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Bertie Ahern was lying

by Frank Schnittger Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 07:18:29 AM EST

The laws of libel are very strict in Ireland. Damages and legal costs for defamation can be ruinous. The Irish Times is a conservative bastion of the establishment. And yet they can print this:
Martin and Fianna Fáil can spare us the act, we don't want to hear it now

SPARE US your indignation, Micheál Martin. Button your disgust, Fianna Fáil. We don't want to hear it. You had your chance and you chose to do nothing. So don't pretend to be shocked now.
Just do us that much. We won't buy it.

If the tribunal were to take another 15 years to deliver its findings, you'd still be sitting on your hands.

I sat through all of Bertie Ahern's evidence. It was appalling.

Hilarious? Frequently. Pathetic? Often. Infuriating? Utterly. Embarrassing? Completely.

I didn't believe it then and I don't believe it now.

And, unlike the clever people entrusted by us to run the country at the time, I didn't have to wait years for a tribunal of inquiry to tell me.

But did it matter? Well yes, it did, because this man, grinning in the witness box, was our taoiseach.

He wasn't a corner-cutting property developer. He wasn't a millionaire builder, doing what you have to do to close a deal. He wasn't an amoral middle-man or a small-time councillor on the make.

Bertie Ahern was the prime minister of our country, holder of the highest office in the land.

That's supposed to mean something.

And he was lying through his teeth. Anybody with half an ounce of wit could see it.

Reporters detailed his ridiculous explanations for the huge amounts of money washing through his myriad accounts, and resting in his office safes. The most cursory of examinations of the daily transcripts would have shown up his risible stories for the twaddle that they were.

But throughout, his government and party turned a blind eye; squirmed and twisted and gave every manner of excuse to avoid the blindingly obvious taking place in full public view in a State-established inquiry.

He was lying.


Many people outside Ireland wonder at the compliant submission of the people to one of the most draconian, foreign imposed, austerity plans in history. The ordinary people of Ireland have been made liable for the speculative losses of property developers, runaway bankers, hedge funds, and foreign debt speculators. People who never benefited from the boom are paying for the bust.

However there is also a sense in which the ordinary people of Ireland were complicit. There was a culture of corruption. It was common knowledge that dodgy planning permissions could be had for a suitably stuffed brown paper envelope slipped into the right hand. Politicians such as Bertie Ahern, and Charlie Haughey before them were fęted for their free and easy ways with money being "donated" to them from all directions.  Those who complained were marginalised or ridiculed. The media was largely silenced by complicity and editors fearful of being sued.

Now - after 15 years of investigation and several hundred million Euros in legal costs - a scandal even bigger than the relatively small sums gifted to politicians "no questions asked" - the Mahon Tribunal has at last delivered its final report. It finds no concrete proof of corruption against Bertie Ahern.  All his dealings were in cash and no specific or linked favours could be proved. However it found that Corruption was endemic at every level of the political and planning process and several lesser figures stand accused of corruption. Although criminal prosecutions may now follow, it is quite possible that few if any will go to jail. The Gardai, too, stand indicted for their failure to investigate the many allegations current at the time. They knew which side their bread was buttered on.

At every level of public life there was a sneaking regard for the chancers who had the balls to get away with it and those who spoke out got into a world of pain for their troubles. Fianna Fail - the party most associated with all this corruption - has already been marginalised. It's leader, Michael Martin, a cabinet colleague of Bertie Ahern for all those years is twisting in the wind. If the Tribunal's findings result in a lasting change in the political culture of Ireland, it may even have been worth the time and money spent on it. Now we have to tackle the systemic corruption of the legal industry which prevented efficient investigation or effective prosecution in the past. I won't be holding my breath.

Display:
D'oh.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 09:03:40 AM EST
Or duh?

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 09:23:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My eyes fell on the below article a little after reading this diary. There seemed to be a disconnect.

Does Justice Alan Mahon not know that lying under oath is perjury? Or, are Irish politicians who have kissed the Blarney Stone exempt from perjury charges? And is the Irish Times indignation an effort to forestall prosecution and conviction of a former taoiseach?

Judges: Ex-Irish leader Ahern took secret payments

DUBLIN--Former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern received at least (EURO)209,779 ($276,000) in secret payments while in office and repeatedly told lies about this under oath, a mammoth fact-finding investigation ruled Thursday in a long-awaited verdict.

The three judges led by Justice Alan Mahon stopped short of finding Ahern guilty of corruption, because they found no evidence that Ahern gave favors to any of his cash donors when he was finance minister in the 1990s.

It seems rather artful to state that they do not have the evidence to prosecute him on corruption when they seem to have themselves provided ample evidence to prosecute on perjury. Or are the laws, written by the perpetrators, impossible to apply?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 12:07:26 PM EST
Of course there was ample evidence to have prosecuted Nixon but we did not. Perhaps it remains the case, ever since the ancient Roman Senate, that prosecutions of former officials becomes such blatant politically motivated abuse of prosecutorial discretion that it is deemed better to avoid it.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 12:13:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We might not have prosecuted him, but he was pardoned so we'll never know. There are lots of other examples, of course.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 01:08:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember being furious at the pardon and not just me. It was a significant part of why he lost to Carter, along with the division Reagan caused in the party.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 03:54:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The burden of proof on a criminal trial would be much higher than for a Tribunal of enquiry. The Justices found Ahern's Testimony to be incredible without being able to prove that he was covering up for corrupt payments. I doubt he will be prosecuted on that basis, although one of his Ministers, Pee Flynn, who was found to have accepted a corrupt payment, will probably be found guilty unless prosecuted in his own constituency, in which case "a jury of his peers" might just find that he really did no harm atall atall...shure isn't he a grand fella altogether...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 12:41:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Corruption was endemic at every level of the political and planning process.

That is one good reason more to have a land tax. It kills 90% of the corruption.

by kjr63 on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 04:30:05 PM EST
The key issue here is that a rezoning of land from agricultural to industrial/residential could increase its value 100 fold during the Celtic tiger era. There was thus a huge incentive to game the system. A simple 90% capital gains tax on the increase in value as a result of rezoning would have killed off that incentive and also ensured that any land bought for development would actually be used for development - to fund the tax - as opposed to just added to speculative land banks.

There is no recognition in the current system that the reason some land is so valuable is because the taxpayer has invented hugely in infrastructure to make it valuable.  Why shouldn't the gain in value not also accrue to the taxpayer? Even now, any such windfall gains accrue entirely to the land-owner who, more often than not, is a speculative investor.

However don't expect Fine Gael, the current ruling party to bring in such a change, as their support is based on the professional and farming classes who have most to gain from windfall profits on private property

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 05:31:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is one good reason more to have a land tax. It kills 90% of the corruption.

[Citation needed]

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 10:57:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Land does have the advantage that it cannot be moved offshore ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 03:34:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It makes tax evasion more difficult. It's not clear how this translates to making corruption more difficult.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 04:47:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If they try it in England, you'll be surprised to find out later how much of the South-East is really in the Cayman Islands....
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 10:11:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No. The ownership of the land lies with entities tax resident in the Cayman islands who have no taxable footprint in the UK. If debt can be virtualised, why not land?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 10:35:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wiki here

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 11:03:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite amusing:
The Liberal Democrats' ALTER (Action for Land Taxation and Economic Reform) aims:

to improve the understanding of and support for Land Value Taxation amongst members of the Liberal Democrats; to encourage all Liberal Democrats to promote and campaign for this policy as part of a more sustainable and just resource based economic system in which no one is enslaved by poverty; and to cooperate with other bodies, both inside and outside the Liberal Democrat Party, who share these objectives.

Does Clegg know this?
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 01:21:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would have in Spain, too.

The other 10% is good old bribery or insider trading.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 04:10:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[Citation needed]

Well, that is the thesis of Mason Gaffney's monograph Neo-classical Economics as a Stratagem
against Henry George
.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 11:07:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My query was specifically and narrowly to the corruption-preventing properties of Georgist policy prescriptions. Such properties do not at first blush seem plausible - the mechanisms underpinning corruption are not very directly related to tax policy. And, well, Georgism does strike me as a magnet for cranks making outrageous claims that it will cure poverty, corruption, infidelity and the common cold.

Hence the question: How, specifically, does Georgist taxation impede corruption? Please provide a plausible cause-and-effect story.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 11:43:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please provide a plausible cause-and-effect story.

To a considerable extent Gaffney does that. Of course any system can be corrupted if there is no will in the government or the electorate to enforce laws and bring to trial corrupt officials. But the land tax proposed by George taxes something that cannot move and that is the traditional store of wealth for the rich. That makes the process more transparent - if there are those with eyes to see.

In the U.K. such a tax on the unimproved value of land, if imposed at a level that would cover a significant portion of the state's revenue requirements would destroy the ongoing scheme of making real estate available for housing development so scarce and expensive, as the holders of vast estates would be looking for ways to have their holdings generate the cash flow to pay the tax. Similar considerations apply in the USA. There are other ways to accomplish this, but that is not the present point.

Of course this proposal could be applied in ways that would destroy the economy, and opponents always claim that would occur, but, as Gaffney shows, when local authorities and landowners in early 20th century California appropriately applied such a tax they were able to affordably develop irrigation districts and create a vast agricultural economy. Later the landowners found ways to transfer the cost to others.

As Chris Cook has noted, today we would want to extend the tax to other instances of private appropriation of the commons, including state granted monopolies on income from intellectual property. Then we might find that suddenly published works in the USA more recent than 1923 could make it more reliably into the public domain.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 01:17:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the land tax proposed by George taxes something that cannot move and that is the traditional store of wealth for the rich. That makes the process more transparent - if there are those with eyes to see.

If lack of transparency were the principal cause or enabling edifice of corruption, corruption would be a much easier problem to solve than it actually is. Even if one argues that land taxes will eliminate the bulk of the corruption associated with tax collection, this would still not be the bulk of all corruption in society. It is, for instance, more than a little difficult to see how the elimination of corruption in the tax office would meaningfully prevent clientilism in the relationship between central and member banks, or outright bribery in the procurement of armaments.

In the U.K. such a tax on the unimproved value of land, if imposed at a level that would cover a significant portion of the state's revenue requirements would destroy the ongoing scheme of making real estate available for housing development so scarce and expensive, as the holders of vast estates would be looking for ways to have their holdings generate the cash flow to pay the tax. Similar considerations apply in the USA. There are other ways to accomplish this, but that is not the present point.

Obviously, taxation of wealth (there is no particular reason to ring-fence land and give it a special treatment in this respect) will, given constant tax revenue, benefit labour and productive capital, to the detriment of idle wealth. Equally obviously, idle wealth serves no economic function, and can thus be dismantled with relative impunity. However, it is not obvious that shifting tax incidence from the factors of production to the holders of idle wealth will in any great measure diminish corruption. Which, remember, was the contention to which I objected.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 02:09:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unless you consider idle wealth to be in and of itself corrupting of the commonweal in the context of an era of rising inequality and increasing poverty. I accept that the definition of what constitutes "corruption" can be a social construct - e.g. where do you draw the line between insider trading and just having a good nose for business intelligence and the people who can provide it ..

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 02:22:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't say that idle wealth is the major - let alone the overwhelming - source of corruption of the common weal. There is plenty of inequitable and concentrated wealth which is anything but idle. British Petroleum, to take one example of enduring and recent prominence, is hardly idle. In fact, a case could be made that the world would be a better place if British Petroleum were idle.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 02:30:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've suggested before that the only way to eliminate corruption is to make all financial transactions public, without exception.

This makes winger heads explode, because it's straight out of big brother.

But total transparency is the only tool that will do the job, because it makes criminal and corrupt transactions far more difficult.

Of course, the issue then is whether or not criminal or corrupt transactions are prosecuted as they should be.

But if there's public awareness of wrong-doing, it becomes much harder to justify it than is possible now.

(Unless you're running a true police state, in which case you're screwed anyway.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 03:13:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Considering how much legitimately private information can be traced simply from a thorough look at your cash flows, I would be very skeptical of such a proposal. The way the economies and diseconomies of scale work for large data mining operations means that it will only ever be practical for large organisations to target small groups of people for thorough examination.

Couple this with the fact that it will be much more difficult to find evidence of genuinely corrupt practise (blackmail, bribes, etc.) than to find evidence of conduct about which society maintains the "polite fiction" that it does not exist (non-mainstream hobbies, sexual "deviance," etc.), and you are looking at a battle of attrition that favours the powerful and well-connected. And that's before consideration of their privileged access to mass communication.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 06:40:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way the economies and diseconomies of scale work for large data mining operations means that it will only ever be practical for large organisations to target small groups of people for thorough examination.

Open source.

The point is that openness is a significant disincentive to corruption. The possibility of public censure would be a significant deterrent.

The other point is that the powerful and well-connected already have superior access. The tax authorities in the UK can already look at any UK bank account. But I - as an individual - have no oversight over the earnings of elected representatives.

This is a huge power imbalance.

So I think the point stands - secrecy breeds corruption, and vice versa.

The issue is really one of obvious, direct public accountability in a very literal sense.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 07:05:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, if the civil service is out to get you, they can get you.

But there is a vast gulf between the tax authority having access to your bank statements and every two-bit far-right belief tank and tabloid shill having that access.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 08:56:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not so vast, it would seem, from recent revelations. Is not that what the whole NOW debacle tends to show? Secrecy, combined with the power of money to corrupt public officials, appears to be at the foundation of all that came later. But, of course, in proper capitalist form, the information is only available to those who can pay for it, or those who are deemed appropriate tools by those who have legal access.

If numerous public agencies to the personal details of average citizens why should not the lives of people running those organizations, or, at a minimum, all official actions, also be an open book to all. Sunshine laws are more honored in the breach than in the observance. We need to level that playing field if we care about government accountable to any but the rich.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 11:54:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because the ordinary official of those agencies has little or no power to influence their conduct, and certainly insufficient power to withstand a determined attack on his person if he conducts his service in a manner that displeases the powerful. A comprehensive list of your financial transactions will reveal a number of pressure points that it really is not the public's business to know. Who your landlord is, whether you are paying an estranged former spouse to support your children, who you place phone calls with, where you buy your groceries, what your travel patterns are, right down to what porn you wank to. It's not quite as intrusive as placing a webcam with a live public feed in your living room, but it comes pretty close.

If you are talking only the highest echelons of corporate and government bureaucracies, and people of substantial personal wealth, it would be an understandable demand in light of recent events. But for everyone to submit to such intrusive surveillance is well nigh unthinkable.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 01:13:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But for everyone to submit to such intrusive surveillance is well nigh unthinkable.

Agreed. Unfortunately it is sort of the case, at least potentially. Any of us could be so investigated and the results leaked as a means of social control. It would be preferable to enforce serious sanctions on abusers of privacy, but when will that happen. But at least radical deprivatization of all personal information would tend to reduce hypocrisy and establish a more level field. It is a high price, but one that we have, in part, already paid, even if out of inattention and/or powerlessness.

 

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 04:42:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No... just... no.

Unless you're the secret police or some similarly official agency, you can't just get the tax authority to give you a breakdown of someone else's cash flow. It does not work that way, even in notoriously corrupt places like the US. The paper trail is too wide and too visible, and too many civil servants maintain the belief - or, in some cases, the polite fiction - that they are in a different league from the tabloid smear-mongers.

What you and TBG are suggesting here is orders of magnitude more intrusive than any breach of privacy currently happening in connection with the routine monitoring of the financial transactions of the citizenry. I don't think you understand what the world would look like if your claims of routine violations of confidentiality were actually true.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 04:52:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I give you Valerie Plame Wilson. Though in that case what had happened came out. It was subsequently claimed that W had approved the declassification of her identity, so only Scooter Libby paid a price, one for which he has already doubtless been repaid many times. And I now invoke the theory of cockroaches.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 05:09:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, no.

Let me paint you a picture here: Any moderately competent statistical service in any reasonably advanced industrial society could take the sort of data you and TBG are suggesting should be made generally accessible and use it to compute - to more than two significant figures - the average yearly number of rolls of toilet paper you used to wipe your arse with over the past decade. Without even trying very hard. I was not kidding when I said that such a measure approaches the intrusiveness of placing a camera in your living room and broadcasting the feed live on the internet. In fact, in some ways it is even worse, because the data will be available in a format that lends itself much more easily to data mining.

The advertising budget of Unilever alone could fund at least a handful of full statistical services, with all the bells and whistles. How many scientists or consumer safety advocates do you think Unilever would need to keep under 24/7 surveillance to - ah - dissuade such activities aimed at the company? Five hundred? A trivial expenditure. Five thousand? Easy-peasy. Fifty thousand? Now you're starting to talk somewhat serious money.

Now compare to the consumer advocate organisation. They would need to keep tabs on maybe fifty people in and around Unilever alone, plus maybe a dozen new people for every other transnat they wanted to monitor (there is a large overlap due to the incestuous nature of upper management). Call it a hundred, if they are fairly narrowly focused on food and general groceries.

Even if running a statistical service had no economies of scale - which it does - they would need a budget on the order of one per cent of Unilever's advertising budget. Or somewhere in the same order of magnitude as a small municipality. How many NGOs do you know who have that sort of operating budget, let alone research budget?

That is a battle of attrition that the good guys are going to lose.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 05:29:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The picture is all too familiar. It is the consequence of allowing the emergence of the existing corporatist order. Those organizations with the resources are already doing all of the stuff you describe. We have lost -- at least in any game of contesting events on their grounds. Bur the average citizen doesn't have access even to enough solid information to know for sure what any of these guys are doing.

In the USA at least there is a limitation to libel and slander laws in the case of public officials. If you are a public figure you have less recourse than purely private individuals. That helps some. We need more of that sort of leveling of the playing field. As I noted a ways up, I do not advocate giving legal access to the personal details of individuals in general. But neither do I pretend that such access is not obtained routinely by those with power and, usually, without serious consequences to them.

In theory corporations are creations of the state and a price could be extracted for their privileges. In practice they are shields for private wealth and interest and are largely unaccountable. The situation is so bad that I believe that repealing the legislation that makes limited liability corporations legal may be the only real solution -- if that could ever be accomplished. I will be pleasantly surprised should it come to pass. Meanwhile, I do not pretend that, functionally, I have any real privacy - for the reasons you outline above. However, it probably would be worse were what I expect routinely occurs on an informal and, technically illegal basis, to be made explicitly legal.

But requiring that all contracts be made public in order for them to be enforceable would mostly be a problem, if that, for the wealthy. But we need to focus on punishing the use of supposedly privileged information on private individuals by those in government and in corporations, even if that won't stop them from finding out the information.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2012 at 10:20:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those organizations with the resources are already doing all of the stuff you describe.

No, they do not. Because they do not have access to the data, and obtaining it is expensive. There really is a difference in kind, not just in scope, between what happens today and what would happen if every two-bit Kochsucker and Swiftboater got unfettered access to this sort of data.

Meanwhile, I do not pretend that, functionally, I have any real privacy - for the reasons you outline above.

There is a vast gulf between assuming that anybody who is sufficiently interested and prepared to throw enough man-hours at the problem can invade your privacy and knowing that anybody who is even slightly interested and has two guys and a SAS license on his payroll can invade your privacy.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 03:23:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes they do. If A Corporation wants to find out how much toilet paper I use a year, they can check any number of loyalty cards.

I know people who do this stuff, and not only is the surveillance acute, it's also statistically homogenous. It's possible to guesstimate spending and buying habits from age and location with frightening accuracy.

But so what? No one cares how much toilet paper I buy a year. It's not an interesting fact. It's barely interesting to toilet paper sellers.

And let's not get started on the data on interests and habits already collected by Google, Facebook, Apple, and the rest.

The point is that statistically poor people have much less to hide than rich people do. If Tony Blair happens to have a Swiss bank account, it would be useful to know how much is in it and who paid him.

And so on. Currently there is no way - absolutely none - of making that critical information public.

The current situation doesn't just aid abuse, it sponsors it.

As for the costs - crowd sourcing can be a powerful thing. We already have WikiLeaks and Anonymous.

This would be more of the same, but with teeth.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 03:33:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We are living in an age of increased power inequality as exemplified by increased inequality in wealth. However in future power inequalities will be increasingly exacerbated by increased inequalities in access to information - and the ability to analyse and act on it.

We can already see how low information tea partiers can be played for fools by even low grade corporate interests in the US. The power to extort compliance from individuals by threatening to reveal information they don't want revealed may become pervasive.  Are you an in-the-closet-gay, do you have a criminal record, unpaid debts, accessed porn, did you have an affair?  All useful information for someone who wants to manipulate you.

But that is all about individual information about a particular individual someone powerful may want to cow or manipulate. More pervasive still is the aggregate information which can be used to target marketing campaigns or to manipulate a polity.

More open access to information to all could be one way of reducing this inequality - but I suggest an enhanced right to privacy and effective sanctions on those who breach this is a more effective safeguard.  Sure, those with wealth and access to lawyers can abuse this to hide their nefarious activities. But the abuse by a few should not be allowed dictate the rights of the many.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 08:11:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think blackmail would be the main consequence even on the personal level. If everything you do is known, there is little basis for blackmail. What we do see in societies where everything is known is not rampant blackmail, it is stifling social control, which brings social conservatism.

Frank Schnittger:

More open access to information to all could be one way of reducing this inequality - but I suggest an enhanced right to privacy and effective sanctions on those who breach this is a more effective safeguard.  Sure, those with wealth and access to lawyers can abuse this to hide their nefarious activities. But the abuse by a few should not be allowed dictate the rights of the many.

Yes.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 09:29:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Combine that with enhanced requirements for openness and transparency for corporations in their dealings with the political realm and the media and we might have a program. But this will be spun by corporates as invasion of their privacy - which it is, but it is more like revocation of some aspects of privacy as a condition of the continuation of other benefits of corporate personhood. If only.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 11:12:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By definition, Democracy should be the rule of the people by the people and corporates are NOT people (contra Citizen's United). All corporate "donations" should be considered ipso facto bribes and all public officials (active and receipt of a pension) should be debarred from receiving payment for services rendered from for profit corporates. The public good requires that we grant corporates certain indemnities and privileges for the economic benefits they can confer on the common-weal. That does not include granting them political powers or influence over us.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 12:46:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Democracy should be the rule of the people by the people

Whatever that means.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 12:57:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of individual human beings by individual human beings?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 01:05:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my version of democracy, entrance to the voting booth is guarded by one of those truckstop slot screens with Trivial Pursuits on it. Unless you get a minimum score in all 6 categories, you can't vote. But you may keep playing (it costs 1€) until you better your score.

Candidates for election must get to Gold level before they can enter the rolls.

It needs just a little refinement, but it's already better than what we have.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 01:17:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who gets to write the questions?

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 07:11:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In a reality TV show voting qualification process everything is controlled by Simon Cowell

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 08:09:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Upper school kids not yet old enough to vote.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 28th, 2012 at 12:44:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the answers? "When does life start?" 1) Conception 2) Birth 3)  When all the kids leave the nest and the dog dies.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Wed Mar 28th, 2012 at 02:15:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
3)
by sgr2 on Wed Mar 28th, 2012 at 12:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
If lack of transparency were the principal cause or enabling edifice of corruption, corruption would be a much easier problem to solve than it actually is.

If by corruption you mean exchange of favors that are unacceptable by the societys standards, then transparency should help. But that reduces what is commonly called corruption to only a subset.

I think the thesis that LVT cures most corruption is unprovable unless there is a stipulated definition of corruption that is much more distinct then the terms general use. I searched Gaffney's monograph and did not find a definition, just some - well deserved - rants against the existing corruption. (Note that I have only read bits and pieces around where the word "corruption" has been used, so it is probably terribly unfair as a charactherisation of the monograph.)

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 03:35:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mea culpa. To the extent that I implied that prevention of corruption is the thesis of Mason's work I mischaracterized that work. His actual thesis is that the discipline of economics was turned upside down specifically to undermine the sort of arguments that George would make in favor of his tax proposals, which the wealthy of the day found abhorrent. They had accumulated vast wealth in land from federal railroad development schemes and the land grant university system, and while sitting on that land for generations was less destructive to US society than what has happened in the UK, it still served as an untaxed store of wealth which had originated as public commons.

What I can more properly say is that he shows how such a tax has been used to great effect and shows in lurid detail how the beneficiaries of those grants of public lands inveigled to see that the discipline of economics was restructured and presented in ways that would not challenge the status quo.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 05:25:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Statement: Bertie Ahern - The Irish Times - Fri, Mar 23, 2012
The only reason that the Tribunal was allowed to investigate me was the entirely untrue and unworthy allegation that I had received money from Owen O'Callaghan. Without that allegation (which in truth was no more than rumour and gossip) it had no mandate at all to carry out a general inquiry into my finances and a trawl of my personal life.

From the report it is clear, not a single witness at the Mahon Tribunal directly stated that I was given a bribe (other than Mr Thomas Gilmartin). And he stated he was only repeating what he claimed he had been told by Owen O'Callaghan. Mr O'Callaghan was always clear that he never made that claim to Mr Gilmartin.

It is a matter of fact that I had nothing at all to do with the rezoning of the lands at Quarryvale. I was not a councillor on Dublin County Council and never exercised planning or zoning powers in respect of that site.

I am disappointed that the Tribunal has said that I failed to give "a truthful account".That statement is unfair and inaccurate having regard to the evidence. It is one that I cannot and I will never accept and I will continue to examine ways in which to vindicate my name.

I was honest with the Tribunal and I gave it truthful evidence and I reject completely any suggestion that I did otherwise.

What I find most remarkable is that even where there is no evidence to the contrary, in many instances, my evidence has been summarily rejected and no good reason has been set out for why this is the case.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 at 05:37:39 PM EST
To have one taoiseach on the take is unfortunate, to have two seems careless - The Irish Times - Sat, Mar 24, 2012

The tribunal report carefully and forensically dismantles the whole edifice of lies constructed by Ahern and his accomplices. And in response many, many people will claim that they were betrayed and fooled by the most devious and cunning politician of his time. But in order to be fooled, you have to believe. The really tough thing about the Mahon report is that it strongly implies that few of us were really that naïve. It suggests that the issue with corruption in Ireland is not innocence but wilful ignorance, not just wrongdoing but passive collusion. What happened was not belief in Bertie Ahern's lies but something more subtle and more characteristic of Irish culture: a suspension of disbelief.

One of the core realities that emerges from the tribunal report is that Bertie Ahern and his friends conspired to spin an incredible tale. It is, when you consider it in the light of Mahon's relentless and dispassionate logic, a transparent farrago. The best bit of unwitting comedy in the report is the recollection of the evidence of David McKenna, one of the contributors to the supposed "dig-out". Asked why he thought the money had to be paid in cash, he replied "One can only assume that Bertie is an extremely proud individual and that if you give him cheques, he's only going to tear them up". Say that in a sarcastic voice and it is worthy of Oscar Wilde.

But this fairy tale was enough for the 900,000 people who voted for Fianna Fáil or the Progressive Democrats in the 2007 general election. Each one of them knew, because The Irish Times had published the story, that Ahern was on the take. And each decided to suspend disbelief in the yarns he was spinning to explain it away. Corruption mattered so little to them that so long as Bertie came up with a story - any story - it could be pushed to the back of the mind. It is for these 900,000 people that the Mahon report matters. For it is ultimately less an examination of individual wrongdoing than a vivisection of the broad and deep culture of collusion and enabling. That culture was rampant in Fianna Fáil but it went far beyond the party.

Many of those who voted for Ahern are now those who hate him most.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 10:31:15 AM EST
But in order to be fooled, you have to believe.

1500 years of 'revealed' religion is no doubt an excellent lubricant for such folly, especially when, for almost all of the last 500 years, the bearer of that religion has been an authoritarian top down organization and that religion itself has been conflated with national identity.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 24th, 2012 at 11:19:38 AM EST
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