Archive for April, 2009

Blessed Are The Blasphemers

I suppose the temptation when confronted with a new crime of blasphemy would be to try and commit it, like selling consecrated hosts in Chicken Tikka sandwiches outside the Pro Cathedral. Or maybe we should phone the Gardai to report Jesus for wilfully infecting pigs with viruses. But that would be too easy and too much work at the same time.

The interesting thing about a crime of blasphemy from my perspective is the fact it covers Christian blasphemy. Yet as anyone who knows anything about the New Testament could choose to know, Jesus appeared before the Sanhedrin on the charge of blasphemy, which was a capital offence. So it seems to me that if the Christian churches are serious about following Jesus, they should be campaigning for the criminal offence of blasphemy to be dropped.

And as long as they fail to do so, we should campaign that they be charged with blasphemy.

Flushing The Toilet That Is My Brain

OK, this is a bit silly. Baruch Spinoza is also known as Benedict Spinoza. Baruch means blessed in Hebrew, Benedict in Latin is Benedictus, which means blessed. Now it also happens that “Barack, interestingly enough, means the same as Baruch,” he said. “They have the same Semitic root. So you can call me Baruch Obama.” It therefore seems perfectly reasonable to me to refer to the current Pope as Pope Barack XVI, and only custom prevents us from doing so.

….he’s a very naughty boy

Politics » ‘He Who Is Not With Us Is McGuinness’

McGuinness is probably making a mistake by going on about his poor relationship with his senior minister Mary Coughlan. People will be inclined to put that down to a personality clash – “They just didn’t get on” – rather than a deep philosophical difference over the future of the country.

The possibility of there being a deep philosophical difference between the two depends, I think, on the existence of a)philosophy and b)depth. I remain to be convinced.

I watched a replay of McGuinness’s appearance on the Late Late Show. Embarrassingly, I thought I might witness a Fianna Fáil politician say something interesting. Turned out that the geezer’s ‘very new and radical dynamic way’ entailed asking my old bridge partner Peter Sutherland, Ray McSharry and maybe Michael O’Leary to come aboard the ship of state and steer it away from the rocks amid the stormy waters of the latest crisis of global capitalism. Yeah, that’ll work.

I heard murmurings beforehand about how he was going to say something to the effect that Fianna Fáil had to get back to its republicanism. I know nothing about Fianna Fáil’s republicanism, but on the basis of what he was saying, it seems to have something to do with consolidated oligarchy in the service of business interests, ‘real time’, as he says.

My Brain Is This Big

Have economists answers to the financial crisis? – Times Online

I am in the top 5% of academic economists anywhere out of 19,000, and I am about seventh in Ireland. Philip Lane or Karl Whelan would be in the top 2% in the world.

In terms of knowing things about economics, I am in the top 50% of people living on this planet. Swivel on that.

Les Français adorent…

Europe ‘amazed’ at steps taken in budget – Lenihan – The Irish Times – Mon, Apr 27, 2009

Speaking at the Irish League of Credit Unions conference in Killarney on Saturday, Mr Lenihan said other European governments would not have been able to impose the kind of pain the Government had.

Mr Lenihan said there would be “riots” in France, were the pension levy on public servants to be introduced in that country.

Be a dear and let me know when the mass influx of French people starts. Given France is such a ghastly place, I expect their huddled masses will be besieging Fishguard and Rosslare seeking refuge from the dreadful historic tendency among some French people to stand up for themselves. We should give them a rousing welcome: we can feed them our potato salad as they regale us in hushed tones of awe with tales of their admiration for the Fianna Fáil government of Cowen and Lenihan.

Show Off

John Legend makes some exhibitionist propositions that might involve getting found out by the boss among other people. Durty dog.

Who Moved My Panzers

Indian business students snap up copies of Mein Kampf – Telegraph

Booksellers told The Daily Telegraph that while it is regarded in most countries as a ‘Nazi Bible’, in India it is considered a management guide in the mould of Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese”.

I read Who Moved My Cheese once. I was seriously disappointed by the lack of clarity on the question of how to embark on a strategy of grand racial war.

Real Romantics

Fantastic piece by Leo Panitch on Marx in Foreign Policy.

Despite the depth of our current predicament, Marx would have no illusions that economic catastrophe would itself bring about change. He knew very well that capitalism, by its nature, breeds and fosters social isolation. Such a system, he wrote, “leaves no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’” Indeed, capitalism leaves societies mired “in the icy water of egotistical calculation.” The resulting social isolation creates passivity in the face of personal crises, from factory layoffs to home foreclosures. So, too, does this isolation impede communities of active, informed citizens from coming together to take up radical alternatives to capitalism.

Marx would ask first and foremost how to overcome this all-consuming social passivity. He thought that unions and workers’ parties developing in his time were a step forward. Thus in Das Kapital he wrote that the “immediate aim” was “the organization of the proletarians into a class” whose “first task” would be “to win the battle for democracy.” Today, he would encourage the formation of new collective identities, associations, and institutions within which people could resist the capitalist status quo and begin deciding how to better fulfill their needs.


“From financialisation of the economy to the socialisation of finance,” Buiter wrote, is “a small step for the lawyers, a huge step for mankind.” Clearly, you don’t need to be a Marxist to have radical aspirations. You do, however, have to be some sort of Marxist to recognize that even at a time like the present, when the capitalist class is on its heels, demoralized and confused, radical change is not likely to start in the form of “a small step for the lawyers” (presumably after getting all the “stakeholders” to sit down together in a room to sign a document or two). Marx would tell you that, without the development of popular forces through radical new movements and parties, the socialization of finance will fall on infertile ground. Notably, during the economic crisis of the 1970s, radical forces inside many of Europe’s social democratic parties put forward similar suggestions, but they were unable to get the leaders of those parties to go along with proposals they derided as old-fashioned.

Attempts to talk seriously about the need to democratize our economies in such radical ways were largely shunted aside by parties of all stripes for the next several decades, and we are still paying the price for marginalizing those ideas. The irrationality built into the basic logic of capitalist markets—and so deftly analyzed by Marx—is once again evident. Trying just to stay afloat, each factory and firm lays off workers and tries to pay less to those kept on. Undermining job security has the effect of undercutting demand throughout the economy. As Marx knew, microrational behavior has the worst macroeconomic outcomes. We now can see where ignoring Marx while trusting in Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” gets you.


Yet the work of building new institutions and movements for change must begin at home. Although he made the call “Workers of the world, unite!” Marx still insisted that workers in each country “first of all settle things with their own bourgeoisie.” The measures required to transform existing economic, political, and legal institutions would “of course be different in different countries.” But in every case, Marx would insist that the way to bring about radical change is first to get people to think ambitiously again.

Which presumably has nothing to do with submitting ideas to a website sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce.

How likely is that to happen? Even at a moment when the financial crisis is bleeding dry a vast swath of the world’s people, when collective anxiety shakes every age, religious, and racial group, and when, as always, the deprivations and burdens are falling most heavily on ordinary working people, the prognosis is uncertain. If he were alive today, Marx would not look to pinpoint exactly when or how the current crisis would end. Rather, he would perhaps note that such crises are part and parcel of capitalism’s continued dynamic existence. Reformist politicians who think they can do away with the inherent class inequalities and recurrent crises of capitalist society are the real romantics of our day, themselves clinging to a naive utopian vision of what the world might be. If the current crisis has demonstrated one thing, it is that Marx was the greater realist.

(My bold)

Reverting Back To Revert

Bravo to the makers of Kildare Street. An excellent resource, which I plan on using extensively to satisfy my curiosity. For example, if I wanted to find out who the most frequent user of the word ‘revert’ is, I could find out in an instant.

Facing Facts

Fintan O’Toole unloads on Michael Lowry:

A country still in thrall to the likes of Lowry – The Irish Times – Tue, Apr 21, 2009

There is a wider issue here that O’Toole scarcely refers to here, which is how much the Irish economy depends on the machinations of transnational corporations that want to avoid paying tax, which morally speaking is like a hundred million Michael Lowrys. And it is far more than the ‘handful’ of jobs he refers to here. I had a look at CSO stats for turnover for service industry firms in ‘Computer and related activities’. Firms with a turnover of €5,000,000 and over generated a total of €14bn turnover in Ireland in 2006. That works out at €702,000 turnover for each person working in those firms. Go figure.

Yes, Michael Lowry is a lowdown dirty rat, and yes the prominent members of the public who eat cocktail sausages in his company are of morally dubious character too, but one of the frustrating things about O’Toole is how he gets hung up on matters of individual character, virtue and vice. I mean, of course they’re all a pack of dirtbirds, but the cute hoorism isn’t the point. Sure, there may be some arresting considerations around how what might once have been a strategy of the colonial subject to outwit the master is now a strategy used by a substantial portion of the ruling class to efface class antagonisms. Yet all we’re talking about here is capitalism with an Irish face, but O’Toole is in thrall to the face.

As a general rule, we should approach complaints about ‘crony capitalism’ in the same way as we might approach complaints about ‘crony fascism’.

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April 2009