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January 20, 2010 - Leave a Response





C. Flower





Strains on the Eurozone – Centrifugal Forces in the EU

January 19, 2010 - Leave a Response

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 - Leave a Response

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 - Leave a Response

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

“Is This Our Hurricane Katrina Moment ? “

January 12, 2010 - Leave a Response

I wrote on  20th November 2009 “Is this Our Hurricane Katrina Moment?”

Hurricane Katrina, not Iraq, finished off the Bush Presidency. Such a profound and visible failure to look after citizens in an emergency inevitably ended its credibility. Will the current flooding, not Nama or the cuts, prove the be the Fianna Fail Government’s Hurricane Katrina moment ? Gormley, Cowen and Co. met for the first time in Ireland’s new National Emergency Co-ordination Headquarters yesterday. I hope that the meeting kicked off a well oiled and integrated emergency reaction by the Garda, Army, Local Authorities, Communications services, Social Services and so on.  But events in Cork are worrying.

Cork County Council was unavailable to the press yesterday while large areas in its control were under water and its website was off line.  Its headquarters was flooded and 700 staff were marooned in the upper floors of the building. Surely some kind of emergency number and liaison with the Press (mobile phone contact?) could have been set up ? There are unanswered questions over how the release of water by the ESB from the Inishcarra dam was handled and on how much notice was given. No one seemed to have information on emergency water supplies and RTE reported that stocks of water were being stripped out of supermarkets.

A lot of money and time has been spent in the last few years on Major Emergency Planning. Every Local Authority and hospital has a plan.

However, many hundreds of thousands of euro of damage have been done to stock and personal posessions that could have been moved above flood level if advantage had been taken of the six or more hours warning that a flood was on the way.   Raised insurance costs next year are likely to kill off still more businesses.

This is the Cork City Emergency Plan – there is a full time Emergency Officer to support the City and County liaison group.  But come the day of need there were no functioning system in place.…on_website.pdf

Flood has been followed by snow and ice.  Again the Government looks indifferent and incompetent.  Again, thousands of people are without a proper water supply.  People are cold, and some have been trapped in their homes since before Christmas.  There have been thousands of fractured bones and some deaths.    The mismanagement of the road system has been devastating for industry and business.  There is plainly no proper protocol or system for bringing in the army and army reserve for emergency operations. But the only moment of real concern I’ve detected in the face of a Government Minister was at the idea of Noel Dempsey’s Sun holiday destination being revealed.   The Minister himself, with fatal choice of words, told us that he was “entitled” to his undisturbed holiday.  No matter how hard I look, I can’t see any signs of anyone in the Government understanding of what “public  service” means.

Part of the chaos we’ve seen may result from Noel Dempsey’s costly Local Government reorganisation in the early 2000s.  The City and County-level Major Emergency Plans, involving the local authorities and emergency services, were originally co-ordinated by the City and County Engineers, and they were in most cases the persons nominated to lead an integrated response to emergencies.   Dempsey abolished the role of County Engineer,  and created instead a raft of generalist senior management posts, which means that there is no one person in any local authority with the operational experience and authority to instruct co-ordinated emergency action by the roads, environment and water services sections.

Instead of competent and co-ordinated use of resources, public and voluntary, we’ve seen diffuse, unfocused efforts on the ground, with a defensive veneer  of ministerial activism in front of the cameras.  Rarely have politicians looked less attractive.  We are now well into our second month of looking at images of old people and families surrounded in water and snow drifts, left unassisted without water supplies or heating and listening to smug “entitled” politicians telling us it’s not their responsibility.

Yes, politically speaking, I do think this will prove to be a Hurricane Katrina moment for Fianna Fail.   While the economy can be argued over, mysticised or misunderstood, a broken leg on a slippery path, and old person made homeless by floods or a closed school without a water supply is  something we all fully understand.  The clear conclusion is that Fianna Fail – so clever at vote management but so bad at other things – doesn’t give a damn about you or your family.

Equally of concern to me is that there is no evidence that any party on the left has seen that the need to step in and give practical help to the people who need it.  It has been left to individuals and to community organisations, including the CDOs  (Community Development Organisations) currently being closed down as part of the budget cuts.  When government fails the people,  the people’s own organisations must step in.

C. Flower    Tuesday 12.12010

Post Script

Things don’t seem to have got much better from the water point of view, with tens of thousands in Dublin and other parts of the country still without water in their homes and some factories closed.  But the horrific impact of the earthquake on Port au Prince, Haiti,  14th January, with a city bigger than Dublin devastated, is overwhelming in comparison even with what happened to New Orleans and for the moment puts our troubles in the happeny place.

Link To Irish Discussion Forum

January 11, 2010 - Leave a Response

Tok blog is linked with Tok!, the Irish Discussion Forum.  Tok! is open for new members.  The Forum aims to provide a friendly and constructive platform for robust political and social debate on Irish and International topics.

Connect to Tok! Discussion Forum here:

The Nine Plagues of Ireland

January 11, 2010 - Leave a Response

The Nine Plagues of Ireland

  1. The Banking Crash
  2. The Budget Deficit
  3. Personal Debt
  4. The Fish Stock Collapse
  5. The Agricultural Crisis
  6. Unemployment
  7. Institutionalised Child Abuse
  8. The Floods and The “Cold Snap”
  9. Our political and union leadership.

There is some biblical quality about the scope of disaster visited on the Nation of Ireland but the sightings of shivering sun, moving statues and tree stump miracles have dried up it seems.  Objective solutions and calm, timely reactions are what’s needed – but have we got it in us at this stage to find them ?  Are we waiting for the Irish Sea to part, so we can trudge across to Holyhead ?

C. Flower     11.1.2010

About Tok Blog

January 10, 2010 - Leave a Response

Tok Blog started Sunday 10-1-2010.  It is a satellite of the Irish discussion forum, members are welcome to submit blog posts for Tok Blog, which is linked to the Tok forum. Members are also invited to suggest blogs to be linked, to provide links to their own blogs and to nominate longer posts on the Forum they feel deserve to be highlighted.

The blog will also be used to make announcements about and as a contact  point for members when the forum is off line for technical reasons.

Some Recent threads on Haiti on our Forum   –

Haiti – Hurricanes, Earthquakes and What Else ?

14 January 2010 – Haitian Earthquake

You’re Damned if You Do – Pat Robertson on Haiti

The militarisation of US Aid to Haiti

Memoirs of an 18th Century Haitian Democratic Leader

The Devil Writes to Pat Robertson

(C. Flower)

Welcome to Tok Blog!

January 10, 2010 - One Response

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