The Patch

February 22, 2009

Back on the chain gang

Filed under: Economics,hoist the black flag,Politics — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 3:01 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Contrition aside, this is rather remarkable.

For those not in the know about Irish politics (for shame, for shame), Fianna Fáil, formed in the wake of the Irish Civil War, is the dominant party in the Irish Dáil, the lower chamber of the Irish Parliament, or Oireachtas. It’s been the largest party in the Dáil since 1932, and has been the major party in government, usually in coalition because of the STV electoral system in Ireland, for most of that time. Due to the origins of the Irish political party system, with the two major parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, representing the pro- and anti- Anglo-Irish Treaty factions in the Irish Civil War respectively, some of the coalitions with minor parties necessary to form a majority in the Oireachtas have been decidedly odd, and ideology, especially for the two major parties, has been tenuous at best. But they’ve both managed to keep their positions as the two major parties since more or less the founding of the Irish Republic.

So to see Fianna Fáil polling behind the centre-left Labour Party for the first time ever in the Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll seems to suggest something major is happening in Irish politics at the moment.

Now, of course, this is subject to all kinds of hedging and betting, as befits polling analysis. Since the TNS mrbi site is just a corporate puff piece, and doesn’t contain the results of any polls, as far as I can tell, unlike polling outfits in the UK like Ipsos-Mori or YouGov, I can’t really compare numbers, or more importantly look at TNS mrbi’s accuracy in political polling. And you just can’t look at one poll alone and divine answers from it, an Irish election doesn’t have to be called until 2012, and in any case Labour’s lead over Fianna Fáil in this poll is well within the margin of error. But nontheless, the Irish Times seems to be a reputable paper and the TNS mrbi poll seems fairly venerable, so I’m fine with taking it at face value for now. And it suggests significant trouble for Fianna Fáil, who garnered 41.5% of 1st preference votes in the last general election, which is almost 20 percentage points up on the result in this poll. That’s some hole to dig out of, even with Fianna Fáil’s remarkable political survival skills.

So is this just a reaction to the current economic crisis? In part; Ireland has been hit pretty hard by the current economic crisis, due to the kinds of deregulation which previously got it called the “Celtic Tiger”. Turns out relying on the construction industry for economic prosperity is a bit of a problem when house prices crash. But Fianna Fáil, having presided over most of the boom, is intimately linked with the construction industry in the worst possible way. Numerous scandals have continually rocked the current Fianna Fáil Government, with one in 2008 putting paid to Bertie Ahern, no stranger to financial irregularities. Now, the Irish have normally been curiously blasé when it comes to political and financial corruption on the part of the governing classes, continuing to not punish Fianna Fáil electorally even in the midst of numerous tales of corruption and financial misdeeds. But there might be a qualitative difference between putting up with people feeding at the trough when the going’s good for everyone (after all, wouldn’t you do it in the same position?) and putting up with obvious corruption when it seems to have directly contributed to your current poorly economic situation.

To make it even worse, what is the current government’s proposals for dealing with the financial crisis? Massive cuts in public spending, including a levy on public-sector pensions that could cost public-sector workers as much as £2,500 a year. No wonder Fianna Fáil’s support has cratered spectacularly, with 120,000 people marching in Dublin in protest. At a time when even America is spending huge amounts on public works to try to provide a stimulus to a nosediving economy, this belt-tightening seems spectacularly wrongheaded, from both a political and an economic perspective. But the Irish response to this suggests that even in crisis, the old neoliberal responses of belt-tightening and financial cuts, even in the midst of guaranteeing toxic financial assets, can still hold a pretty powerful sway.

UPDATE: Both the Soldiers‘ representation organisation PDforra and the police organisations ASGI and GRA are taking part in the protests. This is obviously huge; you’d normally find soldiers and police on the other side of mass rallies.

As a primer for why the Irish economy is going the way is going, I highly recommend this guy, who has also been blogroll’d.

August 14, 2007

Spot the mistake.

Filed under: Politics — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 4:36 pm

From the conservative magazine, Weekly Standard, in 2004 (yes, I’m aware that this is a bit late), something that was pointed out to me:

“President Roosevelt waited until after World War II to put in place a commission to investigate what mistakes led to Pearl Harbor.”

It’s a bit of a trick asking you to spot the mistake, because technically there are two. The less egregious one is the fact that the sentence is itself false; President Roosevelt actually set up a commission to investigate Pearl Harbor almost right after the event itself, skewering May’s claim that it’s somehow unprecedented and slightly unseemly for the executive to be immediately held accountable for mistakes and errors that have been made.

But there’s an even bigger mistake than that, amusingly.

August 10, 2007

Urge to kill… rising…

Filed under: Politics — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 5:03 pm

From tigrismus, a commenter at Sadly, No!, comes the single most boneheadedly stupid thing I have ever heard, ever.

Witness Stu Bykofsky, a man who is willing to say the things that other people won’t say, because other people would consider them nasty, shallow little ghouls who care about nothing but their petty little ideological agendas, and his column for the Philadelphia Daily News:

To save America, we need another 9/11.

I shit you not. Not content with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead, for the sake of some nebulous “unity” (by which Mr. Bykofsky means “people will once again line up under Bush to go and bomb some brown people who didn’t actually have that much to do with the attack, whilst we can demonise those who dissent as traitors again”) the man is wishing, almost orgasmically waiting for Al-Qaeda to strike again, at perhaps places like “The Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Rushmore. Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Philadelphia subway system. The U.S. is a target-rich environment for al Qaeda.”

Who is it that hates America, again?

August 7, 2007

The wonders of the corporate state

Filed under: Politics — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 4:43 pm

The most infuriating thing about libertarians isn’t that they have an unfortunately pessimistic view of humanity and government, or that they are applying the dictums of basic economic theory which only apply in specialised conditions to more complex market structures, or, much like the Leninists of old, the belief that the system can never be failed, it is some nefarious outside force that is corrupting the pure scientific and natural outcomes. These are all exceptionally annoying, but not the worst. It is the belief that it is only government power we should worry about when our lives are getting regulated and catalogued, our personal freedoms violated, but the corporate power to do that is just fine and dandy. Libertarians, so high-and-mighty when it comes to the protection of our freedom of speech, so wonderously fighting for the little guy when the government comes calling, go strangely quiet when our employers try to silence us. Well, that’s not true, actually, they don’t go quiet. They start loudly fighting again, but for the the large corporation’s “right” to poke, prod, snoop, anywhere it wants to.

Take, for instance, Clarian Health, a US hospital system, that is going to start fining people for being unhealthy:

“In late June, the Indianapolis-based hospital system announced that starting in 2009, it will fine employees $10 per paycheck if their body mass index [BMI, a ratio of height to weight that measures body fat] is over 30. If their cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose levels are too high, they’ll be charged $5 for each standard they don’t meet. Ditto if they smoke: Starting next year, they’ll be charged another $5 in each check.

Clarian has been making headlines for its aggressive and unusual approach to covering escalating health-care costs. Rather than taking the more common step of giving employees incentives for merely participating in its wellness programs, such as joining a smoking cessation group or using a health coach, Clarian is actually measuring outcomes. And unlike most employers, it is penalizing workers for poor health instead of rewarding them for taking healthy steps.

[…]

At Clarian, employees who have blood pressure that’s above 140 over 90, blood glucose levels over 120, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol over 130, or a BMI over 29.9 could be subject to the paycheck deductions. Of the company’s 13,000 employees, about 8,000 are enrolled in the company’s health plan. The company estimates that as many as 34% of its employees will meet the definition of being obese, while it expects lower levels for other health measures. About 26% are tobacco users. The fines are waived for employees who can provide a doctor’s note stating it’s not advisable for them to try to meet the benchmark — employees will be able to submit new notes from their doctors quarterly — and that they are complying with the proper diet, exercise, and treatment plan.”

Work! Be happier, fitter, more productive! Do what you are told! Feel good, or you shall pay! Smile, or you shall be thrown out into the cold! Don’t say anything about what you might see that is unfair! See, this is the bait-and-switch that the libertarians pull. Far from being rebels against an unfair, dictatorial system, man, libertarians support one unfair, dictatorial system over another. Although in this system, you can’t at least choose the boss that’s fucking you over. Oh, well, I suppose you could go and get another job, but in this market? And what about the benefits you’ve already accrued? And of course, it doesn’t matter where you get a job if they’re all doing it, like the article suggests may happen in the near future.

This is the real problem with libertarianism; the refusal to acknowledge that private interests can have as much power over a person and violate their liberties as much as government can, and that this power is far less democratically controllable.

Fuck you, libertarians.

August 6, 2007

Continuing the theme…

Filed under: Politics — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 7:17 pm

Everyone continues to dogpile on Nick “Waah, Fascist” Cohen, as evidenced by this hilarious thread over at Crooked Timber taking the piss out of the World’s Only Lefty.

A highlight comes from the delusional sod himself:

“Rather than accepting the psychological consequences of confessing error, people lose their bearings. They talk only to friends. They imagine conspiracies as they seek the worst possible motives for their critics. They retreat into coteries and speak in code … To cut a long story short, they go a little mad.”

And he is speaking about the people who were right about Iraq.
Repeat after me, people:

Cunt.

August 1, 2007

Wednesday 1st August- Some things change, others stay the same.

Filed under: Celebrity/TV,International News,Politics,UK News — denesha @ 1:58 pm

On the 1st August 2007, Gordon Brown obtained a moral and foreign policy victory during his visit to the States, by securing enough votes to send a 26000 strong UN peacekeeping force to Sudan. Of course, there needs to be a political solution to the problem to ensure a lasting peace and hopes run high for a meeting between the warring factions on Friday and the deployment of these troops was indeed watered down to suit the Chinese government’s interests in Sudan. However, it is undeniable that the deployment of these troops is the most progress the international community has made in stopping what key political figures have been referring to as genocide for the past two years. The ethnic cleansing of Sudan by the Janjaweed rebel forces has been going on for four years now and the 7000 strong African Union troops have been struggling to restore peace. The deployment of these troops marks a clear victory for Brown as the series of groundwork laid by foreign office staff in the run up to his visit to the UN and the personal intervention of Brown in persuading China to agree to the resolution, resulted in the most positive steps the UN has taken in alleviating the violence that has claimed at least 200 000 lives. Nevertheless, the success was limited as the force does not have the power to disarm militias or track suspected war criminals, and Brown’s threat of implementing UN sanctions if the Sudanese government failed to comply was omitted from the resolution. The UN troops will be the largest peacekeeping force in the world and will be mainly drawn from African nations, thus removing a key factor behind the Sudanese government’s initial opposition to the force. The meeting on Friday will hopefully result in a peace deal that will end the violence and allow the displaced refugees in the Darfur camps to return home in safety.

On the 1st August 2007, Perez Hilton wrote a blog post about a picture of Matthew Perry on which the celebrity blogger wrote ‘baked.’ This man (Perez Hilton, not Perry who is now my second favourite character on Studio 60) is the dregs of society yet is given money and attention from celebrities like Victoria Beckham to write his disgusting and sometimes, near illiterate, blog posts. His idea of news is scribbling on pictures of celebrities. Even my 6 year old niece has better writing skills than Hilton, and she spells my name as “Dhsd”. I refuse to link to his site as it offends me deeply and the man will not get any traffic from the Patch. It just makes me sad that on a day when a remarkable achievement has been made in ensuring peace in Sudan, there is someone out there who will never know because Perez Hilton chose to write about how ‘baked’ Matthew Perry looks. Cunt.

July 24, 2007

Nick Cohen: Still a cunt

Filed under: Politics — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 2:03 pm

Johann Hari, who can be a bit of a mixed bag, has on his site a devastatingly effective critique of Nick Cohen’s contemptuous little screed, What’s Left?, which you might remember I wrote about earlier.

Meanwhile, what is the erstwhile Only True Lefty, the Saviour of Enlightenment Against the Encroachment of the Evil Islamic Fascist Movement writing about?

That movies these days aren’t showing enough evil brown people blowing themselves up for Allah.

Cunt.

July 22, 2007

Well, obviously…

Filed under: Politics — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 8:40 pm

Best. Headline. EVAR:

Man who left £8million to Tories in will “deluded and insane.”

June 6, 2007

Minor notings of interesting things

Filed under: Politics — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 5:41 am

Continuing my love of all things Ezra Klein (it’s purely platonic, I assure you), this post by a colleague of his noting that not only are the neoconservatives perfectly happy starting shit with the entire Muslim world, they wanted to fuck with an actual nuclear power, as well. My God, is there anything stupid that the current American government will not do?

Also good is this takedown of the myth of social mobility in America. The American Dream has long been a dream, since it is actually social democratic principles and policy which result in actual social mobility (as you can see, the Nordic countries have exceptionally high social mobility), rather than libertarian, neoliberal, or lassez faire policies, a theme I will return to later, and probably repeatedly. We should also look at what the conservative revolution has done for us Brits; our social mobility is just as low.

Kos says smart things about the failed plot by Islamic militants to bomb JFK airport, noting that the right-wing talking points about the War on Terror (“it’s useless just using law enforcement methods to fight terrorism”, “we’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to over here”, “infringement of civil liberties are needed to fight modern terrorism”) are straight-out bullshit.

May 4, 2007

Scottish election update

Filed under: Politics — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 3:15 am

Strange, strange times up here, where the election is turning out to be a little more bizarre than previously thought. In marginal seats, whilst the Labour vote isn’t declining much (previous polls suggested it was in freefall, which seems to me to mean that a lot of the Labour vote was very undecided and swithering up until the election itself), the SNP vote is going up leaps and bounds. Meanwhile, some other seats are showing sharp falls in Labour votes and large rises in SNP votes. As such, the SNP is failing to gain some exceptionally close marginal seats, such as Cumbernauld & Kilsyth, but slashing the huge majorities of others, such as in Airdrie & Shotts. However, in all cases it seems to be failing to live up to the promises suggested in the opinion polls.

The analysis on TV suggests the reason for the greatly increased SNP vote is because the SSP aren’t standing anyone in the constituencies and a lot of the SSP vote is transferring to the SNP. I’m not so sure that the SNP and the SSP transfer as fully as the talking heads suggest (I, for instance, wouldn’t vote for the SNP, and damn well didn’t), and quite a few of those constituencies don’t neatly fit into that SSP/SNP transfer model.

Rumours continually pop up that the SNP are doing well on the regional vote, but we’ll see.

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