Friday, May 06, 2022

Gaslight and gaslighting

In recent times the words 'gaslight' and 'gaslighting' have become prominent in particular in the United States, aided by the efforts of Donald Trump and his cult followers, who want to believe that the truth is a lie.

The Google Books Ngram Viewer (see below) is a search engine that charts word frequencies from a large number of books and for the two words here the time period is 1938-2019. Gaslight has more frequencies than gaslighting.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gaslighting as "psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one's emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator."

Whether it is gaslight, gaslit, gaslighter or gaslighting, M-W says "The Historical Dictionary of American Slang' has a record of use in a speech from 1956 in which a woman defines gaslight in a way that reflects the above definition and gives its source [as being a 1944 movie.] The term is commonly used today as a verb and verbal noun."

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Emmanuel Macron and the pessimism of the French


Emmanuel Macron has become the first French president in 20 years to win a second term in office. At his victory rally on Sunday, April 24, Macron promised to rule France in a “different way” and to be “everybody’s president.”

Last year Sciences Po, the French research university, reported that when French people were asked to compare their social situation with that of their parents at the same age, only 36% of respondents described it as better, compared with 41% in Italy, 45% in Germany and 47% in the UK!

An Ipsos-Le Monde poll published between the two rounds of the presidential election showed that an identical overwhelming majority of respondents (79%) believed that major social unrest will occur during the next five-year term, regardless of who entered the Élysée Palace. "Most of them are also convinced that the situation in France will worsen (57% if Le Pen was to win; 48% if President Macron was re-elected.)"

Simon Kuper noted in The Financial Times 'Physical security has improved. The homicide rate halved between 1988 and 2019. To quote the writer Sylvain Tesson: “France is a paradise inhabited by people who think they’re in hell.”'

A poll in November 2021 suggested that 78% feel happy about their own lives, but 60% are convinced that their country is going downhill. According to The Economist "Being idealists, the French find that the real world always disappoints. Taught from a young age to adopt un esprit critique, they delight in disapproval. Last year, as Covid first spread, a poll suggested that only 39% of the French thought that their government was managing the crisis well, compared with 74% in Germany and 69% in Britain. Bleak is chic."

Monday, April 18, 2022

Big 4 countries account for 73% of Europe’s fastest-growing firms


The Financial Times's FT 1000 which was published in March 2022 with Statista, a research company, lists the European companies that had the highest compound annual growth rate in revenue between 2017 and 2020. The minimum CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) to get on the list was 36.5% — slightly above the 35.5% required for last year’s ranking.

The Big 4 countries Italy (235); Germany (194); the UK (155) and France (148) accounted for 732 of the 1,000 firms or 73%.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

The Big Lie from Hitler to Putin and Versailles

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)

In recent times in the West, Donald Trump has used the Big Lie to support his false claim that he won the 2020 US presidential election. Many Republicans support the claim of fraud at the top of the ballots on November 3, 2020, but they do not contest the results of the balloting for other offices that day. Ironically Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff who spread bogus election fraud claims — and pressured government officials to look into them — is being investigated for alleged voter fraud in the 2020 election.

According to The Washington Post's Fact Checker team, Donald Trump made false or misleading claims that total 30,573 over 4 years in office. Trump's first Big Lie — that Barack Obama was not born in the United States — helped to make Trump president. His second Big Lie marks him as the worst of 45 men who have been president of the United States (Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president).

Adolf Hitler explained how the Big Lie works in 'Mein Kampf' where he accused Jews of spreading lies about the performance of the German army during the First World War.

However, Hitler's Biggest Lie was that Germany was undefeated in 1918.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator, has a warped view of history dating back 1,000 years. Ukraine is currently run by Nazis while in Russia today it's a crime to refer to Stalin's collusion with Hitler in 1939-1941.

Putin like Hitler regards civilians as legitimate targets and despite the lies, it's clearly a part of the strategy in Ukraine.   

Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University, writes in The Washington Post "A war based upon a Big Lie is ...hard on its culture of origin. Everyone is looking at the Russian nation — or perhaps, rather, for it. What does it do to a society to invade a neighbour, which it claims to love, on the basis of bottomless self-deception? Americans have not yet recovered from the lies they told about Iraq two decades ago, and the Russian deception campaign runs far deeper. How are Russian parents altered when they deny to their children in Ukraine that any war is taking place? What sort of nation makes war and then forbids the use of the very word?"

There has been no invasion of Ukraine and the war is a “special military operation.”

"Even as Russians are committing war crimes that violate Ukraine’s right to exist, Russians are told (and often seem to believe) that they are refighting the Second World War and resisting Nazis. That is a very Big Lie, and Big Lies do lasting damage."

Vladimir Solovyov a well-known fanatical pro-Putin TV propagandist said last week "This is a battle from the war that started on May 9, 1945, when they — pretending that they’re with us — were getting ready to destroy us.”

Soloyvev (or Solovyov) pretends to hate the West while having 2 villas on Italy’s Lake Como, which have been seized by the Italian authorities. The TV host has said on air that he will murder those who "stole" his Italian properties.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Putin's versions of history are myths

Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of Germany; Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union supreme leader; and Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, at the signing of the 10-year non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, in reality, the pact of demarcation of Eastern Europe. Moscow, 23 August 1939

The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact had a secret protocol that left Hitler free to attack Poland without risking war with the Soviet Union and it divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Putin, the Russian dictator, has claimed that Ukraine is “an inalienable part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space.” Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, all trace their roots back to the ancient principality of Kyivan Rus’. According to Encyclopedia Britannica "both the origin of the Kievan state and that of the name Rus, which came to be applied to it, remain matters of debate among historians. According to the traditional account presented in The Russian Primary Chronicle, it was founded by the Viking Oleg, ruler of Novgorod from about 879. In 882 he seized Smolensk and Kyiv, and the latter city, owing to its strategic location on the Dnieper River, became the capital of Kievan Rus. Extending his rule, Oleg united local Slavic and Finnish tribes, defeated the Khazars, and, in 911, arranged trade agreements with Constantinople.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Ukraine, George Orwell and emergence of state sovereignty

Last week, Putin, the Russian dictator, had his rubber-stamp parliament pass a law providing for sentences of up to 15 years in jail for the crime of distributing "fake news."Russia is already a dangerous place for journalists and in 1992-2022, 82 journalists have been killed there according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): the motive has been confirmed in 58 cases.

“I want everyone to understand, and for society to understand, that we are doing this to protect our soldiers and officers, and to protect the truth,” the speaker of the Russian lower house, Vyacheslav Volodin, said.

The Orwellian move evoked George Orwell's Ministry of Truth in the 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' novel which was first published in Britain in June 1949.

“I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive,” Orwell wrote, but “that something resembling it could arrive. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical consequences.”

George Orwell (Eric Blair 1903-1950): “'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'”

The main character Winston Smith introduces the theory behind the work he does at the Ministry of Truth. The Party understands that by rewriting the events of the past and controlling the narrative of history, they can maintain their position of authority.

Orwell created Newspeak, the official language of the totalitarian state of Oceania. Its purpose was to diminish the range of thought by eliminating shades of meaning and nuance from Oldspeak (Standard English). For example, without a word for freedom, the concept of freedom cannot exist.

The world was divided into three superstates — Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia (map from Wiki).


Putin has banned the words "war" and "invasion" from being used by the media in Russia. Big Brother has only sanctioned the “special military operation on the territory of Ukraine.”

“We don’t see any need to exacerbate the situation or worsen our relationships,” the dictator has said using his version of Newspeak. “All of our actions, if they occur, they occur exclusively, always, in response to ill-intended actions toward the Russian Federation.”;

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Dublin housing crisis and Big Tech

In 2020 Savills — the international real estate firm — gave Dublin a 14th ranking in a Top 20 of global tech cities. Last month Dublin was ranked 4th as one of the lead “European cities of the future” ahead of London, Amsterdam and Paris according to the Financial Times’s FDI Intelligence. The Irish capital was 5th overall in the 'Global Cities of the Future' and 3rd place in the “business friendliness” and “economic potential categories.”

While big tech firms have centralised their European sales and customer support in Dublin, they are also involved in computer programming and software development. Government data for 2020 show that foreign firms had 38,000 people in the latter activities while Irish firms only had 1,700.

Foreign workers accounted for 17% of employment in 2021 (429,000) and the ratio in Information and Technology (ICT) was 35% (breakdown for 2020). ICT is a sub-category of 'Information and Communication' which includes newspapers, broadcasters and telecommunication, and in 2019-2021 40,000 jobs were added.

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Ireland's international economic and social indicators in 2022

Last year Eurostat reported that in 2020, slightly more than a quarter of the EU’s GDP (gross domestic product) was generated by Germany (25.1%), followed by France (17.2%) and Italy (12.3%), ahead of Spain (8.4%) and the Netherlands (6.0%).

Ten EU member states contributed less than 1% to the EU’s total GDP: Malta (had the lowest share of EU GDP at 0.1%), Estonia, Cyprus and Latvia (all 0.2%), Croatia, Lithuania and Slovenia (all 0.4%), Bulgaria and Luxembourg (both 0.5%), and Slovakia (0.7%).

In the first year of the pandemic, Spain took the biggest GDP hit (-10.8%), followed by Greece (-9.0%), Italy (-8.9%), Portugal (-8.4%), Malta (-8.2%), Croatia (-8.1%) and France (-7.9%).

The only EU country that registered an increase in GDP in 2020 was Ireland (+5.9%).

Friday, February 04, 2022

Birth of James Joyce's Ulysses coincided with genesis of Irish democracy

Sylvia Beach meets James Joyce in her Parisian English language bookshop, Shakespeare and Company in 1922 (the second poster in the background references a 1922 review of 'Ulysses'). She had published Joyce's groundbreaking novel 'Ulysses.' on February 2, 1922 — Joyce's 40th birthday. It began to be serialised in the United States from 1918, resulting in a ban that was lifted in 1933.

The 100th anniversary of the publication of the novel 'Ulysses' (the Latinised name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer's epic poem the 'Odyssey') highlights the importance of James Joyce (1882-1941), who is renowned for his experimental use of language together with new literary methods, which he called "scrupulous meanness."

The book was also controversial in prudish times. Belfast-born James Douglas (1867–1940) — a critic, editor of the British Sunday Express, and author — called 'Ulysess':

“The most infamously obscene book in ancient or modern literature. All the secret sewers of vice are canalised in its flood of unimaginable thoughts, images, and pornographic words. And its unclean lunacies are larded with appalling and revolting blasphemies directed against the Christian religion and against the holy name of Christ — blasphemies hitherto associated with the most degraded orgies of Satanism and the Black Mass.”

A US attorney used the quote before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in US v One Book Entitled Ulysses in 1934. A 1933 decision to lift a ban on the book was upheld. In the UK a 1922 censorship ban was lifted in 1936.

'Ulysses' was not banned in Ireland but it was never sold there until decades after its release.

The first publication, in Paris, came two weeks after the British government had ceded Dublin Castle, the bastion of 700 years of rule by Normans, English and British, to the new Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.

'Ulysses' is set on June 16, 1904, when the prospect of a self-governing Irish democracy was extremely remote.

Joyce had a love-hate relationship with Ireland and when he died in Zurich in 1941, he was a British citizen and a British diplomat spoke at the funeral while the Irish taoiseach (prime minister) queried if Joyce had been a Catholic. There was no Irish representation at the funeral.

Sylvia Beach, the American-born publisher of the book, had to support the Joyces through the 1920s but according to 'The New Yorker' "The peak of his prosperity came in 1932 with the news of his sale of the book to Random House in New York for a $45,000 ($916,000 today) advance, which, she (Sylvia Beach) confessed, he failed to announce to her and of which, as was later known, he never even offered her a penny. "I understood from the first that, working with or for Mr Joyce, the pleasure was mine — an infinite pleasure: the profits were for him."

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

US and Chinese ICT and health firms lead global R&D

In December 2021 the European Commission published its annual review of business research and development — both in the Union and across the globe.

At a spending level, the EU remained second to the United States. American and European companies fell slightly to 20.3% and 37.8% respectively while Chinese companies continued to raise spending by reaching 15.5%.

At a global level in 2020 — the first year of the pandemic — business R&D was concentrated in four key sectors accounting for 77.4% of global R&D on the Scoreboard: ICT producers (22.9%), Health industries (20.8%), ICT services (18.6%) and Automotive (15.2%).

Amazon is the world's biggest business R&D spender.

However, it is not on the Scorecard as its "technology and content" expense includes more than R&D. Amazon's SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) filing reveals a huge expenditure of $42.74bn in fiscal 2020 (11.1% of net sales) on 'technology and content' as compared to $35.93 billion in fiscal 2019. This compares with the top-ranking Alphabet (Google's parent) in the Global 2500 at €22.47bn ($25.62bn) in 2020.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

European countries and exporting champions

Lithuania has the highest rate of two-way traders; Ireland among lowest

International goods trading is dominated by importers who just only import. In 2019, almost two-thirds of the EU firms were importers only. Domestic firms accounted for the majority of exports while foreign-controlled firms accounted for the majority of imports in the EU in 2019.

According to Eurostat two-way traders (who are importers and exporters) accounted for 24.0% with the remaining 10.6% who were only exporters.

Eurostat says the island nations of Malta (17.0%, 2018 data), Ireland (16.2%) and Cyprus (12.1%) recorded the lowest proportions of two-way traders, as around four-fifths of their enterprises engaged in trade were importers only. The highest share of exporters only was found in France (32.0%) — think of for example wine where it does not require significant foreign inputs.

Ireland's importers accounted for 79% of traders in 2019.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Ireland in 1922 not poorest state in Western Europe but it was in 1973

Cover cartoon in the July 1956 edition of the satirical magazine 'Dublin Opinion' — ‘Shortly Available: Underdeveloped Country: Unrivalled Opportunities: Magnificent Views, Political and Otherwise: Owners Going Abroad.’ As the Irish political system remained in a state of stasis, other Western European countries were rebuilding. West Germany recorded a goods trade surplus in 1952 and it has been in the black since. The period 1950-1973 was called the Golden Age of Economic Growth in Western Europe. Real (inflation-adjusted) annual average compound growth rates were unprecedented according to Prof Angus Maddison: Greece grew 6.2% annually; West Germany and Italy expanded by 5% each year; France achieved 4%; Portugal and Spain logged 5.7% and 5.8% respectively. The UK had the lowest rate at 2.5%. Ireland's performance was at 3.1% as was Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland — the latter countries were growing from higher prewar bases. For example, in 1973 Swiss per capita GDP was 138% higher than Ireland's while Denmark's level was 104%.

The Irish Free State (Irish: Saorstát Éireann), a state established in 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921, existed from 6 December 1922 – 29 December 1937, when a new constitution became law and the state was called Ireland (Irish: Éire).

The population in 1841 in the area of the island that became the Irish Free State was 6.29m. The devastating Potato Famine of the 1840s followed by huge emigration and a dip in marriage rates, resulted in a population of 3.22m in 1901 and 2.97m in the first census as an independent state in 1926.

The nadir was in 1961 when the population fell to 2.82m.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

The shameful stain of an Irish Civil War 100 years ago

This article was first published in January 2020.
Dublin Castle, the seat of Norman/English and later British rule from 1204-1922 was handed over to the Irish on January 16, 1922, by Lord FitzAlan-Howard, the last Viceroy of Ireland. Michael Collins, the 31-year old chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State, is pictured 'bouncing’ out through the Chief Secretary’s door after the handover. Collins is preceded by Kevin O'Higgins, who had been appointed Minister for Economic Affairs in the previous week. The new government issued a statement which said, ‘"The Members of the Provisional Government received the surrender of Dublin Castle at 1.45 pm today. It is now in the hands of the Irish nation." A unit of the Royal Corps of Engineers remained at the castle until August 1922. (Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland)

At 2:20 am on December 6, 1921, British and Irish delegations signed an Anglo-Irish Treaty in 10 Downing Street, London, which provided for dominion status for an Irish Free State comprising 26 counties of Ireland, with a similar status as "the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa," in the British Empire. The British Government of Ireland Act 1920 had provided for the partition of the island and Northern Ireland comprising 6 counties in the northeast had its own parliament since June 1921.