Dawn Foster #WhereWillWeLive Ep.112


While Ireland is suffering the worst crises in the history of our State in housing, homelessness and widening income inequality, we are, sadly, far from unique. Our guest in the tortoise shack, staff writer with Jacobin Magazine, columnist with the Guardian and Author of Lean Out and the forthcoming book Where Will We Live, Dawn Foster, talks to us about the globalisation of these issues, the economic and ideological origins and what hope there is for change.

Dawn has written brilliantly about inequality, the need for radical feminism and how the housing crisis, that was exacerbated by the financialisation of the human right to housing, is the best example of markets profiting from human misery.
Dawn was in town to speak at Thresholds Housing conference and we were very grateful to them for arranging this opportunity to sit down with one of the best voices for change anywhere in the media today.

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Mick Clifford #TheDefamationGame Ep.107


When the Charleton Report was released it appears the queue of people claiming they’ve been vindicated is longer than the Donut queue in Blanchardstown. But as our guest in the tortoise shack, writer and award winning journalist Mick Clifford, points out there’s a difference between being vindicated and not being excoriated.

Mick takes us through the report and busts some of the myths that made the most convenient headlines throughout the tribunal.

We also get an insight into the dampener on investigative journalism that Ireland’s highly restrictive defamation laws are and ask the question why the powers that be won’t bring them more into line with international standards.

Please support this podcast by going to www.patreon.com/echochamberpod

Jurassic Arse #AnnoyPeople Ep.91

There are lots of different ‘Twitters’. Our guest in the tortoise shack, malcontent, voice of the Anti-Dublin League and proud Kells man, @JurassicArse aka Gary, came over to tell us why he loves and hates the platform and how “annoying folk who deserve it” is all he’s here for.

From the adventures of babby, to what his predictive text does if he types “the” into the phone, Gary is one of the best (and occasionally funny) people on Twitter and not as hard as he lets on.

You’re Paying

It’s raining. I’m sitting on the small terrace in a small apartment in a small Catalan town. My only company is a small weathervane, a Estelada Flag waving Soldier, and my anger.

The latest homelessness statistics are out and the knowledge that it doesn’t matter whether it’s 10k or 100k people, it isn’t as important to the wider population as the happenings on Love Island.

The Central Bank has issued a report critical of Banking Culture. Leaving aside the absolute failure and continued flaccid performance of the Irish Central Bank, RTE cover the story by ending their report with what can only be described as an advertisement for Bank of Ireland.

The national broadcaster is just as useless at honestly informing the public as the Central Bank is at regulation. The recent hot spell back home has resulted in a capitalist “shock doctrine” attempt to bring back water charges. To this day I’m still yet to see one article asking if there is a link between Teneo, a company with links to water privatisation globally and run by Declan Kelly ( yes, brother of the former minister Alan Kelly) and the guillotined creation of Irish Water.

Hilariously, and yet most terrifyingly, I’ve not seen one coherent counter argument put to the Corporate Lap Dogs of Fine Gael that challenges their absolute failure to do anything about climate change. Only a fool thinks that paying for water is part of a suite of things that can help tackle what is undeniably mess that’s only going to get worse.

Shock doctrine nonsense is used to shrink the public sphere, create markets where none previously existed and make more money for those already at the top.

The opinion polls put the Right Wing Tory Party, sorry, I mean Fine Gael party within a Healy-Rae dinner party of a majority. The only thing more infuriating than voting for the free market muppetry that lives on austerity is our inability to show the turkey the error of voting for Christmas.

It’s raining in Catalonia, or I should say that it’s raining in the Catalan Republic. I don’t know what the future holds. I’ve no faith that the EU would help a nascent state. I’ve less faith that the worlds media will report honestly what happened here and what is still happening today. But the Catalan people aren’t playing those guessing games anymore. They’re acting like a Republic now, with or without anyone’s approval.

In Ireland we play at numbers games, while childhoods are destroyed in “hubs”. We point at Water Protestors rather than our own disregard of the climate change existential crisis. We let big corporate and hyper capitalism devour our resources because our craven politicians plead centrism. Our media are mildly critical of political and corporate authority and then meet them in Lille’s later for a G & T.

Sure why not, you’re paying.

We’re with Jan

The following is a statement from our friend and activist, Janet O’Sullivan.

Peter Matthews used his elected position to perpetuate abortion stigma, which studies have shown has a negative effect on mental health of those who have had an abortion. I am one of the over 170,000 women who have had to make that journey, and who are directly affected by abortion stigma. I am always glad when one less person, especially one who had been elected to represent some of those 170,000 women, is no longer in a position to perpetuate that stigma.

However, as I tweeted at the time, I am sure his family misses him. I never celebrated or rejoiced in Peter Matthews death, it is an appalling thing to suggest I did. I hope that John McGuirk’s insistence on dragging this up at every available opportunity, when given a platform, has not prolonged their grieving.

For the last 8 months I have been under sustained attack from Mr McGuirk on social media, I have had to block his twitter account, he has also used his appearances on national television to harass me and now via press releases. I find this to be most distressing especially as his most recent attempts have included Minister Josepha Madigan and the Together For Yes Campaign.

I am not going to be silenced in speaking about having had an abortion and why we need to vote yes to repeal the 8th amendment in the run up to the 25th of May. I refuse to let those who oppose compassionate health care which is much needed in Ireland try and dictate how I campaign over the coming weeks.

Yours Sincerely

Janet O’Sullivan

Where is Citizen No.1?

The following was submitted by Eeekkk, a very concerned citizen!

I have e-mailed the newsdesk of the indo for years and years and years on many many subjects. I sent e-mails of all sorts not just ‘PRESS RELEASES’. Would I have legs to sue for breach of my privacy cos copies of those mails were shipped outa the country to lands unknown?

I mean I don’t even have to show a financial loss to seek compensation?! See pic above! I don’t have a different set of rights to Bruce Arnold or Geraldine Kennedy?! Right!?

I am in all likelihood one of tens of thousands of citizens in same position. How much money do INM have? What does that come out to divided by ten thousand? Or one hundred thousand? Too late for privacy so yeah – I’d take dollars instead. Even if it was five dollars – or even the price of a newspaper.

I mean the data was taken abroad – that is what it says in the papers. All of it. The e-mail archive of INM.  Maybe nobody came across me in the archive or searched for me or anyone I corresponded with in the archive – but ‘abroad’ to me means in reality the equivalent of ‘disclosed’. I mean – I know that it has passed through the hands of six companies abroad. But it is really very very hard to know who these companies are, who they work for, who and what impact the disclosure of my data might have in the future if somebody that hires one of them runs new searches.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Has data been disclosed if (1) it is handed by one of two parties who are corresponding to a third party abroad in an envelope essentially? Or is it only disclosed if and when (2) a third party (abroad) sits down and opens it?

I think it is (1) above. I think a child would tell you that. I think a test case is needed here. I think that – even though I also think it is too late to get my privacy in my correspondence back. The damage is done. Smoke can’t be put back in a bottle. Even Big Brother can’t do that.

Scary on the eve of a referendum. Scary in the present context. I mean a person centrally involved in this story paid shitloads to have a Vatican Chapel done up and he and another big bunch of ‘citizens’ got their names on a creepy plaque! (see image next page) He has a LOT of data!

Step forward Citizen No. 1.

Don’t get angry with Pig Brother – get even.

Rough Translation “That the injustice of time may be rendered obsolete’

Submitted by Eeekkk

It’s an Emergency

This is from last September. The situation has only deteriorated since. But the solutions are available. They are doable. Now they’ve admitted it’s a national emergency the government can finally take the matter seriously.

There was an interesting development in how the Government has decided to handle (spin) the housing crisis this week.

Following a raw and at times brutal Morning Ireland interview with a homeless Secondary School student named ‘Amanda’, the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, rather than feel ashamed decided he’d side with the poor girl.

Mr Murphy said:

“The piece that was broadcast this morning on Morning Ireland is probably one of the most important contributions to this debate that we’ve heard in the past number of months.

The bravery that they had this morning to come out and tell the country about their particular circumstance was very brave but very important for people to understand what these families are facing.”

The family tragedy compounded by a Minister who is calling this crisis a debate. The time for debating is long gone. It is time for action, real decisive action.

Campaigns like #MyNameIs have raised the consciousness of the general public and the sense that more must be done is palpable.

In reality we have the means to take much more ambitious steps than the planned 23,000 social housing homes by 2021.

More importantly, even with this limited plan, who will be held accountable should this target not be met? Given that only 22 of the 1,500 promised by next year have been completed to date, can we believe in any new plan? Where is the accountability?

The lack of accountability in Ireland undermines many facets of our society. But to just focus on housing we can identify the problem quite quickly.

Unlike many other European countries, including Belgium, France and the UK, housing is not a right in Ireland.

In Ireland, under the 1988 Housing Act, our citizens run into a verbal wall.

10.—(1) A housing authority may, subject to such regulations as may be made by the Minister under this section –

make arrangements, including financial arrangements, with a body approved of by the Minister for the purposes of section 5 for the provision by that body of accommodation for a homeless person,

provide a homeless person with such assistance, including financial assistance, as the authority consider appropriate, or

rent accommodation, arrange lodgings or contribute to the cost of such accommodation or lodgings for a homeless person.

2. A request for accommodation may be made to a housing authority by or on behalf of a homeless person.

The blocker in the system is a small word that covers all manner of excuses. The word is ‘may’; as in the housing authority may or it may not do a,b,c or d.

It is not compulsory, and if it is not compulsory then there is no accountability.If there’s no accountability then there’s no repercussions for missing targets. Until may becomes must and the power to act become a duty to act then nothing will change.

This emergency didn’t sneak up on us either. It is the result of decades of bad planning and even worse policy making. We have gone, progressively since the 1970’s, from State provision to a combination of NGO and Market provision.

Both are failing – for different reasons. The NGO solution is common – the UK for example has a similar situation, with the important distinction that the State in UK decanted housing stock progressively to the NGOs, thereby providing a balance sheet base from which the NGO’s could leverage collateral to fund future housing stock.

The NGO model is endemic in Irish Social policy – the same approach applies in Health, Disability Services and in the past in areas such as industrial schools.

Whatever about its origins – a pauper State seeking access to property and services from institutions such as the Church, it now represents either an abdication of responsibility or, worse, an adherence to Victorian attitudes to relative poverty and provision, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Without diverting from the current crisis, this needs to be reassessed in all areas of Social policy.

Given the intolerable crisis we have today – 8,160 people(now 9,800) homeless and nearly 3,000 children(now 3,800) – anything less than “The State Will Provide” response from the Government will not suffice. Even if we are to only do so on a temporary basis until the crisis has abated.

There’s nothing in EU Law that forbids a country from acting to protect its citizens. Therefore it follows that there is nothing in EU Law (including the Debt to GDP rules) that can prevent the government from raising money to build social housing.

The “off balance sheet” argument is a red herring. They raised over €5bn to pay off the IMF. To not do the same for our citizens is an indictment of Right Wing slaves to the “free” market ideology. It is an indictment of us as a society and a country.

It is within our powers, as the 14th wealthiest country in the world, to build 10,000 social houses in the next 12-18 months. Any legislative roadblocks can and must be given the NAMA treatment.

Exceptional times call for exceptional measures.

If we can create NAMA overnight, ignoring legislative processes, to stop a Bank crisis and we refuse to do the same for our citizens then any plans from the Third Emergency Housing Summit are only window dressing.

The pressure is on, Fine Gael are rattled by claims that their ideological blindness to the less well off in our country have exacerbated this crisis.

Campaigns like #MyNameIs have embarrassed them and stung a Taoiseach obsessed with his image into action. This action must happen now and it must be on a scale that dwarfs the current 2021 plan.

Time is of the essence here. While things are bad they are about to get much worse. There’s 14,367 Buy To Let Mortgages at repossession stage.

There is no incentive or reason for the Vulture Funds that own these properties to rent them to the social housing/homeless part of the market. This will be like throwing petrol on a bonfire unless our government turns “may” into Must.

We have the means, the finance is available and the solutions are simple:

Make the provision of housing a right, at least until the crisis has abated.

Use the NAMA exceptionalist model to protect the citizens.

Commit to building 10,000 social houses in the next 12-18 months.

Make the Departments accountable and have repercussions for failure.

Incentivise/Legislate that the Vultures make their properties available to the Social Housing schemes.

Introduce a retrofit scheme for the approximately 900 units sitting vacant in Dublin.

Streamline the planning process.

Incentivise the use of over-shop-accommodation for the Air BnB market.

Deliver, deliver, deliver.

Fine Gael are 84 years old today. The Taoiseach used this occasion to remind people that he wants “to build a Republic of Opportunity”.

Well Leo, it’s no good waiting for opportunity to knock when you don’t have a front door. So get building.

Tony Groves

The Kite Runner

From 22nd March 2017

You have to ask yourself that if I wanted to sell something to myself, for more than it’s worth, in order to pay myself from the over-inflated price, would that be okay with the Companies Act?

Tony Groves writes:

Back in the Halcyon Days of the Celtic Tiger, I remember coming across a particularly complex (and not a little brilliant) version of the common practise of Cheque Kiting.

Cheque Kiting, for those of you unfamiliar, is where an individual has two (or more) accounts in different banks. He writes a cheque to himself (this first cheque is called the kite) from Bank A and lodges it into Bank B.

The following day (taking advantage of Bank B’s lax clearing system) writes a cheque to himself from Bank B and lodges it to Bank A.

These artificial funds are then lodged; allowing the first cheque to clear. The cycle then repeats, typically escalating the amounts until he is either caught, cleans out the accounts and runs, or lodges legitimate funds to cover the Kite.

The case I came across was based on the circular kite model, but due to the involvement of several individuals (over 10) and spread across every retail bank in the country at that time it was not easily discovered.

The seemingly reasonable monies involved in the cheques, the various clearing cycles of the banks and the fact that there was several people involved made detection next to impossible for any one bank. It really was well constructed and went on for months.

When the fraud was eventually spotted (due to address irregularities) and the kites crashed to earth, the Banks had been taken for several thousand euro. It really was a significant amount of money and I’m not sure any of the participants were ever brought to justice.

I recall seeing the last transactions on one accounts involved; it was a Laser Card purchase in Dublin Airport. So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu…

When I read earlier how Independent News and Media Chief Executive Robert Pitt had made a Protected Disclosure regarding Denis O’Brien’s attempts to sell a company he owns (Newstalk, part of his Communicorp empire) to a Company (Independent News & Media) where he is the major shareholder, I had a flashback.

We know very little about the deal. But I suspect a Protected Disclosure wasn’t made lightly.

Whatever was in the Disclosure seems to have triggered the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement’s involvement.

It is also well known that the two parties could not agree on the price, with INM wanting to pay less than Communicorp are asking for.

We also understand from reports that if the higher price had been be agreed, Denis O’Brien stood to receive a “significant payout”.

I don’t want to go into the individuals involved and their links with Mr O’Brien, they are available here.

But I do wonder about company law, specifically the laws around conflicts of interest and the Fitness & Probity Standards.

You have to ask yourself that if I wanted to sell something to myself, for more than it’s worth, in order to pay myself from the over-inflated price, would that be okay with the Companies Act?

Even if it is legal, are the conflicts of interest not such that it would call into question individual’s fitness to operate public broadcasting licences? I don’t know. Nobody is really saying what did or did not nearly happen.

We know there was a falling out. We hear rumours of resignations. None of it looks good from a Corporate Responsibility viewpoint. Particularly given Denis O’Brien’s ability to have a “chilling effect” on democracy.

There are many kites floating out in the air here. Like all complex kites the cords become tangled and it’s difficult to know who caused the entire thing to crash to earth. I still laugh at the audacity of the Cheque Kite I was caught out by.

I look regularly agog at the audacity of Denis O’Brien, none more so than in his attempt to sell his company to his other company. What has all this got to do with Cheque Kiting? Maybe nothing; it just makes you think, doesn’t it…

Tony Groves

Rules of the (Cover-up) Game

There are a basic set of steps to every active cover up. Regardless of whom is covering up what, these steps are universal.

0033-disclosures-tribunal-at-lunch_90538848-390x285

Character Assassination

Attack the person exposing the cover-up, do it repeatedly, throw whatever shit you can in the hope that something will stick. This is a classic deflection tactic and will continue regardless of what evidence comes to light.

Internal Review

An Internal Review has a twofold purpose, firstly, it slows the pace of exposure and secondly (and infinitely more importantly), it places control of the process firmly in the hands of those covering up. Any written evidence can be ‘disappeared’ or if that proves impossible, contradictory manufactured evidence can be adduced in order to muddy the waters.

This is particularly of use when combined with with step 1.

Those with nothing to hide have no fear of an independent outside investigation. When you hear the words ‘Internal Review’ it is a certain indicator that a cover-up is taking place.

Incomplete Label

This step has a number of names – ‘No evidence of wrongdoing’ – ‘Not enough evidence to prosecute’ etc. It places the onus on the person exposing the cover-up to leave no stone unturned in their exposure of a cover-up. This step is the one most often bought into by Media. A comprehensive exposure may run to hundreds or thousands of documents, not exactly convenient for editors with the attention spans of goldfish. Reducing your exposure of a cover up to a convenient soundbite guarantees that an ‘Incomplete Label’ will be placed upon it.

Deny & Delay

When all else fails, deny, deny, deny. When ‘Plausible Deniability’ is no longer possible, baldfaced lies become dogma. The Justice process is so slow that continued denials may take years if not decades to reach a courtroom or tribunal. The cost’s involved in using the Courts are prohibitive for most individuals who will already have been beggared in their efforts to expose a cover-up. ‘Kicking’ it to the courts is the last line of attack by those who would cover-up. By the time any decision is made, the cover-up is no longer relevant to Media and the wrongdoers will have escaped any meaningful sanction regardless of a Judges decision.

The Bung

The bigger the cover-up, the more people involved. In Ireland, the reward for aiding and abetting in a cover-up is promotion. It’s the ‘bung’ that just keeps giving, an increase in remuneration that spans the length of a career and on into ones pension. Once compromised you belong to the ‘man’ – the next time you’re asked to look the other way you are compelled to do so. Over time, a dysfunctional organisation ends up with willing compromisers in all the top positions. Even paragons of virtue are susceptible to the promotion manipulation. One can do everything by the book, cross all the T’s, dot all the I’s and dig your heels in. In return you will get a clap on the back, an ‘attaboy, job well done’ and a move up the ranks that on the surface is a promotion but in reality is a move out of the way so that a willing compromiser can take over.

Papal Bullshit

echo chamber logo navygreen

The Knights Templar myth is one of the most enduring tales in human history. Indiana Jones to the Da Vinci Code perpetuate the story of a sacred group of knights who protected Christianity (and the Christ bloodline, lol) and that these men were the warrior monks of God.

Even today the iconic Templar uniform, white tunic with a red cross, is instantly recognised by people who know nothing of the rise and fall of, arguably, the greatest knighthood the world has ever seen.

But the Templar greatness didn’t lie in military genius; in fact they weren’t great on the battlefield in comparison to their peers. The Hospitallers, who the Templar’s in effect usurped, were far more competent in military strategy.

Nor were they much use at upholding their sacred duty of keeping the ‘sacred places’ free for Christians. They regularly lost territory and needed the assistance of others to regain it. Often hiring mercenaries to do their dirty work for them.

And it’s best not to mention the ‘look the other way’ practice of some of the more famed Templar territories when it came to the Brothers loose adherence to their vows of chastity.

No, the Templar’s were the greatest brotherhood of knights the world has ever seen because they were the best at Spin.     

Omne Datum Optimum – Every Good Gift

When Pope Innocent II issued the papal bull (an official letter under a papal seal made from lead, for which the Latin word was bulla) Omne Datum Optimum, he showered the Templars with gifts and favours. The bull exempted them from the authorities of kings, barons and bishops across all of Christendom; it gifted them lands and gave them the useful right to raise taxes. The pope had just handed the Templars the keys to the kingdom of god.

The Templars, rather than plough their new found good fortune into their charge of protecting the ‘holy places’ instead got busy growing the family business. They sent their ‘best men’ back from the holy land to Europe to spread the news about all their great achievements. They traveled as far as England and received gifts more of castles and more land.

Two more papal bulls would follow consolidating their position and from these the Templars built a network of property and lands that would make Starbucks blush.

Leotopia

Last week the ‘government of Ireland’ (Not Fine Gael) launched the Ireland 2040 plan. As PR exercises go it seems to have gone over pretty well. By 2040 we’ll all live in a Leotopia and eat avocado toast while our autonomous cars whisk us to our high-tech jobs.

That the plan is, as Waterford Whispers put it, ‘some dolled up shit we were meant to do anyway’. But nonetheless it got all the fanfare and the public felt warm and fuzzy about the aspiration of having aspirational plans. Just ignore the world outside your phone-screens, please.

But, and this is where it gets Templar-like, not content with the fanfare and unwilling to accept anything less that sore hands from High Fiving, Leo called his pals in the Indo.

We know, thanks to the fantastic work of Ellen Coyne, that the ‘government paid for good news stories’. These ads appeared without any mention of them as paid for content. They were real modern day propaganda.

I’d written the day after Leo first became leader of Fine Gael about the dangers of his cosy relationship with INM. I’ll remind you of his first press conference as FG Leader. The first question went, naturally, to Kevin Doyle INM’s Group Political Editor.

Kev: Mr Varadkar

Leo: Hey Kev…

Add into this mix our Taoiseach meeting with a Billionaire Media Owning Tax Exile, who has serious findings against him in a tribunal, at Davos AND refusing to comment on the nature of the meeting and things get dark.

Remember, Leo told us that his Strategic Communications Unit would be ‘cost neutral’, but then allowed it a budget of Five Million Euro. He repeatedly said it was necessary as he believes “communication is a virtue”.

Leo, like the Templars had, has the keys to the kingdom, he has the public and the media eating out of his hand.

Also like the Templars,he isn’t focused on the mandate he was given. He’s busy whizzing around opening tech company offices, face-graming and insta-snapping with the best in the business. He’s building his brand.

That it has infected the media is a danger to democracy. In the era of Fake News this paid content is a ugly sore on the face of an already damaged industry. The lack of coverage about it is not unexpected, but I’d ask where are the journalists for whom integrity matters? Who is calling out the naked emperor and his court of jesters?

The Templars were wiped out at dawn on Friday the 13th of October, 1307. They were captured and tortured and finally executed for heresy. Among the many crimes they “confessed” to, the most Leo like is the worshipping false idols.

But there was never any real evidence for the crimes; there was no physical evidence, nor were there any independent witnesses. Today we have something similar. Plans with no evidence of achievement and no independents in the Indo to cry stop to the Spin.   

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Tony Groves February 2018

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