When is Our Deputy First Minister ,Marty, going to get a little more excited …a little more exercised …..a little more (dare I say it ?) aggressive. Previously this seeming passivity which he has embraced ,has had it place; a calm , cool front when allayed against the banshee wail of vitriol that was issuing…
Her work done, she stumbled home. She caught her bare toe on a rock as she entered the dim shack. The old black tarpaulin slapped against her as it fell back in to place.
For a second her eyes struggled to accommodate the gloom. Then she saw her grandfather crouched as ever on the shack’s only bed in the corner. He grimaced, and nodded at the whimpering child laying in the straw by his side.
Nodding back she shuffled towards him. He averted his eyes, looking down at the mud floor as she approached. She quickly handed him the burlap sack hanging by her side. Snatching it, he reached inside and pulled out a loaf of bread and a skin of wine. He quickly tipped the wine skin and let the bitter, tepid liquid trickle over his wizened lips. He smacked them with satisfaction and starting sucking on a lump of bread.
He grunted with pleasure. Looking down angrily at the still whimpering child he wet a lump of bread with a little wine and stuck it between the child’s chapped lips. The grandfather looked up at his granddaughter and inclined his head sharply in direction of the fire. Beside it stood an old half oil drum filled with murky water.
She slipped quickly out of her ragged clothes and stepped in to the drum, her feet breaking the scummy surface of the water. Her grandfather’s eyes followed her every movement as she lowered herself in up until her body was hidden to the shoulders.
Grabbing a nearby rag she plunged it in to the water and began scrubbing and scrubbing violently between her legs, as the tears trickled down her young face.
“Luxury”, ah now there’s a word we need to use less and less these days. God be with the days when a man could enjoy a little luxury on a business class trip from Dublin to LA. For those of you unfamiliar with such things, that’s the part where you board a plane and turn left instead of right. Right brought you in to cramped, proletarian quarters. If you turned left you were immediately swarmed by a bevy of hostesses (and it was always hostesses!) looking to take your coat, ply you with champagne and see you comfortably ensconced in a huge leather seat with enough leg room for a basketball player.
Then there was the luxurious surroundings and pleasure of staying in a five star hotel. You know the type, the one where your heart has palpitations when you first look at the menu prices until you remember that everything was on company expenses. After that little shock you soon settled in to enjoying the luxury to the nth degree. Alas, both of these experiences were afforded to me while working with a great company several years ago. Strangely, that company no longer exists. Seems they ran in to financial difficulties. I wonder why?
Of course there are lesser, ostentatious levels of luxury to be enjoyed. There is the luxury of the four ply, toilet tissue with a hint of camomile freshness. And if you think there’s no such thing as luxury toilet tissue, you weren’t brought up suffering Granny Lizzie’s shiny, one ply grease proof toilet paper. Sweet Devine, using it made your eyes water. If you think I am exaggerating, go to the kitchen and cut yourself a few small squares of grease proof paper and apply accordingly. Then you’ll understand why even the morning paper was considered by me to be luxurious compared to Lizzie’s tortuous solution. So a four ply, camomile infused tissue is sheer luxury, lad.
Now, what brought me on to the topic of luxury – you may well ask? What has set me off was a recent visit to a shop in Galway. There displayed before me was huge collection of Christmas cards. Across the top of this impressive display was a banner announcing: “Try our luxury Christmas Cards”. Now, I once had a similar encounter while travelling to Boston airport in the back of taxi. At the side of the highway was a huge billboard (as they call it there) inviting people to apply for a well known credit card brand. And if you did apply you would be given – wait for it, “A luxury PIN number”.
My question is this: how, in Heaven’s name, can Christmas cards and PIN numbers be classified as “luxury”? What marketeer got paid a fortune to come up with that ingenious idea? What moron company was stupid enough to be sold on buying the idea? And do they honestly believe that the buying public is so stupid as to fall for that ploy? Stick the word luxury on it and the dim public will buy them. Pretty pathetic marketing, I would venture to say.
Then of course, if the said Christmas cards were actually made from recycled (hopefully, unused!) four ply, camomile infused toilet tissue there might indeed be a case to be made for using the word luxury to describe them. After all, once Christmas was over, they could be carefully redeployed in the smallest room in the house. I bet they would still be better than Granny Lizzie’s shiny, one ply grease proof toilet paper. Oh, the horror!
They bombed Iraq back to the stone age. They are threatening to launch a hit on Iran for non-compliance, yet below is a list of all UN resolutions against Israel that are ignored by the US, or have been vetoed by them. I certainly don’t want them to do an Iraq on Israel – or anyone else, for that matter – but enough of the hypocrisy, please!
- “…condemned Israel‘s attack against Southern against southern Lebanon and Syria…”
- “…affirmed the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood and equal protections…”
- “…condemned Israel‘s air strikes and attacks in southern Lebanon and its murder of innocent civilians…”
- “…called for self-determination of Palestinian people…”
- “…deplored Israel‘s altering of the status of Jerusalem, which is recognized as an international city by most world nations and the United Nations…”
- “…affirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people…”
- “…endorsed self-determination for the Palestinian people…”
- “…demanded Israel‘s withdrawal from the Golan Heights…”
- “…condemned Israel‘s mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and its refusal to abide by the Geneva convention protocols of civilized nations…”
- “…condemned an Israeli soldier who shot eleven Moslem worshippers at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount near Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem…”
- “…urged sanctions against Israel if it did not withdraw from its invasion of Lebanon…”
- “…urged sanctions against Israel if it did not withdraw from its invasion of Beirut…”
- “…urged cutoff of economic aid to Israel if it refused to withdraw from its occupation ofLebanon…”
- “…condemned continued Israeli settlements in occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, denouncing them as an obstacle to peace…”
- “…deplores Israel‘s brutal massacre of Arabs in Lebanon and urges its withdrawal…”
- “…condemned Israeli brutality in southern Lebanon and denounced the Israeli ‘Iron Fist’ policy of repression…”
- “…denounced Israel‘s violation of human rights in the occupied territories…”
- “…deplored Israel‘s violence in southern Lebanon…”
- “…deplored Israel‘s activities in occupied Arab East Jerusalem that threatened the sanctity of Muslim holy sites…”
- “…condemned Israel‘s hijacking of a Libyan passenger airplane…”
- “…deplored Israel‘s attacks against Lebanon and its measures and practices against the civilian population of Lebanon…”
- “…called on Israel to abandon its policies against the Palestinian intifada that violated the rights of occupied Palestinians, to abide by the Fourth Geneva Conventions, and to formalize a leading role for the United Nations in future peace negotiations…”
- “…urged Israel to accept back deported Palestinians, condemned Israel‘s shooting of civilians, called on Israel to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention, and called for a peace settlement under UN auspices…”
- “…condemned Israel‘s… incursion into Lebanon…”
- “…deplored Israel‘s… commando raids on Lebanon…”
- “…deplored Israel‘s repression of the Palestinian intifada and called on Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinians…”
- “…deplored Israel‘s violation of the human rights of the Palestinians…”
- “…demanded that Israel return property confiscated from Palestinians during a tax protest and allow a fact-finding mission to observe Israel‘s crackdown on the Palestinian intifada…”
- “…called for a fact-finding mission on abuses against Palestinians in Israeli-occupied lands…”
- “…confirmed that the expropriation of land by Israel, the occupying power, in East Jerusalem was invalid, and called upon the Government of Israel to rescind the expropriation orders and refrain from such action in the future.”
- “…called on Israel to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the 1949 Geneva Convention” and to refrain from it’s policy of settlement expansion which “alter facts on the ground pre-empting final status negotiations, and have negative implications for the Middle East Peace Process;”
- “…demanded that Israel immediately cease construction of the Jabal Abu Ghneim settlement in East Jerusalem as well as other Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories.”
- “… requested an unarmed UN Observer force to be sent to the West Bank to help protect Palestinian civilians.”
- “…requested the sending of a human rights monitoring force to the Occupied Territories and condemned all acts of terror, extra-judiciary killing, excessive use of force and house demolitions. Also expressed it determination to contribute to ending the violence and to prompting dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian sides.
- “…condemned the killing by the Israeli occupying forces of
several UN employees” and demanded that Israel, complied fully with the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War” and “refrained from the excessive and disproportionate use of force in the Occupied Palestinian Territory;”
- “…demanded that Israel ceased threats to deport or harm Yasser Arafat, the elected President of the Palestinian Authority;”
- “…decides that the construction by Israel, the occupying Power, of a wall in the Occupied Territories departing from the armistice line of 1949 is illegal under relevant provisions of international law and must be ceased and reversed;”
- “…condemned Israel for the extra-judicial executions that killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin along with six other Palestinians outside a mosque in Gaza City and calls for a complete cessation of extra-judicial executions by Israel“
- “…condemned the military incursion into Gaza and demanded the immediate cessation of all military operations in the area of Northern Gaza and the withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces from that area;
- “…condemned all acts of violence, terror and destruction during the Gaza conflict including rocket attacks by Hamas into Israel and the military assault being carried out by Israel.”
- “…called upon the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and sustained action to bring an end to violence, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory. Called upon Israelto immediately cease its military operations within Gaza and to immediately withdraw its forces to to positions prior to 28 June 2006, and expressed grave concern about the dire humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people.”
- declared Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories were illegal and a “major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”.
For many, words are simply building blocks loosely joined to make a sentence. It is the “sense” of the sentence that most people hear, and ingest. To the more discerning, the meaning and nature of these words carry a powerful, yet subtle subliminal message. The aware listener only needs to ignore the sense of the sentence and uncover the true message being carried by the sentence as deliberately constructed. The arch-propagandist knows this skill only too well, and acts accordingly. Everyday words are put together by our politicians, their spin masters and journalists that are crafted to deceive. These are crafted to seemingly import one message while, in fact, they are subliminally planting another completely more sinister message. And they are composed in such a way as to give the impression of being purely objective reportage, or statements of fact. Let me, for example, parse the words used on RTE news yesterday morning. The newsreader’s sentence said: “Israel continued to target Palestinian positions in Gaza. Meanwhile, Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets in to southern Israel.” Now this seems like a totally innocuous piece of reporting. For most people munching on their toast, the message was “They are still at it over there. Poor Israeli’s. Bad Palestinians” – and that would have been the end of their interest in what was said. Now let’s parse what was said – and, more importantly what message was propagated.
Notice that Israel continues to “target” Palestinian positions in “Gaza“. Meanwhile, Palestinian “militants” are said to “fire rockets” in to southern Israel. So deliberately, or otherwise, the real message being sent out, subliminally, is that “good” Israelis are being careful to “target” positions, while mad Palestinians are lobbing rockets at anything and anyone. Good Israel is identifying where the “militants” are positioned, while bad Palestinians couldn’t care less where their rockets land. The report also refers to “Gaza” as if it is an entity removed from everywhere else in the world. Gaza is in fact a region of occupied Palestine as recognised by UN resolutions. So why not word the sentence to be more objective by saying: “Israel continued to target Palestinian positions in the Gaza region of occupied Palestine. Meanwhile, Palestinian forces continued to target positions in southern Israel.” The reason it is phrased like this is exactly because the sentence is not meant to send out an objective message. It is constructed as pure propaganda. The casual listener will have picked up the use of “target” (implications, a fair enough tactic) and understood that this is good, while also picking up the words “militants” firing (implication, reckless mad men).
Now let’s look at the reality of what actually happened. These facts were known to the report and editor putting together that RTE reportage. The casualty figure at the end of the truce was reportedly three Israeli civilians and 108 Palestinians killed. Gaza officials say more than half of those killed in the enclave were civilians, 27 of them children.” And 70% of those children were under five, according another report. As I said, the high civilian casualty rate – and the number of children being killed – was a fact widely known to all reporting on the conflict. Twitter and Facebook were covered in horrific pictures of these slain and wounded civilians. Yet RTE still framed the message that Israel was hitting targeted sites (good guys), while the “militants” were firing at anything moved (bad guys). Such a strange construct, unless of course you either have set out to inject a deliberately personal bias, or there is an all-pervasive institutional bias that forces you to use such language. Anyone who has worked in a news room will tell you that every reporter must use an agreed “Style Book”. These style books dictate the words to be used in reportage. So it can be the case where reporters don’t agree with what they are constructing but are simply following the instructions of the institution’s style book. Either way, they are creating pure propaganda and, as such, are failing in their duty as an impartial reporter. It would be interesting to compare the style guides of say RTE and Channel 4. I would imagine the difference would be eye-opening.
And finally, yesterday afternoon on reporting the bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv, RTE announced that “Israel resumed firing rockets after the bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv.” Now, how did the RTE reporter know that Israel had not always intended to fire those missiles in any case? Which, given what had been happening 24/7 for the previous week, is more than likely! No, instead RTE constructs a report that suggests that good guys Israel were forced to “resume” firing on Palestinian “targets”. Again, notice the subtlety of the reportage and the subliminal message constructed. Such reporting of conflict mirrors what went on throughout the 30 years war in the North. Loyalist violence was always “retaliatory” to IRA attacks. Implication of message – if the IRA stopped, the good guy loyalists wouldn’t be forced to retaliate. But that is a subject I will come back to in a later blog.
So my plea to anyone reading this blog is to listen to the inherent meaning of words and sentences, and try to parse the true message. It is seldom a reporter, or politician, is not trying to impart a subtle, subliminally biased message. Be aware of that. Don’t let yourself be duped by these dopes!
Someday – and hopefully sooner rather than later – I hope to own a laptop. Now let me explain, I do actually possess a laptop. It’s a fine Dell Inspiron 1720. It has a 16 inch screen and buckets of RAM, hard disk space and all the megahertz to satisfy the most demanding domestic users. Why, it even has the Vista Ultimate operating system – ultimate, no less! So what’s my problem?
Well, you see, I do possess the laptop, since I paid for it with my hard earned cash. But someone else, somewhere, out there in the virtual world has a bigger share-holding of it than me. Let me explain – every time, or it seems almost every time, I turn on my laptop I get a prompt telling me there are updates to be installed. When I choose to go with the updates I am assured (by my virtual share-holder) that I can safely work away while the updates happen in the background. Yeah, right – that’s like being told you can continue to drive your car on two wheels – doable, as they say – but damn near useless.
I am pretty computer literate; so I know I can turn off auto updates. That is, I can tell my virtual share-holder I don’t want any “updates” from him/her. However, if I do that he/she simply nags me to tears with prompts saying things akin to “shock, horror you do not have auto updates activated. This could lead to the end of the world as you know it”. Of course, I am but paraphrasing, but the intent is there – to frighten the bejasus out of me until I turn the auto updates back on, and re-instate by virtual share-holders control. So eventually, if you are like me, you’ll give way to the virtual super-nag.
Perhaps, dear reader, you think I am exaggerating my plight. Well let me tell you that in a recent two month period I was asked to install 48 updates. Of those 48, 90% were flagged as “important”. Now let me ask you, what other consumer product could be sold on the basis that it will have to be updated with “important” changes on an almost daily basis? I know software is the kind of beast that never actually gets a full road test until such time as Joe Public starts bashing those keyboards. This reality check test is difficult to replicate in a lab setting.
So yes, there’s going to be issues that need updating. Every software company issues updating packs on a regular, controlled basis. But some software companies – and I am talking major players here – are taking the Mickey. They are releasing, often on a global scale, a product so full of holes it should be marketed as Swiss cheese.
Imagine if an auto company sold you a car and two days later contacted you to tell you that they were sending around a mechanic to make some “important” adjustments. Now imagine this happening on an almost daily basis – and at all times of the night and day. You’d be pretty peed off with that car manufacturer, I should imagine? There you are driving along the motorway and doing nicely, when suddenly someone taps you on the shoulder. You look in your rear-view mirror and there’s your friendly mechanic saying “can you pull over I need to make a few important updates. It’s nothing too much to worry about. I just need to adjust your breaks and check that the petrol tank isn’t about to blow up.”
You wouldn’t be long ditching that car manufacturer. But then you have so much choice when it comes to buying cars it would be commercial suicide for any auto maker to treat its customers like that. But where software companies have a virtual monopoly, such considerations seem not to matter.
So that’s what running my laptop is like – I share it with a powerful virtual share-holder. It seems someone; somewhere sold me a product that has more screws loose or missing than your average asylum. And now, one day at a time, my virtual mechanic nudges me aside as he/she makes another “important” update. All for my own good, of course!
Sure, I do possess a laptop – but some virtual share-holder, somewhere owns the damned thing.
Based on my experience of Mr Gate’s best products, I decided to employ a very rigid regime when I received an IPad as a birthday present. My rule was, and is, simple: any app – no matter how brilliant it might be – that speaks to me before I speak to it gets dumped. Using this rule when I turn on my IPad there are no apps pushing and shoving to get my attention or worse, to control my browsing. I feel that I own the IPad 100%. It is bliss, pure bliss. But listen up other app or program makers – that is how using a computer is meant to be! So bog off at nano speed, and give me back my laptop.