The Right To Employ People

Differences in national income equality around...
Inequality - Apparently There's Not Enough Of It

I just heard someone called Jackie Lavin on the Pat Kenny radio show say that unemployment benefits interfere with “the employer’s right to employ people”. That’s an interesting concept, isn’t it? I remember when right-wing lunatics used to just call social welfare an interference in the sacred free market. Now it’s an abrogation of their rights. They are actually being oppressed by social welfare.

I hadn’t known that the wealthy had any special rights – at least not officially – but according to her, one of them is to have other people be poorer so that they’re more affordable. That’s kind of mind-blowing, isn’t it? The rich have a right to poor people. It makes a strange Zen-like sense.

This Jackie Lavin is on the radio because she’s a “Business Personality”, best known for appearing in the Irish version of The Apprentice as mentor to her real-world business and life partner Bill Cullen. Also, for appearing in and writing for glossy Hello!-style magazines, like the one owned by Bill Cullen. He’s an entrepreneur, Fianna Fáil donor and I suppose our nearest equivalent to Donald Trump. These are important people then.

Why not apply this entertainment paradigm to the country as a whole? If the unemployed don’t shape up, we can fire them from their homes – from the whole country indeed. ‘Firing’ is much sexier than that dated emigration idea.

I mean. Fuck this.

The List

Commercial CartoonIf you want to loudly use the word Fact! in your advert, you can’t also say that your product kills 99.x% of “all known bacteria including the flu virus”. Bullshit like that brings you awfully close to… The List.

The list? My unshopping list. Like a shopping list, except of the things I don’t want to buy. The saying is that one half of all money spent on advertising is wasted – only nobody knows which half it is. Well, I intend to show them. The wasted half, is the half that annoys me.

Advertisers you see know that if you remember the product, you are more likely to buy the product. It’s true. All other things being equal, we’ll prefer the brand we’ve actually heard of before. Why wouldn’t we?

Advertisers also know that if an advert annoys you, you’ll remember the product. And that is true too, obviously.

So some of them come to the conclusion that if an advert annoys you, you will remember the product, and so be more likely to buy the product. It’s just logical, no?

No. Because what they forget is, I will also remember that it annoyed me.

I reason that the purchase price of the product pays the advertising agency. If I bought it therefore I would actually be paying a team of professionals to irritate me – indeed, to keep coming up with inventive new ways to irritate me, actually do research into finding what really gets right up my nose. What rational person wants to pay for that? Hence the list.

It’s not a real list of course, I don’t write them down. I don’t have to because – hey – I remember them.

And I will boycott products that I actually like. You’ve got to be firm here. They stay on the list not merely until they stop broadcasting the offending commercial, but for as long as I feel they deserve. There’s a brand of low-fat spread I didn’t purchase for ten years because in 1988 they promoted it with a white man rapping badly. Really, that’s at least a decade’s worth. Some – a certain Australian retail shouting chain for example, an online operation that is not fussy about what cars it buys – will be on the list until one of us dies.

What products are on your list?

Clash of the Titanic Brains

Quiz CartoonWas in a table quiz the other night. Four from Galway¹ up against the finest of the Dublin media. A great turnout, we had quiz teams hanging from the rafters, all in support of a service for troubled teenagers called Reach Out and the Capuchin Day Centre for homeless people. But I wasn’t there for human kindness and Christian charity (dammit), I was there to be cleverer than other people!

So much for that. Came third.

But we wuz robbed – Definitely we should have had one more point in the first round. Though I suppose in fairness we made up for that when we traded an answer with some people from the Irish Times on the next table. Under house rules that meant we really should have paid €50 and left naked.

The questions didn’t suit us I guess. But, compiled by media celebrities, they were an interesting sample of questions that media celebrities compile. News priorities in catechismic form. A round of TV, a round of pop, a round of film, a round of sport², a special round for celebrity bollocks too trivial even for the other rounds.

No round on literature, or any cultural form less popular than cinema. Nothing on science. Not even the sort of science that actually gets on the news, like… well, medicine. No technology. Knowing who won the first X-Factor would stand you in much better stead than knowing, say, how TV actually works. But that’s how TV actually works. And the rest of the mainstream media³ these days.

I reject any inference that I’m a sore loser.

  1. Well one of us was only from near Galway. OK, Spain.
  2. Bizarrely, it was entirely on rugby. Compiled by George Hook
  3. Interestingly, there was only one question on the new media. (Unless you count the one on who wrote the screen of The Social Network. And no, I don’t think you do.) Who founded Storyful? And I got it wrong… I thought it was Gavin Sheridan, but I was confusing it with his own thestory.ie. It was of course Mark Little.

Meanwhile, Back On The Farm…

Man in this country-town pub has the worst laugh. Every time, it sounds like he’s sneering at someone he’s just kicked bloody. Please stop telling that guy jokes.

Oh God. Radio reminds me that Tony Blair is the EU’s most important diplomat to Egypt. We choose the single former leader who invaded a Middle East country as ‘peace envoy’. Was that supposed to be ironic? A large proportion of the population doubtless sees him as some sort of latter-day Crusader. He mentioned his fears of the Muslim Brotherhood exploiting the situation two or three times. He mentioned democracy, freedom from oppression, and self-determination… about not at all.

Something else I note from the news – Though Ireland is technically not in recession because our GDP is going up, our Gross National Product is  ‘growing’ at a rate of -0.3%. GNP is similar to GDP but represents Irish owned business only, leaving out foreign investment. How can foreign business here be profitable but local ruined? I would suggest it’s because while almost all foreign invest here is in export industries, too much Irish-owned business is about servicing other parts of the Irish-owned economy (in which I include the state sector), making it a house of cards. We need more indigenous export industry.

But you know, that was kind of obvious.

Money CartoonMeanwhile back on the political pitch, Micheál Martin is naming his front bench. Wait, what? Yes – the leader of Fianna Fáil has his own shadow cabinet, even though Fianna Fáil under Brian Cowen is still in government until tomorrow… The party is its own opposition. I mean, officially now. That’s not the way Micheál Martin sees it himself of course. A few days ago he came out with an extraordinary offer: To support a Fine Gael government. He thinks he can actually refuse to go into opposition. Clearly the party is just too used to being in power.

Oh, and stop press: Senator Ivor Callelly has been awarded €17,000 for loss of earnings while suspended from his Senate seat. Reason for suspension? Because the bastard was corrupt. He should be on all the opposition parties’ election posters. This is Fianna Fáil. This is the face of a party that is farming the people of this country like cattle.

Dammit Fianna Fáil, you are going to go into opposition, and you are going to stay there.

Taoiseach Announces Decision to Not Make Decision

It was a very Irish event.

I got a text warning of Cowen’s press conference while driving, so by the time I could read it there was only ten minutes left. It sounds like almost sitcom contrivance, but both the stereo in the car and the sound card on my computer are out of action. My phone of course only gets radio when you haven’t lost the headphones. I had to find a pub with TV in the next small country town, fast.

The first two I tried were crowded with people watching sports on satellite channels. I didn’t fancy my chances of getting them to switch over to our glorious leader. The third though was empty. No customers, no TV – I wasn’t sure if there was even anyone minding the place. A big funeral was going on at the undertakers’ right next door, maybe they were all at that. But miracle of miracles, there was a little old radio on – a transistor radio, I almost want to call it. And the Taoiseach himself was speaking, though in such vague terms that I wasn’t able to tell at first whether I’d missed anything important.

Then out came the little old radio owner, a lady I could barely see over the bar. She asked me what I wanted and I told her I’d like a coffee. She couldn’t make out what I was saying so she started to turn the radio down. It took a while to explain that I’d actually come in to listen to it. Then she didn’t have any coffee. “Or anyone to make it,” whatever she meant by that. I asked for a Coke instead, so she took down a Pepsi and went looking for a bottle opener. As she hunted back and forth the FM reception faded in and out.

Two old lads came in from the funeral, eager to hear the speech too. They asked me if he was going or not. “Damned if I can tell,” was my reply. It was not until the announcer summed things up after that I finally got the gist. He’s putting a “Back Me or Sack Me¹” motion to the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party on Tuesday. So the Taoiseach actually called a press conference to announce that there was no news and that he had not made a decision – a first that, surely. Instead it would be up to his TDs.

Could we not just vote instead? It would save an awful lot of time and trouble to skip to the inevitable conclusion. Ah, but that would mean Fianna Fáil leaving power before they’d finished sharing the country out among themselves. And what is politics for after all if not looting?

What amuses me is trying to picture FF’s internal machinations. Clearly just about every one of them wants Cowen to go in the hope that it will save their seat. (It almost certainly won’t, but it’s the only hope they’ve got.) However, there isn’t one among them who wants to lead the party into what is virtually certain to be its greatest ever electoral defeat. So they all want someone else to do the ousting. You can see them, can’t you? Furiously playing a game of Pass The Poison Chalice. This leads to political acrobatics of the first order, as prominent party members deny in public that they want the Taoiseach’s job, while hinting to their colleagues that they might be willing to take on the Taoiseach’s job, while secretly not actually wanting the Taoiseach’s job.

What strange times, when politicians are forced into inadvertent honesty. It would be hilarious, if it wasn’t so depressing. To cheer you up then, here is some footage of cats in space.

  1. “…Or Crack Me”, as someone on Twitter creatively added.

A Golf Game and a Massacre

It is an absurd conspiracy theory. I do not believe for a moment that any deal was made on a golf course between the Taoiseach and Sean Fitzpatrick of Anglo-Irish Bank. It’s ridiculous to hold up this chance encounter as the smoking gun that proves they were in cahoots.

You don’t need meetings to work out which side bread is buttered on. Cogs in a machine don’t have to talk to each other. Government had been working in the interests of Anglo-Irish in particular and reckless property speculation in general for years before that. That was where all the money was coming from. The money that was keeping them in power. Not to mention the percentage that was finding its way into their own personal lives, apparently by sheer osmosis. The reason we need to get Fianna Fáil out of government forever is not that Brian Cowen was a naughty boy. It’s because the whole FF political machine has become rotten to the core. There’s not much to add to that, so let us turn to the strange things going down in America.

Well I guess we’re not going to be using the phrase “grammar Nazi” so much in future.

When someone attempts to kill a Democrat Congresswoman, especially in this brittle political climate, the natural assumption is that they’re a gun-hugging Tea Party extremist. Confusingly however, Loughner appears to be just a plain nut. One must be careful not to blacken the name of the insane – he has not, it seems, ever been diagnosed with a mental illness – but his personal ravings have that familiar paranoid sound.

Which is sort of a disappointment really. When someone goes on a killing spree it would be nice to have an explanation. We want something bigger and more important than one young man’s distorted fantasies to share the blame. The weird upshot of this being that Loughner’s insanity actually seems to make him more personally responsible.

But as no one is obviously to blame, everyone is going to blame everyone. Loughner provided plenty material for this; his book collection covered the gamut from the Communist Manifesto to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, allowing any pundit of any stripe to construct the story of their choice. I have no doubt at all that someone is going to look straight into a TV camera and say that Loughner shot the Democratic Governor because he is a liberal. Probably on Fox.

Indeed if anyone other than the shooter himself can bear any of the blame here, it must be Fox News. Not because it’s the station that promotes right-wing demagoguery, but because it’s the station that promotes paranoia. Fox likes to claim it’s just responding to a liberal bias in the other television networks. (Funny how the didn’t seem liberal until Fox came along.) If they do have such a bias though, it is the one that most educated Americans have, invested in the progress and improvement of their own country. Rupert Murdoch’s investment is a financial one only. He came to the well of American public discourse and saw that he could make a buck out of poisoning it.

By the way, has it ever struck you how all of Fox’s main conservative hate-makers – Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity – have a Catholic or an Irish background? I’m not sure what that means exactly, but it disturbs me.