Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin/Galway, Ireland. 27, history graduate & human rights student
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Aug 28
Permalink

interstate808:

Nevin Institute research finds poorer people pay more tax

Some figures to remember when the government starts talking about cuts to direct taxation, while continually increasing indirect taxation.

I have a fairly big problem with these numbers: the proportion of indirect taxation to disposable income (middle graph above) is virtually identical in its distribution by decile to that of the proportion of household expenditure to gross income, as found in Table 2 of the report - that is, prior to tax entering the equation (I’ve put the extra figures here). Of course, on the face of it that’s the reason indirect taxation is so regressive - because the lower your income, the more of it you’re likely to spend and so attract consumption taxes. That’s not the whole of it - there’s a smaller regressive effect based on percentage of expenditure, by decile, to do with the composition of what’s being bought - but the sharp decline has nearly everything to do with expenditure, as measured before tax*. Particularly in the leftmost column, the bottom decile, which is strikingly high and drew my attention initially.

Basically, according to the Central Statistics Office Household Budget Survey that this report is based on, the two lowest deciles have similar levels of average expenditure, about €20,000 annually, but the lowest decile only earns half that annually. In fact, all four lowest deciles have an average expenditure greater than their incomes, although the disparity is by far the greatest for the bottom decile (187% of gross income, compared to 127% for the next decile). I was struck by this fact when the survey was originally reported on, but apparently it’s no big deal (p. 28):

"There are many reasons why expenditure may exceed income in lower income decile households and this is a common experience internationally in income and expenditure surveys. Households with recently unemployed household members may draw on savings to maintain their expenditures. Self-employed consumers may experience business losses that result in low incomes, but are able to maintain expenditure by borrowing or relying on savings.

Third level students may get by on loans or savings from summer employment, retirees may rely on savings and investments. In addition, across all deciles there may be an under-reporting of certain categories of income (e.g. shadow economy employment income). 

In fact, according to the preceding chart (p. 27), prior to 2004 expenditure exceeded income, on average, for all Irish households. If one accepts that this reflects a degree of normalcy and statistical blindness, then the question is whether income, and specifically these income deciles, still remains a useful comparator for how ‘well-off’ households are and how much a burden taxation places on them - particularly if it relates to levels of expenditure indirectly linked to income. On the other hand, if you don’t buy the explanations, then 10% of households effectively becoming indebted by nearly their entire yearly income, each year, has got to be a more pressing issue than regressive taxation. Social Justice Ireland have examined the statistics to produce a profile of the ‘bottom 30 per cent’, or three lowest deciles - finding the bottom decile to be mostly comprised of large families with children under 16, and working age adults, not retirees, although 16% are students.

I couldn’t find any other comparisons of household expenditure to incomes, but the difference between indirect taxation as percentage of income and of expenditure is replicated in these UK statistics. The lowest household quintile paid 30.5% of their disposable income in indirect taxes, similar to the Irish level, while the top quintile paid only 14.4%. However, when expressed as a percentage of expenditure, the figures only ranged from 19.8% to 17.1%. Buried in the appendix of the Nevin Institute report are the comparable figures (Table A14b), which range from 14.66% of expenditure for the bottom decile to 10.95% for the top decile, admittedly a larger spread even accounting for the smaller divisions (interestingly, there is a slight uptick in the 3rd decile and 2nd quintile for each).

To be fair, the Nevin Institute report does address other literature and debates over the regressivity of indirect taxation, including the claim “that VAT appears regressive but it is not necessarily the case as wealthier people save more than poorer people so it appears that they avoid the tax but they will incur it when they spend their savings.” They appear to side with the argument that this is “changing the rules for calculating what is a progressive and regressive tax”; certainly the idea that “because people can move between income deciles, over the course of a lifetime, indirect taxes are less regressive than is commonly assumed” implies a certain optimistic belief in upward mobility. However, ignoring what happens to saved income (income after expenditure, in the upper deciles) one is still left with the (perhaps linked) issue of borrowed, or drawn-down, expenditure above income in the lower deciles.

If a household spends €20,000, paying approximately €3,000 in indirect taxes in the process, does it actually make sense to relate that latter fact to their apparent income of €10-15,000? Maybe, if it represents the fact that they are forced to live beyond their means by economic and social circumstances. However, it could also be said to be an artefact of the statistical measurement. If indirect taxes are regressive in relation to income it is mainly because expenditure is itself ‘regressive’ to income. The ‘U’-shaped curve is really more of a dog-leg when it comes to that bottom decile, and while I agree with the impetus behind showing the limitations of ‘progressive’ taxation, I wonder if this isn’t over-egging the pudding? 

* comparing it to expenditure as a percentage of disposable income (i.e., income after direct taxation) produces a slightly lower correlation, presumably as an effect of progressive income taxation ‘bending the curve’ between the lower and higher deciles.

irish economics statistics
Comments (View) | 4 notes
Aug 27
Permalink

EMA - ‘Neuromancer’ on David Letterman

Very 80s-chic (featuring a keytar!). Beginning to regret not travelling to England to catch her tour this year.

Hopefully future generations will use the audio sample of Letterman saying “the future’s void, ladies and gentleman”.

EMA tfv
Comments (View) | 3 notes
Permalink
rubot:

Truth

I finally read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Atlantic piece on reparations last night, and it clarified something in my mind about ‘white supremacy’ as a concept that I see used frequently on Tumblr, but invariably from the US context where it has particular historical roots and contemporary presence. That’s not to say that Europe is in any way free from racism, and we have to bear our share of responsibility for the colonialism and imperialism leading to the distribution of the world today (the participation of Irish people in that process is debatable; less so our current benefit from it). Still, slavery is basically an American thing, and with it its legacy which represents the term white supremacy. It’s not a new idea, of course - I probably first came across it when I did a school project on the Black Panthers and read about their influence from Frantz Fanon and the black/white binary (in a postcolonial French-African context). This seems like a pretty good summation of it:

"The milestone of America’s black president hasn’t tempered Coates’s concerns. Coates has accused Barack Obama of avoiding race issues, most notably in a widely cited article headlined “Fear of a Black President.” Asked whether he believes that a “post-racial society” — a phrase often invoked after Obama’s election — was desirable, Coates — ever the tinkerer — offered an alternative wording.
“We should have a post-racist society,” he says. “But people are scared of what that might mean.”
So, then, what would it mean? Coates leans heavily back in his chair, thinks for a moment, then starts working through the logic out loud: “A post-racist society is a society where you really don’t have any white people. That’s the scary thing. . . . The idea of whiteness is tied to power. And the destruction of that power means the end of whiteness itself.”
Coates appears to echo — and add his unique take to — a strain of thinking about whiteness as a concept more closely knit to power and social status than actual skin color. It does not advocate actually doing away with white people but eliminating a construct that its adherents say was created by white Europeans to deny power to nonwhites. The controversial idea has been debated in intellectual circles and been the subject of academic inquiry.

I am a white European, and close enough to being an Anglo-Saxon Protestant to boot, but at the same time I think there is at least a slight mental adjustment required between ‘whiteness’ as a specifically American construct, and as an Irish one - even if, and this is an important qualification, I could theoretically transfer between one milieu to the other with great ease. Our racism has more to do with xenophobia, anti-immigrant prejudice and a cultural notion of homogeneity; although at the same time our close economic, social and cultural ties with the US are bound to have an influence as well.
The other thing I like about Coates’ piece on reparations is the way it brings in the economic substructure of racism - and tackles head-on the dreaded argument of class politics against identity. Watching events in Ferguson, and the way white residents attempted to point to poverty rather than race as the issue, did make me wonder rather cynically if US liberals get outraged about race because it’s so demonstrably unfair and bigoted in a way that it’s harder to articulate with class politics, despite all the evidence of inequality - because although (in theory) racial equality is simple to envision, social and economic equality is both seen as utopian and/or subject to fierce debate over how work is to be rewarded, property allocated and protected, etc. Of course, globally we are confronted by a confluence of the two, the result again of colonialism and imperialism - but what Coates shows is how even just within the US the practice of undoing racial inequality becomes inextricably economic. Or in other words, how identity is formed relies on the social setting. White supremacy is economic, because whiteness is based on economic supremacy.

rubot:

Truth

I finally read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Atlantic piece on reparations last night, and it clarified something in my mind about ‘white supremacy’ as a concept that I see used frequently on Tumblr, but invariably from the US context where it has particular historical roots and contemporary presence. That’s not to say that Europe is in any way free from racism, and we have to bear our share of responsibility for the colonialism and imperialism leading to the distribution of the world today (the participation of Irish people in that process is debatable; less so our current benefit from it). Still, slavery is basically an American thing, and with it its legacy which represents the term white supremacy. It’s not a new idea, of course - I probably first came across it when I did a school project on the Black Panthers and read about their influence from Frantz Fanon and the black/white binary (in a postcolonial French-African context). This seems like a pretty good summation of it:

"The milestone of America’s black president hasn’t tempered Coates’s concerns. Coates has accused Barack Obama of avoiding race issues, most notably in a widely cited article headlined “Fear of a Black President.” Asked whether he believes that a “post-racial society” — a phrase often invoked after Obama’s election — was desirable, Coates — ever the tinkerer — offered an alternative wording.

“We should have a post-racist society,” he says. “But people are scared of what that might mean.”

So, then, what would it mean? Coates leans heavily back in his chair, thinks for a moment, then starts working through the logic out loud: “A post-racist society is a society where you really don’t have any white people. That’s the scary thing. . . . The idea of whiteness is tied to power. And the destruction of that power means the end of whiteness itself.”

Coates appears to echo — and add his unique take to — a strain of thinking about whiteness as a concept more closely knit to power and social status than actual skin color. It does not advocate actually doing away with white people but eliminating a construct that its adherents say was created by white Europeans to deny power to nonwhites. The controversial idea has been debated in intellectual circles and been the subject of academic inquiry.

I am a white European, and close enough to being an Anglo-Saxon Protestant to boot, but at the same time I think there is at least a slight mental adjustment required between ‘whiteness’ as a specifically American construct, and as an Irish one - even if, and this is an important qualification, I could theoretically transfer between one milieu to the other with great ease. Our racism has more to do with xenophobia, anti-immigrant prejudice and a cultural notion of homogeneity; although at the same time our close economic, social and cultural ties with the US are bound to have an influence as well.

The other thing I like about Coates’ piece on reparations is the way it brings in the economic substructure of racism - and tackles head-on the dreaded argument of class politics against identity. Watching events in Ferguson, and the way white residents attempted to point to poverty rather than race as the issue, did make me wonder rather cynically if US liberals get outraged about race because it’s so demonstrably unfair and bigoted in a way that it’s harder to articulate with class politics, despite all the evidence of inequality - because although (in theory) racial equality is simple to envision, social and economic equality is both seen as utopian and/or subject to fierce debate over how work is to be rewarded, property allocated and protected, etc. Of course, globally we are confronted by a confluence of the two, the result again of colonialism and imperialism - but what Coates shows is how even just within the US the practice of undoing racial inequality becomes inextricably economic. Or in other words, how identity is formed relies on the social setting. White supremacy is economic, because whiteness is based on economic supremacy.

american exceptionalism
Comments (View) | 8 notes
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Mindfulness experts say such extreme adverse reactions are rare and are most likely to follow prolonged periods of meditation, such as weeks on a silent retreat. But the studies represent a new strain of critical thinking about mindfulness meditation amid an avalanche of hype.

Mindfulness therapy comes at a high price for some, say experts (h/t hautepop)

Somewhat conflicted about this - on the one hand I agree with the critical perspective, but on the other I think it should also be applied to considering how ‘adverse’ reactions are defined and what the intended psycho-social outcome of therapy is (not to trivialise the former, but the example given is “rare cases of “depersonalisation”, where people feel like they are watching themselves in a film” which could either be a step towards psychosis or a spiritual awakening into the nature of selfhood). Plus there is an important overlay of tension between the commercial mindfulness industry, as a deracinated, de-contextualised form of Buddhist meditation, and the study and practice of Buddhism as a philosophical, spiritual and historical tradition - within which surely lies the essential questions of ethics and aims that underpin any broader assessment. I would consider myself a rationalist, but alongside the scepticism of mindfulness as a tool of neoliberal spiritualism there’s also the Western tradition of anti-psychiatry to question the scientific objectivity of ‘experts’ in the psychological realm.

More practically, Brad Warner, I think, has written an important caveat to the meditation/mindfulness experience: rather than simply being about ‘emptying your mind’, in the popular imagination, it can expose oneself (through relaxing conscious control) to suppressed emotions and thoughts, with uncomfortable or unpleasant results. And the experience of depression or anxiety is in large part about suppressing certain ideas or feelings through an unhealthy focus on others, as a kind of psychological defence mechanism. So mindfulness can help cut through the latter but dealing with the former requires more positive action; it’s why using mindfulness to tackle social malaise is doomed to be inadequate unless it’s coupled with an honest discourse and an ethics of care. Is there a risk to providing tools towards mental equilibrium? Maybe, but it’s less worse than denying the link between psychic pain and social situations.

psychology buddhism
Comments (View) | 3 notes
Aug 26
Permalink american exceptionalism irish entrepreneurialism & idiocy
Comments (View) | 3 notes
Permalink

Anonymous said: Yo, Monday morning my coworker finds a mini copy of the new testament on her desk. She's Jewish. our office is on lock down on weekends and no one is admitting to it. I feel like she should pursue it.

kurosakikirito:

yoisthisracist:

She should set it on fire in front of everyone.

Also, who the fuck prints just the New Testament? What purpose could that possible have other than harassing Jewish people?

You clearly don’t know much about Christianity

tbf Christianity does also encourage proselytisation
Comments (View) | 172 notes
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In relation to the last post, here’s Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Féin for the past several decades and formerly a commander of the IRA in Belfast (though he consistently denies this well-known piece of information), on top of a mountain in Donegal, looking like a cross between James Joyce and a Chinese mountain hermit. The rest of his feed is actually a surreal exercise in net art and/or the musings of a 65-year-old Irishman with a fondness for rubber duckies and teddy bears. Or a Machiavellian publicity ploy to show the softer side to one of the most ruthless yet strategic Irish politicians of the last 50 year - you decide, I don’t really think it matters. I may have very little truck with Sinn Féin’s politics, over the North or otherwise, but I’d much rather see pictures like this (I do like mountains, after all) than ones of balaclavas and guns.

In relation to the last post, here’s Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Féin for the past several decades and formerly a commander of the IRA in Belfast (though he consistently denies this well-known piece of information), on top of a mountain in Donegal, looking like a cross between James Joyce and a Chinese mountain hermit. The rest of his feed is actually a surreal exercise in net art and/or the musings of a 65-year-old Irishman with a fondness for rubber duckies and teddy bears. Or a Machiavellian publicity ploy to show the softer side to one of the most ruthless yet strategic Irish politicians of the last 50 year - you decide, I don’t really think it matters. I may have very little truck with Sinn Féin’s politics, over the North or otherwise, but I’d much rather see pictures like this (I do like mountains, after all) than ones of balaclavas and guns.

irish mountains
Comments (View) | 2 notes
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thewoodquarter:

benicetoafriend:

drinkingfromtherubicon:

cristoecafe:

eurofox:

benicetoafriend:

eurofox:

benicetoafriend:

IRA - Irish Republican Army

normally when i see europeans with guns i get worried that they’re probably fascist. when they’re irish though, i know its gonna be alright.

They murdered a lot of innocent people though. Even people they claimed to represent.

the same slurs used against every revolutionary/national liberation movement from the bolsheviks to every organization in palestine who has taken up armed struggle. 

how about instead of blaming the IRA for the deaths of innocent irish, maybe you place the blame on the soldiers marching under the union jack.

Because they caused the deaths of innocent people, as did the Britsh. But it was the IRA who took my mums cousin out and shot him in front of his co-workers when he was only 18 because he said he wanted nothing to do with them once he realised what sort of people they were. He was an Irish catholic. They also harassed a lad in my mums youth group, making threats towards his family until he couldn’t take it and killed himself. He was an Irish catholic too.

There was plenty of scumbags on both sides. It’s not a slur when it’s true.

ethnic nationalists are repulsive.

right, says the white settler on indigenous land. weigh in later when you’ve been enslaved and humiliated for 800+ years.

L OH FUCKING L

There is nothing more hilarious than tumblr ~*rAdIcAlS*~ speaking over lived experiences of violence to promote solidarity. 

Irish people criticising the IRA?

'No, shut up you dont understand the conflict you're living through.'

Feck off. 

I don’t really have any direct lived experience of the Troubles, as growing up in south county Dublin is probably as far away from it as you could get in Ireland. But there’s one thing that always sticks in my mind as a ’90s kid’ was that, alongside the gnomes in the attic, what I was afraid of in the night on hearing a van pull up outside was that it was the IRA coming to kidnap my family (it was actually the milkman in the early morning, I think). We were Protestant, but apart from that there was no absolutely no logic behind the fear, which wasn’t all that great, considering - I didn’t lose much sleep over it, in comparison to other things, and I can only imagine what real childhood trauma from conflict must be like. Still, it’s unsettling that it was such a part of the surrounding culture that I picked up at such a young age. You could say that it was due to media demonisation, or you could say it was unavoidable. In any case, I’m of a generation who saw the last atrocities of the Troubles on the nightly news as children.

The recent death of Albert Reynolds is the passing of, I think, the first Taoiseach I can recall. And I remember the 1998 Good Friday Agreement much better than anything about the Downing Street Declaration, but I was aware of IRA ceasefires and the frustratingly slow progress of the peace process. There was a very moving scene recorded on TV at Reynold’s funeral yesterday where the celebrant addressed his British counterpart, John Major, in the church, telling him he was ‘most welcome’, followed by a spontaneous ripple of applause, and then a shot of Major wiping away a tear. Whatever you may think of either of their day-to-day politics, or of the current outcome of the peace process and its interminable but non-violent political wrangling, they achieved something of immeasurable importance. You can debate the history and the role of violence as much as you want, but the vast majority of people here are just glad it’s over. 

A more political viewpoint I, and I know many others, share is a strong opposition to the nationalist repulican ideology that justified so much violence and suffering, irrespective of the wrongs (of which there were many and greater) on the other side. I don’t know, were I there, if I would always have been opposed to physical-force republicanism, or what year would be the dividing line between radically naive and irresponsibly futile - it’s a counterfactual I don’t have to answer. But I do know an awareness of as many sides as possible of the history is important - because it is the lens through which every Irish person ought to see world affairs. Our support for the Palestinian cause is usually attributed to the Irish struggle for national liberation - although for me what I also see is an uncomfortable ambivalence towards anti-Semitism in Irish history, and more importantly a parallel between the partition of this island and the need for some kind of reconciliation or mutual understanding between divided communities. Ferguson, too, has circular echoes of the civil rights movement in late 60s Northern Ireland, inspired by its African-American counterpart, but which, for various complex reasons, derailed into thirty years of violence. It’s the legacy of the North, in large part, which makes me so uncomfortable about constant demands to ‘take a side’, to buy into the oppressed/oppressor binary which, even if it expresses some deep and uncomfortable truths about our world, does not necessarily present the solution.

irish politics history
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thewoodquarter:

I wish there was a snopes for tumblr bullshit. 

It’d have to be pretty big…

Also there’s that thing where I think ‘should I maybe add to this’ and then see the post already has 25,000+ notes, so why bother?

Even if there was a feature where the ‘notes’ were filtered so you could see actual additions, instead of having to scroll through a sea of mute likes and reblogs, it would help.

Comments (View) | 28 notes
Aug 23
Permalink

[Liberals giving me a nerve itch (redux)]

easpageag:

eurofox:

I’m not quite sure that I even know what a liberal is tbh

Broadly speaking, liberal means taking a centerist position. The confusion comes from the fact that the further in either direction you go, the wider the centre becomes.

Anarchists think Communists are liberal because they maintain hierarchies, Communists think trade unionists are liberal because they maintain capitalism, trade unionists think the Labour Party are liberal because they broadly maintain the status quo, Tories think Labour are liberal because they don’t openly detest poor people, UKIP think the Tories are Liberal because they’re willing to be seen in the same room as an immigrant, the BNP think UKIP are liberals because they only want to stop immigration not deport all the effnicks, and white power groups think the BNP are liberals because they spend their time trying to get elected instead of … I dunno … shitting on their own faces, or whatever it is that lot enjoy doing.

Um… I think the confusion arises from there being several, sometimes overlapping definitions of ‘liberal’ which nevertheless cover a wide range of political opinions and relative positions. I explained some of this here with reference to The Knife: but basically there’s the political science definition which would be more in line with the original, historical ideology of individual freedoms (whether they be social or economic, the former becoming the popular US usage, as below, and the latter covering more what’s now called ‘neoliberal’) and then there’s a more subjective, rhetorically pejorative meaning that also has ‘right’ and ‘left’ variants, roughly corresponding to fears of either social or economic liberalism - e.g. a leftist might critique ‘liberals’ for supporting socially liberal ideas while ignoring economic inequalities and/or the underpinning structure of economically liberal societies, while a conservative may or may not support liberalisation of the economy, but usually opposes social liberalisation; although of course all that rests on a questionable division of ‘economy’ and ‘the social’).

That might not have ended up being too clarifiying, sorry - however, I don’t think ‘liberal’ really means centrist except by accident, or because it represents in some form one of the mainstream currents of western politics, or because it has turned into a pejorative for ‘less radical’ (more on the the left than the right I think… the Tory example rings false to me, or as an echo of the US bleeding-heart ‘liberal’).

Comments (View) | 6 notes