Archive for January, 2011

Interfering with ‘Interference’

There is an article by Donal Donovan in the Irish Times today. Here it is:

Loss of fiscal sovereignty inevitable if euro to survive – The Irish Times – Thu, Jan 13, 2011

OPINION: After the failure of the softly-softly approach, ‘interference’ looks set to become a permanent feature

 It runs to over a thousand words. You do not have the time to read this. Read my précis below instead, which runs to 430 or so words.

I used to work for the IMF.

Financial institutions don’t know where they’re going to get their profits from, and European politicians are searching for a solution. This means making Europe even more undemocratic. Economics is all about using the state to control populations in the interest of the ruling class, and using moralising language to do so.

Once you can impose the same undemocratic control mechanism on everybody, then the threat to ruling class interests can be kept under control. If you can limit countries’ borrowing in order to keep social spending to a minimum, you can abolish the idea of a social wage altogether. This is why I think the Euro is a good idea. Unfortunately, there is this persistent idea that social institutions are a good thing, and Maastricht did not do enough to abolish this.

The ruling class in Germany and France were really crap at imposing constraints on their populations and this gave other governments the idea that they could get away with the same crack. It is just not true that all states are the same: the runts of the litter can’t be held to the same standard as the industrial powerhouses. This is precisely why we need to impose the same constraints on all states. This, in turn, is why I used to work for the IMF.

To understand how the ruling class can control the population, we need to look at what remains of colonialism. The idea of former colonial powers acting with the IMF against the population in a sort of a tag team is a clever idea. But having the IMF as a permanent presence in Europe won’t wash with the European ruling class. The IMF, where I used to work, is based in Washington, after all. So there needs to be some deep-set arrangement that enforces a sort of colonialism, but one couched in an all-in-this-together warm-and-fuzzy EU thing. Basically, the European ruling class should get a free hand to ratchet down the living standards of the population so that it can continue to produce surplus wealth for itself, and some people, which is to say, most of the population, will just have to put up with this.

It might take a little time, a little tinkering with treaties (maybe including referenda where the views of the population are ignored) and stuff, but this sort of thing is likely to become a permanent feature. It is important for the public policy debate to recognise this and discus it openly, because there is no alternative and anyway it won’t make any difference.

PS, I used to work for the IMF.

Indeed he did.

“Rape Is Wrong”

I had heard tell of this before, but had no idea it was so horrifyingly bad.

Via Ephemeral Left.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Is Convinced

Further to what I was saying the other day about naming the beast:

Eric Toussaint The Irish Crisis

Far from relinquishing its neo-liberal orientation, the IMF declared that among Ireland’s priorities it is counting on the adoption of reforms to do away with structural obstacles to business, so as to support competitiveness in the coming years. “Socialist” Dominique Strauss-Kahn said he was convinced that a new government after the elections in early 2011 would not change anything: “I’m confident that even if the opposition parties, Fine Gael and Labour, are criticizing the government and the programme […], they understand the need to implement the programme.”

The Midas Voice

Seeing that video of Ted Williams -the homeless man with the golden voice- put me in mind of Blake’s The Human Abstract. The poem is from Songs of Experience, and sits as a response to The Divine Image from Songs of Innocence.

The verse goes like this:

Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody Poor;
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we;

The voice of the person speaking in the poem is that of a person who, nowadays, might do media work for a right-wing think tank – if we didn’t have poor people, then we wouldn’t be able to feel pity, and how terrible would that be? Or put another way, we need some measure of inequality in order to propel forward the system that nourishes our human needs and affects. And, in the same way, it strikes me that what the heart-warming sentimental shit surrounding the man with the golden voice (and his voice is golden because it is identified with a voice of masculine authority that commands us to enjoy and consume) enjoins people to do is to celebrate a system that produces homeless people, because if we didn’t have homeless people, then we wouldn’t be able to enjoy such enchanting moments of pity and awe.

This is the same dynamic behind the countless “Mary Byrne-from-Tesco” exultations in the X-Factor before Christmas. It wasn’t enough that Mary Byrne could sing; it was the implicit lowly status of working in a checkout in Tesco that became the launchpad for her outstanding singing voice. If it wasn’t for the implied gulf in status and power that separates someone who works in a supermarket from someone who owns a TV production company, then -so goes the logic- there would be nothing especially marvellous about Mary Byrne’s singing.

Or, as Adorno put it, ‘the glorification of the splendid underdogs is nothing other than the glorification of the splendid system that makes them so’.

Irish Times: Irish Voters Are Selfish Bastards

Social injustice – The Irish Times – Fri, Jan 07, 2011

A GERMAN study on social injustice in industrially developed countries has ranked Ireland among the very worst. There is no point in being surprised. That situation has come about through deliberate political choices and consistent personal selfishness. As the Celtic Tiger roared, the public was asked repeatedly to choose between the economic models of Boston or Berlin. It chose the former, with low taxes and limited public services. 

Selfish Irish bastards. I myself repeatedly opted Boston at the weekly ballot box and fortnightly lever pulling sessions initiated by Mary Harney when she announced the Boston – Berlin dichotomy in thon speech. For me, Boston was more than a feeling: it was smokin’. Berlin, on the other hand, did not take my breath away.

I came across this sequence of illustrations on an excellent Spanish website called Diseccionando a El País (Dissecting El País). For those unaware, El País is a Spanish newspaper a little closer to Berlin than the Irish Times.





Captures things quite adequately, I think.


The Enormous Arrogance of a Belligerent Force

Bear with me on this one.

First, an excerpt from Vincenç Navarro – The Church against Jesus in Público

(translation mine)

The military coup of 1936 (which the Catholic Church supported) led by General Franco was the defence of the economic and financial interests of the most privileged groups in Spanish society, interests which were affected by the highly popular reforms carried out by the governments democratically elected during the Republic. Among these privileged groups was the Church itself, which was one of the largest landowners, and as such, affected by the agrarian reform proposed by the Republic. The Church, in the 1930s, also held 12,000 country ranches and 8,000 urban buildings. The Church was also the institution that exercised a monopoly in education, also affected by the educational reforms of the democratically established government that favoured the establishment of public schooling, also a highly popular measure.

It followed from this that the Church became the largest spokesman for resistance to such measures, publicly encouraging the army to rise up against the democratic government. And when the military coup took place, the Church immediately defined it as a Crusade, a crusade that paradoxically had at its vanguard Muslim troops, who were those who led it. It was no surprise, then, that when the coup took place sectors of the popular classes attacked churches and the clergy. The excesses that occurred during those attacks (which should be criticized) should not become an obstacle to understanding (though not to justifying) the enormous hostility from the popular classes toward the church, which, betraying the message of its founder, had allied itself to the most exploitative and oppressive forces existing in Spain, an alliance which continued throughout the dictatorship. Throughout that hated regime, the Church (with very few exceptions) was a part of it.

This institution was, then, a belligerent force in that conflict, and it is an enormous falsehood to present the Church as a “victim”, as Benedict XVI did recently. In reality, its role was predominantly victimiser. In many areas of Spain it was the Church that put together the list of those whom the Falange or the army would shoot, who were, by the way, those who were defending a democratically elected government. And the enormous arrogance that characterises the Church explains why it has not even sought forgiveness for its behaviour toward the victims, who belonged on the whole to the popular classes of the different regions and nations of Spain.

Sometime later, elsewhere:


Porras said the international community also needs to work and speak out more to contain Chavez and the export of his revolution. Porras said most regional governments have deferred to Brazilian President Ignacio “Lula” da Silva to handle Chavez because the two share leftist ideologies. Lula has been unwilling to engage, however, which has stymied regional efforts to contain Chavez, the Archbishop asserted. Porras said the Europeans have been just as weak on Chavez, especially since the departure of Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar.The Archbishop said that both Latin America and Europe need strong leadership from the USG.

Venezuelan archbishop denies information in WikiLeaks report :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Archbishop Porras explained to CNA that the WikiLeaks cable which was reprinted by the Venezuelan News Agency read like “a science-fiction movie script that has absolutely no basis.”

He said allegations that he offered the U.S. access to the infrastructure of the Church are not in keeping with “the actions of the Church” or with his actions as then-president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference. “None of these things took place,” he said.

Archbishop Porras expressed regret that the Venezuelan News Agency decided to re-print the allegations along with negative comments about the bishops. The government-run media has been engaged in an “orchestrated” campaign against numerous Church leaders in the country, he said, including Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas and Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro.

Such actions are intended to merely undermine the credibility of the Church among Venezuelans, he added. Church leaders in the country only seek “to serve and to simply be a voice crying out in the wilderness to make the commandment to love God and neighbor a reality,” the archbishop concluded.

Rewinding a bit. To 2002, precisely. To the day after the attempted coup in Venezuela. The one backed by the US (and Aznar). BBC Mundo, the Spanish BBC News service, has an interview from that day with a Monsignor Baltazar Porras.

Baltazar Porras

The BBC report treats the coup d’etat as a fait accompli, referring to Chávez as the ex-president of Venezuela. Porras, according to the report, had accompanied Chávez in his last hours in the Presidential Palace. The interview is remarkable, not only for the BBC’s matter-of-fact treatment of Chávez’s overthrow, but for the Porras’s beatific smugness while a coup d’etat is underway. An excerpt:

What, in the end, was the act that made him arrive at the conclusion that he should step down from government?

The events of that afternoon, and the violence unleashed, together with the public positions that the different components of the Armed Forces had taken made him think that it was better to avoid a greater spilling of blood and that it was the moment to step down.

According to a testimony from him, from the afternoon on he began to develop and talk through the decision with his closest allies and after 9 that night he had made the determination.

Did he have any anguish, any regrets?

First, to me he asked forgiveness in the way he had treated me and in the end he asked us that we transmit to the whole of the episcopate the request for forgiveness in not having found the path of a more direct and friendly relation with the Catholic Church.

Further in:

What do you believe will be the most difficult problem that the provisional government of Venezuela will face?

To unite all sectors and avoid opportunism for those who always want to interfere in situations like this and look for ways to fish in troubled waters.

It is necessary to overcome so many wounds in different sectors and be able to unite the greatest number of wills and abilities to move the country forward in a moment that is difficult, that is atypical, that is a transition toward full constitutionality.

In the end, a bit like the BBC’s editorial procedures for coup laundry, that transition didn’t really work out too well.

What Do You Think Of Ireland’s Current Problems? Fine Gael ask, I responserate.

Note the ‘Have Your Say‘ format. I wrote about this before.

Anyway, I commented this. Had to distill the 200-point list to a 200-character response. But that is OK: time is short, and we need to be effective and efficient at the same time simultaneously.

Lack of strong leadership. For this we need to look to Fine Gael’s partners at European level in the EPP. Take Fidesz in Hungary: their new media law means the economy will be protected from Ice-T’s foul-mouthed gangsta rap and also from journalism.

Your move, Enderator.

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January 2011
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