Friday, May 14, 2010

Johnny Foreigner on Little Englander

What would a foreigner make of UK society if he/she had to make a judgement on it, as viewed through the prism of UK media?

Quite apart from all the recent routine election-related vitriol, there’s the weekly Westminster Punch & Judy show that is known as PMQs. This, supposedly, represents the pinnacle of political discourse in the UK parliament.

The BBC’s (the public service broadcaster!) “mock or shaft” Dragon’s Den and the hyper-abrasive personnel skills of Alan Sugar on The Apprentice might well be taken to represent the recommended approach to achieving business/economic success in the UK.

The foreign viewer would also have the daily diet of dysfunctional families and communities, as represented by top-ratings programmes such as Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Eastenders.

One wonders what the ordinary UK resident makes of it all, fed on this daily tv diet of abrasion and confrontation from all levels of society? And then there are the “red tops”, the biggest selling “newspapers” in UK, which routinely go for “shock & awe” OTT banner headlines.

Fed on such a sustained and noxious diet, is it any wonder that many UK citizens appear to believe it is acceptable to behave aggressively and/or to hold xenophobic views? This might also explain the UK attitude to the EU – they can’t be a member of any club unless they actually run it!

Hopefully, the recent formation of a coalition government may remove some of the perceived stigma associated with the idea of having to moderate ones language and behaviour and live with compromise.

The reality is that we all do it in our daily lives - in our family, our workplace, our social circle etc..

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Sauce for our political geese

Recent problems regarding expenses and pensions for our politicians arise primarily for a common reason: their propensity to exclude themselves from regulations they enact for application to the rest of us.

The solution therefore is for the political classes to formally adopt the following principle: what’s good enough for us is good enough for them.

In that situation you wouldn’t, for example, have
(a) politicians in receipt of ministerial pensions while still in receipt of TD’s salaries, well in advance of normal retirement age.
(b) such pension entitlements calculated on a greatly foreshortened service scale.
(c) permission to claim material expenses and allowances on an unvouched basis.
(d) the use of a state car and drivers for personal and/or party political use without incurring any benefit-in-kind tax liability.

From now on we should have no special exemptions for politicians. That might help regain public trust.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Cian & Ciaran - tag team-mates?

A listener who doesn’t speak English would be forgiven for thinking that, from his deadpan mono-tonal delivery, Cian McCormack is tasked with reading out the daily list of the dead on RTE radio.

That same listener might also think that Ciaran Mullooly routinely reports from Drumlin country, while being carried up and down those small hills in an unsprung vehicle, such is the variety of his delivery - in tone, in spacing and with the emphasis often on the wrong word or syllable in each sentence.

It strikes me that if RTE teamed them up together they just might correct each others delivery shortcomings and come out as perfectly modulated reporters!

Gerry Ryan - enough, already.

I readily admit that I have never met Gerry Ryan, nor was I a fan.

I never listened to his radio programme and my only exposure to him was the occasional accidental glimpse on tv.. The persona I perceived there was not one I liked or admired. I recall one reviewer opining that if Ryan was an ice-cream he’d lick himself.

That said, I would not have wished him any harm, other than a large salary reduction, and his death at a relatively early age has left a family and partner in grief.

Am I alone in felling a little disturbed by the “Princess Diana” nature of the media coverage of his death, particularly on RTE?

What does it say for the national intelligence if Gerry Ryan was the country’s most insightful and influential commentator – for he is now, in death, elevated to that exalted position.

Somewhere in outer space, where radio signals from Earth are monitored, the alien on the RTE desk is reporting the death of some major eminence, possibly the world leader. This is causing confusion because no other radio signal is carrying the same story.

Enough, already!

Gaia begins the fightback

The Gaia hypothesis (roughly) proposes that Earth acts like a living organism in order to maintain the ecosystem of the planet is some sort of equilibrium. It suggests that it can invoke measures to rebalance unwelcome events/effects.

This hypothesis was first proposed by James Lovelock, but in March he expressed the view (to the Guardian) that humanity is too stupid to save the planet from global warming, and basically we’ve doomed future generations to oblivion.

That must really have got up Gaia’s nose, because look at what she has just done.

The eruption in Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano has had two main effects.

Firstly, it has significantly reduced air travel into and around Europe, with consequent reduction in CO2 emissions.
Secondly, it has thrown a layer of ash and dust into the atmosphere, which has the effect of reflecting some of the sun’s heat back into space and prevents it from warming the earth. Might it even delay the melting of the polar ice-cap?

Could this be just the start of Gaia’s fight-back and what will the consequences be for the current inhabitants of the planet?

I hope it will still be possible to get those little asparagus spears flown in from Kenya, and the limes from Chile. Life without its little indulgences wouldn’t be worth living.

Nature or Nurture?

In late April, Governor Kathleen McMahon retired from her position at the Dóchas Centre, which is Ireland's only women's prison.

Governor McMahon said she had decided to retire early because her position had been made 'completely impossible' by conditions at the prison. These included overcrowding and the imprisonment of women who posed no threat to society, she said.

Governor McMahon is quoted as fearing that this overcrowding will lead to in increase in "self-mutilation, bullying, depression and lesbianism".
In the interim, I have waited in vain for the media debate on the lesbianism comment.

“Nature or nurture?” is the routine argument regarding sexual orientation. Governor McMahon’s comment would seem to add credibility to those who argue that it may well be both.

Get them out of the Mercs!

UK cabinet minister Ed Balls was recently fined £60 for using a mobile phone while driving. We know that couldn’t happen here, because the gardai would be driving him rather than stopping him.

The 24/7 availability of state limousines with garda drivers is one of the more visible perks of ministerial office and further demonstrates the bloated sense of entitlement of the politocracy that rules us.

Any executive in a private company enjoying the 24/7 use of the company limo and chauffeur, for other than company business, would be liable for a large benefit-in-kind tax bill, but not so our political leaders. The state merc is permanently available for personal/family and political party business.

I have no difficulty with ministers having the use of state cars for state business, but they should use their own transport for party-related and personal activities

Claims that this garda limo service is required for security reasons are patent nonsense. If any politician needs garda protection, he/she should have an armed bodyguard, not a chauffeur/flunkey driving a state car.

Now that public outrage has forced a u-turn on the payment of ministerial pensions to serving politicians, another unique arrangement for the benefit of the political classes, let us next turn government ministers out of their state cars, save the country some money and free up those wasted garda resources.

In future, we should demand that our political leaders subject themselves to exactly the same rules and regulations which apply to the rest of us plebs. No more opt-out clauses for the ruling elite.