Diagnosis of Early Daíl Term Syndrome
September 22, 2014

You can’t move for breathless articles in the newspapers about growth and recovery. All day on radio and TV, every opportunity is taken to drive the message. All conveniently timed with the return normal proceedings in the political realm. There was a similar attempt coinciding with returning of the Dáil in January of 2013, ‘green shoots’. A concerted effort across papers – and we are seeing very the same co-ordination now.

The thing to watch out for is how many of these stories are written by say, Fionnan Sheehan and other journalists whose job is not counting beans but talking to politicians, Last year there was a big build up to ‘exiting the bailout’ in November but the wheels quickly came off whatever capital government hoped to make as garda scandal after garda scandal flooded out. They will be trying not to make the same mistake again.

You will only see snatches in Irish business pages, but abroad there is plenty of talk about Germany stuttering for the last year. They kept a good lid on it out of necessity but once October’s federal elections were out of the way, the effect of five years austerity on economies with which Germany trades became harder to ignore, chickens coming home to roost. To underline this, the whole union depends on German strength and none more so than France which is in the tenth straight month of zero growth. It is not that they are only fucked now, their banks and borrowings have been fucked from the start but Europe’s economy has deteriorated to the stage where it can be no longer be hidden. Europe’s economy  s still well well below 2007 levels while US climbed back long ago. The predictions of people whose job it is to make money from all this misery don’t see much changing and we haven’t even started whatever road we are going with Russia.

Will the UK be enough? I don’t know but it is against this backdrop that you are seeing absolutely certainty in the Irish papers. They are up every tree and under every rock looking for ways to conform the lie, believing again in the same sort of Irish economic exceptionalism seen during the bubble. A new Dáil term is a new chance to get back on track. We will have this for another few weeks and then expect there will be war on Sinn Féin.

Dr. Five   22nd September 2014

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Here is the CEO of AIB not knowing how much the Irish State is paying bank bondholders this year
September 4, 2013

  Dr. FIVE 4 September 2013

Watch and discuss this weeks Oireachtas hearings into the Banks and Finance at Politicalworld.org

The Irish Bank Guarantee 2008 – A Silent Coup
June 30, 2013

C. Flower's Avatar

The Guarantee meeting of September 30th-October 1st 2008 was held at the request of AIB and BoI – it was one of those meetings held all the time in Ireland, unminuted, between Ministers, County Managers etc. and supplicant businessmen. They get together, and the supplicant says “my project is being held up by the planners” “the new regulation is going to put me out of business” “I want the concession for hotdogs at the Gathering” “I want the licence to dig gold out of Mount Leinster” etc. etc. Ministers and Managers say “what can we do ?” and get the plan changed, get the licence granted and so on. It is not a question of money changing hands, but of future directorships, golf club membership (Phil Hogan take note), being asked to join the consortium, well, being one of the boys, generally.

We know that AIB and the BoI came along to Cowen and Lenihan that night and asked for a guarantee. “Would you just pop out and have a coffee while we discuss it” an unnamed politician or civil servant said to them, and ten (or however many) minutes later, they were asked back in, and told that they had one.  Then the Regulator, Neary phoned the other banks that were covered. Next, individually, Ministers were rung up from the meeting in the middle of the night and told that a Guarantee had had to be put in place and they must give it the O.K.. Over three hours later, at 6.45 a.m. the world and the Irish people were told that “Ireland had guaranteed all its banks.”

The character of this meeting was that best referenced by the term “stroke.”  It was not a meeting of the government, as defined by the Constitution (at least 9 TDs), and there was no attempt to recall the Daíl to sit in emergency session overnight, as there was to be for the IRBC windup.  There were no bank experts there to give advice.  It was attended (according to Brendan Drumm) by two politicians, 2 civil servants and four bankers.  After the meeting Lenihan issued a meaningless “Letter of Comfort” indicating that the Government would cover bank losses.  The letter was pure sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors, whatever you want to call it, with no legal standing, in breach of the Constitution.  The ad hoc group of people in that room had no authority to make any such decision.

When the Daíl was told that a  bank guarantee was in place Cowan lied to the Daíl and said that the Guarantee had been agreed by Cabinet: “the Government.”
http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/c…/document1.pdf

At the cabinet meeting the previous day, there had been some kind of “in principle” agreement for a guarantee, but the unlimited form unilaterally opted for by Cowen and Lenihan, covering all bondholders as well as depositors, has left us with an unsupportable financial burden.We would have been in order to occupy the Dail and demand he rescind.On the night of the “guarantee”, there was nothing to prevent Cowan from calling the Dail to an emergency sitting, as was done earlier this year for the IBRC wind up legislation.    

The Dail could have and should have voted against it and it would not have stood – but they were lied to and presented with a fait accompli  – told that the Bank Guarantee was already in place, taking all real value out of the debate.

Other Ministers were “ordered to approve” the decision, rather than consulted on it, in the insulting “incorporeal meeting” –  a series of phone calls to the homes of Ministers, in the small hours, of which Willie O’Dea and Mary Hanafin have written.

The whole tendency of Fianna Fail to take action out of the Dail Chamber during its term in office was commented on at the time as was the rule by tiny cabal, with just three people, Lenihan, Cowen and Coughlan acting as a super-cabinet, and with many government announcements made outside the Daíl.  Just how dangerous this was emerged when the Bank Guarantee manoeuvre was pushed through.

It was effectively a coup by the banks.   No tanks, or ranting Generals – just a shifty midnight hijacking of the political system that transferred billions in private debt onto the public.

Then, weeks went by. Lenihan did not seem to realise that his “bank guarantee” meant that MONEY HAD TO BE PUT INTO BANKRUPT BANKS.   That was why Drumm wanted to hit him.

Lenihan’s unconstitutional action had sold the country to the banks.

From the Anglo Irish Tapes:

Drumm re Lenihan

“‘Do you understand? Can I teach you just one piece?’ Not in that language, obviously, but can I teach you one piece of banking here? ‘When you’ve guaranteed somebody’s entire liabilities, it is smart to write a very small cheque to stop them being called! Which bit of that don’t you get?’ I don’t think he gets it.”
C. Flower  30 June 2013
Discussion on this on this thread at Politicalworld.org

Last Week in Europe… Some Deaths, A Song, and A Broken Promise to Ireland
March 4, 2013

In Greece,  (via Ephilant on Politicalworld.org)

Out of sheer desperation and in order to try and warm their house a little and cook a warm meal, 5 students in Patras made this make-shift heating device and put it in their living room.


It consists of an old rusted barrel, cut in two, and used as a make-shift barbecue by people in their gardens.

When a friend called to the house and got no answer, knowing the women were inside, the friend called over the land lord and they used the spare key to gain access.

Two of the female students were found dead inside the house, two are in a coma in Patras university hospital, and one is conscious but critical in the same hospital. Carbon monoxide poisening. They didn’t even have the money to burn clean fuel in the drum, but burned rubbish found on the streets…

Why does something like this happen in 2013? It’s one of the little inconvenient side effects of bailing out international lenders and banks. Austerity in all its glory. The students, aged between 21 and 23 had no money to buy fuel, they could not pay their electricity bill and were reduced to 1 warm meal a week in the university canteen…

In Portugal

Over 200,000 protesters in Lisbon packed the vast imperial Praca do Comercio square, home to the Finance Ministry, and surrounding streets, chanting: “It’s time for the government to go!”. Many carried banners with slogans such as “Austerity kills” and “Screw the troika, power to the people!”, aimed at the so-called troika of lenders from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.”Grandola” – the signal-song of the 1974 “Carnation revolution” that overthrew the fascist dictatorship of Antonio Salazar after the army rebelled, reverberated through the crowds in Lisbon, which has a population of about 3 million.

In the past weeks, Government Ministers have repeatedly been drowned out by people singing this song.

And at the end of the week, some very bad news for Ireland, via the Telegraph, from an interview of Klaus Regling in Wirtschafts Woche magazine –

…It emerged that the eurozone bail-out fund (ESM) may not be used after all to recapitalise banks, even once the banking super-regulator is in place. Klaus Regling, the fund’s chief, said opposition from the creditor states may kill the idea altogether.

If so, this will breaches a summit accord in June by EU leaders to deploy the ESM directly to break the “vicious circle” between banks and sovereign states.

Klaus Regling “Das Euro-Retter” – Head of the ESM

Failure to implement the deal would be a blow for Ireland and Italy, leaving them shouldering the full burden left from a bank crisis that was partly caused by northern creditors. The International Monetary Fund said it is imperative that the EU upholds the specific pledge made to Ireland in the summit text.

Germany, Austria, Finland, and Holland have all all said they would not let the ESM cover “legacy assets” left from the bubble. They now seem to be resiling from the accord altogether.

Is this another “game changer” ?

C. Flower  4 March 2013

Join our discussion on European politics and economy at Politicalworld.org 

One Last Chance for Enda to Provide Justice for the Women Who Were Shut Away in the Laundries
February 17, 2013

I’ve just read the Justice for Magdalene’s redacted submission to the McAleese committee.  It has been released to balance and correct some impressions conveyed by the McAleese report. None of the hundreds of pages of accounts of individual women was quoted by McAleese. I haven’t read McAleese’s report yet, and plan to give it a try today – although at 1,000 pages it will have to be a fast read.

The Press and some politicians and commentators are using the McAleese Report to say that the laundries were “not like the films.” McAleese interviewed 50 women, the rest of the Committee did not meet any. They had no remit to investigate the treatment of the women in the laundries or to make findings on this. The first thing to remember about the McAleese Report is that the brief was to investigate State links with the laundries, not to explore what went on inside them.   All of the Committee members bar McAleese were civil servant representatives of implicated State Departments. McAleese who has close associations with the Church, resigned his position as Senator and left Ireland without making himself available to the press to answer questions on his report.  

The Justice for Magdalene’s earlier reports show the State’s role, and were in part what forced the Government to act. The State was responsible by reason of its neglect of its duties to inspect and to protect citizens from illegal incarceration and brutality. It also paid capitation money in to the laundry system for some women, provided contracts to it, and directly sent women into the laundries, and returned them if they escaped, without investigating if they were held legally. It has taken 10 years of research and campaigning, and a number of women in the meantime have died waiting, with no redress, some in very poor circumstances. One of the women who spoke out last year has lung cancer, and did not expect to see the report come out. Now she is waiting still for an apology and some redress.

Some of the things that stick in my mind from the many accounts in the JFM report and that very much contradict the Enda Kenny/McAleese version of the laundries –

The laundries were locked jails, with barred windows, with no daylight in some cases, little or no access to out of doors. They were cold and often wet. The work was heavy and dangerous. Many women got burns and other injuries.

The girls and women had inadequate diets – porridge for breakfast and supper, a small lunch with little protein, an egg once a year at Easter, occasional pieces of fruit on “special days.” An account mentions that women rooted in bins for nuns leftovers. They were very thin. People talk about fainting from hunger.

Women were not told when or how they would get out, and many never did get out.

Their names were taken off them and a number or penance name given to them.

They were told they were “there for their sins” although some had no idea why they were there at all. Young children as young as 11 were put in the laundries and a lot of them were young women. They were verbally insulted and abused.

Some women were put there because of ill health – lameness, epilepsy, mental disability.

They were not allowed to speak during the long work hours. They worked six days a week in the laundries: after hours they worked making small goods for sale by the nuns, and cleaning.Women were beaten with belts and hit with heavy bunches of keys for “faulty work” and for “cheek” and in some cases severely beaten for running away or for being found in bed with another woman. They were also punished by having their hair cut “to the bone” and by having to kneel and kiss the floor.   Solitary confinement was a punishment. Women were physically forced to work even when ill.    Enda Kenny however told the Dáil that physical abuse was not an issue.

Some girls and women who were resistant of this abuse and bullying or in other ways “difficult” were sent to mental institutions where they were incarcerated and in some cases died, unreleased.

There was an atmosphere of fear: women cried at night in bed. Women had nervous breakdowns and suffered from depression. Some became severely institutionalised. At least one is still living in an institution / care – would have liked her own room, but never had one. Reported problems of not getting dentures and associated weight loss. This seems to be current ?

They were not ever paid.

The young ones got no education. They had no books, newspapers, or radio and didn’t know what was happening in the outside world.

A horror that sticks in my mind – a account of a woman (likely not the only one) who was born in a laundry institution, grew up in it and who died in it.

Another account mentions a woman who sat at one end of the Church at High Park, while her daughter, elsewhere in the institution, sat at the other, without them ever knowing they were living in the same place.

A woman who got out for a day when she was 45 to meet her grown up child had never before tasted coffee, or handled money. She didn’t know her own age, but was told by her children. She died aged 51. (source: from the JFM FB page)

When the women died, there was no death certificate in many cases, and they were put in a mass grave with no name marker and no priest present, no funeral rites.

The State was very much aware of the laundries, was aware of issue of wages and its obligation to inspect and to safeguard basic rights of citizens. It failed catastrophically in relation to the laundries and in fact colluded in stripping women of their rights.

Women were in some cases sent for petty theft (an apple, stolen in an industrial school, is one example), for staying out late, or being rebellious generally.  Some had had children outside marriage.  Others had disabilities. Some had grown up in institutions. If they ran away, Gardai returned them.

The Secretary of Carlow County Council signed an order to incarcerate a married woman in a laundry and send her baby to a babies home, as the child was believed not to be her husband’s. This was in 1956 (As a side note, I know of a case in the 1990s,  in which Gardai in this area turned away a woman who went for help as she was repeatedly beaten at home: they informed the husband they she had complained).

The issue is not to me about who sent women to the laundries. Enda Kenny, McAleese and the press are busy trying to foist the blame for the laundries onto families. This is a particularly toxic and self serving argument. The State has obligations to citizens and residents irrespective of failures of families.

Abuse is an illustration of that.

Some girls /children who had been abused were locked into the laundries. One woman told of how as a young teenager she went to the Gardai and repeatedly asked them to act against her father who was raping her (her mother had died). They refused on a number occasions, but when they did act it was to incarcerate her in a laundry.

Women ended up in the laundries via state schools and institutions, via the courts, via parish priests and families. Families were under enormous social pressure from current “morals” and social stigma enforced by Church and State, and from poverty.  The Laundries were punitive institutions, part of a gulag of social control, that exerted fear and pressure on all girls and women to modify their behaviour and to comply with a rigid, brutal and hierarchical social norm.

The thinking that the State can avoid its responsibilities and push them off onto onto families, no matter how dysfunctional or disadvantaged, still goes on.

This matter will come up before the Dáil again on Tuesday.  Again, Enda Kenny has the opportunity to apologise, and make redress for the appalling acts of omission and commission by our State in relation to the Laundries.  

There will be a lobby/picket of the Dáil from Tuesday 1 p.m. 19.1.2013  until the debate is over.
Anyone who would like to go along would be welcome.   The women and support campaigners who have brought things to this stage and who have refused to be silenced deserve every support.

POST SCRIPT Justice for Magdalenes and supporters will be gathering at the Dail Tuesday 19th February for a candlelit vigil from 5 p.m. Please come, and bring a candle. 🙂 The debate starts on the Magdalene laundries starts at 6 p.m.

C. Flower  17.2.2013

Is Ireland Bullying the ECB ?
February 12, 2013

If there is anything singular in the way the ECB is treating Ireland, why might that be?

Looking at it from an external perspective, Ireland is a tax haven, a money launderer’s paradise through which vast sums of money flow internationally, causing other EU jurisdictions with more restrictive laws a disproportionate number of problems. We know next to nothing about most of this activity and understand even less. What we do know is that it is routinely corrupt and out of control. Our government is even now a ferocious defender of this set-up and of international financier corporatism – among its most extreme adherents in the world. Throughout the crisis, the Irish Government (FF/Lab/FG) has indeed shown implacable steel about maintaining our tax haven status and our anti-EU corporate tax regime – which does nothing for the majority of people here and which is also a big **** off to the ordinary people of the rest of Europe.  Conor McCabe has shown, for example, that FDI accounts for just 7.25% of Irish jobs, despite all the bigged-up claims made for its importance to our economy.

Again and again, our government favours the same small elite, whatever policy is at issue right across the spectrum – health, education etc. It’s as if we are not even deemed human beings unless we are disgustingly rich. There are no concessions to this set up at home or abroad. Who can blame the EU or the ECB, in one sense, from saying ‘OK, if that’s how you want to play it, we’re happy to oblige’. The intransigence on debt write down begins with the Irish government: they refuse even to ask for it because they do not want to negotiate terms at all. The ECB only deals with us on the macro level.

The Irish government, defined by its visceral contempt for ordinary Irish people, only has to rely on sucker-punching us via a by-and-large remarkably stupid and unquestioning media. The worst we are asked to think of our government is that they are merely pathetic in the face of ECB bullying, when in fact they are getting everything they want out of the situation: the destruction of our welfare state, blamed on the Troika even when the IMF is clearly saying that austerity has failed and is being taken too far.   Every choice that is made at micro level on spending (choices which our government completely controls, despite claiming otherwise) protects the rich.

At the same time the Government is using the crisis to copper-fasten the financial elites to the control levers of the Irish economy and to our parliamentary democracy, such as it is. FG are indeed laying the ground work for a future, blue-shirt fascist state. Godwin’s law? Look at the power Noonan has abrogated to Ministers for Finance for the permanent appropriation of private property in this wonderful new deal. This is neo-fascism. Already, Michael D’s signature not even dry on the page, government cheerleaders in the media are wagging fingers at us to say that there will be no let up in austerity just because the massively expanded sovereign debt ‘deal’ is a magnificent success. Austerity is one of the most extreme ideologies ever to be foisted on people. It has nothing to do with fiscal rectitude or ‘prudence’. It is wrecking the economy, but still it is persisted with. Why? Because none of this was ever about doing what is best or what is right – these guys just want things done differently in their own interests and they want us to pay the full cost of that on their behalf.

Is this not, at bottom, the overall situation?.

Mediabite  11 February 2013

Senator McAleese: Will You Play Forfeits? Reconciliation with the Women of Magdalene Laundries
January 22, 2013

Does anyone doubt that the Magdalene Laundries existed? Does anyone really believe the Irish Government in its uneasily shifting stance that ‘officially’ the Irish State knew nothing of these ‘private’ institutions?

At the very least there is a false note here and this was pointed out by the UNCAT Committee on Torture where official Ireland found itself over a year ago arguing that Ireland knew nothing of the Magdalene Laundries ‘officially’.

The UNCAT Committee rather embarrassingly for the Irish Government pointed out that it was not enough for a member nation to simply plead ignorance – that under UN Membership Ireland officially was obliged to ensure that such institutions were inspected and under a governance system.

If the Irish State’s position is that it didn’t understand the rules of its UN membership on the subject of ill-treatment, abuse and internment of citizens then it merely means Ireland admits a studied negligence of its own tortured citizens in these institutions.

The Irish State has an overt habit of this practice and while the UNCAT Committee did not accept the State’s point it is very unlikely also that the State can convince us either given how close we are to the State’s record in such matters.

Ireland, socially, is a recidivist. If there were an institution possible for entire states where such societies could be described as ‘fallen’ or at serious risk of being ‘fallen’ with regard to humanity and ethics then the lady in green would be institution bound.

Something of an irony that a lady inclined in all respects and in constant practice towards the refusal to examine her dirty laundry at the same time might be chained philosophically to an institutional washing board and scrubbing, overseen, at a stain on its character that simply won’t come out.

Sometimes the child is wiser than the parent. And what parent could be displeased with a child that announces it is better to tell the truth than persist in lying? And that, on this subject, is where we are as we await the Government’s response to the dental detective Martin McAleese’s report into the Magdalene Laundry issue.

There is apprehension that official Ireland will persist, rather excruciatingly, with its notion that ‘officially’ Ireland knew nothing.

Justice delayed. In fact if McAleese’s report which undoubtedly will be obsequious in its ‘sensitivity’ to the Magdalenes serves only to cling to an evasive manoeuver by the State then it is not just a failure to attend to acknowledging serious wrong but the conclusion will be that the State wishes to persist in another known evil in Ireland – the ‘delay till they die’ process –  which has in the past served the same cult behind the profitability of these washday gulags. The State wishes to portray the Magdalene Laundries as ‘different’ to issues of up to sixty residential “Reformatory and Industrial Schools” operated by Catholic Church orders, funded and supervised by the Irish Department of Education.

To allege that the Irish State which paid capitation (head money) to the orders behind those institutions was unable to ‘see’ a similar system with the Magdalene Laundries attached to them, while elements of the state were ‘remanding’ women to the Laundries is simply insufferable dishonesty of the worst sort.

We will know shortly whether the Irish State wishes to persist in its adopted ignorance – a profitable stance in fear of redress payments and perhaps a wish to avoid a situation where the government will be buried in outrage should it attempt to pay ‘redress’ on behalf of orders which have already welched to the sum of   euros where other institutions are concerned. I may be wrong in my suspicions around McAleese’s report- understandable when the words ‘construct a narrative’ were used in discussions around the remit of his Committee on this issue.

We do a lot of ‘narrative constructing’ in Ireland. One of these days we may decide to restrict ourselves to reporting on what actually happened and who was involved. But that requires a maturity that may not yet be available to our childish state and immature official institutions.

Quite apart from the debt Irish society owes those of the Magdalene Laundries and other religious gulags we could at least show these people that we do care about what happened to them.

They could be forgiven for thinking that any signal now is irrelevant but we have an opportunity while many are still living to at least acknowledge properly the social disgrace of the state and Irish society for allowing this to happen.

It must be said. It may not do much practical good but that part of the national conversation must happen for the dignity of those who had their dignity taken from them in such a horrible manner and for a reconciliation process to begin.

I used the word ‘reconciliation’ because otherwise how can the victims feel vindicated as citizens of this somewhat shabby Republic and how can citizens who weren’t victims look each other in the eye?

Captain Con O’Sullivan    21.01.13

*From the poem ‘Geasa’ (The Bond) by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

A report by an interdepartmental committee chaired by Senator Martin McAleese is with the Government: a Government statement is expected within the next two weeks.

Join our discussion on the Magdalene Laundry workers on Politicalworld.org.

On the Socialisation of Private Debt
November 27, 2012

via Dr. FIVE  26.11.2012

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

Would You Work for Abercrombie and Fitch ?
September 23, 2012

Abercrombie and Fitch (A & F), the huge American retail outlet, is to open its first Irish branch soon in Dublin on the old Bank of Ireland building in Dublin’s College Green. Already there is a huge bill board with a model up on the building, and a lot of people are eager to get their hands on the A & F gear which is proving very popular amongst Dublin’s haute couture- aware youth, eager for the latest hoodie and top. Over the years though, A & F have been embroiled in a number of storms from being hauled through the courts – from accusations that it hid back room staff who were non white to the treatment of staff in the sweat shops that manufacture their goods in the Philippines. The Irish Times published an article recently which highlighted the issues surrounding employment. It goes on..

This notion that only good-looking people need apply has done the company no favours in recent years, and its employment policies have led to a number of court cases. In 2009 a former employee of a London store took it to an employment tribunal claiming she had been forced to work in the stockroom because she didn’t match the company’s strict “look policy”, a guide to the appearance of its shop-floor staff. She was born with the lower part of her arm missing. She won the case, and A & F had to pay her £8,000.
A much more damaging action was taken against the company in the US in 2003. Several Hispanic, black and Asian employees and applicants sued the company saying they had been put into less visible backroom jobs. The company disputed the claims but settled in 2005. As part of the deal it agreed to pay more than €30 million to black and Hispanic groups across the US while admitting no wrongdoing.

 

A & F hired a diversity officer to increase its share of the workforce from 10% being minorities in 2004 to now having approx 50% of its workforce being from minorities. The issues above are not confined however to people whom may work in its branches, there have been accusations that the company’s suppliers have ill treated staff that manufacture goods for A & F. Labour Rights.org carried the news that the Alta Mode factory, where A & F clothing is made, has done its best to stifle the rights of workers who sought to form a Union. The workers at the factory were looking for better rights but Alta Mode thought differently and suspended the workers and even had the audacity to bring a case against them in what was a flagrant breach of the workers’ rights to form a union without being subject to harassment for such actions.

However all may not be lost for such a big brand as they recently bowed to pressure to stop using cotton from Afghanistan thanks to a petition by the International Labour Rights Forum. A petition calling on A & F proved successful to the point that they bowed to pressure and stopped using cotton from child labourers in Uzbekistan . They may have been a bit behind though with the times and only caught up as other companies had signed up and installed policies to deal with such issues.

While over 65 of the world’s largest apparel brands and retailers have developed policies related to Uzbek cotton, two companies have remained silent.

One of these the site alleges was A & F until they signed up.
Next time someone goes shopping for Abercrombie and Fitch in Dublin, think of the rights that people have and where your clothing was made. Was it made ethically? Would you like to work in a company with such policies?
Ponder for a minute, would you work somewhere where the staff recruited seem to be just models?

Read the following report from an ex employee from jezebel.com

There is a “style guide” that hiring managers get to see. It contains almost no text – just a few dozen pages, each with a full-sized color photograph of different ethnicities – a male and a female for each. They are supposed to serve as examples of the kind of people you should hire. Presumably so the managers will know what good-looking minorities look like. They’re amongst the confidential files that are never meant to leave the office, but I’m surprised none have ever surfaced

In 2009 the Guardian reported on the flagship store in Saville Row in London where it seemed so out of place with all of the other shops. Benoit Denizet-Lewis who writes articles for the NYT magazine tells the Guardian that Mike Jeffries (CEO of A & F) came out with the following line when he interviewed him:

We go after the attractive, all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.

Wonder what would happen if this 23 st lump of lard walked brazenly in and demanded a job. I could include on the application “I have the body of a God”…just neglect to tell them its a body like this…

Photo:  Chinese Buddha  (Wikicommons)

fluffybiscuits 19 September 2012

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