Friday, September 24, 2021

Mikis Theodorakis (1925-2021)

Michail "Mikis" Theodorakis, the renowned Greek composer died earlier this month, at the age of 96. He was best known for the musical score for the 1964 film "Zorba the Greek" which is likely the best-known piece of Greek music in the world.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Irish leader de Valera a godfather of IRA - Sinn Féin violence 1970-1998

President de Valera kisses the ring of John Charles McQuaid, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, at the Turning of the Sod ceremony for the new University College Dublin (UCD) campus at Belfield in South Dublin, September 1962 UCD Archives

Éamon de Valera (1882-1975) was the most consequential Irish politcial leader of the 20th century who held high office as taoiseach (prime minister) and president for 35 of the 41 years in the period 1932-1973. He had three particular obsessions 1) searching for proof that his claimed Spanish father Vivion de Valera (Valero) was not a fiction and had been married to his mother when de Valera was born in New York 2) the revival of the Gaelic language and 3) the ending of the political Partition of the island of Ireland.

He failed in all three objectives.

De Valera had a deeply long-term hostile attitude to the Belfast government and he even travelled as far as New Zealand to lobby the British government to support a United Ireland.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Climate change challenges of the 21st century

The Moon and Earth's Troposphere: Silver-blue noctilucent clouds are shown extending far above the orange-coloured troposphere, the lowest and densest part of Earth's atmosphere. Photo: by NASA taken by the Expedition 28 crew (began May 2011) aboard the International Space Station.

July 2021 was Earth’s hottest July since global record-keeping began in 1880. July had two $25bn flood disasters and the Earth’s hottest "reliably measured temperature on record" was 54.4°C (130°F) at Death Valley, California." July 2021 was the sixth wettest July on record in the US.

Lytton, West Canada, had a temperature of 49.6°C on June 29 (a record beaten 3 consecutive days); Morocco: 49.6°C at Sidi Slimane, July 10 and the United Arab Emirates: 51.8°C at Swiehan, June 6.

Temperatures for Verkhoyansk, a remote Siberian town inside the Arctic Circle, hit 38°C on June 20, about 18°C above the average maximum daily temperature in June.

Fires ravaged forests in many parts of the globe.

Among EU27 countries Ireland had the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 at 12.8 tons of CO₂ equivalent which includes the main greenhouse gases. The EU27 was at 8.4; Germany at 10.1; Denmark 8.1; Sweden 5.2 and non-member the UK at 7.3. See chart. Luxembourg data are not reliable as over 40% of its workforce live in neighbouring countries.

The category is 'Total emissions and international aviation.' See the European Environmental Agency chart below. *Also check detail of the dataset at end of page.

Greenhouse gases make the Earth habitable but concentrations have risen 50% after a period of 800,000 years

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Political Comedy & Satire: Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister

Thirty-five years ago on January 9th 1986 Michael Heseltine, British Defence Secretary, gathered his papers at a meeting of the Cabinet and stormed out of 10 Downing Street. He and Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister, had disagreed on the procurement of military helicopters.

The ministerial resignation dominated the BBC's Nine O'Clock News that evening while on BBC 2 at the same time the new fictional PM, Jim Hacker MP, was being briefed at the Ministry of  Defence on the nuclear deterrent and a possible response to a Russian attack. He is told he would only have 12 hours to decide whether or not to push the nuclear button. Back in Downing Street the Chief Scientific Adviser quizzes the befuddled Hacker on when he would launch nuclear missiles (see The Grand Design below).

There were also early echoes of Brexit, 30 years before the 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union (EU). In 1983 Labour's election manifesto 'New Hope for Britain' had a commitment on leaving what was then known as the European Economic Community (EEC), 8 years after Britain's first ever national referendum, on membership ─ Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman (1930-2017) called the left-oriented manifesto "the longest suicide note in history."

Yes Minister was broadcast in 1980-1984 and a one hour Christmas special in December 1985 revealed the victory of the surprise compromise candidate as Prime Minister, following his campaign among party members to save the British sausage. "I believe in the European ideal... but this does not mean that we have to bow the knee to every directive from every little bureaucratic Bonaparte in Brussels... They've turned our pints into litres and our yards into metres; we gave up the tanner and the threepenny bit, the two bob piece and the half crown. But they cannot and will not destroy the British sausage." 

Saturday, August 07, 2021

8.4% of world population live in a full democracy including Ireland

Among the world's top 10 most populous countries India and the United States in the past stood out as free democracies. Neither is today. While both Narendra Modi and Donald Trump know that racism can be a potent tool, the process of moving to authoritarianism was in place before they won national power.

China (1) and India (2) account for 36% of the global population. They are followed by the US (3); Indonesia (4); Pakistan (5); Brazil (6); Nigeria (7); Bangladesh (8); Russia (9) and Mexico (10).

Accounting for 58% of the global population of 7.79bn in 2020, none of the countries is a full democracy.

Western Europe is the crucible of global democracy but the long peace between European powers since 1945 and the relative peace of the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) of 27 BC-180 AD bookends a history of carnage.

War has been a hallmark of humanity in history compared with peace and for 157 years a set of statistics has grabbed the attention of military leaders, US politicians, academics who do not check sources and many book authors: In 3,400 years only 268 have been peaceful.

The 1932 book 'Inevitable War' has 3,421 years during which about 8,000 peace treaties were concluded, and in which time there were only 268 years of peace or 8%. The historians, Will Durant and his partner Ariel, have a line in 'Living History'(1968) “In the last 3,421 years of recorded history, only 268 have seen no war,” without attribution. Barry O’Neill of the University of California, Los Angeles, in a 2014 paper noted "In 1996 Donald Kagan, a classicist at Yale, testified before the House Committee on National Security. Those hoping for permanent peace have forgotten that war is ingrained in civilization, he argued...Kagan had given the 268-y-of-peace count in his 1995 book, On the Origins of War," quoting Durant's 1968 book.

Chris Hedges in The New York Times in 2003 uses the more common 3,400 statistic.

A 1931 French essay cited the statistics adjusted to 1925 from the original fraudulent data. The "magical figures" date to 1864 when an obscure French philosopher, François Odysse Barot, set out the data for 1496 BC to 1861 in 'Lettres Sur la Philosophie de L Histoire' with 3,357 years of war and 227 years of peace. He claimed to have counted 8,397 peace treaties which were later expanded but Barot had engaged in a hoax.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

On the origin of humans and evolution

Humans, chimpanzees and bonobos were descended from a single ancestor species that lived 6 to 7m years ago. Humans and their closest cousins share 98.8% of their DNA, according to the American Museum of Natural History. The same DNA can behave differently — we share about 96% of our DNA with gorillas.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) in his 1871 book 'The Descent of Man,' speculated that it was “probable” that humans originated in Africa because our two closest living relatives — chimpanzees and gorillas — live there. However, he also acknowledged that a large extinct ape once lived in Europe millions of years ago, leaving time for our earliest ancestors to move to Africa. Darwin concluded, “it’s useless to speculate on the subject.”

We now know the location of the cradle of humanity and at least 21 human groups can be identified from 6 to 7m years ago to modern humans that have developed from about 300,000 years ago.

What we also know is that Homo sapiens (Latin: “wise man”) is the species to which all modern human beings belong and that is among the genus Homo (man or human).

Homo sapiens is the only group that is not extinct.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Irish as Young Europeans: "Hire them before they hire you"

IDA Ireland 1984: Engineering graduates of University College Dublin (UCD). "It's a fact that Ireland produces more computer science graduates per capita than the US; spends more (as a percentage of GDP) on education than Britain or Japan. So it's no surprise to find Irish managers among senior executives in top international companies. However, the best way to get your share of Irish talent is to locate in Ireland. You'll be in good company. Over 300 US manufacturing and service industry companies already have done so. Ireland, home of the Irish and the young Europeans. "

In 2020 Luxembourg and Ireland had the highest percentage of university graduates in the 25-34-year-old group. The EU27 was at 40.5%, Luxembourg 60.6%; Ireland 58.4%; Germany 35.1% and Austria 41.4%.

In the OECD's Education at a Glance 2020, Korea and Ireland are at 70% in 2019; followed by Canada 63%; Russia 62%; US is at 50% and Germany 33%.

While IDA Ireland, the Irish inward direct investment agency, bragged in 1984 that "Ireland produces more computer science graduates per capita than the US," this year the Irish Higher Education Authority (HEA) reported on its tracking of the progress of thousands of students who started third-level courses over a 10-year period (see image below).

The HEA reported that computing had the highest drop-out rate overall, with completion rates nationally at about 55%.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Danes' net financial wealth is highest in the EU but...

At the end of June 2021, Denmark's National Bank (central bank) reported that Danish households' net financial wealth was kr (krone) 6,453bn in December 2020. In the EU, the average Dane's financial net wealth is in first place, followed by the Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg and Belgium. Ireland has the 8th ranking.

However, average (mean) and median provide very different results — the median is the middle value with 50% of values above it, and 50% below. It's a useful metric when there is significant inequality.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Irish standard of living at 13th in EU27 and 19th among rich OECD countries

In 2020 Ireland's standard of living per capita was 13th in the EU27 ranking. Among the 31 advanced (defined by the International Monetary Fund: IMF1) / rich countries of the 38 member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ireland had a 19th ranking for Household net adjusted disposable income per capita. The poor occupational pension coverage in the Irish private-sector workforce is also relevant to the standard of living.

According to the Central Statistics Office in 2020, 6 in 10 Irish workers have "some form of pension coverage" — the number of years coverage varies among private-sector workers as employers have no obligation to provide occupational pensions. The 2017 Public Service Pay Commission report noted that the Irish Pensions Authority indicated "that pension coverage in the public sector remains at 100%, with the equivalent coverage figure for the private sector at 40%."

State pensions accounted for almost a third of average wages in 2020 (€12,900 vs €40,300).

While the Irish public sector including politicians (18% of the workforce) has guaranteed pension payouts (defined benefit), up to 60% of Irish private pension funds are eaten up by charges and fees from finance firms.

In contrast to the shambolic Irish system, the OECD says that in Denmark occupational pension schemes are fully funded defined-contribution schemes agreed between the social partners through collective agreements. Some 85% of the employed workforce is covered by such schemes." Danish self-employed have separate schemes and total coverage encompasses "almost the entire population and comes close to absolute universality."

Danish households differ from households in most other countries in that they have very large pension wealth, according to the Danish National Bank. "This means that many Danes can look forward to relatively high income after retirement, which reduces their need to be debt-free when they retire."

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Communist Party of China @ 100 - High inequality and high poverty

China has moved from being a moderately unequal country in 1990 to being one of the most unequal countries according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At the same time, while great strides have been made in eliminating extreme poverty, claims that it has been vanquished have been disputed. Chinese premier Li Keqiang at the end of the National People’s Congress in May 2020 released data on household incomes. It showed that the bottom 40% of households ranked by annual income and accounting for about 600m people from a population of 1.4bn, had an average annual per capita disposable income of CN¥11,485 yuan (US$1,621) — an average of CN¥957 yuan (US$135) per month — according to an annual household survey produced by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Deaths of 60 million people in Americas in 1500s and global climate change

Aztec emperor Moctezuma II on the balcony of his palace before his murder by Spanish captors in June 1520. Library of US Congress

A Hendrick Avercamp's (1585–1634) painting of a Dutch waterway frozen in the extreme cold of winter: 'A Winter Scene,' c. 1610–1620, oil on panel, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

Scientists report that in the century following the four voyages (1492–93, 1493–96, 1498–1500, and 1502–04) to the Caribbean and the Americas by Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), Italian Cristoforo Colombo, Spanish Cristóbal Colón (he was apparently a native of Genoa), European colonialism resulted in the deaths of 60m people. The European diseases and genocide that killed about 10% of the world's population triggered a climate crisis in Europe in particular, that brought famine and political upheaval. However, claims that revolts from Ireland to China and Japan in the 17th century all related to climate change are not valid.

It is estimated that the population of the Americas fell to just 5 or 6m within a hundred years. For comparison, Europe’s population in 1600 was 78m spread over less than half the area.

The Spanish campaign finally vanquished the Aztec Empire on 13 August 1521, when a coalition army of Spanish forces and native Tlaxcalan warriors led by Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) and Xicotencatl the Younger (1484-1521), the leader of the indigenous Tlaxcalans, captured Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, which became Mexico City that was built on the ruins of Tenochtitlán.

“It wasn’t 600 to 800 Spaniards who conquered [Tenochtitlán]. It was thousands and thousands of Tlaxcalans, Huejotzingas or other peoples, who were under the Mexica yoke and wanted to liberate themselves,” archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma told Radio Formula.

“Cortés had 30,000 to 40,000 Mesoamericans fighting with him,” said Aurelio López Corral, an archaeologist in Tlaxcala. “He couldn’t have done it on his own.”

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, John McDonnell MP, then 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.