Jan 2011

Revolution in North Africa

First Tunisia. Then Egypt. Where next?

Tonight the Egyptian regime is teetering on the edge of collapse. A lot of commentators are suggesting that the fall of Hosni Mubarak is inevitable, though I’d be wary of underestimating the man’s tenacity. The domino-effect is somewhat overrated and to simply assume that the pattern we saw in Tunisia will automatically repeat itself in Egypt is to be guilty of questionable generalisation. Certainly opposition movements across the Middle East have been inspired by the Jasmine Revolution, but the complex and unique internal dynamics of each nation cannot be ignored. These aren’t all “the same place” though they may face many of the same problems.

A police van burns on 6th October Bridge

My family lived in Cairo for a couple of years during my mid-teens so I know the city fairly well. Or rather, I knew 80s Cairo fairly well. Much has changed in the intervening years, though the images being broadcast today were of roads, bridges and buildings with which I am very familiar. Watching an honest-to-goodness revolution unfold on streets I once thought of as “home” has been a peculiar experience to say the least. It’s made me think about where else such events might happen.

One thing that hasn’t changed about Egypt since my time there in the mid-80s is the guy in charge. Hosni Mubarak, 25 years older and with saggier jowls, is still running the country. Which is what you’d expect in a “democracy” where the president tends to stand unopposed in elections. And as today’s events demonstrate, that isn’t because he’s universally loved. Mubarak is shrewd as hell and has a much larger and better equipped security apparatus than ex-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia. It still wouldn’t surprise me to see him emerge from this chaos with a firm grip on the reins of power in Egypt. Though I suspect his dream of installing his son as successor is now over.

That said, I’m not suggesting things are looking good for Hosni Mubarak. There are rumours that he has already fled the country but while the odds are certainly stacked against him, they aren’t quite as heavily stacked as they were for the guy twelve hundred miles to his west.

The Devil You Know

Here’s where I get controversial. And please do me the favour of accepting my words at face value rather than trying to read some kind of veiled pro-Mubarak sentiment into them, or suggesting I’m putting forward a pro-western neoliberal neocolonial agenda. Those who know me will understand that’s not where my concerns are coming from. Those who don’t will just have to take that on faith.

Firstly let me state, unequivocally, that the Egyptian regime is corrupt, despotic and guilty of more human rights abuses than any of us will ever know. If the world was a truly just place, Hosni Mubarak would face trial for (and be convicted of) crimes against humanity. The people of Egypt deserve much better. And I fully support their attempts to achieve it.

However, the unintended consequences of those attempts could have ramifications far beyond the borders of Egypt. As I listened to reports of today’s protests on Al Jazeera, something was said… just once and not repeated… that made me feel a little uneasy. “Several members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested in the past 24 hours” said the reporter. I have no idea whether the Muslim Brotherhood is playing any part in the current situation. In reality, even if they have nothing whatsoever to do with it, Hosni Mubarak’s “round up the usual suspects” approach will have made them targets. What I do know is that some members of the Egyptian opposition have called upon the Brotherhood to form militia units to maintain order in the absence of the police. Mubarak’s efficient suppression of opposition groups will ensure a power vacuum if he is ousted in the next few days, and it seems very possible that the Muslim Brotherhood will be best-placed to take advantage of that vacuum.

Now, before you accuse me of anti-Muslim sentiment let me point out that my problem is with hardliners of any religion having too much political influence. Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish State gives me the creeps. The subordination of Iranian politics to the clerics appals me. And they both pale into insignificance compared with how appalled I am by the thought of the Christian Right gaining any more power in the United States than they already possess. The grip that Catholicism had on my country, Ireland, was nightmarish and I don’t wish to see a similar fate visited upon any other nation.

I do not see The Islamic Republic of Egypt to be a better option than what the Egyptians had last week. And there’s a real danger that could emerge from this situation. Neither are desirable of course, but the former — and this is the crucial point — seriously increases the possibility of another Arab-Israeli conflict. And that would be a disaster for the entire region, if not the world.

The Fall of The House of Saud

Meanwhile, during my time spent online today, I’ve encountered numerous tweets and blog posts and facebook comments excitedly anticipating the spread of this revolutionary fervor to Saudi Arabia… a regime far more brutal and oppressive than Egypt. I’ve also spent time there, and if ever there was a nation in need of regime change it’s Saudi Arabia.

However, while the dangers of the relatively secular Egyptian society falling under the spell of theocrats are real but not massive; the fall of the Saudi Royal Family would almost certainly result in the rise of a hardline Islamist government. See, people have this idea of Saudi Arabia being run by Islamists, but in fact the reality is more complex. Yes, it’s a society run along fundamentalist islamic principles, but the people right at the very top are cynical realists rather than True Believers. They pander to the religious tendencies within their culture, but they work hard to keep things on an even keel with regards to foreign policy. Purely for their own purposes, you understand, but it nonetheless maintains a certain level of peace in the region.

I want you to consider two crucial facts about Saudi Arabia… One: They are by far the largest oil exporter on the planet. Two: By percentage of GDP, they have the largest defence budget of any major country on the planet (and in real terms are the 8th biggest spender on weapons… spending almost 3 times more per annum than Israel on guns, bombs and planes).

I suspect that a Saudi revolution could lead to a radical Islamist government, and I suspect that in turn could lead to war with Israel. Nobody is more convinced than me that the world needs to wean itself off its addiction to oil. And I’m also convinced that Israel’s policy towards the Palestinian people needs to change. I’m just not sure that a Saudi-Israeli war is the optimum way of achieving those ends.

In summary

I don’t for a moment want to give the impression that these are “predictions”. They are very much worst-case scenarios and I will be overjoyed if a wave of revolutions sweep the Middle East and North Africa leaving stable secular governments in their wake. Republics that fully maintain their Islamic cultural heritage while remaining pluralist, tolerant and non-confrontational. That would be my ideal and if Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution turns out to be the spark that set off such a beautiful flame, then it will be long remembered as one of the most positive developments in the history of a region for too long dominated by ruthless despots, unaccountable royal families and corrupt bureaucracies.

But history teaches us that revolutions rarely end up at the glorious destination envisioned by those who participate in them. Let us all hope that this time round, history won’t repeat itself.

UPDATE: As if on cue, a spokesman for the hardline Iranian government has come out in support of the uprisings in the secular Arab states and expresses his “optimism” about the situation in Egypt.

UPDATE 30-01-2011: Meanwhile Tunisia’s Islamist leader returns home after 22 years in exile.

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Jan 2011

On This Deity: 28th January 1939

Head on over to Dorian Cope’s On This Deity for my latest piece…

28th January 1939: The Death of William Butler Yeats.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to mourn the death and celebrate the life of William Butler Yeats. Poet and politician, mystic and modernist, revolutionary and traditionalist, WB Yeats lived a life filled with glorious contradiction. A man of rare wisdom and questionable judgment, his Nobel Prize-winning poetry graces us with some of the 20th century’s most enduring imagery. Steeped in mythological symbolism — mostly Celtic, but drawing also on the mythpoetry of Greece, Rome and beyond — the spellbinding blend of mysticism, contemporary commentary and Romanticism provided Ireland, and the wider world, with a truly illuminating voice (as well as revealing the debt this Irish poet owed to his English inspiration, William Blake).

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Jan 2011

Where’s the rest of the oil?

Yesterday an article appeared in The Independent over in the UK with the title, Where’s the rest of the oil? As is the case with so much written in the mainstream media about this subject, it’s yet another piece riddled with misunderstandings, factual errors and untenable conclusions by a business journalist with little or no insight into the oil industry. Not that everything in it is wrong, but there are enough basic mistakes and research failures to cause one to despair that this should have appeared in the “Analysis and Features” section. If this is the best analysis that The Independent can muster, it calls the entire publication into question.

The article begins thus:

When BP first formed an alliance with Rosneft in 1998 to develop the Sakhalin fields in the Pacific Ocean, the UK oil giant estimated Russia’s oil reserves at 56 billion barrels.

When BP agreed its share-swap with the Moscow-based energy group last weekend, the estimate was 75 billion barrels, and development of Rosneft’s licences inside the Arctic Circle could increase production enormously.

Such advances undermine the pessimists’ predictions that the world’s oil will imminently run out. In 1956, when the concept of “peak oil” — the point at which production starts falling — was formulated, US output was expected to fall from the late 1960s. But new discoveries have constantly pushed that date back. BP was estimating world oil reserves at 1 trillion barrels 20 years ago: now, despite record consumption, the estimate is 1.333 trillion.

Richard Northedge | Where’s the rest of the oil?

Three paragraphs in and already three problems; one glaring factual error, one obvious misinterpretation and one example of questionable judgment.

One example of questionable judgment

Firstly there’s the issue of Reserve Growth (first and second paragraphs plus the end of the third). Now, this is something I’ve covered several times before but it’s something that bears repeating as it cuts right to the heart of the oil depletion issue.

Every year BP publish their “Statistical Review of World Energy” (link to 2010 edition). This publication — or collection of publications — tends to get picked up by journalists and economists and taken at face value. This is a terrible mistake on their part and illustrates the “questionable judgment” I mentioned. It reveals a failure to investigate the methodology behind the Statistical Review of World Energy and a blind acceptance of data presumably by virtue of it having a corporate source. One wonders whether these journalists believe everything they see in advertising too… for instance, does Richard Northedge actually think BP have moved “Beyond Petroleum”?

For those who haven’t read my previous stuff on the Statistical Review of World Energy (Energy Review), let me explain why it’s not to be taken at face value. The data within the Energy Review is broken down by country. And it is generated not by some kind of geological analysis but simply by asking the governments of each country to state their oil reserves without any independent audit or verification. This might be an accurate enough method if countries had an incentive to be honest about their reserves, but in fact the opposite is true and the majority of oil producing countries have a massive incentive to inflate their stated reserves. This fact alone should make any journalist hesitate before basing their analysis on the BP Energy Review, even before they take the time to investigate the effect this incentive has had on the reporting of historical reserves.

In the early 1980s OPEC introduced production quotas based upon “proven reserves”. This sounds solid enough until you realise that “proven reserves” actually means “stated reserves” in countries that have not implemented an independent auditing system (i.e. most of them). In effect, the more oil an OPEC member claimed to have, the more it was permitted to sell and consequently the more money it made. If you download the historical reserve data (Excel Workbook) you can clearly see the result this had on the stated reserves of OPEC nations. Check out the page in the workbook entitled “Oil – proved reserves history” and pay particular attention to what happened in the 1980s just after the new quota system was introduced.

Some examples… in 1986 Iran’s reserves jumped from 59 billion barrels (bb) to 93bb. They then remained identical for the next 7 years (implying that Iran somehow managed to discover exactly the same amount of oil per annum as they were producing) before starting to creep up again. A couple of years later, Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves leapt from 170bb to 255bb and has remained pretty much constant ever since. The same pattern can be seen across most OPEC nations. Venezuela doubled its reserves in 1985. Yemen doubled in 1986 and again in 1987. In 1986 UAE trebled their reserve estimates. And in the subsequent 25 years, no OPEC nation has significantly revised their reserves downwards (in fact many of them, as with Iran, simply report identical reserves for years on end).

If you believe that every OPEC nation somehow managed to discover as much new oil as they already possessed in a two year period in the 1980s just at the precise moment they gained a huge financial incentive to overstate their reserves, then may I suggest a certain level of naivety on your part. Particularly as there’s no actual evidence for a massive series of discoveries at the time and no parallel discoveries outside the OPEC nations.

As well as the OPEC nations, in recent years Russia has also found itself with an incentive to overstate reserves in the form of inward investment in oil and gas infrastructure that naturally increases in direct relationship with their claimed reserves. Tellingly, there is also no official independent auditing of Russian reserves.

What this means is that while I cannot say with any certainty that Saudi reserves (for example) are significantly lower than those stated in the BP Energy Review, I can state with confidence that relying on the accuracy the BP Energy Review is a very foolish thing to do. When Richard Northedge says that “BP was estimating world oil reserves at 1 trillion barrels 20 years ago: now, despite record consumption, the estimate is 1.333 trillion” it’s not a revelation of growing reserves but of the complete nonsense of reserve reporting.

An examination of the reporting of those nations with transparent reserve auditing procedures reveals a telling contrast. Norway’s reserves grew gradually in the 1980s, hit a peak in the year 2001 and then entered decline. This completely tallies with what we would expect given a basic understanding of petroleum geology. There are no sudden doublings and treblings of reserves. No decade-long periods of unchanging reserves. Just a gradual rise, a peak and a gradual decline. Only two weeks ago, in fact, Norway announced a further reduction in reserves based upon falls in new discoveries and a downgrading of existing fields. The fact that every nation with transparent reserve accounting demonstrates this behaviour, while nations that lack independent auditing and have financial reasons to lie demonstrate the complete opposite should surely ring alarm bells for any half-decent journalist or analyst.

One obvious misinterpretation

In the third paragraph Richard Northedge writes of “pessimists’ predictions that the world’s oil will imminently run out”. I’d challenge him to provide one example of a serious analyst who makes such a prediction. In reality no such analyst exists. The claim that we are approaching peak oil is not a claim that we are about to run out of oil. The clue is in the name… peak oil. To suggest that those of us who have been banging on about peak oil for the past 14 years are predicting “the world’s oil will imminently run out” is a complete failure to understand what peak oil means.

Peak oil (We are here)

Peak oil is quite simply the point at which oil production peaks and enters terminal decline (see, I told you the clue was in the name). What’s interesting is that it actually occurs at around the point that half the oil has been extracted from a given well, field, nation or planet. So when I say we have passed the peak of global oil production (which I believe probably happened about 4 years ago), I’m not saying we’ve run out of oil. I’m saying we’ve used up half of our oil.

The reason this is important is because once you reach the halfway point, the flow of oil drops off. This is down to the basic physics of oil reservoirs and there’s just not much that can be done about it. It’s also important because from that point forward, every barrel takes incrementally more energy to produce. This is one of the things that so many people fail to realise about “non-conventional oil sources” such as tar sands, oil shales, deepwater and polar oil reserves… just like crude oil from a post-peak well, they require far more energy to extract than the oil we get from a pre-peak conventional well.

Take, for example, a relatively young field in the Saudi desert. From extraction through to the refinery and beyond, we might get a hundred barrels out for every one barrel (energetically speaking) we put in. In energy terms this is known as EroI (Energy Return on Investment) or sometimes NER (Net Energy Ratio). Clearly as the ERoI of a given energy source falls, the less economically useful that source becomes. So peak oil not only means there is physically less oil available, but that more of the oil that is available is going back into producing oil (as opposed to fueling our cars, our factories and our farms).

Because oil is by far the most economically important fuel available to us (and not just in terms of fuel, but also as a raw material for a vast array of products), a reduction in available oil ultimately translates to a reduction in economic activity*.

Now, in fairness to Northedge he does correct this misinterpretation later in the article when he discusses the idea of peak oil in more depth, but the way he expresses himself in that third paragraph does a massive disservice to the entire debate around this vital issue and is sloppy at best, and at worst is biased. Even the word “pessimist” is value laden and has no real place in this discussion. There are low reserve estimates (usually produced by petroleum geologists) and there are high reserve estimates (usually produced by economists and politicians). To suggest that the low estimates are “pessimistic” is to imply that there isn’t a coherent methodology behind them, and that they are at least partly the result of personal disposition.

This is not the case. Indeed the “coherent methodology” is all but denied by Northedge when he writes: In 1956, when the concept of “peak oil” — the point at which production starts falling — was formulated, US output was expected to fall from the late 1960s. But new discoveries have constantly pushed that date back.

One glaring factual error

The concept of “peak oil” was first proposed by M. King Hubbert in the 1950s. He was a respected petroleum geologist working for Shell Oil in Houston and his position gave him access to US oil reserve data. Hubbert first observed the rate of oil production for a specific oil well and graphed this data. This became known as the Hubbert curve and has been verified as accurate hundreds, if not thousands, of times with respect to individual wells. He then extended this model to a given oil field where it was also verified as accurate. Ultimately, taking the data from every US oil field (excluding Alaska) he extended the model to the entire continental United States. The curve predicted a peak in US oil production “around 1970” (there’s always a small margin for error when dealing with massive amounts of geological data).

What’s remarkable is just how small that margin for error actually was. US oil production in fact peaked in 1971/72 contrary to Northedge’s puzzling claim that “new discoveries have constantly pushed that date back”. That’s just plain wrong and is the sort of thing that any fact-checker should be able to find in a matter of minutes. In fact, US per annum oil production today is roughly half of what it was in 1971 despite the fact that entire new areas have been added (Alaskan and major off-shore fields) which were not part of Hubbert’s original calculation. And the decline has indeed been roughly in line with the Hubbert curve. It’s mind-boggling that a piece of analysis should appear in the business pages of a serious newspaper that contains such a blatant error.

And on it goes

The rest of the article is less contentious, but the tone has already been set. It points out that the current recession has resulted in a significant drop in oil consumption, though fails to acknowledge the high probability that the recession was partially** caused by high oil prices resulting from supply constraints. The article mentions the dramatic increase in reserves during the 80s, though fails to investigate why such a dramatic jump should have happened within OPEC and other nations without transparent reserve auditing, but nowhere else. Right when financial incentives were introduced in those countries to overstate reserves.

The article informs us that “Saudi Arabia has sufficient supplies to meet its needs for 66 years and Iraq has enough for 142 years” without really making it clear that these figures are essentially meaningless given that these nations are responsible for a fairly insignificant proportion of global consumption. In fairness, it does point out that “the US would run out [of oil] by 2018 if it did not import”.

But even that is dreadfully misleading. If the United States ceased importing oil, the economy would collapse immediately, not in 2018. You cannot simply divide reserves by time in this way. That fundamentally misunderstands the nature of oil production, which as I’ve said, occurs at a rate determined by the geological properties of the oil field. It’s not determined by demand. The United States currently consumes about 18 million barrels of oil per day. It produces about 7 million. What precisely would happen if you were to take 11 million barrels of oil per day out of the US economy? Anyone think it would keep ticking over until 2018?

This is why BP’s claim that we have enough oil left for 45 years is a recipe for dangerous complacency. Not only is that estimate based upon unreliable data, but it completely fails to acknowledge the physical constraints involved in oil production.

Then the article highlights recent oil discoveries. Now, there’s no question that 2009 and 2010 have been fantastic years in that regard. But they are anomalies. Spikes on a downward trend. In 2009 we discovered roughly half as much oil as we consumed. And that was the best year in a decade. In 2010, thanks to a major discovery near Brazil, we discovered even more. But it’s vital to get your head around the fact that not only were these bucking a clear trend, but they were largely offshore, deepwater discoveries. The ERoI of deepwater oil is nothing like as high as with the monster fields of the past. And I hope I’ve made it clear that ERoI is just as important as sheer volume.

Based upon these new discoveries, Richard Northedge finishes with the statement that “The day the world’s energy sources run dry is thus being pushed even further away…” It’s a shamelessly misleading conclusion and one that completely ignores the reality of the looming crisis we face as a result of falling oil production. A crisis that the Pentagon (that hotbed of fringe radicalism) suggests will be upon the world within the next 12 to 18 months.

* I’m not, incidentally saying that economic growth cannot theoretically continue in a post peak oil world. It is simply my position that in practical terms it will not continue.

** Please note that I said “partially”. I’m not exactly unaware of the credit crunch, property bubbles and banking crisis.

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Jan 2011

Bye Bye Biffo

This short piece is intended to explain recent developments in Irish politics to overseas readers who may be a little confused by the rapidly changing situation.

Blogging about Irish politics at the moment is a difficult task. Anything you write is liable to be out of date before you hit the “Publish” button. As the title of this piece suggests, I had originally intended to write about Brian Cowen (“Biffo”) resigning* as leader of Fianna Fáil, the largest party in our ruling coalition. But soon after I began writing the piece I took a break to make a sandwich. I switched on the TV to be greeted by a news report informing me that we no longer have a ruling coalition.

Certainly there’s a grim fascination in watching the fools and charlatans of our political class dig themselves and the nation into ever deeper and darker holes. Chaos creates spectacle after all. But after a while it just starts to become depressing. The entire political structure is rotten to the core and those who speak loudest of reforming it are those who work hardest to reinforce it.

Brian Cowen resigns

Brian Cowen: The end of a political career

Despite resigning as party leader, Cowen will remain Taoiseach (Prime Minister) until the General Election. Earlier in the week, he announced the election would take place on March 11th. Mind you, he also announced his intention to lead Fianna Fáil into that election. Two years earlier, he announced that the Irish Bank Guarantee would not cost the taxpayer a single cent. Then he spent a couple of years announcing that his government would not request a “bail out” from the IMF/EU. An announcement he was still reiterating three days before his government requested a “bail out”** from the IMF/EU. Needless to say, there’s nobody left in the country willing to place their faith in the announcements of Brian Cowen.

Which is probably why, almost immediately after announcing his intention to lead his party into the election, he was faced with a Fianna Fáil vote of no-confidence in his leadership. A vote that, weirdly enough, he won. Scratch that. It’s not very weird at all. Given the staggering lack of ideas in modern Irish politics, it doesn’t surprise me that even within the framework of a secret ballot, Fianna Fáil TDs chose to support a completely discredited leader rather than consider the possibility of change. Heaven forbid they should have to engage in independent thought!

Not that it mattered. Within hours of Cowen winning the confidence vote and — theoretically — the support of his party, the resignations began. About a third of his cabinet resigned and Cowen attempted a reshuffle. This point is a bit murky and some reports have suggested he demanded the resignations as punishment for those who had been briefing against him in the run up to the confidence vote. Remarkably though, the reshuffle failed when his erstwhile partners in government, The Green Party, blocked the reappointment of new ministers.

The Greens are facing electoral meltdown as a result of their limp participation in arguably the most disastrous government in modern Irish history. Not unreasonably, they feared the public might be further annoyed by Cowen promoting a bunch of his friends to the cabinet, and a hefty ministerial pension, for the six short weeks before the lot of them get kicked out by the electorate. And they didn’t want to be associated with such a cynical maneuver.

If they think a death-bed conversion is going to help them at the polls they’re sorely mistaken. The time for the Greens to leave government was the night in September 2008 that the unlimited Bank Guarantee was made. And I seriously doubt the Irish people will forgive them for that failure.

Anyway, with Cowen unable even to appoint minsters to his own cabinet, he had clearly lost the ability to lead his party — let alone the nation. He limped on for another couple of days until the Greens gained the courage to make a decision. Over two years late and only after they’d been backed into a corner, the party I voted for — the party who claimed to represent me — finally found its voice. And what a pathetic squeak of a voice it was too. Holding a Press Conference at a luxury Dublin hotel, the Greens announced that they were resigning from government but would still vote with the government on the imminent Finance Bill.

Such courage! Such conviction! To relinquish the trappings of power a full month before being ousted, but only after pledging to continue supporting the financial and economic policies of Brian Cowen’s government.

See, the Finance Bill is due to pass through the Dáil and the Seanad (the houses of parliament) over the next week or two. In effect it provides the legal framework for the “bail out”. It rubberstamps the debt transfer from private into public hands and will be remembered as the most obscene piece of legislation in the history of our republic. By withdrawing from government but not from the passage of this Bill, the Green Party merely highlight their craven complicity in this most dishonourable of betrayals. Rarely has a democratically elected government so dramatically sold out those they claimed to represent.

The ever-strident Joe Higgins, MEP and leader of the Irish Socialist Party, voiced his dissatisfaction at this on the floor of the European Parliament this week, claiming — quite correctly — that the “bail out” was little more than “a mechanism to make vassals of the Irish taxpayers”. Note also Manuel Barosso’s complete evasion of the central issue of the morality of transferring private debt into public hands…

So what happens next? Well, the Finance Bill will be passed over the next 7 to 10 days and the government will be dissolved immediately afterwards. The election date will be brought forward from March 11th and will now occur some time in the latter half of February. Fianna Fáil will suffer their worst ever defeat at the polls (maybe even a terminal one) and be replaced by a Fine Gael government, perhaps in coalition with the Irish Labour Party. This will not represent a substantial change. The faces will be different but the policies, attitudes and vision will remain the same.

In the longer term though, the Irish people simply cannot support the level of debt being heaped upon us by those we appointed to run our affairs. We will default on this debt; be under no illusions about that. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later… before our pension reserve fund and few remaining national assets are syphoned off into the bottomless pockets of a diseased international financial system built on blood and greed.

I’ll write more about the evolving situation and the impending election over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

* let’s face it, it was a “resignation” in name only. He was ousted, albeit two years late.

** I think it’s important to place scare quotes around “bail out” to constantly remind ourselves that what’s happening is, in a very real sense, the opposite of a bail out. Or rather, it is a bail out, but it’s the Irish people doing the bailing as opposed to the official line which paints us as the recipients of aid. Massive debts were incurred by private financial institutions and the transfer of those debts onto the shoulders of the Irish taxpayer is certainly a “bail out” (with quotes) as opposed to a bail out (without quotes).

Let me reiterate a point I have made on several occasions because it is of supreme importance… what is happening in Ireland at the moment is a massive expropriation of public assets by the institutions of private capital. And anyone who imagines that — should they be permitted to get away with this crime — those institutions will stop at Ireland, is a naive fool. As a result of ecological mismanagement and impending resource constraints, free market capitalism has begun to collapse. And like a thieving guest, it is filling its pockets with whatever valuables it can get its hands on before the party’s over. You’re next folks. Wherever you live, you’re next. And if the governments of the world aren’t willing to intervene and put a stop to this robbery in Ireland, then at the very least learn from what’s happening here.

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Jan 2011

On This Deity: 19th January 1865

Another piece by me over at On This Deity

19th January 1865: The Death of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

Let us cast our mind back to this day in 1865 to remember the death (at the age of 56) and celebrate the life of the world’s first anarchist. Actually, it’s probably stretching things a little to describe Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in such terms; but he was the first to use the term “anarchism” (from the Greek, meaning “without rule”) in the modern sense and the first to self-apply the label.

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Jan 2011

On This Deity: 10th January 1776

Another piece by me over at On This Deity

10th January 1776: Thomas Paine publishes ‘Common Sense’.

At the beginning of 1776 the American Revolution was well underway and growing in intensity with each passing week. The Battle of Bunker Hill in June ’75 had shaken the British army so badly they’d been on the back foot ever since. And by March of 1776 Washington’s advance on Boston would drive the bulk of that army into Canada. Of course, King George would respond with a lengthy military campaign and the War of Independence would continue for some years. In truth though, it was back between Bunker Hill and Boston that American independence became inevitable. Because it was on this day, January 10th back in 1776 that Thomas Paine published Common Sense.

read the rest…

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