Tag Archives: politics

Israeli/Palestinian prisoner swap

13 Oct

Okay soooo….yeah this is a touchy subject. Gotta be careful…

In writing this, I’m not trying to take the perspective of one side or the other; I’m simply trying to highlight something. Make of it what you will. Regardless of your views, I want you to genuinely ask yourself what you think of the question I’m gonna bring up. I don’t want you to immediately fall back on ‘your sides’ arguments or justifications…I just want you to engage with the question and hopefully challenge your view on the situation. Nothing more, nothing less.

I do have an opinion on it all though, don’t get me wrong. Even though this question I’m gonna raise might make it seem like I’m favouring one side, It’s not. It’s just a question. You could change the parametres of the question a million ways to encompass a million different political viewpoints…but it would still end up being the same question.

Besides, when you take a far enough step back away from it all, it’s a bit like watching two drunks fighting over their shared loss of dignity. Both contributed to the circumstances, both agree it’s happened, but neither is willing to be the big man.

So anyway, in the news recently is the story of Gilad Shilat, an Israeli soldier who will be released after years in captivity. In exchange for his release, one thousand and twenty seven Palestinians will be released in your classic prisoner swap.

And there’s the question; hidden among the jubilation on both sides that their respective peoples are being returned home. I’m not gonna write anything about the conflict, the barrier, the two countries tearing each other apart from inside out…there’s no need for all that when a question this simple presents itself.

1 person in exchange for 1,027 people. 1 Israeli for 1,027 Palestinians.

Figured the question out yet? I don’t blame you…it hasn’t cropped up at all in the news coverage and let’s be honest here: it’s not something that would immediately spring to mind but…

When is 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others? And, more importantly, why is that 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others?

Both sides are happy with the agreement, so it seems that the Palestinians are alright with being deemed worthless enough that over one thousand of their people are the equivalent of 1 Israeli, but still…it’s a horrible question.

As I said above,; this question has nothing to do with politics, it’s about humanity. If you comment, please leave all politics at the door. We could change the parametres to “Catholics vs Protestants” in the North of Ireland, “blacks vs Whites” in 1950’s America, or even “Terrorists vs Patriots” somewhere else in the world but it still boils down the same simple question:

When is one life worth a thousand others, and why?

 

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*Off topic* Economics: an incredibly simple way to change the world…

4 Oct

A few things in the news recently have gotten me thinking about economics and a book I read a few years ago which gave me a pretty decent idea of the state of the world (‘The shock doctrine’ by Naomi Klein, read it. read it now.). The events in question are the Wall street protest, and present republican muffin/possible future american fucknut Rick Perry.

I read an article in which he reasserted his opposition to regulation of greenhouse gases and pollution in general. Whatever you believe about global warming*, you can’t argue that having factories belching out smoke and chemicals into surrounding areas is a good thing. It’s not. Whatever you think about the grand scale of things, on a small scale it’s bad for us. Simple as.

*(I hope I can make this brief, it’s a big subject: Global warming is real. The majority of scientists who believe in it are well respected, qualified professionals who measure data and present their work to be peer reviewed so that any mistakes can be picked up by other well respected and qualified professionals. Those who deny climate change, usually keep their research to themselves or else have it laughed out of the community if they release it to proper scientists for review -usually because they’ve carried out that research for a dummy corporation/foundation set up by an energy industry company…yes that does happen. More than you think. A lot more. In fact, next time you hear/read about a climate change denying piece of research, do a quick search to see what company/institute it was done in the name of. After that, do a quick search to see who’s behind that institution.

Food for thought; the term “Global Warming” was phased out in the mid-90’s in favour of the more friendly and ambiguous “climate change” because, after all, who hates change? change is progress isn’t it? change isn’t bad- it’s damn good!! Lobby groups for the Energy industry used this confusion to soften the debate, and appreciated the long term decline in interest it helped contribute to…Oh, and one more thing; There is no debate about climate change. There are scientists who do their job properly, and then there are others who say what they’re paid to say. Simple as.)

So anyway; Rick Perry is hugely opposed to regulation, because it would harm the business interests of the companies involved and therefore do damage to the economy of his home state. Fair enough, he’s looking out for his own I suppose. The thing is though, that’s the exact same reasoning as that of a CEO.

The CEO of a company has a legal duty to look out for their shareholders’ interests. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing, does it? If an investor puts a chunk of money into a company, they should expect a reasonable return, right? In the beginning of the 20th century this logic was well accepted and needed because big business was only starting out. People needed to have “investor confidence” (which had a totally different meaning back then), so this logic was inshrined in law. It’s a CEO’s/board of director’s legal obligation to look out for the interests of the shareholders.

But; and here’s the rub ladies and gentlemen, the almighty rub that has our mighty planet -socially, economically and politically- slowly crumbling under the weight of its own people collectively mumbling “Hey I’m just looking out for #1, fuck you I’ll do what I want!”…

That obligation is defined in simple money. You want to look out for your investors*? Make them money!!

*Investors nowadays are a far cry from the 19th century pioneer family plowing all of their mattress money into a travelling snake oil salesman. Sure, that used to be the majority of investors: small families hoping to improve their lot by investing in business but nowadays, it’s just a bunch of bankers.

And here’s where we tie back into good ol’ boy Rick: take those energy companies operating out of his constituency. They don’t have regulations because he’s so supportive of them, so to cut costs and make money-money make money-money, they dump a little waste into a sinkhole somewhere.That waste makes its way to an underwater aquafer somewhere else and contaminates a local river. Hey, doesn’t matter; those shareholders want money, not a damn conscience! Will a conscience pay for copious amounts of Viagra and Champagne?! Fuck no!

Let’s move into the world of business: A good old american car company wants to cut costs, so that the shareholders can see a return on their investment, see their stocks rise in value a little and maybe even cut them a nice profit. How can that be done? Well I’m glad you asked because it can be done easy-peasy: Move the damn factories to China! Their labour costs are a fifth of what they are in America, so the company’s stock will skyrocket! Happy days!

Then the company naturally hires The Fonz to deal with the redundancies, because nobody can get mad at the Fonz!
“eeeeeey; your security clearance has been revoked, go live under a bridge or sumtin alright”

One of the main reasons the world economy has been shitting itself like that old man who sits at your local bar every night, is this legal obligation and it’s interpretation. Sure, you could argue greed, self justification, irresponsibility, general dumbfuckery and all sorts of other human conditions laid waste to the fragile game of Jenga we were playing (…you don’t know how fitting that comaprison is..you really don’t…) but it all comes back to that one legal obligation: the CEO must look out for the shareholders, and that is taken to mean “the CEO must do everything possible to continue cutting costs and making profit, regardless of the ethical ramifications”. Everything that comes after is just icing on the cake.

SO. there it is. one simple way to change the world: Alter the definition of the basic duty of the CEO to take into account not only the monetary obligation to the shareholder, but also the moral health and social responsibility aspect. Simple as…

hahahaha, yeah right. Never gonna happen. Here: console yourself with a sweetbeat…

London Riots: Big society gives itself a big pat on the back…

10 Aug

(*for the benefit of those across the seas, the ‘Big society’ initiative was announced a good while ago by David Cameron and the conservative party as a remedy to all of Britain’s woes. It was designed to create a more harmonious society by encouraging people to take an active part in their community…

…It was quickly laughed out of the country when it became depressingly clear that it was nothing more than a nice sounding metaphor for drastic budget cuts and general political fuckery…George Orwell working in conjunction with Douglas Adams and a crate or two of Jameson couldn’t have thought of something more ludicrously twisted.)

Don’t panic…that’s just a ‘community participation liaison’ coming round to check you’ve done your share of the nations’ tax returns…

Some of the more heartwarming reports to come out of the london riots are those of people gathering together to protect and serve their own community. Yesterday, large groups of people organised themselves on twitter and facebook to clean up the scenes of the riots, showing that even though people were angry enough to destroy, people were also angry enough to rebuild. Heartwarming stuff.

“Gentlemen: TO BROOMS!”

It has only been mentioned in passing, but there have been rumours of people arming themselves and standing guard by their local businesses, ready to chase away anyone that might have an eye for trouble. This is particularly motivating because along with the large chain shops that have been looted, rioters have also targeted small family run cornershops and businesses in what is nothing more than senseless destruction. Tesco? yeah fair enough I can maybe understand that; they’ve got a nationwide organisation to back them up…Mr Singh the friendly man who runs the local chipshop? He’s got nothing more than yesterdays earnings to see him through.

I read a clip in the paper this morning about looters being confronted by a teary eyed woman when they emerged from a local fashion boutique, because the boutique was built and run by one woman who hand made all of the clothes herself. When confronted with this, a lady-looter stood there with a freshly stolen wedding dress draped across her arm looking very sheepish (but, importantly, she didn’t do anything about putting the dress back as far as I know). Heartbreaking stuff.

But wait! People gathered themselves of their own free will with those good old english brooms to clean up the mess! jolly good show, as Boris johnson would say.

Ah…Boris Johnson. Again, for the benefit of those across the seas: The hithchiker’s guide to the galaxy defines Boris Johnson as ‘ a floppy haired being, known to appreciate a glass or two of cucumber sandwiches soaked in Gin, who is so out of touch with his constituency, and the Earth as a whole, that he has been regularly sighted talking to a tree along the A127 dual carriageway, having stopped there for a rest on his way to pick up a mess of cricket bats from Basildon for use in his regular bi-weekly tap-dancing class. It is not known how the cricket bats felt about this, although the tree is said to be surprisingly despondent.

So he turns up to shouts of “Where’s your broom!” from the crowd being carefully kept far enough away from him that they won’t actually notice he’s probably goggle-eyed, and yknow what? he actually gets one and marches down to the crowd. Fair play to him I must say. He gives a speech about how he appreciates their work and effort and how they won’t let these hooligans represent London proper, and that they will all persevere in their efforts to show the world that London can not and should not be defined by that awfully obvious/lazy headline: ‘London’s burning‘.

But, unfortunately, this is where I have to put a dampener on it. I don’t want to, not really, especially with the solid example the people of London are showing in the face of mindless violence and destruction, but I have to say it.

The groups of people who protected local businesses could be described as taking part in the big society….but then again that’s what the police are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of london pay taxes so that the police can be trained, insured and paid to do that sort of work.

The groups of people who cleaned up the mess could very well be held up as a prime example of the big society, as I have a feeling they might when the smoke clears…but then again, things like cleaning up the streets are what streetcleaners are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of London pay taxes so that they can be trained, insured and paid to do that work.

…like in…some sort of…-oh gosh I’ve forgotten the word-…so..soci…God I’ve completely forgotten it. You know what I’m talking about: Where a nation, through thousands of years of hard work and perseverance, gathers itself together enough to say “Hey! why don’t we all pool our money, so that we can create neat things like a police force, who we can train for that job alone, then we can pay people to clean the streets, cos we don’t want our Janet from number 12 doing it anymore- she’s got a very bad back nowadays especially since the operation and she can’t miss anymore work- and then we can maintain it properly and find a place for everyone and look out for each other so that when people need protecting the police will be there in full force; well trained, insured and paid, and the cleaners too! when there’s a right big mess to clean up they’ll be there: well trained, insured and paid…

A SOCIETY! I knew it…it was there right at the tip of my tongue.

To drastically cut funding to schools, services and society as a whole is taking political fuckery to a completely new level. To then gather round for a press opportunity with the very people you’re fucking over and telling them they’re contribution is valued, is bullshit you could smell from the far end of Baltimore. They make a contribution. Every fucking week. It’s called ‘Taxes’, and you are crippling them with it. Don’t repay them by cutting essential services. Don’t repay them with a jolly good show. Repay them with the services they pay for: Well and fully trained, insured and paid.

(I am not in any way trying to imply that the people who did the good things that they did shouldn’t have. I am inspired by the things they are doing for their city.I am trying to imply- no sorry; I’m saying– that if the governments had actually focused on actively making society better, rather than just throwing everything in the air and hoping for the best, maybe they would have been in a better position to deal with the reasons and ramifications of the riots)

tweeting and the victim impact statement

27 May

I don’t know about the legal system where you are, but here in Ireland there’s been a rise of ‘the victim impact statement’ lately. I can’t tell how long or short ago it started, but it’s rare that you hear about a court case without the accompanying victim impact statement being reported.

Now, it could just be that the courts decided it was too much to expect the victim or their family to negotiate the minefields of press coverage so they decided to cut it out there and then: the victim makes a statement in court, the press report that statement, and what’s done is done- no need to follow it up or harass the participants about their story. That’s a damn respectable goal.

It could just be that it’s an opportunity for the victim, or the victim’s family, to confront the criminal and lay their anger, fears and sense of injustice to rest. That would be an honourable reason, one which I could definitely agree with.

Unfortunately, I’m too cynical for my own good so I have a beef with the victim impact statement. Where you could see a noble effort to give all parties their say in important judicial procedures, I see the result of a culture bending over backwards to reassure us that we’re all part of something and that our opinion matters.

Watching a football match recently I saw a pretty good discussion of tactics being interrupted by a sweet faced curvy blonde imploring to the camera that they, the presenters, cared what we thought and that we should tweet, text or email in our opinion. That would be a pretty good step towards appreciating different viewpoints and possible interpretations of the rules of the game but she quickly followed up with a disclaimer, stating that she wanted to get through as many as possible so the tweets, texts and emails should be short and to the point…well then. Rather than members of the public weighing in with a carefully judged comment or interesting point, they are expected to keep it as short as possible for the sake of the presenter…which can only end up with a barrage of ridiculously pointless comments.

I always laugh when imagining the poor soul who has to dig through these tweets and txts in search of a hidden gem. “MAN UTD R GONA WIN DEY R LEGENDS!!!”, “WANE RUNY IS CLASS: GIV IM D BALL N SIT BAK N WACH”, ” the 4-3-3 formation is revolutionis-RONALDO IS A DIVER!! PILLOCK!”


‘…oh god, the…the grammar, the grammar…’

Should our misinformed and emotional opinions accompany or even replace those of seasoned professionals? There’s a frightening trend of featuring tweets on news programmes…it’s only a matter of time before we get such incredibly enlightened and world changing opinions as ” GADDAFI IS A JOKE-HE SHUD GO BACK 2 D CARTUNS! AN BRING DAT COMMIE SOCIULIST ‘BAMA BACK WIT IM!!” featured on the ticker tape running below the six o’ clock news (….god help us it’s happening, it’s really happening.)

Now, as I said above: if the victim impact statement was put in place to allow the victims an opportunity to speak about their experience and the effect it’s had on them, great (although…I do wonder if that takes place in the trial process anyway).

The way I see it though, this is just another instance of a mindless institute of power (and yes…I do lump all those media outlets which plead that they care about your opinion in with the unchallengable institutions of government and law…*sigh*, just the way it is nowadays) thinking “oh shit; we have to keep faith in the franchise up, everyone else is giving the public their say we must do the same!”.

The victim’s get their say in court when they testify. If they don’t testify, then either the case won’t be in court in the first place because the testimony was essential to the case, or else the case is strong enough that it can be prosecuted without.

The victim’s family on the other hand, might not get the chance to testify. If the case is a murder, and they had nothing to do with the events, then they’ll just sit back and watch in horror as the details of their family member’s death are explained.  But, this is the rub ladies and gentlemen.

I’m making no effort to diminish their pain, loss or sadness at the circumstances they find themselves in: I’m sure it’s a harrowing thing to go through, and I don’t mean to demean their experience in any way, but; will their statement make any difference in the sentencing? and, following the stream of self righteousness taking over our culture…Should it?

If a judge hears from a family about how the loss of their son or daughter has affected them and their lives, will he hand down a harsher sentence? Should he base the sentence on the severity of the crime, or the severity of the victim’s/ family’s pain?

…That’s a rhetorical question by the way. You know the answer.