Archive for the ‘Tok Member Blog Posts’ Category

What is Money ?
February 16, 2010

 Besides being the root of all evil, according to some we should ask ourselves what is money.   One of the most common answers is that money is a medium of exchange.   It allows for anything to be traded because everyone put a value on money.   No matter what your product was you were willing to exchange it for money,  knowing that the seller of whatever product you needed to buy in turn would gladly exchange it for the money you had to give to him.  

The important thing was that everyone placed value on whatever was used as money. Gold and silver in modern times but rice, shells, large stones for example were once used. The Indians believed wampum beads had value so they were willing to sell land, pelts and goods for a few beads.   That sounds crazy but is in fact less crazy than a 10 euro note. The money itself had an intrinsic value. The bead itself or an ounce of gold was worth a value. It took an equal amount of effort to get the ounce of gold out of the ground as it did to produce the product it would buy.   The value of the gold did not fluctuate much and neither did the value of the product.   It was a pretty good unit of measurement. Things began to go astray when the bankers entered the picture.   They began as simple metal smiths.   They coined the metal into coins.   They of course kept some metal on hand to work with.  They offered to hold the excess metal of others in safe keeping.   In time they issued a receipt for the gold which was acceptable to trade as it could be exchanged for the gold at any time.   The hidden secret was that as long as the gold was not withdrawn then who was to say the bankers were not issueing more receipts than there was gold in the vault.   As they had the use of the gold they could lend it at interest and make money on other peoples money.   It was a great moneymaker.  

The bankers hit the jackpot in 1694 when they convinced the King of England to allow them to set up the Bank of England.   In exchange for them lending the King money they were allowed a monopoly and given the right to issue the currency.   The King would borrow as much as he liked.   The interest paid the bankers was gravy and the debt was never intended to be paid back but to continually rise.   The King passed the Legal Tender Laws and created a demand for the new currency because taxes had to be paid in the new notes.   Eventually the peg with the gold was broken entirely so the central bank could just print as much as they liked.   The money no longer had intrinsic value and was a fiat currency.   To nobody’s surprise they have printed trillions since then.   

Now the question is  “Why should the bankers be allowed to print money when by doing so it decreases the value of money already in existence?”   Everybody is getting robbed.   When the Bank of England expands the money supply by 200 billion it means that most are worse off by 200 billion and a few have gained 200 billion.   The unit of measurement called the pound has been reduced in size.   It is dishonest plain and simple and is theft. It has allowed the government to spend money not honestly gained in taxes. The result is a hidden tax called inflation.   If inflation is 10% you are paying 10% tax and most do not even realise it.  

Any society must have a currency which does not lose value.   The supply must be kept constant. It is not necessary to back a currency by gold, necessarily.   As long as the state issues the currency directly and keeps the supply constant that is fine. The issuing of the money must be taken away from the bankers.   This calls for a balanced budget and not state borrowing.   It also calls for the fractional reserve banking practices to be outlawed.   It is called a sound money policy and inflation would be a thing of the past.  

One step toward a just society.

Youngdan   16. 02. 2010

Reginald's Tower Waterford - The First Mint in Ireland

A Question of Time
February 13, 2010

The north was buzzing (or more accurately humming) during the week with the prospect of the BBC’s Question Time being broadcast from Belfast.   It reminded me of the 1970s when my father would tell us to ‘wheesht’ when The Nolan Sisters were shaking their booty.   Not that it was their shiny, clinging spandex that prompted him to call for hush, just the mere fact that they were Irish.   If ever this parochial attitude in the north was to be exposed then it was the ill placed pride that half a dozen of our finest minds would be held up to ridicule on a, ahem, ‘national’ stage.

We weren’t to be disappointed, the absence of spandex aside, when the panel was announced and later updated to include the new SDLP Supremo, Margaret Ritchie. In the finest of northern traditions, the first task was the sectarian headcount. Okay, let’s see,

Trimble, Wilson, Allister – Unionist.

Woodward – British

Kelly – Republican

Ritchie – We’ll hold off on that for a while yet.

Damn it, round one to the prods.   Bet Dimpledbottom will give them first word too.

Question 1. Could the panel please take this query regarding the ill-treatment of terrorist suspects in Cuba and bring it round to a bickering match about local issue in less than two sentences? Unqualified success by all concerned.

Question 2. Could the panel please have a bickering match about local issues with the added delight of a Unionist feud? Pretty good again.

And so it went on, with the host well warned and trigger happy with reprimands for what he must have known was inevitable.

Question 3. Could the panel discuss the chronic financial state of the Greek economy whilst simultaneously exposing their lack of economic understanding and also criticize the Republic of Ireland, not for their financial management but because they are the Republic of Ireland? No problem.

So how did the individuals perform on the night? From left to right (not politically but directionally).

Jim Allister: Poor Jim got shafted. The loony lefty/pro Republican BBC packed the audience with a cross section of voters and did not allow a cabal of noisy protestors to cheer his every word. He performed his usual selection of face pulling between questions and sang his rhetoric like a track from an old Willie McCrea CD.   No one was interested; least of all Dimbles who chastised Jim’s every effort to turn the discussion off topic.

David Trimble: His mental illness has clearly not improved, not even the gelling down of his erratic hair was enough to conceal that the man lives in a dream world. Davey tried his age old routine of starting off placidly, ‘look at me, I’m not bonkers, I’m much too thoughtful and relaxed for that’. A little to relaxed as he walked into a man trap from Dimbles about MP expenses.   He took a compliment about winning the Nobel Peace Prize seriously and at that point disappeared into his own legend, never to recover.

Shaun Woodward: Honest broker, like all Englishmen.   Shaun pre-empted every reply with a nod to one of the others referring to how correct they had been (Allister aside) and dodged his own expenses barb with greater finesse and style (ignored it) that Trimble could muster.

Gerry Kelly: Man of the Match, not every Question Time guest has to fence questions about being guilty of blowing up The Old Bailey and shooting a Prison Officer in the face. Gerry eased through the badgering and allowed only a little irk to enter his tone as he tailed off an attack on Allister to rousing applause from the audience.

Margaret Ritchie: Margaret has been to a class. ‘How to win favours with the audience by incessantly congratulating them and the voting public in general’. Populist wouldn’t cover it, Ritchie had the viewers saying, ‘well said, good on you’. Unfortunately, minutes later, they were also asking, ‘What did she say anyway?’

Sammy Wilson: Strangely subdued. That’s a description of his performance not how I’d like to see him. Sammy wasn’t going to lower himself to Allister’s level regardless of how small a drop that it would have required. Most interestingly was his announcement in retaliation to ‘Double-Jobbing’ jibes that he had just this week resigned from Belfast City Council. Turns out, he didn’t actually get around to resigning that particular post until the following day; maybe someone else will notice this anomaly.

Dimples: David was too eager to jump in like the strict headmaster revealing his game plan early on but it resulted in him having a sneer at Kelly when he had simply misheard what Gerry had said.

The Studio Audience: Well the taigs all clapped for the taigs and the prods, well they clapped for the taigs too. Strange enough behaviour and behaviour which deserves a mention. Everyone, including myself was all set for the collective embarrassment of sectarian clapping competitions but even the individuals in the audience behaved with a surprising amount of moderation.

Jim Allister was the sole man on the outside in this debate and well he knew it. Whether that translates as a less than dramatic effect when it comes to Stormont or Westminster elections remains to be seen.

Oh, and the funny question at the end? Nah, let’s quit while we’re ahead.

Still, those Nolan Sisters eh?

5intheface    13. 2. 2010

Bertie Stares at Empty Box
February 8, 2010

Had the ‘pleasure’ of attending the Ireland Italy rugby game in Croke Park at the weekend…..
Wont talk about the match….
Instead 3 observations…

Maybe half the corporate boxes were taken. Not one corporate box in the Davin Stand was occupied and there were a few vacant positions in the Hogan and Cusack too. Hardly bodes well for ‘supposed sales’ of Corporate boxes in the new Aviva. If the rugby cant fill half the boxes for a six nations game, hardly bodes well for the FAI sales?

Drink, the queues for the bars in Croke Park were crazy, if you had gone out at the half time whistle for a pint, it would have been well into the second half before you got served. Then as you walked into your section you’d discover that you weren’t allowed bring alcoholic beverages into your seat. There was some amount of half drunk and barely drunk pints at the entrance to the section. I hope the Aviva will be better equipped Bar wise.

A little tip….
Buy yourself a cup of tea and a pint. empty the tea (or even drink it!) and fill the cup with your pint (or what remains of it) and walk in without a bother. Or even better still get yourself some cups and lids at the Spar before you go in!

The most exciting thing about the second half was the rumour that a certain ex Taoiseach, and Croke Park regular found himself relegated from the Ard Comhairle and all the great and the good. Instead he looked lost as he sat in the section beside and even had the indignity of having to buy his own programme!

Electionlit  8.2.2010

Link to Irish and International Discussion Forum
February 5, 2010

You are warmly invited to join the debate at

The Politics of Sexual Abuse
February 5, 2010

WorldbyStorm has written over at the Cedar Lounge Revolution under the heading “As the Dust Settles” about the propriety of discussing or not discussing Gerry Adams’ actions (and inactions) in relation to abuse of his niece.

WbS’s first comment is that this may go to trial, and a future trial should not be prejudiced.  This is a good point and one that should always be born in mind.  There is a lot more though.  He goes on to ask if the matter should be discussed at all in a political blog, if it is not a political issue.  He suggests that it would only have become political if there had been a backlash against Sinn Fein in the polls.  WbS then says that Sinn Fein’s moves towards left alliances don’t necessarily give the left a right to ask questions on this.   Then, he asks – is the personal indistinguishable from the political ?  And finally, are Sinn Fein and Adams one and the same thing ?

Primarily it begs the question is this a political matter at this point in time? There have been no resignations or protests within SF over this matter. There has been, bar one or two peripheral interjections, no serious political attacks on Adams or SF by their opponents. There have been no attempts that one can tell from reading the media by the governments or by Nationalists, Republicans or non-aligned people generally to protest. There is no evidence that this has altered in the immediate past – or during the current talks – the policy positions of either SF or other parties North or South. And if it were to hang heavily upon those involved in the talks the bizarre events surrounding other politicians would – one presumes – cancel out their effect. In other words, what then particularly is the political issue as it stands at the moment that can be pointed at that relates to this? And if there is none so far evident then what are the political ramifications?

Plenty of reasons there to settle the dust – indeed a reflex to encourage this particular dust to settle seems to have occurred throughout the body politic and much of the general public.  The reasons for this are worth a separate examination on another occasion.

I certainly wouldn’t want to prejudice a trial, but WorldbyStorm’s other arguments don’t convince me.   This is far from the first time that there have been allegations of sexual abuse in parties of the left, internationally and not the first discussion of the subject.   The exposure of sexual abuse in the Church has raised conciousness  that institutionalised abuse is a social and political phenomenon, not just a personal flaw.

What has struck me forcibly about the public, press and politicians’ reactions to the Adams predicament is precisely the absence of discussion of the politics of sex abuse in Ireland.  Could sexual abuse in the Republican movement mean something different to sexual abuse the Church, where it was patently part of the means of social control and exploitation of the working class ?  Working class boys, girls and young women were made into unpaid slaves, objects for personal gratification and a source of income to sustain a layer of religious whose role was to support social hierarchies.  The Church became an extension to the State, with Gardai returning escaped young people back to these work camps.

Sexual abuse is exploitation that takes place in situations where there is inequality and uncontrolled power.  There have been instances of abuse of women party members or family members in the past in parties of the left and it appears, republican parties, going back at least to the 1970s.  Advantage was cynically taken of devotion and loyalty of the victimised families.  But this betrayal of loyalty not only hurts the individual but it also hurts the party.

A pattern of abuse or cover up of abuse by leading figures of any progressive party, should it occur, would be highly symptomatic that the politics or the organisation had become sick, or that there was infiltration and abuse was used as a weapon to demoralise, or both.  It is divisive within an organisation, destructive of morale and leaves the party wide open to blackmail or public exposure.

A party founded to obtain social justice and equality, if it had not been corrupted and politically derailed, would not tolerate abuse.    There has been no trial as yet, nor is there any sign of one.   The dust may or not be settling.  Both a trial and a lot more discussion of the politics of sexual abuse might help to sweep it away.

Cactusflower   5.2.2010

Our Bagels are much Better
January 22, 2010

Twenty two years ago, at the ripe old age of seventeen, I visited Boston for a summer. I had just finished my leaving cert and was ready for a big adventure. I can remember being stunned by almost everything there, from the height of the buildings to the size of the bags of crisps! The accent seemed so pronounced; the culture seemed so different. There was an atmosphere of “anything is possible” about the place.

South Boston or Southie as it is affectionately known to its residents was heaving with Irish people at the time and it was here that I landed. I remember stopping in amazement and staring when I saw a republican mural on a gable end of a building there. All over Boston there were Irish pubs, Irish shops, Irish bakeries and plenty of Irish Illegals, myself included.

I spent a few months there, doing all sorts of jobs and learning a lot about life.  I interacted with black people for the first time in my life, I ate bagels for the first time and I saw an eight-lane motorway for the first time.   I ate sub sandwiches all the time, never ceasing to be amazed at how many fillings you could get into one sandwich. I sniggered to myself when I heard people say things like “awesome” and “oh my God”.  I wondered at the size of the supermarkets, and my jaw dropped the first time I saw an old couple walking hand in hand, something I had genuinely never seen before.

After some time, waitressing and other illegal-friendly work ground me down and I went home to Ireland to try to secure a green card. As it turned out, this didn’t happen. I got distracted instead by London.

I returned to Boston this Christmas time, with my fourteen year old daughter in tow. How things have changed. And how our culture has changed! Nothing seemed different in America this time. My daughter was telling Bostonians that the bagels in Ireland are much better.  She knew the popular culture there backwards, having been exposed to it so much more than we would have.  Nothing seemed alien to her at all. She has been brought up in such a different country to what we were brought up in. We now have the motorways, the gigantic shopping centres, the sub sandwiches with multiple fillings and even the old people holding hands.

We went for a visit to my old haunt of South Boston. The mural is still there, albeit dishevelled, and  some of the pubs are still there. I went up to Dorchester and the bakery is still going strong. While waiting at the counter my daughter overheard some old men in the corner talking. She turned to me excitedly and told me that they were speaking in Irish. Being a keen Gaelgoir herself, she persuaded me to stay for a coffee so she could soak up this little corner of Connemara that had been displaced to a bakery shop corner.  This was role reversal in its highest order. Here was a young Irish girl from the West of Ireland finding something in America so quaint that she wanted to prolong it. Again, I say it, how things have changed!

The only moment that I got a hint of my daughter getting a sense of the wonder I felt when I first landed in America was when I took her up to New York and up the Empire State Building. Upon seeing the view from the top she exclaimed –

“Oh….my…God! That’s awesome, Mammy”.

Floatingingalway    22.1.2010

Tok Authors
January 20, 2010





C. Flower




Strains on the Eurozone – Centrifugal Forces in the EU
January 19, 2010

This interesting comment in the FT (Ralph Atkins 14.12.2009 ) points to the relative insignificance of the Greek economy to the EU (3%), compared with California to the US (14%).  Economists (and the markets) view both as bankrupt states, but Greece’s weakness is interpreted as an indication that the Eurozone can’t hold together.   The FT puts it down to a hostile commentariat and to the lack of political cohesion of the eurozone.  Most tellingly, the US can transfer tax income from stronger states to weaker when it needs to and this is not the case in the EU.

“The US economy allows fiscal transfers between states, to help the weakest. But other eurozone countries might well just let Greece fall into an abyss, whatever the consequences”


For stronger, more central EU states, the scenario of EU expansion originally held the prospect of fresh territories that could be incorporated into their markets, without any responsibility for fiscal transfers, no matter how debilitated the weaker peripheral countries became.  Had they never heard of centrifugal force?  With this imbalance of steady, strong central economies and whirling, weakening peripheral economies, the likelihood of something flying off is ever-increasing.

 Atkins asks if there are any other reasons why the worry about the Euro, when the dollar appears relatively immune from contagion from California’s disease.  One reason, I believe, is that Greece has a well organised and class concious, unionised working class, which will undoubtedly resist the slash and burn approach to renewing economies.

C Flower    19.1.2010

What Will Be the Result of Upcoming Industrial Action?
January 19, 2010

Well we are getting close now to the period of unrest, what will be achieved?

I know I personally lashed out at the Public Sector over Water Crisis Management. However, my general opinion in my former Life on was that we should do everything possible to ensure we are not divided as citizens of Ireland. Public Sector Workers yep it is reasonable that you may feel angry and isolated. But you must be mindful of the rest of the Community and their hurt.

Yesterday I listened with astonishment a discussion on the radio which involved the Union Representative and Senior Management from the Mater Private Hospital. There is a strike pending for Feb 1st.  A Union Representative implied that nothing regarding Emergency Cover is guaranteed.  Amazing and totally unprofessional.  Management stated the cuts would stand no matter what,  but then went on to say that though there were cuts made, the hospital had paid Dividends to its’ Shareholders, of whom Staff hold 15%.  Why, because they were in profit.  How in Hell can any Business man justify that.  I must have looked like one of those toy dogs in may car just shaking my head. Yes I know this is a Private Hospital, but is this type of confrontation indicative of what is to come?

The country seems to be holding it’s breath waiting for the battle to commence. The problem is, there will be no winners in this. If Public Sector salaries stay as is, then Private Sector salaries must rise and all Welfare cuts must be reversed. Are the Negotiators on both sides professional enough to pick their way through to a Win Win, no chance. The Union Leaders have cosily sat on their asses for years raking in money when everybody was basically locked into Partnership Agreements.  The Management, Public or Private, have relaxed and lost all the skills to negotiate and will make a complete and utter shambles of it.  The Government do not seem to realise that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming at them.  They have convinced themselves nothing will happen.  The Opposition Parties will stir the manure to get a real battle going.  Screw the Country, we need Political Points.

This is a horrific situation for the Country and could bring it to it’s knees. It will divide families and friends. All for what? There is no Winner here. Do I have answers or opinions as a Businessman? Yes I do, but they will not be heard in the mayhem.  The Snowball has started to roll down the hill and it is growing by the second.   IBEC are just keeping their heads down because Public Sector is not their remit.  I am sorry boys and girls But it Damn Well is.   IBEC should be trying to act in some way as facilitators in this mess. But alas, they will stay in hiding.

God Bless Ireland and all who sink in her.

Lifeisagame             19 Jan 2010

Haiti – Eternal Punishment
January 17, 2010

Eternal Punishment

Until a few years ago I didn’t know much about Haiti. I had grown up with histories about Duvalier and the Tonton Macoute, and I knew about voodoo from popular culture. In a nutshell, a barbarian country with barbarian customs.
That changed in the Argentinean Patagonia, a place where natives, the Mapuche, are the workforce for the descendents of European immigrants, brought there to implement an agricultural project of British capital, a concession related to the railway that enabled a genocidal military campaign of “pacification” against the Mapuche.    An impressive monument to the leader of that campaign, Gen. Julio Roca, whom later would become Argentina’s President, was built near Choele Choel, facing south – the direction of the conquest, and Roca’s statues are omnipresent throughout Patagonian cities, one is even named after him.  It was there that an Agronomist told me some of the details of that campaign, how the soldiers were paid against the presentation of the dead native’s testicles.

He recommended a few books on Argentina’s History and one of them was Eduardo Galeano’s “The Open Veins of Latin America.” That book gave me the basis to understand what happens in that part of the world, and it was in it that I first glimpsed at the true History of Haiti.  Eduardo Galeano is a man I immensely respect and I try to keep up with his writings. One of them “The White Curse” was written by the time of the last US invasion of Haiti to oust President Aristide. It is a short timeline of Haitian History, and I would like to share with you it’s beginning and end:

“On the first day of his year, freedom in this world turned 200. But no one noticed, or almost no one. A few days later, the country where this birth occurred, Haiti, found itself in the media spotlight, not for the anniversary of universal freedom but for the ouster of President Aristide.  Haiti was the first country to abolish slavery. However, the most widely read encyclopedias and almost all educational textbooks attribute this honorable deed to England. It is true that one fine day the empire that had been the champion in the slave trade changed its mind about it. But abolition in Britain took place in 1807, three years after the Haitian revolution, and it was so unconvincing that in 1832 Britain had to ban slavery again.”
“On the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, there is a large sign that reads: Road to Ruin.  Down that road, everyone is a sculptor. Haitians have the habit of collecting tin cans and scrap metal that they cut and shape and hammer with old-world mastery, creating marvels that are sold in the street markets. Haiti is a country that has been thrown away, as an eternal punishment of its dignity. There it lies, like scrap metal. It awaits the hands of its people.”

The first time Hugo Chávez met Obama he offered him “The Open Vein”. There was some hope, then, that things could change. Honduras showed us that those hopes were vain. The marines are once again on the way to occupy Haiti. Obama’s peculiar “Humanitarian Help” proves the only difference to his predecessors is just a matter of pigment, nothing else.

Estouxim   17 Jan 2010