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The Economist on Piketty May 6, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Books, Capitalism, Economics, Inequality, Journalism, Marxism, Taxation Policy, The political discourse, The Right.
55 comments

I bought the Economist because the cover said it has an article about Piketty. (Reading articles about his book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, is quicker than reading the book!)

The headline on the actual article is weird: “Bigger than Marx”. That is true neither of the physical heft of the book nor, if everything I have read about it so far is valid, of the contents.

And then the content of the Economist’s review: 13 paragraphs: two are neutral; four approving; seven critical of the book. The Economist cites five critics of his thesis or aspects of it and zero supporters.

Not that I’m terribly surprised at their overall view, but they might have been subtler. Or maybe I should applaud their transparency.

I misinterpreted this on first reading… March 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left, The Right.
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“Right exists to be bigots, debate on Australia racism Act hears”

…or maybe not.

Thatcherism. Lest we forget… April 8, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics, The Left, The Right.
6 comments

…here from a few weeks ago an unknowingly timely Left Archive that demonstrates some of the effects of Thatcherism and its intersection with the Irish left.

What Planet Are These People On? Part the Second. July 27, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Capitalism, media, The Right.
6 comments

Interesting, and depressing, article in the Guardian about the latest idea from the US economist Paul Romer. So what is this idea? Charter cities. And what are those? Simple.

Charter cities offer a truly global win-win solution. These cities address global poverty by giving people the chance to escape from precarious and harmful subsistence agriculture or dangerous urban slums. Charter cities let people move to a place with rules that provide security, economic opportunity, and improved quality of life. Charter cities also give leaders more options for improving governance and investors more opportunities to finance socially beneficial infrastructure projects.
All it takes to grow a charter city is an unoccupied piece of land and a charter. The human, material, and financial resources needed to build a new city will follow, attracted by the chance to work together under the good rules that the charter specifies.
Action by one or more existing governments can provide the essentials. One government provides land and one or more governments grant the charter and stand ready to enforce it.

This idea of one ruler ceding territory to another government that then preceeds to build its own city there according to its own rules sounds vaguely familiar. I think it used to be called colonialism. As the Guardian article describes it,

What they need to do, he argues, is give up a big chunk of their land to a rich country. Policy experts from Washington can take over a patch of Rwanda, and invite along GM and Microsoft and Gap to come and set up factories. Poor countries give up their sovereignty in return for the promise of greater prosperity.

They’ve made such a success of this tactic in Iraq and Afghanistan that I can see why Romer wants more of it. Ah, but he has an historical example of his own. Hong Kong.

Q: Are there historical precedents for a charter city?
A: Hong Kong is one obvious example in which two countries worked together to create a new city. In effect, China supplied the land and the people; Britain supplied the rules for a market-based economy together with basic rules such as sanitation, building codes, and civil codes that made the place where the market operated livable. Of course, this did not arise from a voluntary agreement between the Chinese and the British. But looking back, it turned out so well that a country wishing to follow China’s lead might well want to start by cooperating with a foreign country to build a Hong Kong.
The British established the legal and social system in Hong Kong long before most Chinese moved there, but they did not codify this system in a formal charter. A better example of a newly created region with a clear charter is Pennsylvania. William Penn was given Pennsylvania as a dominion. He wrote a charter that included a legal guarantee of freedom of religion. For many migrants, this made Pennsylvania more attractive than other more restrictive colonies in North America.

Romer managed to persuade the former leader of Madagascar to run with his idea, but his being overthrown put a stop to that. Romer’s response?

“Anything that involves land can be manipulated by people who want to rise up against a leader,” he began. “You have to find a place where there’s a strong enough leader with enough legitimacy to do this knowing that he’s going to get attacked. It narrows the options quite a bit. But we shouldn’t give up without trying a few more places.”

Anything that involves a cession of terrritory to a foreign power and/or corporation can upset people. All you need is a leader with enough legitimacy to do this – does legitimacy in this case mean the Weberian take on the state – the unique ability to exercise force? I suspect that it might.

Romer’s big thing is the importance of rules – he seems to be convinced that the right rules can produce prosperity. So build the city, have the right rules, and prosperity will follow, people will move there, and hey presto – global poverty is well on its way to being solved. To say that this seems incredibly simplistic is an understatement. One of the rules that is certainly missing from his account his politics – are these places to be democracies? It certainly doesn’t seem so. And how could they be? The example he likes to use to support his case is a photo of a bunch of teenagers in Guinea doing their homework underneath street lights as there is no electricity at home. His explanation of this?

Q: What kinds of rules keep people from having light in their homes?
A: Here are some simple examples of rules that can keep people in the dark:
Electricity is provided only by a government-owned firm.
Government employees can’t be fired, regardless of how poorly they do their jobs.
The low subsidized price of electricity for the lucky consumers who have access is determined by political considerations.
Under good governance, the people who want electricity in their homes can easily match up with the utilities that want to provide it to them.

Except, of course, if you read the news report he has taken the photo from, you will find that none of these things are the reasons why there is no electricity in the homes of these teenagers. The real reason is in fact something else entirely.

The change is due to the deterioration of power supplies, which started in 2003 when the country’s economy went into freefall.

Anyway, to return to Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian.

With a bit more history, Romer might acknowledge that mainland China had other areas that were so dominated by foreigners they too might be described as Charter Cities. Shanghai in the early 20th century had signs reading: No Dogs, No Chinese – and yet it didn’t boom like Hong Kong did. He might also agree that there remains a big debate about how China has got so rich, with World Bank economists recently arguing that it is farming that has done most to reduce poverty, rather than industry.
One result of the great economic crisis is that academic practitioners are finally acknowledging that economic policy is not just a series of equations applied to the real world, but questions that ultimately have a political answer. Yet the old pseudo- scientific blank slate-ism still survives, as Paul Romer’s latest project demonstrates.

Quite. And now that I think about it, I’ve seen how a charter city works, in a Detroit ruled by OmniConsumer Products. And we know how well that turned out.

What planet are these people on? July 25, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Capitalism, European Union, The Right.
11 comments

Two recent stories make it still clearer just what an alternate universe those who control financial institutions and governments of the world live in. The first is the recent “stress tests” carried out on 91 banks by the Committee of European Banking Supervisors. 7 banks failed – 5 Spanish, 1 German and 1 Greek. Amazingly, AIB was passed as healthy, as well as the Bank of Ireland, the only two Irish banks included. The summary report is available here. The 7 banks that failed the test needed 3.5bn euro of new capital to meet the standards required.

In AIB’s case, passing the test assumes that it would succeed in a €7.4 billion plan to raise further capital by the end of the year.

I wonder where they got the idea it would be able to raise whatever extra capital it needed?

Let’s call this stress test what it was – an attempt by the European financial elite to con the public into believing that the capitalist system has resolved the contradictions that led to the recent crisis. They must think we are stupid, and that throwing a few sacrifical lambs to the wolves will give it added credibility. Nonsense. See the RTÉ report for Lenihan’s attempt at spin.

Speaking of whom, the second story that shows how the political elite remains trapped in the failed ideology of neo-liberalism is the planned privitisation of public assets such as the ESB, CIE, An Post, and Bord Gáis, with the “stock-taking” under the chairmanship of Colm McCarthy. This has been aptly described by WP President Mick Finnegan as “a firesale of the people’s assets”. The market has failed disastrously. So what is the answer these people propose? Take the semi-state companies that have been working well, and hand them over – cheaply of course – to the market, so that customer service standards can fall, the workers can see their working conditions devestated, and multi-nationals can make still more profits. This money can then be used to avoid increasing taxation on those best able to pay, and will also realise cash to throw into the black hole of the banks and property speculators should they need it. Awesome. Back to Mick Finnegan.

Having near bankrupted the country with reckless economic policies and crippled the next generation of our people with debt through the banking bailout, the government is now intent on selling the family silver. These state and semi-state companies were built over many years of public investment and hard work. They must not be sold off by a deranged government and there is an onus on the trade union movement, the left and anyone who believes in the future of this country to stand up and oppose this madness.

Exactly.

Saving humanity with Pope Benedict and the Irish Times… January 9, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Religion, Sex, Social Policy, The Right.
2 comments

It’s 2009, the world has changed, changed utterly. Er no… for in one small portion of our media nothing ever really changes. The comment section of the Irish Times on Saturday last was a masterclass in the sheer oddness of that paper in the contemporary period. For we were served the delight of Breda O’Brien arguing that Pope Benedict far from being insulting when suggesting that ‘saving humanity from homosexual or transexual behaviour was more important than saving the rainforest from destruction’ but was actually… well, read on.

ACCORDING TO international news agency Reuters, Pope Benedict XVI said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. The Italian media somehow missed this entirely, and instead focused on the pope allegedly saying he was not a rock star. Both approaches managed to miss the point. While the “I am not a rock star” angle merely smacked of the blindingly obvious, the Reuters report resulted in a great deal of international commentary, most outraged.

Had the pope actually said saving humanity from homosexual behaviour was as important as saving the rainforest, the hurt and outrage would have been justified. He didn’t.

So what did he say?

The pope’s talk is a meditation on how the Church carries out its mission in the world and the role of the Holy Spirit. It contains a robust defence of World Youth Day. This is significant, given that it was widely assumed that as Cardinal Ratzinger, the current pontiff was not enthused about Pope John Paul II’s innovative gathering of millions of young people every two years.

Yes, I’m sure it is. As an aside can I point to the futility of Vaticanology as much as Kremlinology in its day – well I remember those earnest tomes printed in the 1980s by US and UK based think tanks who should really have known better breathlessly reporting the position and every utterance, however gnomic, of the gerontocrats appearing at Red Square each May Day. And a lot of good it did them when the whole edifice crumbled into dust a few years later.

On the contrary, the pope defends World Youth Day from the allegation it is some kind of Catholic rock festival and essentially meaningless aside from the “feelgood” factor it generates. Instead, he says World Youth Day is the fruit of intense preparation, and that the joy that it generates is an important means of communicating the Christian message. With that kind of dry intellectual wit that characterises him, the pope enlists Nietzche in explaining what he means.

Well thanks a bunch Breda. Good to know that aspects of the cultural life of many of us are essentially ‘meaningless’, or that ‘feelgood’ is per definition a negative. And wonderful to see Nietzche recruited to support the pontiffs ‘dry wit’.

“Friedrich Nietzsche once said: ‘Success does not lie in organising a party, but in finding people capable of drawing joy from it.’

What a wag he was. Or they are. And Benedict being so witty as to include the quote. The humanity!

According to Scripture, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22), and this fruit was absolutely palpable during those days in Sydney.” The “rock star” headlines were generated by the pope saying he is not the focus of World Youth Day, much less the star. (He never uses the term “rock star”.) Instead, he is there only to point to Christ.

Anyway onto the main issue.

Later in his speech, the pope goes on to affirm that creation is not just random but has an intrinsic order and energy, born from the goodness of God.

Some pretty big assumptions there, but nothing too troubling.

His address assumes that protection of creation is a vital part of being a Christian. As human beings, we are part of creation, and therefore also need “a human ecology”, a way of living that is in tune with our deepest nature.

Okay.

The pope used the English word “gender” in his address. “That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’, in the end amounts to the self-emancipation of the human person from creation and from the Creator. Human beings want to do everything by themselves, and to have exclusive control of everything regarding themselves. But, in this way, the human person lives in denial of the truth, in conflict with the Creator Spirit.”

Hmmmm… what is he getting at here?

Gender theory states that the biological sexual differences between males and females account for a relatively small part of the actual differences between men and women.

It declares most of these differences are matters not of sex but of gender which, unlike sex, is socially formed and cultivated. A subtext is that these socially determined roles are used to oppress women and minorities.

Someone’s been hitting wikipedia pretty hard. It might of course be fairer to say that some gender theories, for it is not a seamless and undifferentiated approach, hold the above viewpoints. Or, to put it another way, the term ‘gender theory’ becomes a catch-all for ‘stuff we don’t really know that much about but are sure we dislike’, much as post-structuralism is used in other contexts. But to allow for any sort of complexity would be problematic for O’Brien’s thesis. Although in truth Breda can’t really disagree with her own proposed definition of gender theory since it’s so blindingly self-evidently correct in many areas… or as she says:

Obviously, it is true, to some degree, gender roles are socially constructed, in the sense they have changed throughout history. For millennia, women were seen as inferior and incapable of holding power. However, to extrapolate from that historic injustice that the biological basis of some gender differences is minimal leads to damaging distortions.

Yes, of course, but the problem then becomes which gender differences? After all, Breda may, and I have no reason to think otherwise, believe that women are not inferior or incapable of holding power (political I presume). But she might believe that women can’t, to pluck an example at random, be priests and hold theological ‘power’. Or what about lesbian and gay couples who seek marriage? She doesn’t go there, for the obvious reason that to do so would be to open a can of worms. Instead she moves off in a somewhat different direction…

In medicine, there is a growing recognition that men and women are different even in the way they experience disease. Women, for example, get different heart attack symptoms from men, which can lead to women ignoring vital warning signs that could save their lives.

Truth is that the symptoms of heart attack are only very slightly different. Go to the Mayo Clinic and you’ll find an interesting piece about this very topic, but as can be seen the divergences are pretty minor… and it’s worth noting that the differences such as they exist are easily explainable (and may, if I read this correctly, be subject to change as height, body mass and weight differentials between the sexes change).

The most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it’s not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. Women are more likely than men to have signs and symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

* Neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
* Shortness of breath
* Nausea or vomiting
* Sweating
* Lightheadedness or dizziness
* Unusual fatigue

These signs and symptoms are more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. This may be due to the smaller arteries involved or because in men, the bulky, unstable plaques tend to burst open whereas in women, plaques erode, exposing the inner layers of the artery.

Also worth noting that women tend to have heart attacks at a later age than men and often after very high blood pressure. Now I’m obviously being tooth-grindingly pedantic here, but are such relatively minimal differences in physiology, and/or physiological symptoms, indicative of very much at all in terms of broader gender differences (and one could justifiably ask would O’Brien be scouring medical texts to consider differences in medical conditions say between African Americans and Caucasians in order to propose some ‘essential’ changes between the two groups – hardly)? O’Brien would appear to believe so because she jumps straight to the heart, or rather the brain…

Other writers, such as Louann Brizendine in the Female Brain, show there are significant biological differences in male and female brains that influence behaviour. For example, the male brain has 2½ times more space dedicated to sexuality, as well as larger centres for action and aggression.

Brizendine is a neuropsychiatrist but her work in the Female Brain is far from uncontested. An excoriating review in Nature, available as a PDF here, argues that:

Like other popular books on the biology of human nature, The Female Brain has a rigid plot line: the foil of ‘political correctness’ against which the author wages a struggle for truth. We are told that the media, feminists, pointy-headed intellectuals and a vaguely specified ‘culture’ dogmatically insist that gender or racial differences in personality and behaviour are entirely cultural, an observation that is hard to reconcile with the volume and tone of media attention to the biology of gender and sexuality. Such assertions require empirical support. This genre loves to dwell on childhood toy preferences: little girls cradle inanimate, ‘boy-coded’ objects as if they were baby dolls (here, as is often the case, it’s a fire engine); and little boys turn harmless objects into weapons (our favourite is the boy who bites his toast into a gun in Deborah Blum’s Sex on the Brain (Allen Lane, 1997)). The emphasis on myth-busting turns into a vehicle for dressing the myth up in new clothes — such as Simon Baron-Cohen’s recent hypothesis that the ‘male brain’ is hard-wired for ‘systematizing’, and the ‘female brain’ is hard-wired for ‘empathizing’ — there is no shortage of pseudo-scientific ways of saying ‘thinkers’ and ‘feelers’. The problem with such explanations of sex differences is not that they are overly biological, but that they are fundamentally non-biological and explain nothing.

Oh dear. It concludes that:

Ultimately, this book, like others in its genre, is a melodrama. Common beliefs are recast as imperilled and then saved. Stark, predictable protagonists (an initial “cast of neuro-hormone characters” that reads like a guide to astrological signs) interact linearly with foreseeable results. The melodrama obscures how biology matters; neither hormones nor brains are pink or blue. Our attempts to understand the biology of human behaviour cannot move forward until we try to explain things as they are, not as we would like them to be.

Oh dear, oh dear.

Now let it be noted that I don’t blindly accept the analysis of the reviewers in Nature, but… nor do I put up information that is contested without at least mentioning that fact.

Perhaps it was the fact that the pope reiterated the church’s support for traditional marriage that led the Reuters reporter to see his comments on gender as an attack on homosexuality. However, it is a frankly bizarre reading of a complex address.

Actually it isn’t. It really isn’t. Gender and traditional marriage. In the same speech? The linkage is obvious. The readings made, considering that this is a time where arguments around marriage tend to devolve to parsing the sexual orientation of those involved and that the present Pope is fairly exercised by such matters, are quite reasonable [incidentally, and as an aside, has anyone else noticed the knots some sections of the libertarian right are getting tied up in over gay and lesbian marriage and how it somehow shouldn’t be pushed due to something or another about statism?].

In context, his comments on gender read as an examination of hubris, the idea that we can ignore our physical realities and shape ourselves in whatever way that we wish, as though we were merely minds and had no bodies. It is the same hubris that leads us to act as if we are independent from the rest of creation, and can therefore treat the environment in any way that we wish without incurring drastic consequences.

But the obvious riposte is that the Pope, and the Catholic Church, are continually ignoring ‘physical realities’, perpetually arguing as if we lacked physical selves, and where they see fit trying to suggest that physical reality isn’t malleable, or as David Adams writes on the same page in a somewhat less wordy piece, but none the worse for it:

At a stretch then (admittedly, a very big stretch), if you follow the same logic as the pope, it is possible to see why homosexuality might be a threat to the future of humankind.

But only if you believe that homosexuality is a dangerously attractive lifestyle choice, and that the use of condoms should not be permitted under any circumstances.

Which just goes to prove that, no matter how intelligent you are, if you begin from completely the wrong premise, pure logic can take you off on a tangent and into the realms of absurdity.

Yet read Brenda and you come oddly close to the notion that homosexuality is simply a choice, as in the following paragraph…

In fact, the idea that biological differences matter is probably of more relevance to heterosexuals. Our culture has embarked on an extraordinary cultural change, where women are supposed to be able to act like single males even when they have family commitments. At the same time, they are supposed to be hypersexualised parodies of women, always available for sex. These conflicting messages lead to unbelievable levels of stress for women.

Now it is true that the Pope doesn’t mention homosexuality directly. But it is impossible to talk about gender without consideration of these issues. And impossible too to read his words without seeing them as implicitly arguing for – and this is hardly a surprise – traditional gender roles. And ally that to the Catholic Church’s less than generous approach to this matter and it’s not hard to join the dots.

Actually putting the homosexuality issue to one side methinks she doth protest too much – even if I didn’t find the notion that somehow a woman (married one presumes if we’re looking at it from O Briens perspective, but perhaps not) with ‘family commitments’ is somehow forced into acting like a single male intrinsically offensive. I mean, what is she getting at? What sort of single male? How many women? And so on. And then she continues:

Similarly, men are constantly being urged to be more like women. For example, we are told that suicide rates would drop if men would only talk about their problems.

Men are being urged to be more like women? Are they really? I’ve never been ‘urged’ to be more like a women, and as for expressing my feelings, sure I’ve been doing that since the 1960s – in one way or another, initially – no doubt – by… er… crying. And it is of course dangerous to argue from personal experience or anecdote. But it’s the reductionism of all this which is so irksome. To be a woman is to ‘talk about your problems’. (Jesus, one wonders does she know any men?). Well, actually, yes, she does believe that ‘women’ can be reduced to such stuff…

However, research is beginning to show that men communicate in entirely different ways, and are flooded by deeply unpleasant emotions if they attempt to relate in the way that women do.

What research, one wonders, is that? Well, she isn’t saying, but as best I can judge it’s a mash-up of this sort of thinking, prevalent on “Christian Mommies” (sadly off line, at least when I tried to access it, but available as a cache here ) and perhaps very very tangentially work by Dr. John Gottman in the US on marital relationships (for it is he who coined the term ‘flooding’. Just from flicking through his site I see no evidence he’d support such an odd reading of his work).

The first suggests that:

I’ve come up against male anger when there might have been other emotions expressed by a woman. When a man gets hurt, he gets angry. When he’s sad, he gets angry. When he’s frustrated he gets angry. When he’s hungry he gets angry. Sometimes instead of tenderness, he expresses something that looks like anger. Anger . it’s been called the all-purpose male emotion. And by “get angry,” I mean evidencing behaviors, expressions, gestures and symptoms that we recognize as those of anger.

We know that anger is especially detrimental to men’s health, leading to heart attacks, among other things. Men are particularly prone to what’s called “flooding”; getting so overtaken by this all-purpose emotion they can’t function, speak or relate. Or they misfire, for instance, hitting someone they love; reacting instead of responding.

You’ve probably experienced this when you’re trying to have a discussion about some important relationship point, and all of a sudden he’s flipped into a space where you can’t reach him. Men tend to stonewall – it’s so unpleasant to them to experience this rush of emotion, they shut down. Meanwhile their blood pressure is rising, their heart is pounding, and they’re heading for a coronary. Anger kills. It’s especially hard on men.

A near-apologia for the worst human behaviour. Great. And if the counter charge is made that I’m being unreasonable in selecting this quote, well, go look for yourselves and see what there is about such matters.

So answer comes there none. For it in this bait and switch as regards the Pope’s comments we are told (with recourse to a science which all too often she chooses to ignore when it doesn’t suit her worldview) that…

In the context of what science is beginning to show us about male-female differences, a call for a “human ecology” that takes our nature and differences into account begins to look not incendiary, but imperative.

So, it doesn’t matter if a statement is potentially or actually offensive, if it’s right – as Breda reads it – then that’s okay.

How do we deal with those who want to have their cake and eat it on these matters? Those who argue on the one hand that there is a starkly essential aspect human existence (as regards gender distinctions) and then when presented with evidence that these matters might be a little bit more blurred than their thesis suggests, attempt to project the idea that distinctions that appear to be fairly fundamental (say as regards homosexuality) don’t really exist and are actually constructs. The logic of Pope Benedict’s position (and sotto voce Breda O’Brien) is that anyone can be homosexual but that gender distinctions are so deeply innate that they cannot, no – must not, be amended. In a way it’s a brilliant thesis. For everyone then is at ‘risk’ (I use the word entirely advisedly) from not conforming to their supposedly pre-determined course. And who to police that risk? Why the Church of course, and its outriders.

As it happens I do believe that sexuality is malleable, but not quite in the way I’ll bet Benedict and O’Brien seem to believe. In other words the scale they place male and female upon is in actuality a spectrum which blurs as all spectra do. And that there is movement along that spectrum. In all directions. But look, one moment in the real world of people would confirm that notion, that sexuality is a profoundly difficult, exhilarating, messy, not so messy, whatever sort of business. Some would argue that’s exactly what it should be, that it is what it is whatever that may be. And to try to argue – as O’Brien and Benedict do implicitly – that all must conform for no real reason other than a single partisan religious view (despite trying to lace that view with supposedly scientific data) is a mugs game. And a dull one too. What a world they live in. What a world they want us to live in.

For Faith, Family and Country January 13, 2008

Posted by franklittle in Culture, Irish Politics, media, Media and Journalism, Religion, Secularism, The Right.
33 comments

It was the front page headline ‘Hilary Clinton, Cultural Marxist’ that did it for me. The January 2008 issue of The Hibernian warns that this year is a crucial one for Ireland, but points to hopeful signs of the ‘first manifestations of Catholic nationalism’ in an editorial from Gerry McGeough. Some of these signs are stretching it just a little. McGeough seems to claim that his candidacy in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone Assembly election had something to do with the decision by the Assembly not to extend the British 1967 Abortion Act to the North.

He also makes the claim that in the general election in May:

“politicians were surprised to find themselves confronted at the doorsteps by voters concerned about Catholic issues. It was also interesting to note that former Justice Minister Michael McDowell who was an ardent advocate of legislation favouring homosexual ‘marriage’ (So ardent that we’re not closer to it after ten years of him being in power), was not re-elected. The obvious lesson for all politicians is that they should stay well clear of this evil, toxic issue, unless they are prepared to tow the Catholic line on it.”

Somehow I suspect one of the most notoriously liberal constituencies in the country didn’t fail to elect McDowell because he claimed to support legislating for gay marriage. The 40 page magazine contains some of the usual bits and bobs you might expect to see in Ireland’s Own including lyrics to traditional songs such as The Star of County Down and even a jokes page including one unwieldy submission which attempts to insult atheists. The Desmond Rebellion in the late 16th century, a review of the shrine to Sister Lucia and a lengthy six page piece on a talk given by Bishop Bernard Fellay on the Moto Proprio Summorum Pontificum are all in there, and they even find space for an article on Katy French warning us that since ‘we can never know the day or the hour (Of our deaths) it behoves us to attend confessions regularly and pray that when our times comes we are in a state of Grace and ready to meet our God’. There’s the usual attacks on the EU and secularism and an interesting piece on ethical shopping under the heading Catholic Agriculture and Trade taken from the British Catholich magazine, Christus Rex.

There are a couple of political pieces. McGeough’s article on Sinn Féin is even pretty rational, pointing to the shambolic state of the party following the general election here and the resignation of Fermanagh MLA Gerry McHugh and makes a number of good, though not novel points about the failure to deliver the Irish Language Act and the lack of a strategy for ending partition. He goes off the deep end a little towards the end accusing the party of ‘fanatically promoting the Homosexual Agenda and preventing any of its members from joining the Assembly pro-life lobby’. He also seems to think the party shifted on immigration policy at its recent conference in Dublin though, as I pointed out here before, they actually didn’t say anything new.

Moving completely away from rationality, we have a piece from Cathal Ó Broin, who should really go with a byline photograph that makes him look a little less like a psycho if he is going to write like this:

“Patriots of Ireland, let us make 2008 a turning point…Irish Patriots, let us wake up and disturb this fatal cosiness which is strangling our sovereignty. Let us throw out the stale, and bring in the fresh…”

And my personal favourite:

“And how can we ever forget the injustice of the slander against the good name of ‘No to Nice’ campaigner Justin Barrett? This true Irish patriot of the finest order was painted in a very unfair light. Our degenerate media and despicable government showed their horns as they all ganged up on one person. Let us not be fooled – such people are the servants of the devil, and they want to bring us all with them to Hell.”

Yes indeed, those people who pointed out Barrett attended a conference of European fascists are actual servants of Satan himself.

The thrust of Ó Broin’s article is that we need to change our political class. Away with ‘shrewd businessmen’, ‘nicey, nicey celebrity politicians’ and ‘socialist revolutionaries…proposing a twisted system of self-imposed slavery’. No, what Ireland needs are ‘true philosophers – lovers of wisdom who think about the long term. We need men (Not women it seems) who serve the Divine Master. We need men who seek first the Kingdom of God. ‘

The Cedar Lounge Revolution: We read this stuff so you don’t have to.

The most curious thing about The Hibernian though, is its finances. What we have here is a 40 page magazine, about half of which is in colour. It is now been going for almost two years, no small accomplishment in the Irish printing world. There are three advertisements. One is for what looks to be a personally published book, Karl Marx: Prophet True or False? by Deirdre Manifold. The book promises to unveil the ‘esotheric (sic), sophistic and cataclysmic global impact of his writings and the insiderous effect that he has had on humanity’. I know I’ve ordered my copy.

The other is for another magazine called The Mass Rock, which is interesting because of the contact addresses for it. Complete subscription forms can be sent to the offices of The Hibernian in Drogheda, or to an American post office box in Naperville, Illinois. The magazine also occasionally publishes letters from US readers, including as it happens one from Naperville. Clearly there is some sort of distribution of the magazine in the US, but it’s not clear by whom. And even at that, how is the magazine staying afloat without advertising, at quite a low cover price? Even if a lot of the contributors work for free what salaries and expenses there are, as well as paying layout and design and rent of their premises, must all add up.

So who’s signing Gerry McGeough’s pay cheques?

The Financial Times? Uh-oh… just where is my newspaper reading taking me? November 22, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in media, Media and Journalism, The Left, The Right.
25 comments

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Here’s a thing. The other day I wasn’t able to get a Guardian. So casting my eye along the newspapers I saw no Independent (UK), my default alternative choice. Didn’t want the Irish Times which I get anyway in work on the internet. What was left? The Wall Street Journal. Nope. I dislike intensely their editorial stance, although the actual reporting is pretty good. International Herald Tribune. Nah, too reheated New York Times for my taste. And always somehow with a sense that it’s been written some way past Mars and we’re having to endure a time delay on it.

So I picked up the Financial Times. I haven’t bought it in at least a decade. But, I’ve got to be honest. It was pretty darn good. The reasons being? Well, first up the aesthetics of an actual broadsheet. The soothing pink colour. The full newspaper size. The Guardian has made considerable noise since it adopted the Berliner format and how this bridging size between tabloid and broadsheet can deliver the best of both worlds. But… there really is nothing like a full sheet paper. Lots of room for articles and good sized pictures. No sense of compression.

But the content wasn’t bad, either. The news pages had news. And not slanted news, just basic information on Italian politics, the upcoming Australian elections (no boosterism here for the right, just a dispassionate account of how the Australian Labour Party appeared on the point of besting Howard – great stuff for those of us who think sometimes even a small incremental shift in opening space on the left or centre left is good).

The editorial on OPEC was interesting and one on ASEAN in the context of Burma which was thought provoking. I didn’t agree with the one which threw around the idea that ‘reform’ of the public sector requires private ‘help’ (I’ve seen far too many private sector assistance which seems to devolve to charging inflated prices). But it is the ‘Financial’ Times after all.

And on the editorial pages there were good articles on British foreign policy, America losing it’s faith in Empire and immigration. I didn’t agree with some of what they said either, but all equally thought provoking.

Sure, back in the day there were quite a number of FT contributors and journalists who were loosely attached to the CPGB’s ill-fated ‘New Times’ project (I’m channelling the name Leadbetter…), and I’m sure that’s long gone. Perhaps the prospect of changing the world with a copy of Capital in one hand and a filofax in the other has passed. Or perhaps they just decided to change the world in other, different, ways.

But then, when I read the Guardian and in particular the G2 section I think that that’s not the only thing that’s long gone. And perhaps it’s telling that for my Sunday read I now buy the Sunday Business Post (and occasionally the Observer).

Perhaps it’s to get a handle on the other side. Perhaps it’s simply because they’re ‘serious’ papers in a way the Guardian – or God knows – the Irish Times aren’t. Perhaps because business and finance can actually throw up something unexpected, or perhaps because as a left-winger I find there’s more to ‘mine’ here in terms of raw information about our society and our economy than in any number of fluffy feel-good feel-bad articles in the more usual suspects, or the often doomy yet curiously congratulatory and self-referential solipsism of the further left. Perhaps too it is because, as has often been said here there is simply not enough understanding of Capital and economics at it currently is by those on the left and that’s a huge failing of mine…

A quick scan of wiki supports my own reading over the years that in editorial line it has been broadly pro-Labour in the 1990s and 2000s. Okay to a point. And that it has been critically pro-EU. Fair enough. Noam Chomsky in perhaps a backhanded compliment stated that it is”the only paper that tells the truth”.

You know, it’s a bit too pricey, being 2 euro, but I think I might just buy it again.

You’ll know also, that there’s trouble down t’mill if I change my username to Financialmarketsbystorm….

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