Archive for October, 2012

Open Letter to Vincent Browne on the Children’s Referendum
October 31, 2012

Dear Vincent
OOOOO
I’ve just seen your panel for tonight’s debate on the Children’s Rights Referendum. There are plenty of us who oppose this referendum other than for religious reasons. To exclude our voices from your programme will mean that your debate is unbalanced before it even begins. With respect to John Waters and Kathy Sinnott, some of whose concerns I share, they are unlikely to represent the views of people whose definition of family would include same-sex parents/guardians and unmarried parents/guardians many of whom also oppose this amendment.I have been the national coordinator for a campaign (on behalf of the member organisations of Inclusion Ireland) aimed precisely at securing just a few basic, legislated rights for children and other people with disabilities and I can tell you categorically that neither Fine Gael nor Labour would commit to unequivocally support that objective. So much for their conviction to rights for children. This amendment will do nothing to help secure those basic rights.While I accept that many of the proponents of this amendment are genuine in their concern for children, I believe their professional perspective is skewed so much towards extreme cases that they have lost all objectivity about the enormous danger they are threatening to inflict on the real rights of all our children in so many ways they appear not even to have contemplated – and on the rights of those who are proven to be children’s best primary protectors and carers in the vast majority of instances.This referendum is not about the rights of children – as its proponents disingenuously claim, it is about who should have the right to represent them. It’s not just madness to transfer that right to the state to the extent that this amendment would, it is also to put at risk the interests of many more children than already are. State services are also being deliberately underfunded and the proposed amendment would also substantially weaken the grounds on which parents could make a legal challenge to the state on behalf of children.Questions this parent hopes will be asked tonight include:

What legally enforceable rights, exactly, would this referendum confer on children themselves?

Who will have the authority to pursue the enforcement of those rights, if any – parents/guardians – or only the state and its agents?

How does the proposed amendment make the state more accountable than under the terms of existing legislation/constitutional arrangements for any future failure to protect children?

How will it make decisions and actions of the state with regard to vulnerable children transparent?

How can a government that is deliberately impoverishing so many children, and so many of them children with a disability like my son, make any serious claim to a concern about children’s rights?

And finally, how does the government propose to make the state (aside from the Catholic Church which it has also seriously failed to challenge legally) accountable for its past failures?

Miriam Cotton  Clonakilty  31 October 2012

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October 31, 2012

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Irish Blog Awards – itsapoliticalworld “Best Political Blog 2012”
October 17, 2012

 15 October 2012

Very happy that our blog won the “best political blog” title at Blog Awards Ireland 2012 in the Osprey Hotel Naas on Saturday.  Thanks to all the people who have written on the blog, co-edited it, and commented on posts.

In spite of periodic media grumbles about anonymous political writing, much of the online community still maintains pseudonyms, with excellent work being done on blogs like Namawinelake and The Cedar Lounge Revolution, as well as on “Its a Political World”.  Anonymous writing has an honourable past in Ireland, stretching back to Jonathan Swift’s satirical “Modest Proposal” of 1729 (that the rich should eat the babies of the poor) and beyond.

It was fun to be let out of the blogging cell for a Saturday night at the awards and to meet some interesting bloggers from “Science Calling” “Come Here to Me” and “Mini and Mum.”

Other awards, among the total of 30 categories in the Blog Awards 2012, went to Mona Wise, now writing for the Sunday Times, for her personal blog “Wise Words”, to the “Simply Zesty” social media website and to the new science blog, “Science Calling.”

Inspired by the kindness of the Blog Awards judges, Political World is brewing up a new space for writing of a different kind.  *Watch this space* for an announcement soon.

C. Flower

Administrator, Political World Forum (www.politicalworld.org) and Co-Editor “It’s a Political World” blog

Blog Awards Ireland – http://www.blogawardsireland.com/win…-ireland-2012/

Europe on Austerity’s Knife-Edge – How Long is this Going On For ? Forever ?
October 17, 2012

As of 15/10/2012 we see yet another few days of unfinished business, in the ongoing “Troika vs. Greece” sparring match. Greek political “leaders” are walking a very fine line. On the one hand the politicians need to be seen to please the Troika, on the other hand, they can’t afford to alienate themselves any further from the Greek people. Greece’s political leaders tell us that if they can’t get agreement with and from the Troika, Greece will not get the next 30 billion tranche of the bailout, and the country will be bankrupt. We’ve heard that three times so far, and each time, without any apparent agreement with the Troika, money has magically appeared from somewhere, and things stumble along again for a few months. Then we are told we will bankrupt again, and magically, money appears….

Conflicting pressures on politicians, to say the least.   The latest opinion poll will no doubt have frightened both Greek politicians and their European handlers like never before. It indicates a serious political polarization in Greece; with a 48% majority intending to vote SYRIZA should an election be held tomorrow, while the far right Chrysi Avgi holds its ground.   Evangelos Venizelos, leader of Pasok, has special reason to worry. Despite his defiant rhetoric, the party is on the slippery slope and is polling less than 10%. This downward trend is now pointing to the serious possibility of the once mighty Pasok polling around 5% or less, with a very real danger of the party not even reaching the required 3% of the vote to claim representation in the parliament.

Under this pressure, popular stances need to be taken, and both Venizelos and Kouvelis have started opposing various Troika demands, resulting in the announcement on 15/10/2012 by the Greek Finance minister Yiannis Stournaras that talks with the Troika will continue after the EU Summit.   At the same time, some 20 Greek government MPs have made it clear that they will not support the measures demanded by the Troika in terms of 15,000 immediate redundancies in the civil service and complete abandoning of all the provisions currently enshrined in the various labour laws to protect the basic rights of the Greek workers. More and more international voices are echoing the idea that Greece will indeed need not only more time, but also more money. And the question is being asked in Greece and across the EU

“How long is this going to go on? Forever?”

In order to answer that question one has to understand what is really going on in Europe. Let’s make one thing very clear from the outset. Despite all the talk of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and others being “bailed-out”, nothing could be further from the truth. Neither Greece, nor Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia or any of the current or future “bailout programs” are intended or designed to bail out the respective countries to which they are allocated.   In simple terms, the so called bailout allocated to these countries is in reality the amount of internationally held bank debt these countries have been “volunteered” to clear. This can be understood by looking back at the financial developments of the last 15 years or so.  Around 1995, the “Home owners’ market” came into the sights of financial houses. Home owners in general have no other corporate exposure, and their only means of investing and “creating wealth” is by investing in their houses. It was therefor in the interest of the financial institutions to have as many home owners as possible. Millions of people did however not fit the traditional “safe borrower” profile, and needed to be brought into the “home owners’ market” some other way. Subprime lending, a system of high risk, high interest lending, often more correctly referred to as predatory lending, was born.

And then something strange happened. In an effort to reduce the high risk element of this kind of reckless lending, while keeping the high interest component, financial houses started repackaging loans, and selling packaged debt to each other. This was a completely new, and as we now know, very dangerous development. Rather than debt backed up with bricks and mortar, or government guarantees, or something with value at least, we now had people investing in debt backed up by debt, backed up by debt, backed up … The perceived value of this debt was seen as wealth “locked in” to the debt, which would be released upon settlement of the debt.

The financial world embarked on an insane orgy of buying and selling debt, the amounts involved became ever larger, fooling themselves and everybody else into thinking that they were “creating wealth”. In reality, all they were doing was creating a phenomenal amount of unsecured, and unsecurable debt. In order to maintain the momentum, and create more POTENTIAL wealth, enormous amounts of cheap money were released in to fragile economic systems like the whole Southern periphery of Europe, officially enabling those economies to import product from the export oriented Northern European economies. In reality, all the banks were doing was increasing the amount of debt they owned, and still believing that the wealth locked into that debt would at some stage make it all worth the risk. Believing their own hype, the financial madmen of the day started investing heavily in the very Ponzi scheme they devised, buying the debt they created, creating more debt, and the vicious circle became an ever faster turning merry-go-round of buying and selling debt. Essentially, it was always the same debt, simple repackaged and re-priced, and made more expensive. In other words, more debt created from existing debt. And it was only a matter of time before the whole thing would come to a crashing halt.

The collapse of Lehman bank was the trigger for the financial master minds of the world to try and safeguard their insane investments. The banking crisis hit, and with it the most fragile economies went into a downward spiral. Of course, local corruption and manipulation by “interested parties” only helped to make a bad situation worse. Debt could not be paid, wealth locked into that debt could not be realized, and the very rich were not happy in seeing a possibility of not getting what they think is their God given right to get, yet more money. Lehman bank had shown them just how much they stood to lose, and they were not going to let this happen on a world wide scale. Banks holding debt, or in their sick minds “Potential Wealth” could not be left go ever again, no matter what the cost.

The fact that they brought this upon themselves is an inconvenient little side note. There is of course also the very real consequence to the larger economies in Europe, who were only too happy to supply cheap money to fuel their own export-based economy, would end up holding the debt they created. So a firewall needed to be erected that would prevent “contagion”. And somebody had to pay for this. To use the words of the late Brian Lenihan “We were bounced into a program”.

But this was not just in Ireland. The same treatment was dished out to Portugal and Greece. The method used to stop “contagion” is the bailout mechanism. Every cent of bailout money “given” to the various countries goes straight back to the so called lenders, with a handsome 7% interest in this case Greece, for the privilege of having their respective countries used in what is nothing short of a gigantic money laundering operation. The system was invented by the so called lenders, and is operated by the EU through the ECB, EMS, etc. According to those in charge of the plan, the firewall guarding against contagion is now in place. But more money is needed. A second firewall must be erected. This firewall is to guard against bank insolvency. Joe Soap must cough up even more money to fund this, so Spain and soon enough Italy will get “bounced into a program” to provide the extra cash. Meaning, Joe Soap in the various countries has everything, including his very livelihood stolen of him through “austerity” in order to safeguard the solvency of the banks, and thus realize the wealth locked into the debt created by those very same banks.

When Poul Thomsen, the IMF representative assigned to the “Greek case”, admits that the IMF got it wrong, he does not mean they got it wrong in the sense that they are sorry for leaning too hard on Greek Joe Soap and pushing him into levels of poverty not even experienced during the Nazi occupation of the country. What he does mean is that they are sorry for leaning on Greek Joe Soap so heavily that they endangered the possibility of recovering the wealth locked into Greece’s allocated slice of international bank debt. There is,no apology to Greek, Irish or whatever Joe Soap. In fact, they couldn’t care less about Joe Soap.

The problem the financial gangsters are facing is that, until this second firewall is in place, not only does the situation get worse by the day, the merry-go-round, of which the likes of Greece, Ireland, Portugal are fixed components, must be kept turning, and the debt contained in this merry-go-round must keep going round. Buying bonds, selling sovereign paper, propping up banks, whatever, it must be kept moving between ALL the components making up the merry-go-round. The money stolen out of pockets of Europe’s Joe Soap ensures this, while it reduces the bank debt slowly, or looking at it another way increases the bank’s wealth.

If one element is allowed to drop out, through sovereign bankruptcy, or Euro-exit, the merry-go-round suddenly becomes a deadly game of musical chairs, and the last one standing picks up an enormous bill. By the nature of things, that last one will be the stronger components in the merry-go-round. And instead of realizing the potential wealth held in all this debt, they will be left holding the debt. That is the real reason behind the bailout/austerity scam. Joe Soap is being made pay for the debt mountain created by the corrupt and often criminal bankers, on behalf of the richest 5% of the world population. Once this scam is seen to be working, they will want yet more again, this time encouraged by the knowledge that Joe Soap will pay, willingly or otherwise.

How long will this go on for? The answer is very simple, until Joe Soap says, and means, enough. No sooner. Joe Soap would be a wise man to say enough now. If he waits till the second firewall is ready, the whole Southern Periphery and Ireland will be dropped like a hot potato, and Joe Soap will be left wondering what happened, and how long it is going to go on for…

Ephilant  16 October 2012   Greece

Greek students protest against the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU

Thousands dying of hunger, thirst and bedsores in NHS hospital care – Is it happening here too ?
October 8, 2012

I was struck  on a recent hospital visit to a friend to see food put in front of an elderly woman who was clearly unable to feed herself (due to ill health and possibly to medication).  She was left with a tray plonked down in front of her and given no help by staff  in cutting it up or eating it.   Also windows were wide open and she was far too cold and was unable to cover herself.

A report in the UK  has shown that thousands of people are dying in hospitals and nursing home s due to lack of basic nursing – some starving to death and others dying of thirst.  One young man died of dehydration in hospital after having phoned 999 to get the police as he was  dehydrated and could not get staff to give him water.  UK hospital food is notoriously inadequate and malnutrition an ongoing problem.  Studies there have shown that it is normal to lose weight in hospital.  Irish hospital food can be good, but only if the person can eat it.

Does anyone have any experience of this happening in Irish hospitals?  What can be done for people who don’t have friends or family to visit them and to feed them each day?

Is there a need for a new grade of nurses who don’t have degrees, but do know how to – and have time to – look after patients’ basic needs ?

C. Flower    8 October 2012

Is it time to revisit the idea of a federal republic? Should Sinn Fein re-embrace “Eire Nua” ?
October 8, 2012

The republican movement abandoned Éire Nua mainly because it was perceived as being a sop to Unionism. That accusation can hardly be thrown at it now,  given the Good Friday agreement.

1971  pamphlet on Éire Nua:

Eire Nua proposed four regional parliaments, as well as an all-island national one.

One of the main faults with Leinster house is the focus given to local issues rather than national – a perfect example of this is the way it has been consumed by Reilly’s primary health care centers. With regional Dáils or perhaps even more local assemblies such as County Councils to argue over such issues the national one would be free to focus on national issues, and the people elected to it would be elected on a national platform, rather than on a promise of getting the road fixed.

It would also go a way towards addressing the Dublin-centric nature of our current government, – the West has been massively neglected. With a regional Dáil this situation would be greatly improved. As for Ulster, it would perhaps ease the blow of the ending of the Union.

Some more  info on Eire Nua here 

It’s clear that the current political system has failed the Irish people utterly – it’s dysfunctional, undemocratic and playing a major part in holding the Irish people down. An alternative system needs to be found. Instead of embracing the current system and trying to work around its crippling limitations we should be looking for a new way to do things. We need visionary politics, not a variation of a doomed theme.

Saoirse go Deo   8.10.2012

Fixing the Libor Rates – By Far the Greatest Financial Scandal Yet
October 2, 2012

 

Irish whistle-blowing former banker Jonathan Sugarman speaking recently in Athens.  Τhe function was organized by ATTAC-Hellas in collaboration with the Greek Committee for a Public Debt Audit.  Sugarman spoke on the Libor scandal, the lack of transparency in banking practices, the problematic character of state supervision of the banking system (relevant to his own case for the indictment he issued was ignored/suppressed by the Irish regulatory authority), and the extent to which the recent Draghi measures represent a solution.

We all have to pay interest on our loans, and we all hope to get interest on our deposits.   When we the banks have money lying around idly it means they’re losing money, as it could be gaining interest as a deposit with another bank that needs the money. Part of my job as a banker was to ‘count the money’ towards the end of a trading day and make sure that any un-needed surplus – say 500 million euros – would be to deposited by the dealers. They would typically place this money on overnight deposits with other banks. The benchmark for interest payment on this deposit would be the LIBOR (or Euribor).   The LIBOR was allegedly an un-biased ‘weather report’ of what conditions were in the market that day. Now we have learned that some of the biggest banks in the world have been heavily involved in distorting this ‘neutral’ reading of the market.

Every morning by 11.30 a.m.  in London a panel of international banks including UBS, Societété Generale, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland is asked “OK how much interest are you willing to pay on overnight deposits, one week deposits, one month deposits and so on. ”   This is the price of money today in London at lunchtime.  I cannot overestimate the significance of this interest rate – every interest payment that each one of us makes on the mortgage that you pay, ever car loan – is determined by this rate.

LIBOR  ( the London Inter Bank Offered Rate)  has been in the headlines far less that it should be.  The Libor fixing scandal is by far the biggest and most far reaching scandal to have occurred in the world of finance. Why is it not getting the attention it deserves in the name of public interest?!? simply because the companies involved in fixing this price are the most respectable and distinguished of the banking world – HSBC & Barclays of the UK, Deutsche Bank of Germany, UBS of Switzerland.

LIBOR rates form the basis for the determination of amounts to be received and paid on contracts amounting to hundreds of trillions of dollars. Just to put this figure into perspective – Ireland’s bailout was ‘only’ 85 billion Euro. So while Christine Lagarde of the IMF keeps reminding the Greeks that they should pay their taxes, she is remaining very silent about the fact the bankers whom she wines & dines with at Davos are being accused of breaking the law at a much larger scale.

Barclays has ‘agreed’ to pay a fine of 290 million pounds for its role in fixing the LIBOR. RBS, now 82% owned by the British public has also been negotiating how much is feels like paying the British public for being caught red handed. We now have a state-owned body negotiating with with a state authority about how much it feels like paying for breaking the law. Try negotiating your legally-declared tax bill with the Revenue office and see how far you get…

Some choice quotes from the press on the Libor rate-fixing scandal….

Libor Manipulation Well Known in London by 1991 – Naked capitalism

A comment in today’s Financial Times is by a former Morgan Stanley trader, Douglas Keenan, confirms a passing comment in the Economist, that Libor manipulation goes back for more than 15 years. In fact, this piece makes it clear that is the time frame exceeds 20 years. From the Financial Times:

In 1991, I had live trading screens that showed the Libor rates. In September of that year, on the third Wednesday, at 11 o’clock, I watched those screens to see where the futures contract [on three month Libor] should settle. Shortly afterwards, Liffe announced the contract settlement rate. Its rate was different from what had been shown on my screens, by a few hundredths of a per cent.

As a result, I lost money. The amount was insignificant for me, but I believed that I had been defrauded and I complained to Liffe [ London International Financial Futures Exchange, which is where the contract traded]. Liffe explained that the settlement rate was not determined by what rates were actually in the market. Instead, the British Banker’s Association polled banks, asking them what the rates were. The highest and lowest quoted rates were discarded and the rest were averaged, giving the settlement rate. Liffe explained that, in doing this, they were adhering to the terms of the contract.

I talked with some of my more experienced colleagues about this. They told me banks misreported the Libor rates in a way that would generally bring them profits. I had been unaware of that, as I was relatively new to financial trading. My naivety seemed to be humorous to my colleagues.

So consider what this tells us:

1. Libor manipulation was already recognized by market participants in 1991 as a common phenomenon. That implies it had been going on at least a few years before that

2. The manipulation appears to have more than occasionally been more than a single basis point (Keenan says here the effect was “several” basis points, which I take to be three or more)

Oh, an an additional tidbit: Bob Diamond was in Morgan Stanley London as of then, in charge of interest rate trading, which means his claim that he had found out about Libor manipulation at Barclays mere weeks before his Treasury Select testimony was bollocks.
Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/07/libor-manipulation-well-known-in-london-by-1991.html#D4e3c6TwmCFcWdBg.99

—————————————————–
External trader to a Barclay’s trader, asking for a lower Libor submission: “If it comes in unchanged I’m a dead man.”
Barclay’s trader promises to “have a chat”.
External trader to Barclay’s
trader later that day: “Dude. I owe you big time! Come over one day after work and I’m opening a bottle of Bollinger.”

As in the case of the Irish Financial Regulator’s window-dressing exercise in introducing more laws & regulations for the banks, this means absolutely nothing if the appetite to enforce the law is nil. As a banker of many years I can safely say that the problem has never been the lack of legislation, but rather the complete lack of proper law enforcement when it comes to the conduct of banks. Fred the Shred of RBS (owners of Ulster Banks) lost his knighthood, but is he in jail? Can the FSA say that RBS never broke any laws & regulations while Fred drove it into the ground and onto the lap of the British tax payer?

Five years ago I resigned from my position at the risk manager of UniCredit Bank Ireland – the Irish subsidiary of Italy’s biggest bank. I had officially notified the regulator’s office  that we were ‘cooking the books’ by BILLIONS of Euros. Brian Hillery, the chairman of UniCredit Ireland at the time, now sits on the board of directors of the Central Bank of Ireland.  The Irish bank guarantee and the subsequent bail out were a result of Ireland’s banks running completely dry of liquidity. The Financial Regulator’s own documents stipulate a possible prison sentence of up to 5 years for breaching liquidity requirements.  I resigned from UniCredit Bank Ireland specifically over this issue. How many Irish bank executives are in prison for running their banks into the ground?

Jonathan Sugarman  2 October 2012

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