Friday, December 30, 2022

Europe's music man André Rieu: famous Dutch violinist and conductor

Maastricht, The Netherlands

André Rieu created the Johann Strauss Orchestra in 1987 and began with 12 members, giving its first concert in January 1988. The largest private orchestra in the world has about 60 musicians.

Rieu known as the 'King of Waltz', has sold over 40mn CDs and DVDs and at 73 he still performs at concerts worldwide.

He was born on 1 October 1949 the third of six children, his father, Andries Antonie Rieu, was the conductor of the Maastricht Symphony Orchestra.

In the past, Rieu used a 1667 Stradivari violin at his concerts. The Italian maestro liutaio (master luthier) was about 23 when the instrument was produced. More recently André Rieu uses a 1732 violin which was made when the maestro was about 87.

The renowned Antonio Stradivari (Latin: Stradivarius circa 1644-1737) had a workshop in Cremona, Italy, and it is believed to have produced over 1,100 string instruments. Two of his sons worked with him and today the most common number of extant instruments in Google Books and other references is about 650. However, that is typically copied from other publications without a source.

There have been many copies of the Stradivari violin since his death and Wikipedia sourced in 2022 282 original extant violins; 12 violas and 63 cellos. The number in private collections is still being determined.

A 1714 Stradivari violin was sold at auction in June 2022 for US$15.34mn. A new Stradivari violin in the early 18th century in Lombardy would have cost the equivalent of $17,000 to $18,500 US dollars today.

André Rieu and John Sheahan who had been a member of 'The Dubliners' group in 1964-2012, performing 'The Marino Waltz' live in Dublin. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Foreign-born in Ireland overtake Irish-born in countries overseas

The main facade of Government Buildings in Central Dublin

The Irish population grew by 11.7% in 2011-2022 (535,000: 362,000 in 2016-2022) while net housing units were at 130,000 at Census 2022 in April (new completions from 2011 were at 163,000 in December 2022; 29,000 in 2011-2015). However, employment (15 years +) in 2011-2022 (Q3) jumped by 668,000 or 35% (the unemployment rate was above 15% in 2011 and at 4.5% in 2022). Non-Irish nationals (excluding naturalised) were at 13.8% of the population. Inward migration in 2016-2022 was 190,330 and almost 47,000 settled in the Dublin area in the 6-year period.

Foreign-born residents of the Republic of Ireland have overtaken the number of Irish-born living overseas. Residents of Northern Ireland are not included.

According to Census 2022, the total population was 5.124mn — the highest since 1851.

In the Census 1991, the total population was 3.297mn. The foreign-born population was 5.5% — Great Britain was at 3.9% and the Rest of the World was at 1.6%. In 1981 the total number was 5.6% and in 1971 it was 2.5%.

The first census was held in the Irish Free State in 1926. The population was 2.972mn and the foreign-born population was also 2.5%.

The rate was 12% in 2011 including about 40,000 people, who got certificates of naturalisation that were issued to people from 2000 to 2011.

In April 2022 the foreign rate in the total population was 18.5% compared with 14% for expatriates. The rates compared with the native-born population were 23% and 17%.

In England & Wales in the last decade, the Irish-born population fell 80,000 to 325,000 and adding 21,000 for Scotland, Great Britain has a current population of about 67mn and the Irish population is about 346,000.

Since Brexit in 2016 about 100,000 Irish passports have been issued annually to British residents. "If one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, but neither of your parents was born in Ireland, you may become an Irish citizen."

Friday, November 25, 2022

Silicon Sultans as gatekeepers and controlling innovation

I published a post titled 'Robber Barons & Silicon Sultans: Rockefeller vs Bezos' on February 20.

The original robber barons operated in the Rhine valley, as the river had been Europe’s principal highway for 1,000 years. In the decades after the US Civil War, the American robber barons were industrialists and financiers who amassed huge fortunes by monopolizing key industries by forming trusts and engaging in unethical business practices including fraud.

Today the Big Tech gatekeepers are Apple; Microsoft; Alphabet (Google); Amazon and Meta (Facebook). They operate in most of the world with the main exception being China.

Big Tech firms spent $603bn (Amazon spent $242bn) on innovation in the 11 years 2010-2020 but they also limit competition including copying promising work by young innovators or acquiring them.

Facebook for example copied Snapchat's features after the Snapchat founders rejected Zuckerberg's offer to acquire the site.

In 2021 revenues of the 5 firms were at $1.4tn.

Researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business have said that when a startup was bought by Google or Facebook, VC (venture capital) investments in the same space dropped by 46% in the following three years, and the number of deals by 42%.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Economic globalization at a crossroads

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) economic globalization (or globalisation in British English) "is a historical process, the result of human innovation and technological progress. It refers to the increasing integration of economies around the world, particularly through the movement of goods, services, and capital across borders. The term sometimes also refers to the movement of people (labour) and knowledge (technology) across international borders. There are also broader cultural, political, and environmental dimensions of globalization."

Besides the economic form, cultural and political globalization also exist.

The terms ‘globalize’ and ‘globalism’ were coined in a treatise published in 1944. The noun ‘globalization’ first appeared in Webster’s Dictionary in 1961. Google's Ngram has the term earlier than 1944.

It became popular in the 1980s and in 1983 Theodore Levitt of the Harvard Business School had an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled 'Globalization of markets.'

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Putin's Irish useful idiots vote down European Parliament resolution on Russia

Russia and Ukraine were the biggest states in the Soviet Union after its collapse in 1991 (December 26, 1991). Ukraine held an independence referendum in early December 1991 with the blessing of Russia. Voter turnout was at 84% and a stunning 90.3% voted for independence. Two-thirds of the estimated 1-1.5mn Soviet military personnel stationed on Ukrainian territory backed independence. Hundreds of foreign observers and correspondents were in Kyiv.

The new independent republic held about 5,000 nuclear missiles. Only Russia and the United States had more weapons. In 1994 the Ukrainian government decided to give up its nuclear arms in exchange for security guarantees from the US, the UK and Russia. The agreement is known as the Budapest Memorandum.

Putin, the Russian dictator, dismissed the Budapest Memorandum and since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he has threatened to use nuclear weapons in the country.

The Crimean peninsula was annexed in 2014 after a pro-Kremlin government in Ukraine was ousted. The president fled to Russia in February after protests in which more than 100 people died. Russian troops began an invasion of Crimea later in the month.

In a televised address before the invasion in February 2022, Putin explicitly denied that Ukraine had ever had “real statehood,” and he claimed that the country was an integral part of Russia’s “own history, culture, spiritual space.”

Putin also said Russia would "seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine,” stating, “your fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers did not fight the Nazi occupiers and did not defend our common Motherland to allow today’s neo-Nazis to seize power in Ukraine.”

The Soviet Union long denied collaboration with Nazi Germany under the secret 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, only acknowledging and denouncing it in 1989 under Mikhail Gorbachev. In September 1939 the Nazis invaded Poland from the west and Soviet Communists invaded from the east.  

Kievan Rus’ – a medieval state that came into existence in the 9th century had Kyiv as its capital and was founded hundreds of years earlier than Moscow while Ukraine has its own distinct language and customs.

Putin could not tolerate an emerging democracy on his borders with the prospect of Ukraine joining the European Union. However, joining NATO was not on the agenda of the organisation. 

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Brexit returns UK to status of a sick man of Europe

Bloomberg commented "Nothing illustrates it better than the slide in the pound. It’s fallen from a high of more than $2 in 2007, just before the financial crisis, to $1.50 at the time of the Brexit referendum, and is now on the brink of parity with the dollar." In 1945, about half the world’s trade was still transacted in sterling. IMF data show that sterling accounts for 5% of global foreign reserves, which is above the currencies of Switzerland, Australia and Canada. It's also ahead of the Chinese renminbi which is close to 3%. The current value of the UK is 3% of global GDP. The Euro Area's equivalent numbers are 15% and almost 21%.

The economic dunces that sit in numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street, London, thought that giving big tax breaks to the mainly wealthy would turbocharge the British economy. Meanwhile, mortgage rates will rise for many people following expected high interest rate changes from the Bank of England.

The first decision of Kwasi Kwarteng, the chancellor, was to sack the civil service head of the Treasury. He rejected involving the public body, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), in forecasting economic growth and with the support of Liz Truss, the prime minister, he plucked the annual growth target of 2.5% from the air.

The Office for National Statistics said in August 2022 that it had revised down annual volume GDP growth in 2020 by 1.7 percentage points, meaning that it fell by 11%, the largest in more than 300 years and the worst recorded among G7 countries ((US; Japan; Germany; France; UK; Italy and Canada). 2021 growth was 7.44%; 1.67% in 2019 (pre-pandemic) and 1.65% in 2018.

A recent analysis by Oxford Economics for the Tony Blair Institute concluded that aggregate UK output might be cumulatively 0.4% higher five years hence.

Truss talks of economic growth while deriding an “anti-growth coalition.” But of course, she ignores the biggest drag on growth: Brexit.

In Kwarteng's mini-Budget on September 23rd, he proposed the biggest tax cuts since 1972. The unfunded £45bn cost would be added to the deficit and 5% of households would get almost 50% of the benefit, according to the Resolution Foundation, a think tank. In addition, £60bn+ would be spent on energy subsidies.

Update: The British government on Monday, October 3rd, U-turned on plans to scrap the top 45p rate of income tax, the chancellor confirmed at the Conservative Party Conference. This would have benefited people earning more than £150,000 at a cost of just£3bn of the£45bn mini-Budget. The Resolution Foundation said that despite Monday’s U-turn, the richest households would still gain almost 40 times as much as poorer families from policies announced in the mini-Budget.

More U-turns are expected as the new government searches for savings if any on public services while at the same time seeking the support of the majority of Tory MPs that did not support Liz Truss for prime minister (the final ballot of MPs had 137 votes for Sunak, 113 for Truss.)

In October 1980 Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, in her speech to the Conservative Party Conference, said "To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase the 'U-turn,' I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to: The Lady’s not for turning."

Friday, September 16, 2022

Fairy tales of Irish economy obscure truth

This is my sequel to the article 'Leprechaun economics continue to distort Ireland's statistics' which documents the continuing multinational distortions in Ireland's National Accounts.

The focus here is on propaganda and ignorance in particular from government enterprise agencies and the media, which give a false image of the Irish economy. The national statistics office has also sowed confusion with the terms "Irish-owned" and "Native Irish" firms.

In 2019 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that Ireland's SME firms (micro 1-9 employees, small 10-49 and medium 50-249) size companies dominated by domestic firms, had the lowest rate of exporters in the European Union, along with Greece.

Also in 2019 Enterprise Ireland, an Irish government agency, forecast that Irish-owned firms in the United States had created 180,000 jobs in 2017 and 2018.

This was a fairy tale!

Last June the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in a report said that in 2020 Irish-owned enterprises accounted for 27% of innovation expenditure in Ireland, while foreign-owned enterprises accounted for 73%. In October 2021 the CSO confirmed to me that Irish ownership includes mainly American Redomiciled PLC firms! They typically become Irish for tax avoidance purposes and control remains in the United States.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Leprechaun economics continue to distort Ireland's statistics

In July 2016 American economist Paul Krugman dubbed the annual revision of Irish 2015 GDP (gross domestic product) "Leprechaun economics." The 2015 GDP had jumped to a stunning 26.3% on the 2014 data. In more recent times, the Irish ambassador to the United States, Daniel Mulhall, called the use of the word "leprechaun" by the Nobel Prize-winning economist"an unacceptable slur."

Ambassador Mulhall and Enterprise Ireland, which promotes indigenous exporters, have promoted the fiction that investments by Irish companies in the United States are among the top foreign investors there. In 2021 it seems that Irish-owned companies "by country of ultimate beneficial owner" had investments of $353bn in the US — even bigger than France.

The biggest born in Ireland company, CRH, has a market capitalisation of about €29bn and the fake Irish firms called Redomiciled Companies, foster the delusion of large investments by many Irish firms.

Global exports by Irish-owned firms in 2021 were €25.5bn: €4.5bn to North America and €5.9bn to the other 18 member countries of the Eurozone — an external market of 437mn people. The UK was the biggest market at €7.5bn.

The total Irish export value in 2021 was €568bn and Irish-owned firms engaged in merchandise and tradeable services accounted for 4.5% of the total. International transport and tourism & travel had minus net export totals.

Fairy tales of Irish economy obscure truth  —  a related sequel to the current story

Friday, August 19, 2022

Irish Genealogy Page: Hennigans and Walls in County Cork

Leabhar Mór Leacain / The Great Book of Lecan, written in 1397-1418 AD

This page is a tribute to my parents Michael and Johanna Wall Hennigan, who were both natives of County Cork and were both born in 1914.

Donnchadh O Corrain, 'Ireland before the Normans' (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1972) noted that in the 10th century the Irish population was less than 500,000 people and Ireland had over 150 kings. These were petty kingdoms, or clans (tuatha), which typically elected the king. Also in the 10th century AD, a high king of Ireland (árd rí Éireann) emerged. In history, Brian Boru was apparently the most consequential high king, who reigned from 1005-1014 AD but the idea that Brian Boru saved Ireland from a Viking conquest is said to be “completely false.”

With respect to earlier times, even though the Gaelic language is Celtic in origin, the late Prof Barry Rafferty of University College Dublin said that from his research "there is no archaeological evidence for a Celtic invasion of Ireland."

While the term is useful, Raimund Karl, a professor of Celtic archaeology at the University of Vienna said, the “popular conception, that all Celts are the same, and that they are part of one big nation and people and race and so on, that is nonsense.”

The hereditary surname system evolved slowly replacing the patronymic tradition of a name typically derived from the name of a father or an ancestor. In Ireland Mac was 'son of' or Ó 'grandson of'.' Icelandic surnames today follow the Nordic tradition of patronymic and/or matronymic names.

Pronunciation, rather than spelling, guided scribes and church officials when recording names during the Middle Ages. This practice often resulted in one person's name being recorded under several different spellings.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Lowest interest rates in 5,000 years but low investments by advanced countries

The Sumerian civilisation lived in southern Mesopotamia, situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system (in modern Iraq.) They settled in the area at about 4,000 BC and first used interest related to barley and silver. It was used for valuing cattle for example. In the Sumerian period from 3000 - 1900 BC, the rate of interest on barley was usually 33-1/3% and 20% on silverSumer was the site of the earliest known civilisation, and it had a record of innovation: The Wheel; Sail; Writing; Corbeled Arch/True Arch; Irrigation and Farming Implements; Cities; Maps; Mathematics; Time and Clocks; Astronomy and Astrology and Medicinal Drugs and Surgery.

The Babylonian period stretched from 1900-732 BC and the Sumerian interest rate system was mainly copied.

King Hammurabi (circa 1810- c 1750 BC) ruled the city-state of Babylon and eventually, the Babylonian Empire covered most of Mesopotamia. The Code of Hammurabi had about 150 rules on financial and economic issues (see below).

In 2015 Andy Haldane, then chief economist at the Bank of England and his staff researched interest rates back to antiquity: Check Chart 5 here with sources.

The Bank of England was founded in 1694 and it lent £1.2mn to the English government at a rate of 8%. The record highest rate was 17% in November 1979.

The Federal Reserve was founded in 1913 and its record federal funds rate was a 19-20% range in December 1981.

In September 1992, the Riksbank — the Swedish central bank — raised the interest rate to 500% to defend the krona. This defence failed and the krona exchange rate was floated.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Irish Times and online reader commentary

In May 2022 the Irish Times unveiled a new website and app with a significant redesign of its digital platforms.

Arc XP, a unit of the Washington Post, provided the content management system which produces Irish Times articles, videos, podcasts, photography and graphics across all of its platforms.

The Washington Post introduced the slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness" in 2017 and the Irish Times adopted the slogan "Trusted journalism since 1859" as part of the recent revamp.

A version of the Washington Post slogan, "Democracies die behind closed doors" was used by Damon Keith, an African American appeal court judge, in a case brought after 9/11 (2001) by the Detroit Free Press, against the US government. Bob Woodward, the celebrated Watergate journalist, began using the expression "Democracy Dies in Darkness" but he thought it had been coined in the early 1970s before Watergate. Woodward also believed that the original was “Democracy dies in the dark.”

The New York Times introduced its famous slogan "All the News That's Fit to Print" in 1897. It was a time when yellow journalism was in the ascendant with sensationalism trumping facts. Newspaper owners William Randolph and Joseph Pulitzer led the fight for circulation. Yellow journalism is called tabloid journalism today.

The Irish Times slogan, "Trusted journalism since 1859," is weird given the history. The newspaper says today that "The Irish Times has delivered top quality news, opinion and analysis since it was first published in 1859."

Friday, July 08, 2022

Ireland's low number of multinational firms and poor exporting record since 1932

In the European Union, large companies only account for 0.2% of enterprises but almost 36% of employment.

In August 2021 the CSO (the Irish national statistics office) under the headline 'Almost 1.2 million persons employed in Irish multinationals abroad' reported that "In 2019, there were 1,168,733 persons employed in Irish multinationals abroad, 33.2% of them in the US or the UK ...Employment in Irish affiliates in the US increased by 29,773, or 12.8% ...Irish multinationals abroad had a turnover of almost €256bn, with US and UK affiliates accounting for 56.6% of this."

The claim of almost 1.2m employed by Irish multinationals abroad was of course a fairytale as was the claim by the Irish ambassador in Washington DC in recent years, that Ireland is among the top 10 FDI (foreign direct investment) investors in the United States.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Digital Era — Poor productivity and rising economic inequality

In the span of about 40 years, the Digital Era has brought new technologies that have benefited people's lives on all continents. However, since the end of the Second World War, the decades from 1980 have seen more economic inequality and concentration of wealth in advanced countries in particular.

Big digital companies are near-monopolies in their markets and can buy young companies to either use new technologies or kill them.

In recent decades aggregate productivity growth has fallen in many economies resulting in poor economic growth trends.

So-called frontier firms are doing well but there are many more laggards. 

In May 2022 the Brookings Institution of the United States published a report titled 'An Inclusive Future? Technology, New Dynamics, and Policy Challenges.' It has contributions from leading economists.

The report says "Income inequality has risen in most countries since the 1980s. Practically all major advanced economies have experienced a rise in income inequality, and the increase has been particularly large in the United States, the country at the leading edge of the digital revolution.

Those with middle-class incomes have been squeezed. The typical worker has seen largely stagnant real wages over long periods — and increased anxiety about job loss from automation. Intergenerational economic mobility has declined. Income distribution trends are more mixed in emerging economies but many of them—and most of the major emerging economies — also have experienced rising inequality. Figure 1 shows the trend in the Gini coefficient, a broad measure of inequality, in the 19 major advanced and emerging economies that are members of the G20 (the EU is the 20th)."

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, 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 & Company in 1922 (the second poster in the background references a 1922 review of 'Ulysses'). She published Joyce's groundbreaking novel 'Ulysses.' on February 2, 1922 — Joyce's 40th birthday. It began to be serialised in the United States in 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 joined the European Economic Community in 1973 as the poorest member

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.