Archive for February, 2008

Measure for Measure

The minister’s statement came after two days of tit-for-tat missile raids between Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli army.

I always thought that ‘tit’ was roughly equivalent to ‘tat’. And yet, in the next sentence, the Guardian reports:

At least 32 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed since the surge in violence on Wednesday.

The background to this is that Israel’s deputy defence minister is threatening a ‘Shoah’ against the Palestinians of Gaza.

There is going to be an invasion of Gaza, as part of Israel’s ‘quest for peace’, undertaken ‘with heavy hearts’, and ‘showing a commendable level of restraint that in all probability no other country in the world would have shown when under attack’, as Lorna Fitzsimons put it in the Spectator last week.

On Balance

Today is Work-Life Balance Day. For it to have a useful meaning, the concept of a ‘work-life balance’ depends on work and life being two different things. Thinking about different people’s work-life balances, we could conclude, for example, that a hedge fund manager who works 35 hours a week and earns a solid six figure sum each year has less life than a person who is one of the long term unemployed and dependent on social housing.

The concept of work-life balance is an instrument of the employer. Your employers have no particular interest in what you do outside work, just as they are pretty unconcerned about what the office chairs are doing when there is no-one sitting on them.

Their only concern, for the time spent not working, is that you do not participate in any activity that might interfere directly with your effectiveness while you are working, or with the effectiveness of the enterprise you serve. If sleeping in a ditch and drinking meths makes you productive at work, then they will openly encourage you to do that in their Happy Christmas e-mails wishing you a productive new year, and the organisational culture will be one conducive to sleeping in a ditch and drinking meths. It just so happens that, for most of us, drinking meths does not generally make for a productive worker, so normal Happy Christmas e-mails will instead talk about a ‘well-deserved break with friends and family’, with the employers arrogating for themselves the role of deciding what you deserve.

Wot No Swastika


Not propaganda at all, you understand, but a natural and spontaneous manifestation of the people’s real desire for information about the world they inhabit.

Update: Peter Wilby knows what I’m talking ’bout:

You couldn’t invent a better example of what Nick Davies, in his new book Flat Earth News, calls “churnalism“. This is a story generated and controlled, in every detail, by the Ministry of Defence. The stories you read this morning and saw last night revealed what only what officialdom wanted to reveal. What a triumph for the government’s spin machine. What a triumph, too, for the spin merchants at Buckingham Palace, who can re-package a man who was previously suspected of spending too much time getting inebriated with hooray Henries in West End nightclubs. All of a sudden, Harry is not just an action hero but also a sort of people’s prince, craving normality, living rough and mucking in with the lads in Helmand province without a flunkey in sight to hand him his toothbrush.

Take This Lion Down

While we’re on the subject of animals.

Cat Altogether

Disclosure: I don’t like cats. But that’s nothing compared to this geezer here. He was a Partido Popular candidate in recent municipal elections in Spain. The party have expelled him, rather unsurprisingly.


(Photos: El Público)

Pole Position

I was thinking about Irish attitudes to immigration. Given that the Late Late Show is considered to be a sort of bellwether of Irish society, I went to see if it had featured it on any of its shows. Turns out it had.

Pat Kenny asked this question of Kevin Myers on the Late Late Show recently:

If you take the Poles – they’re Catholic, they’re white, they are facially sometimes indistinguishable from us, and they embrace the Irish way of life, and they are like the Normans and Danes… become more Irish than the Irish themselves.

Here’s the video:

Kenny was asking Myers to explain what his problem was with immigration, using Polish immigrants as an example of how immigration could be beneficial. But in so doing, he was saying that there are some immigrant groups more desirable than others. So -from an Irish perspective- a Catholic is preferable to a Protestant, a white person is preferable to a black person, and we should prefer those whose facial physiognomy is similar to our own.

Was Kenny asking the question on behalf of his audience, whom he believes to be interested in racist lines of questioning? Or was he just being a bit of a racist himself? (Honestly, it seems like these days you can’t make remarks about immigration without someone calling you a racist.) And to what extent does his questioning reflect general attitudes to immigrants in Irish society?

These are the matters occupying my mind this morning.

In My Limo

Under no circumstances should we allow ourselves to be distracted from the real issues at stake in the US presidential race.

Via Who Is IOZ?.


I have a long-standing interest in the process of how words are borrowed from other languages. This article in Rebelión, about Northern Ireland, contains the following term, which the writer appears to deem self-explanatory:


The interesting thing, from my point of view, is that it is a literal translation of an English word (securocrat) which is in itself an amalgam of a Latin word -securitas, and a Greek word- kratos. I’d never seen it appear before in Spanish -and a google search doesn’t produce any results- so if I would be inclined to include it -along with the Titanic and Gloria Hunniford- as another great Northern Ireland export.

Gotta Get Me Some Placebo

Prozac, the bestselling antidepressant taken by 40 million people worldwide, does not work and nor do similar drugs in the same class, according to a major review released today.

I hope there’s a news blackout on this in Northern Ireland, or by noon there’ll be thousands of people on the streets going apeshit, overturning cars and setting fire to Bruscar bins. By teatime they’ll be back in the house, taking down the hitherto beloved framed Fred Flintstone poster that hangs above the fireplace, which they bought in a breezy moment down the street a few years back.

‘Liberals’ for ‘Democracy’

A lot of American liberals don’t like Ralph Nader much. I’ve been trawling through quite a few big American liberal blogs today, which I rarely ever read, and have been quite surprised at the amount of vitriol and abuse directed towards him. A recurring theme is a diagnosis of narcissism, which, as Adam Phillips puts it, often takes one to know one. This post here on Daily Kos resorts to Max Weber, Hannah Arendt and Goethe, in its long-winded denunciation of Nader’s decision to run for President again. The poster calls it an ‘irresponsible exercise of democracy and free speech’. Yet Nader’s decision is perfectly responsible, in democratic terms, because he is asking people to endorse what he is saying by voting for him. They are under no obligation whatsoever to vote for him if they don’t like what he has to say. For this eejit to hold that (s)he is the one best placed to decide what is irresponsible, in terms of democracy and free speech, illustrates his/her own hatred for both.

If the people who voted for Nader had wanted to vote for Gore, they woulda. But Gore, for whatever reason, didn’t do it for them. And he didn’t do it for the tens of millions of American voters who preferred sitting at home on their asses either. This is Nader’s fault, apparently which is why Talking Points Memo calls him Bush’s Chief Enabler. There is a nauseating sense of entitlement in this, combined with no small amount of contempt for the ability of people to make up their own mind about things: whoever voted for Nader really should have voted for Gore but were just too stupid at the time to realise it – if only there were some way of preventing these people from functioning as independent thinkers.

An interview with Nader here:

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February 2008