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Sarkozy's auto-da-fe

by Migeru Wed Aug 24th, 2016 at 02:29:58 PM EST

Cross-posted on The Court Astrologer.

In his satire Candide, published in 1759, Voltaire pokes fun at the way the Portuguese Inquisition persecuted jews who had falsely converted to Catholicism:

After the earthquake had destroyed three-fourths of Lisbon, the sages of that country could think of no means more effectual to prevent utter ruin than to give the people a beautiful auto-da-fe; for it had been decided by the University of Coimbra, that the burning of a few people alive by a slow fire, and with great ceremony, is an infallible secret to hinder the earth from quaking.



In consequence hereof, they had seized on a Biscayner, convicted of having married his godmother, and on two Portuguese, for rejecting the bacon which larded a chicken they were eating[7]; after dinner, they came and secured Dr. Pangloss, and his disciple Candide, the one for speaking his mind, the other for having listened with an air of approbation.
Fast-forward to 2016, and Sarkozy's extremism is indistinguishable from Voltaire's satire.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Stiglitz: Reform or Divorce in Europe

by Melanchthon Tue Aug 23rd, 2016 at 02:45:51 PM EST

Joseph Stiglitz just published an interesting analysis of Europe's economic and political situation: Reform or Divorce in Europe.

He points to four kinds of explanations for the current dire situation Europe is facing:

  • blame the victim (public debt, welfare state and labour-market protections)
  • bad leaders and policies (insufficent economic skills, austerity, structural reforms...)
  • blame European bureaucracy and regulations
  • an ill-designed euro

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

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Arms races and obesity

by Colman Fri Aug 19th, 2016 at 01:01:02 PM EST

This is nice and clear from Chris Dillow:

There’s a nice headline in the Times today:

Make us sell healthy food, supermarkets implore May.

This invites the obvious reply: if you want to sell healthy food, why don’t you just do so?

The answer lies in competitive pressures. If any individual supermarket tries to cut salt in its products or refrains from special offers on unhealthy foods, it would lose market share to rivals.

Each individual supermarket’s rational attempts to maximize profits thus leads to an outcome which none of them really wants – the over-marketing of unhealthy food. This is an example of an arms race, a process whereby individually rational behaviour has results which are collectively undesirable. Here are some other examples:

This is the sort of thing states are meant to fix. But free markets!

Comments >> (4 comments)

Will a Brexit agreement require ratification by 28 Member states?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Aug 18th, 2016 at 02:04:41 PM EST

Luis de Sousa raises an important point. Will a Brexit agreement require ratification by 28 Member states, or can it simply be agreed, by majority vote of the EU Council as provided for in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty? He quotes legal opinion to the effect that all 27 remaining member states would have to ratify any trading agreement post Brexit: EU Law Analysis: Article 50 TEU: The uses and abuses of the process of withdrawing from the EU

In this context, it should be noted that (contrary to what is sometimes asserted), there's no legal obligation for the remaining EU to sign a free trade agreement with the UK. The words `future relationship' assume that there would be some treaties between the UK and the EU post-Brexit, but do not specify what their content would be.


This point is politically significant because while the withdrawal arrangement would be negotiated by a qualified majority, most of the EU's free trade agreements are in practice `mixed agreements', i.e. requiring the consent of the EU institutions and ratification by all of the Member States. That's because those agreements usually contain rules going outside the scope of the EU's trade policy.  While it seems likely that in practice the remaining EU would be willing to enter into a trade agreement with the UK (see, for instance, the `gaming' exercise conducted by Open Europe), the unanimity requirement would complicate this.

In short, this legal opinion considers a Brexit agreement to consist of mainly transitional measures to facilitate the departure of the UK from the EU, which may or may not include special arrangements for ongoing free trade. I think we are in danger of confusing the process by which an exit agreement between the UK and EU might be reached, and the content of what it might contain.

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A 2nd referendum to resolve Brexit?

by Colman Wed Aug 17th, 2016 at 09:07:18 AM EST

The often-sensible Jon Worth writes in a well-referenced post on his blog (how old-fashioned!):

The way out of this impasse might just be – and whisper this quietly – the promise of another referendum, with the deal negotiated to leave the EU as one option, and remaining in the EU as the other option. This is the line that Labour leadership contender Owen Smith is pushing. Essentially the original Leave campaign was an impossible combination of utopias – some voted Leave to restrict migration, some did so thinking there would be no economic cost to leaving (and even that so-called Norway option now seems questionable), and others thought leaving would save the NHS, but as this infographic outlines, a trade-off between these different Brexit options is necessary. Robert Peston’s Facebook note explains this further. I’m pretty sure that no negotiable Brexit option would be adequately appealing enough to make it more appealing that remaining in the European Union. And that is before taking into account all of the rest of the EU Member States’ demands towards the UK.

This matches my sense of a possible political outcome: the other possibility is running an election on the basis of competing Brexit plans, but that doesn't seem likely given the divisions within the parties. No plan for Brexit has support - the only thing clear about the referendum result is that it leaves the desired outcome unclear.

A proper referendum, with clear choices, preferably legally binding would clean this mess up.

Comments >> (30 comments)

Is Brexit without invoking Article 50 possible?

by Frank Schnittger Sat Aug 6th, 2016 at 11:49:22 AM EST

In a long an spirited discussion over The Brexit Negotiation Process, Colman made a point which has not been adequately addressed:

Colman:

Brexit without article 50 is also possible.

So is some sort of face-saving operation for the UK (which would, if it was anti-immigrant, fit nicely into the agenda of a lot of EU leaders).

Is this really the case?

A few preliminary points need to be made:

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Ireland's Post Brexit strategy

by Frank Schnittger Wed Aug 3rd, 2016 at 03:13:21 PM EST

The Brexit vote has already had an effect on consumer confidence and investor sentiment in the UK with the Governor of the Bank of England warning of the likelihood of at least a technical recession in the near term. A prolonged period of uncertainty is unlikely to improve that outlook in the medium term, but at least the UK can use Sterling devaluation, monetary policy easing, and reduced rates of corporate tax to mitigate its worst effects in the short term. That is, however, of no comfort to Irish exporters to the UK who are heavily dependent on the UK market - especially the small and medium sized indigenous sectors of the economy.

Indeed the whole Irish economy is heavily integrated with the UK economy although that dependency has reduced markedly since entry into the EU. Exports to the UK currently amount to c. 14% of total exports  with the USA, Belgium and Germany accounting for 20%, 13% and 8% respectively. An official report for the Irish Government has estimated that Brexit could result in an average 20% reduction in trade flows between Ireland and the UK and the OECD has estimated that Ireland's GDP will be reduced by 1.2% as a result.

That official report is also pessimistic that Ireland can make up the difference by increasing its share of FDI that would otherwise have gone to the UK.  Despite the proclamations of popular economists like David McWilliams that "Brand Britain is ours for the taking", it estimates that the ability of Dublin to attract business from London will be limited by Sterling devaluation, reduced UK corporate tax rates, and a shortage of suitable office space, housing and schools in the greater Dublin area. Nevertheless, the shape of the Irish government and corporate response to the Brexit crisis (or opportunity) is now becoming clear:

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Is the White House an American iconic image built by the hands of slaves?

by Democrats Ramshield Sat Jul 30th, 2016 at 12:23:59 AM EST

(Written by an American expat living in Germany)

Recently Michelle Obama touched off a firestorm when she remarked that in the White House which slave labor helped build was now the playground of her two young daughters, as a statement in her view about how far America had come.

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

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The Brexit Negotiation Process

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jul 28th, 2016 at 03:56:41 PM EST

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes (By email):

Is it yet clear what the process for British Exit is and what is to be negotiated?" UK politicians seem to depict a different view of what is involved than the EU Commission. I think the answer is important and is not being given enough attention in the UK.

Cecila Malmstrom (EU Commissioner for Trade) has stated that the process is two stage and sequential. First UK leaves completely to third country status and WTO rules.  Then, UK can begin to negotiate its future relationship, i.e. the terms of access to the single market is what some, but not all, Tory politicians think is necessary.  [UK can either negotiate that break cleanly within two years of A50 or it happens at the end of that unless extended by unanimous agreement.]

Paragraphs 3 and 4 of the official statement following the 29th June meeting of the 27 seems to support this view though the statement is not intended to clarify that Malmstrom view.

  1. Once the [A50] notification has been received, the European Council will adopt guidelines for the negotiations of an agreement with the UK. In the further process the European Commission and the European Parliament will play their full role in accordance with the Treaties.

  2. In the future, we hope to have the UK as a close partner of the EU and we look forward to the UK stating its intentions in this respect. Any agreement, which will be concluded with the UK as a third country, will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations. Access to the Single Market requires acceptance of all four freedoms. [My emphasis]

Again delusion sets in amongst the Tories when they think UK is going to control movement but have full access with all the existing benefits. [I am aware that Switzerland has failed to come up with such a deal and is running out of time to resolve its position following the Feb 2014 Swiss referendum].

Liam Fox [UK International Trade Secretary] has described Malmstrom's view as "bizarre, stupid, preposterous and ridiculous" according to the Guardian.

It would be interesting to find out if Juncker, Tusk and Michel Barnier take the same position as Malmstrom. But I don't think I am in a position to ask them. Perhaps you are or know someone who can?

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RIP: Finbarr Flood 1938-2016

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jul 25th, 2016 at 08:56:45 PM EST


Finbarr Flood was one of my first bosses in Guinness and taught me much of what I have learned about surviving in big business. He had joined the company as a messenger boy aged 14 and also played semi-professional soccer as a goal-keeper in both Ireland and Scotland. Having risen through the ranks to become Managing Director, he left to pursue a further career as Chairman of the Irish Labour Court, Chairman of Shelbourne Football Club, and Chair of a number of city rejuvenation projects.  Having left school at 14 he was extremely chuffed to receive an honorary Doctorate from the Dublin Institute of Technology and to become an adjunct Professor to Trinity College Dublin.

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Party and Policy in a Time of Monsters

by ChrisCook Sun Jul 24th, 2016 at 12:36:47 PM EST

The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. Now is the time of monsters. Gramsci

This Diary grew out of a response to AR Geezer's LQD: Labour's Civil War Is Due To A Paradigm Shift.

As I have been saying on European Tribune since I first turned up here (which is longer ago than I care to remember) I think we are seeing the emergence of Society (Paradigm) 3.0.

Society 1.0 (which still exists everywhere but most evidently in the developing world) is decentralised/local but disconnected with physical market presence and interaction based on personal trust/credit.

Society 2.0 is centralised but connected, but with presence in the market and in decision making via trusted intermediaries/middlemen, being corporates and nation states respectively.

I see the emerging Society 3.0 as being decentralised but connected, with network presence replacing both physical presence and presence through intermediaries.

The institutions and instruments necessary for such a Society 3.0 have intrigued me and been the subject of my work for well over fifteen years.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Brexit and a United Ireland.

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jul 19th, 2016 at 02:44:45 PM EST

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement is an international Treaty between the UK and the Republic of Ireland lodged with the United Nations.  It was incorporated into the Irish Constitution by a referendum which was carried by a 94% yes vote.  It was also approved by a 71% majority vote in a referendum in Northern Ireland and sets up a number of internal Northern Ireland, North South, and British Irish institutions.

The Good Friday agreement was predicated on both Ireland and the United Kingdom being members of the European Union and the EU has played an active role in facilitating the peace process by supporting peace and reconciliation in the border regions. Peace IV has just been approved and has earmarked some €269m to this end. Any re-emergence of a "hard border" with customs and immigration controls will jeopardise the much improved community relations within Northern Ireland which are dependent, in part, on much closer North-south integration, at least as far as the Nationalist community is concerned.

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Culture Wars or Globalization for make Great Benefit Glorious Nation of ...

by epochepoque Thu Jul 14th, 2016 at 08:05:58 PM EST

Authoritarianism and the Logic of Intolerant Nationalism

My previous diary focused on the socioeconomic roots of the current populist tremors. As polling data shows, that explanation is not sufficient. Today I found an article that delineates the psychological sources of the authoritarian backlash.

When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism - And how moral psychology can help explain and reduce tensions between the two - Jonathan Haidt - The American Interest

I'll show how globalization and rising prosperity have changed the values and behavior of the urban elite, leading them to talk and act in ways that unwittingly activate authoritarian tendencies in a subset of the nationalists. I'll show why immigration has been so central in nearly all right-wing populist movements. It's not just the spark, it's the explosive material, and those who dismiss anti-immigrant sentiment as mere racism have missed several important aspects of moral psychology related to the general human need to live in a stable and coherent moral order.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Tories do ruthless so well...but Boris?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jul 14th, 2016 at 11:59:02 AM EST

With Labour stuck in what seems like an interminable leadership struggle, the Tories are wasting no time putting together a new order post Brexit.  Within days of losing the Brexit referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron is gone, replaced by Theresa May, and she has just sacked more cabinet ministers in a few hours than Cameron did in his 6 years in Office.

George Osborne, Michel Gove, Oliver Letwin, John Whittingdale, Teresa Villiers and Nicky Morgan have all been sacked while devout Christian and leadership candidate, Stephen Crabb, has resigned apparently for sexting a women who is not his wife. Presumably Johnson and Gove cold not have been expected to serve in the same Cabinet after the latter stabbed Johnson in the front...

But it is the early appointments she has made which are the more interesting: She has put three of the top Brexiteers in charge of foreign relations: Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, Liam Fox in charge of a new Department for international Trade, and David Davis in charge of the Brexit negotiations themselves. None will appeal to the Europeans. Boris Johnson is hated for his persistent lies, and his appointment has been the subject of much derision worldwide.

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Larry Summers as hero: Que Helicopter Money?

by ARGeezer Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 10:07:28 PM EST

Is "Helicopter Money" About to Rain Upon the World? Guest Post by David Llewellyn-Smith in Naked Capitalism

Ever since the BOJ announced a new negative interest rate policy earlier this year (NIRP) the yen has stopped falling and reversed upwards. That is, despite weak Japanese growth, despite an inverted yield curve and deeply negative long bond, and despite still weak inflation, markets have bet on spectacularly easy monetary policy generating even more of all four.  This is what is know as "quantitative failure", the notion that negative interest rates will not expand the monetary base owing to such phenomenon as crushed bank margins and the hoarding of cash under mattresses, so the currency is therefore going to rise.
....
Meanwhile, in an effort to calm potential concerns about the integrity of the fiscal budget central bankers implementing such a future monetisation of infrastructure spending will doubtless be at pains to describe the process as a "one off" though, as the ever theoretical Bernanke stated in his blog: "To have its full effect, the increase in the money supply must be perceived as permanent by the public."

...a policy of "helicopter money" is only likely to work if it is done on an ongoing basis and in continuing and growing amounts. But at that point the risk of a policy mistake grows exponentially, in terms of a potentially destabilising pickup in inflation expectations and a related pickup in velocity.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Irish economy grew by 26% in 2015?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 02:52:50 PM EST

The Irish Central Statistics office has just revised Ireland's GDP for 2015 up from €215 to €255n Billion. GDP growth for 2015 has been revised upwards from an already high 7.8% to 26.3% with the GNP growth rate coming in at 18.7%.  Ireland is a small, open economy and the actions of a few gigantic multinationals can throw the national accounts into total disarray. Apparently:

Crazy growth figures bear scant relationship to reality

A handful of companies in the tech sector relocated their IP assets or patents here last year amid the global clampdown on multinational tax avoidance.

This had the affect of transferring billions in capital assets to Ireland inc and boosting the measured level of investment.

These companies are also involved in contract manufacturing, whereby they engage third-party companies abroad to manufacture products on their behalf.

However, the exports which never touch down here are reflected in our trade balance. Hence the 102 per cent growth in net exports last year.

Another reason for the inflated figures relates to an aircraft leasing company, which redomicilled its entire multibillion euro balance sheet to Ireland in 2015.


Read more... (9 comments, 463 words in story)

Two Weeks Post Brexit - Is Anything Clear Yet?

by ARGeezer Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 12:29:48 PM EST

Questions and Answers:

1. It seems clear that it is in the interests of the current government to hold onto power as long as possible. But how long is that likely to be?

2. It seems clear that the City is opposed to leaving the EU. A. But will they settle for a massive 'shock doctrine' roll back of social and labor protections? B. Will they be divided in their response, and, if so, what will be the majority response? C. And how effective will their response be?

3. It seems likely that Corbyn can hold on to the leadership of Labour. But will Labour be able to bring forth a program that is able to attract or bring back enough supporters to win by-elections and a new General Election.

4. How will legal challenges and issues impact the course of events?

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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The Rising Middle Finger

by epochepoque Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 12:13:47 AM EST

Brexit, Populism, Inequality, and the Precariat

Since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt. It seems in both cases (Trumpism and Brexit), many voters are motivated not so much by whether they think the projects will actually work, but more by their desire to say FUCK YOU to people like me (and probably you).

Vincent Bevins - LA Times

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Chilcot and Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 8th, 2016 at 02:03:52 PM EST

Tony Blair and the Chilcot report

Sir, - The Chilcot report has found that the public were misled, expert warnings were ignored, and that there was inadequate planning.

Too bad its publication was delayed until after the Brexit debacle, another historic mistake that could have been avoided had warnings been heeded. - Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER,

Discuss...

Comments >> (12 comments)

Charities sector in Ireland in crisis

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jul 7th, 2016 at 11:59:17 AM EST

Console scandal creates fresh difficulties for charities - Independent.ie

I am a director and honorary treasurer of a number of charities. I give of my time freely and without compensation. I am glad to do so and feel honoured to have the opportunity to be of assistance.

But I am also a hostage to fortune. I rely entirely on the salaried staff to provide me with accurate information so the board can make wise decisions.

One of the fall-outs of the scandals in the Central Rehabilitation Clinic, and now in Console, is that charitable donations have declined precipitously. Another less publicised consequence is that it is increasingly difficult to find anyone with suitable skills to volunteer to serve on the board of charities.

I have offered my resignation on several occasions because I feel it is time to give others the opportunity to serve, and yet there are never any replacements available. The responsibilities of directors are increasingly onerous under both company law and the Charities Act. Few people feel they have the time or expertise to take them on.

Others may feel discouraged by the prospect of finding themselves at the centre of a scandal should some irregularities be discovered in the running of their organisation.

Not many people have the skills of a forensic accountant to uncover those irregularities by themselves.

As a result, the voluntary and community sector in Ireland is in freefall. Those charities which have not closed have generally downsized substantially in recent years.

It would be a pity if our rich tradition of voluntary work were to die out substantially because of the scandals at a few major charities. I urge people not tar all charities with the same brush.

Frank Schnittger, Blessington, Co Wicklow

Read more... (5 comments, 1310 words in story)
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News and Views

 22 - 28 August 2016

by Bjinse - Aug 22, 37 comments

Your take on today's news media

 15 - 21 August 2016

by Bjinse - Aug 15, 16 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Open Thread 22-28 August

by Bjinse - Aug 21, 19 comments

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to thread

 Open Thread 15-21 August

by Bjinse - Aug 15, 13 comments

I coulda been a thread

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