Archive for November, 2009



Stealing Is Wrong

Ibec Your Pardon

Pardon my Occitan, but what the sweet suffering fuck is this?

HSE inquiry into fees paid to Ibec – The Irish Times – Mon, Nov 09, 2009

“There are, in our estimation, over 50 HSE-funded agencies that pay a subscription to Ibec and as you can well imagine, irrespective of the times that we are in, the HSE need to ensure that we reduce duplication and challenge the way we do things for the benefit of the patients and clients.

“Accordingly, we are currently engaging with the service managers in order to see how we progress this issue to deliver the value that we seek,” he said.

Among the bodies believed to be members of Ibec are some of the country’s largest acute general hospitals such as St Vincent’s, the Mater and Tallaght in Dublin,

The HSE move comes as it emerged that State agencies and State-funded organisations are paying hundreds of thousands of euro to Ibec annually.

A series of parliamentary questions tabled to Ministers by Ruairí Quinn of the Labour Party has found that almost €500,000 will be paid this year by State agencies or organisations which operate under the remit of Government departments to Ibec.

However, this figure is certainly an underestimate of the true position. Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey, Minister for the Environment John Gormley and Minister for Communications and Energy Eamon Ryan said membership of Ibec was a matter for the agencies and organisations concerned and that their departments did not hold such information.

In addition, The Irish Times understands the ESB, which was not included in the figures released to Mr Quinn, will pay €140,000 to Ibec this year.

Ibec, on its website, says it provides employer services, based on expert knowledge in areas such as employment law, industrial relations, human resource best practice, training and development and health and safety.

Fás, the State training agency, said it had paid fees of €58,583 to Ibec this year and a similar amount last year.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said Anglo Irish Bank, now in public ownership, paid €24,903 to Ibec this year and €24,823 last year. He also said the Central Bank and the Financial Services Authority had paid €25,626 to Ibec this year.

I like to think of myself as fairly realistic about the prevailing character of the Irish state, but I’m starting to sense an as yet unidentified superego figure chuckling heartily at my Panglossian soft-headedness. Whilst I might imagine I am reasonably aware of the degree of influence exerted by big business interests on the state, in reality I’m an ignorant fool.

Like, I always knew that the free market doctrine promulgated at every opportunity on the airwaves by Ibec’s various talking heads was self-serving tripe, given the huge effective subsidies given to many of their members by government. But I had no idea that the organisation itself, which exists ‘to conspire against the public’, as Adam Smith would put it, received direct contributions from state agencies that exist to serve the public. So whereas Smith might say that the law ‘ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary’, in Ireland they are lubricated by taxpayer cash. Huzzah for corporatism!

Counterfactuals

Alternate-Universe Sci-Fi Channel Show Asks What Would Happen If Germany Lost War | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Producers said depicting the fictional, non-German-controlled America cost upwards of 40 million reichsmarks per episode, with much of the budget going toward recreating the cities of Washington, D.C. and New York exactly as they would have appeared before the famous tide-turning Luftwaffe strike of 1951. In addition, test audiences reported being impressed by the show’s painstaking portrayal of a topsy-turvy 2009 in which American big-band music plays on every radio, Mickey Mouse spouts pro-Semitic propaganda from every cinema screen, and dilution of the supreme race runs rampant.

Gotta love The Onion. The only thing that will stop it from being good is if the Guardian decides to dedicate an In Praise Of… column to it.

Check Out Them Threads

 

Mindset of the mob can sway citizen journalism – The Irish Times – Fri, Nov 06, 2009

The most interesting thing about such threads is the mob mindset that seems to underlie them. They are not neutral conduits for spontaneous opinions, but channels dedicated to forms of disgruntlement from people with, for perhaps good reasons, no other outlet. Contributors appear to come to the process with a mindset possibly symptomatic of the isolationism involved in internet relationships generally, and anticipating a certain group dynamic. The tone of a thread seems to be set by the early contributors.

Most contributors appear mostly to want to draw attention to themselves, seeking to convey strength, cleverness, cynicism or aggression, while pre-empting the possibility of hostility or ridicule by pushing these responses in front like swords.

There isn’t all that much to disagree with here, though I have no idea what he means by the ‘isolationism’ of ‘internet relationships’. I stopped reading the comment threads on the Comment is Free site a long time ago, not so much because all comments are stupid, but because the incidence of moronic attention-seeking comments is so high that the thread is practically unreadable. Other newspaper sites are just as bad, if not worse. However, this is not so much a general problem with internet-related technology, as Waters seems to think, but a particular problem with the nature of responses certain news sites -as opposed to other sites that exist for the purposes of debate and discussion- tend to elicit. I suggest that this has more to do with the established role of newspapers, and the degree of influence they are thought to hold.

What’s interesting is the degree of importance that gets attached to comments (and latterly, to Twitter tweets). A lot of the time it’s as though the range of comments that might appear are held to be accurately indicative of some wider trends in public thought. They may not be, even though, particularly in the case of twitter trends, they perform a useful vox populi function for news sites on the lookout for cheaply sourced content.

Posting comments on newpaper site threads is very much a minority activity, and I do not think it wise to infer anything of wider social importance from them, particularly since it is difficult to know, aside from the question of how representative the comments are of any wider group, how many people actually read them, and how wide the actual influence of the comments therefore is. It would be like looking at a series of porno sites and concluding that people these days seem to do nothing but have degrading sexual encounters.

As someone who writes on a site that gets the odd comment, I would hazard a guess that the person most likely to attribute importance to the comments of a particular thread is the person who wrote the inciting post or article. I remember finding it both surprising and admirable a couple of years back to see Anthony Giddens write a post in which he responded to his (probably pseudonymous) critics, whom, in a forgivable lapse of terminological inexactitude, he described as ‘bloggers’. Surprising in the sense that I didn’t imagine that a prominent intellectual like Anthony Giddens was the sort of person who thought going through comment threads to read responses was a worthwhile activity, and that he deemed that the responses ought to be granted a degree of importance. Admirable in the sense that he didn’t really have to do it; he could have simply said nothing and justified his decision to do so based on the stance that anything that appeared in the comment threads was merely the work of attention-seeking sociopaths.

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