of Questions and Answers with Kathy Sinnott and Daithi Doolan where we’re treated to cutting edge, incisive reporting like what celebrities Sinnott would like supporting her and when Doolan last went to the cinema.
  • Two pages of repetitive editorial comment (including the painful ‘Wigmore’ who shares with us the anecdote about Bono clapping his hands a a concert, which was out-of-date over a year ago).
  • One page of a relatively amusing (albeit pointless) interview with Mena Bean Uí Chribín
  • One page of a surprisingly bad piece by the usually interesting Jim Duffy on why opinion polls are unreliable.

Totting that up, if I’ve calculated correctly, that gives us 45 pages of which maybe 21 could be considered original material (and that’s counting the entire Barr piece as original, which is a rather generous assessment). 21 pages out of 94, none of which could reasonably be described as current or topical. Is this really what someone seeing the phrase ‘Ireland’s political and cultural monthly’ might expect? Is it really what one might look for in ‘one of the leading opinion-forming publications’?

The fact is that, rather than being a serious political and cultural journal, Magill has become a vanity piece for someone who did quite well with a very average memoir, and who’s been searching for a point to his existence ever since. (Note to Eamon Delaney: a few years drinking and photocopying as a minor functionary in the Department of Foreign Affairs does not a foreign policy expert make. And given that it’s been nearly 15 years since you left, don’t you think it’s a little bit sad to still be touting yourself as a ‘former diplomat’?). It reads like a student magazine at best, or maybe an above average blog. It’s not the kind of thing one should expect from a serious periodical, and effectively shits all over the fine pedigree the name Magill once had.

I’m sure I could be accused of ideological bias, and there may be some truth in that. I probably wouldn’t be as critical of Magill if I agreed with a single word in any article. I am, however, trying to be relatively objective. There’s nothing inherent to a conservative position which necessitates poor writing, just as there’s nothing inherent to a socialist or progressive position which implies quality (as anyone familiar with the myriad of Trotskyist papers will attest). A magazine like the Spectator produces some of the finest political commentary in the UK, even if it is all evil and wrong (obviously). While there mightn’t be a sufficient market in Ireland for an Irish equivalent to attract the calibre of writer the Spectator enjoys, it does show that in order to right well about conservatism, you first have to be able to write well.

Maybe I’m wrong, and Magill will go from strength to strength, its circulation increasing every year, and those who receive a subscription as a Christmas gift will even see a December 2007 issue arrive on their doorstep (I’d advise gift vouchers instead, though). But I hope not. There’s certainly a need for a thoughtful Irish political journal, with a broader range than Fortnight and a less news-focussed approach than The Village. There’s a need for the old Magill, not this sick parody of it.

Ken Adelman and Channel 4 News… or the sounds of the doors swinging shut in the Corridors of Power November 9, 2006

Posted by WorldbyStorm in 9/11, Iraq, Middle East, Neo-conservatives, US Politics.

A highly entertaining segment on Channel 4 News this evening where Jon Snow interviewed consummate Washington insider and neo-conservative Ken Adelman about the Iraq war situation and the departure of Donald Rumsfeld.

Adelman, who served as US Ambassador to the UN and was an assistant to Donald Rumsfeld while the latter was Secretary of Defense made a number of intriguing points. These were that he admitted the war had gone badly, that Rumsfeld should have prosecuted it differently and that it now required stability before democracy. Good stuff, but something of a change since the heady days of 2003 when he was wheeled on to support the war. The very war which he now claimed had been very poorly managed “from the top” if I recall correctly, and which he argued that the removal of Baath party members from leadership positions, the looting and such like were indications of such bad management.

Actually he’s been recanting publicly already this month. In a Vanity Fair article he stated that he overestimated the Bush team and “I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent.” He also says that given the chance to do it again he would say that “The policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but if you can’t execute it, it’s useless, just useless. I guess that’s what I would have said: that Bush’s arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked can’t do. And that’s very different from let’s go.”

But facing reality is a heady process which Adelman is clearly still reeling from, as evidenced by the way in which he dragged Tony Blair into the debate opining on Channel 4 that he (Blair) should have complained about all this to Rumsfeld and to Bush in order to force a change in policy. Perhaps so. The charitable analysis of Blair is one that sees him as attempting to act as a check on the more dismal plans of the neo-conservatives and/or Bush. Yet, for Adelman to launch this particular line of attack is bizarre.

Who was Rumsfeld’s boss again? Oh, yeah, that Bush guy, what’s that job he has? That’s right, President of the US. So Adelman is seriously suggesting that Blair should have tried to influence a man who famously stated that the US could go it alone just prior to the invasion, a man who Bush saw as both a friend and mentor.

Yeah, that’s going to work…

In a way it’s a pity, as Adelman notes that, “the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world” A pity because there are ways of using foreign policy generally short of but sometimes inclusive of military power that can have beneficial effects. For an interesting demonstration on the positive elements of a more nuanced ‘soft power’ backed up by military strength the expansion of the Chinese sphere of influence in Asia has been instructive.
Anyhow, is this it? Is this where the neo-conservative project runs into the sand, stalled by infighting, complaint and a fatal lack of support from the centres of real power? And is this Adelman being mischievous or more realistically is this the sound of the doors being slammed shut on the neo-conservatives in the aftermath of the new Democratic majority? Well if it is that sound, they seem to be trying to give the door a good kick on the way out. They’re certainly not going quietly as the Guardian notes.

But they’re going nonetheless…

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