Archive for April, 2008



Pyjamas Media

Sorry, Risin’ Time with Maxi isn’t the only thing I listen to on the radio. I heard something else today. Not sure what station it was, 98FM maybe, and there was a phone-in about people who wear their pyjamas down the street.

There was one girl trying to convince the listeners that wearing pyjamas down the street was cool, and in doing so pointed out that posh people also wore pyjamas down the street. Another girl disagreed, saying, in effect, that only poor people wore pyjamas down the street. Some dick in the studio, called Jeremy, said people who wore pyjamas were, quite simply, ‘scum’ and that pyjamas down the street were disgusting, for lazy people.

All were more or less agreed: the pyjama-wearing poor are vile.

Have you ever seen a man wearing pyjamas down the street, or is it only women? I passed a couple of women wearing pyjamas the other day. Big deal. I don’t like pyjamas myself, and only wear them in hospitals, bho am I to tell people what to wear? If someone wants to take their child to school in a Big Bird outfit, then more power to their elbow.

What I can’t stick -it got said on the programme tonight- is when the likes of Jeremy start saying that people who wear pyjamas give off the impression of being lazy. I agree: they do. But the difference between me and the likes of he is that I don’t see anything wrong with laziness (though I think idleness is usually a more appropriate term), whereas the yoof on radio phone-in shows want people to wear clothes that demonstrate hard work and moral rectitude.

Well, up theirs.

Busby Flips The Bird

Workers at BT Ireland are to stage a protest in Dublin today to highlight what they say is discrimination against the company’s workforce in the Republic.

Staff claim management are refusing to treat employees in the Republic and the North equally, despite operating its business on a 32-county basis.

I don’t know many details about this particular case, but I was thinking about the general question of how great Northern Ireland is as a ‘nearshore’ solution to keep wages down, particularly in service industries where the nature of the work is such that it may be too risky to transfer to the likes of Bangalore. Unhappy with your wages? There’s a chap two hours up or down the road who’ll do the same job for 25% less, so I’d get the head down if I wuz you. That’s the light in which the recent announcement about the 5,000 IFSC ought to be viewed.

In this case it looks as though there is union representation in the North and none in the Republic. So it isn’t really a matter of one location existing permanently as the most favourable option. The point here at the moment seems to be: run an all-Ireland operation so that the company is in a position to tell the Communications Workers Union to go to hell. Then, once the union goes to hell, the firm can start playing one location off against the other in order to drive costs down further.

The Goodness of the Mighty

Raging news exclusive as the New York Times reports on how the Pentagon mounts vast propaganda operations to give a false impression of U.S. military activities in the media.

The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

Good work. The Times had a couple of other stories today of interest – one was an exposé of the Pope’s Catholicism, and another one about bears…you know the rest.

Still, well worth reading for the ‘human interest’ side of things:

Many also shared with Mr. Bush’s national security team a belief that pessimistic war coverage broke the nation’s will to win in Vietnam, and there was a mutual resolve not to let that happen with this war.

This was a major theme, for example, with Paul E. Vallely, a Fox News analyst from 2001 to 2007. A retired Army general who had specialized in psychological warfare, Mr. Vallely co-authored a paper in 1980 that accused American news organizations of failing to defend the nation from “enemy” propaganda during Vietnam.

“We lost the war — not because we were outfought, but because we were out Psyoped,” he wrote. He urged a radically new approach to psychological operations in future wars — taking aim at not just foreign adversaries but domestic audiences, too. He called his approach “MindWar” — using network TV and radio to “strengthen our national will to victory.”

What I like about this man is that he doesn’t appear to be some sort of neo-conservative technocrat who thinks that one should lie to the public for its own good, because the truth would be too much to bear. He seems to be a genuine honest-to-god fascist who thinks people should be brainwashed for the glory of the nation.

Slightly related, I was wondering the other day about the lack of decent popular songs about US imperialism  played on the radio these days. This may have something to do with the fact that the only radio I get to listen to is ten minutes of Risin’ Time with Maxi.

Anyway, here’s a couple. Hurt Me Soul by Lupe Fiasco isn’t so much about US imperialism as about everything ever.

It goes:

So through the Grim Reaper sickle sharpening
Macintosh marketing
Oil field auguring
Brazilian adolescent disarmament
Israeli occupation
Islamic martyrdom, precise
Yeah, laser guided targeting
Oil for food, water, and terrorist organization harborin
Sand camouflage army men
CCF sponsorin, world conquerin, telephone monitorin
Louis Vuitton modelin, pornographic actress honorin
String theory ponderin, bullimic vomitin
Catholic priest fondlin, pre-emptive bombin and Osama and no bombin them
They breakin in my car again, deforestation and overloggin and
Hennessy and Hypnotic swallowin, hydroponic coughin and
All the world’s ills, sittin on chrome 24-inch wheels, like that

Love that last line.

Then there’s this one, Empire, by Dar Williams, which I heard on Democracy Now! the other day. The music isn’t my tasse de thé, but the lyrics are strong stuff.

An excerpt:

Who’s afraid of the sun?
Who’d question the goodness of the mighty?
We who banish the threat,
When your little ones all go nighty-nighty.

Well, there’s no time for doubt right now
and less time to explain.
So get back on your horses,
kiss my ring, join our next campaign.

And the empire grows with the news that we’re winning.
With more fear to conquer
and more gold thread for spinning.
Bright as the sun, shining on everyone.

Rest here.

‘Mission civilisatrice?’ You wot?

Some excerpts from the Guardian report on Brown’s visit to the US.

special relationship….special relationship….special relationship….a special relationship…the modern phase of our special relationship..special relationship…special relationship.

Sadly, no detail is offered on what makes the relationship special. Perhaps one of the things that makes it special is the very fact that encounters between the two countries end up in much talk about a special relationship.

The idea of Britain having a special relationship with America appeals, I am guessing, to lots of people who have not come to terms with the fact that the sun set on the British Empire over 60 years ago. I am sure that the effects of that trauma persist to this day. What a special relationship with America means for such people is a feeling of closeness to the power and the glory of Empire.

Then you have the people whose delight in the products of American culture leads them to identify closely with it. It doesn’t really make sense to talk of a special relationship here because the existence of a special relationship implies that there must be other relationships worth talking about. But there aren’t.

Or perhaps it’s the language. People exult in the Anglosphere and talk about the benefits accruing from speaking the same language. In a critical review of a rather vulgar history of the ‘the English-Speaking Peoples‘, Christopher Hitchens points toward

a certain shared tradition, capacious enough to include a variety of peoples and ethnicities and expressed in a language—perhaps here I do betray a bias—uniquely hostile to euphemisms for tyranny

and also notes that:

English is, of course, the language of the English and American revolutions, whose ideas and values continue to live after those of more recent revolutions have been discredited and died.

But there is simply no way of knowing if one language can be ‘uniquely hostile to euphemisms for tyranny’, and anyway, no language forecloses the possibility of expressing any particular idea: Regrettably, bumming and blowing about the unique qualities of the English language is a common practice these days, in part the result of the incestuous belief that it is the English language itself that forms the basis for common greatness. The language becomes a totem for supremacist inclinations. Thus, it’s not that we are innately superior, since we are well above these things. No, no, no, dear boy, it’s the language that’s superior.

Perfect Equality

Interesting times in Spain, where Zapatero’s new cabinet has a majority of women. Much of the initial media attention was focused on new Defence Minister Carme Chacón, and the significance of a Catalan woman, who is pregnant, being placed in charge of the army. Since the army is a potent symbol of a masculine Spain, many on the right are incensed. Rabid right-wing pundit Federico Jiménez Losantos denounced the fact of a ‘una nacionalista antiespañola al frente de Ejército de España’ (an anti-Spanish nationalist at the head of the Spanish Army).

No less interesting is the appointment of 31 year old Bibiana Aido, who has a blog, to the post of Minister for Equality. Part of the remit of this ministry will be to oversee the implementation of the Equality Law, the provisions of which could only be dreamed about in Ireland at the minute. The text of the law cites John Stuart Mill’s principle of ‘perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other’, and recognises that gender violence, salary discrimination, pension discrimination, and problems in balancing personal, work and family life must all be overcome by legislative means. It seeks to protect motherhood, with special attention to the effects of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

Among the outcomes of the law will be:

  • Quota of 40% of women in top jobs
  • Quota of 40% of women candidates on party political lists
  • Improved conditions for maternity and paternity leave – women who have premature births get extended leave, men get 13 days paternity leave

There will also be tough punishment for gender violence. Zapatero, in his inaugural debate, promised to make sure that any coward who lifts his hand to a woman will have to face 44 million Spaniards.

It hardly needs saying that this is all excellent stuff, and people in Ireland who have an interest in such matters (which should be everybody) could learn more than just a thing or two from it.

Update: the Guardian has a report on this today.

Wholly Holey

I’ve mentioned a few times about how members of my family read this blog. Sometimes I get feedback from them, usually in the form of a correction to some error of grammar or spelling, which is tantamount to murdering someone as far as they’re concerned. And my mother sometimes gives off about the crude language, though I have to say, the language on this blog would get a PG rating.

One concern expressed today was that I was going through some sort of belated anal phase, that there were too many references to bottoms and poo, though there are children’s programmes with more such references.

My mother didn’t like the fact that I ended one post with ‘the world is a shithouse’, and another with ‘he’s better than a boot up the hole’. I think it’s a fair criticism. Aesthetically speaking, neither is a pretty phrase, and both are somewhat out of tune with the general tenor of the post.

But I asked her why she didn’t like it. She said, I was reading through the post, and I liked what you were saying, but that bit at the end, well that just tore the ass out of it.

Law-di-daw

There is this thing on the internet known as Godwin’s Law. According to Wikipedia, the law states:

“As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

I have no idea if the law reflects reality or not. But some people seem to think that it means that you may not make a comparison involving Nazis. It is not that sort of law. It is more like the law of diminishing returns, in that it states that x happens as a result of y. And just as it is absurd to say that you may not increase equal quantities of one variable factor while other factor inputs remain constant, it is equally absurd to say that you cannot compare someone to Hitler just because there is a law out there that says that people are likely to make Nazi comparisons under certain circumstances.

The fact is, there are times when Nazi comparisons are appropriate. Such as when someone acts like a Nazi.  Seems obvious, but some people don’t get it.

Not that Nazi comparisons are always appropriate. It would be inappropriate, for instance, to compare a Brian Kennedy concert to a Nuremburg rally, even if both signify absolute evil.


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