Archive for May, 2010

Natural Inclinations

Two considerations afflict how often I post: time and inclination, and the two seldom coincide. So I leave you with the makings of a post I began the other day, but abandoned.

Our muted, conformist nation fears change – The Irish Times – Tue, May 25, 2010

Two years after the economic crisis began, President Mary McAleese belatedly tries to sum up the public mood. She is right when she says that “people are mad as hell” but it does not actually mean that anybody is going to do anything about it.

An intellectual consensus has resigned itself to pessimism and disengaged from caring anymore. A generation of indignant Bayern Munichs is content to watch decision-makers prevaricate on their political and economic futures.

The character of Brian Cowen’s reshuffle in March was personified by the same colour of caution that has stopped him from calling the three byelections.

Gordon Brown’s campaign in the recent British elections was characterised by a fear of change.

The Labour Party’s call for a new constitution, to be written substantially by the people and ratified on the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, has not excited the public imagination. Neither has Fine Gael’s “New Politics” policy which seeks to, among other things, create a citizens’ assembly to drive political reform.

It is curious then that, while politicians of various hues advocate big-bang-style reforms, many academics in the fields of politics and law have poured cold water over the very concept of a second republic. Debate on the Fine Gael and Labour proposals – on politicalreform.ie and humanrights.ie – is at times engaged in the scholarly straw-man fallacy.

Are academics as intellectually conservative as their students?

The Irish solution to an Irish problem is to vote No when we don’t know. This essentially translates as a phobia of any contemplation of actual change. The appetite for radical institutional reform is subdued by the natural inclination towards preserving the existing order. Would Barack Obama or Nick Clegg have ever been elected to political office if they stood in Ireland?

I think the answer to that last question is ‘What’re you, nuts? Of course they would’.

The main feature of both individuals is how their candidacy was ceaselessly represented as some tidal moment of change when, in the end, they were products of the existing order’s natural inclination towards preserving the existing order.

This is so forehead-slappingly obvious that it would take the combined absence of a forehead and a hand not to notice.

The natural inclination was demonstrated, in Obama’s case, with the appointments of Wall Street cronies like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, with the continued bombing of Afghan and Pakistani civilians (and his joking about the use of predator drones), support for the laundered coup in Honduras, continued military and diplomatic support for murderous lunatic client states such as Colombia and Israel, and so on.

Somewhat less spectacularly, in the case of Nick Clegg, the ‘I agree with Nick’ phenomenon. There have been few spectacles so farcical in the history of the modern ‘democratic’ state than the proliferation of ‘I agree with Nick’ t-shirts, as though the fact of the leaders of two establisment parties being compelled to agree with the leader of a third party validated the idea that the third party stood for a radical political re-alignment. How does ‘Two Complete Twats Agree With Nick’ sound?

In so far as such a figure has not appeared yet in Ireland, I counsel: all in good time. There are ample resources for the existing order to cobble together a candidate for ‘change’ whenever the demand truly arises. I suggest that at present, it is merely finding its feet in this regard. Consider, for instance, the revelation, via Tuppenceworth.ie that the ‘Your Country, Your Call’ initiative, which, via a vast media campaign, claimed that it would ‘transform our economy – or significant elements of it – by creating jobs and opportunity’, garnered the support from the following institutions:

Accenture, AIB, Alchemy Event Management Ltd., An Focal, Bank of Ireland, Bord Gáis, Business & Finance,Business Plus, Cawley Nea/ TBWA, Cisco, Clear Channel, College View DCU,Computers in Business, Computer Scope, Cork IT, CRH, Thomas Crosbie Holdings, Communicorp, Corporate PR Photography, Arthur Cox & Co, DCC, J C Decaux, Diageo Ireland, Digital Ireland, Digital Times, Drury, Dublin City University, Ernst & Young, ESB,Explicit Cork IT, Facebook, Glen Dimplex, , Google, Hotpress, HP, Independent Newspapers, Irish Computer,Irish Daily Mail, Irish Daily Star,Irish Examiner, Irish Mail on Sunday, Irish Mirror, Irish Sun, Irish Times Newspapers, Irish Voice, Kerry Group, Kinetic, Knowledge Ireland, KPMG, Loosehorse,Marketing Age, Mutiny, JP McManus, Ray Mac Mánais, National Gallery of Ireland, Neworld Associates, News of the World,Newstalk, Omnicom Media Group, Owner Manager, PC Live,Print and Display, PwC, Regional Newspapers of Ireland, RTÉTelevision, RTÉ Radio, Screen Scene, Silicon Republic, Sky Television, Smart Company, Smurfit Kappa, Sunday Business Post, Sunday Independent, Sunday Mirror, Sunday Times, Sunday Tribune, The Ireland Funds, Times Online, Today FM, Trinity News, TV3, John Walsh Tunes, University Observer, Wall Street Journal Online, Windmill Lane.

Let us allow the mind to wander in the direction of what manner of economic transformation might be wrought that would command the support of the biggest indigenous and multinational firms in Ireland, the near entirety of state-owned and private print and broadcast media organisations, as well as prominent consulting, PR and corporate law firms. The expropriation of the expropriators? A radical redistribution of income and wealth? Shorter working hours to enable the proliferation of new forms of democratic participation?

The point is not that Your Country, Your Call is some rough beast about to dish out hammer blows in the interests of preserving the existing order; merely that it puts the preferences of the existing order on display: corporate nationalist platitudes charged with a dose of ‘yes we can’-style sentimentalty.

In so far as neither Obama nor Clegg -both centre-right figures- has any analogue in the Republic of Ireland at present, this is because the political power of the centre-right is spread across two basically indistinguishable but competing political parties.

This figure will only appear when either one -or both- of these parties collapses in the event of continued economic disintegration, and some new formation dominated by the centre-right thrusts forth, bidden in no small part by many of the institutions listed above. The civil war baggage of the past will be shucked off, and ‘a new politics’ will come to the fore. One Ireland: that sort of thing.

As for the thrust of the article- that what exists is a conformist generation. Perhaps this is true, but it’s not a ‘natural inclination’ but a habit instilled by family, school, workplace and media. Nor is it a question of aversion to ‘change’ per se. On the contrary: those twenty- and thirty-somethings in work are conditioned to adapt to ‘actual change’ all the time, by working longer hours, taking pay cuts, doing whatever the boss says -or else.

I will have more to say on this, when I get the time.

Nipping Public Spending In The Budd

I came across mention on today’s Irish Times Business Podcast of Alan Budd.

BBC News – Chancellor announces new fiscal watchdog

Chancellor George Osborne has announced that a independent Office for Budget Responsibility will be set up to make economic forecasts.

He said these forecasts, the first of which will come out before the Budget, would create a “rod for my back down the line and for future chancellors. That’s the whole point.”

The office will be headed by former Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member Alan Budd.

Alan Budd puts in an early appearance in David Harvey’s new book, The Enigma of Capital.

..both Reagan and Thatcher orchestrated confrontations with big labour, either directly in the case of Reagan’s showdown with the air traffic controllers and Thatcher’s fierce fight with the miners and the print unions, or indirectly through the creation of unemployment. Alan Budd, Thatcher’s chief economic adviser, later admitted that ‘the 1980s policies of attacking inflation by squeezing the economy and public spending were a cover to bash the workers’, and so create an ‘industrial reserve army’ which would undermine the power of labour and permit capitalists to make easy profits ever after.

That’ll work. For capitalists.

Modern Policing Methods

I noticed I was getting a few hits from the GRA website. So this post is dedicated to them: a report on a recent visit from the President to Templemore.

The President of the Irish Republic, Mary McAleese, signalled that the new Irish police model should contribute to the dismantling of the Bourgeois State, in order to deepen the construction of the new Social State.

The new Garda Siochána needs to be a large motor that supports the new institutions we are creating, to contribute to and to accelerate the dismantling of the Bourgeois State and the building of the Social State of law and of justice, the President said.

The President said that the old State remains and that “we have not finished dismantling it”.

Elaborating, she said that the intention of the Irish Government was “to replace the old corrupt Bourgeois State, made in the image of the bourgeoisie for its exclusive service, in order to lock Ireland in as a colony of imperialism”.

She reminded her audience that one of the strategies of the oligarchy was to create policing and military bodies made up of ordinary people, “because the rich hated them.. then we saw military forces used to safeguard the interests of the rich”.

Now, with the rise of this new model for the country, “the police should be social, preventive and very firm in the struggle against crime in its most diverse manifestations”, she said. She also said there has to be a rise in the number of women in the new police force.

Lastly, she exhorted the people who make up the police to be incorruptible. “Take this up as the most important task of your lives. This is much more important than learning the techniques and theories of security. It is much more important that each of us solidly conforms to ethics and to incorruptibility.”

OK, maybe it wasn’t Ireland and I changed a few of the nouns and pronouns. Still.

Welcome To The Far Left

Not much time at the moment, but I wanted to note something I saw on Irish Left Review: people saying ‘I’m no lefty but..’ and other people talking about how there was a need to preserve the centre ground and not allow a vacuum to be filled by the ‘far left’ – groups like the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party.

Well, I have a problem with this.

It’s not up to me to come up with a definition of ‘the left’, but it seems to me that any such description is a sort of metaphor to do with space, signifying one’s position, relative to others, on a line. And that line, or spectrum, if you want to be fancy about it, concerns attitudes and beliefs about what should be done with state power.

So people on the left, generally speaking, think there should be actions, usually in the form of government-enacted policy, that lead to redistribution of wealth from the privileged few to the many.

People on the right, on the other hand, stand for actions that lead in the opposite direction: cutting government spending on assistance to poorer groups, cutting income and corporation taxes, opening up the provision of essential services to private entities and getting ‘government’ to the size where they can ‘drag it to the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub’, as Grover Norquist is famed for putting it.

Now, some people on the right will say that this is a vile accusation, that they are not opposed to more people becoming wealthy, and that they are opposed to state power regulating people’s lives precisely for this reason, because state intervention inhibits economic growth, and that’s why they taxes should be cut and why people should be ‘incentivised’ to go out and get a job and do things for themselves.

The latter position is complete nonsense.

Capitalism requires all sorts of state power in order to sustain growth, whether by enforcing private property rights through legislative forms and guard labour, corporate subsidy, the building of infrastructure to improve capital mobility, the development of technologies through military spending and so on and so forth. To say nothing of the fact that the richest nations in the world reached that position on the back of all sorts of trade tariffs that fly in the face of the free trade mythology that is widely propagated. And then you have massive state intervention in the form of propping up currencies.

Take the European Union, which is a free-trade space par excellence, and look how its commissioners are now talking about overseeing the fiscal decisions taken by Eurozone states with the purpose of maintaining a stable currency and exacting disciplinary measures on states that fail to meet the criteria that they set down.

It takes a rare genius not to see that the preservation of capital mobility, which is one of the objectives of the EU, demands a massive expansion of state power (without any corresponding expansion of the degree of control exercised by citizens over that state). (It also takes a rare genius not to see that when we are talking about the EU, we are talking about a state).

So: who controls this state? Why, capital, of course. Big banks, corporations. Rich people. Let us linger at EU level for a moment. There was some Fianna Fáil dick on the radio yesterday saying that the people of Europe were standing in solidarity with the people of Greece by lending them a load of money.

In fact, what was happening -and what is happening with the €750bn monetary fund, which the EU will be operating with its IMF tag team partner- is the expropriation of ordinary people to serve the interests of bondholders. So workers across Europe, in Greece, in Spain (and let’s not forget the Irish vanguard) and so on will be forced to work for longer hours and for more years on lower wages with progressively restricted access to essential services. Why? To reassure the markets, i.e. finance capital i.e. the same avenging angels whose actions produced the current crisis. The rich. Big banks.

Sticking with Greece. The head of the Socialist International is the Greek Prime Minister. And his government is enacting draconian actions on behalf of these avenging angels. Look at Zapatero’s government in Spain. Same thing happening. Incidentally, PSOE stands for Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. These are parties nominally of the left. And you will get loads of people in both countries, supporters of these parties, who will say ‘I am a leftist’, far more people proportionally than you get in Ireland, where saying you’re a leftist, in many circles, holds a similar sort of stigma to saying that you’ve just got back from the syphilis clinic. But the function of the policies these governments are enacting is to distribute wealth upwards to the privileged few, not downwards.

So my point, finally, is this: if you agree with my definition of what it means to be on the left, and if you desire a government whose function -regardless of what bromides they come out with- is to use state power to enact policies that distribute wealth upwards to the privileged few, then you cannot be a leftist, or a lefty, or on the left.

On the other hand, if you think state power should not be used to distribute wealth upwards, then, under current circumstances, given the fact that any Irish centre-left grouping will continue with the same policies (though perhaps with a differing degree of viciousness, perhaps even more viciously on account of a ‘democratic mandate’), you are to the left of these parties, and therefore, in terms of the constituted order, on the far left. It’s nothing to be proud of, or worried about. It’s just a matter of fact, and I recommend you get used to it.

Now, what are you going to do about it?

“Drugs and Police, the same filth.”

List
of banned ‘legal high’ substances – The Irish Times – Tue, May 11, 2010

The
following is a list of so-called ‘legal high’ drugs which are now
subject to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 under the Government Order.

Synthetic
Cannabinoids:

[2,3–Dihydro–5–methyl–3–(4–morpholinylmethyl)pyrrolo[1,2,3–de

]–1,4–benzoxazin–6–yl]–1–naphthalenylmethanone

3–Dimethylheptyl–11–hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol

9-(Hydroxymethyl)–6,6–dimethyl–3–(2–methyloctan–2–yl)–6a,7,10,10

a–tetrahydrobenzo[c]chromen–1–ol

[9–Hydroxy–6–methyl–3–[5–phenylpentan–2–yl]oxy–5,6,6a,7,8,9,10,10

a-octahydrophenanthridin–1–yl]acetate

Any
substance structurally derived from 3–(1–naphthoyl)indole or 1H
–indol–3–yl–(1–naphthyl)methane by substitution at the nitrogen atom of
the indole ring by alkyl, alkenyl, cycloalkylmethyl, cycloalkylethyl or
2–(4–morpholinyl)ethyl, whether or not further substituted in the indole
ring to any extent and whether or not substituted in the naphthyl ring
to any extent.

On the road to Drogheda there’s an advertisement for a housing estate that displays the name of the estate in the shape of the Carlsberg logo. It appeared to be saying: buy your own house so you can drink to your heart’s content. I don’t know if this is a stupid or intelligent piece of advertising, but the point is that alcohol is an integral component of life itself.

Alcohol, and alcohol advertising, permeates all facets of life on this island, from sports tournament sponsorship to pre-sporting event activities to political organising. In the glaring absence of other public amenities, the pub -a site where the primary activity is drinking- becomes the default location for all manner of political meetings.

Although ‘pub’ is short for ‘public house’, these are by no means people’s spaces: many of the capital’s bars belong to companies traded on the stock market (the biggest of these belonged to the not-inappropriately-named but ill-fated ‘Capital Bars’) or are the property of would-be or once-were oligarchs (Buswells Hotel and Quinn’s in Drumcondra belong to the Quinn Group: instances of the politial-media-sport-financial-alcohol complex).

There is a popular romantic mythology that pubs are hotbeds of seditious collusion; the reality is that most pubs take active depoliticising measures in the interests of raising profitability, whether by raising the volume of music so as to render conversation impossible, or by erecting huge TV screens for sports events, placing sport at the centre of common interest.

It’s well known that alcohol consumption has devastating effects on mental health, but it is a priority of the State to keep people drinking. In a sop to the drinks industry in the last Budget, under the guise of stemming the flow of shoppers north of the border, Excise Duty was reduced on Beer and Cider by 12 cent (VAT inclusive) per pint, on Spirits by 14 cent (VAT inclusive) per half glass, and on Wine by 60 cent (VAT inclusive) per 75cl bottle. It’s therefore strangely fitting that the minister with responsibility for mental health is also a publican (grimly enough, he is also an undertaker).

There have been many people wondering out loud on airwaves and in media publications as to why the Irish population has been so apathetic in the face of such brutal attacks on living standards. Many explanations resort to simplistic diagnoses of congenital defects; the more refined point to the docility induced via the combination of massive household debt, low levels of trade union membership, and the burgeoning reserve army of the unemployed. The latter explanations are more accurate, but they do not tell the full story. The role of alcohol consumption habits also needs to be examined.

As someone who has had more drinking sessions than I could care to remember, it’s only now starting to hit me how much alcohol fulfils a disciplinary function in social gatherings. In the company of people engaged in a drinking session, people who have no good reason not to be drinking, usually in the form of a set of car keys or liver disease, are often felt to be subverting the occasion, a lot of the time the butt of taunts and cajoling which occasionally borders on the menacing. A person who never drinks is viewed with equal parts suspicion and bafflement. Someone who advocates temperance or abstinence is inevitably viewed -perhaps on account of the Catholic Church’s activities in this field- as a freakish puritan, possibly in league with the Taliban.

With this in mind, the CNT‘s monthly journal, which is always a good read, has a report by Félix Rodrigo Mora on sessions held in Valladolid by the Straight Edge movement. What follows is a translation of most of his report, at which he gave a presentation. It’s not quite where I’m at, but it’s food for thought nonetheless.

‘The movement is linked to the ‘hardcore’ (punk) musical style, which militantly opposes alcohol, drugs and tobacco, and is both vegan and anti-system. There were sports sessions, chats, assemblies, debates, presentation and distribution of fanzines, showings of documentaries, all in an excellent, harmonious, healthy and dynamic environment, radical and free of drink, tobacco and drugs.

Among the reading materials to be found was “The dirty business of bars”, “Addiction is obsession, obsession is submission”, “Drug free”, “Psychiatric drugs: medicine or quackery?” and “Drugs and social movements”, among others.

The movement is a response to the terrifying rise in the consumption of alcohol and drugs in contemporary societies, a grim reality of clear political significance, since behind this we find state apparatuses, in particular the police and secret services, as well as a large part of communications media, not to mention the perfidious academic and aesthetocratic intellectual castes. All this takes place in circumstances in which a proportion of revolutionary-minded people has lowered its guard on these matters, adopting either a dangerously permissive or indifferent position towards narcotics or alcoholic drinks, to say nothing of psychiatric drugs, which the “public” (state) health system imposes, particularly on women.

We need to recover the old and magnificient traditions of the workers’ movement in our country, especially up to the civil war, of resistance to the great evil of alcoholism and tobacconism (el tabaquismo), in which many conscious working men and women neither smoked nor drank. Back then it was well understood that alcoholization is a weapon of capital and the state entity, a conviction which, today, regrettably, is quite distorted and weakened.

In the present, drink and certain drugs (the joint for starters), have been surrounded by an aura of false radicality, of being ‘transgressive’ and ‘anti-system’ products, of being substances which facilitate relationships between people. They must lose this, in order to appear what they are: weapons of constituted power to degrade, to brutalise, disorganise and even to kill, since 20,000 people die every year from alcohol in our country. At the same time, alcohol and tobacco are a healthy source of fiscal funding for the State, as well as branches of capitalist production which allow enormous profits and capital accumulation.

An innovative aspect of the Straight Edge movement is the emphasis placed on the development of physical vigour and bodily exertion, breaking with the dire habit of laziness, apathy and sloth, so common among people dependent on hashish and beer: a habit which has grown in a worrying fashion, to the point of seriously compromising emancipatory activities.

In the 2nd Meeting I had to lay out “No Piss-ups. Past, present and future of the rejection of alcoholisation”. I presented a script which, corrected and improved during the debate, will be published as a leaflet or fanzine.

In it it is shown that our country was free of mass alcoholism until 1965-1985, during which, through joint action of francoism, and then, the party-parliamentary dictatorship imposed by the constitution of 1978, it developed in a very short amount of time, until becoming a fearsome mass phenomenon. The worst years were between 1977 and 1985, in which the institutional left, in particular the PSOE in central government since 1982, and also the PCE (Spanish Communist Party) and its new brand, IU, would bring forward a plan for the alcoholization and drug addiction of the popular classes, imitating what Bolshevism in the USSR.

It emphasises the role in that vile activity played by the then PSOE mayor of Madrid, Enríque Tierno Galván, with his catchphrase “get loaded everyone!” (‘¡a colocarse todos!‘), and with his policy of generous subsidies for innumerable shitholes (tugurios) dedicated to the consumption of alcohol and drugs, out of which came the “movida madrileña”, led by narcotics apologists as notable as Almodóvar, Almudena Grandes and other intimates of the progressive “anti-francoist” intelligentsia. As a consequence, by 1985 a society had been formed in which drunkenness is a mass phenomenon that has continued to grow since then, with new inventions, such as the dreadful botellón (basically, a massive street drinking session).

It refutes the pretension of considering as “nonconformist” and “rebellious” the activities of drinking and taking drugs: an idiocy cooked up by the counterculture of the 60s and 70s of the past century, by showing that it has been apparatuses of domination, from the CIA to diverse police forces of all countries, who have done most to popularise drug-taking, of whom the counterculture was a propaganda agency, at least in this respect. I challenge the bourgeois anticlericalism, which tries to classify as ‘moralism’ and even ‘clericalism’, temperance and sobriety, showing that in the past the best militants of the workers’ movement, in general non-religious and atheist, fiercely opposed alcohol, as well as tobacconism. It points to the slogan of Mothers United Against Drugs, chanted in their demonstrations, “Drugs and Police, the same filth.”

All this ended in slaughter, since, as a result of drugs, more people have died in our country in the last 25 years than in the Civil War of 1936-39. If this was butchery with firearms, to save the constituted order, alcoholisation and mass drug addiction, promoted above all by the left and progressivism, is another slaughter, of political significance, carried out to enforce fealty to the current parliamentary, party-cratic (partitocrática) and constitutional dictatorship, governed by the intolerable “Spanish Constitution” of 1978.

Refraining from treating the issue of alcoholism in a facile, superficial and reductionist manner, four blocks of causes are established (for deeper study of which I refer to my book “Democracy and the triumph of the State”): -the doctrinal, the structural, those concerning the auto-construction of the subject, and the existential- dedicating some space to the examination of each of these. The conclusion is that in the face of such a grave problem, and one which will get progressively worse, since the State and capital are not going to put down this weapon, the total transformation of the social and juridico-political order (revolution) is an inexcusable necessity, but insufficient, in that complementary tasks are demanded, such as the elaboration of a system of ideas for the free and autonomous building of the subject, and a reflection on the existential problems of the human condition, until now forgotten.

Finally, I have a go at sketching out a first draft of a strategy against the great evil of the alcoholisation of the multitudes in fully modern societies, in the hope that the input from other collectives and persons allow a move forward in its correction, expansion and improvement.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Or not.


Extra-ordinary

Fintan O’Toole has a pop at Peter Sutherland in today’s Irish Times. It’s hard not to approve of any attack on members of the ruling elite, even if these emanate from the pages of the newspaper of the ruling elite. And since the majority of people are going to be taken for a very rough and ever worsening ride in order to meet the demands of finance capital, there’s no harm in pointing out that one of its most powerful local figures is an egregious hypocrite. Or is there?

Although Sutherland is a figure of grotesque influence among elite circles, there is nothing particularly remarkable about his hypocrisy.

Reinhold Niehbuhr observed that the ‘moral attitudes of dominant and privileged groups are characterised by universal self-deception and hypocrisy’. For O’Toole to say that ‘precisely because (Sutherland) is idolised in the Irish business community, he had the opportunity to change the culture of Irish banking’ is to suggest that the ‘Irish business community’ could, in fact, have had as its idol a moral agent rather than an agent of capital accumulation. This is an absurdity: it is precisely on account of Sutherland’s capacity as an amoral wheel-greaser that he occupied that position in the first instance.

Sutherland could have led by example – The Irish Times – Tue, May 11, 2010

The illusion that Sutherland wishes to maintain is that there is a “we” that includes ordinary citizens and high-flyers of global finance in a shared pain. There is no such “we”.

There is just us and them.

But there is not just ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Because if the dividing line is one’s status as a high-flyer of global finance, then the ‘we’ of the ‘ordinary citizens’ contains an immense supporting cast of people whose interests are intimately tied to the prosperity of finance capitalists.

Such a binary opposition means the managers of large corporations and their lawyers, high-level government officials and politicians all sit comfortably among ‘us’ alongside O’Toole’s ‘old lady whose home help services are being slashed’.

Not only that: the ‘we’ of the ordinary citizen excludes people who don’t fall under the formal category of citizens, as is the case with migrant workers.

So, pointing the finger at the hypocrisy of global finance bigwigs, while ignoring their relation to aforementioned managers, lawyers, officials and politicians (and also the media professionals who legitimate the views of the likes of Sutherland by offering them a platform of authority), has a couple of important effects.

First, in so far as we are talking about a sermon -there’s nothing wrong with sermons as such- demanding greater moral agency in a newspaper with a target audience including those managers, lawyers, officials and politicians, it absolves these groups of any sort of responsibility, and invites them to continue deceiving themselves in their role enforcing the imperatives of finance capital, since, it follows, they are mere ‘ordinary citizens’, and class antagonisms can be soothed with a balm of righteousness.

Second, in so far as the use of the category of ‘ordinary citizen’ refers to a relation to a State that exists in fact, and not some ideal citizenship of an all-inclusive State that does not exist, the effects of the predations of global finance high-flyers on those who fall outside that category -in the forms of racism and discrimination, among other things- are ignored. The April CSO figures report show that ‘non-Irish nationals’ comprise 18.1% of all persons on the Live Register and 14.3% of all persons in the labour force. If Peter Sutherland’s ‘commonality of Irish interest’ is to be deplored on account of conflating ‘special interests with general interests and universal values’, then the same must also be said the opposing figure of the ‘ordinary citizen’, since this does the same thing. The logical outworking of a political opposition between the ‘global high-flyer’ and the ‘ordinary citizen’ is a category of super-exploited worker who has to bear the brunt of the ‘ordinary citizen”s demands for nationality-based justice.

UPDATE: I had written this piece before I read this:

Right to work non-EU family members of EU citizens – The Irish Times – Tue, May 11, 2010

THE GOVERNMENT is removing the right to work for non-EU family members of EU citizens while they await a decision on their right to residency in Ireland.

The decision reflects concerns over rising unemployment and the Department of Justice’s ongoing campaign targeting so-called “sham marriages” between EU citizens and third country nationals.

Revolting stuff from a racist government. But Fintan O’Toole’s ‘ordinary citizen’ need not worry.

Externality

Tony Allwright, engineering and industrial safety consultant, wonders about what happened with the BP oil disaster in technical terms, like what happened to the additional sealing of the annuluses, and the hydraulic valves and stuff. Which is all very interesting, kinda.

Also of note is the fact that the oil well is called Macondo. That’s the name of the town in One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Coverage of oil slick catastrophe fails to address its cause – The Irish Times – Mon, May 10, 2010

How had gas built up in the wellbore in an apparently sealed casing? Faulty casing? Poor cement? Lack of plug? Defective equipment? Inadequate procedures? Insufficient expertise? Organisational dysfunction? Human error?

These are big questions which only a formal inquiry can answer.

That’s one that’ll have the experts scratching their heads for years, nay decades to come, assuming the world is not destroyed in the meantime. And then the conclusion will come that, well, they could have done more of this and less of that.

The more vulgarly economistic among us may look to the fact that there was a law passed by the US government following the Exxon-Valdez spill restricting the liability of oil companies in such incidents to $75 million. Dean Baker notes that there are ‘estimates that the damage from this spill to the fishing and tourism industry in the region could exceed $100 billion’.

‘These Lies Called Borders’

Couple of videos for your attention.

First, Carlos Quiroz, who runs a great blog in Spanish here and in English here, gives some guidelines on how to fill out the U.S. census.

Second, a speech from a few years back from a Los Angeles teacher called Ron Gochez. It appears to have been brought to the fore recently by pro-Arizona state racists as a means of marshalling support for their cause.

Good speech.

Bolivian Like You

Time to ditch archaic ideas on homosexuality – The Irish Times – Fri, May 07, 2010

HOMOSEXUALITY IS caused by eating chickens, according to the Bolivian president ( The Irish Times , April 22nd).

The Bolivian president said no such thing, though this claim was widely attributed to him by media outlets.

What he said was:

“El pollo que comemos está cargado de hormonas femeninas, por eso cuando los hombres comen esos pollos tienen desviaciones en su ser como hombres”

Translated literally, that means “the chicken we eat is loaded with female hormones, and so when men eat those chickens they have deviations in their being as men.”

This has nothing to do with sexuality. Given that he also referred to the premature growth of breasts in girls as down to hormone-treated chicken in the same speech, it is perfectly reasonable to infer that he was referring to gynecomastia, or to sterility. Whether this represents a statement with basis in fact I am not equipped to judge.

In response to the controversy generated by the interpretation of the remarks widely disseminated by international media, the spokesman for Evo Morales held a press conference in which he said that under ‘no circumstance’ did he make reference to gay people during his speech.

Anyone familiar with the details of the new Bolivian constitution, introduced by the Morales government, much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church and the Latin American oligarchy with which it is intimately intertwined,  would have been instantly suspicious about the reported remarks. Under the new constitution, all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity are prohibited.

There are plenty of factors that need to be highlighted in explaining why Morales’s remarks were given so much coverage and were uncritically accepted as true in Europe and the United States.

First, because of the long established practice of representing poorer countries as intrinsically backward. In polite terms, this takes the form of an assumption that ‘developed’ countries should instruct ‘developing’ countries, without taking into account that the ‘developed’ status of the former is the result of the historical exploitation of the latter.

Second, with particular regard to Latin America. An effect of Orientalism was the development of a widespread public perception, in the West, of Arab and Muslim societies as unchanging sites of exotic licentiousness and capricious despotism. We see something similar occurring with Latin American countries, whose representation often relies on a mish-mash of grotesque images of violent strong-arm dictators, submissive and compliant women, cocaine barons and sweaty slobs, all against a backdrop of bowdlerised ‘magic realism’, according to which no tale is too outlandish to be dismissed as untrue. Both perceptions entail the counterpoint of the rational, sexually continent, hygienic, productive, civilised Westerner, whose own society is the engine of true progress for the barbarous subaltern.

Third, with regard to sexuality, since there is no fundamental contradiction between sexual preference and neoliberal doctrine concerning what passes for personal freedom (a multinational corporation, whilst basically a tyranny, will make plenty of self-congratulatory noise about ‘diversity’ and will allow LGBT societies even as it slashes pay and refuses to recognise unions), and since many advances have been made (not least through concerted struggle by gay rights organisations) it becomes an automatic assumption that progress with regard to LGBT rights can only be produced from within a neoliberal capitalist framework. Therefore, when it comes to Latin America, and in particular to a country where alternative societal model is being developed, and as such is considered as part of the official enemy, the notion that people there can make advances in this regard, and on their own terms, cannot be entertained.

Here is a video produced by the Bolivian Ministry of Health and Sport in 2009, and broadcast on national TV spots.

Translation:

Imagine, that because of your appearance, because of your way of being, or your identity, that they can push you to one side.

(That) if you had a son, a daughter, a nephew (or niece), a brother (or sister), a loved one who is bisexual, homosexual, transexual, lesbian, gay, and for this reason they were victim of discrimination.

Do something! Put a stop to it!

Me? I am gay.

I’m lesbian

I’m bisexual

We’re trans

We are Bolivians like you.

17th of May. Worldwide day against homophobia and transphobia. 28th of June. Gay, Lesbian and Trans Pride day.

The Irish Times with and its contributors have a lot to learn from the Bolivian people. The reverse is not true.

The preamble to the new constitution proclaims that the ‘neoliberal colonial republican state’ of the past has been left behind.

The text of the constitution says that, for instance:

  • ‘the only health system will be universal, free, equitable, intracultural, intercultural, participative, with quality, warmth, and oversight by society. The system is based in principles of solidarity, efficiency and mutual responsibility, and is developed through public policies at all levels of government.’
  • ‘Social security is provided under conditions of universality’.
  • ‘Social security services cannot be privatised or outsourced’.
  • ‘The state will promote the incorporation of women to the workplace and will guarantee the same remuneration to men for work of the same value, both in the public as in the private sector.’

And much, much more, which I plan to cover in another post when I get the time.

Ruairi Quinn: International Asshole

Essentially, the Irish state’s contribution to the Greek bailout is an expropriation of Irish workers in order to fill the coffers of the capitalist fighting fund for the sustained assault on the living standards of European working class populations, starting with the Greeks. As Martin Wolf points out in today’s Financial Times, the package is ‘overtly a rescue of Greece, but covertly a bail-out of banks

One of the key features of the neoliberal state, as David Harvey stresses in A Brief History of Neoliberalism and elsewhere, is unerring state support for financial institutions at the expense of the interests of the population. The declared ideological character of the political parties in government under such circumstances is of no real import. In fact, it probably makes more sense, from the point of view of finance capitalists, for a social democratic party to be in power when these exercises are conducted, since these are usually far more effective of quelling populist anger by sugarcoating the brutal shock therapy in unctious egalitarianism.

There is much talk of a surge in support for the Irish Labour party of late. The party leader is lobbying hard, following the Nick Clegg ‘phenomenon’ in the UK elections, for the inclusion of a third neoliberal-flavoured testicle in televised party leader debates.

It is not hard to imagine that they will be in government in the very near future. If this happens, the Irish economy will still be in deep crisis. It is natural to wonder what this party will do differently to the current coalition when in government.

With regard to the Greek situation, some are pointing to the ‘socialist’ character of the governing PASOK party, which is attempting to foist the EU-IMF package on the Greek population. Unlike some other countries in Western Europe, the name ‘socialist’ still retains a patina of radicalism in Ireland. The Irish Labour party let the word slip every now and again, as a tantalising hint of things to come.

Yet it does not take a great leap of the intellect to realise that the ‘socialism’ entailed here is most likely that of former Secretary General of NATO Javier Solana or current IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn: fervent support for EU-US imperialism, with the occasional nod in the direction of social democratic conventions.

I caught an excerpt of an interview with Ruairi Quinn on RTE News the other day. I reproduce a transcript of it here. It took me a long time because I had to keep cleaning puke off the keyboard.

It is revealing on a number of counts. Leaving aside the matter of Quinn’s minatory arrogance and quasi-racist characterisations, one is struck by how enthusiastically he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the interests of finance capital and EU policy elites against the Greek trade unions. But he is to be credited for pointing to the existence of a ‘political Ireland’ that stands apart from the rest of the population, and to the broad consensus that holds with regard to dishing out punishment to ordinary people so that banks can prosper.

Quinn: ‘Well we’ll be borrowing it about 3 percent and we’ll be lending it on to the Greeks at 5pc. So in fact we’re going to make a bit of money out of this, and in fact that’s what’s happening with the other countries as well. But that 5% interest rate is much less than the 11pc that the international bond markets are demanding from the Greeks.

This is a tragedy in one respect in that the Greeks didn’t make the necessary adjustments before they joined the single currency. Statistically they misled the markets, basically, not to put a tooth in it (?) they told lies in the National Statistics Office sadly over successive governments but the government led by George Papandreou in my view, and I know the man personally, is very committed, and you’ve just heard his finance minister, economy minister speaking there. And significantly, despite all the difficulties, they are getting massive support from the Greek citizens right across the political spectrum. [HG: There is a general strike on in Greece today BTW]

Interviewer: It doesn’t appear that way when you see the level of protests that are happening on the streets of Greece and as the level of the cuts is going to be outlined to them over coming days and weeks it’s hard to imagine in a country which has never greeted any cuts like this with any level of enthusiasm nor would you expect them to that they would be able to buy in to the package that’s being offered to them.

Quinn: Well first and foremost there are over 10 million Greek citizens and nothing like that number has been out on the streets. The opinion polls are much more positive than the savage demonstrations would suggest. There is a far left anarchist movement within Greece. It’s a very divided society, they had a civil war immediately after the Second World War, and then the coup d’etat in 1967 which lasted until 1974 so it’s quite divided, and against that background I find the support that Papandreou and PASOK his political party have is quite extraordinary..the alternative for the Greeks, and they’re acutely aware of this, is to be ranked alongside Serbia, or alongside Macedonia, or other countries in that region, that have very weak economies. Some people have suggested that they should leave the Euro, but that would actually impoverish the Greeks and put a complete run on their banks.

Interviewer: Just to give people an idea of the kind of cuts that are being suggested in Greece, how do they compare to the kind of cuts we had to endure here.

Quinn: Because we moved so quickly, and while many of us disagreed with the nature of the cuts, there was no intellectual disagreement in political Ireland against the necessity for the macroeconomic measures. That agreement wasn’t there in Greece, and hasn’t been there for quite some time. I don’t have the absolute figures in relation to the cuts, but one of the things that they are going to do is the retirement age has been increased to 67 years of age.

Interviewer: From 55.

Quinn: From 55, which is a ridiculously low figure when you think of it. [HG – It is ridiculously low; see this Reuters article: Greece to keep retirement age at 65 – minister]

Also, the middle class self-employed in Greece pay little or no tax. Tax evasion and lying to the authorities is worse than it ever was in this country and we were pretty bad at it, as we saw..

Interviewer: And as anybody who has ever tried to get a receipt for any transaction in Greece will know from being on holidays there..

Quinn: Yes, absolutely. So this, look, the Greeks made a political decision in terms of joining the single currency, in terms of joining the European Union, that they wanted to get out from the Byzantine world in which they had been located, where poverty was endemic, Greek emigration was much higher than Ireland, the third largest Greek city in the world is Melbourne, and they made this conscious decision but they didn’t take all of the steps necessary. Now the Euro has imposed a new type of discipline on them. In the past, countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal, and Italy for that matter, when they got into trouble they’d devalue their currency, which seemed to be a short quick answer but in fact it just avoids dealing with the necessary problems. To give you an example, Gavin, when we joined the single currency, it was 2.4 deutschmarks for the Euro. It was something like 2000 lira in the Italian context to join the single currency which is an example of how countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal have devalued and devalued over the years. But it didn’t, in the medium to long term, solve their problems.

Interviewer: Nonetheless, there will be many countries asking themselves of late whether they were wise to join the Euro at the time given the lack of flexibility they now have with their own currency.

Quinn: No, the problem that we have, and particular with Minister McCreevy and the banks, that when we joined the single currency, and don’t forget that we avoided all the problems of currency speculation and fluctuation and interest rates. There was no stability in the financial markets. Business people couldn’t plan for the future because within the space of producing a product and signing a contract and delivering the cash for payment on it, your profit could be wiped out because of interest rate and currency fluctuations.

The single currency has its benefits, but it also has its obligations, and as somebody said to me that, when we joined under Fianna Fáil, even though I had helped to negotiate it, but it was during Charlie McCreevy’s time, that instead of learning to behave like Germans we continued to act like Italians, or should I say Greeks. And that discipline has to be learnt.

Interviewer: Ruairi Quinn, Former Finance Minister and Labour Party TD, thank you for joining us today.

What a dirtbird.


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