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Holes in the Net
Aubrey McCarthy is the founder and chairman of Tiglin, a charity that provides services to homeless people.
I listen to podcasts quite a bit in arrears. I’m not too worried about being current, I suppose, and I was just listening to a David McWilliams podcast from August, he was talking about the banks, not too surprising. And he touched on a topic that I’m surprised that more people don’t discuss.
David McWilliams didn’t really discuss the topic I’m referring to, but he did kind of arrive at the topic. This goes all the way back to Marx, The Communist Manifesto and all that, and the workers seizing the means of production.
Whatever about my other views, I think this misunderstands how economies work. Firstly, that whole thing about the workers seizing the means of production, whenever it has been put into effect, or even tried to be, it inevitably means the state seizing the means of production, nationalising industries.
This was a cornerstone of left-wing policy up to about the 1970s, but became a bit taboo after that, not least because of how badly nationalised industries performed. When Mary Robinson was running for president in 1990, there were a few desperate Fianna Fáil attempts to throw back at her statements, that she had made in the 1960s, advocating nationalising the banks.
So it was particularly ironic that another 20 years later in 2010, it was Fianna Fáil that ended up effectively nationalising the banks, and the Labour Party was the only party in the Dáil that voted against the bank bailout that led directly to that nationalisation. But history, or at least the observations of a pop economist is proving that … well, I suppose they were both right and wrong, but Fianna Fáil were right first.
The bottom line is that the Irish public are being hosed by Irish banks. But hang on a minute, Irish banks were, and largely still are, nationalised. Haven’t the workers seized the means of production already.
This exposes why the Marxist analysis doesn’t work.
The government – the people – can regulate an industry, or they can own an industry, but they can’t do both. It is a fundamental conflict of interest.
And the reality is that, yes, the state is the collective will of the people, but it is naïve to imagine that doesn’t have an independent existence of itself. Yes, there are people there who have the best interests of the people at heart most of the time, also there are people who only think of their own interests, but also, the state, like any other institution has a collective sense of self-preservation and promoting its own interests.
And if the state owns a huge chunk of the banking sector, it is inevitable that the desire to accrue profits from that ownership comes into conflict with regulating that sector, protecting the consumers, the public, who need its services.
And it’s pretty clear which side is winning in that conflict.
And it isn’t just the savers who are getting ripped off.
So when you hear about the record profits of Irish banks, don’t imagine that it’s some sort of business acumen, some sort of talent at running an enterprise that is making those profits. They make those profits because they have us over a barrel.
James Ker-Lindsay is Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. His research focuses on conflict, peace and security in South East Europe (Western Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus), European Union enlargement, and secession and recognition in international politics.
Donald Trump is going to jail.
That’s a whole big story in itself, the reason why Donald Trump is going to go to jail, I’ll talk about that a bit in a moment, but that’s not really the point. The real point is that Donald Trump is going to jail. And he’s going to jail soon.
That’s audio of the crowd at a Trump rally when he was running against Hillary Clinton shouting ‘lock her up’, one of dozens, probably hundreds of times that it happened. I don’t think that any but the most deluded of the people shouting really believed there was any chance that Hilary Clinton would actually be going to jail; someone once said that Trump’s detractors took him literally but not seriously, while his supporters took him seriously but not literally.
It might be because there’s been so much insincere talk about sending people to jail that I think people aren’t really taking seriously two things that are going to happen; I haven’t seen any commentator give a reasonable analysis of what I think are two important likely outcomes.
The second most important one is, of course, what do you do with the reality of having a candidate for president of the United States locked up in a federal prison cell, at the height of the election campaign.
But, much more important, and it’s getting even less attention; I talked on the podcast a while ago about how important it is, when you’re discussing any topic, to give some thought to what happens next.
Donald Trump is convicted in a federal court of serious crimes, he’s handcuffed, he’s led away to a prison van, and taken to a federal penitentiary where he may well spend the rest of his life. It would be a media event comparable with 9/11, but what happens next?
After the World Trade Centre attack, there was saturation coverage for weeks, but very few people were contemplating the what happens next that we have been living through for more than two decades now.
You might think ‘Trump going to prison? It’ll never get to that’. If you do, you’re not paying attention. First some basic facts. The US has a federal government, and a federal system of courts and prisons and criminal laws. Almost all cases are heard in state courts – murders trials like OJ Simpson, defamation trials like Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, and many less famous ones, they are all heard by state courts, under state law.
The FBI and the US Department of Justice investigate federal crimes, and despite their prominence in films and TV, their cases only make up a tiny proportion of all the trials in the US. For the Feds to get involved, the crime must be something that crosses state lines, like the Unabomber who posted his bombs from one state to another, or it must be an attack on the federal government itself.
So, in America, it’s pretty unusual to be charged with a federal crime, but if you are, your fate is pretty much sealed. Their conviction rate is truly spectacular. Of cases that come before the courts at all, even just for a preliminary hearing,
A Step into the Dark
Janie Lazar is the chair of End of Life Ireland.
Some people have said some things about my level of political insight, thanks to them, even if I don’treally think it’s that impressive most of the time. Actually, whatever level of insight that I do have, Ithink is just down to two habits. One is, when you’re discussing any topic, to clearly define what isthe actual problem that you are trying to solve. The second is, if you think of, or hear of a solution,you consider if it’s implemented, ‘what happens next?’ or ‘then what?’. Basically try to anticipate thesecond-next step, as well as the next one.Debates on politics and social issues often take the form of saying X is a problem, we should do Y tosolve it. What some people maybe miss out on is, if you solve problem X, or if you take action Y, ifthat happens what will happen as a result of that?I suppose the average person isn’t really required to think out their position on the West Lothianquestion or the Congress of Vienna, but there are some topics that are very common in populardiscussion, debated from bar stools and office microwaves up and down country, where peopledon’t seem to do that, which is fair enough, but sometimes it seems that our politicians, ourjournalists, the people who are actually paid to do this, their debate isn’t of a much better quality.I was thinking of this listening to Mark O’Halloran on the Mario Rosenstock Podcast a while back, Imentioned this interview a couple of podcasts ago, it’s worth hearing what he had to say.
That’s not the greatest tragedy that comes out of the housing crisis, but only because there aremuch bigger tragedies out there. It does though, I think, bring home to people who don’t have tothink of those difficulties, what it is like if you do; how the other half lives.A little bit later Mario Rosenstock interjects saying that people like Mark should be given more credit– literally and figuratively – by the banks.Now it’s not the job of either Mark O’Halloran or Mario Rosenstock to be experts on macroeconomicpolicy, but what they’re saying links in with a theme that can be seen often in social media, andsometimes in from professional journalists and elected politicians.Basically saying that someone is being denied a mortgage for what seems like an unfair reason, andthat the banks should be forced to give them the loan if they, for example, have shown that they areable to pay in rent an equivalent amount to the repayment, or saying that the government shouldgive or that group a tax break money to allow them to buy a house, or a grant to take account of thefact that they can’t get help from wealthy parents or whatever.These might seem like good ideas for the individual, they could potentially allow an individual to buya house, but they just don’t work at a society level.If you pass a law that says that the bank has to give a mortgage to Mary Murphy of 21 High Street,that might suit her, but you can’t make laws like that, laws apply to everyone, or at least everyone ina particular position. And if you make a law that says that the bank has to give everyone, or eveneveryone in a particular class of person, a mortgage, that doesn’t change the number of housesavailable.All that would do is allow some people who are after a house to outbid some other people who areafter a house. It might change who gets those houses, it might, but it mightn’t, because the originalpeople might be able to outbid them back. The thing that is certain not to change is that there would
be an equal number of people who need a house but don’t get it. And the one thing that would becertain to change is that whoever ends up with the house would be paying more for it.
Josie Appleton is the director of the Manifesto Club.
You might think that you’re not familiar with the CE symbol, but you probably are, I’m sure you’ve seen it thousands of times. I can’t show you a picture of it in audio format, but the symbol is two semi-circles, the first one making a C, the second with an extra line to make the capital E, and CE stands for, conformité européenne meaning conformity with European standards, and you’ve seen and ignored that symbol on a thousand different products, electronics, toys, basically any manufactured consumer product.
I mentioned cycle helmets on the podcast a few weeks back, that they are designed to protect a cyclist from a fall to the ground, but not from being hit by the driver of a car. Those design standards are codified in the conformité européenne system, and you’re not allowed to make, import or sell any products in the EU that don’t meet those standards.
The products are inspected, when they pass they get to display that CE symbol, the consumer doesn’t get children’s toys covered in lead paint or, hopefully, mobile phone batteries that blow up.
It is true that regulations like this have the potential include malicious requirements that some country sneaks in, to try to favour their industry over another country. James Dyson, for example, complained that the ratings for vacuum cleaners were done in a way that disadvantaged his invention, but the regulations are agreed by the EU as a whole, and everyone gets their shpake.
Official CE logo
The regulations are necessarily very complex, because they cover thousands of different products, and they can be very technical, and they were one of the prime rhetorical targets of the Brexit campaign, including people like James Dyson, you probably know this script by heart, the Brussels bureaucrats tying up our business up in unnecessary red tape.
This is Brexit, the Movie a glossy, professionally-produced video put out on YouTube by right-wing film-maker Martin Durkin as part of the Brexit campaign, it’s typical of the rhetoric at the time.
It’s very typical of the Brexit campaign in the sense that Martin Durkin has no regard for the truth, in this segment all the things that are mentioned in the voiceover appear in the stylishly-filmed routine of ‘regulated man’ getting up and having breakfast, with nifty graphics listing all the relevant regulations over each item. Except, they’re not necessarily relevant, as John Oliver observed at the time.
It’s not explicitly mentioned in Brexit the Movie, but most of the regulation that they were talking about here are the CE regulations, and ‘freeing Britain’ from this burdensome regulation was a core objective, and a core selling point of the Brexit lobby.
So, after much delay, what was called the UKCA, standing for UK Conformity Assessed, UKCA was launched on 1 January 2021, with the validity of CE certification to expire in the UK as of 31 December 2021, so a one-year transition period. Basically, the British government created their own standards agency to set their own standards independently,
Pauline O’Reilly is the Green Party spokesperson on Education and Higher Education and Senator and the cathaoirleach of the Green Party.
I heard Mark O’Halloran on an old episode the Mario Rosenstock Podcast recently, he talked very articulately about how the housing crisis affects him, how he as a man in his 50s has to ask someone’s permission to get a pet cat. I totally sympathise with his position, sometimes it’s small things like that which capture so well the dysfunction created by the housing crisis.
I’m sure some left-wing party is writing up a bill as I speak called something like the Tenant’s Right to Pets and Animal Companionship Act 2023. In fact, Sinn Féin is actually proposing a bill to make it illegal to ask for sex in return for a tenancy. That sounds horrific, I’m not convinced how widespread a problem it is, but if it even happens once, that’s obviously unacceptable.
But consider this – do we have a problem of supermarket workers demanding sex in return for groceries? Is that even conceivable? In Ireland, it’s not, but in recent years, there have been scandals of aid workers in both Somalia and Haiti, in the midst of famine, demanding sex for food. The conclusion is obvious. That can only happen where people are so desperate – be it for food or housing – where people are so desperate that they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
So it’s particularly insane that you get some people, particularly in the left, saying things like ‘we don’t have a housing crisis, we have a renting crisis’.
We do. We have a housing crisis.
And we get people, again primarily on the left, saying that ‘We can’t build our way out of the housing crisis’. Yes we can. That’s exactly what we need to do. We need to build. We need to build suitable homes in suitable locations, and we need to build them in vast numbers.
If you really need it to be proven, you can look at the figures. Ireland has by far the lowest number of dwellings per 1000 people in Western Europe, those are figures from the OECD.
And there is good reason to think that even those figures miss just how bad the situation in Ireland is. Those figures from the OECD are from 2020, but they only had access to Irish figures up to 2019. Now, to get the number of dwellings per capita, you obviously divide the number dwellings by the number of people.
But Ireland is the only Western European country with a sharply increasing population; so those figures from four years ago understate the current population.
And as per the last two censuses, Ireland has hundreds of thousands of dwellings that are being left vacant for various reasons, so those figures significantly overstate the number of dwellings available to live in. Both of those factors, more people and fewer dwellings indicate that the OECD figure, bad as it is, significantly understates the problem in Ireland.
Another factor is that other Western European countries tend to ha...
Gravy Trains and Spin Cycles
Repeats on podcasts don’t always make a lot of sense, but if you are subscribed, you’ll know that I put up a podcast from 2019 into the feed again last week; the podcast was an investigation into RTÉ and their relationship with the AA which supplied them with AA Roadwatch, the erstwhile traffic news segments.
The issue that I focussed on was that the supply of staff and studios for RTÉ quite clearly met RTÉ’s definition of a sponsored programme, and quite clearly breached RTÉ’s rules against accepting sponsorship from political lobbyists, and against accepting sponsorship from businesses with an interest in the content of the sponsored programme, and against allowing the sponsor to have any say in the content of the sponsored programme.
In that podcast I said that the response of RTÉ to my questioning was basically stonewalling. I asked them about breaching sponsorship rules, they said that it wasn’t a sponsored programme. I pointed them to their own criteria of what counted as a sponsored programme, and that AA Roadwatch clearly met those criteria, and at various stages they promised to get back to me with answers, they promised to tell me what exactly AA Roadwatch was if it wasn’t a sponsored programme, I sent many reminders over months, but they never did.
Since that podcast was first released, AA Roadwatch was scrapped by the AA.
One of the reasons that I repeated that podcast was because of the current corruption scandal within RTÉ. The mission statement that we have for this podcast, Here’s How is to cover things that are under-covered in other Irish media, and the current scandal is a lot of things, but I don’t think that it is under-covered.
That said, I think that there is an aspect of this that is getting, to say the very least, less coverage than it deserves. Inevitably, there is a temptation to cover the glitzy aspect of this story, when it relates to TV stars, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the sordid details, and I think that a wider story is being missed because of that.
Kudos to Imelda Munster, Sinn Féin’s Louth TD who did a better job than most in trying to nail down Noel Kelly, the agent of Ryan Tubridy and other RTÉ stars who is at the centre of this scandal.
What Imelda Munster was trying to nail down there was exactly how this dodgy deal got agreed. The secret payments were being routed through Renault Ireland to disguise their origin, and were paid on foot of invoices which did not bear Tubridy’s name, obviously to try not to attract the attention of anyone who might ask awkward questions.
Kelly, you hear there is trying to shrug his shoulders and say ‘nothing to do with me, guv’, and points to a memo to the agreement from RTÉ, to him, instructing him not to include Tubridy’s name on the invoice, as though he had no idea why they might say that, when they all were perfectly aware that Tubridy had gotten stick in public over his salary, and none of them wanted these secret payments to leak out.
There Kelly and Tubridy are trying to maintain the line that the secret payments were not really from RTÉ. Now, I’m careful about the defamation laws on this podcast, but I have no hesitation in saying that’s a lie. To the extent that they are claiming that the secret payments originated from Renault Ireland, Noel Kelly is lying, and Ryan Tubridy is lying.
The money was essentially laundered through Renault Ireland to disguise its origin, to hide the fact that this was a payment of RTÉ’s money – taxpayers’ money – that was not being included in the publicly-declared salary for Tubridy.
And they weren’t the only people lying.
Politics outside the US
Being a listener from the US, this is an insiders view to the inner workings of Ireland presented in an easy to follow way. Very informative and entertaining to listen to whats happening on that side of the world from an insiders point of view.
Serious, intelligent discussion, ahoy!
This is a serious, well produced podcast about Irish current affairs. The host, William Campbell, does a great job of laying out the issues and articulating his points. Discussion is specific to Ireland but the issues discussed frequently have broader significance.
A very informative podcast about the ongoings of Irish culture and poltics. The host keeps you will engage with the different news stories, shenagaings, and all the ongoings in the country with out dumbing it down or given a slated viewpoint on any of the subject matters. Great Listen!