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Wage freezes… August 22, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Media and Journalism.
2 comments

…Interesting heading on a piece in the Irish Times today:

And then one reads the details:

Employees in the majority of small businesses continue to face a pay freeze with the trend set to continue next year, a survey claims.

The Small Firms Association (SFA) study found wage increases were only being given to reward productivity and innovation.

To be clear this isn’t the SFA’s fault as far as can be seen[I can't find the press release on their website], but the headline appears to be just a little misleading.

I haven’t time now to go digging through the stats to look at pay freezes more generally. I will though.

Dispatches on Channel 4 Tonight (14/3/11) at 8 on how Big Society and Public Sector Cuts = Huge Private Profits March 14, 2011

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.
9 comments

It’s on now. See the blurb here. Panorama at 8.30 on dirty tricks used by tabloid journalists too. Spoilt for choice.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week July 4, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.
10 comments

In third place, more of the same from Daniel McConnell.

Acceptance of the Croke Park deal means that this Government will not tackle one of the biggest problems in this country — public-sector reform.

In second place, Brendan Keenan, who apparently has missed altogether the stimulus plans applied in other countries and the plans provided for something similar here, offers a gem. What annoyed him?

It was the universal assumption that the TDs could have done something about the Anglo losses, and unemployment.

Can you imagine thinking 22 billion euro could have been better spent and might even have created a few jobs? Crazy talk.

And in top place. An entire article with this as a headline

Stalin’s legacy upheld by his proud comrades in the HSE

You couldn’t make it up.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week January 31, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.
20 comments

In third place, Eilis O’Hanlon, for a fine example of ignoring who actually is responsible for the economic difficulties of the south in favour of the usual lazy scapegoat. And she has the cheek to lecture others about reality. How can she keep churning this out week after week?

Though even if they don’t, the public sector unions show every sign of managing the total meltdown of the Irish economy very well by themselves, thank you very much, as they engage on a nationwide work to rule to protest against reality… sorry, I mean pay cuts introduced in the last Budget.

In second place, Aengus Fanning, for a fawning introduction to an interview with Ray McSharry, that peddles the same old lies about the Celtic Tiger being the result of his anti-people cuts of the late 1980s.

THERE is a story that gives us a clue to Ray MacSharry’s character, to the man who, as Minister for Finance, laid the foundations in 1987 for the economic miracle of the following 20 years, the Mac the Knife who seemed to thrive on unpopularity.

In first place, Cathal MacCarthy, for giving yet another outing to the Muslim birth-rate scare story.

The French have decided to double-bluff the Islamic fundamentalism that uses that country’s freedom to publicly display symbols of its own religious intolerance and issues the kind of long-term threats designed to be picked up by anyone who cares to glance at the tables of Europe’s birth rates and the religious affiliations therein.

And a special mention for trying to spin the Tory tradition of playing the Orange card as an exercise in progressive politics while not knowing that Cameron was not part of the Tory-UUP-DUP talks on which the story is based.

Sunday Independent Stupid Quote of the Week January 3, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.
21 comments

After a break caused by an overdose of Christmas spirit that meant I didn’t want to annoy myself reading the Sindo, it’s back. In this case, back with the same old nonsense from just before Christmas from Daniel Mc Connell

Mr Lenihan is now convinced that the Irish economy is “turning the corner” and recent measures have led to a stabilisation of the public finances. Much of the credit must go to the minister, whose tough budget stance last month led to a new public mood of confidence that the worst of the financial crash was over and that with proper financial management the Irish economy could return to growth before the end of this year.

The cheerleading for Lenihan continues from him later, for third place in this story

Comment also centres on just who within the Cabinet would be tough enough to continue the difficult course mapped out by Mr Lenihan for the economy, and the dire consequences of failing to follow that course.

In the Editorial, we see the same old myths being pedalled, for second place.

The economic boom years gave Ireland a modern economy and an entrepreneurial culture that will help speed the recovery from recession…Now, however, we have to make a clean start. There are severe challenges ahead — not least the threat posed to recovery by the public sector trade unions — but they can be overcome if the Government does not lose its nerve. We all have an important part to play. We need to remember what we have gained and need to believe that we have the ingenuity and determination to recover from this recession.

And in first place, singing from the same hymn sheet to an extent that makes one wonder if the Sindo is run according to the principles of democratic centralism, Alan Ruddock.

Hopefully Lenihan’s health will allow him to see through a programme for economic recovery that, although it started poorly, has now gathered significant momentum. The threat to that recovery is internal rather than external: if the unions are allowed to prevail, then the country condemns itself to disaster. The union leaders must be resisted — by Government, by the Opposition parties and by their own members — if we are to edge clear of this recession.

But, even in the darkest of corners, we can find a chink of light. Gene Kerrigan reminds us of the class nature of the crisis, and the government response.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week Award December 13, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.
38 comments

Our new feature continues this week. In third place, Eilis O’Hanlon

This is the atmosphere which is now being forged in Ireland, whereby hardworking small business people who have taken risks to try and do something for themselves and their families are treated like absentee landlords sponging off the blameless lower classes. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. It’s the middle classes in Ireland who pay the bills. Class envy never wrote a single dole cheque or funded a single operation.

In second place, John Drennan

Instead, a Government that always ditches the tough choices effectively dumped the McCarthy report, and whilst we did get public sector pay cuts, the incompetence of the Government and their trade union doppelgangers means that these have been secured at the expense of real public sector reform for a decade.

And this week’s winner, Marc Coleman on Brian Lenihan’s budget

Heroism is not an overstatement to describe the man’s achievement.

However, it’s also worth considering this quote from Brendan Keenan, who has gone off message in drawing attention to the elephant in the room, and the real reason we are in the state we are in.

Ireland’s present rating is “appropriate”, said the man from Moody’s — the biggest ratings agency. That is encouraging, and there were other nice comments about how Ireland was doing more than most, but it is not yet making our borrowing much cheaper.
If there is a reason for that, it is probably the banking crisis.
Behind the €20bn annual borrowing, and the €85bn debt, is that €54bn pledged to buy property loans from the banks.

Griffin On Question Time October 22, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in British Politics, Media and Journalism.
63 comments

I have to say I was never spectacularly exercised by this issue of the BNP’s leader Nick Griffin appearing Question Time. I think the British far left’s obsession with them is way over the top, and often has more to do with trying to give their own members something to do and to recruit new members than anything else. Having watched the show, the whole thing was a waste of time, and you would thiink that the only political issue of the week was the BNP – basically the whole show except for about 8 minutes on the Daily Mail on Stephen Gateley was about them, and even that became about them to an extent. Naturally the overwhelming majority of the audience and the other people on the panel, not to mention the BBC’s David Dimbleby, were all determined to show that they abhor the BNP. Tell me something I don’t know.

Having said that, there was one issue worthy of serious consideration for the left. During the inevitable debate on immigration, Griffin must have been sitting laughing to listen to the representatives of the mainstream parties vie with each other to sound opposed to immigration. I found Sayeeda Warsi, the Tory Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, repeating the mantra of “we must have an honest debate about this” particularly nauseating. Jack Straw did make the point that he was having an honest debate. I thought that was an important point. The right tries to get round this issue by saying that anyone not calling for immigration to be effectively halted is being dishonest. That is in fact the most dishonest contribution possible to the discussion of immigration. It’s clear though that the left in Britain has some serious work to do on the issue of immigration. Serious work.

The last question was whether the programme represented an early Christmas present for the BNP. It’s hard to say. Griffin did not a bad job, trying to defuse things through laughter and referring to the other panelists by their first name as though he was just a normal panelist. He did though let the mask slip somewhat over homosexuality (although if I recall right Searchlight had some interesting things to say about Nick Griffin and this issue), and when he denounced the BBC as part of an ultra-leftist establishment. He also was exposed as effectively telling lies on several occasions. The Labour and Tory representatives were convinced they had exposed the BNP, and to an extent that is what happened, with some of Griffin’s more embarassing comments being displayed to the public. Having said that, there was quite a lot where Griffin appeared perfectly in line with the rest of the panel, and as I noted already, there can be no doubt that his party has succeeded in driving the immigration debate to the right.

So I think Griffin will be happy enough, but so will the other panelists. The real question it seems to me though is what happens when the BNP is on next time. Even if it’s only once a year, you can’t keep having the should they be part of the show in the first place debate. By its nature they are going to be normalised to some extent. But we cannot forget the reasons they are there in the first place. They have two European seats. So they already have quite a lot of credibility. Being on Question Time or not won’t change that. Only work on the ground, and possibly there own stupidity, will. I remember seeing an interview with Warren Mitchell, who played Alf Garnett. He said people would come up to him and praise him for sticking it to the black people. And so it is with Griffin – people will have seen what they wanted to see regardless.

The Global Irish Economic Forum September 20, 2009

Posted by Tomboktu in Ireland, Media and Journalism.
19 comments

The Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh at the weekend has been a peculiar affair.

It doesn’t appear to have been given any ‘trailing’ in the media in the days before – although I admit it may simply have been lost in the coverage of the Dáil debate on NAMA – but it suddenly appeared on the news on Friday morning. IMHO, the Irish Times got it right that first day and placed it on an inner page of the business section. But RTÉ: oh boy, were they excited and thrilled to be hobnobbing with the great and the good? The station had it at second billing through Friday, and moved it to top billing in the evening when Brian Cowen had spoken at it. And, interestingly, the national broadcaster’s website has a separate mini-site devoted to it, where they list the participants – mainly the great and the good of Ireland who have successfully climbed to the top in their chosen careers elsewhere around the world – where they publish a blog by Mark Little, and, at the start of Friday, had the agenda for the forum. (The agenda got taken down later.) This must be a major national event then. (But the Irish Times had changed their approach on Saturday. Was it a whoops, then, for some down-table editor’s judgement on the Friday edition?)

But it is the choices made by the Government and the mandarins about the content and significance of the Forum that leave me scratching my head. Irish people who have been a success around the world dominate. There are some ‘stay at home’ successes like Chris Horn, but they are lost in the list of those who have come home for the event and who form the main taking point in the coverage – and thus, I presume, were the main selling point put out by the national handlers in the Department of Foreign Affairs (whose gig the Forum is). But did any of the mandarins point out the other message that this conveys to the ambitious future leaders among the 20-somethings in our universities: “If you want get ahead lass, then get out”.

For the completeness, I should also state what will be obvious to readers of CLR: the delegate list is dominated by those who have succeeded in the corporate world. Yes, in among the list you can find the occasional Tom Arnold of Concern, or the odd Fergal Keane of the BBC, and even a Bob Geldof of, eh, Bob Geldof, but the main flavour is very definitely big business.

I also wonder when the government will hold an economic forum at which those who speak for the victims of the economic system will have their say alongside the masters of the universe.

And that might seem to make sense to those who see ‘economic’ in the title: “It’s obvious that they are the experts whom we should listen to”, they would say. But that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and not just from a left perspective. What those business leaders are excellent at is running a company, not running an economy. That doesn’t mean they do not have interesting or useful insights, but making the assumption that they are the main source of enlightenment is not a recipe for success. (It would be like asking a forum of expert taxi drivers to advise the government on how to improve the transport system in the capital.)

The final peculiarity I want to draw attention to is what this tells us about the government’s approach to planning for rebuilding for the future. Look again at the format it chose for harnessing the wisdom it has brought to Farmleigh. It consists of two days split between plenary sessions and a pair of workshops. Who believes this can help form a meaningful framework for an agenda? Contrast that with the time and resources given to the committee and the commission that the Government put in place in the last year to work out spending cuts and how to extract more tax from middle and lower earners. Those tasks merit serious deliberation over time by a stable group with expertise. But not, it seems, the generation of ideas for rebuilding.

Harris on Section 31 September 6, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism, Workers' Party.
13 comments

From Eoghan Harris’ column in today’s Sunday Independent. Also includes comments on Lisbon and Tony O’Reilly and the Independent.

Garret has guts. Not many in the audience would have agreed with him. But then most of them did not live through the daily leakage of blood beneath the border door from Northern Ireland. Garret did. And so did I and some of my friends.

That was why we organised to support Section 31 in RTE. We did so against the wishes of the Workers Party, the management of RTE, the NUJ and the two-faced Fianna Fail politicians who voted for Section 31 in public and deplored it in private.

Section 31 saved us a lot of strife. If the Provos had access to the airwaves during H Blocks they would have recruited thousands of young fools. Far from preventing the Provos seeking peace, Section 31’s long freeze forced Sinn Fein to play the political game to get the ban lifted.

Glad Garret has no regrets about refusing airwaves to fascists. Me neither.

Area man proclaims the Good News… or… The First Letter of John (the Waters) to the Irish… July 17, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Media and Journalism, Religion.
5 comments

I tend to read the media in bits and pieces these days, other than hard news. So opinion pieces often get left ’til later. And what’s this I read from last Friday’s Irish Times but the most fascinating piece from the Blessed John Waters. For under the heading “Core truth of encyclical gets ‘lost in translation'” one will discover that…

IN RECENT days I have read a number of reports about the third encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, all of which treated the pope as they would a philosopher, or political leader, who had delivered a warning to society about the need to mend itself. Inevitably, perhaps, reports of the encyclical’s contents tended to suggest the pope had “attacked” this or that – materialism, capitalism, ideology. Nowhere in the reportage I encountered did the meaning of the title, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), come across.

Okay, not quite clear about his drift…

One problem is that the entity at the heart of the pope’s reflections is not treated as a rational phenomenon in our culture. It is all but impossible, therefore, for anything relating to Christianity to be accurately communicated because the language required to do so has been shunted into a siding. To write or talk about what the pope has actually written, and in a manner faithful to his intentions, is necessarily to invoke a language which immediately signals itself as the language of irrationality and superstition. And anyway, our societies do not recognise anything as true except what is politically and “scientifically” arrived at.

Right so, that’s a little clearer. Waters is arguing that there is a ‘truth’ beyond the scientific (not entirely certain about his ‘political truth’ point…). Well, that’s hardly a novel proposition, although whether it’s accurate is a different matter.

In this culture, the story of Christ may to a degree be respected as vaguely historical, but is regarded somewhat differently to “factual” history. Journalistically, Christ is treated with a mix of scepticism and pluralism-inspired “tolerance”.

Reports concerning Christianity therefore almost always implicitly separate questions of the content of Christian culture from its originating phenomenon. No journalist wants to risk isolation or worse by referring in an implicitly affirmative way to beliefs that are, by common consent in modern society, to be “tolerated” at most.

Everything of Christianity is predicated on the idea that Christ, the Son of God, died to save mankind, rose again on the third day, and continues to exist as a presence in earthly reality. If we do not accept this, why bother reporting what the pope says at all? If we report what the pope says and leave out the bits where he refers to this core meaning of Christianity, how can any of it make sense? In this encyclical, the pope demonstrates his extraordinary clarity on a range of counts. He has interesting things to say about markets and how they might be harnessed to a moral energy in the common good. Markets are not intrinsically bad, he says, but can be made so by ideology. He stresses that charity cannot be separated from justice, which it complements and transcends. It is not sufficient to give someone what is “mine” if I have prevented him having what is rightly “his”.

Which is where we hit problems. Firstly the concept of ‘toleration’. This state remains Catholic in culture, but perhaps not entirely so in observance. It’s hard to think of a state, despite the issue of clerical and institutional abuse, where short of the religion being … er… written into the Constitution (and remember theism is written into the Constitution even if specific mention of Catholicism and the other chosen religions has been removed) and erm… implicitly into our legislation… it could be more congenial to Christianity.

Secondly, is Waters seriously suggesting that we can only understand the Pope’s thoughts if we accept the validity of the underlying propositions. The Pope writes from a given position, but it’s far from beyond the wit of humans to be able to analyse without sharing that position. This, after all, is fundamental to the reality of our isolation from each other as thinking beings.

But I think the greater problem is that Waters seems to believe unquestioningly that the Pope is right, that the fundamentals of Christianity are right and that these are self-evident truths. And his question… ‘why bother reporting what the pope says at all?’ is key to this. There are many reasons why one would report the Pope’s words beyond faith in him and the entity he represents. The societal impact of Catholicism in particular and Christianity in general is so great here that it would be somewhat perverse not to do so. And that’s true far beyond these shores. That that impact is diminishing is beside the point. We still live within constructs that were part shaped by the Church – and note that I use the Church because this is a very specific form of Christianity that Waters champions, one that is Roman Catholic.

Anyhow, Waters continues:

Christians have a responsibility to the common good, and in a global society this means the good of all humanity. The Church does not offer technical solutions, but seeks to draw attention to the nature and structure of man, the truth of the human condition.

Actually, I find that proposition fine… at least up to the point where he says…

Development must include spiritual alongside material growth.

Must it? Must it really? But even had he stopped there, or at least expanded on what he means by the term ‘spiritual’ all might be well…

But this being Waters, he won’t or can’t…

You cannot have Christianity without Christ. Christian charity is the face of Christ, the only truth there is. Love is not in our gift but is given when we open to it. There is no love, no hope, without Christ.

It’s actually intriguing the way he states this. The first sentence makes some sense. Although one might quibble that there are parallel paths that need not involved Christ but which would lead to Christian like actions (not true enough one suspects for Waters). The second though…

Does he really believe this? The only truth there is? Does he mean that literally or figuratively, or in the context of being a Christian?
The problem is, to slightly amend what I wrote a couple of sentences back, is that one could envisage theistic modes which would also not involve Christ and yet lead to Christian like approaches to the world.

I should be clear. I have no instinctive dislike of religion. In some ways quite the opposite. It strikes me, though I’m not religious, that on a human level it makes as much sense as a response to the sort of universe we find ourselves in as any other. That said I’m a theist of sorts, a gloomy pessimistic one as it happens. Agnostic mostly, but sometimes and more often than not willing to believe that there is a God although I’m doubtful as to whether God has much interest in us (meanwhile John has strayed directly this week into those waters… so to speak… a bit late for me to deal with them, perhaps another days work).

But that’s grand, easy almost, if one can refer to the concept of a deity as easy. There’s no contradiction for me between a rationalist approach to the universe, and all within it and more or less agnostic theism. For me it’s the fine detail where the problems lie. I find it near intolerable that any serious religious belief would devolve to ‘there is no love, no hope, without…[insert your chosen name]‘. Such partiality flies in the face of the very precepts that Waters supposedly champions and which any reasonable reading of Christianity and what Christ is reported to have said would tend to serve us with (indeed, is it just me or does Waters seem absolutely entranced by the rhetorical pull of the contemporary religious texts he reads as distinct from their meaning? It’s as if because they go on about ‘truth’ they therefore must be ‘true’. Granted, perhaps I just like my Christianity presented more bluntly…) …

But he goes further…

The Christian proposal presents Christ not as a story from history, but a fact of the present moment. He is here, now, and knowledge of this, yes, fact is what frees us to do what is “right”. His presence renders love safe. If we deny Him, all we have is sentiment, sanctimony and self-interest. There is no alternative route to conscience.

This certainty is an unappealing stance, to put it mildly. And the reiteration of the word ‘fact’ for something that cannot be, except in a purely subjective usage of the term, regarded as such is unconvincing. It shifts its meaning to a position unamenable to serious consideration.

Nor does it make any great sense. Does Islam not provide such a route? There are cadres of Revolutionary Guards and also, by contrast, reform clerics who this very day in Iran, should he choose to consult them, will both from their particular viewpoints say otherwise. Buddhism? Mild Anglicanism? Agnostic theism?

And beyond religion, organised and chaotic, aren’t there many who have somehow managed to transcend ‘sanctimony and self-interest’ (and what particularly is the problem with sentiment… Waters himself has made a career based on sentiment, and what is his belief other than sentiment if one examines it purely rationally. That doesn’t invalidate it – well anymore than any of the rest of his belief system, but it doesn’t suggest that he’s finding the best arguments to position his beliefs within)? Indeed realistically given the lack of serious – by which I mean the public hand-wringing stuff this exemplifies – engagement with ‘faith’ by most people, which frankly to me seems a most human and healthy way of dealing with the constraints of this universe, one could argue that such arguably pretentious approaches to religious belief mean that only a tiny minority are ‘truly’ religious.

“A Christianity of charity without truth,” writes the pope, “would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world.”

It’s great when people present stuff as either/or. Or refuse to acknowledge that ‘truth’, particularly in the context of religion is rather more malleable than they might propose. Or argue that only the most self-serving definition of its meaning has any currency. Or suggest that a spiritual dimension is the only thing that lends any meaning to life. I’m not entirely averse to the spiritual dimension, but to argue that it’s impossible to live without…

There is a danger in digesting the contents of this complex encyclical by the logic of a culture which sees Christ, at best, as a teacher of social philosophy. Just as true Christianity liberates Christ from the sentimentalism and moralism that pursues social control rather than truth, the pope warns that charity not founded in Christ is defined by an “emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content”.

To put this another way: only by venerating the Truth in our culture do we enable true charity to prosper. Without it there is only moral pressure, obligation and guilt. The Holy Father warns: “Without . . . trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalised society at difficult times like the present.” This is a succinct description of our situation.

Er… what situation? But is the argument that without love for what is ‘true’… there ‘is no social conscience’ even vaguely tenable? And he seems to say that only through adherence to the religious ‘truth’ as revealed to/by the Catholic Church can we genuinely be ‘moral’, ‘charitable’, etc, etc.

Unhitched from truth, faith is reduced to ethics, which unravel when disconnected from their source. “Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is,” the pope tells us. The problem is that, in our culture now, this is liable to be heard as an opinion or a warning, rather than a simple statement of fact.

Well, there’s facts and facts. But for Waters there is only clearly only one fact that matters, one truth. That is Christianity – and in particular Catholicism, and implicit in his argument is the concept that it must be central to our societal organisation, for otherwise – to lightly paraphrase his argument – what is the point of such ‘truth’? And here’s the thing. He alone, at least to this point, in the ‘reportage’ is the only one – or so we must assume from his first paragraph – to understand, no, really understand, what the Pope was getting at.

Although sometimes I’m reminded of the old jibe as regards a certain leftist that he wrote as if Lenin were John the Baptist to his Jesus. And so sometimes it seems with Waters and Benedict. There’s Benedict doing the ground breaking stuff, but ultimately it will be Waters who seals the deal, who will finally explain it to the rest of us to his satisfaction (after all, it can’t just be down to a malevolent or disinterested media that Benedict’s thoughts go astray… surely?).

What’s intriguing, to me at least, is that he seems to believe that simply by grounding his proposition in a concept of ‘truth’ that rests on itself, not least because he proposes that such ‘truth’ can only be understood by those who believe in that ‘truth’ for validation, that he therefore shifts his argument beyond criticism.

It’s a remarkably self serving argument.

What I find remarkable about this is not his belief. I have no problem with that at all. What does trouble me is the absolute lack of any perspective, of any sense that none of this is particularly new, that others have taken this path before, that others entirely sincerely and in good faith take other paths, that there are at least equally strong counter-arguments to all his propositions and that the argument he is putting forward is extremely weak in the face of any serious analysis, that he might be writing for an audience which is going to take the word ‘truth’ bandied around as if it is its own self-justification with just a hint of scepticism. And indeed there was a time when a certain John Waters would have done likewise (meanwhile for a sense of how the professionals deal with this go no further than here, where at least some of the essence of Benedict’s thoughts come through… not much more convincing to me, but couched in significantly less florid language).

Still, for all that I guess we can be thankful that at least he’s firmly nailed his colours to the mast.

One could ask though and I think quite reasonably given his thoughts the previous week, just how does queue jumping fit into this?

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