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Archive for February, 2011

Thank You

I would like to thank all 125 of the decent people that honoured their pledge to vote for me

You can rightly be proud of having the good sense to recognize that the good ship Ireland is still on its disastrous course and all that has happened is that we have just changed the crew and when we hit the rocks in the coming months they will look after themselves and let us the passengers go down with the ship

For me you are all true patriots along with all of the independents that put themselves forward in this election

I am honoured and humbeled you  placed your trust in me  

Thank you again

 Thomas Clarke

NAMA under Fine Gael: drastic changes expected

By namawinelake 

“A terrible noise exactly like thunder was heard in the outer room of his apartments : it was the crowd of courtiers deserting the antechamber of the dead sovereign to come and greet the new power of Louis XVI”
This was the account given by Marie Antoinette’s chambermaid of the immediate aftermath of the death of Louis XV – all the courtiers and hangers-on were making a mad dash from one end of the palace where the king had just expired to the other end to ingratiate themselves with the successor. And whilst I wouldn’t want to pre-judge the outcome of the voting count today, I would be shocked if anyone other than Enda Kenny was to be our next Taoiseach and Michael Noonan the next Minister for Finance. And I would say the ingratiating started many months back.
Of interest here is the fact that the FG director of elections for Limerick (Michael Noonan’s constituency) is none other than insolvency expert Brian McEnery of Horwath Bastow Charleton . Brian also happens to be one of NAMA’s nine board members and I would imagine that Michael Noonan is very well briefed indeed on the challenges facing the agency. And it will be the Department of Finance that has most political say in how NAMA operates in future, though other ministries like the Department of the Environment Housing and Local Government and Justice and Law Reform will also have a role to play.
So what changes can we expect at NAMA:
(1) Personnel. NAMA is probably most associated with its chairman Frank Daly and CEO Brendan McDonagh. Sections 22 and 40 of the NAMA Act provides the Minister for Finance with wide discretion as to the bases for removing the incumbent NAMA CEO and other board members including the chairman. Will FG want a change of personnel. Have some already ingratiated themselves to the new administration and convinced the putative Minister for Finance that a different set of hands would do a better job? There are certainly rumours in this area.
(2) Stopping NAMA 2: “We do not believe that transferring the land and development loans of Irish banks of less than €20 million to NAMA is in the best interests of the Irish economy” FG has said that it will stop the transfer of the sub-€20m exposures from AIB and Bank of Ireland to the agency. What that immediately means is that the stress tests presently ongoing will need examine the values of some €12bn of sub-€20m loans.
(3) Outsourcing: “We will force NAMA to outsource management of at least 70% of its assets to 3-4 competing private asset management companies” FG is keen to get third party asset management companies to take on NAMA’s loans. Indeed a long-held concern on here is that NAMA with 100 staff is ill-equipped to directly handle 175 developers (which might represent 5,000 development companies and 20,000 projects) and their €50bn of loans at par value. On top of this NAMA must manage the banks and Capita with their dealings for smaller value loans. Capita has a long and coloured history of ingratiating itself with parties in power.
(4) NAMA strategy: remember it boils down to the six actions (sell, lease, manage, develop, demolish, mothball). It seems there is a clamour for NAMA to generate more sales. These are likely to be in the UK and elsewhere abroad though NAMA needs to be careful about opportunists who expect a “NAMA knock-down”. But I expect there will be more sales here and given the condition of the market, I expect sales at levels not seen before, bargains some might say but that would be to ignore the distressed condition of the existing market which is being artificially distorted without true price discovery.
(5) Transparency: “The details of all non-performing loans acquired by NAMA will be available for scrutiny on a Public Register”
(6) Paddy McKillen’s loans: NAMA was supposed to have made a decision whether or not to proceed to acquire Paddy’s loans last Wednesday. And we are still waiting for the Supreme Court to issue its determination on the three outstanding strands to Paddy’s appeal (to do with the fairness and constitutionality of NAMA and its procedures). Will Michael Noonan decide that Paddy’s loans will destroy value at the banks if transferred? Will he persuade NAMA to release its grip on Paddy’s and other objectors’ loans?
(7) NAMA report and accounts for quarter three, 2010 which were delivered to outgoing Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan on 31st December, 2010. Will Michael Noonan now ensure they are promptly published?
(8) Dismantling upward-only rent reviews in commercial leases. This manifesto commitment is really rattling the property industry that sees 20% declines in commercial property values and a repulsion of investors fearful of those declines. At the extreme on the other hand, certain retailers and other commercial tenants are literally praying it happens quickly because with existing rent levels their businesses will die. Whatever FG does, it needs to do it decisively and clearly. Otherwise this uncertainty of this Sword of Damocles will hurt the property industry and do nothing for commercial tenants.
Of course the bigger challenge facing the new Minister for Finance will be dealing with the national debt burden including a renegotiation of the IMF/EU bailout deal, the restructure of the banking sector and dealing with the results of the stress tests ongoing at the banks. But I would expect the Minister’s fingerprints to become transparent on the operation of NAMA within days.

Source: URL: http://wp.me/pNlCf-15X

Libya: a national bloodbath

In Libya, armed forces are using machine guns and fighter jets against pro-democracy protesters — hundreds have been killed and, without immediate international action, it could spiral into a national bloodbath.

The EU and UN are in emergency sessions to decide on what action to take. Let’s flood UN delegations, EU Foreign Ministers and the High Representative for the EU with messages urging them to impose targeted sanctions, asset freezes and a no fly zone that could stop the crackdown. Click below to send a message:

Liam O’Mahony

http://www.avaaz.org/en/libya_stop_the_crackdown/96.php

Dear United Nations Security Council delegates,

European Foreign Ministers, and High Representative Catherine Ashton,

The violence in Libya must end. I urge you:

a) impose a no-fly zone to stop the aerial bombings of civilians

b) freeze assets belonging to Qaddafi, his family, and his high command

c) impose targeted sanctions against the regime

d) initiate international prosecutions of military officials involved in the crackdown.

Sincerely,

Thomas Clarke

Ireland  

thomasclarke3@gmail.com

Thank you for sending a message to the UN Security Council! We need to act quickly to get the UN to act and stop the violent crackdown on protesters in Libya. The more people join this campaign, the more powerful our call to the Security Council will be. Please help spread the word — forward this link to friends and family, and post it on Facebook: http://www.avaaz.org/en/libya_stop_the_crackdown/97.php?cl_tta_sign=b199ddbe808707e19bbb4882cab895c7 Thanks so much, The Avaaz Team ———– Forward Avaaz’s original alert below: Dear friends, In Libya, armed forces are using machine guns and fighter jets against pro-democracy protesters — hundreds have been killed and, without immediate international action, it could spiral into a national bloodbath. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is holding an emergency meeting on Libya now. If we can pressure them to agree to a no-fly zone over Libya, a freeze of Qaddafi’s, his family’s and his high command’s assets, targeted sanctions against the regime, and international prosecution of any military officials involved in the crackdown — this could stop airforce bombings and split Qaddafi’s command structure. We have no time to lose — the people of Libya are being slaughtered by government forces. Click to send a message directly to all the UNSC delegations to stop the violence and share this with everyone — let’s inundate them with messages and spur them to action: http://www.avaaz.org/en/libya_stop_the_crackdown/97.php?cl_tta_sign=b199ddbe808707e19bbb4882cab895c7 Colonel Qaddafi came to power through a military coup and has ruled with an iron fist for 42 years with no parliament or constitution. He the longest-serving dictator in Africa and the Middle East. No foreign press are allowed in Libya, and the government has shut down the internet and mobile phone networks in an attempt to hide the brutal violence. But protesters, who are demanding regime change and basic rights, are reporting that thousands of people have taken to the streets and hundreds have been massacred. UN human rights chief Navi Pillay says attacks ‘may amount to crimes against humanity’. Appalled by the atrocities, Libyan diplomats and some army high command have already defected the regime. If the UN can ramp up the pressure on Qaddafi and his cohorts — confiscating their riches and threatening them with trials, those commanding the brutality may reconsider and stop the bloodshed. Brazil holds the UNSC Presidency, a government with a strong commitment to human rights with whom Avaaz has a strong campaigning reputation. We don’t have long to influence the UNSC — let’s flood their inboxes with messages from across the world — send a message and forward this to friends and family: http://www.avaaz.org/en/libya_stop_the_crackdown/97.php?cl_tta_sign=b199ddbe808707e19bbb4882cab895c7 The people of Libya are being gunned down for demanding freedom, health, education and a decent wage — basic needs that we all share. Today, as a global community, let’s raise our voices from every corner of the world to condemn the shocking massacres, and togethertake action to end the bloodshed and support the Libyans rightful call for change. With hope and determination, Alice, Ricken, Pascal, Graziela, Rewan and the entire Avaaz team Sources UN council to discuss Libya, Al Jazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/2011221214022682385.html Choas and bloodshed in Libya http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/world/africa/23libya.html?_r=1&hp Live updates on Libya from the Guardian and the BBC: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/feb/22/libya-erupts-gaddafi-live-updates http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12307698

Citizens – in 10 Minutes

Lessons for us here in Ireland ??

Irish general election turns into slanging match with parties divided

Afternoon calm in the well-scrubbed north Dublin suburb of Glasnevin was broken by a slanging match between rival campaigns. It happens in elections everywhere. Yet to no one’s surprise, this pavement squabble in Ireland‘s tense 2011 election was between supporters of the same party.

Fighting for vital second preferences in the country’s single transferable vote (STV) system can pit colleagues against each other when support is collapsing, as it is for Fianna Fáil, the governing party of the great banking crash of 2008.

“Why are you canvassing so close to the polling station when it’s illegal?” a supporter of Fianna Fáil’s Mary Fitzpatrick shouted at two younger men clutching leaflets for the party’s Cyprian Brady in their hands. As the pair half-heartedly protested innocence, he screamed: “Fianna Fáil could be wiped out in Dublin and we have a chance in this seat.”

“Calm down, we all have Fianna Fáil’s best interests at heart,” replied the Brady bunch. “No you don’t, or you wouldn’t be doing this,” countered the Fitzpatrick activist, who then called the police on his mobile. The Garda arrived within minutes and calmed both sides down. Such are the dynamics of STV, which gives voters a more sophisticated range of options than Britain’s proposed AV reform.

As disaffected Fianna Fáil voters in Glasniven were deciding whether to spare either – or neither – local Fianna Fáil candidate, the Fine Gael leader and taoiseach-in-waiting, Enda Kenny, was urging supporters to vote tactically too. After a quietly competent campaign (no disasters) and a late surge to 40% (Fianna Fáil is on 15%; Labour 18%; Sinn Féin 10%), ex-teacher Kenny is within reach of a clear 83-seat majority in the Dáil – though not quite there.

Wise heads are telling him that another coalition with “high tax” Labour, always uneasy bedfellows, would be the best option given Ireland’s economic troubles. The arguments are familiar to Lib-Con coalition Britain and the two parties’ attacks have softened as the vote counting looms.

But in a real sense, incestuous political feuding like the spat in Glasnevin has long been a wider problem with mainstream Irish politics. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are both parties of the right, nursing old historic quarrels but not offering voters sufficient choice, even after the disastrous bank bust of 2008.

Across Ireland yesterday, up to 3.2 million voters in 43 multi-member constituencies were picking 165 TDs (MPs) from among 566 candidates. But if voters emerging from St Columbia’s school polling station, Glasnevin – or down the road in poorer Phibsborough – are any guide, they were doing so without much enthusiasm.

“I voted for leftwing independents,” said Róisín Beirne, 24, a sculptor who lives in working-class-but-gentrifying Phibsborough. In 2007, when Fianna Fáil’s Bertie Ahern unexpectedly beat Kenny just before the Celtic Tiger boom exploded, Beirne included Greens and Fine Gael candidates in the mix. No longer. “Voting for Fine Gael or Labour isn’t change, it’s the same. I’m not sure I have any faith in their ability to run the economy.”

Older people were more likely to stick with old loyalties. “I’ve always voted Fianna Fáil and I did again. I don’t like Enda Kenny, he’s not honest, and they’re all to blame. Someone should have told the banks to stop lending,” said Kathleen Duignan, 82 outside All Saints Presbyterian church polling station.

In Glasniven, 83-year-old Ann Watters says much the same, except she’s a life-long Fine Gael voter. “The banks and the politicians were hand in hand.”

But the old fear for their country and the burden the crisis has bequeathed to Ireland’s young. When the Fianna Fáil government, led by Brian Cowen, rashly underwrote all the debts of tottering Irish banks after Lehman Brothers crashed, it turned a financial crisis into a sovereign debt crisis and Ireland into what its media routinely calls “a colony of Brussels”. Some voters have decided they prefer Europe to the crony government at home.

Though the campaign has shed disappointingly little light on realistic options ahead, the financial numbers are scary. After 2000 the early Celtic Tiger years became a property-led speculative bubble, made worse by weak planning laws and 300,000 too many new homes. The crash saw GDP collapse by 11%, unemployment triple to 13.3% and government debt quadruple to 95%, which will rise to 125% by 2014 on IMF estimates.

Labour’s leader Eamon Gilmore, likely deputy PM next week, has been criticised for saying that the EU/IMF renegotiation, which all parties agree must follow the election, must be on “Ireland’s terms, not Frankfurt’s”. But even the austere Financial Times argues that, if Germany wants to prevent an Irish default on its debts (for fear of wider eurozone contagion), it should share Ireland’s burden; Dublin’s debt disaster is also the fault of European lenders.

In busy Phibsborough Road, in sight of idle cranes and boarded-up shops, unemployed electrician, Michael Maher, 24, and his fiancee, Emma Mullen, can’t wait for the EU summits. They voted for independents and Sinn Féin, protest votes for individual candidates they admire. But the couple are already planning to follow an old Irish tradition by emigrating to Canada or Australia.

As the polls closed , Dublin’s recycling centre publicly crushed a BMW that once belonged to a banker who helped wreck the economy. It may make voters feel better – but for how long?

High turnout

Irish polling stations were expected to record one of the highest turnouts in recent history, with voters intent on punishing the government for its mismanagement of the financial crisis.

By mid-afternoon in Dublin, nearly a third of the electorate had already voted, with most constituencies elsewhere reporting that up to 30% of those eligible to vote had turned up.

Just over 3.2 million people are entitled to vote in the Republic. They make up 43 constituencies voting to elect 165 of the 166 MPs (the chairman, Seamus Kirk, is automatically returned to the chamber without having to stand for election). Fine Gael needs 83 seats to secure an overall majority, but opinion polls suggest it will just fall short.

Henry McDonald

source:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/25/irish-general-election-parties-divided

The IMF’s dismal record in evaluating and forecasting economic performance

As has been noted on CrisisJam before, failure is no barrier to success in the thin air that prevails in the offices off the topmost corridors of power. The IMF’s dismal record in evaluating and forecasting economic performance – and its tenured poistion as arbiter of same – bespeaks a very special kind of insulation from the consequences of stupidity and failure. But, writes Andy Storey, the degree of the Fund’s stupidity is less important than the political uses of its idiocy, for both supporters and opponents of its practices.

The Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently reviewed the Fund’s performance between 2004 and 2007 and concluded that, far from spotting the crisis coming, the IMF helped bring it on, especially through its advocacy of ‘light-touch regulation’. According to the IEO, as reported by the Bretton Woods Project, “the IMF missed key elements that underlay the developing crisis”, especially the disastrous evolution of the US financial system, of which IMF staff were “in awe”. The IEO documents how “the IMF praised the US for its light-touch regulation and supervision that permitted the rapid financial innovation that ultimately contributed to the problems in the financial system. Moreover, the IMF recommended to other advanced countries to follow the US/UK approaches to the financial sector.”

So is the IMF stupid? The IEO seems to think that, institutionally, it is indeed rather dumb, suffering as it does from an “insular culture” and “silo behaviour and mentality”. And this may be partly true. Brazilian economist Fernando Carvalho notes that ‘by both training and experience the Fund staff has always shared the view that the Anglo Saxon model of capitalism is superior to all its alternatives’ and that financial globalisation is an unambiguously good thing – despite the absence of evidence for any such claim. But apparent stupidity typically serves some interests over others.

For example, the IMF approach to Eastern Europe is to insist that governments’ fiscal policies caused the problem there, rather than the decisions of private banks. At one level, this can be read as just plain wrong. But, as Daniela Gabor has documented, this approach “legitimises policy advice that imposes ‘antisocial’ measures (wage cuts, public sector layoffs, taxes on consumption) in order to protect financial sector returns”. So, not so stupid from the point of view of the financial sector.

Something similar holds true for Egypt, where an April 2010 IMF report noted that ‘Sustained and wide-ranging reforms since 2004 had reduced fiscal, monetary and external vulnerabilities, and improved the investment climate. These bolstered the economy’s durability, and provided breathing space for appropriate policy responses.’ Commenting on this rather optimistic assessment, John Dizard of the Financial Times draws the following conclusion:

These aren’t quibbles about minor inaccuracies, or arguable ideological differences. There were imminent, overwhelming problems that either evaded the IMF’s attention, or that it chose not to report. So European leaders might want to reconsider whether they can depend on the IMF to act as a monitor, let alone arbiter, of good macroeconomic policy for member states.

As Dizard notes, even if some IMF economists had spotted the economic powder keg in Egypt, they might have chosen not to report it – mainly because the Mubarak regime was a favoured ally of the IMF’s main patron, the United States. Again, willful blindness can make perfect political sense.

It is important to emphasise that this is not a crude conspiracy theory. Certainly, senior IMF officials would be alert to US sensitivities regarding Egypt and to the priorities of Western banks in Eastern Europe, and would help ensure that those interests are served. But the rigid, if empirically destitute, worldview of IMF economists may be genuinely held – inculcated through the brainwashing that passes for an economics education in the US and UK and advanced by the promotion and in-house editing practices of the Fund (and those of other institutions, such as the World Bank). The question is less about how many people are stupid, and exactly how stupid they are, it is more about the economic and political functions apparent stupidity serves.

But two can play at that game, and glaring examples of the IMF getting it wrong can serve a useful political function for resistance in Ireland and elsewhere. Every time a mainstream commentator says something like ‘the IMF are the experts on this’, we can say ‘that would be the guys who helped cause the crisis in the first place’, or ‘are we talking about the same people who said the Middle East and North Africa was really stable’?

source:http://politico.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7259:d-is-for-deliberate-the-imf-and-the-uses-of-stupidity&catid=263:crisisjam&Itemid=1066

NIH Study- Cell phone radiation alters brain activity

There have been a number of controversial reports available that provide link between cell phone use and its harmful effect on your brain.  Cell phone industry continues to claim that their products are safe; there is still no scientific data available to prove this.  A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, considered the most prominent, to offer scientific evidence that cell phones affect brain metabolism.  The study was conducted by the National Institutes of Health.
 

About the Study
Researchers followed 47 participants who underwent two brain scans. During the study, cell phones were placed next to both ears while the participants underwent brain imaging using positron emission tomography (PET scans). Participants were given an injection of glucose to measure brain activity; brain cells use glucose as a source of energy.

During one scan, a cell phone connected to a muted call was attached to participants’ right ear; during the other, they were with turned off phone. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew when the cell phones were off or on.

When the phone was turned on, glucose metabolism in the section of the brain nearest the antenna was about 7% higher than when the phone was off.

“This study shows that

the human brain is sensitive to this electromagnetic radiation,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, a director with the National Institutes of Health and lead researcher for the study. “Whether this electromagnetic radiation has any negative… 

 

consequences, that is something that needs to be properly evaluated.”

In essence, cell phone is like a radio. When you talk on your cell phone, your voice is transmitted from the antenna as radio frequency radiation (RFR). Depending on how close the cell phone antenna is to your head, between 20% and 60% of the radiation emitted by your cell phone is transferred into your head.

Well! Phone is the one of the basic necessity of human life. The best way to avoid these radiations is to have a cell phone that can work on speakerphone. Doing so, you can greatly decrease your exposure to harmful radio frequencies (RF).

source: http://www.knowabouthealth.com/nih-study-cell-phone-radiation-alters-brain-activity/7994/

 

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