I thought that now is a good time to post an update to the idea of a general irish election blog which would centralise irish bloggers contributions to the irish election. At the moment it will be hosted at wordpress.com.
Also ive been lucky to have gotten the following on board:
Suzy, Fiona, rinceoir, Saint, Kevin, The Editor, Gerry O Quigley and myself.
Update: Sarah Carey also on board.
I would welcome voluntary members to come forward but I am by no means done. Expect to see some random emails dropping in to inboxes over the next week. Im conscious that there is a chance (hat tip: Saint) of an early election so Im hoping to get it going soon. The idea is to get bloggers to log in to the blog and simple cut and paste their election related posts to the election blog. I will be getting some unique content together and other bits and pieces. Right now its all about members.
This needs support to work and I would love to have members of the irish blogosphere from across the spectrum. Email me as below or leave a comment, Id love to hear from ye.
The site will go live soon, get in early.
Also a major thanks to those who have thus far signed up.
I thought that now is a good time to post an update to the idea of a general irish election blog which would centralise irish bloggers contributions to the irish election. At the moment it will be hosted at wordpress.com.
Gavin and Mick Fealty are guests on the iaugural installment of Richard Delevan's Sunday Brunch podcast programme. I liked it so much it RSS feed and Link has been put into the sidebar. Well done to all involved. Also the discussion itself is very interesting listening.
Champagne and sausage rolls all round.
Categories: Blogging, Podcasting,
Over at the must read TPM cafe, there is a wonderfully concise yet salient post on the victory for Hamas in the PA elections.
It takes up the theme quite strongly that a vote for Hamas was not a vote for war and Islamism in the main but a vote against corruption and misappropriation of people's wealth. Such as it stands the victory for Hamas should focus the minds of the White House on the major issues regarding democratisation in the Middle East. The simple and crude instruments that are elections are not sufficient to ensure that open debate occurs and that fundamentalist views on all sides are challenged. More and more support needs to be given to hard working democrats on all sides in order to ensure that a system of debate over central issues will not be still born as it was in the period of African decolonisation.
The primal belief in the power of elections to set modernity on its inevitable path through the middle east is misplaced and requires some nuance. Unfortunately it requires such nuance very quickly to deal with the upcoming issue of funding for a PA with Hamas as majority member. If we are to see movement on deals and ceasefires then the Aid must stay.
There are both Liberal and Realist arguments for maintaininig aid.
Realists will point, quite correctly, to Hamas' historical closeness to both the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the broader Islamist movement in Iran. It wont have escaped notice that Hamas leaders spent some time in Tehran prior to the election. It is thought that Iran offered financial support for the regime should they require it.
Any realist in any western foreign policy circle will quickly point to the irrationality of allowing a key player in Middle East Peace (as they are now the negotiating power elected by the people), to become financially dependent on the Iranian regime. The realist would highlight the opportunity to use aid to ensure that Hamas maintains its ceasefire and moves toward moderate policy positions. It also maintains leverage over negotiations (indeed that may be what the current round of threats amount to).
Liberals in the policy department would take some persuading to see withdrawing of aid in any better a light, while national and foreign goals may be best served, there is also the undeniable need to promote the validity of democracy and also enhance the capacity of new democracies to support argument, debate and the peaceful exchange of power.
In order to support this key phase of transition, the aid must be maintained and funnelled to ground projects and maintaining support on the street for the people's right to elect and change government. The withdrawal of aid will hurt those most who have least deserved it. The PA has little or no capacity to raise its own revenue since its economy is a mess since the second Intifada began. Liberals would see the trade off as one which, once made, would begin to benefit in bringing Hamas closer to the center and closer to negotiations on a settlement of border issues. Also the presence of US/EU aid would help to curb the most reactionary tendencies in Hamas which hope to turn Palestine into a Sharia state. Though some would cringe at the cultural interference being implied by the liberal argument, there is some grounds for it in this case.
Palestine has no long history of sympathy for Islamic extremeism, and has often been part of an arab nationalist tendency, which has often been secular. Arab identity was seen as more key than muslim identity. The ability of Hamas to provide key services to those who need it may have softened such positions, but it is clear that there needs to be support for secular forces which can be trusted to hold back the potential excesses of Sharia.
Such forces can only be maintained through the Aid structure which both supports the government and also those who might keep an eye on them.
This was intended to be a much shorter post, yet I hope I have given some food for thought on the issue of Aid to the PA under Hamas. We cannot afford to leave and abandon the key to middle east peace in the throes of poverty, occupation and ultimately war. The prospect of peace is too near with a thawing of the Israelis across the table.
While Hamas cannot be given free reign as yet, the Aid is central to keeping the process on track and must not be withdrawn at such an early stage.
Categories: Hamas, Palestine, Comment, Politics
Mulley is dead right, Fiona De Londras' clarity and strength of argument over the past few days, and long before that, has been awesome. Progressive Ireland stands full square behind calls for a complete reorganisation and restructuring of the cultural biases toward LGBTQ families, relationships and other aspects of their lives unnecessarily blighted by lack of genuine social recognition by an authority which forms opinion for the vast majority of citizens.
The state as it exists currently, shapes the cultural mores of the majority of citizens to a vast degree, at least it is seen as validating a certain sentiment above all others. Libertarian arguments about removing such a privelage are for another forum. Those who are at the end of bias in the state's opinion forming power dont have the time to sit back and wait for libertarian utopia to sweep across the nation.
The merits of that utopia would bog down what is an immediate issue facing the state and broader irish people. Gay people exist. That they exist should guarantee a fundamental basic structure of rights along the lines that I inherit as an existing heterosexual.
Many readers will take task with such issues on grounds of social stability. My advice is to take the time out of your schedule to follow the genealogy of the argument and make your decision after that.
FDL, RW, FDL, RW, FDL, RW
And as RW helpfully points out there is an excellent piece on the topic over at For all we know.
The point that is easily the most salient to my mind is that the state exists to extend equal opportunities for the enjoyment of freedom to all. "If we can separate the idea of marriage for one moment from the idea of procreation, what justification is there for conferring partnership rights while denying the protections of marriage? Only that the union of man and woman is superior to that of man and man or woman and woman. In my eyes, that is discrimination and arguments for it can only be found in religion and bigotry. "
Fiona doesnt pose any threat that I can see to the running of any society. Nor do any others of the LBGTQ community I have met. Their rights are not their own until the 21st century is reflected in a 1937 document.
Categories: Blogging, Comments, Irishpolitics,
Fiona has a good post on the Bush reaction to the Hamas victory last nigth and its effect on the policy of democratisation, well worth reading.
The victory for Hamas has come as one of the major shocks of the year and its only a few months old. There are mixed views over what, if any, effect victory will have on the middle easy peace process and also the lives of those living in Gaza and the West Bank.
It is clear that the result has thrown up a whole load of opposition to a genuinely democratic outcome.
[from Jerusalem Post]
In response to the victory, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared during a security cabinet meeting Thursday night that any Palestinian Authority government that included Hamas would not be a partner for Israel.
Most Fatah members said that Hamas should be allowed to lead the PA alone, since this will force Hamas to face the challenge of securing funds for the Palestinian people, and take part in a political process which will bring an easing of conditions for the Palestinian population.
Abbas also suggested that future negotiations with Israel would be conducted through the Palestine Liberation Organization, a possible bypass to a Hamas-led government.
The consensus seems to be that Hamas will be thorny people to deal with but must moderate in order to secure some sense of governance and order in the territory while also working toward a lasting solution to the occupation. There exists what is referred to as the pot-hole theory of democracy which suggests that once in power the perspective of radicals tends to moderate so as to best ensure that governance continues and pot holes go filled.
AS I mentioned last night, a representative of the "Third Way" party in Palestine believed that Hamas would probably begin to moderate in regard to foreign policy and slowly thaw relations with Israel and others while at the same time ruling locally with some steel. She cites Hamas as being stringent islamists and unlikely to be able to compromise on the ideology locally since activists are fighting this platform across the state.
Thus the outcome of this election looks likely to have dual effects, domestic impact and regional/international impact. The PLO have suggested that negotiations with Israel will be conducted through them as a means of bypassing the Hamas movement but to my mind that is a seriously deficient solution. The only prospect of moderating Hamas comes from a domestic desire for moderate governance, secured on the back of a feeling of general security and exposure to regional arguments. Not having Hamas as a key player in these arguments divorces Hamas from any regional moderating forces and focuses their attention on running Gaza and the West Bank, turning them into Sharia States.
[from Christian Science Monitor]
The Palestinian results, which give an organization on the US list of terrorist groups a majority in the 132-seat Legislative Council, are part of a trend across Muslim countries, experts say.
"The victory of Hamas cannot be seen in isolation from the major accomplishments of Islamists across Muslim lands," says Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. "There's a pattern here of Arab and Muslim electorates fed up with the secular governments that have failed to deliver the goods, both in economic terms and protecting the security of the homeland."
There is a solid body of opinion which is determined to look to primarily domestic issues as the reason for Hamas' victory. Indeed their record in providing charitable services puts them at once in a better position than the PLO in the eyes of Palestinian voters.
No matter what the cause of victory is, the fact is that the new governing party in Palestine is Hamas. Who on the outside is going to deal with them? Are they cruising toward isolation and further impoverishment?
The first question has two answers, what should and what might happen.
I firmly believe that Hamas can be dealt with, if not as they are, then certainly within months after some significant moves on the two-state solution. That much is the message coming from across the globe. Should Hamas refuse to budge on this, there exists a serious dilemma for the peace process.
The time to move with Hamas is now, there exists a period within which Hamas have the support of the population and any moves to bring them around a negotiating table can be assured the full backing of the Palestinian population.
However, while that outcome may be desirable, it requires of all sides a deal of magnanimity and commitment to mutually ensured peace. A set of conditions notable through their lacking in that part of the world. Many voices are pointing to the Hamas victory as affirmation of the tactics that are seen as resulting in a pullout from the Lebanon and Gaza, in the hope of securing a withdrawal from the West Bank and perhaps onwards.
Such a view sees this as a response to years of unilateral moves, which, while logical in the culture, results in a spiralling of violence. Gershon Baskin of ynetnews has an interesting piece along these lines here.
The al-Aqsa intifada received wide public support at its outset from a public that was deeply influenced by the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. In the eyes of Palestinians, 2000 Hizbullah guerillas forced the great and mighty army of Israel to run from southern Lebanon with its tail between its legs.
Likewise, in the eyes of a large majority of Palestinians, Israel evacuated Gaza to the last grain of sand as a result of Hamas’ hitting of Israel inside and outside of Gaza. Israel left Gaza not as a result of a peace process, not as a result of negotiations, not as part of a decision to empower Mahmoud Abbas and his moderate regime. The rise of Hamas is the result of the faulty policies of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
They both recognize that the only way to reach the end of the conflict is through a negotiated process, but today, it is clear that there is no partner for negotiations on the other side.
A negotiated peace is the desired goal, the question of all questions is whether Hamas can become a negotiating partner. If they can then perhaps this is not the worst of all outcomes, if they cant, then the problems in the middle east are likely to get much worse before getting better. We cannot afford to sideline Hamas. At this point they are the popular government in the territory. The message that can be sent now to all states is that the west will engage with all democratically elected governments because they are thus democratic. This does not preculde criticism but certainly necessitates a decent calm response.
The most important goal is a legitimate and popular peace negotiated by the people's representatives on both sides. To facilitate this the early response of US, EU, Israel need to be measured calm and waiting to be convinced.
Categories: Hamas, Palestine, Israel, Comment, Politics
A longer post is sure to follow soon, right now I want to just paraphrase a Palestinian member of the "The Third Way" party.
Basically she sees a lot of wriggle room for Hamas on international issues, peace and security, trade and Isreal. Far more wriggle room on these points than they will be willing to engage in domestically where commitment to Sharia Law and ideological fervour seem sure to make domestic life much tougher for moderate palestinians.
Some reaction for you all to browse through:
EU Observer 1,
harry's place 1,
Talk Politics 1 (Well Thats Fucked It),
Opinio Juris 1,
Washington Realist (editor of national interest in US) 1,
Christian Science Monitor 1, 2(Is US push for democracy empowering Islamists?)
Jereusalem Post 1,2,3,4(Blessing in disguise),
Bush Presidential website 1,
Timesonline 1,2,3,4(world reaction)
Al Jazeera 1,
More to Come.
Categories: Palestine, Hamas, Politics
For some reason, the past few days have seen a large number of hits from searches for Noam Chomsky to the site. They are visiting a post that was put up before his visit detailing his lambasting of Bertie here.
For all of you curious Chomsky heads, I happened across this earlier today. Its a copy of the speech that he delivered to Amnesty in the RDS. Im not sure if it is available online elsewhere since I didnt check.
I was lucky enough to experience the live event in UCD the previous night where the discussion was on Democracy. Rock star doesnt even begin to describe the whole situation. It was a tad surreal watching the crowd.
Categories: Chomsky, Blogging,
Watching BBC news this evening and I finally blew my top. What in the name of all thats holy is 'sikth'?
Where did that monstrosity of a word come from and who the hell uses it in daily language?
When i was growing up Bosco told me that the figure which followed 5 was the figure 6.
This figure was called 'six' pronounced 'sicks'. For years I lived believeing that the derivation of six was sixth (i.e. sicks-th).
Not anymore. TV have deemed that it is now sikth. I hate it. Simply hate it. If it was good enough for years then why the hell need it change?
There is no rationality behind my hatred only that as a word sikth is nonsense.
There Ive said it.
The last few weeks have been lived in tumult around St James' Park. Nothing is new in that regard, another manager has tried to take a bunch of party loving misfits and one deranged chairman and make a successful club out of them.
I myself reckon that the manager has little or no managerial qualities and his greatest strength is turning disagreements into personality clashes into mass exoduses. Newcastle have taken 1 point from a possible 15 over the last few games. We are at this stage sinking slowly to the depths of the premiership, only consoled by the fact that Sunderland are uncatchable at the bottom. Yet the manager walks out in front of the press braces himself, grits his teeth and commits himself to seeing off this current crisis and doing much better when we have something resembling the team he payed 50 million pounds for.
Freddy is having none of it, he wants top fare football, scinitillating form and results. Im not surprised the fans can only be fleeced so much before you need to look to UEFA for revenue. A 'big club' like Newcastle must be up there, he cries.
Well cry all you like Freddy but until such time as someone removes the two donkeys that we have dressed in football boots and jereseys from center back we are on the slippery slope to the 3rd division (since that is all their talents qualify them to play at). Souness is not a great manager, he is something of a dodgy personality but above all else he is the only manager that is willing to come within an asses roar of St James' lunatic asylum.
There was an argument for a quick heave in the first week of january let the new lad get settled and still have some transfer time left for loans and quick fixes. As january ends we have taken no such impetus. As a result we look likely to can the guy in the middle of march with no possibility of achieving anything anyway and getting a new manager in for the hell of it. Let him finish this season. With that team, no one can do much better than right now unless cash is flashed. If by May we have options, then Ill be first to call for his head. Right now is the wrong time to sack him. That moment passed two weeks ago.
The argument is always made that a manager is only as good as his players, and Souness has about five players who are committed, motivated and able. Two of those are over 35.
The rest of the players have to shut the hell up, pull up their socks and work for a change. We all know Titus and Boumsong are crap so make sure they arent left on their own. Double the work and we might, MIGHT, start to draw games.
Christ, it looked so easy when Owen was unveiled.
(I know my non-soccer loving readers will be a bit perplexed by all that but I needed a good rant at the insanity that seems to afflict a managerial stint at Newcastle at around 18 months.)
Categories: Soccer, Comment, Newcastle, Souness
Labour have gotten into a bit of a dilly of a pickle recently ned, what with all the quotas, 78% and work permits. So its time for a wonderfully distracting and mutually beneficial joint-proposal with Fine Gael. The proposal is the perennial opposition bug-bear of Dail reform.
For a cynic the game works like this, the Government always get the best of the Dail's workings. Its a side effect of running a westminster style system with fusion of powers. Government just happens to be further strengthened by the particular rules and traditions of the Dail. A quote which is well worth quoting at any juncture in Dail reform talk is Basil Chubb's "[the Dail is a] puny parliament peopled by members who have a modest view of their functions and a poor capacity to carry them out".
Thus the game is that the opposition is fated to complain about the structure of the Dail and how harmful it is to the proper conduct of Irish democracy. Any proposals which aim at bettering it, we are promised, will be enacted just as soon as they have a majority. It seems that apart from a brief foray into committee systems in 1992 these promises go unfulfiled. No surprise that once an opposition becomes a government they would prefer less questions.
With that in mind I cruised on down, in a cynical frame of mind, to Rabbitte's latest press release which looked purpose built to get Labour into more liberal territory and on a safer footing with a party uncomfortable with the work permit idea.
My first reaction was, 'what no CSPAN?'. My fundamental belief is that the Dail can become as technically proficient as it pleases. Irish democracy will be served well by a departure toward responsible parliamentary government which can satisfy the desires of the citizenry. All the proficiency in the world will make up for two fundamental flaws in the system.
1.) Our TDs are woeful performers. Ive seen them live and on TV and, yes, they are as bad as they look.
2.)The coverage of the Dail in the media is of such an exclusive and technical nature as to preclude meaningful engagement with it by the electorate. Until such time as broadcasting rules are relaxed and options considered for demonstrating the Dail daily through the media reforms will only be partly effective.
On the whole the rest look like some goos house keeping measures with some seriously original ideas (well this is the first time Ive heard them).
Some pointers (my points in italics):
1.Recesses should be significantly shorter.
This is the perennial gambit of an opposition and in a PR-STV system in such a small country dont count on anything of the sort being proposed in government. Its impossible to get it past backbenchers who count on the time to preen constituencies.
2.The sitting time of the Dail should be extended to four meaningful days a week.
Good call. It would also help to wean local constituencies off their addiction to local party presence in the form of the TD. Local issues need to be for local councils.
3.Leaders questions should be taken on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with compensation to the Taoiseach for the extra day being shorter questioning periods.
Sorry, if once is enough in the UK then twice would be fine here if someone worked it out properly. Perhaps a more open question time for 45 minutes on Tuesday and Wednesday. Fully televised and publicisied. It could become a center piece for democratic exchange. More quantity with less quality does no good to the people or the cause.
4.The time allocated to oral questions should be increased and as a quid-pro-quo there might be a reduction in the number of oral questions being submitted.(More that 90% are not reached.)
A little bit of a pint of wha yer having yerself.
5. Private Members Time should be expanded. The additional time should be allocated on a lottery basis to individual members (including government backbenchers) on a lottery basis. This would be unnecessary in the broader sense if leaders questions was reformed. However the extension of private members time is a nice idea it is likely to become 'local constituent gripe time' unless properly regulated in the Standing Orders.
6. A reform of adjournment debate rules to include topical debates and cease current practices under SO 31.
Housekeeping which would give a nice impression that TDs could act out of the interests of a better parliament. As such Ill believe it when I see it.
So there you go, there are a few more proposals which I decided not to bother on really. The proposal is an attempt to engage with the dilemma which, to my mind, poses serious threat to well-functioning democracy. That is the issue of a solid parliament responsive to the electorates inclinations and general view of government and able to exercise some form of oversight on government.
There is a cyncial part of me which will not cease to mutter that this is another installment of the age-old game played by opposition parties when a vote comes near.
Still there are some seriously good ideas here which would give parliamentarians the chance to operate on a higher plane than that currently afforded by the jaded SOs of the Dail.
I will have to reiterate though that all this good thinking and possibly action comes to nought if there is not adequete provision made to being to stimulate the wider electorate in democratic activity through deregulation of broadcasting procedures and opening up of the Dail to our eyes. We deserve to see, to know and to judge.
Categories: Irishpolitics, Comment, Democracy, Reform, Labour
[from the blurb]
What is NewsBump?
NewsBump is a British news service with a twist. A typical news service has a faceless editor deciding what's interesting and important for readers. NewBump allows readers to decide for themselves. Users of this site add links to news stories they think are important. They also decide the order in which the stories appear, by "bumping up" their preferred content. The most popular stories then appear at the top of the page.
How do I bump up a story?
If you've read a story on NewsBump that you think is interesting or important, you can vote for it to be "bumped up" towards the top of the page by clicking on the "bump up!" link next to it. You can only vote for each story once.
How do I add a story?
Simply hit on the "Submit a story" button. You will be asked to add a title for your story, a link to it, and a short description of it. You will also have to select a category for it to appear under. Please take care to check that the same story hasn't already been posted. Once submitted, your story will appear on the site, where users can choose whether or not to bump it up.
The rest of it is a tad irrelevant to peeps on this side of the water, its just one of those things bloggers get excited about. I know that I liked the idea alot.
Categories: Blogging, Citizenjournalism, Newsbump
You do indeed Suzy.
And to my mind you have good grounds, the sham that was this afternoons announcement is quite a bad condemnation of where we stand as an open society. We may be an open economy, but that reflects little.
Suzy notes "It could be years before any protection of same sex relationships is introduced. " If that is the case it is an absolute travesty, no excuse, no talk, just travesty.
Categories: Irishpoltics, Comment,
Keeping up with todays theme of Extraordinary Rendition is the post from Talk Politics.
They post in full the memos that appeared in the New Statesman in the past week. These memos were leaks from the FCO regarding the processes of rendition and extraordinary rendition.
If you want the unadulterated posts, they are here in PDF. Other wise the talk politics post has some commentary interspersed with the memo on their post.
I will give just a brief intro with the first minute of the first memo to appear.
1. An explanation of what is normally meant by "Rendition'1 and "Extraordinary
Rendition", though these are neither legal nor precise terms. Discussion also of their
legality: Rendition could be legal in certain limited circumstances; Extraordinary
Rendition is almost certainly illegal. Further advice, too on what we and the US
mean when we talk of "torture" and "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" (CID).
And to what extent knowledge of, or partial assistance in, these operations (e.g.
permission to refuel) constitutes complicity?
5. The use of this term is even more varied. In its recent letters to Chief Constables and Ministers. Liberty has defined it as transfer from one third country to another. But it is normally used to connote the transfer of a person from one third country to another, in circumstances where there is a real risk (or even intention) that the individual will be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CID). Indefinite detention without legal process could be argued to constitute CID.
(Irfan Siddiq) Private Secretary
Ms Grace Cassy 10 Downing Street
Its all so clearly the slimey workings of government, those who reckon it doesnt happen are kidding themselves. Still, as far as I can tell seemingly-illegal extraordinary rendition which is implicitly tolerated or knowingly ignored is one slimey too far.
Categories: Terror, UK, Rendition
It should come as no surprise that the interim report of investigator Dick Marty, on behalf of the Council of Europe into rendition in Europe, was overwhelmingly bad news for states and citizens alike. The report, out today, had a number of startling points in it.
[from EU Observer]
"It has been proved – and in fact never denied – that individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and transported…in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered…torture," Mr Marty announced.
"It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware of the 'rendition'
Mr Marty added there was "a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of ‘relocation’ or ‘outsourcing’ of torture."
However, at this stage, there was no formal, irrefutable evidence of the existence of secret CIA detention centres in Romania, Poland or any other country.
[From the FT]
“Individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and all rights, and transported to different destinations in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered degrading treatment and torture,” he said. “If governments resort to gangster-style methods, I say no,” he added.
It is pretty clear at this stage that the guy has found serious and unchallenged evidence that the process of rendition is actively taking place across Europe and that while the issue of secret jails in Romania and Poland remains unfinished their is ample evidence of the EU being used as a stopover.
The fallout is far from over for those at the top who face the prospect of being, rather embarassing politically, called before an ad-hoc commission of the EU Parliament to answer questions on the use of EU airports to facilitate the process.
Marty's report has a very helpful timeline and background to the whole issue and I think you should all read it, from it is the reaction on December 7 of UNHuman Rights Commissioner to the process of rendition, which the US freely admits to doing.
[From Marty's Report:]
Mention should also be made of the stand taken by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Louise Arbour, who said in an article in Le Monde published on 7 December 2005 that secret detention was a form of torture in itself, for the person detained, who was at the mercy of the detaining authorities, and, worse still, for the families, who were faced with a situation that amounted to that of a missing person.
Just a small mention for our own carry on in Shannon Airport,
The head of the Irish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly informed me of the many questions to the government in the Irish Parliament, and of the replies received. In substance, the government expressed total condemnation of the practice of “extraordinary renditions” and stated that it had never authorised any overflights of Irish territory by chartered aircraft for that purpose.
Last month RTÉ revealed that more than 40 flights through Shannon Airport were made by aircraft reportedly used on numerous occasions by the CIA to abduct suspects and send them abroad.
The report simply repeats the governments position that rendition has not taken place and that no authorisation has been given for it to happen. There are still clearly questions about the CIA planes that operate in secrecy out of Shannon and other EU airport s. RTE are not the first, nor the last, to spot CIA chartered planes around the airport and to this day we have little or no way of knowing what was going on. Since theses planes are under such intenses suspicion and investigation it seems right to remain unconvinced.
Rather interestingly Marty also has alot to say on the general prosecution of the War on Terror by the current administration;
These statements, which have in fact been corroborated by indiscretions from officials still serving, clearly confirm that the current US Administration seems to start from the principle that the principles of the rule of law and human rights are incompatible with efficient action against terrorism.
The relocation of prison camps to Guantanamo and elsewhere indicates that even American legal standards are seen as obstacles by the US Administration. “Extraordinary rendition” and secret detention facilitate the use of degrading treatment and torture.
As early as March 2005, in a CBS interview, Mr Scheuer had admitted knowing that suspects were tortured in Egypt, adding that it was "very convenient" finding "someone else to do your dirty work"
Anyway the thrust at this stage is clear, you may look on terror one way or another, but in accepting that it is a problem to be solved does not commit one necessarily to the commitment that the product of centuries of toil, two total wars and millions of lives should be sacrificed to fight an enemy which would see democratic liberty, rights, responsibilities and liberties destroyed anyway. From this it is clear that there is a smoking problem, not one which reflects favourably on commitments to the preservation of human rights and rule of law.
Im not suggesting terrorists need to be treated softly softly, we do however need to be able to trust that the systems in place to try to secure us and detain terrorists are fully compatible with international law, international human rights law and Geneva Conventions. We have no reason to cease being the west to fight a fight with terror. Last time I looked, we were supposed to be on the side of rights, laws, liberties and dignities.
In this I shall leave some of the last words to Martys report.
The fact that detention and interrogation centres have been relocated to other countries is proof that the authorities are fully aware that the methods used are incompatible with the American legal system. Europe must clearly and unambiguously declare that it refuses outright to tolerate such doings in its territory, or anywhere else.
It is the only way to begin to fight a war on terror that has any serious meaning for the preservation of rights and liberty. If the governments feel that the fight needs to be dirty and extral-legal then it is the people who should decide. Up until that point, there has been no authorisation given by the people to contravene international law in our name. Freedom from torture is not an alienable human right. It is natural and entirely attached to everybody.
Update: Many Angry Gerbils has a very long and quite good piece on the saga here.
Including a quote from Marty that I missed;
‘Does this mean that torture is so easy to use in this day and age? Is it enough for one's own secret services not to be physically present at the place of interrogation and to pretend to have no official knowledge of this practice to state that the law is not being broken?’
Categories: Torture, Marty, Rendition, Europe, America, CIA
Lift your feet while the tumbleweed blows past at Progressive Ireland. Im busy right now so posting is not really on the agenda. Hopefully see you soon
From Crooks and liars:
Clooney won a Golden Globe tonight for his performance as Best Supporting Actor in "Syriana," and thanked Jack Abramoff.
Clooney: I want to thank Jack Abramoff, you know, just because-I--I'm the first one out- lets get this thing rolling. I don't know why. Who would name their kid Jack with the last words "off" at the end of your last name? No wonder that guy is screwed up. Ahh-alright I just got bleeped. Thank you very much...
Well so much for the RNC keeping Jack's name quiet. I'm sure there will be many downloads tomorrow as people who don't know already-will say, Jack who?
Blasted liberal biased hollywood/mass media/dogs on the road.
Categories: Blogging, Humour, Clooney
just popped back to the laptop to find a massive hit increase, thanks to the recommendations of one slugger o toole. Happily he liked the comment piece I did on Sinn Fein earlier this week. As me ma said its nice to be nice so thanks mick!
The Swiss investigator charged with inquiring into the allegations of secret CIA prisons in Europe and the CIA's alleged extraordinary rendition programme has said that European leader knew for two or three years what was going on.
"Since two, three years, the countries know what is happening. There are countries that have collaborated actively, and there are others who have tolerated. Others have simply looked the other way," Mr Marty told Swiss television channel TRS.
Marty argues that there is no way the the CIA could have ferried terror suspects through Europe without the European Governments knowing what was going on. Marty is due to hand in his final report to the EU on 23 january, but if the press conference is anything to go by, it is likely to have a great deal of damaging material in it.
Marty seems to be convinced that the programme is the result of a group effort, rather than the acts of a few single countries. Recent evidence from Switzerland suggests that the prisons are all but certainly running in Romania.
Mr Marty said on Friday however that it was unfair to single out member states as possible sites for the centres, as governments all across Europe had been "willingly silent" about the camps.
While the report mentions no specifics, the recent intervention by the Council of Europe calling for US planes using Shannon to be inspected suggest that the airport and its visitors are on the radar for an investigation team. Some may see this as weak minded pandering to liberal insitincts, but it was that similar liberal pandering that created Western Democracy in the first place.
And should I be accused of pre-judging the content and tone of the report, Marty offers his own take on the Rendition programme;
Washington's policy "respects neither human rights nor the Geneva Conventions," he added.
That in itself is a pretty damning condemnation. The guy has spent the last couple of months investigating it first-hand and has come to the conclusion that it breaks international law and also disregards human rights. I have always felt that an approach to Islamist Terror would be predicated on commitment to the values we point to as differentiating us from them. Any state who willingly engages or ignores in extraodinary rendition or secret prison programmes is questionable on these grounds to say the least.
I think that EWI's response to the Swiss memo is as applicable here:
[But it it is genuine,] Is the cat now firmly out of the bag as to this being an issue that the EU must face?
It most certainly is and the web of neglect that allowed the EU to reach this point must be unravelled and resolved. It is interesting to read in the Euobserver article that EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini had earlier indicated that EU member states as well as candidate countries such as Romania and Bulgaria could face sanctions if the allegations are found to be true.
From the above, it seems clear that Marty's report will set a number of states up for their role in the mess. Having information on this for 2-3 years is serious in the extreme. Most states who turned the other way should be outed and dealt with. There is no excuse for failiing in the responsibility of all UN Members to promote and protect Human Rights and the rule of international law.
Categories: Rendition, CIA, EU, Torture
It was a move likely to make many political observers scream "I told you so", the Indo reported on Friday the story (quite gloatingly unsurprisinigly), that Sinn Fein is to undergo some form of policy adjustment to bring it in from the cold. The launch of a series of internal discussion documents looks intended to bring Sinn Fein closer to the dominant policy consensus around Irish politics at the moment.
The move is argued by the indo to mark a major departure from the "socialist republic" long a major plank in the Sinn Fein platform. There are calls for corporation tax to rise from 12.5% to 17.5%. Yet the indo seems pretty certain that even that call can go by the wayside should the call to power prove too much.
It seems highly unlikely that any amount of wishing by the Indo will see Sinn Fein sit comfortably among the rest of the parties which congregate around the center ground here, however this move does signal some attempt by Sinn Fein to get down to the dirty business of winning seats now that the IRA question has been parked.
Mr McLaughlin said the five Nordic countries were among the 10 most competitive in the world, even though they had higher taxes and world class public services. "Ireland is 26th in the world league of competitiveness and this shows that it is possible to have an economy that has some higher taxes, better social protections and can still be among the most competitive in the world," he argued.
The document makes no mention of policies such as nationalising banks or dominant State control of economic activities and businesses. Instead, it says Sinn Fein should support the primary role of the State as a "regulator" and also the provider of social services.
The document urges support for developing a progressive business culture.
It seems patently clear from this that there is a solid move on to get the party in some sort of policy shape in time for the 2007 election down south. The question is how far some party activists will support a move toward the center ground. The talk above suggests that a model of Nordic social democracy may be the end-goal. An approach which makes peace with the market but secures social security. It was pointed out to me once, that the Nordic model works so well because of national contiguity within the borders, most Swedes dont mind sharing because it is swedes that gain. It was not an argument about racism simply that there was a greater national cohesion and sense of common identity.
Thus a policy shift in that direction would still fit quite snugly with Sinn Feins nationalist arguements and desires.
The indos own opinion writers seem to be sneeringly greeting this move as a piece of inevitable political progress.
The release of the first of three economic discussion documents yesterday reflects the emergence of a determinedly different kind of thinking. And so it might; the time to touch base with planet earth was overdue.
Well while the coming two documents dealing with Tax and Trade issues will probably tell more about the proposed change in thinking, since this all has to be voted on at conference yet, it is clear that the many political commentators who suggested that once the IRA were out of the way the Sinn Fein machine would gravitiate to the center to win elections seem correct.
Much of the coverage was on the drive time talk radio, with Hookie and Cooper covering it in some depth. The response from ISME and Shane Ross was to brand it all Marxist twaddle and focus on the call for a raising of Corporation Tax. I think that rubbishing this document as economically unworkable misses the broader picture of what is taking place.
To simply dismiss the document as unworkable and forget it ever happened loses sight of the fact that it represents a major departure in the Irish party system. Sinn Fein has spent the guts of 80 years, off and on, on the margins of the Irish party system and happily remained outside the tent pissing in. This move is a broader political statement of intent on their part to get down to the business of winning seats by engaging in some form of policy review and making their platform more coherent.
Dont get me wrong, I have reservations about their policies and doubt I would vote for them in 2007, but I am in a shriking group. The electability of Sinn Fein is theoretically boosted by the removal of the IRA and also the time left since the McCartney and Northern Bank debacles, yet their opinion poll ratings are unmoved. There are now two major ways for Sinn Fein to win votes, win over some center left votes, and mobilise dormant votes. The former they have been doing for the last couple of years, any local party hack of any affiliation will tell you that. The new policy document suggests that they are now beginning the long march to power with moves to change the party doctrine.
The impact this move could have on the shape of our party system need not be underestimated. Without an army and a set of center-left policies, a serious republican party could do more damage to the Fianna Fail big tent than any concerted effort by Fine Gael and Labour. While much still remains up in the air, and the ultiamte position of Sinn Fein yet to be known, Im pretty sure (between soundings from members and general reasoning) that a sustained move by Sinn Fein in a centrist direction will yield them a great deal of fresh and new support, the trick will be to keep hold of the people already travelling with the party.
There looks likely to be some room on the left in Irish politics at the next election as Labour is fighting tag-team with Fine Gael. With the dual appeal of left/Republican policies Sinn Fein promises to dominate the talk in the run up to the election since policy activity is likely to be high on their front. The change of image will only get them so far of course, there is a stubbornly high number of people unwilling to countenance their presence or participation in government.
My own feeling is that, while inevitable, the track to the centre for Sinn Fein is unlikely to be as easy or as well received as they hope. The reaction from business and political elites to amost every Sinn Fein move shows how far they have to go to be seen as a party of power. The elite reaction, however, belies the fact that the support for Sinn Fein is growing among the poorer voters who see a party willing to tackle local issues, irrespective of manner. There are votes to be found, and perhaps other forms of support from members of the Fianna Fail backbenches disillusioned with the party's attitude to local issues and thus their jobs. There are certainly the prospect of allegience changes and increased vote share. It might not be enough to turn into government.
In terms of the party though, some will not be pleased to shed the hard-core marxist rhetoric. While raising corporation tax is just what they would like to hear, it is undoubtedly close to 12.5% and surely some agreement could be reached. On Copper's Last Word, Mitchell McLaughin was shady about the party's intention on tax.
The changes heralded on Friday, could possibly be the start of Sinn Feins election campaign, first a change of image and then a more substantive wooing of swing voters, perhaps targetting those disillusioned with Labours deal with Fine Gael. It seems that the structure up until now of the party system is likely to change under and intense assault from Sinn Fein. The trio on top will all come under pressure in terms of seats and the balance of power may shift toward a determinedly plural distribution of votes. It all depends on how successful the party's move to the center ground is and how much they are able to move their appeal across classes and interests. Remaining on the fringes, in terms of policy, was never going to win votes, however it is until such time as they commit to policing up north, and moderate some of their other policies that the change will really begin to kick in. Right now that seems unlikely but a year is a long time without and army.
Categories: Irishpolitics, Comment, Election2007
This weeks Disillusioned Lefty interview is with myself. You can read it here.
Ive been home to the Kingdom, land of all that is great in this country, for Christmas and thought I would share this wonderful tidbit with you. There is room for a national precedent here so all of those in Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Cork better watch out.
News from the Tralee UDC outlines the plans by town Councillors to investigate the possibility of limiting pub opening hours in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour in the town.
The publican response has been unsurprisingly hostile.
“Anti-social behaviour is a problem but it is not all in the bars. People are drinking more at home; times are changing,” he said “People still want to drink late and just because there are a few around causing trouble all people should not be branded the same.”
Of course Im minded of the joke about Irish drunken fighting, we are all fine when inside a pub, the fighting only starts outside when we realise we arent getting any more.
By the by, the council is empowered by some 2003 act, I cant remember which, but will update when I have it, to apply to a judge to have opening hours shortened if they feel it necessary. Tralee UDC is the first council to consider it, and nowhere has actually done it.
As I said all of you boozehounds in the citeh better watch out, cos the culchies are coming to get your drinking time. Its fine for us since our pubs dont close anyway just turn off the lights.
My own feeling is that people will simply alter their time of going out to suit the opening hours. There is no problem for people to admit they are heading out to get hammered and these will simply start earlier to accomodate. It just means they get home earlier. While violence and other incidents are increasing around the place, from first hand knowledge, Im unsure about the efficacy of offering up earlier closing as the sole solution. A more robust approach is undoubtedly necessary but very difficult to draw up and still again impose.
So for the meantime be happy that you can drink until 2:30 cos it might not last long.
Categories: Media, Comment, Drinking, Kerry, Politics, Drunkenness
Ok a while back, I aired the notion that Irish bloggers could pool posts on the irish election under one umbrella, like a super-blog of some sorts.
I have a rough idea for ONE way it might function:
The blog is hosted on blogger, giving all bloggers potential access to the site from anywhere.
A blogger writes a post relevant to the election on their personal blog.
They then cross post it to the election blog. If they choose not to then fine, all cross posts are referenced to the main blog.
There is also room for daily columns, written for this blog and done by different contributors each day.
Ive already said that techies will have a far better option, since Im not one I dont.
The basic question now is who is willing to take part?
If all those who blog about irish politics managed to get involved in some way it would be a major help to both readers and other bloggers. It would help sharpen minds and create alot of feedback. There is going to be obvious differences of opinion, hopefully lots.
Anyway, I have a domain on blogspot,with some rought template work, but no posts obviously. If you do want to post, get involved or float and idea, then comment here, email me (remove NOSPAM), or join the Yahoo Group (preferable option).
Soon im going to start hectoring some of you be email so beware, also, those who feel its not a worthwhile project, dont be afraid to say, all criticism will be taken onboard.
Categories: Blogging, Irishpolitics, Election2007
Yet while it is true that with Sharon gone his new party Kedima will likely lose out to a Netanyahu led Likud party, no matter who wins the upcoming Israeli or Palestinian elections the end of the Sharon era will in fact have little impact on the peace process.
This is because for all intents and purposes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over, and Israel has won, decisively. Indeed, since the beginning of the 1990s the whole point of the Oslo peace process, followed by the the low intensity war that began in September 2000, have been to convince and then compel Palestinians to accept that not even their most minimal demands will be met, whether through negotiations or violence. Regardless of who has been prime minister during this period--Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, Barak or Sharon--Israel's negotiating strategy and final positions have changed little, which is why Palestinians soured on Oslo long before the al-Aqsa intifada erupted in 2000.
I have never really considered the Arab-Isreali conflict in this way before, it always seemed that the war was an ongoing thing. A fact which was easy to digest and accept, the point that much of the conflict is done on Isreali terms and most actions taken unilaterally by Isrealis certainly supports Levine's view that the conflict has been decisevly won by Isreal, the Palestinians have yet to accept that.
It always seemed that the ultimate conclusion to this conflict was still up for grabs not necessarily through violence but certainly through concerted effort and discussion. The fact that Isreal has won a war that still goes on suggests some serious problems in the psychology of the politicians in the region, Levine continues;
Yet while Israel has crushed the intifada, it has not crushed Palestinian society to the point that it will accept a political agreement based on these red lines. Therefore, we can expect that the conflict will continue to cycle between periods of violence and negotiation while Israel strengthens its "facts on the ground" and Palestinians search for new strategies to prevent Israeli red lines from becoming their realities. As for the US, it will continue to back Israel, thereby ensuring the status quo of the last five years continues, while Palestinian society slides slowly but surely into increasing chaos.
The view suggested by Levine is that the structure is in place whereby Isreal has secured victory and is now fighting for the crushing of an opponent into submission. The actions of the Palestinians are tied by the structural constraints which grant the power to Isreal in most relations. This structure is bedded down in a culture of violence which is the only means to securing a conclusion in the eyes of both sides.
The only possibility for a more positive outcome requires actors to influence and change the dominant culture and strucutral narrative of Isreali/
Arab conflict. It seems that such men and women are few on the ground, hope suggests that Sharon's gestures toward some peace may leave some more inclined to work toward a different path to peace. The new labour leader has been quoted as being bold in this department.
Im not sure that the Labour party is in any position to change the entire narrative of Isreali politics and I personally doubt that the new lad will get a shot after the election. So in bedding down a culture of violence and shutting down certain solutions, both sides have wedded the conflict to an inevitably bloody conclusion.
Its an interesting point, certainly when one moves away from what we feel ought be achieved and what is genuinely open and on the table. The facts on the ground were won along time ago and indeed seeing these as the victory in the conflict makes honest to goodness sense, what is being fought is a rearguard action by the Palestinians against a depressing sense of historical inevitability.
That the substantive power to alter the facts on the ground are now a movement onto themselves almost independent of all but the most extreme PM it seems the argument that little can change in the short term in Isreali politics. In this sense Sharon's legacy is at its strongest. The motion toward peace on Isreali terms and dictated by the power to alter the 'facts on the ground'a battle long since won, suggests a structural legacy far in excess of a personal one.
My own response to such structural arguments is always a healthy amount of scepticism, traditional debate around structural answers points to the determinist attitude therein. There is still scope on both sides for the actions of individual politicians to alter the current dynamic, however the emergence of such a figure from either side is not the most likely outcome. The possible return of Netenyahu suggests a cementing of the most extreme parts of the Isreali victory while casting easily aside Sharons tentative commitments to a moderate means of doing business.
The role also of the security agencies and thier position within the popular psyche cannot be underestimated, to my mind Sharons removal leaves the Isreali body politic bereft of a figure which holds security pedigree in their eyes. In order for the next leader to have anywhere near as big an influence, blessing from the security forces is necessary, such a blessing will always come at a price.
Perhaps a little simplistic but his argument that the current narrative dominant in Isreali politics is deep rooted in the culture, with one or two slight exceptions seems to me to be quite apt. The prospect for a peace which is acceptable to both sides is diminished in such an environment where certain outcomes are off limits and tactics cemented into the routine. Sharon will be missed or not in equal extreme, I am not sure where to stand on that front, however his attempt to moderate through the center a party a political culture which was in danger of cementing an extreme perspective is a project that may get usurped and unfinished.
Update: This had been in motion before Richard got mad with us, still we aim to please.
Categories: Israel, Sharon, Palestine, Politics, Comment
Solid congratulations to Mulley who has got the Irish Blog Awards up and running. Nominations are open for awards in the following categories:
- Best Blogger
- Best Blog Post
- Most Humorous Post
- Best Photo Blog
- Best Fictional Piece in a Blog
- Best Arts and Culture Blog
- Best Political Blog
- Best Group Blog
- Best Comment/Commenter
- Best Personal Blog
- Best Use of the Irish Language in a Blog
- Best Contribution to the Irish Bloggersphere (Tech wise)
"If you wish to nominate yourself or someone else then you can email irishawards (at) gmail.com with a link to the blog and/or the post you want to nominate and for which category."
So there you go. Well done again to Mulley it was a massive amount of work.
Categories: Blogging, Irishblogawards
I left off with Humes problem at the problem of induction. Hume had argued to the point where it became logically impossible to argue for any truth beyond what have experienced. This meant that the use of induction, where general statements are induced from past experience and general practice in accumulating knowledge independent of the senses became impossible.
It is best here to unpack some of the arguments that are going on or else we risk casting out the baby with the bathwater in making some knowledge impossible. Hume's logic ran as follows;
1)We have knowledge of things we have directly experienced,
2)We assume that nature will always remain consistent,
3)Unless some causal force intervenes, that past truth will be true in future.
e.g. The sun rose this morning,
Unless the earth stops rotating, I know it will rise tomorrow.
We assume in our daily lives that a relationship exist between an action we term "cause" and a following action we term "effect". In daily use a cause has an effect. There is some sense that the effect belongs to the action of the cause and is in some way bound up with it. The idea that a cause has some tangible relation with its effect and that the two are not seperate entities entirely, would be accepted by most of us.
Hume's difficulty is that our reasoning on cause and effect is flawed. There is nothing in reason to allow us to assume that there is a tangible relation between cause and effect. An extension of this reasoning is that there is no means to infer that a billiard ball moving toward another ball will move the other ball. What we lose is the idea of necessity. That there is an effect which is knowable in an action before it is taken, even if we cannot know what such an effect is, we can know it will happen. The idea of necessity is the major casualty of Humes argument against the
rationality of causality.
The problem lies in the fact that casuality cannot be considered to be something we can know independent of experience. For Hume we cannot support the existence of Causality a priori i.e. reason for the existence of cause/effect relations using logic only. For Hume the only place where something is necessary, i.e. must logically occur, is in cases of a priori (abstract) reasoning like mathematics and logic. He argues that no existence of causal necessity can be proven in the world. It is simply belief.
There can be no other way and we can know the latter proposition only from the prior two. This is a priori logic we can know independent of experience, and b=a is necessary. This situation cannot occur in respect of cause and effect. Hume aruges that such abstract reasoning cannot support the existence of necessity or cause and effect.
Hume sums it up nicely
In short, every effect is a distinct event from its cause. So it can’t be discovered in the cause,and the first invention or conception of it a priori must be wholly arbitrary. Furthermore, even after it has been suggested, the linking of it with the cause must still appear as arbitrary, because
plenty of other possible effects must seem just as consistent and natural from reason’s point of view. So there isn’t the slightest hope of reaching any conclusions about causes and effects without the help of experience.
Basically, cause and effect do not exist. There is two seperate events whose relation is spontaneous. The existence of causality or a necessary relationship between the two takes place in our imagination where we believe that a connection exists between the two event but in fact none can be substantiated or supported through reason.
"When we reason a priori, considering some object or cause merely as it appears to the mind and independently of any observation of its behaviour, it could never prompt us to think of any other item, such as its effect. Much less could it show us the unbreakable connection between them. It would take a very clever person to discover by reasoning that heat makes crystals and cold makes ice without having had experience of the effects of heat and cold!"
"According to my account, all arguments about existence are based
on the relation of cause and effect; our knowledge of that relation is derived entirely from
experience; and in drawing conclusions from experience we assume that the future will be like the
past. So if we try to prove this assumption by probable arguments, i.e. arguments regarding
existence, we shall obviously be going in a circle, taking for granted the very point that is in
That from the cause we cannot know its effect, at least a-priori is taken as proof that there exists no tangible realtionship between the two events.
This is Humes major sceptical argument. From such a position, the fate of metaphysics and examinations of the human condition which take place above and beyond experience are no longer substantiated since the main technique by which metaphysics takes place is now ull and void.
For Hume things which have tangibility exist. Since necessity is intangible it cannot be said to exist. What occurs is conjunctions of events from which our imagination creates a relationship that doesnt exist.
It is a tough argument for while inferences often hold in to the future, the logic is not infallible. Causal inferences accepting necessity as the medium between cause and effect cannot be sustained through logical reasoning.
This argument provoked serious response from Kant who rethought the entire metaphysical enterprise in some deep-ranging and complex work. The difficulty in trying to argue against Hume is trying to prove that casual necessity is a condition which we can know and reson for a priori, with no requirement for experience but which yield information about the world that it not contained in its core idea.
Similar to saying that in the equation: 1+2 = 3
the idea of 1 and 2 is not the same as the idea of three, i.e. that the idea of three is not located in the premise "1+2", so that operating maths, which can be done without experience can give new information.
Whether causal necessity can be proven to fit into such a category is essential for any project of metaphysics, especially those examining universal morality and other universal concepts (i.e. human nature).
The scepticism about necessity and its role in our thought is one of Humes major contributions to the philsophical discipline. He asked questions, the answers to which had been dogma for 2,000 years. He awoke a realisation that a philsophical system required an adequete foundation to continue and challenged us all to prove that the foundation for out thought is rational and not simply and exercise of the imagination. While im sure none of you will head out this afternoon deeply sceptical about causality, Humes argument should make us consider why it is we use casuality and whether it exists in any rationally tangible sense.
Categories: Philosophy, Hume, Kant, Causality,
I have been harping on about China off and on for a while. I have lived there for a number of years and find their current rise to power, seemingly inexorable to be both disturbing (for its lack of democratisation) and fascinating (for its zeal and organisation). It is well known that the Chinese are major holders of US debt and reserves. They have managed to finance alongside Japan and some others, a very large US deficit which shows no sign of shrinking.
The majority of the market has kept true to its original and founding wisdom, follow the money, so the last year so now sign of an appreciable adjustment of US Dollar value against other currencies to account for growing defecits because these defecits were being underwritten by foreign central banks.
A prescient article in last weeks Business Post highlighted in very digestible detail the issues at stake for the US dollar at the moment. The reason I am bringing up the issue is that yesterday the Chinese Central Bank issued a statement which put the jitters up the FT. The seemingly innocuous statement about ensuring reserves of foreign exchange support a national strategy of development has got the FT egg-heads wondering if this means China is about to pull some of its support for the US deficit and dollar situations.
There are some who would see such a switch as suicidal since the US Dollar is the 'gold standard' in foreign exchange and it stands to reason to hold it as part of ones reserves. However, the Chinese central bank, like all other institutions in the state are not free from political control and completely in line with the Politburo strategy, whatever it may be.
From the FT:
"However, according to Stephen Green, economist for Standard Chartered in Shanghai, although the language was 'vague', Thursday's statement was the first time Safe has publicly indicated a shift away from dollar assets.
'It is a subtle but clear signal that they are interested in moving away from the US dollar into other currencies, and are interested in setting up some kind of strategic commodity fund, maybe just for oil, but maybe for other commodities,'he said."
While the latter are only options and the Chinese committed themselves to nothing, there are serious geo-political as well as economic implications of this move. The fact that economists around the globe can get so worked up about what it is the Chinese choose to do with their dollars is a clear signal of how important a player China is becoming in the Market psyche. While figures might suggest it is still a moderate-albeit growing-influence, the reality is that the world listens when China moves.
So, even the very idea that China will sell dollars looks like bad news for the US treasury. Of course the US economy actually needs to have its exchange rate cut in order to increase competitiveness. The Business Post article above suggests that the US dollar needs to lose between 20%-40% of its values to bring the economy back into competitiveness. This is the power that the Chinese are perceived as holding over the head of the US.
The US itself has been calling for a long time for China to get its exchange rate in order and let it float against the dollar or at least revalue it to some realistic level. The danger for such an event cannot be undrestimated.
The problem is that the US is one of the few major economies which on paper is doing well. A decline in Dollar values and knock on decline in US economy will have implications for Europe and Asia. China will cope through the pegging of its currency and its massive reserves of cash (estimated at $800 Billion). The EU countries look less formidable. It seems unlikely that the Germans, French or UK willl be able to sustain growth if the US starts to falter.
Geo-politically this makes China king-maker for the time being until the US can takes control of its own fate, a prospect which at this time looks unlikely. There has been talk of the Chinese embarking on an imperial project similar to that pursues by the US (using the term imperial in a loose sense for lack of any other term). The movement to undermine US dominance is at its most embryonic. There is still a very long way ahead and it is not a very positive thing to consider in many ways.
If a major dollar decline ensues, then there should well be major knock on effects to Irish jobs with over 300,000 employed by FDI (corporations). We could lose 8% of GNP in our exports should the US start to readjust. We are certainly positioned very close to the risk in all this. Our proximity of exposure to US dominated investment and our reliance indirectly for a major part of our growth on FDI related activity should give pause for thought.
The Chinese statement also freed up the way for large Chinese multinationals to engage in increasing numbers of merger and acquisition activity. With a domestic growth rate somewhere around 9%-10% it seems likely that the corporations will have a great deal of money sloshing about with which to being purchasing overseas. This begins the process of branding and cultural expansion so familiar to us all now in the current wave of globalisation.
I do not write this with the relish of some foaming at the mouth lefty who desires for all the US stands for to just shrivel away and die. I am seriously concerned at the level of power it is possible for the Chinese to wield without engaging in serious democratic reforms or moving toward serious consideration of human rights. These are most certainly off the agenda in the country, while growth and development are not. China may be the most dangerous exception to the 'golden rule' that increasing levels of capitalism correspond to increasing levels of freedom in a state.
The rise of China can be seen in its increasing role in central Asian energy politics and close relations with Russia and other former Soviet and non-democratic regimes in the region. The wheels of history turn in only one direction and it is clear that we must live with the oncoming reality of a bi-polar order and perhaps ultimately a new superpower.
To my mind todays move underlines the increasing hold that China has on the psyche of the market makers and, by extension, its capacity to have an enormous effect on the US economy. It seems history is reverting to a mass exporting hub as the major player in global affairs.
The fact is that in the demise of the US, or at least its return to bi-polar geo-politics we may lose any manner of success for human rights and democracy. The emerging powers hold little interest in their promotion, the US and her allies ostensibly do. Some on the left will delight at the re-emergence of a Marxist option to US dominance. This sets back the global debate on progress by 50 years.
The US Senate is populated with members who believe that Iraq should be abandoned tomorrow and the focus on conflict with China. Such a feeling of inevitablility is only reenforced by dangerous and loose talk by the most dangerous and loosest Taiwanese President yet. It may be a small island but it seems the most likely candidate to force the Chinese to arms. The Taiwanese are staunchly backed up by a massive US military presense on the island and numerous US commitments to support the island if attacked.
There are larger knock on effects from a Chinese removal of the support for the US dollar than many of us will comfortably contemplate. There is, however, an onus on governments and people alike to ensure that the West can be prepared to engage with the Chinese but on our terms and in a manner which safeguards the principles we have achieved and those we aspire to achieve.
The policy onus closer to home is summed up by Ahearn in his Post article;
"Budgetary policy can cushion some of the shock to total demand that will accompany adjustment. To enable this, European governments should now be striving to improve their budgetary positions. Inmost cases, this means cutting back on borrowings.
In this regard, Ireland might be well advised to aim for sizeable budget surpluses, not the moderate deficit projected in December's budget. Spending could then be boosted or taxes cut to boost economic activity, if necessary.
Irish policymakers should also be more proactive in managing the risks associated with the property market."
The Irish need to cushion a fall that looks more and more likely to take place. We all know how exposed we are to the global economy and how any down-turn can have adverse effects on us. We do not need to shut ourselves off but adopt a more prudent policy stance than the simplistic Boston-Berlin dichotomy. Genuine expansion can be achieved while squirelling away something for a rainy day.
The rise of China is by no means inevitable, however of all outcomes it is the most likely, China is industrialising its economy in Geographical stages, it seems. The sea-board first and then slowly moving inland in large swathes of development. This is all on the agenda and the long term plan, this means that there is a huge pool of people to be added to the growth story over time which can sustain the growth in some shape or form for years. Its a scary proposition.
Incidentally, there are two somewhat colloqial perspectives I'd like to pass on, both picked up in conversation with people whom I would consider as knowing a thing or two;
1) That the dollars decline may see the Euro-Dollar rate hit E1.80 at worst before coming back in to E1.60. When the run starts it will run big, is the thesis.
2)France and Germany will not be hit so hard by Chinese expansion as many of their firms enjoy preferable exposure to the Chinese growth story.
Categories: Politics, China, USA, Economics