Friday, June 04, 2021

Useful idiots from Bernard Shaw to President Michael D Higgins

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish playwright, at home on his deathbed.
A picture of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin is on the mantelpiece. Associated Press

Below, a senior British Labour Party politician in the House of Commons
in 2015 reading quotes from Chinese dictator Mao Zedong's Little Red Book

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007 was awarded to Doris Lessing (1919-2013), "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny."

In 1952 the British writer was part of a delegation visiting the Soviet Union. Her memories of the trip were clear and unforgiving according to a BBC documentary in 2010: “I was taken around and shown things as a ‘useful idiot’... that’s what my role was. I can’t understand why I was so gullible.”

Lessing was a member of the Communist Party in British-ruled Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1942-1944, and a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1952-1956.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Vaccine heroes and Empress Catherine the Great of Russia

On desktops click to enlarge

Margaret Heckler (née O'Shaughnessy was US Ambassador to Ireland 1986-1989; Heckler played a crucial role in obtaining a $120m grant for the International Fund for Ireland, an economic development organisation: 1931-2018) was President Reagan's secretary of health and human services in 1984 when she predicted that there would be a vaccine for HIV/AIDS within 2 years, and 37 years later there still isn't one. In an interview in 2006 Heckler said that Dr Anthony Fauci (1940-) "was so dedicated that he never took time out for lunch. He simply came to my meeting in his white coat and went right back to the Clinical Center. That was the spirit. Now, he was extraordinarily devoted and conscientious about it."

I end this piece with a comment from Dr Fauci on Covid-19.  

Vaccines are rare and in 2016 the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) listed 26 diseases that can be countered with a vaccine. Nine are for particular groups or travel, including smallpox which was eradicated by 1979. 

Only 43 significant first vaccines to counter a disease have been produced in the Western World in 1796-2020 (see below).  

Sunday, May 09, 2021

A dream of a United Ireland with a population of over 7m people

Ireland and UK from the International Space Station

The centenaries of the momentous political events that occurred in Ireland in the early years after the end of the First World war have raised the issue of the likelihood of a United Ireland. Does it make sense in a political, social and economic framework or are a few decades more required for reconciliation between the two communities in Northern Ireland?

Monday, April 26, 2021

Ireland's FDI over-dependence and surging population

In the first two decades of the current century, the populations of the Netherlands and Denmark grew by 8 and 9% respectively; Sweden's population grew 14% and Switzerland's expanded 23%. The Irish population grew by 29%.

The peak year in modern times for immigration to Sweden was 2015 (Swedish migration laws changed in 2016) and the peak in Switzerland was 2008.

In the last decade, the Irish population grew by about 450,000 but in 6 of the 10 years, housing completions were in single-digit thousands following the collapse of the Irish construction industry from 2009.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Irish house size, climate change and living space per person - Part 2

John Hinde (1916-1997), an Englishman who developed a postcard business in Ireland from 1956, published the 1960s image of children collecting turf (peat) from a bog in Connemara, Co Galway. This image of Rural Ireland has been replaced in the past 50 years by the so-called one-off large detached houses owned by urbanites. There are over 460,000 of these houses in 2021 contributing to air and groundwater pollution while getting public subsidies.
This one-off house near Kinsale. County Cork, is available for Airbnb bookings.

This year Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, reported that 69.6% of Irish residents were living in dwellings categorised as too big for their needs in 2019 based on excess rooms and more specifically bedrooms. This was more than twice the EU average of 32.7%. On average there were 2.1 rooms per person in Irish households compared with the EU average of 1.6 rooms.

Large detached houses in particular in rural areas are a factor, as is under-occupation resulting from the rise of single adult households without children and older individuals or couples remaining after their children have grown up and left the home.

However, Eurostat also noted in respect of 2018 that "space constraints on tenants were particularly apparent in Ireland and Luxembourg, where tenants had 0.8 and 0.7 fewer rooms per person than people in owner-occupied dwellings; in France, Austria, Slovenia and Sweden the corresponding gap was also high (0.5 rooms)."

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Ireland among 7 big tax havens as US seeks global minimum corporate tax of 21%

Share of US Multinational Corporation Income in Seven Big Havens, 2000-2019

In a stunning challenge to Ireland's low corporate tax regime which began in 1956, President Joe Biden and the United States Treasury on Wednesday announced that the US would seek a global minimum corporate tax rate of 21% in respect of the foreign profits of large American companies.

Ireland's current headline corporation tax rate is 12.5%. — the average rate in Europe (39 countries) was 19.99% in 2020 and 24.61% when weighted by GDP. The World rate was 23.85% and 25.85% (177 countries) according to the Tax Foundation. Check the trends since 1980.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

European Housing Crisis: Ireland is not alone - Part 1

Every day, about 250 football fields of land in Europe are converted to urban use according to the European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON) which advises the European Commission and one of its possible solutions is that by 2050, all new urbanisation will be in the form of redevelopment, regeneration or infill.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

FT 1000: 3 Irish on 2021 list of Europe’s fastest-growing companies

The Financial Times has published the annual list of Europe’s fastest-growing independent companies and Ireland has improved compared with 2020 when it had no company on the list.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Social protection + health spending in Europe and Asia

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, during the early years of the financial crisis in the last decade used to often say that Europe has 7% of the world’s population, 25% of its GDP and 50% of its social spending.

Social spending is a sum of education, health, and social protection expenditures, while social protection relates to sickness and disability; old age; survivors; family and children; unemployment; housing; social exclusion n.e.c. (not elsewhere classified); R&D social protection; social protection n.e.c.

Friday, March 05, 2021

House size of Ireland's urban-generated rural dwellers jumps 29%

In 2019 Ireland had one of the lowest urbanisation rates among the 36 mainly rich countries of the OECD think-tank for governments. The Irish rate was 63% of the population compared with the OECD rate of 81; Belgium 98; The Netherlands 92; Denmark and Sweden 88; New Zealand 87 and Finland at 85.

The biggest houses in Ireland are being built on standalone sites in the countryside while nearby villages are dying. According to Census 2016 so-called one-off houses in rural areas accounted for 26% of total national occupied dwellings of 1,698,000.

Meanwhile, Dublin land for house building is both über expensive and artificially scarce.

In the period 2005-2016, all member states of the European Union "with the notable exception of Ireland, recorded falls in farm numbers" (Eurostat) — selling sites to urban dwellers is a useful bonus for the Irish farmer.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Key Irish housing statistics 1971-2020

After the British Brexit vote in 2016 Irish government ministers, politicians, big professional firms (law and accountancy) and property journalists salivated on the opportunity of attracting thousands of bankers from London. Ministers wanted Ireland to be given the UK-based EU agencies (neither came to pass).

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Big Lies of Adolph Hitler and Donald Trump

Painting depicting the signature of the armistice in the railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne, Eastern France, November 8. 1918. Behind the table, from right to left, General Weygand, Marshal Foch of France (standing) and British Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss and fourth from the left, British Naval Captain Jack Marriott. In the foreground, Matthias Erzberger (a member of the German government), Major General Detlof von Winterfeldt (with helmet), Alfred von Oberndorff and Ernst Vanselow. (Wikipedia)

Donald Trump was not an American Führer but if he had succeeded in staying in office despite losing the November 2020 election, his rule would increasingly replicate the early period of the Nazis in power in Germany from 1933. America had controversial presidential elections in 1824 and 1876 but no president had ever incited a racist mob to stop the final certification of the vote.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Robber Barons & Silicon Sultans: Rockefeller vs Bezos

John D Rockefeller (1839-1937) was America's first billionaire and there are about 2,350 dollar billionaires in the United States in early 2021 — Forbes Real-Time Billionaires — there are many more on this list than annual listings as it reflects the latest value of shareholdings.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Global business R&D: US has 800 firms; EU27 400 and East Asia 1,000 — Part 2

The European Union lacks a powerful technology sector at a time when the United States and China are forging ahead in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and facial recognition. The ICT industry, which is the EU's Achilles heel, has a rising share of the value-added in the development of green technologies while biotechnology is expanding its role in the development of new drugs, e.g., via genetic engineering used in a large number of drugs, including vaccines.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Chips down for EU as Asia seizes microchip advantage — Part 1

Microchip manufacturing via Wall Street Journal

Microchips/ semiconductors are ubiquitous in the modern world and an electric car can have more than 3,000 of them. Thousands of people in Sweden have got chip implants but there are downsides. About a trillion chips are made a year, or 128 for every person on the planet. The annual sales value in 2021 is projected at $450bn according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) — down from $469bn in 2018.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Populist elite resentment and contempt in age of instability

An occupational therapist (right) became a US Capitol insurrectionist, Jan 6, 2021

In April 1932, Franklin D Roosevelt, governor of New York and presidential election candidate, in a radio address said: “These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”

Friday, January 08, 2021

Optimism vs. Pessimism: "You've never had it so good"

The first chart here is from JP Morgan, the American bank, and the second is from Bank of America. The spacing of increments on the x-axis varies because of missing data. Asia accounted for about three-fourths of global output (measured in gross domestic product) from the start of the common era. By 1860 it had been overtaken by the industrial revolution in Europe and America. The western economies peaked at about 1950 when they accounted for four-fifths of global output.

Our African ancestors had to be pessimists to survive and in modern times people tend to be more optimistic about their own lives than that of their society or country. However, pessimism is widespread in particular in Europe and the United States despite the stunning advances in the material standard of living and well-being in rich countries, and in recent decades many regions of the world.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Key indicators and Ireland's non-Covid economic challenges into 2021

Ruchir Sharma, the chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management and the author of “The Ten Rules of Successful Nations,” wrote in The New York Times this December, "After World War II, only two major emerging economies managed to grow faster than 5% for five decades in a row and to rise from poverty into the ranks of developed economies. One was Taiwan, the other South Korea. They kept advancing up the industrial ladder by investing more heavily in research and development than did any of their rivals among emerging economies. Now they are among the research leaders of the developed economic world as well."

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Ireland is most profitable foreign country for US multinationals

Ireland with a population of 5m was the most profitable foreign country for US multinationals in 2018 as measured by net income of majority-owned affiliates (MOFAs), followed by the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The US Bureau of Economic Analysis' (BEA) final net income data for 2018 issued this year, show top rankings for countries that engage in tax haven activities and pure tax-havens. The top 7 — which are called The Big Seven Corporate Tax Havens— are Ireland $217bn; The Netherlands $211bn; Luxembourg $147bn; Singapore $96bn; Bermuda $85bn; Switzerland $83bn and The Cayman Islands about $65bn ( it's in a BEA category 'United Kingdom Islands, Caribbean' comprising the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands).

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Ireland's Éamon de Valera and the taboo of illegitimacy

De Valera with his mother in USA 1919/20

Éamon de Valera (1882-1975) was Ireland's leading politician of the 20th century and he was in office as head of government and president for 35 years in the period 1932-1973. The politician who was instrumental in triggering a shameful civil war in 1922 had a miserable childhood and according to some experts exhibited Asperger Syndrome traits, where genius is coupled with poor social skills.

De Valera had many people helping him over the decades to find documentation to prove that his mother had been married when he was born in New York City in October 1882. None were found.

It was ironic that in the year of his retirement in 1973 de Valera's political party Fianna Fáil which he had founded in 1926, was replaced by a Fine Gael-Labour coalition and Richie Ryan, the minister of finance, gave the first official recognition to "illegitimate" children and their mothers by introducing an Unmarried Mothers' Allowance.

In 1972/1973 Mary McGee, a brave women from Cork, challenged the ban on the importation of contraceptives at the High Court and she won in the Supreme Court in 1973. It would take about 20 years of political tomfoolery to finally get to a sane system for access to contraception.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

44% of US workers in low-paid jobs with median hourly pay of $10

Pre-Covid, 44% of private-sector US workers (122m excluding government, agriculture and self-employed) were in low-paid jobs with a median hourly pay of just over $10. Meanwhile, this September a measure of the quality of life showed that the United States, Brazil and Hungary were the only countries in the Social Progress Index where people are worse off than when the index began in 2011.

“The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told The New York Times. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

The United States has a ranking of 28 of 163 countries and it follows Cyprus and Greece. The top 4 countries based on 50 dimensions have female leaders and Ireland has the 12th ranking.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Irish Conflict: An American tourist's view of the "so-called" Civil War

Ireland's Via Dolorosa in the Freeman's Journal: It depicts a woman [Hibernia, a representation of Ireland], prostrate with grief following the death of Michael Collins, the leader of the Provisional Government, in August 1922. She is hugging a broken column (a traditional symbol for a life cut short) with the name "Michael Collins" on it; in the background, other broken columns are featured with the names of Arthur Griffith, Robert Emmett, [Thomas] Davis, [Charles Stewart] Parnell, Daniel O'Connell and Owen Roe O'Neill on them. Courtesy National Library of Ireland.

The December 13, 1922 issue of The New York Times has a story titled "The Irish Conflict: An American Tourist's View of the So-called Civil War." It was exactly one week since the formal start of Saorstát Éireann / The Irish Free State.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Covid-19 Deaths in Rich Countries: Belgium, US and UK lead in per capita rankings

An analysis published on October 22 shows that among 12 rich country members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Belgium by far has the highest Covid-19 death rate, followed by the United States and the United Kingdom. The US has a higher mortality rate than many of its peer countries, the coronavirus being the third-leading cause of death in 2020, behind only heart disease and cancer. Among other OECD countries, only Belgium has a Covid ranking as the third-highest cause of death. Covid ranks fourth in France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, but much lower in Germany and Austria, where it ranks 17th and 18th respectively.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Cognitive dissonance and the flawed American democracy

Why does Donald Trump's electoral base continue the cult-like devotion to a corrupt, cruel, narcissistic and racist individual who failed in responding to the pandemic and even recommended bleach as a remedy; is a pathological liar; a failed businessman who had a history of not paying agreed prices to contractors; who views personal taxes as for the little people, and massive tax fraud as a reflection of his high intelligence; who calls citizens who join the military suckers and losers, while being an apologist for Russian dictator Vladamir Putin?

Sixty years before Trump won the presidency on a minority vote, the cultish phenomenon was explained — Trump's racism has won the support of the Religious Right but his advocacy of legalised discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual workers, was rejected by the Supreme Court last June. However, the followers not only bond around racism and homophobia, but a significant number also reject democratic norms.

Trump pardons criminal friends; like a tinpot dictator he calls for the jailing of his political opponents, and as the image on top shows, his devotees ape the Romans in the Colosseum in ancient times baying for blood with their yelling "lock her up," about Hillary Clinton.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Retooling Ireland's economic engine - look to Denmark & Netherlands

Ireland's indigenous exporting sector is small while about 67% of Danish goods exports are from domestic firms, as are 80% of services exports, led by Maersk which has been the biggest global container ship operator since 1996.

The National Economic Plan to be published in November 2020 will follow the Budget 2021 announcement on October 13, 2020, and is unlikely to signal a retooling of Ireland's current economic engine — typically the long term is for aspirations and while the year 2020 was the endpoint for many past reports with rosy prognostications, it inevitably became their graveyard.